April 17, 2014

The Power Of Sloppy

Have you ever wondered how McDonald's and Coca-Cola and Nike and Toyota and Apple and all the other enormous worldwide brands became successful?

For one thing, they were sloppy. They had to be.

They didn't have big data or precision targeting. They couldn't punch a key and immediately identify left-handed Lutheran dry cleaners who rode recumbent bicycles.

So they had to use mass media and talk to everyone. Not only did they not suffer for it, they prospered from it.

Mass market advertising is the most powerful media tool ever invented for the building of brands. In fact, despite the blather of contemporary marketing pundits, it remains so today.

If you walk through your local supermarket, you'll find that these mass advertised brands are the brands you'll find on the shelves. No "Facebook" brands. No "Twitter" brands. No "banner" brands.

Is there a lesson here? There is an enormous lesson staring us right in the face.

It is this: precision targeting may be an effective strategy for direct marketers and niche brands, but if you want to build or grow a big brand, mass advertising is by far your best media strategy.

Of course, some degree of targeting is essential. You don't want to try to sell golf balls to tennis players or run beer spots on "Oprah."

But there is a point you reach very quickly at which slicing and dicing the population into finer and finer fractions becomes counter-productive. Your assumptions become less accurate, your reach becomes less fruitful, and your focus becomes too parochial.

When you target too explicitly, you lose the value of unintended consequences. You lose the power of the unknown. Who would have guessed that 88% of "youth cars" would be sold to people over 35?

The simple fact is that marketers are not as good at predicting the ultimate make-up of their customer mix as they think they are. And the best way to mitigate against this is to be a little sloppy and tell your story to as many people as you can.

If you want to be a niche brand, do niche advertising. If you want to grow a big brand, you need to do mass market advertising.

You need to harness the power of sloppy.

April 15, 2014

The Sadness Of Sameness

Here's what a once-great agency looks like when it turns its message over to jargon-monkeys.

This agency used to awe us with wonderful ideas. Now it can only bore us with the same dreadful drivel we've heard a thousand times before.

It's a very sad thing.


April 14, 2014

Hard Times For The Cult Of Social Media?

It could be that the social media zombies have had their day.

Frankly, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

Now, before the hate mail comes rolling in, let me state the obvious. There are some very capable, hard-working and talented people in the social media world.

But there is also a roiling cesspool of arrogant, insufferable charlatans who parlayed a few buzzwords into a career and with whom we have had to put up for the past five years. Seeing them crash and burn would not irk me one darn bit.

Why do I think they've had their day? A few reasons:

First is that hideous, moronic, infantile song video from Social Media World that has become an embarrassment to the marketing industry. If you've never experienced the insularity of cults, this will be a good primer.

There is very little else that is as effective at taking the piss out of a cult than mockery. Ironically, in this case, it is self-induced mockery.

Any sensible person who looks at this thing can only believe that these people are utterly and completely demented. No one in his/her right mind would hire these people to sweep the floor, no less develop "business strategies."

Second, is a personal experience I had recently at my talk in London.

Frankly, I was apprehensive before the talk. I knew I was going to say a lot of things that would not sit well with the digital crowd. When I saw a largely young audience file into the theater, I thought for sure I would be facing a somewhat hostile audience.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at both the reaction of the audience and the follow-up reaction to the talk when it was posted on YouTube. It seems that at least some people are ready to hear a different point of view.

Finally, there are the facts. It seems that every few weeks a new study pops up showing that social media's impact on product sales is somewhere between small and not-at-all.

Of course, the social media crowd (having learned failure management from the traditional advertising crowd) will throw a false goal at us and say the purpose is not sales, but branding (whatever the fuck that means.)

I doubt the "branding" bluff will work. I'm sure some CMOs with "sluggish cognitive tempo" will buy this bullshit, but most are under pressure these days to perform. That means sales, not brand babble.

I have a feeling the bloom is coming off the social media rose. From here on, it's going to take more than cult culture.