Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good News...Bad News...Good News!

First the Good News!

Friday was a good day here at BrandVenture.

We landed a new project assignment…and it’s a good one!

We are going to team up with a couple very cool creative folks to define the best opportunity groups and strategy for the release of a 2010 version of The Whole Earth Catalog.

Rodale, the publishing company that is our client, sounds like a super group too.

Rodale has a great portfolio of work including magazines like Prevention, Organic Gardening and Men’s Health and past bestsellers like An Inconvenient Truth and The Intellectual Devotional.

The very fact that they are taking the steps to “unravel the personas, behaviors and aspirations of key audience groups” is something that many marketers today don’t do.

But then again, the name of the new release is The Whole Green Earth Catalog…now that’s right in line with where the public mindset dwells.

Now the Bad News…

“Time, Inc., the nation’s No. 1 magazine publisher said it would close Cottage Living magazine and its Web site, citing the worsening economy and the impact of the weak housing market”

That was an AP release dated Thursday, November 20, 2008.

Seems that Time, Inc. is doing a bunch of reorganization in “shedding hundreds of jobs and streamlining its management ranks.”

Some of the players in the media world are going through tough times. Publishers of magazines that have been around for a while are having to rethink and reposition the publications.

And home magazines are no exception.

Time Inc.’s Southern Living has shifted to a cheaper format and Conde Nast’s Home & Garden magazine also shut down recently.

No question that the readership base is going through generational shifts and the dynamic of what the media sells is changing.

The article goes on to say that ad pages in Cottage Living fell 9.1% in the first nine months of 2008 and newsstand sales fell 14% during the six months ended June 30th.

Sometimes you do have to wonder just what seems to drive the way management thinks.

Yes…there have been declines in sales…but is shutting down the publication a knee-jerk reaction of the times or a true assessment of where the publication has gone and where future opportunity resides?

I bet you can tell that I have been a fan of Cottage Living magazine!

In addition to reading it, I have showcased the publication in presentations I make to clients about market trends in housing and generational trends with space.

Like it or not, the size of future housing is going to get smaller and the drive to balance and integrate High Tech with High Touch is on the rise.

Boomers can recall the Sears Home that their parents bought, GenXers quest warmth and style in their cocoons and Millenniums easily blend the cottage look with Ikea cheap chic!

The bad news is that the BIG companies out there like Time, Inc. have management that makes stupid decisions.

How “chicken and egg” are the financial challenges they face today?

Oh well…

So now it back to Good News!

If you read the press and listen to the political discourse, boy the economy and future is bleak!

If the BIG three American automotive companies shut down, then where will we find cars to buy?

If the banks shut down, where will Americans put their cash?

With the department stores in trouble and the malls going under, where will we shop?

The good news is simple…there are a bunch of market needs that the BIG boys cannot provide for anymore that the entrepreneur and innovators can grab.

Having worked at Time-Warner, I can tell you that there are a lot folks that make up the corporate ranks that seem to have gotten very used to the cash flow.

And to a large extent…too much so!

I know this much…over a million people are going to be “not happy campers” when they receive notice in the mail that their Cottage Living magazine subscription is being replaced with issues of something else.

It was not a magazine that the readers subscribed was the experience it provided that they sought and desired.

Hey… seems like the roadways are opening up with opportunity…call me and let’s journey!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Make It, Take It, Stock It, Rock It - Call Us Now!

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I am a BIG fan of ReadyMade magazine. I featured the publication in one of the blogs I wrote several weeks ago.

The magazine is great because when you page through it, you can get a pretty good glimpse into how the Millennium Generation thinks.

And that thinking is what is going to drive our marketplace in the future.

One of the articles that caught my attention this week was about a couple of guys who have started up a business to literally take new product ideas to market. Its not a web design shop and its not an ad agency…it is literally a “make-it, take-it, stock-it, rock-it” shop.

What I think is the coolest part of the new venture is that these guys are taking on the challenge with a “we’re just going to do it” attitude.

How many big time companies today do you think go to work with that kind of a mindset?

This past week, we did an all-day “Immersion Strategy Session” with a new client that is doing something very innovative and cool in the housing market.

“Housing market” is NOT a typo.

When we went out onto the streets and shared the idea with consumers, many thought the idea was great and asked “how they could find out more about it”

One woman we interviewed told us that she was taking the $5 we gave as an incentive and putting it into the piggy bank to buy our client’s product.

Our client is a little older than the guys that are featured in the ReadyMade article, but thinks pretty much the same way they do.

We also get the Atlanta Business Chronicle here at our office.

I bet that you can take the word “Atlanta” out of the name of that publication and put in whatever city you live in and the next few comments will apply just the same.

Reading the publication is like reading a combination of the obituaries while walking the aisles of the Brooks Brothers store.

Weird…and note that is not “Wired” misspelled!

There is very little featured in that publication about new market insights or innovation and change.

The pictures are odd too…mostly guys and some gals…but all wearing suits.

I’m not too sure if the guys featured in ReadyMade magazine even own a suit and a tie.

I might be the proverbial optimist, but as far as I am concerned 2009 is going to be a super fabulous year.

While change is coming in at a Category 5 level, so is opportunity!

Check out our 2009 Trendcasts in the Discovery section of our website. If the short summaries of these get your mind clicking, call us and we will come meet with you and tell you more.

Take your ideas and get out on the streets and listen to what people have to say. Our “person-on-the-street” interviews are a whole bunch cheaper than doing the “quantitative surveys” and “formal focus groups.”

And if you really want to wrap your brand around what is going on out there, get your team together – those still employed that need a re-charge – and let’s spend a day together and get immersed in the changes and the ways you can move your brand!

As those guys say…

Let’s “make-it, take-it, stock-it, rock-it”…and Journey into 2009 and beyond!

Monday, November 3, 2008

EIGHT 2008 Election Insight Returns!

I voted early about three weeks ago.

Having early voting is cool. The head of elections in DeKalb County, Georgia got my vote.

Being ADHD, I don’t do too well standing in lines waiting.

They say that we may set a new record of people casting their ballot in the 2008 November election.

I won’t say who I voted for, but elections are a great source of insight when it comes to what is clicking and ticking in the marketplace.

Here are EIGHT 2008 Election Campaign observations and insights!

#1 – The Millenniums Are Here

About five years ago, I was telling clients that the 2008 election would be a watershed year of a generational shift in America.

The Millennium generation is just shy of the same size as the Boomer generation. They are web-weaned and high-energy lean.

More than two-thirds of Obama’s primary support was less than 35 years of age. More than two-thirds of Hillary’s primary support was age 45-64.

The oldest of the Millennium generation was born when Reagan became president and the Vietnam War is something that they perceive taking place way back in history.

What we have witnessed in this election is what is hitting the marketplace and the boardrooms!

#2 – Brands Rule

And the brand will rule.

It is all about packaging, defining the Emotional Ignition Point and delivering it at every touch-point of the brand experience.

Jerry Cronin, AdWeek’s creative director of the 1990’s may have said it best. When asked what makes great creative, great…he replied that great creative makes you crave the brand even if it might not make the most logical sense.

Few politicians ever get elected based on rational sense.

And few politicians ever make competitive headway using logic.

Brand Videos are cool things too.

Obama aired his 30 minute Brand Video last Wednesday night.

Do you have a Brand Video that you can air?

#3 – The Old Media Is Old And The New Media Is NOW

What’s news is really conveyed today through YouTube, Facebook, Apps and Blogs.

If you are reading this and you do not know what those items are, you need to think about changing your career.

More people viewed single videos on YouTube than they did political ads running on the fixed tube.

Facebook is where people connect.

Here are the “friend” counts as of Sunday 11/2/2008:
• Obama -- 867,191
• McCain -- 618,444
• Palin – 448,207
• Biden – 171,484

I know… it’s hard to think of all the typing that Biden would have to do to really say online what he says in-person.

Last week, Obama premiered an ad that invited viewers to try out a new app (that’s “a-p-p-l-i-c-a-t-i-o-n” as in software programs).

Obama’s app is a tax rebate calculator that you can use to compare his tax rebates against McCain’s.

Check it out…

And the Blogs are where the news really takes place in its most purist form!

Hey…Newspapers and News Networks…Be the best that you can be!

Be the press, not the blogs and keep the editorial limited to the editorial page!

#4 – Birds Of A Feather

If you ever doubt that “birds of a feather do flock together” and that “people of similar likes and dislikes don’t congregate together,” take a drive through your local neighborhoods and count the number of signs for one candidate versus the other.

Last Sunday I did just that…and it confirmed what I preach.

Neighborhoods cluster together around brands and politicians are no exception.

Here’s your question…why blanket markets with your message and not rifle target where you can get the vote?

#5 - Quantitative Research Isn’t The Textbook Predictor Any More

About a month ago, Ad Age ran an article about P&G (Proctor & Gamble) pulling in all its research partners and holding a summit regarding quantitative brand tracking studies.

P&G spends a lot of money on quantitative brand tracking research.

They told the research partners that they had an “aha” insight that the quantitative research studies are no longer the best avenue to understand customers.

Here’s reality statement #1:
More money has been invested in surveys in this election than the past four presidential elections all added up together.

Here’s reality statement #2:
There is such a degree of variance in what the statistical numbers say that few players actually believe the stats.

As we preach here at BrandVenture…there’s a bunch more insightful ways to get into the consumer headset than conventional surveys and research.

Better yet, the alternatives are cheaper than the conventional methodology.

And in the new economy…cheaper is also cooler!

#6 –Entrepreneurial Mavericks Lead Innovation

Consensus is a nicety, but the maverick personality of the typical entrepreneur is what drives innovation.

Think about individuals that have fostered success.

Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs, Mary Kay Ash, Ted Turner, Estee Lauder, T. Boone Pickens and Oprah Winfrey are some that come to mind.

Each one of these has their set of critics who often question the rationale behind their visions and the like-ability of their personality.

The ability to lay claim of ownership to a visionary ideal and profess it with passion rallies support.

Politics is a wonderful platform to watch the model at work.

And those who do it rarely spend time claiming it.

#7 – Change Will Not Change

Change is the ignition point of this campaign race.

Some professors say that the Internet has lead to an ADHD epidemic.

I agree that more people today expect changes and actions to take place fast.

Most of us see change from the perspective of our computer screens.

As we sit back idyll at the desk, when a website comes up that we don’t like, we just click that mouse and move on to the next.

Consumers have high expectations. But, as we note in our 2009 TRENDCAST consumers are getting used to living in the “grey zone.”

Change will not just come from Washington nor will things change back to the way things used to be.

The market will change. The way we do business will change. And how we as people live our lives will change.

It will be a holistic experience of mind, body and soul – including the brand personas we market and buy!

#8 – Grassroots Drive Success

When Obama started his campaign, he was up against the big time, big money machine.

McCain ran his campaign on a shoe-string and many thought a year ago that he would soon write Chapter 11 of his campaign history book.

The machines didn’t win the nominations.

WSB Radio here in Atlanta ran a story that Obama has more people coordinating the voting precincts than any other candidate in recent time.

He is driving his vote literally on the local level.

Maybe its because he hasn’t been in Washington long that he sees value in the grass roots.

Maybe it’s even more likely because he comes from a background of community cause.

In our 2006 TRENDCAST, we talked about the consumer desire to dwell in the town square. We have seen it manifest in the outdoor malls and the new live/work/shop subdivision developments.

We all voice the need to connect and bond.

While Washington may think it has its hold on Change, it really comes down to us that live in the grass roots.

We are the ones who will move the country forward.

Perhaps the best investment that you can make today is to go out and get a nice coffee pot and some good coffee.

Then invite in your neighbors, business associates and friends over in the next few weeks for some good coffee chats about what is the next cool idea.

Hey! Go cast your vote, fill up your coffee pot and then let’s journey!