Friday, December 26, 2008

The Tipping Point Of 2008...Come Journey Into 2009!

From an ethnographic perspective, 2008 was a golden year!

From our perspective, here are the top eight drivers of 2008…

1. The rise of the Millennium Generation and its impact on a presidential election
2. The truth of the alchemy driving the financial industry
3. The 11th hour awakening of the US automotive industry
4. The replacement of unlimited spending with responsible saving
5. The collapse of the conventional news media
6. The explosion of Apps and transportable technology
7. The saturation of the conventional brands – Starbucks and Macy’s vs. MINIs
8. The behavioral impact of the cost of a gallon of gas

The impact of these eight drivers is similar to that of a platectonic shift with seismic reads that cause upheaval to conventional states of stability.

Many brands and businesses are reeling.

Reading the end of the year edition of Advertising Age was like reading the obituaries.

However, amidst the entire dirge, there was one great column titled “Ways to Bounce Back Stronger From Tough Times.”

The author is the president of the Association of National Advertisers.

Here is who he represents as the group communicates on its website…”ANA is the only trade organization exclusively for client-side marketers providing indispensable business insights, extensive collaboration opportunities and strong industry advocacy.”

If you are a client that is reading this…embrace it…it’s a voice crying out on your side of the tracks!

While we may differ on some terminology (Integrated Marketing Communications is a 90s fall-back), the column is so good, that I have cut it out and taped it up above my desk.

Here are Bob Liodice’s Top Ways To Bounce Back and our BrandVenture reinforcement beliefs…

1. Passion And Leadership Are Imperative…visible leadership that oozes belief …passion that cascades throughout the organization…marry the brand mission, vision and values with what drives the consumer's left and right sides of the brain!

2. Invest In The Brand And Be Courageous…defy conventional wisdom… increased marketing investment during a recession increases market share…don’t abide by the dogma of the category in the marketing of a product, but instead market your brand experience!

3. Let Creativity Fly…innovation through consumer insight…produce breakthrough ideas…challenge the conventional and embrace the heretical!

4. Develop Trust And Connectivity…give consumers what they need to be true brand believers…fuel your brand's emotional ignition point (EIP) that compels consumers to seek you out beyond reason and rationale thought!

5. Integrate All Communications….reach audience groups through multiple avenues…deliver the same message across all platforms…deliver brand consistency across every touch-point of the brand experience!

6. Be Accountable…a culture of accountability…partner finance, research and analytics…a cross functional marketing and finance team…fuel the insights that drive the returns!

7. Invest in People…ensure that they embrace the company culture and philosophy…people who make up your marketplace and define your product experience deliverable that your company embraces to define its culture!

8. Strengthen The Marketing Supply Chain…pursue efficiencies and productivity…build relationships (stop the RFPs every 6-12 months) and ensure reinforcements (pay the bills on time!)

9. Trust Your Agencies…strategy, breakthrough creative and expanding media platforms…and also trust your consumers…get out beyond the four walls of your office and get into dialogue with them on the street, in the stores and online!

10. Be Socially Responsible…go beyond cause-marketing and ideals-based branding…have an inspirational reason for your brand…do what we advocate at BrandVenture…dig below the surface and unravel the submerged!

I am excited about 2009!

What we do here at BrandVenture is a cost affordable, smart way of embracing Change and charting into the future waters of the marketplace.


Don’t let budget cutbacks and lay-offs constrain you!

For the average cost of one conventional focus group -- $6,500 - $8,000, we can…
• Conduct two, more revealing, Coffee House Chats or Pub Chats
• Complete 50-60 Person-On-The –Street Surveys
• Take an Ethnographic journey through online communities and video postings among your consumers and provide you with a snapshot of their iconic culture and brand relationships
• Dig deeper beyond the demographics into who really makes up opportunity target groups for your brand…where they live, where they work, how they think and how they connect through channels of communications and entertainment

And tune in right after the New Year for more information about a cool journey we are going to be taking in January and how you can be part of it!

Come…Let’s Journey!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Holiday Market Shift

We all hear what the media thinks about this holiday season.

Most of their articles begin with the copy line… “Worst holiday season sales in the last XX years.” The XX number keeps getting bigger the longer the season lasts.

Oh well…the media does have a unique perspective of the world.

I had dinner last night with a friend of mine in the real estate business. He told me that he had spent part of the day buying the ingredients for a special dip he was taking to the RE/MAX holiday party.

Said it was kind of odd, but could be fun…in the past, RE/MAX had the event catered, but this year it was potluck and BYOB. RE/MAX was hosting the event at their offices and providing free soft drinks.


Being the proverbial optimist, I do believe that what we are seeing is more than just a reactive response to the economy.

I genuinely believe that we are seeing a major market shift.

Clearly a couple of factors are here at work…

(1) The market has moved from a credit line dependency to a savings mandate. While the banks that have cut credit limits have driven part of this and part by customers that have filed Chapter 13, more of the change is driven by individuals who have realized that saving money just makes sense.

(2) GenXers are the driving force of the family market and they are rewriting the rules of the past. Remember that nearly half came out of divorced households and their “most married” stats support the fact that they are not going to do to their families what their parents did to them. As a result, they avoid the commercialization of a family event at all costs if it intrudes into their home cocoon.

(3) The oldest of the boomlet Millennium Generation that the Baby Boom produced will turn 30 in 2009 and the youngest will be turning 19. The cravings for the Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart under-the-tree wrapped gifts are fading from the holiday stage-set. And the parents are celebrating the joys of the empty nest by carving out their own space where the kids are not part of the picture.

(4) Just as the populous has gone Green – both seeking and protecting what is real and genuine – there is a changing mindset regarding protection of other things from commercialization and development. For confirmation, go check out the latest sales figures of the brands that have elected this year to change the lyrics of Christmas carols rooted in worship services and replaced them with their sales pitch. (And to the copywriters that did this…get that resume and portfolio updated ASAP!)

(5) Simplicity and Convenience is in and Complexity is out. Go check out the store shelves that have been historically stocked with all the decorative chukkas in the Home Depots, Wal-Marts and CVS Pharmacies of the marketplace…notice how fewer shelves are stocked and how less complex is the inventory. Now…go check out the blogs, the print write-in editorials and the news network clips…do you see any stories of consumers complaining about the hardship economics that have taken away the decorative charm of the holidays?

There are some profound changes taking place that are we are witnessing right now and the impact of these changes extend well past December 25th 2008.

As I have been writing this, posted a new headline story that features the death of the malls. The “in depth reporters” writing the story cite in the posting that “the recession is leaving more retail casualties in its wake.”

I bet that these are the same writers that hang out with the writer’s of yesterday’s editorial about how Global Warming is causing the coldest winters in recent times.

Those writers of the mall story are also probably straight and can’t see the fact that most of the malls sport that 80s design that isn’t retro cool…its just dated and dull. It's that dullness combined with the craving for the old town square that has driven most "malls" built since 2000 to be in the outdoor townscape.

You know…with all the Emails and text messages that I get from friends and associates; I actually find interacting with others around a potluck dinner to be much more fun and real.

I’m excited about 2009…and 2010…and 2011… There’s changes taking place before us that will be the future drivers of brand success if brands are engineered around the consumers driving the changes!

So go home earlier, get into that kitchen and cook up your favorite dish, then come on over to our place and let’s kick off a potluck brain-session about all the cool opportunities that are opening up in the changing marketplace!

Happy Holidays…and hey…let’s have safe Journey!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Build It And They Will Come is...

My puppy, whose name is Georgia, is going through her “terrible twos.”

The use of the word “no” doesn’t seem to register all of a sudden. She used to understand that word, but now just seems to have forgotten what it means.

My other dog, whose name is Herschel, is a bit of a cantankerous sort. Any time I talk to him, he growls a little and huffs and snorts. He’s soon to turn 12 years old. And while he does eventually understand the word “no” –when you say it, he still growls.

My two dogs remind me a lot of businesses and prospective clients out there.


This morning’s electronic version of Ad Age is all about the BIG Three US automakers.

One story is titled, “GM Tells Congress It Plans To Slash $600M in Marketing.”

Another one is titled, “November Car Sales Plummet And Not Only For Detroit.”

And then these two are followed by one titled, “If GM Has A Brand, It’s General Misery.”

Sounds dismal doesn’t it?

There’s even an article titled, “How To Be Fired” that coaches agencies on how to deal with being let go.

The first new car that I bought was a Honda. That was back in the 1970s. Since then, I’ve owned only two American made cars. Both were SUVs…one an Oldsmobile and the other a Ford…and I am not sure I even made it to the two year mark in ownership of either vehicle.

I bought the Honda in 1978.

Back 30 years ago, the market was certainly speaking and speaking louder it became.

In some ways Detroit is a lot like my dog Herschel…but eventually at least he does listen.

Georgia… I told you what?

In today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, there was a front page story in the business section about a restaurant here in the ATL (Atlanta, that is) called J. Christopher’s.

One of the really cool guys running Grey Advertising Atlanta met me at a J. Christopher’s a couple weeks ago. Kind of a older building that had gone through some urban wear and tear, but nice on the inside and the food was okay.

According to the article, two guys have recently joined up with the folks that started J. Christopher’s to develop a franchise market expansion program for the concept.

These two guys – Holbrook and Haddock (sounds like partners in a law firm doesn’t it!) – come from a near exclusive background of working in the quick service and fast food restaurant industry.

Haddock was the past CEO of AFC’s Popeyes Brand and Holbrook was one of AFC’s founding partners and past president.

Just FYI…the new CEO of Popeyes is a female who was recently featured in the press about how she is having to revive the Popeyes brand and its service deliverable.

I was all okay with these guys until I tripped across a sentence that I re-read a couple of times to make sure I got it right.

Here is what it says…

“The company isn’t concerned about hitting specific targets for the number of new stores opened.”

They really don’t mean “targets” as in “target groups” do they?

Then I read on…

“The most important thing for us as we go forward is that we select the right franchisees,” Holbrook said.

He’s not one of those Build-It-And-They-Will-Come-Junkies is he?

Well… here’s the clincher…

“In order to win Monday through Friday, you have to convince people that breakfast is worth coming in for.”

Okay…let’s go with the flow of the article author… they left behind the BIG chains and are not back in the seat of being young, energized entrepreneurs again.

When I saw the headline, I thought maybe this is worth calling them and telling them about some cool tools that we have to reach out and get into the consumer mindset…find out what consumers need and desire…and how you can deliver an experience that satisfies those needs.

Then again, I thought about my puppy and how many times I have to say the word “no” and how often she doesn’t even listen.


“J. Christopher’s is banking on customers seeing value in what their restaurants offer”

The verb “Banking” may say it all!

Al Reis is the author of the Ad Age article, “If GM Has A Brand, It’s General Misery” and in his article he captures the point of all of this best

Here is what he wrote…

“In 2007, the U.S. automobile industry spent $4.6 billion on advertising. For all that money, you might think the U.S. automobile industry would have done a lot of brand building.

I wonder.

Take a recent 12-page Saturn insert with the headline "Rethink." Each of Saturn's five models encouraged automobile prospects to doing a little cogitating.
Saturn Aura: "Rethink responsible"
Saturn Vue: "Rethink safe"
Saturn Outlook: "Rethink big"
Saturn Sky: "Rethink adrenaline."
Saturn Astra: "Rethink amusement"
So why should you buy a Saturn? What's the sum-up thought that encompasses the Saturn lineup? I don't know, do you?

Furthermore, Saturn's "rethink" words don't make much sense either. They seem to be borrowed from other brands. Volvos are "safe." Cadillacs are "big." Porsches are "adrenaline." And I have no idea what a "responsible" car is or an "amusement" car.

Oddly enough, if Saturn were a dominant automobile brand, this approach might make a semblance of sense. But in the first 10 months of this year, Saturn's share of the U.S. automobile market was just 1.4%, about the same as RC Cola's share of the cola market.”


So instead of living behind the walls of your brand, get out there!

Ask consumers what they desire…ask customers what makes your experience one that they crave…compare your brand experience to experiences that have consumers waiting in line to get there…

Hey… the road is open and the path is clear…there’s big opportunity on the horizon…

Come get into the MINI COOPER with us and…

Let’s Journey! Woof…Woof!

UPDATE 1/4/2009 - No question that GM is a sinking ship...and their ad agency that produced the set of spots airing in the Bowl Games needs to have their IVs clipped. One of the spots compares a GM gas guzzling mega SUV to the MINI Cooper claiming that the GM SUV gets better gas mileage in the city - another one compares a GrandAm to a BMW. Any other agency folks out there game for an intervention confrontation to get this agency into rehab???