Sunday, March 29, 2015

Its All About Igniting The Brand

This past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a tad more time in front of the TV set than normal.

Part of it is driven by the season finals of Bravo’s Housewives series. 

Part of it is driven by the NCAA basketball games.

During the time when many escape for the kitchen or bathroom, I actually stay glued to the set during the commercial break.  I like to see which brands are doing good work and which brands convey junk.

There’s a lot of junk out there… and a lot of it is produced by the brands that many perceive to be high rollers.

For example, Coke has a series running right now that I'm really not too sure just what Coke is trying to convey.

The spot last night was produced by Wieden + Kennedy, an agency that has a great record of igniting brands. Maybe Wieden has been around for a while and at the age where Viagra is needed to fuel the creative energy.

Knowing Coke and its corporate culture... I bet that the AEs at Wieden are tell the creative teams to "Just Do It" as the Coke execs tell 'em to do it. 

Here is the description of the ad from…

“Out on the beach there's a guitarist with a snapped guitar string, a nun with a towed car, a man rescued from a fire, a guy who just took a long sea trip and a man whose hot dog stand got hit by a comet. Even in these times of trouble, we live in a generous world, and no matter how rough things get, there's always someone out there that could use a Coke a little more than you.”


The visual from the ad adds even more to it… a nun handing a bottle of Coke to ahalf-nude Adonis-body builder guy being held by a fireman in front of a burning hot dog stand hit by a comet.

Not too sure that the common man that drinks a lot of soda drinks can identify with… and emotionally ignite by… this brand conveyance.

Another ad that has been running a bunch is a Buick ad that features spying neighbors who cannot figure out just what car the neighbor next door is driving. doesn’t list an ad agency that produced the ad and instead it just lists Buick.

Something tells me that this just might have been written and produced by an “internal ad agency” at the Buick. 

I don’t know if any of you reading this blog hear others talking about Buicks, but I don’t hear folks talking about Buicks much at the coffee houses or wine bars … shoot for that matter, not even at the McDonald’s and Kroger.

Reaction to this spot.  Here's a few of the commentary made online about the spot…

“Really sick of this commercial… I am so over it.”

“Buick should be embarrassed”

“Is Buick that f***** stupid?”

“Anyone living in a community like that would probably never by caught in a Buick… that’s a BMW neighborhood.”

“I don’t think that the woman is gazing and desiring the car, but instead the guy next door… she’s lusting for him!.” ... That’s further supported by more than 20 “agrees” and like commentary on the website.

Well if Buick produced that spot internally to save money, my suggestion is that they don’t really need to conduct any more focus groups, but instead just read more of the online commentary.

While there’s a lot of junk out there running in the TV mix, the main purpose I post this blog is highlight a couple brands – winning brands – that get it.

Back when I worked with Jerry Cronin, the former creative chief from Wieden + Kennedy that crafted Nike’s Just Do It campaign, I’ve related a few times in this blog how Jerry responded to a question about what makes a great ad, a great ad.

He replied, “a great ad so compels you to want to experience the brand that it makes you crave it...even if part of you is saying its really not all that great.”

Forget about filling up the ad space with crap about how the product is made and its attributes.  Forget about rational thoughts.  Forget about trying to take the podium and explaining to people how they should feel. 

Instead, discover those nuggets of insight that provide a perspective of what’s driving people to engage and seek out like-brand encounter experiences. 

And then illustrate the brand around what’s sought.

One of the spots that I cannot get enough of that makes me want to jump in the car and go there is the Pure Michigan series. 

And I am not alone. 

There was a story in this past week’s Wall Street Journal that Michigan is quickly replacing Vermont as the state people crave to go to during the summer because of its scenery, food and environmentally green offerings.

The ad that aired last night was a spot that focuses on the foods of Michigan. 

When I first saw it, I genuinely thought it was going to be a high-end wine brand… but it wasn’t. 

It was about a place where I wanted to be.  An experience I wanted to experience.

When I saw that the ad was for Michigan, the left side of my brain very quickly attempted to qualify it all… shoot, right now its cold up there… that’s the state where Detroit exists… that’s where manufacturing has a long history…

BUT WAIT STOP… my right brain took over.  By the close of the spot, I actually went over and pulled up VRBO to see what cottages I could rent up there this summer.

McCann-Erickson produced these spots… from apples to fishing… from light houses to golfing… the ads emotionally ignite and build a bonding with the brand.

And then I saw a new Apple ad for the new Apple Watch produced by TBWA Worldwide. 

Apple is famous for running great ads that convey its EIP.

There isn’t any copy or voice over in the ad.

It’s simple. 

It’s 60 seconds long.

You never once get bored.  Instead you become almost hypnotized by the music and visuals.

It never declares how you should feel and what should be your take-aways.

And if you really, really live the Apple culture… the spot closes nearly the same way as the Apple spot that only ran only once back in 1984. 

I am not a big investor in watches, but an Apple Watch is a must have and my count down to its premier has begun. 

I end this blog by saying quickly…

These ads I cite probably cost a lot of money, but a lot of money isn’t what’s need to drive the ignition of a brand.

You have to delve into seeking out the gems of insight.

You have to be brave enough to trust your emotion.

You have to let go of the rational side of business. 

And then… only then… can you catapult your brand forward.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Mirage To Keep Millennials In Jobs

I know that the term “breeders” is rooted among the GenXers. 

After all, it’s the GenXers whose main mission in life has been to raise that picture perfect family not torn apart by extramarital affairs, mother abandonment, corporate loyalty or divorce.

BUT… when we look at many Boomers today as they fade quickly from the corporate scene, they express a strong desire to breed a higher level of mission… a visionary pursuit among the Millennials quickly taking over the pilot seat.

When I read a lead article in today’s Wall Street Journal, I knew that it just had to be the driver of my next entry into the EXPERIENCE blog post. 

 The title of the article is, “I don’t have a job, I have a higher calling” with a subtitle, “Some employees balk as many firms from motorcycles to accounting firms step up talk about changing the world.”

Hail the corporate vision statement.  Hail the Boomers’ commitment to Peace, Love, and Harmony. Hail the Millennials marching to the beat of the corporate bongo drum.

The aspect of being in business to serve the consumer need… well heck, its not about them, its about us.  Its all about what gets us up, arriving to work and not seeking out another job. Its all about us... me!

The author of the article captures factual truth…

“Millennial professionals are demanding more meaning from their careers because work takes up more of life than before, thanks to longer hours, competitive pressures and technological tethers of the modern job.  Meanwhile traditional sources of meaning and purpose, such as religion have receded in many corners of the country.”

Many Millennials grew up with Baby Boomer “helicopter” parents.  The parent’s hovered over the child and what they wanted, they got.  And when they failed, well, they got more.  Peace. Love. Harmony.

So we have KPMG’s CEO John Velhmeyer making the statement, “We can see ourselves as bricklayers or cathedral builders.” 

I wonder just how many of those KPMG execs have ever even shopped at an Ace Hardware store let alone own a power tool. My bet is that few of those Millennials recently hired at KPMG took a shop class.

And Tavelzoo CEO Chris Loughlin declaring their vision statement, “If we all traveled, there would be significantly more peace on Earth.”

How many of you in your recent travel rated that hotel you stayed in a perfect “10?”  How many of you believe that the airlines are all out for comfort and service?  When was the last time you saw a security person actually smile and say, “thank you, have a good day”?

Here’s another great snippet from the article.

“Juniper Networks has spent much of the past year cutting costs, laying off workers and fending off activist shareholders.  Two days after announcing a fourth-quarter loss, managers at the technology company gathered hundreds of employees in a massive tent it calls the ‘aspiration dome’.”

Okay. If we can’t keep employees in their job and stop them from fleeing a sinking ship, we’ll just rally them around a self-declared vision and they’ll march to the beat of our drums.

When I read articles like this, I get more charged about my job.

Not because I’m out to save whales or make little doggies wag their tail or save a tree from being cut down or making everyone go to bed at night with a full tummy.

The idea of crafting an emotional vision statement is not problematic – in fact, it’s a critical component of bringing a brand to life.  

But when the vision is defined within the context of internal leadership looking within their corporate walls and has little-to-nothing to do with their customers, its something about which both peers and consumers can only laugh.

It gets even more crazy when the drive to do it is not to meet the experiential needs of consumers, but rather keep Millennials in their 24/7 jobs.

I get charged about my job because these companies are moving forward, but forward is slipping closer and closer to ultimately Chapter 11 in their novel of corporate vision.

When I tell companies and groups that their vision statement needs to be one and the same with their consumer’s emotional needs, those that get it, not just survive, but move profits forward.

I write this from a Starbucks located in the great city of Brookhaven Georgia, the newest city carved out of the Atlanta metro.

While the city of Brookhaven has some of the wealthiest homes found in Greater Atlanta, we also house one of the highest concentrations of first-entry Hispanic/Latinos.  They make up just under a third of our population.

I find that part of Brookhaven more inspiring than the fancy homes and our Chamber of Commerce needs to embrace it more.

A very large percentage of Brookhaven’s Hispanic base is made up of Millennials.  I admire how many get up early in the morning and go to work or seek out a job for the day. 

When I ask them what drives them, the answers are nearly all the same.

“I am here to work and do a good job so that some day, I have a house and can raise a family here and send money to my relatives back home.”

Their “higher calling” is really not too high.

I know where I will put my money on just who will reach their vision. 

I also know where I will put my money on just who will still be working… and working hard… in a few years from now.