Saturday, January 27, 2018

“The Masses Are 'Stupid'… Bad Assumption"

 Hillary, in part, lost her bid for the presidency because she viewed the masses as the “Deplorable” and “Irredeemable.”

Those who claim Manhattan, San Francisco Bay and Hollywood as their home base share a similar, rather perverted viewpoint of the world, too.

So it’s not much a surprise that a large portion of the creative produced by the BIG AD AGENCIES is literally killing brand equity.

Freud would have a ball with many of the copywriters and production teams that bring us ad commercial series like the Dr. Pepper game day vendor, the GIECO Insurance gecko-lizard, Progressive saleswoman Flo and the myriad other character-spokesperson-voice-overs. 

Freud would quickly summarize that many seek to replace their production staff positions with a deeper desired role of Hollywood producer. 

On the client side too, there are CMOs and marketing teams that crave to do more than commute daily to dwell in their cubicle offices.  They are the ones that beg to go meet with the ad agency so that they call spend time in their funky, ping-bong table, quasi-coffee café, open-forum think-tanks.

Every time I see the Chevrolet ads with the focus group man, I want to throw up. 

The loon ad agency that produces the ads is a division of McCann called “Commonwealth//McCann” – that is exactly how they format the name.

AdAge notes them as the “global agency of record for Chevrolet” and describes them as “innovative” and “an open forum” team.

I know.  I know.

I get upset because the focus group facilitator rips off what I do.

When I shared with a table of friends how stupid I felt that the ads were last week, they immediately responded back with, “well how do you think an insurance sales person feels when they see the duck, or the newt or Flo?”

No… that is actually not why I think that agency producing them is a bunch of loons... not that I am opinionated nor speak my mind.  

Just like the immediate “wows” expressed by the “characters that are real and not actors” is not the reason I want to throw up.

Just like the newest ad that showcases a focus group discussion taking place on an entrance ramp to the LA Freeway in the middle of afternoon rush hour… is not the reason I want to throw up. 

The reason why I want to throw up is that the focus and the mission of the Chevy brand… the brand equity and brand culture… the essence of the brand EIP or Emotional Ignition Point… that is all pushed aside by both the marketing mavens client side and the ad team within the ad agency…

…To live in the fantasy world of the present thinking that they are all actually the next breed of Hollywood producers with a storyline series and high personality, featured actor.   

Two weeks ago when I drove from Atlanta to Nashville, I stopped off and got gas in Kimball Tennessee.  There’s a large, super-size Walmart and a Chrysler dealer just across the street from where I got the gas. 

As I was filling up the tank, I watched the folks looking at cars in the Chrysler lot and wondered just how many of those Commonwealth // McCann creative and production folk ever have stepped out of their open-forum work space and walked and talked at dealer lots.

Okay, maybe they went to a dealer lot in Hoboken, but did they go to one in Albany or Norfolk or Knoxville or Norman, Mesa or Medford? 

I doubt if any have done so. 

What makes me throw up is that this is where brands that ARE IN TROUBLE focus today. 

Staying on cars for one moment longer, this morning I ran into two guys who recently each purchased a new KIA Sorrento.  They are now big fans and brand endorsers of KIA. 

One of my cars is a KIA Sorrento. 

They asked me if I loved my KIA as they love their KIA and I said, “nope.”

I then went on to explain how way too much is automated and high tech.  I showcased how whenever the temperature hits 40 degrees, a red light warning icon lights up on the dashboard right next to the speedometer to let me know that the roads might ice. 

They claimed that their new KIAs don’t have that feature.  Since mine is a 2017 and their KIAs are 2018, I think that the new ones do have that feature.  Given that I am about 15 years younger than either of the two guys, my bet is that they cannot see it even when it lights up.

The masses are not only NOT STUPID, they are changing the framework of the marketplace as I script this blog and you out there are reading it.

Just as I watched the folks walking the lot at the Chrysler dealership, this past week I took a couple of hours and went and visited a mall out in the metro that many think is soon being torn down. 

I watched people and talked to people. 

I asked them what was it about the mall that drew their car to take them to it (that’s a Chevy pun, by the way.)

In addition to using terms like “convenience” and phrases like “variety of stores,” they went on to talk about how nice it was to simply go somewhere, take time to walk around and get away from the house and work.

They talked about how sometimes they meet up with friends or family at the mall and they actually have more than a text line of conversation.

They talked about how they enjoyed sorting through stuff on the shelves and trying on clothes at the department stores.

The malls are coming back to life as I write this post.

Just as the “masses,” “the great unwashed” and the “deplorables” are refueling malls, they are also purchasing lots of baby products and un-prepared food items to actually cook and tools at the hardware stores and videos for the DVDs and books – actually printed hard-cover books – at the bookstores.

Corporate investment is coming back BIG TIME just as we enter 2018. 

When I person at the coffee table this morning told me that people would no longer be driving the next wave of industry in the U.S. and that it would all be automated by machines… I quickly asked what was the nature of the company that has many major markets sitting with bated breath to hear where its opening a second HQ. 

That company that is forecasting the hiring of 50,000 new employees is a company that many believe is totally, 100% staffed by high-tech automation. (Amazon if you don't catch much news)

And one last commentary about the absurd perceptions of those that dwell in the confines of their mobile apps and Google created town squares…

If “someday more than 80% of all shopping will be competed on the Internet,” how will the products get from the warehouse to the home pantry?

If those semi-trucks on the tollways and outer belts and interstates and side-roads drive you a bit nutty now… just wait.

The nuggets of insight that will drive brands forward is not sitting on the iPhones nor in the creative circles of Madison Avenue and Michigan Avenue, nor Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. 


Those nuggets of insight can be found where the masses today dwell.  Those nuggets can be found in backyards and houses of worship and neighborhood restaurant dinner tables and yes... even in the malls. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

EXPERIENCE in 2018... Our Focus With Brand Leadership

Welcome to 2018!

The last Blog post was all about five of the 2018 TRENDCAST Trends. This Blog is about how EXPERIENCE will embrace and seek out 2018 opportunity... 

#1 – We will focus more on mid-size brands and their leadership teams. 

In 2017, we saw more large brands merge with their historic competitors to form large behemoth corporations. 

Brands that own retail space.  Large holding companies absorbing fast food brands.  Media companies gobbling up like media or other media firms.  Retailers continuing to merge together and become one comprehensive brand. 

Brand differentiation gets kissed good-bye.  More C-level direction and control shifts over to the financial MBAs. 

A small share of C-level leadership – and it’s a very small share – understand that the brands merging together are not only at the height of market maturity, but even on the downward spiral of declining growth. 

TLC has a show called the “My 600-lb. Life.” These merged corporate behemoths could be showcased in that series.

I have highlighted the non-sense that leadership resorts to within these merged mega-brands. 

There’s a pizza mega-giant whose whole business is about home delivery that is running a $60 million+ television campaign about how they have torn down the old store fronts and built new ones. 

There’s merged television networks that have elected to cross-share programming between their networks.  Does the programming fit under the unique network brand equity?  What’s brand equity the MBA CFO asks, “we are saving production costs by extending the reach of the programming.”

There’s fast food restaurants combining menus and others that are splitting the store fronts into half one restaurant and half another.

There’s hotels and resorts that have one logo on the outdoor signage and another brand logo on the room décor and a third logo on the complimentary breakfasts and desserts.

When I went Christmas shopping this year, I was struck by how the same clothing lines are in many of the different stores until it finally hit me that the brand name on the store fronts are all owned by the same corporate holding company.

Over the course of the last five years, EXPERIENCE has worked with a higher number of large corporate brands vs. regional and new start-up brands. 

While the CEOs that have brought us to the table share similar passions and drive to move beyond the conventional, MBA modeled, slow-moving leadership of the past, the same CEOs quickly discover just how difficult it is to make change happen because of the behemoth size of their corporations.

No question that the big corporations have big budgets to spend. 

The large ad agencies function as reinforcement for the layers and layers and layers of internal marketing and brand “leadership.” 

The thought of an ad agency rocking the boat and challenging conventional thought that is challenged in moving the behemoth, newly merged corporate brands forward… well for all their talk about keen strategy and creative innovation, those same ad agencies are challenged with paying for those posh, “novel” office space. 

CP&G, a “creative, brand strategy and digital agency” just signed a new contract extending their relationship with that pizza mega-giant running the ads about its new store fronts through 2020.  Yup… the agency telling the pizza mega-giant that the ad content the Dominos is dictating to convey is meaningless to consumers and risk the agency’s contract extension? 

Hell no. 

Here at EXPERIENCE, the audience that drives our mission and reason for existence is the consumer marketplace. 

So in 2018, our business focus will shift over to mid-size brands and new brands that can capitalize on the true drivers of change.  Corporate structures that are fluid and can be molded and shaped.  Leadership that has a passion for the brand vs. an MBA financial model of the past.

The BIG brands and corporations are no longer able to capitalize quickly and adapt. 

What we are seeing with politics where the age-old political models are driven by a mis-matched, past engineered patchwork of mechanics is quickly moving to the business landscape. 

#2 – We will not fear confronting false predictions of change vs. what is really taking place in the marketplace.

I subscribe to a number of the online editions published by American City Business Journals including their weeklies that service Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Charlotte.  In addition, I subscribe to Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company and Wired. 

Each of the publications is addicted to march in unison with the same tune…
  1. (1)  All of the Millennial generation is just exiting college and will continue to do so for many more years to come
  2. (2)  The Internet is replacing the store fronts of the past and soon everyone will use the Internet for consumer purchases
  3. (3)  The intown communities of today are evolving into luxury destinations that will drive all the business trends of the future
  4. (4)  Corporate leadership is extremely brilliant in every move they elect to make
  5. (5)  Soon technology will drive everything we do – literally with self-driving cars and trucks -- and the labor force of the past will be gone

If a trend forecast reinforces what they construct and reinforce, they embrace it quickly.  If a trend forecast challenges the that model, they either discount the source as unreliable or simply ignore it.

Our 2018 TRENDCAST challenges a whole lot of conventional thinking.  What is emerging right in our midst is already rattling the marketplace and a notable share of the marketplace cannot figure out what is driving the change.

I get a kick out of the recent articles in the WSJ, NY Times and Washington Post.  They ran articles that highlight changing statistics and then quickly make stupid statements like all market changes are attributed to the Internet.

EXPERIENCE doesn’t just wet the index finger and sense the direction and speed of the wind, we invest a sizeable amount of money each year in securing some of the most leading statistics tracked.

In 2018, EXPERIENCE will launch a line of market reports under the INFORUM brand name.  The reports will not only include the greatest and latest market statistics, but also a perspective of what the information means in terms of impact upon the brand whose leadership requested the report.

We are not an ad agency nor a digital shop so we are not bound to see market change and trends only through the perspective of the marketing sunglasses.

#3 – We will further integrate the cyclical change model into strategic guidance

What got me energized to script this blog the way that I have in large part can be attributed to the rag publication called Atlanta Magazine.

Atlanta Magazine is not unlike any of its publication families or like pubs produced by other media-promotional companies… they are all glorified promotional mailers the are filled with advertorial and similar ad sponsors. 

The current issue is anchored around “Atlanta in 2040.”  Here’s a share of what the advertorial writers highlight:
  1. (1)  Our jackets could answer the phone (that’s the way the writers scripted it… not me)
  2. (2)  Everything will be customized
  3. (3)  Suburbs will learn to share
  4. (4)  We won’t report to the office every day
  5. (5)  Delivery food will improve

Wow.  I hear a group of middle school kids that hang out at the local coffee house make similar predictions in their essays. 

The best Atlanta prediction is that the official city of Atlanta will be “the largest city in the nation” by 2040.  The official city of Atlanta posts a new 2018 population of 466,512 residents and is growing at a rate of 5.74% over the next five years.

The official city of New York, the largest city in the nation posts a new 2018 population of 8,598,697. 

Atlanta magazine needs to purchase a new solar-powered calculator before it publishes any more predictions. 

Change is NOT linear, but rather cyclical.  Parts of the past re-surface and the influence of past dynamics re-appear. 

In 2018, we will work with clients in understanding the dynamics of like dynamics when the Boomer began forming families and having kids back in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Business need to place less attention on artificial intelligence and more focus on transferrable insight into factors that affected brand growth and development during comparative time cycles.

When I started my career back in 1981, I worked with a baking products brand called Martha White Foods.  The brand challenge was to craft product, distribution models and branding that could bring Martha White into a sense of connectivity with the growing share of Baby Boomer moms.

We are working with three brands right now on how to embrace the new Millennial moms.

One of the clients that EXPERIENCE has worked with a lot in the past 10 years is Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  Children’s hired a new ad agency about two years ago.  The new agency launched a new brand campaign in 2017 focused around the Emotional Ignition Point that “Moms know.” 

Millennials seek out a sense of self-control and a sense of personal signature… thanks in part to how technology “invades their lives” … and thanks in part to their Boom “helicopter” parents.

Children’s Healthcare leadership has a viewpoint anchored by cyclical change.

Just a quick FYI… in 2018, 96% of all first-time moms will be Millennials.  The other 3.5% will actually be Zoomers!  And believe it or not, the other 0.5% will be GenXers.  


If you are a new evolving brand or a middle-size brand seeking to capitalize on the big competitors who move very slow… call us.

If you wish to really know what are the true change agents of the marketplace and the impact they are having right now on your brand and how to strategically capitalize on them… call us.

If you ponder how the dynamics of past change operated and how the human marketplace evolves today… call us.

Call this number… 404.245.9378… and I promise that it will me answering the phone… no assistant… no admin… no automated service center… promise!