Monday, May 28, 2018

The Memorial Models Of The Past... Let's Journey Beyond!

When I started my career working at an ad agency, we called them the “media mavens.” 

I know… I know… I am starting this Blog being gender-biased… but I am only doing true factual journalistic reporting… something many in the press fail to do today.

No joke… there was not a single guy in the media department at this $80 million in billings ad agency. 

When EXPERIENCE has been brought in to work with ad agencies – regional ones and national ones – while there might be a guy or two in the media departments, there are still not many to be found.

In the past several months, we have been working with a “digital shop” in the Southeast that specializes in using social media to “build relationship dialogue” with brand customer groups – folks who recently purchase a product from an online website.

Again, I hate to be gender-biased, but in this “digital shop,” all of the team interfacing with the clients’ customers are male.

The digital team is all Millennial too.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a feeling I get when I see just part of the 2018 ad/digital media agency world that says there’s something “just not right” that’s going on.

I am writing this blog post on Memorial Day.  As you read more if this post, you will see just like me, that writing it on Memorial Day is actually very fitting.

Last night, I made dinner at my city house and kicked back with a nice glass of cheap Whole Foods wine and watched Flea Market Flip that airs on HGTV’s sister station, Great American Country.

The network must be going through post-May election day blues because there were a whole bunch of ads promoting GAC, HGTV and DIY-TV programming. 

One of the ads that ran is on that has actually been cited in a host of Emails and two snail-mail letters I’ve sent to leadership at GAC.

It’s the ad that promotes GAC’s Wednesday evening RV show. 

The ad runs over and over and over and over and over and over and over… again in each commercial block at least 5 of 7 nights of prime time GAC TV each week. 

Here we are in the year 2018 and with all the hoopla you read about high tech, artificial intelligence and Millennial geek expertise, the marketing-advertising-digital experts continue to brew the alchemy of strategic thought that “if you bang away enough times with high frequency and reach, consumers will ultimately go out and purchase the product.”

If you think that I am making this up, take a glance at the job postings for digital and marketing talent that runs on job websites today. 

If you think that I am making this up, take an inventory of how many online ads travel with you over the course of a week, let alone a month.

There are some very, very high budget brands that air the same commercials over and over and over again.  The same content.  The same actors.  The same music.  The same old sameness over and over each time.

In the world of technology advancements and lower cost, I would think that producing fresh content would not be an issue.

BUT… then again, there’s a vast array of brands and their brand leadership that live and die by the same dumbmass (note the spelling!) marketing mirage of reach and frequency.

Back in the early 1980s when I started working in the ad agency world, women gravitated to media because of a very gender-biased belief that a good looking lady could sell those male marketing VPs on buying whatever media could look the most charming. 

Just like today in 2018, there’s a very gender-biased thinking set that the geek-looking guy can more brilliantly program the computers to be even smarter in finding more niches of online, mobile and social media to run the banner ads.

On this Memorial Day, we need to honor the past and those who defended it.  In the situation within the marketing world, we need to finally put the mirage to rest and focus on reality and truth.

The truth is really not that scary. 

People connect with brands that emotionally engage and connect.  And just like in human relationships, brands that can evolve with them and be there to support as well as celebrate through the course of their life-journey. 

The truth is not scary… but making the change for many is.

This week, it was announced that the past CEO of JC Penny was leaving and taking on a new role as CEO of Lowe’s.  JC Penny continues to be challenged by generational change.  Lowe’s is facing generational change and competitive challenge. 

Industry after industry clings to their own kind as much as they cling and hold on to the past models of advertising and marketing.

Think about it.

What if Lowe’s hired instead the past CEO of Red Bull.  Or head of sales for Subaru.  Or EVP of marketing of Apple iPhones. 

I can hear the chorus now… “but what do those folks know about house & home supply stores?”

Banks keep hiring bankers.

Healthcare groups keep hiring healthcare execs. 

Automotive keeps hiring automotive peers.

Here too, it’s time to celebrate Memorial Day and venture out beyond the constraints defended. 

I will end this blog post with something that just might be politically incorrect for me given that EXPERIENCE works with a good share of politicians.

However, we are not party-aligned nor issue-aligned. 

On this Memorial Day, focus for a moment on what’s going on in Washington… and even more specifically the White House. 

A different mantra… a different model… a different course of leadership… is all churning up there. 

What’s been defined as the working model of the past ends up tossed out with both the baby and the bath water. 

It challenges many. 

And yet… there are some cool things that no one could predict or support that are happening that are driving the U.S. economy and marketplace.

The Media Mavens, the Geek High Techies, the formulaic models of the past… the comfort of coloring in the lines with leadership, the belief in some ways that the world is flat and if you go too far you will fall off the face of the marketplace…

It’s time to let go and journey beyond the conventional. 

Call me.  EXPERIENCE is ready to travel with you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is Your Brand Getting Killed By Technology?

If you follow along with the media, you'd think that technology will continue to excel at record pace. 

Shoot… according to the media, customer live interaction with the shopping experience and personal customer service will be gone in the next five years. 

This past Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal highlighted technology advancing within a wide array of businesses at an unstoppable pace. 

Shoot, there was a story that Walmart someday soon will be nothing but a place to drive up to and pick up orders made via a smart phone or iPad. 

There was another article that self-driving cars are all the rage with Millennials who have no desire to even engage in driving while they sit in their cars and text friends.

For entertainment value, during the last couple of weeks, I hit a number of the online job posting sites. 

I could care less if the employer was a bank, hospital, hotel group, consumer packaged goods company, insurance group or a B2B manufacturing company… nearly 80% of the postings were for technology and database related jobs.

“CRM” is the acronym that peppers many of the postings.  Shoot, even customer personal interaction and relationship building sports an acronym! 

Customer retention is NOT something that tech-geeks are good at doing.  Management might think so, but many are currently, or soon to, paying the price.

Let’s take a look at Starbucks.  Talk about killing brand equity, Starbucks can take center-stage.

The Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz has conceded his ability to understand and deliver the historic Starbucks EIP or Emotional Ignition Point. 

There is no place in the “third place” anymore.  That kitchen table has since been sold at the brand equity flea market.

Gone are the days of personal interaction at Starbucks replaced with Apple iPads and iPhones, payment apps and mobile drive-thru wired orders.  

Have to pay for the coffee, just swipe that electronic credit card.  A number of Starbucks have replaced the order counter with tap-screen order kiosks. 

Wall Street posted an article yesterday afternoon on its website that Starbucks has entered into a deal with Nestle to sell its coffee on the supermarket shelves. 

This morning, Wall Street is running a follow-up article that Starbucks financial growth has stalled and marketing leadership is going to launch an “online” and “social media” strategy to route customers back in the afternoon.

More times than not, I joke with indie coffee house management when I see how they become transfixed on the historical, ecological and roasting time character of the beans from which they churn out their coffee. 

I tell them that coffee is not their product.  The experiential environment is instead.  The attribute aspects of the coffee means little to vast majority who buy their coffee.

Here is what I saw this weekend…

Indie coffee house… folks sitting out on a patio chatting and interacting with real folk. No iPhones out... iPads and MacBooks stored in the computer bags. 

Starbucks three store fronts down… individuals sitting alone at tables interacting with their computers and folks standing in line interacting on their iPhones. 

I know… I know… my observations are not quantifiable and projectable… but that version of ethnography often is much more on target with key insights than the numbers!

The “Third Place” has now been replaced by the smart phones… right?

Technology has management hooked on the idea of linear progression of advancement and change. 

Brand equity?  Emotional Ignition Points?  Sustainable Brand Engagement?

Sure the buildings, tables and cushiony chairs are still there inside the zillions of Starbucks stores, but the experiential Starbucks brand has faded and the Starbucks brand now sits next to its peers like McDonald’s, Macy’s and Coke. 

As I share with clients and business leadership… do NOT get addicted to the opium of technology. 


As I have shared in past blog posts, the world does not progress along a route of linear change.  Brand choice is not rationally motivated.  

Brands have a life-line and as they reach market maturity. 

Deciding to capitalize on everything, everywhere and losing focus on equity of investment only accelerates the dismantling and ultimate death of the brand.

EXPERIENCE just received a second project assignment from a brand rooted in its agricultural past.  It’s a brand driven by its organic and eco-sustainable roots.  I am personally excited to be involved in the growth and expansion of this brand.

Sure there's Whole Foods, but its new daddy, Amazon is re-engineering its wardrobe like the show, "What Not To Wear."

No question that technology is part of our client's brand... its cultivation, production and harvest of product.  Even in the translation of the brand experience online.

BUT… our new client's focus and priority moves beyond technology with real people and real-time, in-person, interactive experiences.

What?  Computers are smarter than people, right?

My advisement to management reading this blog?

Take a moment and track how much of your operational, marketing and sales investments in the last 24 months are rooted in technology.  Compare that with how much of your investment is placed in actual people. 

The 80/20 rule has rich holistic roots transferable across one business platform to the next. 

If you find that the “80” is rooted in technology… give me a call. 

Your brand equity is in trouble.