Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Marketing?

It's a question that everybody has to deal with at some point.  Why did you pick your chosen profession when you had a million other options at your feet? 

Of course, most of us don't really know why we did what we did in university, so we either stumble through it or attempt to rationalize a decision that probably boils down to something like "it was interesting and challenging."

I believe in marketing.  I believe in it's power to be a force for good in the world.  But that's not why I chose to major in marketing, because I didn't know it at the time.  Maybe on some intuitive level, I did, but it certainly wasn't a concrete sense.  For me, it was interesting.  It was challenging.  It seemed to excite with tantalizing possibilities and a chance to be creative and strategic in business.  Yes -- T-accounts, spreadsheets, numbers and the bottom line are important...but so is creativity. 

Here's what I believe:
  1. At its heart, marketing is about giving a plain, old, boring hunk of metal a personality.  It can can be bold, inspiring, conservative, risky, exciting, fun, quirky, or it can even play the villain.  There are as many options as there are colours in a double rainbow but there is a right one for each product and company.  Marketing is everywhere, in the clothes people wear and the cars they drive, there's plenty of fish in the sea.
    Personality is your table stake.  It gets you into the game with all the big shot agencies and mad men - and you might even get lucky - but the real players set themselves apart in the next two categories.  The game has an element of luck but it takes skill to win consistently.
  2. Marketers provide a means for fans and supporters of a brand to express themselves emotionally.  They remove a certain element of risk that makes it OK for fans to be wildly passionate about a product, so that it's acceptable to show other people a genuine part of themselves that's already trying hard to escape.  Think of a concert with thousands of screaming fans, or the ritual involved in serving a glass of fine wine.  That's passion, harnessed and displayed in a socially acceptable manner.  To me, it doesn't matter whether we're talking about rock bands or restaurants, it's still endearing.
  3. Technology can help.  In fact, it is becoming even more important with time.  Those that don't adapt will be left behind.  What if our ancestors had ignored the hammer, the wheel, or worse yet - fire?  Technology can help marketers turn metal into gold; it can help connect fans and niche interest groups around the world; and it can also permanently change the rules of game - even while we're others are still learning the old rules.
That's what I believe.  It's why I don't have problems sleeping at night and it's something to strive for both professionally and personally.  That's extraordinary marketing.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once upon a time...

Marketing is about telling stories, taking a bland hunk of matter and creating a dialogue that people can relate to and connect with.  If you don't believe me, ask the new experts.

So here's something to think about, it's a quote from a Douglas Coupland novel:
What is prayer but a wish for the events in your life to string together to form a story - something that makes some sense of events you know have meaning.
And so I pray.
What do you think?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Why I Prefer Late Night Tweeting

They say Twitter is like a giant cocktail party (but with spammers and SEO specialists.)

It's true.  The analogy even holds as everybody signs off for the night and goes to sleep.

Think of the last gathering where you stayed a little later.   As people filter out the noise volumes drop and you probably noticed a shift in the conversation.  Things become a little more intimate.  People go deeper, share more and connect in a meaningful, authentic way.  (just be careful you don't hang around too long and overstay your welcome.)

This is exactly what happens on Twitter as well.  As the masses begin to sign off your Twitter feed slows down.  People tweet back and forth more and advertise their sites, blogs and affiliate codes less.

And this isn't a rant against people who Tweet too much or the result of a poorly chosen following list or anything of the sort.  It just makes sense.  Anybody who has ever been to a pub or club knows that as the number of people in the room goes up, so does the volume.   

In the digital realm, when the numbers go down, you don't have to shout to hear each other any longer.  And that's why I love late night tweeting.  What are your thoughts?  Do you stay up too late tweeting or do you hit the hay nice and early so you can tweet another day?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Good ads are backed by solid creative. They attract attention, and they're memorable for doing something different.

Great ads are backed by just as great products (which are backed by great companies who are, of course, backed by great people and great leaders.) Solid creative complements the entire mix.

Great ads do more than attract attention. They're memorable because they communicate a deep-seated, emotional truth; encompassing the product, the company's philosophy, and its visionary founders.

Good or great?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Buzzword Crossword

Think you know your marketing, business and technology buzzwords? (click for printable version)

I'll post the answers on Monday.  If you need help, ask for tips with the #buzzwordcrossword hashtag on Twitter.

Update: here's the answer key:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beware the Constant Promo Cycle

While in university, one of my professors gave me a piece of advice that I've never forgotten:
Watch out for companies engaging in non-stop sales promotions.  They're a quick fix to boost sales but they don't get to the root of the problem.

And then we see companies like Ford and Chevrolet reporting positive numbers and paying back government money while they engage in a relentless promotions war.

Ford Family Pricing, Chevrolet Clearance Event - these are signs of a larger marketing problem, a brand with a confused identity.  Beware the constant promo cycle...

Problem/Solution Format (Advertising)

Capitalizing on a meme can be a good way to kick-start your creative process, but it shouldn't replace creative thinking. Unfortunately it did with Microsoft's Double-Rainbow advertisement, seen below:

Double bland indeed.

This is an example of the overused problem/solution advertising format.  You set-up and dramatize a problem in the first 20 seconds of a spot, and then use the last 10 to show how the product provides a solution.

I loathe this format.

It's an easy way out when you can't think of a way to integrate the message throughout the spot.  And the worst part is that problem/solution ads often have so much potential to be great.  They always start with a memorable idea, but they end falling back to the pushy salesman of yesteryear.

Nine times out of ten, the formula creates an ad that is cheap, unoriginal and jarring.  The solution gets overdone and the ad ends up feeling cheesy.  For example, the music in the double-rainbow ad.  Was that really necessary?

Here's an example of problem/solution done well.  It's the famous FedEx 'box' commercial.  The reason it's so well done is because the ad doesn't rely on pushy sales techniques.  The spot ends with a low-sell voiceover solution, allowing the problem to take the spotlight.

More Problem/Solution Examples
Canadian Police Chase : Midas starts out strong with a humorous problem but then cops-out with a bland solution.
Rogers - Elevator : A slightly different take.  Rogers dramatizes the solution instead of the problem.  Really cool execution here.
Snickers with Betty White : I'm not completely sold on the strategic element of this ad, but the spot is well done.

Want more?  Find me over at Restless Creativity.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Critiquing The Social Network's "interactive trailer"

The interactive trailer for The Social Network (seen below) has been getting a lot of buzz lately but is it a success?

That depends on the strategic goal.

If it was to get people talking and generate word-of-mouth around the blogosphere (notice the share button at the bottom of the video), then yes, it was a success.
If it was to highlight the extent to which our lives are influenced by, and actually take place online, therefore underscoring a larger theme of the picture, then yes, it was a success.

But if the goal was to educate viewers, have them read the links and articles and go into the movie with an increased awareness - probably not. The information simply flies at you too fast to be usable in any fashion.

How many of the displayed stats can you remember an hour after viewing the trailer?

Very cool idea though - I look forward to seeing the concept refined in the future.
Imagine how this could be utilized in the future - purchase a DVD (for example, Lost) and gain access to all kinds of additional information and easter eggs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


From an early age, we're conditioned to value the approval of others.  Whether it's a pat on the back from our parents, or a good grade on an English paper, the people around us help to reinforce this need.  In the world of social media, Bloggers look for re-tweets, comments, likes and diggs.

But social media isn't the real world.  In the real world, as we grow and mature, others grant their approval less often.  We have to work harder to be recognized because few stop and take the time to say 'good job.'  It is expected that as we mature, we become more independent, more confident in our beliefs and actions and less reliant on the whims of others.

How many bloggers have started with dreams of making it big, only to give into frustration when they realize the only person commenting on their blog is their mom?

The solution is to learn to self-validate.  You have to reward yourself for meeting your own goals.  Give yourself a mental pat on the back when you complete a difficult task.  Let yourself feel good about the effort that goes into a project instead of the feedback received.   Don't tie yourself to the opinion of others. 

What does this have to do with marketing?  If you're always relying on positive feedback from others, you'll never be comfortable taking a stand.  And if you do take that stand, you'll inevitably be disappointed when you don't receive the feedback that you feel is deserved. 

Further Reading

Monday, September 13, 2010


Futureshop, riding the coattails of Old Spice with "me2 marketing" at its finest.  Extraordinary Marketing?  I think not.

Social Media is Awesome

A couple weeks ago I posted some comments on Steven Pressfield's blog (which I discovered it through a tweet from Olivier Blanchard aka The BrandBuilder).

To my surprise, I received an email a few days later, offering to send me some of his books - postage paid and no strings attached.  Sure enough these arrived by good ol' snail mail:

Extraordinary!  Thanks for the books!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Something is better than Nothing

In his highly acclaimed The War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses the distinction between an amateur and a pro.  It boils down to this:

A professional comes in everyday, rain or shine, and does something - whether it's perfection or well-received by critics doesn't really matter. The professional knows that you have to put in the hours.
An amateur, on the other hand, works in fits and starts and worries more about the validation of others instead of gettin his work done.

Professionals write all the time whether they're inspired or not.  They know the path to inspiration begins with dragging yourself out of bed in the morning.
Amateurs only write when inspired.  As a result, they don't write as often and lack experience so that their work suffers when they actually are motivated.  

Doing something is a helluva lot better than doing nothing.  Even if it's not perfect, you can always go back and edit.  If other's hate it, you still gain a measure of where you stand and where to make improvements.  Sometimes you have to just have to allow for - as an old teacher of mine used to say - diarrhea of the pen.

The Unwritten Contract

In the world of marketing, there is an unwritten contract that few ever seem to talk about.  It's really quite simple, but often gets overlooked.
Marketer's must provide something of value in exchange for their intrusion.
Often this value is provided in the way of entertainment, humour or drama.  In any case, it's the price you pay to gain an audience with the king.

If previous administrations have established a positive balance in your account, then you can get away without the toll for a short period of time, but it won't be long before your customer's hospitality and polite manner begin to sour as they turn against an unwelcome guest. 

Honour the contract.  Pay your dues in full and on time.  Don't skimp on creative.