Archive for the ‘New Product Development’ Category

Post Game Post: Teams Are Classic, Spots Were Not

The brute force that is part of the game of football seemed like just about the only thing that many ads had going for themselves. Spots like PepsiMax (assaulted jogger), Doritos (dog, sliding glass door and man) and Snickers (leveling Roseanne Barr) went out of their way for what might have otherwise been well executed.

Once again the game was better than the spots. What a novel concept.

Without further ado, here are the ground rules that I have used in previous reviews:

The spots had to be, quote unquote, Super Bowl ads: ads imbued with enough creativity to compel you to want to watch them again. They should stand on their own for pure entertainment value. Being aired for the first time, clock stoppers, buzz creators. And they must build the brand, create memorable awareness or introduce a new product in an engaging way.

I avoided previewing ads on YouTube and other sites so as not to watch them out of context. I wanted to experience them with the full impact of seeing the spots for the first time in all of the communal anxious anticipation of a Super Bowl commercial break.

By the way, I understand the pluses of leveraging YouTube and other social media and the increasing pressure to do so. Some advertisers and their agencies made a good argument that only millions and not tens of millions would see any of the ads before the game anyway. Fair enough.

If you really want engagement, and people’s attention throughout the telecast, then set up more contests where pros and amateurs alike compete to create an ending to a commercial with the winning entry airing live. Maybe even offer the winner a new job. These would-be creative directors, and their friends and family, will be forced to watch every minute to see if their creative wins and they become Marketing Guru Action Figures.

Incidentally, this is not at all unlike the excellent Chevy ad in the fourth quarter with the voice over of two guys planning the casting and the storyline for a commercial.
Speaking of car ads, and there were a ton of them, other than a couple of top-notch pieces by Chevy and Volkswagen, few moved me. (More on these later.)

I did like the anachronistic images in the Hyundai ad suggesting they too represent a technological milestone. Great visual metaphor: guy on the street with ear buds and a record player. KIA was close but no cigar as admirers were compelled to hijack the car. More special effects than affect.

Mini Cooper’s “Cram It In The Boot” needs to be mentioned, however crass many grown-ups may have found the spot. They tempted the censors by actually using double entendre to fight against the image that those cute little cars might not be able to carry much of a payload. (Just so you know, there were spots that were kept off the air. Some may have been designed that way on purpose to create a buzz and drive traffic online. Okay now I have to tell you–because I brought it up and you are now curious–one was about extra-marital affairs and one was about vegetarians and their sex life.)

For whatever reason the best work for me was not slapstick this year–as much as I found merit in spots like that in the past. So with that noted the ones that stood out to me were more on the clever and warmer side.

Three that come to mind: The self-effacing humor of excessive product placement of Bud Light was refreshing. One for the Chevy Silverado, “Tommy”, was a great spoof on the melodramas that are truck commercials. It evoked the Lassie movies and television series with its “come to the rescue” themes; ending this time with the hyperbolic: “I didn’t even know this town had a volcano”. Volkswagen Passat’s “The Force” with mini Darth Vader was extremely well balanced with just the right amount of cute, clever and convenience of the car.

Excellent use of the dating theme included the realistic mind reading in PepsiMax’s “First Date” and the brutal honesty about the unromantic side of men and their need for an email florist like Teleflora.

Honorable mentions go to: Best Buy and its new cell phone return policy making good use of chronically befuddled Ozzy Osbourne. CareerBuilder cannot be faulted for scraping the exterior off of the discomfort of being squeezed in a job where no one listens to you or “feels your pain.” Coca-Cola’s “Border Patrol” replete with uniformed border guards was quiet, cute and typically heart warming; working well to support its “Open Happiness” campaign. Doritos’s reincarnation of grandpa played off the broken urn in “Meet The Fockers”. CarMax also went to Hollywood for a good use of borrowed interest. Adrien Brody singing for his Stella Artois. Chrysler’s “Born of Fire” using Detroit’s homey Eminem and his city to evoke pride in heritage.

I feel obliged to mention E*TRADE, too. People love them. I don’t. Even though the spots don’t bug me anymore, I am now convinced that our spokes baby is burying the lead. Also, I’m pretty sure some people of Italian descent will not be using E*TRADE any time soon.

OK, because you want it, here are three that missed far to the left of the uprights: The GoDaddy spot, “The Contract”, offered the not-so-subtle suggestion that Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels bare more than they have in the past. Not inventive. Not funny. Not happening. Yes, I know, the idea is to drive traffic to the Website, but their internal agency could have tried a little harder as they did with their first half spot, featuring a practical joke with Joan Rivers joining the GoDaddy Girls.

Skechers tripped and fell in their effort to have Kim Kardashian (and her followers) focus on something other than herself. The people who worked so hard on this probably could not imagine a spot with her could be so flat. But worse by far than that, or any other spot I have seen in a long time was for Groupon. The “commercial” with Timothy Hutton in a Tibetan restaurant was just downright tasteless.

Let’s wrap it up on a positive note. I’m not sure Verizon needed a Super Bowl presence given all the publicity (and Apple spots) about the iPhone coming to a new service provider. However, “I can hear you now.” was beautiful in its simplicity and felicity to its own branding.

Bridgestone Tires scored several times with decidedly different approaches. The beaver spot was an advertiser’s dream. A feel good story with visuals of the brand name. Finally, because it may have touched the greatest number of people, was their “Reply All” spot. It was guaranteed to resonate with anyone who had a pulse and an Internet connection. Great emotional hook, clear connection to the benefits of the product and funny to boot.


When It’s All About Them, You Win Too!

Are you unable to articulate a monetized value proposition and create sales ready messaging?

Not to worry. Here’s one way to remedy the situation.

I call it Customer Success Story Selling TM.

First, make success stories the primary vehicle to engage your audience and provide customers and prospects with reasons to believe you can give them what they need. Value already delivered, as opposed to promises, builds credibility.

Second, make it mandatory that everyone in your company memorizes at least three success stories.

Third, make a commitment to capturing past, present and future success stories of value received by your customers.

Don’t have them in writing? Don’t have one for each vertical market? Don’t have the facts and figures you need for a compelling story?

Here are just a few tips and techniques I shared in a recent workshop I did:

—Think problem/solution.

—Think contributions made and value received.

—Think about their positive outcomes.

—You must use $’s, %’s, #’s and time frames.

—Use action words like increase, improve, accelerate, enhance, maximize, minimize, save, cut, reduce, eliminate, motivate, revitalize.

—Get in the habit of asking your clients why they work with you. Your good clients will help you.

—Use the Internet to find long lost facts and figures to re-construct success stories from the past.

—Do not write or talk too much how you do what you do and nothing about how much you receive in compensation.

Here’s an added benefit: When everyone writes and speaks the language of success stories your sales and marketing people will finally be “reading from the same script”. They will literally and figuratively be telling the same story.

When you focus on customer success story selling your true value proposition will begin to reveal itself to you, your people and your target audience.

As a result, you will see an increase in referrals, sales calls and requests for proposals. You will see more people walking in the door. You will see an increase in the demand for your products and services.


Post Game Post: Super Bowl Spots Fail to Cover the Spread

Who woulda thunk it. The game itself was far better than the ads. The game was super. The spots were not. There were a few exceptions. Film at eleven.

BTW: Last February I was so underwhelmed that I gave myself a bye. However, I am back at my post (pun intended) by popular demand.

Now, the ground rules. Same ones I established a few years ago.

The spots had to be, quote unquote, Super Bowl ads: Ads imbued with a creativity that would get you to want to watch them again and would stand on their own for pure entertainment value. Being shown for the first time, clock stoppers, buzz creators. And they had to either build the brand, create memorable awareness or introduce a new product in an engaging way.

I avoided previewing ads on You Tube and other sites so as not to watch them out of context. I wanted to experience them with the full impact of seeing the spots for the first time in all of the communal anxious anticipation of a Super Bowl commercial break.

This approach differs from the likes of Barbara Lippert of AdWeek and Bob Garfield of Advertising Age. We agreed on many things but had widely different opinions on the same spots on more than one occasion. Is this validation of no unequivocal standouts?

For example, Ms. Lippert’s fave was Google. Building a more emotional connection to the brand: great idea. Showing screen shots of someone navigating through a search on Google: boring. Something most of us see and do everyday.

On the other hand, something that you have never seen on the Super Bowl is a spot promoting a political position. As many of you know CBS broke precedent. My personal, ethical and political views are not at issue here. Although, I do have to say this could be a disturbing trend for the day of the year when we just want to have a good time with friends and family.

In this case it is the much ballyhooed and controversial piece by the Pro Life organization Focus On The Family. Again, personal and political beliefs aside, you could not have made up a better story. This was perfect: Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mom. However, they did not get a first down and they fumbled on the punt. Without pre-game publicity this spot would not have even been a blip on the screen.

Other things you don’t see every day, nor would you want to: Betty White being slammed to the ground. That certainly got a rise out of the viewers at the party I attended. Too violent? Oh please.

She was playing a game of football during the Super Bowl. Good tongue in cheek. Consistent tie in for the Snicker’s instant energy value proposition, too. Plus, it was one of the few ads that had a kicker in the end with Abe Vigoda’s cameo as the second celebrity tackling dummy.

The Denny’s spots satisfied all of my criteria. They were whimsical, creative and funny. The joke, the plight of the hens who had a production challenge, clearly supported the FREE Grand Slam offer; which has proven to be a winner for the company in the past.

Where’s the beef? Speaking of ground rules, the ground meat purveyor Burger King missed a great opportunity to introduce their new BK Whopper Bar, which serves beer! (Please see my last blog post below. BK and Bud together again for the first time.)

Doritos ads were consistent with their smack down themes from previous Super Bowls and they worked. Some of my armchair marketing consultants liked the one with the dog. I preferred the gym ninja using the chips as martial arts throwing stars. Certainly qualifies as the classic Madison Avenue approach: the product as the star. (No pun intended.)

Speaking of featuring the product, I found Coca-Cola’s sleepwalker spot engaging. It was pleasant to the eyes and the ears enabling it to cut through the cacophony of the day.

Cutting through the clutter was also achieved by Motorola employing vixen Megan Fox to carry the story line of the “It” device of the day, if you will. I was impressed that both men and woman alike felt good about the ad, at least at the party I attended. Among a flood of tech toys and TV’s, it was arguably the best.

An honorable mention for VIZIO. They were able to inform by saying the right things to the right people at the right time. That is to say, speak to the growing addiction to bigger, flatter and brighter screens.

OK. Now I have to fess up. I have never gone for the eTrade baby spots, although I know amateurs and professionals love them. I must tell you that the room fell silent when the spots played. At least there was no projectile vomiting this year.

Show stopper for me was the piece on the LATE SHOW. I got a huge kick out of seeing Letterman, Oprah and Leno on the couch. All the more reason I was left empty. How could you not get a solid punch line from that ensemble?

Although bordering on depressing, misogynist and ultimately trite, the Dodge Charger entry grabbed everyone in the room and resonated with the guys. Credit to the sponsor and the agency for having the horsepower not to reveal the product until the very end.

Dove successfully introduced its new line of products for men, but it was not a super spot.

I loved Brett Farve making fun of himself. Unfortunately, he was a good sport in search of a good ad. Hyundai missed the uprights. In fact, I found many of the cars ads ho hum. Nice try by Audi. At least they created a wacky story to get their green message across.

While we are being automotive, kinda sorta had it working but could not clinch, get on the team bus and go home. Bridgestone ought to be just thrown under the bus.

What was the deal with men running around in their underwear this year? OK for Dockers who is trying to sell pants. KGB’s sumo wrestlers. Huh? Career Builders once again succeeded in creating spots that got people to stop look and listen and then quickly try to forget what just happened. Insult to injury as it ran back to back with the Dockers deprived men.

Also, little people spots ran back to back too. Neither of which were worth the risk of insulting people or the venerable Ground Hog. KISS of death for the good Dr. Pepper? BTW: I did get the message of the new flavor.

Bud Light and Bud spent a fortune, as always, but the creative was consistently not up to par with past work. The human bridge was predictable and worse: weird and grotesque.

Just to be even handed, let’s look for the silver lining in the cool blue aluminum bottles of Bud Light. The house of bottles was an arresting vision.

The “LOST” spot used a classic story line: “We are stranded on a deserted island and we don’t care because we have beer.” The nod and the wink to the popularity of the show gave this some freshness.

In the interest of some quickly disappearing attempt at brevity and to be kind, I will not savage any more spots except the ones by Go Daddy. Those offered up by Boost, FLO TV, Intel,, Home, VW, Diamond/Pop Secret and Taco Bell may remain on the sidelines.

Go Daddy failed to launch. You got everyone’s attention and then each time there was a big groan. “Is that it? Is that all you got?” “Did you give it your best shot?”

They will undoubtedly be successful again in driving traffic to their site but bodice ripping is so passé after Janet Jackson’s costume malfunction. Even the “racier” stuff on the Internet is awfully tame. Actually this year’s entries were just awful.

Too bad, because I think Danica Patrick is swell. You go girl and keep up your gutsy behavior on and off the racetrack were she has given a fantastic boost to both Indy and NASCAR racing.

Did I say gutsy? How about that onside kick to start the second half? Congratulations to the City of New Orleans and the Saints. No longer to be ridiculed as the “Aints”. Now it just seems to apply to so many of the ads.

Better luck next time to the advertisers and their agencies; and to the great Peyton Manning who came a heck of lot closer to achieving success than most of them did.


United Airlines: “It’s Time to Paint”

What does it cost to paint a plane? And what is the cost to the brand if you don’t?

Staring out at the tarmac as I hiked through SFO, I wondered for the umpteenth time, when is United going to unify (no pun intended) the look of its fleet. I felt a need to issue a citation for a major branding violation.

What are they waiting for? You are probably thinking, the last thing the airline can afford to do is paint their planes. I’m not buying that argument. That’s just like the people who cut advertising budgets in a recession.

Plus, for reasons too numerous to mention, it looks like the airline industry as a whole is going to be beleaguered for a long time to come.

The latest color scheme evocative of friendly skies of puffy clouds and blue horizons is good to go.

Way better than the awful gray fuselage that looks militaristic and anything but welcoming. And speaking of which, what is with the blue and black horizontal lines on the tail. Was that supposed to make the planes look like the ride would be smoother than the competition? Never got that.

Next time you are at the airport and you run out of things to read or your Blackberry needs re-charging, count the number of colors they used on those overly demure planes. They went over to the dark side and lost touch with years of red, white and orange.

To be even handed about this, United has shown patience and consistency when it comes to the sound of their brand. They deserve kudos for co-opting George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and sticking with it for so many years.

Also, I have made inquiries with some of my long time air freight clients in hopes of getting the hard numbers on what it costs to paint planes.

Finally, I must fess-up. I am approaching a million miles flown on United and wish them continued success. Having said that let’s finish where we began.

No paint job for the brand – cost effective? Yes.
Good branding? No.


Lip Service to the Voice of the Customer

Companies need to stay fit and healthy to improve their game. Brands need to “exercise” regularly (run a new ad campaign), “stretch” (to extend the brand franchise) and change their “routine” (introduce a new product.)

The best companies achieve results in these key areas by making a commitment to talking with their own people and listening to the Voice of the Customer.

Maybe not, you say. But if people in companies stop talking to each other, if they are not really listening to their customers and prospects, they start to fall behind, they fail more often. Almost all companies agree in principle. Many pay lip service to it. Few dedicate themselves to it.

Why is that? For some, it is because they use it the wrong way and get a bad taste in their mouth. Many don’t set measurable interim goals that lead to an increase in sales. While others chicken out entirely because it is not for the faint of heart.

Having the right mind set is the key. If you think of these opinions, viewpoints and criticism as the advice of a coach you will win.

Think about it, all of the best athletes in the world have coaches. Tiger Woods consults with his caddy? Michael Phelps trains with a swim coach? The New York Yankees are guided by a manager who used to be a player? Companies, like teams and athletes, can always do better. Break records.  Win more often.  How did you take it to the next level in your life? Have you ever had a tennis coach or hired a fitness trainer? Have you ever attended a cooking school? Tried to learn a foreign language? Taken a piano lesson?

Do you research a company before you buy a stock? Do you have a financial advisor to get the most out of your hard earned money? I’m sure the answer is yes. Then why would you speculate with your company’s money–and your career–without advice?

Do you know all you need to know from the people on your team? Do you think sales and marketing people agree on what your customers and prospects are thinking and feeling? Do they really?

Stop the guesswork. Stop the destructive thinking that investing in coaches is discretionary spending. It is not. That is like skipping check ups at the dentist and avoiding your annual physical. Companies need check ups and coaches just like championship teams and world class athletes.

Stop thinking “when things turn around, then we’ll spend the money” or “we’re doing great, there’s no need to listen”. If you’re trying to stay in first place or struggling to get back into the game, you have to be listening. So have that conversation with your people, customers and prospects and really listen to what they have to say.

Can you hear me now?!


Sister Sarah: Republican Action Figure

When Govenor Sarah Palin came swooping down from her northern nest in the wee hours of an early Friday morning, bursting over a groggy electorate like a bright morning sun, I immediately went to school on her like she was a competitive new product designed to steal market share; a killer app that must be respected.

It soon became clear to this marketing strategist that her mission, her raison d’etre for running mate, was to solidify the base by attracting three key market segments seeminglyunenthusiastic to Senator John McCain: socially conservative mothers, religious fundamentalists and Reagan democrats.

(Not mutually exclusive groups, to say the least.)

A lackluster McCain campaign looking dull in light of the sparks squeezing out of the telegenic Senator from Illinois, now had an overnight sensation: a magnet drawing the media, news junkies and rabid rally rah rahs. Based on the latest polls this strategy gets a resounding “so far so good” as the campaign now appears to be in a dead heat. 

Right now she is the product phenom, literally., a maker of satiric action figures, has just released a Sarah Connor, I mean Sarah Palin; a Barbie like doll with no less than three outfits? (You can’t make this stuff up folks.)

Is she stealing the show and possibly market share from Senator Barack Obama? At the very least she may have frozen some purchase decisions. Can he regain his super star status from today’s “It Girl”?

The next phase has started as the happy Republican “Odd Couple” from the West must go off to work separately; like a Blue Monday after a great weekend of parties where they were the center of attention, inseparable in their collective charm, calm and confidence. Fearless!

The starting gun has gone off on the race up to the first debates, another key test where this new political hydra must stand alone.

Will McCain pale without Palin around? Can Cindy pick up the slack? (You remember Ms. McCain, John’s attractive wife and previous standard bearer for the long time pol from Arizona.) Will he stay cool as things heat up? Or will there be no heat at all without the firebrand from Alaska at his side?

And what of Governor Sarah Palin going solo when she begins her first rounds of interviews? And how will the basketball barracuda fare in the glare of playing one-on-one with the “The Smile” Senator Joe Biden?

Will the perception of new product perfection lose out to the bright lights of marketing reality as the imperfections of her Americana record start unfolding?

Will a cynical electorate care about questionable per diem expenses for a stay at home hockey Governor, “Trooper Gate” and “The Bridge To Flip Flop”?

Does this action figure wear Kevlar and Reagan Teflon too? Is Sister Sarah too good to be true? And, as if all of this was not enough, we are now consumed with a sideshow on the use of the expression, “lipstick on a pig” juxtaposed with the solemn anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country.

Don’t touch that dial, this reality show, a new version of “Northern Exposure”, has less than two months to go.