Friday, June 29, 2007

Apple's iPhone Now in Hand, But How Big a Hand?

Further proof that no detail is too small to worry about... Apple has obviously put great thought into the size of their hand models. Check out these early shots as compared with the later shots:Nope, the phone didn't change size, but it sure looks like it did.

Strangest thing is, it really does make a difference in how you think about the phone, doesn't it?

Credit to Boing Boing for finding this.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hilton's "Be Hospitable" Campaign Tied to Paris' Bad Reputation?

Paris Hilton told Larry King tonight that she spent time in jail reading the Bible, although she couldn't cite her favorite verse. Yeah... I'm thinking she made that one up.

But my sister pointed out something interesting. The Hilton family of hotels launched their feel good "Be Hospitable" campaign around the same time that Paris' frivolity was starting to catch up with her. Could it be that Paris' is having such a negative impact on the brand image of Hilton Hotels that the firm felt compelled to reply?

After all, they'd run another campaign about getting from Point A to Point B before they started this.

Here's a version of their ad campaign. Check it out.

Feel better about "Hilton" than you did watching Larry King tonight? What do you think? Coincidence, or fixing some brand damage?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wired Let's 5,000 Subscribers Appear on Custom Covers

Did you ever go to the amusement park when you were a kid and pose for those phony magazine covers, like National Lampoon or Sports Illustrated. Great fun at the time.

Now Wired magazine has taken it a step forward. They invited the first 5,000 subscribers to sign up at their website to get their copy of the magazine delivered to them with their picture on it. Very cool mashup of personalized marketing, digital work flow and the use of a digital production press. An example is to the right.

So, of course, I'm flipping through Wired tonight and see it, and I'm bummed that I missed out on the invite. But to bring the point home, and leverage their brand positioning from this offline effort in the online world so it can live longer, they have a website where you can play too.

Not as cool, but fun nevertheless. Create and share your own wired cover. Here's mine. And if you're wondering if I know I'm a dork...yeah, I know. But hey, I feel a bit like I'm back at the amusement park...Go ahead, play with it. You know you want to... You don't have to share it, but you know you sort of want to try it... Or maybe that's just me...

MySpace enters the Fashion Space

MySpace Fashion has launched, an effort by MySpace to chunk their massive user network into groups that advertisers will pay for. So far, they have 50,000 friends on the network. Look for it to become its own tab along with "music" and videos.

But the real reason is to find a way to host banner ads from fashion companies. Here's the challenge: Ads from which companies?

As AdAge points out in a good article, MySpace Fashion is currently running a banner ad for Bratz, which is a decidedly young demo. Is that the niche, or is it more mature, or more upscale. And will upscale brands advertise on MySpace, which isn't exactly a luxury brand., on the other hand, has it right. They are serving up buckets of content via MySpace Fashion (the average visitor to MySpace Fashion reads 26 pages of InStyle's content), which helps extend their brand.

While MySpace works out the wrinkles, the fact remains that marketing via social media sites is here to stay. Let's hope some smart folks realize it's much more than banner ads.

Monday, June 25, 2007

When the iPhone Flops, What's Next for Apple?

Perhaps this is heresy, particularly as I type this four days pre-launch on an iMac that I love, but I suspect the iPhone is going to be a bust. You can watch the zoomy video below, but the fact is that the iPhone has a touch screen keyboard, does not support corporate email apparently, doesn't have attachments support (it seems), apparently has a tinny speaker in it, and much more.

So now Apple has hyped this product with videos like this one that have the technorati all aflutter:

But when the bad reviews come in from real users, I suspect that people who fork over $500 and sign up for a two-year deal to do it are going to be pissed.

And Apple's been on a real tear recently, with great new product offerings. It's like they've started to really gain traction. You know the iMac and the iPod are great. But does anyone remember the Apple Lisa? Or the Apple Newton? Huge flops.

Maybe it's counter-intuitive, but I think that the way they hyped this phone is going to damage the Apple brand. The best it can do is live up to the hype. But it's not going to, and that's going to pierce their veil of infallibility--and that, my friends, is brand damage... Perhaps they would've been better off taking a somewhat more humble marketing approach to this. It still would be huge--the bloggers still would've gone nuts, but they wouldn't have fanned the flames.

It's like seeing a new movie when all your friends told you it's awesome, but it's only really good... You end up disappointed. If they'd said nothing, you probably would've liked it... That's what we're going to see with the iPhone, I predict.

What do you think? Is it going to take off?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mini-Creative is Maxi-Idea

I can almost see the creative brief that was written for this one. "We want to demonstrate the fact that the Mini, despite it's small size, is actually rather roomy on the inside."

What I can't imagine is personally making the leap to come up with this rather brilliant creative from a subway stop in Zurich, Switzerland.There's a growing trend toward "invasive advertising." The thinking, I guess, is that agencies should spend more time finding ads that can't be Tivo'd. That leads to a lot of junk. But everyone once in a while, it leads to a lot of creativity, like this. Nicely done. Credit to for the find.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Most Hated Internet Words Have an Impact on Marketing

Apparently every time you say "blog," you're driving some people nuts. And if you say something like "be sure to use your netiquette when you're on my wiki," that's a recipe for disaster.

A new poll released the most irritating words that came from the Internet. The top five must hated web words are:

  1. folksonomy (web classification system using tags)
  2. Blogosphere (the universe of blogs)
  3. blog (uh, what you're reading)
  4. netiquette (rules of behavior on the web)
  5. blook (a book that came from a blog)
This clearly has marketing ramifications. Some people would love to have an online community where they could quickly post content and read what people thought about it. But those same people don't want a blog. People may want to know what all the blogs are saying about them, but they feel like a dork saying blogosphere.

Words matter. If you don't know that and appreciate that, then marketing is probably not a good career choice. And while some people no doubt admire your mad web 2.0 skills, Obi Wan, another percentage think you're being a dork.

It's easy to think everyone is talking about blogs. And they are. Just some people are making fun of it...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Brand Loyalty is Vaporizing

One of the general rules of marketing is that the leading brand doesn't have to "enter the fray." Let the second and third tier brands fight it out. Let them make comparisons, because after all, they'll be comparing themselves to you.

But Advertising Age is reporting that huge companies (Apple, Subway, Pizza Hut and Diet Pepsi specifically) are now taking the gloves off and doing comparative advertising.

The reason: brand loyalty is down...

As much as it's my job to build brands, to support brands and to encourage brand loyalty, it is sort of a funny concept. Some act like brand loyalty should be a function of history and previous practice. Like you had a commitment ceremony with Coke because you bought it six times.

But brand loyalty is diminishing for a few reasons, among them:

  • Brands are doing too many line extensions. What is Bayer, for example? Aspirin, of course. But as Ries and Ries point out, Bayer introduced their own brand of "non-aspirin pain reliever." How dumb was that? It's like holding a sign up on their flagship product saying, "We're really just a commodity, buy the store brand."
  • Brands don't earn loyalty. You spend billions to get me to buy your product and 50 cents on the call center. And then you're surprised that I don't come back to buy?
  • Product innovation and promise delivery generate brand loyalty. I got a Mac a year ago. My next computer will be a Mac. It costs 3 times what a comparable PC costs, and I'm sorta cheap. Don't care. The thing just works. It's simple to use. It's fast... That's brand loyalty building...
You can do comparative ads. Many may be better than some of the nonsense out there today in the big ad world... But look inward big brands... I bet your ad agencies will look smarter, and consumer loyalty will increase, when you start being loyal to your own brands first.

What do you think? How can brands build their loyalty?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Did Snap, Crackle and Pop Surrender to the Fat Police?

Kellogg's is making big changes in how they market breakfast cereal to kids. They're also making big changes to certain breakfast cereals formulas to ensure they meet some new health guidelines. (Kellogg's created the guidelines themselves.)

Apparently, Tony the Tiger is ok... (Well, actually, he's great, but you know what I mean.) But Toucan Sam and Snap, Crackle and Pop may be on the unemployment line if Kellogg's can't find a new recipe for them by 2008.

While nutritionists can debate the merits of their "complete breakfast", the question for marketers is did Kellogg's capitulate to pressures too soon, too late or just in time? Animated cereal characters have been on TV for a generation, so are they really the cause of obesity?

As a marketer, can you reinvent an iconic brand relatively quickly? Does Froot Loops even exist without Toucan Sam?

My thoughts:

  • It was time to change the formulas. They are one small part of the obesity epidemic, but they can help a bit. They would have been punished in sales if they'd resisted too long;
  • If they can get Froot Loops to taste close to the way they taste, stick with Toucan Sam. If it's a dramatically different flavor, then invent a new brand and a new way to market it. Let Toucan Sam live and die with his product.
Those are my two cents... Yours??

Honda Minisodes Clever, Subtle, On Brand

One of the tenets of new marketing--meaning marketing in an era of Web 2.0--is that sales efforts should be more subtle. Treat people as if they are intelligent and they'll respond to your product if it meets their needs and interests.

MySpace Minisodes, which are sponsored by the Honda Fit, are a edited versions of old, once popular sitcoms. The 30 minute shows have been stripped of commercials and extraneous detail to tell the story in 4-5 minutes. They'll go live on MySpace this week.

  • Clever, because they're fun to watch.
  • On brand, because the Honda Fit is a small car from a reputable company.
  • Subtle, because the commercial message is only 8 seconds long, which is tolerable in a web environment.
Nice work all around...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New Tool is Old School

So, you want to use that DVR to fast forward past the commercials, eh? How high tech of you, Mr. Tivo.

Proving that what's old is new again, advertisers are weaving their products more tightly into the show's plot. Clunky product placement, like when Jeff shills for the latest Ford F-150 he's giving away on Survivor, may evolve into more seamless integration.

A new series called Mad Men will appear on AMC this year. It's about Madison Avenue in the 1960s glory days. Those were the days when products were blatantly part of the show. Anyone remember when Fred and Barney were sponsored by Winston, and actually took a break on the show to enjoy a smoke? True.

Mad Men will be sponsored in part by Jack Daniels, with integration on and off the show. Here's the funny part. The Brand Director at Jack Daniels is taking credit for finding "the next new thing." Uh, yeah, not so new champ...


Sunday, June 10, 2007

CMOs get fired quickly in publicly traded firms

If I ever take a job as the Chief Marketing Officer of a publicly traded company, somebody shoot me. Because if you don't, odds are that company will, usually in 18 months of less.

In fact, 83% of CMOs at public companies say they've considered a move to a privately owned firm.

Why? Because good marketing is patient. Good marketing builds brands, and that takes years. I remember the day I realized the dot com craze was being driven by knuckleheads. It was when I read a quote from a marketing guy saying, "We're building a brand. If it doesn't work, we'll just invest another $50 million and another 18 months and we'll be there." Huh? Pretty sure that guys out of a job--and certainly before he vested in his 401k.

Macy's just fired their CMO, after only 13 months on the job. Why? She wanted to build a brand, while Macy's wanted to see quarterly revenues grow. And how do you grow quarterly revenues? COUPONS! Woo hoo... How do you grow a brand? (I'll give a hint. It's not with coupons...)

I've always thought that working for a publicly traded company would be awful, and Sarbanes-Oxley made it worse. Now we see the CMOs getting axed...

Just like all agencies can't be bad, neither can this many CMOs... Beware the scourge of going public...

Friday, June 8, 2007

How Does McDonald's Spell Success?...S-H-R-E-K!

Guest author Scott Werner back again --

Forget Grimace, the Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and Ronald McDonald, the real dollars are in cross-promotional partnerships. Just ask the execs and bean counters at McDonald's who today reported that their May promotion with the movie "Shrek the Third" helped increase U.S. same stores sales by 7.9%.

But the interesting part of McDonald's Shrek promotion isn't really the promotion itself (fast food and entertainment cross-promotion isn't new), but how McDonald's chose to execute the program. With childhood obesity, and criticism of fast food restaurants on the topic, gaining momentum over recent years, McDonald's (with maybe a little prodding from DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind Shrek) made a decision to feature healthier food items like its salads, milk, apple slices with the Happy Meal promotion. Note that Happy Meals are marketed to children between the ages of 3 and 9, and a meal with a cheeseburger, small fries and Sprite totals 670 calories, with 26 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of trans fat — the fat type that experts say is particularly dangerous.

These latest sales figures are great news on a marketing tactic that had the potential to really hurt McDonald's sales big time! Especially after last year's news that Disney Pictures decided not to renew its cross-promotion program with the famed arches, partially over the concern the company had over childhood obesity topic and the assault being forged on fast food restaurants.

Now, McDonald's didn't release sales figures of their healthier food items versus their more famous, and less healthy, alternatives. But it appears that as long as they continue to find cross-promotions that interest the consumer, McDonald's execs won't have to worry too much about losing any sleep over declining sales.

So however you feel about fast food and childhood obesity, you've got to give some kudos to the McDonald's marketing team for the smart strategy behind their marketing for the this promotion. What will they think of next?

P.S. My child, like many other American children, is fascinated by the Shrek movies and thus encouraged me to make numerous trips to McDonald's for Happy Meals. I will admit that we probably didn't order many healthy items, but I did have one happy child who collected all but one of the ten Shrek toys. (If anyone happens to have an extra boy Ogre baby, the #8 toy, I'd be happy to send you a buck or two for it!)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Balancing Interesting and Offensive

Guest Author...Deidre Bounds here...

The challenge of being heard in an extremely cluttered marketplace has many marketers searching for over the top clutter-cutting ideas. In some cases what seems like a great, idea can turn into an unintended flop (just ask Cartoon Network about their Aqua Teen Hunger Force fiasco that cost Turner Broadcasting a $2 million earlier this year .) Another recent example of a questionable marketing campaign involves a controversial cursing landlord, Pearl McKay (aka the Toddler Smack Talking Landlord). By the way, Pearl is 2 years old. This viral video has made its way around the web and back as a hot topic of discussion. It showed up as recent as this morning’s Today Show. Did Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (aka BabyDaddy) go too far in an effort to promote their new viral video site You be the judge:

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever exploited your little one for the sake of humor. Admit it, you’ve laughed when little Johnny repeated the naughty words you screamed as you were cut off on the highway or stubbed your toe. Maybe you didn’t laugh right then. But surely as you recounted the event to friends and family tears of laughter streamed down your face.

Whether you think the Toddler Smack Talking Landlord is funny or not, it is probably highly unlikely to have a lasting impact on little Pearl McKay's character…but the impact on remains to be seen…Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Time For An Olympic-Sized "Do Over"

Guest author Scott Werner here --

When I was growing up, my friends and I could always be found playing some kind of sport in the neighborhood. And sometimes during the games somebody would ask for a "do over" after a bad swing or shot. Well, after spending $800,000 and taking an entire year to develop the new, just unveiled logo for the 2012 London Olympic Games, I think the folks that approved it need to ask for a do over.

The brains behind the games say in their press release that "the powerful, modern emblem symbolizes the dynamic Olympic spirit and it inspirational ability to reach out to people all over the world." And IOC President Jacques Rogge said it's "...a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games..."

Are you kidding me? I realize that marketing, particularly logo design, is very difficult and very subjective. But this looks like bad graffitti more than it does an Olympic logo. There is no recognizable signature image that immediately says London (other than the word London itself). And while the design might intrigue people to discuss it, I think you'll find more people scratching their head than saying "I love it!"

In fact, according to, some critics have already called it a "monkey on a toilet" or a "broken swastika." And the real critics, the general public, have already started an online petition to scrap the logo and develop a new one, saying that it's "an embarrassment and portrays our country in the worst possible way."

Below are examples of a few recent Olympic logos that I think did a much better job. What do you think?

(NYC lost bid to London for 2012, but at least offered a much better logo!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Enjoy this *&#@!)% spot

I'm taking a break from the heavy discourse on how clients and agencies should work with one another because, well, I'm tired... And because a friend of mine sent me this spot and I thought it was funny.

For those of you who expect a marketing lesson with every post, go *&#@!)* yourself... Aw c'mon, I'm just kidding... It's a reference back to the spot... Don't get all mad like that! Come back here... There there...

But seriously, here's a quick fun fact. This spot comes from, which is being widely panned in the blogosphere as a weak attempt at using social media. You need to log in to see the spots, provide personal info--even your drivers license number! Like YouTube doesn't have enough content like this for free? Heck, it HAS this spot... Why would I go give Bud my info... Funny spot. And a how to in what not to when you're trying to reach out...

~ Jim Tobin

Monday, June 4, 2007

8 Ways to Pick the Right Agency

In the last post, I outlined Ten Tips to Being a Good Client. Tip #1 was pick the right agency, which is important enough, and complex enough, to warrant its own discussion. So, here it is, 8 ways to figure out if you're picking the right agency. I've written this mostly toward picking an ad agency, but similar principles apply for picking a PR firm.

  1. Pick by size. Often the size of your account may align with the size of the agency you end up with. Or you may prefer a "nimble boutique" or a "name brand shop." Bigger is NOT necessarily better. You want right for you. While the industry may have formal categories for these things, in my experience shops fall into these categories:
      • 1-10 people: just starting or small.
      • 11-40 people: over the start-up hump, some critical mass
      • 41-75 people: crossing 40 seems to be a milestone that takes people to a different place
      • 75-300 people: these are getting to be some serious shops, likely with a few national brand name type clients
      • 300+ people: these are likely owned by one of about 3 giant holding companies that own everybody. If you don't know who they are, you can't afford them.
  2. Pick by your budget. Most firms that have been around a while have minimum project or monthly fees. We won't take companies without a certain budget, not because we're mean or greedy, but because we're set up to help in a certain way. We can't provide that help in a meaningful way for $5,000. Are you likely to spend $25,000 in fees, or $250,000 in fees or $2.5m in fees? The answer to that question takes you to different types of firms.
  3. Pick by your specific needs. Are you trying to get some collateral designed, or are you trying to run a small campaign, or are you trying to run a large campaign? If you need collateral, find a design shop. If you're investing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on an ad campaign, don't use a design shop. Find a strategic marketing partner. (Heck, call me... ;-)
  4. Pick by experience. Find a firm that's done it before. Either in your category (i.e., retail, healthcare, b2b, etc.), or with a lot of creative experience in the media you want to use, or by skill set. It's amazing to me the number of clients who can't tell the difference between a PR firm, an advertising agency and a marcom firm. And every agency with more than 1 person claims to be "full service." Dig deeper.
  5. Pick your team. If you've used steps 1-4 to narrow it down well, then a lot comes down to the skills of your team and the chemistry you have with them. Don't be wowed by the pitch team. Know your team. Talk to them. Do you trust them with your money and the growth of your business? This is a great filter after you've narrowed down the list.
  6. Be reasonable during proposals. Remember that work starts when you start paying for it. If you've got a big budget, if you're the biggest juiciest account in the market, you can play puppetmaster and ask for spec creative, spec media plans, etc. Otherwise, remember that the work starts when you start paying for it. If you've got a small budget (like under a million for an ad campaign), judge creative skills based on track record. The spec creative isn't going to be right anyway, because the firms don't know you well enough yet. Don't waste your time and theirs.
  7. Don't hide your budget. This is a classic one. People who won't say (or don't even know) their budget. And don't say "Tell me what it should be," because the answer is "More than you have..." You can always do more marketing and we'll think of stuff that you can do faster than you'll find money to pay for it. Some think if they share their budgets it will cost them more. Not true. It will tell bidders if they're in the right place, it will get you talent that might otherwise walk away figuring you have no money. There's a difference between agency fees/prices and budget, but hiding your budget doesn't help anyone. (Make 'em sign an NDA if you're worried about your competitors, or give a range.)
  8. Be as specific as you can. During this two-way wooing stage, say what you know. Say what you don't yet know. If you don't really know how the campaign is going to shape up, don't ask "how much will you charge for this?" That's like asking how much a painter would charge to paint a house without telling him how big the house it. In my experience, price is usually not the biggest factor (if you've done some filtering up front), but you can ask for hourly rates of key positions if you want to compare.
Hopefully these tips get you closer to finding the right kind of agency for you. Because almost nobody is teaching marketing directors how to do these things... I remember being sort of clueless the first time my boss told me to find an agency... Maybe better selection processes would lead to longer relationships--and that benefits everyone.

~Jim Tobin

Friday, June 1, 2007

What Makes a Good Advertising Client

In an earlier post, I talked about the huge numbers of CMOs firing their agencies and wondered aloud if it were really the agencies to blame or the clients in many of those cases. Over the last couple of years, I've been invited to guest lecture at UNC-Chapel Hill in Bob Lauterborn's advanced advertising class. He's doing an amazing thing in that class: He's teaching students how to be good clients because, as he points out, nobody else is.

Since I've been on the client side and the agency side, each for several years, I shared with the class this Top 10 ways to be a good client.

  1. Choose the right agency for you in the first place. There's so much to say about that alone, I'm going to do a later post on that. Look for the link HERE when it's done, but it's so important to get the right fit in the first place.
  2. Understand how agencies work. It's our job as account people to act like we have no other clients, but we do. And what we sell is our time and the fact that at least some of us really know how to do our jobs. If you trust that, and utilize that, it can pay huge dividends.
  3. Agree on what you're trying to accomplish. Sound simple, but you need to have clear goals. You should share your overall business plan, not just the marketing tactics you want the agency to do today. You should set a strategy as a team for achieving your marketing objectives and finally, you need to agree how you’re going to measure it. Then measure it that way. Curiously, few companies do all these things.
  4. Trust each other. Share your budget completely. Let the agency help you prioritize; otherwise how can they say you should do A before B because A will make you more money? I did this with my agency, and it worked well. Bring me any idea you want, just tell me which item(s) it replaces and why. Similarly, trust your creative team, or get a new one. If you were that talented in design or copywriting, you'd have a different job. I think it may have been David Ogilvy who said, and I loosely paraphrase: "Once you buy a dog, stop barking."
  5. Know your limitations. You should know your product best (see rule #7), and that’s the problem. You're no longer normal and you can't look at the product like a "normal" person does. Agencies are translators--that’s what the good ones do, they translate what you want to say into what the prospect wants to hear. Your changes and input should be based on reflecting strategy and getting the facts right.
  6. Understand advertising. Don’t feature puke. You can't write a user's manual in an ad. You need to have reasonable expectations for what “ads” can do for you and you need to understand how much you can communicate well in an ad. If you don't, that's ok. That shows me you understand rule #5. Simply refer back to rule #4 for the way out of it.
  7. Understand your product. This is your key job in the relationship. Know who you are, who you’re not, and how you compare to your competitors. Know what your prospects care about. This is really hard. It's a full time job if you're doing it right.
  8. Respect time. The deadlines we're working off of are to help you meet your goals. Respond quickly. Make all your changes at once if you possible're the one paying for the time, remember. And if it’s not worth your time to read our contact reports, why are you paying us to do the work?
  9. Understand the money. First of all, pay your bills. Most agencies are small businesses and not the place to stretch your cash flow. You also need to understand what costs what (A $400 photo is cheap; A proof will cost $750 or so; The average TV spot in the U.S. costs over $340,000. Expect yours to cost between $50,000 and $250,000 if you have enough budget to be on TV.) Don’t try to do what you can’t afford to do.
  10. If you treat your agency like clerks, you'll get the shelves restocked--and not much else. The big trend is beating down agency fees. Is it a coincidence that CMOs are now complaining that they don't get big ideas? My agency years ago was hired by Kmart to do a consulting project. We suggested they hire a relative unknown named Martha Stewart. How much was that idea worth? You can't measure it in hourly rates. Find a compensation structure that's reasonable on both ends and maybe "lack of strategy" complaints will go away.
I know this sounds like I'm an apologist for the "do no wrong" agencies. Not at all. When I was on the client side I saw the smarmy account guy, the disappear for two weeks account service and more. That's the subject of a future post...

What do you think?

~Jim Tobin