Thursday, December 30, 2010

REI, Invent This Brand: Rugged Childcare Gear

These days it is common to see fathers taking care of their kids in public. While this is a great step forward I find myself asking why the men must be "punished" by having to use childcare brands that look like they were meant for a mom to use, not a dad.

I wonder: If a well-known sports equipment brand would come out with items meant for taking care of kids, could this be a vehicle for supporting father-involvement?

Imagine that REI or Coleman or even Nike would develop a line of childcare items that included such things as:

* Strollers
* Diaper knapsacks
* Snugglies (those things where you hold the baby in public)
* Car seats

Or, how about a line of organic food for kids that was marketed to dads? (Read: pureed steak! Uch, that sounds gross, but you get the picture.)

Consider too the minivan meant for a Dad - whereas now they basically look like they're meant for soccer moms. (I saw a commercial for one of these the other day but I can't recall the name.)

For too long the marketing mistake has been to focus on the gender of the child. Instead, focus on the parent and the cultural norms associated with who provides childcare.

There is money to be made in social progress.

Personal Branding for Women in 5 Items Or Less




If you're a busy person like I am, you don't have time to look high and low for fashion statements. Get these 5 things.

1. Blazer - tailored - this should be the item you focus on most - go anywhere for inspiration
2. Pants - long and a bit loose - I like Banana Republic Martin Fit
3. Shirt - white - collared or a T - I like Banana Republic
4. Earrings - the bigger the better - I like H&M
5. Shoes - black, well-cared for - I wear black men's construction shoes from Wal-Mart actually!

Remember - it's not about paying a lot of money, but make sure that your clothes:

* Fit you well (not too tight or too loose)
* Are clean and well-pressed

Finally, don't forget good grooming. Great resources for this include Target and CVS...you don't have to break the bank.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Perverse Psychology of Selling At An Airport

What a strange marketing setup.

I walk in and see an enormous array of shops, storefronts and
eateries. I want to stop at all of them. Especially the one that says
"20 Minute Teeth Whitening Here." And Brookstone – they're flying
gadgets in the aisle over there. And the others ones too.

The problem is, I'm whirring past them fast trying to make sure that I
get through the TSA on time to get to the gate.

And when I get through the TSA line, what do I see?

McDonald's.

Famiglia Pizza.

And a couple of other no-name stores. (Let's not forget Hudson News,
boy is that exciting!)

There must be some regulation preventing the good stores from living
behind the TSA line.

When I get to the gate, G-d help me, all I see is a Quizno's, a
Pizza-Hut Express, and some other no-name place selling Budweiser.

What happened to the fun places? What happened to the Disneyland of
brands that existed seemingly so long ago?

If retailers want to make money at the airport, they should locate
their stores inside the area where the gates are if possible. That's
where you really have a captive audience, eager to do something with
their time besides juicing up their devices.

Rude Brand Value: When Customers Want To Be Mistreated

While it is often true that treating people well is key to
establishing a strong brand, this is not always the case. As Woody
Allen once famously said, "I wouldn't want to join any club that would
have me as a member."

Consider these examples:

• The "Soup Nazi," made famous on Seinfeld because if you said one
thing wrong he wouldn't let you in
• Big-city nightclubs where the draw is precisely that the bouncer
will probably exclude you
• Fraternity hazing rituals, traditionally humiliating, often
dangerous, and sometimes illegal, that typically involve an assault on
the initiate
• Gang initiation rituals (see above – and yes, gangs are a form of brand)
• Exclusive co-ops, country clubs, etc. that don't admit "just anyone"
• The Devil Wears Prada (entire fashion industry) with its cruel
idolization of the anorexic waif
• New York, period.

In Miami there's a pizza place that serves salad, Pizza Rustica.
Unfailingly they get the order wrong – every time. They make me wait
forever. They play the music so loud I can't hear anything. The tables
are dirty, and the Parmesan cheese is usually missing.

I won't eat anywhere else.

Why do we patronize rude brands?

From a rational perspective, we think these brands must have better
quality and can afford to be rude.

From a psychological perspective, being drawn to a rude brand is the
same as insisting on an impossibly high level of customer service. It
goes back to an unconscious issue that the person has, stemming from
needs that were not met (or that were abused) early in life.

It's sort of like why people are drawn to high school cliques that are
bad for them.

If you are building a brand, you can calculate rudeness into the
picture in order to draw a certain kind of customer.

On the flipside, you can become the Four Seasons of your industry,
being excessively solicitous of your particular customer.

Either way, remember that when you're playing to an unconscious need,
that issue can come back to bite you, if you're not careful and hit
the customer's trigger the wrong way.

Generally, the trick with rude brands is to distance the customer, but
then bring them in just a bit so that they have the idea that they may
eventually gain a form of "acceptance." But never truly accept them –
always keep them back just a bit.

With super-customer-oriented brands, you need to pay attention to the
finest details. Let nothing escape you. Anticipate their needs before
they even articulate them – that is the way to stay ahead.

On the customer side, if you are confronted by a super-rude or
super-solicitous brand, you may want to ask yourself what you're
really buying. If it's the positive treatment you're getting, is the
price premium really worth it? I just bought a coffee for $1.49 that
didn't have half the solicitousness of a Starbucks, but it was twice
as good.

On the other hand, sometimes an attitude is worth it, even a bad one.
That salad is worth the hassle; I would buy quality soup even from a
rude store owner. And there are times when gaining access to certain
social circles requires you to stomach a certain amount of
mistreatment. But if you're a masochist who just likes getting hit,
maybe you should visit a therapist instead of the "Soup Nazi."

Monday, December 27, 2010

9 Days of Atkins Hell & And 1 Great Lesson: No Sale Is Too Small

What an eventful 9 days it has been.


On a positive note, I am emerging from Week 1 of the Atkins Diet Plan relatively unscathed by the usual trio of "induction flu" symptoms: brain fog (left me literally dumb), tiredness, and a bit of muscle pain. Thank G-d for Google and the many Internet sufferers who reminded me to drink a lot of water, take calcium and potassium (salt), and be patient. 


Also a note of thanks to Chicken of the Sea for coming up with packets of wild-caught tuna and salmon that you can take anywhere and rip open at a moment's notice, relatively discreetly, so that you don't starve while in the company of others who aren't suffering quite the same way as you are. I am buying these for $1 apiece at CVS, which is a pretty good deal, and you can get them online too.



While I'm on this I will note that although I don't endorse any company or brand, Chicken of the Sea has a nice FAQ section on their website that addresses typical questions about mercury and other nutritional issues related to the foods they sell. 


I will also note that if you are on Atkins and you are going to take literally the advice that you can smother your food with oil (healthy fats preferred but any mayo will do in a pinch), you may want to ask your table-mates to avert their eyes as you start pouring. (Let's be frank: Plain fish in a pouch needs a little help if we are going to get through Induction. I've lived by tossing it with spinach, olive oil, parmesan and salt, but when the oil starts flowing it really freaks people out no matter what bed of greens it's on.)


OK so you are waiting for me to get to the point. Will do.


During this vacation I have visited many a shopping establishment. I saw salespeople both good and bad. But one thing that really stood out, which applies whether you're behind the counter of a Starbucks, selling shoes, or dealing with people in general is:


No sale is too small.


Meaning: You are never so high and mighty that you can afford to blow people off. 


Meaning: Don't decide how you will treat people based on their looks, their mannerisms, their title, or the price of the item they are considering buying.


Here are two stories that illustrate. Details altered to protect the innocent from an annoying email claiming it didn't actually happen this way.


Example #1: Expensive product, average-seeming customer (me)


I go into an establishment to inquire about a particular product. It costs a lot.


Salesperson - fully, artificially manicured and featuring Bath Fitter-type teeth (gleaming but with no indentation between the teeth, as if someone had fitted shocking white dentures over the normal set)  - asks what I want politely. I explain. Salesperson says, "Give me your email address. I will send you some information, and then follow up."


Email never arrives. Salesperson seemed sincere. But it was all just an act.


Needless to say I got the message: "You don't look like someone who would buy what we sell, so I am not going to waste my time on you."


Example #2: Inexpensive product, also average-seeming customer (me)


I go into establishment and order a sandwich. (This is before the Atkins thing.) We're not talking 99 cent special here, and it's not the million-dollar truffle hamburger, just an average sandwich from an average place that sells them.


I sit down thinking that the sandwich will arrive soon.


Ten to fifteen minutes later I am still waiting.


I go up to the cash register and ask politely where my sandwich is.


The cashier seems not to recognize me. Then I repeat my order. She points to the back of the sandwich preparation area, where two or three similar sandwiches are lined up. 


She says, "We have a big party here today. You will have to wait."


The message there was clear as well: "Big sales come before little ones."


In both cases, the salespeople employed faulty logic.


First, they both assumed that the sale began and ended with the sole interaction, and wouldn't have any consequences later on.


Second, they assumed that it's the dollar amount of the sale that determines the way one treats the customer, and not the fact that the potential customer had taken their time and chosen, out of a plethora of choices available, to visit that establishment.


The reality is, I carry the memory of both of those interactions with me. I wouldn't patronize those establishments again. And given any opportunity, I will tell other people what happened specifically and in a more general way.


Eventually, retailers who approach customers at any point of interaction, with anything less than respect and minimal keeping of promises, are going to find themselves at a huge disadvantage versus those who instinctively act with basic human decency.


These days, with the economy so tight and the competition for jobs fierce, you can never afford to alienate a potential contact. And you also never know whether the person looking out at you from the no-name outfit is average or simply an influential person who tends to dress a little shleppy. (Especially in D.C.)


Moral of the story: All the old adages are still true and I will now mix old and new. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," because "It's the content that counts," and regardless of how much the potential contact can bring to you, "Treat others the way that you would want to be treated yourself."


Happy holidays!














5 Issues Needing "Good Branding" - Not "Mental Environmentalism"

The L.A. Times reported yesterday on the decision to stop a planned anti-Israel ad campaign in Seattle from moving forward. Under the slogan "Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work," the "Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign," attempted to brand Israel as a vicious victimizer of the Palestinian people that violates human rights on the Americans' dime.

In a brilliant response to this cover for anti-Semitism, the David Horowitz Freedom Center came up with some ads of its own that said "Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work," with countering images.

The point here is not to debate Mideast Politics. It is that the best response to "bad branding" is not "no branding," also known as "mental environmentalism" (clearing your head from branding altogether and refusing to add more brands to the fray.) Not only is this unrealistic in a capitalist economy, it also doesn't make sense from a psychological perspective. 

Just as you are more likely to succeed in eliminating bad habits by substituting good habits for them, the best response to a bad brand is to put a good brand in its place.

As we head into 2011, here are 5 key social issues that really need a good social-awareness brand campaign. PETA and the anti-tobacco folks have proved that it can be done:

1. Sexual violence should be branded as a crime against humanity (not just women); misogyny classified as a disorder

2. Natural eating and healing should be promoted as mainstream, not "alternative," with pharmaceutical and surgical options viewed as the alternative to helping the body heal itself

3. Ingredient labels should be transparent and also carry warning labels where their additives have been clinically shown to be dangerous

4. Radiation dangers from cellphones and other consumer products should be shared with the customer when the product is bought, and recommendations for minimizing the danger provided as well

5. Cruelty to animals in the supply chain should be studied, highlighted, and stopped.

There is a world of savvy branding and marketing talent out there that can bring their creativity and insight to bear on these issues. I pray that this happens soon.









Sunday, December 26, 2010

How the "Little Fockers" Brand Makes Sexism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism OK

First of all, don't believe the low IMDB rating of Little Fockers - it deserves a 9.5/10, not 5.5. I don't know who these 855 people were who voted but clearly they have no sense of humor. We were laughing literally the entire time, from beginning to end. We even clapped when it was over. 

I enjoyed the movie tremendously, even though it was full of objectionable messages.

For example, while it's true that the movie is fairly anti-sexist, telling us that the equality & emotional openness of the Fockers is healthier than the old-fashioned "he's the boss, keep everything hush-hush" style of the Byrnes family, there was an essential sexist message in the movie that bothered me: "Wives are there to be seen and not heard, and don't cause trouble with their emotions." 

Let's put aside the obvious example of sexism that is the cornerstone of the plot of the movie. I don't want to give it away, but if you watch it you'll know what I'm talking about.

Going toward the more subtle stuff that runs through all three movies so far:

While the character of Roz Focker (Bernie's wife) is supposed to represent liberated femininity, she is also portrayed as emasculating, pushy (recall the stereotype of the "pushy Jew"), and even a bit crazy. The message being that "women's libbers" are all three of these things. 

In contrast, Pam Focker (Greg's wife) and Dina Byrnes (Jack's wife) are portrayed as "normal and stable," wives who know their place, don't make "trouble" (e.g. emotional demands), and support their husbands endlessly no matter how crazy and possibly even unfaithful they act. 

It is precisely Pam's endless supportiveness, as well as her stereotypical Barbie-like beauty, that leads her to be portrayed as the "one true love" of Kevin, who pursues other women, but can never forget her. The most that Pam asks of Greg is to check on the facepainter for the kids' upcoming birthday party, and when he doesn't do it, she simply sighs and leaves the room. When sultry Jessica Alba is clearly making a pass at him, she doesn't make waves, either.

Dina Byrnes is another sigher, who essentially enables Jack to build a complex labyrinth in the basement (note that she doesn't have a comparable office, studio, etc.) and seems to anticipate his every quirk with a knowing and loving smile.

Neither of these women have a job, either. Perhaps that is why they don't complain? Because they depend on their men for money?

In terms of racism, there were very few African-Americans in this movie at all, much less any in power. I saw one character playing a patient, one playing an incompetent nurse, and another on the subway train as an "extra." Do the Fockers and the Byrnes not have any African-American friends, associates, customers, and so on? Why was the movie so "White?" I'm not saying that movies have to be advertisements for diversity but the Caucasian-ness of the movie seemed extreme.

There is another example of anti-Semitism besides the writers' antipathy toward Roz (and Bernie) but I don't want to give away that part of the plot. 

Clearly though this is very much a movie poking fun at "WASP" culture and the difference between it and the movie's Jewish characters. It seems like WASPiness is "idolized," but also seen as dysfunctional, whereas Jewish culture is a kind of corrective. (Interestingly I was reading the book "Stuff White People Like" yesterday and it had a similar attitude toward WASPiness. It was also hilarious.)

When you look at all the examples of stereotyping in the movie on paper you can easily say something like, "How can you enjoy the movie or promote the brand if it is really as bad as you say?" 

I'm not promoting the brand, though I think it is a valuable one. My point here is that Hollywood, and entertainment brands in general, are given a certain amount of "permission" by the viewer to trespass boundaries that would be uncrossable in real life. They are an escape and in providing an escape they enable us to indulge in what is normally considered politically incorrect. The truly great movies, music, books, etc. actually wink an eye at these things and challenge them within the movie itself. 

At the same time, especially when kids are absorbing these messages, I think it's important to point out objectionable messages and talk about them, so that they don't absorb them uncritically. 

All of this is similar to the controversy that took place some years ago over rap music. There were a lot of issues around how women were portrayed in rap music, and some wanted to ban it. But in my view, by talking about rap the music was integrated into so many cultures all over the world, in a valuable way that enabled many messages of equality and empowerment to come through.













Better than junk cereal brands: Good Mood Kid Friendly Natural Oatmeal

I made this up to get "certain people" to ingest lots of omega-3 and healthy oatmeal. Don't have to have all the nuts, of course, or the whipped cream, or even all the sugar, though it makes it edible for those used to processed junky cereal brands.

I am strongly against resorting to artificial sweeteners unless you have to.

Overall, this is a nutrition bargain that someone will actually eat.


Ingredients

1/2 cup oatmeal, unprocessed

1 cup water

3 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2 tablespoon Whipped cream



Steps

1. Boil water

2. Add oatmeal and let cook on low 5 min

3. Top with brown sugar, walnuts, and whipped cream

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Try This Brand Mix @ Home: Pizza Rustica Salad, Made The Chop't Way

When you cross Pizza Rustica's ingredients with Chopt's emphasis on fine chopping, good mixing, freshness, and quality, you end up with the BEST salad on earth.

If you're on Atkins, emphasize the greens, proteins and olive oil and watch the carbs. For low-fat diets, you can season it with lemon juice. I try to avoid processed dressings with artificial ingredients.


This salad makes me feel great. Enjoy!
Ingredients

3 cup spinach, arugula, or spring greens

1/2 cup chopped roasted eggplant

1/2 cup artichoke hearts

1/2 cup red onion, thinly chopped

1/2 cup red pepper, sliced

1/2 cup olives, black, chopped

1/2 cup cucumber, matchsticks

1 cup tomatoes, fresh, chopped

1/2 cup carrot, matchsticks

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, in oil, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, roasted or minced

1/4 cup basil, fresh

1 cup sliced hardboiled eggs

1 cup albacore tuna, plain, water-packed

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

3 tablespoon olive oil or dressing

1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper



Steps

1. Get a big mixing bowl, cutting board, and sharp chef's knife

2. Assemble whichever of these ingredients you like

3. Chop everything fine

4. Add oil or dressing of choice (preferably all-natural)

5. Grind and add salt and pepper

6. Mix thoroughly

7. Serve right away

Brand Success Goes To Those Who Study It



Talk to someone who "gets" branding and they will likely be able to recount the Oprah-like "aha" moment when they started to comprehend how it works. I've heard things like:

* "It was like a lightbulb went off."

* "It's like a domino effect...once one domino fell into place, they all did."

When I began working as a brand consultant in 2001, the going was tough. Most of the time, what passed for "branding" was really advertising. And of course, if you aren't into marketing, pretty pictures that say "Buy Me" are more appealing and more intuitive as an investment in communication.

Man was it tough.

Customers had questions like:

"Where's the ROI in what you are suggesting?"

"I don't have time to do all this assessment and strategy - can you get me something fast?"

The ROI part was huge. (Similar in fact to trying to sell social media to those who have never used it before.) Of course it's a defensive mechanism, not really about the money. Customers understand that these tools ultimately lead to changing organizational structures. Not everyone can handle that.

Nevertheless we did countless PowerPoints showing branded items vs. non-branded items. Just photos. We would say, "See? Value of a brand? Understand now?" We looked at each other in frustration as the customers nodded their heads at the other brands, but seemed to not understand how the analogy applied to them.

Sometimes the customers did get mad. We would describe to them the difference between their self-perceptions and the perceptions that their stakeholders had of them. They would question our methodology and even our competence.

We tried to explain that the results were valid. That the gap in perception was costing them money.

In the end the strategic part of branding was always a tough sell, while the pretty pictures were easy.

Fast forward a decade and now everybody is talking about branding, or so it seems. The value of a name, a reputation, an image, a promise is incontrovertibly understood. But one thing that people don't understand, still, is that branding is a science with principles that can be learned. While some are born geniuses in this field, others can simply study the core principles that make brands great, and apply those principles to every area of their lives in order to be successful.

I think I understand why people mis-associate branding with advertising, and think it's the department of creatives rather than savvy businesspeople. In reality, branding was born out of advertising. And advertising was not born in the laboratory. It was born in creative hothouses where writers and graphic designers sat over the work for hours and days, emerging with a "brainstorm" to sell to the client.

Back then, creativity was necessary to substitute for the lack of large-scale, sophisticated, computer-assisted techniques that we have at our disposal today and will see more and more of in the future, including for example:

1. Neuromarketing
2. Computer-generated analysis of consumer profiles vs. buying habits - psychographics, demographics, location, etc.
3. Computer-assisted marketing research that takes input from many people at once to generate a product prototype
4. The creation of shopping environments in which to study consumer behavior in a controlled way
5. Marketing research studies conducted as scientific experiments

This is not to say that art, creativity, genius has no place in branding (and marketing). To the contrary: People who are born with this skill (the Howard Schultzes, Madonnas, Richard Bransons, Donald Trumps, etc.) can shortcut much of the science because they "just know" what to do.

But for the rest of us, particularly those charged with managing millions of dollars in brand investments, it is worthwhile to take the time to study the tactics that work. To take branding seriously as a science, not an art. Because when you understand what the principles of branding are and how to leverage them, your chances of success in any endeavor are exponentially greater.

Basically, it comes down to this: Be the same shlepper as everybody else, and keep on saying that "my product speaks for itself." Or, face the fact that branding matters. Roll up your sleeves, study it and get smart. You'll put in less effort and be more successful, in the end - whether you're promoting your personal brand, your product, your service, or even a social cause that you believe in.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Pope's Call To Action

A portion of the Pope's Christmas message for 2010 has left some
people hopping mad:

"In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in
conformity with man and even with children."

In other words, he seems to be saying, "Excuse us for not doing
anything all these years—we thought the sexual abuse of children was
normal."

I don't believe that this is what the Pope meant at all. But still, it
doesn't sound good. Singer and prominent Church critic Sinead
O'Connor, wrote a furious open letter to the Pope that reads, in part:

"Exactly who held the theory [and]….Why in all the years since these
scandals broke out was yesterday the first mention of this
information?....The Holy Spirit requires you to familiarize yourself
with honesty and respect if you retain any desire to salvage the
remains of the church which has been ruined by its being allowed to
live by its own laws and not God's."

I am a huge fan of Sinead O'Connor. But I don't think she read the
message right. Rather, I agree with mainstream interpretations, like
that of Washington Post, which saw the Pope's remarks as a "remarkable
demonstration of public soul-searching."

I'm not sure if the Post saw the same thing that I did in the message,
though. What was brilliant about it for me was the way the Pope called
attention to the sociological phenomenon called "deviance." Basically,
deviance occurs when society defines a behavior as something that
stands outside the norm and punishes it. Many kinds of people are
considered deviant, but the most important category is the criminal.
We criminalize certain behaviors as a survival mechanism: By punishing
and banishing the criminal, we ensure the survival of the group.

In any case, the Pope's statement that pedophilia used to be
considered part of the normal spectrum of behavior (shocking—like who
were the Church elders hanging out with?) and therefore went
unpunished leads directly to his point: Child sexual abuse is rampant
because society has made it normal, both in religious institutions and
outside of them.

The Pope is telling Church leaders, but also the world, that it is our
collective responsibility to stop, dead in its tracks, the
sexualization of children in any institution or area of life, whether
that is the church, the synagogue, the mosque, the family, the daycare
center, the elementary/middle/high school, the sports club, or
anywhere else in society that this culture manifests itself.

In short, we must make it absolutely deviant to sexualize a child. Not
just as a crime to be enforced in a court of law, but as a set of
social norms and values that center on the preservation of childhood.
Its innocence. Its freedom from the intrusion of adult wants and
needs.

All of this may sound pretty obvious. Preachy, even. But if you look
around at our world, it's evident that the Pope's message is somehow
not getting heard. Definitely not getting heard in some of the
institutions that affect kids most.

The worst thing of all is that not only are adults harming children,
but children are buying into their own exploitation and destruction.
So that the adults don't even have to recruit them anymore – kids
nitpick and henpeck each other to conform to a sexualized ideal that
is way beyond their years.

A few examples:

• The entertainment industry is centered on taking innocent children
and turning them into objects of adult desire. How many celebrities
have been "role models" to our kids in their journey from Mickey Mouse
to way-too-adult attire? Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley
Cyrus are just a few examples that come to mind and we have seen their
"crash and burn." Even the child stars have even younger siblings
joining them in Hollywood – like Dakota and Elle Fanning, just 13
years old.
• Now Hollywood stars are taking their own branding a step further by
birthing or adopting branded "mini-me"-s, then introducing them to the
world of commerce virtually from the moment they enter the world.
These children are either parent-accessories or businesses in their
own right. Think of Suri Cruise, the Brangelina brood, the Jon + Kate
Plus 8 kids (coincidentally so angry they were expelled from school?),
the Spice Girl kid now starting a line of sunglasses.
• The fashion industry routinely recruits young, innocent waifs to
participate in a world that is way too sophisticated for their
maturity level. Those kids take the money, put on skinny jeans and
tight tops with plunging necklines and cutouts, and then the kids who
watch them influence other kids to buy similar items.

Unfortunately, marketers have been complicit in this phenomenon by
branding to kids virtually from infancy. Everyone is getting used to
being either branded or living in a world defined by brand choices. If
you don't speak or live the language of brands you are functionally
illiterate.

The Pope is telling us, in his message, to question this. Because it
seems like no coincidence that we are witnessing, as he puts it, "the
psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are
reduced to articles of merchandise…a terrifying sign of the times."

Also, it is no coincidence that "in the modern culture, child
pornography, drugs, sex trafficking are seen as normal and not unduly
questioned."

For those who care about ethics in marketing in branding and life, the
Pope's speech is a call to action.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brand opportunity: Kill the puffy coats!

Ever noticed that women hate puffy coats, regardless of their age?

This winter I have heard from several women that they would rather look good than be warm. Literally I have heard, "I will not wear puffy coats because they make me look fat!"

I have also heard the opposite - "I wear puffy coats and I don't give a **** whether they make me look fat."

Either way though, the worry about fatness is always there.

Even though the coat makes no difference, truthfully.

Nevertheless - there is a real opportunity for someone to come in and generate buzz around affordable, stylish, super-warm coats that are NOT PUFFY.

Good luck!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons from the Trumps: Your Haircut & Your Personal Brand



The cornerstone of personal branding is trustworthiness. Did you ever stop to think that people might trust you, or not trust you, because of your haircut?

Exhibit A: The Trump family of personal brands.

Donald Trump and his son both have variants of the comb-over. The elder's haircut is non-greasy, while the younger one's is definitely of the greasy variant.

It is noteworthy that the "original" Donald manages to maintain a good brand, probably because of his straightforward demeanor and signature tagline, "You're fired!"

The younger one's definitely comes across as non-trustworthy. I venture to say this is in large part due to the hair grease. Similar, I think, to the issue Scott Disick faces in his battle to win the trust of Kourtney Kardashian's family.

Ivanka Trump, both in haircut and in demeanor, always looks and sounds trustworthy. Thus she is hire-able anywhere, a born CEO.

Ivanka's mom, Ivana, has an even better hairstyle in my view. It reflects strength, time, effort, and also a degree of control - yet it still looks natural. I love that 'do!



Let us note this for all time: It's the level of control that matters when it comes to your hair. Skillful control = good. Grease = bad.

The haircut dichotomy within the Trump family is reflected in the corporate brand. I am drawn to Trump properties, but in the back of my mind always wonder how solvent the company is.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who decides what is "common knowledge" when it comes to marketing claims?

Watching the movie Supersize Me, I was struck by something McDonald's said in response to a lawsuit against it by two obese young women.

Apparently McD's defended itself in part by saying it's "common knowledge" that processed foods are less healthy than unprocessed foods.

Actually in my experience this assertion is far from true. Just the opposite sometimes - there is the thought that if someone has "cooked the hell out of it," processed and pasteurized it and sealed it up tight in plastic, then it's much more safe than "unprotected" natural food.

I myself did not know there was a difference between chicken nuggets and regular chicken, actually, because so often you see things like "100% white meat" on the package.

Similarly I really thought Papa John's tagline, "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza" was a statement of fact.

I am no rocket scientist but I do have a Ph.D. And I have been working in and studying marketing for decades.

Are you going to tell me that most people are savvy disbelievers by nature?

Come on!

I think what's common knowledge is that people are frequently easily fooled.

And even if they are cynical - are you then going to argue that the entire marketing industry is built on open lies that people can easily unravel? Or that it should be?

It's common knowledge that nobody trusts a liar.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love is not a "flaky crust"

There is a TV commercial for either dough or cinnamon rolls (I can't remember which) that portrays the problem perfectly.

Woman is shown holding up a tray of steaming-hot, freshly-baked, drizzling-sweet cinnamon buns before her gaspingly grateful husband and children.

Of course all is orderly at this family dinner table. Mom's love, represented by cinnamon rolls, keeps everyone seated and smiling.

In the fantasy world that advertisers create, food is love. More specifically, commercially prepared fast food is a stand-in for the fantasy of the perfect mother - or father.

The real wish of the child, of course, is not for food. Kids, and adults, want attention and nurturance most of all. But since there is no way to commercialize this, we are bombarded with substitute symbols. We are supposed to feel that preparing and eating these foods either means giving love, or being loved by a caring parent.

The culture during holiday season reinforces this. It's all about either shopping or parties or food. And for those who can't afford extravagant things and who aren't invited to fancy parties, "food is it." People take great pride and go to great lengths to make the perfect holiday meal.

But looking around nowadays, one can't help but wonder if the use of food (the exploitation of food) as a substitute for love has gone too far. We are glorifying and overconsuming all the wrong things, and marginalizing the right ones - i.e. no one brings a bag of organic apples to a holiday party.

It's time to rethink our priorities and take back our "food culture" from the advertisers.

Menschlachkeit: A Personal Branding Lesson from Apprentice Winner Brandy Kuentzel

The New 'Apprentice' Winner Is Brandy Kuentzel

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that my mother was finally victorious in getting me to watch The Apprentice.

I told her last night that I was watching and she got all excited. This was a great moment for her, I believe, as I never listen to anything she says, especially when she starts going on and on about it. (She absolutely hates my cooking, you should hear the lecture about my FANTASTIC chicken recipe: chicken thighs, skin on, broiled 5-7 minutes a side. She has to cook everything at 350 degrees for 1 hour and then let it sit out for 2. But that's another blog altogether).

Anyway, following is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation last night:

Ma: "So did you watch all the episodes?"

Me: "No, just the first two with the Kardashian perfume display and the commercial for Flo TV."

Ma: "So you don't know who won." (Yes, ma, you know more than I do - yet again!)

Me: "No." (Trying to eat dinner and talk at the same time. Family in the background trying to tell me about their days. Feedback that I talk too loud.)

Ma: "Go and find out who won and then we'll talk about it."

Me: "I'm pretty sure that Clint won. He seemed like the winner all along."

Ma: "We'll talk about it when you find out. Ask me what I think."

So I look up who won the contest and I am shocked to find that it was...BRANDY????

I was sure that Clint would win. He seemed at all times to be highly focused, adaptable, willing to learn, a decent leader and team member, etc.

Brandy, however, was fairly quiet and I didn't see her really stepping up aggressively in any way. I thought Trump would want an aggressive person to join the Trump Organization for sure. Like that not-nice woman from the previous episode who seems to now be a "spokesperson" for the brand.

Plus Brandy screwed up a couple of assignments she was given.

However, somewhere inside me I was rooting for her. For a few reasons.

1. Brandy showed some serious menschlechkeit (a Yiddish word for human decency) on the show. As the teams were whittled down she was paired with Liza, another female on the show who had been mistreated quite a bit. Instead of fighting to throw Liza under the bus, Brandy tried to give her some air time and let her be the project manager. In other words, she empowered someone who she could easily have tried to destroy. A TRUE LEADER.

2. Brandy accepted assignments she didn't like when it was good for the team. For example, she was asked several times to be a presenter because of her looks, gender, even her race. She didn't complain but rather genuinely tried to help out.

3. Brandy was able to confront tough issues, like hidden sexism, without losing her cool.

I am glad that Brandy won the race and think that she exemplifies an outstanding personal brand. Good luck to her and to all the contestants.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Mother Was Right About The Apprentice

Over the past few months I've been telling my mom to watch The Millionaire Matchmaker. That show is so much fun to watch and so hilarious. I really get a kick out of it.

In turn she's been telling me to watch The Apprentice, but like a stubborn kid I've been putting her off.

Well you know what happens when moms suddenly stop telling you to do something. That's exactly when you become open to the idea that they've planted in your head.

So yesterday, when I happened to see The Apprentice available on Video on Demand, I decided to watch an episode.

It was fantastic TV! It taught me a lot about the workplace. And there were a couple of brand things in there that I would like to highlight today.

The episodes I caught were "1009" and "1010." Let's pull out three brand issues:

1. In 1009, they have to promote Kim Kardashian perfume in massive retailer Perfumania through an in-store display.

2. In 1010, they have to promote AT&T Mobile TV and "FLO TV" (I'd never heard of that) through a 30-second commercial.

3. After 1010, the fired contestant said that she went on to "represent the Trump brand."

Some quick comments:

On the perfume signage:

1. I know this was just TV, but normally you would not want to come up with an entirely new presentation concept for a brand just for the sake of a point-of-purchase display.

2. The losing team actually came up with the idea that was truer to the Kardashian brand - feather boa, etc. and you can take your picture with a life-size Kim Kardashian. It was just poorly executed.

3. Sometimes tackiness can be fine for the brand. The other team's concept was more sophisticated but the first concept was truer to what is appealing about Kim. Therefore, it made me as a customer more inclined to buy it.

On the AT&T commercial:

1. The losing project team did not mention the brand first and foremost in the commercial. That's a point Trump made. Always put the brand front and center.

2. However, what Trump didn't say was that "AT&T" and "Flo TV" together were too confusing to be called a brand. That's why the representative of the losing project team kept stumbling. Most of the time it's better to just pick one name and not to try to force awareness of a company whose brand is either irrelevant or possibly detracting from the success of the rollout. In this case, AT&T is known to have crappy reception (so why would I invest in mobile TV from them) but "Flo TV" is not known at all (so why would I trust them)?

3. The brand confusion needed to be discussed with the customer. In the real world that would be a negotiation, as would the discussion with Kardashian over the display. Just because the customer likes a concept doesn't mean it is right for the brand.

On the representing of Trump by the fired contestant:

Let me just say that this woman, "Stephanie," represented the absolute worst that an individual can bring to the marketplace. I do not think she is a good representative for the Trump brand or any brand, unless that brand is about complete selfishness, demeaning of your staff, not giving them an opportunity to succeed, not listening to their ideas, elbowing out of every opportunity to contribute or succeed, vain egotism, etc.

In addition I got the distinct sense that this woman was a racist, which totally offended me.

No wonder that the other characters were practically begging Trump to fire her from the other room. I was clapping when he told her to get out, and shocked that the Trump organization hired her back.

In contrast, I think Trump's daughter Ivanka (not the son Donald) is an outstanding representative of the Trump brand. Everything she said was balanced and professional and her demeanor was always appropriate. She knew how to ask tough questions, how to be polite, how to laugh and joke, and she always saw what was really going on despite only glimpsing the situation.

It is interesting how many brand lessons you can learn simply by watching TV.

Thanks, Ma, for introducing me to The Apprentice!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I have a problem with Valerie Bertinelli


Maybe Valerie Bertinelli didn't like herself when she looked like this, but I did.

I liked Valerie Bertinelli when she was regular-looking for the same reason I liked watching "One Day at a Time" when I was growing up.



If you're not familiar with the show, it was about a woman struggling to raise her daughters alone just after a divorce. There was something about that show that felt very honest and real. I felt like I understood where each character was coming from. The time I spent watching it was akin to reading a really good book. It was very far from junk TV.

Anyway. I read Valerie Bertinelli's book Losing It, and again found her to be refreshingly real. I admired her honesty and her willingness to share her feelings of shame with the world. (I don't think I'll ever look at a jalapeno cream cheese popper the same way again - let's just say I've lost my taste and leave it there.)

Similarly, I read Mackenzie Phillip's book High on Arrival (she played Valerie's sister in the show) and thought she had a lot of guts to talk about not only her drug addiction but her incestuous relationship with her dad.

Both Valerie and Mackenzie struck me as people who were not motivated by money. Rather they seemed to want to help other people avoid the pain they had endured.

When Valerie endorsed Jenny Craig, I could see how that was a good thing, and I supported it, even though I'm generally suspicious of all these weight loss systems. Each one claims to have a special method to help you lose weight when really there's no magic behind the curtain. Take

1) Common sense advice about food
2) Intense social pressure to be thin
3) An incredibly busy schedule
4) Disposable income to pay for the meals
5) A hunger for emotional support

and voila...a customer is born.

Nevertheless, if it helps people, whatever. It's a free society. And so many people are suffering from obesity (caused by...guess what? More marketing of fast-food - "Supersize Me!") that I think it's actually a good thing if we have brands to counter the brands that have done us harm.



Here's her new TV commercial for Jenny Craig for the holidays, together with behind-the-scenes footage. Watching it, I can really get a sense of what a genuinely nice, caring person Valerie Bertinelli is. (Unless she's a total psychopath and is fooling everyone. Which could happen. But I doubt.)



However, I am starting to wonder if Valerie has let her newfound money and success go to her head. In marketing terms, I think she is losing her "brand permission." But not in the way marketers normally talk about this.

You see, normally when someone oversteps their "brand permission" they try to take their endorsement power somewhere the customer is not willing to let them go. For example, no matter how smart she is, you wouldn't see Kim Kardashian endorsing Harvard University. And you wouldn't see Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) endorsing baby food. The image of the brand is what determines its ability to move product.

The kind of mess-up I am talking about is more serious. Bertinelli, in my mind, is losing her credibility. Because she is misusing he position as a "trusted sister" - which she has leveraged so well in the Jenny Craig campaign - to promote an unnecessary, expensive, time-wasting beauty product: "Meaningful Beauty."



This stuff, which has the Cindy Crawford name attached to it, is marketed in a deeply offensive way. And by affiliating herself with it, Valerie trashes her own brand - because it only works if I, the consumer, identify with and trust her. I don't like this other product and I don't trust whoever is marketing it.

Here's why:

# 1 - The name is offensive

The term "meaningful beauty" is in my mind associated with doing something concrete in the world that has nothing to do with outward appearances. That's what MEANING is. It's INNER.

Meaningful beauty would be the late Mother Teresa, who gave her life as a nun in the Catholic Church and who spent 45 years of her life taking care of the poor and sick in India.



Or Elizabeth Edwards, a dedicated wife, mother and health care activist whose accomplishments in this life were so many and so honorable. Her love, caring and lack of ego were total, even in the face of loss and personal betrayal.



Or Ashley Judd, who is campaigning to end suffering and poverty while highlighting the ongoing struggle for women's rights: “A woman’s body is not the property of any church, state or other human being,” she told the Today Show.

Judd is also campaigning for women's empowerment and the end of sexual violence in the Congo:



The beauty that these women represent is their service to the world. Their selflessness. Their giving.

Beauty does not come from putting melon extracts on your skin.

# 2 - The infomercial perpetuates countless harmful stereotypes.

* The "untouchable" female beauty in the form of Cindy Crawford

* The "admiring younger sister who will never look that good but whom we trust for her common sense" in the form of Valerie

* "Dr. Sebagh," the supposed genius behind the cosmetics, who plays a very specific gender role to provide credibility to the product

* The "all natural super-ingredient" in the form of a supposed super-melon (the name of which we of course do not get)

* The remote-sounding location from which the ingredient is described, "Luberon, a secluded region in the south of France" and of course --

* The scientific-sounding language about "cutting-edge science" and "first generation antioxidants"

#3 - The product is a waste of the customer's time and money

There is no way to not get old. Sorry.

#4 - The marketing exploits women's insecurities

Women have quite enough insecurity as it is without Cindy Crawford selling them hope in a bottle. But the addition of Valerie Bertinelli really twists the knife. It is like saying, even a plain Jane like us can look like Cindy - even though we know that we can't.

I wish Valerie Bertinelli well. But I wish that she would stop promoting Meaningful Beauty. Maybe the product works, maybe it doesn't - I honestly couldn't see much difference in the before-and-after pictures.

The point however is that women, who are suffering in very concrete, survival-type ways all over the world, need real support from one another. Real sisterhood.

Someone who made her career as a sister, and whose brand rests on being a trusted kind of sister, should not exploit that sisterhood to make money.

The world doesn't need yet another fake friend.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Music as a Vehicle for Nation-Branding

Three songs, three messages from both Israel and the U.S. about the desire for peace.

Amid all the hatred, a powerful and unifying vision that anyone, in any language or culture, can understand and relate to.

#1 - Subliminal & The Shadow - Tikva (Hope)



This is an English translation of the song.

I saw how many they went
Too many of them did not return
Friends separated, houses broken,
tears of families spilled

Buds of people flowers that didn't flower
The hope in our heads, the love in our hearts, the dream in our spirits so we continue in our path.

The silence has disappeared for it, again sounds of war
Another soldier returns, wrapped in what? In the flag of the country
Blood and tears absorbed by the land
And another shocked mother is left with just a picture
The hope is locked in the heart, the strong nation will not fold over
Because the son of a bitch that can stop Israel has not been born.

Give me the hope to accept what there isn't
The strength to change what there is.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us
It's not late because tomorrow is a new day
The dream will perish if we lose the hope
So reach out to love.

You promised a dove, in the sky there's a hawk
Brother, poisonous twig pricks, this is not an olive branch
Living in a dream, everybody talks about peace
But they shoot, oppress, pull, squeeze the trigger
In a world of suicide attacks, the people are still talking
Living in an illusion of righteousness,
they widen the rift in the nation.

Pass madness every day in order to survive
Don't want to live in order to fight,
Sub fights in order to live
Plant hope, sends out roots
Shield in my body for the dream
so it won't be shattered to splinters
Enough, enough with the hurt, enough with the tears
A year that the land bleeds not sleeping and why?

Give me the hope to accept what there isn't
The strength to change what there is.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us
It's not late because tomorrow is a new day
The dream will perish if we lose the hope
So reach out to love

G-d, give me the hope to accept what there isn't
Give me the courage to try to fix the world.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us
It's not late because tomorrow is a new day
The dream will perish if we lose the hope
So reach out to love

G-d, give me the hope to accept what there isn't
Give me the strength to change what is
Give me the courage to try to fix the world.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us
It's not late because tomorrow is a new day
The dream will perish if we lose the hope
So reach out to love.

#2 - "One Day" by Matisyahu - Maccabeats version



Lyrics:

sometimes I lay
under the moon
and thank God I'm breathing
then I pray
don't take me soon
cause I am here for a reason
sometimes in my tears I drown
but I never let it get me down
so when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around
because
all my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we don't wanna fight no more
they'll be no more wars
and our children will play
one day x6
it's not about
win or lose
we all lose
when they feed on the souls of the innocent
blood drenched pavement
keep on moving though the waters stay raging
in this maze you can lose your way (your way)
it might drive you crazy but don't let it faze you no way (no way)
sometimes in my tears I drown
but I never let it get me down
so when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around
because
all my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we don't wanna fight no more
they'll be no more wars
and our children will play
one day x6
one day this all will change
treat people the same
stop with the violence
down with the hate
one day we'll all be free
and proud to be
under the same sun
singing songs of freedom like
one day x4
all my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we don't wanna fight no more
they'll be no more wars
and our children will play
one day

#3 - Hadag Nahash - "The Sticker Song"

No lyrics for this, but the message is clear - a desire for normalcy and moderation amid extremism, represented by a deluge of bumper stickers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Real Future of Advertising

For too long, the ad industry has relied on their audience to be idiotic. The fashion brand Diesel doesn't mince words. It tells us directly: "Be Stupid."

 

Are we really dumb? Or is Diesel just smartly confronting us with our intelligence, and then telling us to let go? More on that in a bit.

 

But first: How pliable are consumers, still? Do we carelessly absorb marketing messages the same way Silly Putty picks up the ink from a cartoon book?

 

Clearly, marketers think so, or want to. It's hard to understand, since social media is so mainstream now, and everything is on Twitter in about five seconds. They know Wikileaks is coming for them, and yet they still embrace terms like "neuromarketing."

 

The fact of the matter is, despite all the talk about "engaging the bloggers," marketers continue to put the reputation of the industry at risk by doing things to purposefully deceive and confuse the customer. They flood people with enticing images and create a peer-pressure effect to try and induce initial and repeated purchases.

 

If they can't bring the customer in, and if they can't co-opt the social media, they will simply ignore or shun the critics – people who analyze their activities and provide the customer with another point of view, with research and facts that don't conform to the idealized image. Just a few examples from the daily deluge:

 

·         Deception: Remember Papa John's tagline, "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza"? Marketing B.S. (Which led to a famous lawsuit by Pizza Hut, which Papa John's won – a completely puzzling outcome. Why pay for this tagline if it doesn't influence customer behavior?)

·         Neuromarketing: Put a baby in an ad. Watch product sell. Enough said.

·         Confusion: McDonald's smoothie ads proudly proclaim they have "real fruit". That is true. But what they don't tell you is that the fruit, combined with the added sugar, adds up. There are 70 grams of sugar in a large McDonald's strawberry-banana smoothie. Will you be healthier after drinking it, or climbing the walls?

·         Brainwashing: A sociological study once showed that if you put a law-abiding citizen into jail and into jail clothing, within 2 days they will act like a hardened criminal. Similarly, if you expose a normal pre-teen girl to "kid-oriented" television shows pushing makeup, sexy clothes, and fast food – either eaten by the show's characters or on the commercials that play during the breaks – guess what? That girl will want to eat McNuggets and wear makeup and adult-looking clothing. And she'll want it more if she sees those images repeated in magazines, on billboards, and promoted by her circle of susceptible peers.

·         Shunning: Have you ever noticed that people who take a strong, public stand in favor of consumers and natural solutions, and against deceptive marketing practices, are treated by the mainstream as "extremists" or "weirdos"? If you have ever seen anyone suffering from cancer or a degenerative disease, think about whether you want to trust marketers with your health or someone who has comparably far less to gain. A single crusader might need to sell a book or a line of products in order to eat. But a huge conglomerate, and its associated huge ad agency, needs to move millions and even billions of product in order to hit their sales targets.

 

It's interesting. I remember recently that I had to discard a can of caffeine-free Diet Coke (I hadn't drunk from it, because the last time I started drinking Diet Cherry Coke I got major sugar cravings that lasted all night.) I watched the brown liquid as it seemed to ooze down the sink drain. At the time, I thought to myself, "Can you believe that people regularly put this into their bodies?"

 

Shortly after I saw an ad for Diet Coke at a bus stop: It said I would "be extraordinary" by drinking it. Extraordinarily what?

 

But then, I know Coca-Cola has something intelligent in mind, because they have a place where they study how people shop (source: recent CNBC special on the company). So they must do enough mystery shopping, competitive intelligence, and focus groups to know that that particular tagline will set people's brain cells ringing. Even as the fake sugar in the soda does…what to people's brains?

 

Anyway, my point is that people are not really stupid. That is why the Diesel campaign is so smart. I imagine they understand that people gain hard-won intelligence by dealing with things like: birth defects, disabilities, parents, two decades of school, bullies, bosses, friends, enemies, getting fired, starting a business, bankruptcy, buying a home, foreclosure, real estate, divorce, the loss of a loved one, jail, addiction, natural disasters, terrorism, violence, car accidents, doctors, illness, aging and more.

 

So Diesel pokes fun at all that. The company says, relax a bit. Buy our clothes and be stupid for awhile.

 

Many other ads are not that smart, or self-aware. They truly think they can brainwash people.

 

In the past this approach may have worked. Primarily because the world is so complex that people have relied on major social institutions to tell them what to do. On trustworthy brands to help "guide" their decisions. Otherwise life can easily become unlivable with all the choices one must make.

 

However, in 2011 this isn't going to work. You can't tell anyone what to think or what to do. You can trick them, true, but only for a short time, before they find out and get so angry that they do not listen to you anymore. Even if the telling is in the form of an ad, which really seeks to engage people in the "brand story," it is critical to walk the fine line that says, "here's the honest truth, I invite you in to make the choice."

 

Look at the recent ads for Johnson & Johnson, where they talk about being transparent about ingredients. About giving people information about the products so that they can make an informed choice. That's what I'm talking about.

 

Maybe J&J is looking at marketing research that bears my supposition out. If you want proof of modern cynicism, just look around. We see it not only in the total non-response that ads get, and in the cynicism of the modern workplace, but also in the realms of politics, the media, and even religious institutions. People trust each other, not the "system" and not even charismatic leaders. That's why brands stand on such shaky ground.

 

The system started to fall apart with the rise of mass media. It accelerated with the explosive growth of the Internet and social media. Suddenly no one was in control. The same scandals kept happening as before, but now it is exponentially more difficult to hide misbehavior. Sexual abuse of children in the religious community is a good example. If you can't trust people who wear the mantle of G-d, then really, what is left?

 

At the same time, people are a lot less bound by social convention than they were in the past. They don't care about authority. For one thing, they haven't been able to count on their parents – the huge divorce rate is Exhibit 1. Their jobs are not secure either, and even if they follow the rules and go to school they can't count on having a job in the future. They rely on their friends and not their parents for their social norms. Facebook has taken convenient advantage of this fact. And your friends can change a lot more fluidly than your family and its traditional values can.

 

Facebook also introduced to us the new "morality" of the Internet age, which is that any privacy is inherently bad and reflects a certain amount of hypocrisy. If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't need any privacy at all, right?

 

Wikileaks, in the form of Julian Assange, preaches from the same song sheet. Enabling the pilferers of secret information, he says, "Look how much corruption there is going on behind your back. I'm the good guy, keeping everyone moral, keeping markets free."

 

He says, too: Don't mistreat your employees, because they will shine the light on everything you've done wrong.

 

And you know what? Call him what you will – accuse him of causing irreparable harm and you may be justified – but Assange has a large audience and probably many peers who are poised to do the same thing as he has done, if given the chance.

 

I completely disagree with destroying the possibility of privacy. I am frightened at what could happen if people started recklessly dumping everyone's private information out into the public space. But what I think and feel are separate from applying one's judgment to assess the mood of the moment. And my assessment is that Wikileaks and Facebook are squarely in the middle of it. To cope successfully, every single company and institution must prepare to get transparent immediately. Radically so. Or they face serious, serious danger.

 

The process of laying it all out there is undoubtedly painful, especially if you're not used to it. But once that's done – once nobody can hold over you a skeleton in the closet – you are poised to renew your relationship with your audience on more adult, more honest footing.

 

The basis of the new marketing relationship is that you are giving people a choice. You tell them who you are and what you're made of, and you say: It's up to you.

 

You say: Knowing what my company or my leadership style is all about, here is how my offering can satisfy your physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. You attempt to move beyond physical need quickly – because it is easily commoditized - to win consumers where it really counts - in their hearts, social circles, and connection to the eternal. You let them, essentially, vote with their pocketbooks. And you don't cheat them out of money they don't need to spend.

 

So the marketer of the future will be able to answer 4 questions:

 

1. Cost-benefit analysis: What is this going to do for me? Can I believe the claims? What are the risks? Is there a cheaper, equivalent alternative? If so, why should I buy from you?

 

2. Emotional need: Should I buy/accept this, even if it's not the most logical choice, just because I like the way it makes me feel?

 

3. Social need: Will buying/accepting this make me feel included as part of a community?

 

4. Spiritual need: Was the product sourced and made ethically? Will buying/accepting this bring me closer to a higher goal?

 

Although it may seem that people are really bent on surviving first and then feeling, making friends and connecting to G-d later, it's exactly the opposite: We are all connected to the eternal, the spiritual, the life that comes before and after this physical existence. Eternal life is more vital than this physical plane. We don't worry about survival needs unless we have to.

 

All of this is why Fast Company's recent article on the future of advertising was only partially right. Selling is not about learning to code HTML or finding new and more annoying ways to intrude on the customer's life. (As if a more sophisticated banner ad is any less obnoxious than the old-fashioned kind). It's not about "targeting" people by secretly tracking them online. It is about good old-fashioned integrity, coupled with insight: Delivering something of value, and then wrapping it in an evolving, appealing story.

 

As Barry Diller recently told the Wall Street Journal (see the most recent issue of WSJ magazine), it's more valuable to have one liberal arts-educated person on your staff than a million techies. This is because the future is about doing what's right, understanding the customer, connecting with them, and helping them to grow.

 

Value, transparency, decency, fun, connection and spirituality—that is where I think consumers want to be. Me included.

 

 

 

 

 


Search This Blog

Copyright 2016 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. Powered by Blogger.