spoonful of sugar

I’ve been expecting it to blow up.

Marketing Rule #2634 — If all the players in one industry start a marketing arms-race, it will escalate to a point that one of the players will be stupid enough to launch the missile that destroys the marketing for the entire industry.

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, you’ll know what industry I’m talking about. It’s hard to watch the evening news without suffering hypochondria. Side effects may include repulsion of stock images and cheesy people. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

Two ad campaigns / drugs stick out as the ones that have repulsed me the most. One is the scale city model maker who “shrinks” his prostate just like his handful of clay with Avodart. It definitely has the scariest disclaimer – Women should not even touch it without the risk of birth defects. Yeah – that’s something I want to take.

The other one I hate makes me wonder just how many people are walking around with genital herpes?

Back to my fabulous marketing arms-race / missile analogy —
Vytorin and its maker Merck/Schering-Plough have been stupid. You’ve seen the spots. People who look like food. Food that looks like people. Refresh your memory with this video —

The spots make me wonder what food I resemble. (Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Be kind.)

While the first or second versions of the spots were somewhat interesting and the people did kinda look like the food, they progressively got worse where I saw no resemblance. They should have stopped the campaign there. Or even better, maybe they should have stopped the campaign when they knew the drug didn’t work.

Their nasty little secret that they’ve known about for a year has come out in the news in the last few weeks.

From the blonde mini-skirted drug rep that is rushed past me as I’m sitting in the waiting room to the sleazy “consulting” trips that the pharma companies send doctors to in Hawaii, marketing for the entire pharma industry is SICK. This Vytorin fiasco (along with the next few drug scandals that I’m sure are coming down the pike) are just symptoms of the bigger illnesses.

Those illnesses being lack of respect for your consumer and lack of honesty about what you’re selling. What’s the treatment? The hardest medicine will be the eventual consumer backlash. I think (and hope) the more immediate treatment will be a big dose of government regulation and oversight.

what will irritate me for the next few weeks

We’re entering Advertising’s most holy time of year. The Super Bowl (or as their legal hounds would prefer, “the big game”, which also ticks me off) is advertising’s moment in the sun.

For a few weeks in the dead of winter, EVERYONE and their cousin is suddenly an advertising expert. They can tell you which of the extravagant ads from the game was the best one. But the barometer of the “success” of the ads is usually based on which one was the funniest / most controversial / etc. It’s never on which ones were the most effective and caused people to buy the product, increase awareness, or any other quantifiable measure.

Plus, this Solomon-esque judgment of the best ad is a finite phenomenon. Even if you’re in the ad industry, can you name more than one or two Super Bowl ads from last year?

And something that’s worse than the postgame ad analysis is the pregame hoopla that we’ll have to endure over the next few weeks. This company bought 3 spots! A :30 commercial goes for $3 bazillion dollars! And what has become the single most annoying aspect of the ad spotlight during this time of year is the Bob Parsons / GoDaddy ego trip. Do you wake up at night in a cold sweat like me wondering if they can get past the “censors”?

Has your company drunk the Kool-Aid Flavor-Aid and bought time during “the big game”? Since you’ve blown such a large hunk of your budget on placement, let me give you this year’s winning creative pitch for free.

The hooves of flatulent horses dig up the corpse of Robert Goulet who then runs through a CGI generated Orwellian world full of bikini clad college girls. He throws a hammer through a TV screen that has some contest-driven user-generated-content on it. Then the screen fades to black for 15 seconds.

I don’t recommend anything involving your actual product/service or anything that resembles a call-to-action.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an ad guy. I love creative / clever / funny / etc advertising. But what is forgotten during the Super Advertising hoopla is that advertising’s purpose is to sell. The trouble with most Super Ads is that they are heavy on the concept and light on the message.

I have offered postgame Super Bowl ad analysis in the past.

I’ll go ahead and offer my postgame analysis now. In the 2008 Super Bowl, there were several companies who gambled $3 bazillion dollars in the hopes that they could curry the favor of the masses for a moment. There were a few that grabbed some attention for a short time. The rest lost.

(and the Patriots will win)

sweet sassy mo lassy

Today is the anniversary of one of my favorite surreal historical events, Boston’s Great Molasses Flood.

The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the area still smells of molasses.

Yes.

Molasses.

In January.

But rather than the tried analogy of slowness, these molasses were fast and deadly.

You hear alot of talk about either old corporations who can’t / won’t keep up with the new rules of business. Or old media companies that can’t keep up or adapt to the new media consumer.

But I think anything is possible. Look at Apple. Several years ago, I would have said that they were dead and had weighted themselves down. But now, they’re agile and making their own rules. And there are lots of old companies who people thought were D.O.A. who have reconfigured themselves and are leading rather than being pushed aside.

So two things::
1) To the fresh new companies: You can’t really rely on the oft-used strategy of being small and agile to beat the establishment.
2) To the old companies: Get moving.

Anybody got a biscuit?

a conversation that’s happening somewhere RIGHT NOW

Clueless Marketing Guy #1 — We need to synergize our viralness on the web2.0 gravytrain.

Clueless Marketing Guy #2 — What?

#1 — We need something cool and interactive on the web that engages our customers.

#2 — Let’s put our :30 ad that we’re running on TV on our website.

#1 — Hey, we could also put it on that TubeYou thing.

#2 — (smugly) You realize this makes us cutting edge.

pigskin branding

The Miami Dolphins have had one of the worst seasons ever. They finished with only 1 win and 15 losses which ties the NFL record for most losses in a season. Obviously, most Dolphins fans and citizens of South Florida are not happy.

So, in addition to a football operations problem, the Dolphins now have a branding problem. The Dolphins’ brand is now equated with being losers.

I’ve often said that a brand is developed by the consumer, not the marketer. Sure, you need a brand strategy and need to try and influence your brand as much as possible. But in the end, it’s the consumer who has that brand image floating in their head.

For most teams, a bad season can be forgotten by next fall. But a record tying horrible season is another matter. It takes drastic measures.

Last week, the new head of operations for the Dolphins, Bill Parcells, cleaned house by firing the general manager Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron along with most of the other staff.

Cleaning out the Dolphins’ leadership will be seen as change by their brand constituency. But what will really change the Dolphins’ brand is several wins in a row…over several seasons.

It’s a good lesson for any marketer. Once you scar your brand, it will take drastic measures and a long time to heal.

junk in the trunk

I have a love-hate relationship with Penelope Trunk.

On one hand, she does sometimes have a far-sighted vision for where the concept of “work” is going and how to deal with the realities of the new workplace. Sometimes, she gives good advice.

On the other hand, some of her advice is not only bad — it’s borderline crazy. You should really not take a vacation day without telling your boss, show up late for work, use company time/resources to start your own business, lay down on the floor of your workplace’s bathroom, or accept sexual harassment. (all things she has actually suggested as career advice) If the ethics of the “new American workplace” degrade to this level, we’d better get ready to polish our chopsticks as China eats our lunch.

I’ve never met Penelope Trunk face to face, so I have no idea what’s she’s really like. (although I only missed her once at a meeting in Nashville by a few hours) But her online personality seems abrasive, condescending, and she’s way too transparent with her personal life.

Last week, she (the career sage) got fired from her job as a career columnist for Yahoo! Finance which is a bit surreal.

She cites the reason that she was canned was that financial content gets a higher CPM than career content and her high traffic (that she cites from *ahem* Wikipedia) was bringing down the CPM of the whole finance package. Aside from the use of Wikipedia as a source for traffic figures, that makes no sense.

I don’t know if she was one of the top traffic draws for Yahoo!. She was a polarizing personality that drew lots of positive/negative commenters. Even now, she’s still getting lots of both mean/rude and positive/supporting comments on both her blog and final Yahoo! Finance post. But even if she was a huge draw, Yahoo! was right to get rid of her. If you’re driving traffic, ratings, etc that stem from shock value, you’re hurting your long term brand. Look at the brand equity of “The View” before/after Rosie.

I think the real reason that she was fired was because of a new problem that we are going to have to deal with as a result of the new world of web publishing — the self-made expert.

While I’m always preaching that ANYONE now has the power of worldwide publishing, there’s the problem that ANYONE now has the power of worldwide publishing. That means the fringe voices that were previously kept at a whisper because of their vulgar, obscene, hate-filled, or nonsense ideas now have a platform. There’s no/low barrier to entry. And while the web is a great equalizer, if you get picked up by a platform like Yahoo!, it enables you to shout a little louder than others.

Anyone can market themselves as an expert on the web. It’s like the old cartoon — on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. How many experts have the credentials or the ideas to back it up? It’s a world of buyer beware. When you find an “expert” on the web, you’d better make sure you’ve gotten the real thing.

So while the vitriol behind some of the comments toward Trunk are pure hatred, I think some of it is akin to the townspeople riding the snake-oil salesman out on rail after his sham has been exposed.