Mobile Marketing 101 from Deepspace Mobile

August 17, 2008

Paul Isakson once again provides a stellar presentation on What’s Next in Marketing…this time focusing on the topic of Mobile Marketing.  His agency space150 recently hosted a small event called Deepspace Mobile that took a look at the ever-evolving … and always Next Big Thing … topic of mobile marketing.  If you are looking for a quick way to get up to speed on the subject, check out the presentation below or view all them from Deepspace Mobile.

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Can P&G build “real brands” with soul, history & substance?

June 13, 2008

When Piers Fawkes at PSFK writes a post entitled “How Long Can P&G Last“, you know it is going to catch my attention. Piers drives a very interesting question when he writes:

More and more consumers appear to be attracted to ‘real’ brands – brands with soul, history and substance – brands like Innocent Drinks or Method soap. These brands live because they reflect the values of the management and staff and the transparency generated by the web helps fuel the love of them.

Meanwhile over at P&G and Unilever brands appear to still be run from brand books by an army of brand managers who aren’t connected with the values each brand is supposed to contain. They sell faux brands that were created in an age of control – control of media and message.

Pretty bold statements to challenge the company that built the concept of Branding and Brand Management over 75 years ago. But you know what,

I agree with his stance completely

As I write about “Brands I Love“, I am actually writing about many of the concepts that Piers references. Brands like Method, Innocent Drinks and Help Remedies are real brands that mean something more because they have a story behind them. The love consumers have for theses brands is the same love the company employees have for the brands. They were able to do this because they started small and they started from scratch. They were able to build the brands up from the ground up.

But will they be able to hold this special feeling as they grow?

What I question is if these real brands will be able to stay real as they grow. Brands like Snapple had this feeling over a decade ago but they grew too big. They sacrificed their story for growth and greed. Will Method or Innocent suffer the same fate? Will the next generation of managers be able to carry the same ideals as the company founders? After all, look at the stumbles of Apple and Starbucks when they grew too big and the founders had to step aside for more “experienced” management to take the reins. That’s the great business/branding question of the ages and not one with an easy answer.

But back to the point of P&G and Unilever. Can these branding “houses” continue to grow in the face of “real brands”. Of course, they can but it will take a change. …and a big one at that.

Brand Managers and Big Brands have to start thinking differently

The age of control is over for Brand Managers. Our job for tomorrow is to be a Brand Steward. We need to guide our brand but the control needs to be in the hands of our consumers. We need to open the doors of our marketing to be about engaging these fans in a dialogue. We need to create products that make their experiences better. We need to invite them into designing our future product innovations. We need to stop interrupting them and help them start living.

But unfortunately it isn’t that easy

Making this change isn’t simple. Method and Innocent have a strong advantage as private companies. They don’t have shareholders to please and their people usually have skin in the game as part owners of the company. This lets them take more risks…it enables them to think a little differently. But that isnt an excuse…its merely a fact we have to overcome.

And we will overcome it. Maybe the future is in using our logistical power like Piers suggests. Maybe the P&G’s of the world should become Brand Venture Capitalists. We start making an investment in new brands, giving the access to resources (money, intellectual capital, retailer access) that will help them to grow. But we dont take a direct management control and instead let them operate independently. It would be a very different way of doing things but it might just work.

Consumers will vote with their wallet

In the end, this challenge of branding is what makes it so exciting to be in marketing right now (and for the future). We don’t have the luxury of living in a control world where we can just make a :30 second spot and watch sales grow as a result. We are challenged (both at big CPG’s and little start-ups) to build brands that consumers will vote for with their wallet. Branding is an election season that doesnt just come once every 4 years.

NOTE: I wouldnt question the passion of P&G Brand Managers, even if we are just working for a big company and old brands. When I started at P&G, I actually met a fellow marketer who had a tattoo of the brand he worked on…and it just happened to be a fabric softener brand. Tell me that isn’t passion for your brand!


What is the future of media?

June 4, 2008

Absolutely stellar presentation on the Future of Media by Neil Perkin.


Which companies have the right to be VC’s?

April 28, 2008

Lately there has been some good discussions about other companies acting like Venture Capitalists, especially ad agencies.  Personally I have major concerns if an agency starts acting like a VC, especially if they are investing in New Media companies.  The potential for conflicts of interest are huge.  First, theses agencies need to be media-neutral.  I need to trust my agency is making a recommendation that is best for my brand…not because their agency stands to profit through my support of a business they have invested in.  Second, they are funding those investments based on fees I paid them and then potentially profiting off media buys I make.  That makes me really uneasy.

However, I do think the future of the agency model could be in Shared IP and equity.  I have no problem with an agency working with a new/small brand and taking an equity stake instead of normal fees.  I think this is a great win/win since the brand saves money and the agency gets tremendous upside based on their work.   But if this new brand is a media property that the agency can then pitch to other clients, I get concerned,  My agency’s neutrality goes out the window and I end up feeling like my agency pimped me out.  Not a good place to be.

Now the people I do think have the right be investing in new media companies are the brands themselves.  A media buy from an established company like P&G can end up making a company.  I think back to the small buy I did with Secret on MySpace.com back in 2004.  My counterpart at MySpace said that because of that deal and the media coverage we generated from it, he ended up getting over 50 calls from major brands who before wouldnt even return his call.  Think if instead of a media buy, P&G had made an equity investment in MySpace?  We would have ended up with a major return on our money when MySpace sold out to News Corp.  Plus, many start-ups could benefit tremendously from the brand building knowledge that a major CPG could bring to the table.  Plus it has an employee benefit because marketers could take a “broadening assignment” to go work at the start-up for a year or two.  They would get a chance to scratch their entreprenuerial itch without leaving the CPG company.  That is a major HR win to keep top talent happy.

Now obviously there are drawbacks here.  First, CPG companies aren’t experts in the world of VC investing but that could be solved by partnering with a leading VC.  Second, a company like P&G investing in a company could potentially keep competitors from buying media on that site.    Third, almost all major CPG’s are publicly traded companies and VC is a hit or miss industry.  But then again, technology companies like Dell are publicly traded but they have been investing in start-ups for years now (though Dell Ventures did close after a few years).

The way I see it, there is tremendous upside for a major CPG company to partner with VC’s in the start-up game….but tons of downside if our agencies are acting as the VC’s instead.