Thursday 27 May 2010

The icing on the cake

Marketing is no longer the icing on the product cake. Not according to Alex Boguski and John Winsor in their neat little book, "Baked In".

Well-produced and chatty in style with plenty of examples, "Baked In" takes the argument that marketing should be integral to a product rather than bolted on.

The book summarises much current thinking about marketing and how it works in the 21st century.

It's always easier to see how this sort of thing works with new, innovative products, especially those that blur the medium/product/consumer line. But what if you are stuck working on an age-old fmcg brand where the product is indistinguishable from the competition? One example that occurred to me was what used to be called "added-value" - something perhaps extraneous to the product but integral to the brand. Take Maggi and Knorr here in Germany. The products are parity in a blind taste test. But Maggi has the whole "Maggi Koch Studio" property that perhaps they could develop and make more of.

But maybe that's a "cooked-in" rather than a "baked-in" example.

Friday 21 May 2010

Get Real

Spontaneous acts of dancing in public places, singalong-an-employee, makeovers for your face, your wardrobe, your home, your children and your pets: the appetite from clients and agencies to produce chunks of "realism" as brand communication seems never-ending. It's fuelled by the public obsession with all things Reality Show, of course, and by the mantra that brands should be doing rather than simply telling a well-chosen message or two.

The thinking behind this is all sound enough. Yes, brands should show how they make a difference in real people's lives, rather than merely projecting some sort of unrealistic and insubstantial image. But maybe we should stop and think about what exactly we are doing here.

"Reality" may not always be the answer. "Reality" may be, all too often, the warts and all approach that rides roughshod over dreams and desires. And "reality", as in Reality TV, can mean the very opposite of identification on the part of the viewer. As often as not, this sort of treatment creates distance, from the mild "there but for the grace of God go I" through mocking and Schadenfreude to the full blown freak show.

Rather than "reality", perhaps we should be looking to Real Life to connect and to invite personal identification. Real Life is about what makes real human beings tick - their dreams, hopes and desires. And this can be portrayed better through a piece of beautifully constructed and produced fiction than through that latest makeover for Mr Freak's warts.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Change to conserve

I recently got an email from an internet-based retailer of branded fashion goods, telling me how much they missed me (= my custom). And they were offering me a whopping great €20 voucher for my next purchase. In the past, I have bought one or two items from this company - the things are reasonably priced and the service is good.

So, in automatic consumer mode I started browsing - hmm, maybe that bag, maybe that belt. But then I stopped. I read on the small print that the voucher was only for stuff over €80. And, no - I didn't really need any of it.

I find myself more and more in a dilemma these days. The commercial part of me realises that the business I am in is basically there to help companies sell more stuff. But the human and Jiminy Cricket part of me increasingly jumps up, taps me with his brolly and questions that.

So I was happy to find the online debating chamber Conservation-economy for likeminded people to debate and discuss these issues.

Of course, it is Utopian to expect huge corporations to change their business model overnight. But here, at least we can make a start with raising the issues. And perhaps changing our own behaviour. Because conservation starts at home.

Monday 10 May 2010

Saying, thinking, doing and feeling

This blog post from Sue Unerman of MediaCom is well worth a look.

Referencing split-brain experiments of the 1960s, it's about the tendency of human beings to (post) rationalise verbally their feelings and behaviour, when asked by a third party.

In a telephone interview, for example, or in a group discussion with eight strangers. Now, working from home much of the time, I am frequently beset by telephone interviews. And it has often struck me that this must be just about the worst possible interview method for trying to get to anything that links back to the visual mode of perception - such as ad tracking.

So often we fall back on research methods that are quick, relative cheap and simple to administer, such as the telephone interview. When instead, we should be making far more use of ethnological methods and observation of actual rather than reported behaviour - and less direct questioning.

And when it comes to quantitative research and brand communications tracking, technology has opened the door to real-time research methods, such as those employed by Mesh Planning.
Hopefully, some time in the near future, the telephone interview will be as good as resigned to the market research dustbin along with punch cards.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Muttley, do something!

Back in March I blogged on the Planner's dilemma: what relevance does a 20 year-old Creative Brief Form have for today's media landscape? The conclusion I came up with was - not a lot, but what do you do in the absence of anything better?

Luckily, Gareth Kay has put together an excellent presentation on "The brief in the post-digital age", which I'd like to draw your attention to if you're also floundering around in the mire of post-digital dissonance.

Gareth has a list of "better questions" that we should be asking on our Creative Brief - "why might they talk about this idea?", "how do they get involved?" and "what keeps the conversation going?". But, as he rightly says, the piece of paper itself is less important than what you do. Everyone should understand that the shift is "from saying things at people to doing things with and for people."

Which is where Dick Dastardly and Muttley come in.