Advertisers are the Real Super Bowl Losers

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the only losers in Super Bowl 50.

Once again, the marketing profession lost!

As football fans and fans of our marketing profession, you may think that we were excited about seeing all of the $500,000+ (add in a million more for production, time, distraction from other client work, etc.) ads.  Well, we were not. We were just hoping for a good close game since our Steelers were out of the picture.

There are two simple reasons why we harbor a complete disdain for the annual Super Bowl Ad Game:

  1. The ads rarely pay off in increased brand sales
  2. The ads contribute to the pervasive lack of respect and trust in the marketing profession due to our lack of accountability

Every year there’s a lot of buzz about the cost of the average ad, the brands featured, and their stories.  Respected marketing “experts” are interviewed on pre/post game about these ads and our various marketing professional associations (AMA, PRSA, Ad Feds etc.) hold post Super Bowl meetings to discuss the best/worst ones – ugh!

So much of what feeds this beast are inflated agency, client and industry egos and a sheer lack of professional accountability because…THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE ADS DO NOT PROFITABLY BUILD SALES!

Be honest. Was there any brand or handful of brands that engaged you enough yesterday to make a phone call or plan a visit to inquire about or buy the product it was pushing?

Advertising doesn’t have to entertain. If you can entertain while engaging and persuading OK, but entertaining is hard. How about leaving the entertainment to the professionals…the NFL game itself?

Again, there’s nothing wrong with trying to entertain an audience, but it’s better to leave that to the NFL! Entertainment isn’t exactly what business owners, boards of directors or Wall Street expect with a half a billion dollar investment! They want an ROI!

The great Sergio Zyman who led the still famous (one of the all-time 10 best – see #9) Coca-Cola ad featuring our beloved Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene meekly said years later than not only did Coke’s adulated ad NOT build sales, but Coke sales actually DECLINED!

For what it’s worth, the ads inside the stadium rarely sell too.

If you’re a season ticket holder ask yourself who are the top 5 advertisers in your particular home stadium (don’t guess).  And if you can answer that question, ask yourself if you increased your business with any/all of those brands. For us Pittsburghers, We love Heinz Ketchup, but Heinz Field and its sponsored “Red Zone” have done nothing to increase our per capita usage. Our take is that their field sales force (marketing) that do an awesome job in making sure their product is widely distributed could have benefited more with a $500,000 cash infusion…more salespeople in the field anyone?

There’s a lot a brand can do with $500 – $600,000 dollars such as:

  1. Save it
  2. Use it to hire more/better people
  3. Use it for innovation
  4. Use it for incentives
  5. And a ton more…

We’ve been there!  We know!

One of us has been part of this process having sat for several years on a national advertising board of one the world’s largest brands debating and voting on Super Bowl advertising.  In fact, over the years, one would even hear silly arguments such as, “if we don’t do it (insert name of closest competitor) will do it! Are you kidding?

Is it any wonder then why the advertising profession is so disrespected?

Every year, Gallup conducts a “trust poll” to determine U.S. views on honesty and ethical standards in professions.  The poll asks people to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in different fields – very high, high, average, low or very low.

Here’s the % saying “very high” of “high.”

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Noting that advertising practitioners are at the bottom of the heap, Ad/Marketing executives will always find it hard to get a seat at the CXO table. Why play games with money your clients have entrusted to you?

And, that’s why BrandMill is positioned as a marketing firm.  Marketing is what we believe in and feel most brands need to believe in more too. Advertising is one of the tools in our quiver, but it’s the last one drawn.  And, if/when we choose to draw our advertising arrow, you can be sure it will be aimed to engage, persuade and sell!

P.S.: Here’s a link to the “best” Super Bowl 50 commercials starting off with “Puppy Monkey Baby!” Utterly disgraceful!
Just driving awareness or entertaining isn’t what the purpose of good advertising! As an old ad pro once said, “I could drive awareness of any restaurant if I put a shrunken head in the window, but I doubt you’d want to eat there!” Enough said!


Thanks for Making a Dent in Our Universe

Our world lost a great man yesterday – Steve Jobs.

Jobs impacted my life in numerous ways through not only his great innovations and style, but also in his words.

Here’s my top 10 list of Steve Job quotes that have resonated with me over the years.

God bless you Steve and many thanks.  You’ll be missed.

Steve Jobs Top 10 Best Quotes

  1. “We’re here to put a dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here?”
  2. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
  3. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
  4. “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.  Simple can be harder than complex. You need to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
  5. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
  6. Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
  7. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
  8. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  9. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone elses life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
  10. We don’t get a chance to do that many things and every one should be really excellent because this is our life.”

…And, one more thing!

10+.    “You know a design is good when you want to lick it.” … And, “Design is not what it looks like.  Design is how it works.”


Pirates Miss PNC Park Anniversary Tag

Your birthday.  Your spouse’s, kid’s, parent’s, grandparent’s, brother’s, sister’s etc., birthdays. Your wedding anniversary and/or your parent’s anniversary. The 4th of July – America’s anniversary. All big time events and occasions to celebrate right?

Well, as a ‘homer’ living in Pittsburgh, and as a professional marketer I’m baffled by the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing team did absolutely nothing – zero – not a thing – this season to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PNC Park (a gift by the citizens of Pittsburgh), arguably the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

Hey, but don’t take my word that the Pirates’ PNC Park is the best, check out this brief  ranking list of the best Major League Baseball ballparks by some of the ‘folks that really know’:

YELP ranks PNC Park first

Fox Sports ranks PNC Park first

ESPN ranks PNC Park first

Forbes ranks PNC Park third

Now, certainly you can argue that PNC Park might not be the best Park in all of Major League Baseball, but you’d have to agree that it’s at least in the Top 5.  And, even if PNC Park wasn’t ranked that high, why wouldn’t you still take advantage of the significance of the date and celebrate all season long?

In fact, the symbolism for a 10th year anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates is incredible too.  The symbol for the 10th year anniversary is aluminum or tin and here we have one of the greatest companies ever headquartered in Pittsburgh – ALCOA – the Aluminum Company of America (its Headquarters is only .19 miles or 44 seconds from PNC Park) and the world’s leading producer of aluminum! And the designated gemstone of a 10 year anniversary is the diamond…get the symbolism, baseball diamond?

You could also argue, that the Pirates didn’t have much to celebrate and/or remember over the past 10 years, but don’t we all have bad years? It doesn’t mean you forgo celebrating your birth!

We do a ton of hospitality marketing consulting and anyone in the business will tell you the profitable, sales building significance of celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s sad and disappointing that the Pittsburgh Pirates missed the tag on the 10th anniversary of PNC Park. They would have hit the cover of the ball knocking it clear out of the Park and into the Allegheny River!

Don’t forget to step up to the plate and swing for the fences when your brand’s birthday/anniversary rolls around!


11 Ways to Think Better

It seems to me that over the past few years, many of us have veered far away from sound thinking.  Not just strategic thinking – simple common sense thinking too – and just about all other kinds of thinking in between.

I’ve always been one to strive for better ways to use my noodle and to put it to good use. Certainly, I’ve had my share of blunders, but when I carefully analyze them, I realize that I didn’t take time to think to make a sound decision, gather enough intelligence, come up with enough good ideas etc., and ACT!

I owe a great deal of my street smarts to my brothers and parents – especially my father. And, I owe a lot of my business savvy to several generous mentors over the years. Plus, I’ve gained a great deal of inspiration and insight into better thinking by reading a mini library of books.

I’ve spent my entire professional life in Marketing, and a few authors and books that have helped me in the marketing thinking field include David Ogilvy’s, Confessions of an Advertising Man; and, A Whack on the Side of the Head, by Roger Von Oech.

However, these books don’t even come close to scratching the surface for me. I read a new marketing related book just about every two weeks and several magazines, e-zines etc.,  Plus, I continuously drink the cool-aid and read and re-read the works of great thinkers like Edison, Godin, Jobs, Kawasaki, Peters, Reis and Trout and more.

A great tool I use is a gift (I paid for the tool, but it’s so valuable to me that I consider it a gift) I received from the innovation masters at IDEO (absolutely love these people).  IDEO’s Method Cards have helped me to discover better design ideas.

Today, with so much information at your fingertips and the pace of new information coming at you fast and furious from so many sources, it is increasingly difficult to process it all and make sound decisions and act upon them.

So what can you do?

For me, I’ve found that John Maxwell’s book, Thinking For A Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work to be very beneficial.

I enjoyed and got some use out of Malcolm Gladwell’s, Blink, whose POV is based more on the merits of intuitive, quick thinking rather than Maxwell’s critical thinking hypothesis – which I prefer – and when I take time to do it magical things happen.

Thinking For A Change’s case is based upon the hypothesis that successful people think differently than unsuccessful people and says that if you change your thinking, you will change your life. Yeah, I’d bet on that.

Here are the 11 thinking skills the book teaches:

1. Big-picture thinking – does your thinking extend beyond you and your world
2. Focused thinking – concentrate to find clarity on your actual problems
3. Creative thinking – think outside the box and find break through thinking
4. Realistic thinking – does your thinking have a solid foundation based in reality
5. Strategic thinking – is your thinking leading to ways for you to reach your potential
6. Possibility thinking – helps you find solutions to difficult problems
7. Reflective thinking – revisit history to gain understanding and learn from it
8. Popular thinking – question popular thinking and see if you’re simply rejecting the limitations of common thinking
9. Shared thinking – connect with others to expand and sharpen your thinking
10. Unselfish thinking – consider others and their needs
11. Bottom-line thinking – be focused on results

Maxwell also provides a lot of good examples of these thinking styles at work and I’m sure the book will help you become a better thinker. This is a great book for breaking down the critical thinking process and encouraging people to start thinking again. Especially during these fast times we live in where we all get a ton of new messages every day and information overload is overwhelming.

Maxwell’s book about critical thinking, whereas Gladwell’s Blink is a book about intuitive thinking. To think better you need to practice both methods.

P.S.: Check out some of Thomas Edison’s thoughts on creativity and hard work too.  Lots of good books on old Tom. I loved At Work with Thomas Edison, by Blaine McCormick. Also, consider adding Edison’s Idea Quota into your daily routine!


The Fast Eat the Slow

cheetah-gazelleAs a follow-up to my recent “Darwinian Marketing” post, I want to emphasize that successful people will not only be the ones who can most easily adapt to change, but they will most likely be faster than their competitors. That’s right.  In today’s economy and for as far as I can see into the future, it’s not about the strong beating or eating the weak, it’s all about the fast eating the slow for lunch!

At the top of my 2010 goals is to streamline processes, work smarter and faster and enjoy life more.  We’re all being tasked to do more with less, but there are ways to do it, make money and enjoy your life.

So, how can you become faster in business today? Here is my list to 25 ways you can work faster and position yourself to survive and thrive!

  1. Read and embrace Stephen Covey’s best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” and work to excel in Quadrant II living
  2. Be flexible and adaptable to new ideas and processes (think Darwin)
  3. Work to rid yourself of distractions such as email, instant messaging, turn of the TV, turn your phone/s off and turn your music off (although I work quickly and calmly listening to classical and piano instrumental music)
  4. Get rid of things that slow you down (clients, employees, suppliers)
  5. Set up power hours of work blocks and prioritize on job at a time
  6. In your email inbox, tag all emails with a project ID so you can resort your emails by subject or client and stay focused and fly through them.  For example, for a book I’m working on, I simply tag these emails “Book” first followed by related copy
  7. Batch your email work – only respond at specific intervals 2-3 times per day
  8. Batch your phone calls too – never answer unidentified calls
  9. Get the fastest computer set-up you can afford
  10. Set earlier deadlines – if a client’s expectation is 7 days, deliver it in 6.
  11. Get up earlier and take good care of yourself to stay sharp
  12. Outsource most anything that costs you below your hourly rate
  13. Focus on the 20% of activities that reap 80% of the most rewards for you
  14. Cut things to the core bare necessities and essentials and key features
  15. Keep features, processes simple
  16. Focus on those things that help you gain or keep a customer
  17. Anticipate trends and act on them.  For example, mobile marketing is starting to smoke. Are you studying it, using it, putting together a skunkworks operation, looking into strategic alliances etc.?
  18. Phase things in to keep customers happy and moving business forward
  19. Create processing rules (see Tim Ferris’ stuff here – awesome read – love virtual assistant idea too – actually all of his stuff is brilliant – great book)
  20. Create templates of your work to easily repeat efforts
  21. Create processes
  22. Create life and decision-based rules (see Marcus Aerilius’ Meditations)
  23. Begin with and end goal in mind and then focus on all of the processes of everything you do to achieve the end, list all the steps and key critical path and look for ways to take wasted steps and time out of the process.  Rinse and repeat.
  24. Look to eliminate all busy work that takes time away from building your business
  25. Take one information day off per week – no phone, Blackberry, email etc. – rest and recharge your battery

I’m sure there are a ton more ideas – feel free to add!


Be an Economic Impact Player

Blog Economy TrendHow do your customers feel about the economy?

A lot of what your customers are thinking can be influenced (up/down) by how you feel about the economy and what you plan to do about competing in it?

Certainly these times are different and challenging, but if you’re more than a “half glass full guy” like me, you’ll be aware of what’s going on, but take the Advisory approach (not a vendor of services) that I take with my clients.  I work to make certain they know I got their back and am working hard to work smarter with less inefficiencies, less waste etc.,

And, with more actionable, ROI-driven, forward thinking, innovative initiatives to help all of us to not only survive, but to gain ground and thrive.  So, when things do turn around, we’ll be in the driver’s seat.

But, then again, aren’t  you always pretty much the driver in your own driver’s seat?

Check out this chart about the Economic Outlook by American Consumers from Experian Simmons DataStream (good firm).

Since January 2009 there is a slight trend upward, but it’s still a bit early to see if the trend will continue be positive or level off.

After the “Obama Bump,” we’re still pretty much in the same space. So, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, pro Obama or not, it all doesn’t matter. What matters is the Agenda you set…the plan you make…how hard you choose to work…NOW.

Always has…always will.

The question for concern remains not far can you fall, but how far can you bounce and what you’re willing to do to make the jump.

My advice:

  1. Watch cash flow
  2. Be observant and respectful of the economy, but follow your own plan
  3. Work on more efficient procedures and systems
  4. Build a process for innovation
  5. Keep moving, stay motivated and stay visible

More to come!


Toms Cause Marketing

BM BLOG toms-logo22One of the best ways to build a brand and do good at the same time is to tie your efforts to a great cause. A great example is Toms Shoes and their “one to one” strategy. It’s simple and perfect. With every pair of shoes you buy from TOMS, they will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Love it!

It’s a powerful strategy. It created a movement.  And, it’s selling lots of shoes while helping to do a lot of good at the same time.

American Express’ efforts to restore the Statue of Liberty in the early ’80s is largely credited with the official start of the cause marketing movement. Their strategy was simple and clear. Offer a penny for every AMEX card use and a dollar for every new card issued. The result was two-fold. AMEX raised a ton of money for Lady Liberty and scored double digit transaction increases for their brand.

Is cause marketing part of your marketing plan?

What moves you?  What moves your employees? What moves your customers? What movement can tie into your brand achievements and/or your purpose? What good can you do to appeal to a lot of potential customers?

A 2008 Cause Survey from Barkley found that:

  • 86% of women and moms say it is important for companies to support a cause
  • 69% of moms stated they will try a brand because it supports a cause
  • 58% will pay more for a brand that supports a cause she cares about

Great Brands stand for something and stand up for something too.

What do you stand for? What are you willing to stand up for and create a win/win for you and for others?

When you stand for something and stand up for others you have a good chance of being the last brand standing!

P.S.: Here’s a little bit of what we do.


Get Touchy Feely

I caught this article that discusses a study that states that if you let someone touch an item for a few seconds they're much more likely to buy it. I totally agree, because I've seen the touchy feely marketing strategy work great in automotive (test drives), bakeries (free samples), wireless (make free call) and a lot more industries. It simply works.

Try to get your prospects to use as many of their senses throughout the buying process/

What can you offer a prospect that allows her to touch, taste or try your product?

Do it and you'll close more sales.


Neuroscience Marketing Rocks

NeuroI’ve been following neuroscience marketing for a little over a year now and I continue to be amazed at the breakthroughs and key learnings being discovered seemingly every day.

I’ve been applying some tactics based upon insights I’ve gained. In the areas of fundraising for non-profits and new business generation initiatives, I’ve been quite happy with the results.

Here’s a link to a great blog post that details a unique twist on the use of personalized handwritten notes in marketing communications.

A survey was mailed with three different cover letters:

  1. A printed letter.
  2. A printed letter with a handwritten message.
  3. A printed letter with a handwritten message on a Post-It note.

Here was the response rates for each tactic:

  • 36% response for the plain printed cover letter
  • Adding
    the handwritten note improved the response rate by one third to 48%
  • The Post-It more than doubled the response to 75%.
  • A second test was done to see if some magic in the Post-It note was
    responsible for the higher response rate included cover letters with a
    blank sticky note attached. That approach generated only a slightly
    higher response rate of 42%.

What seems to cause the
boost is a “reciprocity” effect. That is, the recipient recognizes that the
sender put some personal effort into the mailing, and is
more likely to reciprocate with some effort of his own.

Try it, you might like it.