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December 2007
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February 2008

January 2008

Control as a Behavioral Insight in Automotive Advertising

Every 6 months an advertising agency or focus group leader will tell me that what my customer's want is more control.  They want control over their lives, what they buy, the price the pay.  I'm sure they also want control of the weather, control of their spouse, their children and everything else in their lives that doesn't quite live up to expectations.

The point is that control is a weak word.  Of course every product has the potential to give us more control, the problem is that it isn't helpful when putting together a piece of communications.   It might be your net impression, but not what should be communicated...or at least used cautiously.

It reminds me of a great example in automotive advertising.  Men believe that stick shift transmissions provide greater control of the driving experience.  Women (in general, sorry for any sexist overtones) in general believe that an automatic transmission gives them more control over the driving experience since they don't have to interrupt what they are doing or thinking about such as tending to kids in the back seat.  To use the word control generally doesn't paint a clear picture and instead relies on additional language or context to make the communication clear.

While I'm talking about cars it reminds me of another quick story.  When selling high performance cars if you advertise that a car lets you go from zero to 60 in one less second than you could before, men get all excited and your wife will think you are feeding your ego.  But if you position better performance as getting you home faster so that you can help around the house, the perception quickly changes.  Sometimes it is all in the story telling.

I've been meaning to write this down for weeks.  Cross that one off the list.

The Future of Work and the Changing Context of Behavior

I've been doing a great deal of thinking about the meaning of work, the choices we make to feed our families (and ourselves) and in turn how to best structure and set expectations for the marketing team I coach (lead is counter to the spirit of this post) at

The post that seemed to capture what I was thinking was written by "Polly" and brought to my attention in a post today by Seth Godin , a great blog from the author of Purple Cow and other great books.

Polly's post on the Mavericks at Work site for the  book of the same name points out that the current generation of workers believe that  " While we still care about money, security, and mastery, we’ve come to put creativity, meaning, and freedom on the same plane" .

We've moved from the paradigm followed by our parents:

Old Version: Work hard (for a very long time), achieve success, earn freedom (to retire and do all  the things you missed out on while you were working

New version: find work that affords you freedom = success

For marketers the context in which we sell is changing.  If the goal is freedom than those services that provide the best compromise between the "old" paradigm that is sometimes required to pay the bills and the "new" paradigm will get the attention of prospects and help us retain customers.  Implicit is the notion that "retirement" doesn't really exist as a concept for anyone under age 40.  What does exist is a life filled with steps toward some combination of emotional and financial success.  It's probably why I find advertising for the "Prudential Red Zone" and "Ameriprise" financial planning somewhat off putting.  It's not that I want to avoid planning, its' just that the vocabulary is off.  It's not about planning to fulfill a dream or surviving because my money outlasts my needs.  It's about achieving a level of freedom early in life so that we can continue living.  After all how can someone be considered retired at 60 when in all likelihood they will love for another 30+ years.

For managers, staff retention becomes a more complicated challenge as you can only provide as much freedom as the culture of your organization allows.  My approach is to treat everyone as knowledge workers where individuals are provided insight into the goals of the organization and then through discussion define those tasks they want to take on to contribute.   Companies like Netflix where goals are clearly articulated and individuals can come and go as long as they meet those goals have the right idea.  The challenge is in goal setting and measurement and measuring individual contribution vs. shared tasks.  In marketing this usually is not a problem since co-dependency is self policing since others can't succeed unless everyone performs.

Outdoor Hockey Works - The Winter Outdoor Classic

The NHL had their first outdoor game in years the other day in Buffalo called the Winter Outdoor Classic.  You couldn't have picked a better day with snow falling and 70,000+ fans in the stands.  It was exciting to watch in HD where you could see every detail of the game.

This is what Hockey is all about and what the future of professional hockey should look like.  Congratulations to the marketing team at the NHL for bringing real innovation and clever thinking to the game.

How great is this!!!  Enjoy the video:

BugLabs and the Future of Electronics

I've been writing about BugLabs and their introduction of modularized electronics designed to be an open platform for others to hack, change and reprogram.  They just announced pricing and availability of the first modules at the Consumer Electronics Show with new GPS, LCD and camera modules.  Platforms without limitations are the future.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes the rest of the electronics industry to catch up.

Markets are disrupted when someone can dramatically change the rules of the category.  It's the only way.  Apple are you listening?  Microsoft can learn a lesson from bug is they ever want to make a Zune like object successful.

Self vs. 3rd Party Promotion

Seth Godin in his blog points out the truism that "people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself."  He finds that when he promotes his books on his own website he sells less than when someone else endorses the book on theirs.  I would take this piece a wisdom one step further in that it matters who endorses you. 

When a writer mentions our company, in a traditional publication or the website of a traditional publication such as the New York Times, we always see less traffic than when a credible blogger endorses the company.  It shows the power of word of mouth and third part endorsement when designing marketing campaigns.  It would be interesting to see how a hybrid approach such as PayPerPost impacts these dynamics.

What Market Position Would I Rather Have? - Target or Walmart

In market positioning there are only so many choices with the existing market structure somewhat dictating reality.  There are usually only 2 sustainable market positions.  Low price/high quality and high price/premium quality.  Every other position tends to be a losing battle since you are trying to steal share from one of the more clearly defined positions.

Retail stores have always been a great way to illustrate the principal.  Take the stores that seem to always struggle such as Sears and JCPenney.  The quality is good and the prices are good.  They compete with the discount stores on the low end and Macy's on the high end.  A small amount of share is constantly being traded back and forth with the discount oriented stores (Kohl's, Target, Walmart) and the traditional department stores.  Others such as KMart can't even play because they operationally can't deliver clearly against either position while delivering low price, mixed quality.

So what about Target and Walmart.   Now most people would want to be Target since it appears to have higher quality merchandise at a slightly higher price.  They attract the Walmart customers that don't like the Walmart experience and pull from the bottom of the Macy's customer group.  The problem is that they are mathematically a small subset of the Walmart group that wants lowest price/good quality (if I were Walmart I'd spend some money against quality) and the Macy's group.  By constantly battling below and above, they are constantly in a struggle to maintain share.  This is not to say that Target is not a well defined brand.  It is.  The problem is that it has defined its market in a way that will limit growth below levels that can be achieved by Walmart.  By not clearly articulating a low price/high quality positioning, they create some level of ambiguity, although you can content that you do not need to literally communicate your positioning vs. demonstrating it through every day low pricing tactics.

The better example of clear positioning is Steve & Barry's, H&M and Old Navy.  Merchandise is incredibly low priced while delivering on an implied promise of higher levels of quality.  Now why can't KMart do that?

Citizen Soldier - Brilliant Advertising from the National Guard

The Citizen Soldier campaign from the National Guard could be one of the best if not the best advertising campaigns of the 2007.  It is a great example of entertainment and brand content coming together to capture and frame a set of meaning for a brand.

The campaign drives awareness through the use of movie theater advertising where a video featuring music and lyrics from 3 Doors Down captures the personal meaning of joining the National Guard.  Visuals tie the decision to join the Guard to the revolutionary routes of the United States.

"Standing on Guard for the Ones That We Shelter, Because we will always be there.  When there are people crying in the streets.  When they are starving to eat.  Right underneath my wings, you can rest your head...because we will always be there."

Powerful emotions matched to an equally important decision to join the Guard. 

At the end of the music video you are invited to download the song at the National Guard   site.  To lift response a card is distributed to all movie ticket purchasers that can be redeemed as well.  To redeem your "prize" you need to provide information that can then be used by the Guard as a follow-up vehicle where you can earn "Hooah" points.  Points are earned by responding to quizzes that are sent to participants via email.  They can be redeemed for National Guard merchandise.  Great method to keep mildly interested individuals engaged.

The decision to join the National Guard is personal and complex.  Advertising limited to :30 seconds in length couldn't possibly begin to deal with the complexity.  A feature length music video that is well targeted does a good job of at least getting the Guard into the career consideration set for individuals between the ages of 17 and .24, the primary target (you are included in the target up to age 42).

Once the Guard is at least on the target's radar other types of marketing can shift the individual toward to the decision to join.  While it is easy to criticize the campaign for not dealing with the "300 pound guerrilla in the room" , the possibility of personal harm, unclear commitment terms and deployment to Iraq, these issues are best left to  other forms of persuasion and information.

The National Guard's primary competition is other branches of the military.  The campaign does a good job of creating an understanding of why the Guard is distinct and important from other services such as the Army.

Congratulations to the National Guard advertising team and their agency LM&O advertising  for creating an outstanding example of contemporary branding.