Posted: February 23, 2015
I have the feeling that I’ve missed something. All of a sudden I’m seeing hollywood stars appearing in the most dreadful, badly-produced, insanely silly TV commercials. It started with Antonio Banderas pretending to be a baker in a commercial for Italian biscuits. There’s no acknowledgement that it’s Banderas, no endorsement. He doesn’t even say anything (I mean, if you are going to have a movie star representing your product, why on earth would you have him acting out an anonymous part in a crap cameo?) so what’s the point?
Next Kevin Costner appeared in a commercial for Rio Mare tinned tuna! As with Banderras, I’m struggling to make a connection here. He only utters two words, which, so far, I have seen dubbed into three languages by anonymous v/o artists. I’m sure even Kev could have managed to come up with two words in any number of languages to have made these production even vaguely cohesive, but that’s hardly the point. What is going on here?
The most recent of these performances to have caught my eye is possibly the worst. The Dutch bank ING are changing their name to NN. I’m not even going to get into the choice of name here, but their decision to hire Ewan McGregor to do a “to camera” piece explaining in the most dreadful, boring, badly written script that he is celebrating the event by changing the spelling of his name to Ewann is just plain stupid? However, the whole thing becomes even more questionable when, having delivered the story in English, in the version I saw, he switches to Czech for the last section of the script!
I’ve written about the use of celebrity endorsement before. It’s difficult for the vast majority of brands to justify what is always a significant cost, but if you are going to invest these sums you need to at least make a stab at getting some value from the deal. The starting point would seem to be choosing a celebrity who has some connection to your brand or its values. Once you have the right person it would seem just basic common sense to make something of this golden opportunity by at least involving them in an engaging scenario with a decent script. It seems that whoever is responsible for these three fiascos was of the view that a celebrity removed the need for any kind of idea, but it begs the question, what on earth were the celebrities thinking about when they agreed to appear in these fiascos? Surely, they have script approval? After all, their reputation is on the line and it’s hardly appropriate for them to rely on some amateur, brainless and talentless writer to jeopardise that, yet they appear not to care. Beyond a very few of the many cosmetic and perfume commercials that feature celebrities I can’t think of a commercial that I’d consider to make good use of an opportunity like this, but examples like those I’ve mentioned can only be bad for everyone. Maybe its just a case of taking the money and running, but celebrities have business advisors and I wouldn’t have thought they’d recommend they associated with such dreadful projects.
Posted: February 17, 2015
In the first part of this editorial series I highlighted the way that our technical capability is driving, not only new businesses, but the way in which businesses operate. Now I’m going to explore what this means for marketers and marketing
A few years ago a major international financial services groups hired me to answer the question “If we were building our business from scratch today, what would it look like?”. I assembled a team of specialists in disciplines from across the business sphere and a few months later delivered a blue-print for a tech-based financial services business that looked nothing like the business they had. They couldn’t put it into play of course, that wasn’t the intention, but just as Formula One cars drive the innovations that go into production cars, this organisation launched a number of products based on ideas included in the business model that the task force produced.
This was clearly a very enlightened thing for any business to do and something that I can recommend to any business. However, I can’t help thinking that had I given the product ideas to start-ups, we would probably, by now be seeing new financial services powerhouses that had grown out of these ideas.
Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the past five years, you’ll recognise our new technical capability is driving the birth of radically different kinds of businesses. In fact, whole new sectors are being created simply because there are things that we can do today that we couldn’t imagine doing only a few years ago.
For decades businesses have been keeping up, as best they could, by adding patches and adaptations to existing business models to enable them to gain some benefit from a few of these innovations, but as a result they’ve become inefficient and ungainly. Start-ups, on the other hand, unhindered by the structures and processes of an established business, can be put together in a way perfectly suited to their purpose. With no operational compromises new model businesses are simply more efficient and as we all know, the single biggest differentiator of successful and unsuccessful businesses is efficiency. This has introduced a new phenomenon, a surge of small new tech businesses acquiring larger, established competitors at bargain-basement prices, simply because the small businesses hold the key to the survival of the larger competitor and has all the bargaining power.
From the start the current paradigm shift played out amid a big game of musical chairs where there was more sales capacity than customers. The only realistic source of new customers for most businesses these days is (and has been for some time) your competitors’ customer base. This has caused the focus in many businesses to switch from the challenge of finding customers to that of holding onto them. Repeat sales or customer loyalty are more critical than ever to the success of any business.
This is where brands and branding come into play. A strong brand may well increase your operational efficiency by among other things ensuring that you are offering the products and services that consumers most want at the price they are prepared to pay for it, but it offers another equally important, more emotional and less tangible benefit. It’s the feeling of belonging that a strong brand gives customers. It is this, as much as anything else that will guarantee customer retention.
The combination of all these factors influences the shape of many businesses in many ways, but one of the most fundamental differences between the old and new business models is the that marketing is now central to any business.
Because marketing is about identifying and leveraging an organisation’s resources in order to deliver answers to consumer needs it falls to marketers to guide the actions of everyone in every department. This in turn places a burden on marketers that most are not equipped to handle. To even get to first base today’s marketer has to be sufficiently familiar with all the disciplines that make up a modern business to be able to influence them. The more they know and the more sensitive they are to the functions and limitations of each department the better they will be at their job. However, marketers also need the authority within the organisation and a platform from which to operate. I’m still surprised when I encounter quite sizeable organisations that still don’t even have a marketing seat in their boardroom. Apart from anything else, this demonstrates failure to understand how businesses now work. A failure, which, by all accounts, will probably prove fatal. Nevertheless, I can understand that a real marketing director’s role is tough to fill and we need to start developing marketers with a wider range of skills and broader perspective. Have no doubt about it, marketing is very much in the driving seat of most of today’s successful organisations. The question is who will sit in it?
Posted: February 2, 2015
In the same week it emerged the pop singer Taylor Swift is attempting to copyright everyday phrases she just happened to have incorporated into the lyrics of some of her songs, the media shared the news that Nokia has issued a cease and desist notice against a London start-up over their use of the word “here”.
I don’t think any of us have a problem with the principle of copyright protection (Although, I was talking to an inventor this week who said that it was pointless taking patents out on products these days because they were all just combinations of technologies or concepts that are already known, so copyright enforcement was often impossible.) but does it make any sense for Miss Swift to literally claim ownership of the English language?
I’ll admit to some sympathy with the notion that she might inadvertently or otherwise, create a catch-phrase that may prove useful in promoting product, but should the product manufacturer pay her for so doing? It’s a question that I believe we are going to increasingly encounter.
Without a doubt pop songs throw up catch phrases that advertisers have adopted and profited from for as long as I can remember, but surely that’s just the way things go – Gangnam Style! We should also acknowledge that the advent of the Internet has thrown many entertainers onto hard times. Some of them don’t know where the next million is coming from, so you can understand that they are keen to monetise anything they can. There’s also just plain greed. Everyone is looking to make a fast buck and it usually makes no matter to them if it’s at someone else’s expense. The fact that we live in litigious times only makes this easier. If you can make a fast buck without actually doing anything that’s even better! The main reason for all of this though is that innovation is rarely unique. It’s just a race and it’s hotting up. Last month two people in separate conversations on two distant continents brought me start-ups that were working completely independently and unknown to each other on the same idea. Meanwhile the Brazilian team that developed the brain/machine interface and built it into the exoskeleton that enabled a paraplegic to kick-off the World Cup this year have been trumped by a European team who have taken the same technology to a new level by mind-merging two people on different continents.
Although our sensationalist press seemed to be trying to manufacture a David and Goliath story from the incident, I have more sympathy with Nokia’s objection to the decision by London start-up Lowdownapp to call their their location-based service “Here” than I do Taylor Swift’s claim. Nokia feels Lowdown were hitting below the belt by using the £8million Nokia had invested in promoting their mapping service with the same name as a springboard to fame. They may be right, but I can’t see that having the same name as another product in an adjacent technology is a good idea anyway. Isn’t it part of the growing-up process that all start-ups must go through, to learn to live with mistakes like the one Lowdownapp seem to have made here?