Posts tagged ‘advertising’
June 22, 2012
I’ve grown up (personally and professionally) in the glory days of brands; and advertising, for that matter.
A time when companies spent millions of dollars every year to create powerful, meaningful, engaging brands. Brands that really resonated with consumers. Brands that conjured up memories of childhood, favourite family recipes and good times (Kraft). Brands that united people, regardless of where in the world you happened to live (Coke). Brands that made ugly, desirable (Volkswagon).
A time when advertisers took chances; and hired agencies based on their ability and willingness to take chances. A time when agencies and clients alike hired people for their business savvy, strategic insights and creative talent — and created environments where they could be nurtured, where they would thrive and grow.
A time when everyone knew that it was brands that attracted, and kept, customers. Products and services could, and would, come and go. But brands … brands were aspirational. And it was the values that brands stood for, the images they conveyed that meant something. Brands were the reason why consumers picked one product over another, chose Company A over the competition. And stayed loyal.
Can you say that now? Not so much, in my opinion. Today it seems to be all about slashing prices.
Don’t get me wrong. I know companies are having a very tough time staying afloat. But I don’t see businesses booming, even with all the headlines that scream “deep discounts, prices slashed, save up to 70%”, etc.
What I see is the killing of brands. It saddens me. And it worries me, because I know all about the power they have.
If you’ve got to put something on sale, put it on sale. But don’t do it at the expense of your greatest asset — your brand. Let’s say, for example, that you run a luxury hotel and have too much inventory. In an attempt to increase bookings you decide to discount rooms or create special promotions. All I’m saying is, do it strategically — within the parameter of your brand — so that your ‘luxury’ positioning doesn’t become a lie.
A strategy that should apply, by the way, to any business category and every price point, regardless of whether you’re Holt Renfrew or Target, BMW or Kia, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts or Embassy Suites, Bell or Wind Mobile, Special K or a no-name cereal.
We have to stop training consumers to forsake brands for cheap prices because all they’ll do is comparison shop. And no amount of advertising will ever get them back.
January 26, 2012
Beth Comstock, SVP and CMO of GE recently had a great article on Forbes online: “Innovation is a State of Mind”. If you know nothing else about me, you do know that innovation is an absolute obsession of mine — and it’s nice to know that someone so successful and highly-regarded feels the same way.
She starts her piece with a quote from the great, late entrepreneur Robert Noyce: “Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in a safe place?”
I agree with this statement, but only to a point. Absolutely, if you don’t believe in possibilities, opportunities and the fact that there is a way forward you might as well pack up your office and go home. But I think that ‘acceptance’, ‘willingness’ and ‘courage’ are equally, if not more, important. Why? Well, okay, we all know that the economy is bad everywhere. Unemployment is still high. Jobs are still scarce. Life is uncertain.
So let’s say that I run an ad agency. New business is hard to come by. Every time I answer the phone it’s a client calling to cancel a project or reduce a budget. They are questioning every dime we spend and send us back to re-quote time and time again. We have a hiring freeze. My staff are stretched beyond their limits, tired, fed up and stressed. Raises are out of the question. Nobody’s having a good time.
On the positive side I know I have good people working for me. They know how much I value them. We do great work, consistently. Despite all the budget issues we have good client relationships. In my heart I believe that we will come out of this whole. So yes, I am optimistic about the future.
What I have accepted is a problem that seems to be out of my control. But have I accepted — or even asked myself — whether or not there is something in my control that needs fixing? Do clients value what agencies do? Do they consider that a lot of what we do is not as unique a skill or talent as we think — but is, in their opinion, a commodity? Does the whole agency model need changing?
This soul-searching won’t change the economy overall, but are there more relevant services we could offer clients? Would it help with new business? Would clients be willing to pay more to get what they need and want and value?
All right. So now I acknowledge and accept the fact that we should take a long, hard look at what we do, how we do it, how much (or how little) we charge for it, and what our clients might value more.
Am I willing to take this on? It’s a lot of work. It’s not easy to undo what an industry has been doing for 50, 60, 80+ years. Generally people hate change. It won’t be easy to sell it to my boss. It won’t be easy to sell it to my staff. Do I not have enough on my plate? Do I really need to take this on?
Yep. So far so good. I am optimistic about the future and the future of my agency. I accept the fact that some of our challenges are of our own doing. I am willing to invest the time and the money to come up with innovative solutions.
So do I have the balls?
Because there are risks. My boss could shoot it down. My boss could get pissed off because instead of spending my days concentrating on making the agency we have successful, I am wasting my time day-dreaming. Even if I got my boss onside, and even if we were to include our clients in the process, this wouldn’t be the first time a client endorsed an idea in theory and walked away from it when it became real. Maybe we’d lose some staff who hate the idea — and also hate the fact that because we may have eliminated some services, we have also eliminated some jobs. What if I miscalculated and it didn’t get us new business?
But on the other hand, what if it worked like a charm? What if our new and innovative approach to what an ad agency could and should do for clients won us rave reviews from clients, prospects and the press? What if profits soared? What if we attracted, and hung on to, the industry’s top talent? What if we couldn’t cope with all the new business that beat a path to our door? What if we ended up on the cover of Forbes?
Without the courage to try, we’d never know. Without the courage, willingness, acceptance and optimism.
There must be something to this idea of innovation — why else is it the theme at Davos this year?