What will it be next month?

A piece I wrote for Direct Marketing News….

So now it’s Pinterest — what will it be next month? When a colleague of mine suggested DDB had better get on the latest social sharing platform, I groaned. Sure, it’s cool and it lives up to its promise to “let you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web,” but I asked myself: How different is it? What role does it play in our communications? And if we commit to it, can we consistently support it?

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"Think" in 20th Century Communications

The classic IBM “THINK” sign was said to be a permanent feature of IBM offices around the world until the 1970s. The “THINK” concept as company mantra originated with IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr. in the 1940s.

Bill Bernbach ignited the Creative Revolution within his agency, DDB, and the entire advertising industry with the Think Small campaign for Volkswagen. It is widely recognized as the most influential advertising of the century.

Apple challenged the world to Think Different which captured the company’s essence while taking a shot at IBM. 

Kind of makes you think.

IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study

The world’s top marketing executives acknowledge two incredible failings: their organization’s ability to capitalize on changes and challenges in marketing and their own skills in making things happen. 

The IBM Global CMO Study is their first study of CMOs and is based on face-to-face interviews with over 1,700 CMOs between February and June of this year. Respondents represent 19 industries and 64 countries and included marketers from 48 of the top 100 brands listed in Interbrand’s 2010 rankings.

The study shows that CMOs are aware of changing trends but their organizations are not responding with speed, accuracy, and arguably, creativity. 

“Approximately 90 per cent of all the real-time information being created today is unstructured data. CMOs who successfully harness this new source of insight will be in a strong position to increase revenues, reinvent their customer relationships and build new brand value,” said Carolyn Heller Baird, CRM research lead for the IBM Institute for Business Value and the global director of the study.

The report notes that as customers increasingly share their experiences online, they are gain more control and influence over brands. And this while most CMOs admit that they remain mired in the last century when it comes to marketing.

The study also emphasizes the continued challenges of analytics and ROI - these have never been adequately addressed in my twenty years in marketing. Of course, one would expect data and analytics to be emphasized in a study from IBM - that is where they will make their consulting revenue rather from pure marketing strategy and creative execution. However, the overriding findings are extremely valuable and when viewed in the aggregate, tell more about CMO’s skills than anything else.

“The success of my role is far more about analytics and technology than it is about hanging out with my ad agency, coming up with great creative campaigns. We must increase campaign ROI,” noted Rob Colwell, executive manager - commercial and marketing, Qantas Frequent Flyer, in the study. This requires CMOs to improve their own digital, technological and financial proficiency. But according to the study, this is not happening. 

The study points to four key challenges facing CMOs (that they are not well armed to deal with):

Explosion of Data: Incredibly, the past two years have accounted for 90% of the world’s data. Volume, variety and velocity of data available has marketers struggling to sort through and find differentiating, relevant insights.

Social Platforms: The size and perceived influences of social networking marketing is overwhelming. As Campaign magazine summarizes, “If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest. With 800 million users it’s only smaller than China and India. And users aren’t sitting idley - the average one posts 90 items a month. Twitter users send about 140 million tweets a day. And YouTube’s 490 million users upload more video content in a 60-day period than the three major U.S. television networks created in 60 years.”

Choices, Choices: Even the most unengaged consumer recognizes the proliferating marketing channels and devices now available. Both the Mobile and Tablet marketing require examination by CMO’s (Mobile commerce is forecasted to reach US$31 billion by 2016. The tablet market is forecasted to reach nearly 70 million units worldwide by 2012 and may grow to 294 million units by 2015).

Who is Who: Marketers are also challenged by rapidly changing demographics. As Campaign magazine points out, “In India, as one example, the middle class is expected to soar from roughly 5 per cent of the population to more than 40 per cent in the next two decades. Marketers who have historically focused on affluent Indian consumers must adapt their strategies to market to this emerging middle class.”

The report is available for download at, (http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cmo/cmostudy2011/cmo-registration.html), along with other assets accompanying the report.

Mad Men’s Manhattan (and why Don Draper is Bill Bernbach)

Manhattan is more than a backdrop in the AMC series Mad Men, it is a multi-layered character adding to the show’s richness. And the locales are meticulously researched yet, ironically the show is shot in Los Angeles. The author of Mad Men’s Manhattan, Mark Bernardo, takes the reader on a tour of key sites that have been represented in the show including advertising agencies, clients, restaurants, bars and clubs, and hotels. He says New York was “A city where the advertising business was booming in the wake of postwar prosperity, where the forward thinkers at firms like McCann-Erickson, Grey, and upstart innovators like Doyle Dane Bernbach were rewriting the rules of how the business worked and living large at the same time.” 

I was surprised to learn that “there were twenty agencies based in New York as early as 1861”. So the industry’s heritage goes back longer than commonly assumed. The first section covering the agencies has cool tidbits like that but also inaccuracies regarding ownership structures and the mergers within the industry. The short profiles on the agencies and their famous work is a good introduction to advertising history. The author argues that DDB is a key inspiration for the fictional Sterling Cooper with many parallels between the two. Bernardo writes that both gain “acclaim for its stylish, edgy ideas that emphasized wit and humor over simple repetition (even self deprecating humor) and ‘soft sell’ over ‘hard sell’.” The comparisons go further with Don Draper and Bill Bernbach comparisons, the author suggests that this Draper line could have come from Bernbach, “The memorable never emerged from a formula.” 

The book covers the history of famous department stores who introduced marketing innovations still used today (e.g., window displays, designer collections, branded shopping bags). Classic restaurants from that era are honored including Lutece, Sardi’s, and the Four Seasons. The El Morocco, The Slipper Room, P.J. Clarke’s are among the bars and clubs singled out. I am glad my favorite Mad Men haunt, The Oyster Bar, gets its recognition. And famous Manhattan hotels are profiled including The Savoy Plaza, The Roosevelt Hotel (the first to include retail stores), and The Taj Pierre. 

I recommend this book only to the real fans of the series or to New York history buffs. However, its length and depth still may disappoint. Also there were fewer photographs than there should have been given the subject matter. Still a fun primer on the series and that now exceedingly famous era of advertising. Lastly, if you are a fan of New York City history, I suggest checking out The Bowery Boys podcast series available on iTunes. The hosts cover famous locations throughout the city and give their rich history in a fun broadcast.