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Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

TOMS Shoes – Walk a Mile in their Marketing Shoes

In Insight on October 31, 2008 at 11:58 am
One for One

One for One

Blake Mycoskie gets it. At the IDEA conference yesterday Blake was the first speaker, and he set the tone for the entire afternoon, as speaker after speaker echoed his sentiments.  Blake is the guy behind TOMS Shoes, a worthy company with a worthy mission. For every pair of TOMS purchased, Blake gives a pair of TOMS to kids in Argentina and other impoverished areas, kids who don’t have any shoes at all.

TOMS works because Blake adheres to several key principles that form the cornerstone of successfull brands:

1. Be authentic

Blake makes honest products, delivers on promises and puts his money where his mouth is. People respect that. I love his super simple mantra: One for one. You buy one pair, we’ll give one pair away. One for one.

2. Be transparent

Blake’s team goes down to Argentina every two weeks. He’s always looking for people to come join him to see for themselves the impact TOMS is having.

3. Make it a mission, not a job

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Blake shared an awesome video of high school kids who sell shoes at their schools. They aren’t doing it for themselves, they’re doing it to help others. He also shared this anecdote: People come to their offices for the first time and ask, “Which one is Tom?” An employee will point to someone and say, “That’s Tom over there,” when it might really be Joe or Mike. Then they’ll say, “And that’s Tom over there” pointing to a female colleague. The point is, they are all Tom.

4. Give to get

At the end of his presentation, Blake asked us all to send him a text message. Everyone who did got a free pair of TOMS, and Blake gave a pair on our behalf. Now, if he’d hadn’t done that, would I still have written this post? Maybe. Would I have bought a pair? Probably not. Will I tell everyone the story of TOMS shoes everytime I wear that free pair? You bet. So, for one free pair of shoes, Blake gets this blog post (and no doubt I’ll write about TOMS again) plus he’s created a brand advocate (which is better than a key influencer).

I’ll have more from the IDEA conference over the next several days.

IDEA Conference Round Up

In Ideas, Innovation, Insight on October 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm


I attended Ad Age’s IDEA Conference today. Those of you familiar with this blog will remember that last month I was involved with Interesting New York, a really cool ‘un’conference. IDEA was somewhat similar, with some really terrific speakers presenting thought-provoking concepts in 15-20 minute sets.

Over the next couple of days I’ll share some of my learnings from the event. Come back to find out about the insights, ideas and innovations from the people behind Method, Nau, Etsy, Chevrolet, Nike, Yahoo!, TOMS Shoes, Terracycle and more.

The Lesson of the @

In Insight on October 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm
Where it's at!

Where it's at!

It’s hard to remember, but there was a time before email.  Back then we didn’t give much thought to the symbol above the 2 on our keyboard. The @ symbol was seldom used, an alpha-numeric appendix – useful occasionally, but you could certainly live without it.

Email changed all that. The @ symbol is now an indespensible aspect of social media. If you use Twitter or email, you need the @ symbol. The @ symbol didn’t have some big marketing campaign or a national association of @ supporters. The @ symbol is succeeding merely by being there when someone needed it.

It’s easy to get caught up in complex marketing tactics, through-the-line strategic campaigns and integrated multi-media platforms. But sometimes the key to success, as Woody Allen famously said, “is just showingt up.”

What Marketers Can Learn From Peanuts

In Insight on October 29, 2008 at 10:22 am

Last night I watched a couple of Peanuts cartoons with my kids. Saying that Peanuts is genious isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, the brand has been around for 50+ years. But watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown reminded me of some of the reasons it has lasted so long, and works for my boys (ages 9 and 5) as much as it works for me.

On the hunt for the Red Baron

On the hunt for the Red Baron

There were so many great, unnecessary, details. That Snoopy was a World War I flying ace in his dreams is a sublime digression. That his doghouse became his airplane was imaginative. That everyone knows it was a Sopwith Camel is the type of genius that makes brands powerful 50 years later. My guess is that that little detail wasn’t introduced the first time Snoopy donned the goggles and scarf. One of the great things about a comic strip that lasts five decades is that you can continue to add layers. The same is true with your brand. Little details thrill and delight consumers. Would an individual cartoon or strip have been as enjoyable had we not known Snoopy flew a Sopwith Camel? Yes, probably so. But our enjoyment of the Peanuts brand would have been less. Imperceptably so, but all those details – Schroeder’s love of Beethoven, Peppermint Patty always calling Charlie Brown ‘Chuck’, or Snoopy’s brother Spike living in Needles, CA – those all add up to make Peanuts something more than just a funny comic.

People are filled with quirks, secrets, contradictions and little known facts, that’s what makes them interesting. It works the same way for brands.  Can your product include a seemingly superfluous feature? Can you give your mascot a funny name?

This doesn’t mean you should agonize over every little thing, or that you have to cram backstory into every piece of marketing, but a little sprinkling over the course of time will add up to something rich and textured that consumers can get to know, just like a good friend.

Negative Brand Hijack Hall of Fame Inductee: Bruno Ganz in Downfall

In Insight on October 27, 2008 at 10:39 am

Great piece by Virginia Heffernan in the NY Times magazine yesterday on the Hitler Lost Cause Meme. People have been taking a scene from the 2004 German film, “Downfall” the story of Hitler’s last days and tweaking it, often with hilarious results. Here’s one titled Hitler Plans Burning Man (German with English subtitles, but still, NSFW):

A good article worth a read, and you should check out some of the other YouTube clips as well.  But what gets little mention is what this means to the actor, Bruno Ganz. Ganz has been a successful and well respected actor in Europe for decades. But for many in the English-speaking world (and there are non-English spoofs as well), he is just the crazy Hitler flying into a rage over Brett Favre.

More than likely he doesn’t care about this, but what if your serious efforts are turned into a ridiculous Internet joke? I’m not talking about Tay Zonday, Chocolate Rain-serious. I mean serious-serious. It’s hard to know what to do in a situation like that, but some immediate reactions might not be the best choices:

1. Completely ignore it – Now you’re letting the marketplace define you. Once the meme overwhelms the original, it’s hard to get it back.

2. Get even more serious – By coming out with a statement condemning the comedy appropriation you merely look like someone without a sense of humor, a sure-fire approach to receiving scorn and further humiliation.

3. Get even more funny – Don’t try the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach either. Chances are slim you’ll be as funny as what’s out there, so you’ll just look clueless.

The best thing you can do is accept it, give a nod to the comdedians and work hard at giving people something different and crucially, more remarkable, to talk about.

What the WMBN is talking about, Pt. II

In Ideas on October 24, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Picking up from earlier this week…

Micah Solomon highlights the new “eco-cards” from the Four Season’s Hotel.

Nicola Davies shares an amazing video on the evolution of video games (must viewing).

Paul Groves enlightens us on the health benefits of flatulence.

Share Marketing talks about the importance of social media in tough economic times.

Ray Cha of Weather Pattern recently gave a presentation on Computation and Maps.

The WordPress Marketing Bloggers Network is filled with ridiculously smart people. You should check them out regularly.

Negative Brand Hijack Hall Of Fame Inductee: U.S. Postal Service

In Insight on October 24, 2008 at 9:15 am
Hello, Newman.

Hello, Newman.

It’s very chic to talk about the power of the consumer and how important it is to engage them with your brand.  There are many great examples that are brought up showing the benefits (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and plenty of examples of what happens when you don’t (Delta). But less frequent is the example of the negative brand hijack. If there were a Hall of Fame of such things, the U.S. Postal would be a charter member.

Over the last 25 years, pop culture has three touch points for the U.S. Postal service:

Cliff Claven, the unbearable know-it-all from the iconic TV show, Cheers.

Newman, the unbearable know-nothing from the iconic TV show, Seinfeld.

The term, “Going Postal” which means going violently crazy (or worse) on people, a reference to several tragic incidents of violence perpetrated by postal employees on their colleagues in the 80s.

Wow. What in the world did the U.S. Postal Service do to deserve that?  Sure, we’ve all had the complaints regarding lost mail or slow service, but for the most part the U.S. Postal service provides and excellent, and indespensible service. There aren’t too many other organizations you deal with directly (they come to your house!) five days a week. Who else would deliver a letter from New York to L.A. for you for 50 cents (and we complain about rate hikes!)?

As a cycling fan, I know that for many years Lance Armstrong rode the U.S. Postal Service team, but for all his celebrity, I doubt many non-cycling fans knew what team Armstrong rode for. 

Maybe the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t feel the need to rehabilitate its brand since they have no direct competition. But it seems to me they are ripe for a make-over.  Here’s three things I would do:

1. New uniforms – You can’t look at a mail carrier without thinking of Newman or Claven (or both). Changing the uniform helps break that association.

2. Empower mailcarriers to be the social glue of the community. The mailman is the one person in your neighborhood who has a connection to everyone. That’s an incredibly powerful, and underutilized opportunity. Could the USPS partner with a charity? Engage voters (in a non-partisan way)? Encourage healthy living? Assist seniors?

3. Utilize social media – I’d be willing to bet that a Twittering mailcarrier would gather a following quickly. Without divulging his geographic location, or the names of people on his route, it would be easy to imagine both comedy and drama.

Sometimes a brand chooses to reinvent themselves. Sometimes the need for reinvention is thrust upon them.

Nike betrays their DNA

In Insight on October 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Nike – the gritty American underdog that took on the Establishment (adidas). Nike – the champion of the rebels and rules breakers.  I love Nike, always have. I love their products and I love their marketing. But it looks like they missed and missed badly on a recent marathon held in San Francisco. You can read the details from the SF Chronicle and Half-Fast.

The gist is, 24-year-old Arien O’Connell won the race, but wasn’t registered in the ‘elite’ category. Now, when you read the stories, you’ll see that by some creative rules interpretations, the judges had some reason for not declaring O’Connell the winner. But from a PR perspective, that’s besides the point.  Right now Nike looks like a big, corporate suit whose ‘follow the letter of the law’ stance is the exact opposite of what the company has stood for all these years. 

I trust Nike will jump in here soon, but will they do it before this story catches fire?  The best thing Nike can do right now, is put here in a Nike commercial, poking fun at Nike for being the very thing they’ve always fought against. Make O’Connell the hero. In fact, present her as the ‘wake up call’ that Nike needed. Thank her for providing that wake up call and announce you (Nike) are rededicating yourselves to once again being the champion of the gritty underdog.

What the WMBN is talking about, Pt. I

In Ideas on October 21, 2008 at 10:58 am

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Dubai a couple of times. It’s a remarkable place with lots of energy and electricity. Check out Octagon’s First Call blog for the latest trend: Celebrity investment.

Francis Anderson weighs in on the Mac v. PC ad wars (which are really the Mac v. Microsoft ad wars. I’m a fan of the Microsoft “I’m a PC” campaign, but Apple has hit back smartly.

Hard Knox Life also looks at a recent ad campaign, Nike Football’s ‘Leave Nothing’ featuring LT and Troy Polamalu. A terrific ad that reminds me of a previous Nike ad with Randy Moss and Jason Williams.

Jax Rant points to a super cool new toy: Tag Galaxy.

I don’t know as much about video games a Rich Gallagher over at Liquid Architecture, but LittleBigPlanet looks crazy cool.

Check out the new Navigate Your Marketing site from the gang at Marketing Integrity.

Mr. Blackwell – The Death of a Cultural Icon

In Innovation on October 21, 2008 at 8:51 am
Mr. Blackwell

Mr. Blackwell

Mr. Blackwell has died at the age of 86. He deserves to be remembered for a couple of reasons. First, it can be argued that he was one of the pioneers of celebrity culture. He first started critiquing the fashion sense and style of Hollywood in 1960. It’s not a stretch to say that without Mr. Blackwell, there would be no Perez Hilton. Whether you view that as good or bad is besides the point. We live in a celebrity-obsessed society and Richard Blackwell was one of the forefathers of that movement.

Secondly, Mr. Blackwell is a strong example of someone who turned themselves into a personal brand, and a distinctive and strong one at that. A failed actor and little-known dress designer, Mr. Blackwell caught lightening in a bottle when he first critiqued the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Initially, the list was met with mild interest, but by the third year it was a major new story. The lesson – don’t give up if your idea isn’t an instant hit. He then spent the next several decades building his brand and to my knowledge never veered off into areas that would have been “off brand.”

Maybe Mr. Blackwell wasn’t your cup of tea, but his cultural impact is undeniable and his role as an early practitioner of the “Brand Called You” approach is underestimated.