April 24, 2014

Steve Jobs Hated "Branding"

Here at The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we have always taken a skeptical view of brand babble.

While we appreciate the value that certain types of brand equity confer, we are appalled by the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of how brands are built, and the dreadful lexicon of "branding."

Our views on the topic are summed up in a few little axioms we trot out whenever the subject surfaces:
"We don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand. We get them to love our brand by convincing them to try our product."

"A strong brand is a byproduct. It comes from doing other things right. Make sure your product is excellent. Make sure you're taking good care of your customers. Make sure your ads differentiate you. That's what builds brands."
Now, when you're a dumb-ass blogger, it's nice to have pithy little statements like that. But it's a lot nicer when you find that your views are shared by someone with actual, functioning brains.

That's why an article I came across recently was particularly gratifying.

The article, at Business Insider, was called "The Two Most 'Dreaded, Hated' Words At Steve Jobs' Apple." 

And what were these two words? According to Allison Johnson, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple from 2005 to 2011...
"...the two most 'dreaded, hated' words at Apple under Steve Jobs were "branding" and "marketing."
The article goes on to quote Johnson...
"...we understood deeply what was important about the product, what the team’s motivations were in the product, what they hoped that product would achieve, what role they wanted it to have in people’s lives
...The most important thing was people's relationship to the product. So any time we said 'brand' it was a dirty word."
Back in 2009 I wrote a post that included the following
Apple’s advertising is always about product benefits and differentiation. It is never idiotic “branding”... No lifestyle bullshit... And always done beautifully.
Just goes to show, sometimes even bloggers can be right.

April 23, 2014

An Expensive Lesson In Web Strategy

Here at The Ad Contrarian World Headquarters we are well-known for believing that it is much more fun to identify problems than to offer solutions.

As a matter of fact, offering solutions is how we make money and the idea of giving them away free on a blog is just plain anathema to us.

Nonetheless, there are moments when we feel unaccountably generous and give million dollar advice away for nothing. Today is such a day.

The case in point is our strategy for online advertising. (I don't have the patience to explain it again, so click the link.)

As regular readers know, we have long advocated the idea that the web is good for fulfilling demand, but not for creating demand.

In short, the web is a lousy version of television, but a terrific version of the Yellow Pages.

Our advice is to forget most of the baloney about social media, content, banners and whatever else is flavor of the week, and advertise on the web where people go who are actively looking for something.

Of course, this advice has been widely ignored by the demented doofuses in the marketing and advertising industry who want you to believe that people have nothing better to do than have conversations about your brand on line. (And, oh yeah, maybe there's a buck or two in it for them if you buy this bullshit.)

Well, someone seems to have learned an expensive lesson.

According to Bloomberg, Priceline's ceo Darren Huston, says that Facebook and Twitter have failed to deliver results. I'm shocked...shocked I tell you.

Priceline's online spending last year was an astounding $1.8 billion. But according to Huston...
“For Facebook and Twitter, we have endless amounts of money. But we haven’t found anything there....But Google has been a great thing.”
In fact, Priceline's cost of marketing increased 41% last year while their business grew 29%. It looks like it's back to Google for them.

People who understand the "creating demand vs fulfilling demand" strategy would know in about 2 seconds that Facebook and Twitter would not be as effective for Priceline as Google.

Using the web for creating demand is dumb. Using it for fulfilling demand is smart. You owe me a million dollars.

April 21, 2014

The Lifetime Value Of Stupidity

One of my all-time favorite dumb-guy marketing ideas is "lifetime value."

It is the fantasy that if you get a customer at a young age she'll stick with you for life. This nonsense is particularly popular in the automotive industry, where I misspent a lot of my agency career.

My conversations about lifetime value usually went something like this:
BOB: Why are we spending so much of our advertising budget against 18-34 year-olds when they have no money and no interest in buying cars?

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: Because we have to think about the future. We need young people in our brand. If we get them now, we'll have them for a long time.
BOB: But doesn't it make more sense to try to sell our car to people who are actually interested in buying a car now than to people who might buy a car in fifteen years?

Old people are dying out, and we need to get youth into our brand or we'll die, too.
BOB: (Foolishly trying to insert logic into the conversation) First of all, old people aren't dying out. Adults over fifty are growing at almost three times the rate of adults under 50. It's young people who are evaporating, not old ones. But more important, 88% of cars are sold to people over 35. The math just doesn't work.

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: (Snickering on the inside) Why don't you just stick to writing the ads and leave the math to me?

BOB: Because you're a fucking moron (no, I didn't really say that...I'd say something like)... "let me show you the numbers..."

Only 12% of cars are sold to people between the ages of 18 and 34.  Let's say we are the most brilliant marketers in history and we can get a 50 share among these people. And then let's say that we make the most irresistible car in history and fifteen years from now 50% of these people will still buy our brand. And let's say that these people miraculously become the most eager new car buyers in history and they buy a new car every 2 years. That means fifteen years from now we will have 1.5% share of market from them.

In the meantime, we will have ignored 88% of the fucking people who actually bought a fucking car every fucking year for fifteen fucking years. Does this sound like good fucking business strategy to you, you fucking moron...(once again, the "fucking" part was often more a thought than an actual verbalization. Often, but not always.)

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: (Snickering on the inside, the outside, the right side, and the left side) Why don't you just stick to writing the ads and leave the marketing decisions to me?
That, my friends, is the value of stupidity. And it lasts a lifetime.