Monthly Archives: November 2014

Anatomy of An Insight: Crib In My Pants

I have been playing this on rewind throughout the whole day:

Business insight: Beards have been all the rage last couple of years thanks to hipsters and Zach Galifianakis. Because of that the shavers and razor blades have not been that much in demand. That has forced shaving brands to move more to trimming and also expand from shaving to overall manscaping territory. This ad is for styling razor and what is also notable is that the main male protagonist sports stubble. Sometimes you need to find additional usage for your product if it loses the relevance.

Human truth: Guys do not really care about personal care. They would not use deodorant, shave or shower without women. They are either forced to use the products, they are using them in hope of becoming more attractive or they are just using whatever is available. These basic insights have been the goldmine of pretty much all the great personal care advertisements. You use Axe, because you want to get laid. Old Spice knows that it is your wife, who is buying your products. You should use Dove Men, because you are so lazy that you are using your wife´s shampoo.

The formula for this ad is great. First you seed doubt with the female testimonials and make guys insecure about their “crib´s” condition. Then you lighten mood with the humorous song with witty lyrics. Finish it off with the main benefit and product shot. Marvelous!

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Kobe Bryant, Just a Prime Example of Modern Highly Skilled Professional

“You want me to own team and deal with these rich, spoiled stubborn athletes, and try to get them perform? No thank you”
-Kobe Bryant

This NBA season has been really interesting thus far. Many of my favorite teams (i.e. Memphis Grizzlies) and players (i.e. DeMarcus Cousins) have really stepped up their game. There has been some disappointments as well (i.e. I expected Lance Stephenson to make a jump to the next level) and the biggest low-point of them all has been my all-time favorite team:

Los Angeles Lakers

The team has been completely dysfunctional. Superstar Kobe Bryant has been making a great comeback from points-perspective, but does not really trust anyone in the team. They are likely to tank really bad and that it is something as a fan I feel sad about. On the other hand I have high respect for Kobe Bryant: 5 championships do not come without extraordinary work ethic. Although he is totally on different pay range than any of us, he is still an epitome of skilled professional. Here are some lessons we can learn from him:

1.Know your value
“I like playing for the purple and gold. This is where I want to finish up”
There has been lots of talk about Kobe´s big contract and how selfish that has been. I do not really understand the criticism. Kobe is the star worker for the organization who makes millions out of his work. In normal business it is appreciated when people spend their whole career in same company. In NBA, we want the players to jump ship whenever their team is not playing well. So Kobe is loyal to the organization and it is likely that he will end his career as a Laker-for-life. Lebron has been already in two teams. On the other hand he is not stupid either. It does not pay to be loyal to a company that does not treat you well. Currently Lakers have no prospect for championship, so who can really fault Bryant for maximizing his contract?
Same rule applies for professionals: it is worthwhile to stay in organization provided that they appreciate you and compensate you evenly.

2. Understand what business you are in.
“These young guys are playing checkers. I´m out there playing chess”
Winning is one aspect of being successful NBA team. Lakers had an awful season last year and were playing without Kobe. Still, guess who was the most profitable team in NBA? Although from a sports perspective this season will be even more horrible, it might actually be more lucrative from business side. The audience wants to see Kobe both at home and on other markets. They cheer for him and want to see one of the greatest of all time do his thing. Lakers might not win, but they are hell lot more entertaining when Kobe is on board. It is also not a coincidence that Jeremy Lin was signed to largest Asian-American market in USA. NBA is show business. Besides dunks, passes and rebounds the game is also about TV rights, shirt sales and sponsorship deals. The value of superstars for the companies goes beyond their tangible contributions.

3.You have to find the motivation somewhere.
I don´t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant”
If you can´t win the championship, you have to motivate yourself in someway. So again, I am not faulting Kobe for being obsessed on passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Mike is the greatest player ever; surpassing him, regardless how many shots it will take, is not a mean feat. Same thing with companies: if your organization is not doing that well, you have to find your enjoyment somewhere. Whether it is new project, mentoring or maximizing your bonus. If there is nothing motivating you at the workplace, it is time switch teams.

4.Ignore that you are likely overrated
“The only thing I am afraid is bees. I don´t like bees. I´m allergic to them”
We always inflate the value of super stars. Total denial of any stint in perfection is also a characteristic for the superstars. Kobe makes lots of points, but he takes and misses lots of shots as well. He has high usage, but low efficiency. Actually Lakers are more effective when Kobe is off court according to the stats. I still don´t doubt at a moment that Kobe believes genuinely that the only sensible way to help his team is to shoot more. Quite often we cannot recognize our own weak spots and have too rosy picture about our own skills. We also underestimate the role of luck in our success.

Where many others have retired, Kobe (aged 36) is still playing 30 minutes every day, getting paid really well, getting crowds excited and maybe winning scoring title this year.

I´d surely like to be on that level when I would be close to retirement.

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Why Smartphone Batteries Are Always Dead?

During recent years our smartphones have taken huge leaps.

Still even though we have fingerprint scanners, high-end cameras, all the bells and quite a lot of whistles, one question still boggles every smartphone user´s mind:

Why does not my damn battery last any longer?

 The reason is simple. Smartphones in general follow Moore´s Law, meaning that processing power will double for every two years. Batteries are expectation to this, because they are chemical products converting chemical energy to electrical energy. Batteries do not follow Moore´s Law as their “technology” has already been optimized.

When you are desperately trying to find a place to charge your phone, here are couple of things to consider:

Team is only as long as its weakest link
Life is like working out in gym. As tempting it would be to only do bench press and skip all the more difficult exercises, it will eventually backlash. Smartphone manufacturers have been obsessed with new additional features and bringing more power. What they have neglected is the battery. At some point, the drained battery might be the Achilles heel of the whole smartphone industry if it is not taken care of.

People learn new habits when they are forced to
When we still used feature phones, it would have been totally unheard of to charge your phone even on every day. Nowadays you charge your phone whenever there is an opportunity and you are accustomed to everyday charging. People also routinely disable different features to maximize the battery life. Would people be more effective if they could use all the smartphone functions without the fear of battery drainage? One way to increase the battery life is not to use data, but that pretty much defies the idea of smartphone, not?

The solution will come from somewhere, we just don´t know the angle
It might even be that our batteries will never be able to last as long as during feature phone era. The toll our new features put on smartphones is just too much. There will be improvements in battery technology, but it will take time. There are couple quick wins to be had, such as smarter antennas that could double your battery life. The answer might not also be to increase the durability of the battery, but to make recharging faster. If you could recharge your phone fully in 30 seconds (or even 2 minutes), that would be the potential game changer.

Batteries are not a trivial matter, as certain studies say that people appreciate it more than brand, speed or camera quality. That might be an opportunity for some newcomer brand to disrupt the marketplace?

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The Power of Surprise

I got married this September. It was done semi-secretly, so my friends in Singapore did not have opportunity to organize a bachelor party. I thought I was off the hook, but learned to my surprise that you can apparently have a bachelor party although you are already married. I was kidnapped from my morning run to a flight to Saigon. And the rest was history. Luckily all the kidneys are intact, no tigers were in hotel room and no one got a tattoo to a face.

In addition to a heightened appreciation for the great friends I have, this weekend reminded me of the power of surprise.

Surprise is one of the greatest emotions in the world that brands can tap into. There has been a flood of surprise & delight campaigns, but still good campaign always works. Surprise also comes with a range of different emotions. Sometimes the brand does not flex to be funny or really sentimental, but almost every brand can surprise (hopefully in a positive way). As long as the surprise is meaningful and/or really outrageous, the surprise & delight will work.

Many of the surprise and delight campaigns have been one-off stunts but the best brands have made it as a part of their brand behavior. KLM is a prime example of this and their latest “Cover greetings” just gets the job done:

Mastercard has also done great job by building a surprise platform with their Priceless Surprises:

One of my all-time favorite “surprise & delight” campaigns has been this Coke campaign for overseas Filipino workers. If this does not get you emotional, I don´t know what will:

These examples show that, it is not necessarily about the budget or the most overboard surprise, it is about the meaning of the surprise for the recipient. If you can spark a genuine human emotion, the surprise works.

There are naturally quite a lot of lackluster surprises. Especially this is true with one sub-category of surprise campaigns: prankvertising. Humor is always delicate matter and one man´s prank is other man´s insult. To every awesome Pepsi Max Stunt (or Uncle Drew anyone), there is always the raining bus stop –stunts, which just makes you question quite hard the future of our industry.

To put the flood of surprise campaigns in proper perspective, this “surprise video” really cracked me up:

It is funny because it is true.

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Marriage of Finland´s Finest: Finlayson & Tom of Finland

tomoffinlandlogo

Tom of Finland is one of the most internationally well-known Finnish (hence the name) artists. He has not necessarily been that celebrated in Finland despite his international influence. Maybe it is because he specialized on quite niche art form. Tom of Finland was the most influential creator of gay pornographic images. I think it awesome that traditional Finnish textile manufacturer Finlayson has collaborated with Tom of Finland Foundation to bring some manly towels and other textile products to the people:

tomoffinland2

Some bigots might oppose this collaboration. Let them. The main challenge for brands is not that they upset people, but that no one cares about them. Brands get shaky when there is backlash, but seldom the people protesting are even using the products. Great brands do not try to appeal to everyone, but have tightly defined target audience. Great marketing strategy is not about expanding too broad, but about excluding to those, who matter. In addition to the upcoming “Tom of Finland” product range, Finlayson has another strong partner with their Moomin products: another crown jewel from Finland.

Gay audien ce is a lucrative target group, so it makes perfect sense for small Finnish player like Finlayson to focus on it. Also it would be quite narrow to think that Tom of Finland appeals only to gay audience. His macho men are part of popular culture and something every Finn should be proud of. The reaction from my peer group was overtly positive for the collaboration (both straight & gay). There will be also upcoming movie about him, so there is definitely momentum for Finlayson to build on.

tomoffinland

Unfortunately in conjunction of release of “Tom of Finland”-products, the legal committee of Finnish parliament voted against same-sex marriage. That is a disgrace to Finland and keeps the country still firmly in Stone Age when it comes to equality. Finland is the only Nordic country without gender-neutral marriage. Shame on you, my beloved home country. Hopefully Finnish parliament will come to senses this autumn when they vote about it. Judging by the idiots voted there, I would not get my hopes too high.

To support international efforts of classic Finnish company, I definitely want to buy some of these new Finlayson products. I wonder does Finlayson ship to Singapore as well? And if it does, will the bed sheets able go through the customs in here?

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Never Skip Your Lunch Break

“Ask not what you can do for you country. Ask what´s for lunch.”
-Orson Welles

I have only few principles I live by: never say sorry, listen to Wu-Tang regularly, exercise every weekday morning and never attribute your own behavior to apply to the target audience. One of the most important principles is however the following one:

Always have a lunch break.

“A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.”
-Aldous Huxley

I always find a slot in my calendar to go out and eat a proper lunch. That is something you should never skip, even how busy you think you are. It is not that much about physical need of energy, the lunch break is a really one of the only opportunities to recharge your batteries during workday.

“Even when I am writing I usually take a break around lunchtime and go for a little walk to clear out my head.”
Patricia Cornwell

Here are four ways on how I make my lunch break a sacred moment every weekday:

1. Lunch should never be eaten at your desk.
First, take-away food is disgrace to the chef. Food should to be eaten where it is made. Also walking to restaurant and back is a good exercise in the middle of the day.
If you spend majority of your time by your desk, you will eventually end up crazy like William Foster (great Michael Douglas) in Falling Down. He snapped already during breakfast time. It is also an illusion that eating your lunch at your desk is that much more effective. On worst case, you might spill something on your keyboard.

2. Lunch should always last minimum of 30 minutes
It is not called break without reason.
Brain is a muscle; you have to give it a rest once in a while so you can keep on pushing throughout the day. Usually people who do exceptionally long hours are the people who are not really using their brains that much. They disguise their lack of real work in meetings, planning meetings, meetings about meetings and meetings about meetings where you are planning meetings.
It is impossible come up with good ideas, if you are not giving your brain a rest. We spend already too much of our life captured to our uninspiring offices. Lunch break is our only opportunity to gather some outside stimulus to do a better job. I have never gotten a good idea in a formal meeting. I have gotten thousands of great ideas during the lunch break.
30 minutes is an absolute minimum, Three Martini lunch can last until dinnertime and beyond.

3. Lunch is the time for the banter
Working lunch is a contradiction in terms. It does not really work at all. They make actual work less effective and lunch less enjoyable. Lunch is great opportunity to get to know your colleagues and to talk about everything else than work. That might give new perspective to the actual work as well. I also try to meet people outside the agency to keep lunch conversations lively. If I happen to eat alone, I read a book. Regardless of with who I am (colleague, friend, wife or remote Paul Auster), I always get some new viewpoints during my lunch.

4. Try to test something new every week
People love routines and they make us dull persons. Trying new lunch joint is a great opportunity to take risks, go to the discomfort zone and have new experience in controlled setting. The worst thing that can happen is that you had a bad lunch. It is definitely safer way to bring some excitement to your life than wrestling with tigers.

So today when you think that you are too busy to have a proper lunch, think again. It might save your life.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
Douglas Adams

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Anatomy of An Insight: Canal Digital Silver Hand

There are currently so many good TV shows, that you should get a time off from work to catch up with all of them. Canal Digital Norway taps into this insight with this brilliant ad:

Insight: One of the biggest fears of modern man is the fear of missing out.

If you have not seen Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, Mad Men or whatever happens to be currently the hot show, you will be left out of the conversation. In this film, Canal Digital has dramatized the hell out of this strong insight and captures perfectly the moment when you don´t know what other people are talking. One of the great glimpses of insight in the ad is in 21s mark, when the poor protagonist tries to use the TV show reference but applies it in wrong context. So been there, done that.

The Nordic Humor shines through the clip and it does not miss a beat. Where some other client might have ruined the clip by having happy ending or some other sentimental bullshit, this clip just goes from bad to worse. Ignore the pop culture references at your own peril, or you end up as an one-legged miserable dude. This is absolutely brilliant work from Try/Apt.

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Digital Years are Dog Years

Someone opposed an idea, because it was “already” proposed three years ago.

Three years?

Are you kidding me?

Maybe three days, three months but three years!

Normally during three years in advertising, all of your clients and colleagues have already changed completely. How anyone can even remember what happened three years ago? I generally believe that if you have a good idea, you sell it as long until someone buys it. Or you are bored with it, which might indicate that it was not good idea to begin with.

Three years is a lifetime.

Digital years are like dog years. Things change and age faster. To get matters in perspective, here are collection of things that has happened during last three years:

I had to just write these as a reminder, so I can guide people here when they say something as stupid as that to me again.

Just because something has been done or proposed before, does not mean it cannot be done. Just do it better. Sometimes the proposed idea was right, but the time was just wrong.

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Streaming Services Are The Last Hope of Music Industry

Last week Taylor Swift has been applauded as a crusader of music rights as she withdraw her album from Spotify:

“[People] can still listen to my music if they get it on iTunes. I’m always up for trying something. And I tried it and I didn’t like the way it felt. I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify. Everybody’s complaining about how music sales are shrinking, but nobody’s changing the way they’re doing things. They keep running towards streaming, which is, for the most part, what has been shrinking the numbers of paid album sales”

Taylor Swift´s comment is just a hypocrite sugarcoating of a smart business move and a great marketing stunt. She is still able make a platinum-selling album (the only one this year for that matter), so she concentrated on maximizing the physical sales. She would have left her albums in Spotify, if they had paid her more through premium service. She is smart businesswoman, so she definitely did the right thing for herself (proven by those platinum sales). It is not clear though, would she make even more money if she would have left her album in Spotify?

The last point of the quote is however just pure stupidity. Paid album sales have been shrinking way before no one had ever imagined music streaming. Streaming services kill downloads (both legal & illegal), because downloads are inferior format. Music streaming has been a truly a blessing for music industry. I might listen the new Taylor Swift album once on Spotify because all the publicity. She would get something out of that listening, but more than from me not listening that album or using BitTorrent. I would not buy or even illegally download that album in any case, because I am not that interested. Big stars benefit more from lurker listeners than smaller artists.

Essentially there is only one important thing to really understand about current music industry:

People will not be paying for physical music anymore. Period.

This is called progress and you cannot stop it. Taylor Swift is an outlier with her platinum sales. Increase of vinyl record sales is just a too well covered hipster activity. You have to be a total moron to think that vinyl sales could help even slightly the struggling music industry. The real question is: are people willing to pay for streaming services? They are the last resort to make any money from the actual songs. Currently it seems positive and with the launch YouTube Music Key, there is enough competition to keep it interesting for the near future.

It is naturally disheartening to read about that Iggy Pop cannot live with his music or how little Aloe Blacc gets royalties from writing one of the biggest songs of the year:

Avicii’s release “Wake Me Up!” that I co-wrote and sing, for example, was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US. And yet, that yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties— which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers. In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.

But what is truly the alternative?

Iggy Pop makes his money from advertisements. He could not do those without being a musician first. Although he remains fit, I doubt it is from starving.

I appreciate Aloe Blacc tremendously. I have been supporting him by buying physical records made by him from the start of his career with indie group Emanon. Is Aloe Blacc better off now or when he was pressing and self-publishing his records? Although the revenue share from “Outside Looking In” was probably more favorable than the terms and conditions of Spotify, he is now more successful by every account. “Wake Me Up!” would not be as big song without Spotify and the exposure of that song has benefitted Aloe Blacc way more than the petty 4000$ from the streaming royalties. The sad fact just is that the individual hit song will not necessarily make you money anymore. That song is more of advertising. Is it right or wrong is a philosophical question, but does not change the shifted dynamics of music business.

I agree that 4000$ looks shameful for making one the biggest songs in the universe, but life is not fair. People do not want to pay for physical music anymore, expect for old luddites like me, who still get excitement from the special box sets. Actually I am more worried about the viability of Spotify´s business model. They are currently handling over 70% of their revenues to different rights holders according to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek:

Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists…that’s two billion dollars’ worth of listening that would have happened with zero or little compensation to artists and songwriters through piracy or practically equivalent services if there was no Spotify.

They are not profitable yet, either.

“Wake Me Up!” has been estimated to generate almost million in Spotify royalties. Someone is getting paid (and there might be a master plan behind it). The history of music has not really been a financial success story of artists. Record labels, shady managers and other Svengalis have exploited the creative work of musicians. So either the artist are afraid, smart or just increasingly naïve by pointing the finger to Spotify instead of their employers, record labels with whom they have signed their contracts.

You can still make money out of music, especially if you are strong brand, innovative or just really good. Dave Grohl (from one-of-the best live bands in the world) sums it up nicely on Reddit discussion:

Me personally? I don’t f*cking care. That’s just me, because I’m playing two nights at Wembley next summer. I want people to hear our music, I don’t care if you pay $1 or f*cking $20 for it, just listen to the f*cking song. But I can understand how other people would object to that. You want people to f*cking listen to your music? Give them your music. And then go play a show. They like hearing your music? They’ll go see a show.

Amen to that.

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Arguing Over Avocadoes (and little bit tomatoes as well)

Simon Veksner had a good analogy on his blog about subjective nature of advertising arguments:

Our debates are more like one person saying “I like tomatoes” and someone else says “I don’t like tomatoes, I prefer avocados.” 

To continue with avocadoes and tomatoes, there are two types of arguments in advertising context:

1. Arguments about preference

I like avocadoes and you like tomatoes. When asked the question which one tastes the better, we are both right. Then we should evaluate does our view reflect target audience at all. This is something people tend to forget: you are almost never part of target audience. It´s nice that you like avocadoes, but that does not say anything If it comes to a fight, it usually ends up that the one with loudest voice or biggest title wins. You are essentially arguing about what feels right.

2. Arguments about facts

Sometimes the selection should not be subjective, but can actually be objective and based on facts. If we need to select the item having more fiber, we should select avocado (7g vs. 1.2g in 100g). There is no question about that. If we are asking which one of them is healthier, the question is trickier. If we agree on variables we compare, we can come to a conclusion with that question based on facts. I.e. if we agree that fat and calories are bad, we should select tomatoes. If we emphasize magnesium and vitamin A, we should go with avocado. If it comes to a fight, facts should win. You are essentially arguing about what is true.

Both of these argument types are ok and I always enjoy debating and fighting about ideas. The frustration comes when you argue about facts, but your opponent still bases her view on preference (and fails to see that). Disturbingly often people dismiss the obvious facts because of their past experience or shaky anecdotal evidence. That is fine if you are arguing about the taste of avocadoes and tomatoes. But if we want to select the healthier fruit*, you cannot base your decision on the “fact” that you don´t like the color “green”.

Sometimes it is not also about choosing between avocadoes and tomatoes. You can also try making guacamole.

*Which brings us to another debate: are tomatoes fruits or vegetables (I hope that no one has that argument with avocadoes)? The answer depends on from angle you are approaching it. Scientifically both avocadoes and tomatoes are fruits. Naturally they are used as vegetables in cooking. In US Supreme Court the latter view won, based on the ways tomatoes are used and the popular perception about them. Good reminder that you have to always reflect the facts to your target audience´s perception of them.

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