Monthly Archives: March 2015

Strategy is Making The Choice

Roger Martin sums up beautifully what strategy is:

The very essence of strategy is explicit, purposeful choice.

Strategy is saying explicitly, proactively: “We’re going to do these things and not those things for these reasons.”

You only know that you’ve made a real strategic choice if you can say the opposite of what that choice is, and it’s not stupid.

This is the reason why so many brands fail. They are too afraid to make choices. If you are not premium and if you are not cost-cutter, you fall in the middle. And being in the middle is not a choice, it is indecisiveness.

Choices are not always easy. Making a choice is making a sacrifice. But you have also the opportunity to gain something. If you don´t make a choice you end up with nothing.

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Cultivating The Culture of Winning

I have been in different agencies during my career. Although the people and process were different, there has been one consistent trait in all of them:

The best agencies live on winning.

Sometimes that might result in competitive cutthroat environment, sometimes to a more collaborative family one and sometimes something in the middle. The latter traits are more around based on the personalities of the people, but the obsession of winning is universal.

As I have been always juggling between business and creativity I have enjoyed the winning from both of the angles. And that is how it should be. Great agencies have a culture that enjoys both creative and business wins. It is everyone´s responsibility to

1. Winning creatively

Great agencies live on pushing the boundaries and moving the needle to right direction. Regardless of the department you are working, doing great work should give you the biggest satisfaction. And if it doesn´t, you are probably in wrong line of work.

2. Winning new business

You are either hunter or a farmer. Both are needed, but nothing gives more jolt to the balls (so to speak) to agencies than winning new business. It is also totally vital for the agency as you always lose some older clients despite how good you are. New business gives the biggest buzz in the agency and the culture should embrace it.

Culture of winning is also a culture of trying, failing and coming back up. Winning mentality does not always mean winning. It just means that every time you step up to the court, you give everything you got and try to win by all means necessary. If it results to losing, you just get back up and try again.

It does not matter how many times you will be knocked down. It is how many times you get up.

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Send A Message, Send A Dick

If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;
 
Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.
 
But I have no lethal weapon-
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.
Dorothy Parker (Frustration)

Advertising industry is obsessed by positivity. All the ads are filled with shiny happy people pointing their fingers at computer screen. Everyone is smiling. Everyone has friends. No one is fighting. There is no politics, grudge or evil. Everyone cares about the brand and how that special toothpaste comes to save the day.

The advertising reality is pure fiction.

Same time the best advertising is based on truth:

listerine_new

You can dramatize the truth and make it interesting. But there has to be truth in it, otherwise it is meaningless: not connected to the real life, only connected to advertising life. The truth above is simple: bad breath is disgusting and ruins your social chances*. Nothing positive about that, but the message is powerful.

Advertising life should never be separated from the real life. The truth is that your life is filled with annoying tasks, annoying people and annoying circumstances. If more brands would recognize that we would have more truthful advertising. More truthful is also more powerful and resonates with real audience (not focus groups).

There is something profoundly truthful with this new service called “Dicks By Mail”.

dicksbymail

The brand promise is simple:

“In only a few minutes you can send a literal Bag of Dicks to that special asshole in your life.” 

The “dicks” in question are actually candy, which you can send in anonymous package:

candy

This is a great politically incorrect idea. The truth is that everyone could come up with quite long list of people (who are dicks) to whom this jolly gift should be sent (to let the whole world know that they are dicks).

Sometimes the truth hurts.

* Of course advertising played vital role in making halitosis a social problem. That would not have been possible, if Listerine ad message would have been positive. Ad below is naturally revolting when analyzed from today´s point-of-view, but it is based on truth. Sometimes truth is hard to swallow, even harder than Listerine.

listerine_old

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Budweiser: The Prime Example of Daddy Brand

What to do when you have become a daddy brand?

If I would need to name iconic US beer, previously I would have said Budweiser. Bland, boring and easy to drink (pretty much same applies to Finnish beers, not to mention Bud Light). Recently when I think about US beers, the first thing that comes to my mind are all the awesome craft beers, which have been hit Budweiser surprisingly hard especially with millennials. Actually 44% of drinkers aged 21 to 27 have never tasted Budweiser. This is a challenge for Budweiser. If you don´t cultivate new users, eventually you will become meaningless.

Their latest social experiment was a nice execution to attract the new users. If you have not tasted Budweiser, you do not necessarily have any idea how it tastes. This ad exposes Budweiser in new light. Does not ridicule or make fun of hipsters, just gives the good old surprise & delight:

Budweiser´s Superbowl ad went to a totally wrong direction in my opinion. ALthough I am always in favor of taking strong stance in your advertising, ridiculing people who could potentially be your consumers is not wise:

The message is strong, but it feels quite redneck as well. It probably appeals to current Budweiser heavy drinkers, but would it pave new way for the brand. Also we know that where beer growth is stagnant, the craft beers and import beers are growing. Would Budweiser start ridiculing foreigners, because US beer consumers want to drink Pilsner Urquell rather than old boring Budweiser?

Even though you drink craft beers, you are likely to drink regular average beers as well. Would you choose the brand that ridicules your hobby and passion? The strong stance Budweiser takes is also sign of weakness. The best way to address your competition if your bigger player is to ignore them. No one roots for Goliath going against David. It gives those Davids also ammunition to go on offensive (and craft breweries are the real challenger brands):

One thing is for certain, craft beers are not fad anymore. Where the regular beer market is shrinking, craft beers are growing and already contribute 11% of Beer market in US and the number still keeps growing. It keeps growing so fast, that total craft beer market share trumps Budweiser. No wonder, that Budweiser is afraid. Naturally Budweiser is way bigger than biggest craft breweries (there is not really any independent craft brewery in top 20 of the most popular beers), so their decision to go against smaller breweries is mind-boggling. Addressing the challenger makes you look weaker, especially if you do not have good alternative. People love underdog stories, but the underdog story has to be believable. The biggest brewery in US is not a likely underdog.

The decline for Budweiser has not only come from craft beers and imports. The biggest beer in US is Bud Light, and it has cannibalized regular Budweiser sales as well. Maybe Budweiser should make ads to ridicule light beer drinkers as well?

Their challenge is simple:
“(Budweiser is) mostly to older gentlemen and country kids. Our clientele likes the craft beers.”
Jessica Dewey, Bar Owner

So Budweiser has to make a choice. Do they try to attract millennials and ditch those horses as well? Or will they slowly let the brand deteriorate to daddy brand while their parent company buys craft breweries to attract the millennials? Then they can hope that the next generation of hipsters will find Budweiser charmingly retro like Pabst Blue Ribbon.

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Much Ado About Meerkat

“Those sorts of consumer shifts used to take years or decades, but now they can happen in months or weeks or days, and we’re becoming accustomed to that idea”
Ian Bogost, game designer

Have you heard about Meerkat?

Don´t worry, you might not even need to.

The hype cycle of new apps gets faster at every moment. I heard about Meerkat couple of weeks ago, this week it has been all the talk of the SXSW town and now it has already been declared dead.

Meerkat is essentially live-streaming app, which used heavily the social graph of Twitter and allowed you to connect to your Twitter connetions in Meerkat. Twitter has already blocked this fun, in conjuction of buying similar app called Periscope. Hence, Meerkat suffered a blow and in the world of tech news hyper babble that blow is naturally deadly.

I was not excited about Meerkat, when I heard about it. I didn´t and don´t recognize the novelty or appeal in the app. Opportunity to livestream is nothing new. When I was working in MySpace, we collaborated with Bambuser, which pretty much was Meerkat with MySpace-era user experience. There are currently many streaming apps available, like the one Twitter just acquired.

So nothing new under the sun, been there done that.

After that comment I can declare that I have officially become an old fart. A person who thinks he has seen anything in his life and can´t just wait to tell that “we tried it already in 2008 and it didn´t work then”. Old farts are the biggest obstacles of any innovation, because the old farts have seen it all. They have also innovated it all. Unfortunately, those innovations have happened only in their heads.

That horrible vision made me think Meerkat again.

The idea can fail for many reasons, but always the reason is not that the idea is bad. iPad was not the first tablet. Facebook was not the first social network. Idea can fail in so many phases, that you cannot really judge the initial idea. Ideas are not unique, executed ideas can be. Technology improves so fast, that the ability to do user-friendly and enticing live-streaming app is totally different than couple of years ago. Maybe 2015 is just the right time to launch live-streaming app. Executing idea is also just one thing, how do you market it and make it sexy is the other thing. Meerkat has been at least way more effective with their PR and hype machine than their competitors.

My opposition against Meerkat is that I do not see live streaming behavior taking off. To be honest, I did not see that Snapchat would evolve to be a legit app beyond teens sending their nude photos to strangers. I can also admit that I was wrong. Although it is easier to latch onto existing behavior, technology can also create new behavior. That we are glued into our smartphones is quite new behavior in history of human race. I don´t think that no one predicted exactly that to happen.

We are obsessed with new.

Meerkat has had disproportionate amount of hype, because media wants a new social media phenomenon. Old farts criticize it, because it is not new enough. Somewhere between the overhype of media (and tech hipsters in SXSW) and underhype of old farts is the truth. Which is: essentially no one really knows what will happen with Meerkat. But it is interesting to see.

You cannot ever evaluate the success of technology when it is hyped and brand new. The true stress test is when technology has become old and boring. That is when they start to make business sense.

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Training Hard Makes You More Human

“We are not encouraging people to just run faster for the sake of being faster. We are saying that ultimately you will be able to enjoy life if you take the time to cater to your own humanity.”
Matt O´Toole (Reebok President)

Reebok has been a really interesting brand lately.

Their commitment to fitness has been a bold move and also makes perfect sense (as we have to also bear in mind that Reebok is owned by Adidas). Especially there has been tremendous growth in “tough fitness” which includes crossfit, martial arts and other “more demanding than your regular Zumba”-activities. What started out as a niche exercise has become now mainstream and everyone is flipping tires these days: me as well.

During the latest Super Bowl, Reebok launched their new brand belief piece “Be More Human”:

I like it (mainly because I am part of target audience). Also because the message Reebok conveys is part of my whole life philosophy. I don´t eat to live, I don´t train to live. I live to train & eat. Sports is not just a way to prevent your inevitable physical deterioration, it also strengthens you mentally and socially.

Training hard improves you as a person. Competing against others makes you tougher but it is also social. I have learned more from teamwork, leadership and grit from basketball court than from work. When you push it to the limits in sports, you are more likely to be able to push it to the limits with other things as well.

And that belief I heartily endorse.

The other reason why Reebok´s message is compelling is that it is not for all. Reeboks has made a deliberate decision to be exclusive. Their core focus is in tough fitness and quite hardcore training with blood, blisters, sweat, snot, tears and tear down. Whereas the usual scared brand advertiser would have expanded the target audience and showed people doing all the mundane fitness moves and have message about how “fitness is for everyone”, Reebok kept the focus. Reebok is for those who train hard (or think they train hard, like me). The almost brutal nature of their ads is refreshing compared to the touchy-feely lifestyle-routes the majority of sports brands have chosen.

“We’re confident that when we push ourselves, we not only transform our bodies, we transform our entire lives.”
Matt O´Toole

That brings us to the last point. They are expanding, but they are promoting the whole category of tough fitness (which can basically mean quite diverse things) and training hard. Their message resonates naturally to those who currently are sport freaks, but it also has appeal to people who push themselves in other things in life. Showcasing the more “holistic” (in the lack of better word) benefits of intense exercise, they collaborated with scientist David McRaney and created the Human score to calculate your level of humanness:

It is a human nature to be a sucker for tests and I could not wait to test my humanness. I was luckily still more close to human than android. “Brain buff” also sounds like a new upcoming fad term like spornosexual:

brainbuff

As part of the campaign there is also a selfie competition (because no brand is perfect) and some other infographics about how training affects your brain.

Reebok is at least having tight focus on what they are doing. I believe that it will also pay off, if they have the perseverance and patience to follow their daring brand belief through.

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Digital Bottlenecks are Analog Problems

Digital bottlenecks are not often solved with only digital means.

Like Scott Galloway points out in this brilliant presentation about the masters of digital universe, the Amazon´s Achilles heel is the shipping:

Their shipping costs are exploding at 40% and shipping fees and transportation costs are over 9 billion. Free shipping has been one of the main reasons why people choose Amazon and what makes them unique. There is no immediate digital solution for shipping (as long as there are physical products). Drones are quite long shot to solve that challenge*.

Same way the biggest Achilles heel of Apple Watch will be the battery, which lasts only a day. The battery duration is not a digital problem. It is a chemical problem.

New digital opportunities might reveal old challenges.

*Interestingly, the unsexy solutions might be the most sustainable. Click & collect is hugely popular, albeit archaic way for eCommerce and traditional retailers might find innovative ways to use their store network for flexible warehousing.

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What Kind of Planner Are You?

Advertising agencies have not been really good at naming themselves, but we have been quite creative in making up new job titles. We had interesting discussion with fellow Finnish planners about the difference between “planner” and “strategist”. This prompted me to explain the differences between different planning job titles:

Junior Planner: Coffeemaker.
Traditional planner: Hopefully unemployed.
Planner: Person who spends weeks (sometimes months) with creative brief and either comes with truism or something totally unhelpful for creative process.
Planning director: Planner, who uses fancier words.
Head of Planning: Planner, who drives fancier car than you.
Strategist: Wannabe consultant.
Creative strategist: Failed creative, who cannot write or draw.
Growth Hacker: Wannabe start-up guy.
Researcher: Planner, whose slides make even less sense.
Analyst: Person who lies by using numbers instead of words.
Innovation director: Person, who does not have any budget, responsibility or real projects.
Trend planner: Dude who just surfs web and posts random stuff identifying them as “weak signals”.
Digital strategist/planner: Person, who thinks that it is still impressive to put different digital channels in boxes on PowerPoint and call it a channel strategy.
Engagement planner: Same as digital strategist, but he uses arrows between the boxes.
Social media strategist/planner: Person who talks about engagement and conversation and no one is engaged.
Mobile strategist: Person, who says that mobile is the next big thing.
Content strategist: Person, who would not know good content if it would hit him in the face.
Thought leader: Planner, who has written a book (that no has read)
Keynote speaker: Planner, who spends majority of his time self-promoting himself at seminars.

If you have any additions, let me know at the comments.

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Why Apple Watch Is Crucial For The Future of Apple?


“Premium branded phones are the culmination of decades of research in wireless technology, computing, materials, and design. Shitphones are the culmination of decades of research in wireless technology, computing, materials, and designminus a year or two.”
John Hermann-Shitphone A Love Story

After Apple doing the best quarter ever (for any company), it does not really seem that company is in trouble. However if you investigate the Apple revenue breakdown, there are some things to watch out for. iPhone contributes to almost 70% of Apple´s revenue. iPad (which is declining) is only 17% of iPhone sales and Mac 13%. Services contribute to 0.6% to Apple´s revenue.

Launching the phablet-sized iPhone 6 was brilliant business move in China. The sales soared over 70% in Greater China region.

1.Smartphones will be commoditized
Xiaomi is a great example of this: the phone works ok, but sells in aggressively lower price (thus low margin). Like John Hermann wrote, many technology brands are in situation where “genuine novelty rapidly reduced to thankless anonymity” Apple is more secure than other premium phone brands, as it is guarded with its lock-in ecosystem, but nothing in this world lasts forever.

2. Smartphones will eventually be no longer status symbols
When I got my first mobile phone at the tender age of 12, I was the king of hill in schoolyard. First iPhone was a conversation topic for weeks. New bigger-screen iPhone was a topic for a short question around “does it bend” and that was it. iPhone has already been around eight years, mobile phones even longer, it is getting harder and harder to excite the audience. Same will apply to China, which currently brings huge parts of Apple revenues. Technology status symbols are fickle as the status comes from constant innovation.

3. iPhone eats the other parts of Apple ecosystem
Who normal person needs home computer any more? As our life has become more dominantly mobile, the need for laptop has radically decreased. iPad was the first substitute for your home laptor. At the same time iPhone 6 is killing it, iPad sales have dropped 20%. That is not necessarily worrying; maybe iPad was transition product for something else (such as the bigger mobile). Although you are committed to single device, the previous Apple ecosystem with multiple devices working seamlessly acted as a bigger barrier to switch. Not to mention that the former clue to that ecosystem iTunes does not really do anything at the moment. Streaming services have pretty much killed that business and what will become from Beats acquisition is yet unknown.

This brings us to the watch. Apple Watch is hugely important for Apple because of the following reasons:

1. Opportunity to highlight premium innovation
Apple is a premium technology brand so it needs to be constantly innovating. The recent innovations in mobile phones have been tepid at best (making your phone big require more innovation for jeans makers). Apple watch is an opportunity to showcase their innovation, which entitles them to ask premium price.

2. New behavior
Apple Watch is also an opportunity to teach a new behavior for consumers. If any brand can do that, Apple can. Using iTunes, downloading apps or using iPad were new behaviors for the audience. Jury is still out, have these behaviors become permanent (app downloading seems to still go strong).

3. Stronger lock-in to ecosystem
iPhone is currently the crown jewel for Apple. As Apple Watch requires iPhone to work properly, it is great fit to Apple ecosystem and will increase the time spent on it.

4. Bragging rights
Apple Watch will spark much more lunch hour chatter than previous iPhone models combined. It remains to be seen, do you appear cool or douche when dabbling with your watch.

Apple Watch can be success or not (we will now more when it hits the store April 24th). It is risk because it involves new behavior and wearables have not yet been that succesful. However it is necessary risk for Apple to stay relevant and continue charging premium from their products.

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Forget the Apple Watch, This is the Only Wearable that Truly Matters…

Stop jacking off, start jacking on…
wankband
Although I have been an early advocate for wearable tech, some of the recent developments in wearables have been cringe-worthy at their best. While waiting for the Apple watch, the wearable space has been disappointing. Until now…

Enter the Wankband.

As we all know, the main developments in Internet technology have been driven by porn industry. Therefore it is only opportunity, that Pornhub should take the role to be the lighting beacon in the future of wearables with their “Wankband”. The idea is simple: wankband creates power when you love yourself (move the band in up & down motion) and then kinetic charger stores the “dirty energy” which you can use for example to charge your phone.

Although I am quite skeptical that this product will ever reach the store shelves, Wankband still embodies the five success requirements that majority of current wearables are missing at the moment:

1. Simple (Anyone can do the up & down movement)
2. Useful (Your phone is always running out of the battery, isn´t it?)
3. Instant gratification (Although you don´t necessarily charge the full battery, the journey to create “dirty energy” is satisfying)
4. Based on existing behavior (Although no one admits it)
5. Well-branded (Catchy name, good-looking site, mentions in PSFK)

The copywriter for the website and the video deserves extra credit as well with great puns.

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