Dumb, strong, hungry for Alpo.

Vonage’s newish tag, “one smart decision among many, many stupid ones,” has grown on me. Do they bite their thumb at me? Perhaps, but I’m convinced they’re catering honestly. And despite the takes of blogs like these I like to think that the copywriter has deliberately crafted a sniping secondary read: Vonage is the one smart decision among many, many stupid mobile comm companies.
Looks like they were announced moons back, but I just caught my first advert for Livestrong Investment Portfolios. A fine example of how a brand can get appreciably sharper as a plethora of branded products actually better define it in the aggregate. Uncommon. (Anybody know who’s responsible for keeping Livestrong from dilution? Is it Wieden+Kennedy? I’m being lazy.)
It was 1:30am: With the sound turned off, commercials for Bush’s Baked Beans are virtually indistinguishable from those for canned dog food.

Integral Marketing, Part II – Antinomian Marketing

Russell Davies recently posted the results of his “what will marketing become” poll. This reminded me that it’s been awhile since I posted the introduction to my little exegesis on the future of marketing, so I figured I’d best finish off this second piece. The top two winners of his poll were especially inspiring in this pursuit. Here goes:
I’ve long had the sense that marketers—especially the “stars” of the field—constitute something like a “prelacy of cool.” I think I extracted this idea from some Emigre essay I read like eight years ago. The essay in question isn’t available on their site, and I can’t recall the issue of the magazine in which it appeared, but it was of a piece with other of their essays in one respect; it decried the ostensible “co-opting of cool” which commercial interests visit upon the otherwise vital, dynamic art of the social vanguard. In a move that surely evoked both the adoration and egoic ire of the Emigre coterie, this essayist denominated the marketers whom execute this diabolism as, “Antinomian (Wikipedia, Catholic Encyclopedia).” I admit, I thought it was pretty clever. Which is why I’m stealing it.

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To err si human.

You may recall at least the first few lines of Eliot’s spirited essay on Neil Boorman’s brand-burning rebirth. Mr. Boorman, loosely described, felt saddled with an unhealthy brand attachment. This brand attachment had, in his personal assessment, tossed his priorities askew, isolated him from authentic human connections, and befouled what should have been a generally fulfilling life of unicorns and pillow fights.
Sure, Mr. Boorman’s melodramatic, fiery response may be best performed by moody, avant-garde artists named terrancE. And in some circles, his reputation may even suffer because of it. But for the nefarious cable providers, an earnest effort to confront and purge their faults and transgressions may be the only thing that can save their reputation from the unretractable rectal skewer of public opinion.

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Missed Opportunities

I have had numerous conversations recently regarding customer service; both professionally and personally. Companies tend to think of customer service as a call center operation and a necessary evil in doing business. It should be far more than that. B2C companies get all the attention when it comes to this but it’s also a problem with many B2B companies as well. In both cases, it’s an opportunity if your industry is weak or even average in this area.
Nordstrom usually comes to mind when you think of companies that stand out. Fast Company’s latest edition calls out Sir Richard Branson at the top of their list of companies that put the customer first. John Strande has a great suggestion for Levi based on his recent experience with them and David Armano discusses some of the changes the Chicago DMV has implemented that made a profoundly positive impact on an experience he was dreading based on historical encounters.
Strande and Armano’s posts highlight what a profound impact you can have on an overlooked touchpoint with your customer. Take a step back, put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and think about what would turn this into an opportunity to develop a loyal customer, or even learn something that you can leverage for a better future experience. It’s really not that complicated. Just make it an important area of focus, enlist the help of your frontline employees and your customers, and investigate what leaders in other industries have done to develop great customer service. There are numerous ways that technology can help in ways that didn’t exist even five years ago. Once you go down this path, stick with it and continue to look for improvements. Don’t just pay it lip service for 18 months and then forget about it. The dividends this pays over time are huge. A customer that contacted you out of frustration could become one of your biggest evangalists and teach you something about your business.
Quick, someone tell the cable and phone companies.

Paradigms and Their Servants

Matt has a post in which he points out the folly of the advertising agency that does not post their work on YouTube. His point seems painfully obvious, and yet, as he points out in his post, many do not. As to why this is the case, I think Thomas Kuhn’s watershed “The Structure of Scentific Revolutions” offers a simple explanation. Basically, those whose life’s work has been in the service of a particular paradigm are understandably reticent about the possibility of having that paradigm overturned.
Marketing blogger, CoolzOr provides an example of this in action. He has been served a DCMA notice from YouTube because he had posted a PSA about drunk driving which British ad agency, Lyle Bailie International cited as a copyright infringement. What does Lyle Bailie think they have accomplished by this, except to have limited the reach of a PSA about drunk driving, and demonstrated to the world that they are bullies?
Anyway, I’d wager it is exactly this kind of old-paradigm thinking that provides the space for early adopters create novelty while the incumbents sit by and watch.
h/t – Ilya Vedrashko at the MIT Advertising Lab blog