April 27, 2015

The Universal Creative Brief

Here at The Ad Contrarian global headquarters, we know that our friends in agencies have a big problem: How do you write a creative brief that sounds original, yet says exactly the same thing as every other brief? Not an easy task!

Consequently, we have developed a universal creative brief that can work in any situation. All you have to do is fill in the brand's name and, bingo, your brief is done and you're ready to get back to your important Facebook obligations.

                                         UNIVERSAL CREATIVE BRIEF
Client: (_________)
Job No. XB-9901
Date: April 27, 2015

(___________) is a beloved challenger brand. In order to maintain its relevance, we must engage the millennial target in a way that creates a cognitive and emotional connection between the brand and the target. 

Key Insight:
Our millennial target is turned-off by advertising. They do not react to linear brand messages or product claims. In order to impact this consumer positively, the keys are authenticity and transparency. 

We need to create a new communication platform for (_________). This should not be seen by the target as “advertising.” In fact, we should resist the urge to create material that delivers one-way messaging. Instead, we should encourage our target to engage and co-create with us in a way that provides a framework for unified brand-target alignment.

1. Transition ­­­­from a "functional" brand to an "emotional" brand.
2. Create a purpose-driven movement with the brand at the center. 
3. Motivate an ongoing conversation between our brand and our millennial target.
4. Socialize our transparency initiative for full stakeholder buy-in.
5. Utilize data-driven insights across the brand portfolio. 

Primary: Institute a multi-channel solution that leverages owned, earned, and bought media assets.
Secondary: Communicate the brand essence across the brand ecosystem.

Desired Outcomes:
1. Target will view us as an authentically relevant brand that is aligned with millennial social constructs and beliefs.
2. Target will understand and appreciate our transparency initiative and assign positive meaning to the brand. 

1. Our iconic Dancing Rabbits must appear in every piece of communication.
2. Please use the stacked logo as the client believes it has more impact than the horizontal logo.
3. “Quality And Value” remain at the core of our value proposition and should be prominent in all materials. Client did not think the underscore on "and" was impactful enough in our last round.
4. Client wants to test use of QR Codes in all visual media. Believes most brands make a big mistake by making the QR Code too small. (Let's not make this mistake!)
5. Stay away from words like "production", "factory", "children", "fatalities" as these may evoke negative cognitive links to our ongoing Philippines problem.
6. Everything needs to work seamlessly with our “Summer Season of Savings” sales event. This is our biggest sales driver of the year. This event needs to ROCK!

April 22, 2015

One Chart Demolishes Social Media Fantasy

If you're still a believer in the fantasy of social media marketing on Facebook, this chart may change your mind. It comes from Jay Baer at Convince&Convert.

While it is far from definitive, it offers us a microcosm of what is going on in social media marketing. And it suggests that the whole "conversational" theory of marketing is a cruel joke.

What the chart shows is that over a 5 month period, from October 2014 to February 2015, as Facebook's organic reach dropped dramatically, its share price increased dramatically.

I'll explain what this indicates in a second, but first let's clearly state the caveats:

1. Five months is a short period for drawing big conclusions.
2. Share price is a better indicator of market sentiment than it is of business success.

Having said that, if the chart is accurate, it strongly suggests that Facebook's success as a marketing tool is totally related to paid advertising and not at all related to "conversations about brands."

The first thing we need to understand is the meaning of "organic reach." It is the number of people who were served a post free. As you can see, according to Baer, in that 5 month period the average number of a brand's followers who were shown one of the brand's posts on Facebook dropped by half, from 12% to 6%.

Also according to Baer, that number is now often 1%. He goes on to say...
"...Facebook encouraged businesses to build and reach audiences for “free” on their platform (until that free ride ended)... Facebook has still been able to pull off the greatest Gillette scam ever (you give away the razor, and then sell the blades)."
Social media promised us "conversations" among our followers, and now only 1% of our followers are even seeing our Facebook posts.

During the same time period Facebook's share price rose almost 40%. Why? Because while clueless marketers still believe in the fantasy of Facebook social "engagement," Facebook has gone all-in on good, old-fashioned paid advertising.

By cutting organic reach to almost zero, they are not even pretending to be a social media marketing entity.

Is their conversion from a social medium to a paid advertising medium a good thing for marketers? Not according to the London School of Marketing which released a white paper this week that called marketing on Facebook "a lost cause."

According a piece on the Global Marketing Alliance website...
"...experts claim Facebook advertising is no longer a cost-effective option for marketers who are seeking to build new audiences or attract new customers...Facebook advertising has changed. For some, it has shifted from being every marketer’s dream to, quite frankly, a lost cause. "
Social media marketing is useful for ultra-high-interest products (movies, bands, celebrities) and some small brands in small categories.

For the rest of us -- as we have been saying here for years -- the idea that consumers are in love with our brands and want to have conversations or social interactions about our brands online is an infantile delusion.

The billion or so people engaged in social media want to engage with each other. Not ads, not brands, not you, not me.

Thanks to Plannersphere20 and Alistair MacLenan.

My new book -- "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey" -- will be available at Amazon within a few weeks. Here's some promo hype.

April 20, 2015

How Marketers Lie To Themselves

Anyone who has spent time in advertising knows that there are very few things in this world as unreliable as the numbers we throw around.

Our industry is so poorly trained in mathematics and statistics, we can be fooled by the most elementary of statistical manipulations and misrepresentations.

But our denseness about numbers is often as much about self-delusion as it is about ignorance. Often, we want to believe the lies we tell ourselves.

I remember not long ago -- during The Great QR Code Scare Of 2012 --  I was finding the following statistic being bandied about: "60% of people say they use QR codes."

This statistic was obviously total bullshit, and yet serious people seemed to be taking it seriously. Anyone who spent any time in the real world could see that no one was using QR codes. Yet this stat kept popping up to justify the implementation of this dimwit technology.

It was pretty clear to me what was going on. Someone did a survey: "Have you ever used a QR code?" 60% of some sample said yes. This lead to enormous misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

Here's how it happens. Let's say you ask people the following question: Have you ever eaten a snail? And 60% of the people say they have. Then you create a sentence -- "60% of Americans say they eat snails."

Even though the incidence of eating a snail may be once in a lifetime, the sentence in question appears to make the eating of snails a regular occurrence.

The same with the QR code. If 60% of consumers used a QR code once, the actual incidence of using a QR code while shopping might be one in a hundred thousand.

But by structuring the sentence to say, "60% of people say they use a QR code" instead of "the incidence of QR code use among shoppers is one in a hundred thousand" a truth is technically being told, but reality is being radically misrepresented.

While we in the marketing business often use slippery words and sentence structures to put a happier face on our communication to consumers, we don't realize how frequently this trick is used on us.

When an entire industry wants to believe, there is no better time to be skeptical.