March 12, 2014
Among the topics that marketing and advertising people can bore you to death with, perhaps the most annoying is "brands."
On one side we have brand maniacs (often, agency creative directors) who think that all advertising has to do is get "the brand" right and everything else will fall into place. On the other end of the spectrum we have brand deniers (lately, online advertising zealots) who think brands are "dead." Both sides invariably overstate their case.
Let's start with first principles.
At the most basic level, what a brand helps us do is identify things. Just like we give ourselves names, we give products brands so we can distinguish them from each other.
At the next level, brands help us build value into our product. If all products were generic, why invest in making ours better? Anyone who lived in a communist state can tell you all about that.
At the third level a brand helps us differentiate our product and build consumer preference. There is a reason why people prefer Coke to Pepsi, and it has very little to do with what's in the can. In fact, if we took every Coke can in the world and filled it with Pepsi, and took every Pepsi can in the world and filled it with Coke, I doubt there would be very much change in the relative success of the brands.
At the highest level is brand love - the theory is that people love certain brands. This is where the brand ideologues runs into big trouble.
While we all have a handful of brands we're attached to, for the most part our attachments are paper thin. We have preferences and habits, but we have very little love.
We participate in hundreds of product categories and there are probably somewhere between five and ten brands that we actually feel strongly about.
We will gladly change airlines if it will save us a few bucks. We will happily move to a new bank if it's more convenient. We will change cell phone carriers and cable companies in a heartbeat for a better rate.
The Apples and Nikes of this world -- brands that people truly feel stubbornly loyal to -- are very few and very far between. And even these brands will find that under certain circumstances a strong product will trump their brand.
A good policy is to ignore the irresponsible yakking of both agency brand babblers and digital data dweebs. The brand maniacs and the brand deniers are both wrong.
Brand power is real, but it is highly contingent.
March 10, 2014
Over the years, this blog has been highly skeptical of marketing, advertising, and media research.
What passes for research in our world would be laughed out of most reputable scientific laboratories.
- We almost never use controls
- We almost never replicate our work
- We don't have peer review
- We don't have others see of they can reproduce our results.
Personally, the only thing I trust our researchers to do competently is to count. They can usually give us a pretty good idea of "how many." But asking them for a "why" or a "what" or a "how" is likely to get you an opinion masquerading as a fact.
The problem was further impressed on me recently when I read a piece by George Johnson science writer for The New York Times. Johnson writes about Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis, "a kind of meta-scientist who researches research."
Dr. Ioannidis wrote a paper in 2005 called “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” According to the article, "Dr. Ioannidis devised a mathematical model supporting the conclusion that most published findings are probably incorrect."
Now let's be clear. Ioannidis is writing about real research, the kind that is done in biology and physics labs. Not the baloney that we call research.
Johnson also relates the story of the chief scientific officer of a pharmaceutical company who set about to reproduce the results of 53 "landmark papers about cancer." In 47 of the 53 cases he and his colleagues could not reproduce the results "even with the help of the original scientists working in their own labs."
Anyone who thinks cancer research is problematic but advertising research is reliable needs professional help.
By the way...
...recently a government study found that obesity among young children had plummeted 43% in the past ten years. I'd love to see Dr. Ioannidis get his hands on this baloney.
March 07, 2014
Money For Nothing
Radio Shack reported this week a 20% drop in 4th quarter sales. It was their 8th consecutive quarter of losing money. They also announced that they would close over a thousand stores. Oh, and they also announced a half-million dollar bonus for their ceo.
Dude shoulda closed 2,000 stores. Then he coulda got a million.
Running My Mouth
Two speaking gigs coming up in the next few weeks.
Next week I'll be at the American Society on Aging conference in San Diego on a panel about marketing to people over 50.
On April 2nd I'll be in London to give a talk at Advertising Week Europe. I expect to see you all there. And, please, no lame excuses about passport difficulties.
And if you're looking for a dynamic and provocative speaker for an event you're having, I can do a pretty good impersonation.
And the Oscar For Technical Difficulties Goes To...
According to an article on Quartz entitled, Internet TV Was The Big Loser On Oscar Night...
One of the biggest nights in American television was essentially unwatchable online, as technical problems marred various live streams of the Oscars and highlighted the huge gap between internet TV’s promise and its glitchy reality.Hold on a second. Does Adweek know about this?