He Who Has Not Christmas in His Heart Will Not Find it Under a Tree – Real or Artificial
Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
Years ago someone noted that you shouldn’t worry about the size of your
Christmas tree because in the eyes of children all trees are 30 feet
tall. That was, of course, at a time when children didn’t come into the
marketplace hotwired to the Internet with Christmas Tree Height
Calculator apps connected to the 5 megapixel cameras on their smart
phones. If you’re trying to speculate about height expectations as
regards Christmas trees it’s a pretty safe bet to say that size matters.
No question there.
No, nowadays the big quandary is real or
artificial. Christmas trees of all kinds are grown on more than 12,000
tree farms all over the United States. Seventy million trees are planted
every year, with around a half-billion Christmas trees growing on
farms, so this is a category that doesn’t worry too much about coming up
short in the inventory department. The top-5 Christmas tree producing
states are: Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and
Most artificial trees come from – you guessed it –
China, and there’s no shortage of the 100% recycled plastics from used
PVC packaging materials they’re using there either. Advocates of
artificial trees say they’re convenient, reusable, and don’t drop
needles all over the living room. But they don’t smell like a pine
Last year – according to the National Christmas Tree
Association – consumers spent $2 billion for 28 million real trees and
12 million artificial trees, with artificial trees growing in share
while costing almost twice as much as a real tree. Tree sales this year
are likely to surpass last year’s level, a sign that emotional values
of the season are, once again outweighing the consumers’ rational,
wallet-watching side that this economy has tended to bring out in folks.
it’s deck the halls time, and the decision as to real or artificial is
still open for the next 4 days. And if our work understanding emotional
decision-making has taught us anything, it’s that there is far more
wrapped up in the ideal of a tree than whatever winds up under it.
the immortal words of Charles Dickens about his character, Ebenezer
Scrooge, “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas
well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said
of us, and all of us!”
More Brand Disasters of 2010
Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
This week Advertising Age
issued their list of the 10 branding and marketing fiascos of the year.
They listed the Jay Leno move to 10PM (“tanked with viewers,
advertisers, and network affiliates.”); the Gap’s lemon of a new logo
layout (“looked like something puked up from a late-‘90’s Dallas office
park.”); and Microsoft’s first entry into the phone category (“a
physically unattractive communication, er, thingie with no clear
positioning”). Ad Age picked only 10, so every disaster couldn’t be
listed. The Tiger Woods human-brand debacle wasn’t included, for
example. But they had others and they were pretty funny. Not, of course,
for the companies and brands that found their follies revisited, but
very funny for the rest of us.
Brand Keys also pokes fun at
brands that participate in brand bungles and marketing misdemeanors all
year round, in our blog The Keyhole (http://brandkeys.blogspot.com
We are unfailing in our belief that brands should be the beneficiaries
of their branding and marketing efforts, and see positive consumer
behavior in the marketplace: Sales; Profitability – things like that.
Happily, we have metrics that provide a consumer’s eye view of the
categories in which brands compete and because those metrics are
emotionally-based they are predictive of what will happen, good or bad.
when it came to this year’s brand and marketing disasters, we turned to
the balance sheet and offer these brand disasters as additions to the
1. BP: The brand went from 1st to 7th (of 7) on our
Loyalty Index when the well exploded. UK’s YouGov’s polls indicated no
negative affects to the brand. The financials suggest the brand has lost
all of its value in one year.
2. Toyota: The recalls – and
attendant negative PR re: allegations that top execs knew, but failed to
do anything – and liability suits resulted in a loss of nearly a
quarter of the brand’s value.
3. Johnson & Johnson: Recalls
can kill a brand, especially when you’re talking about medicine for
infants and children, having to shut down plants, and stop distribution
of your biggest names. Harder to swallow is a brand hit of nearly 30%.
Blackberry: Once the darling of businesspeople and Wall Street, the
brand has lost out to the iPhone, Android-based phones, and Samsung’s
and LG’s (very) smart phones. Bottom line: brand value down nearly a
The best thing about these lists? It’s the end of the
year, and brands can put it all behind them – but only if they can get
out in front of consumer expectations. Here’s wishing all a head start
for the New Year!
Aha! Free marketing
David Tiltman, Head of Content, Warc
Beer brand Fosters has shown an innovative streak recently with an interesting piece of branded content in the UK.
The brand has been trying to associate itself with comedy, and decided to go one step further than simple sponsorship or ad deals. It recently launched the Foster’s Funny website and began to show original short comedy videos it had funded. And in a major coup, it convinced actor Steve Coogan to reprise his character of hapless TV and radio personality Alan Partridge. (For readers outside the UK, Alan Partridge - catchphrase: ‘Aha!’ - was a hugely popular comedy character in the 90s, and made Coogan a household name.) The site featured a series of original pieces that revisited the character several years after his last appearance, uploaded to YouTube and rolled out of a series of weeks. For example:
The danger of creative award targets
As I whiled away the hours at Brussels Midi station waiting in hope and in confusion for a Eurostar train to get me back to London, it became clear that the law of unintended consequences was at work.
It has, of course, derailed many a well-intentioned policy.
In the UK, for example, NHS targets have resulted in distortions to patient care; educational targets have led to the abandonment of non-core subjects and so on. Back in Brussels unbeknownst to all, the train I was booked on had been cancelled and all passengers transferred to the next train, thereby displacing all its passengers onto the subsequent train.
No one had any idea which train they were entitled to board: the resulting entirely unnecessary confusion and angst amongst passengers was pitiful to see. Why would any business risk such alienation of its customers if it were not for the fact that by cancelling a train rather than allowing it to leave 3 hours late, the company’s targets and penalties would be less jeopardised?
Charles Goodhart identified the dangers of using performance metrics as targets in his eponymous law. An advisor to the Bank of England, Goodhart noticed that as soon as a metric was turned into a target, it lost its value as a measure of success.
The most obvious reason for this is that other facets of performance that had once correlated with the chosen metric, cease to do so because they are deliberately de-prioritised in order to pursue the target: the metric no longer remains a useful broader indicator of success and often becomes counterproductive.
An elegant example of this is the apparent contradiction between the robust PIMS finding that profitability correlates closely with market share and the similarly robust finding of Wharton and Monash professors Armstrong and Green, that companies that pursue market share as a primary target actually lose profitability.
The unintended consequence here is the buying of market share through non-profitable means such as discounting and price-promotion: target achieved, but at a cost.
Why my sudden interest in Goodhart’s law? Ever since I wrote a report for the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) entitled ‘The link between creativity and effectiveness’, I have become increasingly uncomfortable about the level and nature of interest shown in the study by creative agencies.
Naturally it is nice to have interest shown in one’s work, but just in case the report is used to suggest that creativity should become a target for agencies or their management teams, let me explain why Goodhart’s law is especially relevant here.
The analysis I conducted showed that campaigns in the IPA databank that had won at least one major creative award (as measured by the Gunn Report) were on average 11 times more efficient than those that had not.
Whilst this suggests that creatively awarded campaigns are more likely to be commercially successful, it does not mean that they all are – indeed in Donald Gunn’s landmark 1996 study, he found that around 14% of creatively awarded campaigns failed to show any commercial success: usually because the strategy was wrong.
What the IPA analysis actually demonstrates is that creatively awarded strategically sound campaigns are 11 times more efficient than non-creative but strategically sound campaigns. No amount of pure creative genius will turn a misguided strategy into a commercial success.
The IPA analysis demonstrates that you need to focus on both effectiveness and creativity to hit the sweet spot. So an agency that targets creative awards alone as its key output success metric runs a very great risk of undermining the value of that creativity as a result of Goodhart’s law: because the drive for creative awards will mean deprioritising effectiveness.
Perhaps this already happens - there are many very conspicuously creatively awarded campaigns that never seem to submit effectiveness case studies. If I were a client of one of these campaigns I would want to know why.
So the warning to clients and other creative agency stakeholders is this: if your agency pursues creative award targets, ensure that it also has effectiveness award targets. If not, Goodhart’s law may see your growth plans derailed.
Electrifying the Car Rental Category
Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
Zippcar, the world's largest car sharing service, is an alternative to
traditional car rental and car ownership. You join and get a Zipcard
that unlocks thousands of cars around the world. Drivers rent by the
hour. Gas and insurance are included in the price and there’s no minimum
commitment. It’s considered a “green” alternative because it gets cars –
they estimate 12 to 20 personally owned cars for each Zipcar used – off
the road. Has some real face-validity to it.
“sustainability” have, of course become more important elements of most
product and service categories in recent years. A number of years ago
the aspect of “green” got so important in Athletic Shoe category that
the ‘Materials and Manufacturing’ engagement driver had to be renamed to
– no pun intended – the ‘Carbon Footprint’ driver. So we weren’t all
that surprised to see “green” increase the percent-contribution it makes
in the Car Rental Category as well. To be fair to all brands, there
isn’t a whole lot of differentiation in that area, and they’re cars,
after all, and currently Zipcar is too small to show up on our National
survey, but that said, here’s how the brands rank versus the Ideal in
being perceived as “green:”
1. Avis (58%)
2. Hertz (57%)
3. Enterprise (56%)
4. National (53%)
5. Budget (50%)
used to be the brand known for “working harder,” but in this case Hertz
is rolling up their sleeves and revving up their brand engine and
taking a run at the rent-by-the-hour marketplace – and Zipcars’ green
positioning – by letting eco-conscious New Yorkers rent plug-in autos by
the hour beginning the middle of this month.
The company is
offering an all-electric Nissan Leaf, a virtually silent mode of
transportation with a top-speed of 90 MPH, which defuses the joke how do
you make an electric car go faster? A tow truck. If you’re interested
it will cost you a $50 membership fee and around $7 an hour. It takes 8
hours to charge at a specially designed charging station, and 20 hours
from a household outlet, but no mention has been made about the length
of the actual extension cord you’ll need!
When You Are Through Innovating, You’re Through
Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
Since the mid-eighties marketers have been looking for franchise
opportunities for their brands. The most likely suspects were the
industries where customers were not loyal enough or satisfied enough to
make market-entry an easy(ier) proposition. On those grounds, the dry
cleaning category would be a perfect candidate, and Procter & Gamble
has come up with an approach they think is unbeatable: Tide Dry
Yes, that Tide, P&G’s best-selling laundry
detergent. Clearly they are looking at the Tide brand as something that
can insert itself seamlessly into the industry and immediately take the
high ground That’s something Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business
Professor, called “disruptive innovation.” From the brand perspective,
we agree. Tide ranks number 1 in our loyalty and engagement index and is
the top-selling brand in the laundry detergent category. This year’s
ranking looks like this:
3. Wisk / Gain
5. Purex / Era
6. Arm & Hammer
That kind of positioning bodes well for the brand and for a new industry entry.
brand itself – even one rated number 1 – isn’t enough these days. Tide
comes to the category confrontation loaded for bear. They have nearly a
million Facebook fans to reach out to and engage. And let’s be honest
with ourselves, while brand is the most critical aspect of any marketing
effort, and ultimately the real differentiator, customer behavior is
governed by customer expectations held for a number of category-specific
attributes, benefit, and values like service, environmental
sustainability, and pricing.
Tide not only has an
already-developed, in-going customer base, but are said to be offering
things like 24-hour and drive-thru pickup and delivery and cleaning
methods that will be extraordinarily gentle to the environment. Not to
mention a heritage of promotional experience that includes discounting,
couponing, and added-value giveaways like P&G products and gift
cards. Not a lot of neighborhood mom-and-pop dry cleaners can compete
with that kind of marketing. Also, who can compete with the smell of
Tide, evoking memories of mom, clean sheets, and home?
cleaning industry generates nearly $8 billion dollars annually, so you’d
think there would be room for one more competitor. But based on the
Tide brand and the plans for the brand, it looks as if P&G will
Literally and figuratively.
The changing face of DM
David Tiltman, Head of Content, Warc
On Wednesday night I headed down to the DMA Awards in London, celebrating the best of Britain's direct marketing industry.
I already knew one of the results, as I had the privilege of being a judge in one of the categories – Best Use of Social Media. Although we weren't told the winner on the judging day, it was pretty clear that the 'Extreme Gamer' campaign by Epson Europe would walk away with the Prize, as it became clear during the judges' discussions that we all thought it was by some distance the pick of the bunch (it's certainly worth a read).
Asian awards round-up: Effie India announced and a new Warc Prize
Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc
The last major Asian ad awards of the year, the 2010 Indian Effies, were held in Mumbai yesterday. It was a great night for Ogilvy India, which won four Gold, seven Silver and three Bronze Effies and therefore retained its Agency of the Year title from 2009.
More broadly, it's been a highly successful year for agencies both on the subcontinent and across the Asia-Pacific region, with consumer demand rebounding decisively from the credit crunch-induced slowdown felt around the world in 2008 and 2009. And competition for awards is also booming. Speaking to Campaign India, Effies jury chairman Shashi Sinha (also ceo of Lodestar, a major local agency) said that "12 or 14" agencies can now expect to get awards, while in previous years there were just "three or four" winners.
Mirror neurons and social cognition – Gold nuggets for advertisers or just too complex to be practical?
Daniel Mullensiefen, Scientist in Residence, DDB UK
Even if you limit your reading these days to Stieg Larsson,
the free newspapers on the underground, and the trade press you probably have
come across a few scientific concepts that many advertisers get very excited
about: Mirror neurons, social neuroscience, and theory of mind. Understanding
how these social systems in the human brain work and how we use them to make
sense of our social environment might hold the secrets for triggering empathy
in people, for evoking emotions in ad viewers and ultimately how to create more
effective campaigns. If only the bloody science behind these things wasn’t so
complicated and one knew where to start in understanding them!
Just last week the academic publishing house Cell Press
organised a one-day workshop at the University of London’s Birkbeck College on
Social Cognition, the scientific area into which mirror neurons and all those
other exciting discoveries broadly fall. The contributors were all first-rank
scientists and luminary figures in their respective fields delivering very
high-level overviews on the state of knowledge for each topic. Of course, the
workshop wasn’t targeted at advertising people or marketeers (academics
normally don’t feel the need to explain anything to the business world).
Instead, the audience was mainly academics from a broad range of disciplines
(biology to neuroscientists to social scientists). But the workshop was all
free and advertising professionals could have attended (if they hadn’t been too
busy to put the last touches to the very important deck for that really
important pitch next week … you know how it is). So, I as the Scientist in
Residence for DDB UK, was probably the only one in the audience who actually
listened with an advertising ear to the latest developments in social
Since the initial publication by a research team around
Giacomo Rizzolatti in 1992 mirror neurons have had a steep career and are today
very widely postulated as a neural system that can explain a variety of
phenomena from consciousness to the understanding of what other people are
thinking (the so-called theory of mind) and the learning of complex motor and
social behaviour. Really, if you do a literature search for mirror neurons
these days it seems like they can explain almost any interesting human
behaviour. Essentially, mirror neurons are ensembles of nerve cells in probably
three different areas of the human brain that are active when we perform a
certain action (like grab a cup of tea or hit a ball with a tennis racket) but
also when we see other people perform the same action. By this very behaviour
they could explain how we make sense out of the world around us and why we
primates can learn so quickly: whenever we see someone performing an action it
is a bit like we are doing the same thing ourselves. You have to admit that
this sounds very elegant (and may trigger all sorts of philosophical
speculations if you are that kind of guy), but as James Kilner from University
College, London explained, a) they are only directly proven to exist in
monkeys, b) it is unclear what they ‘mirror’ when an action that you see is
ambiguous, and c) people with lesions in presumed mirror neuron areas (to be precise:
the inferior frontal cortex, the
inferior parietal lobe, and the super temporal sulcus – if you want to show
off at the next Christmas party) can still understand the intentions behind the
actions they see. Kilner thus reckons that many claims of what mirror neurons
actually do have been a bit bold. They indeed seem to be active when we observe
actions predicting what is going to happen next when someone is whacking a
tennis racket towards a flying ball (or towards a referees head). But mirror
neurons might actually not encode the intention of an action – why the tennis
racket is on collision course with the referees head (and you could clearly see
that there might be several reasons that caused an incident like this to
happen). Thus, Kilner suggests that the function of mirror neurons is at a
lower level, being more concerned with how
an action is performed (eg
its kinematics) rather than why
it is being performed.
Does this make them less attractive to the advertiser with a
curious scientific mind? Take a look in the mirror and decide.
Digital integration and a return to core values - DMA Awards trends
Heather Westgate, Chief Executive, TDA
I'm proud to have been involved in the judging of this year's DMA Awards, which will be announced tonight. For one thing, it's always fascinating to see how things change from year to year - and also what stays the same. And the 2010 entries have come from a more diverse mix of agencies and clients than ever before.
The biggest single change in the awards over the last year or so has to be the increasing relevance of digital criteria: good direct marketing has always been about maximising customer engagement, and in today's environment, the best way to achieve this is often through integrated marketing activity across a range of digital and traditional platforms.