…those who get it, get it anyway. Those who don’t, never will.”
Have you seen the ad for the new Cadillac ELR? It features a very smug 40-something actor, Neal McDonough, strolling through his Dwell magazine-perfect house, kissing his beautiful wife, high-fiving his beautiful kids, and showing off all his tastefully extravagant belongings while pontificating on the materialistic benefits of our consumer society.
“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?
“Other countries they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café. They take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we’re crazy driven hard-working believers, that’s why.
“Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill Gates, Les Paul, Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it. You know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there; that’s why.
“But I digress.
“It’s pretty simple you work hard, you create your own luck and you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?”
If you spend as much thinking about these things as I do, you might notice that besides being beautifully shot and perfectly art-directed, this ad presents a never-before-seen amalgam of righty American exceptionalism and lefty aesthetics and eco-sensitive electric automobiles. Kind of like the ‘Madison Avenue’ version of the person who says they’re “socially liberal and economically conservative,” it’s a mash-up of two previously mutually exclusive mindsets.
Which brings up an interesting question — exactly what is Cadillac trying to say with this spot? Is the ad tongue-in-cheek and poking ironic fun at our quest for stuff? Or is Cadillac seriously going after the specific demographic that will identify with the ad’s protagonist and his beliefs?
I posted it on Facebook and got some fascinating and different points of view.
Brian Walters wrote: “I reacted to it the way I think they wanted. It was fun, cocky and impishly arrogant. The actor smirked just enough for us to know he wasn’t being too literal. And I do think it is smart to have the electric car be the hero at the end. It was a surprise ending. I say kudos.”
Steve Sauls said: “My first reaction was that the ad is xenophobic and negative and that the ad was designed to appeal to a narrow, calculated market to bring them back to Cadillac from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.”
Most of my friends thought it was pretty funny. My wife and daughter hated it.
What I think is that we’re seeing the next logical evolution of the Prius phenomenon. You might remember that when it was first released, Toyota’s little doorstop-shaped hybrid wedge became the instant darling of the Hollywood elite – including Gwneyth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Orlando Bloom, Natalie Portman, Cameron Diaz, and even Harrison Ford. Why? Because unlike the equally efficient but visually indistinguishable Honda Civic Hybrid, the unique shape of the Prius announced to the world that its driver cared about the environment while all the prosaic Honda said was, “I’m driving a cheap car.”
I don’t think Cadillac is being ironic at all. Instead, I think that what you see is what you get. What Cadillac is saying is that regardless of the rest of the world going to hell in a handbasket, you can have your cake and eat it too. Buy their new ELR and you can own all the neat toys you want, think you’re successful and superior, AND tell the world that you care. Even if you really don’t.
All in all, a pretty good deal for an MSRP of only $82,135.
(Yes, I am being ironic now. Oh, never mind…)
The flight to San Juan was scheduled to leave at 7:25 AM, so my mental math looked something like this:
“Want to get to airport an hour early, that’s 6:25 AM.
Thirty minutes to get to airport, that’s 6:00.
Half an hour to get ready, gotta get up at 5:30.”
But here’s what happened:
Was still jet-lagged from my trip back from Southeast Asia and California the day before, so I went to bed early and was wide awake at 4:30 AM. Finally got out of bed at 5:00. Took 40 minutes to leave house and 20 minutes to get to airport because of early hour, so I arrived at 6:00. Zipped through TSA pre-check, grabbed a snack and still got to gate at 6:15 – at least 45 minutes before boarding time.
Know what happened next? Absolutely nothing. I read the paper, sipped my coffee, and boarded the flight when they called my section. No stress, no drama, no nothing.
Flight on the way back landed late and I was pulled over by a policeman for speeding.
“Where’s the fire, Mario?” he asked.
“Sorry officer,” I answered. “I’m late for a meeting.”
“You should have left sooner.”
Damn it! Why didn’t I think of that? I had no good response, so I just nodded and opened my hand and took the ticket.
Leave early, stress free. Leave late, stressful.
Can it really be as easy as that?
“Leave early?!” I hear you screaming. “Who’s got time to leave early? And anyways, what the hell do I do when I get to the airport or meeting with an extra half hour to kill?”
Here’s a radical idea – you’ve probably got your smartphone, laptop or iPad with you already – why don’t you do what you’d do if you were still sitting at your desk? Answer messages and emails, reread your proposal or presentation, read the newspaper, write blog posts, or just sit quietly and think.
The simple point is that thanks to today’s technology, where you are has less and less to do with what you can accomplish than ever before. And so the old rules just don’t apply anymore. The trick is to figure out how to apply the new realities and possibilities to make your life as enjoyable, productive, and stress-free as possible.
All of a sudden, location and productivity are not joined at the hip. A workspace can be anywhere with power and Wi-Fi. The inspiration muse can be serviced wherever you are. An hour in a Starbucks between meetings can be more productive than running back to the office only to turn around and run back out again. And when you are in the office and face-to-face, that time can be better spent doing the personal warm and fuzzies — the “atta-boys” and “atta-girls” that are best done in person.
Running late and making yourself and everyone around you crazy no longer needs to be a part of your life – or your brand. All you have to do is change the way you approach your calendar and your to-do list.
Try it. I think you’ll like it.
Unless you’re a hardcore advertising fan, the Super Bowl ad show wasn’t very entertaining, either. Other than a few stalwarts and outliers, the ads were a big bore.
Budweiser is still using horses and dogs, albeit an adorable puppy this year. Coca-Cola is still trying to teach the world to sing almost 45 years after their first attempt. And Chevy is still telling stories about men and their trucks.
What was new this year was a circumspect attitude that prized warm and fuzzy over risqué. Also new was a strategy that mixed celebrities willy-nilly in order to appeal to all of the different demographics that watch the Super Bowl.
GoDaddy, the advertiser we could always count on for sleaze, changed its tune with two slaphappy ads that could have been shot for almost anyone. Axe, too, left its bodacious babes at home, with an ad that focused on world peace.
Bud Light shoehorned its ads full of Minka Kelly, Don Cheadle, Lilly the llama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Radio Shack filled their ad with a laundry list of celebrities from the 1980s, including Hulk Hogan, Teen Wolf, Chuckie, Mary Lou Retton (!!), and Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister. Snyder, by the way, probably earned more money by appearing in this ad than he did from his entire musical career.
And talking about guys who are earning money from appearing in ads instead of doing what made them famous, Tim Tebow proved that not only won’t he be playing football, but that an acting career isn’t in his future either. Lucky thing he has a good sense of humor.
Beefcake was back with both a naked David Beckham and Chevy’s stud bull that was a good enough actor to lick his lips just when the voiceover said, “Hello Ladies.” And both Volkswagen and VaporZone made pee jokes with actors standing at a urinal.
Chrysler built on 2011’s “Imported From Detroit” and 2012’s “Halftime in America,” upping the antes from former spokesmen Clint Eastwood, Eminem, and Berry Gordy with — who would have thunk it — Bob Dylan.
At $4 million a pop, advertisers really owed it to their viewers and their bottom lines to put their best work on display. Unfortunately, their ads were upstaged by the Seahawks skills and halftime entertainer Bruno Mars’ talent. That being said, Budweiser’s dog and pony show generated over 34 million YouTube views before the game even started, a number that has since swelled to nearly 40 million. That might be the most important measure of all.
Want to see what I had to say about the spots on FOX Business? Click HERE.
It wasn’t until I spent three weeks in Southeast Asia with my family that I really learned the true importance of brands.
It shouldn’t have been that way because for the last 30 years I’ve been running a brand management firm that helps our clients create and build their brands through advertising, design, strategic planning, and online activities. I’ve written books on building brands and spent a lot of time zipping around the world teaching audiences what I’ve learned about building brands. I’m even lucky enough to appear on Money with Melissa Francis on FOX Business each week talking about what’s happened in the world of advertising and branding. But what I learned is that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
Our flight to Singapore included a layover in the spanking new transit terminal in Doha, Qatar. Other than housing facilities for the planes that are taking off and landing, Doha’s airport is really just a shopping mall. And all the products they sell there are big brands. Hugo Boss, Tom Ford, Tumi, Ferragamo, Samsung, Canon, Porsche, and Lamborghini are everywhere. So are TAG Heuer, IWC, Escada, Nikon, Chanel, and Montblanc. Plus every liquor and cigarette brand you can name – all in a Muslim country, no less.
Singapore, too, was awash in eastern and western brands. As was Bangkok, Saigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi. But none of those places compared to Hong Kong where I saw more brand names and logos than I’ve ever seen in my life.
It wasn’t just the upscale malls and airport stores that featured these brands. They were prevalent in every market we visited—from the floating market in in Bangkok and the street stalls in Saigon to the night market in Hong Kong.
It was most obvious in the counterfeit watch stalls and arrays spread out on blankets on busy avenues. Rolexes, Patek Philippes, Panerai, Omegas, and IWCs seemed to be the most popular. Of course they weren’t the real items, but then again, they weren’t five, 10, or 20 thousand dollars either. I didn’t bargain for one but I did watch a few tourists haggle for their counterfeit wristwatches for much less than $100 apiece.
What I found most interesting was that the tourists I watched weren’t actually buying timepieces. Because if they wanted to know the time they could always look at their mobile phones, dashboard clocks, laptops, iPads, or the myriad of watches they probably already own.
What they were buying were brands. They wanted to come back from the Orient with a status symbol on their wrists to tell the world just how successful they are. Accuracy, or even approximate time, is irrelevant—it’s all about the brand.
That being said, there’s not any reason to believe that the counterfeit watches from the Asian stalls are any less competent at time telling than the real things they copy to begin with.
In this world of modern computerized manufacturing, actual function is becoming less and less important to consumers. Thanks to today’s technology, most things simply work regardless of their brand name or cost. In fact, it’s very likely that regardless of the brand name on their boxes, many differently branded products are manufactured in the same factories. Moreover, most affluent consumers already have everything they could possible want or need. Instead, their purchases are about upgrading, freshening or replacing — I’m sure that no one I saw buying watches at those stalls actually needed another timepiece.
Brand value, the true reason today’s consumers purchase, is not about product function but about creating stories that help consumers tell the world who they are. From expensive foreign cars in the driveway to faux-expensive watches on wrists, it’s the brand value that both differentiates products from one another and incites customers to buy and buy more.
If you don’t believe me, book a trip to Southeast Asia. And if you need someone to carry your bags, give me a call. On your branded Android or iPhone, of course.
The Power of Patterns
My friend and the lead guitar player for The Southbound Suspects, Phil Allen, put himself through law school at the University of Florida by singing and playing his guitar in bars around Gainesville. Years later Phil still wows audiences by performing his prodigious repertoire of songs.
People are amazed at all the tunes Phil knows and call him a human jukebox. After they request an obscure Crosby, Stills & Nash title, maybe, or something by Phil Ochs, they ask Phil how he’s memorized so many songs. But as Phil told me, he memorizes the lyrics, not the music. Phil knows what notes to play because he recognizes the patterns the songs follow.
My mother has a good friend who is a linguist. Although she speaks five or six languages, my mom’s friend says she can communicate with people in languages she doesn’t speak because most rudimentary conversations follow similar patterns. A server in a restaurant greets you, for example, and then asks what you’d like to drink. After you’ve established your preference, the conversation usually moves on to what you’d like to eat. You don’t need to speak the server’s language to be able to let them know what you’d like. You just work within the natural pattern of the conversation.
Did you watch Bruno Mars perform the song Valerie on the Video Music Awards last year? I was watching with my wife and she was curious how the dancers all knew to move at the exact same time. Watch the performance once and see if you can tell. Click HERE or on the arrow in the video box below. Try not to be distracted by Katy Perry’s blockhead hat.
Could you tell how the performers knew exactly when to change steps? Was there someone cuing them from off stage or was Mars giving them a signal? No, it’s much simpler than that. The dancers were in sync because they were innately aware of the pattern of the rhythm of the song. Valerie is written in an 8-bar blues pattern, which simply means that the structure of the song is a repeating pattern of eight measures (or sections) of four beats each. When the dancers reach the seventh bar (four beats before the loop repeats itself), they count “one, two, three, four” and they know it’s the beginning of the pattern and time for them to spin.
Try it yourself. Watch the video again and count along to the beat. Start at the beginning of the song and count it this way: one, two, three, four. Two, two, three, four. Three, two, three, four, and so on until you get to seven, two, three, four. If you count properly, you’ll find that when you get to the fourth beat of seven, two, three, four, the dancers will magically change direction or steps. Really. Do it a few times and you’ll predict their moves without counting. You’ll just feel when it’s time for them to switch. To try it, click HERE or on the arrow in the video again.
That’s the power of patterns. Besides being a good way to coordinate dancers, it’s also a great way to build your brand value. Because that same confident knowledge that told you when the dancers would spin around is the same feeling your customers can have about what your brand means to them.
In my last book, Building Brand Value: Seven Simple Steps to Profitable Communications, point seven is Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It explains how repetition provides the comfortable framework that binds your customers closer to your brand by showing them exactly what to expect from you. Your repeated good behavior, dependable quality, and consistent messaging, all build a sense of trust between you and your clients that presages and reinforces the reasons they do business with you. That is, your customers know what to expect before they purchase from you and they feel comfortable that they got what they wanted after the transaction.
The dancers and musicians in Bruno Mars’ band can concentrate on what they’re doing because they know what to expect from the song and their front man: When they get to the fourth beat of the seventh measure it’ll be time for them to switch steps. The reliably repeated rhythms set up a predictable and comfortable environment within which they can operate to the best of their abilities.
What works for musicians such as Phil Allen and Bruno Mars, and for linguists, can work for you, too. Creating similarly trustworthy patterns is a simple yet increasingly significant way to build your brand and your business. Because just like the performers on Mars’ stage, your customers can purchase from you more comfortably, more reliably, and more often because they know exactly what to expect from you each and every time.
What goes next in the following sequence? Skywriting, Calendar, Pen, T-Shirt, Super Bowl, Side Of A Barn, ____________ .
Give up? Don’t be too hard on yourself; even that smart kid in high school (you know the one I’m talking about) doesn’t know the answer.
Let’s review our fundamental understanding of advertising and branding and see if we can’t come up with an insight that will not only fill in the blank but also give you an idea about what your next incredibly powerful step will be to identify and promote your brand. This is a million dollar idea because as soon as you implement the strategy, you’ll be on your way to transforming your brand into an industry leader.
A lot of advertising is about exposing your clients to your brand time after time after time. Those who sell ad space and time (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, online, etc.) are often more impressed with its value and validity then those who are tasked with deciding how to allocate their scarce advertising dollars in the first place. Most ad sales reps will agree that if one line of skywriting is good, then two airplanes spreading your message across the heavens is better.
Even a $4.3 million Super Bowl commercial might be talked about at the water cooler for a few days after the big game and then forgotten.
Let’s say my realtor friend sent me a calendar for the New Year. There’s a slim chance I would put it on my desk but 12 months later it’ll be outdated and wind up in the trash. A pen with her company’s logo on it is a useful gift and will remind me of her services but sooner or later I’ll lose it or it’ll run out of ink. And I might wear her T-shirt several times until it frays and I pick something newer to wear.
What’s the one item that I’ll happily accept from you that will remind me of your company? What’s the one item that will stay in my office for as long as I work there? What’s the one item that I’ll never throw away?
No one ever throws away a book. Especially one that’s been personally autographed by the author (that’s you!).
So now all you have to do is write one.
Before you say, “but I could never write a book,” think about that for a solid minute. Who knows more about your industry than you? Who knows more about what goes on at your company than you? Who knows more about what you do than you? The answer to all three questions is “no one!” it’s all you, all the time.
Remember that the purpose of your book is not to sell any specific product but to share information, demonstrate competence, and maybe even get a few laughs from your readers. Your purpose in writing your book is to set yourself up as a leader in your industry, the person who “wrote the book” on your area of expertise as it were.
Sure, writing a book will take some time. It took two years of hard work to produce our first book, Brain Darts. But it did get easier each time after that. Because writing, like most any other worthwhile activity, becomes easier the more you do it. And whether you get better at it or not, consistency rules. After all, a page a day equals a book a year.
Better yet, today you don’t even have to concern yourself with writing a proposal or selling a book agent on your idea. In 2013’s brave new world of self-publishing there doesn’t have to be a publisher to convince nor a publishing house to share royalties with. Because whether they like your book or not, Amazon’s Create Space will sell you as many copies of your book as you request for about five bucks apiece, postage included. And when you think of your book as an expensive business card, one that your potential clients and returning clients will be impressed by for years to come, five dollars buys you an awful lot of attention.
What about painting a billboard on the side of a barn instead? Sure that ad medium might allow your message to be viewed for a generation, even longer then the life of a book. But unless your potential buyers spend a lot of time driving country roads in farming communities, I’m pretty sure that getting a book in the hands of your customers is a better bet.
Of course, writing, designing, editing, and publishing your own book will take some time. But regardless of how long it will take, I’ll bet you can get the job done for less then the $4.3 million a 30-second Super Bowl ad will cost.
At first glance, cooking and baking seem to be different sides of the same coin. They both require various edible ingredients. They both require skill and knowledge. They both call for cutting, chopping, mixing, and stirring. And they both can create good things to eat.
But the actual processes of cooking and baking are often very different, a point which is made abundantly clear if you read their respective recipes. Cooking tends to be more free form and open to interpretation and improvisation – asking for things such as “a handful of sliced almonds,” “season to taste,” or “occasional stirring.” Baking, on the other hand, is rigidly precise, demanding not just a cup of flour but one cup and one tablespoon of sifted white flour, for example. And while cooking allows for substitution, baking does not. Don’t have as many onions as the recipe calls for? Throw in some scallions. Short on shallots? Garlic will do nicely. But if you find you don’t have enough baking powder, baking soda’s just not going to do the job.
Cooking then, seems more like art; baking more like science. No wonder, too, that the different disciplines attract different types of people. While the uninitiated would think that good bakers would make good cooks and vice versa, that doesn’t usually tend to be the case. Instead, good cooks will usually say that they can’t bake and good bakers don’t brag about their cooking abilities. Different strokes for different folks.
It’s not just in restaurants that you find people with very different skills working together and contributing their different abilities to present superior products. In our office, for example, we have a number of people with very different skillsets and temperaments who understand that if we each do what we’re best at, the sum of our labors will be worth so much more than our individual contributions. We’ve got left-brain thinkers who are number and detail oriented and apply their abilities to tracking our projects, meeting our deadlines, and maintaining our computer system and our offices. We’ve got passionate people-oriented professionals who maintain our client relationships and get their satisfaction from satisfying others and keeping our clients satisfied too. We’ve got creative thinkers — artists, designers, and writers — who get their jollies from creating concepts, strategies, and visual solutions that have never been seen before but move our clients’ businesses forward. And we have hard-nosed analytical business thinkers who make sure that our clients — and our agency — stay proactive and profitable no matter how the world around us changes.
In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins famously wrote about “getting the right people on the bus.” But he also talked about making sure that the right people were in the right seats on that bus.
My father used to say that “you can’t make jobs for people, you have to find the right people for the jobs.” This presents a real challenge as the world and our business evolves and changes. As we continuously reinvent ourselves — from a design firm to an ad agency to a brand management firm to a consultancy — we need to continue to provide opportunities to the people in our office who are also evolving and changing right along with us.
Over years of generously giving me great advice, my friend, client, and mentor Seth Werner has impressed upon me the critical practice of hiring for attitude. As Seth points out, you can teach skills but you can’t teach outlook. This too presents an ongoing challenge as we endeavor to keep the right people in the right seats (Jim Collins) in jobs that we created for the business opportunities and not the practitioners (Leonard Turkel) who have to have the right attitude (Seth Werner).
So as we all try out a sparkly new 2014 and plan for the future while we reflect on the past, it seems to me that there has never been a better time to seek out the best and most passionate cooks and bakers you can find and make doubly sure that your cooks are cooking and your bakers are baking.
THAT should help create a delicious new year for all of us.