Monthly Archives: August 2008

Usain Bolt: Sprinting toward macro trends


Wired notes that when Usain Bolt ran the 100-meter sprint in 9.69 seconds he startled biostatisticians who have been predicting for years how human speeds accelerate. It seems number-crunchers who look at macro trends can forecast new records with startling accuracy, using simple “curve fitting” shown above.

Bolt ran so fast he fell off the curve.

What’s remarkable to us is how few marketers look at such macro trends. Marketing campaigns are often structured tactically — set up integrated ad channels, web sites, call centers and field sales, all with forecasts for triggers and response. Spend $1 million at $100 cost per sale and you’ll end up with 10,000 customers. Simple.

But macro forces such as recession, changing energy prices, emerging media and aging demographics rumble the ground under such calculations. What worked yesterday won’t perform tomorrow. The internet is awash in free resources to watch such shifts: Google Trends shows global or regional search volumes for products and services; the brilliant Iowa Electronic Markets uses the wisdom of crowds to foresee political winners with 1.37% accuracy.

How are you predicting your own race finishers?

The beautiful choice of Gov. Palin


America was agog today that John McCain chose a young politician from far-flung Alaska as his VP running mate. Few knew who she was or what she had done, but Gov. Sarah Palin looked great, an antidote to Obama’s charisma. You could just feel Hillary Clinton thinking, I spent $212 million on my %&@(!! campaign and she gets a phone call?

The fuss was over appearance — which points out that if you want response, looks matter.

This is not meant to disparage Gov. Palin’s abilities or credentials. Palin fought her way to the top of a tough state; she’s spoken intelligently about the need for new energy exploration, criticized Exxon, helped clean up oil spills and promised to reform political corruption in Alaska. But the reaction yesterday was instant. People didn’t read her bio before they responded; they simply saw an attractive woman as potential VP. Wow.

Numerous studies show that tall men and pretty women are most likely to succeed, to be top executives or heads of state, and to convince people to follow them. FaceResearch.org allows you to participate in online studies that prove symmetry and health are time and again the images people hunger for. Humans have an innate need to survive; for 30,000 generations we followed leaders who shined with health and vigor and yes, beauty that hinted at reproduction. Part of Reagan’s and Clinton’s appeal was their handsome vigor; one reason Dukakis failed was he looked lopsided in a tank.

McCain made a wise choice finding a conservative who will reach into the middle, an energy expert who will attract Hillary’s followers and hurt Obama. But let’s be honest; those looks didn’t hurt.

Democrats are brandjacked on Twitter


The image above shows 2.5 million missed opportunities.

That’s the number of Twitter users the U.S. Democratic party conceivably won’t be able to communicate to tonight, because the DNC failed to secure its Twitter moniker (www.twitter.com/dnc). Now, tonight with Obama talking in front of all of Colorado in a stadium, with a young demo trying to tune in with multimedia, the DNC is hamstrung by a clever Twitter squatter. The RNC has no such trouble, and we’re sure they’ll be lobbing lots of chatter. We signed up to follow @RNC today because we know, whether we agree or not, the Twitter feed will be riveting.

Don’t laugh; your business is next. Most businesses don’t have a plan for monitoring, or using, emerging media. Just as smart brands look for competitors with similar products on the horizon, smart marketers need to follow new channels and jump in … before you lose the chance.

Orangina’s beastly ad shakes up UK

Noah never saw this coming. Orangina’s hyper-sexed ad, featuring animals lap-dancing until juice explodes, is drawing protests in the UK now. Parents say it’s a kids’ drink so how could owner Dr Pepper Snapple Group think this is appropri…

Oh, wait. Got us again. This is yet another example of dual-standards advertising, in which a company seeking online buzz pushes too far in the mass media, then protests — what? offensive? we’re sorry! — while the blogosphere latches on and amplifies the message. This approach seems especially effective for brands trying to reposition themselves to the teen/young adult market, most likely to send the message viral.

Don’t believe us? The Orangina ad ran in France in 2007 and quickly was scorned by Adweek as a freakiest ad of the year. Now, eight months later, it’s rolled out in stalwart England?

Recent players in this whoops-don’t-watch-but-please-pass-along space include Calvin Klein, Burger King, JC Penney, and Miley Cyrus. Though no one beats Cadbury back in 1969.

Sexuality and death: What to expect this fall shopping season

So you’re going about your way and an ad with sexy wrestling women catches your eye. Why?

Psychologist Carl Jung suggested that humans seek fulfillment across several common stages of life — courtship, parenting, preparing for death. The world is confusing along the way, so we fall back subconsciously onto “archetypes” — deep-rooted themes that help us understand the information around us. There are event archetypes, such as birth and death; role archetypes, such as father, child, hero, trickster; and broader themes such as the Apocalypse.

Which brings us to sex and violence. The reason so much advertising titillates is more than lust (most women consumers won’t long after the models in the above ad) or fear (we get that the fighting is staged). Instead, images of courtship/sex/mating/death resonate with the most compelling archetypes in our psychology. If you think honestly about your own life, the most powerful memories you retain belong to the first heavy date, the conception of a child, the first time you felt the vertigo of love, the phone call telling you your dad has died.

If sex is more than an itch, but instead signals archetypes tied to survival, then sensuality provokes response. If death is our inevitable end game, then violence resonates deeply.

All of which explains why women in this French Connection spot try to kill and kiss each other.

Via Yves Van Landeghem.

Pew study says people use internet to find things


A bit of a no brainer … until you think of all the organizations building new web sites with no search campaign to pull traffic there.

Pew reports that consumer use of search engines is up from one-third of users on a typical day in 2002 to nearly half of consumers using search each day in 2008. Search engines have become the portals into the internet and are fast approaching email use, the current “top app” for online communications.

Do you have a web site? Check. Do you have a search engine marketing initiative to get customers to your web site?

Using creative to screen your audience


Every organization has to deal with “bad prospects” — people interested in your services who, as much as you’d like to help, are wildly unprofitable. This sounds unkind for those who don’t work in marketing, but think about it: You can’t invite the world in to eat at your dinner table; you’d run out of food. In any population there are some people who cost too much to serve.

Marketers have two basic tricks to avoid the wrong audience: Target media to avoid them, or use creative to screen them.

Career Junction pulls off a “creative screening” with this clever print graphic. The idea is simple — the future analytical, business-minded Edward Tuftes of the world will find the humor in this chart, slow down, and respond to Career Junction with their resume … while people who aren’t business types will turn the page in boredom.

This use of mild complexity to attract the right eyeballs is brilliant. Hat tip to Nirmal Diwadkar and Abraham Varughese of TBWARAAD Middle East, Dubai, UAE. Feel free to send us your bios :)

Via Ads of the World.

Talbots gets unstuck from the middle


Talbots’ stock soared 30% today with news that the retailer was finally ending the Talbots Mens experiment. At face value, the expansion of a women’s luxury clothier to the rougher sex in 2003 seemed a fair idea; why couldn’t a brand known for making women shine do the same for men?

We think Talbots got stuck in the middle.

Michael Porter, in his landmark 1985 book Competitive Advantage, said that firms could succeed only by finding focus. He outlined four basic strategies — you could have narrow or broad scope, and low or high-cost products. Walmart is an example of a firm focused on broad scope with low cost — you can buy everything there, and cheap. Talbots was the opposite — narrow scope, clothing that makes women look really good, and high cost, clothing with quality for which you have to pay.

Porter warned that companies who are niche players risk getting “stuck in the middle” when they expand. You want to grow; so you decide to add on new services or products; and the people who loved you for what you were begin to lose interest. Instead of bacon or eggs, you become oatmeal. It’s a cautionary tale for any business, organization or agency that tries to get too big too fast, and leaves what made it special behind.

We love Talbots; it’s a store that could have been designed by Santa Claus for women, with red and gold logos, shirts and suits tailored to highlight grown women’s figures, and a reference pricing strategy that is brilliant in using “40% off” and “outlet stores” to spur purchases. Talbots is so good at being the ultimate affluent-women’s store that the men they are married to couldn’t think otherwise.

So, welcome back, Talbots. Here’s to growing up just the way you are.

Haha! London Olympics logo stinks! Except, wait, we didn’t mean it …


Sounds like fun. The logo for the 2012 Olympics in London is so bad that designers are holding a contest to see if you, or anyone else, can do better. Fire up Word or Paint. Send it here. See if yours wins!

Except designers should beware the boomerang. Think of it. Thousands of artists will now pile on, whip up brilliance for free, submit it via a blogging tool to a web site for others to vote on … and you can almost hear a business model slipping away. London organizers paid almost $800,000 for the logo — which worked out to about $400,000 per magic marker — but they’d have been better off holding a free social-media competition.

Keep it up, critics, and you’ll put yourselves out of business. Via MTLB.