July 01, 2010

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5 Beach Books for Marketers Tired of James Patterson, Steig Larrson, Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele? Consider reading these six recently published beach-ready marketing books written by working entrepreneurial practitioners that reveal interesting perspectives, war stories, best practices and unique voices. With a broad range of insights and expertise ranging from corporate strategy to nuts-and-bolts checklists, the authors seek to simultaneously unburden themselves, promote and differentiate their agencies and give back to the profession. Each one draws on personal experience, cites client cases or quotes clients and articulates their personal greatest hits. Some offer cautionary tales, illuminate disasters and describe the one that got away. All evidence a genuine understanding of the business. So if you are comfortable using a highlighter on the beach check these books out. Full disclosure: I got all these review copies for free. I don’t know any of the authors, though Jim Joseph interviewed me once and didn’t hire me. Books are reviewed in alphabetical order according to author’s last names. CONSUMED – Rethinking Business in the Era of mindful Spending By Andrew Benett & Ann O’Reilly This book grew out of the “New Consumer” global survey of 5700 adults in seven countries, the results of which are wrapped around interviews with Havas clients and punctuated with a mountain of secondary research. The authors, Andrew Benett, the CEO of Arnold Worldwide and Ann O’Reilly, the chief researcher at Euro RSCG, front contributions from a wide array of people in the Havas network. This book reads like Al Gore lecturing on a topic you agree with well supported with documentation – a bit obvious, a little pedantic, somewhat preachy but undeniable. After tracing the history and drivers of rampant global consumerism, the authors, reading the survey data, argue that fundamental attitudinal changes are affecting consumers worldwide and that the global recession has not prompted these changes, but instead reinforced and validated them. And while the book documents and articulates philosophies and cultural trends that have oscillated across the globe forever, the authors insist that dramatic, significant attitudinal change has occurred and that this fundamental mind shift will drive markets and brands into the future. “The shift away from hyper consumerism to which we have all grown accustomed promises to be big and lasting in its effects. The changes we are seeing will affect the entire global economy and virtually everyone who is part of it. This book seeks to demonstrate how each of these overlapping and mutually reinforcing trends is shaping how consumers make choices and has the potential to revolutionize their relationship with brands.” Brands that get it win; those who don’t die. Benett & O’Reilly offer four “paradigms” to describe consumer motivations and to prescribe tactics for effective consumer engagement in this radically different environment. The four paradigms are the search for substance, the need to right size, the imperative to grow up and the pursuit of purposeful pleasure as key motivational drivers. Each is carefully dissected and documented. The new consumer is mindful and considered, wants to feel good about the brands they buy. Consumers want to buy brands that share and portray their values in on-going two-way conversations. Successful brands are green, develop communities and connectedness, and are transparent and inclusive. Instead of “pushing consumers’ hot buttons masterfully cultivating the desire for more now … in the new culture of Mindful Consumption, consumers feel best when they make smart choices that offer real substance, are appropriately matched to their genuine needs and contribute to their sense of purpose.” PULL – Marketing Secrets the Fortune 100 Use By Keith Chambers Keith Chambers started and runs The Chambers Group, a design studio in LA that morphed into a strategic consultancy cum agency. This guy writes in a personal tone, as if your uncle took you aside at a family gathering eager to share what he’s learned in the business. Simultaneously self-effacing and self-aggrandizing, Keith gives you the sense that he’s been there, done that and has the scars and the cash to prove it. In fact he dissects his own book cover to illustrate the marketing and design principles he espouses. An unbridled capitalist, Keith starts with the basics. “ Free enterprise is a game … a mandatory game in that we must play just like fish must swim.” The game turns on your ability to be perceived as unique and your ability to immediately communicate a remarkable selling proposition. According to Keith, there’s lots of headroom for new players since “I’d estimate that less than 3% of all...
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5 Tactics for Resisting Downward Price Pressure Agency process and productivity is a sticky wicket. Agencies are notoriously unscientific in monitoring their process flows and extracting optimum productivity from their workforces. Simultaneously clients are eager to get more faster cheaper results with greater cost and labor transparency. It’s a constant cat-and-mouse game between agencies defending creative prerogatives and clients seeking leaner teams, faster turn-arounds and cheaper rates. Creating ads, websites, direct mail, and other communications assets brings two complex bureaucracies together in a tortured tango. Trying to be agile and productive simultaneously is the goal. Yet transmitting and receiving baseline instructions and business requirements necessary to write a scope of work are not easy. Often just agreeing on the project specifications eats-up a disproportionate amount of time and talent long before the first writer or artist begins work. Creatives find this topic distasteful and insulting. They believe that the creative process is mysterious and magical and cannot be fathomed much less mapped or measured. Trained like apprentices in the craft of creation and in how to distinguish great from copycats or also-rans, copywriters and art directors are personally invested in the products. And since they know they can do what client’s can’t their only demand is “trust us.” The divergence in perspective begins with expectations and measurement. Agencies, used to working on retainers or time and materials rates, want to be paid for inputs – the time and talent they bring to client projects. For agencies the job is done when the assets are delivered and accepted. But clients want to minimize costs and pay agencies based on outputs; the business impact of their labors. For clients the job is done when the campaign results are tallied and the ads achieved their desired objectives. Many clients don’t really care how much time or talent is required to make the assets. They want to see hopw the campaign moved their business forward. They count sales and profits. Everything else is incidental. To orient agencies to this way of seeing things, clients are benchmarking hours and tasks in an attempt to create predictable timetables and costs. This desire to accurately forecast costs and reduce variable costs crashes directly into the agency-client production dance that has ruled the industry since the 60s. In this “danse macabre” agencies create and iterate each communications item internally, then they share it with clients who do the same. Understanding the work flow is complicated by the paucity of standard or best practices and by the fact that client preferences or fiat and personality politics affect creative choices as much or more so than pure craftsmanship. Insight or process proficiency. For each segment of a project both sides stake 4 steps – creative development, review, critique and tweaking. Then once concept, direction and final elements are agreed upon, the internal-external dance continues at a 4-step pace through the production, traffic, legal review, deployment and measurement phases. This well established pattern is designed to check and double check and vet every mark, letter, syllable and image. It requires the balletic orchestration of changing teams of people, who may or may not add incremental value along the way, and is the reason it takes thousands of man hours and 49 days to create a simple banner ad, a direct mail package or a five paragraph e-mail. It’s this process, which is roughly the same but completely idiosyncratic from agency to agency, that makes senior clients and their CFOs absolutely crazy. The reflex reaction of clients is to measure, benchmark and template the process to suit their financial concerns. They look across a hundred jobs, analyze the hours by position and develop rules of thumb, which are then imposed on or negotiated with agency partners. The tougher clients then essentially impose rates saying “we’ll pay $7500 for a banner and expect delivery in 14 days from the agreed upon brief.” In many cases, as clients get more granular, agencies are ill-equipped to push back or effectively negotiate because they don’t have the same nimble take on hours, fees or margins. So to prepare for the inevitable, consider these 5 response tactics for coping with downward price pressure. Acknowledge the Issue. Agencies can no longer be divas and run screaming from this issue. This is not an “if” topic; it’s a “when” topic. Prepare yourself by tightening up your timesheets and getting control of your own stats. By having a good feel for the margins on each piece of business and the client-driven factors, which might have increased costs...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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