March 05, 2015

Mr. Meatball Is At It Again

Just when I was ready to let the healing begin, up pops our favorite "Global CEO" again with some grade-A, artisanally curated bullshit that just can't be ignored.

If you remember, a few days ago we skewered this guy for his self-aggrandizing claim that Steve Jobs was successful because Steve applied the same principles that Mr. Meatball advocates. As we showed, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yesterday, he was back in the news, this time in The Guardian, claiming that "Marketing is dead. Strategy is dead. Management is dead."

Of course, the " ________ Is Dead" gag is the oldest trick in the self-promotion book. Nitwit reporters just can't resist it. And if you're a whore for cheap ink, there's no better way to get yourself some than to claim that something is dead.

Unfortunately for Mr. Meatball his "this-is-dead, that-is-dead" bullshit is years past its sell-by. We've all heard this crap so many times before that this pathetic attempt to be controversial sounds like something borrowed from a rookie planner's 2009 powerpoint.

As you might expect, the reason all this stuff is dead is related to the insufferable "people love brands" nonsense. You see, as The Guardian reported it....
Business is now all about creating a “movement” of people with shared values, he enthuses from his suite at London’s luxurious Bulgari hotel, without even a hint of a smirk.

“You do that by figuring out how you add mystery, sensuality and intimacy to a brand ... Sensuality: we feel the world in five senses. Whether you like this room or not, [the architect] Antonio Citterio designed it and all five senses are at work in here. I mean, people want to lick this table.”
Yeah, lick this.

But, you know, maybe this guy is right.

Maybe people with shared values want to start a movement behind  their socks and their chairs. And their pickles, and their half-and-half, and their mayonnaise, and their cookies, and their tires, and their chewing gum, and their toothbrush, and their umbrella, and their dishwasher, and their napkins, and their toaster, and their gasoline, and their dental floss, and their paper towels, and their golf balls, and their shoes, and their pillows, and their pencils, and their deodorant, and their books, and their nail clippers, and their furniture polish, and their frozen chicken strips, and their lamps, and their potting soil, and their bathing suits, and their glasses, and their clocks, and their fungicide, and their dishes, and their cat food, and their sun block and their cookie dough, and their motor oil, and their light bulbs, and their burglar alarm, and their ironing board, and their fire insurance, and their coffee filters, and their pillow cases, and their allergy pills, and their mouthwash, and their vacuum cleaner bags...

Yeah. Maybe they don't have to worry about their jobs, or their children, or that thing growing on their neck, or how they're going to pay the rent.

Maybe they don't need to wash the bath tub, or have mammograms, or go to work, or apply for loans, or bail their kids out of juvie, or fold the laundry, or take their parents to the doctor, or vacuum, or make dinner.

Maybe they have unlimited time to develop movements with other people in suites at the Bulgari who share their values about all the companies they buy shit from.

It's an amazing fucking world this meatball lives in. Someday I'd like to visit it.

March 04, 2015

Third Stage Social Media

One thing about social media maniacs, they're very inventive.

Just as their nutty ideas are about to hit a brick wall, they seem always able to come up with new reasons for pissing away boatloads of time and money on social media marketing.

Before we get to the latest chapter, let's quickly review the first two stages of social media marketing delusion.

The first stage was the engagement stage. When the miracle of social media first started to enchant the titans of marketing, the rationale was that consumers (that means people) wanted to engage with brands and marketers. You see, we are all so in love with brands that we want to have relationships with them, and co-create, and...well, you've heard all this bullshit a thousand times.

Sadly, it turns out that there are very few people who are so devoid of a life that they want to spend time engaging with brands or marketers. In fact, a recent study showed that even among a brands fans only .7% - that's 7 in a thousand - ever engage with its posts on Facebook. The number is less than half that on Twitter. Which begs the philosophical question, what's half of nothing?

The second stage was the conversation stage. When it turned out that people becoming a fan of a brand had nothing to do with "engagement" and everything to do with hoping to get something for free, a new philosophical rationale for social media had to be created quick. Enter "the conversation." "The conversation" posited that consumers (that's right, people) were so enamored of their favorite brands that they would use social media to extol the brands virtues to others who would do likewise and this would create a tsunami of conversations and sales results that would make advertising obsolete and irrelevant.

Sadly, it also turned out that no one wanted to have a fucking conversation about brands. Don't believe me? Take a stroll over to your Facebook page. You'll find plenty of traditional paid ads, but "conversations about brands" turn out to be rather thin on the ground.

A few months ago, The New York Times put it nicely,
“A few years ago, (Facebook) was telling brands to increase the number of people following their pages. Now it says fans are largely irrelevant."
Which leads us to what may turn out to be the newest era in social media fantasyland. I am calling it the catalyst stage. It goes something like this:

Social media isn't for consumers to engage with a brand, or to have conversations with or about a brand, instead it's for consumers to interact with and support each other through the brand. I'm afraid I'm not doing justice to this lunatic idea, so let's hear an expert describe it:

This video has a nasty habit of disappearing from the post. If it's not here, you can find it here.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm actually living on the same planet as these meatballs (ya know, people.)

Thanks to Sean O'Donnell for this video

March 02, 2015

Daring Greatly And Failing Miserably

My favorite car campaigns of all time were Doyle Dane's Volkswagen, Ammirati's BMW, and Scali's Volvo.

These 3 campaigns had one thing in common: They didn't try to tell me who I was, they told me who they were. They told me why their product was great, and in so doing, created great brands.

They understood that the best way to build most brands is with product-focused advertising.

Which leads us to Cadillac's new campaign. You can read all about it here. As you probably know, Cadillac changes campaigns more enthusiastically than Bruce Jenner changes sexes.

Supposedly, this new campaign is not a campaign, it's a re-branding. Well, technically, according Cadillac's CMO, it's not a re-branding either. It's a "re-invention."

What is a "re-invention," you ask? As far as I can tell, it's exactly like a re-branding, only way more expensive.

First, Cadillac is moving its headquarters to New York City's Soho area. How cool is that?

I guess some people from Detroit think of this as the height of hipness. To a lot of New Yorkers, Soho is where you go to admire Korean tourists. On the other hand, if I was the CMO of Cadillac, I wouldn't mind having breakfast every morning at Balthazar either.

Next, Cadillac is "tapping into the Millennial mindset." Of course, you can't do anything in marketing these days without invoking the M word. Just one little problem. Last I looked, Millennials were buying about 12% of new cars and about 0% of Cadillacs.

But maybe it's just their "mindset" he's targeting. This could be problematic because mindsets often have trouble getting car loans.

I don't really care much for the campaign. It's called "Dare Greatly." It feels like an ad school version of "Think Different."

One problem with the campaign is the problem with so much advertising these days. It's full of lofty thoughts and is devoid of persuasion.

Another problem is in the imagery. The CMO seems to be so enchanted with Soho that in addition to moving there, he also shot the spots there. When Chrysler shot in Detroit, they "dared greatly." But leaning on the imagery of Soho seems to me like daring tentatively.

A third problem is that the execution doesn't match the strategy. "Dare greatly" is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt and and his boys were called the "Rough Riders." They were famous for a brave charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. 

But this campaign is very fey and artsy. It features some people we're supposed to admire for following Roosevelt's dictum. I have serious doubts that the Rough Riders would consider fashion design "daring greatly." Their idea of daring greatly was getting up on a horse and shooting something.

One of the people featured in the campaign is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who I actually do admire. Only problem is he looks more like he swallowed a Cadillac than drives one.

Which leads me to a little poem..
Some ads are merely regrettable
And some are completely incredible
I can't see Steve Wozniak
Buying a Cadillac
Unless the damn thing was edible
“Luxury brands don’t sell products, they sell dreams,” says Cadillac's CMO. Yeah, maybe. But car dealers sell products. And when they don't, CMOs have very bad dreams.

The Cadillac re-invention needs to arrive very quickly at advertising that persuasively extols the exceptional qualities of the product -- not the purported mindset of Millennials.

Otherwise they may find they have dared greatly and failed miserably.