Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It's Marketing Day

If they can't close the deal before they film - not to worry - there's still time. From the New York Times today (Advertising's Twilight Zone: That Signpost Up Ahead May Be a Virtual Product) "digital placement gives advertisers and producers the option of cutting multiple deals with advertisers, placing one brand of soda in a first-run movie, selling placement for another brand in that movie's DVD release and a third in the portable video player version." So it may not exactly be Reeses' pieces in E.T. (will M&M ever get THAT egg off its face?) - but it's pretty darn close.

And then there's that article from the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago - It's the Purpose Brand, Stupid - brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Until I read Grant McCracken's response - which seems equally brilliant. And absolutely contrary to Mssrs. Christensen, Cook and Hall. Hmmm. If, and pardon the heresy, one were to combine the two theories - that good brands do start with a purpose, a "job" for which they are hired (whether the consumer is looking for that "employee" or is nicely surprised), but that great brands take that job and make it their own - they impart the wow factor that the best brands deliver seemingly effortlessly (or, as McCracken puts it, they "deliver... an understanding of not just what the product does but what it stands for, how it may be used, for whom it may stand, and where it is located in the larger scheme of things, commercial and cultural"). That is so true that I would argue that McCracken's examples are not only disingenous, but that they in fact prove the first point. Patek Phillippe is different from Timex, and therefore it performs a different 'job' - it would be naive to think that one buys a PP to tell time, and only to tell time. But if one were entranced by the history of time-keeping pieces, by their complexity, their elegance, their potential complications, by their very beauty, then one would look to PP. If all one wanted was a clock on one's wrist, one would look to Timex. The same can be said for Ford/Volkswagen (an odd pairing after Patek Phillippe vs. Timex - did Porsche, Bentley or Ferrari not come to mind?) and Intuit is only a few features away from MS Money... It is not that marketing and branding are not important - they are all-important - it is that without a valid category (or "job") to occupy, they are meaningless. Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote "be first", and if someone else is already first in your category, then create a new one where you can be first (if this is unfamiliar, run, don't walk, to the nearest copy of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - some of it may be out of date, but there are some gems, absolute gems, in this book). The WSJ article doesn't claim that there is only one brand per job, or that all brands are created equal - simply that marketing a solution can build a brand, but marketing a brand will not build you a solution (or revenue).

I never go home without having the prosciutto pizza and fried baby artichokes (Carciofi al giudea) at Fiorello's on Broadway and 63rd street. They're open late and you can almost always get a seat at the bar, perched in front of platters upon platters of fresh antipasti. I've yet to eat there without being offered a complimentary glass of Muscat with my coffee or dessert - a nice gesture of hospitality to cap off what is always a verrry tasty meal.

When I was taken to Maroon's (a hidden gem of a restaurant on West 16th Street - if you go, make sure to have their ribs!) for the first time, I ordered a Manchester cocktail to start the evening and I've been hooked ever since. Make them at home yourself - with Appleton's light rum, ginger beer (try D&G, or Barritt's) over ice with a squeeze of fresh lime.

On the recommendation of my friend David, I picked up Eragon - a book he described as a cross between Tolkien's trilogy and Harry Potter. I devoured it on the ten hour flight home from London - David told no lies! And then I found out it had been written by a 16-year old from Montana - have I mentioned my inferiority complex lately?? The good news is, if he's starting that young, we can hope to see tomes and tomes from young Paolini! In return, I sent David the first trilogy by Mercedes Lackey in the Valdemar series - Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall. Great stories, really great. I've also just finished Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) -- thin-slicing may be the one of the most interesting things I've read about in ages. Of course, I've had a thing for Gladwell ever since he published that fabulous SUV article in The New Yorker... if you haven't read it, do!


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