Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Lincoln Project Advertising



I have been a student of brand advertising for more than 35 years. I was involved with Hallmark's award-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame commercials. And, as a consultant, I have advised more than 100 brands on their advertising. Throughout my career, I have seen more bad advertising than good advertising. And, for decades, I have been fascinated by political advertising.

I think many marketing professionals would agree with me that Republicans have always been better at labels, soundbites, slogans and advertising than Democrats have. Perhaps, this is because they are a more business-focused political party or perhaps it is because they have always tried to appeal to the reptilian brain more than the cerebral cortex. And, that is not a slam. Marketers know that most decisions are emotional decisions, not rational ones.

Which brings me to The Lincoln Project's advertising. The Lincoln Project, created by a group of conservatives, is aimed at drawing Republicans away from Donald Trump. Simply put, I think these ads are brilliant - the best I have seen in some time. Each ad focuses on one thing that makes Donald Trump seem pathetic, repulsive or weak. They play into people's fears and the images and symbolism are carefully selected as are the cinematographic styles, camera angles, framing, common graphic elements, hues and associated music. Rather than talking about each ad and what I like about it, I would refer you to The Lincoln Project's YouTube subscription page, which is here. It features all of their ads.

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a Donald Trump fan or a Donald Trump detractor, if you are a student of advertising, you should watch these ads, analyze these ads, think about how they make you feel, and figure out what elements in each of the ads make them powerful and compelling. As you view the ads, identify the elements that are common across most or all of them. And identify the choices they are asking the viewer to make.

My hat is off to the people who created these ads. I think they are brilliant. And I don't often say that.

One other thing is worth mentioning, these ads are examples of repositioning someone else's brand, in this case President Trump's brand.

As an update, this Politico article by Joanna Weiss was just brought to my attention. She is saying the same thing that I am only with more detail and more examples. It is worth reading.
What the Lincoln Project Ad Makers Get About Voters (and What Dems Don’t)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Potential Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19

It is interesting to think about the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19, including the opportunities and threats for businesses. Here is what comes to my mind in no particular order:
  • More people will continue to work at home rather than in the office. This means less commuting, which may continue downward pressure on gasoline prices. This may result in more purchases of SUVs and other gas guzzlers. It also means office spaces may downsize, opening up opportunities to convert some of those spaces to residential or mixed use spaces.
  • With more people working remotely, the choice of where to live will be less dependent on commuting concerns. People will not need to live within a reasonable driving distance of offices. 
  • COVID-19 (and presumably other potential pandemics) spread much more easily in densely populated urban centers. People in Manhattan and other densely populated cities may choose to move to small towns, the suburbs or smaller, less densely populated cities. This may slow down the urbanization of the US. The places that may mostly benefit from this are less densely populated cities with rich cultural elements and a high quality of life. Cities like Portland, ME, Rochester, NY and Ashville, NC come to mind.
  • More meetings will continue to be conducted online. Zoom and its competitors will be the beneficiaries of this. 
  • More market research may be conducted online, especially focus groups. 
  • Big data analytics, automated marketing and personalized offers will continue to increase in their usage.
  • Software jobs will continue to be in high demand. 
  • More restaurants will want to include an alfresco dining element to their dining experience. This may require zoning changes in some municipalities. 
  • Online learning has not proven to be a preferred alternative to the in-person college and university experience and it creates the opportunity for more cheating. Colleges and universities are likely to bounce back, but perhaps with an online teaching option for older professors who are more vulnerable to pandemics.
  • Companies offering effective UV sanitization solutions will do well. 
  • Use of public parks and open spaces for picnics and other activities may continue to see increased use. Municipalities should focus on maintaining these assets. 
  • Child care centers will need to substantially rethink how to maintain safe environments and reassure parents that those environments are safe to continue to grow and thrive. 
  • This will likely add pressure to adopt universal health care to protect the most vulnerable, including those laid off of jobs that included health care. Businesses might benefit from not having to offer health care to employees. 
  • Despite their discomfort and potential stigma, face masks may become more normal in the US the way they are in many Asian countries. People may be more apt to wear them when sick. 
  • Air filtration and circulation on cruise ships, airplanes, busses and subways will need to be improved. This provides a significant business opportunity. 
  • Federal, state, municipal and even personal debt may add a drag to the economy for a decade or two. 
  • The immigration restrictions put in place during COVID-19 may slow population growth and create more unfilled service and migrant worker jobs. 
  • The lifting of environmental restrictions during COVID-19 is likely to lead to more air and water pollution and accelerate global climate change leading to more severe weather, ecosystem breakdown, disease and refugee problems. This will have a significant negative impact on property insurance rates and the need for more National Guard and military spending.
  • Online purchasing is here to stay and more people will make purchases online, causing many brick and mortar retail businesses to fold and more shopping mall owners to rethink the mix of businesses in malls (more food and entertainment as a beginning). Online purchases will increase the use of packaging materials leading to the need for more landfills. It will also increase the use of delivery service companies. 
  • Home delivery of every kind will increase, including home delivery of groceries. 
  • Continued shifts in employment will lead to more minimum wage service jobs including shopping and delivery jobs. This may put pressure on the need to raise minimum wages. 
  • More people are likely to invest in their homes and properties making them more pleasant for future quarantines. This includes garden supplies, landscaping services, decks, patios, outdoor entertainment spaces, swimming pools, home entertainment centers, wine cellars, etc.
  • Gun sales will not abate and security system sales will increase. 
  • Staples and other home office supply centers will thrive.
  • Concert halls, theaters, airlines, travel companies and other related businesses may struggle for awhile. This will reduce the quality of life for those who can afford arts, culture and travel. 
  • Live concerts will take a hit. Independent music venues will have a difficult time surviving. And musical performing artists will find it more difficult to earn a living. 
  • Many churches have found that their attendance has increased with online church services. While congregants value personal interactions and the sense of community, more churches may offer an online version of their church services to extend their reach.
  • The problems in nursing homes will likely cause even more senior citizens to want to age at home, increasing opportunities for businesses adapting homes to aging needs, home health care and mobile medicine. 
  • Employment and job placement will be in flux. Many talented employees will have been laid off of struggling businesses and industries while other thriving businesses and industries will be looking for talent. 
  • Leadership will become more important as more crises arise. The leaders will need to be smart with high emotional intelligence, ethical values, empathy, vision and charisma. 
  • Excepting specific industries vulnerable to contagion (such as airlines, cruise ships, travel, etc.), COVID-19 has mostly accelerated the demise of struggling businesses, especially in the retail and restaurant sectors. 
  • To remain successful, businesses will have to become more adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic. Being able to pivot quickly is perhaps the most important component of long-term success in uncertain times. 


        Tuesday, June 2, 2020

        Values Survey



        We have created a survey to explore the personal values of people who reside in the USA and its territories. It is a simple 5-minute survey and all responses are anonymous. We hope you will take this survey and then share its link with your friends, family members and business associates so that they can take it too. Thanks in advance for taking our survey. We will present the results here in an upcoming blog post.

        Here is the survey link: Values Survey

        Tuesday, May 26, 2020

        Societal, Technology and COVID-19 Trends



        As marketers, we need to stay abreast of societal and technology trends. Here are some trends that will have large impacts on our lives:

        Societal trends:

        • While globalization continues, nationalism and "buy local" trends increase
        • Rise of the global middle class while the US middle class stagnates
        • Increased tribalism in the US
        • Global climate change and its consequences - increased catastrophic weather events, pandemics, environmental hazards, damage to cities and infrastructure and creation of refugees leading to national security risks
        • Increasing anxiety throughout the world
        • Increased feelings of alienation among those who cannot keep up with societal and technology changes
        • People connecting through tech (social media, smart phones, online communication platforms)
        • Organized religion continues to decline while personal spirituality increases
        • The role of women becomes more dominant in society, including in leadership roles (causing a backlash from men who feel threatened)
        • Aging population, including increased aging at home
        • Fewer and fewer people are employed by large organizations, while the gig economy continues to grow (putting pressure on how health care is paid for)
        • There is a continued decline in materialism and consumerism. People have been moving from purchasing products to purchasing services and experiences for decades. A more recent trend is toward simplifying one's life, especially as the average age in the US increases. 
        • There is continued movement from capitalism to socialism
        • Cohabitation among unmarried partners continues to increase
        • Legalization of marijuana, popularity of CBD
        • Emergence of "fake news" - What is real? What is truth? The sophistication with which fake photographs and videos can be created is increasing. This will increase tribalism as different tribes will have completely different perceptions of the facts and reality itself. 
        Technology trends:
        • AI in customer service, especially in telephone and online support
        • Digital assistents (e.g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Facebook M, Blackberry Assistant, Briana, Hound, Amazon Echo [Alexa])
        • Computer vision (including facial recognition)
        • Autonomous driving, ultimately leading to decreased job prospects for truckers, taxicab drivers and even Uber/Lyft drivers
        • Continued automation of an increasing number of jobs, including in the white collar sectors (e. g. medical internists and contract lawyers)
        • 3-D printing (this has applications across a wide variety of industries and even makes it easier to make things at home)
        • 5G data networks
        • Cloud computing
        • Blockchain technology (can aid in sharing money and other commodities with others, proving identity and ownership of assets, run a decentralized marketplace, vote, manage healthcare records, trade cryptocurrencies, etc.)
        • Business use of personal data including all of the marketing and ethical implications of this
        • Data analytics, leading to personalized and predictive products and services (including in the medical sector)
        • Data risk, leading to more jobs in this area
        • Extended reality (virtual environments, human-machine interactions)
        • Telemedicine, mobile medicine and self-diagnostics using wearable technology
        • Continued dominance of tech companies whose online platforms benefit from economies of scale and network effects (leading to more super rich entrepreneurs)
        • Decreased ability to remain private online and even off-line (due to security cameras, smart phone tracking, automobile tracking, facial recognition, etc.)
        Trends emerging from COVID-19:
        • Increased use of online communications (e.g. Zoom, GoTo, Join.Me, ClickMeeting and Cisco WebEx)
        • Increased delivery of services and experiences online (e.g. online concerts, theater, fitness routines, etc.)
        • This will speed up the growth of home delivery services of everything
        • More people will work from home, leading to the downsizing of company offices
        • Increased need for a comprehensive national health care policy that works for everyone, including the reemergence of the "single payer" option
        • May lead to a desire for less consumerism and more balanced, simplified lives
        • Will push people toward online commerce, speeding up the death of struggling retail brands and shopping malls - shopping malls will need to reinvent themselves
        • Loss of jobs/income and decrease 401K and IRA asset values may either reduce household budgets and spending or delay retirements and extend working years
        • Urbanization has been a long term population trend. People have been moving out of smaller towns and rural areas where there are fewer jobs. They were moving into urban areas. New York City, Boston, Seattle and other major cities were the most popular destinations. Then those metropolitan areas became too expensive so people began moving to less expensive medium-sized cities. COVID-19 has created a mass exodus from major population centers back to suburbs, towns and rural areas. Will this trend continue or is it a temporary trend?
        These are a couple of other blog posts I have written on trends:
        Brad VanAuken's Brand Aid book has sold more than 25,000 copies, been translated into several languages and is used by business schools throughout the world to teach brand management and marketing. If you haven't read it yet, get your copy here.

        And here is a great new book about retail trends by an expert on the subject, friend and former HBS classmate, Steve Dennis. Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption

        Monday, May 11, 2020

        Brands, Ethics and Authenticity



        I have written a lot about how brands can tap into deep attitudes, values, hopes, fears and other emotions to sell their products and services. Compared to selling attributes, features or functional benefits, this works extraordinarily well. Having said that, far too many brands have as their foundations these deep emotional promises, promises that are hollow because the brands' products and services don't actually deliver what is promised except in the mind. I have come to realize how unethical this is. Yes, it is very powerful to sell dreams, but what if the dreams are false dreams?

        I will use one example to drive this point home - Marlboro. Marlboro has a 40% share of the tobacco market, far more than twice the share of the next brand, Newport. It has been an extraordinarily successful brand. What does Marlboro sell? Rugged freedom. Independence. Self-sufficiency. Adventure. The Wild West. The simpler times of a black and white world where right is right and wrong is wrong. What does it deliver? Addiction to a substance that causes cancer and death. Does this aid in real freedom? Yes, one is free to be as self destructive as he or she wants to be in a free society, but is this the type of freedom the brand purchaser is really seeking?

        As marketers, if we have consciences, we must check our urges to create "knock it out of the park" marketing campaigns if those campaigns deliver on powerful but hollow claims, especially if our brands' products are harmful to one's health or society as a whole. We must be better than that. It may be more difficult to develop equally compelling campaigns that are ethical and authentic, but ultimately, we will have not harmed anyone. That will help us sleep better at night. And it will help make the world a better, not worse, place.

        Here are some related blog posts:




        Wednesday, May 6, 2020

        Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth - Personal Branding


        You are invited to a comprehensive series of workshops on personal assessment and life management including: 
        * Discovering personal patterns of motivation and enervation
        * Thinking deeply about what you believe
        * Better understanding your personal style and your strengths and weaknesses
        * Creating a personal credo
        * Crafting a personal elevator speech
        * Drafting a life plan
        * Creating an authentic brand for yourself

        The first introductory session was held on Thursday, May 14 from 12 noon until 1 PM Eastern Time.

        Here is a link to that session on SlideShare: Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth

        Here is the registration link for the next six webinar sessions: Full Workshop Registration