Sunday, May 10, 2015

Google car to replace the Audi?

How many times have you heard about families trying to gently persuade or develop all kinds of Machiavellian plots to get an aged parent or grandparent's driving license handed in or forcibly removed?

While there are plenty of capable elderly drivers on the roads, there are also regular reports of someone's grand pop taking out a shop front, or inadvertantly treating some sidewalk dining tables as a drive-through. It would be funny if it wasn't so life threatening to innocent bystanders.

The issue is that, as people get older, their driving license becomes a symbol of independence and capacity for self-sufficiency.

It's easy to emphathise with this, particularly in a country like Australia where rickety public transport services make it a necessity in some places.

So, it is with great interest that, I have been watching the evolution of the next generation of cars. Tesla's rocket ship electric cars (I had a Scalectrix prototype as a kid, but thank God you don't need to slots cut in the road to make Tesla's version work!).

While Tesla's cars are already changing the auto industry, from manufacture right through to marketing and distribution, I think the biggest game changer will be the self-driving cars, like those Google types trialing on US roads right now.

The reason I think they'll create the biggest impact is that they have the potential to revolutionise the lives and capabilities of our ageing population.

If these cars can create the opportunity to 'uber' a driverless car to the front door to do the shopping run, or whip down to the local club, then they potentially have the capacity to deliver the independence, feedom and mobility so desired by the elderly, the disabled and others.

Their other social impacts may be a reduction in traffic accidents, cleaner air and a bunch of other community level benefits. But at the individual level, enabling individuals to extend their capabilities will be the most appreciated.

My long-held loyalty to Audi, misplaced though it may be in the eyes of some, may hang in the balance if my favourite automaker doesn't come to the party with a driverless carriage before I head off on my final journey.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Marketing retirement products to me? Get real!

As some may know, I'm in the business of marketing and communicating about superannuation - for those in foreign climes, a pension fund. In Australia, we run an interminable debate about what where sales end and financial advice begin, or is it vice versa? The upshot is that I spend most marketing days in some form of Clark Kent mode, unsure of when to leap into a phone box and emerge in my marketing Superman suit.

As I am looking increasingly like my target market with each passing year, it becomes apt to consider if some young Turk was going to market anything to do with retirement to me, how should they go about it?

This is the moment I become vulnerable and at risk of being encoded in some dude's data analytics package. As a target market, I look like this:
  • Within a decade of retirement;
  • Hate the whole idea of retirement;
  • Could in theory afford to retire now, although facing off with an ageing feline over a bowl of tuna later in life might still be on the cards;
  • Invest like a patron of Crown Casino;
  • Enjoy German cars;
  • Covet wines beyond my budget;
  • Like soft adventure holidays with hot showers and feather pillows at day's end;
  • Regularly retreat to my holiday home and go kayaking in the occasionally tame waters of Port Phillip Bay.
  • Spend a lot of time getting over musculo-skeletal issues due to taking on  ridiculously complex and major renovating/landscaping projects.

In other words, living beyond my means and physical capabilities is the norm, not just an aspiration. This has huge implications for the retirement marketer.

First it means don't tell me that I want to slow down, leave work, put my feet up or spend endless, blissful days on the beach with sand between my toes. I know it's all crap and will never happen to me. And don't therefore use images of same, or words talking about spending 'quality time' with family, because:

  1. My wife is, in fact, dreading my retirement even more than me; and
  2. My teenage daughter is not far off driving her own chariot and getting as far away as possible with her contemporaries.

Accordingly, my current major project is building a decent sized shed down the beach house. Yes, at a push big enough to accommodate a bed and satellite TV!

So, if you're going to seriously market retirement products to me, understand the reality.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Do you have the 'And Capacity' for content marketing?

In the olden days, before content marketers were born, there was this thing called PR. Basically, PR meant writing a bucketload of material, flogging it to journalists, pushing out newsletters that 5% of recipients wanted, and dreaming up great events that had lots more to do with 'relationship building' and 'photo ops' than with the subject matter at hand.

Now more and more brands are being persuaded that their core business is publishing or 'content marketing'. The PR industry, marginalised to a large extent by the incursions of direct marketing gurus and nerdy types, who knew a lot about developing websites but naff all about good and engaging content, suddenly became relevant again as their core business suddenly became their clients' 'core business'. A beautiful alignment of interests!

Let me clearly articulate my position in all this. First up - I'm old, or at least that's what recruiters would think of me today. What being old means is that you've lived through and - yay! - even survived several PR cycles and are well-entrenched and qualified for the content marketing game. You even bring 'old' skills like journalism to content marketing - you know, formal training in writing narratives longer than 140 characters. A 'click-bait' tweet is simply headline writing under previous definitions. Come to think of it 140 characters is too long!

So what do I think about content marketing? I am a strong advocate for it, particularly in the online space. But there is a rider that I will get to.

I have partnered with websites on which I have placed both display advertising, banners and MRECs, and editorial content. Guess what's worked best in terms of click-throughs? Content - by a ratio of four to one. And why? Because it allows you to better explain the link between your product's or your brand's attributes and the solution your potential consumer is seeking. Sort of like what print advertisements used to do, but less tactile.

This all assumes, of course, that you have ticked all the boxes in terms of channel selection and strategy and that you're reaching consumers who are at or around the right place in the buying process or lifestage for what you're trying to sell. (No more calls from data analytics floggers please.)

But here's the rub in a dis-aggregated media world. Online content is transient and your consumers generally have the attention span of a goldfish when they're on their smartphones or tablets. Outside of your own website, consumers are scanning streams of information for stuff that is new. And they're fickle - particularly younger consumers, for whom new channels seem to emerge every few months. Remember while you were labouring over whether to set up a Facebook presence, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and a whole bunch of other channels sprang to life? It's just a series of 'Oh shit, didn't see that coming!' moments.

This constantly evolving landscape means you have to create an absolute avalanche of engaging material - editorial, videos, infographics and, yes, even click-bait. It sucks up massive resources - constant scrutiny of current affairs and conversations that you can leverage off, working creative visual and story angles, constantly evaluating the channel preferences of your different audiences, distribution through channels, monitoring online chatter, running analytics and responding to inquiries and online commentary - and potentially crises - in as close as possible to real time.

It is activity that can be all-consuming and suck the marrow from your bones, putting at risk other marketing and communications strategies and activities, pleasing and retaining your existing customers by talking to them on the phone, and building awareness with great advertising through traditional channels (remember TV?).

All I suggest to anyone being sold the content marketing story is be aware of the resources required to do it properly. Jumping into content-hungry channels and being unprepared to feed the beast is worse than not being there at all. Most of all, evaluate whether you have the 'And Capacity' for content marketing. It's not a replacement for everything else you're doing. It's just additional to what you are doing.

Having said that, I must rush off. I have other 'and' jobs to complete.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Remember when being Number 1 meant so much?

In the heady days of the 80s I consulted to, or worked for organisations where there was really only one success metric - being market leader, or being 'Number 1'.

Depending on how you look at it, until the 90s, I never worked for a business that wasn't market leader. At Ford Australia, I remember publishing the staff tabloid in 1983 with the London Sun type  headline 'We did it!', as we knocked arch enemy, Holden, off it's perch as market leader. How times have changed, with both companies recently announcing their intention to quit the country, let alone market leadership.

When Hertz became a client in 1993, the global positioning line was 'Go with the world's #1', a counterpoint to Avis' legendary and blindingly successful line 'We try harder.'  Simultaneously, a guy called Bob Ansett was hammering a customer-first message for Budget, building market share by the age-old method of price discounting.

How many younger colleagues have I come across that have said 'I wish I was around in the 80s with all that money to spend.'. Yes, there was money to spend - mostly other people's - and much of it was pitched at securing the Holy Grail, market leadership.

These days, corporate leadership is defined across a wide range of metrics - financial, social, environmental,  governance, workplace - the list goes on. The fact that you sell more than anyone else is largely immaterial. There is no authenticity in selling more than anyone else. It could just mean you're cheaper and probably won't be around much longer. There's always someone bigger, meaner and with deeper pockets lurking around the corner.

What is the leadership metric that drives your organisation? I'd be interest to know.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A humble explanation for my absence

I just checked out my space on here - August last year since my last post! A relief to many no doubt, shattering to the two people who used to enjoy it. Perhaps it's all down to my last post on favourite logos - now there's a blogger completely out of ideas - perhaps it was the Last Post for innovative thought.

I don't really care if you care why I've been away. I'm going to fill you in anyway. I'll arrange the reasons in ascending order of importance:

  1. Disillusion - I realised I wasn't the new Messiah. My 'Disciples' group has stubbornly remained at six - and even they are having second thoughts. The Bloggosfear has not proved to be the gathering place for a new religion. However, a couple of recent comments have indicated that there may be a number of closet disciples who have missed my posts. Although they're not registered, I may have even detected a hint of concern among these flesh and blood readers about my health, or even existence. These real life encounters have done nothing to allay their concerns - their personal experience being a pale shadow of the promise in the photo taken about seven years ago (no, I'm not uploading a more contempotary one!).
  2. Madness - I undertook a major landscaping exercise at my home down the beach. 60 tonnes of earth removal and replacement later, plus a stack of paving almost delivered on the concerns of the closet disciples previously mentioned and probably makes retaining the display photo a wise decision. Yes, the project conceived in a moment of madness enforced a subsequent period of sustained leisure, including a break from authoring. I think all will agree that this has proved to be ideal therapy for both author and readers.
  3. Machismo - Some men of a certain age love to prove they still have what it takes. Perhaps that's what drove me to regular kayaking off the Mornington Peninsula. Bizarrely, I kicked the whole obsession off in an inflatable kayak which, in good offshore winds, encouraged me to see more of Port Phillip Bay than initially intended. I remember one instance in which a person sailing a significant sized yacht asked about my well-being as I made a frog-on-the-wall-of-a-slippery-well approach back to shore against a stiff south-easter. I smiled and waved, which he mistakenly took to mean I had things under control. I had what it takes as I left the beach. I had nothing to give on my return. The new, sleeker hard-shell kayak will be delivered this month.
  4. Work - It's been bloody busy. And guess what? I like being busy at work. Nothing more boring that just turning up and collecting the money - although the latter is important to funding previously mentioned activities. A merger, then non-merger, two re-brand projects in one year, two new websites in one year. The sad thing is that only half of last year's work will ever see light of day. Believe me, if you saw what we did, you wouldn't believe me. That's why I'll never show you half of it. The half you do see is bloody unbelievable anyway - in the best possible sense.
  5. Politics - Labor's leadership crisis consumed all the oxygen. KRudd personally tweeted me asking could I lay off the blog for a while so people could focus on his positivism and Julia's incoherence. I would have ignored the request, except that Kev's gazillion Twitter followers threatened to organise a Facebook party at my house if I didn't comply. If only I had realised the hollowness of this threat, coming from 1.5 million names purchased from a Belarus company.
  6. Family - Families just consume lots of things - emotion, time, money. These are all big investments and the fiscal element seems to hold greater sway as your beloved teenage daughter takes to retail therapy, advancing education, school trips and so on. Just lucky blogspot is free, or this might be the last you see of me, dear reader.
  7. Brand experiences - Talking about personal brand experiences is what this blog is supposed to be about but, you know what - I haven't had any great or really bad brand experiences lately. Perhaps everything has just faded to beige. 
So what's resuscitated the Bloggosfear?  Simple. A sick day. Off work with what many females readers will refer to as 'man flu', but which is a real assault on the respiratory tract in this case. Having been constrained to quarters for just 3.5 hours, I now know why I put colleagues at risk for the past few days. There's no upside to staying at home - unless you're really taking what Aussie's refer to as a 'sickie'. In this instance, you're not sick at all and free to indulge in all the world has to offer and therefore not at home.

As she left this morning (not permanently I don't think), my wife said to get to bed and catch up on lost sleep.  But you don't have to take a sick day lying down. In my case, it's inspired me to revisit the blog knowing that, ultimately, what I write will be a cure for insomnia anyway.

Readers can only hope that I am back where I should be tomorrow - in the office and not cluttering the web with unnecessary verbiage. 

I'll be back...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What makes logos great?

In the most recent edition of Australia's Marketing magazine, appears one of those articles that does the regular rounds - Australia's greatest logos, world's greatest logos, complete your own geographic coverage.

The regular chestnuts turn up again in this edition with the ABC's sinewave adaptation taking number one spot, the Qantas flying kangaroo number two and so on. A relative newcomer to the Top 10 is Woolworth's apple peel logo. The usual retinue make up the numbers - Commbank (let's forgive the 'CAN' campaign for a minute), 7 Network, BHP Billiton, 9 Network and so on.

Perhaps the only surprise is that the national broadcaster's sinewave beats the two commercial networks' logos to take first place. Why surprising? Because the relative number of viewers of ABC is significantly less than the other two.

Of course, public exposure does not make a great logo - or it shouldn't. But there is an uncanny link in the Marketing mag panel's top choices and exposure. The TV networks achieve it on the basis they are what they are - TV networks. I believe there is still no greater medium for brand awareness building in Australia than free-to-air TV.

Then, of course, there is Qantas. The iconic flying kangaroo is embedded in the Australian consumer psyche, although one would argue that awareness is outstripping affection with many right now. Woolworths spends more than just about anyone on its brand profile, Commbank is a prolific advertiser. Perhaps of the nominated logos, BHP Billiton's is the only one that is not currently backed by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign or equivalent.

For what it's worth, I'd like to propose a fewAussie logos that I think are great and capture the essence of their business:

For sheer cheek 'up the establishment' cheek, I love Mambo. Music to one's ears (?). Is it still cool to wear Mambo. Who cares? They almost challenge us to be uncool.

The graphic integration of the 'R' and 'C' in the shape of a wave captures what this company's heritage is all about.  Rival Quiksilver also scores highly in the logo department, but I put Rip Curl marginally ahead because of its simple execution. Iconic.

Absolutely no bull from the R.M. Williams paddock. I love the way the company has not tried to contemporise its outback Aussie feel. You can almost smell the cow dung on the leather.

It's football. Say no more. Enjoys a high profile, but why? Hundreds of thousands just love what it delivers. Footy. 

Yeah, right. It goes with the footy. Almost interchangeable with the logo above. Go the pies!

I don't know how the hell this logo equates to lawn mowers, but it does. Unchanged for as long as I can remember, even if it has dallied with engines not produced by Briggs & Stratton in recent years. A cut above the rest.

Any other entries into the logo Hall of Fame welcome...