November 02, 2009

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Dear Readers,

This blog has been transferred to WordPress and has been merged with more marketing content under a new banner.

Please follow us to our new blog UnderCurrents

More Marketing posts, Brand building and Experiential marketing stories.

Thanks for your interest,

Jean-Philippe DIEL

April 26, 2009

Are we overdoing the Viral thing?

The Heineken Walk-In fridge advert is the best advert I have seen in a long time. Actually Heineken has never ceased to amaze me for the power of its ads all around the world. And it’s not because I have worked for them 6 years, it’s because I have learned to recognize great marketing ideas and great brands when I see them.

What comes to mind though is a growing trend now to call all sorts of YouTube videos “viral”. The term has become fashionable to the point that marketers who don’t make virals nowadays are not “real”marketers. But, what makes something viral is more than posting a simple video, and sorry to rant, but there is nothing viral about a video unless it triggers me to do something. Important things to consider are:

  1. The Delivery Method: How you reach critical mass – email ? advertising ? PR ? how you drive the initial traffic ? for it to snowball you need to have snow and to make a ball and throw it with force where it can pick up on its own ;-) (hence the importance of a context the better the context the less effort you need to reach critical mass – when the phenomenon spins by itself).
  2. The Replication Method: It’s the need to share - the way Word of mouth raps around a story and drives people to go and check something for themselves, or makes people forward a link to someone else. That’s viral. Something Mutates.
  3. The potential to induce Behaviour Change: The fact that once you have been in “contact” with a viral (virus – think of the analogy with biology) – your behaviour is changed, something is triggered that wasn’t before. And you’ll take action if nothing else by forwarding the link. The keyword here is the Stickiness factor.

In the example of the Heineken video although it is a mere advert what is fascinating is the growing number of “spoof” ads, run a search on YouTube for Heineken Fridge ad and you’ll find many.

As I write this I am not sure if those are made up by Heineken some seem to be (Let's not be naive it happens) or totally spontaneous and user generated but it certainly looks like the phenomenon is getting out of control.

Take another recent example: the Samsung LED Sheep video. Is that a viral?

It certainly has been claimed as one. But to me I’d say it was a great “go crazy ad”, a clever PR stunt, and yes it got people to talk, and they even forwarded a link... I mean 7 million viewers forces respect but was that really a viral? Is Susan Boyle a viral? is Obama viral? their videos went around the world... but... Popular content can’t really be called viral.

So I guess my point is = I prefer mutating content – I’d like to distinguish interesting videos which people like to share with a viral mechanism for which a lot more thought has gone into to make it different and sticky.

Take a classic example like the Dexter treatment. When you give a friend the “Dexter” Treatment you are given a chance to personalize the content to suit your friend. So the content changes every time you forward it and is highly personalised to the target. The delivery mechanism is email and the result is so believable that you actually want to do it to your friends as well (replication).


To me this type of mechanics deserves a lot more to be called "Viral".

April 01, 2009

The beautiful World of Brand Conversations

I cannot resist promoting this little site I have discovered thanks to Twitter in the last two days.
Check and make your own clouds.

I made one for you with the RSS feed of this blog.

March 31, 2009

Creativity and Innovation to get the edge

In these uncertain times, many of us are looking at our businesses and wondering – where to from here? Everyone seems to function slower, in wait of a clear direction. Marketing budgets are down or blocked. Just cut back on everything and try to weather the storm is the mantra of many.

Few are those who are going to see the glass half full. Yet, times like these are an opportunity. And this is how it should be seized:

What is the role of Marketing in an organization?

Depending on the type of business product or service, marketing will be involved at different levels, but if its role were to be summarized in one sentence, I would say that marketing is here to add value to the business proposition.

And what drives Value in the market?

In a word, Uniqueness. I would define this as the sum of tangible benefits and points of difference that make your product or service a better fit for your target market, and trigger consumption / purchase and re-purchase.

So I propose that the role of Marketing is to create and sustain that “Uniqueness”.

I recently ran a survey on Linkedin asking what one should expect of their marketing team in times of recession. The answers I received were showed the mood of the times – ‘make greater direct impact on sales’ was highest on the wish list. While this is an undoubtedly practical expectation, how do we deliver it?

I think the more visionary amongst the respondents had the right answer when they chose ‘more creativity than ever’ and ‘outside the box innovation’ – as these are the most effective tools for delivering to expectations. I certainly empathize that in the midst of today’s reality it is challenging to maintain a focused strategic vision. Nevertheless, we need to act now in ways that will ensure we come out fighting fit when this climate ends. Times of recessions are a strategic opportunity for those who can avoid myopia – they are a time to leave the competition behind. Let’s not forget that in growth mode everyone finds something to survive on, and gaining the edge is harder.

Encouraging creativity and innovation is what everyone should do. R&D is not only for product development. Creativity and Innovation need fostering at all levels of a business. New ways to reach consumers, innovative promotions, smarter trade tools, sharper communications, and better market insights. We need to get businesses in fighting order if they want to preserve their market share and push the weakest out of the market.

So by all means review your marketing investments, challenge their efficiency, that but don’t stop all activities or you will suffer deeply from the loss of momentum and will lose Brand equity.

Take this opportunity to explore new avenues of reaching out to your consumers. Drive innovation within your teams. You just have to open the tap and facilitate participation and individual initiatives. You will probably find out that everyone in your business has his own idea on how things could be done better and cheaper.

Good Luck.

January 25, 2009

Regroup and Consolidate to face the downturn

Your business is facing new challenges this year? The recession is forcing you to re-structure? You want to work smarter? Still you need to launch new products, expand into new channels or grow into new markets. Your competition is tough and you need to keep innovating, you need to be more creative. A traditional reaction in times of economic downturn is to cut costs and slash advertising expenses. But often it proves to be a quick fix and then a setback in the long run at the expense of your Brand Equity.

In a recession more than any other time, you need to sell “better” and resist price erosion pressures as much as you possibly can.

Here is my 2cts contribution to what I think one should do in times like this.

Review your processes and ask yourself if your marketing does this:

  1. All your activities are aligned and match the sales cycles and the needs of the markets you are working with.
  2. Your brand communication is strong, meaningful and consistent with your history and your business strategy.
  3. Your brand strategy adds value to your product(s) and you are able to retain a price premium that will save you from cutting already thin margins.
  4. Your in-store presence reflects who you are (brand), what you want to say to consumers (Call to action) and gives you a true competitive edge in the last mile.
  5. Your Channel partners value your efforts and fully support your product(s).

If not then you need to start reviewing and changing the way you spend your marketing money. 
  1. Look for smarter ways to do what you are doing with traditional methods, don’t discard the possibility of investing more to reduce cost later. For example, does your business use Social Media? Have you run viral campaigns before? Do you advertise on the net? Often these prove themselves more cost efficient.
  2. Slash the fluff. Instead of cutting the big blocks cut the small stuff that feels unnecessary. You will probably feel like it is small money and maybe the returns are good for the small amounts – still you need to rethink the whole plan and find consistency across the board. Often (not always) those small projects/campaigns add up and dilute your message into too many directions.
  3. Check if you can merge and connect several smaller campaigns into one big one that can last longer and drive sales better. Look for economies of scale. Sometimes putting everything under one big umbrella campaign helps to give the impression that you are actually doing more despite doing less... you’re just working smarter. Give your campaigns a theme that isn’t time dependent... by that I mean that they won’t become obsolete too fast and need a revamp.
  4. Take the big chunky expenses and review what they achieve. Ask yourself how well those big campaigns/projects help your bottom line. Are they key to claiming a price premium for your products/services = do they increase / strengthen your Brand Value? Check if that can be improved further and if you can get more direct sales drive out of the expense – try connecting smaller operations to it under one umbrella as one big theme.


There is no magic recipe. Often, you just need to cut a good campaign budget because you simply do not have the money for it. That’s life. But with the above tips, I hope you can take a fresh look at your budget and avoid what happens too often. One cuts what is easier to cut, not what should really be cut. 

Consequences can get more expensive than the savings they represent at the time. Brand Equity takes time to build and can be destroyed very fast. A brand can devalue itself very quickly by engaging into behaviours consumers would not expect of it. 

If you ever have to cut your price or do some “silly” discount scheme, make sure it looks like the channels / retailers have done it... not you (sorry guys). Consumers accept that retails suffer in a downturn and will look to clear stock for example. They just expect to grab a bargain. That should not affect your Brand equity as much. Stay away from branding your discounts and support your channels - they’ll surely appreciate you for it.

Finally sit tight through the storm because it is a great incentive to find even more efficiencies in your business. When that lower budget is given to you and the “crazy” targets are still there...Keep your optimism and just ask yourself What if? and How? because even beginning to consider a high target is already half the work done. Where there is a will there is a way.

Cartoon by HupSpot

January 07, 2009

Hello 2009

 Just a few quick words to wish every one a Great Year 2009. My best wishes to you all and your families. Health first and a fresh mind boggling of new marketing ideas !

Apologies as my posts have been rare in the last two month as I was completing research and business plans for a start up in the field of renewable energies. Blogging is definitely a full time job ;-) reserved for unemployed people or for those who make it their job to blog every day ! Respect.

I am not about to stop anyway so expect more on this space soon. Take care and again all the best as this is going to be a great year !

November 11, 2008

Chameleon brands – integrate to connect

David J. Moore from the University of Michigan and Pamela Miles Homer from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) released together last year an article in Science Direct titled “Self-brand connections: The role of attitude strength and autobiographical memory primes”


They are bringing to us the concept of Self Brand Connection.

 The self Brand connection (SBC) construct describes one’s attitude vs a given brand, and particularly the relationship between one’s self image and the brand’s image.

Which is different from brand personality (Aaker,1997)... which is “a set of human characteristics associated with a brand”.

The SBC “measures the extent to which the consumer connects that personality to his or her self-concept”. The Self Brand connection is stronger when an individual starts to define himself with the brand.

Their essay focused on Sports marketing, and particularly the fans attitude to the brand depending on gender, and game outcomes. But the concepts discussed can really take a broader meaning here. I retained a few interesting learning’s I’d like to share here.

  1. The stronger the links with a brand, the more favourable brand attitudes are going to be.

“people for whom a given brand is sufficiently important to be linked to their self-concept and to their psychological needs should not only develop more favorable brand attitudes (H1), but will exhibit higher levels of attitude strength as well.”

  1. Adversity plays a strong role. The stronger the brand needs to assert their identity (It is always better if that identity is threatened – ie opposed communities in this case sports teams) the stronger the feelings of belonging to a community.
  2. To succeed in creating a strong connection with a consumer target (fans) a brand has to integrate the group / community it wants to belong to, and display codes and behaviours proving that integration. Only then will the fans / consumers start feeling that the brand is a true part of their world.

In today’s world, brands need to be champion Chameleons with multiple facets to their personality. The exercise is hazardous but truly worth it for those who successfully integrate. Endorsers are most effective at persuading consumers when the endorsers' image “matches” the message about the product and is consistent with the aspired-to self-image of the target audience (Kahle and Homer, 1985).

Social identity theory is based on the notion that people will be motivated to attach themselves to those who are perceived to be similar in values, preferences or various shared group characteristics    (Jacobson, 2003). The fundamental premise is that group membership is crucial to the formation of specific identities developed by the individual (Hogg and Abrams, 1990). Social identity is developed through the value and emotional attachment that an individual derives from membership in a articular group (Tajfel and Turner, 1986).