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December 2013 - PS Insights

BRAND IT!

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Years ago Ed McCabe—one of the great advertising writers of all time—took on the assignment of Perdue Chicken. In those days chicken was just…chicken. Besides establishing Perdue as a household name, Ed taught everyone in marketing an important lesson: Anything can be branded. If you’re willing to put the time, effort and thought into it, you can make anything—from ice in a deli freezer to packages of wood at your local gas station—into a brand. What are you doing to take commodities and build them into brands?

INSPIRATION

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Another delightful observation from Lord Martin Rees. When teaching his astronomy students, he urges them to read first-rate science fiction rather than second-rate science. The former is far more inspiring—and possibly accurate. Where do you look for inspiration?

PREDICTING THE FUTURE

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In our next life, we’re going to come back as Futurologists. We’ll get paid huge amounts of money to guess what’s going to happen…and when one of our ten guesses turns out to be right, we’ll be hailed as predictive geniuses. Bah, humbug. Take a look at magazines like Popular Science that annually predict “our future.” 30 years ago, they imagined supersonic passenger jet travel. But nowhere did anyone predict the iPad. You can prepare for the future. You can plan for the future. But you’d better be ready to be surprised. How do you plan for the future?

R2P2

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Last year we had two Marine Corps Colonels attend our Marketing Plan in a Day session. They said it reminded them of the Marine Corps’ R2P2 (Rapid Response Planning Process). The big difference? The Marines assume their plan isn’t going to work—and plan for all possible contingencies. Marketers always assume their plan is going to work—and plan an explanation strategy when it doesn’t. How do you manage your planning process?

RELEARNING THE RULES

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Early in our careers we were taken on tours of factories, printing plants and other vendor operations. That knowledge of product development and production was invaluable in helping us plan deliverables and innovate marketing and creative ideas. We’ve both had to go “back to school” to learn the digital equivalents. No, we’re not turning into coders or programmers. But it’s vital that you know what’s entailed in getting your work done. How are you staying on top of the future?

BUSINESS STRATEGY

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In our lunch talk, “50 Experts in 50 Minutes,” one of the people we cite is a producer friend of ours. “Hope,” he likes to say, “isn’t a business strategy.” As a producer, it’s his job to make sure everything everyone needs is available when they expect it. He can’t “hope” something’s going to work out. It’s an invaluable personality trait. Are you a dreamer, a hoper…or a person who figures out how to get what you need?

YOU ARE A BRAND

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On the first day of his advertising class, Paul carefully observes all his students as they walk into class and takes their seats. His first lesson is that all of them are brands. He tells them that every one of them has already made a brand impression – from the way they walked into the room, how they are attired, where they sit and how they demonstrate readiness for the new semester. Do you think of yourself as a brand…and how can you be more effective in delivering your brand promise, every day?

“LET THEM RIDE BIKES”

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As the Bloomberg Administration comes to an end, it’s interesting to see what was actually accomplished. While Mike took care of his 1% friends—with such giveaways as the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards and other tax concessions and rezoning laws, it seems we 99% got…bicycles. Yes, we appreciate the myriad new bike lanes and the idea of the pay-as-you-go Citibikes; but you’d think we’d have a little more to show for twelve years of the same mayor. What are your thoughts on the Bloomberg Years?

TREND vs RATE

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Lord Martin Rees was being interviewed on NPR the other Sunday and made a trenchant observation about the future. “It’s much easier to extrapolate a trend then it is to predict its rate.” His point? We might be able to assess where things are going, but it’s much harder to figure out how long it will take to get there. It reminds us of the open-ended claim we always hear from Silicon Valley pundits that usually starts, “In five years…” Of course, five years from now, when that same person is still saying “In five years…” we’ll have forgotten how many years he’s been claiming that. How do you drive your assessment and application of a trend AND its timeline?

THE SOUND OF WHAT?

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NBC broke new ground or, if you’re a student of television history, plowed old fields with a live production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. It was the highest-rated entertainment program for any network in 2013, but leaves us scratching our heads. Did people tune in because it was live? Did they tune in because it was The Sound of Music? Did they tune in because it was Carrie Underwood? They certainly didn’t tune in for the quality of the production. If you were one of the 18 million viewers, what made you watch?