Engaging Creative Builds Brands

Price point advertising dilutes the brand's potential.

All too often the day-to-day challenge of retail advertising is to increase sales immediately, if not sooner. The brands are usually managed by “brand managers” with a 20-30 day vision, a mid-term bonus achievement goal, and a long term job promotion goal.

So to make their short term sales numbers (and improve their resume) all they do is talk price and feature their perfectly good products and services at steep discounts - up to 70% off the list price. What madness!

Sales events convince me that the regular price is bullshit, and encourage me to believe that “price” is the Golden Calf that I should worship.

Case in point. A friend of mine runs a beautiful car dealership featuring high quality, reliable products. In the last 3 years his vehicles have ALWAYS been on sales. One sales event ends and the next sales event begins.

  • So why buy now? He’s taught me that next month the cars and trucks will still be on sale at the same “low price”.
  • Only the sales event name will have changed.

A better, more proactive approach to brand building begins early on and continues at a sustainable level with emotionally and intellectually engaging advertising that leaves something to the imagination.

Like this German stocking ad does. While the original ad revealed a lot more, I’ve cropped it because bare bums leave less to the imagination. This version leaves you guessing.

Again . . . proactive brand building begins early on and continues at a sustainable level with emotionally + intellectually engaging advertising that leaves something to the imagination.

Price is what you talk about when you have nothing else to say.

P.S.: If you really want to see the original version, send me an e-mail.


Some creative directors really rock.

American Idol judgesKeith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.

I’ve spent a lot of time working with marketing and advertising directors who were shrewd, self-serving pieces of work that saw themselves as an indispensible part of the brand’s future; until sales, awareness or attitude metrics tanked.

My bad experiences with dumb directors contributes to why I fell in love with American Idol XIII this year. In addition to  great contestants, this season’s judges are the best combination so far. Collectively these musical directors can teach any creative director a lot. Here are some of the attributes that make them a great team of creative directors.

They park their careers and their egos when they sit in judgment.

Are reasonable, examining each presentation in a relative, flexible context.

They are musical authorities in their own right and committed to their craft.

Nice people with a genuine sense of fair play.

Approachable to the host, back-stage support crew, contestants + the audience.

Focused on the contestants development, not on their self promotion or aggrandizement.

Very professional: they walk their talk.

Smart, articulate and constructive.


Each has a distinct point of view – and they respect the views of others.




TIP OF THE DAY: share this post with your own dysfunctional creative directors, or ask me to send it to them on your behalf. Anonymously of course!


Harry Rosen + intergenerational brand management



The Harry Rosen brand is sixty years old now. Because it served my father’s generation so well it now serves three generation of customers. Harry Rosen has rightfully earned gobs of valuable brand equity in the Toronto area with their reputation for superior apparel and service. This is a smart little brand that’s got its shit together.

Now this.

A really dumb banner above their entrance that really says "under new, stupid and inexperienced (brand and ad agency) management".

While the message is wrong I bet the price was right.

HINT: when you’re working with intergenerational brands, you need to vet design and copy across all generations – as though they were different languages. In this case what may be considered profound by one generation is bullshit to another.



Rob Ford and American Idol :: Brands in Transition

From a branding POV Mr. Ford (45) fascinates me. He was first elected to Toronto City Council in 2000 (age 31) and reelected twice. He was elected mayor in 2010 on a platform of reducing the "gravy train" of government expenses and taxes.

Then something happened. Lord only knows what. In 2013 we saw a man being accused of doing drugs denying most allegations and refusing to step down. While web and papers are full of stories about him - he couldn’t buy the global media coverage he’s received, he’s determined to stand for re-election, supported my many who believe he’s (still) doing a great job.

I’m not here to judge. I’m just an Ad Man.

As I'm watching Rob Ford spiral downward from where he appeared to be in his 30’s to who he appears to be in his mid 40’s, I’m also watching American Idol because I love to witness brand transformations. On American Idol I see a team of judges and coaches turn raw talent into market-ready, tried + tested “entertainment brands”. Those who get it and follow the ephemeral “rules” defined by the current audience win based on the popular vote.

It’s fluid, it’s relative, and it’s fascinating.

And it affirms my marketing mantra:

All you say and all you do helps you customers believe that they’re come to the right place. Or the wrong place.



Can You Calculate Your Social Media ROI


Here's an excerpt from an article in today's Toronto Globe + Mail.

"If your business doesn't have a social presence, then you're already behind. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other platforms give you a way to connect with existing and potential customers in new and meaningful ways, both for free and through paid support. A February, 2014, study from LinkedIn found that eight in 10 SMBs already use social media. Nearly two-thirds of them find it useful for gaining new customers, and, unsurprisingly, the more they spend on social media the greater their rate of "hypergrowth. The social landscape, however, is crowded, and producing content for content's sake is a sure way to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you have something useful to say, add value and aim for conversations rather than talking at your audience."

Jeff Cates is the president and CEO of Intuit Canada (@QuickBooksCA),

  • I have no way of knowing what Jeff means by "new and meaningful ways" although it's a well worn turn of phrase.
  • I also don't know what hypergrowth is. Do you?
  • I agree with the content bit:"blessed are those who have nothing to say and cannot be convinced to say it!" But that's neither news nor is it profound.
Two biased facts are tossed into this article to give it some semblance of authority:
  • 80% use social
  • 2/3 (or 53%) find it useful.
And there my friends, the statistical trail grows cold. I am invited to make an (uninformed) leap along with all the other stupid sheep. No details on the hyperactive business (sector) are presented either.
The inference is that there are business sectors in the (CDN.) economy that are experiencing hypergrowth. Can you think of any? I can think of just one. Mine. We're experiencing hypergrowth in hyperbole: more and more of today's poorly trained advertising practitioners and wanna-be's genuinely believe that "like" = "$". I'm sure there's an info-graph on that as well.
While I love social media's multitude of dimensions I've only met two organizatinos that can demonstate (with their own quantitative research) a linear relationship between their social activity and sales.