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October 2012

Dear Big Auto, Show Us What It Means To Be American

Big ThreeDear Alan Mulally, Dan Ackerson and Sergio Marchionne,

For as long as I can recall, no industry flew the American flag as frequently and promotionally as the Big Three US auto companies.  Every Sunday during football season, your companies drove home the Be a loyal American, buy our brand! message with endless repetition.   I believed in you.  My first and second cars were both Fords. I bought, read and recommended both Alan Mulally and BobLutz's books to anyone who would listen.  I supported your recent government bailouts and celebrated Ford's solidarity in joining GM and Chrysler in Washington even when you weren't taking the bailout.

I supported to you when you needed it most.  I believed in the promise of US auto, proudly working with General Motors as a member of their marketing agency through some very tough times.  And I am proud to count employees of GM, Ford and Chrysler as close, personal friends.

You now have the opportunity to show us that you believe in us just like we believed in you.

Millions of American are facing shattered dreams.  Families are returning to homes and lives in ruins.  Show us that you care about us just as we cared about you.  I'm not just talking about a "Hurricane Sandy" sale for all the thousands of drivers whose vehicles have been totaled by wind and water damage.  I'm talking about hitting the streets and helping the people that supported you through tough times.  I'm talking about sponsoring a telethon to help us rebuild our futures just like we helped you build yours.  I'm talking about turning the tide on your social marketing machines and using them to help your constituents beyond their automotive passions and loyalties.  You have an infrastructure of communications, dealerships, transportation capabilities and showrooms that can be used for incredible social good.  Do any of this and we will love you all the more for it.

It's your responsibility to show us that you believe the red, white and blue rallying cry you have been celebrating these past twenty years.

We, your customers are hurting.  This isn't just a Halftime In America ad, it's our lives.  We, the people who have supported you when you needed a hand, now need your help.  I recognize that you have businesses to run, so think of this as an investment with decades of compounding returns.  In a few months from now, many of the people you will have helped will be receiving insurance checks for their totaled cars.  Many of them will be shopping for new vehicles.  They will remember those who supported them in their times of need.  Their children will remember their trip to the dealership where the nice lady from Ford, Chrysler or GM gave them that toy, the evening the dealership hosted a drive-in movie night on their lots or a sponsored the community fundraising carnival.  Generations of Americans will be grateful and loyal customers.

We remembered you in your darkest hours.  Please, show us that you will do the same. 

Jon Bug


The Marketer That Got FrankenSandy Right

American-express-logoThere were no shortage of braindead marketers who tried to exploit disaster, fear and tragedy to sell their clothes, hotel and souls.  True to form, the community has given them the hell and negativity they have invited upon themselves.  But one marketer made a huge impression on me.  In a good way.

Today I received two emails from American Express.  Both were identical and read as follows:


As one of our Cardmembers living in the area impacted by Hurricane Sandy, we hope this note finds you and your loved ones safe. We also wanted to let you know that American Express is here for you if you need emergency financial, medical or travel assistance. 

To reach us, simply go online at, call the number on the back of your Card or tweet us at @AskAmex. 

American Express Customer Service

 American Express is a premium brand selling that promises peace of mind as a product attribute.  They didn't tweet out "Did you know that American Express card purchases are protected for up to 12 months #Sandy", rather they tweeted:

We hope you & your loved ones are safe. We're here to help @AskAmex or by calling # on back of Card. Stay tuned for addl updates! #Sandy

While other brands clearly would have put a homepage message that said "Stuck at home during the storm?  Why not go shopping with your Membership Rewards here!", American Express put up a homepage box directing those impacted by Sandy to a new page detailing support options for those impacted by the storm.

These communications are huge marketing wins for American Express.  Because they don't come across as marketing.  They demonstrate honest, human concern.  They come across as both personal and sincere.  They don't feel like marketing, they feel like they care.  And I believe that whoever wrote these messages really does care.  

Proud member since 2007.

Member since

Microsoft Didn't Slips Up - Windows Phone 8's Branded Lock Screens

Smart Glass SIII

S SmartglassDoes something look a bit off in the picture above?  This is a screenshot from Microsoft's stunning new Smartglass product walkthrough video.  Later in the video there is a close up on the same device (see picture to the right).

Samsung has two variants of the same phone hardware running two different operating systems.  The Android version is known as the Galaxy S3, while the Windows Phone 8 version is called the Ativ S.  Many (myself included) assumed that the phone at the start of the video was a Galaxy S3 because of the skin on the phone.

At launch, Smartglass will only be available on Windows Phone 8.  Now here's the question - is the phone featured to the right running Android?  Is there a bit of animation or ripple under the user's thumb?  Or is this a video artifact?

By the 1:21 mark in the video however, Windows is clearly runnning Windows Phone 8.  

Was this a mistakes that wasn't caught in editing?

Either way, the new phone and the new systems both look rock solid.  I can't wait to play with both the Ativ S and Smartglass in the weeks ahead.

The Beginners Guide to Windows 8 (Phone, RT and Pro)

Win8-logo1To the confusion of many, there are three version of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.  Each version is unique.  But this is not as complicated as it sonuds.

Below is a simple guide to the three versions of Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows 8.  I wrote this overview for my friend's parents, so I've tried to make the language as simple as possible.  Enjoy!


Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 Features

This is Windows for mobile phones.  

The screen is filled with "tiles" that can launch apps (programs).  Many of these tiles will display live information, such as updates from Facebook.  Windows Phone 8 does not have a desktop view (such as the view you have on your computer) and will only run apps (programs) made for Windows Phone 8.  Your computer programs will not run on this phone.  You can add new apps (programs) through the store that comes installed on the phone.

Windows 8 RT

Windows RT Features
This is Windows 8 for tablets.  This version can only run programs made specifically for Windows 8 RT.

The view is nearly identical to Windows Phone 8 and there is no desktop view.  While there are a number of manufacturers making Windows 8 RT devices, Microsoft is selling their own tablet called the Surface.  Windows will preinstall the basic Microsoft Office programs with Windows RT.  Additional apps (programs) can be added to Windows 8 RT through the Store included on the device.  Windows RT cannot run standard Windowds (non-RT) programs.  

Windows 8 Pro

Windows 8 Pro Features

This is the robust Windows experience.

The primary view in Windows 8 Pro is the same as the "Modern UI" tiled view seen in Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT.  However, you can also move into a desktop view that is nearly the same interface as the one you are used to seeing on Windows.  Windows 8 Pro can run both your traditional programs, as well as the new Windows 8 applications.

Many manufacturers are making Windows 8 Pro tablets, laptops and PCs.  Microsoft is also making their own Windows 8 Pro tablet, the Surface Pro.

The Challenges of Content Marketing

Content Marketing Red Bull StratosRed Bull's success in scaled content marketing is the exception, not the rule.  Great content marketing is tougher than many realize.  Here's why:

Brand Have Litte To Say

Firstly, most brands have little of value to say to their audiences, particularly over sustained periods of time.  Brands have spent decades buying attention, rarely earning it.  Who watches TV for the commercials?  And if given the choice, how many of us would opt into longer, more episodic commercials pushed to us every day?  And when the public wants to go on this journey with the brand, how many brands have something worth saying on a regular basis?

Marketers Have Little Programming Expertise

Programming is a lot harder than those outside this side of the industry appreciate.  The technical ability to broadcast to the masses does not come with from the skill and artistry of creating compelling, often episodic programming.  Programming to a brand message, within restrictive budgets and creating content that the world really cares for... this has proven harder than many marketers have anticipated.

The Marketing Process Is Broken:

The typical brand content or programming process goes as follows:

  1. Dream up a brilliant big idea.
    This often involves investment in research and ideation, multiple pitches and concept development.  Even when agencies give this away in a pitch, they will recoup the associated costs in their project scope.
  2. Right-size the idea to fit your budget while keeping the core concept alive.  
    Few brands can stomach the investment and creative risk needed to deliver on the vision of the pitch.  

    Television programming has multiple advertisers across a single program, as well as significant additional upside revenue opportunities in distribution rights and syndication.  

    Agencies producing content and brand managers overseeing the content often see the brand and their visions as their primary clients.  When right-sizing is needed, the core concept is often boiled down to the creative message rather than the user-focused value.  It is incredibly hard for those invested in a project to evaluate the value of the project with an outsiders objectivity.

    Nothing To Say
    And in a social world, few brands have a story or lifestyle positioning to tell a story over a period of months, quarters or years.  Creative concepts are often statements rather than journeys.  And even the best journeys are then left to junior, less experienced communicators (community managers) to bring to life through social writing and engagement.  And so we are bound to see declining returns on Facebook interactivity over the lifetime of the fan.
  3. Activate the hell out of it.
    This is one area that marketers have down.  We know how to run campaigns.  We know how to buys ads, how to buy audiences, how to add social buttons and how to broadcast like hell.  But the product, the content is often so watered down while the initial attraction to the concept is so short lived that the content marketing fails to generate sufficient returns.

Risk Factors Can Be High, Risk Aversion Delivers Poor Performance

Great content marketing requires a quarterback that will sell through the budget, align with the right creatives and message focus to deliver real value to not just the brand and the agency, but the public over a sustained period of a time.  

This project ownership assumes a real risk.  Entertaining content presents the viewer or participant with new, fresh and often provocative ideas.  This demands the acceptance of risk:

  • Risk that the content will offend.  
  • Risk that it will flop.  
  • Risk that the content won't be approved by senior management.  
  • RIsk that the community and conversation will take the content into unacceptable places.  
  • Risk that the investment demanded will set unreasonable expectations.
  • Risk that a failure to deliver will impact the careers and futures of those engaged in the project.

The Content Marketing Bottom Line

In a digital age, few brand can afford not to think "content".  Be mindful of the pitfalls.  There is nothing like throwing a huge party for yourself and only thinking of yourself.  Your friends will grow bored and leave.  Those who show up for the free booze (promotions and sweepstakes) will only come back when you offer more free booze.  And most will walk right past your party without even noticing.

But do it right, and even the sky is no longer your limit.


Red Bull Is Like A Chair... Brands Are Not Like The Government

Red bull stratosFew outside of the advertising industry appreciate just how cerebral and wonky this world can be. There are big ideas and mission statements that embody the hopes and dreams of society.  Practical brands seek to become enablers of meaning, bigger brands take on larger-than-life mission statements and positioning-based brands seek to become greater than the cola they are selling.

In this world, a mother's choice of fabric softener is not just one of practicality, but a statement of each mother's love for her family.  The soft clothes and towels are a cuddly hug to her children, the softness and scents reflect her own desired attributed as a mother, and the product becomes an enabler of warm moments.  Pepsi becomes the Change Project, Ford becomes a technology company and Microsoft seeks to be viewed as the fantastical.

Have big brands advanced enough to play the role of sponsoring the advancement of our society?

In an increasingly media-aware and media-oversaturated world, big brands seek to stand apart by standing apart.  And in taking risks, some will fail.  

Facebook Is Like A Chair

Facebook embraced the abstract, taking concepts that sound great in a creative brief or brainstorm and transposing them into an ad that made little sense to much of the general public.

This ad was brilliant in it's concept, but should have focused on translating the concept rather than transposing it into a public-facing message.

Red Bull Is Adrenaline

Red Bull on the other hand, has a far more tangible brand positioning.  Red Bull is adrenaline.  Where Facebook's ad asked one to take a step back as if in a museum, to ponder the art and understand it's greater meaning, Red Bull's brand is simpler and therefor easier to comprehend.

Brands Are Not Like Government

Our culture and our society are shaped by the leading visionaries among us.  Whether it's in science or in the arts, the advancement of our collective culture is the responsibility of all who participate in this culture.  This is why the government has long funded scientific discovery and the advancement of the arts.  While I applaud the rise of private industry enabling the advancement of our society, we should not become reliant on brands or the private market to pave our road to the future.

Arthur Miller was sponsored by a Federal program when he wrote Death of a Salesman.  In other words, the free market alone did not yet recognize the value this project would bring to society.  

While P&G brought us soap operas and brand-integrated programming, both of which provided real social and economic value, NASA's early space voyages brought society countless, arguably greater social economic advances.  While Red Bull may be funding stunts with potential scientific value and Google could theoretically sponsor a robotic mission to Mars, there are areas of societal advancement that demand our collective (governmental investment) beyond the market's current interests.  

It is about time the private market got into space exploration.  And I'm glad that the government paved the way, creating the demand for this lucrative sector.  But don't we owe it to ourselves to be greater than the brand we sell?

I hope and pray that our future will be driven by the best we minds we can bring to the table, rather than brands competing for a place on our shelves.

A Call For Editors - Zagging While The Media Industry Zigs

Old cameraTraditional media was a market defined by scarcity.  I miss this scarcity.  Because my media consumption needs an Editor.  Badly.

In the traditional media world, scarcity was plentiful.  There was a limited number of channels, a limited number of prime-time commercial pods, a limited amount of front page space and a limited number of creative formats in both programming and advertising.  Editorial leaders made the decisions as to what we read over breakfast and talked about around the water cooler. 

The democratized, digital world allows anyone to contribute, often on equal if not greater pedestals than recognized media professionals.  But it took more than an electric guitar to make Hendrix into Hendrix.  While we as a culture celebrate the rise of the prosumer and the everyday blogger, leading digital publishers are seeking New Yorker-styled content.  While social is connecting news organizations behind the scenes, crowdsourcing is bringing reporting from the masses to the mainstream.  I'm nothing if not a cheerleader for social and for change.

But at the end of the day, I need more than my Facebook timeline and I need more than a Twitter feed.  I want news from beyond my network and beyond my interests.  I want to broaden my horizons, and in a digital age I don't believe I should need to travel the world to discover the world. I want to see social as a signal but not as the filter for my media consumption.  I want big data to become smart data.

I want an Editor.