Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Marketing and ROI

I’ve been pretty vocal about planning a marketing program and reviewing it at least annually. I have been  especially emphatic about the communications portion of that effort. You should have measurement goals. Measurement must be a consideration in the planning process up-front. The tricky part is that so much of what falls within a typical marketing budget is either not measureable or not marketing. Most marketers are terrible at defending themselves. When you consider the results of a recent survey of top marketing people you can see why. 

Advertising Age reported (March 12, 2012) that a survey of 243 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) conducted in January and February of 2012 revealed that 57% don’t establish budgets according to return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, 68% said budgets are based on historical spending. 28% said they go on instinct. Finally 7% of respondents said most of their spending not based on metrics at all. 

This study by Columbia Business School Center on Global Brand Leadership and the American Advertising Association of NYC isn’t as surprising as it is evidence of our own death wish when it comes to earning the respect of other business leaders. Occasionally you will hear someone grip about wanting a place at the table in the C-suite, but I think we marketers rather relish our precarious place in the world.

What do you think? 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Commercial Art

Recently, I joined the docent ranks at the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis. I have always been a fan of sculpture, particularly monumental contemporary art in public places. Laumeier is a public-private partnership and a free park for art lovers to enjoy. The training I have received over the past couple of months reminds me that sculpture can be transformative. I love it when sculpture is integrated into commercial building spaces and urban settings too. Sculpture makes a huge difference in city. It creates a sense of place. Consider public art like the magnificent Picasso at Daley Plaza in Chicago, Claes Oldenburg’s FREE Stamp sculpture in Cleveland and the wonderful collection at Citygarden in downtown St. Louis, which includes a Keith Harring, Mark di Suvero, Johnathan Clarke and a dozen others.

Later this year, the International Sculpture Conference will span three days, October 4-6, in Chicago where they will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions and comprehensive programs of mentoring sessions, workshops and tours. I hope this group along with patrons and artists everywhere can persuade and inspire designers and builders to make art part of their planning for the structures of the future. Sculpture, in particular, can be a magical part of the vision for commercial structures. The aesthetic, the provocative, the use of innovative materials, artistic techniques and even architectural details as part of a building become markers for special places.

If you love art and believe, like I do, that it enriches us all when it is shared with the world, I hope you will be a supporter of art in public places and commercial spaces.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ad Biz - from the Corner Office in St. Louis

Charlie Claggett agreed to be the master of ceremonies for the long overdue panel presentation from leaders in advertising and marketing communications firms in St. Louis on April 19, 2012 presented by the American Marketing Association. The luncheon attracted a full house (nearly at room capacity of 120 people). Tom Townsend (Rodgers Townsend), Tim Leon (Geile-Leon), Angie Lawing (Mercury Labs and Ad Saint), Joe Leahy (Hughes Leahy Karlovic), Stacey Goldman (Cannonball), John Nickle (Switch), and Dan Curran (4orce) spoke for the marketing and advertising community in a robust, engaging and thought-provoking session.

Charlie, an advertising icon in St. Louis, was charming and efficient at moving though introductions and questions. Each of the panelists had meaningful morsels to offer as take always from the function. Here are some of the points I found particularly noteworthy. Note: I am paraphrasing.

Tim Leon: “We have found that our agency is helping clients in areas outside the marketing department – including IT and HR. In fact, we’ve invested in a merger that expanded our expertise in employee engagement”

Joe Leahy: “We also have clients that have a roster of agencies. (Asking them to stay in their respective swim lanes). Clients don’t seem to want generalists, they want specialists. At our shop, we aren’t trying to anticipate the future so much as we are chasing the present.”

Dan Curran: “What is great about digital is the amount of data. You can’t lie behind metrics. Clients are a little scared and confused. There are a lot of charlatans out there who present themselves as experts. Let’s face it, it is like drinking out of a fire hose.”

Angie Lawing: “Video has the capacity to produce great emotional depth. That can be a powerful thing. Ad Saint is a vehicle for connecting the marketing communications community in St. Louis. There isn’t anything marketers need that cannot be produced in St. Louis. We do great work in this town”

Stacey Goldman: “It’s about being a good listener. And sometimes you need to convince clients that 10 things is too much – you might be better off identifying two things that people are more likely to remember. And if they don’t remember those two points, at least they might recall the style and the way the information was presented.”

Tom Townsend: “We are big believers that there is more than one great idea. We know it can be disappointing for creative people to start over but it’s worth it. That’s why we like to showcase the work that made it.  Featuring work in award shows is important.  It is a way to get a kind of validation and celebration of quality work as judged by piers.”

John Nickel – “It might be an overused word but we think engagement is important and often it is accomplished through a combination of tactics. A sampling program, with radio and digital overlays might be a good combination for some brands.”

Thanks to all who participated in this event. I hope a few marketing decision-makers were influenced too. I also hope this in only part of a continuing dialogue.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Digital Design Train Wrecks

Commercial Art is what they used to call Graphic Design before computers became the primary tool of professionals engaged in the composition of marketing materials from concept through production. The good news is that design can be accomplished faster and with less training. The bad news is that so-called designers are less likely to be schooled in the subtleties of composition and the orchestration of layout, color, space, type etc. Computers and software allow designers to be “creative” beyond the boundaries of good sensible design. Here are a few examples of what can happen:

Car Dealer Ad – a designer in an effort to accommodate all the special interests the business shows a giant truck. Right behind the vehicle is dealer sign. The corner of the ad is dedicated to a photo of the top 10 sales people. This jumble is compounded by star bursts, prices and unreadable blocks of six point type carrying legal copy about financing and restrictions.

Restaurant Flyer – A plate of spaghetti with meatballs dominates a page with a special meal offer set in bold type. A photo of the restaurant storefront is cropped into the flyer to show the street address. The piece is designed like a collage of cut paper images several other offers competing for attention.

Builder’s Brag Piece – A residential contractor wants to let people know he can build decks, install windows and fix or repair roofing. The designer uses photos available to show this in a grid layout with captions. Unfortunately, the quality of the original photos is uneven - some are taken with a camera phone, others taken on a rainy day and the hero roof shot is an aerial taken by a professional. The result is peculiar with no clear message.

If you are an artist or an art director, you know what I mean. If you are a car dealer, a restaurant owner or a builder you might not. The world needs artists and marketing people to help improve the quality of communications. Maybe it makes sense to stick to what you do best and get help with the art direction, copy and creative strategy. I’m just saying…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just Curious

It has been said that curiosity kills the cat.  Curiosity is also the trait that propels the children’s books about the Curious George with a recurring theme that seems to get the monkey George in trouble over and over again. My daughter loved those stories as a child. And I loved reading them to her. It makes me smile to remember how she would laugh. I would read up to the word in a sentence. George was always very…  (pause). Lindsey would finish the sentence and giggle. “Curious!” “That’s right Lindsey, George was always very curious.”

Recently I conducted my first tour as a docent at the Laumeier Sculpture Park with a group of Kindergarden kids. As expected, those kids are curious too. The place is a jewel, Laumeier is a wonderful place to introduce contemporary sculpture to people of all ages. But kids are so special and honest as they discover new things. The park is full of examples of world-renowned monumental works, but I bet these kids will be more inspired by the simple joy of seeing something for the first time.

By the way, both of my own kids are adults now. I am happy to report that they both remain curious. And in doing so, see things, enjoy art and seek new experiences. Lindsey and Ben have always been very (well you know) curious … Me too.