Friday, December 18, 2009

The end of the year show. What was it all about? And what next?

If like me, the end of the noughties finds you frantically trying to get things done before the break, then you probably haven’t had time to read the cascade of end-of-year reviews and lists that are pouring in to your inbox. So here is a digestion of the end-of-decade to save you some time.

100 moments – from The Telegraph
This cultural chronology is worth speed-reading, not least because the moments chosen reflect just how celebrity has dominated the decade – in broadsheets as well as tabloids. Celebrity has been with us for centuries, but a lot has changed since Big Brother first aired in July 2000, both in terms of who our celebrities are and how we interact with them. So here among the “moments that signalled a change in the cultural life of Britain and the rest of the world” the collapse of Lehmans is mentioned merely as an addendum to an entry about Damien Hirst. The article came out in October, so it tantalisingly omits the last defining celebrity moment of the decade – the fall of Tiger Woods.

20 brands – from Coolbrands
The last 10 years have seen technology not only transform lifestyles, but change the consumer landscape. Over half of Coolbrands choices for 2009/2010 are technology brands. Even more remarkable, Apple, iPhone and iPod hog 3 of their top 4. Apple was in apparently terminal decline until the 1998 launch of the iMac. The iPod launch was not instantly dramatic because it happened in November 2001, when we all had other things to worry about (no matter how good your story, you can never control the PR agenda), but it became the product story of the decade – a winning combination of usability, aesthetics and business-model.

10 consumer trends – from Trendwatching
Anyone trying to get into tomorrow’s consumer’s head should start here. Just how do we connect with, and invent for, change-adapted, city-living, connected yet fragmented, engaged yet cynical consumers – who may even be beginning to reject that classification? This picture suggests there are many opportunities to do things differently – and with it no doubt diminishing return for doing things the same. An exciting prospect – but marketers’ roles will certainly not be getting easier.

12 great ads – from The Guardian
Greatness is typically subjectively defined (for great, read personal favourite?). But the combination of memorability and favourability make reasonable proxy evaluation criteria in the absence of each campaign’s precise objectives and sales figures. The Guardian’s list captures that better than most. Bravia Balls didn’t do it for me – a beautiful film but could be any HD/LCD TV. But Levi’s Odyssey, John West’s Bear Fight, and Cadbury’s Gorilla have all made lasting impressions. Comparethemarket’s meerkats may get there too, though it’s really too soon to tell. (And I am flattered to have had a walk on part in the project that led to the gorilla.)

10 bad ads – from BNET
Sadly, there’s always more entrants for this category... this list only covers 2009! Its dangerous to pass judgement – we’ve all made mistakes. But we should all spend more time reviewing failure, for our mistakes can haunt us. YouTube may have taken down the link to the WWF World Trade Center video (in the process naming DDB as the agency), but its still easy to find on Google. In a digital world, ill-considered marketing can have lasting consequences.

In 4 words – from Plan Phoenix
The most concise summary of the last 10 years?
How about “terror, technology, celebrity and debt”.
(Book-ended by 9/11 and Lehmans, with Big Brother along the way, maybe we should be glad to say goodbye?)
And these four elements will shape the landscape ahead of us.

And 0 predictions
As thoughts turn to the teenies, uncertainty has never been so uncertain. It would be a brave business that bet its future on a single path. A secure world or an at-war world? At war with extremism or carbon? A "V", "W" or "L" shaped economy? Who will be the influential figures? What will be the breakthrough technologies? Uncharted territory. I look forward to navigating it with you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The wrong kind of trouble

I have quite strong opinions, but Plan Phoenix is not the platform to discuss Afghanistan or Gordon Brown's spelling or Stephen Gately's death or Jan Moir's opinions.

Still, the furore kicked up by the Sun's PM couldn't get our name right and the Mail's strange, lonely and troubling death made interesting media experiences. The dominant response to both seemed to be that each paper got it wrong. And this was in evidence even on the papers' own website comment sections - large portions of their own readership reacted quite strongly.

It is easy to get the audience wrong by taking them for granted. On the editors' desks both articles probably seemed well aligned to editorial policy and to the readership's attitudes. But many readers quickly rejected the implicit assumptions about their own prejudices. They had overstepped the mark from a conspiratorial pastiche of the consumer (like the Lynx effect) to a crude caricature.

Some of the complaining readers were not regular ones. In a user generated world there's no guarantee who is participating and strong propositions attract enemies as easily as friends. But both papers' reputations were tarnished in the process, even if some of the outrage was from people who sit well outside the brands' avowed consumer profiles.

Both brands are divisive, but at least they stand for something - demanding attention and generating loyalty. Only big incumbent brands can afford to be bland, and even then its probably a bad strategy. Most of us need to offend people from time to time. So here are two more tasks to add to the brand manager's brief:
1) Am I actively managing the boundary between complicity and condescension with my consumer?
2) Am I creating ways to proactively engage rejectors, even if I do not want to win them over?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Perception is all

Here's an interesting fact. Between 2001 and 2006 the proportion of new drugs beating placebos in “Phase II” trials (sometimes called the “futility test”) fell by 20%. Only 24 first-of-a-kind drugs were approved by the US FDA in 2008. In 2007, only 19 were approved, the lowest number for 25 years. We might conclude that drug R&D is failing. Yet even some drugs which passed this test previously, are now failing it (Prozac is one example), leading to suggestions that the problem is not the new drugs, but that the placebo effect is getting stronger. The placebo effect bears striking resemblance to the brand effect. Both are the power of perception to influence our actual experience of something. And so the drug companies investigations into placebos reveal some truths for marketers too.

Expectation: The power of the placebo is dependent on the ability to anticipate. Those who expect an effect are far more likely to get it. Alzheimer's sufferers, who can't anticipate the impact of painkillers, need much higher doses.
Competitive set: Different communities react differently to the same placebo, and the impact seems to depend on background culture. For example, in Germany low blood pressure is a widely perceived medical condition (17% of people self report as suffering from it). Brits and Americans, by contrast, are a lot more worried about high blood pressure. In trials of drugs for patients with high blood pressure, Brits and Americans gain far more benefit from the placebo than Germans.
The 4Ps: Packaging and presentation of the placebo play a role too. Studies have shown that antidepressants work better if they're yellow, while red pills are more stimulating and green ones better at reducing anxiety. This hard science is unnervingly similar to the "meanings" of colours ascribed by crystal healers, for whom yellow is optimism/ happiness, red is action/ courage/ vitality and green is life/ well-being. I don't believe in crystals, but I do believe in perception (the fourth law).

Drug companies are desperate to understand this issue so they can design “better” trials (presumably where drugs efficacy will show through). There is also the chance that the trials are right – that many of the drugs on the market are little better than a well presented placebo. The right name, colour, size, shape and packaging in the right environment for the right people may be what is delivering most of the quality of experience. I'm always cautious about the value of consumer research. When we get the results we want, everything is fine (the confirmation bias). When we don't, its tempting to question the methodology. We cannot be sure what hidden factors underlie the results (and most marketing research is a lot less rigorous than drug trials).

But if we view the placebo not as the problem, but part of the solution, things look much more optimistic. From this perspective, brands – even advertising – are integral parts of the product or service itself, helping to reinforce the user experience. And any element that doesn't live up to the core proposition – whether its a tawdry piece of packaging or a mis-aligned piece of creative or PR - doesn't just undermine the ability to charge a premium, it actually diminishes the user benefit.

Next time you're faced with a cynical view about the value (or lack) of marketing, respond with a truly consumer centric justification for brands, rather than the typical brand centric justifications we're so used to. Fact: the brand may, in many instances, be more effective than the product itself.

And in the mean time, now might be a good moment to audit every detail of the brand's user experience, and weed out the bad ones.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Space oddity - in the long run we're all dead

I have less sympathy for GM than for Blacks. Some crimes of strategy are less forgivable than others. The latest part of GM to break is Saturn which is closing down. My original impression of Saturn was formed not as a car buyer, but as a marketing case study - an example of a skunkworks project, which were rather trendy at the time (10+ years ago). Turns out not to have been such a smart idea in this case since not only were the cars not awfully good, they sold at a loss.

There's a very simple lesson here. It may (or may not) be smart to isolate little groups of innovators in order to break the corporate cultural assumptions about what might or should be done. The jury's out, but my judgement tells me there are times this is very smart indeed. What is clearly - inexcusably - dumb is to build a completely parallel production capability (so sacrificing all your efficiencies of scale), and to stick the new products out in a separate brand so that if there's any equity to be gained, you fail to capture it where you need it. The threat from Japan was to GM itself. A retailation brand (which is all Saturn was) was doomed. The arrival of Japanese manufacturers was the first big unheeded warning that the whole of Detroit needed to revamp its capabilities and its offer.

This mistake took so long to play out that Roger Smith, on whose watch it happened, didn't live to see the wheels finally come off. A small personal mercy. I hope I die too, before my mistakes get found out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Media before message?

The IAB reports today that internet advertising spend has overtaken TV.

What a long journey it has been to get to this point. Personally, I think the final destination is much further (which tells us a lot about the future of TV - it will become a primarily on-demand medium, with broadcast merely a loss leading way to market its own content).

Of course, we don't spend as much time online as we do watching TV. But that's not the point. As a connection moment - in particular the ability to target and to engage - the internet is a superior medium.

Interestingly Nielsen data in the US shows that we increasingly consume several media at once - such as watching TV while online. That's certainly how most of the grocery shopping happens in my household. On those moments a relevant click is going to be far more effective than a haphazard TVC, no matter how great its production values.

But if we're making the right decisions with our investment of media time, are we getting the creative we deserve? How many ideas are still born as scripts? I bet it is more than 50%.

Newsflash 20:35, October 7
Three little updates hot on the heels of publishing this.
1) On 2nd October the Evening Standard announced it is to become a freesheet
2) Over the weekend it was confirmed that no-one is wants the TV rights to the England-Ukraine game, so it will be offered on internet pay per view only.
3) Yesterday the Economist told readers that it is to raise its 'paywall' - i.e. to restrict online access further in favour of paying subscribers.

The game is inconsequential and its a fire sale after the collapse of Setanta, so we should read little in to that: but its a precedent regardless. The Evening Standard's move (there's a whole backstory around London freesheets) is more interesting. They believe increased circulation is worth more in ad revenue than the loss in cover sales. I wonder, from an advertiser's perspective, whether this is true. More eyeballs may not be better eyeballs, so I'm not sure how much more I'd be willing to pay for them. Or maybe its just about increasing the number of advertisers, which merely dilutes the impact for each one. What's really fascinating is that this happens in the same week the Economist moves the opposite direction. All 3 moves are not entirely voluntary, but driven by financial pressures from the economic crisis. Strange, unpredictable, contrary forces.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Into the Black

Blacks, the outdoor store, has placed its O'Neill stores in administration and confirmed it will default on its debts. I would be sad to see Blacks go bankrupt. I've spent a lot of time there, planning treks and adventures. And I don't think there's an obvious alternative to them on the high street.

What can we learn from their predicament? Their website describes their portfolio thus:
The Outdoor Group comprises Millets and Blacks, the largest outdoor retailers in the UK, and Freespirit and Mambo, the leading retail chains in the newly emerging UK boardwear market
With the benefit of hindsight, this 'newly emerging' market (acquired with the Millets stores in 1999) was a bad punt for Blacks, for two reasons:

Blacks was vulnerable to economic downturn (they struggled very badly in the 1980s). Boardwear, more fashion/fad conscious and with a younger target market, exaggerated that risk. Blacks needed an anti-cyclical arm. It should have been well placed to develop one, but instead it has let brands such as Argos and Go Outdoor open up share in the 'value' end of the camping market.

Secondly, despite appearing to be a logical stretch, boardwear was maybe a step too far from the core - different product and different consumer simultaneously. Was there ever sufficient (real) capability leverage to give Blacks a robust advantage there?

Either vanity, or the promise of a fast buck, led them in the wrong direction. How many of us can claim we wouldn't do the same? For the sake of all our vanities, I hope Blacks survives.

Friday, September 04, 2009

More than mere meerkats

Its nice to come out of the 'holiday season' (here’s hoping you enjoyed yours) with so many positive column inches in the business press. Though September’s historic track record is not good. As if to remind us of that, the month began with a textbook lesson in collateral damage. When even the growing and profitable lowcost airlines easyJet and Ryanair are feeling the squeeze, it was little surprise that a flick of the travel industry tail knocked Samsonite’s retail operation into Chapter 11. But it’s more timely to focus on winners. Even the good people of Lymington are embracing pound stores – much to the surprise of the Telegraph. Though as I walked the less affluent areas of Manchester this week (a bit of informal consumer research), it was noticeable that empty retail units are not snapped up so quickly when discount stores and pawnbrokers already dominate the street. The rise of the discounter may be a little over-hyped?

Another winner, on a more creative note, is the meerkat campaign for which has put the comparison sites into a panic. It’s a great campaign because it lodges the brand name firmly in the mind. All the more impressive because it is such an unprepossessing url when compared to or It reminds me of the creatively great ads for in the original dotcom boom. Though the end of that tale was that was sold and eventually the name was dropped. A great campaign can only temporarily cover up for lack of a good strategy. I wonder if the comparison sites have learnt anything from that?

comparethemarket should be focused on turning their 15 minutes of fame into a property that is not just dependent on the quality of the next execution. Even good ideas wear out, and the most recent meerkat ad already feels as though it is going in that direction. Aleksandr Orlov has a Facebook page and YouTube bloopers (but then, don’t we all) – but they need to take this much, much further. Sponsor the zoo… Get Aleksandr a column in the Sunday Money section… They’ve probably got less time than they realise in which to do it. Googling ‘meerkat’ already returns links for both moneysupermarket and confused.

The whole category urgently need to address the challenge of establishing distinctive propositions. At the moment there’s only really a category proposition. Compare (when in Rome!) the headers of their various websites:
Compare the Market - Cheap Car Insurance
Let Compare the Market search a range of car insurance policies, to make sure you get the best deal possible.

Compare cheap loans, mortgages and credit cards and apply online. Home & car insurance quotes.
Cheap car insurance, home insurance and utilities quote comparison service. Search major providers and compare quotations to find the deal for you.

uSwitch - Cheap Gas & Electricity, Car Insurance, Loans & Mortgages
Save Money on Gas & Electricity, Car Insurance, Loans, Mortgages, Broadband Providers & Credit Cards. Free & Impartial, Search Switch & Save with uSwitch.
Cost? Convenience? Features? What is it, and why is your site substantively better at it? I despair if, as seems likely, the collective response of the competitors is to re-pitch their creative work. Expecting the agency to answer the fundamental question? A step backwards to the old arms race. (Though the Peter Jones ads for moneysupermarket are certainly bad enough to warrant dropping them immediately). I’ve read several financial columns in the last week lamenting that, despite all the talk a few months back of remodelling the global financial system, the upcoming Pittsburgh G20 will basically offer us more of the same. Now the panic is subsiding, it's so much less difficult to revert to the old ways and harder to change. If that happens, the politicians and economists will have failed. If marketing continues with the old shout-and-promote model, we will have failed too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The b team: Time to get structural?

Radio silence for a few weeks. I - like everyone else I suspect - have been in busy doing mode. Taking care of business. Running. Focusing on tangible deliverables, and getting them in place, on time (and, hopefully, above quality). The current market is no place to be playing catch-up. Even if we know we are not getting ahead, we certainly don't want to get behind.

On the other hand the current market demands us to seek new ways to wire up the business model. And that doesn't show any sign of easing up at all. Businesses and industries facing potentially lethal challenges need to make time for the lateral planning to find new ways through the maze.

The leisure industry is taking the latest pounding: airlines, casinos, theme parks and pubcos. Who next? It seems self evident now that the squeeze is not going to remit, and I'm not sure there are any 'safe' industries that won't feel it.

Is it time that we addressed the issue structurally? What would happen if we divided the marketing department in two with half responsible for immediate doing, the other half for strategic planning. Not the classic 'brands' vs 'innovations' split, because this is more likely to be about new routes to market, profitability structures, partnerships and consumer segments than it is about new products and brands.

It would mean reducing the headcount activating each brand - probably doubling up responsibilities to (at least) a category level. But this is the only logical way to liberate resources to design the post-squeeze corporation.

If Tomorrow:AM had anyone to delegate to, we'd be doing it that way. Would you? Or have you already? I'd be interested (as ever) in your views.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Street media: Beauty over ugliness

As part of the media mix for The Heineken Cup about 10 years ago, we painted advertisements on garage doors along the route from railway stations to rugby grounds. It was a tactical element of the mix: fun and low cost. Garage doors are not inherently beautiful. I like to think there was social, as well as commercial, value!

Many high streets are currently blighted by shuttered shop fronts. Streetskins are doing us all a favour by providing the opportunity to turn them into advertising space.

Of course, what will turn this from a cost opportunity (pulling down the price of outdoor) in to something more will be the ability of ad agencies to develop some knock-out creative to bestow on them.

Over to you...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Optimists and pessimists are trading blows daily. Is the worst over? Or is more to come? The markets are still volatile (optimism was the spirit of today, with the FTSE100 up 2.1%).

We can't wait much longer for an answer! The last two quarters have involved black-outs in hiring, capital spend, even in ongoing marketing investment. CFO magazine's Global Business Outlook survey suggests that as many as 2 in 3 firms have implemented hiring freezes (almost as many are actually reducing headcount), and that firms will, on average, cut capital expenditure 10-15% this year, and marketing expenditure 7-10%. Short term necessities maybe, but with long term consequences for both brand equity and the innovation pipeline.

At least some clarity seems to be emerging about the legacies that this period will leave behind. and so some clues about the battlegrounds of tomorrow. Here are two which strike me.... coming from completely different ends of the spectrum.

The local battleground: the Emotional Competitive Set

Consumers' wallets are going to be under more pressure tomorrow than they were yesterday. Even if (if!) access to credit becomes easier again, people will be more wary of it. Living within your means is going to be a bit more fashionable. And on top of that, the tax burden is almost certain to rise.

So, expect bargain/ promotion hunting and 'trading down' within categories, but also expect trading off between categories (less “I need a new dress because I'm going out for dinner”, more “I'll steer clear of the shops today because I'm going out for dinner tonight”.) It becomes ever more important to consider the competitive set, not just category peers. In particular, this means understanding implicit emotional benefits (such as reward, release or recognition) far beyond functional attributes. Where else can consumers get these emotional benefits? What emotional market are you in?

What does it really mean to compete in the indulgence market? Or the light relief market? Or the togetherness market?

The global battleground: Rebalancing Consumption and Production

For ten years consumers in the US and UK borrowed (against rocketing nominal property prices) and spent it on imported goods, while others (most notably China) did not spend the profits of exports but instead invested them in bonds (and so provided the liquidity and low cost credit to sustain the spending binge). This drove the global economy. It also shaped industries: keeping manufactured goods cheap, incentivsing out-sourcing and off-shoring, permitting 'cash-cow' Western markets to fund (loss-making) investments in Asia. These imbalances are collapsing.

When the recession is over Asia will account for a greater proportion of total consumer spending. Expect the battle to win in China (and subsequently in India) to get even hotter, exacerbated by the fact that profits made in Europe or America will not stretch so far (whether because profits are lower, Chinese costs are higher or exchange rates have moved). Despite current woes, now is a critical time for emerging market plans.

In reverse, alarm bells for any business overly dependent on cheap imports to keep costs down. It feels a little premature to declare the rebirth of British manufacturing (!), but now is surely a prudent time to diversify the cost base, and to look for ways to bring production and consumption (of products or services) closer together. What until now looked like a 'nice to have' part of the sustainability agenda suddenly looks like a commercial imperative.

So... Competition will get fiercer... Asia will be the growth priority... Sustainability issues will be business critical.

Tomorrow's battles are rather similar to yesterday's – but many companies are in less robust shape to fight them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Falling trees. Shaping contingency strategies.

After a short lull (the media even rallied with a few 'green shoots' stories), another cascade of financial awfulness. It seems unlikely that the car makers will all survive without massive subsidy - which governments appear unwilling (probably wisely) to provide.

Detroit's problems are multi-fold. Cars are expensive capital investments, not an appealing idea for worried consumers. And most car purchases in markets such as the UK are really discretionary - product performance means that the old one probably still works (mine just sailed its 7year MOT). On top of that the big 3 made some truly terrible strategic choices, such as too much emphasis on Chelsea Tractors, and being distracted by vanity brand acquisitions (Jaguar, Volvo...) when they should have been more worried about their own failing product development capabilities. Not to mention the lack of stakeholder insight demonstrated by the infamous private jet trip to Washington. (The day which surely sealed Richard Wagoner's fate?)

But not all of their problems are unique. For example, other industries depend on purchase finance loans ('buy now pay later') to close the sale - and these are now both less appealing and less easily provided. It can be little more fun right now selling sofas than it is selling the apartments to put them in.

And there are plenty of other ways consumer spending behaviour is changing - as any fashion retailer will tell.

It is not even necessary to be a failing company. Being a supplier to, or customer of, one may be enough. Zavvi were undone by their dependency on Woolworth's logistics. Bad news for sheet metal suppliers today is bad news for the customers of sheet metal suppliers tomorrow.

It isn't always possible to avoid falling trees. But a little contingency planning could mitigate some risks - such as reducing dependency weaknesses through diversified supply chains. It could even create opportunities. Where might gaps in the canopy open near you? What are your competitors' weaknesses? And how could you exploit them?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lessons learnt. The real motivation is personal

I bought my first property - a 2 bedroom flat - in 1997. It didn't take long before I was aware that rampant property price inflation meant it was seemingly earning more than I was - and it was doing it without any effort, and without paying any tax. I found this discovery demotivating - undermining the value of any effort I might put in to my career. (It took me several years to overtake that flat.)

And now, by strange coincidence, the FTSE indicates there's been almost no increase in the value of the economy since... 1997. This too is demotivating. Where, I wonder, is the evidence of all our collective effort? Have other (anonymous) people perfectly counter-acted it with their incompetence, or was it all simply less value-adding than we thought at the time?

There is a lesson here about the root of motivation, and the limit of benchmarks. The last 12 years have seen fortunes made, as well as lost (and I'm still a few paces ahead of that flat). Benchmarks, like economic forecasts, are substantially imperfect. They tell us what may happen (not what will) based on what has happened (not what might have happened).

Accretive objectives and KPIs (+2%, +3%) can only work so far. They need to be complemented by transformational objectives (milestones, category breaks, innovations). On a personal level these kinds of achievements, which cannot be taken away, can be far more motivating and rewarding. And on a business level they are the only true route to successfully serving shareholders - building platforms to capitalise performance as new businesses and markets, not just a little more ephemeral share.

When the only motivation for many is the fear of losing their job, extra thought needs to be given to targets. And when company valuations are based on extreme bearish assumptions about the overall market, there is more need, not less, for bold visions.

Are we brave enough, and bold enough, to have them?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Any good news? The lowering PR barrier.

Sitting recently in the lounge at Chicago airport, watching 'The Situation Room' on TV was not a joyeous experience. Statistics crashed down relentlessly on screen. This is, for example, we were told, the first time on record when all 50 states have seen simultaneous rises in unemployment. And, to get the point home it was backed up with voxpops of the recently redundant from across the country. The unavoidable conclusions was simple: there's nowhere to run to.

But, equally, there's plenty to run from. The front page in St Louis announced that a million people in Missouri alone received food stamps in January - the highest number ever, and Missourians make up only 6m of the 300m in the US.

The same story is true in every 'developed' market I visit - horrific headlines, often with the added implication that the situation is at its most acute just where you, the reader/viewer, are sitting.

The problem with PR plans has always been that no-one wants to publish what brands want to broadcast - or at least, not on the news pages. This is, clearly, the moment to challenge that wisdom. A deftly delivered brand-good-news story (maybe linked with the CSR agenda to give something back in hard times), could capture disproportionate column inches and airtime.

Is PR planning the driving cog of 2009 marketing?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Budgets - the cut that dare not speak its name?

I know half my marketing is wasted - this year, I really wish I knew which half.

There's incredible pressure on budgets. Its only February and yet budget 'revisions' are already hot topics. Kneejerk responses are to cut the peripheral (out goes the loyalty programme) or the long term (out goes the training budget) in favour of the big, predictable and immediate.

These are almost certainly bad prioritisations if they rob the future and eliminate chances to innovate. But any other path requires leadership - and if the top isn't sending out the right messages, what hope for the rest.

Paul Walsh of Diageo speaking on 13th Feb confirmed a cost cutting exercise involving redundancies and a headcount freeze. Yet when asked about media cutbacks he was quick to respond "We're actually not cutting back, but we are benefitting from real media deflation". A very odd position - what makes media spend sacrosanct, and puts it beyond question?

Companies that have invested in their brands through previous recessions have performed well in the longer term. But that is not necessarily the same as simply continuing to spend the media budget regardless. When savings must be made there is good argument for doing the opposite.

For many established brands, a single deep cut - taking brand advertising completely out of the mix for 2009 - could be used to ringfence all budgets for innovation, new launches and promotions. The gradual dilution in equity that is the typical product of a period of time off air may be a lot easier to address in the future than a lack of talent, or an empty pipeline.

Do you agree? And will anyone be brave enough to take this path?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Back story - Keep Out The Cold

A few thoughts already shared with Tomorrow:AM's friends and clients can be downloaded here
Keep out the cold. Disruptive strategies for economic winter

Phoenix Manifesto

Plan Phoenix is born of recession. Businesses face urgent and complex decisions and choices. This is no longer business as usual (if it ever was). New realities require new strategies, but if previous answers are obsolete, what price experience? Especially as risk and fear tend to stifle the debate - creating a conspiracy of silence. We need more opportunities to ask difficult questions.

Plan Phoenix is a response to deafening silence. An attempt to provoke, interrogate and debate the emerging economic realities and their impact on marketing.

Alex Bicknell
Ready for Tomorrow:AM?