Archive for the ‘The 3rd Button’ Category

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Kleenex brings sensitivity and style to the tissue aisle

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
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Heads up to our friends in the UK and Europe: Kleenex has just launched new packaging across its full range of products, designed by Sterling! The designs are being ushered in with the launch of a new product, Kleenex Sensitive, for those of us in need of something softer.
The clear and vibrant new packaging was chosen following trends research in order to offer consumers a stylish product. The result is an improved shopper experience, with an aisle that is much more engaging and simple to navigate, and a stylish product that consumers would be proud to display both in their homes and when they’re on the go.
The new packaging is slowly being introduced in the UK, and will soon be available in markets across Europe.
To see the full new line click here
Heads up to our friends in the UK and Europe: Kleenex has just launched new packaging across its full range of products, designed by Sterling! The designs are being ushered in with the launch of a new product, Kleenex Sensitive, for those of us in need of something softer.

The clear and vibrant new packaging was chosen following trends research in order to offer consumers a stylish product. The result is an improved shopper experience, with an aisle that is much more engaging and simple to navigate, and a stylish product that consumers would be proud to display both in their homes and when they’re on the go.

The new packaging is slowly being introduced in the UK, and will soon be available in markets across Europe.

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Think and Leap.

Friday, September 12th, 2014

leapGreat brands are built through differentiation. Great tactics are differentiated and therefore cut through the clutter of marketing and everyday life. So if you want to be different- truly different- an intuitive leap must surely occur at some point in the process. No amount of analytical rigor will get you to a truly differentiated idea. You have to assume that if you can think your way there, many others have been there before you.

Instead, differentiated ideas, whether business, brands or marketing tactics, are created- not manufactured. Put another way, your gut is the best instrument for reaching a differentiated solution. If you assume you have an intelligent competitor, your head and deep rational consideration will generally just get you to the same neighborhood as your competitor’s head.

That said, you’re an idiot if you don’t start from a solid analytical base. The real trick is to have the analytical rigor required to pull the situation apart form every possible angle. You need to know the inside-out situation. You need to know the outside-in situation. And you need to know what you would do if you were the competition. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.

You need to structure this analysis and organize it in ways that others may not:

-Analyze the hell out of your business

-Arrive at some intuitively driven hypotheses

-Refine them with your customers before making any market place bets

-Take the leap

Analysis > Creativity and Intuition > Proof > Leap

The proof part is important. You really are an idiot if you don’t reality-check an intuitively derived strategy or tactic. Your gut can be wrong and we’re not playing with Monopoly money.

In our work as strategy consultants, I tell our team that they should expect to think they ‘know’ the answer pretty early in the process. But a really good strategist knows that there’s a chance that he or she is wrong. Subsequent digging could reveal ideas that will disprove initial hypotheses.

Now you see why there are so few great marketers out there. You have to be analytical and creative in this process- you have to think and you have to leap. Strong left brain and strong right brain, and the courage and boldness to pull it all off. Great marketing isn’t for the faint of heart.

Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy.

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Now UP on Design Matters…

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

hustwit

Gary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker based in New York and London. He has produced six feature documentaries and made his directorial debut with Helvetica, a documentary about graphic design and typography. In 2009 his second film Objectified was released to rave reviews.

>>Click here to hear Debbie’s full interview with Gary

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Change

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Change is good. Change is essential.

The marketplace is a downward-moving escalator. If you stand still you go down. You only go up by running- hard.

Last year, on behalf of your brand, you executed a marketing plan. It worked well and the brand grew. But now that is old news. What will you do this year? Theoretically, if you do more of the same, you might hope at least to hold steady- but that hope assumes the marketplace itself hasn’t changed and begun to work against you. The escalator is moving down.

So what’s new in your plan?

If you’ve written a marketing plan, put it through the change filter. That is, ask yourself what is the one significant change you’ve created that will grab the attention of the target audience? That one difference that will cut through all the other ‘change clutter’ in the marketplace? Change can be good.

However, change has a dangerous flip side, particularly within organizations with short-tenured brand managers (such as packaged goods companies). There’s a need, sometimes perceived, sometimes very real, to do something different- anything different- rather than stick for one extra second with the status quo, even when it is successful.

To do change right, get to know your brand inside and out, and pick one thing to focus upon. Find the one thing that will really make a difference- the one thing that will make you and your brand famous. Build critical marketing mass behind it, execute it flawlessly and then move on to the Next Big Marketing Idea.

Beware the small changes to strategy. Before you know it, they can add up and throw the brand off track. Change with a specific purpose and a planned impact is the type of change you want.

Case in point:

A great example of change-gone-wrong can be drawn from my days as a very young brand assistant working on a ‘luxury’ cat food. We had just replaced one ingredient with another, cheaper ingredient. Like good little brand managers, we’d done due diligence and knew that the taste trade-off was minimal. Yet as soon as we made the switch, we started getting complaints from cat owners. As is always the case, it’s your most loyal customers who notice first, your best customers who write to you first. But how could they possibly have noticed something so small?

Checking back into the brand history files, we discovered our little change, wasn’t the first. In fact, we were just the latest in a long line of similar, ‘insignificant’ trade-offs. We just happened to be the ones who pushed the ‘tipping point’ and fell flat on our face.

As customers, we’ve all experienced this phenomenon. That is, we can’t quite put our finger on what’s happened, but somehow the product or service just isn’t what it used to be- an we quietly move on. No call. No letter. No purchase.

When all is said is done, change is just change. Good change builds. Bad change destroys. The trick is to recognize the difference before it’s too late.

Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy


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Stop Thinking Outside the Box

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

box

If niche marketing is the most misdirected object of contempt in my profession, then “thinking outside the box” is the most misdirected object of admiration.

In fact, the box is the strategy.

The truth is, any idiot can think outside the box. You can make noise there, but it’s’ irrelevant. To be fair, the most unimaginative manager can easily stay in the middle of the box. It may be relevant, but it’s awfully quiet in there. The real challenge is to punch the hell out of the edges of that box- from the inside, because that’s the only way to change the size or shape of that box.

You spent a lot of time building that box, so why abandon it now? Spend too much time outside the box and everyone gets confused. Moreover, the position gradually loses relevance as too many creatively driven tactics assault the customer. In the end, while going outside the box is almost always presented as brilliant rebellion, it is, in fact, the easier road to take and a recipe for failure.

Of course, staying dead center is obvious, predictable and boring.

Moving from strategy to execution, it’s always interesting to review work from inside an ad agency. Too often you see brilliant, creative ideas that are disconnected from the strategy- outside the box- and when these go to air, we are left scratching our heads. You also see ideas that are dead-on strategy- so much so you could have written them yourself. When these ideas air, no one notices.

Ideas that delivery the strategy in a highly creative, intriguing way are few and far between- and al the more valuable because of their rarity.

Again, your task is to create innovative and fresh ways to punch the edges of that box from the inside out. Hit those edges hard. This is the only way to make that box bigger and to change its shape. After all, who says the box needs to be a box in the first place?

Take Nike and ESPN, two powerful and highly differentiated brands in related markets. As defined by results, their architects were geniuses. Over time, they have moved from strength to strength, and many layers of business and meaning have been added to the original brand and business definitions. They never left their boxes, they have continued to push their own boundaries, dramatically changing the size and shape of those boxes.

In addition, these two are particularly well maintained and remain flexible. Both are also served by an agency that “gets them,” and it’s the same agency for both companies. Coincidence?

This leads me to another point: There are noisy boxes and quiet boxes. In other words, there are noisy strategies and quiet ones. Noisy strategies grow out of positioning that is inherently provocative. Positioning that contains a strong point of view, an attitude, and an edge. In contrast, quiet strategies don’t make you think. They don’t provoke. They don’t inspire.

You measure the effectiveness of your strategy by marketplace response. The noise isn’t in the stimulus, it’s in the audience recognition. When everyone is yelling, you measure your strategic volume by who’s listening.

So take a look at your strategy and ask yourself:

Is the basic idea around which the strategy is built compelling?

Does it have creative energy?

Does it lead to great tactics? If you test them was it easy and fun?

Were lots of options created by the team?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you’re ready to make some noise.

Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy

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Building Critical Marketing Mass

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it can’t be done well, it’s not worth doing at all.” -Proverb

Imagine placing fifty cents into millions of vending machines, all of which require a dollar before you can get anything out of them. In the end, you’ve spent a fortune and absolutely nothing to show for it. You wouldn’t do anything this foolish with your money- right?

But in business, we’re all guilty of doing just that. We spend countless hours writing marketing plans and brainstorming tactics, sometimes even coming up with something both original and brilliant. That original and brilliant idea then goes into the plan with all of the other brilliant initiatives the budget is spread out across all of these smart things we think we need to do.

The problem is that none of these initiatives has any chance of reaching critical mass.

Why? Imagine a line that moves through time. Above this imaginary line you capture your audience’s attention, below this line you don’t. It really can be this absolute, since there is no such thing as almost getting noticed. I always preferred to run well below the line for most of the year, which allowed me to focus my resources and take at least one really strong leap above the line annually.

Limited opportunity for attention means that you need to take each of your tactics or marketing initiatives and prioritize them based on such criteria as strategic importance, marketplace impact and expected cost efficiency. Next, calculate the ‘cost of success’  for each of these initiatives. The ‘cost of success’ should be a real, honest assessment of what it will take for this initiative to work in the marketplace. It’s easy to underestimate how much it takes to get attention from real people out in the real world.

Now, determine how many of your priorities you can afford before you budget runs out. These should be the only projects that get the green light. Do it to effect or don’t do it at all needs to be your guiding philosophy. Once again, be absolutely ruthless with your priority setting. You’ll end up doing less, but you’ll do better.

All of this is just common sense. So why is it so hard to do?

Answer: politics and organizational structure. Different groups want their slice of the budget and it’s hard to say no. A leading retailer with whom I worked with many years ago had a marketing budget in excess of $500 million. Lots of potential for critical mass there. But by the time it was divided amongst every department, critical mass was nowhere to be found.

This is exactly the wrong approach, because for all that money spent, no single initiative ever rose above that invisible attention-getting line. Had the company focused the budget on a smaller number of high priority marketing programs, it could have had a huge marketplace impact throughout the year.

The task, then, is to create critical mass, somehow, somewhere, sometime. This may seem like a dream to some marketers, but that’s an error of perspective. It’s far better to get noticed by one person than to get almost noticed by thousands. Should we be content to forever fall short? It’s the CFO’s fault- right?

So how do you actively create critical mass?

-Believe in what you’ve just read here and apply it ruthlessly

-Limit your core audience

-Limit your geography

-Limit the time frame

-Limit the media mix

-Limit the vehicles used within the selected medium, even if it means advertising in a single television program. (But own that show!)

In other words, always own a slice of a communications channel- and therefore of your prospect’s attention- no matter how thin that slice might be. Then use success on that narrow front to gain a bigger budget and thicker slice.

Meanwhile, it’s good practice to test a few of the proposed initiatives that didn’t make the cut. Test them in a limited geography, time frame or against a limited audience. Once you have a sense of their positive potential, flag those initiatives for next year’s critical mass priority.

Tune in next week when Austin lures us back into the proverbial ‘box’ and gets your brand back on strategy.

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The Joys of Disruption

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Brands and brand strategies can be viewed as conceptual frameworks that demand consistency of execution. It follows then that brands promote continuity. Competition disrupts continuity. So if you are not acting disruptively, odds are that a disruption will be visited upon you by someone you might not have even realized was a competitor.

The point is that you must do everything possible to be disruptive. Strategically disruptive. Disruptive at the product or service level. Disruptive at the marketing communication level. If you want my attention, you need to disrupt whatever else is holding my attention. If you want my business, you need to disrupt whatever is causing me to do business with someone else.

Remember, attention has become the most precious commodity in the marketplace. Also recall how difficult it is to create real change.

There’s a problem with staying in the center of the strategic “box.” This kind of behavior gets an A+ for consistency but a D- for attention-getting. Tactically, your job as a marketer is to bang the hell out of the walls of that box, all while still staying inside. In other words, get creative. Make noise. Promote change. Always keep moving. Always keep building. Always stay “in-strategy.” But first and foremost, always make noise.

Generally, the only way to ensure a discontinuity is to create it yourself. Whatever that discontinuity is, it must work to your advantage, and therefore must play into your brand strategy.

Napster disrupted the music market, but in a way that could never make money. Apple disrupted the music market in a way that did make money- generally a better approach.

Yahoo! disrupted the way we find information, but then acted as if it had no idea what it had done. Google knew.

In fact, when you look at the big four- Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook- they are in the process of disrupting about a hundred different markets. You may not think  you compete with these guys, but the odds are that sooner or later you will. Don’t wast energy figuring out if this is true or not, just figure out the how of the disruption- then beat them to it and make it work to your advantage.

Amazon sold books, but created a disruption through the Kindle. In some ways the company even attacked its own business in order to build that business. If Amazon hadn’t developed Kindle, the book business would’ve been disrupted by- you guessed it- Apple. This disruption would have been terrific- as long as you work in Cupertino and not Seattle.

Today, Google owns the idea of search. Now it’s up to some aggressive new player to create a new discontinuity, one that works to the advantage of its brand strategy. Search is now ubiquitous- it is indeed the Internet’s killer app- but therein lies both Google’s opportunity and its vulnerability. Search has begun to splinter into several specialized segments. Who will own music search? Who will own television search? Who will own local search?

If strong specialists don’t disrupt the flow, Google will own all of the segments because it now has continuity working for it. Bing proved to be insufficiently disruptive, attacking Google head-on instead of doing something different- something truly disruptive.

Unless someone creates a true disruption, Google will continue to control the agenda. But the reality is that the brand most likely to disrupt the search market in some way is Google itself. Why? Because Google is really good at it. Disruption is hardwired into its DNA.

Check back next week when Austin challenges tackles the ‘M’ word–Marketing,  and learn more now by reading Brand Is a Four Letter Word

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Niche is Not a Four-letter Word

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Whereas the word brand often seems like a spiritual invocation, in many marketing circles the word niche is often spoken with derision and used as a put down.

As far as niche goes, perhaps the most egregious errors of judgement were made in the technology marketplace of the late 90s, when niche became a curse you placed on any idea you wanted to kill or competitor you wanted to insult. Niche companies just weren’t going to make it. Niche start-ups just weren’t going to get the needed venture capital. Niches were for small-time players, the fearful, people with limited vision.

Well, I have always loved niche brands, never forgetting that bigger can indeed be better, particularly in the old economy. Needless to say, however, the Web has changed the way we think.

In 2006, Wired Editor Chris Anderson published The Long Tail, which highlighted how universal Web access meant that even the most thinly sliced niches could still add up to significant business when physical restrictions were taken out of the equation. For example, part of the dominance of big media content has always been physically derived: Limited space on a television channel or with a cable operator. Limited space on your local cinema screen, in a video rental store, in a music store or on a bookshelf. By comparison, digital distribution, universal access and search tools have created unlimited usable space, which has begun to make for an absolutely fascinating media marketplace that will become even more compelling in the years to come.

Niche brands understand the “position narrow, catch wide” axiom of brand strategy. They have built a limited, but fervent following first. They own their segment and enjoy the higher margins that general accrue to smart niche marketers. It’s not a bad place to stay.

Yes, it’s true, businesses are, as the cliche goes, like sharks: If they stop moving forward, they’ll die. But moving forward and getting big are two very different things. Who says you need to be big? A VC will if you’re a start-up, which is why many of those VCs are fully responsible for killing businesses that would have survived their first downturn if they had been rigged to run in niche-mode rather than artificially scaled to run big. Once you’re publicly traded, the street will demand top-line growth- until you teach your shareholders to invest in your consistent profitability rather than your explosive growth.

Owning a highly profitable niche is a thing to be celebrated. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that it is a natural and evolutionary step to move out of that niche and compete on a larger and more competitive stage. For now, at least, you may be much better off staying just where you are. Also, keep in mind that several focused and successful niche plays might well offer the better path to higher revenue, higher margins and less risk exposure than one big, broad play.

Large packaged goods companies offer wonderful lessons about niches. Each year entrepreneurial start-ups create niche products that, either slowly or very quickly, build a loyal and passionate following. Once they get “big enough,” they are acquired by a larger packaged goods company in that category. Interestingly, if that same very successful idea had originally been created within the larger, acquiring company, it would have been deemed too small (or niche) to warrant the investment necessary to take it to market. Often, there isn’t the passion and patience in larger companies to build a niche brand, but there does seem to be the money to pay for that brand once it’s an independent success.

Case in Point:

kelloggs

In my early days of marketing at Kellogg’s, I once sat in a meeting and watched chairman Bill LaMothe get a hard sell on the idea of getting Kellogg’s into the manufacturing of private-label cereal.

He replied, categorically, that they would never do that on his watch. He believed that companies and manufacturing facilities could only accommodate one level of quality. If Kellogg’s were to attempt to make both high and low-quality cereal within the same factory, ultimately both would work their way to the middle. What would Kellogg’s stand for then?

LaMothe was happy to pass up a short-term opportunity to preserve the long-term health of his company. He also passed up a number of opportunities to diversify Kellogg’s through acquisition, taking a lot of criticism from analysts until all those other CPG acquisitions flopped. Bill LaMothe was a visionary. He knew Kellogg’s and its niche better than anyone alive, and the company is so much better today because of the revenue-limiting decisions he made along the way.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong, and a lot of things right, with truly excelling at one thing. Thinking small can actually be the best path to a big result.

Stop back in, next week, as Austin delves into the Joys of Disruption

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Sterling Buzz…

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

americancraftWe’re excited to share the recent success of the Hillshire Farm’s American Craft brand!

Smart marketing tech coupled with smart packaging is a great recipe for success.

Click here to read the full story on Hillshire’s foray into Beacons mobile technology, and to check out our design work.