Tom Fishburne: Marketoonist marketing cartoons and cartoon-based marketing campaigns Sun, 20 Jul 2014 22:58:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 creative review Sun, 20 Jul 2014 22:57:43 +0000 140721.creativereview
How we review creative is as valuable a part of the creative process as the creative itself. Yet the creative review is often overlooked and frequently misunderstood. The most talented designers in the world will create mediocre work if the creative review process is managed in a mediocre way.

I love the video that circulated a few years ago called “Microsoft Designs the iPod Package”. In several hysterically accurate minutes, the sleek Apple packaging design devolves into a cluttered mess because of creative feedback from the Microsoft marketing team. The fascinating epilogue is that it turns out the video was created by Microsoft designers to make a point to their own marketing colleagues.

As a Microsoft spokesperson said at the time, “It was an internal-only video clip commissioned by our packaging team to humorously highlight the challenges we have faced RE: packaging and to educate marketers here about the pitfalls of packaging and branding.”

Breakthrough creative only starts when we treat our creative partners as partners.

I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations on reviewing creative. Following is a cartoon I drew in 2006 on some of the pitfalls of critiquing creative.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)


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sharing personal data with marketers Sun, 13 Jul 2014 14:40:23 +0000 140714.personaldata
Consumers are increasingly aware just how much personal data they’re sharing with marketers. Whether browsing online or shopping in a store with a loyalty card, consumers reveal a lot of themselves every time they interact with a brand.

In a recent Communispace study (PDF), 86% of consumers would click a “Do Not Track” button if one existed and 30% would pay a 5% premium for a guarantee that their personal data would not be captured.

Yet 52% of consumers would share their personal data with marketers for discounts, with younger consumers more comfortable sharing personal data. A majority of Millennials and Gen X-ers would share data for discounts, while a majority of Boomers and Silents would not.

As I cartooned a couple of months ago, it will be interesting to watch how different brands navigate the tradeoffs of consumer privacy with personalization and relevance. I think that the brands that do best will be the ones that let consumers have a say in what data they share and how that data is used.

The Communispace study raised some interesting takeaways for marketers:

“Our research suggests serious risks for companies who don’t respect their customers’ wishes for privacy and control, and who continue to push messages – even personalized messages – without providing corresponding means for customers to seek them out and signal their intentions…

“While people increasingly accept some loss of privacy as a cost of doing business, or a way to earn perks, the majority say they do not appreciate the covert tracking that takes place in the name of “added value” and “customized experiences.”

“It … suggests a real opportunity for companies ready to engage with consumers on their terms and re-negotiate power in the vendor-customer relationship.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how marketers should navigate personal data.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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safe is risky Sun, 06 Jul 2014 15:55:43 +0000 140707.safeisrisky
Organizations can spot the risks of a new idea a mile away. But there’s a curious blind spot when it comes to the risks of not taking those risks. The path of least resistance is to play it safe and keep the idea as close to the tried-and-true as possible. We just need to ask Polaroid how that strategy works in the long run.

I stumbled across an interesting HBR article from Bill Taylor called “Playing It Safe Is Riskier Than You Think”. In it, he writes about an analogy of risk first framed by two business professors 25 years ago.

“Executives and entrepreneurs face two very different sorts of risks. One is that their organization will make a bold move that failed — a risk they call ‘sinking the ship.’ The other is that their organization will fail to make a bold move that would have succeeded — a risk they call ‘missing the boat.’

“Naturally, most executives worry more about sinking the boat than missing the boat, which is why so many organizations, even in flush times, are so cautious and conservative. To me, though, the opportunity for executives and entrepreneurs is to recognize the power of rocking the boat — searching for big ideas and small wrinkles, inside and outside the organization, that help you make waves and change course.”

When we’re leading a project, particularly at a large company, I think that’s a big part of our job — to continually find ways to rock the boat. The most remarkable ideas go against the flow. But we don’t want to sacrifice the remarkable parts of the idea for the comfort of a smoother ride.

It’s easier than ever to prototype just about every aspect of our ideas to make them come to life. But in most stage gate meetings I’ve attended, where ideas are presented for approval, every idea is shoehorned into the exact same boring PowerPoint template. In that environment, the “safest” idea will win, not the most remarkable.

A few years ago, I heard Doug Hall lead an innovation workshop, and his session on managing risks really struck a chord with me. He said that “meaningfully unique ideas spark fear. Fear causes shut down. The secret to reducing fear is to make the unknown known. We need to turn killer issues into manageable threats”. I think we rock the boat by continually prototyping the unknowns of our ideas so that they become known.

We can’t change the inherent risk aversion of an organization. But we can rock the boat.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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how a brief becomes an ad Mon, 30 Jun 2014 04:17:35 +0000 140630c.brief
The ad creative process can be just as circuitous and political as the classic Schoolhouse Rock video about how a bill becomes a law.

Creative briefs often read like peace treaties between the client and agency that pack in everything about a brand (except for a meaningful point of difference). When advertising falls flat, the root cause is often a vague and watered down brief.

This dynamic creates a lot of frustration all around, as R/GA and Beats by Dre voiced in presentation at last week’s Cannes Lions Festival (provocatively titled, “F*** Briefs”). They caused a stir by proposing to do away with briefs entirely, particularly when there’s such a need for real-time marketing and no time for navel-gazing or “numbing consensus”.

Rather than kill the brief, I think marketers need to kill the “numbing consensus”. A brief is simply a container. It’s a reflection of whether there’s a real story to bring to life in marketing communication.

I like how BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson framed it after the R/GA talk:

“Precisely because you want to be able to move in real time, you have to have had a really crisp, well-thought-through, well-articulated strategy. If everything just becomes an impulse, instead of creating a stronger wall, you’re just going to end up with a pile of rubble.

“You don’t restart every time you start another piece of work, because you know what you’re working with. You take Snickers—’You’re not you when you’re hungry’ is so precisely defined, we could, right now, write a Snickers ad set at this table in this location because the idea is so crisply defined.”

Taking the time to get to a “crisply defined” central idea is the trick. And yet so often the brief lacks that kind of powerful hook, and instead recites time-worn platitudes about the brand.

I like how this Ad Age article illustrated the situation:

“When you write a creative brief, you’re not filling out a form. You’re crafting the story of your product and its reason to exist and thrive in the world. This is the first, and arguably the most important creative act of the entire process. And yet it’s often approached with all the delight of passing a kidney stone.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the role of the brief and how to avoid the “numbing consensus”.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

Here’s a related cartoon I drew in 2011.

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marketing technobabble Mon, 23 Jun 2014 04:21:34 +0000 Marketing Technobabble
Marketers can go a little trademark crazy. Sometimes we focus so much on the trademarked features of a product that we lose sight of the actual consumer need.

Last week, someone sent me a piece of marketing communication for a new razor, the “Gillette(R) Fusion(R) ProGlide(R) with Flexball(TM) technology.” The string of four trademarked names to describe a single product cracked us both up.

Shaving is the poster category for feature proliferation. This dynamic creates opportunity for startups like Dollar Shave Club. Dollar Shave Club’s famous launch video went at the category head-on: “Don’t buy shave-tech you don’t need.” Instead of technobabble, they simply claimed “Our blades our F**king Great” and then focused on a real consumer need.

Here’s a cartoon I drew on this dynamic in 2010.
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Marketing Technobabble is common with technical products, where innovation can be tech-centric rather than consumer-centric. From razors to B2B software, brands often start to breathe their own exhaust.

I think there’s a lot that technical brands can learn from the Dollar Shave Club approach.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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brand guidelines Sun, 15 Jun 2014 22:11:10 +0000 140616.brandguidelines
How Draconian are your Brand Guidelines? Many brands focus so much on maintaining consistency that they forget one of the most important goals of Brand Guidelines — inspiring creative work.

Building a brand takes a village, inside the company and out. From agencies to packaging engineers, there are a lot of people who touch and influence how a brand comes to life. Marketers often put together guidelines to codify the rules of the brand.

When done well, Brand Guidelines are a rally cry that can inspire the extended team’s best work. When done poorly, Brand Guidelines are a wet blanket that ensures the status quo.

In 1997, I worked for one of the first interactive agencies in San Francisco, helping build web sites for Disney and others. I remember how difficult it was to apply the rigidity of the Disney Brand Guidelines to the relatively new medium of the Web. Because Disney wrote their guidelines from a print mindset, they unintentionally limited the potential of their agencies’ work and the resulting web sites looked and felt like virtual brochures.

I see the same dynamic at play today, with the evolving landscape of branding, from mobile to content marketing. Our extended brand teams need guidance, but they also need the freedom and flexibility to experiment.

When I worked at method, we invested a significant amount of effort in our Brand Guidelines for such a small company, updating Brand Guidelines practically every year. Our brand experience team tried to strike the right balance of consistency and inspiration.
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Marketers should be more than Brand Police and Brand Guidelines should be more than a set of rules to enforce.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories about creating effective and inspirational Brand Guidelines.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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push marketing Sun, 08 Jun 2014 22:58:45 +0000
There’s a fine line between Push and pushy. Marketers have an extraordinarily powerful tool in reaching consumers through their mobile devices. There is potential to deliver messaging to consumers that is perfectly matched to their intent.

Yet much of the push marketing that I’ve experienced is anything but. Push without relevance is invasive.

There is also a fine line between cool and creepy. As marketers try to dial up the relevance of their offers, they can come across as stalking. A friend of mine received a push notification offering a hotel deal on the same street where he was standing. In one sense, this was highly targeted. Yet in another sense, it seemed a little like Big Brother. Also, the location data wasn’t cross-referenced against his billing address to know that he lives just a short drive away from where the hotel deal was offered. So, it was targeted enough to be creepy, but not targeted enough to be relevant.

We’re in an awkward adolescent stage of mobile marketing. Marketers will continue to experiment with different ways to use this new technology, and will alternately annoy and amaze consumers.

I’d love to hear your stories of mobile marketing, good and bad.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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marketing with a/b testing Mon, 02 Jun 2014 05:06:12 +0000
The rise of A/B testing has transformed marketing. Marketers can now instantly test and adapt messaging based on live data. A change in something as minor as the color of a call-to-action button can lead to performance improvements though the whole marketing funnel.

Yet sometimes marketers follow the data blindly. Sometimes the data cart can lead the creative horse. This can cause friction in the creative process between the “Mad Men” and the “Math Men”.

Google has a clever acronym for how most companies make decisions — listening to the “HiPPO” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). We now have data to clearly prove the most effective approach. There’s a movement to expand the role of A/B testing far beyond its roots in direct response to brand-building marketing.

A few year’s ago, one of Google’s first designers left Google and shared some of his frustrations about relying too much on data in the creative process.

“Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.”

“Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle …

“I won’t miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data.”

Marketers today clearly have to be data-driven. But I think we also need to be creative-driven. We need to appreciate the role of big ideas and creative intuition.

A/B Testing won’t generate breakthrough thinking. It doesn’t replace the creative process. But optimizing with A/B testing can make our messaging even more impactful.

Marketers today need to be both “Mad Men” andMath Men”.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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sponsored posts Mon, 19 May 2014 05:38:48 +0000
Hugh MacLeod once cartooned “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than in social media, particularly as brands migrate their commercial messages from ads on the side to sponsored posts in the center. I had a chance to go to Facebook’s headquarters recently and was struck by something I heard — when your brand message sits in someone’s news feed between a friend’s birth announcement and another friend’s wedding pictures, your brand message had better be worth it.

Yet not enough brand messaging in social media is really worth it. Their content feels re-purposed from traditional advertising. Too frequently, brands come across as party crashers rather than welcome guests.

I’ve also noticed brands take a one-size-fits-all approach across every social media channel. Marketers don’t give enough thought to the platform their content is posted on. Facebook is different than Instagram is different than Twitter is different than LinkedIn is different than Pinterest. To thrive in distinct channels, marketers have to adapt their story to each one.

I liked this quote from Gary Vaynerchuk’s recent book on this topic:

“Today, getting people to hear your story on social media, and then act on it, requires using a platform’s native language, paying attention to context, understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique, and adapting your content to match.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to create brand messaging that’s truly native to distinct social networks.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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marketing with personal data Sun, 11 May 2014 20:33:01 +0000

A Chicago family recently received a promotional mailer from OfficeMax addressed to “Mike Seay/Daughter Killed in Car Crash/Or Current Business.” The Seay family lost their daughter less than a year earlier.

Including “daughter killed in car crash” wording on the envelope was obviously a mistake, but the issue is far bigger than a typo. Having that sensitive data to begin with reveals the inner workings of data brokers and consumer targeting. This is the ugly side of Big Data. Increasing troves of personal data (including sensitive life stage events) are tracked by data brokers to fuel marketing campaigns. Recent Congressional testimony showed that data brokers even sell lists of rape victims and AIDS patients.

These may be extreme cases, but I think marketers need to clearly draw the line on how they plan to use customer data. In the pursuit of creating relevant advertising, marketers are walking a tricky tightrope on consumer privacy.

Here’s how Macy’s VP of customer strategy, Julie Bernard, framed the issue:

“Consumers are worried about our use of data, but they’re pissed if I don’t deliver relevance… How am I supposed to deliver relevance and magically deliver what they want if I don’t look at the data?”

There’s a legislative movement in the US to limit corporate access to personal data. However government regulation ultimately plays out, I think there’s an opportunity for marketers to take the high road.

As Julie Bernard puts it, “I could just track every phone that came into Macy’s without announcing to people. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences navigating personal data in marketing.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

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