Startup Marketing Vs. Art

Startup Marketing Vs. Art

On the weekend I watched Art and Copy, a 2009 documentary featuring interviews with influential folk in the advertising business past and present. One of the themes was that great creative advertising people saw their work as “art” in the sense that it was about much more than selling product.  In their minds it was “a performance” and “culture”. Good advertising, they reasoned, could make a car company more than a car company. Good advertising, according these folks, aspires to drive culture (or at least teach us something about it). If your Ads aren’t doing that, according to these folks, your marketing is crap. The examples used in the movie were campaigns for big companies (Apple’s ads, Nike’s “Just do it”, the “Got Milk?” campaign etc.). It got me thinking – are startup marketers missing something by not striving to connect with prospects on a more “cultural” level? How many startup campaigns aspire to do more than drive clicks or registrations? Should we? If we don’t, does our marketing stink? In the Land of Art, Revenue is Optional, For Startups, it’s Oxygen. In the movie there was very little talk about the results of the campaigns in terms of sales. “Success” was defined by how much people liked or remembered the ads themselves. In the movie the advertising folk admitted that selling was important yet nobody offered an example of how their ads actually drove revenue.  For example, the movie hailed the “Got Milk?” campaign as a great success yet the California Milk Processor’s Board describes the results of the campaign in terms of awareness of the ads only...

3 Startup Branding Mistakes

Many startups run by founders with little marketing experience worry that branding is something that they are missing and need to spend more time on.  I blame Apple for this.  I cringe when I hear startups tell me they need to do “marketing like Apple”.  The reality is that things that matter for more mature established companies are different from those that matter for smaller companies playing in less mature markets.  Here are three branding mistakes I think most startups should avoid: Mistake #1: Confusing Branding with Design (and Forgetting about Awareness) Design (particularly for your website) is important because it has a direct impact on your conversion rates and how easily people can find what they are looking for.  Branding on the other hand is about what people believe about your company, product and/or services.  For most startups, the problem is not that people have misconceptions about your brand, it’s that they don’t think about you AT ALL.  If nobody ever finds out about you, your beautiful logo, amazing crafted “brand values” and meticulously thought-out “brand image” won’t matter (please note: Apple does not have this problem).  In order to have a brand, you need to be known.  The best way for small companies to get known is to have an offering that a market loves (and ideally loves to talk about). Mistake #2: Believing that you have Control over your Brand Again, your brand is what people believe about your company, and it’s products.  As such, it’s something that a company can try to steer in a direction but buyers will ultimately control.  For example, in the...

The Google Superbowl Ad: Why Now?

Google launched their first ever major TV ad last night at the Superbowl and thinking about it I had a moment where I thought – “Oh dear, I’m watching the beginning of the end.” I’ve worked at tech companies that spent a fortune on TV ads and I have always been a skeptic.  Unless you are doing pretty sophisticated brand tracking to measure the changes in the perception of your brand, the effects of tactics like that are almost impossible to measure and even then, trying to connect those results back to a specific TV ad is impossible.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it as Drucker would say.  I always had the feeling in the big tech firms I’ve worked in that TV ads were run largely out of fear.  We did them because we had always done them and nobody had the guts to pull the plug on a tactic that nobody could be really sure did something or not.  I always assumed that if we were starting fresh, the TV ads would never have happened. Then Google does a TV ad.  At the Superbowl. Why?  Is it to reach some part of the population that’s never heard of them? Unlikely – this is the United States we’re talking about.  Was it to show off a new feature that maybe we hadn’t heard of?  Nope, the ad didn’t do that.  To launch a new product?  Nope again.  So what did the ad do? The ad, in a word, was sweet.  It was a love story.  It was designed to have you reaching for a tissue...

Android and Google and Branding

If you are a marketing person and you haven’t been following what Google is doing with Android, you should be because it’s fascinating stuff. Android is a mobile operating system that was developed by the company of the same name, acquired by Google, and is now an open source project developed by a The Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders including Google, Motorola, Samsung, Sprint, HTC and around 40 others.  The stated goal of the Alliance is to create “greater openness in the mobile ecosystem”, allowing the industry to “innovate more rapidly and respond better to consumers’ demands.” There are currently more than 20 different devices that run Android including the new flagship devices from Motorola and Samsung.  There is a Google-controlled Android Marketplace with over 10,000 applications that run on the OS.  Because the code is open source, handset manufacturers are free to extend it to support any hardware they like which means you can have phones with both touch screens and keyboards and screens with various resolutions.  Android also lets you have multiple applications running simultaneously (something Blackberries have done forever but iPhones cannot do).  On the surface, smart phones running Android offer compelling advantages over the iPhone and Blackberry where customers can get the best of both worlds in terms of a touch screen, a hard keyboard, a pile of interesting applications, a choice of carriers, etc. Oh but there are devilish details…… First of all, not all Android devices are created equal.  There are now 3 different releases of the OS installed on phones being sold today.  There are...

Keep Your Filthy Brands off of Me

I haven’t had a serious rant on this blog yet so today is the day!  Corporate marketers at big companies, you can just ignore this post, it’s not for you.  I’m talking to you product marketers at little companies or you folks that own marketing budget for new products at bigger companies.  You know who you are. Lately I am hearing the word “brand” so much it’s making me ill.  Seriously.  Worse than having to watch people use the word brand inappropriately all over the place, is when I see “branding” used as an excuse for bad marketing. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years of my life marketing database software but I am a bit of an analytics nut.  In my world if you aren’t measuring it you aren’t managing it and if you aren’t managing your marketing spend then you might as well hand out $20 bills on the street asking for sales calls. So you have a marketing budget.  It’s puny.  In fact your CEO and your Finance guy are probably in a room right now cutting it as we speak.  Why are you still spending money on things you can’t or don’t measure and calling it “Branding”? Oh I can hear you right now – “April, we have to run those ads – we are building our brand!”  “We have to be at those tradeshows, it’s important for our brand!” “We are spending tens of thousands of dollars on graphics and art and colors and logos and naming, and all that because we are building a brand!”  So how exactly are you tracking that? ...
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