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Reading Raj Patel’s “The Value of Nothing” in an advertising context.

The more I read about the theory of advertising (which is plenty, thanks to my upcoming IPA Eff Test), the more it seems just inextricably linked to other disciplines.
Psychology and sociology are pretty much a given – the better we understand how people’s minds and social structures work, the better we can sell to them. But there’s also a huge economic dimension to advertising.
Specifically, so much of advertising relates to the process of value creation. Though my Comparative Literature course included ample Marx, Engels, Veblen, and Benjamin, it’s a concept that I’m still working to fully understand.
That’s why I was very happy to come across Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing. At its core, it’s a fundamental examination of why things cost what they do – though it also goes far beyond that as the subtitle, “How to reshape market society and redefine democracy,” suggests.
One of the best parts is where Patel explains why “a burger grown from beef raised on clear-cut forest should really c…
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On The Rising Ubiquity of Brackets.

Building on Tom Roach's brilliant takedown of the "sea of sameness" in the marketing and advertising industry, I'm making more of an effort to document and comment on trends (especially digital ones) that suddenly seem to be everywhere. Today's subject: brackets.

If you're US-based, you're less likely to be surprised at why I'm talking about brackets at this particular point. After all, we're right in the midst of March Madness - bracket season as per Google trends, not just in the States...



But around the world.



Little as I care about the NCAA (or sports in general), I do care about the cultural zeitgeist - which at the moment is pretty bracket heavy.

Especially on social.

(Brief digression because my British colleagues' reactions to the term "brackets" - and the decidedly March-agnostic search interest around brackets here - made it amply clear that this hasn't really entered the British national consciousness.



As per Wikipedia's…

On the confused emotions around gaining British citizenship 17 days before Brexit.

I became a British citizen on March 12! So how do I feel about it?
1: A rush of relief 
Getting my residency, and upgrading this to citizenship, has literally taken years of test-taking and form-gathering and fees and waiting and nail-chewing and more fees and getting new photos taken and filling out more forms and more waiting.

After the relatively simple ceremony (swear fealty to a nonagenarian; sign a form; get photos taken), I mostly felt relief. Relief at the security of my new legal status  not being subject to administrative whims. For residency, as these lawyers say, is a precarious thing:
The right of permanent residence may also be withdrawn at any time on the basis of public security, public health or public policy.
But now, no matter what happens over the next days, weeks, and months, I'll be able to stay unencumbered in the country where I've spent the bulk of the last 13 years, where my job, and my husband's job, the kid's school, our little flat, and our corr…

Stylus talk review: "The groups that will shape the commercial landscape in 2019."

Trends and insights researcher Stylus gave a presentation on "The groups that will shape the commercial landscape in 2019" on Tuesday, February 12 – here's my roundup (with extensive commentary).

TL;DR: Interesting in terms of hearing about big and small trends (and the Zeitgeist in general), but also relatively niche and very US-focused. It was definitely about the "haves" rather than "have nots" – though that makes commercial sense I suppose. Also: I'm not entirely sold on the figures cited... Still, events like these are definitely worthwhile because with the insane amounts of information out there, anything that can shed light on what some of the distinct trends are, and where we're headed, makes the infoscape a bit more navigable.

The speakers' main points: Don't just focus on Millennials and consider the "new" lifestyles which people are embracing – specifically...

1) "Supercharged Kids"

Basically: the rise of wok…

Digested Read: How (Not) To Plan, Section 2.

Product, Price, Place!
Introduction
Marketers tend to focus overly much on Promotion, ignoring other three Ps.
2.1 Brands Can(not) Live Forever
"Brands don't have life cycles," a theory which the longevity of Heinz, Kellogg's, and Hovis apparently support.

"If there is any 'life cycle,' it's a brand management cycle."

Phase 1: Brand launch with strong marketing support and ROI.

Phase 2: Sales plateau – marketing needs to maintain and depend the brand and gets less management attention; budgets are cut.

Phase 3: The cuts lead to declining sales; brand owners retaliate with price promotions which deliver short-term sales but damage the brand image (further affecting sales).

The Boston Matrix of Cash Cows and Stars should be applied to categories, not brands.
Checklist

"Aim for brand immortality"
Always invest in continuous advertising [Comment: A recurrent theme]
Share and Voice and Share of Market can help you estimate how much you need to spend to …

Digested Read: How (Not) To Plan, Section 1.

New year = new ventures – in my case, this includes a series of digested reads, with a focus on ad strategy books. I'm kicking it off with the APG's How (Not) To Plan.

Firstly: the book is already a digested read, so this will be the super-distilled version. I'll tackle it section by section.

Section 1 is all about Setting Objectives.
Introduction
"Effective communication starts with agreeing with your clients what it's supposed to do. [O]ften, this stage is rushed, fudged, based on flawed thinking or skipped altogether."
1.1 How (Not) To Make a Plan
The authors talk about how "marketing objectives [...] have lost their grip on reality." However, "there is evidence from the IPA Databank that better objective setting leads to more effective campaigns. Best practice is to identify exactly what business results you want. And exactly what you need people to think, feel, and do to deliver those results." Also? "A campaign can't deliver unles…

#ReadingWrite: American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang.

We're doing something called the #ReadingWrite challenge at work. As per the head of strategy's email:

Training shouldn’t be all PowerPoint and Power Poses. 

Training can be you and a good book. 

Send me your request and we will buy you a book. 

It can be on anything you want. 

Fiction. Non-fiction. Pulp fiction. 

In exchange I would like you write a 100 word synopsis and perhaps swap with another strat. 
Instead of going for the new Romanov history I've been furtively consuming at every bookshop visit, I decided to embrace a growth mindset and went for a graphic novel called American Born Chinese.

I deliberately chose a graphic novel because I tend to be a snob about what constitutes "real" literature.

I ended up reading it three times: once for the story (quickly, on the train home), the second time to also savour the images, and then again to reabsorb.

The illustrations are gorgeous; they evoke East Asian woodcuts but also Herge, and manage to be stylized (and yet detai…