Archives For Armchair Marketing

Scott Galloway is asking CMOs and CEOs 2-3 times a week, “What are the most likely scenarios that would result in a tripling of value in half a decade, and how might that impact capital allocation?” and then works backward to see how those scenarios would shake out.

He then lists out their answers/approaches by category — including how a Best Buy, Amazon, Nike, Samsung, Uber, etc. may approach.

My favorite quotes:

  • “Amazon has turned the media into their bitch”
  • “Starbucks is the ultimate arbiter [in viewing staff and footprint as an asset], spending more on employee benefits than it does on coffee beans.”
  • “Apple’s genius move wasn’t the iPhone, but investing where brand equity was moving, at purchase, and opening extraordinary temples of brand worship”
  • “$1–3B firms are in no man’s land. Not small enough to present the agility and growth rates of long-tail brands, but not big enough to allocate the requisite capital in the arms race that is digital.”
  • “Uber, WeWork, and other (massively) overvalued unicorns: Raise as much money as possible and buy old-economy assets (cars, buildings, etc.) to build analog moats around your businesses / valuations.”

Worth a read over the weekend.


Great comedians like Mitch Hedberg make us feel as though we’re hearing something we’ve known for eternity, yet also experiencing for the first time — revealing obvious truths in surprising ways.

Every brand or product has multiple truths. One of those will be surprising. When you find a surprising truth, people can’t just file it away. It’s psychology. Their minds have to stop and make sense of it.

Like comedy, a creative brief should make you feel uncomfortable. That means it’s working. If it doesn’t make you feel anything, it’s a dead end.

Source: Four Comedy Rules to Use in Strategy | Agency News: Viewpoint – AdAge

If you haven’t bought an Echo or Google Home yet, I’m sorry but you’re an abject failure of a 2017 marketer. And I don’t mean “have you tried Alexa at the store or your friend’s house?”

I mean, “have you bought an Echo, lived with Alexa listening to you, forgot you had an Echo, left it unplugged for a week, plugged it back in and forgot about it, used it only to listen to music and then, oh and then, one day you use it for something extremely useful and IT CLICKS THAT THIS IS A COMPLETE GAME CHANGER?”

Start with an Echo Dot. It’s $50. And you won’t feel like you broke the bank when you need to upgrade later this year.

In Cory Doctorow’s new book, Walkaways, the people of the near-future have an A.I. powered home assistant that not only can order groceries or provide answers to basic questions, it also syncs with appliances, controls entertainment devices, and uses light to highlight chores that need to be completed. Which is basically possible today using the existing infrastructure of Alexa and Google Home. Of course, Doctorow throws in a working sim of your dead lover as the protagonist A.I., but that’s why it was a good novel. And not possible today. Yet.

So assuming you’ve already bought into the serendipity and early brand opportunities with these A.I.-powered assistants, it’s critical we spend some time thinking about next-gen brand opportunities. Specifically, the new Echo Show that debuted this week — featuring not only a screen, but a camera to go along with the microphone.

Chris Messina calls this The Fifth Family Member, pointing out it’s design fits a familiar invisible technology pattern. Not beautiful but not ugly. Something you buy and set-up and forget about. Until you find a few things that make it invaluable. “By reducing the importance of appearance, Amazon can emphasize function over form, keep its prices anticompetitively low, and drown the market with products that offer access to its AI voice assistant.”

Meanwhile, Scott Galloway at L2 is musing about these next-gen brand opportunities higher in the sales funnel and consumer purchase cycle than the conversion — the brand itself.

Voice…will expedite the decline of brand equity as a vehicle for sustaining healthy margins. There is an arrogance in academia and business that a focus on brand building will always be a winning strategy. No, it might not.

Of the 13 firms that have outperformed the S&P five years in a row (yes, there’s just 13), only one of them is a consumer brand — Under Armour. Note: it will be off next year’s list.

At L2 we’ve been running tests (barking commands at Alexa) to glean insight into the Seattle firm’s strategy. Some findings:

1. It’s clear that Amazon wants to drive commerce through Alexa, as they are offering a lower price, on many products, if ordered via voice vs. click.

2. In key categories like batteries, Alexa will suggest Amazon Basics, their private label, and play dumb about other choices (“Sorry, that’s all I found!”) when there are several other brands on

Retailers often leverage their power and custody of the consumer to swap out brands for their own private label. That’s nothing new. Only we’ve never seen any retailer this good at it.

Death, for brands, has a name … Alexa.

Source: “Alexa, How Can We Kill Brands?” | No Mercy No Malice | Scott Galloway | L2



Will voice-enabled devices and ordering kill brands? No.

But they will certainly impact how the public interacts with them. Especially commodity products and those that aren’t unique enough in marketplace ecosystem to stand out (ie. the battery example above).

All the more reason to jump in and start familiarizing and experimenting with this space now.

Good reminder from Dave Knox

While the largest companies were trying to figure out how to use digital as a new advertising tool, a new generation of companies and brands was being started by entrepreneurs that viewed digital as a business model that would give them an advantage versus the scale and budgets of their much larger competitors.

In the old world, brands competed with each other head-on, whether that was trying to win at the First Moment of Truth with the largest share of shelf or creating the television ad with the most buzz during the Super Bowl. In this new high-stakes game of business, startups have decided to throw out the old rules. They are not attacking their competitors head-on.  Instead, they are disregarding the conventional wisdom of industries and in many cases, redefining markets along the way.

In the same way that the majority of today’s Fortune 500 were born in the era of mass media and mass retail, these new rivals have started with digital at the core of their business model.

It is no longer a battle of Goliath vs. Goliath where everyone is playing with the same cards and the same set of rules. Instead, brand leaders need to evolve to thrive in a game of business where the competition is fluid and new players can emerge seemingly overnight.

Source: The New Ways Established Brands Do Battle With Startups – Adweek

Down is up and up is down….

Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes the popular Adblock Plus software, will today start selling the very thing many of its users hate — advertisements.


rei opt outside

We speak often with our clients about leading with their brand and ‘Reasons To Care.’

Here’s the latest in doing just that, from REI:

This is more than a PR stunt, because the campaign follows their ethos closely and they are investing real money in making it happen.

Lots of praise today.

With that said, this isn’t a last-minute gamble, and has been in the works all year.

Here’s a more sarcastic take.

This is another good example for us to keep in mind in the path of moving brands from product-focused ‘reasons to believe’ to brand-based ‘reasons to care.’

Gawker got its feelings hurt that it hurt Coke’s feelings and that, in turn, hurt consumers’ feelings.

I don’t entirely agree with the premise of the outrage, but it’s a passionate argument held by many that is worth paying attention to.

In the era where IRM (“influencer relationship management”) is a thing, and social advertising, blogger networks, sponsorships and native advertising have finally been quantified as business drivers, we marketers have a responsibility to never forget the human side of our business…

What’s been lost in the friendification of corporate brands is that by their very nature of brand-ness, brands are diametrically opposed to our interests as humans. They exist solely to distract, deceive, and manipulate us out of our money—and in the case of Coca Cola, freely dispense diabetes and obesity. There is nothing relatable in a brand. It’s an entity designed for the single purpose of extracting money from you by any legal means, no matter if you don’t need or even want what’s being sold. Even if the thing being sold is very, very bad for you—the brand will persuade you it’s silken and lovely. A brand will systematically and perpetually convince you that your best interests are incorrect—this is the behavior of an abusive partner, not a friend. Not even a stranger! Brands hate you.

And still, people love slobbering all over branded membranes.

My counter-point: Brands don’t have to be your friends, but they can be friendly.

Passion for brands is a real thing, and it’s not always about sales.

But often good social marketing really is about sharing your brand advocate stories with others in order to drive sales. Or empowering your brand advocates to share that advocacy – often through their own channels. And yes, things like access, money and incentives exchange hands. Much like has always existed in the traditional media and traditional advertising worlds.

Not all consumer engagement programs need to earned and grown from an organic base of advocates, but I believe the best ones are. Not all products are amazing and solve a problem, but I believe the best ones are.

The beauty of the social media era is the new-found accessibility between individuals and the companies, organizations, politicians, celebrities, musicians and countless others. The walls are down.

Now we have to be careful what kind of bridges we’re building.

The monetization of emerging communication channels isn’t new, and neither is branded content on those channels. However, the social era was built on the promise of transparency and authenticity, which I agree many brand managers are still struggling to embrace ([rant]even as Facebook nears its 11th birthday[/rant]).

It’s hard to give up control, even if it’s the right thing to do. Even if someone uses that control to be a cynic or destroy your idea.

Okay, so is the brand/human/friend conundrum a necessary evil or an emerging opportunity? I would say it’s less a slippery slope downward and more a fine horizontal line we need to walk forward. There will be slips, wins and major catastrophes, but that isn’t going to stop brands from trying to humanize themselves and find touchpoints for engagement. It’s up to us to build programs that are laser targeted on a brand promise, engage advocates in a way that adds value, AND tie to measurable business objectives.

It ain’t easy. That’s obvious, right?

I think outgoing General Mills CMO Mark Addicks would have some strong counter arguments

Products come and go. Brands endure.

They are a challenge to build, a challenge to steward as consumers and markets change, a challenge to evolve strategically.

Brands force us to make choices, such as who to be for, where to play, when to urgently accelerate–and when to stop and have the courage to say ‘no’.

And it is far easier to destroy a brand than to build one. Actually, frighteningly easy.

Building and growing a brand requires that we, too, continue to grow and evolve at the pace of the consumer and marketplace. And that we are accountable for stewarding each brand to a better place.