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This. Is. Brilliant. Every time someone does a piece like this, I find myself grinning ear to ear.

First, some attribution: The piece, published by www.boredpanda.com is tagged as a guest post by Dario D., who first published his images on his own site www.alphaila.com. I recommend that you check them both out for the full feature. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

The premise (from Dario):

So, I went to some fast food places (I won’t say “restaurants”, just “places”), and picked up burgers/tacos, so I could compare them with the ads.

I brought the “food” home (different stuff over 3 nights), tossed it into my photography studio, and did some ad-style shoots (with pictures of the official ads on my computer next to me, so I could match the lighting/angles/etc).

The result, of course is a set of gems (go see them all) that includes this other killer side by side dose of reality:

Dario goes on:

Don’t ask me how this advertising is legal. […] I happily pitch the idea that lawmakers are committing a crime against us people by allowing us to be continually insulted by this advertising […]  in defiance of human perception.

He has a point. The pictures don’t lie.

Compare this kind of advertising to anything else: Cars, candy, clothing, drinks, watches, laptops, tennis rackets, video games, etc.. Most products, when depicted in photographs used for marketing purposes are pretty close to what you can expect to get. In this particular industry, however, not so much.

Remember the scene from the movie “Falling Down,” back in the post Reagan 1990’s, in which Michael Douglas’ character (as mentally imbalanced as he may be) throws a fit over this very affront to human intelligence. Fast-forward to 04:06, towards the end of the clip to see what happens. Take a look:

If you have time, watch the whole scene from the beginning. It’s a classic.

The lesson here isn’t that false advertising exists, or that fast food companies are sometimes unethical with their marketing. The lesson is this: Promises matter. The degree to which customers’ expectations are met is the currency by which a brand’s worth is measured. In the era of social media, global word-of-mouth, and in markets where the abundance of choices can send yesterday’s market leaders careening into a pit of obsolescence, the foundations upon which you build your brand’s future cannot be based on institutionalized broken promises. Breeding cynicism about your products is just not good policy.

Now apply this thinking to your business. Put your marketing through the same test. Does it pass muster, or like these images above, is there a gap between promise and delivery?

Now ask yourself this: Which do you believe is the better choice to build a sustainable brand: Disappointing customers, or delighting them?

PS: Social Media “gurus,” consultants and “certifying bodies,” take a long hard look at what you are selling, and how you are selling it.

Cheers,

Olivier

Additional resources: This post’s grandaddy (click here).

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IMG00056-20090815-1540b

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last five days or so, but I was in Portland, OR. Between being stuck on airplanes and airports, touring the city and its outskirts, meeting with some pretty amazing people and enjoying the honor of being on the 2009 Rosey Awards jury, I didn’t have much time to blog. Too bad too, because A LOT has been going through my mind these last few days, about a great many things.

Rather than write a series of long dissertations over the course of several weeks though, here are some observations about various topics in easily digestible Top 10/note format instead:

Flying coast to coast:

1. United Airlines had some good crews out of Chicago and Portland. As much as I’d love to complain about how horrible it was to fly cross country (twice), I can’t. The planes were clean, (relatively) comfortable, the crews were professional and friendly, and for the most part the flights were on time. Have airlines in the US turned the corner? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s been a while since I’ve flown from coast to coast without wanting to rip into an airline or two. Well done, United.

2. Orbitz’ automated info service calling me on my cell to give me the latest flight info rocked. The one delay I suffered on the way home prompted two calls within minutes of the gate agent’s announcement. That’s FAST. Very cool and efficient.

3. The screens on the info kiosks in O’Hare all say, touch me, which I find kind of funny. Especially since no one does.

4. Airports increasingly turn travelers into homeless people. I saw more folks sleeping on the floor in our nation’s airports than I did in Portland’s public parks. Not to rag on Portland or anything (I am not), but that’s pretty obnoxious. What, a few hours on a plane and we lose all sense of decorum? Since when? Put your shoes back on and grab a seat. Concourse C isn’t your living room or your back yard. Thanks.

5. Books love long flights.

6. Travel light. It pays off.

7. Ironically, you can fly with a cigarette lighter in your pocket – as long as you buy it at the gift shop inside the terminal.

8. The TSA people at PDX are insanely friendly, and kind of funny.

9. Chicago O’Hare is a complete cluster. One of the worst airport designs on the planet.

10. The inspiration behind most airport terminal designs must have come from ER waiting rooms, which is not a good thing, considering that’s where most passengers will spend nearly half of their travel time. Pretty sad. We could do a lot better. Especially since… well, see number 4 (above).

Portland, Oregon:

1. Half-way between Seattle and San Francisco, surrounded by some of the most gorgeous, fertile countryside in North America, cyclists and microbreweries everywhere, some of the best vineyards in the US, a real foodie culture, effective public transportation… Should I go on?

2. California wines may get all the publicity, but Oregon pinots are the shiznit. Oregon wines rocked my world, and I know a little bit about wines since I’m French, so you really should listen to me on this. I am not wrong. Don’t know where to start? Check out Elk Cove Vineyards.

3. The best oyster po-boy on the planet is at a restaurant called EAT on N. Williams. (The oyster shooters are off the hook too.) From downtown, take the red line and grab the #44 bus. (Below: The triumvirate – microbrew, dirty mary oyster shooter, and good old glacier-fed water.)

The triumvirate

4. Just a few miles outside of the city, you can see things like this:

portland

columbia river gorge

Sorry for the poor image quality. I only had my phone on me. This is some of the prettiest country on the planet, and you don’t have to drive very far to enjoy it. What other major US city has this kind of awesomeness in its back yard?

5. Downtown’s wi-fi could have been better. Surprising since everything in Portland was pretty top notch. I guess I had to have one semi-negative thing to say about my stay. 😀

Oh, and the Hilton family of hotels MUST stop charging people for wi-fi (especially in its lobby and bar). Come on, Hilton hotels: If cheap hotels can provide free wi-fi for their customers, so can you. Welcome to 2009 (almost 2010). Don’t make me cross the street to use my laptop. It doesn’t help your business. That goes for Hiltons everywhere, not just in Portland.

Aside from that, my Hilton experience was fantastic.

6. Portland Ad Fed and the portland creative community ROCK. (And they sport a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek brand of humor that I dig a lot.) Below: Greenville, SC was not forgotten. 😀

roseys 2 - Greenville sucks

Incidentally, if you’re in advertising and the PAF’s campaign around this year’s Roseys offends you, try this on for size: a) Chill. Take a deep breath. Relax. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Have a laugh at your own expense every once in a while. b) Read this.

7. Bicycles everywhere. Ladies ride bikes to work in skirts and heels. Gentlemen ride bikes to work in suits. Nuff said.

8. Hazelnuts. (1/2 of the Nutella magic formula.) They grow there. Lots of them. As a matter of fact, people there seem to know how to grow their own food, which is more than I can say for most people around the US. There’s something to be said for that.

9. Did I mention that Portland has a fantastic downtown? Great architecture, lots of cool places to discover, simple navigation, friendly people, coffee shops and restaurants everywhere…

10. People there seem pretty happy to be good neighbors without telling each other how they should live their lives, which I find kind of refreshing these days. Heck, nobody looked at me funny for drinking absinthe after dinner Saturday. If that isn’t pretty cool, I don’t know what is. Oh, and the fashions in portland are off the hook. Check out this guy:

Bruno

Being on the jury of a prestigious advertising competition:

1. Many of you probably know that as a wee boy growing up in Paris during the golden age of European advertising, I was a genuine advertising junkie.  I’ve always loved advertising. So for me to be invited to spend a couple of days neck deep in ad campaigns was very much a dream come true. There were several moments during the Rosey judging when I caught myself grinning from ear to ear thinking about that little boy in 1970’s Paris, who would have been pretty excited to know that in a couple of decades, he would be judging an advertising competition. Very cool.

2. Not being an ad guy gives me a radically different  perspective on what makes advertising great or effective from people in the advertising industry. Not saying it’s a better perspective, just a different one.

3. Big budgets = better production values = better ads. Fair or not, that’s still the reality.  Agencies working with small budgets need to become smarter and more creative than their better paid competitors. Not just say they are – actually do it. Learn to do more with less.

4. Great advertising is not budget-dependent. Don’t buy into the mentality that your best clients are your biggest clients.

5. The advertising world does not understand the web. At all. Still. (Which is weird because so many ad agencies have pretty nice websites these days.)

6. If you are an advertising agency and you dream of winning an award, enter work worthy of an award. Don’t enter for the sake of having your work reviewed and rejected in the first round.

7. What works isn’t always what wins. Advertising that appeals to the general public (potential customers) doesn’t necessarily appeal to creative directors and agency principals – folks who tend to judge these things.

8. If you don’t win this year, try again next year. Between now and then though, let go of the fear. Be bolder, funnier, smarter. Dream big and live in the details. Do extraordinary work. Safe and derivative don’t win hearts out there in the world or in competitions. There really is no alternative to kicking ass.

9. Judging is hard. You want to give good work well deserved recognition, but “good” just isn’t good enough to be awarded a prize. You need to be better than good. You need to be great. Exceptional, even. I wish there were an award for just “good” work… but there really isn’t.

10. Ad agencies enjoy some of the coolest work spaces on the planet, and they know where to order the best takeout.

Before I forget, I want to send out a very special and warm thank you to Kim Brater, Jamie Sexton and Jerry Ketel for taking such wonderful care of me while in Portland. You are three of the coolest people on the planet, and I really can’t thank you enough for your trust, hospitality, friendship and generosity. 🙂

I also want to say hi to my fantastic co-judges: Raleigh, NC’s David Baldwin and Seattle, WA’s Cal McAllister. You guys taught me a lot and it was a blast hanging out with you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Sadly, you’ll all have to wait until November for the results of the judging (yes, the actual Rosey Awards), but don’t fret: I will keep you guys posted. Until then, be sure to check out the Roseys’ website (and PAF‘s too while you’re at it).

Top photo, left to right: David Baldwin, Cal McAllister and Jamie Sexton.

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Time for your weekly BrandBuilder reality check.

There are only two types of businesses: The ones you know are the best in their category, and… everyone else.

Advertising and marketing are nice, but too many “also in” businesses waste money on marketing and advertising when they should instead revamp one or two elements of their business that would help them actually gain market share. (The most pleasant and efficient customer service experience in your industry, a perfectly designed user interface, a 100% uptime guarantee, stunning design, impeccable ergonomics, remarkable flavor, etc.)

Advertising is basically a load of bulls**t unless you have something worth advertising to begin with. (Otherwise, what are you advertising: Hey, come buy from us! We’re the thirteenth best shoe store in the 29601!) You’re either the best at something, or you’re just another voice in the crowd getting fleeced by just another run-of-the-mill ad agency or “marketing firm.”

Before you start spending money on advertising, ask yourself what your super-special value to your users/customers/clients truly is. Maybe you have the best prices. Maybe you have the most comfortable meeting rooms. Maybe you have the most square footage of any gym in your area, or the freshest produce, or the most knowledgeable staff, or the fastest check-out. It doesn’t matter what that something is as long as it is something concrete (as opposed to another lame marketing spinfest). Is that one thing truly hitting the mark? Are you really delivering on it as well as you could? As well as you should?

Whatever your value differentiator is, whatever your brand’s value advantage is (or should be), this is what you need to invest in FIRST. Once you have that aspect of your business nailed down, THEN and only then should you even bother with advertising.

About a year ago, Seth Godin posted some great advice to college grads on his blog: Only borrow money to pay for things that increase in value. A pair of shoes or cool clothes never increase in value. An education or professional experience, however do. Great advice, especially in the crux of our current economic/credit crunch. The same applies to businesses, which is why Seth’s advice is so damn relevant to the discussion today.

Perhaps more relevant to today’s topic is a slightly tweaked version of Seth’s advice: “only invest in things that increase in value.”

Like shoes and clothes, advertising never increases in value. With advertising, you are at best buying a small percentage of the public’s attention across a very narrow sliver of space and time (and paying a premium price for it.) Before you know it, your advertising budget is gone, and so is that very expensive bubble of attention.

Investing in better products/services, better people and better processes, however, makes a whole lot more sense as these things never lose value. Great employees, great products, great customer experiences and fostering a unique relationship with your fan base are the types of things worth investing in. These are the true foundations of a great brand. These are the types of things that will help strengthen your brand equity.

Advertising rarely translates into brand equity unless these foundations exist to support it. Even so, the more solid the brand’s foundation, the less relevant advertising becomes.

Starbucks doesn’t advertise much and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Whole Foods ad anywhere, yet millions of people drop solid stacks of greenbacks there every year. I don’t shop at Target, wear Rudy Project sunglasses, drive a VW or crave a BMW because of advertising. Other than creating awareness for a product that hasn’t managed to capture anyone’s attention yet (red flag), advertising does little to impact most companies’ growth. Do they create spikes in interest, eyeballs and sales? Sure. When executed well. But growth? Over time? Nope. Growth is a completely different animal, and advertising alone, boys and girls, won’t get you there.

Building a strong reputation by developing great products, buzz-worthy experiences and generally delighting customers/users is a much stronger strategy than paying loads of cash for advertising.

Something to think about as you prioritize items on your budget for H2.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. 🙂

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I’ve been a film fanatic ever since my parents took me to see the first Star Wars movie (now known simply as Episode IV). Since I’ve also been a big advertising fan since… well, since I was old enough to watch TV, it stands to reason that movie trailers (the advertising of movies) kind of rank pretty high on my list of attention-grabbers.

Let me say this again: I love movie trailers. Always have. Always will.

But here’s the rub: Most trailers these days aren’t any good. They used to be. There used to be a certain degree of savoir-faire when it came to cutting movie trailers. They were exciting. They made you want to see more. They made your mouth water.

Not so anymore.

Most trailers now seem to be disjointed and pointless. The rule of the day seems to be “okay, let’s throw as much crap as we can into that twenty-second spot as we possibly can. Priority 1: Explosions. Priority 2: The funniest lines in the movie. Oh… and let’s add 20 extra seconds of useless footage at the end just to explain the entire plot of the movie to the portion of the audience who isn’t savvy enough to want to see the movie without having it explained A-Z upfront.”

Yawn.

To be fair, note that I said “most” not “all.” Some trailers are great. But they are the exception rather than the rule.

And don’t even get me started with the TV trailers. Not even worth the virtual ink. Completely worthless.

So before I go on, let me throw a little note to the powers that be in Hollywood: Please, please, please, stop putting out lousy trailers. Please!!! Aside from the fact that bad trailers don’t entice people to go see the movies they advertise (no, really, think about it), those of us who look forward to them are getting tired of having our expectations shattered by remedial, poorly cut junk.

How hard is it to put together an exciting 30-60 second spot with 90+ minutes of footage? If my neighbor’s kid can do it for free on his Mac and post it to YouTube, surely, a highly paid studio editor can do a half-decent job. Right?

But enough about that. Read the fascinating (and quick) post on Tom Asacker’s blog about advertising’s effect on expectations rather than simply sales. (It deals with movie trailers.) Here’s a sliver:

“Instead of examining the effect of advertising on sales, we examine how advertising affects the updating of market-wide sales expectations. The focus on expectations creates a valuable advantage. Our measure of expectations, which is derived from a stock market simulation, is an accurate predictor of sales.”

Confused? No worries. Click here to read the whole post.

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