The Dangers of Ongepotchket Marketing

Ongepotchket means overly elaborate or excessively decorated.
Ongepotchket means overly elaborate or excessively decorated.

Yiddish is expressive. The Yiddish word ongepotchket is full court onomatopoeia from a language that has given us such classic terms as schlepp, nebbish and oy vey.

Ongepotchket means overly elaborate or excessively decorated. That’s what most Marketing has become.

Marketing used to be campaign driven. What that meant was after a brand agreed upon its positioning, a bunch of people worked really hard to express the brand’s campaign theme in a strong, consistent and often clever way. Yes, this was very much one-way communications. The brand approved the narrative and worked hard to control how the brand was expressed. It was considered managing.

These days controlling the brand is nearly impossible.

When we buy media, Marketers have an imprecise notion of who is viewing their advertising. There’s ad skipping. Advertising overload. Lack of viewability. Ad fraud. Huge ‘taxes’ paid to enablers in the digital supply chain. You get the idea.

The owned and earned media realms are equally problematic for marketing control. Every consumer is his/her own publisher with opinions about your brand. There’s an overwhelming amount of consumer-generated comment you cannot control. You can control what you post on you brand social media sites and your website. But you definitely cannot control what consumers and critics say. What’s more, there are so many venues for folks to use to say it.

To the consumer who wants to buy something there is messaging overload too. It comes from people who are considering your brand. In addition there are countless messages from and about other brands that are part of a consumer’s minute-by-minute, second-by-second narrative. This is marketing ongepotchket.

Solving this problem is not easy. Here’s my simple suggestions on how to attack the issue.

Declutter your marketing. Build a strong, singular compelling message. Deliver this message consistently over all your communications channels.

Stick with it.

Grand Central Station, New York. Photo by Jad Limcaco
Grand Central Station, New York. Photo by Jad Limcaco

Branding is a lot like going to Grand Central Station in New York City during rush hour. There are tens of thousands of people in the terminal, but over to the left you see someone you know. That’s your brand. Uncluttered in an ongepotchket world.

It’s About the Consumer

Customer Choice, Photograph by Joaquin Mixon
Customer Choice shows Consumers Matter,  Photograph by Joaquin Mixon

My friend John Durham, who lives and teaches in San Francisco but practices Marketing globally, publishes the most interesting things on social media. Recently, he retweeted some thoughts from Tom Goodwin who said:

2005- It’s all about 3G

2010- It’s All about Big Data

2015- It’s all about IOT

2017- It’s all about AI

Can’t it ever be about people?

In my experience as a Marketer it’s always about people or in more basic marketing terms it’s about the consumer. If we believe the foundations of Marketing theory (and I do) the definition of Marketing is to understand what people wants and then meets those wants.

Granted, categories of people must involve more than just the consumers who buy your product or service. But consumers are the best place to start. That being said people also means investors, business partners, employees of your company, the media (mainstream and social) as well as folks who may fall into any of these categories in the future. The key is to have a brand, positioning and narrative that will resonate well with all of these groups and reinforce the power of your offering.

Consumers have power well beyond their decision to purchase or not purchase your product. In effect, every consumer is a publisher. With an ability to create or share or share content, opinion and influence all over the world. In the old days companies used to create and control brand narratives. Today there is little to no control. And the narrative is shared.

These changes have major implications in the ways consumers and brands interact. There are as many media channels as people in the world who have access to the Internet. So it’s not about that one big thing. It’s about everything. I suggest you focus less on the latest communications tool. The latest trend. The next big thing. Understand how consumers feel about your brand and you’ll get closer to success.

Advertising Week

Advertising Week, by Dean Harris
Advertising Week, by Dean Harris, photo by Mingwei Li

This week is Advertising Week in New York City. As a third generation New York advertising guy, every week seems like Advertising Week to me. I think about advertising all the time, probably far too much.

The advertising business has changed dramatically since my wife and I started our agency in Manhattan. Advertising used to be a business you could launch with no capital if you had a client and some ideas that persuaded them to hire you.

My wife of 36 years and I met at a wedding. We were not married yet, but both of us were in advertising. She was running a small agency that was about to be acquired. I was in Account Management at a big Madison Avenue agency, working on a pretty high-profile disposable diaper account.

We hit it off, started dated and heard that there was this camera account up for grabs. So, against the advice of just about everyone (you don’t want to mix dating with a business relationship), we pitched the account and to our pleasant surprise, got it.

Etkin & Harris Advertising was in business. We operated out of Marcia’s apartment in Murray Hill with not much more than a yellow legal pad and a phone. We kept the camera account for about a year only to lose it when we refused to put half of our commissions into the company president’s Swiss bank account. Apparently, another agency agreed to that deal.

Back in the day, the advertising agency business model let agencies make a fair profit. We billed 15% on the media we placed and 17.65% on production. In effect, we gave away our creative product for free. The assumption was that as your client grew they would spend more with you and your agency would grow correspondingly. Your success and theirs would be tied.

This model was far from perfect. It promoted increased ad spending at all costs. I remember from my large agency days we were taught to tell the client to spend more when sales were up. And we were trained to tell them spend more when sales were down. Advertising was considered the best marketing tactic and an investment.

Things in the world of advertising changed in a number of ways. There were a bunch of high profile agency buy-outs. Agency founders made huge dollars. Well known agency brands became part of large international holding companies. At the same time, agency services started becoming decoupled. So, clients could shop for creative, media and production services separately. Not surprisingly, there was price competition and agencies margins went down.

Enter technology into the ad world. Agencies now had other avenues to make money. It was a way to keep the lights on. Much of this ad technology was complicated and often it was far from transparent. Sometimes agencies found ways to build their own bottom lines, not the bottom lines of their clients. Things like agency trading desks enabled agencies to arbitrage client media dollars. And programmatic ad tech, which was supposed to save money, sometimes meant less working media spent on behalf of agency clients. An unreasonable share of the spending went into fees, not into media that would push brands ahead.

I get it. Clients want to get the most for the advertising dollar. And agencies need a way to deliver profit for their shareholders.

As Advertising Week comes to an end in New York, I want a return to the glory days of advertising. And I don’t mean three martini lunches served with a huge dollop of sexism. I want advertising to make a difference in business again. I want advertising people to be respected. And I want both clients and agencies to be pulling for sales success together.

Why I like old brands

Pinald Aftershave
Pinald Aftershave

I like brands that endure.

I wear Brooks Brothers (1818), Orvis (1856) and LL Bean (1912) clothing.

My aftershave is Pinald (1810).

I drive a BMW (1912 again).

And I live in an old town in New England that was settled in 1649 in a house built in 1927. The house we lived in before this one was built in 1770.

All of this is not a coincidence. I like to think that the brands I favor have stood the test of time. These brands deliver quality and value even as they have adapted to changing market conditions, competitive threats and new ways of doing business.

There’s another reason I have stuck with these brands for years well beyond the fact that I am an intensely loyal person. There are emotional and often irrational reasons I like brands in the first place. It’s pretty clear that I have not picked my brands because they were the lowest cost or that they deliver the highest status. I’ve selected them because they work for me functionally and passionately. The $7 after shave that I buy at the drug store has little in common with my 5 series BMW. On the surface, there is little commonality. Beneath the surface these purchases are very much the same. They all are interesting. I feel good buying them. And I enjoy using them.

When it comes to building brands, I want to create brands that will last. This includes offering both practical benefits and emotional connections to our audiences. I want my brands to be logical, distinctive, interesting and at the same time familiar.

There’s something irrationally rational about brands. That’s the puzzle we marketers try to solve every day.

What My Grandfather Taught Me About Branding

Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle

My grandfather Harry Peck founded an advertising agency in New York City in 1922.

This was unusual for several reasons. Advertising agencies were not very common at the time. And agencies founded by Jews was almost unheard of.

My grandfather’s advertising and branding claim to fame was the work he did for Timex watches. Who can forget the Timex torture test campaign where the brand’s durability, shock resistance and waterproof benefits were demonstrated using dramatic executions (as we call them in the ad biz). The campaign went on for years.

A Timex watch was strapped to the propeller of the Queen Mary, placed on a plate on the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park and even was taped to the bat of my baseball idol Mickey Mantle. Remarkably, Timex withstood the test every time. And at the end of every ad the consumer heard or saw this tag line:

It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

My grandfather sold his agency when I was young, but he lived to see my wife and me start our own advertising agency in New York City. What he did for Timex proved to be a model for the best work I’ve done in my marketing career. Here are 6 things I learned from him.

  1. Have a great selling idea.
  2. Demonstrate your idea in a compelling and memorable way
  3. Make sure you build a campaign not just a one-off ad
  4. Use breakthrough visuals to get consumer attention
  5. Have a well-crafted tagline that summarizes your brand positioning quickly, precisely and lyrically
  6. Keep your campaign going strong for as long as possible.

My grandfather passed away many years ago. His take on branding lives on.