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.

Communications in A Short Attention Span World


It’s an understatement to say the way we communicate with one another has changed. In fact, saying this really understates the issue.

When I was in school eons ago we used a rotary telephone, wrote our term papers on typewriters, watched television shows on a television set, saw movies at a movie theater and listened to music on the radio or via a vinyl record using a record player.

Our interactions were different too. We spent a lot of time talking with people face to face. Our days were a lot less crowded. We were not on always-on. Generally, we carried on a single conversation at a time and rarely consumed multiple forms of media simultaneously. Our communications choices were far more limited. Media was not omnipresent and was not available in the palms of our hands. For the most part, we viewed our content in real time with no time-shifting.

Research and data were different too. Generally, consumer research took some time. At best, it was overnight, but often it was available monthly or quarterly. You waited for the research, analyzed it carefully and then acted on it.

Things are different today. We live in an always-on, data-driven communications dense world. In marketing these days data dominates. The pendulum has swung from the storytelling Chief Marketing Officer (me) to the data driven Chief Marketing Officer (not really me). I won’t disparage the value of data in marketing, but some have said it’s little like the difference between poetry and plumbing.

Plumbing is valuable. Late one night a Park Avenue neurosurgeon (that’s a fancy NYC address) was having trouble with his toilet. He called a plumber who showed up almost immediately and then made the repair in just 10 minutes. The doctor was impressed asked the plumber for the bill.

“That’ll be $17,000.” said the plumber.

“$17,000!” replied the doctor. “I’m a world-renowned neurosurgeon and I don’t get $17,000 for 10 minutes of work.”

“When I was I neurosurgeon I didn’t get that much either,” said the plumber.

Whether you like this joke or not, there’s a good chance you’ll remember it. That’s because it’s a story, not merely a data informed, optimized, real-time cross-platform piece of communication. Humans have responded to stories since the beginning of time when tribes sat around campfires late at night creating and reinforcing the narratives that defined their lives.

Storytelling is particularly important in today’s media intense, short-attention span world. As brand communicators, we have less time to make our pitch. And we have more pressure to make certain that what we say is on point.

There is however a longer-term marketing goal. It’s to have all of our brand communications be part of something larger; something that will endure beyond the moment. Back in the day we used to call this a campaign. Classic marketing campaigns lasted for years as they told, re-told and reinforced a brand’s unique positioning. Campaigns also avoided the pitfall and the pain of having to make the consumer evaluate the primary selling idea/brand association in a new way over and over again.

I recommend that we try to solve a short-term mentality with a longer-term approach. Think beyond the moment. It will pay off.

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.