John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
December, 2005

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December 30, 2005
Will 2006 be the year some savvy advertiser resurrects the ad jingle? Here’s an article about how pop tunes have replaced jingles in advertising, sort of, from the Associated Press via the Winston-Salem Journal (NC):
Advertising copywriter blog link

While a pop song may be a short-cut to familiarity, it also is not a long-term advertising investment. It builds zero equity for the brand. And, as for the need for frequent repetition, the cost of licensing a pop song could be put into  frequency to achieve just that. Nope, all the objections still make no sense to me.

I’ve always believed in the power of jingles. What else conveys product positioning in such an irresistible, catchy way? Jingles were viral before viral marketing was even a term. And, just maybe, 2006 will be the year they make a comeback. Wait and see.

Best wishes to you for a happy 2006!
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December 29, 2005
Here’s the first of the inevitable year-in-advertising reviews, this one from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

While many of these ads may not have run in the U.S., we’ve certainly seen and heard them (Cannes, Graphis, The One Show ...). What’s notable about this list, is that it wasn’t created by advertising award judges based on work prepared for review by advertising award judges; it’s more of a real-life reaction to advertising in the wild.
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December 28, 2005
Continuing yesterday’s discussion, only from the other side, is this article about the growth of online ad spending, from Bloomberg:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’m a copywriter, not a media analyst. But, it still looks to me like the biggest reason online ad spending is growing, is because it can. Granted, as more advertisers discover the potential of online marketing, more are allocating ever-larger budgets toward it. But, as I said yesterday, the money seems to be largely new money. Internet advertising isn’t so much displacing newspaper or television ad spending, as complementing traditional media buys.

On a strategic level, it’s a smart defensive play for major advertisers to leap into new media channels before competitors can get there and forge their own footholds. Tactics, however, are still in an experimental phase. Exciting as that is, this seems to point to a fair amount of froth in online ad spending trends.
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December 27, 2005
Big news here: television commercials need to stand out to have an impact. Here’s the article, from USA Today via the E-Commerce Times (Encino, CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

As tempting as it is to heave a big, world-weary sigh, the fact that getting attention is an issue is itself an issue that goes beyond television. There’s more noise out there than Rosser Reeves ever imagined, and if traditional media advertisers are re-discovering the power of his formula (attract, intrigue, persuade), new media advertisers have yet to do so. Marketing through media selection can get you the audience, but it can’t get you the audience’s attention.

I found the Ad Track results interesting. Animals continue to be popular. Ad campaigns can score on both the most-liked and most-disliked lists. Some highly disliked ad campaigns can still be highly effective. To me, the biggest surprise was by how little television ad spending was down, less than 2% down over the same period last year. Despite all the buzz about new media, newspaper and television are still the #1 and #2 ad media by spending. Why? Partly because new media is, by its nature, statistically fragmented. Partly because advertisers are adding new media dollars to their marketing efforts. But mostly because advertising in newspapers and on television works.
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December 26, 2005
Here, from The Washington Post is this article discussing the use of street art (graffiti) as advertising:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Part of this article is a follow-up to my December 7 entry about Sony’s use of urban guerilla tactics to promote its portable multimedia game system.

Here’s the creative challenge, as I see it. Traditional, old-line advertising agencies ignore the medium. And innovative, new-wave brand development solution providers (or whatever it is they call themselves) ignore the rules. The result: almost no one gets it right.

If it’s an ad, it should attract, intrigue, and persuade. Period. And the use of a novel media channel does not overcome boring or irrelevant creative. In fact, the missed opportunity only increases the cringe factor.

However, contrary to what the graffiti artists themselves think, the key question isn’t “is this good art?” It’s “is this an effective ad?” Hey, it’s no coincidence that the first part of “selling out” is “selling.”
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December 23, 2005
Just a pre-holiday quickie here, about creativity joining the curriculum of an MBA course. Here’s an article about Virginia Commonwealth University’s new Masters in Creative Brand Management program, from the December issue of Fast Company:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Will this program produce clients who respect the creative process and the outcomes? Or, will it produce clients who second-guess their ad agency, constantly taking a “hands-on” approach to presented ad concepts? I guess someone who was destined to be a Client From Hell will only gain fuel for their fires. And, someone who was always going to be a good client will gain the empathy to be an even better client.
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December 22, 2005
One plus a bonus today. The first is this story, from the San Francisco Chronicle (CA) about Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, one of today’s hottest ad agencies:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I always love reading ad agency success stories, and the key take-away here is that this firm’s success wasn’t just about producing great creative, as important as that was. It was about positioning itself for growth. It’s what the Make a Million Online folks call “multiple revenue streams,” only in this case it was multiple entry points. I’ve seen this work very well.

Next up is a quickie. It’s the history of what is arguably the world’s most-popular brand, Santa Claus, from the La Cañada Valley Sun (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Santa Claus has all the elements of a great branding campaign: time, relevance, a good story, and advertising.
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December 21, 2005
Retail sales are rebounding as the countdown to Christmas and Hanukkah enters its final days. Here’s the story, from my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yet, certain troubling trends are becoming clear. For instance, only 26% of households have finished their holiday shopping at this late date, and some 15% of us haven’t even started. About 83% of specialty chains offered deeper discounts this year than last, and 65% of shoppers expect even further discounts this week. Put it all together, and you get a fundamental shift in consumer behavior: people are waiting for the mark-downs.

What I think is significant, from an advertising and branding perspective, is that this trend also seems to point to a rise in commodity gifting. Rather than searching high and low (or making) that perfect gift for each person, consumerism has evolved to the point where consumption itself is the gift. No wasting time knitting sweaters in each person’s favorite colors; instead, just pick up an iPod, or a Bratz toy, or an X-Box game. These are commodity gifts, and one’s organizational ability is demonstrated by how little one pays for each name-brand item.

Here’s a relevant story. Once Upon A Time (for that’s how fairy tales begin), a woman volunteered to teach on a poor South Pacific island. She made many friends among the people. When it was time for her to return home, a little boy brought her a farewell gift: a beautiful and unusual sea shell. She was intrigued, and asked the boy where he got it. He told her that that type of shell could be found only on a remote stretch of beach on the far side of the island. The woman’s eyes widened as she pondered the long trek the boy made to bring her the shell. “That’s a walk of many miles,” she said. “It must have taken you all day.”

“Yes,” the boy said. “Long walk part of gift.”
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December 20, 2005
Here’s an article from the University of Washington Office of News and Information, about a recent UW study showing that celebrity voice-overs are most-influential when the celebrity is not consciously recognized by the listener:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Interesting stuff. It supports what many in advertising have known all along: that the celebrity B List is actually the A List for commercial voice-over work. You know, where you cast voices that are familiar and therefore engaging, but aren’t well-known enough to be identified.

As the article points out, this is more a factor with commercials in which the celebrity is only the voice talent, as opposed to commercials in which the celebrity is the actual endorser.
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December 19, 2005
Advertising and déjà vu are together again again. Here’s an article from Reuters (UK) about retro-branding:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Trout’s comment about heritage being an important differentiator is a key concept in these days of warp-speed online branding.

I think that whether retro-branding is an act of strength or desperation depends entirely on how relevant the brand has been recently. A popular brand with deep roots can leverage those roots to spur greater growth. But an irrelevant, declining brand can hark back to its glory days all it wants to; if that’s all it has to offer today’s customers, then it will likely stay an irrelevant, declining brand. And any sales blip on the way down is as much a result of the (temporary) commitment to advertising than the nostalgic position itself.
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December 16, 2005
I’ve said it before: sales is branding if it’s done right. And here’s an article discussing ways to do just that, from CRM Daily (NewsFactor Network, Woodland Hills, CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Branding is not about the product, or the service, or the company. It’s about the customer, and his or her experience with the product, service, or company. Granted, that experience often begins with advertising. But, to overlook sales, one of the key customer-centered touchpoints in the relationship, is to overlook one of the most-powerful tools in the branding tool box.
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December 15, 2005
When an advertiser gloms onto a niche culture, does it support it or co-opt it? The answer is: both. Here’s a look at Scion and hip-hop, from Metroactive (San Jose, CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s a precarious balancing act. Offer too little support, and the fan base will accuse the sponsor of being a user, a mere coattail-clinger. Offer too much, and that same fan base will accuse the sponsor of trying to buy its way in. What’s more, how much is too much or too little is an individual perception. And some individuals have far-reaching voices.

I think it’s amazing that Toyota, a conservative mainstream company, has done as well as it has at keeping its balance while staying proactive.
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December 14, 2005
As podcasting grows, popular podcasts become ripe properties to steal. Here’s one man’s experience with an alleged podjacking, republished in Robin Good’s MasterNewMedia (Rome):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Podcasting is an increasingly valuable media channel for advertising, allowing advertisers to speak to a highly targeted audience. Many savvy companies are developing podcasts of their own.

Within this blossoming opportunity lies a thorn: podjacking, which is the hijacking of traffic by creating a new doorway to a podcast feed. If someone hijacks the feed, and if they get their doorway listed on major search engines and podcast directories in preference to the original feed URL, then they essentially control the portal. They become the gatekeeper between the programming and the audience, sort of like a broadcast network. Companies using podcasts for marketing would be wise to take steps (outlined in the article) to protect their materials. There’s good stuff here, and the jump at the end to the intellectual property lawyer’s blog entry is worth a look too, particularly the comments and links toward the end which present the other side of the story.

Still, just because this case may not have been malicious in nature doesn’t mean that the hole should be left unplugged.
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December 13, 2005
This is a great book excerpt/adaptation from The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman (2005), courtesy of Fast Company via (Mumbai, India):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The “Ten Faces” of the title are broken down into three groups: “Learning Personas” (Anthropologist, Experimenter, and Cross-Pollinator), “Organizing Personas” (Hurdler, Collaborator, and Director), and “Building Personas” (Experience Architect, Set Designer, Storyteller, and Caregiver).

Okay, it’s not unlike Roger von Oech’s “Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior” from A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants (1986). And, like von Oech, Kelly and Littman arm each face with a set of tools you can use to generate, defend, and promote new ideas. So, by adopting different personas, you can come up with different ideas about handling problems, creative briefs, and naysayers. This is cool and very useful stuff for anyone who makes a living in creative.
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December 12, 2005
Two quick ones today, after Saturday’s thesis-like entry about car marketing aimed at women. Here are two companies drawing on their advertising archive to reach new audiences. In the first, from, Alka-Seltzer’s current ad agency is doing a remake of the 1972 classic “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” ad originally created by Wells Rich Greene. And, in the second story, a press release via Yahoo! Finance, Maxell is seeking out new media channels for its iconic “blown-away guy” image from 1979. Here they are:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Remakes are costly and, in advertising, usually not well-received. Think about it: a remake uses an old idea. So, from a straight tactical perspective, the audience already knows the punchline. Yet, because it’s a remake, it also lacks the nostalgic, retro charm of the original. I think the better way to execute this 75th anniversary strategy, would have been to edit the original spots to fit inside a current-day doughnut. Which leads me to wonder if rights management is part of the reason why the agency is doing full remakes instead of re-cuts.

As for Maxell, just the fact that it is making a marketing push is a good sign. After all, the company seems to have dropped off the radar for the past 20 years, although now that I look I seem to have a few Maxell CD-Rs here. As for not re-making the image, I think that was a smart call.
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December 10, 2005
Niche marketing through product design can be pushed too far. On the surface, aiming a family car at women seems like a smart play ... and here’s the story telling how it turned out, from the Detroit Free Press (MI) via the San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Ahh, but the product failed not through the strategy, but through the tactical implementation of the strategy. Excluding 50% of the market is not a bad thing, as long as you nail the 50% you want to capture. And, to do that, you have to offer those people something they want. In the 1950s, women may have wanted a car that met their needs, but those needs were not met by the 1955 Dodge LaFemme. Instead, the car offered a uniquely patronizing blend of tacked-on features: pink rosebud-patterned upholstery, a pink shoulder bag in a compartment behind the seat, and matching rosebud-patterned accessories. The product went down to deserved failure, with fewer than 1,000 units sold the one year it was available. A Dodge LaFemme, in all its pink and rosebud glory, would be a rarity today.

The auto experts quoted, though, got it wrong. There was indeed a domestic car that was built specifically for women, four decades before, and successfully. The Jordan Playboy.

Jordan Motor Car Company was the creation of Ned Jordan, a former copywriter for ad agency giant Lord & Thomas. That’s an important point, and it makes the story worth telling. Quotes come from They Laughed When I Sat Down: An informal history of advertising in words and pictures by Frank Rowsome, Jr. (1959, New York), which in turn quoted Ned Jordan himself. The story begins in 1916:

“You see, I’d been selling Ramblers and Jeffreys for ten years according to the engineers’ ideas of promotion – offset crankshafts, straight-line drives, and ejector manifolds. Then Kettering perfected the starting system. Now any woman could crank a car without breaking her arm. A brand-new market had been created. So we got together $300,000 and started for town and made a car with everything that women want in a car.”

Becoming an auto manufacturer back then was sort of like becoming a computer manufacturer now. You did design work in-house using third-party components or components built by third parties to your specifications, you negotiated deals with manufacturers and suppliers. Then, you assembled what you had and marketed your product under your brand. That’s how it works today for Dell. And that’s how it worked in 1916 for Ned Jordan. Here’s the copy for his first ad, introducing the Jordan Playboy, an aluminum-bodied roadster:

We might as well tell it ... the secret will soon be out ... It’s a wonderful companion for a wonderful girl and a wonderful boy. How did we happen to think of it? Why ... a girl who loves to swim and paddle and shoot described it to a boy who loves the roar of a cut-out. So we built one just for the love of doing it ... and stepped on it ... AND ... the chickens ran and the dogs barked. It’s a shame to call this Playboy a roadster ... so full is this brawny thing of the vigor of boyhood and morning.

Okay, can you feel the difference between that ad copy and “The first and only car designed for Your Majesty, the modern American woman,” which was the ad headline introducing the Dodge LaFemme? One sweeps you along with an almost sexual power. The other grovels snidely, making you shift uneasily from foot to foot.

No one before, or perhaps since, has written automotive copy as vaguely compelling, as mysterious, as driven by sound and sensations, as Ned Jordan. His style, by the way, was spoofed to a tee by Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt (you can read the relevant passage in my Ad Blog entry for February 25 2005).

But it’s not just about the ad copy. It’s also about the product itself. Look: the Jordan Playboy was no pinked-up, condescension of a car. It was a mediocre but adequate sport car in its own right, with lines designed to evoke a roadster custom-built for Flo Ziegfield. It was aimed at athletic, self-sufficient, wealthy women with a taste for adventure as well as luxury. Did enough of those women exist in 1916? Yes indeed, to the tune of 2,000 sales in the first year, twice the number of LaFemmes Dodge sold 40 years later.

Jordan cars were priced to yield a profit of $500 per unit, so the $300,000 initial investment grew to a million dollars in just one year, and this was in 1916, when $500 by itself would buy a brand-new Ford with all the trimmings. Sales reached 5,000 units per year, and profits rolled in even as the margin was trimmed back.

Keep in mind that Ford Motor Company at the time was valued at some $130 million, and made more cars in one day than Jordan made all year long. So Jordan was still a niche marketer, a boutique brand. And a good one.

In 1923, with sales somewhat flat, Ned Jordan wrote one of the most-famous car ads of all time, “Somewhere West of Laramie.” It’s worth quoting here in its entirety, in part because it was industrial poetry and in part because it flat-out sold cars:

Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about.

She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome.

The truth is – the Playboy was built for her.

Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race.

She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.

There’s a savor of links about that car – of laughter and lilt and light – a hint of old loves – and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing – yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue.

Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale.

Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

It was magic, and it worked. Jordan Motor Car Company sold some 60,000 cars, no small accomplishment. Ned Jordan claimed to have started liquidating his car company in 1928, having foreseen the Great Depression, which he may well have done, for the signs were there. He also may have been forced to shut down because of problems with the tax people. Either way, the time for a high-priced, assembled car was fading fast. After a great 15-year run, Jordan Motor Car Company closed its doors in 1931, ending a unique chapter in automotive – and marketing – history.
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December 9, 2005
Just yesterday I bemoaned the lack of controlled evidence showing to what extent stealth marketing techniques work. And here, like a tangerine in my stocking, is an article about some just-released Nielsen research, from Reformatorisch Dagblad (The Netherlands):
Advertising copywriter blog link

In a nutshell, the controlled, double-blind research involved 1,350 male gamers between the ages of 13 and 44. I have a quibble with the older end of that scale, but I digress. Videogames with relevant ads and product placements were tested against the same videogames without the advertising, and traditional television programming both with and without ads and product placements.

The study concluded that product placements and ads within the games, when handled correctly – that is, in a way that enhanced game play – improved brand awareness and positive perceptions, leading to pass-along recommendations. But, it’s still too early to tell if there will be any movement in the sales cycle.
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December 8, 2005
In case you didn’t want to take the word of a 40-something advertising copywriter, here are some thoughts about guerilla marketing and stealth media channels straight from the target market, in this case an anthropology junior at the University of Texas at Austin. Here’s his opinion piece, from the student paper, The Daily Texan:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Mr. Tran asks some good questions at the end, most of which boil down to a matter of whom to trust. Of course, advertising has never been particularly trusted to begin with, so the question applies primarily to non-traditional communication channels. But, I have some self-serving questions of my own.

First: does buying into an appealing alternate reality translate into buying the related product or service? So far, I’ve seen little controlled evidence that it does, despite lots of anecdotal stories of both success and failure. I basically believe that people buy from people they like, and can relate to, and are engaged by. But, does building an alternate reality generate real-world relationships? Or, is the budget better spent on building a better primary reality – a real-world reality, if you will – that generates those relationships through merit?

Which leads to my second question, about cost-effectiveness and ROI: how all-encompassing does an alternate reality have to be, to be accepted as an alternate reality? In other words, how far down can you strip the experience and still have it count – and act – as an experience?

I have ideas about the answers, which is a far cry from having the answers themselves. Of course, that’s part of what’s making advertising such an exciting place to be right now.
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December 7, 2005
Part of Sony’s urban guerilla campaign marketing its PSP portable multimedia player has apparently misfired among hardcore gamers. Here’s the story, from GameDAILY via Business Week Online:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Although the media approach was innovative and non-traditional, it was also intrusive and non-targeted. So, those who weren’t part of the target market were angered. And, those who were part of the target market felt betrayed. As long as the company was paying for placement, it probably should have gone ahead and signed the ads, negating the “canned buzz” label. But, that’s hindsight.

Anyway, I suspect that the growth opportunity at this point in the product’s lifecycle may be less the hardcore gamer and more the semi-serious and casual gamer, especially with the holidays here. For that group, the tactic may have been highly effective. As with all consumer marketing, the proof will be in the sales.
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December 6, 2005
As if rising health care and retiree costs and declining market share aren’t bad enough news for American automakers, Chinese automakers are looking to America as the logical next step for exports. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s tempting to say the most-vulnerable low-end brands are Korean: Kia, Hyundai, and Daewoo. However, Kia and Hyundai have partnered, Daewoo has its partners, and Hyundai in particular is making a move to the upscale value segment previously owned by Honda. There’s plenty of room at the bottom end. I think the most-likely victims of Chinese auto imports will be Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge. They also have the most to lose, in more ways than one.
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December 5, 2005
Exclusive sponsorship of network television programming is picking up speed. Here’s the story, from The New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It was more than 2-1/2 years ago (March 13, 2003, to be exact; this blog was a mere month old) that I first mentioned the current relevance of James Thurber’s outstanding study of the world of radio soap operas, “Soapland,” in The Beast in Me and Other Animals, a piece of work that I seem to have mentioned a few times a year since (last on June 6).

Still, there are important differences between then and now, one of which being the divergence of advertising agencies and network creative teams. Also, and despite theoretical arguments, some important data seems to be lacking regarding effectiveness. The one real number quoted both giveth and taketh away: favorable opinion of one exclusive sponsor increased 38%, among those viewers who were aware of the sponsorship. Among everyone else, well, the article doesn’t go there, even if the data did.

Don’t get me wrong: I think this is an exciting development. I love it when major companies start proving me right. But, just like plain old running ads on a show, exclusive sponsorship is a tool, not an audience. Exclusive sponsorship is a far cry from exclusive mindshare.

I think the future version of the Soapland tool, though, is a return to advertiser-created content. But, this time, it’ll be on advertiser-created networks. Like what Audi is doing in the UK (October 25). And, as for the audience – the audience will follow the content it finds most entertaining, relevant, and useful. No matter who provides it.
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December 2, 2005
Here’s a great piece about how one major retailer is managing to thrive on the low end of high fashion, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

For “Primark,” you can substitute “Target” (to pick a retailer who is using the strategy with success) or “Gap” (to pick a retailer who isn’t), or even Hyundai cars or Samsung consumer electronics (to pick brands in completely different segments).

The article mentions some pitfalls of the low-cost/high-style strategy, including the risk of confusing volume with branding, at least in the world of high fashion. Me, I’d argue that focused market share is the brand; that within the mass market, fashion follows volume. And the key trick is turning those volume numbers profitably while maintaining the edge in design, which is where the jump story to the Open University brief is interesting. As the business professor points out, the strategy is sustainable at a cost, and with very thin margins of error. The tiniest of inefficiencies in the back office can have disastrous consequences on the sales floor. And that’s where things like sourcing, investments in distribution centers, and inventory controls become vital marketing tools.
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December 1, 2005
This article about online search phrases, from NetImperative (UK), underscores the importance of strong branding with commodity products and services:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The study reveals that “broadband” was the number-one retail product search term; yet nearly half the searchers (9 of 20) combined “broadband” with the brand name of a specific service provider. Gee, and it was just on May 5 of this year that I discussed another report showing that some 92% of web searchers never used brand names as search terms. How quickly things change, eh?

Also, emerging brands are increasing their search-share (perhaps to coin a phrase) at the expense of the biggest and most-entrenched corporate competitor.

Interesting – and further proof that branding and advertising are critically important corporate missions, even when (or, particularly when) products and services are commoditized.
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Backwards in time to November 2005

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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
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