September 25, 2014

Matthew McConaughey

Ok, click here to see the commercial (right here, folks).

By the way, I'm sure the title of this blog post will really ramp-up the fabled "engagement" metric here at The MineThatData Blog. Sure, I could write about Merchandise Forensics and sell a bunch of consulting projects, but my goodness, Mr. McConaughey is going to blow up my engagement dashboard. Real-time alerts are already going off, folks. For a moment or two, I thought all that beeping meant that I had to replace a smoke detector battery, but then I realized it isn't time to go off Daylight Savings Time yet.

This article (click here) suggests that Lincoln sold 2,895 of these cars from January - July. That's eight (8) per state per month ... two per state per week. With a starting price of $34,000, this car probably retails for $45,000ish. In other words, on an annualized basis, before the commercial series began, we're talking about $223,000,000 as the baseline business opportunity.

So if the commercial series bumps sales by 15%, we're looking at another $33,000,000, folks ... probably $3,000,000 to $6,000,000 profit. That might be enough to pay Mr. McConaughey. Who knows how much is being spent on the sixty second spots required to get the word out to younger customers? But every penny above and beyond gets Lincoln closer to paying for the ads.

If you don't feel like watching the commercial, I thought you might enjoy reading the text.
  • "Sometimes, you've got to go back to actually move forward. And I don't mean going back to reminisce or to chase ghosts. I mean going back, to see where you came from, where you've been, how you got here, to see where you're going. I know there are those who say you can't go back. Yes you can. You just have to look in the right place."
I had a catalog client who asked me how to go back to the way things used to be. Apparently, they haven't looked in the right place.

Have you ever been in one of these advertising sessions, designed to launch the creative necessary to produce "brand authentic" campaigns, designed to yield the paragraph illustrated above? You start the meeting at 9:00am, but the agency shows up at 9:03am, because the line at Noah's Bagels was out the door and Noah's ran out of veggie shmear (yes, that's how Noah's spells it, click here folks). Following a "meet and greet", the agency tells the analytics team that they've done great work, work that is a "good start" toward the storyboaring session that begins at 9:20am. They tell the analytics team that they will "take it from here", and then they dismiss the analytics team from the meeting. The analytics team only came for free bagels anyway.

The storyboarding session's them is "no idea is a bad idea" but it becomes painfully clear that only the agency and the Divisional Vice President offer ideas that will be viewed as aligned with the "brand promise". There's not much that is more important than the brand promise. The group will learn that 57% of likely consumers embrace the brand promise, 6% are likely to use a hashtag on Twitter to express positive sentiment toward the brand promise. All nod approvingly at the magnitude of the metric, fully comprehending the raw power of social media, power that will somehow have to be harnessed. But that topic will be addressed at 11:15am.

Over lunch (Salmon BLTs, 120 calorie packets of salt and vinegar kettle chips, an apple, a moist chocolate brownie, and a vegan salad option with kale chips for the remaining 65% of those in attendance), the team goes to work on the text that Mr. McConaughey will say in the commercial. A robust argument ensues over the concept of "chasing ghosts". Allison from the agency feels that ghosts (and clowns) are frightening, and not aligned with the comforting vision of the brand promise. Kaitlyn from creative is brought into the discussion, given that she is smack-dab in the middle of the customer persona Lincoln is pursuing. Kaitlyn wants to know if the car stereo will integrate with the iWatch she plans on purchasing next spring? Agency staffers are visibly agitated, for technology has nothing to do with a commercial involving one of America's most beloved actors, even if Kaitlyn is spot on in her assessment of the viability of the vehicle for those age 18-34. Kaitlyn is promptly escored back to her cubicle, where she will be asked to politely avoid future contact with the agency. She resumes working on an in-store poster offering outstanding credit terms on new vehicles purchased from dealer stock.

It is here that the "ideation session" begins. Each member of the agency, and the Divisional Vice President (all other Lincoln employees are asked to sit in a row of folding chairs organized along the wall of the conference room, and are not allowed a seat at the table to participate in ideation. The agency asks each individual sitting at the table to provide a specific example of a time when they had to go back, in order to move forward. The DVP wipes a tear from his eyes. He narrates a story about having to sell his four year old BMW and instead purchase a used Prius because he was fired at his prior job. This allowed him to move forward and get a job as a DVP at a consumer package goods company. After landing the job at Lincoln, the DVP was finally able to trade in the Prius and buy a brand-spanking new Lincoln with his $1,400 a month corporate funded car allowance. The sixteen participants from the ad agency all nod approvingly, offering light applause. The individual leading the Lincoln account offers the DVP tissue paper to dry his eyes with. Lincoln employees (seated along the wall) ask each other if they knew that DVP's received a $1,400 per month car allowance in addition to the leasing discount all salaried employees enjoy? Half of the employees are contractors, and as a result, are not eligible for the leasing discount, health care benefits, or the vegan salad option with kale chips. Thank goodness they are seated along the wall of the conference room, where their displeasure is undetected by those in the ideation session.

It is 4:45pm. The text for the commercial is agreed upon. The day is over. Tomorrow, the team will work on the video. There is already disagreement in the room. Kip, from the agency, does not think that Mr. McConaughey should verbalize the words. Haley, from the agency, thinks that Mr. McConaughey should verbalize the words, because it lends authenticity to the commercial, and Mr. McConaughey only signed on for this exercise if the ads conveyed authenticity. Tyson from the agency, in a southern drawl, ends the meeting with the phrase "alright alright alright". Even the employees sitting along the wall laugh.

You might think I am making fun of this process.

But geez, I really miss these meetings. Times have changed, and with it, much of the creativity has been sucked right out of the building.

Modern e-commerce has gone too far away from what I outlined above. Way, way too far away.

Somewhere between the sample meeting outlined above, and the data-driven optimization-centric approach to everything in modern e-commerce is a reasonable approach to finding new customers.

It's really, really hard to find examples of reasonable approaches to finding new customers.

Maybe this is why it has become so terribly hard to acquire new customers these days. Maybe we aren't being creative enough?

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