Media Beat
Media Beat

Media Beat: December 02, 2019

Broadcast sales teams have to read this

The Problem With Bubba's Burgers

I didn't have time to do a proper newsletter this week. Instead, I'm publishing a piece that's going to go up on the blog later this week.

Let's do a little thought experiment.

 You've been driving all morning on a two-lane highway and you're getting hungry. You come to the small town of Nowheresville and at the intersection there are two hamburger joints. One is McDonald's, the other is Bubba's Burgers.

It is highly likely that Bubba makes a better burger than McDonald's. But it is also highly likely that you will choose McDonald's. Why? I think the answer goes something like this. 

While you might like to have a better burger, it's more important that you have a burger that isn't risky. While you might like to stop at a place that is comfortable and relaxing, it's more important that you stop at a place that isn't icky.

McDonald's may not make a great burger, and it may not be the most lovely environment, but you have a high level of expectation that the burger won't make you sick and the place won't be icky.

In other words, Bubba's may very well make a better burger, but McDonald's is good enough and relatively risk-free. The aversion to unknown risks trumps the likelihood of superiority.

So the question is, why do you believe McDonald's is good enough and safer? I think the answer is simple. McDonald's is famous. Fame creates many advantages.

In all the jabbering about marketing and all the strategic gymnastics that marketers put themselves through, the simplest and most obvious objective of marketing should be to create fame. Brands that are famous have an enormous advantage over brands that aren't famous.

The world's largest, most successful brands -- the Apples, Nikes, Cokes, Pepsis, Toyotas, McDonald's, Tides, Budweisers, Doves, et al -- all have one thing in common -- they're famous. Does that mean that fame guarantees success? Absolutely not. But it makes the likelihood of success massively greater.

Those of you looking for holes in this argument will say it's circular. It's not the fame that's causing success, it's success that's causing fame. That argument is good for about 30 seconds until you realize that each of these brands spends billions every year to stay famous. 

There are several ways for brands to achieve fame. Some get lucky. The press falls in love with them, follows them everywhere, and provides them with zillions of dollars of free exposure -- Google, Uber, Amazon, Tesla -- are examples. With very little marketing activity, these brands became enormously famous. Others become famous through imaginative PR initiatives, clever stunts, or the charismatic personalities of their leaders. Or a combination of these things. There are many ways to achieve fame.

Sadly, the likelihood of the press falling in love with you is one tick above zero. Imaginative PR is wonderful to have but very rare to come by. And charismatic leaders are one in a thousand.

The most expensive way to become famous is through advertising. It is the most expensive, but also the most reliable. It is the only avenue to fame that you can buy your way into.

Those of you who know me probably know where I'm going next. Online advertising has been very unimpressive at creating widespread fame. While there are certainly some brands who have achieved a level of fame through online advertising, after 25 years there are no Apples, Nikes, Cokes, Pepsis, Toyotas, or McDonald's. 

The philosophy behind online advertising is deeply flawed. "Experts" tell us that highly personalized, precision-targeted, one-to-one advertising is far more capable of performing successfully because it reaches “the right person, at the right place, at the right time.” This may be true if you have the least ambitious marketing goal -- to generate a click. However, if you have the highest marketing goal -- to build a successful brand -- I have seen no evidence that this is true. In fact, I have seen considerable evidence to the contrary.

Mass-media advertising is demonstrably more effective at brand building than precision-targeted, highly individualized advertising. Personally targeted direct response advertising certainly has its uses. But the number of exceptionally famous brands created by direct response advertising is somewhere between zero and nothing. The number of exceptionally famous brands created by mass media is enormous.

Highly individualized advertising makes advertising a private, rather than public, experience. Online, we all live in our own little personalized, precision-targeted digi-world. This is not an environment that is conducive to growing a brand.

To a substantial degree, mass media is public advertising and online advertising is private advertising. It's hard to become famous in private. — Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian

John Lewis & Partners’ 2019 Christmas spot

British department store chain John Lewis & Partners has made its mark in the Christmas season since the launch of its first seasonal TV ad in 2007. With the exception of 2018’s spot, the company has used covers of existing songs by artists that have often led to chart re-entries for the artists. Last year Sir Elton John became the first artist to perform and star in the advert.

This year’s spot features Bastille covering REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling with the London Contemporary Orchestra.

DXing on the AM band

...Cold Manitoba winter nights were the best, thanks to the thickening of the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that acts as a giant mirror for distant AM radio signals. Instead of flying off into space in a straight line from the transmitter tower like they do during daylight hours, these signals are reflected back down to Earth, making them (briefly) receiveable hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

This is how I discovered KSTP/Minneapolis, KOA/Denver, WLS/Chicago, WLW/Cincinnati, and so many more. All these voices and songs and newscasts and information magically appearing out of the ether.  — Alan Cross, A Journal of Musical Things (with video)

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