Letters, March 15, 2010

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Real Men Will Want Their Own Beauty Brands

RE: "Male Call: Marketers Jump on Men's Grooming Trend" (AdAge.com, March 8)

Dove should stick with women, and Unilever should create a new brand for men. Dove will attract some men with the Dove brand, but as the category grows, men will prefer their own brands, and Dove won't be one of them.

It needs to sacrifice short-term gains for the long term, as a new brand is much better in the long run.

It amazes me so many companies are afraid of creating new brands in new categories. Is P&G the only company with the backbone to do so? More companies should model themselves after P&G.

Real men wash with steel wool and Lava soap, followed by a bracing splash of witch hazel.

Airlines a sign of a broken economic system

RE: "Delta Used to Be Ready When You Are, But Now It's Only Ready When They Are" (AA, March 1)

Thank you for sharing Heather's experience with Delta Airlines. It's very regrettable, and, unfortunately, not uncommon. We all have similar stories to share (and the more one takes to the skies, the more stories one has "earned").

I'm now approaching 60 years of age. I've done OK in life. I've spent 25-plus years with a wonderful wife. We have raised two responsible and respectful daughters. At home, we've never spent more money than we had. And at work, which was successful, we never spent more money than we had.

With the latter thought (fiscal responsibility) in mind, I recall when financially mismanaged companies, first, could not expand their credit and, second, in the absence of a turnaround, closed their doors. In the airline industry, we've seen Air Florida, Eastern and others go away. None, to my knowledge, have been missed (except for an absence of competition for Delta). Likewise, it's very disturbing to me that poorly run companies continue to grow ... both in size and in financial losses.

Something's not working right, and when companies reach the scale Delta has acquired, consumers can no longer vote with the wallets because Delta, too often, is the only brand on the ballot. And I guess that wouldn't be troubling if it got there by winning the hearts of consumers ... but that's not how it got there.

Oh, well. In America, things have a way of self-correcting. It just takes time.

I've been in the travel and meetings business my entire life, and I never thought for a moment that we'd be at today's crossroads in this industry. But post-9/11, it's hard for me to see a future for the airline industry that doesn't somehow include them being entirely or mostly run by the government. I'm not advocating this, by any means, but I see that as the endgame of this industry. It is not a business I would want to be in these days for all of the obvious reasons. And your story (both the kind and not-so-kind employees) is an all too common occurrence, an unevenness of customer service we all notice. I believe this exceedingly uneven service stems from the chaos and stress of the industry.

Tragically, it seems likely that there will be more 9/11s in our future. Regardless of the form these future tragedies take, travel will be curtailed, more airlines will fail and the government will probably eventually have to step in and run the airlines with drastically different protocols relative to safety and customer service.

With all of the challenges of air travel, you'd think that the CEOs of every airline would be making customer service (or mere politeness) an absolute mandate. Don't get me wrong, I've run into excellent airline employees -- polite, caring, etc. And I see effort like I've never seen before. But I also see surly, stressed employees that make me want to never fly again.

I've always marveled at the technology of flying. It's truly an amazing feat that just a century after its invention, so many planes fly so many hours every day hurtling thousands of tons of incredible technology through the air in comfortable cabins that allow me to set my water on my table and have it be smooth as glass.

The sad part of all of this is that the glory of flying has been forever lost.

Consumers have come to expect cause marketing

RE: "Cause Effect: Brands Rush to Save World One Deed at a Time" (AA, March 1)

Your cover piece did a very good job identifying the current landscape regarding cause marketing and corporate social responsibility.

I'd like to add that a recent study Doremus conducted with Paul Argenti from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth found that most corporate stakeholders today, in this environment we're dubbing the "new normal," believe that "creating value for the local community in which you operate" is one of a company's core responsibilities. This also goes hand-in-hand with the public's expectation that companies "treat and pay their people well."

Clearly, we've gone beyond the days when companies that contributed to a foundation or sponsored a philanthropic program were given a public nod of approval. Still feeling the sting of the financial crisis, the mortgage meltdown, bank bailouts and other events that attacked our sense of trust, the public is smarting, and if corporations can touch their constituencies with cause marketing that makes sense on the local level, they will be perceived as more trustworthy ... and ultimately more worthy of the public's business.

Boomers weren't first to mount Harleys

RE: "The 15 Biggest Baby-Boomer Brands" (AdAge.com, March 1)

We were proud to see Judann Pollack acknowledge Harley-Davidson's great boomer-generation customers in her March 1 article titled "The 15 Biggest Baby-Boomer Brands." But, as a 107-year-old brand that has seen a few generations successfully come and go, we thought we'd also point out that we had thousands and thousands of great customers before them in the Greatest Generation, and now after them in the latest generations. In fact, we now sell more motorcycles to this generation of young adults in the U.S. than the generation of youth before them.

Increasingly around the world, Harley-Davidson prides itself on how it can bring together radically different people of many types, ages, colors and creeds to share in a passion and a dream and an attitude about life. This ideal connects in people from India to Germany to China to Brazil where they largely don't know what a baby boomer is. The Boomers are one great chapter -- but only one -- of our story, which continues to be written out on the roads of the world as we speak.

Metrics are a must, like it or not

RE: Patrick Sarkissian's "Why Metrics Are Killing Creativity in Advertising" (AdAge.com, March 4)

Creativity for its own sake is generally referred to as "fine arts" or "philosophy."

Creativity for a business application -- be it within the context of marketing, sales, operations, distribution, production, manufacturing, etc. -- is generally intended to solve a problem. At least that should be why a company would allocate a financial budget for the particular creative activity. If the problem is not solved, then the creativity wasn't as effective as it could have been.

Which leads to the question: Why would a manufacturing exec who is trying to creatively solve a problem (and invests a quantity of company budget to do it) be judged differently than a CMO who is trying to creatively solve a problem and invests a quantity of company budget to do it?

The company should expect some form of measurable results from both of these executives. That's what metrics help to do: measure results.

The problem with some interpretations of metric feedback is that it is seen in black-and-white or pass-fail terms. Like any experiment, the feedback should be gathered often and quickly to course correct. If it is done in this manner, the chief marketing officer, like the chief manufacturing officer, can make decisions along the way that get the end results that are sought.

If all your creative stinks, the only thing you really get from world-class analytics are reports telling you the creative stinks.

World-class analytics do not build your brand; engaging creative does.

The good news is, world-class creative people don't fear scrutiny (including performance measurement); in fact, they thrive on it.

World-class analytics and world-class creative work are not mutually exclusive, they are quite harmonious.

Don't fear the numbers, use them in context, and be as creative.

Seeing the exceptional work from my creative team is what motivates me to come to work with a smile (most days).

Facebook numbers not a reliable metric for consumer support

RE: "The Cult of Toyota" (AA, March 1)

I'm not really sure of the significance of Toyota's Facebook fan count. There's plenty of room for debate about the value of those numbers. Citing that figure alone as an indication of its brand health is a gross oversimplification. All it really tells us is that people are tuning in to watch and/or participate.

But we don't need Facebook for a barometer of the vibe on Toyota. A simple Google search will show that there's a ton of conversation out there on both sides. "Toyota sucks!" is a popular sentiment, as is "I love Toyota!" And there are plenty of voices who feel that the problem is being overhyped, along with speculation that it stems from xenophobia and/or our own government's recent ownership stake in Toyota's largest competitor.

That may not make any more sense than people who insist that their Toyotas are great, regardless of the people who died in malfunctioning vehicles. But it does mean that the whole incident is perhaps our best illustration of what a consumer-dominated marketplace is all about.

It's not controlled, or controllable. There is no singular "key insight" that you can message around, and the only real solution is to listen vigilantly and continuously, watching for opportunities and responding immediately.

Toyota clearly gets this. In my five years working with Toyota, I learned first-hand that the company understands consumers better than anyone else, and has developed a learning process that will keep them ahead of the game, although maybe not without some major and minor missteps. I have every confidence they will figure a way out of this debacle and come out even smarter on the other side.

Doug Frisbie's jump to the conclusion that more Facebook activity means that owner loyalty is increasing could well be false. While we use the term "fans" on Facebook, it shouldn't necessarily be interpreted as supporters. If I have $20,000 or $30,000 sunk into a vehicle, and feel that the safety of my family is potentially at risk, I'm going to be looking for answers. I'm going to assume that one place I can get at least some of those answers is on the company's Facebook page. So I become a "fan." While the dictionary may suggest that makes me an advocate, loyalist, promoter, defender, etc., in this case I could just as likely be neutral or even a detractor just seeking any information.

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