Welcome to the latest episode of the Brand Shorthand podcast and happy new year. I'm your host, Mark Vandegrift, and with me is the potentate of positioning, Lorraine Kessler. Thing one, we kick off season number two. Can you believe we're already into our second season?
Yeah, I can't even believe I'm here in 2024. So, you know, that's, hey, hallelujah. But it is outrageous, right? I mean, as the older you get, you realize that the days go slow, but the months and years, they go super fast and faster the older you get. Yeah.
For sure. Well, have you had enough time to break your New Year's resolution yet? I happen to recall a year when you broke both your resolutions within minutes of one another and not too long after the New Year started.
Yeah, it's a rather infamous story, Mark, that involves you and our creative director, Scott Edwards. You remember that, right? It was like it is now. There was lots of snow. Remember on the hills. We were in Amish country coming back from a clients and just to break the silence. And Scott was sitting behind us. You were driving. I said, hey, has anybody made any resolutions and getting no answer? I said, well, I was choosing between two.
One was to stop cursing and the other is to be more mindful. And so Scott said, well, which one did you choose? And I said, I chose to be more mindful because I figured that would be easier. And just at that point, we saw a dog on the hill and I turned to you and I said, hey, how's Bogey? Now those, your eyes were about this big. You looked at me.
Um, because you had told me literally, I think the month before the Bogey had died. Uh, so, um, you were hysterical and then, um, from the back, that deep, low, timbered voice of Scott Edwards, right, says, “so how's that mindfulness working for you?”
Oh, that was... And then I think you threw out an expletive for that and he goes, well, I guess the other ones not going to work for you either.
Not well, not well. So, you know, I've sworn off resolutions. That's my resolution.
Yes, I have to. I haven't had a resolution in, I don't know, decades. So, well, not only are we kicking off season number two, but around here, we're all excited about the fact that we're kicking off our 50th year in business. And it's, talk about the years going fast. In August of 1974, Chuck Innis and Dick Maggiore sat at their kitchen table and decided to start an ad agency. And amazingly, our fearless leader, Dick Maggiore, is still active in our business today. You can't say that about too many business owners, and to say that we have a founder of our business involved here 50 years later is just amazing. Unfortunately, we lost Chuck a few years ago at the age of 90, but we'll be honoring his legacy this whole year. He won't be an afterthought, that's for sure.
Lorraine, you've had a lot of fond memories about your time with the agency. Do you happen to have a story or a happy memory at Innis Maggiore that you can share with us?
Well, I think the way that I even found my way to the agency was rather unique. I was transitioning in jobs, and I had to use the church computer to print resumes, which I had permission to do. And it was really hot, and they were going through construction, so they had no air conditioning. So, the doors were open and this very strange man, I mean strange, walked in and asked me if I wanted to buy the land next door and like I don't work here and that's not how a church works and then he said what are you doing I said I'm printing resumes and for ad agencies that was that's my career and area and he said well you need to send one to Chuck Innis he's a good friend of mine at Innis Maggiore and at that point I hadn't really considered sending one to Innis Maggiore but I just felt, you know, you and I understand this, that sometimes God sends the most strange messengers to you at the precise moment. And you either listen to it or you don't. And I've learned to listen to the strange messenger. So, I thought, OK, I'll type up a resume and I'll actually take it over to Innis. And I did. And I met Chuck right in front of our reception area. And he was fabulous. And of course, we realized we're both from New Jersey. And that was interesting.
And then he said, we don't see resumes like this very often, but I'll have my son call you. He does the hiring. So, I thought, well, that's that. I'll never hear from them. And sure enough, Dick interviewed me, and it wasn't long before I realized he was steeped in positioning. And that's kind of where I cut my teeth and my agency in Toledo. And it was really meant to be, and it was great. So, I've still listened to strange messengers.
So, the weirder you are, I will listen to you. More likely she's, if you're normal, if you're something in my sphere, I probably won't pay attention. So anyway, but that was interesting. Then you know that Chuck, being from New Jersey, did have a particular New Jersey accent, more North Jersey than mine. But he spoke perfect French because that's why he was Eisenhower's security guard after World War II in Paris.
And I remember asking him, I said, do you speak French with a New Jersey accent? Because I thought that you must, right? And he didn't know, but he did laugh.
That's funny. Well, one of my memories of Chuck is actually the way he so deftly handled technology. If you remember walking into his office, he had three monitors up before people even know you could daisy chain monitors together. And he had a spreadsheet on this one, and then he'd have his, he was doing day trading on this one and this one. And oh my goodness, he was just so amazingly eloquent. I think he just shattered that notion that old people can't use technology. He was using it well before most young people were. I think the way that impacted the agency, at least I feel it still today, is we did our first website in 1994 and we had a management system that was doing things, AdMan, if you remember that, was managing the agency before people had even installed computers. I mean, he set us on a technological course that I think still has an impact today because when you leave a legacy, you know, the people that follow tend to pick up on that legacy.
And then I always thought it was funny because having been in Eisenhower's personal security entourage, the stories he was able to share were amazing, but I so wish that he could have shared the more interesting stories that he probably wasn't allowed to share.
But you look at today, I mean, can you imagine him? He's probably turning over in his grave, watching our politicians and, you know, he was back in the day when a statesman was a statesman and politicians were rare. Um, boy, I just, I don't know. What an amazing man, right?
Right. Well, with all of his education, which was considerable, and his ability to speak fluent French and just the way he self-taught himself in so many ways, the thing that Chuck never was, was an elitist. And he was never super-silliest. He was always a Ham and Egg-er, as my family would say, which I love.
Yep, well, and Dick too. I mean, the student of marketing and positioning, the reason he even discovered positioning was because he was buying books every two weeks to read about marketing. And having that psychology background, that was a perfect fit. But he's the one that set us on the course for positioning. And I think that's, from my perspective, between you and Dick, to really be a student of something, you both are, you set the tone for that. You set the track for what people can aspire to be and really make a difference in wherever you're working, whatever industry it might be.
Yeah, well, thanks. It's equating those two is a pretty high Steve, so thanks.
Yeah. Well, you are respected in my opinion more than you'll ever know. So is that enough?
Oh, just not feared.
The Darth Vader of the agency.
Well, for our topic today, I think we're going to align our 50th year celebration with a look back on 50 years of advertising and the change that we've seen since advertising, what it would have been in 1974. We might even cheat back a few years because the first positioning article appeared in Industrial Magazine in 1969. So, it's just five years before we were founded.
If we end up having two or three episodes on this topic, don't be surprised. I think when we look back on how advertising has changed and every time I keep looking at things, there's just significant profound changes and so many foundational principles have remained and we'll talk about that, but it's interesting to see how things have shifted and we'll walk through that.
I think we need to group this though, because we could just go off on tangents. And you and I came up with some categories here that I'll put on the screen. One is media proliferation. I think the way media has just gone nuts. The technological changes, right? That's the obvious, but the technological changes tie back to media proliferation. So, we'll touch on those first.
I think advancement in targeting and personalization capabilities, that's a hot topic, but maybe it's not exactly the holy grail that we think it is. Transactional media, so like lead generation, first party data, all of that, we'll touch on that. B2B advertising, that'll be an interesting one. The growing importance of branding. And then finally, experiential marketing, which also relates to that growing importance of branding.
So those will be our categories, but let's start with media proliferation. And I happened to review Jack Trout's original article from 1969. Yeah. And within five paragraphs, here's what he, this is a quote from the article and it's, I don't know, maybe it's six or seven paragraphs into the article, but here's what he says.
“Just count the number of media that carry your communications. There is television, commercial cable and pay. There's radio, AM and FM. There is outdoor, posters, billboards and spectaculars. There are newspapers, direct mail. There are mass magazines, class magazines, enthusiast magazines, business magazines, trade magazines, annuals, semi-annuals and on and on. And of course buses, subways and taxi cabs. Generally speaking, anything that moves is usually carrying a message from our sponsor.”
This is from 1969, and it's probably hard for most of our audience to think that when this was written, there were no personal computers, PCs, there were no websites, there were no mobile phones, really nothing digital, and the infiltration of marketing into our daily lives which was much less considered. Even when we got into marketing, and I know you got into marketing a couple years before I did. But even then, think about the media, we thought about TV, radio, print, and outdoor. Those were like our primary considerations for the distribution of the message.
Now we have tens of thousands of media options. Every year now, they actually publish the Marketing Technology 10,000. So, I mean, it just blows the mind. I've talked enough. Lorraine, what do you think about this whole media proliferation?
Well, first of all, I'm laughing at you said I started in marketing a few years before you I mean how old were you in? 1977 more
Yeah, okay. That was my first job in advertising. So here I rest my case. So well, I think in short strokes, just to take like kind of a macro view for a minute, you know, what we've what we've lived through, mainly in the advertising business that we've been involved in, is the decline of network, right, or mass media, and TV, and the rise of internet media.
That kind of encapsulates so much of what we're talking about. And that involves social and paid, unpaid and paid. The cash cows of traditional advertising, which were network TV and print and many of the things Trout talked about, they're still here, right? But they're just not as dominant any longer. So in some cases, some of these things, particularly like network TV, is almost fringe to streaming TV, if I can call it that.
And the homology of traditional media is, I think can be evidenced by this example, that when Walter Cronkite spoke, right, in the 60s and early 70s, his newscast addressed every race, every religion, all political persuasions.
There was no narrow-casting. There was no segmentation. When he spoke, everybody heard it and when the president was on he was on all three networks and no one was seeing Flipper that night. So today we are playing to segments, right? It's just constant segments and cutting and dicing and figuring out who are your demographic is sometimes to harm I believe.
Yeah, so that's true. And then, you know, you talk about Trout and Reese and Trout, the positioning. It's interesting that when Jack Trout wrote that article, for those who might not know, I think he had just left GE. He was the marketing manager or advertising manager at GE. And he had just left GE and joined Al Reese's ad agency.
Trout was interesting because he has both a client perspective and an advertising agency perspective. But they were definitely ahead of the shift, and I think something that gets forgotten sometimes is You know and trout wrote about this early on that positioning or differentiation Was essentially a competitive game a game that marketers had to shift their thinking from growing new markets to understanding that most markets were not virgin and therefore you needed to take share away from and keep it away from a competitor. So, you better have a differentiating idea. And this was the essence of positioning. Now, that was in 1969. It has only gotten worse today. Only, I mean, think about the number of competitors and the number of therefore products, and the number of messages that all these competitors are creating.
And there's so much marketing noise that it's actually everything, competition's at a hyper level. So I think you have said this many times, that positioning is even more true today than it was when Trout and Reese first began talking about it.
Yeah, one of the quotes further down in his article says, “today's marketplace is no longer responsive to strategies that worked in the past. There are just too many products, too many companies, and too much marketing noise. We have become an over-communicated society.” Well, that was 55 years ago, and he's saying this. I mean, he only passed away in ‘16 or ‘17. So he saw that evolution, but I mean, if he were to restate that, he could say that exact same thing, but it would be at a level that doesn't even compare. I mean, you couldn't even put a factor on it. It's not double, it's not triple, who knows what it was.
Well, I even think that because there's so much going and it's exploded so exponentially, that this has led to the necessity for segmenting, for finding an audience. And that has led, you know, on one hand, it's good because no one can take in everything, so people can find what they're interested in. But from the standpoint of, let's say, thought,
intellectual thought or political belief. What happens is this extreme confirmation bias that we see at play, where I only believe the facts that support my conclusion and that's all I seek out, no matter which side of the political spectrum you're on. And I think that's a very dangerous kind of, or let's say unintended negative aspect of what's happened.
Well, it was interesting. We did an appreciative discovery on Wednesday of this week and the category when we did research online, there were, and this was B2B. So, it wasn't a consumer product. There were, by my estimation, 50 companies offering the same product. So now you ask the question, how do you even position in that? So we took the process which you've used, I don't know, dozens and dozens of time. If you're not one or two… finish the sentence…
…then be something new.
…be something new. And sure enough, this client, they're in the United Kingdom, they happen to be moving into our space here in the US. They had something new. And certainly, that's what we grabbed a hold of and that's where the marketing is going to go. But I was just, I was kind of floored. I haven't seen too many categories where you could have that many players. Now it's very large equipment in a very, you know, involved space. But now you go, it's so cluttered, how do I position?
But on the other side is, how don't I position? Because otherwise, if you don't, you're in a sea of just price, right? People are going to go find the cheapest thing because there's so many options and you can't compare them online. This is big equipment. So, it's not like I can order a sample from Amazon and if I don't like it, I'm gonna send it back.
It's not just advertising. I mean, that's what we have to understand. It's just not the advertising clutter because media is available to everyone now and programmatic offers such a low barrier to entry. I can literally go on a platform and upload my TV or my audio advertising and start running it in minutes. And so, the barrier to advertising means the clutter out there is unbelievable. But at the same time, in almost every category, the competition is just as cluttered. So, you have elements coming together that our minds are, they're just blowing up. And so, we have to position so that people have an option to choose between one product versus all the other competitive products.
Right. And I think what you're saying bears just accentuating for anybody listening. It starts with competitors first. You cannot develop a position for a company without examining the competition in the space in that category. If you think of a category as a ladder, who else is on the rung and where are they on the rung? And what are they saying about themselves? How are they differentiated?
So, the clutter that we see today is a virtue of too many competitors sending too many messages via too many media. I mean, it starts there. And I'm very happy to hear that you did the competitive work while doing this positioning exercise, because sometimes I think people make the mistake of just finding out what a company can be great at, what they can do well, what they're passionate about, what they believe beyond making money. They kind of overstep Simon Sinek with this belief in the why. Well, if you don't take all that and say, is there an opportunity in the market for this? Is this an open space? Then you're just barking in the wind.
Yeah, yep. Well, and the other major change, and perhaps we don't perceive it as much as we should, is that all these media options have also proliferated the format. If you think about it, the traditional formats of TV and radio and outdoor, like TV was long form, outdoor was short form, but today just on the most used social media, you have to think about how to craft the same message differently so as to properly fit the platform and the strategy, because the strategy is even more important for using that platform. And then just doing display ads might mean something as much as six or more graphics with different dimensions. And you can go from a skyscraper to a leaderboard to a button. And how do you fit your message on these various formats? So, the format itself has really shifted.
And then it gets even more complex when you consider all the forms of online and offline media. There's very little standardization between all these. And so, you know, what we used to worry about was maybe a :15 and a :30 and a :60 on TV. Now it's just, it's like, well, you might need a five second for retargeting, or you might need a motion graphic for retargeting, or you might need these six formats for retargeting. It's...
gets really crazy. And if you don't know how to navigate that space, you know there's so many DIYers out there, but you have to see it all like we do in order to understand that it takes a lot to navigate this. And we have to have specialists here that understand these various platforms to even get it.
You know, you've always liked the quote, or I wouldn't say you've liked the quote, but you've used the quote and you sometimes disagree with it because of the context it's used, but Marshall McLuhan back in 1964 used “the medium is the message.: And he, I mean, that was 1964. So now you're talking 60 years ago. So thing one, share with us how you've seen this maxim maybe stay the same or perhaps change, or maybe there's a variation on this over the course of these last 60 years.
Well, again, I think Marshall McLuhan was ahead of the time in stating that, and I think he was being a provocateur by using the definite article, “the,” right? The media is the message. I think the media is a message, and with homage to our good friend Roy H. Williams, right? You better damn well have a message that's unique, differentiating, and captivating, or who cares what the medium is, right?
So, I do prefer the indefinite article, the media is a message. So, it is good to, obviously it's good to reach the audience you think will most likely be interested or value what your product is about or your company is about, and reach the audience that cares a lot about what you do and what you value.
But like I said, what's good of all that reach? Think about where's the most money spent in marketing? It's in buying media to reach audiences. So, imagine maneuvering all your troops, your tanks, your ships, your infantry, your artillery, your aviation to a target zone because you know that's what you need to take and getting there and you have no bullets. You know, you left those behind.
I mean, I would, I would, yeah, you're shooting blanks. And I think that, you know, while we do have to consider these different media formats, we need to start again, top down. Does this particular product need a long story message format? Do we need to educate? Do we need to motivate? Is it transactional, something you buy, we just want quick end sales and it's direct sale,, like you can buy tires quickly or you can buy something you understand quickly.
So, I think from the very beginning we have to start thinking about what is this product about and what's the objective and we'll come back to that a little later.
So, one of the things when I emphasize the message again, and I tend to fall more on the message standpoint because I'm like, what's the nature of the message? Then that dictates to me the kind of media that we're going to need, not in specific, that's for the media planner. But one of the things I think that media planners tend to err on that account people and who deal with the message and copy creative, who deal more with the message, really are needed to assist with is, get off of the GRPs, the CPMs, right? And start thinking about the, how can we exert psychological value, you know?
When we look at people's behavior, I don't care who you are, people are innately insecure. Even Donald Trump is innately insecure. That's the essence of being a narcissist.
Mark Vandegrift (28:14.709)
That's the way he acts.
People look for reasons to believe or to trust, right? So they look where? To others. This is why word of mouth continues to be powerful, right? Influencers is just an extension of that why referral is still so trusted.
So, all of which is for me to say that the environment of the media and where it is seen and heard to Marshall McLuhan, that's what he was talking about, is part of the message, right? So, if I see a brand message on a TV program, a brand I've never heard anything about, and it shows on a high value TV program that I trust, you know, a very good program with a lot of audience value. I'm going to think very well of that brand. I'm going to think, wow, they're in the big time. They're real, they're to be trusted.
So, the environment influences psychologically that brand marketer. So, I do think that Marshall McLuhan's right about that. We have to consider if we can impress on media buyers to think about the environment. So, consider that same brand message, let's say, and I've never heard of this brand in a local community newspaper. And compare that impression versus the one that the same brand I never heard about on a TV show, I highly value that has a large audience. And what's my impression? So that's where media as an environment really influences. And I think probably the greatest example on this is the Super Bowl, right? If you see a brand you've never heard of in the Super Bowl, I could say that's the closest to the media is the message because people just say, oh, that brand must have enough cache to be on the biggest game, the biggest televised event in the year. That brand deserves some cred. So, think as much about the environment and the psychology of the message as you do about gross rating points, target rating points, and all that other stuff.
Right. Well, I don't think we're going to get to any of the other categories today. Right? But let's just talk one more thing. And that is the art of media planning. And you've touched on that just now. You were talking about thinking the art of making a psychological impact. How do you think though, the immense increase in media? So proliferation again, the number of media has changed media planning. I don't mean analytics, which we'll cover under the next bullet point of technology, just the art of media planning. What rule or rules have changed versus those principles that were back in 1974?
Well, there's no doubt it's become more difficult, right? Because there's more choice. And whenever there's more choice, anything in life is more difficult.
So, you have to begin at the top. You can't begin at the narrow bottom. You have to begin broadly. And by that, I mean, you have to think about the immutables and those immutables are still the immutables. And to me, they come down to really two questions. What is the objective that the advertising has to accomplish for the client within what timeframe? And what are the resources that they're willing or can invest? Because resources dictate strategies.
So, you can't just go willy nilly and create a media plan based on objectives, which may be to increase sales 20%, which is pretty aggressive, and then have a budget that can't support that in any way, shape or form, right?
And so, this comes down to what does the advertiser want to achieve and what can they achieve? I mean, what's realistic? And so, we have to start there. And then I think bucket what type of objective is this? Is this a brand building long-term value gain idea? Or is this a short-term, I want to sell shirts that are unique because they have five buttons at the top I don't know, you know. But then you can kind of say, well, media that's very transactional is here and is not so much brand specific as it is sales specific.
Whereas brand media, and then you can start listing your choices there, and then you can start seeing what resources will support, give you the biggest bang for the buck.
So, when I started in the advertising agency business in 1991, it was with an agency called Wiederschein-Stranburg. John Stranburg was the principal owner at the time. And one of the things he would quote all the time was something from Marshal Ferdinand Foch, World War I French marshal. And it was De Quoi s'agit il. And everybody had this kind of on their desk and what it translates to in English is “what is the essence of the problem?” And I mean, that is it. Everyone in the agency, from account to media to creative has to be asking, “what is the essence of the problem?” And I think if you start there, you're going to get better answers. So, I still keep going back to that. I think nothing has been more impressive to me other than positioning, because I think positioning is about that as well.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think this walk down memory lane shows us that certain things haven't changed and shouldn't change and there's foundational principles, right? And they might even be truer today than they were 50 or 60 years ago. At the same time, we've seen like the world doesn't even look today like it looked 50 or 60 years ago. So, from that standpoint, a lot changes but a lot remains the same. So, I think that's going to be a truism as we talk about all these different categories, just because we have that experience of having been around in advertising for that long, and we have firsthand knowledge of how things have shifted, but how we're still using the same principles.
I was just going to say that the thing that has to happen too is this discipline of narrowing, right? Because resources, as I said, dictate strategy. So, this doesn't just apply to the media buyer, although it does. I mean, they have to narrow to the media that the dollars will support in the sufficient amount to achieve the objective. Not easy. Super hard to prioritize. Ask anybody to prioritize anything.
It's very difficult. But I think instructive, it's also for companies too. And I mean, it was real interesting. Frontline has a documentary right now on Jeff Bezos, which I recommend that people watch. And of course, he's a perfect example of someone… Today, Amazon, what does he say it is? It's everything for everyone. But that's not where he started, right? Where did he start? He's narrowed. He narrowed. He chose a market where there was tons of content, tons of product that he felt he could dominate and steal market share from, and that was books and book selling. And he actually told investors, this whole company is aimed at market share, not profit. You will not make a profit for at least 10 years. And investors bought in on it because he had a strategic focus, he narrowed and look where that's gone now and what Amazon is today.
So that's anybody has to narrow to what they're capable of doing at the moment, and then the future will begin to suggest itself.
Yeah, it's interesting because products for them are almost secondary now. It's about the operations and distribution of products and just the business model. So anyhow, well, we are well over time, but always a good discussion with you, Lorraine. Thank you to our audience for viewing and listening. And if you haven't liked, shared, subscribed or told your friends about the Brand Shorthand podcast, please do and we'll see you on our next episode. Until next time, have an amazing day.