Archive for the ‘B2B’ Category

How Magazines Are Becoming More Meaningful

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010


A little more than a week ago, I spoke as guest of Better Homes and Gardens to a group of marketers and media planners in New York City. For the weeks leading up to this presentation I had been collecting examples of how magazine publishers are adapting to the new world of digital content and meaningful advertising. What I discovered is that despite the predictions that the magazine business is fading, there actually is an incredible rebirth of the medium going on.

First let me call out that this breakfast at Better Homes and Gardens is itself an outstanding example of Marketing with Meaning. Along with my speech, the magazine brought in Robert Levy, who shared insights from his group’s most recent study of consumer habits and attitudes around new products. The magazine provided valuable, free content to the marketers that it works with—in a way, investing in their careers, rather than just giving them cheaper ad space. This is a lesson in B2B marketing that I wrote about several months ago here.

One of the most remarkable examples I discovered was the December 2009 issue of Food Network Magazine. As described in this article at Talk Back Media, much of the advertising in this issue offers added value content. For example, an ad for Hillshire Farm and Hamilton Beach had tear-out recipe cards, and an insert from Viva paper towels included tips for keeping the home clean. These are great examples of Meaningful Solutions.

I also dug into the archive for an example in which Wired magazine partnered with Xerox to create a limited number of magazines with actual subscribers’ faces on the covers. The experience was tied to an issue focused on digital personalization, and allowed Xerox to feature its new small-batch printing equipment. While it was a great opportunity for those who got their own covers, there were a lot of people like me who were disappointed because of the limited number Xerox made.

One of the great lessons here is that some of the best magazine marketing occurs when an advertiser dedicates a significant portion of their budget with the specific title and builds ideas together. This flies in the face of the traditional media approach, in which agencies come up with the ideas, and media buyers seek out many titles and the lowest possible ad rates. With a partnership, the magazines can bring much more creativity into the marketer’s business.

It reminds me of when I was launching the Mr. Clean AutoDry Car Wash business for P&G in 2003. I met with the leadership team of Motor Trend and we put together a deal in which we agreed to a year of back cover ads at a reasonable fee. In return, our product was used and reviewed by its editors, and received a “Motor Trend Approved” endorsement that we used on our package. This helped us get over the main barrier to purchase—that car guys would not believe our product actually allowed a car to dry without spots. I recall many discussion boards around the time of our marketing launch where guys said, “If the people at Motor Trend say it works, then I believe it.”

In the future, smart magazine publishers would be wise to insist that their advertisers be more meaningful, and consult with them to help them succeed. The reason is that the ads are part of the reading experience, and the more valuable the entire reading experience is, the more people will subscribe. It will take a publisher to show some guts for this to happen, though.

Although these examples show that meaningful marketing can find a home in magazines, it is interesting to wonder whether or not market shifts could make advertising a lot less important to content makers like this. Overall, advertising is a “necessary evil” to publishers. Their desire is to make a magazine that people love and choose to subscribe to. Advertising makes up for the difference between subscriptions and the cost to publish the magazine. But what if new devices such as Kindle and the iPad, and new payment schemes that allow a cost-per-article revenue model, end up making the quality of the content the driver of business? Imagine if magazine publishers could get rid of the advertising sales department and just make great content? It might seem like a long way off, but if I were starting a magazine today, I would try to figure out how to build a business that doesn’t even require an advertising model. on Marketing Evolution

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

cmo artic

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I hope everyone is gearing up for the official start of the end-of-year holiday season. I’m “off” today at home watching the kids while my wife braves the grocery store. Therefore it’s a light blogging day. But if you’re looking for some holiday reading before you leave the office, take a peek at the article I wrote for last week. is a relatively new site from Omniture, and itself a great example of meaningful marketing. Omniture created to provide further information and guidance on trends and changes in the marketing world. I was excited to have a chance to publish what I consider a manifesto for the modern CMO. My thesis in this piece is that the #1 task of a CMO today is to shift his or her entire organization to a new marketing model—one that revolves around creating advertising that adds value to customers’ lives, and is marketing that people choose to engage with.

Take a read, let me know what you think, and I highly recommend that you sign up for’s article alerts!

A Meaningful 90-Second Sales Pitch

Monday, September 21st, 2009

imedia card 1

Last week I had the chance to present our Marketing with Meaning concept and hand out copies of my new book, The Next Evolution of Marketing, at the iMedia Brand Summit in San Diego. There were some excellent case studies, including a Dunkin’ Donuts case that I wrote about here on Friday. But today I wanted to share an interesting experiment of my own that shows how meaningful marketing can even be the basis of a 90-second new business pitch.

One of the recurring iMedia events is something that its organizers call “One Minute Matchups.”  It’s essentially a speed-dating concept in which “buyers” sit at tables around a room and “sellers” rotate every minute or two and pitch their product or service. As odd as it may seem, it can actually be very useful. For both buyers and sellers it is a low-investment way to quickly size up whether there is enough interest to merit a follow-up discussion, and both sides get to weed out those that are not a great fit.

In March of this year I first experienced the “One Minute Matchups” concept at iMedia’s Breakthrough conference. In this case, I was a “buyer” and many specialty media vendors and digital services companies rotated to speak with me. I was disappointed, though, that nearly all of the 40 sellers I met with had done zero research on my agency. So most of the first 90 seconds was me answering their question, “What does Bridge Worldwide do?”  Needless to say, I didn’t find any great matches.

But this time was a little bit different. On Thursday evening, just 36 hours before my flight out, I got an email from the folks at iMedia with a list of companies that I would be matched up with. I actually had no idea that my keynote address would afford me this opportunity. As an agency guy at this conference I was to be in the “seller” position, so now it would be my turn to see if I could do a better job of pitching. I huddled with Jonathan Richman, my Director of Business Development (and top blogger over at Dose of Digital). We quickly decided that I had to do something meaningful in my matchups, and likely something related to my keynote topic. We decided that the best thing to do would be to bring each company one or two ideas for how they might practice meaningful marketing. I stayed up until 1 a.m. that night coming up with ideas by using their websites and my gut as a guide.  Then on Friday Jonathan and Carole Amend from our team worked on turning these ideas into blown-up cards with the idea on one side and my contact information on the other.  I picked them up Saturday morning on the way to the airport and they looked great.  The image at the top of the screen is one example (the person from Atkins didn’t show up), and at the bottom you can see the contact info side.

Now, let me pause to say that it’s very, very difficult to sell a full-service digital agency like Bridge Worldwide in only 90 seconds. While brand managers may feel free to “date” specialty service providers, working with a full-service agency is like getting married–as you typically stay with the agency for a long time and make them strategic partners on the core business. Maybe one or two of the marketers in attendance expected to hire an agency sometime soon. My real goal was to leave each person with a positive brand experience with Bridge Worldwide, so that when they are looking for a new i-agency at some future time they remember to give us a call.

It was an interesting experience sharing my ideas at the event.  My time with the first group of about 25 marketers came before I had given my keynote speech, so they had no clue who I was or what I was speaking about. My approach was certainly unlike others that the marketers had experienced. About one-third of them reacted very positively and were appreciative to get something personalized and clever.  The other two-thirds had a hard time figuring out how to respond, mainly because they thought I was selling them a specific idea. So there was some defensiveness (“we already have an agency”) and dismissal (“we tried that once and it didn’t work).  I felt pretty good, though, because I knew my keynote the next day would help connect the dots in their minds.

Sure enough, when I went to the next batch of matchups just minutes after leaving the stage of my keynote address, every marketer I spoke to understood what I was doing. I also changed my talking points a bit to adjust, for example, by starting off with “I’m not selling you an idea; I’m selling you on how we work as an agency partner.” People were overwhelmingly positive and excited to hear the ideas I shared, and a handful promised to reach out on some specific work.

But one of the best things about this approach was that I really enjoyed these one-minute matchups.  The decision to bring a unique idea for everyone forced me to do my homework on the companies, and better prepared me for longer discussions with prospects over meals and cocktails.  The ideas gave me more confidence in sitting down with a stranger for 90 seconds, and I felt great knowing that I would be giving them something worth remembering when they got back to the office later that week.  This approach was more meaningful to me, too.

Part of me thought that I shouldn’t write this blog post and share this idea with the world. I wondered if now everybody else would take the idea and outdo us at the next iMedia show.  But the reality is that most people just don’t bother to make the effort. It’s too easy to stick with the traditional path and “rules” of the game, whether you’re a salesperson or a big brand. But it goes to show that our success is less about what our competitors do, and more about how we take advantage of new opportunities. And as my friend Brian McNamara always said, “If it was easy, anyone could do it.”

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Plaid Nation Tour 2009 Wraps Up

Friday, August 21st, 2009

My post is a little belated, but I wanted to give a shout-out to the team from one of the coolest advertising agencies I’ve seen or heard about, Plaid, which recently wrapped up its annual Plaid Nation tour. As I wrote about last year, the agency has been spending a few weeks each summer driving across some part of the country in a “rolling demonstration of creativity and innovation.” Its goal is to check in on cool companies and share its unique take on the marketing world.

Once again the traveling team at Plaid shared their experience with the world using live camera feeds, a blog, and a Twitter account. This year’s tour took them mostly through the heart of the Midwest, including Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Orleans. Sadly the team did not make its way over to our home base in Cincinnati, but maybe next year.

I believe this is a great example of meaningful marketing in the ad-agency world. Companies often choose long-term agency partners based on culture fit. By taking this tour, the people of Plaid are able to show their personalities, both in real-world meetings at the offices of companies and through online tracking. Prospective clients see an agency with high energy, big ideas, and a desire to get in the trenches. It’s no wonder the agency has clients such as Segway and Virgin.

But aside from the business-building benefits, this annual trek is meaningful for Plaid’s company culture. In the agency world, you have to keep your talent inspired if you want them to continue to stay and do great work for clients. By bonding together over a few weeks and meeting new people at top companies, the agency brings needed stimulation. The Plaid Nation tour shows recruits that the agency is special, and I know that Plaid employees love to be part of this, even if they are not one of the few who hits the road.

I look forward to next year’s tour (and next year’s free blogger T-shirt), and hope Plaid rakes in a bunch of new business.

Selling B2B with Your Consumer Content

Monday, July 6th, 2009

As I’ve said here many times before, Marketing with Meaning is not limited to consumer brands with multimillion-dollar budgets, but rather it can be the basis of business-to-business strategy as well. Several weeks ago I wrote about the example of the word-of-mouth agency, Abraham & Harrison, which sent me a valuable piece of data in order to get on my radar. Today I wanted to provide examples from Ari Rosenberg, who writes that publishers have a meaningful marketing tool lying right under their noses.

In an article that I’ve been hanging onto since April, Rosenberg writes that publishers need to be “buying what [they're] selling” by leveraging their great content into something that ad sales targets will find useful. According to Rosenberg:

If I am Business Week, I am using my editorial clout to host intimate business insight conferences for advertisers and agencies on the industry of advertising. If I am any one of the cooking brands out there, I am creating a catering service to feed a different agency’s media department once a week throughout the year. If I am, I am sending emails or text alerts every Friday to all of my clients who opt in for a personalized weekend weather report. If I am a finance brand, I am conducting investment seminars tailored specifically for the media buyers I call on.”

Sounds a lot better than another round of cold calls, eh? What I love about these examples is that each one leverages content and expertise that is already sitting in-house at publishers’ offices. Further, these meaningful services completely reinforce the unique expertise and brand positioning of the brands that offer them.

Other business and industries are slowly moving to this type of model—essentially getting a B2B sales meeting by bringing something relevant to the customer. For example, a few years ago my team at Bridge Worldwide created a series of books on understanding the 65+ consumer that P&G pharma sales reps brought in to share with their physician customers. Because of an influx of 65+ patients resulting from the Medicare bill, these physicians had a need to improve their understanding and skills. P&G was able to leverage its core strength in understanding consumer behavior, and get many more meetings than those who just wanted to talk about a drug, or paid for a pizza lunch. P&G and many other large consumer products firms do something similar with their B2B retail customers by putting marketing people on the ground in their headquarters offices—with a charge to drive the retail customers’ total category sales, not just those of P&G brands.

So if you’re a consumer marketer that sells to a business as well, how can you offer something uniquely valuable to your B2B market that leverages your core product or strength?

Celebrating Pringles Cannes Hands

Monday, June 29th, 2009

As most marketing readers likely know, last week was the annual Cannes Advertising Festival in France—unarguably the world’s most prominent advertising industry get-together, where the brightest creative minds in our business gather to compare the best work over the past 12 months. Last year I got to attend for the first time (with blog posts here if you’re interested), but this year I was on vacation in Italy with my family instead of Cannes.

I missed one of the biggest moments of the history of my company, Bridge Worldwide, when our team won a Gold Cyber Lions award for the Pringles banner ad above. While “only” a banner, this remarkable little ad unit offers a great case study in meaningful marketing for both B2C and B2B.

The Consumer Story: Once You Click, You Can’t Stop

Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the banner above. A new window will open to our staging server where you can see our banner in context, just like the judges at Cannes did. Spend as much or as little time interacting with it and return here to keep reading…

…Welcome back. If you’re anything like the Cannes award judges or the thousands of other people who have viewed this ad online in the past few days, you enjoyed, too. Our team created a banner ad that makes people laugh for a few minutes, and then share it with their friends online. This happens to be a perfect fit with what the Pringles brand itself is all about: a few minutes of fun, and sharing with friends.

What I love about this ad is that it takes banner space that most people ignore or find annoying, and turns it into a fun, engaging moment of play with the brand. That five minutes of fun is rewarding for the viewer who chooses to engage with it, falling under a category of meaningful marketing that we call “Entertaining Connections.”

Aside from great data on clicks and time spent with the ad, we measure its success in the word of mouth that it is drawing. Since winning the award and posting the ad on our staging server we are seeing a steady, growing number of people discovering the ad and sharing it with their social networks. Twitter in particular is becoming the barometer of the buzz, and I’m seeing about one person per minute Twittering about the ad with 100% positive comments. Here’s a sample of some of my favorite recent comments from

  • @steveklabnik: Best. Ad. Ever.  Pringles are amazing.
  • @MegLG: A banner ad that is actually engaging…Can hands: Pringles. I probably just made someone a million $ for clicking so much.
  • @lisahattery: Bored? Go here…Click on the banner ad. Keep clicking. It’s not spam or porn, I swear. I want Pringles.
  • @floatnsink: This is probably the best & only advertisement that I want to click.
  • @stuartwitts: Award winning banner ad from Pringles. Great work. Can’t remember last time a banner ad made me laugh.
  • @adamcoomes: Best banner ad I’ve ever seen. This is hilarious! Props to Pringles.
  • @hunterupton: please please PLEASE! check out this banner ad. Hilarious Pringles! it’s the best i’ve ever seen!

The Cannes judges agreed completely. In a video that was shown during the Cyber Lions event Wednesday night, they said they each spent 5 minutes on the banner, laughing out loud at their desks. Our Pringles banner was one of only 19 Gold Lions that were awarded in the entire digital category, and only six of these went to U.S.-based agencies. But what are awards for, anyway…?

It’s Starting to Go Viral

Over the weekend we started to notice comments and traffic to our staging server spike. We worked to post links on Fark, Digg, Reddit, BuzzFeed, and other places. I checked in with our Tech team Saturday afternoon and learned that more than 100,000 people had visited the page in the past day! If this was a number of views on YouTube, we would consider it a viral video success with that number alone. It will be fun to watch the traffic this week and see the other places it gets picked up.

Building the Bridge Worldwide Brand

Advertising awards are a big deal in our industry. Thousands of entries are made every year to awards shows like Cannes, with each agency hoping to get credit for the work they have done. The purpose of awards is mainly for agency marketing, a business-to-business approach. Awards allow agencies to brag about the quality of their creative work in new business pitches. But are they meaningful marketing in a B2B environment?

Many, many advertising industry pundits cry that we are too obsessed with awards. But I actually do believe that they can be meaningful to the companies that are searching for an agency partner. Here’s the rationale: First, the creative work is really the number-one thing that brands need in their advertising agencies. It’s the job they cannot do themselves. Second, it’s very, very difficult to judge the quality of an agency’s creative product through the pitching process. Case studies show work for other clients, but it is difficult to judge it because beauty is in the mind of the brief holder—i.e., clients can’t judge whether work for a different business than their own was successful or not. As a result, clients look for other ways to get comfortable with the creative potential of prospective partners.

Here’s where awards can come in—they give clients an impartial measure of the quality of creative work. Agencies that have won awards have “proof” that the work was good, as measured by very experienced judges, and as measured against many other agencies that are putting their best work up against it. While creative quality is only one piece of what clients need to see in an agency, and awards are only one of several ways to judge this, winning a big award such as a Cannes Lion shows that our agency can do some of the best work in the world.

A Cannes Lions award can also be very meaningful to an agency’s current clients. Our Pringles brand team and the senior management at P&G were ecstatic about this recognition. Within minutes of the announcement we were cheered by email from clients at all levels. A handful of top leaders got to see the show in person and they enjoyed a toast together in Cannes, immediately talking excitedly about what else we could do in this space. For P&G as a whole, it was the company’s first-ever Gold Lion in the digital category. This award is another step in the world’s largest marketer’s shift to winning in the still-developing digital space.

This win renews current clients’ confidence in us as an agency partner, shows them that we can help them compete with the best in the world, and challenges them to buy “bigger” work that we bring to them.

Impact on Our Company Culture

As an agency we only first visited the show in person last year. Our three-person delegation of Jay Woffington (President), Peter Schwartz (Chief Creative Officer), and me talked often during that week about the work we saw and wondered what it would take for us to bring home a Gold Lion. We decided that we wanted one and that our company was up to the challenge. We thought it would be a three- to five-year journey, and as Jay said, “I knew we had the ability, the talented people, and the desire… but an award such as this is not easy.”

By setting this goal and sharing our experiences with the company upon our return last year, it got our teams fired up and determined. I believe our work across the board was better in the past 12 months, and we felt confident enough to submit four pieces for Cannes. We were excited just to be short-listed for one, and the Pringles Gold win blew everyone away.

What I love is that this is truly “the agency’s award.” Our Creative Director on Pringles, Jason Bender, accepted the award on behalf of many who made it a success. As people were congratulating him late into Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, he continually deferred credit to the team behind it. And to paraphrase Bender, we all woke up Thursday morning as employees of a Cannes Gold-winning agency. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and of the agency I work for.


I hope this story illustrates how meaningful marketing can be a multilayered win for your brand or agency. Marketing with meaning breaks through the clutter to deliver quality work and business-building results, it gets your clients and new business prospects excited, and it can help make your company a great place to work.

As for Cannes, the statue wasn’t even back in the U.S. before Peter came to me talking about how we have a chance to win the “agency of the year” Cyber Lion next year—and I think our other creative teams are anxious to get in the spotlight next year. It will be fun to see the impact of this award on our agency in the year to come, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.

Philips Wins ‘Advertising As Service’ Award

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

For the past two weeks, Advertising Age has been sharing case studies that have come out of the annual Festival of Media Awards. Last week I hammered award-winner Gatorade, which was praised by the awards jury but managed to offend gamers. But this week I’m happy to praise Philips, which found a way to add value to China’s crowded hospitals.

For more than three years, Philips has stuck with a campaign that has meaningful marketing written all over it. Dubbed “Sense and Simplicity,” Philips is investing its marketing dollars across the board to save time for and sanity of its consumers, thus earning brand respect and product interest. The campaign first got recognition when Philips paid magazines $2 million to remove the annoying subscription cards from magazines for a month and allow readers to flip straight from the cover to the table of contents. The company also has paid for free access to paid areas of and, and it bought up blocks of commercials on shows such as 60 Minutes and gave the time back to programmers.

The company later created a service called Philips Simplicity Concierge that answers texted questions from travelers in major cities. According to a 2007 article in The New York Times, Philips committed about 25% of its advertising budget to such value-added efforts.

Now Philips has applied the campaign to its medical-products business in China with a very compelling solution to the country’s notoriously crowded hospitals, where people can wait three hours to see a physician. Philips created and installed terminals in 10 major hospitals where patients can enter their phone number to reserve their place in line and get a text message when they are near the front of the line. This simple but effective tool is used by 125 people per day. In a second effort, Philips teamed up with the Public Health Bureau to drive awareness of the country’s system of smaller, newer health clinics as an alternative to hospitals. According to research from Philips, these efforts are saving the equivalent of 156 years in total waiting time per year.

What I love most about this campaign as a Marketing with Meaning case study is that it shows a killer B2B campaign. Yep, although all benefits go to consumers, the company’s efforts are actually completely targeted at the hospitals and clinics that purchase Philips MRI, ultrasound, and other products. The brand’s waiting-room texting kiosks and campaign to drive patients to community clinics are both clearly benefits to the hospitals they sell devices to. And at a time when healthcare costs are under extreme pressure around the world, these added-value services help Philips drive loyalty with hospital administrators.

Meanwhile, of course, Philips is able to deliver a valuable service to its consumer-products target market at a very meaningful time. The brand is seen as a hero when people are under stress and worried about their health. And when the time comes to look at big-screen TVs or DVD players, that positive brand experience can have a big impact on the bottom line.

A Cold Call with Meaning

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I receive somewhere around six to 12 “cold” solicitation contacts by email or phone every day. As an executive at our agency, I suppose that I appear on a lot of lists that salespeople purchase to try to get their foot in the door for a meeting. Unfortunately for the folks trying, I respond to very, very few such messages. First, a lot of them are for services that my business just doesn’t need; and second, my time is extremely limited. Plus, there’s the fact that I have a huge personal network with WPP and there is a sister agency I can trust for virtually any service we require. I feel like a jerk sometimes for spurning cold-call advances, but I lived that life when I was selling lawn care out of a phone book in college. And in my job today I have to try a few cold calls every once in a while, too.

I’ve seen every strategy in the book, ranging from sending stuffed animals, to people saying they were “referred” to me by some unknown mutual contact. One guy even tried calling me twice a day for more than a month straight. But a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Chris Abraham, a fellow blogger and President and COO of buzz agency Abraham & Harrison. Here was the introduction of his email to me:

Hi there Bob

I wanted to reach out to you since you’re a current fellow member of the AdAge Power 150 with Marketing With Meaning.  Please excuse the form email but there are over 780 current Power 150 members.  I am popping you this note for two reasons: first, I would like your help to do something with this list; second, I just want to update you as to what I am up to.”

Chris goes on to write about a file he was willing to send with the names and email addresses of all of the other members of the AdAge Power 150. This shiny needle in the haystack of business spam caught my eye for a few reasons: First, Chris is a fellow blogger rather than just another sales guy. We have something in common and it means he probably knows his stuff. This established immediate respect. Second, he offered something of value to me and my business in the form of the Power 150 contact list. He was essentially giving away a valuable piece of data that he worked hard to create, and one that his competitors could use to contact the same people he is going after.

By offering up “marketing” that itself was valuable, Chris was practicing Marketing with Meaning. And guess what? I immediately replied to Chris and set up 30 minutes to give him an opportunity to sell me on his services. I found Chris to be very smart and personable, I listened closely to his pitch, and I asked him to follow up with the person on my team who works closest on blogger outreach programs. I didn’t buy anything on the spot, and I’m not sure if we’ll need his company’s services, but Chris achieved a critical sales goal of getting a foot in the door with a key decision maker, all because he added value.

There are more than 780 other people on the Power 150 list, and I’d guess that Chris is getting a lot of other meetings because of this approach. He even got a feature post on this blog! His example shows that Marketing with Meaning can be applied by both small businesses and business-to-business marketers.

All it takes is to think about how you can do something with that phone call or email that actually adds value to your prospect’s life. And if you can’t figure that out yet, don’t bother picking up the phone.