Being there means your brand cares.

March 23, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

A client looked me in the eyes this week and told me, “Michael, it’s better to be fast and wrong than slow and right.”

I think it was directional in nature. Still, it was quite a statement. It’s conceding that the speed needed to move at in today’s business environment is reaching a pace of acceptable recklessness.

Woody Allen said something like, “99 percent of success in life is showing up.” Not sure if it’s exactly how he said it, but you get the point: you don’t have to be perfect, just raise your hand and be counted all the time. That’s harder these days as there are so many places to be.

Reminds me of how my mother forced me to go to kindergarten even when I was absolutely dying from excruciating, intolerable, at-the-doors-of-death-pain with a tummy-ache. I didn’t do much schoolwork that day but the important part (to my mom and teacher – you can say, my customers) was that I was marked present. And being there, even physically wounded, counted more than being fully mentally present.

Today’s marketing environment is a great deal about brands being here and there. And these days, with the proliferation of .coms, social sites, applications, and meet-ups, there are so many more parties where one needs to be seen that you could well show up underdressed. What’s a brand to do?

The perfectionist’s motto, “measure twice, cut once,” has become: “cut, oops, cut better, oops, cut, repeat constantly, just keep cutting.”

Why such a rush? Is it worth it? Our successful customer is saying “Yes.” Because consumers have a seemingly all day and night hunger for content and they demand to be served promptly and frequently with constant feedback and the occasional coupon.

Like any close and good relationship, brands and consumers don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Mistakes are overlooked and, because we do move so fast, they are forgotten in a matter of several tweets.

Are we saying that quality isn’t as important as quantity? This makes me queasy but I think so. Quantity is taking precedence because touching all those touch points means you’re there for me in all these places, all the time, and the sum is: you care.

Now, of course, some mistakes are more grievous than others. Be sensible as you speed along, but keep that speedometer pressing on the red as we head to another party at which to be seen.

When he protested that Macintosh wasn’t ready yet to launch, Guy Kawasaki was assured by Steve Jobs, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” They launched and they made it better on the run. Quite a run it’s been.

So here’s the dress code: even if slightly untucked here and there, make sure your brand shows up. Often.

In other words, “Get your business out of bed and get out there right this instant or else!”

Just like momma said.


The big idea isn’t dead; it’s just smashed into millions of itsy bitsy pieces.

March 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

The most dramatic change since I started in advertising is the big idea. In the hallways and conference rooms, that’s all you heard: “You got a big idea? Client is demanding a big idea.” We would work nights, weekends, lunches, coming up with the single-minded, iconic, brain-straining idea that would be the center of all the work. Now the big part of the big idea is that it would have to be so insightful, so expressive that it could be long lasting in the marketplace. That’s a lot of pressure on an idea and the people who were charged to come up with it. I must say I learned a great deal and still apply the intense training and scrutiny that went into coming up with those ideas. I wrote the line for the New York Stock Exchange, “The world puts its stock in us.” which was used for more than a decade because trust and fidelity must always be part of any financial institution.

In those days an idea with a lifespan of three to five years was the goal. Those were the ones that would run again and again with just resizing here and there. The longer it could last, the bigger. It was if the product, the competitive situation, the consumer was stationary, frozen, stunned timeless. A target that was a sitting duck. Hard to believe, right?

Take the Marlboro man. He was one such big idea – man, horse, sagebrush, logo. Welcome to Marlboro country. An emotional territory. Ran years and years without a change in TV, print, outdoor, POS, events. Sometimes he would ride the horse, sometimes he’d walk at its side, but that was it.

Today it’s about a lot of little ideas – tons, thousands of them, generating and regenerating connections – all energized with consumer insight and relevance, customized to the media in which it’s delivered, the time delivered, the specific audience delivered to and from again and again. Lots of small ideas, emanating from a bigger idea, packaged to travel anywhere at any time.

A big idea without the tentacles, the ability to scurry to multiple directions to many locations, is too slow, too clumsy, too asthmatic to keep pace with the consumer’s voracious appetite for more: more unique, more personal, more more. Due to the ability to see them all over, ideas can overstay their welcome fast, get outdated, become irrelevant, stale instantly. Bad for the brand.

Small is the new big. Lots and transmutable is the new focused.

Warning: this small is a bigger drain on the talent pool than the old big was. So it’s critical to find big and small thinkers and lots of small doers. And they have to love making the stuff (makes you think of Santa’s workshop with the elves). If they are passionate about connecting with consumers and generating ideas for and together with them, then it’s energizing. Then it’s a high (makes me think of those three-martini lunches of yore).

There’s a big upside for me from the old days of the single big event. Compared to now, they were lonely, self-involved, stagnant times. Just like we imagined our consumer to be. I’m big on small.