Kickstarter Mythology Needs Some Retail Reality


Kickstarter mythology has outgrown reality.

(But let me be very clear. I’m NOT talking about Kickstarter art, music, and movie projects. It was designed for these and they seem to be running pretty well overall.)

I’m talking about Kickstarter campaigns that raise money by Directly Selling new Products that have never been built – and taking orders for lots of them. In the computer business we used to call this selling vaporware and investing in businesses dedicated to vaporware led to the dotcom crash. Segway and Google Glass were both massive vaporware disasters.

Now, by selling vaporware with Kickstarter, we’re seeing amazing train wrecks among the most highly successful money raising campaigns. These train wrecks are all made possible by the mythologies that drive Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. (Incidentally, a comment below points out this is a far more dramatic version of the direct mail practice of “dry testing”. There is already FTC guidance on dry testing.)

The Mythology of Kickstarter for Inventors. Inventor mythology starts with a belief that it’s enough to come up with a good idea and some money to build it. And Kickstarter appears to “unshackle” inventors so this can happen.
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Is “Evil Empire” in the Whole Foods Brand Brief?

Whole Foods is just a business – driven by the demands of profits and shareholders. Still, they seem to regularly do things that contradict their brand (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C).

What’s surprising to me is that Whole Foods’ marketing team must realize their brand includes an inherent expectation that a healthy food market will be run with healthy ethics. Smart brand people would understand that their brand runs the risk of higher than normal damage if Whole Foods becomes perceived as an evil empire. And brand people would be savvy to the reality that perception on these issues will outweigh reality so they need to be quite savvy.

Yet Whole Foods just can’t seem to control themselves. The latest example comes as they start a major expansion into the Portland market which included this billboard.

Whole Food Hardball Billboard
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Big Data. Big Promise. Big Caution.

Big Data imageBig data claims to be the new salvation for all businesses. Because, we’re told, big data will discover amazing new truths. Time will tell.

But in the meantime, most big promises should also be accompanied by big cautions. Which one’s are most important as we approach big data? Recently, on the Financial Times website, Tim Harford wrote a blog post on the topic: Big Data: are we making a big mistake. It is one of the few really thoughtful big data discussions we’ve come across in a while.
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Advertising Awards: Protecting the Creative Status Quo

As a strategist, creative director and student of advertising’s impact, I love to see advertising that’s challenging and interesting – when it comes to it’s impact on marketing. But we’re not seeing many impactful ads like that when you look at “award winning work”. And by that I mean agency style awards like Clio’s, New York Festival or Cannes (industry specific awards are usually far more interesting).

Yes, agency award show winners exhibit tremendous creative values – like clever film making, design, or writing. But despite all this art, from the point of view of a marketer, award winning work has become pretty dull, predictable and uninteresting.

How did it come about that all this extraordinary creativity could end up delivering bland marketing impact? How could this happen in a business that never ceases to tell itself how clever it is with myths like “thinking outside the box”?

We can blame, at least in part, the award shows themselves. After all:

The primary value of agency driven award shows is maintaining the creative status quo.

And when advertising is driven to satisfy the status quo it loses its ability to deliver brilliant results.

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Space Jump Gets Viewers. But Does Branded Content Really Fly?

Wave Goodbye to Branded Content Myths

Humanity loves watching the truly daring. From NASA projects to high altitude ballooning and trips around the world, my adult life has been paced by some fascinating events.

So it was with tremendous awe, excitement and fun on Sunday that my family watched the TiVO playback of Discovery Channel coverage of the space jump – where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, lost control in a tumble, fell at more than the speed of sound, then opened a parachute and landed on his feet. (And, tested a possible high altitude emergency escape for astronauts.)

This morning we find that apparently around 8 million YouTube viewers watched the event. (Link here.) (As always…we’re not really certain what a YouTube viewer means since I can count as 15 YouTube viewers given all the devices I use.)

True to form the online advertising enthusiasts are ready to jump on these numbers as “proof” of the power of branded content. Branded content? Articles I read today remind me that Red Bull sponsored the jumper (I’d forgotten already). So, enthusiasts are taking “sponsored” and deciding that it is clearly “branded content”. Whatever.

Anyway, when it comes to numbers we need to be more skeptical.

What the Space Jump Really Proves is That Traditional Media Remains the Best Driver of Demand. After all…

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New Confirmation that Offline Advertising Drives Online Success

Just about 2 years ago I wrote a post looking at how online success required offline advertising. (Link here.) But there is a lot of hype about the rate of online change – so that opinion must be stale, right? After all, among the “cyber hipsters” (as I saw them described today) everything off-line dimishes and fades. But cyber hipsterism doesn’t often reflect reality.

A new study about TV shows nothing has changed and that “TV Ads Lift Online Sales Conversion” (Link here.) The study clearly showed an increase in both traffic and conversion that resulted from TV advertising. This is no surprise for those of us who work in TV. But it is confirming to find that there’s hard data to back up what we all experience.

Unfortunately, many online companies struggle to leverage TV. Read more of this post

Web Advertising and the Myth of “Lean Forward Media”

The companies promoting various forms of online advertising spend vast amounts of time pointing out well understood challenges with off-line advertising. But those very same companies are blind to the tremendous weaknesses in online advertising.

And the truth is that there are tremendous downsides to web advertising – downsides that may explain the extraordinarily low CPC’s that can be charged online. (More on these costs later.) Read more of this post