S&R Blog

It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile!

In its heyday, GM developed an advertising campaign for their Oldsmobile brand in an attempt to sway younger buyers.  Oldsmobile had been a long standing success for GM among middle-aged and older buyers, but they wanted younger customers. So they came up with a new campaign, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile”, which spoke to the innovation, sleek styling and sex-appeal that an Oldsmobile could provide.

At the risk of sounding like my own father, I have concluded that doing business today is a lot like that now-famous Oldsmobile campaign.  Doing business today is not based on the practices I was taught to honor, respect and hold sacred.  In fact, today’s business world is quite like the Wild West—plenty of outlaws, snake-oil peddlers and people looking to be the “biggest gun in town”.

The first difference I find is the ability to take people at their word.  With all the muttered promises, downright lies and “handshake” deals that frankly are not worth a damn, you simply can’t do that anymore.  Could it be a generational gap? New generational values? Or am I becoming an old fart?  It almost doesn’t matter, because when you are unable to trust people to do what they say, something is wrong.  Taking people at their word should mean that there is an understanding between two people that certain expectations will be met.

The second difference is a growing inability to conduct business on a face-to-face basis.  As I compose this blog on my computer, check my smart phone for text, e-mail messages, check my voice-mail and find comfort and safety behind my computer screen, I understand where some of the problem resides.  The ability to engage people in a “live conversation”, either face-to-face, via the phone or via virtual meeting technology is increasingly more difficult.  But I simply can’t think of many successful personal or business relationships I have had where I wasn’t able to interact with people “live”.  Really, how can you build trust and understanding when you have to submit proposals and information via a “blinded web portal”?

The final difference is the “it ain’t grown here” mentality.  My business, in great part, depends on selling ideas, creativity and high-quality implementation of those ideas.  Yet it often feels like that is not what our clients really want.  The typical interaction with our clients is often very one-sided: the client says, “We want an electronic sales program that looks like this and says this, and we need a price for that by tomorrow afternoon.”  Now, some of you reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong is that it may not be true that an electronic sales program is the correct solution to the problem they are trying to solve.  What has been lost is the long-term strategy (translation: today’s stock share-price) that’s critical to the process and driven by the following key questions: What do your client’s customers really want?  How should you create messages and images that ensure your customers understand and accept your brand?  What media will best reach the demographics of your target audience?

If the above are, in fact, the hallmarks of business practices in the future, so be it.  I personally don’t agree with doing business in these ways—but then everyone has their own opinion (and orifice).  It’s just that when you can’t trust people, interact with them on a face-to-face basis and expect them to have an open mind on how they manage their business, it, doesn’t bode well for the future.

So, with that in mind and that said, I think I will change my Depends, wipe the drool from my chin, sit on the front porch of the assisted-living center and try to find some Oldsmobile ads in the magazine I am reading.

David H. Recht

CEO North State Resources
Holding company for S+R Medical Communications


Here’s a novel idea – death to the ‘to-do’ list!
June 24, 2009, 1:22 pm
Filed under: behavior, brands | Tags: , , , , ,

As a product manager during these challenging economic times, you are probably faced with one or more of the following situations:

• Your budget has been cut
• Your staff has been cut
• Your forecast has not been cut
• You have more responsibilities than you did last year
• Your company did not get a government bailout

No matter what else they attempt to accomplish, it is also extremely unlikely that Congress and the new administration will add any hours to each day—24 is all you will get this year.

If you are like most of us, you are busier than you have ever been. You have a wireless card for your laptop and a smart phone grabbing all your emails around the clock. The only time you are unplugged is when you are flying somewhere (and even that will soon change). Your daily to-do list stares back at you at the end of day, mocking all your efforts to cross off just a few items.

What’s the solution? How about doing away with daily to-do lists?

Blasphemy, you say? Not so, says time management guru David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done.” Allen suggests replacing the daily to do list with a “Next Action” list, divided by category and project. He says that the problem with daily to-do lists is they almost always contain items that really don’t have to get done that day. Tasks that must be done that day belong on your calendar—all other tasks should reside in the launch pad of your Next Action list. Allen’s system preaches that you should decide multiple times during the day which of these Next Actions are the best use of your time at that moment.

Allen even provides clever instructions on how to set up your Task function in Outlook to accommodate his system. Whether you use some of his system or all of it, the Getting Things Done model may help you gain a greater sense of control over the long list of tasks that you face.

Business Week editor Ellen Joan Pollock recently underwent a David Allen Co. individual coaching session and set her goal as “10 extra hours in my week.” Impossible? Not according to the GTD system. Failure to make decisions about tasks and projects can be incredibly time-consuming. Once the system is in place, 10 hours of newly-found time is quite conceivable. Evidence of Pollock’s inefficient system was her in-box of over 6,000 emails.

These ideas may sound radical, but let’s face it—is your current system working well? If not, it may be time for some radical thinking. Let’s see…does banning to-do lists require Congressional approval?

– Ed Leon

400 reasons why Big Pharma needs to think about the iPhone

As mentioned in an earlier post, the iPhone has been adding to its ‘medical‘ category daily and now boasts over 400 apps for the healthcare conscience. Why is this important news for Big Pharma?

The iPod app store has topped 1 billion downloads in just nine months. And during the last 12 weeks, the medical category, although small, was the 3rd fastest growing application segment (a 132.9% change). This type of growth is understandable when you look at the latest numbers from Manhattan Research which show that physician use of smart phones has jumped to 64% in 2009.

Apple has even targeted healthcare use with the iPhone through the introduction of its new 3.0 operating system, which allows for easier development of application programing interfaces (API).  J&J has already taken advantage of the new OS with their LifeScan application, but where is the rest of Big Pharma? Developers are waiting for your call.

Watch the iPhone 3.0 OS presentation here.

How can a product manager develop a brilliant marketing idea? Push!
April 29, 2009, 1:35 pm
Filed under: brands | Tags: , , , , , ,

I once started working for a Commercial Vice President at a large pharma company who told me he kept a yellow sticky note on his bathroom mirror where he could see it every morning. The note had one word on it: “PUSH!” After I had spent several months in my new position, I understood the reason for this daily reminder. In any organization, good ideas will never be developed and executed without someone relentlessly pushing them every day.

As a pharma product manager, you have certainly experienced this first hand. No matter how brilliant your idea, somebody in your company (or multiple somebodies) will tell you that your idea is:
•    Too risky
•    Unproven
•    Too expensive
•    Not a high priority
•    Too early
•    Too late
•    In need of more consideration
•    In need of revision

Today’s pharma business model depends on ideas and projects being subject to the consensus opinion of stakeholders. Unfortunately, your team of stakeholders includes talented, well-meaning colleagues and supervisors whose job it is to throw cold water on your idea, or at least modify it beyond recognition. Even if your idea survives the consensus test, you soon realize that it is your priority, and often yours alone.

This sets up the next problem—ideas, like stalled cars, have inertia. Unless they are pushed continuously, they stop moving. Once they stop, it takes much more energy to get them moving again than if you hadn’t stop pushing in the first place. But enough amateur physics—the point is that the progress of an idea, even a great one, will grind to a halt unless it has a champion. That champion is you, the product manager.

It’s tempting to play it safe, to only push projects that are likely to have consensus and not ruffle any feathers. But the safe path is only an illusion—in the end, you will primarily be held accountable for the success of your brand, not how well you avoided conflict with stakeholders.

So keep thinking big! Work with your agency to develop great ideas. Be bold and challenge your stakeholders to do the same. And keep that sticky note where you can see it every morning.

-Ed Leon

3 things you need to know to reach the integrated consumer

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that consumers are adopting new technology at a rapid pace. But a recent IBM Media Study released last week shows the result of this early adoption is a new consumer group that can only be reached on specific terms.

The study, titled “Beyond Advertising: Choosing a Strategic Path to the Digital Consumer”,  surveyed 2,800 consumers across six countries. The study also contained interviews advertising industry professionals. Three takeaways that every brand should think about before solidifying a communication plan are:

1. The assumption that consumers will be a captive audience is over. Their rapid adoption of new media allow them to be readers, editors, and marketers at the same time.

2. Despite privacy issues, consumers are willing to provide details about themselves, their lifestyles or content preferences in exchange for a perceived value (free content, etc.).

3. Consumers are yearning for integrated messaging or truly cross-platform solutions that seamlessly integrate television, print, online, and mobile technology.

You can read the rest of the study here (via Fuel Lines).

A brand manager’s guide to advertising on YouTube

It doesn’t get any easier than this.

First impressions mean everything to a brand…
January 30, 2009, 8:42 pm
Filed under: brands | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mark Pfahlert (Senior Art Director)

Especially when it’s memorable.  Impact, stopping power, memorability, recall factor, name recognition, clutter-cutting, etc. You hear the buzz words all the time when trying to create that ‘it’ campaign. But how much does breakthrough creative move the needle for your brand? Toxel.com had a post during the summer about 20 brilliant creative ideas for 2008. Judge for yourself here.