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The Greatest Positioning Of All Time

June 4th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

I am always engaged by footage of American G.I.s storming the beach at Normandy.

It engenders a sense of pride. Yet, it is war at its worst…and, given the courage of those men, at its best, if there is such a thing.

This is how a powerfully produced commercial that I saw last night, starts. Film rolling, the voiceover says,

We didn’t wait for someone else to storm the beaches at Normandy.

Cut to footage of a civil rights march in the Deep South in the sixties and then to the Washington Mall and the “I had a dream” speech by Martin Luther King.

The music is dramatic, compelling. The voice over continues,

We didn’t wait for someone else to guarantee civil rights,

Or, footage of the first moon landing

put a man on the moon.

And, shots of a toxic sky,

we can’t wait for someone else to solve the global climate crisis

We need to act and we need to act now.

Join us. Together we can solve the climate crisis.

The ad is part of $300 million advertising campaign promoted by Al Gore and sponsored by The Alliance for Climate Protection.

This is positioning at its most brilliant: position global warming with the three most revered occurrences of the twentieth century – the invasion of Normandy, Martin Luther King’s I had a dream speech and the first man on the moon.

Truly inspired.

There is just one little problem: the advertisement, in all its positioning glory, promotes a falsehood.

Global warming is a myth; temperatures have been cooling for over a decade. And carbon dioxide is what helps plants grow. Don’t get me wrong, environmental problems abound on this planet. But carbon dioxide is not the source of them, and this is becoming increasingly evident to the public as a growing hit parade of studies that made that claim are now being exposed as fraudulent.

But my point here is this: if there’s one cardinal rule in advertising, it’s don’t lie to your public. Look what happens when you do. The following graph was taken from a poll by Gallup.

From 2008, when the above advertising campaign started, to March of 2010, the percentage of people that think the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated has increased from 35% to 48%. The uptrend starts before that, but the major upswing is in the last two years.

It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature (even if you’re Al Gore.)

The rule holds even more stringently in public relations. A current example is playing in the headlines as I write this: Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, who is running for Chris Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat, has often spoken about his service in Vietnam and how he and other troops were mistreated when they returned home.

Enter the New York Times, which turned up an inconvenient truth, Dickie Boy never served in Vietnam – in fact he managed to acquire 5, count ‘em 5, deferments.

His poll numbers have crashed.

I am not a fan of Bill Clinton. But let’s be honest, he presided over the longest period of economic expansion in American history. Still, Arkansas’ favorite son will always be remembered first and foremost for his sexual escapades in the White House and then lying about them.

Clinton was known to be a philanderer and was still elected. He was impeached for perjury, not for violating his marriage vows and embarrassing Hillary to the rest of the planet.

Several of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have been sued by state and federal regulators and have had to pay billions in fines and penalties because they lied about their drugs’ uses or effectiveness.

Notice, by the way, the use of the politically incorrect verb, “lie.” When Blumenthal, caught on video tape saying he had served in Vietnam when he was never within thousands of miles of the place, he held a press conference and apologized for having “misspoken.”

No, Dude, you lied.

“Misspoke” is the euphemism du jour when someone is caught on a live mic (thought to be off) or on “film” lying or saying what they really think.

The real message is this, it doesn’t matter how good your positioning is if it is false.

But as long as you are promoting something that you can deliver, when surveys are done that enable you to craft a unique position for your product, the clouds part, the angels sing and the cash register chimes like the bells of Saint Mary’s.

And that, of course, is exactly what we have been doing for nearly a quarter of a century. We conduct surveys that drive sales.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your marketing, call us directly or visit us on the worldwide web at the address below.



What’s In A Name?

April 26th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

Bullwinkle used to be my neighbor.

That’s right.

Some years ago, when our offices were on the Sunset Strip, right across the Boulevard from a soaring billboard of the Marlboro Man – that advertising icon who has since been charged with crimes against humanity – our next door neighbor was Jay Ward Productions.

The Sunset Strip avoids the frenetic flash of the Ginza and the hordes of Time Square. It is the Haute Couture of hip; it is the front window on the world of entertainment. Awash with high-end hotels, ultra-chic restaurants, billboards of the lush and sensuous and rock’s most legendary clubs, it pulses with the very heartbeat of creative culture.

And in the middle of this sandbox of sensation sat Jay Ward Productions – creator of Rocky, Bullwinkle, Dudley Do Right and Crusader Rabbit. Ward’s studio was a small cement building at the East end of the Strip. Perched on a pedestal a few feet in front of the entrance as if he were addressing the United Nations on the subject of animal rights, was a six foot high statue of Bullwinkle.

Our offices were next door above an English pub that served a stilton cheese salad that made me want to play soccer.

So, yeah, Bullwinkle was my neighbor.

But Rocky, Bullwinkle and friends were not Ward’s most famous creations. Few people outside of the advertising world know that it was Jay Ward who took Quaker Oats from the stodgy second tier cereal company to front ranks the lucrative children’s breakfast market by helping them develop a world class brand: Captain Crunch.

In 1962, Quaker was looking to expand their cereal line. Not a walk in the park competing against a triumvirate of 900 pound breakfast gorillas – Wheaties, Cherrios, and Kellogg’s Corn flakes – the ad guys at Quaker turned to their customers and conducted extensive market research and surveys (can I get an Amen?).

A key finding was that kids wanted cereal that would stay crunchy in milk.

Who’d have guessed.

Armed with this key bit of market intelligence they turned to the creative brilliance of Jay Ward and the rest, as they say….

I tell the story not to reminisce about our digs on the Strip, but to make an important point about branding: Your brand should say what your product is … or does.

Yes, there are exceptions, but if your brand is explanatory, it will meet with your customer’s understanding and acceptance much faster than if you try to be cute. And you won’t have to spend the extra advertising dollars trying to drive your brand into the mind of your public.

Here are a few industry leading brands that are illustrative. Some, having matured, have been “minimized” to their initials by customer use or corporate strategy, but the original names tell the story.

The Wall Street Journal

Toys R Us

Kentucky Fried Chicken


Bank of America



Cable News Network

Pizza Hut


In each case, the brand tells the public what it is or what it does.

Companies that carry the founder’s name have been exceptions: Ferrari, Forbes, Marriott and Dell come to mind. And the information age has spawned some beauties: think Yahoo! Google and Blackberry.

But America On Line, Internet Explorer and Netflix are all descriptive and remain category leaders.

A trip through the latest issue of Business Week makes the point. I am pouring through the magazine in search of ads that grab my attention and get a message across. Some people would call this activity a mental disorder, but it is how I spend many a dinner on the patio of the Daily Grill in Studio City.

I stop at a full page, four color ad. There is a picture of a large pill in the middle of a field. My first thought is that it’s one of the ubiquitous pharma ads: a treatment for fear of open spaces, perhaps. Wait, it’s not a pill, it’s a close up of a pitcher’s mound.

What are they selling?

I look at the bottom of the page to see whose ad it is. What’s the brand?


Ah… sure, Unum. And they are selling….

Now I have to read the very fine print. I discover that the pill cum pitcher’s mound is neither; it’s a base pad, like second base. And Unum, well they sell employee disability insurance. And the base pad…that was something that a professional baseball player might trip over and hobble the “Entire organization for the rest of the season.”


Show of hands: how many of you CEOs out there would spend $104,300 for this ad in the international edition?

How about the California edition, just $24,000?

Thought so.

So for any of you agency VPs that are looking for an account that needs advertising help….But be gentle.

Not far from our friends at Unum is a two page story about the challenges of a Silicon Valley startup. It is a interesting story and my money would be on the company being a huge success. They have a unique product, which lets users of different IM services – AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, talk to each other – way cool. Add to that a dose of serious PR savvy: not only is the coverage in the Business Week article highly positive, someone had the public relations chops to get the article placed in the first place, a serious coup.

So I’m thinking, these guys will are going to make it; they’ll do well. But it won’t be their brand that drives their success, because the name of their company is – stay with me here – Meebo, which, even according to the founders, means… exactly nothing.

That’s right. The Gen Y founders were at a restaurant discussing what their name should be. They wanted a brand with two syllables. One of them favored names starting with the letter “M.” It was a short trip from there to doodles on a paper napkin and then to Meebo.

The Meebo story highlights a critical point: the foundation of a company’s success is rooted in a solid product that is needed and wanted by some market segment, the larger the better. A good product and great service puts you on the fast track to the options candy store. But what keeps you there, what fuels the sales and income, is marketing that drives that brand into the mind of your public. And a brand that tells your public what your product is or does, greases that track in an almost mystic way. The right brand flies into the mind of your prospects like a metaphysical frisbee.

Weekly magazines have done well at this: Sports Illustrated;

Newsweek; The National Enquirer; Reader’s Digest; Cigar Aficianado; Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ); Woman’s Wear Daily and Ebony, to name a few.

So have non-profits that work to better social conditions, environmental problems, and civil rights: The Sierra Club; The Earth Organization; The American Civil Liberties Union; Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

How much easier is it to remember than it is to remember -or even spell – Orbitz?

Which brand better communicates a product that handles spam, Cloud Mark or Spam Arrest?

If you were looking for a software program to help you design your new home, which brand would best communicate to you; Broderbund or Chief Architect?

How about software to help you with your income, which would most attract your interest to purchase; TurboTax or Tax Gaga?

Which is a better name for a GPS system; Nuvi or Street Pilot?

Some of these names sound like an off-planet law firm: Nuvi, Meebo Orbitz, & Gaga, LLC.

Marketing is about communicating with your prospects. Communication involves understanding. If you have to create that understanding from whole cloth (e.g., Nuvi means GPS), it is a harder sell and a more costly branding program. It can be done, but why make it difficult?

Modesty aside, I can’t tell you the number of people that have commented on how “spot on,” the name of our company is: On Target Research.

I can’t take all the credit. We simply did for ourselves what we do for our clients: we conducted a branding survey. We created a number of potential names that communicated what we did. Then we surveyed corporate Sales & Marketing Directors as well as account executives in advertising agencies – both key publics that need and use market research and surveys. On Target Research won hands down.

We encourage anyone starting a new company, rolling out a new product or considering rebranding an existing one, to select a name that reminds people what you do every time it is spoken, written, printed, or communicated in any way.

And if you really want to create a brand that makes the angels sing and the cash register ring, give us a call, or send us an email, to discuss a branding survey, because at On Target Research we conduct surveys that drives sales.



Bruce Wiseman
President & CEO
On Target Research

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F 800-680-1452

Paul Newman

April 26th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

The Hustler was Paul Newman’s greatest film.

Yes, yes, I know some of you will plead the case of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Sting. Others will call for Hud, The Color of Money or Cool Hand Luke.

But Fast Eddie Felson is one of the greatest characters in the history of American cinema. Newman’s performance was spellbinding.

I first met Paul Newman at a popular restaurant in Anaheim.

Perhaps “met,” is not the exact right word. I was a busboy at Carnation on Main Street in Disneyland and he and his wife, Joanne Woodward, came into the restaurant with several kids. I bused the table when they were done – cleared the dirty plates and cleaned the ashtrays. This was the first of two intimate connections with the man.

The second has its roots in the community of Toluca Lake, a small enclave next to Burbank surrounded by some of the largest movie studios in the world – Warner Bros, Universal and Disney.

Toluca Lake is also home to a high-end burger and salad hangout called, Mo’s. I moved to Toluca Lake in the nineties and was stunned to discover that Mo’s used to be called Hamptons. And Hamptons was owned by… that’s right, Paul Newman.

See? You gotta’ love that serendipity.

Which leads me to a point about marketing, a point that will bring us back to Mo’s and some of the most exotic hamburgers on planet Earth in just a moment.

But the point I want to make here has to do with whether or not you should use price as factor in your marketing strategy.

A client came to us wanting to market a telecommunication system to government entities. There were several big players in this market and the common wisdom was that pricing factors were the primary motivating factor in getting the purchasing agents by buy the system.

But the client wanted us to survey this public and see if this was true. We conducted the survey. The client was stunned. So were we, frankly. Money was not the issue. The overwhelming desire of this public was for durable, well-built telecomm systems.

The client created a PR and marketing campaign around this attribute and was extraordinarily successful.

In point of fact, in the vast majority of surveys we conduct, price is almost never the top “button.” People will often pay extra for something they want if they know it is of a finer quality.

We find this in survey after survey. The exact wording isn’t always “quality”- it depends on the product or service – but most buyers know that excellence has a price, and many are willing to pay it.

I will shop at Nordstrom knowing that I am probably paying more than I might pay elsewhere, because they have an excellent selection of high quality clothing, good service, and a liberal return policy, if I wind up not liking the apparel I bought.

And Mo’s, of Paul Newman fame, is another excellent case in point. They have, as I said, the world’s most exotic selection of hamburgers. Here’s just a few so you get a sense of the burger menu.

Baja Burger
Salsa, sour cream, and Swiss or cheddar cheese

Bleu Cheeseburger
Covered with fresh bleu cheese

Foggybottom Burger
With peanut butter and sour plum jam

Frank’s Fantasy Burger
Sour cream and black caviar

Menage a Trois
Avocado, bacon, and Swiss or cheddar cheese

Mo’s Veggie Burger
Homemade blend of mixed vegetables, nuts and grains, no dairy

Nelly Burger
Creamed horseradish and bacon

Mushrooms, marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese

Rose street burger
Blue cheese and caramelized onions

Slam Dunkburger
Spread with sour plum jam and Dijon mustard

White Delight Bacon covered with bleu cheese dressing

There are more.

But it gets better: you can get anyone of these burgers made with Kobe beef. Kobe (the actual name is Wagyu) is an exceptionally fine breed of organically fed, Japanese cattle. It is the most succulent beef in the world. I realize this is dinning pornography to the vegetarians in the audience, but I say unto them, you can often cut a Kobe steak with your fork, and the taste is…well, it’s sinful.

Kobe burgers at Mo’s go for a few bucks more than the regulars, but I also spend the extra because they taste so damn good.

You don’t have to have a Kobe burger at Mo’s to know that customers are willing to pay extra for something they want. Whole Foods markets started in Austin, Texas with one store in 1980. Today, they are the largest organic and natural grocery store in the world with 292 stores, 53,000 employees and revenues of $8 billion a year.

Awesome growth.

All this while, Whole Foods has been the highest priced major grocery chain in the country. But that is not to say price doesn’t matter – of course it does. The point is that it isn’t always the hottest button in the marketing oven.

There are certainly those that take a “low price” position and thrive. Motel Six, which was actually $6 a night when it started in 1960, is the largest hotel chain in the United States and Wal Mart is still the largest food retailer in the country. Price is a position for these two companies. And it has worked for them, just like Nordstrom and Whole Food have their niche.

But my point is this: I find a lot of clients that think they must push the “price” button in their marketing… they think this until they see the results of the surveys we do for them.

When they have a chance to look at what their customers tell them is important, marketing strategies change.

This is not always the case, but it happens enough, that I wanted to make sure you weren’t just throwing “price” into your marketing programs without at least checking with your customers.

And that is what we have been doing for nearly a quarter of a century, finding out what our client’s customers and prospects think is valuable about their product or service and what will motivate them to buy it.

If these are questions you feel you need to have answered, or if your marketing programs simply aren’t biting the way you feel they should, contact us via phone, email, or Internet and we’ll let you know what we can do, what we charge and how long it will take.


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Product positioning in China

March 20th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

I just returned from Beijing.

Yeah, the one in China. Sometimes life is serendipitous: CCTV, the government owned television system, is doing a 5 part documentary on the financial crisis – why it occurred and what to do about it. They had heard about my new book, Crisis by Design, the Untold Story of The Global Financial Crisis  HYPERLINK “” and flew me over there to discuss global financial matters.

No joke. It was quite a trip. There is legitimate concern there about the financial coup d’ etat orchestrated off by the Bank for International Settlements last year.  More on this later, but you can catch a glimpse of me here as CCTV promotes past and upcoming interviews (and if you think Fox News has a large viewership, these guys own the airwaves in the most populated nation on earth).

But the point of this little missive is a marketing one, not financial. Read the rest of this entry »

Lenin and Me

March 20th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

I can’t tell you how surreal it felt standing under a large and oh-so-imposing image of Lenin while giving a talk to senior officers of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs just after the fall of Communism.

The Ministry, Russia’s Federal law enforcement body, is based on a military structure, so the room was full of uniforms hosting dazzling displays of medals and combat ribbons and hats adorned with more gold braid than a university marching band.

They were all Russian officers, most of whom, until a few months previously, had been Communists, or at least had paid it lip service. I later found out that I was the first American to ever address this group, which is probably why my initial reception was…oh, let’s call it “chilly.” Read the rest of this entry »

Paradise Lost

March 20th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

It’s the kind of tropical island you envision when you think of paradise.

White sandy beaches. Water so pristine it laps at the shores like liquid topaz. Lush, verdant foliage that blankets a nearby mountain where parrots in brilliant, multi-colored plumage await a Kodak moment.

And then the invasion starts.

Charging out of the rain forest at the bottom of the mountain are dozens of gorgeous young women in bikinis.

Cut to a semi-nerdy guy in a bathing suit standing on the beach spritzing himself with a bottle of we don’t know what.

Back to the babes, whose numbers are growing as they charge senor nerd like it’s the first day of the  semi-annual Nordstrom’s Sale. The camera pans to the other side of our hero where another contingent of bikini-clad marauders are stampeding across the sands from the other direction.

Okay. They have my attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Super Bowl Ads: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

March 16th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

At first I thought it was an act of corporate suicide.

I’m talking about the Doritos’ commercial on the Super Bowl last Sunday. Pepsi’s Frito-Lay division (owner of the Doritos brand) ran a series of Super Bowl ads which cost them some serious coin.

CBS charged $2.6 million for a 30 second Super Bowl spot this year (up just a bit from the $37,500 for Super Bowl I). If Frito-Lay paid the sticker price were talking $10.4 million for a couple of minutes of air time. But with 106.5 million viewers– the largest in television history – they had an historic opportunity to sell some chips.

So with about $10 million invested and 106 million prospects to talk to, they communicated a message of great clarity: eating Doritos will bring you physical pain.

I kid you not. Read the rest of this entry »

Anatomy Of A Con Job

March 3rd, 2010 by John Truman Wolfe

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” —George Orwell

If you look with your understanding, the crimes against humanity are written across the rotting visages of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Like a couple of aging prostitutes, these leading architects of twentieth-century evil still sell their wares to those with an insatiable lust for the power of the crown.

Birth Mother of the Environmental Movement

The moldy twosome have something else in common. Both have been active members of an international think tank from the dark side of the force called the Club of Rome. Founded at the Rockefeller’s estate in Bellagio, Italy, in 1968, some of the other fraternity brothers and sisters include Al Gore, David Rockefeller, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

And there is no one better to give you the short version of the Club’s agenda than Gorby himself:

“The threat of environmental crisis will be the ‘internal disaster key’ that will unlock the New World Order.”

Who let this guy out of Lubyanka?

Their more precisely stated goal is population control. The solution? Create an environmental catastrophe like, oh, say, “global warming” and blame it on the planet’s most heinous villain—man himself.

But I should let them tell it:

“In searching for the new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. . . . But in designating them as the enemy, we fall into the trap about which we have already warned, namely mistaking symptoms for cause. All these dangers are caused by human intervention and it is only through changing attitudes and behaviors that they can be overcome. The real enemy, then, is humanity itself.”

Sounds like a good plan . . . if you’re Darth Vader. Read the rest of this entry »

Positioning Errors

March 3rd, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

There is a growing trend in American advertising that must derive its aesthetic and emotional themes from cum laude graduates of the Genghis Kahn School of Communication.
Surely you have seen them; ads that use anger, upset, pain or even death in unpleasant or disturbing efforts to push the advertiser’s wares.
Let me be simplistic. Television advertising is expensive. Television commercials should motivate those who see them to want to buy the product or service being promoted.

Good advertising should create a response – a call, a click of the mouse, a response card mailed in. Something – interest, a reach back. At this point, Marketing has done its job and Sales takes over. Read the rest of this entry »

The Marketing March to Hell

March 3rd, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

Not to pander, but I am truly curious; how is it that Ad Age, the advertising industry’s preeminent mouth piece, can continue to carry frank, highly lucid, insightful editorial copy about the declining state of ad quality, while its readers – agencies and advertisers alike – continue their marketing march to hell?
Rance Crain, the mag’s editor in chief recently editorialized in their Dec 15, 03 issue,”…but what’s really broken in today’s system is the amount of very bad advertising that gets approved by top management. Are CEOs so absorbed by trying to make their next deal that they tolerate the inept and stupid ads guaranteed to alienate their best customers?”

The same issue carries an article about brand credentials, brilliant in its simplicity, by none other than the Godfather of positioning, Al Ries.

“Most advertising is mush, especially TV advertising. Thirty expensive seconds wasted trying to proposition the viewer with out providing enough of the brand’s credentials for the consumer to take the offer seriously.” Read the rest of this entry »