Monday, August 30, 2010

Ben & Jerry's

I really admire the Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand.

I love their use of bright colors. Their signature one quart packaging. I love the product itself. The brands strong connection to its home state of Vermont. Their dedication to promoting social and environmental responsibility.

The totality of it all equals an incredibly strong brand with a strong emotional appeal. Additionally, the brands' personality reflects that of its founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who founded the company in 1978.

However, not everyone is as impressed with their "all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions" as I am. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is contending that the ice cream maker engages in deceptive labeling by using the term "All Natural" on the packaging of 48 different ice creams.

Ben & Jerry's, now owned by Unilever, reiterated that while the definition of the term natural varies, their use of it is based on the Food and Drug Administrations' definitions and that they take these claims very seriously.

Whether the ingredients are all natural or not, Ben & Jerry's should be fine. Although it started as an ice cream with "all natural" ingredients, the term has been watered down and become a cliche. No one really knows what all natural is now. Through the years, the brand has become more known for its "euphoric concoctions" that people treat themselves with on special occasions.

A strong brand can survive.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Show It, Don't Say It

Although the campaign is not new, I still want to recognize it. At least part of it.

Toyota has built its car brand on reliability. But they didn't just say, "hey, our cars our very reliable." Instead, they prove it in their ad, saying "80 percent of Toyota's sold in the last 20 years are still on the road today."

That's an wonderful example of an ad that avoids cliches and generalizations. Not enough ads do that, great work by Saatchi & Saatchi LA.

What other marketing materials do this? Post them in the comments section below, I look forward to reading them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Creating a Sub-Brand

Using a sub-brand is a common practice among marketers.

However, there's no safety in numbers for these marketers. Sub-brands are quite dangerous because marketers run the risk of repositioning the original brand.

A perfect example of this is Friendly's Express. This extension of the Friendly's brand was first introduced last summer and promises the same Friendly's food, only faster. All meals are (expected to be) served in six to eight minutes.

Friendly's hopes to convey the idea of "same food, only faster." However, the extension will consequently convey the idea that service is too slow at Friendly's. They will wind up damaging the original brand in the long term.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to see the effect a brand extension can have while it's happening. Amidst new sales and greater fanfare, brand perception is transforming. Marketers be warned.

As always, comments can be posted by clicking on the comments link below. I look forward to reading them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coors Light Home Draft

With beer sales struggling during the extra-long recession, brewers are putting major resources into product innovations to spark sales.

Now, after years of development and testing, the Coors Light Home Draft system is finally being rolled out nationwide. But I question the positioning of the product.

According to a The Wall Street Journal article published in summer of 2009, MillerCoors chief marketing office Andy England said "We're really trying to meet that occasion when you just going back from work and want to reward yourself," rather than "the party occasion."

Additionally, in a recent Beverage World cover story Tom Long, chief commercial officer of MillerCoors said "We’re trying not just to get occasions when beer drinkers get together to socialize, but to get permanent space in refrigerators in American households."

However, the ad doesn't seem to reflect the position they describe.

What do you think? Should the home draft system be positioned for social occasions or everyday life? Please share your thoughts below; I look forward to reading them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Gift of Service

Steve Slater, the suddenly infamous JetBlue flight attendant, is the newest face of thankless customer service work. Like a lot of folks, I can empathize with his story. However, when I heard his story, I was immediately taken back to the following passage from Seth Godin's newest book, Linchpin, page 168-9 (fyi- it's an excellent read).

"Think of the flight attendant standing at the exit of the plane, saying "B'bye, B'bye" over and over again, doing it because she must, not because she wants to.

The intent of the giver and the posture of the recipient are critical. I'm not arguing that you fake your attitude and cop a new behavior just to get ahead.

Working the first-class cabin at British Airways can be a nightmare job. Spoiled, tired executives are waited on by flight attendants for hours on end, rarely earning the service they demand. Sure, they paid for it, but all too often, they're not open or receptive to it.

The secret to working this flight, I've been told by the people who do the work, is to realize that the extraordinary service being delivered is not for the passenger, it's not for British Airways. It's for the flight attendant.

The most successful givers aren't doing it because they're being told to. They do it because doing it is fun. It gives them joy.

Sure, it would be better if they got paid a fair wage, and it would be a lot better if more passengers appreciated their work. But until those two things happen, the most successful and happiest flight attendants will be embracing their art, not looking for someone to applaud them. If their airline started using hidden cameras and customer report forms to push them to do it more, they'd actually do it less. Manipulated art (even the art of service) ceases to be art."

Don't ever forget: circumstance is often uncontrollable; however our attitude and reactions are entirely within our control. The happiest and most successful people never forget this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Skype Brand Disconnect

I must confess, I've never used Skype and know very little about it. However, despite my lack of familiarity with the service, I know what it means to "Skype" with someone. Skype owns the idea of live video chats and that's the most significant victory in any branding challenge.

But Skype has a major problem. The concept they own- its brand essence- is totally free. The only revenue is generated from users who make traditional phone calls to landlines and mobile phones- something they could do with their phone.

That disconnect between its brand essence and its revenue should be a major problem for any potential investor as it set out to go public yesterday.

I believe, the IPO is a clear signal that the private equity investors recognize the problem and are looking to cash out while they still can.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kanye West Teaches Us About Social Media

After a long hiatus from the public eye, Kanye West is back and is taking a very personal approach with his fans.

Although Kanye has utilized social media through his blogging, he has certainly ramped up his efforts in the past two weeks. He started with impromptu performances at Facebook and Twitter where Kanye rapped lyrics of his new songs. He followed up those stops with a visit to Rolling Stone magazine to answer some questions in a style fit for a college professor. Video from his stops hit YouTube and triggered immediate buzz from fans and media.

Shortly after stopping by Twitter headquarters, Kanye began using the social networking service. Within a day, he had 200,000 followers and was generating buzz with every new tweet. His followers soon joined in the fun, attempting to predict Kanye's future tweets and getting creative by immortalizing his tweets with cartoons from The New Yorker.

Fan created content is incredibly powerful signal; but don't be mistaken that the passion of fans is a result of social media. Social networking simply allows these gifts to be shared more efficiently than ever before.

Rather, the passion of fans is a direct result of the gifts they feel they receive. It doesn't matter if your are an artist, entertainer, musician, blogger or mega brand- the rule is the same.

The more you give of yourself, the more your fans will be reciprocate.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The best brands know that they simply cannot be all things to all people. It must know itself and have a clear vision of what it wants to be. This of course requires sacrificing opportunities.

The leadership of Zappos and Apple fully understand this branding lesson. I recently read this passage from Zappos founder Tony Hsieh.

"It was hard for us to persuade anyone to fund this crazy concept of selling shoes online, and about 25 percent of our revenue at the time was coming from drop ship. But we decided to end it. Even though it was hard to walk away from sales at a time when nobody is offering you money, we couldn't distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our customers if we weren't going to control the entire experience. We had to give up the easy money, manage the inventory, and take the risk."

I read that immediately recalled this piece about Steve Jobs return to Apple in 1997. In it the author recalls when Jobs shut down her successful server management division because it didn't fit with his vision for Apple.

I was there when he made the decision to shut down big portions of revenue-generating businesses (including my division) because they didn't fit with his vision for the company. Some people thought he was crazy. But he was being extremely clear, and in doing so, he "MurderBoarded"—eliminated many options to get one cohesive strategy—his way to greatness.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Verizon Rumblings

I'm still a bit confused by this new Verizon commercial that has been airing a lot. I keep waiting for the explanation (like a special message or partnership).

Why would Verizon go there to sell phones and plans? Verizon should stay out of that conversation.

But the ambiguity of that commercial is a microcosm of their new tagline. "Rule the Air" is far weaker than "Can You Hear Me Now?" and "There's a Map for That" for reinforcing it as the largest and most reliable network.