Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alex's Weekly Brand Briefing

Here's what caught my eye this week. And thankfully, it wasn't pepper spray in a line at Wal-Mart.

Patagonia's cyber-Monday/Common Threads Initiative advertisement tells consumer's not to buy. Well, just not to buy a lot. It's an interesting move that will probably get discussed in more detail soon.

Jonathan Salem Baskin
gives some advice to a PR professionals who are looking write a new definition for trade as it struggles to find itself in the digital age. It's insightful and an excellent read as always.

American Airlines pending bankruptcy is going to disrupt their "rebranding" effort. However, rebranding has to happen at the airport, not at an agency. Tough luck for the agency that won't collect on another new silly slogan.

Christoper Skinner
calls for more story and brand building in holiday advertising in a piece for AdAge. While I agree with the message, I think more should have been said on how brands should do this.

Microsoft is rebranding its daily deals line-extension of Bing to MSN. Go figure.

Broken Ad: Acura

The calender year is coming to a close and thus holiday shopping is in full swing. Although most don't don't immediately think of car shopping this time of year, car manufacturers are battling hard for your holiday dollar.

The car brand Acura has dubbed this the "Season of Reason" and their advertisements caution against "over-indulging" this season and call for customers to "over-save" this holiday season with a new Acura. Turns out that they left actual "reason" out of their advertisement because nothing says over-consumption like gifting a new car at Christmas time. Even if the car dealers are feeling extra jolly this season and one can save on a new Acura, they're more obvious and reasonable ways to over-save one's money.

I understand Acura is using satire, the ads represent poor execution of an even poorer strategy. For a brand with little relevance and differentiation, the ads do nothing but brand the cars with a pricetag.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alex's Weekly Brand Briefing

David Aakar talks about the real key to growth - creating new subcategories to make the competition irrelevant. He also recognizes the work of the late John Smale - a P&G executive with many influential contributions to their brand.

Jonathan Salem Baskin discusses what slashing prices on Black Friday does to a brand in his latest AdAge installment. I also recommend his opinion on marketing as "content curators."

I disagree with Brian Steinberg's take on Amazon. He argues that Amazon's focus on the new helps to sell the old. I really cannot see a focus at all and he even points out that most of their moves were made defensively, in response to competitors.

I recently received my answer to the question of how long before Domino's loses focus again. It was less than a month. They're introducing new a "Gourmet" cheesy bread.

Finally, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a joyous Holiday Season, but try to go easy on the gourmet cheesy bread.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Broken Ad: KFC

If you have sold more chicken than anyone else on earth, it's just mindless marketing to tell your customers that "everything is better with bacon." Period. If that's the case, why not make the original recipe bacon flavored?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Social Media Strategy

Actions speak louder than tweets. If this isn't your next social media strategy, I think your brand is missing the point.

Baseball Is Caught In A Pickle

A couple of weeks ago, I asked What Should Baseball Do about its problem of eroding interest in America's great pastime. The title of America's favorite game to watch was intercepted by football a long time ago.

Refusing to accept this, baseball points out that it's attendance is on an upward trend. While attendance and butts in the seats is still critical and the best indication of a sports franchise's success, it's actually television that keeps the league in business. Sports leagues desperately need their deep-pocketed friends at the television networks to commit large sums of cash in exchange for attentive pairs of eyes.

The National Football League and collegiate football are far and away the best at bringing these eyeballs to the television screen. Year after year networks rest assured that even at skyrocketing rights fees they will get a good return on their investment. Yet, that's not the case for America's pastime. Even for the biggest games like its World Series finale, a large television audience is not a guarantee.

I think television is partly to blame. There are some obvious challenges that make television and baseball not a great match for one another.

The biggest and most obvious challenge is when games are played. Its games are played mostly in the summer when the weather is nice, the nights are long and people spend more time outside away from the television. Although this presents a tremendous advantage over the other big three sports at the gate, it's an obvious drawback to consuming baseball through television.

Secondly, the geometry of baseball games presents another challenge to watching the game on television. The shape of all television sets is a rectangle, which is the perfect shape for football fields, basketball courts and ice hockey rinks. All the action is captured as the game naturally flows back and forth across the screen. But a baseball diamond is different. The wide field and diamond shape don't fit well on a television screen and while most of the action is caught on camera, there are a lot of little things in a baseball game that don't make it.

On the other hand, baseball might be the only sport that lends itself to radio. The legendary voices of baseball were able to set the scene and convey every play in a way listeners could easily digest and visualize. For the other sports, this would be impossible. It's not a coincidence that baseball's rise and decline has been mirrored by that of the radio.

However, football has earned it's dominance. Whether it's intentional or not, the football schedule is nearly marketing perfection. The games are concentrated on Saturday's and Sunday's at regular times so people always know when their own. The frequency of football is also benefit. Fewer games adds to the anticipation by fans. They wait for a game all week and know if they miss one they will have to wait another six days to see the next. This urgency means greater demand. In marketing, focus and consistency are always a good thing because it trains the mind of the consumer. Few products in the world train its consumers like football does.

So how should baseball get more people interested in watching it on television?

The answer it recently came up with was one a lot marketers mistakenly come up with - more baseball. Last week, the baseball owners agreed to expand their playoffs by two teams, moving from eight to ten. But for a sport fighting for attention, less is actually more.

How so? More teams don't necessarily mean that fans will pay more attention. In fact, it will likely divide the fans attention more. They will give less to each series compared to before. Similarly, more teams in a league mean fans become less engaged and familiar with each one. In addition, this also puts fewer star players on each team. In a sport where stars don't always touch the ball, baseball desperately needs more star players on the field. The best way to do this is put more stars on the field. Of course, that means fewer teams. Thus, fewer teams mean more stars on the field and more exciting games and teams to watch.

Although baseball never experienced a steep drop off in its ratings, a slow decline is really worse because the problem isn't readily apparent. However, when the World Series or playoff games (the best teams) are no longer desirable for fans and thus the television networks that bring them the games, it's the sign of a real big problem.

As we all know, more is never better in marketing.

Alex's Weekly Brand Briefing

Here's what caught my eye this week.

Bud Light is preparing to launch it's latest line-extension. Bud Light Platinum. Bad branding at it's finest.

In his usual entertaining style, Bob Garfield dissects the art of making a terrible PR pitch.

Laura Ries points out that the marketing genius of Steve Jobs was his consistency and brand focus.

Tom Fishburne's cartoons on marketing are always filled with clever insight. This one pokes fun at the value of decisions made by committee. As David Ogilvy would remind us, you'll find no statues of committees."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Broken Ads: Burger King

On Sunday evening I saw a commercial for new Burger King commercial for (I think) its new Chef's Choice Hamburger. The commercial was very similar to the other Burger King spots recently created by McGarryBowen.

While the latest round of advertising is very nice, there is one major problem with them - the Burger King experience is a far cry from its advertising. The part that really jumped out at me was the facsimile signature from their executive chef. The idea of Burger King is already embedded in our brains and few think of it in such a manner.

The advertising is only as good as the product itself. Or as William Bernbach famously said, "a great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alex's Weekly Brand Briefing

This is just a new thing I'm going to try to do every week or so. It's just sharing a recap of a few of the things I read this week and found most interesting.

Paul Adams, a Facebook executive talked about the idea of businesses sending ads to the mobile phones of people approaching their locations at a marketing conference recently. He's absolutely right on in saying that marketers who are falling in love with this idea aren't "thinking from a people perspective" and I agree with his assessment that it's "a really stupid idea." However, I disagree with the implied notion that traditional marketing is dying because "people don't listen to businesses."

I found Fast Company's story about the Zac Brown Band's "Eat & Greet" Tour very interesting and think it's a awesome idea for connecting with fans. Amazingly, he prepares dinner for fans before he preforms for them. I think the Zac Brown Band knows that truly memorable experiences may take more work but are often we'll worth the price.

Al Ries discusses why "marketers" have become limited to just making "branding" decisions in his latest AdAge installment.

As always, thanks for reading. Connect with me on Twitter @Alexvilleneuve or email alex@alexander-branding.com

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Should Baseball Do?

The first thing every father tells their son about playing baseball is keep your eye on the ball. Until the age of 16 or so, I lived that rule. I was extremely captivated by the game of baseball and just like the big leagues, baseball was an everyday activity of mine. I knew all the players, managers, stadiums and statistics of the game. But as I grew older, I slowly took my eye off the ball.

Sadly, I've almost become indifferent to baseball. I don't watch nearly as many games as I once did and feel almost zero investment in them. When I do watch baseball I often fall asleep with the remote in my hand. I've shrugged off several years of big playoff contests and World Series games. Now, I can only name about half the players on my childhood "favorite" team and far fewer on all the rest.

More troubling for baseball is that I have plenty of company joining me in the baseball indifferent crowd. Sure I did change. I live at a far different pace than I did ten years ago; however, I haven't dramatically changed my consumption of other sports.

This postseason I made "an effort" to watch more baseball. I forced myself to watch and was pleasantly entertained by a great postseason which was capped off by a spectacular World Series. This resulted in the most watched baseball game since 2004 - when the Boston Red Sox were chasing down their first World Series Championship in 86 years.

Despite strong numbers for the finale, baseball has been quietly losing it's place in America's sporting heart over the past thirty years or so. Today, people often site football as the reason baseball is losing prominence in America. However, I think it would be shortsighted to forget the nearly two decades Michael Jordan played basketball and what he did for growing his game. He too is to blame I would say.

I'd want to know what you think. First, diagnose baseball biggest problem with losing share to other sports. Secondly, offer your solutions. How would help baseball regain prominence in America?

I will share my thoughts along with all of the reader feedback in the forthcoming post, Baseball Should Do This. Please respond via email (alex@alexander-branding.com), in the comments section or via Twitter @AlexVilleneuve.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The MKTG Rulebook

This is so important it deserved way more than a retweet. Know and follow these ten rules and you will become a great marketer. Bravo to Steve McKee from McKee Wallwork Cleveland for the insight via Businessweek.

Don't forget them.