Monday, December 26, 2011

Weight Watchers Follow Up

Eight months ago, I wrote that Weight Watchers was making a mistake in its marketing strategy by extending it's brand to include diet plans for men. I felt (and still do) that in order to be successful marketing to this new demographic, Weight Watchers needed a different product and most importantly a different brand name. Perhaps you remember that they chose the name, what else, Weight Watchers for Men.

Yesterday, I noticed that they made some changes to their male-targeted campaign. First, they simply dropped the "for men" from the title of the product. Secondly, went the way of Nutrisystem and added the celebrity endorsement element, selecting Charles Barkley. I guess he's no longer with Taco Bell?

It's a pretty drastic change from the original ad. These changes to the advertising represent a clear signal that the weight loss service is yo-yo'ing on how to reach their new male demographic. Although, the ads are very different, the new Weight Watchers strategy is basically the same - perhaps worse because they're using the same name. Therefore they will see the same results.

Un-like Facebook

Facebook, who is preparing up to auction itself off to the public, is making a significant change to how users view the advertisements on the social networking site. The little ads that are currently to the right of the newsfeed will be moved into the newsfeed and share the same space as your friend's updates.

For Facebook to make more money, and thus be worth more, the company has to sell more of its main product, advertising. However, if advertising rates online remain flat, the only way to make more money would be to sell more. But there is a shortcut. An advertiser can charge more for the ad if they give the purchaser more visibility. This visibility makes for a better ad but often at the expense of the content (the stuff people want). In the short-term this can work; however, long-term its a solution that only perpetuates the problem it tries to solve. More ads creates more noise and less visibility for other advertisers as well as hurt traffic because they detract from the stuff people really came to see. It's the fundamental problem with making money from advertising - what worked yesterday doesn't work today.

Facebook knows there will be backlash from users. So it will initiate the new advertising slowly - limiting the posts to once-a-day - and hope people don't notice it much. However, if Facebook will continue to grow, it will certainly increase the frequency and the number of ads as well as place them in the feeds of mobile users.

The ads on Facebook are unique because they're complimented by the "like" or approval of a friend. Facebook gives the brand the ability to pay to have this put into your newsfeed. So if you like the page for "Bud Light" for instance, they can pay Facebook to have your "like" into a
"sponsored story" in the newsfeeds of your network. Interestingly, the ads won't look like traditional online advertising because they know how important it is to disguise the ad as the a friend recommendation - even though that user won't know when their interaction will be converted into a sponsored story.

Unfortunately, users are not given the option to opt out of having these ads show up in their newsfeed. Thankfully, they do have a choice if they don't want to spam their network. "Unlike" stuff. If people do this, they won't treat their friends page as collateral damage from marketers.

I'm going to treat my connections in the most socially acceptable manner and not spam them. I encourage everyone to do the same. Simply go to your page. Click on the info tab and "unlike" all the junk no one really looks at anyway.

It's the campaign to Unlike Facebook.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fool Us Once

Tomorrow British Petroleum is launching a new wave of advertising that focuses on their clean up and restoration efforts following their disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the Spring of 2010.

The advertisements feature Iris Cross, a familiar face who became the company spokesperson in the commercials following the disaster. In these ads, Iris updates the country on what BP has done and will further do to clean up the mess that it created. The ad itself is nice. It says lots of nice things about BP while rolling images of a beautiful, vibrant and clean Gulf Coast.

However, how effective this advertising? Does advertising a brand that has been disgraced and has deservedly lost public trust really improve its perceptions through advertising this message? Are consumers just supposed to trust BP because they're cleaning up their mess? Other than saying it's working with the government, this ad doesn't really explain why it deserves the public trust back.

Eventually, they will earn it back. People have short memories so which works in BP's favor. They'll forget how the incident was preventable, the company was warned but neglected maintenance on the well's blowout preventer , they'll forget how it took months to solve the problem as 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the gulf and they'll forget how the company's leader Tony Hayward downplayed the "relatively tiny" problem while spending quality time floating along on his yacht.

If people don't feel like they can trust you, it's best not to remind them why they feel this way. I don't understand what BP has to gain from a national advertising campaign.

I believe the company should go about it's business quietly and clean up the awful mess it made as best as they can. Time will eventually heal the wounds but advertising won't accelerate the process when it also reminds people why your not to be trusted.

Although it goes against human nature, sometimes the best action is to do nothing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reality Is Simply What You Want It To Be

For better or for worse, when it comes to the marketing of most things, the reality is simply what the buyer chooses to believe.

The truth is often seen very differently among different consumers. (Case in point: politics)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Broken Ad: Chex Mix

Yesterday I saw an advertisement for the deliciously addicting snack Chex Mix. The advertisement features a guying using an empty potato chip bag labeled "boring" to hide his Chex Mix from everyone else at the party. The commercial closes with the tagline "Open a bag of interesting."

The final word "interesting" is key to the entire ad and I believe it's completely misused. Is the reason that the other people at the party desire this man's Chex Mix because the snack is simply more interesting than potato chips? I don't think so. So while interesting is actually the opposite of boring, it's not the right adjective to use to position Chex Mix.

At first I was unsure Chex Mix should even be positioned against potato chips. Chex Mix is a one-of-a-kind snack that leads its own salty snack subcategory. However, in order to keep Chex Mix successfully differentiated from potato chips it must consistently hammer the comparison home.

But in order to really do so I think the marketers of Chex Mix needed to take their point one step beyond just "interesting" and explain why. Is the consumer supposed to just believe Chex Mix is more interesting than potato chips (an obvious opinion) because a marketer told them so. I don't think so.

They need to back up their claim. To do so, focus on the key attribute differences that make Chex Mix a more interesting choice. The biggest difference is even in the product name. Unlike the monolithic taste of chips, Chex Mix has a variety of different flavors. Secondly, Chex Mix is eaten by the handful. Whereas chips are consumed one at a time.

Therefore, Chex Mix is the more interesting choice because its "six unique flavors in every handful that make for one delicious snack."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Beginners Guide

If your job was to write a handbook or a beginner's guide to your brand, which would detail the most important information someone should be aware of, what would it actually say?

I ask you to close your eyes for thirty seconds and think about that.

Now go look at your newest advertisement.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meeting Expectations

If you're in the business of gaining attention (and all marketers are), it's difficult to stay relevant when you simply meet their expectations.

We expect average. We reward above-average with our attention.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Alex's Weekly Brand Briefing

Here's what I was looking at this week.

Not just $3.99 rugs. Don't like the talk I'm hearing from Ikea about "changing perceptions."

Arnold Palmer is looking to position his brand for the long term. Take the drink. Leave everything else. He owns the word for a lemonade-iced tea drink mixture and nothing else.

Al Ries shares with brands on how to position a brand at the top and bottom of the market. Sounds like Ikea could use his advice.

Tom Fishburne shows what PowerPoint presentations are really doing to an audience.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Broken Ad: eBay

Did you detect the major shift in strategy at eBay in their latest round of advertisements? The commercials depict people using eBay to buy all the run-of-the-mill items that they can find at the mall. Whether it's a tablet computer or a new pair of jeans, eBay is the last place anyone will go for these items because of their reputation as an auction site.

These new advertisements abandon the auction-style attribute of the brand and instead push a anti-auction position of "Buy It New. Buy It Now." Isn't that the position of most retailers?

eBay was positioned different. It's the first place to find the stuff you cannot find anywhere else.

Not anymore apparently.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Follow Up: Coke Sheds The Red

After a short run, Coca-Cola has decided to cease using the white can. The cans were originally slated to be on shelves until February; however, complaints over customer confusion has prompted Coke to preempt the original promotion schedule.

As suspected, a changing such an iconic and critical symbol of the brand was not shrewd choice. For more, check out Mike Esterl's story in the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coke Sheds The Red

I caught a glance at a can of Coca-Cola earlier and did a double take. The reason I couldn't immediately recognize this iconic packaging, mistaking it for a Diet Coke, is that for the first time in the history of the soft drink, the company decided to changed the color of the can - just temporarily of course. The new can is white and features polar bears, which have been an often-used symbol by Coca-Cola during the holiday season. But it also looks similar to the latest Diet Coke packaging.

However, this is not a case of change strictly for its own sake. The white can is being used to generate awareness for the Arctic Home project, which Coca-Cola is supporting along with its partner, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The goal of the partnership is to protect the habitat of Arctic polar bears and in particular, a 500,000 square mile territory in the far north where polar ice can survive the longest. In this effort, Coke will donate $2 million to Arctic Home and match customer donations up to $1 million.

While the Arctic Home project is certainly a worthwhile cause, I don't know if I would be brave enough to change the color of the can. Afterall, I didn't immediately know I was looking at a Coke. I'll ask all the marketers and design experts, would you generate awareness for this worthy cause by altering the iconic red can?

So is this a good or bad idea? Give your take in the comments section below, via email ( or on Twitter @AlexVilleneuve. As always, thanks for reading.


People are complicated beings. And it's for that very reason that brands must simplify things.