Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great Divide

A person's email inbox represents a great divide. It becomes very easy to judge how important a message is when it's sent via email.

If your message truly requires the attention of someone then perhaps email not be the best way to get it. That's not to say that email isn't at all useful. The fact that get's lost on the spammer is that the attention must be shared - the message must be as useful to the reader as it is necessary that it's read. Simply put, both parties must value one another.

Ironically, that must start way before you reach one's inbox.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Decision Engine Dying

Bing may be axing its position of the "Decision Engine." No surprise there. Don't know how "Decision Engine" differentiates it from other search engines.

What ways can runner up brands position themselves to challenge the leader? Maybe Bing tries harder?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Netflix Follow Up

Netflix is splitting up into two brands. One for DVD by mail. One for streaming. A great idea.

Wait for it... BUT. They mess things up worse. The bad idea is what they're doing with the brand names. They are moving the Netflix name to the new streaming service and adding a new one for an old concept. So Netflix, as in red envelopes in your mailbox, is going to become the name for the company that streams movies online. And the new brand, Quikster, is going to take its place with the old concept. Got all that?

A new concept (streaming) needs a new brand which includes a new name - not a well known old one. But then they toss in a terrible new name for that product and you have a strategy disaster at Netflix.

Incredible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Marry Name and Price

A great brand name is an essential quality if that brand is going to work its way into the minds of consumers. A few helpers in the process are names that are unique, memorable and easy to pronounce. It should fit the characteristics the marketer desires to declare.

However, it's a good idea that the brand name doesn't include the price. While price is an important and says a lot about it, no successful brand is defined by a number.

I recently read that the popular Northeastern grocery-chain Wegman's will reprice a few of their popular $6 takeout meals to $8. While these meals are a personal favorite of yours truly, they've unwisely been marketed under the name "Wegman's $6 meals." However, with the rising prices for food and their ingredients, Wegman's cannot downsize the meals any more just to keep their signature price. The prices have changed.

That happens - just ask your parents or grandparents. Prices are going fluctuate. But the unique attributes of a brand should not. Wegman's chose to differentiate the brand through a low price; however, that results in much higher price sensitivity by consumers.

Wegman's should identify for what other reasons people will, should, or already do care about these meals. Give people another reason to enjoy them other than the price. Step one is taking it out of the name.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be In Search of Dissatisfaction

Sifting through my newsfeed this week, an article about yoga apparel brand Luluemon Athletica caught my attention. Luluemon was born in 1998 after entrepreneur Chip Wilson became dissatisfied how athletic apparel fit when practicing Yoga. Thirteen years later, it's the leader of the category it invented, coming off a 2010 with $712 million in sales and expectations of growing that by 33 percent in 2011. Naturally, the giant brands of athletic and women's apparel like Nike and the Gap missed this opportunity to outfit yoga practitioners and are now scrabbling to catch up. The Gap recently launched a new line of athletic clothes for women called Athleta. While the name sounds strikingly similar to the originator's surname, the Gap denies any copying of Luluemon Athletica.

One of the topics I'm most fascinated by is the reasons that established brands with a larger world of resources at their disposal constantly fail to innovate to the degree of resourceful entrepreneurs like Mr. Wilson did. Is it that brands reach a point in their life when they lose their edge and become averse to taking risks? Perhaps. For companies flush with cash it's makes better sense to buy these brands once they've proven themselves worthy - think Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. However, these cases are the exception.

In most cases, I believe a company's desire to innovate is only derived from looking at the income statement. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is copying the competition and be an also-ran brand. On the other hand, an entrepreneur is often better equip to recognize their own dissatisfaction within an area of the marketplace. Consider Mr. Wilson's yoga clothes, James Dyson's dissatisfaction with his Hoover vacuum cleaner or Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry's dissatisfaction with the toxic chemical ingredients in their cleaning supplies as examples of ignored desires that were the launching pad for great brands.

What products or experiences in the marketplace are leaving you wanting more? Most importantly, what will you do about it?

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath the Brand. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sponsoring A Rememberance

Its now been more than 10 years since the unspeakable tragedy and devastation witnessed on September 11th, 2001. Every American will remember that day a little differently. The places we were, the people we were with and the stunning imagery of that day will last in our minds forever. I also remember it as one of the best examples of human strength and sacrifice to stand for good against the power of hate.

However, the 10th anniversary will be a different memory for me. I'm disappointed that a part of this memory is marked by the advertisements I witnessed on television. Despite being nice displays of advertising, I'm unsettled by capitalizing on the memories of those who have perished. I recognize how many may disagree on the meaning that is behind each tribute advertisement; however, I believe that if honor and remembrance was truly the motivation of these organizations then paid advertisements may not have been the best way to show it. Even if their intentions were truly genuine, they seemed overpowered. The old marketing adage "the medium is the message" applied in this case. It was still advertising and felt as such. Perhaps there best intentions are conveyed in a different manner.

Every marketer who worked on these 9/11 themed advertisements understands how strong American's Patriotic instincts are. But I don't think that this was their best effort at tapping into them. I trust that most consumers are advanced enough to separate drinking Bud and being on the Verizon network from truer expressions of patriotism. I find any suggestion of a possible correlation by these marketers to be distasteful.

What do you think about the 9/11 tribute advertisements? Fair or over the line? Let me know in the comments section below and as always, thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Awareness Alone Is Not an Advantage

This week, the Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo! was fired. Which got me thinking about what a great brand name Yahoo! is. Furthermore, the brand was an early mover in the internet search business. Yet, despite its quick jump on the category and a name that translated into incredibly strong brand awareness, the company is the search engine equivalent to dial up internet. To be honest, I don't know too much about Yahoo! currently. I haven't been to the portal site in years and I'm guessing I'm not alone in my confession.

Obviously, there is a massive disconnect between awareness and conversion. The reason is that awareness, while an important step in the process of brand building is not the process by itself. In fact, awareness alone does nothing. They're countless brands struggling for consumer cash despite high "awareness." It would be challenging to find people who can recall nothing about brands like Kodak, Chevrolet, Burger King or Yahoo!. The problem is that they cannot recall how each of these brands are superior to their respective competition. Consumers are not aware of their brand advantages. That's a big problem.

Developing the advantages of your brand is the first and most essential step to building a brand. They should be ingrained in your marketing and never be forgotten. In fact, they (not your logo or pretty typeface) are your brand. The next step is to make sure they're conveyed; whether a completely unspoken or proclaimed loudly in advertising everywhere, people must be able to identify them and know the ways your brand is better. It's misguided marketing to believe brand building is just a game of being seen or heard from more often.

While this sounds extremely basic, I see a lot of marketers forget this branding principle regularly.

Post-riff extra-credit note: The best brands in the world are not the ones with the most brand advantages but the most desirable and best conveyed.


This post was also published on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath the Brand.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Have Your Coke And Drink It Too

Get ready to see more advertising for Diet Coke

According to AdAge, the calorie conscience cola is reorganizing its marketing to span the entire calender year rather than focusing their campaigning to the first quarter. The impetus for this decision stems from beating out Pepsi for the number two spot in the cola category - guzzling 9.9 percent of the market in 2010. It seems as if this decision is to recognize and give Diet Coke the backing that a number two brand deserves.

However, don't credit savvy marketing for Diet Coke's ascension to the category's second spot. Its "Stay Extraordinary" position is complete marketer inspired nonsense and really means nothing to consumers.

The real driving force behind the rise of The (somewhat) Real Thing is an ever-expanding consumer waistline that now counts cans of soda as a serious calorie contributor. Diet Coke is a just beneficiary of a health conscience (or at least calorie guilty) culture that still wants to have its Coke and drink it too. Evidenced by a steady decline in per capita consumption in carbonated soft drinks since 1998 coupled with the rise in alternatives like diet colas, teas and bottled water.

Unfortunately, Diet Coke's position as the anti-cola is the reason for its success and unquestionably is to the detriment of the original formula. Despite holding on to the top spot in the category with 42 percent, Coke has competition and cannibalization sipping away at its share more than ever before.

Obviously, I view the Coke bottle as half empty. I'll even take it a step further. While it may be a bold prediction, I believe its day to suffer a similar fate as competitor Pepsi will come.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Build a Friendlier Website


A good website should serve as a window into your business. People can go to them and learn some basic information and get your attention if they need to. They're pretty basic, yet very useful and powerful. However, a lot of websites are seemingly not built for human interaction. I'd like to start a list of some simple fixes (sans the expensive graphics and fonts) to make your website more human-friendly.

The first is to ditch the stock photos. If you have real people that work for you, then you should take pictures of them. When I see a website that uses stock photos, I immediately ask myself two questions. First, are they trying to hide something? Secondly, if they're using stock photos just because it's easier, what does that say about the quality of their work?

The second is to avoid meaningless jargon. To say that "company X provides marketing solutions for businesses who are looking to grow their customer bases and increase returns on their growth investments" doesn't exactly tell the reader who you are and why they should be looking at your site. When building your site, it's important to remember that just because you have unlimited words doesn't mean you should use them — "Goodbye," is always just one click away.

Lastly, don't make it difficult to be contacted. Names, email addresses, phone numbers, and a physical address should be easy to find. Larger business should keep it simple, too. Making people choose from 18 different phone numbers is a pain and likely creates as much work as it saves when people still choose the wrong one. And of course, without a timely and appropriate response, this entire point is rendered useless.

If your website is designed to do all the work, I'm positive that it cannot. But strategically, you may be missing the larger picture. Websites are meant for human consumption and need humans working behind them. For a brand, the goal should be directing them from the window to the door.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing. Please keep the list growing with your own tips for a better website in the comments section below.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo's Beneath the Brand blog.