Sunday, January 29, 2012

Breakfast Outside the Bun

Taco Bell has wisely been calling for fast food eaters to "think outside the bun" for a long time. However, Taco Bell needs to listen to their own advice. The company is now adding breakfast to their menu, just as many of their bun-based brethren have been doing lately.

According to their Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Brian Niccol, "right now we're not getting our fair share of that [breakfast crowd]. We want to get our fair share and then some."

As Burger King and Subway have also shifted focus to early eaters, such a decision obviously demonstrates that Taco Bell has been keeping one eye on the bun. It's a very curious move from the brand that pioneered marketing to a completely different A.M. eater. Taco Bell was the first to embrace them and eloquently spoke to their urge to eat with the term "Fourth Meal." Now they're losing their focus on this customer in favor of the eggs and bacon crowd.

In marketing, a brand should never give up an idea owned in the mind and the fourth meal has long belonged to Taco Bell. By chasing breakfast, that's exactly Taco Bell is doing.

Adding breakfast to an already loaded menu is even more questionable marketing at Taco Bell. Rather than chasing the bun, Taco Bell should consider innovating by building on the fourth meal idea that it owns. Innovations like improving speed and accuracy of drive-thru, having more consistent store hours and focusing on cheap menu items should keep Taco Bell on course.

Ad a Strong Visual

I was surfing the web yesterday and I happen to notice a Barack Obama campaign banner ad. It stood out to be because it's a great ad that perfectly demonstrates the power of utilizing a strong visual. The heart of this Presidential race will be no different than the last one- it's the economy.

In advertising, you can tirelessly preach your position and never effectively communicate it. But when you show it with a strong visual, as Obama's campaign has done, it becomes far more convincing and believable - regardless of what your selling.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DirecTV Is Here To Entertain

The new DirecTV television advertisements have been getting a lot of attention lately. There story delivers the off-beat message of "Don't End Up In a Roadside Ditch." It's both funny and entertaining so naturally, the advertisement has people talking, making parodies and bringing DirecTV a lot of attention in the process. But does get people buying satellite subscriptions?

Despite being the catalyst for conversation, the advertisements fail to actually sell DirecTV. The ads quickly compare DirecTV services to cable but quickly diverge into a loaded nonsensical story. After an initial comparison to cable, the story transitions multiple times with "When You...," and every it does it moves the viewer further and further away from the actual purpose of the ad- to compare DirecTV to cable. If the viewer happens to not get lost in the layers of story, the message the ad ends up delivering is that if you don't use DirecTV, bad things will happen to you. It's a funny premise but is obviously an untrue one.

So I ask again, how does positioning the brand with a fictional proposition help DirecTV sell subscriptions?

Unfortunately, this misguided thinking is widespread in the industry and frequently heralded as great work. The advertising industry would be well served by reconsidering their approach, particularly as it prepares to laugh away millions of dollars of clients' money on superbly entertaining but horribly executed Super Bowl advertisements.

Monday, January 23, 2012

First Step

Even (especially) when you don't know all the answers, take the first step. It's that important.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Brand Can Only Go So Far

Kodak, which is a brand synonymous with film, has been criticized for not moving to digital. However, they were digital. It's just that they name, was still synonymous with film.

In fact, no matter what non-film product they tried to hang the Kodak name on, it was a bust.

Kodak plain-paper copiers (1975).
Kodak instant cameras (1976).
Kodak videocassette recorder and cameras (1984).
Kodak floppy disks (1985).
Kodak batteries (1986). (2005).
Kodak ink-jet printers (2007).

So it should be no surprise that the Kodak name didn't capture the digital market.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing In Laundry?

If the "high-concentrated" laundry pods are the next big thing to hit the laundry room, then how come none of the brands decided to create a new brand for this subcategory?

"Tide Pods"
"all Mighty Pacs"
"Purex UltraPacks"
"Arm and Hammer Toss 'n Done"

All are extensions of the liquid detergent. If this subcategory was truly the next big thing, a new brand should be created.

Just a thought. There is something about pouring an amount of detergent into a cup that seems like it will be a tough habit to break. If you're only washing a smaller load, then why do you need an entire pod. Feels like there is a disconnect with this product.

The Problem With Ideas

Most people don't comprehend the significance of an idea they are physically able to see it. Once they see it, they know its something.

It's a very special ability to recognize and believe in something that has not yet been brought to life.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hyundai Aims for a Luxury Brand

Did you hear the news? Korean automaker Hyundai has its sights set on becoming a luxury automobile brand. Cadillac. Lexus. Mercedes. Rolls Royce. And now Hyundai? The name doesn't exactly have the same cache to it.

This isn't exactly new news however. I recall tweeting some rumblings about this very topic just over a year ago on January 12, 2011. They introduced a high-end Equus priced at $60,000 and marketed it under the tagline "New Thinking. New Possibilities." Unfortunately, according to Automotive News data, the company only sold a meager 3,000 Equus models - 3,193 to be exact.

Despite such underwhelming results in their new luxury line, Hyundai was not discouraged from its continuing down the same questionable path. The brand hopes to become a "aspirational" choice on the road by becoming an undefined concept called "modern premium." It's cliche marketing jargon at its finest.

Contrast this with Hyundai's very specific and defined positions designed to take the risk out of car buying. Hyundai "Assurance" meant longer powertrain warranties for its vehichles, protections against job loss after purchasing and guaranteeing the trade-in value for its cars. Hyundai was able to make significant in-roads into the American market by providing the its buyers with such assurances. The campaign was effective because the brand was specific in what it stood for.

But the "New Thinking" at Hyundai is very different from its very successful past thinking. It's a very obvious sign that warns trouble is down the road for the Hyundai brand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Being Wrong

The worst part about not being able to admit a wrong is you are making the choice not learn anything.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wegmans Demonstrates Real Impact of Celebrity Endorsers

Recently, actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to turn off this phone when asked. The minor controversy from this event generated some temporary negative publicity for Baldwin, who also happens to endorse numerous brands as their spokesperson.

One of those brands is the beloved regional-chain of grocery stores named Wegmans. However, this week Wegmans briefly stopped running all advertising featuring the suddenly controversial Baldwin because "a couple dozen" customers complained. When hundreds more rushed to his defense after their initial decision, Wegmans reneged and decided to continue running the ads.

Some may view this as good business because, as one publicity flack said, "Wegmans listens to their customers." I disagree. First, it's fallacy that simply because people express their opinions through social medias (or any medium for that matter), that doesn't actually make them customers. Secondly, discontinuing the ads was a drastic step to appease "a couple dozen customers" who are temporarily unhappy. However, Wegmans' flip-flop on Baldwin demonstrates the true utility- or lack thereof, of the celebrity endorsement.

It may help to understand how Baldwin became the pitchman for Wegmans. Although, he doesn't actually shop at grocer himself, the deal was a bi-product of Baldwin sharing a story on late night television that his mother refused to leave her home in central New York because she would miss shopping at Wegmans too much. Naturally, Wegmans felt compelled to reach out to Baldwin.

It's understood that a celebrity endorser is a famous face that embodies the perceived values of a brand or the benefits it delivers. However, if Baldwin can be fired then rehired without much thought, it proves just how little he encompasses the heart and soul of the brand.

All brands make real promises to their customers everyday. Celebrity endorsers pretend to to get paid. They are lazy marketing shortcuts ultimately do brands a disservice because they could be making real, genuine promises to their customers.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Brand Briefing

A recap of the most interesting and insightful things I've read this week.

Supermarket chain Wegman's flip-flops about their spokesperson Alec Baldwin in the wake of his airplane tirade. Says a lot about the real value and connection a paid celebrity spokesperson has to a brand if they can be hired and fired so easily.

Jonathan Salem Baskin explores how Kodak's problem communicating, not innovating, is what sunk the iconic photography brand. Also, he demonstrates that advertising's big night, the Super Bowl, is really a humiliating one for the profession.

Tom Fishburne finishes it off with a great cartoon how the often-used product proliferation strategy is a self-defeating one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Don't Mix Your Brands

This weekend I happen to notice a new addition to the Esurance commercials that ran on television this weekend. Watch carefully and you will notice a logo that reads "an Allstate company" at the very end of the ad near the bottom of the screen. This change was made because Allstate purchased Esurance (along with another company) for a combined sum of $700 million early in 2011. The refreshed campaign for the online insurance provider launched this weekend during Sunday's National Football League games.

While the likely motivation for adding an Allstate "endorsement" to the end of the Esurance ads was to add credibility to the Esurance brand, it actually will add to the confusion between the two brands. This is the wrong strategy because both brand are unique and have different positions. In this case, they're the exact opposite positions.

Allstate is the brand at the top of the ladder. Its brand promise is that you're "in good hands" with Allstate and you know better than to settle on "cut-rate" insurance companies.

Meanwhile, Esurance is positioned at the opposite end. It's the no-fills insurance company that serves the cost-conscience consumer. Through technology and modern design efficiencies - i.e. cutting out the agent - they can serve clients at a lower cost.

Individually, each is a fine strategy. One man's "cut-rate" is another man's "no-frills." And with unqiue brands, they've done the right thing by position one at the top of the market and another at the bottom.

However, by combining them, even ever-so-slightly, they will began creating branding mayhem.