Monday, December 30, 2013

Subway's Simplfied Advertising Proves Successful

Over the weekend, I was struck by Subway's latest advertisement, which was pitching the all new Big Hot Pastrami sandwich.  What's interesting about the Big Hot Pastrami ad is that it's essentially a carbon copy of Subway's avocado advertisement from the summer of this year.  But Subway has an excellent reason for undervaluing creativity and repetitively going back to the same well - they know it works.    

In both ads, Subway's recipe for success is simple - have a purpose and be very clear about it.  In each ad, the viewer knows what's being advertised within the first five seconds of the commercial.  They don't waste time telling a convoluted story or setting up failed punchlines.  And the goal of each ad never strays from telling the viewer a factual statement about what's new at Subway.  

I think its safe to say that neither Subway ad will win big at Cannes or find itself memorialized on the end-of-year best lists; however, Subway provides strong evidence of the greater value in clarity and purpose over creativity and hype. 

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Dirty Details

Last night, as I was driving along Interstate 90 on my way back to Cincinnati, I stopped at a Love's travel stop near the Ohio-Pennsylvania boarder.

At Love's, I noticed some great marketing in an unlikely place - a urinal.  At Love's, employees write the date directly on the urinal cake before they change them (similar to the one below). This serves as a great advertisement to its customers that their restrooms are clean and a point of pride for the brand.  It's dirty detail is a great example of Love's executing its brand strategy of "Clean Places, Friendly Faces."


As Love's proves, the dirty details provide some of the best opportunities for marketers to differentiate themselves. 

What other examples have you come across of a brand that's executing it's strategy in the most unlikely of places?  As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Belief

Marketer's don't make people believe anything.  They understand what they believe and build their brands around that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cheap Clicks

Adweek recently posted their top 10 advertisements of 2013.

End-of-year lists and countdowns really equate to nothing more than cheap clicks for the publisher, it's interesting to see how the advertising industry celebrates itself.  The ads are judged more as one-minute movies than marketing campaigns - creativity and entertainment are paramount while commercial and branding success is an added bonus.

Perhaps this misguided mindset contributes to the often short high-life of a chief marketing officer, the tumultuous client-agency relationship and the overall disdain consumers have for advertising.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bad Marketing Behavior

Stretching the truth in search of a viral hit is eerily similar to the behavior of marketers who over-hype their offering.

Whether the goal is clicks or sales, long term it erodes reputations and eventually equates to a loss.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Art For The Sake of The Sale

Stuart Elliot of The New York Times recently penned an interesting article on the rising trend of marketers utilizing the work of artists in their advertising campaigns.  While this tactic has typically been reserved for marketers targeting an older, more affluent demographic, more brands are artfully crafting their campaigns to customers in their twenties and thirties.  Elliot cites American Apparel, Gap, Chanel, Lincoln, Jaguar, Red Bull and Samsung as more youthful-oriented marketers that have an infusion of art in their marketing campaigns.  

But Elliot also pinpoints a major problem at the crossroads of art and commerce - at what point does using art as a marketing tactic just become tacky?  Kevin Kearney, the managing director of Alldayeveryday, said “it’s totally fine to do if it’s done in a tasteful way," and the partnership is both beneficial for the artist and the brand.   

While there are definitely brands who can pull off such a feat (independent film companies come to mind), there are many more that cannot - but not for a lack of trying of course.  It's simply not who they are; the pure pursuit of art is not part of the fabric of the brand.  Therefore, the formula is flipped upside down and it's no longer 'art for the sake of art' but rather 'art for the sake of the sale.'  The end game becomes the beneficial image that can be created with it.  The art itself is relegated to the role of a medium.

Thus, it would seem that the point where this tactic turns distasteful should be traced all the way back to the marketer's motive. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Running With The Pack

I opened up my email this evening and counted over 25 "cyber-Monday" email offers.

While cyber-Monday is good for online retailing on a macro level, on a mirco level, it presents a big challenge for individual brands to stand out.

The good ones will find a way to differentiate their brands, even amid the noise of cyber-Monday.

What have you seen this cyber-Monday and black Friday that's worth sharing?   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Damage 16 Cents Can Do

I recently received this letter from my health insurance provider.  It's stuffy way to remind a me that I forgot to include the 16 cent fee on my last bill.  This extra fee (which will no doubt escalate in the future) is added to insurance premiums as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Perhaps the craziest part is that my insurer paid more than 16 cents in postage to get that fee back- and destroy some goodwill in the process.

Instead of sending this petty, overly corporate reminder to squeeze 16 cents out of me, what if they sent a letter that basically said, "hey, we see that you missed this 16 cent fee, but we appreciate having you as a customer, so we got it this time."

That seems like a more effective strategy to get customers to remember their PCORI fees and score some loyalty points in an commodity industry that too often is boiled down to the cost of a premium.

Side note:  One suggestion for Medical Mutual of Ohio that may help with the procurement of PCORI fees on the first try is actually including it with the "please pay this amount" total on their invoices. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

More Money Than Brains

"More money than brains."  That self-explanatory expression is one that my father would often use to describe people making unwise financial decisions.

Snapchat, the app that lets users send and receive messages that disappear after their viewed, just turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook last week.

Snapchat just celebrated its second birthday in September and although it hasn't made a single dollar, social media behemoth Facebook was willing to shell out $3 billion to buy it - an unfathomable amount of money to buy a company that won't return a single dollar to them on day one or possibly ever. 

Despite all the brain power that exists at Facebook, an offer of this magnitude based on Spanchat's unproven potential is simply a more money than brains offer.  The only thing that could be dumber is to refuse it.

After only two years on the job, the founders of Snapchat could have joined Mark Zuckerberg in the "more money than brains" club. They passed up the cleanest exit strategy they will ever get.

It's been suggested that Snapchat's founders believe it can one day exceed last week's $3 billion valuation, as they see high potential for generating revenue selling virtual goods.

The obvious problem is that Snapchat is more valuable without virtual goods.  If investors are given a balance sheet, there is no way they'll get to $3 billion.  The numbers simply don't pile up as fast when users must become customers.

But without one, in its cozy make nothing, sell nothing virtual reality, Snapchat still has limitless potential to those with more money than brains.  For their sake, I just hope they never have to prove it.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Importance of Product Extremism

I have a small confession to make - I spent more than five hours of this past week shopping for the perfect pair of boots.  Actually, I couldn't afford the perfect pair.  Thus, my crusade became finding a pair that was most similar to these beauties in every way except for the price tag.

I looked over hundreds of pairs of boots, dissecting every detail trying to find a similarities in color, style, materials, product origin, sole, lining, stitching and laces.  Even the most mundane detail would often become a deal breaker.  In case you're curious, I was finally able to settle on this lovely pair.     

Shopping for five hours for a single pair of boots might sound completely crazy, but if you're a marketer, you should love this person.  When even the most miniscule detail can be incredibly important, every detail is another opportunity to differentiate yourself.  Secondly, they're enthusiastic about the product, so consequently, they'll wind talking about you.  

Build your product and your brand with this extremist in mind.  This will prevent you from becoming average.

Not-So-Subtle Hint: If you (or your team) are not product extremists, then you actually have a serious problem.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

See You Next Sale

Although upping the ante on incentives is a sure bet to drive traffic, they won't add any value to your brand after today.   

Building and sustaining a brand over time requires a digging deeper and selling the intangibles.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Work Jerk

Don't be work jerk.  Find a resolution to your problems before you look for the person or people that caused them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Magnificently Mundane

Car dealerships aren't typically known for their marketing genius; however, the Kings Toyota dealership added a really nice touch to their website.

Their address and phone numbers are right in the banner of their website.  It's a mundane detail that definitely won't win any design awards, but now their customers don't need to click around or dig for the information.  They've made it easy to access this information.

Don't bury the information that customers will need most - instead, plaster it everywhere.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Is Belvedere Vodka Selling With a Fake ID?


Belvedere Vodka, the premium Polish vodka brand recently launched a new advertising campaign focusing on the brand's heritage.  Belvedere's pitch is that it's made with the finest rye, distilled four times according to a 600-year-old Polish tradition.”

I became immediately curious about the Belvedere's heritage positioning because the brand, at least to me, felt new.

As it turns out, Belvedere vodka isn't even of legal drinking age yet.  According to its wikipedia page, production of Belvedere began in 1993 and, three years later, was introduced in the United States.  It's the recipe that's six century's old; not the brand itself.

But by putting this figure in it's ads, are they trying to obfuscate how long they have been part of that Polish tradition?  A twenty-year heritage definitely doesn't sound as storied as an attention-grabbing 600-year heritage.    

According to an article in AdAge, Charles Gibb, the President of the Belvedere brand, explains that young millennials desire authenticity and "a deeper understanding" of the products that they choose to consume.  And as the article outlines, Belvedere certainly isn't the only brand of spirit trying to capitalize on this intelligence.  

Obviously, nothing would be less authentic than fudging your age by 580 years.  Could Belvedere develop it's heritage-based marketing position without this grand number?  I believe they could.

Vodka is still a major part of the Polish heritage today.  In fact, it's taken so seriously that to be considered Polish vodka, by law, it must be distilled in Poland, must with polish ingredients and have no supplements other than water.  Belvedere is made with Dankowskie Gold Rye from the central region of Poland and water from its own wells.  Belvedere is pure vodka. It has no other choice but to be.    

Sure, 600-year tradition grabs attention.  But if millennials are looking for a "deeper understanding" of brand before they endorse them, perhaps the latest Belvedere campaign could have been as pure as it's vodka.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kohl's Christmas Push

Michelle Gass, Kohl's leading marketer, recently outlined the retailer's plan for the holiday season in an interview with AdAge.

Gass disclosed that Kohl's marketing have "an element of surprise, disruption and social engagement" and that when looking to "connect with her or him, we're looking at it very specifically day by day."  And this doesn't count for a surprise either.

It's really the same jargon that you'll read from every retailer this season.  They're all going to make a big push.

But there has never been some giant consumer movement demanding more "brand engagement campaigns."

The question retailers should be answering is what will they do better this season, not what will they be doing more of. 

This is what will get them response that their looking for.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will Its New Strategy Keep Glad Fresh?


Glad, a leading brand in food storage and protection, is launching a new marketing campaign to fight food waste.  The "Love Food More, Waste It Less" campaign reminds consumers that 25 percent of all food purchased goes to waste, a fact that lends itself nicely to the Glad brand. Obviously, if food can stay fresher, longer, then it has more time to be eaten.  

The centerpiece of the Glad campaign is an online pledge called Save It Sunday.  Sunday is a metaphor of sorts for the rare occasions that busy families will sit down to a home cooked meal together. Afterward, any leftover food is preserved in a handy Glad container.

There is no doubt that Glad makes a really useful product.  But I wonder if this campaign will do their product justice.  Is "fighting food waste" the strongest position glad can take for their brand?  Do consumers care enough about this ideal that they will turn to Glad?  I think the missing piece of this campaign is how the macro-concept of "food waste" affects the individual consumer.

Glad's new campaign could become really strong if they put a dollar figure on how much the average consumer (or family) spends on food that they don't eat.  Glad could hammer home their position with an advertisement where a mother dumps out large stacks of cash from a Glad garbage bag onto a kitchen table.  They could supplement this visual with an online calculator that consumers could use to figure out their own dinner-table opportunity costs and then urge them sign and share the pledge.   

Furthermore, I wonder if the "Save It Sunday" campaign could tied back to the Glad brand better than it currently is.  Glad has always positioned itself around the idea of food freshness; but "Save It Sunday" truly lends itself to the concept of convenience, not freshness.

By saving it with Glad on Sunday, your next meal is ready-and-waiting for you; wherever and whenever you may choose to eat it.  It's a perfect fit for our too busy, out-of-time, on-the-go lives.   

If it's homemade and convenient, Glad was the missing ingredient.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Richard Montanez

The story of Richard Montanez is one that you should know.  Conviction and belief is always step one. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Google Advertising Gets Personal

Google has always been mindful of the its own power, which is why early on, the guys who created the search engine adopted "don't be evil" as the company's creed to live by.

However, judging from some of it's actions lately, that creed may have died a long time ago.  It was recently decided in United States District Court that Google was (at best) guilty of misrepresenting its privacy settings or at worst, stealing private user data.  Now, following in the footsteps of Facebook, Google has decided to sell user endorsements made online to advertisers.  The forthcoming update to its terms of service policy will mean that the names and faces of Google+ users could be used in paid advertisements anytime without their consent.

According to eMarketer, social advertising is a $9.5 billion industry.  However, in order to create better and more effective advertisements for the brands who buy them, Google and Facebook must defy the trust of their user base.  Similarly, the brands that choose to rebroadcast word-of-mouth with social advertising programs are at high-risk of tarnishing the goodwill that was once created in the first place.   

Google and Facebook, both desperate for growth, are essentially selling word-of-mouth buzz as a commodity.  In the long term, they will only devalue their particular brand of word-of-mouth marketing into more junk marketing that's notoriously known not to be trusted.

The new advertising program begins on November 11.  Google+ users can opt out of this intrusive program here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dodge Leaves Itself In The Dust

Adweek described the new Dodge Durango ad campaign featuring Will Farrell in his beloved Ron Burgundy character as "hilariously stupid."  Then they said it was "destined for greatness."

I have no doubt that the Dodge ads will be a viral hit.  It will be seen by tens of millions of people over the next few weeks and our favorite degenerate anchorman will incite lots of laughs.

It's a really great advertisement...if you're selling tickets to an Anchorman sequel.  But if you're Dodge, it's a different story.  Nothing about a car resonates from the message specifically designed to sell them; rather, it's the antics of the anchorman that steal the show.

And that's a "hilariously stupid" way to advertise your brand.     

As always, thank you for reading, sharing and giving your feedback. 
    

  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why These Brands Don't Taste Right

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, lives an incredible story.  In the short span of 17 years, Cole ascended from her role as a waitress at a Jacksonville, Florida Hooters to the Chief Operating Officer of Cinnabon.  Last week, Duane Stanford of Businessweek profiled Cole and her Cinnabon brand.    

Cinnabon is an great brand; its name is synonymous with the delicious warm and gooey treat. But one sentence of Stanford's analysis should give marketers pause; "Licensing now accounts for more than half the chain’s revenue."  In fact, a Cinnabon-logo can be found on 72 different products found on grocery store shelves as well as on products served up in fast food restaurants like Burger King.

If you're looking beyond the next quarter's income statement, it's easy to understand why this is a red flag.  Cole admits that an "over-the-top, sensory experience" is the magic that makes the Cinnabon brand special.

Licensing can kill that magic.  It takes something special and remarkable and turns it into something more ordinary.  Starbucks and Krispy Kreme are two brands that have taken a similar path and learned this lesson hard way.  Slowly, they altered the special experience surrounding their products. 

Although Cole disagrees, I fear Cinnabon will also learn the hard way.   


Interestingly, one of Cinnabon's licensing partners, Burger King made headlines by announcing a healthier french fry.  Officially dubbed "Satisfries," the new option is said to pack on 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than what rival McDonald's is serving up.   

Burger King, unlike Cinnabon, is a brand that's lost its throne because it lost its focus.  Burger King's Satifries provide further evidence of a brand with an identity crisis.  If the company wants to be know as healthy, it cannot sit somewhere in the middle.  A brand cannot build a reputation for being healthy simply because it serves Diet Coke (especially when that no-cal Coke is with a bacon and onion ring-laced burger.)

Similarly, by offering Satisfries for free in kids meals but charging an extra fee to adults, Burger King has essentially nullified the impact Satisfries will have.  The message to customers is that you'll make your kids eat them because they have to, but, given the choice, you know don't want to. 
       
The smart brand marketer understands that customers decide on "healthy" issue before they every step foot into a Cinnabon or a Burger King.

As always, thank you for reading, sharing and sending your feedback.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oh The Irony

The California New Car Dealers Association is pushing the state to investigate Tesla's advertising practices. Believe it or not, the California car dealers are mad about, of all things, false advertising...oh the irony.

The dealers have reportedly sent a letter to the California Department of Motor Vehicles requesting an investigation into "egregious violations" of consumer protection laws, specifically, Tesla's practice of including external savings such as fuel costs, incentives and tax credits into the advertised price.

Do the California car dealers have a case against Tesla?  Probably.  However, their real underlying grip isn't about misleading advertising, a field that car dealers are notoriously expert in.

Tesla is a threat to the entire dealer model because they cut out the independent dealer and sell directly to consumers.  This shift in how cars are sold would be just as revolutionary as Tesla's electric powered cars as an independent dealer is legally protected.

Car dealers have already shown that they will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve the old way of doing things.  After all, it has been very good for them.     

But Tesla has broken that barrier and there might be no turning back. If I ran another car company, I'd prefer to help lead the next revolution rather than be upended by it.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing your feedback.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This Jolly Green Giant Should Hold The Punchline

In its latest advertisement, Green Giant goes 'X-Rated' to sell everyone the obvious story that eating vegetables is healthy.

Green Giant is trying to be funny and appeal to a younger crowd, yet, they come off completely inauthentic.

Seeing ads like this makes me leery that a lot of marketers don't believe in marketing.  Advertising isn't effective just because it's seen by lots of people; what makes it effective is that it says something meaningful and in a clear way.

Your punchline doesn't make your brand more appealing; it just makes it look like you have nothing important to say.

As for Green Giant, they settled on the idea that eating vegetables is healthy.  Who didn't know that already?  In addition, that's not a unique position to their brand. Lots of other people sell vegetables.

A more unique and meaningful claim would have been that frozen vegetables actually have more nutrients than fresh ones - which begin losing nutrients once they're picked.    

As always, thank you for reading and sharing your feedback.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Trouble With A Tribute Tweet

Wednesday was a day of remembrance; its been twelve years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Every year on this day, millions and millions of people take to social media to pay tribute to the lives lost on that day and to proclaim that they will never forget.  However, on Wednesday, AT&T's tribute tweet was singled out and its sincerity brought into question because their tribute included an AT&T product.  They were accused of capitalizing on the tragedy.   

The image of the cellphone triggered enough outrage online that AT&T removed the tweet within the hour.  They immediately tweeted an apology; "we apologize to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy." 

I don't believe that the inclusion of a cellphone in the image was some type of covert sales operation.  I simply see it as AT&T's way of personalizing their tribute.  I think at worst, it's just a little cheesy.

So when AT&T says that "the image was solely meant to pay respect," I tend to believe them.  Yet I believe we should question their intentions on different level.  AT&T doesn't have a twitter account solely to pay its respects.  The official corporate twitter account is a business tool and marketing is one of its main functions.  It's used to generate attention and interest in the company and to deliver messages to consumers.     

I'm not saying AT&T was calculating this public relations dust up from the beginning and hoping to benefit the attention it would bring.  But I'm saying that it's straight out of the social media marketing playbook for businesses to generate attention by commenting on trending topics, which in this case, was the anniversary of an American tragedy.  Therefore, it would be disingenuous for AT&T to claim that the tweet itself was solely out of respect; whether they like it or not, there is an inherent agenda to a corporate tweet.

Social media marketers cannot forget that the intentions of corporate communication haven't changed, just their boundaries.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If I Only Had...

a little more money, a little more time or some more help, then I could get a lot more stuff done.

While that may prove itself true, putting a negative spin on scarcity (something that we all do) can trip a lot of people up.

Try putting a positive spin on scarcity. 

Only having a little money should force you to spend it smarter.

Only having a little time should force you to use it better.

Only having a little help should force you to be accountable for what gets done. 

If something is scarce, then it's obviously of value.  And taking a positive approach to scarcity should force you discover more of that value.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Okay, Prove It

I saw this message from Hot Head Burrito on a billboard.  

On a positive note, their message is simple and easily consumable by an audience driving along the highway.

However, the marketing position they take is as bland as can be.  As a small, underdog burrito chain, their words aren't received with the intuitive credibility of a category leader, which in this case, is Chipotle.  Therefore, it's even more important for this challenger brand to substantiate their position with facts. Obviously, which burrito has "more flavor" is a matter of pure opinion.   

And yet, they somehow guarantee it.  According to their website, if "you don't love it, we will replace it for free."  It's weak marketing and the very reason why money back guarantees don't convey confidence in a product.  They actually say, "we're not sure."

I've never eaten a Hot Head burrito, but after 10 seconds on their website, the solution to their positioning problem and the answer to why Hot Head burritos have more flavor was obvious.  It's all in the sauces.  Unlike Chipotle, Hot Head offers customers 13 different sauces for their burritos and bowls.

Thirteen varieties of sauce is a real fact working in their favor.  Thus, they should pour it on their marketing campaign.

As always, thank you for reading, sharing and commenting.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Strong Brand Cannot Be Both

For the last 15 months, investigative journalists at ESPN and PBS have been collaborating on the "Frontline" documentary, League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis, which will debut on October 8th.  The documentary investigates the impact concussions are having on the lives of NFL players and the way the league has handled player concussions.   

However, last week, ESPN, who is also partners with NFL, abruptly ended partnership and asked to remove all ESPN logos and production credits from the project.  It's widely reported the National Football League pressured ESPN to back off the project; however, the network is claiming that  misunderstandings over editorial control was the real cause of the break up.

The problem stems from duel directive at ESPN.  The network mission to deliver sports as entertainment and also to broadcast news about it creates these damaging conflicts of interest.  ESPN simply cannot promote the product of its broadcasting partner in good faith and simultaneously expect to be one hundred percent credible in its reporting of this partner.

Occasionally it might work out.  But when the stars don't align, it leads to compromises that jeopardize shipping the very best work possible. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Meet Me In The Cookie Dough Room

Ben & Jerry's could just give their meeting rooms typical names like "4B" or "6 West." But that wouldn't be that interesting or reflect who they are as a company. 

This is the sort of thing you see from companies that are truly passionate about their work.  It shines through everywhere, right down to even the most mundane stuff like the name of a meeting room. 

And it's exactly how great brands get built.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anticipating Customer Service Hiccups

One advantage of shopping online is that they're no pushy sales people; customers can endlessly browse a store's inventory at their own pace and never feel an once of pressure. 

However, a major drawback to this is that when an online shopper does require help, eCommerce sites cannot react.

The best ecommerce sites are built to anticipate these customer service pitfalls.  Thetiebar.com does this really well.  At the Tie Bar, rather than just a picture of the tie or a model wearing it, they've added settings to help customers match the item with their clothes.         

Match to Shirts and Suits

Blue Shirt and Navy Suit
This addition transforms the customer experience by removing potential guesswork and allowing customers to get the look they want and their purchase right the first time.

Australian clothing designer BlackMilk, known for its wild prints, expands on this customer-friendly eCommerce concept by allowing customers to upload photos of themselves wearing their purchase an and adding the photos to the product page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Please Do Not Disturb

On Tuesday evening, Serve-Pro was hired by one of my neighbors to do some clean up work in a neighboring medical building. 

Unbeknownst to all of us in the neighborhood, our evening would be interrupted for two straight hours by a loud, overwhelming buzz that emanated from their truck.

Serve-Pro, while it fulfilled its promise to the customer to clean their building, did nothing to mitigate the collateral damage it would leave behind.  Perhaps they don't have to; but it's difficult to argue against the marketing possibilities of demonstrating a little extra consideration to non-customers. 

This extra step at the job site could become the best advertising for the brand precisely because they do it even when they don't have to.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strategizing The Launch of Al Jezeera News In America

Today, the middle eastern news network Al Jezeera made its debut in America.

However, the network might be in for rough beginning in the States.  According to a report by Sam Theilman of Adweek, advertisers are keeping their distance from the network. One media buyer was quoted as saying that despite it being "a perfect fit," they were unable to convince their client to buy time on the network.  Even a talented roster of journalists and widespread distribution though DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Verizon FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse were not enough to seal the deal.

The name Al Jazeera is getting in the way.  

Each election day, we're reminded of the fact that society in America isn't stagnant; consider how the gay marriage is viewed within the America compared to even just a decade ago.  The market is there (and growing) and eventually the perceived risk from advertisers will decline.

That doesn't mean that Al Jazeera America should wait for that day.  I also believe it's in the network's best interest to change its name, which, in case you're wondering, simply translates to "The Peninsula." 

According to Al Jazeera America's interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, 90 percent of American viewers report to enjoying it; however, 75 percent of people who have never seen it already have a negative opinion of the channel.   

A major reason is that Al Jazeera was negatively branded in America.  For many Americans, there first association with Al Jazeera is the chilling terrorist videos it was known for releasing after the September 11th terrorist attacks.  The parent network became branded this way in America twelve years ago. 

Unfortunately, that's a marketing problem that cannot be fixed with positive "dialogue [about] mission, vision and journalistic identity.” 

The good news is that it's not a real tough one to solve.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marketers Should Look In A Mirror

If you happen to be one of the 425 million people that use Gmail for your email service, then you have probably seen the new layout that Google unveiled in April. A cool, user-friendly feature of this new version is that Google filters out promotional messages into a separate inbox or tab.

Of course, that has upset a lot of marketers who rely on the marketing pillars of interrupting and spamming consumers.  Sadly, instead of seeing this as a call to change, many marketers are ignoring this not-so-subtle hint about the value these messages deliver to consumers and scrambling to be welcomed back into consumers primary inboxes.  

Also, it's impossible to not to see the humor in these marketers getting ad at Google for adding to the "noise" with their own ads to this new inbox. 

The answer is simple but is definitely not as easy; it's to give and be something that consumers desire.  Will people ask for it, will they share it with friends and will they miss it if it's suddenly gone?

There will be no complaints from the marketers who treat those ideals as the pillars of their marketing plans. The system still works just fine. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lending Hatred A Helping Hand

How do hate groups make money to support themselves?

The answer is an easy one.  They collect donations the same way every other non-profit does. An vital piece of sourcing is using the services of a credit card company for payment processing.

As obvious as this is, I'll be the first to admit to being guilty of ignorance on this matter because I never really thought about the help hate groups are receiving until I read this op-ed over the weekend

I echo the sentiments of authors Jamie Chandler and Palmer Gibbs and I urge you to read it.  It's a matter of conscience.  It's easy for a big company to look the other way.  It's up to all who have a stake in these companies to make sure they don't.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Compromising Creates Convoluted Advertisments


There is a new movie theater opening in my neighborhood in Cincinnati.  Naturally, the movie theater is promoting its arrival to the neighborhood with a lot advertising.  You can see their location-based strategy in the ad.  It's a good strategy considering that the closest competing theater is about 15 minutes from this area.  

That said, the execution isn't very clean.  Their ads offer a puzzling proclamation that "Your New Favorite Movie Theater Just Got Closer."  It's a statement that is really two separate thoughts - Cinemark is "your new favorite theater" and Cinemark "just got closer."  But when they're jammed together in a single statement, a really a messy marketing proposition is created. 

The first part of that statement, Cinemark is "your new favorite movie theater," is actually saying that they will be your favorite theater in the future.  They're expressing confidence that they will become your favorite after you experience a movie in their theater for first time.  Clearly, adding the word "new" drastically alters the meaning.  

Yet, the second part of the statement says that Cinemark "just got closer," implying geographically.  The location of the ad and the physical address tell us this.  Also, if there was any doubt, the giant "now open" banner is confirmation that they're not referencing "closer" in time.

Obviously, being closer to your favorite movie theater is a great thing.  But to those people who don't yet know why Cinemark so special, the same people that are being called upon with the first part of the advertisement, the fact that they're physically closer won't mean very much.

The confusion obviously stems from Cinemark claiming to be both "new" and "closer" at the same time.  It can be only one.

"Your New Favorite Movie Theater Has Arrived" or "Your Favorite Movie Theater Just Got Closer"  

Unfortunately, this ad was compromised before it ever saw the light of day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Racing Into The Electric Car Category

Last week, BMW unveiled the i3, an electric vehicle with a driving range of 80-100 miles.  The anticipated cost for the i3 is $42, 275 and it's expected to be on the roads early next year.  BMW is the first traditional luxury automobile brand to introduce an electric vehicle, joining Nissan and Chevrolet as early competitors in the emerging electric car category.
 
Chevy.
Nissan.
BMW.
Tesla. 

The first three are well-established car companies with household names.  But Tesla is brand new.  They don't have the big factories or networks of dealerships already in place. So it would be natural to assume that Chevy, Nissan and BMW would have a big advantage in the race for leadership of the electric car category.

But branding is an extremely powerful element of business.  In any new category like electric cars, companies with "experience" are at a disadvantage because they've already branded themselves as something else.

Tesla has not.  They only make electric cars; that's the only thing a "Tesla" can be. But a Chevrolet, a Nissan and a BMW can be a lot of things.  They could be big cars, small cars, expensive cars, cheap cars, gas-powered cars or electric cars.  Their brand names are much more undefined.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Chevy, Nissan and BMW cannot build an electric car.  It just means it's a lot harder for these brands to sell them.
  
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Benevolent Bank

I got this email from my bank today.  My bank offered to give me $125, only if gave them $10,000.

Do the math and that equals a return of 1.25 percent on a $10,000 investment.  And with a .01% annual percentage yield, my final return doesn't figure to be much more than that (a grand total of $135 after 12 months).  
For a Chase Savings account, the Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for all balances is effective as of 06/07/13 and may change at Chase's discretion. The APY is 0.01% for all balances in all states. Interest rates are variable and subject to change. Additionally, fees may reduce earnings on the account.
The headline of the email read "Don't Miss Out!"  But I opened it and learned that the only thing I'm missing out on is my own robbery.  JP Morgan Chase is worth $211 billion; they're smart enough to know that a savings account isn't the best place for my money right now.

I just wish they would share where that place actually is.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

'King' of the World

Almost a year ago, I wrote that Budweiser had a positioning problem.  After the sale of Anheuser-Busch to Belgium-based InBev in 2008, their ability to effectively position the brand as the all-American brew was severely weakened.  Furthermore, in a category where being one of the "little guys" is a highly-admired brand trait, the size of Anheuser-Busch was becoming as much a weakness as it was strength.

I recommended Budweiser turn that weakness into a strength by marketing itself as the world's first global beer brand. Doing so would create a distinction that would once again reposition the brand as a leader and thus appeal to consumers in a new way.

Interestingly, according to a recent article by Mike Esterl for the Wall Street Journal, this appears to be the strategy that Budweiser is taking.  The company has set its sights on using its size and widespread brand recognition to its advantage, as Budweiser mimics the strategy that transformed American icon Cola-Cola into a brand that's now revered across the globe. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Amazon's Murky Brand Position

Buying a $33,000 Rolex online seems like a bit of a stretch in general, but it's completely unbelievable when "online" means Sears.com.  The selling of a Rolex at "Sears" (it's really third-party retailers looking for a platform) is as out of character as the innuendo-laced items that Gawker discovered on the site last year.

But if Sears truly believes that the future of retailing looks something like Amazon, they should take a look at Amazon's latest earnings.  Although for Sears, who recently loss $2.4 billion in a four month span, taking only a small loss might be to die for- it's still not a profit.

Amazon gets a ton of credit, and rightfully so, for being innovators.  Yet, its earnings rarely reflect those significant investments in innovation.  Therefore, I cannot help but wonder if, similar to Sears, that its lack of brand positioning, or basically it's position as a retailer that sells everything under the sun, isn't being overlooked as the a principle cause of their consistently low earnings.

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.  Please feel free to share your comments below.            

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shock Journalism

The now infamous pretty-boy selfie that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young man accused of being behind April's Boston Marathon bombings, once took, made its way onto the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine this week.  The relaxed portrait is an ugly characterization for a terrorist and murderer; frankly, we prefer our hate-filled terrorists to look like monsters instead of models. 

The Rolling Stone obviously picked this photo to illustrate its story that something about this kid's life doesn't add up; Dzhokhar doesn't fit the typical profile of a terrorist.  He was just a "normal" American teenager.  But the other side of that same coin is that their cover doesn't add up either; the cover photo is telling the happiest part of a story with an incredibly sad and tragic ending.  The photo, as a perfectly clean image (unlike the Charles Manson cover to which it's being compared and justified against), feels a bit like glorification.

I don't think actually intended to glorify a terrorist as much as they wanted to tell a compelling story.  But compelling stories doesn't have to be sold; they merely have to be told.  

UPDATE:  Not surprising, in the end, the magazine benefits from the hype they created.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Samsung's Crusade For The Holy Grail of Data

The moment I heard the news that Samsung would be giving away one million downloads of Jay-Z's latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, five days before it could be purchased in stores, I could practically hear its marketers plotting.  The plot was officially on when they said the magic word- app.

In general, apps are not built with your privacy in mind, as they're data goldmines for the marketers who are into that sort of thing. Samsung's something-for-nothing Magna Carta app would obviously be too good to be true; Magna Carta Holy Grail would really be Samsung's holy grail of consumer information.

Not only did this app give Samsung all the typical access they normally would receive when consumers downloaded an app, such as permission to read the phone’s identity, the e-mail addresses and social-media user names connected to the phone, but it also demanded permission to post on Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Thus, consumers were forced to spam their social networks with posts about the album and the supposedly benevolent smartphone company that was hooking them up.  

However, it turned out that dangling Jay-Z wasn't enough to mesmerize music fans into loving Samsung.  People actually read the terms and said no thanks. Samsung's limelight quickly soured into an embarrassingly desperate marketing ploy.

Ironically, as Samsung's Magna Carta ploy unraveled, they announced the company missed sales estimates due to "Galaxy fatigue." In other words, its marketing is quitting on them; consumers are less responsive despite increasing their 2012 expenditure by 58 percent to over $4.3 billion globally.
  
Interestingly, extremely popular music festivals Bonnaroo and Cochella, are taking a completely different approach, balking at major sponsors and a large revenues because they believe brands in this space would detract from the overall fan experience.  As Matt Frampton of Pitchfork Media put it, marketers lacking authenticity can become that "embarrassing uncle trying to fit into a world where he doesn't belong."

This July, uncle Samsung definitely crashed the party.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sizing Up The New Hostess

While it may be scientifically impossible for a Twinkie to actually go stale, among consumers, they absolutely have.  Consequently, this led to Hostess' second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December and subsequent liquidation earlier this year.    

This Monday, the Twinkie makes its triumphant return to stores under the ownership of Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management.  The private-equity firms paid $410 million for the right to resurrect iconic brands like Twinkies, CupCakes, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Zingers, Suzy Qs and Sno Balls.

Although the new owners have the distinct advantage of being freed up from $1.3 billion of debt and the highly restrictive union contracts of previous owners, it's vital to consider the health of the baked goods category that they'll be entering.  Debt and unions weren't the only culprits in its past failures.   

The consumer trend toward healthier eating has been a giant hurdle for the marketer's of baked goods.  But some bakeries are booming.  Under the current market conditions, the growth of the baked goods category is coming from more decadent, premium-priced treats; not the mass market that Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs serve.

I suspect that the Hostess' owners know this.  When asked about innovating with healthier ingredients like whole grains and sugar substitutes, Hostess' new owner C. Dean Metropoulos confirmed "those are the categories we're exploring." 

However, I have my doubts that his private-equity firm is developing new brands, which they will need for the healthier snack category, because in that arena, wide-spread distribution and an 83-year-old brand like Twinkie is actually less of an asset and more of a liability.

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Swimming With Sharks


The screenshot above is the homepage of the Democrat and Chronicle, a Gannett owned newspaper in Rochester, New York.  At that moment, the site was running two rather distasteful, fear-mongering advertisements, that read "5 Signs You'll Get Cancer" and "5 Things That Start Cancer in Your Body."  The ads were obviously paid for by some anonymous scam artist with whom the newspaper never dealt with directly.
     
However, it's not enough for the newspaper to claim that these ads are farmed out and that they're not involved. 

If crap like this appears on your webpage, then it will ultimately reflect upon your organization.  Easy money is easy for a reason.  Hopefully your real estate and your reputation is too valuable for it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

No Turning Back

I recently agreed to "rent" a parking space in downtown Cincinnati.  Compared to other surrounding lots and garages, the price was great - only $45 per month in addition to the slight inconvenience of walking an extra city block twice a day.


However, my excitement about this deal was quickly dampened when I learned about the $15 activation fee after signing up and filling out all the forms.  Sure, a single fee of $15 is not going to be a deal breaker for most people; but every customer hates discovering fees when they're halfway to the finish line.  Worse yet, the element of surprise only helps customers remember the wrong thing about their experience.

 Conversely, a willingness to be straightforward about the bad stuff can  greatly help to build a consumer's trust in the brand.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Total Recall

It's never good publicity for a company when a high profile employee (and football players definitely qualify as high profile) is charged with murder.  But that's the crisis that the New England Patriots and the National Football League currently find themselves fighting.  

The Patriots deservedly earned some praise for announcing that this weekend, July 6-7, they will accept all no. 81 Aaron Hernandez jerseys in exchange for a new jersey of a different Patriots player. 

This is a great first step toward repairing the damage done.  But I wonder if a two day exchange period is long enough.  A longer exchange window will do two things; it will lengthen the period of goodwill and it will get more negative advertising off the streets.  In the long run, it will be less expensive and will also make for a less taxing weekend. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Impersonating Apple

In Microsoft's latest advertisement, which compares the Windows Tablet to the iPad, the software giant attempts to give us its best Apple impersonation.  Using the voice of Siri and signature Apple's clean white backdrop, Microsoft picks apart the iPad's features.   

However, as the ad closes with several suspicious still frames, astute consumers might notice a few things about this ad that are very un-Jobs like.

A limited time offer

Limited Time Offer
Apple, which traditionally prices products at the top of the market in order to convey a higher value, uses a consistent price.  In every instance, the price advertised is the price paid.  It's clear, simple and clean.  Notice that Microsoft takes a different approach.  The ad's claim of a better product isn't reinforced by the price tag, which is also subject to change.

Layers of branding 

Through the first 28 seconds of the ad, I thought I knew who was advertising.  Then came this frame.

It's only available at Dell.com?
So it's the Microsoft tablet, but consumers have to go to Dell.com to buy one?  It's both confusing branding and misguided distribution, as consumers cannot try it in the store beforehand.   

Synonym for Microsoft
The second layer of branding piled onto this product is Windows.  Microsoft first introduced the Windows operating system almost thirty years ago, in 1985.  They've put it in everything from smartphones used today to the clunky desktop computers that were relics even a decade ago.  Windows has taken so many forms, it's really just a meaningless name now.  New categories require products with new brand names.  Piling on a name just because it's familiar sounding does nothing for it.

Microsoft's impersonation of Apple is meant to degrade its competitor; however, it's strategy like this that make themselves look silly and contribute to the market share results like these 

Friday, June 21, 2013

When The Going Gets Tough

Lance Armstrong always felt too good to be true. Our once unstoppable hero, seemingly strong enough to persevere through the gravest of circumstances and still come out on top, is no longer our hero, but merely a fraud instead.  That awesome real-life fable we would to tell our kids one day suddenly morphed into one more cautionary tale.   

Nike is a loyal bunch.  In the past, they've held court with Kobe Bryant through allegations of rape made against him, stood by Tiger Woods in spite of scandalous infidelity to his wife and reunited with Michael Vick after he served a prison sentence for dog fighting. Thus, troubling times are nothing new for the living symbols of Nike.       

Yet our hero Lance was not shown the same mercy.  Nike, who previously cut ties with Lance Armstrong, recently severed its connection to Livestrong, the cancer organization that Armstrong started.  Nike, who raised over $100 million for organization, will not renew its partnership with Livestrong, which runs through 2014.

Nike has more than proven that endorsement deals can be a roll of the dice.  But the company, who in the 1980's bet its entire future on Michael Jordan, continually demonstrates that they have the stomach for the gamble.  However, in this instance, I wonder if they're folding a little too soon.      

Livestrong stands for something far more important than sneakers that make us feel good about ourselves; it's a symbol for the monumental fight, down to one's very last breath, to beat cancer.  It transcends the realm of sport.  Therefore, it shouldn't be left for dead because it turns out that its founder was actually human - both in his extraordinary perseverance and his incredible hubris.      

A long time ago I wrote that celebrity endorsements are fragile marketing strategies.  If a pitchman can be replaced so easily, doesn't that provoke the idea that the story being told is at best an understatement and at worst a complete fabrication?        

Nike, through Lance Armstrong, sold us spirit and a will to keep fighting.  But, by walking away from Livestrong at this moment, when things look the bleakest, makes the past feel like Nike brand window dressing.  It feels like another case of fraud.

Nike is missing a fantastic opportunity to prove that they actually possess the true character of a hero.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Things I Hate About A Brand I Love


Everyone loves Chipotle.

While that statement may be a bit of an exaggeration, it gets to the heart of the love/hate relationship that I maintain with the brand.  I love their burritos. I just hate the wait that's required to eat one.  

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.  During my most recent visit to Chipotle, I noticed two customers step out of line and leave the restaurant in frustration after experiencing another agonizing delay.  I feel like recently I've seen this happen much more frequently; would-be customers are saying that a half-hour wait for a burrito just isn't worth it.

Even though I decided to stay for my chicken bowl, my dinner didn't come without making some accommodations.  I've learned that trying to go there during normal dinner hours (between 7pm-8pm) is hopeless; so in a feeble attempt to avoid a long wait, I delayed my food run until 9 pm, only to wind up suffering through a 28 minute wait in line. I understand that it's highly possible that "my Chipotle" may be more heavily trafficked than the average location, but I think it might be wise for  Chipotle to examine its ordering process.

Online ordering:  As a customer, it's incredibly frustrating to watch meals being made for people who aren't standing in line.  They can get away with this when the restaurant isn't busy, but, when there is a line, the burden falls on customers waiting in it.  I draw the comparison to motorists who wait until the last inch of road to merge before a lane ends.  In each situation, the heavier the traffic is, the more it makes sense for people to take advantage of the situation, even if it's at the expense of others.     

Options:  Choice is the enemy of speed.  Naturally, the more decisions a customer is asked to make, the more stops there will be along the way.  While Chipotle's menu hasn't changed much through the years, the proliferation of menu items like kids meals, brown rice, handmade margaritas and tofu (coming soon) adds complexity for the employees behind the counter as well as the customers stepping up to it.  Although the proliferation of menu items are viewed by many as valuable new revenue streams for a company that is quickly maxing out on new store growth, the trade off of providing slower service to its customers is a major sacrifice to make.  This is an interesting dynamic to watch: Chipotle, a company that has valued sustainable sourcing of its ingredients from day one, appears to be caught up in Wall Street's unsustainable, scale-faster growth model.

Out of orders: The giant, red, emergency stop button of the Chipotle assembly line is pushed whe they run out of an item. It brings the operation to a screeching halt.  During a recent visit with a friend, I ate alone while he waited almost 15 minutes for the chicken to be replenished.  In the past, I’ve waited while the rice was being prepared.  It's obvious that the employees are spread thin and cannot keep up during the rush; one needs to look no further than the drink stations, garbage cans, table tops and bathrooms to see this happening firsthand.

Ironically, McDonald's, who once owned a majority stake in Chipotle, recently announced that it's adopting a dual point ordering system to relieve the its own kitchen chaos.  Perhaps the efficiency experts at McDonald's will pass along something for Chipotle to emulate with its own dual point system. 

Until then, it might be fun to put on our industrial design hats and brainstorm some solutions.  Keep in mind that a key ingredient to the Chipotle brand is preparing all orders under the supervision of the customer (with the exception of online orders).

Obviously, Chipotle cannot serve food that isn't prepared; therefore, expanding or finding efficiencies in the grill and prep area would be a priority.  Nothing will improve speed if they keep running out of food.      

Moreover, the final stop on the assembly line, the cash register, is the second place I would look to find efficiencies.  This final step has the potential to be the most time consuming, as the cashier is responsible for accepting payments, grabbing drink cups, chips and possibly making change.  For this reason, breaking this step down and adding a second register makes a lot sense.  Orders would be assembled with extras like chips, dips and drinks, and then handed to customers, who would bring them to a separate bay of registers to quickly check out.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.  Feel free to make contribute your own Chipotle related bugaboos (early nominees include an inconsistent product experiences and a recent shift to cheaper utensils) as well as proposing your own suggestions on how to improve the speed and overall experience.  P.S.  I would love to hear insights from any current or former Chipotle employees and actual industrial designers.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rewrite The Ending


Why not send a follow up thank you to all candidates who apply for the job?  If you're in sales, why not send them to all the prospects you pitch, even the ones that don't buy from you?

What this does is end the interaction on a positive note. It dramatically changes how the story is remembered and will be told in the future.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Skeptical About DiGiorno's Strategy

It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno's.

That simple but effective tagline has been hammered into our brains for almost 20 years.  The message is that DiGiorno frozen pizza is the premium pizza in the frozen food aisle.  It's so good that one might mistake it for a pizza from an actual pizzeria.

But despite DiGionro's insistence on selling frozen pizza with a strong resemblance to the pies cooked up at pizzerias, this new DiGiorno advertisement is for a supposedly even more premium line of frozen pizza, aiming to convince "skeptics" of that resemblance with a "crispier and preservative-free crust" as well as a new sauce.

However, I wonder if this extension is essentially an admission that the original DiGiorno product is antiquated.  Why keep it around when it's not the closest thing to delivery that a consumer will find in the frozen food aisle?

It's a classic example of a brand trying to offer something to satisfy everyone.  Nevertheless, the more they employ this strategy, the more the brand's meaning will evolve from premium frozen pizza to just plain frozen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Little Promises

About a month ago, I was browsing for a dress shirt online.  I decided to check out the website Bonobos after noticing a lot of chatter among Facebook friends about the company. 

Upon visiting the site, I was immediately asked for my email address, just to be granted to right to look through inventory on the site.  Even though I find this practice annoying, I entered it and began looking around.

As I expected from a company that asked for my email up front, I began receiving at least one email per day.  After a couple days of junking them, I unsubscribed from a daily email and requested to only be pinged monthly instead.  But the emails kept coming everyday.  This cycle continued once more until finally I unsubscribed permanently in frustration.

First of all, having potential customers trade their email address just for the opportunity to become an actual customer (this isn't Facebook or SaaS) isn't permission marketing as much as it is twisting arms.  In my case, Bonobos got my email, but begrudgingly so.  I knew what was likely going to happen.   

Secondly, brands that are good at keeping little promises build big trust.  They get noticed for sweating the details.  It's no coincidence that the brands that demonstrate respect for the attention of customers and potential ones are the best at getting it in return.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

If You Build It, Will They Come?


It's June 3rd and the baseball season is in full swing; but the question of who's in first place and who has hit the most home runs so far is definitely one for another blog.  Still, last week, America's pastime had an interesting development from a marketing perspective.

It came in the form of their baseball caps.  Beginning on May 23, many teams begin taking the field wearing their designated batting practice caps, which were introduced this off season, as opposed to their regular lids. That fact, by itself, is hardly interesting.

However, it was widely reported that Major League Baseball directed its teams to wear the alternate caps during games to spark sales of the frivolous product in stores and stadiums, evidence that Major League Baseball is getting it wrong with its gimmick marketing tactics. Whereas most marketers develop products catering to the desires of customers, in this case, baseball is searching for customers to unload a product no one demanded - another hat variation.

Sport marketers are constantly playing a game of gimmicks.  They tweak and update uniforms and add new alternate looks to boost merchandise sales. Nevertheless, the Yankee and Dodger uniforms have gone unchanged and, not surprisingly, are among the most iconic in all of sports.  There is real power and equity in a team that's united by one look throughout its history.  But the same cannot be said for tiresome tactics of third variations of alternate jerseys and batting practice caps that will be redesigned after a couple seasons.         


Build it and they will come is a myth, both in marketing and in baseball. 

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Guinness Guesses That You'll Like Black Lager

I've always get annoyed when marketers use line extensions as a strategy to grow a brand.

The logic for doing so might seem straightforward; if customers enjoy our brand for product A, then they'll definitely enjoy our brand for product B.  However, what often happens is that product B will cannibalize sales of product A.  Furthermore, it will often repositioning product A in the mind of the consumer in terms a weakness.

For instance: Coca-Cola was always a great tasting drink.  But after introducing Diet Coke, over time Coca-Cola is repositioned as a drink with too many calories.    

The beer industry employs this strategy a lot; there is always a new flavor or variety being advertised. One of the latest is from Guinness; the popular Irish brand is calling their latest creation Guinness Black Lager.

How is this brew different from the original?  According to the ads, Black Lager is made with a roasted dark barley.  But according to Wikipedia, so is the original.  The pitchman, Jack Huston of Boardwalk Empire fame, also claims that it's easy to drink.  That's the clue that product B repositioning product A.  Guinness has never known as a beer that's easy to drink.  I used to joke with friends that it was like drinking a loaf of bread.  Its strength was its unique flavor, not its drinkability.

In this second spot for Guinness Black Lager, they keep their focus on the beer's color as its signature attribute.  But after making useless comparisons to iced coffee and Coca-Cola, which is like comparing apples to oranges to bananas, they lazily ask, why not beer?

Don't ask why not; tell consumers why. Hoping consumers invent reasons to drink the stuff on their own isn't a viable long-term strategy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dirty Tricks & Tactics


Last week a California court reversed a previous decision and declared that Kohl's could in fact be sued over its questionable discounting practices.  The practice in question is one where the retailer marks up the original price in order to make the advertised discount look better to the shopper.

Regardless of whether the courts consider this to be false advertising or not, it's certainly obfuscating some truth about the product to the consumer and is definitely not a healthy long-term tactic.  Even when their customers end up purchasing a product, they're set up to eventually feel disappointed with their purchase when they discover the true value of the product.  There perception of being a deep discounter will slowly erode.

Kohl's may still win their case versus the plaintiff.  However, this case is a fitting reminder that just because they can do something and get away with it doesn't make it good business.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Free Cookies

During a recent visit to Potbelly sandwich shop, I tried to order an oatmeal cookie with my sandwich.  Unfortunately, the cookie tray at the front of the register was empty. 

So I asked if they had any more oatmeal variety and was told that they would in about 15 minutes.  Absolutely loving the sound of getting a fresh cookie, I bought one then and waited for for them to bring it out.  But, 30 minutes later, still no cookies.   

Having someplace else to get to, I asked about my cookie and was first told it would be about 10 more minutes.  When I explained that I had to run, I was offered two cookies of a different variety.

In this case, the resolution was as easy as a free cookie.  Although many times a resolution toward a customer service issue isn't so simple, the initial (and internal) approach a business takes to solving these customer-related problems can make a world of difference in reaching a resolution.

This Potbelly experience was very different than the one a friend of mine had with a tuxedo shop the day before his wedding.  In this instance, the initial reaction of the shop was almost indifferent after they delivered poor fitting suits that didn't match the original order.  It took an hour of phone calls and arguments before the shop they hired stepped up.  

This recent post by Seth Godin outlines how a successful business might choose to approach these matters to make the process easier.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Asterisk-Free Checking?


I typically just throw junk mail straight into the trash, forever to be unopened.  Although this weekend, in need of a new pizza coupon, I made an exception and quickly went through the bulky Valpak envelope I found in my mailbox.  While doing a quick scan to cherry pick a coupon from our local pizzeria, I was enticed by a different offer from Huntington Bank.

The coupon offers $100 free; just open an "Asterisk-Free" checking account.  I was definitely intrigued.  But before I impulsively grabbed my keys, ran to my car and got to a Huntington Bank, I flipped the card over.

Not surprisingly, their $100 offer isn't as "asterisk-free" as their checking account.  According to the fine print, "to get $100, all you need to do is open an new checking account by 7/31/13 with $100, then either set up an automatic direct deposit of at least $100 into your checking account OR make 10 debit card purchases in 60 days.  Do that, and the $100 bonus will be deposited into your new account within 90 days of account opening.  Remember, for tax purposes you will receive a Form 1099-INT from us for your cash bonus.  Checking account must remain open for a minimum of six months or an Early Account Closing Fee will apply.  Unfortunately, this offer is limited to one per household." 


I think when the average person (the type who would be enticed by a hundred bucks) hears a bank use the words asterisk-free, their default is set to skeptical.  Most people are all too familiar with discovering an unfamiliar deduction from their account and the deflating feeling that comes with those "gotcha" moments.  So even though the ad bold proclaims that asterisk-free accounts have, "No Monthly Checking Maintenance Fee, No Minimum Balance Requirement and No Monthly Debit Card Fee," most people know the asterisks are still in there somewhere.   

Most banks lost the privilege to use this term a long time.  I cannot say that for sure about Huntington.  But I think dangling this type of bait is a clue that we should still be skeptical.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.  Feel free to add your take by clicking on the comments section below.