Monday, December 29, 2014

An Honest Airfare

The most respected brands are those that are upfront with customers about everything they do.  A sale isn't good enough.  The real goal goal should be having customers feel good about the sale.  When you don't do this, customers end up feeling taken.  

This is how I feel every time I shop for an airline ticket.  It's a purchase process that appears to be based on slight of hand as much as it is supply and demand.  And even though I typically wind up buying the ticket anyway, I'm always left feeling uneasy about it.  I wonder if I really received the best fare I could. The ultra-urgent "only one left at this price" provides zero reassurance to this as everything beyond remains a mystery.        

What if it wasn't?  Perhaps there's an opportunity for an airline to change the game and be straight up with consumers about how it's flights are priced.  Consider the loyalty an airline could earn by helping consumers make a more informed decision - displaying the price of each ticket and the rate they're selling at.

There downside to this system is losing flexibility to react to swings in demand.  However, the upside would might be more loyal customers (read:refuse to shop elsewhere), book earlier and feel better about their purchase because the guesswork on their end has been eliminated.  It's a truer system of supply and demand because the customer is also in on the secret.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brands Put In A Precarious Position

Although Capital One never made a conscience decision to run its advertisements before coverage of an unfolding news story about a hostage situation in Australia on, it wound up doing so anyway thanks to the automated nature of their digital advertising.   

Preempting an unfolding story about a hostage situation with a credit card advertisement (or any for that matter) certainly doesn't reflect the best intentions of both the advertiser and the media company.  In that moment, obviously, there are more pressing issues than selling viewers on 5% cash back on credit card purchases. 

In the case of television, when coverage on a news story goes wall-to-wall due to its heightened importance, commercial breaks are often delayed or canceled.  However, few media outlets treat their digital channels with the same significance as they do with analog.  Consequently, this carelessness poorly reflects on their advertising partners and the media company who's job it is to report the news.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nikon Doesn't See The Whole Picture

A new advertising campaign isn't going to solve a category in decline.

The "instagram generation" didn't pop up because of better cameras but because of a more convenient way to take pictures.

The strategy Nikon should be working on is a putting a better camera in a Smartphone. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cognitive Overhead

The term refers to the number of decisions a consumer has to make before getting what they want.  If you're job is to sell something, finding a way to cut down on cognitive overhead should be a priority. 

It was for Jeff Bezos.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Facebook Decision Doesn't Solve the Social-Commercial Dichotomy

On Friday, Facebook announced that they would begin filtering out messages from users newsfeeds that are deemed to be overly promotional.  This will be determined by Facebook's algorithm that generally will follow basic criteria such as posts that want to users to buy a product or install an app, enter promotions and sweepstakes without real context and posts that reuse content from ads.   Facebook's goal is an admirable one - to provide more relevant content to users.

On the surface, this sounds like a great thing.  However, this decision is reflective of the problem that Facebook will never be able to solve.  People want content that isn't trying to sell them stuff but that's ultimately what it needs to do to stay in business.  It will constantly find itself juggling this tradeoff between serving clients and serving customers.          

Interestingly, AdAge speculates that cutting the reach of unpaid posts will have a positive affect on the rates as well as the number of paid advertisers due to decreasing the supply of advertising.  In the short-term this could happen.  However, in the long-term, they will eventually find themselves fighting the same problem with users pushing back on paid ads too.  After all, it's a real tell that Facebook finds itself needing to filter out unpaid posts because this is the content its users actually opt in to by liking that Page.  Yet, users are telling Facebook they are sick of seeing it now and regret giving these pages permission.

I think the important lesson to be learned is determining what's relevant to someone isn't as simple or logical as associating with it.  But it's perfectly understandable that despite the fact that all consumers have preferences and loyalties, that doesn't mean they want to find themselves in front of an ad or similarly disguised content about those brands every time they have something to say.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Required Reading

I invite readers to check out this great commentary by Jonathan Salem Baskin on the culture jamming of brands.  

To summarize, Baskin suggests that marketers should be challenged to "to think of brands as elements within narratives, not owners of them. Brands don’t have conversations with consumers, but rather are talked about among them."

Naturally, taking this approach would drastically change the strategy and tactics of a brand. The entire piece can be read here and I encourage you to do so.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What I didn't like about Nike's "Together" commercial

Nike's "Together" received great hype last week when it debuted before the Cleveland Cavaliers season tipped off.  The video captivated the attention of  of the internet for a few hours while the world (and especially Ohio) waited to see Lebron James back in a Cavaliers uniform.

Interestingly, Nike makes the city Lebron is returning home to, Cleveland, the real star of their ad.  They combine powerful imagery of Clevelanders joining the Cavaliers in a pregame huddle with emphatic words from Lebron who declares "the whole city of Cleveland, that's what it's all about."

I would have loved the strategy behind that if only the story was being told in a vacuum.  However, there is some context that seems to have been left out.  It wasn't that long ago that Lebron was trying to win a third NBA Championship for another city.  A city that he left Cleveland to go to in a very public and embarrassing way.  Fast forward to this commercial with Lebron imploring his teammates to do it for "Cleveland" and it would seem that Nike missed and opportunity to fill its audience in on the last chapter.     

That commercial would echo sentiments of the letter that Lebron James penned in the offseason when he announced his return to the Cavaliers.  The star would be the reasons why he's found himself back home today; a significantly more humble piece centered on family, community and the growth of a man.  There would be contrition and forgiveness on both sides. 

In my opinion, Nike needed to bridge this gap in the story.  Without such context, "Together" comes across as King James' loyal subjects worshiping their hero despite the fact he hasn't always reciprocated this same loyalty.    

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Love for Southwest's "Wedding Season" Commercial

I love this commercial for Southwest Airlines.  The low fares message is right on strategy and the ad gets high-marks tactically as well.  Their message is conveyed in an interesting way without using erroneous storylines, jokes or useless noise.

The only question I have is the timing of it.  Although the "wedding season gets expensive" pitch is a fantastic one which really resonates (especially with us twenty and thirty-somethings), I wonder if it might be more relevant in February or March?  I debated this for a second, but within minutes, was looking up flights on their website for a wedding I'll be attending next April.  The ad motivated action.  But as I suspected, there is a limit to that action as customers cannot quite book dates for the next wedding season yet.

Otherwise, this ad is flawless.   

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

At the Root of a Rant

I absolutely love this rant by Steve McKee on the cookie-cutter experience of hotel convention spaces.  
The rickety, two-foot-by-six-foot tables that leave no space to set up a notepad and coffee cup (to say nothing of a laptop, which is fitting because the one power strip is on the floor across the room and already filled up by the guy in the short-sleeve dress shirt who showed up early).
The chairs set so neatly next to one another, which looked nice and uniform in an empty room but put you knee-to-knee with the stranger (or worse—colleague) sitting next to you.
The shallow cups, lukewarm coffee, hot water that isn’t hot and limited tea selection.
The cloth napkins that have zero absorbency and branded pens that don’t write.
And later in the day, the elfin glasses, watery ice and room-temperature cans of soda that are all products of either the Pepsi-Cola Company or the Coca-Cola Company (corporate contract, you know).
All topped by the snack—fist-sized oatmeal, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies that are irresistible at 3:00 and put you into a coma by 3:15. Good thing the room is freezing or you’d be asleep on the table (or your neighbor’s lap, which is conveniently close by). It would make for an embarrassing Instagram post if only the wifi worked.
Everyone's attended that meeting.  But the purpose isn't of this isn't to simply vent about lazy hotels.  Dissatisfaction (or downright contempt) of something is the perfect starting point for improving upon it.  As McKee puts it, "the way it has always been done is not the way it must always be done."  The best marketers will recognize this and, most importantly, do something about it.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Open Letter to the Pegula Family

Typically, I stick to publishing about marketing topics, but on this occasion, I want to share something a little more personal.  If you clicked on here to read about business and branding, I won't be offended if you stop reading now.    

When I meet someone for the first time, it's without a doubt that one of the first things they will learn about me is that I grew up on the western side of New York State.  I was born and raised in Rochester - a fact that I am distinctly proud of.   Pride is a common trait among the citizens that call Western New York home.  In spite of its well-documented shortcomings, which often paint the picture of an abandoned land where the only jobs left are snow plow drivers, we are very proud of the place we call home.

If you've lived in Western New York, you probably know slightly different story than the one accepted by outsiders.  There is amazing bond among its residents rarely found in many cities across America.  The cities and towns that dot the map across the western portion of New York State are incredibly tight-knit despite their physical proximity. Perhaps the long, treacherous winters they share each year have something to do with it.
But it's undeniable that our sports teams also play a significant role.  Not only do the Bills and Sabres represent our community on a national stage, but, far more importantly, they bring together families, friends and strangers, galvanizing their bond to the community and to one another.  It's really why we care so much about a game.  At times, our teams feel like an extension of our families - their joy is our joy and their pain is our pain too.

Which is why the thought of losing our beloved Bills was so terrifying.  It would have been a double-whammy: another blunt reminder of all the losses our community has endured over the years while simultaneously fracturing a source of strength in the community and connection to it.  Thankfully, we can finally forget this thought that has terrorized us for decades. 

For this reason, I must express my sincerest gratitude to Terry and Kim Pegula and their family for preserving the Bills as a pillar of our community.  Your dedication and profound generosity means more to us than you could ever know.  In all of our cities and towns that are filled with good neighbors, you're truly some of the best.       

Thanks for keeping our Bills in the family.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Shout-out to Jimmy John's

The smallest things can impress a customer. 

A quick example.  Fast food is full of forgettable service, but last week, I experienced a Jimmy John's employee giving full effort at the end of the night when it would have been really easy to just go through the motions.  I was impressed enough to share this quick note.

Good evening,

I just want to send a quick kudos to an employee that made a recent Jimmy John's experience a memorable one.  On October 1, I visited the Red Bank Road location at approximately 9 pm.  When I walked in I was a bit surprised when I was the fourth person waiting in line - I had figured it was late and I'd be the only customer looking for a bite at this hour. 

But Jimmy John's employee Jordan (per the receipt) really shined in this opportunity to delight customers.  It appeared as if she was the only employee in the building at the time and she really hustled to get all the customers orders taken and made with the same speed they're used to.  My wait was very short and I really appreciated it. 

She deserves recognition for this moment because, as everyone has experienced themselves, it's quite normal in the service industry for employees to cringe or sigh when customers walk in at the end of the night after the cleaning has begun.

Truly appreciate the her effort and great attitude... a pleasant surprise that won't soon be forgotten.


Alex Villeneuve
Her effort made all the difference in my experience that night.  Let's not forget that it's moments like these by employees like Jordan that validate Jimmy John's brand positions like "freaky fast."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Amazon Aims for Third Place

Third place is not where a brand wants to be found but unfortunately, I think it's the best Amazon can hope for in the tablet category.  They are not going to catch Apple and Samsung.  Mircosoft's $900 million dollar write-down of unsold Surface tablets could be a glimpse into the future of Amazon's new Kindle lineup.

Although it sounds logical to have one device for everything, that's often not reality.  For Amazon, they'll wind up going from marketing the number one e-reader to selling (at best) the third place tablet with an e-reading function.  Fighting for tablet sales removes a big competitive advantage they had.   

The way to win is to be the best and not to be all things to all people.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been Amazon's approach.

Furthermore, I also have serious questions about Amazon's long-term strategy of creating and marketing an array of devices with the hopes that customers will become intoxicated on free shipping and will simply buy everything online.

Amazon's should focus on delivering something of value to the customer other than making it easier to spend more with Amazon.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Yikes If This Is True About Yelp

One San Francisco restauranteur is fed up with customer review site Yelp.  According to Davide Cerretini, co-owner of Botto Bistro, the restaurant caved into advertising on the review site after being bombared with sales calls.  But after a six month term, Cerretini decided stop advertising through Yelp.  Suddenly, he noticed that positive reviews turned negative and one positive review was removed.

While this raises serious questions about the integrity of online review business, Cerretini's response is simply fantastic - offering a 25% discount on pizza to every reviewer who submits a one star rating on the site.  This move has prompted the restaurants loyal customers to come to its defense, writing sarcastic one-star reviews of the bistro, such as "I mean it tastes nothing like Domino’s or Little Caesar’s.

According to Cerretini, the word-of-mouth is spreading. "I think this is the best business move I have made in years."  The genius of Botto Bistro's "Hate Us On Yelp" campaign is that it's giving their customers something to talk about - rallying them against the practices of Yelp and people who leave negative reviews of the bistro. 

The ironic lesson to learn from this whole saga is that word-of-mouth cannot be purchased.  The mockery of offering a discount for a one-star reviews is really a Botto Bistro's way of pointing out that this is essentially the same principle as business paying Yelp to enhance their listings. The authenticity of the reviews has to be questioned

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Verizon Does What Apple Used To

On the heels of the Apple's announcement that they're are replicating Samsung with larger phones and gadgety watches, Verizon quietly announced a development they're working on that's so good that it would make Steve Jobs jealous - an internet-based broadcast content service (television) with al la carte programing

According to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, “no one wants to have 300 channels on your wireless. Everyone understands it will go to a la carte. The question is what does that transition look like."

It's baffling how Apple seems to have missed this considering one of it's greatest achievements was unbundling music on its iTunes platform.  Similarly, offering consumers the option to only pay for the channels they watch is the exactly the brand of common sense, consumer-oriented innovation that was uniquely Apple's territory under Job's leadership.

Today, they're way off of that trajectory.  While Apple is busy figiting with line extensions and "wearable tech" gadgets that are more of the same, it appears that Verizon might be knocking on the door of the next great consumer tech-revolution.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Auto Club Utilizes Used Car Sales Tactics

You never want bad marketing to ruin a good product.  

The American Auto Club (or AAA) has a pretty solid reputation.  After all, they lend a hand to motorists who find themselves needing one; goodwill is built right into their business.

But I wonder if their marketing isn't tarnishing the goodwill earned along highway.  I received the direct mail piece in the photo a few days ago and it's deceptive tactics looks like the handiwork of a sleezy used car salesmen.

The postcard is designed to get the recipient to upgrade their membership.  Including the front and back sides, the word "free" is used ten times and the words "no money" are also included once.  However, the offer to opt-in to AAA plus discreetly states that at renewal, there will be an additional fee of "$37 for me and $23 for each Associate member in my household."  On the back side, it mentions that you must opt-out to return to their classic membership.  These important details are hidden among the various big, bold "frees" plastered across on the card.

AAA is obviously trying to hide what the recipient is actually signing up for if they return the postcard by making it appear to be a no lose proposition.  Naturally, deceiving customers this isn't good practice for any business; however, I find it remarkable that a client-based organization would use sleeze-ball marketing practices. 

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Conversation Starters

When a company does something unexpected, expect people will talk about it.  This week I came across a couple companies that are doing this.

The first was Discover Card.  They mailed me a $5 gift card to Starbucks just because I'm a card holder.  So for only $5 plus a few cents postage, I feel appreciated and I have a story to tell my family and friends.

A company called Austin Beerworks has a lot of people talking this week too.  They did so by doing something a little outrageous that no brewer has ever done and started selling a 99-pack of beer.  They call this beer Peacemaker Anytime Ale and the package is over 7 feet long, weighs over 82 pounds and retails for a (relatively) reasonable $99.  Simply by doing something a out of the norm, making a really really big case of beer, Austin Beerworks earned a ton of publicity and now people everywhere are learning about them.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Letting Your Fans Do The Marketing

It seems counter-intuitive, but limiting who you sell to is actually a great way to amplify word-of-mouth for the item.  But it all starts with having a product worth talking about.

A company that's figured this out is They let their fans do the marketing for them.  Anyone that purchases a One Plus phone is given invitations to give to their friends and family to buy.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

McCafe Goes To The Grocery Store

Looks like just another brand name on the shelf.  Even if loyalty to the McCafe brand is Kraft and McDonald's expectation, what does McDonald's stand to gain by taking the traffic out of the restaurant and moving it to the grocery store?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Art Everywhere Takes Over A Billboard Near You

Look up at a billboard this month and you may be surprised by what you see - marketers are being replaced by masterpieces.

The Art Everywhere campaign is a cool idea that's temporarily repurposing 50,000 annoying, noisy outdoor ads with classic works of art.  The project is a collaboration with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum in New York.

I love the idea of placing a work of art where one might expect to find an ad because the element of surprise should help to capture people's attention in the future.  It's especially better than the ads for ads that are typically placed on unused inventory.  

But I think the Art Everywhere campaign could be improved if the art was an even greater focal point.  In some cases, the works of art only comprise two-thirds of the space; therefore, they wind up looking not very different than any other billboard - featuring a (perhaps) unfamiliar image and a few words of too-small-to-read copy. 

While I understand that this campaign isn't completely about filling America's galleries (the ad association wants to show off its technology), I believe a different execution, particularly on the billboards, could have been more captivating and still prove better results for the advertisers and media companies.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bellroy Is A Brand To Watch

I think owning a Bellroy wallet is in my future. 

I recently stumbled across a fantastic internet banner ad (yes, that type of banner ad) for a slimmer-type of wallet.  The was striking because of its the effective visual used to convey their brand purpose and point of differentiation - to slim your wallet.

When I went their webpage, I discovered that they maintain this great use of using visuals (in both pictures and videos) to sell the product throughout the site.  

Solving a problem is fundamental for any strong brand.  Bellroy wallets solve the problem of a cumbersome wallet without sacrificing its contents.  Their great use of visuals demonstrate in their ads just how Bellroy is solving this problem.  Bellroy has the strategy and tactic all wrapped up.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Monday, August 4, 2014

P&G Trims The Brand Fat

Last week, Procter & Gamble announced that it will be divesting around 100 of its lesser known (or purchased) brands in order to refocus on the most successful ones.

Although this may sound like a company going backward, I wholeheartedly believe this move will prove to be a giant leap forward.  This is hard evidence of a stronger brand strategy that will create more defined brands for customers instead of confusing them with overlapping brands with murky brand positions.  It appears that P&G's leadership has realizes that playing the chasing growth outside of its core will ultimately land them out of position to grow within it.   

I've argued for a long time that adding brands and brand extensions would catch up with P&G.  It creates more noise and kills the meaning of a brand.

A brand diet will be healthy thing for P&G. 

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Follow Up: "First Kiss" Video Gets Undressed

It's interesting that "Undress Me," which is the follow up video to the YouTube sensation, First Kiss,  is promoting a different product.  Whereas "First Kiss" was produced for Wren, a women's clothing brand, "Undress Me" is promoting Showtime series, Masters of Sex.

After "First Kiss" went viral, I debated the value of a barely-commercialized commercial even though it was watched over 80 million times and counting.  However, "Undress Me" puts this debate to rest.  The fact that the content is an extension of (or perhaps completely mimics) the original yet the producing brand is an interchangeable part is hard evidence that the talent of the filmmaker is what's actually on sale.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy Branding From Happy Belly

I stumbled across this photo while facestalking a new cafe that's opening up near the office building I work in.  The name of the cafe is Happy Belly on Vine, which is a fitting name because it's positioning itself as a healthy food cafe.

The sign in the photo is notable because of how it supports Happy Belly's marketing position.  They just posted a list all the ingredients in their kitchen; a remarkably simple, low-cost maneuver that will be very effective in positioning "healthy" in the customer's mind.

Of course, it sure helps that consumers can pronounce everything on the list.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why Adam Richman Promoting Wal-Mart Is A Big Fat Lie

Adam Richman made his fortune pandering to America's most gluttonous sensibilities as the former television host of Man vs. Food.  The gig put Richman on the map as America's most benevolent  wannabe carnivore and subsequently a leading protagonist of our irresponsibly indulgent culture.

Richman spun off his work as America's most beloved binge eater into a job endorsing questionable food choices from Wal-Mart, disguised under the cloak of summer grilling tips courtesy of America's largest retailer.  In this paradoxical ad, a noticeably slimmer Richman uses his "burger lover" credentials to sell the public some of the artery-filling red meat he's clearly been cutting back on.   

For Richman, promoting the crap that he chooses to no longer stuff down his face is basically a bunch of bull.  He makes no secret of how proud he is of his new slimmer self during a now infamous, ego stroking Instagram post about having take in his suit a little.  Yet, Richman doesn't mind cashing the checks he's earned from shilling the stuff that made him fat in the first place to others.

It's without question that his responses to peoples during his rant were, at best, crude and distasteful.  Eventually, they will be forgiven.  But Adam Richman was the wrong choice before his ugly Instagram rant. It's similar to having Jared Fogel sell pies for Pizza Hut; a blatant farce in the faces of the consumers.    

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.            

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Taco Bell Documentary Should Probably Be About Solving Late Night Cravings Quickly And For Only Little Money

The words "Taco Bell" and "documentary" in the same sentence might cause a reader to have a knee jerk reaction and assume that the fast feeder was creating their own version of Chipotle's popular "Farmed and Dangerous" documentary.  I did - after all, the Bell's Cantina Bowls don't exactly pass for an original.  However, it's safe to say that Taco Bell's "Voices of VidCon" documentary won't be mistaken for a sequel of Chipotle's effort.

According to Adweek, "the documentary follows the VidCon journey of several YouTube content creators, including online star Bethany Mota and up-and-comer So Sonia, a singer named Sonia Eryka from Jakarta who wants to make it big in the scene. Eryka was discovered after the fast food chain made a call out on Twitter for a YouTuber who would be interested in sharing his or her story."

How does the VidCon relate to Taco Bell brand in a meaningfully way? Basically, it doesn't.  The connecting formula is that young people watch a lot of YouTube and Taco Bell feeds a lot of young people.  But it's difficult to see how Taco Bell bridges the gap between young people and its brand pillars. 

Contrary to Taco Bell, Chipotle's documentary was completely on-brand, as it was produced to educated consumers about farming and food sourcing, a huge point of pride for the company. 

Tressie Lieberman, Taco Bell's director of digital marketing and social platforms, explained that the brand's social strategy "is to be the friend. We want to connect to our audience in a way that relates to them."

Unfortunately, that's only doing half the job.  "Voices of VidCon" fails to connect the audience to the brand.  This problem is typical for "content" marketing strategies.  In order to make themselves interesting, watchable, believable, relevant, personable or perhaps all of the above, most brands are putting on costumes and pretending to be something that day.   

As always, thank you for reading and your feedback.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Disappearing Diploma

My alma mater sent me this postcard.  Not every message is right for every audience. A perfect  example of why blanketing all prospects with the same message can embarrass your brand.

Copycat Brands

Absolutely nothing will position a brand for status and exclusivity like ripping off a competitor.  Visa should know better: a copycat brand never has the same success as an original.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brutally Honest Oberto Builds Its Case Against Hydration

I recently took notice of a new advertising campaign for Oberto Beef Jerky and its line of all-natural beef jerkies.  Although the campaign received bits of notoriety for hiring the boisterous Richard Sherman to give his endorsement, I took note for a different reason - its product positioning as a healthy, post workout snack.

Traditionally, beef jerky isn't known for it's nutritional value; however, it does have one very favorable asset backing up its positioning - a high concentration of protein.
On the other hand, Oberto's advertising opening down plays the role of hydration in an athlete's workout regimen, as Sherman's "little voice" inside his stomach complains of being waterlogged.  Consequently, the brand exposes one of its biggest weaknesses - an impossibility for anyone to become waterlogged while eating Oberto Beef Jerky due to the amount of sodium in the product.  In fact, one serving (1 oz) of Oberto's Applewood Smoked Bacon flavor contains 28% of the daily recommended allowance of sodium.  The entire bag has 2.5 servings for 70 percent of a single day's sodium.  Meanwhile, the lowest amount of sodium one can find per serving in any of Oberto's All-Natural jerkies is 17% of a daily allowance.
With equal parts upside and downside, it's an interesting campaign that's left me debating whether Oberto is being brutally honest with consumers or simply hoping they don't see the back of the bag or realize that it's really salty.

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nestea Refills An Old Strategy

Although beverage marketers have witnessed a steady decline in soda consumption over the last decade, in most cases, the losses have been offset by similar gains in the exploding flavored water, juice and tea categories.

However, one brand that isn't feeling the effects of the tea drinking boom times in the United States is Nestea.  The brand hasn't grown along with the category despite being an early entrant into it.  According to Rick Tanner, the Vice President of Marketing for Nestea Waters, "the brand hasn't been actively communicated in a decade" and has suffered more recently due to it's partnership with Coca-Cola ending in 2012.

Nestea has an interesting problem.  In the United States, it was an early mover into the category and consumers are familiar with the brand, but it's no longer top of mind in a category that's overflowing with options.  

However, Nestea's solution to this problem is a lot less interesting.  The company recently relaunched the its "Take the Nestea Plunge" campaign that was first introduced in the 1970's.  Yet, I question whether refreshing this strategy is a good idea under today's drastically different circumstances.  Does it really make sense for consumers to "take the plunge" into something that's familiar and well-established?  Furthermore, today's tea drinkers aren't really "taking a plunge" into something different as much as it is becoming an everyday preference.

The only meaningful angle that the "take the plunge" campaign communicates with consumers is Nestea's "great new taste" claim this time around.  Still, these three magic words are mysteriously absent from the latest television spot.

I believe that "taking a plunge" into tea was a lot more impactful thirty years ago when fewer brands were competing for share and soda still ruled store shelves.  I doubt that dusting off this same strategy will earn back any significant market share for Nestea.  The category has evolved and today the Nestea brand feels like an artifact.  In order to change this, it needs to take a new position against the competition.

Perhaps one position they could take is the home brewing of tea.  Many brands are targeting the single-serve bottles; however, I believe there is vast opportunities to reach consumers looking to brew it at home.  

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

ESPN World Cup Campaign Misses The Mark

With the FIFA World Cup set to kick off next month, broadcast partner ESPN is in full swing promoting the upcoming matches.  The strategy behind the campaign is that the entire world will be watching.  It's about including ourselves in this global event that will be a headlining topic of conversation.

Although ESPN's mega-event strategy is a proven one, I believe that in this instance, the execution is a complete miss.  The tagline they chose to convey the message of universal consumption of soccer is "Every Four Years The World Has One Time Zone.

If viewers don't think too hard about this tagline, everything adds up perfectly - the only takeaway being that the whole world will be watching.  However, if viewers consider that this year's host country, Brazil, spans four different standard time zones, with matches being played in two of them, then this tag doesn't make any sense.  For instance, host city Manaus (UTC-04) is a different time zone than Rio de Janeiro (UTC-03).  Which one is the world supposedly watching?   

I certainly understand there is some creative license in play here.  But it's lazy to ignore the factual accuracy in this case and I can only presume that if the World Cup were played in America and New York and Los Angeles were host cities (as they were in the year 1994), this tagline wouldn't have made it out of the first round. 

It seems that only amongst marketers is it acceptable for commercial communication to no longer be based on facts.  

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Sweet Goodbye

Tesco is removing confections from the checkouts of all its stores. And so often it's bold decisions like this one that can really help to define a brand for consumers. 

A great example of a brand walking the walk.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Actavis Pulls The Plug on Promethazine Codeine

Actavis, an Ireland-based pharmaceutical company, recently responded to a moral dilemma they company was facing.  One of its over-the-counter cough remedies, Promethazine Codeine, was gaining unprecedented popularity (and revenues to match) but for reasons they did not intend.  When mixed with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers candy and served on ice, the drug was the main course in a concoction affectionately referred to as "lean," "Sizzurp" or "purple drank" in the trendsetting world of hip hop.

Although abuse of Promethazine Codine can be traced back to the 1960s and has been an open secret for over a decade, it's good to see Actavis finally take a stand against the abuse of promethazine with codeine by removing it store shelves and permanently stopping production.

According to an Actavis representative, "Given [recent media attention], Actavis has made the bold and unprecedented decision to cease all production and sales of its Promethazine Codeine product. This attention has glamorized the unlawful and dangerous use of the product, which is contrary to its approved indication."

I give the company a lot of credit for ultimately making the right decision and not deflecting accountability for the problem to consumers.  It would be very easy for Actavis to line its pockets while it maintain that it's the consumers responsibility to read and adhere all instructions and warning labels, despite full knowledge of the contrary reality.

Sadly, Actavis' own words, "bold and unprecedented" seem a little too.  Its corporate accountability in this case is something truly newsworthy.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why The Obvious Choice Is a Bad One

I happen to see that latest tagline is "The Obvious Choice."  Of course, this makes perfect sense because when you need to reserve a hotel room online... duh, it's in name itself.  But where their logic falls apart is that they are having to explain to consumers what, even they claim, should be obvious to them. 

This is evidence that their name isn't working.  Obvious names make a terrible brand names.  The best brand names are unique, not generic.  For instance, check out this list (From AdAge).

I would have thought that that fact would be obvious to the marketers of

Monday, May 5, 2014

Nationwide Makes An Interesting Claim For An Insurance Company

Although this ad is a few months old, I happen to catch it for the first time this weekend and while not the flashiest or most compelling ad ever, I was immediately struck by its (unassumingly) major claim against their competition.  They can take care of customers better because they don't have shareholders.  Essentially, they're saying, they're not in the business of maximizing profit.  They take a pay cut to serve customers better.

Not sure of this is cause for suspicion, but this incredibly gigantic statement was matter-of-factly rolled into an ad for new product replacement when, if true, is a fantastic marketing proposition.  It answers insurance shoppers' question of "why is Nationwide better?"

Despite being well-understated, it's a rare feat in marketing today to provide an actual reason for why one brand is better than the next - and that by itself is enough for damn good ad.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Red Roof Inn's Revelation

This is great.

The upgraded amenity that consumers talked about most was the addition of more electrical outlets.  While this might seem like common sense since society is more wired today than ever before, it's a detail is often ignored by many hotels trying to upgrade their experience.

Great distinction for the brand and talking point for consumers.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MillerCoors Is Official Beer of FX Network

AdAge reported this week that MillerCoors signed a three-year pact with FX Networks to be their "official" beer.  Thus, MillerCoors brands will be the only beer brands popping up during television shows airing on FX, FXX and FXM, with the exception of shows that currently have deals with other breweries.

What really makes this industry tidbit interesting is that it signals a change to how some marketers are approaching product placements today.  Previously, the tactic was considered advantageous because it cut out the noise but also blended in as well.  These marketers were no lonnger competing with the fray during ad breaks but becoming an accessory of the show, thus, helping it to mimic real life.  Networks exchanged an underground-endorsement for authenticity.

Yet, there is something very inauthentic about exclusive-rights endorsement deals.  When a viewer watches a television character walk into a bar that only carries MillerCoors brands, not to mention plenty of camera time for the logo (labels out!), it simply comes off as the same influential noise that's running during ad breaks.

In other words, the brand demotes itself from being part of a captivating story to shouting over it; don't trust us, we paid to be here.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smirnoff's Ironic Pitch

Smirnoff recently launched a new campaign that touts its vodka  as, interestingly, "exclusively for everyone."

This is an odd pitch for a brand fighting for its share of mind in the entirely over-crowded vodka category.  While the jag is that other vodka brands are uber-serious and constantly pitching consumers on their heritage or status defining qualities, Smirnoff is trying to be the opposite, not taking life to seriously just trying to have a good time.  However, Smirnoff ironically hires celebrities (Adam Scott and Alison Brie) to communicate with this everyman strategy common folk. 

Although Smirnoff "exclusively for everyone" tagline is taken as satirical, it doesn't actually claim a position by simply mocking the competition.  Thus, the only reason Smirnoff gives consumers to choose it over another vodka is that it's just not that one. Therefore, Smirnoff's "exclusively for everyone" position remains undefined.  What exactly is "everybody" looking for in their vodka that Smirnoff is  bringing to their glass?

Without this answer, Smirnoff will wind up exclusively for nobody. 

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.


Monday, April 14, 2014

AT&T Should Rethink Something Else

AT&T, rethinking its marketing strategy, began its move away from its "Rethink Possible" campaign last week in favor of a campaign which proclaims that it's "Mobilizing your World."

According to Esther Lee, AT&T's senior vice president of brand marketing, advertising and sponsorship, the new position will better convey that AT&T is at the forefront of the "mobile revolution," adding that "it's not just about making a phone call" anymore.  The brand managed to not fully convey its innovation position despite spending $3.4 billion on advertising the last two years.    

Interestingly, almost four years ago to the day, Ms. Lee was quoted in AdAge before the launch of the all-encompassing "Rethink Possible" campaign, which see said would position the brand as "innovators" beyond telecommunications, saying "there's so much innovation at the company that I think people don't know."

Apparently, that innovation isn't in the marketing department. Despite purchasing the ubiquitous amount of advertising that a billion dollars can buy, the company just admitted that it's strategy didn't work.  Somehow consumers weren't able to make the leap to ever-present innovators from an ambiguous position like "Rethink Possible."

Four years later, consumers can concluded nothing more from the "Mobilizing your World" position.  It's the same empty rhetoric that failed at fulfilling the brand's hopes and dreams of being seen as innovators of innovating anything on planet Earth.

Unlike AT&T, I'll be explicit; rethink this one too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Do Something to Show You Care

I recently had the unfortunate experience of being in a car accident.  Thankfully, the collision was minor and neither party suffered any injuries.  Regardless, even a minor accident results in extra hassles and headaches.

In my case, one of those headaches was choosing a repair shop.   It was the first time I've needed one since moving to Cincinnati.  Ultimately, I settled on Center City Collision, even though my insurance company recommended other area shops.

I major reason why I chose the Center City was the long list of positive feedback on Yelp.  I learned why when I went for my estimate.  They were friendly and personable and the experience felt similar to the shop I used back home because, I dealt directly with the owner.

However, the real magic happened when I picked up my car.  Not only did my car look great, but I noticed that Center City reprogrammed my radio station presets.  I was astounded at their recognition of such a subtle detail that tells a much grander story about their business; they truly truly care.   

If you want to recognized for something, you cannot be average.  The exception to the norm gets noticed, remembered and talked about later.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Musical Marketing Experiment

When something isn't working, you got to try something different.  While this sentiment sound a bit elementary, a lot of businesses get stuck in their ways, even if their way doesn't work anymore.  To innovate their way out of any rut, one must experiment.

It's very interesting to see the experimentation going on in the music industry currently. 

Jay-Z partnered with Samsung to sell his last album. 

Beyonce released a surprise album on iTunes with zero promotion.  Surprises get people talking.  This is a far too underutilized tactic.  

Beck streamed his latest work to airline passengers for free through Gogo Inflight Internet. 

The Wu-Tang Clan recently announced that it will sell only one copy of it's next album.  Scarcity will create something unique and special.  Also far too underutilized.

Talib Kweli recently created a direct-to-fan distribution channel, cutting out the middle man and selling his latest album, Gravitas, directly to his fans on 

I'm sure there are tons more examples of great marketing for music and art. Although this recent trend has the potential to turn gimmicky, the pioneers of these unconventional methods deserve the attention that doing things differently typically brings.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Advertisers Bemoan The Broken System They Created

Dig just a tad deeper into AdAge's fluffy commentary on a "Day of Reckoning" for sports leagues and their broadcast partners and the story it tells about adland and its clientele is not a happy one.  The CliffNotes version is a group of bewildered advertisers publicly threatening sports leagues with their diminished returns from choosing live sports and its ever-skyrocketing costs as their preferred medium of communication.  But this is truly the equivalent of the addict threatening his dealer.

Thus far, broadcasters haven't had too much of a problem finding an advertiser to pay what they tell them to for a television spot during live sporting events.  Obviously, advertisers' eager willingness to pay whatever it costs to talk to the always dependable sports viewer is the very reason for the ever-escalating premium. Perhaps if advertisers' had the courage to say no to broadcasters, then they wouldn't overpay for the right to pass on the cost to their willing client.  Until that starts happens, they're will be no day of reckoning.  

However, the crux of this problem is the product itself; no one wakes up each morning hoping to have their attention interrupted by another irrelevant advertisement.  So, not surprisingly, the ability to zap through any and all annoying interruptions to one's television consumption is, depending on who you ask, either the most wonderful thing ever or a serious threat to a once cozy ecosystem that was maintained by large captive audiences.     

Interestingly, the article in AdAge covers the symptoms of the problem but never comes close to diagnosing the disease or finding its cure.  The author, who is simply reporting on the panel discussion, suggests that advertisers might find better bargains with digital and social mediums - both places that are attracting more eyeballs than ever.

This is flat out wrong however.  The medium cannot dictate whether an audience is captive one; rather it's the work of a marketer to connect in a meaningful way with those who choose to listen them. 

It's never been good policy to simply hijack the attention of your audience. 

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art or Advertising

Wren is a small clothing company that you've probably never heard of before, but after last week, there is a good chance that you've seen their work and don't even know it.  Their video, "First Kiss," recently became the latest YouTube sensation, racking up a fast 42 million views and is now approaching 61 million views.  The artistic film features 20 strangers who meet for the first time and then kiss.

First Kiss is a truly a beautiful video.  It's black-and-white simplicity sweeps an ever-expanding audience off their feet and convinces them of an ideology of love at first sight.

According to the video's director Tatia Pilieva, the video “felt so real and sincere" as audiences witness the strangers "shed all these layers in front of our eyes and in front of the cameras."  This sentiment really resonates, as the innocence of watching nervous strangers before they kiss reminds us of our own first kisses.

However, it didn't take long for some of that audience to lose their innocence with "First Kiss.  The video was proclaimed a "fake" when it was discovered that models were used to make the video and that Wren clothing is featured in it.  Suddenly, First Kiss appeared as something a lot less pure; it felt like advertising.    

I think it's an interesting debate whether or not First Kiss is actually a good advertisement.  It's a fantastic advertisement from the standpoint of return on investment; 61 million views and counting with a reported $1,300 budget.  And it's only natural that this led to "significant bump" in exposure and sales, the significance of which cannot be understated at a four-person company.

On the other hand, while First Kiss momentarily catapulted Wren to the top of mind for many, the brand and it's clothing are barely even bit actors in the video.  The brand's only mention is at the very beginning of the three-minute film as "Wren presents" flashes on the screen while also never explicitly saying who designed the clothes.  Thus, Wren seems to make the conscience decision to downplay the very brand that they're trying to establish in order to achieve the purity necessary to create such an appealing video.  That fact surely obfuscates the high-efficiency of their $1,300 investment as it's difficult to derive brand equity from a video with so little actual branding.  It's similar to hitting a home run to the moon but only getting to second base.  

Ultimately, I believe the real victory for Wren is still to come.  First Kiss may not have done much to build a brand by itself, but I presume will drive the more opportunities to do so than ever before...which is the whole point after all.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Be Different

Every newsletter or mailer I receive goes directly into the trash.  However, this week, I pulled from my mailbox this awesome newsletter from Kiehl's.  It opened up into a full newspaper.   

First of all, it's a unique ad that grabs your attention.  Second, if a company is willing to put a little extra TLC into their advertising, it's fitting that they will do the same with their products and customer experiences. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Black Keys Show How To Be In The Big Leagues

The Black Keys are a band from Akron, Ohio.  Last year, they received a lot of well-deserved publicity for a their team sponsorship of the West Akron Little League's Orioles.  They grew up playing Little League baseball in Akron and saw it as a great way to get kids "having fun outside."  A $300 donation to ignited a great national news story.    

This season the band has enlisted the help of their fans - they're selling t-shirts and hoodies through their website and giving all of the profit to the West Akron Little League to help them pay for uniforms, equipment, repair the backstops and benches as well as offset participation fees for the kids.

And judging by the number of "out of stocks" on their website, I think it's safe to say their effort is well received by the public.

The Black Keys are a great example a big name brand doing a very human thing - supporting their hometown and a cause that they care about.  Further, they are a great example of what can happen when a big brand demonstrates they care about the community just as much as the local hardware store does; the surprisingly human behavior is so captivating that people cannot help but talk about it.  

 As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Your Words Matter

Earlier this week, I stopped at a deli for lunch and the clerk behind the counter asked "Do you need a bag for that?"  I hesitated... then replied, "sure, I'll take a bag."

Although this might seem like a harmless overture, they way it came out, I felt slightly uncomfortable replying yes. Of course I didn't actually need one. 

But in this situation, a small gesture that would make a world of difference would be, "let me get you a bag for this?"  The customer can refuse the offer but won't feel like its a burden to accept it. 

Such subtly might sound nitpicky; but it's also the difference between hospitality as opposed to customer service. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How Geico Overtook Allstate

"Geico passes Allstate to become No. 2 U.S. auto insurer."

To a smart marketer, a headline like this one jumps straight off the page, understanding the magnitude of such a story. Brand movement within a category, especially a mature one like auto insurance, is a rare feat; category rankings simply don't move that easily. 

But, what makes this an even more interesting case is that Geico has achieved this with, and I say this kindly, some of the worst advertising ever created.  For the most part, Geico's ads are for completely undifferentiated and don't say squat about the actual insurance - except for one exquisite takeaway they park at the end of every ad.

"15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance" 

This one simple sentence is truly the driving force behind the Geico brand. The reason it's so powerful is that it has differentiated the brand from their competition in a very real way.  Geico could have chosen to challenged the "good hands" team with a "better hands" strategy, but they understood that doing the same thing as an established competitor is a recipe for sure-fire failure.  Instead, they positioned themselves differently; as a cheap and convenient alternative to other auto insurers.  Of course, this is a very attractive alternative for many consumers who hate shopping around as much as they hate overpaying for it.  

Furthermore, it's important to acknowledge Geico's branding discipline; they've stuck to their "15 minutes" position for nearly two decades and it's paid off.  They insure the second most cars in the country that owns more vehicles than any other in the world.  But it doesn't hurt to spend over a billion dollars a year on advertising either. 

Naturally, when you're marketing strategy is as successful as Geico's, you don't just make headlines for jumping past the competition, the competition makes headlines for emulating you.  Recently, Esurance launched their "better hands" strategy against Geico, offering to cut their quote time in half.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Jack Daniel's Toasts To Frank Sinatra

In June of this year, the famous whiskey brand will begin national distribution of a $165 premium bottle of whiskey, nostalgically named "Sinatra Select."  The company is paying homage to one of its biggest fans, "Ol' Blue Eyes."  Although it may not seem so, the connection between Jack Daniel's is as authentic as it gets, as Sinatra used to toast to Jack Daniel's on stage and is even buried with a flask of his drink of choice.  In fact, Sinatra's public endorsement of Jack Daniel's in the 1950's helped lift the brand to national prominence.    

But despite this natural pairing, the partnership between Frank Sinatra and Jack Daniel's struck me as odd.  Jack Daniel's has a much more rugged, every-man image today - selling bottles of it's no. 7 brand for around $25 and previously sponsoring a car in the NASCAR Series.  A Sinatra-branded bottle of whiskey for $165 is a deep departure from such a demographic, suddenly placing the brand on the highest shelf next to the "finest single-malt whiskey's." Will today's connoisseurs, who enjoy more choices than ever before, believe Jack Daniel's is the nector of the gods the way Sinatra once did? 

I have my doubts.  While paying homage to Frank Sinatra is a nice idea, the ultra-high price tag is a liability.  Jack Daniel's is positioning itself at the high-end and the low-end of the market; but a brand really must choose one.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Threat of Tinder

I must confess something: I've spent an (gulp!) unreasonable amount of time this weekend swiping through Tinder, the now trending dating/social networking/hook up app.  Tinder's incredibly addictive quality is strongly reminiscent to the introduction of Facebook over a decade ago, a fact that should scare the crap out of Mark Zuckerberg. 

Since Facebook has graduated from college, it's lost a lot of its luster.  Off-campus, the social network exists principally as a place to keep tabs on old friends and glance through photos of nieces and nephews.  And truth be told, that's not really that exciting.  This is reflective in how users interact with Facebook now.  They log in for a few minutes, scan their newsfeeds and log out; users are rarely getting lost for hours on end and forgetting to go to class like they used to.

In the beginning, what made Facebook exciting enough to be an addictive substance was the phenomenon that became known as "face-stalking."  It made it was easy for a curious observer to do a little digging for information about someone they wanted to meet.  Let's not forget that introducing people is sort of what college is best at (or maybe even the best part).  The social networking site was the perfect aide for all this.

The Tinder app has captured what Facebook has let slip away - a focus on meeting new people.  The implied consent of users to put there own business out there for others to browse is built right in.  It's only for the willing, therefore, any uncomfortable similarities to the face-stalk is a decriminalized activity.  Tinder improves the process by matching only mutually agreeable parties who are free to go from there.     

While attempting to monetize Facebook through advertising, it reached for scale and eyeballs, adding bells and whistles like corporate pages, a messenger service, trending topics and profiles for your mom.  Now, only a decade later, it feels like a dinosaur.

Tinder is looks, feels and excites they way Facebook used to.  If it avoids the advertising trap, it's certainly greatest threat to Facebook' empire.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Give Love To Get It

You got to give love to get it in return.  It's common sense wisdom but could all use a reminder some times.

It's the same theory applied to marketing.  Struggling brands don't need more marketing, they need to show more love. Infusing a little love into your marketing and experience will transform stale, boring marketing pitches into something a whole lot more sincere.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Card That Actually Cares

Discover Card has a reputation as an innovator in the credit card industry.  They were the first to offer no annual fee cards and the first to offer cash back rewards, both of which have been widely adopted by the rest of the industry.  These benefits, among numerous others, served as excellent points of differentiation between Discover and its competitors, helping to position the brand as the most consumer-friendly credit card in your wallet.    

Although Discover's competitors adopt its innovations with the hopes of keeping up, Discover keeps finding new ways to live out its strategy as card that cares most about it's cardholders - its latest is offering free monthly FICO credit scores to their "it" cardholders, printed right on the statement.  This is an absolutely brilliant idea that will further reinforce Discover's position as the consumer-friendly brand.  Additionally, it's a great example of how a brand purpose should drive the actions of a company.  They live up to their own billing instead of tossing around empty slogans and promises and hoping for the best.

It's no surprise then that Discover, while only the forth biggest credit card brand, has ranked #1 in consumer loyalty 17 years in a row among credit card brands base upon Brand Keys Consumer Loyalty Engagement Index report.

Just an example of truly great marketing worthy of shout out.

As always, thank you for reading a sharing. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

JBL Doesn't Execute A Sound Strategy

                JBL has a strong reputation for superior sound.  They have been a trusted name for speakers and headphones for decades.  In fact, the company was actually founded way back in 1946.

However, judging from this recent advertisement for Synchros S700 headphones, experience might be seen as a detriment and not an advantage.  The ad takes direct aim Beats Electronics, the company founded by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre and responsible for the immensely popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.  The signature look of Beats headphones is highly-fashionable, thanks in large part to numerous celebrity endorsements of the headphones.  Beats by Dr. Dre are chic.  Not so much for JBL headphones.

To fight combat this, JBL employs the smart brand strategy of being the opposite.  They argue substance over style.  Their headphones have superior sound compared to the Beats. 

Unfortunately, JBL does a poor job at pitching this argument.  Despite making strong claims to be substance over style headphones, JBL never actually backs that up with any reasons other than an ambiguous hint of "live stage technology."  In fact, they wind up claiming to be exactly what they are supposedly rejecting, a real stylish pair of headphones. We watch as the actors donning JBL headphones are the center of attention and admiration as they walk down the street, appearing to know something that everyone else doesn't.   

Keeping this secret won't help JBL in their battle with Beats.  They need to make there marketing proposition as clear claim as the notes streaming from a set of headphones.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.  Also, some relevent bonus coverage on this subject from Seth's Blog.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Pop Culture Commentary Isn't A Form of Marketing

Some marketers are losing themselves over a tweet that Arby's sent out during the Grammy Awards on Sunday night.  This simple tweet poking fun at the resemblance between the hat musician Pharrell Williams was wearing that night and the Arby's logo is being hailed as genius because it went viral and people talked about Arby's.

Apparently that in its own right is enough to make Arby's a massive success.  Nevermind what was said.  It doesn't matter; people are actually talking about Arby's so pack up and call it a day - job well done.  

Unfortunately, a new generation of experts and gurus have convinced an industry (one that should be a little more guided by skepticism all things considered) that popularity equates to influence, that the key to selling stuff is not to sell anything at all and that the randomness of events is somehow strategic.

During the last Super Bowl, these same marketers were quick to trumpet the wild success of this tweet by Oreo.  Did that tweet change what anyone thinks about an Oreo cookie?  Will Arby's suddenly over take McDonald's or Chiptole after a day of news coverage?   

Branding is about more than the awareness of a logo.  It's not talk. It's action.  It's everything a company does.   Sadly though, it's becoming accepted practice that pop culture commentary should be one of those defining things.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tell A Friend

One simple rule for creating authentic customer communication is to treat it like your talking to a friend. Why will this help?

Friends maintain similar interests (keeping the brand focused).  Friends respect each others time and attention.  And friends don't lie (or stretch the truth).

If your marketing is lacking authenticity, try to be a friend first before a brand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


One must develop a deep appreciation for their own work in order for others to one day realize it as well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Slogan For Everything You Want To Be

Visa is no longer satisfied with being the card that's everywhere you want to be.

According to an article in the New York Times, the iconic credit card brand, positioned as the card accepted at most places using the slogan "it's everywhere you want to be" is resurrecting their faithful tagline - well, sort of.  In partnership with advertising agency BBDO, Visa is now only "everywhere you want to be."  Executives say that dropping the word "it's" from the tagline will help Visa expand its brand meaning beyond consumer credit cards, into areas such as mobile payments for merchants. 

The problem is that "it's" still Visa, right?  In order for a brand to differentiate itself from a competitor or even its own past, it must actually say (and do) something different.  Simply dropping the word "it's" from the tagline won't make anyone forgot who it is and what they're known for.  On a positive note, Visa's newly slimmed down slogan is so similar that it won't destroy their strong consumer brand identity like it would with a with a far more vague and meaningless pitch.     

However, this case is a perfect example of marketers treating marketing as some type of magic pill, attempting to brand multiple meanings to a single name.  Even for a brand as rich and famous as Visa, this doesn't work.

It's already been branded.  

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Olive Garden Dilemma

The Olive Garden, a casual eatery best known for its limitless breadsticks and bowls of salad, is now serving up something a little different - a hamburger.  It's a six-ounce hamburger topped with prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, arugula, marinated tomatoes and garlic aioli.  They call it the Italiano burger.  While no one would ever mistake the Olive Garden for Tuscany, the addition of an American staple served with its own Italian twist should be viewed of as an underwhelming sign of desperation to jump on the gourmet burger bandwagon.

The dilemma for Olive Garden is that the brand has been repositioned and is now stuck somewhere in the middle ground.  Olive Garden isn't (nor has it ever been) the high-end, oh-so authentic Italian food.  It's Italian with more than a hint of casual Americana.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, the rise of Italian-centric fast-casual restaurants is largely repositioning their brand.  Olive Garden was never the most authentic Italian restaurant ever; however, it's now no longer the cheapest option available either.

Adding a hamburger to the menu isn't going to solve this dilemma; the brand needs to cook up a new position that it can own.  Here are a few ideas for the Olive Garden to nibble on.

The position that I would most recommend is an Italian-style buffet.  Contract the menu down to around 10 dishes that can be served buffet style at a reasonable cost.  The brand, with its unlimited salad and breadsticks and numerous unlimited specials, is already somewhat positioned this way.  This would solidify that position.  Furthermore, this would be a strong counter position to take against Buca di Beppo, a competing chain that serves their dishes family-style.   

Or how about an Italian food-only take-out concept.  The Olive Garden can compete directly against the fast-casual restaurants that have repositioned the brand.  By specializing in take-out, the Olive Garden could reposition the fast-casual restaurants as a less convenient option for busy diners who still crave a higher quality.  This would also position them strongly against the "one entree, two-sides" model that's popular among grocery store to-go meals.

Another position the Olive Garden could take is to reposition the traditional American sports bar.  Simply by updating some fixtures and adding some glowing televisions to its restaurants, the Olive Garden would put a fresh spin on the traditional American sports bar, which never strays too far from a home plate of wings and pub food.

With so many more options now than even a decade ago, consumers need a reason to go back to the Olive Garden.  In the long-term, a new burger simply won't be that answer.  I believe that the concepts proposed provide make a much more compelling case - a leadership position in a category all their own.

How would you reposition the Olive Garden?  Let me know by clicking on the comments section below.  As always, thank you for reading and sharing this with your friends. 

Trending: Also see this piece by Brad Tuttle of Time Magazine on the subject.