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.