Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Spectatular Theranos Flameout

Theranos, the embattled blood testing start-up, has devolved from the next great idea to a classic case of great ideas don't make great brands.  The execution of that great idea is what makes a brand bankable.

Or at least that's how it should be.  Unfortunately, a collective gold rush mentality can often result in brands being anointed before they're truly initiated.  Execution, the very thing that will matter most to making them rich, cannot be an afterthought to blessing unproven potential with stacks of cash.

Certainly, investors shouldn't be deemed the losers if the game was rigged from the start.  However, I think it's a fair to question if investors, even those risking as much as  $96 million, were as execution as much as on the idea.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A little More About Fashion Brands

Fast Company has a good piece about the decline of iconic fashion brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.  The article, penned by Elizabeth Segran, astutely points out that these companies, in a race to expand and make cheaper clothes to sell to a larger audience, have killed the meaning of their brand.  She perfectly labels it the T.J. Maxxification of their brand.

I encourage all to read it, especially the folks at Under Armor.  The recently decided, in a move likely to appease the investors on Wall Street, dilute its athletic brand with a high-end fashion line.

Even before it begins, we already know how this story ends. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Everlane Upends Fashion's Pricing Strategy

Everlane is a six-year old web-based fashion brand that specializes in logo free essentials.  I know, I know... what the hell is so special about some upstart fashion brand on the internet? They're one of a million.

Initially, I thought the same thing myself.  On first glance, their shop looks like every other online clothing store with pictures of models, prices and the all important add to cart button.  But after clicking around a bit, I noticed their amazing infographics on their product pages. These are what separate Everlane  from those other million brands.

To be fair, it all starts with Everlane's dedication to transparency. The infographic with itemized costs of each item are the helpful bi-product.

This isn't so helpful for other retailers however.  Everlane's open book pricing strategy repositions their brands as overpriced and effectively challenging consumers' widely held notion that higher prices equate to better quality (that's right, they disclose their factories too).

Everlane's strategy is a bold one; but also one that works.  It's impossible to look at their transparent pricing and not have flashbacks of sticker shocks at their competitors; thus making a very compelling pitch to place an order.

For more good stuff on the this disruptive brand, check out this terrific interview with their founder Michael Preysman on The Unconventionals (a PJA podcast).

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.    

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Buying American Made

I just want to share a quote on American Made goods from Aaron Draplin.  It comes from an interview with Al James and was originally published on A Continueous Lean.  I really like this quote because it feels like the definition of American Made is evolving to become something of a justification for overcharging consumers. 

James: Has the meaning or feeling around “Made In The USA” changed for you over the years?

Draplin: It’s still a little benchmark for me. Still feels special. And more and more, I’m seeing things made here, and celebrated beautifully. That’s a good thing for all of us. Just today, I got a run of ear plug containers in! You know those little “pinch pocket” holders where you squeeze it and it holds your ear plugs? Simple stuff, and still made in the states. I like championing that sort of stuff. As the brother of an audiologist, we all need ear plugs for the rock shows. 

But of course, there’s a threshold. If “Made in the U.S.A” translates to “We Can Charge You 500% What It Actually Should Be For The Thing”, then I’m out. I like the stuff that just operates like it always did. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the cool axes, paddles, jizz rags and leather doodads out there being sold at exorbitant prices like anyone else. Sure. But sometimes, that shit’s just a little too high brow for me. Do this: Do a search for “chain wallets.” And you’ll find crusty, little sources that sell wallets for $20-25. Weird as hell. And if you dig hard enough, you’ll find ones made in the states, just as they always were. I bought one of those in 1989, and still have it to this day. It was $20 then, and still is $20. When folks start adding a zero to price, whilst holding some bullshit artisanal knife to your throat, that makes me squirm a bit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Marketing Gods Might Be Speaking to Micky D's

McDonald's voluntarily removed their Step It! activity bands from the Happy Meal because of skin irritation.  No pain, no gain, right?  Wrong. That might just be the brand strategy gods having an intervention with the Golden Arches.

Good health will always be a tough sell for McDonald's.  In fairness, there is more pressure to change on them than most, since they are established fast food leader.  However, the more they push that position, the more consumers will recall what they already know; that McDonald's is just greasy fast food. Whether their brand managers like it or not, that is the perception and changing it will be next to impossible.

But McDonald's can be relevant to the desires of the modern consumer without trying to position itself as the Whole Foods of fast food.  Below are a few key drivers of the modern consumer that suit McDonald's quite well.

Convenience - time starved consumers want a place that can give them a few minutes back. What if each order came with an exact time that it took to prep and serve?
Value - people want good value for their dollar.  That is never going to change.
Local - McDonald's is a local in millions of communities across the world. Local doesn't have to be food sourcing.
Foodie - people love food and McDonald's is a huge part of American food culture.  A monthly rotation of special menu items could keep that menu and interest in the brand fresh.

The place for McDonald's to convince consumers of its health value is not in its advertising... marketing promotion, branded content and all the rest of it.  Reserve that for only what consumers are already convinced of.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Confessions of a Republican

Hillary Clinton campaign brushes off 1964's highly appropriate Confessions of a Republican, a sharp and urgent Lyndon B. Johnson campaign ad, remixing it for 2016 voters.  Although the original spot is more convincing and displays a greater sense of urgency, I believe the non-endorser strategy will be an piercing one for Clinton.  It's the equivalent your competitor turning your employees against your brand.    

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Find the People

Find the people that will find it interesting (appealing, useful, fashionable... insert adjective of choice) instead of finding a way to make it so. The latter is just a waste of everyone's time.

Take Care

A recipe for a reputation: take care of the customer and they will take care of you.    

Sunday, June 26, 2016


If this is the best the industry has to offer, why are these ads are so unfamiliar?  It might be consumers desire to avoid it.  A shrinking tide, sinks all ships.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

No McRespect For Marketing

McDonald's current request for marketing proposals has a clear message; marketing is an expense rather than an investment.  How else can you explain a business partner working at cost? (see: no value added).  

Their unusual request is quite telling of how McDonald's has landed in it's current situation.  As customers gravitate to something more remarkable, McDonald's is defending the their status quo of average grub for average people.  Right now, McDonald's needs its team to do their best work. However, they should realize that they will never get the work they deserve by being an unreasonable, one-sided "partner."  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Why The Best Ideas Are Simple...

Considering our 8 second attention spans, marketers cannot expect viewers to get through the entire ad, let alone to connect all the dots.  

Simply keep it straightforward stupid.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Waitrose Delivers Same-Day Fresh Ads To Customers

Yesterday, the British grocery chain Waitrose, debuted a fascinating campaign that give their customers a highly unfiltered lens into the environments that their products are raised in. To do so, they will equip live cows and chickens with GoPro cameras and use the footage to run produce advertising that will run the same day it was shot.

I'm very impressed by Waitrose's effort and execution of producing live-feed or same-day produced advertising.  This time aspect to their advertising is especially critical to the credibility of the campaign and certainly a lot of brands would not make this additional investment.

Having nothing to hide, the untampered lens behind the curtain will definitely build Waitrose's credibility in terms of their food sourcing with customers...assuming of course there are not any unwanted discoveries in the process.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nike Honors Their Polarizing Poster Boy

True to the career of Kobe Bryant, Nike's celebratory send off is notable because honors the love/hate relationship that sports fans had with their Los Angeles Laker spokesman.  Rarely does a brand unleash a  dose of honesty on consumers as Nike does for Kobe's retirement, which is a real departure from its work with their more famous pitchman.

Secondarily, Nike's tribute is equally as good at showing off a lot of cool Nike gear on its most influential athletes.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

You cannot hide behind a brand

John Oliver gives a "how to" on taking the cache out of a great brand name. 

Use facts.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

E*Trade "Opportunity Is Everywhere" Is Money Wasted

E*Trade's most recent commercial, featuring Kevin Spacey and Robert Duvall, opens and closes with the marketing manta "E*Trade is all about seizing opportunity."  It's truly a rudderless statement that perfectly compliments E*Trade's overarching strategy, that "opportunity is everywhere," including but not limited to Scottrade, Charles Schwab and Fidelity.  In fact, the "opportunity is everywhere" is so exquisitely generic that it can be applied to any other business; picture Coca-Cola all about seizing the opportunity for refreshment or Amazon seizing the opportunity to buy stuff.

Juxtapose this with E*Trade's most famous work; the "E*Trade baby" advertising.  While they were adored for the cute and funny baby used, they were great advertising because the message was clear; buying stock is easy with E*Trade...so easy a baby could do it.  It's a position that E*Trade worked hard to capture but is beginning to relinquish after years of search everywhere else for opportunities.  In my opinion, they should seek to rediscover the value of simplicity, particularly for a younger investor.       

That may happen soon.  Earlier this month they decided it's time to cut their losses and seize the opportunity for change by putting their marketing up for review.  E*Trade will need to look within to find it's next opportunity; meaningful differentiation.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LinkedIn Search Is Like Going Fishing in a Swamp

Lately, LinkedIn is looking a lot more like Craigslist.  The floodgates have officially been opened and its job postings have been showered with subpar listings by fly-by-nighter's.  Such postings are easy to spot.  The company name is typically a generic one, their postings outnumber all the others at a ratio of at least two to one, and their message often screams something for nothing in all caps.

Left unchecked, this spam will drag down the customer experience and that of reputable clients.  There is an easy fix and LinkedIn needs to look no further than Craigslist to find it.  Give users the ability to remove or hide particular companies or job postings from their results.

The longer you subject your customers to scrap the bottom of the barrel to find what they're looking for, the sooner it will be your reputation that they begin to question.  After all, you are the company you keep.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The 5 cent Coke

A Coca-Cola only cost 5 cents for over 70 years.  How could that be?

Well, NPR Planet Money has the answer and on this interesting twist to the company's history with a facisinating a branding/advertising subplot.  It's definitely worth a listen and can be found here.