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Cause Strategy

It may be my age, it may be my level of wisdom, it may be age….didn’t I just say that…but a great many of my strategies lately contain an undercurrent of cause marketing. It’s as if my brief also has a line that says “What about this strategy will make the world a better place?” Back in the day my briefs were more likely to have the line “What about this strategy will sell more product, faster, regardless of consequence?”

My new approach certainly is intended sell more product, but it comes in an envelope of comfortable altruism. This new found reliance on educating over selling, undergirds my strategies. “An educated consumer” as they say.

Strategies that are more cause reliant take advantage of cultural context. Cause strategies feel more human. So what do we do with Axe? How do we package Coors Light? Geico?  We do what we always do — but now we think more positively about people, planet and how our persuasion is a positive force. Bang (not a gun ban either).


PS. For examples of cause strategies for products write steve at whatstheidea.




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tgi fridays

TGI Fridays is doing a big brand refresh in the hopes of slowing its revenue downturn. Recently sold to a new investment group, TGI Fridays launched as a single restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan decades ago by Ben Benson and Alan Stillman. Some credit these two gents with inventing the “single’s bar.”

As part of the brand refresh there is lots of talk about talking tchotchkes off the walls, replacing frozen with fresh ingredients, updating the menu and removing potato skins from consumer muscle memory. All of which are good ideas, especially the food upgrade. But there is something about the original concept that might endure if the brand planners dig deeply enough. Places where the vibe is conducive to meeting people is not a bad business model. Look at online dating services. Look at the Axe strategy. Read a Millennials magazine.

Were I the planner on the business I’d try to understand what made the original Friday’s Fridays. What made it different from Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday (other Stillman and Benson brands). Only Friday’s made it.

Readers know I’m not big on rearview mirror planning. But I am about providing consumers with experiences that meet needs and desires. So a little look back might help with Fridays look forward. Peace.


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As a brand and marketing commentator it’s hard not paying attention to the Unilever brand Axe.  I’ve written about it with some frequency as have many business pundits. The brand and its wonderful ad agency BBH have innovated and made mad market share headway over the years. Axe created the first body wash for men/boys as far as I know – they are a category pioneer.   

What I find ironic about Axe Body Wash and Axe anything, is that I cannot remember ever having smelled the stuff.  My son Nits has left the house many times smelling like French “you know” but I have no clue what he was dipped in.  Body wash, cologne-ey stuff, Axe, Old Spice, Stop & Shop. Who knew?  He has used Axe (I woke him this morning to confirm). 

So what does that say about Axe marketing, which most people would agree is superior?  It says to me that it is missing an experiential component. If the stuff smells good, and I have to assume it does, why can’t I recall its scent? Where is the muscle memory I have for, say, Burger King? Where’s taste test… I mean scent test?  I’m not the target, but I’m a potential buyer and gifter.  Come on Axe, don’t go all Bloomingberg’s (Thanks cousin Thom Fleming. Hee hee.) on me and spritz me as I walk by —  but get me a sniff or two. Trial is the stuff of which market share growth is made. Peace!

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There is an interesting strategic disagreement going on in the men’s body wash category these days.  The commercials and video on TV and YouTube from competitors Axe and Old Spice focus on different targets. Old Spice, acknowledging that 70% of men’s body wash (a more expensive, soap substitute) is purchased by women, is using the much talked about “smell like a man” campaign from Wieden + Kennedy directed toward those women buyers. The campaign is smart because the message in not lost on men.  Conversely, the Axe work shoots straight at men, suggesting “Use Axe body wash and you won’t have to aks (New York for ask) girls out, they’ll flock to you.”  Axe is attempting to change behavior. That is, they’re trying to convince men, young and old, that it’s okay to use cleansing gels rather than the traditional, inexpensive, manly soap.    

Bud Light convinced young men that it’s okay to drink light beer, so growing the body wash category is not a bridge to far.   

It should be interesting to see who wins this strategic battle.  Will the guys without dates who are most motivated to spruce up not respond to the Old Spice work targeting women?  No, I think they will.  They’ll get the message.  But probably not ask strongly as they will receive the “chick magnet” ads from Axe and BBH. Will lady-less men’s mothers buy them body wash?  I hope not, that certainly will be counterproductive.  “Honey, I saw something on TV….” Peace.

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axe-skin-contactAxe has 7% share of the men’s body wash category and it is the market leader. Old Spice is in second place with 6%. This category is ripe from leadership. As an ad-rat and someone who loves Bartle Bogle Hegarty, I’ve watched with great interest the Axe advertising phenomenon. But here’s the deal, 7% market share? Please.

Body wash isn’t even a new category anymore. An opportunity has been lost here. Unilever has to decide if it wants to own body gel or OWN body gel. If it’s the latter, they need to step up and spend some dough. BBH has been doing a good job of getting Axe on the map, but they’ve been diddling around with fun, yet small targeted programs. Lot’s of little stuff doesn’t compare with a big idea and a big spend. Old Spice and Nivea should not even be in the picture.

This category is ready to for a leader to emerge, but it needs some investment spending. Unilever has to start throwing some serious body punches. All it’s been doing to date is tickling. Men don’t like to be ticked. Peace!

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