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Brand Bankruptcy.

When you’re a hammer most things look like a nail. I am brand strategy hammer. Today’s nail is Brand Bankruptcy.

I worked for 7 months at a company that went bankrupt. The lawyers made money, vendors got cents on the dollar, employees were sent home and the manufacturing plant shut down. Thirty years ago, my father’s secretary claimed personal bankruptcy. Her credit card bills were astronomical.  She continued working, I’m assumed with less new clothes.

Bankruptcy is a common state-supported financial practice. Ask General Motors.

Brand bankruptcy happens when there are not enough assets in the brand bank to cover a massive value hit. This is when poorly prepared brands go bye-bye. Tylenol had enough value to recover from the tampering scandal. Chipotle survived its food poisoning debacle. It may even have come out stronger. Coke’s formula change made a run on the brand bank, but it definitely emerged healthier, with more committed customers. 

Every brand, every company, is going to have a natural or unnatural disaster. Building brand value and banking it, is what smart companies do. It’s prepper stuff.

Good brand strategy maximizes bank assets. It organizes them. Organize and calculate the assets you put in the brand bank and they grow and grow.

Peace.

 

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Coca-Cola’s key good-at is “refreshment.” There are few, few things better than a cold Coke on a warm day after a workout.  And when the consumer care-about is refreshment, a great product choice is Coke. Remember, brand strategy is about good-ats and care-abouts. 

Refreshment, rather than, longtime advertising attribute “happiness,” is an experiential, product-based proof. It’s a product reality. Coke’s current advertising tagline (brand line) is “Taste The Feeling.” An amalgam of cheerleading and emotion.   It is not a product based care-about or good-at. It’s advertising based.

Don’t get me wrong, I love advertising. Dave Trott teaches me the way to do it well it to connect. But connecting with the art is not the same as connecting with the product. Of course it’s harder to create compelling stories and poetry around products – but that’s the job.    

Brand planners need to focus the work on product-based care-abouts and good-ats. Coke should know better.

Peace.          

 

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I was riding my bike yesterday and noticed the name on the handlebars grips, the same name as a sign I pass daily on the fence of a marine store: Yeti.  The signage got me thinking about media placement and how it might be supercharged by placing logos on things we love to do and places we love to go. This intuitively happen anyway to a degree. Smith sunglasses at the ski resorts. Bunger Surfboards near the beach.  We might call this point-of-use branding, as opposed to point-of sale, where one buys the goods.

But what about just putting your logo near favorite places?  Parlay the positive feelings one has for a place or situation and attach them to your brand. Placing Coke ads where a consumer might need refreshment is certainly smart and an example of point-of-use. But how about placing a Coke logo near Dominic’s restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or atop the Jupiter Bowl in Park City, Utah?

Brand where your customers and prospects are positively Zenned out.  Peace.

   

 

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Following is Jack Dorsey’s off-the-cuff articulation of Twitter’s brand strategy. “To be the fastest and best service to show what’s happening in the world.”  It was stated in a NYT article discussing the executive departure of Adam Messinger, Twitter’s chief technology officer. I very much like it. It’s focused. It’s organically tied to Twitter’s best feature. It works from a macro point of view and micro point of view.

Twitter is like New Coke.  If it were to go away or change, there would be a revolt.

I’m sorry to hear huge investors want more stock growth. I’m sorry senior officers want to leave. I’m sorry the leadership isn’t what it might be. But Twitter is bigger than all those things. Twitter is the world’s instant mouthpiece. In 750 years when the planet’s denizens are all speaking one language and share the same color skin Twitter will still be around. And Mr. Dorsey’s brand strategy will still hold.

Peace.

 

 

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Experience is hot marketing word these days. It is rooted me thinks in user experience (UX), which started in the early days of the web when sites were hard to navigate and not intuitive. Ad and digital agencies caught on to experience a few years later as a way to create new buildables (content) and garner planning fees It didn’t hurt that “customer journey” and “communications planning” were smart ideas to begin with.

Product experience, some will have you believe, starts with communications and ends with the after-sale. The experience is everything in between. A lot of product experience buildables – designed to follow the AIDA principle: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action — are online and in-store. But product gesture is different.

Product gesture is not so much about the product journey and surround as it is the “consuming experience.” (See my last blog post.) A product gesture is the olfactory response that occurs when you drive by a Burger King. It’s why “flame broiled” is such a powerful brand asset of BK. For Coke, whose long standing brand idea is refreshment, the moment when your head snaps back after a full swig of a newly opened Coke is induced by the product gesture. Google’s product gesture occurs during search when your problem is solved, you smile and twitch to act.

Every product has a gesture. Man-made gestures like the Stella Artois pour and glass are distant seconds, but they are gestures nonetheless.

Find your product gesture and you will find marketing and branding success.

What is your product gesture?

 

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When I when I started my blog What’s The Idea? in 2007 I had a tough decision to make. Originally, I wanted to call it What’s The Big Idea?, thinking big ideas were better than regular old ideas. Eight years out, I’m happy with my decision to leave off the “big.”griffin farley beautiful mind logo

The reality is, as much I seek big ideas for my brand strategy clients, sometimes just getting them to agree to an idea is enough. Big, bold, brave ideas are currency of the planning realm these days. According to Suzanne Powers, chief strategy office at McCann-Erickson, it is one reasons Team Catfish won the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds competition last night at Google. And she wasn’t wrong. But “big” can sometime be a synonym for brazen. (And I get it, most of my brand strategies contain one word that make CEOs and marketing officers uncomfortable.) But brand ideas don’t need to be huge, or poetic, or brilliantly layered — they just need to be clean. More importantly they need to be followed. Enforced. And enculturated.

Coke’s “refreshment” wasn’t a big idea. It was a smooth sailing idea. “We know where you live” for Newsday wasn’t a big idea, it was a comfortable idea.

A brand strategy idea (the claim) doesn’t need to be big to be effective. It must, however, be believable, relevant and easy to understand. Peace!

P.S. Great job last night Sarah Watson, Angela Sun and BBH.

 

 

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I was just reading about the new Pepsi Challenge. It will take place primarily in social media, using Usher, Serena Williams, other personalities and web denizens. From a strategy point of view the only thing I can glean is that the goal is to blend “social responsibility with social culture.” Forgive me but isn’t this “Pepsi Refresh” 4 years later? This time just with expensive spokespeople? Packaged using an old campaign line from twenty years ago?

It almost feels like they rushed the story to market half-baked to beat some Coke announcement or poor earnings report. The effort is going to cost millions globally and, no doubt, will do some good. It may even sell a few cases. But the whole campaign feels very social media bandwagon and derivative. More importantly, it’s non-endemic to the product. Something McDonalds could easily do.

I’m not feeling this marketing effort and suspect it will be nice window dressing for the Pepsi corporate offices and its ad agencies; as for taking a chunk out of Coke’s hide, not going to happen. What’s the Idea?

Peace.

PS. For WTI posts on Pepsi Refresh, click here. 

 

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Sales of Coca-Cola’s flagship product, the carbonated sugary drink we know a Coke, dropped 3.5% last quarter; proof you can’t go against a cultural tide of healthier living and expect sales to hold forever. Coke’s parent has been doing a great job of diversifying its portfolio the last 10 years by adding juices, milk-based protein drinks, waters and energy drinks. Even with the tide receding for flagship Coke, earnings have been surprisingly okay. Looks like that is not the case anymore.

If you follow the tech sector as I do, you will know that product innovation can completely change markets is 3-5 years. The beverage sector has lots of innovations, according to Beverage Digest, but they are really incremental. Coconut water, craft beer, energy concoctions, and cold pressed juices are nice ways of redistributing marketing wealth, but haven’t fueled the big ass innovations we’ve seen in tech.

Coke needs to think differently. I’ve posted before about how they need to send R&D people into the jungles in search of the next cola nut…something with healthy properties. But Coke also needs to think about pricing and delivery. Why 12 oz. cans? Why cans and bottles? Why not explode the price point for a six pack? How about an annual subscription fee? Coke’s head is so tied up in its bottler arrangements, distribution networks, store detailers, fountain business it can’t think like an agile start-up. Sure they can buy 49% of the next Honest Tea, but can they be the next SnapChat.

My bet is they can. But not if they follow the innovation courses of GM or the financial industry. Follow the tech paradigm. Peace.  

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The T word.

I met with a technology CEO this week who has been doing some work with a brand strategy boutique. The executive shared with me the main output of the work – the main brand idea – and it was “trust.” Without giving too much away about the company and the category I will admit consumers who trust his product more than a competitor’s are likely favor the company with business. Trust is not wrong, but as a brand idea it is not right either. You can’t just manufacture trust. It’s a process. It’s something that has to be built. If the endgame, therefore, is to be trusted more than a competitor, one needs a strategy that engenders trust. So the brand idea needs to be the about the path not the end point.

A good branding shop should know better. But of course, one can sell trust to any number of clients to get heads nodding. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That makes sense.”

Coke wants to create preference (end point) but it uses refreshment to get there. Branding is about the journey not the end point. (Did I just use the word journey? I must be slipping.) Branding is also about using words, images, deeds and experiences to create context that get you credit for other things. Things left unsaid. Things you earn but don’t have to say. Like trust.

Peace.

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I’ve worked on a number of brands at different stages of their lifecycle. And depending on the stage, they need a different type of web site organization. Marketing is about moving a consumer closer to a sale.

A fairly common definition of steps to a sale is covered by the acronym AIDA: awareness, interest, desire, action. For an unknown brand you don’t achieve awareness just by having someone on your website; they must know what the company does. Does the brand pass the Is-Does test?

Once there and aware how does one create interest? Typically with some context about a product’s usefulness or a unique function that captures the imagination. A website home page must pass the interest test, if none exists.

Third, if a brand has met the A and the I, we must tackle the D, desire. Often ads and websites load up on benefits to achieve desire. This can border on bragging and quite often diminishes the Interest factor. Be wary of shallow, common benefits. Also beware of pile on.

Action is where the money is. The best action is click to buy. Or go to store to buy. But some actions are brand positive and moving closer to a sale, say, like a prove comparison or a feature comparison. That’s action.  Feel something thane do something.

Knowing what stage you’re in and not covering tread upon ground is key.  Coke doesn’t need to work on awareness. Know where you are — and design your web home page experience accordingly and you are doing your visitors a service.  Otherwise you are bombarding them with the kitchen sink and ceding the experience to search and whim. Peace.

 

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