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Consumption of full sugar drinks is down 25% and Coca-Cola is feeling it. Michael Bloomberg take a bow. It was front page news in the NYT today that Coca-Cola is getting behind a pig push to reduce obesity and they’re doing so by educating people that the main culprit in obesity is inactivity. They’ve started a group called GEBN, which is an acronym for GEBN. Their PR peeps are pushing hard, taking the obesity, which leads to diabetes, very seriously. It’s good business.

If you’d read What’s The Idea? before you know I follow Coke and cut my teeth in the business thinking about their big brand idea REFRESHMENT – an idea a decade ago replaced by “happiness,” a non endemic money suck.  Well, refreshment plays to the new Coke PR idea of #physicalactivity in spades. Yes one can be refreshed by simply sitting in the sun and dehydrating, but the best refreshment comes from activity. So does the best narrative.

The NFL “Play 60” is behind activity, certainly Nike is… but no one owns the “peak experience” moment (and product) Coke does.

I love that Coke wants to finds inactivity and obesity. It’s part of their core brand promise. But it doesn’t have to be a PR onslaught or lackluster Twitter campaign, it can be just good old advertising.

Peace.       

 

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Coca-Cola, one of the world’s great marketers, is in a category under attack.  I love the brand but don’t love what it does to consumers who misuse the product. That is, drink it in excess while living a sedentary lifestyle.  Those who make sure the calories that go in are negated by the calories burned are those with healthy body sizes.

Coke ran a print ad today suggesting 4 ways to mitigate its high sugar, high calorie sodas. 1. Offer low calorie beverages. 2. Provide proper nutritional labeling, 3. Help people get moving and excercise, and 4. Don’t advertising to kids.

The traditional Coke bran plan  — Wieden+Kennedy and current brand management aside — has always been about refreshment. (Happiness is the new idea is happiness.)  Refreshment is best served in video and print when it’s hot out.  Active sports people used to be ownable, not so much anymore; thanks to Nike and Under Armour and hundreds of other marketers. Frolicking on beaches and at picnics, were good refreshment images. Bright sunny days.

Coke can use its advertising today in a more positive way if it focuses on refreshment — showing scenarios of active people exerting themselves. That should be a fundamental brand plank. Enough flowers pooping more flowers and musical whimsy choreographing beetles. Coke refreshes. It is best when refreshing people who are fit, who crave refreshment and exert themselves. Or who at least aspire to exert themselves.

Coke is growing outside the US because in developing countries people don’t overeat. They walk and do manual labor. Come on man!  Let’s get back to why people need Coke, not sell it based upon what shareholders need. Peace!

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Stuart Elliott did a great and interesting article in The New York Times today on Nike. He points out the difficulty they’re having staying more relevant in the footwear category. The oft-quoted Allan Adamson of Landor, a NY brand consultancy, suggested “The bigger the brand, the harder it is to stay trendy and current. It’s hard to be cutting edge when you are established.”  And Davide Grasso, VP for global brand management at Nike added “As we continue to grow in size, it’s important we stay connected. If you take away the toys and the noise, it’s all about having a relationship.”

What both of the gentlemen are not talking about is the brand itself.  Mr. Adamson wants Nike to stay trendy. A tight brand plan would have the company create what is trendy. And Mr. Grasso talks about the consumer relationship. Every pizza parlor, dentist and global marketer cares about the relationship.  This is a tactic.

Red Bull’s sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner parachuting from space is lauded for its 33.5 million YouTube views.  Not many talk about the brand strategy of exhilaration – the demonstration of exhilaration – that will live long after click counts.

Nike is a not a string of marketing tactics and ads delivered by Wieden +Kennedy; it’s a brand continuing to carve out a place in consumers’ minds. And closets.  Every brand needs a brand plan (one claim, three support planks). Without a plan we deliver and are interviewed about tactics. Yawn. Peace.  

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Do you have a favorite sneaker brand?  What is it and why. 

I love Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, though I have to look to see how you spell Taylor. Black, high tops.  I like the style, the weight, the cost and for me they are a roots product.  As for my basketball sneakers, frankly Scarlett I don’t give a damn.  Probably more often than not I buy Nike, but that is more a function of what’s at the store.  I want to pay $50-100, I want them to last and not smell after a few months (good luck with that) but my allegiances are not strong.

I watch a lot of sports.  You’d think the advertising would have made an impression on me.  I recognize the Michal Jordan logo and like Michael Jordan. That said, I  have no interest in buying his shoes over any other.  That’s like 50 billion dollars of advertising later.  Why am I not a Nike or Jordan fan?  You tell me.  I suppose it is because they have not built anything meaningful in to the design, and patented it, that I care to invest in.  They have a great creative shop in Wieden+Kennedy. The ad craft is wonderful (I still love Mars Blackman) however there is nothing as a consumer I can tell you from a product standpoint that differentiates the sneaker beside the logo. (Not like nfinity with its “designed for women” cheerleading sneaker, for instance.)

Do you have a favorite sneaker?  If so, please tell me why. Peace!

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Under Armour is introducing two new sneaker designs (May I call them sneakers?) this week in an attempt to increase its share of the $22B athletic footwear (sneakers) market.  A market, by the way, that was only about $3B in 1993.  The TV campaign handled by Twofifteen McCann and Digiteria for digital offers a lot of smart tactics: the director of Friday Night Lights, a YouTube takeover to reach the younger buyers, limited distribution to build demand, Cam Newton, and an idea that ties sneakers to sports action – FootstepsAs smart as these tactics are, they feel like a pastiche of forced-together marketing tools from an Effie Awards Annual. I suspect they will work, however.

First and foremost though, one must ask if footwear is a business Under Armour wants to be in.  I say no. And I’ve said so before in WTI.  Sunglasses? No as well. UA founder Kevin Plank, in his heart knows this.  He owns a franchise that is now being diluting.  You can’t keep sticking the same tea bag in new water.  The company already owns fast twitch muscle, form fitting wicking shirts but will lose that ownership as it takes its eyes off the ball. Wicking sneaker tops?  Not so sexy.  Lindsey Vonn. Oh yeah.

Mr. Plank’s next move should be into form fitting shorts and shirts for the fashion conscious market.  Leave the kicks to Nike.  Or start a new footwear endemic company  This is one brand extension that might sell some shoes near term, but is going to turn Under Armour into a brand in decline overall.  And it’s sad.  Stop playing with feet! Peace.

(Picture from NY Times.)

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I don’t see action sports being a good fit for Nike, even though its a nice revenue stream today. According to a New York Times article today, the segment is underserved and Nike wants a piece.  When Nike bought Hurley, I thought it a great idea, but one to roll as a separate brand. Using Nike to go head-to-head with O’Neill, Billabong and Quicksilver, not so much.

They are spending big — hiring 72 and Sunny, big name athletes on the action sports circuit, hot videographers and commercial directors, but it all feels a little “all hat no cattle.”  The tactics are right, but the business idea wrong.  I may have said the same back when Nike moved into golf, but then they tied their swoosh to Tiger and it worked.  Now they want to extend to skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding. Sure, it will spike, but long-term it will diminish the brand. Nike should have put wood behind Hurley.  Water culture people (frozen or warm) are fickle. They create style, they don’t get it out of a box or pad/pod.

Google’s culture of technological obesity (gobbling in every direction) is not dissimilar to this overstep by Nike. Chill with the kicks, the golf, and the apparel. Enjoy global growth. And back away from the table. Water sports will water down the brand. Peace.

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I love Under Armour.  I do. It’s an amazing, important brand. If the company didn’t invent compression shorts, it certainly gets credit for it.  The story is great, the product meaningful, and the company with its Baltimore provenance has people rooting for it.  Sports apparel is a category alone in its ability to push through the recession and Under Armour is leading that growth. Under Armour owns the “hard body.” But image-wise, it’s operating in a competitive field with players spending a lot more money.  Gatorade and Nike were first to hard body. Though all three focus on the flesh, sinew and sweat, Under Armour focus should be on the packaging (of that body).

Women’s Sports Apparel

Now Under Armour is amping up it targeting of women, who account for only 25% of sales. It is doing so by extending with the “I will” and “Protect this House I will” brand idea.  Don’t get me wrong, the imagery and music is rousing and I love Lindsey Vonn, but the brand idea is not tight enough to slap a pair of balls on some women’s training footage and make a lasting Under Armour product statement. Were I women watching the spots, I’d be inclined to go out and buy some Gatorade.

Under Amour’s Focus

Under Armour also brand extended into sneakers, cleats and sunglasses — a couple of moves which have hurt serious brand development. There is an amazing, ownable brand idea waiting for Under Armour to claim.  It has made to order brand planks, all of which can be mapped to its DNA…and it is unique to the category. Write me for the idea, if you haven’t figured it out already. Peace.

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When the Flip video camera, now owned by Cisco, first came out I posted it will change the world.  If you thought the video taping of the Rodney King beating changed the world, image how putting video cameras in every pair of pants and pocketbook might alter history.  Hello Iran? 

Social networking, still in its infancy, is going to change the world in even more powerful ways. Flatten away I say.  Social networking and social media started out as friend finding, simple messaging, and posting of photos and captions — uses which are still going strong. More recently, smart businesses have seen the upside of using it commercially to improve bottom line and topline revenue through a handful of applications: Customer care, promotions and research. We’ve along scratched the surface with Social Media in business…stay tuned. 

What’s Next?

The next wave will be the more thoughtful use of social media. More cause related. Ask Nestle about its palm oil/rain forest problems — the result of social media pressure. Ask Nike about its policy of outsourcing production to Honduran companies who demonstrate unfair labor practices…really torking off college students. If you think a Mel Gibson diatribe can go viral quickly, wait until you see what citizen journalists can do with watchful eyes and some motivation. This new wave of social media activism is going to have mad impact.  Cover-ups won’t cover as easily and corporations and governments will need to watch their steps. It’s next. And it’s welcome. Peace it up!

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R/GA is a bold leader in the digital marketing area. As all advertising and marketing shops move toward the middle — toward the strategy — only one digital shop aspires to be the agency of record: R/GA. Most digital shops rue the fact that they don’t get a seat at the big table, R/GA wants the table.  And they make quite a case.  Their entrée is the “platform.”  

In a video by Nick Law, R/GA’s chief creative officer (thankfully, he’s not goofily titled), he says advertising needs to move “from metaphors that romance a brand to seductive demonstrations of a brand platform.”  Agreed. Were he to have substituted the word “strategy” we’d be in perfect agreement.  The word platform, you see, is a euphemism for website (and other digital stuff residing on the website). Brand strategy is hard to put a price tag on and websites and digital assets are easy estimate. 

Mr. Law is correct campaigns come and go. He’s right that tactics need to feed the brand strategy. He’s right that utility and community are the source of sales growth and retention. And he’s certainly not being disingenuous in suggesting that something needs to hold and tie all the brand building work together. So I’m going to cut him some slack and not argue the noun platform and favor a more verb-like version of the word. 

In the video Mr. Law refers to one of R/GA’s most famous successes Nike+.  “Nike+ is a platform fueled by campaigns” he says.  Nike+ was first a product and it’s growing into a branded utility. Is it growing into a platform? You tell me. 

These guys are the real deal. And as good marketers they are trying to create a new language for the marketing world.  As I said, bold.  

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The Hoodie.

hoodie

The hoodie is a fascinating piece of clothing. Functional anthropologists would have a field day interpreting what’s up. One obvious association with the hoodie is the urban look. I took my son — who fancies himself a bit ghetto — on a college visit last fall and as we got out of the car his pants were adroop and the hoodie up. One minute after viewing the khaki and tee-shirt bedecked landscape it flew off.

For me, hoodies are a way of hiding…of building intrigue. The “stand” of the hood and the area it covers is quite important. Just enough shadow, just enough peripheral vision. I’d love to plan on a piece of hoodie business because it’s so rich in cultural surround. Nike clearly sees the upside and is trying to crossover the hoodie into a sportswear sell, is taking a nice shot at it with this TV spot.

The film is beautifully done and the “ink” thing is a stylized way to embed imagery and build product desire.  The product name, however, is quite silly. “Where the Nike Hoodie AW77s at?” “Excuse me, where are the Hoodie AW77s?” A bigger factor in the success (or lack thereof) of this product may that it is on TV. In this category, by the time it’s on TV it’s probably over. Peace!

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