refreshment

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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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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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Empower is a word that used to be the haps in marketing.  Now it has been replaced by “transparency” and “authenticity” in the markobabble lexicon. Being a contrarian, I look at the word empower and wonder how to use its opposite. Depower? To remove from power or to remove power. When you think about it, removing things that make a consumer’s decision hard is what advertisers try to do.  By simplifying the decision for a consumer, removing all the impeding loci, it becomes easier to buy.

Are you the type of person who has a hard time deciding when looking at a restaurant dinner menu?  Me too. I like duck, and pasta, a steak.  So when I read the menu I’m using the descriptions to aid me. I prioritize the descriptors.

If we look at an ad as a selling device and are speaking to a consumer who must decide using many factors — factors that may not play to our product’s strong suit — we have to depower those factors. So a Coke that may be very refreshing but filled with calories and sugar, needs to depower the latter two qualities so it properly highlights the former. It’s not always about focusing on the positive attributes, the best advertising and marketing strategy sees the rest of the power grid and on all. A little like chess, no?  Peace.

 

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If ever a brand owned an idea it was Coca Cola. McCann-Erickson got it. Early Coke brand managers got it. The people definitely got it. The idea was “refreshment.” Coke ads made you feel in your bones the total and utter refreshment from its unique, thirst-quenching taste. 

(Not a big Coke drinker, I once came off the Appalachian Trail parched, craving a Coke. I found one and it was other-worldly.)

Pepsi which has always had smart marketers on its team realizes “refreshment” is Coke’s provenance and has for the most part stayed away. But today Pepsi is jumping on the word in its new “refresh everything” campaign tied to change in America.  As it is with much of Pepsi’s work, this is a borrowed interest approach (not based on an inherent product quality) so it won’t be that effective. And the consumer generated content side of the program is a bit weak. But Pepsi will spend so it may muddle the “refreshment” waters.  

Coke needs to defend its refreshment position and it needs to do it now. Get back to what refresh meant.  

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