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Eric Christianson, chief marketing officers for Perdue Farms, was quoted in USA Today as saying the new package design for its fresh chicken is about “contemporizing the brand” for Millennials.  

Research suggests young consumers care about the humane treatment of animals raised for food – and, so, the industrialized approach to husbandry, e.g., heads sticking though gates, animals shoulder to shoulder, is distasteful.  Perdue has enlivened its packaging with a band of blue at the bottom showing a farm-scape and lone chicken pecking at the ground. Quite a reality stretch, if you ask me.  A consultant quoted in the article suggests this “repositioning” will speak to Millennials. Whoa.  Package design is not positioning.  

Nowhere in Mr. Christianson’s comments did I read about brand strategy. Contemporize is not a brand strategy word. It’s a tactical word. It’s a targeting word. Chief marketing officers who move the same pieces around the gameboard can’t expect long term sales gains.

Repositioning is about brand strategy. Not packaging. Not targeting. Brand strategy is an organizing principle anchored to an idea. I don’t see an idea here.




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Be fresh.

So I’m reading an article this morning in USA Today featuring interviews with some top hospitality CEOs, and their answers are peppered with language like: “price of entry,” “customer-for-life,” “providing value” and “surprise and delight.” A marko-babble fest.  Not implying these aren’t smart people, they clearly are. What I’m saying is marketing has become filled with terms of art that are nice on the ear but meaningless. 

Do a Google or Bing search of “whatstheidea+surprise and delight” and if this blog pops up, break out a can of whoop ass. Jargon may be acceptable in meetings but it is the antichrist in external communications. It was copywriting great Walter Weir, I think, who said “if it sounds like copy, it’s good copy.”  Dear old Walter was born in ’06.  The industry has published 10 trillion words copy since then. There is an entire class of ad agencies called “creative hot shops” whose sole reason for being is to break away from Mr. Weir’s premise.

So what should we do?  Drop the babble.  Invent your own selling premise and selling language. Be fresh. Freshies (Sorry, racing a storm to Whiteface today.) And it is okay to be a little fresh in a non-puritanical sense.  We are at 10 trillion words and counting. There are only so many pairings – as Google will tell you. Peace!

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As we jet (oops Dr. Freud) closer to the Super Bowl, I realize what an exciting time it is to be in  advertising.  The Super Bowl is our Fashion Week.  It’s when agency people get to lay some wood.  The best commercials of the year are put on display, much the way at Fashion Week the best designs are showcased.     

I wrote a brief once for an online music property in which I stated “an artist is never more in touch with his/her art than when looking into the eyes of the audience.”  Well, that’s sort of what we do in the ad business during the Super Bowl, we display our work and sit with people we care about, watching their reactions. The ad meters and USA Today polls are nice, but real time reactions from those around the chips and dip is most important.  Real consumers.  Our friends.  Our family.  And if you tell people it’s your spot it is cheating.

Granted, the best spots don’t always sell the most, just as the best fashion designs don’t…but the Super Bowl allows agencies and the builders of ads to represent (and learn a wee bit about their craft from the people).  Good times. Peace!

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What’s the idea with The New York Times?

I posted yesterday about our culture being so ADD. Americans, especially kids, multitask their media and therefore have a hard time concentrating.  Tweet tweet. You’ve got mail. Beep beep beep. Ring ring. Long form, analytical media is hurting (read magazines) so we are shorten it. DVRs allow us to put our TV on hold. We buy single songs. The world is not only flat, it’s freakin’ frenetic.

I can live with most of it — it’s just culture — but there’s one example that really bothers me. It’s pages 2 and 3 of the New York Times newspaper. Sacred pages once, they are today filled with 50-word digests of the paper’s stories. Designed to take best advantage of the reduced amount of time readers are willing to spend with the paper, these pages are nothing more than a geezer search engine. The founders are flipping in their terra.

For me these two pages demonstrate a defeatist mentality on the part of The Times. Where’s the serendipity in the exploration of the paper? The voyage? It is not that I’m a traditionalist, but seriously, when did the NY Times turn into a better-written USA Today


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Each year Anheuser Busch invests more and more money in Super Bowl ads. They are convinced it works. And why should they think otherwise? Over the past 10 years AB has earned the top spot more than any other brand in USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter. 

How else does AB measure the success of these commercials? Here’s what they say: “Likeability” of the ads, increased sales and market share, “making our selling system excited,” and, lastly, “making consumers feel we are the leader in the category.” With the exception of sales and market share these metrics are drivel. Anheuser Busch beer sales are down. Bud Light is successful, but the rest of the portfolio is lagging. 

Do you know what really excites employees and distributors? Sales. Crazy sale. Perceptions of leadership, likeability and company excitement are second tier metrics for companies whose sales are dropping.  AB needs to do better job of blocking and tackling, focusing, and refining its core message.  It needs to stop spending 6 months each year on the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is killing Budweiser. 

Here’s what I remember about Anheuser Busch Super Bowl advertising over the last 5 years: dalmations, clydedales, big fire trucks and snow. I’m not feeling it Mr. Busch.

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