wieden and kennedy

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Heineken Light is launching a new ad campaign. All the stories will be about new spokesman Neil Patrick Harris, Wieden+Kennedy and the advertising poking fun at the fact that one can’t drink beer on a TV commercial. Mr. Harris drinks and slurps off camera.

According to Heineken USA CMO Nuno Teles “Everything in marketing should start with a consumer insight.” The one he identified to Stuart Elliott of the NY Times was that “40% of 21-27 year old consumers desire a light beer with a full taste.” Some quick research suggests there are 25 million 18-24 year olds in the US, so let’s say there are about the same number of 21-27 year olds. Forty percent of that number is 10M. In a country of 300M, that leaves a lot of beer on the table. But I agree that taste for a premium light makes sense. The fact that Barney from “How I met your mother” craves Heineken Light on a TV commercial, though, doesn’t quite set the “taste” hook for me. I’m not sure if he says anything about the new Cascade Hops, but I surely hope so.

Behavioral brand planners will ask how do we get consumers to change beer brands? The answer is, get them to try it and like it. Also, give them a reason to expect to like it. Not sure drinking what Barney drinks is that reason. Peace!

P.S. Wieden knows what they are doing and they know advertising, so let’s wait until the barrel counts start coming in. This is just my expectation of success.


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There are a couple of places great brand ideas come from according to Robin Hafitz, CEO of Open Mind Strategies. The product or service is an obvious one. Predominant features or functions. Differences. Form factor, taste, speed, etc.  Brand ideas may also reside in consumer need. The using consumer or influencing consumer. S/he wants to be liked, pretty, rich, fit, loved. And lastly, brand ideas may emanate from the category…and by category, for non-marketers, that means the business class of product or service, e.g. healthcare, soda, hospitality. An understanding of consumer’s expectations of a category (all competing products) sometimes can create the context for a good brand idea or position. For instance, banks only care about lending.

But a brand idea is best when it is singular. (“Tastes great, less filling” being an exception in the new lite beer category back in the ‘80s.)  And when the idea is singular it should come from one of the three places mentioned above. That said, I dig hard to make sure the idea comes out of the product. Coke’s idea of refreshment is an interesting example. It is product based but also user experienced. Bonus. Coke’s current brand idea “happiness” is only the latter. And for me, one of the reasons Coke consumption has lessened. Though the advertising is often wonderful (Wieden and Kennedy.)

The word commodity is the enemy of good product and branding. So dig hard. Dig deep. And find an important difference. It will be worth it. Peace.


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Sales of the Coca-Cola Company dropped 3.6% this quarter. It seems the tide has turned.  The global sugar water growth that offset the diminished appetite for Coke in the U.S. has brought Coke’s growth back to earth. Pepsi saw this sales ding years ago. Coke has been getting into the healthier-for-you businesses for a while now but it looks as if they must really redouble their efforts. Healthier-for-you is the future.    

Big data will help Coke figure out where lost sales are going. Big data, used by CMS (Center for Medicare Services), will also show where unhealthy eating and drinking habits are happening. And by sharing this information with doctors and insurance companies it will pave the way for incentives for consumers to eat better. Much the way insurance costs go up for smokers. Gonna happen.

When you are Coke and your sales are off 3.6%, you need to “refresh” your thinking. (I smell a cold-pressed juice purchase in the near future.)

Pepsi is holding its own by dialing up salty snacks. What’s the opposite of healthier-for-you?

Now is the time. There should be and will be a marketing investment shake up in Atlanta. And “happiness,” the Wieden+Kennedy campaign?  Not likely to make it in its current form — not in this climate.


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In the advertising and marketing business thousands of briefs are written every day. 98% of them are tactical.  I was visiting an acquaintance at Wieden and Kennedy and he had to go off to write a couple of ESPN briefs for women’s tennis, or some such.  Sounded like a cool job. Briefs are what planners do. Planners also fill the holes in their day with insight decks.  I’ve done quite a few. 

The other 2% of briefs written are brand briefs the briefs under which all insight deck and tactics briefs will magnetically hover. These are the most important. Frankly, with a great brand brief, many of the other briefs need not be written at all. With one good idea (claim) and three planks (proof of claim), the organizing principle is set and the creative teams prepared.

Sure, specific tactics with unique goals may require a new lens through which to look at a program. A tighter target segment. A new product feature. Yet the organizing principle that is the brand plan is the default marching order. The reality is, many, many companies don’t have a brand brief, just digital folders with scads of the tactical variety. It’s sad and inefficient.

Tactical briefs are for now. Brand briefs are for when. Or better put, for ever. Campaigns and agencies come and go, a powerful brand idea is indelible.  Peace on Monday!

PS.  I am not suggesting here that W+K does not do brand briefs. The shop is too good not to.



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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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Officious is a wonderful word and one too infrequently used in strategic planning.  An adjective, it is defined as: objectionably aggressive in offering one’s unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice; meddlesome: an officious person.  Strategies that lead to this type of brand claim are a blight.  Conversely, strategies so soft and huggable consumers cozy up to a tangent in order to get the brand claim, are also a blight. Some might call that borrowed interest.

What does Coke do better than any other soft drink?  Refresh. People want to be refreshed, so offering up examples of how and when Coke refreshes in not officious. Telling them Coke is more refreshing (world’s most, more people refresh, more refreshing than…) is.  As Coke and Wieden and Kennedy would have you believe today, Coke makes you Happy. That’s borrowed or tangential. It makes for nice advertising and playful Coke machines, but is an indirect sell. When Coke gets back to its core refreshment value and shows us how it refreshes, proves how it refreshes, the advertising will sell more.

The line between officiousness and borrowed, tangential value in not a fine line, ii’s a chasm.  So what do so many brand strategies jump to one or the other? It’s dysfunction, is what it is. Peace!


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Music in Advertsing.

It is that time of year when people start talking about the “bests.” In advertising, most agree the two best spots are Deutsch’s Darth Vader spot for Volkswagen and Wieden and Kennedy’s Chrysler ad with Eminen “Imported From Detroit.”  Both are car ads but in my opinion what sets these spectacular efforts apart is the use of music.

Music was once a much bigger part of advertising than it is today. Often, it’s a throw-away now.  Big ad agencies used to have large music departments with recording studios, op boards and lots of seats for musicians to sit in while awaiting auditions.  Today music departments are on someone’s computer. When the spot is 65% complete someone might ask “What kind of music bed do we need?”

Muscle memory is something I always have my clients aspire to in branding and advertising.  Associate your work with clear ideas, images, turns-of-a-phrase or something to hum.  When I hear Eminem these days I’m ready to buy Detroit. To buy Chrysler. I’m thinking Kid Rock and “In it to win it like Yserman.” Imported From Detroit was is a brilliant brand strategy – but the spot was even better.  Poetry and music are still the best ways to deliver a sale. Peace.  And RIP Police Officer Peter Figoski.

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I love a good cause.  Clean water, sans parasites , in the developing world (Africa) is one such. Levi’s jeans, as part of its “Go Forth” campaign, is sponsoring a Facebook program that ask people to click their support for Water.org, and once a 100,000 clicks are gathered Levi’s will donate money.   This is “good’s work” (thank you Bailey’s Café) and it will make a difference. I support it and suggesteth everyone go forth and donate. That said, Levi’s still needs a brand idea and “individualism and independence” ain’t it.


If Levi’s cares about the environment, and I know it does, they should jump on the durability wagon.  Buy one pair, don’t get one free, you don’t have to buy another pair for 3 more years.  That’s environmentalism.  And stop with all the stone washing stuff that wears the jeans out a year early.  The worn-in patina of a pair of Levi’s is the badge.  Faded knees, faded pockets, holes in the crotch.  This is life. Not art imitating life.  Don’t pay some schmekel to pre- tear your jeans…get up on the life cycle and wear them out yourself!

Levi’s is one of the great American brands and it has lost its way.  FCB got it.  BBH got it a bit and sexed it up. Wieden and Kennedy, a brilliant shop, has found a core, but it’s the wrong core.  Individualism and independence a brand plank, not “the idea.” 

The Water.org project should be left to the PR dept.  Fight the durability fight (it’s American) and get mad credit for the environment – on so many levels. 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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Love is not a branding idea. Sorry Blackberry. You may be on to something with the notion that “like is mediocre” or “like is watered down love” as a campaign idea, but you’re never going to build up the brand tying it to the word love. So be smart(phone) and shut it down; get out while you can. Beatles song or not.

The strongest brand in the world today, Coke, would never have made it this far had Wieden and Kennedy been at the helm early on making ads about “happiness.”  Coke is a mature brand with some unique issues, I understand, and people know it Is a cola and Does refresh (Is-Does), yet as nice as the “happiness” ads are, and they’re good ad-craft, happiness is a second generation benefit. As is “love” for Blackberry. Fah, fah, fah fail.

The smart phone category is getting to be a real mess. Though I applaud Blackberry for its attempt at brand discipline and some good may, indeed, come of it — love ain’t it.

The Motorola “Cliq” has an idea. Or, it is the MotoBlur? Either way their idea is tied to the Does benefit of being “social.” The phone was built to social network (verb). The campaign line “smart gets social” works. If the Moto Cliq can continue to open a gap between itself and competitors in offering the ability to integrate all social networking apps with grace and ease, it will win some serious share. It will have an idea I can love.

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