Archive for the ‘brand management’ category

Progressive Management Anything But

August 19th, 2012

As I’ve said many times before, your brand isn’t about what you say; it’s about what you do.  And based on this story (courtesy of Seth Godin‘s blog) of how Progressive Insurance treats its customers, it’s hard to imagine a company doing a more inept job of brand management.

I realize that a lot of people like Progressive’s “Flo” advertising campaign. (I can only assume these people are also big fans of Gallagher and Carrot Top.)   Not only have I never been a fan of the campaign’s low-brow, unsophisticated humor, it’s always led me to suspect that the people running Progressive’s marketing department have questionable judgment.  Sadly, those suspicions have been confirmed by this story of how Progressive has treated the family of Katie Fisher.

This story tells you two things about Progressive: they’re heartless, and they’re stupid.   Heartless because of the way their actions have dumped salt on the emotional wound that Katie’s death caused her family.  Stupid because the $75,000 they’re trying to save pales in comparison to the cost of the deservedly horrendous publicity they’ve generated for themselves.

Here’s hoping that Progressive’s management will wake up and not only decide to make good on the money they owe the Fishers, but throw in an extra $100,000 or $250,000 as payment for the badly-needed wake-up call.

It would certainly be the progressive thing to do.

Nike Should Just Stop It

April 8th, 2010

For decades Nike has been one of the most creative and effective advertisers on the planet, but I think they hooked one out of bounds with their latest  Tiger Woods commercial.   It shows Mr. Woods blankly staring at the camera while he ostensibly listens to his late father.

Earl Woods’ words, obviously recorded in a different context but made to seem as if they’re about his son’s well-publicized extra-marital affairs, are:  “Tiger…I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion.  I want to find out what your thinking was…I want to find out what your feelings are…and did you learn anything.”

I think that this is a mistake for both Nike and its most famous spokesman for three reasons.  First, given that Mr. Woods has repeatedly insisted that his marital infidelities are a private matter, this very public commercial is extremely hypocritical.  Second, Earl Woods’ words suggest that  people shouldn’t be so fast to pass judgment on his son until they’ve heard his side of the story–as if anything Tiger could say could possibly justify his alleged affairs with 17 women. Third, when Nike and Tiger should be doing everything possible to make this four-month episode fade away from the public consciousness, this commercial has only served to attract extra attention and controversy.

Nike is one of the few sponsors that didn’t abandon Mr. Woods following the revelations about his many infidelities; given their tremendous investment in him, I think that was the right decision.  But I believe that will continue to be the right decision only if it becomes increasingly clear that Mr. Woods is sincerely remorseful for his indiscretions and determined to get his life back on a healthy moral track.  Unfortunately, this commercial makes me question the sincerity of his remorse, and the quality of Nike’s judgment.

Having said that, I gave this commercial a rating of  “2nd floor”, rather than “basement”, because I have to give Nike some credit for having the courage to run this provocative commercial.  In the 1980s people thought Nike was crazy to run commercials without making any reference to the Nike brand (other than its now-famous “swoosh”), and it turned out Nike knew exactly what it was doing.  Maybe time will show that this latest commercial was an equally brilliant stroke.

But I’m betting that the advertising history books will show that, at least in this case, Nike should have taken a mulligan.

New Charmin Campaign a Wipeout

March 6th, 2010

Oh, for the days when Charmin‘s advertising consisted of dear old Mr. Whipple pleading with grocery store shoppers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” For the past year or so, Procter & Gamble’s marketing antics have surely had Dick Wilson, the actor who played this lovable character (as well as Darrin and Samantha’s neighbor in “Bewitched”), rolling over in his grave. They’ve certainly had me retching on my sofa.

First, about a year ago we were subjected to a TV ad promising that with Charmin you’ll have “fewer pieces left behind.” To make sure that we could grasp the concept, the ad showed an animated mama bear literally wiping pieces off of her baby bear’s behind. Recently, the marketing mavens in P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters have developed (or at least green-lighted) the theme “Enjoy the Go!”, which surely has the parody commercial writers at Saturday Night Live asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of that!” The ridiculous phrase is not only featured in their latest TV ad (which I haven’t been able to locate online yet), it was the theme of a public relations event in New York City over the holidays. Among other things, this event encouraged people to “Do the Potty Dance.” As SNL‘s Seth Meyers would say, “Really?”

I realize that the world is changing at a rapid pace, but I apparently missed out on this “Defecation Celebration” trend. If Charmin has its way, “Have a nice day!” will be replaced in our vernacular with “Have a nice poop!”

Procter & Gamble, which essentially invented the concept of brand management, is perhaps the most respected marketing company in the world. They’re also probably the most research-oriented marketing company in the world, which suggests that consumer research must have led them to conclude that America was ready for this rather graphic and even celebratory talk about the joys of using toilet paper. On the other hand, consumer research also led Ford and Coca Cola to believe that America was ready for the Edsel and New Coke. Sometimes you have to ignore the research and defer to your judgment.

I do have to give the normally risk-averse P&G credit for having the courage to take a bold step, and I suspect that this campaign has been the subject of great debate in Cincinnati. However, I have a hard time believing that this campaign is not turning more people off than on. Niche brands can afford to do things that offend a lot of people as long as they’re appealing to a meaningful minority, but mass brands like Charmin often have more to lose than to gain by employing controversial tactics. For this reason, I have to question P&G’s judgment in blessing this campaign.

So until I see evidence that this campaign is having a positive impact, I have no choice but to assign this campaign a rating of Floor Number Two.

When the Going Gets Tough…the Smart Raise Prices!

February 23rd, 2009

Recently Procter & Gamble announced that its response to the weakening economy would be to increase its prices and use its marketing efforts to persuade consumers that its products are a superior value despite the premiums they charge. In other words, P&G–the company that invented the concept of brand management–has decided that our economic woes are no excuse to panic and abandon the long-held value-added marketing strategy that made the company one of the most successful businesses on the planet.

As someone who used to compete against P&G, I have always had tremendous respect for the rigor and consistency of their strategic thinking. (Their creativity sometimes leaves something to be desired, however, but their huge budgets allow them to compensate for that shortcoming.) While their decision to stick to their guns is thus hardly surprising, it is nonetheless refreshing and admirable–particularly when institutions like Saks Fifth Avenue are indulging in marketing myopia and slashing prices left and right.

Early in my career, I was in a meeting in which someone suggested cutting prices in order to stimulate our sales. I’ll never forget the response from the senior manager in the room: “Any business you get because of price you’ll eventually lose because of price.” He directed us to come up with ideas that would increase revenue by adding value rather than subtracting price. And we did.

Perhaps his direction–and P&G’s decision–are not particularly profound, but in an environment in which so many once-esteemed companies are taking the easy way out and abandoning the principles that built their brands, it’s encouraging to see a company respond to a tough market by demonstrating the courage of its convictions.