Archive for the ‘branding’ category

Mondelez? Gesundheit!!

March 24th, 2012

If you had “Mondelez” in the office pool for the new name of Kraft Foods’ global snacking company, you’re a winner!

As reported in an article in the New York Times, “the name is a combination of ‘monde,’ the Latin word for ‘world,’ and ‘delez,’ a made-up word meant to suggest ‘delicious.’ Hence, ‘delicious world.’”  Good to know!

According to Kraft’s chief marketing officer, “It’s quite a job for a single word to capture everything about what we want the new global snacks company to stand for.”  So…you went with a word that captures absolutely nothing about what your company stands for?  Actually, you didn’t go with a word; you went with “Mondelez,” which requires an instruction manual to explain how it’s pronounced and what it means.  She goes on,  “I’m thrilled with the name Mondelez International. It’s interesting, unique and captures a big idea.”  Well, you have to give her credit for hewing to the company line.

What I want to know is how much they paid for this name?  Some people have speculated it might have been in the range of $50,000 to $100,000.  If that’s true, then I’d say they overpaid by…oh… $50,000 to $100,000.

As any marketer worth her or his salt well knows, a brand name is one of a business’s most important assets. Most business managers inherit a brand name and have to make the best of it.  But when you have the luxury of starting from scratch and creating your own brand name, there’s no excuse for going with one that’s hard to pronounce and has to have its meaning explained. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the person selecting this name wasn’t a professional marketer.

Now that I think about it, I’d like to know the name of the agency that came up with “Mondelez.”  Whatever it is, I’m guessing it’s hard to pronounce and completely devoid of any obvious meaning.

On the other hand, I named my company “14th Floor Solutions,” so what the hell do I know?

Ad Raises Question: Is Cain Able?

October 26th, 2011

When I see a company run really bad advertising, it makes me wonder, “If they’re screwing up something as import as the way they market themselves, what else are they screwing up?

That’s the way I now feel about Herman Cain.  While he appears to be a great guy, and he was clearly a very successful businessman, his new TV commercial now makes me question his judgment. I’ve watched the spot several times, and each time I’m left with the same question: “What was he thinking?”

If he couldn’t anticipate that voters (and the media) would be at best puzzled, and at worst turned off, by a shot of chief of staff Mark Block smoking a cigarette–just before transitioning to an image of Cain himself–what else would he fail to anticipate as Commander-in-Chief?

That might be an overreaction on my part, but the point is that this ad has weakened the Cain brand by introducing uncertainty. The essence of branding is being crystal-clear about exactly what you stand for.  And right now I’m not sure if Herman Cain is a legitimate contender to be our next president, or if he’s just blowing smoke.

The Big Ten Needs a Bigger Idea

December 14th, 2010

We’ve known for some time that the Big Ten Conference wasn’t great at either math or communications.  After all, for years this eleven-team conference has inexplicably continued to call itself “The Big Ten”, and they’re sticking with their name even though they’re about to add a twelfth team.  I can certainly understand wanting to maintain your brand name and brand equity, but when your brand name describes the composition of your product (like the number of teams composing the conference) and that composition changes, it seems to me that the name has to change as well.  Otherwise, you just look foolish, and while you’re maintaining your brand name, you’re diminishing your brand equity.

Well, the small minds at the Big Ten offices have done it again:  they’ve just launched a very uninspiring logo (above), and they’ve named the two divisions within the conference “Legends” and “Leaders”.  The logo will surely generate mostly yawns, while the division names are guaranteed to be met with hoots and hollers.  Most conferences use geographic terms–like “North” and “South” or “East” and “West”– to designate their divisions, but the Big Ten can’t because they chose not to organize their divisions on a geographic basis.

Admittedly, coming up with appropriate names that aren’t geographically-oriented is quite a challenge, but I’ll give it a whack.  Given that there are six teams in each division, how  about “Six of One” and “Half a Dozen of Another”?  No?  How about these division names:

  • “Abbott” and “Costello”
  • “Hall” and “Oates”
  • “Captain” and “Tennille”
  • “Yin” and “Yang”
  • “Mac” and “PC”
  • “PC” and “Non-PC”
  • “Rock” and “Roll”
  • “Run” and “Pass”
  • “Hut One” and “Hut Two”

While I’m at it, how about some new equity-preserving names for the conference itself that retain “Big” and “Ten” without being misleading:

  • “The Big Ten-Plus-Two”
  • “The Bigger-Than-Ten”
  • “The Big Greater-Than-or-Equal-to-Ten”
  • “The Big Tension”

Okay, maybe we’re not quite there yet. I’ll keep working on it, but in the meantime, I do have a tagline for them:

“The Big Ten:  12 on a 10-Scale”

Microsoft Needs to Be a Good Orange, Not a Bad Apple

December 9th, 2010


Perhaps the wisest words I’ve ever read about branding strategy are attributed to the late, great Jerry Garcia, who once said:  “The idea isn’t to make people think you’re the best at what you do; it’s to make them think you’re the only one who does what you do.”

If there’s one company on the planet that’s in sync with Mr. Garcia, it’s Apple. (Interestingly, the only other one that comes immediately to mind is Pixar, another company largely shaped by the DNA of Steve Jobs.)  And if there’s a company that doesn’t groove on Mr. Garcia’s vibe, it’s Microsoft.   In fact, Microsoft doesn’t even try to make you think they’re the best at what they do; rather, they’re trying to make you think they’re just like Apple.

But Microsoft will never be like Apple, any more than Bill Gates will ever be like Steve Jobs.  Let’s face it:  Jobs is cool; Gates is geeky.  Apple is cool; Microsoft is–well, it might not be geeky, but it certainly isn’t cool.  And that’s okay!

Sadly, as an article in the Chicago Tribune indicates, the new Microsoft stores are embarrassingly similar to Apple stores.  The problem isn’t that the stores aren’t nice; it’s that they aren’t original.  Since everyone knows that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Microsoft is simultaneously reinforcing that Apple is worthy of emulation while making itself  look like a plagiarizer.

Microsoft needs to get over its genius-envy and embrace the things that make it unique.  For example, it could position itself as “everyman” (in subtle contrast to Apple’s “snob”) by emphasizing:

  • The affordability of Windows-based products
  • Its support of the very popular Flash media format
  • The dramatically larger number of products and programs that use its operating system

When Toyota was at its peak, it didn’t try to make you think it was like Mercedes Benz, nor did Budweiser in its best days try to make you think it was like Heineken. They took pride in who they were–and, oh, by the way, they were the market leaders.

Microsoft is also a market leader, yet its actions reflect insecurity rather than pride. Apple and Microsoft are as different as apples and oranges.  It’s time Microsoft embraced that fact.

After all, oranges are more popular than apples.

AT&T and Blackberry Don’t Carry a Torch for Branding

August 25th, 2010

What do you get when two companies with an aversion to effective branding join forces to bring an exciting new product to market? In the case of AT&T and Blackberry, a  TV commercial that entertains but fails to effectively drive home the name of the advertisers providing the entertainment.

The premise of the commercial is simple: there’s a new smartphone that makes it fun to do business, and the visuals and voiceover cleverly make that point.  The new phone–the Blackberry Torch–makes a lot of sense strategically for Blackberry given its focus on the business market and the fact that it’s been losing market share to the superior “wow factor” of Apple’s iPhone.  And from the reviews I’ve read, the Torch is being very warmly received by the technology writers.

Unfortunately, viewers of this commercial hear the brand names “AT&T” and “Blackberry” twice and once, respectively, while “Torch” is nevered uttered.  (The word appears on screen for less than two seconds at the end of the spot.) Anyone who’s read about the Torch will have to be paying extremely close attention to realize that it’s the product being showcased–or not–in this commercial.

It doesn’t help that the lyrics of the background song–Buddy Holly’s “Every Day”–aren’t particularly pertinent to the product’s positioning.  The song is cute, but it doesn’t sell.

For as long as I’ve been in this business, I’ve been both amazed and appalled by how many marketers are reluctant to leverage their brands in their advertising.  It’s almost as if they feel it’s crass or in poor taste to call too much attention to their brand name.  The best marketers, however,  realize that branding doesn’t have to be boring.

In other words, if AT&T and Blackberry can combine business with fun in their product, why can’t they do it in their advertising?

Better Branding Makes Humor Work Harder

July 30th, 2010

Don’t you love those amusing E*Trade TV commercials featuring the old-school , fat-cat stockbroker who keeps losing clients to his high-tech, low-priced online competitor?  Me too.

There’s only one problem:  these ads are for Scottrade, not E*Trade.

As commercials go, these ads are well-above-average from an entertainment standpoint, but only average from a branding standpoint.  While they mention the brand name two or three times throughout each spot, they don’t do anything to really STAMP the Scottrade brand into your memory. As a result, what could have been a great campaign is merely good.

I would have liked to see these ads leverage–rather than just mention–the brand name.

For example, they could have our hapless stockbroker (nicely played by Brad Norman) changing his name to “Scott” in an attempt to stem the flight of his clients to Scottrade.  Or they could all incorporate a phrase like “Great Scott!”, or somehow play up the reputation “Scots” have for thriftiness (which would reinforce Scottrade’s low-price strategy).  They could even have our stockbroker wear a kilt.

Hokey?  Perhaps.  But I’m pretty sure that these or similar ideas could significantly increase the number of people who remember the brand that’s providing them these entertaining ads.

My advice for Scottrade: maintain your position in humor, but invest in better branding.

Back on Target!

April 29th, 2010

For years, Target had one of the most consistent and stylish TV ad campaigns in any category.  The ads never said the brand name out loud, and they only revealed the brand logo at the end of each spot–normally two big no-nos in my book.  On top of that, the music varied from ad to ad.  Yet as soon as any given ad came on, you knew almost immediately that it was for Target.

One reason is that the ads were visually connected via a red-and-white color theme and the placement of circular objects to reinforce the design of the brand’s logo.  Another is the fact that all of the songs–while not necessarily familiar–shared an upbeat, contemporary, smart sound.  Add it all up, and you had a campaign that was fun to watch and that appears to have helped drive above-market sales growth for Target for several years.

But then Target’s advertising started to miss the mark.  Its ads no long stood out, and its brand personality was suddenly unclear.  The situation reached bottom as recently as Christmas 2009, when a new series of ads caused me to post a rant entitled, “Does This Campaign Seem Off-Target to You?”

But based on their new TV commercial, it appears that Target’s advertising is back and better than ever.  The first time I saw it, I knew within 5 seconds that it had to be a Target spot, even though there are even fewer conventional branding cues than in their past successful ads.  Frankly, I’m not quite sure how they pulled this off, but to me this spot screams “Target” from start to finish.

The intent of the spot was clearly an ambitious one:  to help reestablish Target as the leading-edge fashion mass merchandiser for young consumers while making those consumers aware of the many leading-edge brands it carries exclusively.  And as far as I can see, this mission was accomplished–big-time!  The ad’s song–”The A.B.C. of L.O.V.E.” by Pravda–is a high-energy tune that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  And the visuals are as fashion-forward as just about anything on the air right now.

Of course, I’m not exactly in Target’s target audience–at least for this campaign–so maybe the fact that it appeals to me is actually a bad sign.  Only time will tell, but until it does, I can’t wait for Target’s next ad.  And I’m betting that Target might be a good place to target not only your consumption dollars, but your investment dollars as well.

That’s the Spirit…NOT!!!

April 7th, 2010

Spirit Airlines will go down in PR history for making one of the all-time moronic marketing moves:  announcing that it plans to charge passengers up to $45 for each article of carry-on luggage.  The story has been featured prominently today on virtually every national, regional and local television news program, and it will certainly be covered extensively on every other news medium in the country over the next 24-to-48 hours.

Never mind that Spirit offers extremely reasonable airfares; the company will henceforth be known as the jerks who dreamed up the idea of charging for carry-ons, and possibly for giving many other airlines an excuse to do the same thing.  (I say “possibly” because the public outcry has been great enough that other airlines may decline to follow suit.)   I suspect that much of the population had never heard of Spirit before, but they certainly know them now.

I certainly understand that most airlines are in severe financial trouble and need to find new ways to eke out a profit, but Spirit couldn’t have landed on worse solution.  Every consumer I’ve seen interviewed–as well as many of the anchorpeople reporting the news –are absolutely outraged at this decision.  After all, carry-ons have helped us avoid four major hassles associated with flying–damaged luggage, lost luggage, time wasted at the baggage claim, and fees for checking luggage–and now Spirit has the audacity to mess with this.

If Spirit wanted to enhance their revenues, they should have silently raised their airfares, which they could have done without jeopardizing their positioning as one of the lowest-cost airlines.  Few people would have noticed, and it certainly wouldn’t have been headline news.  And had United, American or some other larger competitor decided to test the waters of charging for carry-on luggage, Spirit could have gauged the public’s reaction before deciding whether to follow suit.

But now Spirit has taken a huge, self-inflicted hit to its brand equity, a hit from which it may never fully recover.

It’s great to innovate, but your innovations should be based on things you hope your customers will love rather than ones you know they’re going to hate.  In other words, you have to be smart enough to recognize an idea that isn’t going to fly–and especially one that’s going to crash and burn.

Liberty Mutual Files Irresponsible Claim

April 6th, 2010

Last night I  had a trivial but all-too familiar experience:  a TV commercial began, and immediately I realized that while it was one I had seen dozens of times, I had no idea who the advertiser was.  A whopping 51 seconds into the commercial, I learned that the advertiser was Liberty Mutual.

It’s bad enough that this spot does such a poor job of registering the name of the advertiser.  But what’s just as bad is this:  after nearly a minute of  watching people do good deeds while we listen to a background song with barely intelligible and rather irrelevant lyrics (HEM’s “Half an Acre”), we finally hear an announcer telling us something about the brand being advertised.  What’s even worse, here’s what the announcer says:  “When it’s people who do the right thing, they call it being responsible.  When it’s an insurance company, they call it Liberty Mutual.”

Oh, really?  Is that the way people talk about Liberty Mutual?   Have you ever heard anybody mention what a responsible company Liberty Mutual is?  Me neither; in fact, I’ve never heard anyone ever mention Liberty Mutual period. Don’t get me wrong; for all I know, Liberty Mutual is a wonderful company, but this commercial does absolutely nothing to persuade me of that.

If you’re trying to convince me that Liberty Mutual is truly a beacon of responsibility, give me some substance.  Build a commercial around a true story of how Liberty Mutual did the right thing when other insurance companies were shirking their responsibility.  Show me an actual client raving about how Liberty Mutual went above and beyond the call of duty for her.  Give me some statistics about how Liberty Mutual is ranked #1 by insurance clients for responsibility or integrity or customer service.

In other words, give me something I can believe instead of insulting my intelligence and wasting my time by simply making an empty, flat-footed and utterly unimpressive claim about how people talk about you.  Wouldn’t you think that an insurance company would be a little more adept when it comes to claims?

To paraphrase Liberty Mutual’s announcer, “When a company spends money on a bad campaign, they call it being irresponsible.  When it’s a really bad campaign, they call it Liberty Mutual.”