Archive for July, 2010

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.

FedEx Office Should Be the World’s Proudest Advertiser

July 19th, 2010

It’s a rare commercial that can completely capture the essence of a product while also providing royal entertainment, but this one does it.  I’ve been wanting to write a post about it for months, but until now I couldn’t find it online.

It’s for FedEx Office, the company formerly known as Kinko’s.  As someone who spent most of his career as a corporate exec, I can tell you that one of the biggest adjustments involved with becoming an entrepreneur is that you no longer have a large staff to handle things like printing and shipping for you. FedEx Office smartly fills that void, and this spot does an exceptional job of making that abundantly clear.

More than that, it humorously but powerfully conveys the emotional attachment the customer feels toward “his staff,” who come across as smart, understanding and polite.  When they respectfully decline his invitation to take the day off, his response–”That…is why I hired you”–is perfectly written and perfectly delivered.   And when he exits the store saying “World’s proudest boss,” you know all you need to know about how FedEx Office wants its customers to feel.

Of course, this can be considered excellent advertising only if it accurately represents the service FedEx Office truly delivers.  Based on my experience with the branch office I use, it does, as  I’m consistently pleased with the quality, friendliness and pricing of the service I receive.  If my experience is typical, the bosses at FedEx office should be very proud of their company–and their advertising agency.

Will Apple Admit That It Has a Worm?

July 15th, 2010

For the past several years, I’ve considered Apple to be the best marketing organization on the planet.  Their ability to anticipate–and, more impressively, create–consumer desires has been without parallel, as has their penchant for product design and advertising.  Now, however, we’ll get a chance to see how good they are at crisis management.

As this Wall Street Journal article shows, it seems clear that Apple’s vaunted product design team–including legendary co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs–dropped the ball in developing Apple’s new iPhone 4.  The otherwise well-reviewed device appears to have reception problems that result from a faulty antenna design that wasn’t subjected to adequate testing.

Surprisingly–and disappointingly–Apple’s initial reaction was to cavalierly suggest that the problem was the result of users holding the phone improperly.  They then copped to a software glitch, which they inexplicably tried to minimize by suggesting that it affects their earlier-generation iPhones as well.  And now both explanations are being challenged by Consumer Reports, which claims the problems are hardware-related.

Whatever the truth is–and all signs seem to support Consumer Reports’ side–Apple had better be completely forthcoming from this point forward or its credibility, and its brand equity, will take a serious hit.  Apple and Mr. Jobs have been on an infallibility streak for several years, so admitting they’ve screwed up will hurt.  But Apple’s fans–and prospective future consumers–will forgive imperfection much more readily than dishonesty or cowardice.

Apple has produced millions of sweet, crisp, juicy products that have thrilled millions of consumers–including me–and in the process created a company worth more than Microsoft or General Electric.  But if they don’t start displaying more candor, humility and urgency in confronting this rare misstep, they run a real risk of letting this one bad Apple spoil the bunch–not to mention a bunch of brand equity.

Seat Belt Ad Belts It Out of the Park

July 13th, 2010


Marketing is mostly about changing behavior, and changing behavior is mostly about finding and communicating the proper motivation.  For decades safety groups all over the world have been trying to motivate audiences to wear seat belts, but an alarming percentage of the population still refuses to do so on a regular basis.

I’ve always felt that one reason is that many people just don’t take their own safety all that seriously.  On the other hand, I’ve also felt that getting people to think about the impact their death would have on their family just might provide the missing motivation.  Personally speaking, a big motivator for me to wear a seat belt has always been that I don’t want my family to live with the thought that my  last act in life was a moronic one.

Maybe that’s why I was so knocked out by this provocative TV commercial from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership in England.  The unusual format grabs your attention, the brilliant blend of super-slo-mo visuals and mesmerizing music reels you in, and the cleverly powerful ending brings a smile to your face–and perhaps even a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat.

All I can say is that if this doesn’t motivate you to wear a seat belt, you must not have a family.  Or a car.