Very few agencies get to launch an automotive brand. Cars are special. They’re expensive, they are an outward representation of their owners personal positioning (at least in America), and automotive brands have a special place in advertising folklore. It was VW with DDB that launched “the creative revolution” with the iconic “Think Small” ad.
Notable brand launches have mostly been new luxury nameplates from Japanese companies, Honda with Acura, Inifiniti with Nissan (which had to make the change from Datsun to Nissan before this) and Toyota with Lexus. Others were GM’s creation of the short lived Saturn, Toyota with the even shorter launch of Scion, and then Tesla.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky was asked around the turn of the 21st century to relaunch the Mini Cooper in the USA- now that it was owned by BMW. They thought they had a monumental task with a relatively small budget.
In early 2001 American roads were dominated by SUV’s – the fastest growing segment – and light trucks was the most popular segment in the category. Japanese and German brands dominated the import segment and gas was $1.25. Bigger was better. Small car sales were at their lowest point in 15 years. MINI’s heritage was British, which was synonymous with unreliability in the car category.
The deck was stacked, and to top it all off, there were only 2 cars in the line, the Cooper and the Cooper S. The first step was to identify what makes a brand a brand:
We did an exhaustive study of iconic brands across a variety of categories and discovered six characteristics common to iconic brands. 1. A defining signature look 2. An ability to elicit a physical or emotional reaction 3. A tendency to take on characteristics outside their category 4. A tendency to own a unique benefit within a category or create a new category altogether 5. An ability to connect with and reflect the attitudes and values of a broad user base 6. A tendency to break conventions and reinvent to stay salient
From there- sort of work backwards to find the mojo. With Mini there were several clues.
The car doesn’t look like any others- it’s funky. It also is a blast to drive. They worked that into the brief:
Showcase the defining look of the new MINI – its size and contrasting roof.
Create as many opportunities as possible for people to come in contact with the new MINI so they could experience its smile generating magic.
Subtly anthropomorphize the new MINI.
Communicate our unique benefit – life-affirming exhilaration at an attainable price.
Emphasize customization and individual self-expression.
Use non-traditional media and traditional media in very non-traditional ways.
“What are you doing for fun this weekend?”
CP+B took this insight and did some testing. They created an “exhilaration scale” to clarify the price to WOW factor. And, then, they started looking for the definition of that experience.
At first they called it “going”- as opposed to driving, which was the operative industry word. Then, someone stumbled onto “Motoring” – it was driving- with a British twist- and “Let’s motor” was born. That, along with the badge, and distinctive non-traditional media, lead to a launch that out-lived some other small car brands (Scion) despite the car not excelling in the reliability or cost of ownership like the other newer brand launches.
Once they had a tagline, there were ads, and then there were stunts. Lots of stunts.
The ads were out of the box. Literally. Like putting a Mini Cooper on top of an SUV and driving it around a city.
The key takeaway from this post are things we at The Next Wave preach in our tagline, Create Lust • Evoke Trust. To do that, we look at those six characteristics everyday. We search for universal truths that build easy inroads to consumers psyches, and then find a way to elicit emotion that sets your brand apart from your competition. It’s what Steve Jobs did at Apple with ease of use, putting the customer first- and creating “Bicycles for our minds” – something simple- and easy- and loved, to move people from thinking of computers as distant machines that spoke an arcane language, to “hello.”
There are other iconic brands that found a powerful voice through better positioning. We’ll list just a few.
“Just do it” from Nike
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” from BMW- which they walked away from, and have recently started edging back.
What would make your list.
If you’d like to discuss crafting your iconic brand, we’re here to help you find your insight and give you the tools to own your position in your industry.
Fast food is a tough category. While McDonalds obviously has the secret sauce to the number one spot, the actions of number two through five are like watching a three ring circus. Only one can be something for everyone, everyone else, needs to figure out how to be the anti-something for everyone and pick their niche.
Chipotle is the envy of the industry- with a ridiculously low ad budget (they actually dropped from $7.5 million in measured media in 2010 to $5.8 in 2011 according to Ad Age Mar 12, 2012, “Chipotle aims to buck fast-food convention- while it still can“) and a menu that doesn’t change much and a business model that doesn’t rely on “Sales” or price off promotions. Chipotle has a value proposition: a big portion of fresh locally sourced food, that’s made to order in front of you. Subway uses part of the same model and is the number two fast feeder: A custom made sandwich at a reasonable price.
Lately, Burger King has ditched one of the hottest agencies in the country, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, cut ties with CMO Russ Klein (who has bounced back at Arby’s) and gone back on the mission to out-McDonald’s McDonalds:
The restaurant’s menu will include a record 10 new items, among them, made-to-order smoothies and three new salads. Burger King also will increase its marketing efforts, featuring soccer player David Beckham, talk show host Jay Leno, actress Salma Hayek and singer Mary J. Blige in upcoming commercials. The chain plans to send out 40 food trucks across the country to hand out food at events and set up sampling inside some Burger King locations.
The chain is reportedly attempting to broaden its menu with healthier and more snack alternatives in an effort to appeal to mothers, families and Baby Boomers. Burger King and its franchisees will spend an estimated $750 million to revamp stores over the next 12 months.
Burger King built their business on the Whopper- a burger that used to be bigger and tastier than a Big Mac. The company hit pay dirt when they challenged market leader McDonalds with “Have it your way” as a way to differentiate their offering as made to order and fresh- utilizing “Flame broiling” instead of frying- positioning them as the burger kings- in the same way you make a great burger in your back yard. Burger King appealed to some of the same triggers that work for Chipotle and Subway- their food was made more the way you make it at home. Home cooking beats the factory- that was a message and positioning that resonated.
To be the Burger King, all they had to do was make the best burger our there. Now, they are placing bets on salads, frappes, wraps and famous faces. Compare that to upstart chain, Five Guys. The whole business is focused on making burgers and fries. When you order- the cashier calls back the number of patties that need to be on the grill- nothing else. Take out the frying surface and replace it with open flame grilling and they would be the penultimate burger kings.The oversize portions of freshly cut fries as well as the fresh meat burgers make them the new Burger Kings. Advertising is mostly accomplished by word of mouth and the reviews posted around the store remind you that this is the burger joint of old reincarnated. Note- they don’t have a dollar menu, don’t do couponing, no TV ads either. Like the Chipotle model, the entire kitchen and process is on display.
My visit yesterday to Burger King to check out the “new changes” confirmed that BK isn’t the Burger King anymore- despite having cast aluminum burger flippers for door pulls, once I got into the line and watched the digital menu screens show me salads getting the sexy dressing pour and sundaes getting drizzled with chocolate sauce – I almost forgot I was in a burger place. The menu is schizophrenic with “stackers” for a buck- and the next step up is a burger starting at $3+. To confuse matters there are a ton of chicken offerings, salads and who knows what else. No one told me it would be at least three minutes for the “Chicken snack wrap” until after I ordered and the confusion of trying to speed things up by switching, then not switching my chicken for a second stacker reminded me of a three ring circus.
The moral of the story is to be successful, a brand has to know who they are and stick to it. That’s why the new Burger King is obviously Five Guys.
For every question I get about the wonders of “web 2.0” it’s rare that we hear clients ask “what can I do to make my customer happier?” Will a mobile version of your website make them feel better about the washing machine they just bought? No.
It comes down to customer service- and understanding that the best marketing is outstanding customer service- “marketing as a service.”
Amazon got it when an ad agency suggested they spend at least $30 million a year on ads- and instead they decided to give their customers free shipping (of course, once they started into their own products like the Kindle- they had to start advertising).
One has to credit Crispin Porter + Bogusky for taking on Domino’s Pizza- and not only telling them that the quality of their pizza is the problem (they probably told VW that being below average in the JD Power car quality charts wasn’t helping sales too) but getting the company to pay money to tell customers that their pizza did suck, but it’s better now:
You can spend all the money on marketing you want- just remember, if your product or service is less than stellar- good advertising will only kill your product sooner.
That’s the beauty of web 2.0, not, when you screw up, someone will tell a lot of people- either on your site, where you can respond and try to fix it- or on anyone of millions of other sites, including their own- where you may or may not be able to respond. If you haven’t set up Google Alerts on every product name, company name, key people in your business- you may be finding out the hard way when things are going wrong.
If there is one place we need customer service 2.0 it’s government. Unfortunately, most politicians and bureaucrats think they are immune from finger pointing (although they’re all aces at it). The rest of the nation already understands the value of open, honest communication, unfortunately we’re still doing government with rules from long before the information age.
If you want an in your face take on customer service, I give you Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library speaking at SXSW (parental advisory for naughty words):
As a parting thought- thanks to Gary- it also doesn’t hurt for your company to have a personality either. Try reading “Personality not included” by Rohit Bhargava- it’ll wake you up to what kind of service is possible with personality.
There is no “App for that” when it comes to customer service- it all comes from the choices leadership makes. Advertising or free shipping? Quality product or lower pricing? A warranty that customers can believe in, or a legal trap to play gotcha?
Customer service should be first on everyone’s mind, everyday, because there is an app to tell the world when you screw up- you’re looking at it now. Comment below at will.
We live in an attention society. Everybody wants it, few get it, and all of us give it.
Advertising legend Howard Luck Gossage said “People don’t read ads, they read what interests them and sometimes it’s an ad.”
In today’s marketplace, people watch and share the outrageous. The question is, is it outrageous in a way that extends your brand message? Is it something that helps you make your point about why brand X is better than brand Y?
Evian, a company that sells the most commoditized product in the world- water, gives us an entertaining ditty with babies roller skating to the track of “Rappers Delight”- anyone 40 and older- their core market, remembers this song, and thinks babies are cute. This ad will get a lot of positive spread.
Then, there is an ad, probably done by the bad boys of advertising, Crispin Porter + Bogusky for Internet Explorer 8 and it’s private browsing feature. You’ll watch this- go, eehhwwwwww- and then tell 10 friends. O.M.G.I.G.P. or “Oh, my god, I’m gonna puke”
If given the choice, which would you prefer represented your brand? And, if trends continue, the puking woman is outscoring the babies in views on YouTube by a landslide, so think carefully.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is proving why they are at the top of almost every agency search consultants list. Burger King continues to have same store growth after years of failed campaigns, and changing agencies. VW was almost ready to give up on the US market, again, but have at least started to rebound sales. But what started out as an embarrassingly bad intro for Microsoft with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and then into an “I’m a PC” has now hit pay dirt by not even talking about Microsoft’s products, but by doing a comparison between PC hardware and Apple hardware.
“Laptop Hunters” is credited with changing perception of brand value, according to a BrandIndex study:
Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.
Hefty gains in a short time, although Apple hasn’t sat idly by:
But, while this battle royal can wage for years, the real reason that Crispin Porter + Bogusky keeps winning for their clients is that they get the fundamentals right.
They know that advertising is supposed to surprise and delight, not inform and sell. They take great pains to make sure that you might actually want to talk about the ads they do around the water cooler at work the next day.
Today, they pulled one out of the hat for me. I own a copy of “Hoopla” which is their monograph. For the most part, it’s heinously designed making it almost impossible to read, but, inside the back cover- I discovered (via a tweet by Alex Bogusky) there is a secret second book:
I’ve also been watching the CP+B Ebay auction of their interns time:
ANNOUNCING THE CP+B INTERN AUCTION
In the past, our interns have created work for companies like Burger King, Volkswagen, Guitar Hero and Microsoft. And now they can do the same for you. Bidding starts at $1 for three months of service with all proceeds going to the hardest working people we know – the CP+B interns themselves. So bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate.
It’s innovative, it’s interesting and it’s not strictly advertising. It’s a conscious effort to manipulate and shape contemporary culture, cajoling and dancing outside the boundaries of conventional advertising wisdom. Everything can be an ad if you make it interesting enough.
And that’s why they are winning awards, accounts and owning the crown of the Hoopla kings.
Comparison advertising. It’s been around for a long time. In days of old, it was the way to go. Choosy Mom’s choose Jif, the Pepsi Challenge, We’re number 2, so we try harder, the demos showing how Bounty was the “quicker picker upper.”
During the boom years, comparison advertising became passe among market leaders- why give credit to your competition.
Typically, it was a way to leverage a smaller brand against the leader.
Audi challenges BMW and loses
It’s a dangerous proposition. Look at the smackdown Audi gets from BMW in their billboards in Santa Monica on the right. Those who don’t study their craft are doomed to get hit twice. Honda fired Chiat/Day from their motorcycle account. Their new agency came up with “Follow the leader” to which Chiat/Day came back- now working for Yamaha with “Don’t follow anyone.”
When the economy goes bad- all bets are off. It’s time to go into the cage for a brand on brand death match.
While scrapping for every dollar might not be an option as consumers cut back, the damage it can do to a brand is real. Do you really want to be the cheapest, lowest price product when the money starts flowing again.
Chuck Porter once said at the Cincinnati Ad Club “Anyone can do a better price and product ad, all they have to do is have a lower price” so it sort of shocks me when Crispin Porter + Bogusky starts running ads for Microsoft based on price.
Where “Laptop hunters” Lisa and Jackson go to buy a laptop for under $1,500 and do a comparison between Apple and a PC.
After the drilling Apple has given Microsoft with their “Get a Mac” campaign, which has won an Effie, and has been credited for doubling market share, Apple had to see it coming.
But, this is the kind of attention Microsoft wanted when they hired the best ad agency in the country to try to breath life back into their bankrupt Windows/Vista brand.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is again proving that edgy, strategic advertising can get people talking about a brand differently, quickly, by pushing buttons.
[The reality is: both Apple and Microsoft will be in trouble if some 17 year old does for Linux what Blake Ross did for the Mozilla code base to create Firefox.]
Realize that Microsoft isn’t even comparing their product to Apple in the ads- they are comparing their partners hardware- people aren’t validating Microsoft in the buying ads- but Sony, HP, Dell etc.
How many companies would spend their marketing dollars on promoting their marketing partners?
When times get tough, consumers do spend more time evaluating major purchases. However, it’s not price that they look at as much as value. Giving consumers reason to talk about your brand value is only a good idea if it is really there. Look at the response to a Business Week story on the subject of the Microsoft challenge- compared to a holy war.
Maybe the best advice still comes from that old Chiat/Day ad: “Don’t follow anyone” and don’t compare. Leadership has its privileges.