6 easy steps to an iconic brand… you wish.

Think Small VW ad by DDB

The ad that launched the creative revolution.

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.

Source: Gold Award Winning CP+B Mini USA Entry – Adweek

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:

Mini Cooper logoWe 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

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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.
Mini Cooper on an SUV being driven around a city

“What are you doing for fun this weekend?”

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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.

Apple 1984 mac Hello ad

“hello”

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.

 

What will your brand legacy be?

Imagine your company gets swallowed up by a larger competitor. I know, that will never happen to you, but, when was the last time you went to a locally owned bank, a hospital that wasn’t part of a network, or checked into a hotel that wasn’t part of a conglomerate?

The New York Times wrote about Virgin Airlines customers lamenting the loss of the Virgin brand personality when Alaska Airlines finishes the takeover- the comments, the insight into what made Virgin flights different, coming from customers are a lesson for brand marketers:

“I like Alaska, I don’t love Alaska. But I love Virgin,” she said. “I think of it as a young, hip airline. Alaska is more of a friendly aunt.”

Travelers like Ms. Bansal are wondering what to expect from Virgin America under its new parent company: skinny jeans and stilettos, or sweatshirts and sneakers. After all, Alaska started in 1932 with a single three-seat plane owned by an Anchorage furrier, while Virgin America was founded by a flashy British billionaire less than a decade ago with a goal of restoring glamour to flying…

Although Alaska has been a perennial leader in best-airline rankings, its allure comes more from its reliability than mood lighting or funny safety videos. Like Virgin America, it inspires loyalty among customers, if not the same passion….

Alaska and Virgin have been ranked first and second in operational performance in a top industry list for two straight years, and Virgin America is a mainstay atop Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler’s readers’ choice rankings of the top domestic airlines…

“I always liked @alaskaair but I hope they learn how to fly like @VirginAmerica, which I #love,” @salsop posted.

Source: Virgin America Fans Ask if Alaska Airlines Takeover Will Mean Loss of Cool

If you have any question about why Virgin will be missed. Think back to the last time the safety video came on while you are crammed into coach. Did you want to watch it again? When Virgin did their inflight safety video, it had 5.8 million views on YouTube  (in a dozen days) – by people, not strapped into their seats.

What’s interesting is that both Virgin and Alaska have worked with some superstar ad shops. Virgin with Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Alaska with WongDoody.

Note the origin stories for both airlines in the NYT piece- Richard Branson, the “flashy British billionaire” started an airline to “restore glamour to flying” as opposed to getting people from point a to point b. Maybe this is why Virgin is becoming another casualty of consolidation, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent to doing things differently than your competition.

For a while, it seemed like Apple wasn’t going to make it, but, now, even though it doesn’t have anywhere near a majority of the computers running their operating systems, they are doing quite well as the worlds most valuable company- in the mobile operating system space. They also were known to use a superstar ad shop- and the campaign that’s credited with turning them around- was “Think Different.”

Virgin thought different about air travel, and unfortunately isn’t going to stay with us- but, don’t let that dishearten you, is it better to go down with a crowd of fervent followers, or quietly and not really be missed? You decide.

Hopefully Alaska Airlines will try to assimilate the Virgin culture and attitude, so that when they get gobbled up, we end up with at least one airline you can love for more than cheap, easy or their frequent flyer program.

Why your advertising doesn’t work

If you are spending money on advertising, and you don’t think you are getting your money’s worth, maybe it’s because your advertising is too conventional. Maybe, you think that your ads, should be like your competitors ads, only better.

Then you see what a young criminal defense lawyer did with his advertising and you start to understand that being like your competition just means you’re a commodity.

Daniel Buckley Muessig is a defense attorney from Pittsburgh, PA and yet he’s so much more. He recently uploaded an ad for his business, you know, like most lawyers might. But in less than 24 hours, the ad has gone super viral.

Why? Because if you’ve committed a murder or an arson or “even funny throwback crimes such as moonshining” and you live in Pennsylvania, he wants to be your lawyer.

“I may have a law degree,” he says, “but I think like a criminal.”The otherwise plainspoken 32-year-old Pittsburgh native and graduate of The University of Pittsburgh School of Law was formerly a battle rapper by the name of Dos-Noun. As Dos-Noun, he performed with the likes of indie rap heavyweights such as Slug, Atmosphere, before making the successful jump to a career as a criminal attorney a few years ago.

After uploading the video at 11pm Wednesday night, he’s been seeing his phone ring off the hook ever since.

Source: Are You a Murderer? Are You Guilty? Do You Live in Pennsylvania? Call Daniel Muessig

The folks at Crispin Porter + Bogusky used to evaluate if an ad was just an ad- or something special- “how would this work as a press release?” If it isn’t press worthy- it’s almost not worth doing. CP+B launched a body spray for Burger King- called “Flame”. Do you really want to smell like a Whopper? Nope. But, every news outlet wrote about it.
Here is the raw footage of Mr. Muessig being interviewed by the local news- about his “unconventional” ad- which is also 7 times longer than the normal lawyer TV ad:

This was cut down to a 2.75 minute news segment.

Remember, Muessig didn’t spend a dime on media, he paid some professionals to create the ad- and posted it on Youtube.

Interviews in Esquire, Slate, Vice, the American Bar Association Journal, Complex, Inquisitr, Deadspin, Wonkette. When was the last time people even watched your 3.5 minute ad? Never mind interviewed you about it?

We always remind clients, we can create interest, but it’s still up to the client to close the deal and follow up. The old adage that nothing kills a crappy product faster than great advertising still holds true.

If Mr. Muessig’s phone really did ring off the hook, he may never need to do another ad, since this ad will always be relevant. No sale, no call before midnight tonight (in fact, he’s  ok with you calling him after midnight). People who don’t think it’s professional (other lawyers) or that he doesn’t looks “lawyerly enough” aren’t his target audience. He says he thinks like a criminal in the ad, and since thinking like your clients is one of the fundamental keys to good advertising he’s nailing his advertising since his customers are criminals.

Learn from the X-rapper lawyer. Don’t do ads that aren’t worthy of press coverage or watching twice.

And before you hire a celebrity…

Just say no to celebrity endorsements No Jello plus Bill Cosby

Can Jello wiggle out of this?

Let’s see, we can’t really figure out what’s unique or better about your brand or product.

The boss likes… hobnobbing with celebrities! Great, we’ll hire one, or create one, or associate our brand with one.

How’d that work out for?

  • Hertz with OJ Simpson?
  • Florida OJ with Anita Bryant?
  • A whole bunch of brands with Bill Cosby- including Jello?
  • Same for Tiger Woods.
  • Kobe Bryant. Martha Stewart. Donald Trump…

Today, Subway’s spokesperson, Jared Fogel is being tied to child porn, although there are no pending charges or proof.

Why risk building a brand on a person who is human and capable of falling from grace? Even if it’s the CEO- Wendy’s has floundered since the death of Founder Dave Thomas.

Find your brand voice and build it so that it has a life of its own. McDonald’s Ronald McDonald, who never goes away. Kentucky Fried Chicken had the Colonel, then they didn’t, then they became KFC, and then after years of floundering- back comes the Colonel, only this one’s a lot more memorable.

Even if for three years, Apple used two actors to say “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” you didn’t hear them identify themselves- or make claims based on their own credibility.

But, if you insist on going the celebrity endorsement route- make sure you buy celebrity fail insurance, because, as they’ve always said, “the bigger they are, the bigger they fall.”

 

 

 

Advertising done right: "United Problem Solvers" campaign for UPS

UPS is an old brand. FedEx was the upstart. FedEx marketed like crazy, to sell its speed and reliability- “when it absolutely has to be there overnight.” UPS was dragged kicking and screaming into consumer advertising, and had a CEO that didn’t believe marketing was the answer. Maybe that’s why “We run the tightest ship in the shipping business” and “What can brown do for you” and finally “We [heart] Logisitics” all didn’t really talk to the consumer- but- about UPS.

First thing to understand about great advertising- it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for your customer.

Finally, Ogilvy hit the nail on the head with the new UPS campaign “United Problem Solvers”- telling consumers exactly what they want to hear- UPS solves my problems.

“It does signal a way to look differently at UPS and what we can offer, instead of just thinking of our capabilities of making shipments from point A to point B,” said Maureen Healy, vice president of customer communications.

The ad campaign highlights offerings including temperature sensitive health-care solutions, its ability to help grow small businesses and its e-commerce expertise for retailers.

The company has tried to convey a broader message before. Indeed, the new campaign replaces the company’s previous campaign, “We [Heart] Logistics,” which had been in place for nearly five years and targeted companies aiming to sell their wares globally.

“It’s very hard to break through to have people think differently about UPS, because they think they know what they need to know about UPS,” said Alda Abbracciamento, world-wide managing director at advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, who worked with UPS on the campaign. “While very well-known, we’ve got to provide additional meaning to that.”

via UPS Launches New Ad Campaign – WSJ.

Pivoting the United Parcel Service UPS brand to “United Problem Solvers” may not have been the easiest sell to a company that’s been in business since 1907, but since they’d abbreviated the name to UPS so long ago- they’d lost the essence already. And while those in the business may still use the word “parcel”- we’re in a much less formal era when companies will say “ship my pants” – for shock value. UPS needed a refresh from stodgy- and if you think parcel is an antiquated name- let’s get real- we all thought you were lying when you said you loved logistics.

Good campaigns can change the way consumers view your brand almost overnight. Wendy’s found it out with “Where’s the beef” which hammered home the unique product differentiation that had Wendy’s burgers hanging out past the edges of the bun. Nike found their groove with “Just do it” and now, we may be see UPS finally finding their mantra.

 

The challenges of challenger brands

We were invited to a pitch today. The potential client has grown quickly and out grown the agency they had. This is always an unfortunate situation, but, it’s always better to refocus early, before things get totally out of wack.

In a fast growth market, there are certain places a brand wants to be: first, biggest, most well known. Ideally, all three. The problem comes when you’re none of the above and searching for an added edge to continue your growth. This pitch was a bit different, in that we weren’t given much time (a week) and we weren’t given a brief, it was more of a capabilities presentation. Of course, the first question coming out of the audience (it’s a franchise organization so there were a lot of bodies in the room) was have you done work for someone like us before? The old catch 22 question which is why the old industry adage of  “it’s better to be lucky than good” often comes to play in matching agencies to clients. Or, as they also say- it’s not what you know, but who you know.

In our background research we were finding that they are in a segment experiencing phenomenal growth. They’re on the map as a one to watch. The problem is, the number one player in their field, carved a niche away from the original number one by offering a very clear point of differentiation and then proceeded to own the niche like it’s the main event. The number two and three brands have been busy trying to out niche the leader and our potential client was trying to play leapfrog on the very same platform.

Stop.

This is what challenger brands should never do. Don’t play follow the leader. Don’t assume that what works for the leader can be copied, duplicated or improved- need proof, how’s Barnes and Noble really doing vs Amazon in just the eBook reader market? Never mind the selling of books. If you are going to be a challenger brand, the most important thing that you can discover to build a strong brand DNA is your brands “unique selling proposition,” a concept developed by Rosser Reeves for the Ted Bates Agency in the fifties. Brands that find their USP find that their products and services are much easier to sell and have a conversation with their customers because there is no cloud of confusion surrounding their products. Apple is a great example of a challenger brand that still isn’t the biggest by market share, but has grown from near bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world based on the USP of products that are beautiful and easy to use. Google has grown by proving itself useful. Neither were first to market, but both found that by sticking to simple messaging they could own a position that could be unique to them. You’d think that other computer companies would figure out that ease of use is important, but it hasn’t happened yet.

While McDonalds and Burger King and sometimes Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box and countless others fought to be “THE” burger chain, Subway grew to have the most outlets by focusing on a more approachable business model with easier entry for franchisees. Five Guys is making all the burger joints look twice at trying to be something for everyone, as they stick to the knitting of making a better burger. When McDonalds began, there were no chicken nuggets, salads or coffee bars, it was burgers, fries and milkshakes.

If you want to be a challenger brand, that’s fine. But, the truly great understand that to steal a phrase from designer/author Marty Neumeier,  in his book, “Zag“, “when others zig, zag.” He stresses the need for radical differentiation. It’s not just enough to talk about a strategy, you have to actually have one. Five Guys isn’t winning the burger wars because they have free peanuts, it’s because they hyper focused on a better burger and a simplified menu in a no-frills space.

Challenger brands that find their USP and convey it in a clear, differentiated voice, soon find themselves in a category all of their own. Find your USP, or find an agency that you can talk to about finding it, and you’ll be on your way to success.