The New York Times is a very good newspaper and for a long time, it’s digital product was outstanding. Then someone had the brilliant idea to change the way millions of readers had to navigate the news. Gone was swipe between stories or sections. Immediately, the app started to get 1 star ratings.
Apple carved out their niche from Microsoft early on by offering a consistent, easy to use graphical user interface. Every application behaved the same way for most functions. Command S always meant “Save” Command P was “Print” and they had “Save As” for making a duplicate version- that you could rename- until some genius thought this wasn’t needed since they’d added versions. As someone who uses documents as templates a lot- “save as” was a lot easier than “duplicate” then “rename” and then “Move to” but, alas, someone had a better idea.
Voice command is the big new thing. Talking to machines to get them to do things is all the rage, so imagine my confusion when all of a sudden my Google “Smart device” stopped shutting off the music when I said “OK Google, Off” and started saying “I’m sorry, this device doesn’t have power management tools.”
There are lots of examples of companies trying to retrain customers that may prove fatal in the long run. Apple can’t seem to understand that the new iPhones may be the fastest ever, with the longest battery life and the best cameras but, apparently either price, size or maybe the missing big button at the bottom may be changes that customers aren’t ready to accept.
When you train your customer to do things a certain way, make sure you have a very good reason before you change things, and that your customer knows why.
If there is one thing about business in the day of the internet, your competitors and their alternatives are only a google search away. Think through interface changes as carefully as you change prices, distribution, packaging, suppliers and materials. Because your product may now be your interface.
Karl Lieberman and his creative partner, Brandon Henderson, had been working on the brief for Dos Equis beer for months and had work in production, when they were told to come up with more ideas, a mere two hours before a meeting with the client.
With 30 minutes to go, they landed on “The Most Interesting Man in the World” and his famous line, “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The spots close with the signature sign-off: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” They were actually taking the brief, which they didn’t like, to an extreme- they didn’t believe that drinking beer made you interesting, but, that’s what the brief was searching for.
It also sold a lot of beer, and made the actor, Jonathan Goldsmith, famous.
Luckily, Lieberman and Henderson weren’t just working on a project for time and materials pricing. The value of that idea and the amount of beer it sold, priceless (to steal another tagline from another great campaign.)
The creative brief was pretty similar to all beer briefs- brands make a statement about the drinker, young folks still lean on these brand identifiers to help project their own personal brand. The same type of brief led Crispin Porter + Bogusky to devise “Twin Label Technology” for Molson- an ad campaign that was more than just a campaign, for Molson and one of our favorite examples of true Marketing • Innovation. This is the beauty of creativity in solving business problems. Do research, develop insight, and then find new ways to connect, often using what we call a “fundamental truth,” to create an emotional response that evokes trust and creates lust.
It was years before Nike had “Just do it.” Yet to many, it defines the brand. Three words took years to come up with. Those three words changed the brand forever.
For BMW, many would say “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was the perfect tagline- yet, for a few years, brand management moved away from it- before bringing it back.
When advertising is done right, it looks easy, it feels comfortable, and it immediately makes a connection with a consumer. That’s the value of creativity, and it should never be valued by time and materials.
AdWeek tell us that influencers lead to more sales than celebrities. 22% of consumers have bought a product or service because of recommendation on social media, whereas only 12% have been persuaded to buy thanks to a celebrity endorsement. It’s across all age groups, although younger consumers are even more likely to pay attention to some social media star over a jock, actor, famous conventional person type.
That’s all well and fine, but, influencers are just as susceptible as celebrities as doing something stupid. If brands haven’t learned from OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Bill Cosby, Michael Vick (notice all these examples are black men who fell from grace) or Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Jared Fogle, or Donald Trump for anything… they will start to learn that you can’t buy a perfect endorsement from a human.
When the flow of information was limited, publications like “Consumer Reports” or “Stereo Review” or “Car and Driver” were the go-to platforms for comparative insight in the purchasing process. Now, consumers are more likely to trust an anonymous amateur posting unvetted reviews to Amazon or BHPhoto.com in making their purchasing decision.
When it comes to restaurants, it’s not just the Michelin or Mobile guide, it’s Yelp, Trip Advisor, FourSquare, Google reviews etc. Everyone is a critic. And, since we’re all consumers subjected to a barrage of marketing and advertising, we’ve all become experts at that too.
Except we really haven’t. The best marketing, advertising, campaigns, word of mouth and sales growth aren’t any more accidental than before the age of the internet in your pocket. Smart marketing still grows out of better insight into what makes the consumer lust for your product or service. Universal truths still hit home. Selling someone without making it obvious still outperforms the most expensive campaigns.
How do you find that secret sauce that propels your brand to the forefront? By knowing your customer and making sure you solve the problem they perceive they have better than anyone else. It’s why you are in the business you are in. You should be the expert.
Once Nike figured out they were in the aspirational motivation business instead of the sneaker business- everything else fell into place. Apple wasn’t in the computer business- they were in the bicycles for your mind business (wish they’d rediscover that lately). Barack Obama wasn’t a politician as much as he was the promise of Hope and Change. Donald Trump (for equal time) was in the “Make America Great Again” business.
We’re not in the advertising business- we’re in the Trust and Lust business. What business are you in?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.