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.

The JC Penney rebranding strategy of "Fair and Square Pricing"

JCPenney LogoThere is a difference between selling Apple products and clothes. Ron Johnson, formerly Apple’s retail chief and the new CEO of JC Penney is finding that out quickly. Critics of his move from constant sales to an always fair pricing strategy are having a field day with a Forbes article calling it an “Epic Rebranding Fail”

But nevertheless they launched “Fair and Square Pricing” whereby promotions and sales would be a thing of the past, for the most part, and in their stead would be everyday prices, “best prices” which would be available to consumers on the first and third Friday of each month, plus they would mix in some month-long values, too.

The new tagline ”Enough. Is. Enough.” would speak to the belief that consumers were inundated with promos, coupons and sales and what they really wanted was just plain, old-fashioned, everyday low prices.

No sizzle, just the steak.

via JC Penney’s Epic Rebranding Fail – Forbes.

It’s easy to armchair quarterback these bold moves, many (including this author) thought when Apple decided to open bricks and mortar stores it was a move in the wrong direction. Gateway had failed miserably doing the same thing- and yet, Apple is now considered the most profitable retailer on the planet.

However, there is a big difference between JC Penney and Apple- JC Penney is more of a curator of retail while Apple is the owner of the product. Yes, I can get Apple products elsewhere, but at an Apple store I’m dealing direct. At JC Penney, I can get the products elsewhere and anywhere- there is no exclusivity to what JC Penney sells- or what the brand stands for.

JC Penney Doesn’t Pass the Hand test

The Hand Test- From "The Brand Gap" by Marty Neumeier

Put your hand over the logo and you still know what company made the product and the ad.

In Marty Neumeir’s classic book, “The Brand Gap” he uses Apple as the example when introducing “The Hand Test.” If you cover up the logo of the product in the ad- will you know what the product is? Apple passes with flying colors. JC Penney can’t ever do this. Their products, the brands they sell, their brand itself isn’t able to stand on it’s own. By their very nature, the department store model is nothing other than the supermarket of shopping in comparison to the convenience store. Same products, different experience in selection and purchase. There is nothing exclusive to JC Penney products and once you buy them, they belong to you- not to JC Penney. Compare that to Apple. Once you have an iPhone or a MacBook Air- the brand cachet is still there and there is a connection between you and the brand.

Pricing isn’t a strategy- it’s a tactic

This seems to be the part that Mr. Johnson missed in Marketing 301. Price alone isn’t why people buy- it’s perceived value that is critical. What does JC Penney add in value to the products they sell? Well, nothing really. Do we have any reason to trust JC Penney as a qualified curator of value? Nope. They’ve been through three rebrandings in as many years- and even before that, it’s been a long time since JC Penney held any kind of unique position in the eye of the consumer- if ever. For most consumers the JC Penney brand could go away tomorrow and they wouldn’t miss it. We’ve seen it before as Macy’s has gobbled up other regional department stores, rebranded them and customers barely skipped a beat. The brand name of most department stores stands for nothing- possible exceptions being Neiman Marcus which once stood for exclusivity and expensive, Nordstrom which built a reputation on amazing customer service and Sears which had brands like Craftsman, Kenmore and Die Hard that stood for solid American values.

JC Penney is a brand without a position. And since brands aren’t controlled by the marketer, but by the consumer, the way they introduced their new positioning of the brand has been way off target. Pointing out that consumers are tired of being assaulted with ads promising values based on inflated initial pricing is true. Focusing on the competition isn’t usually the best way to spend your advertising dollar. Yes, consumers know that MSRP is a joke, and from diamonds to donuts, everyone wants to pay less- but, are always willing to pay a little more for perceived value. Where is the value proposition for JC Penney?

The Value of “Fair and Square Pricing”

We believe in fair honest prices. When gasoline is sold for dollars per gallon, it’s insane that we still see $3.59.99 prices, especially when the penny, the 1cent piece, is on the verge of being done away with.  The old psychology of .95 or .99 cent pricing to erase perceptions of whole dollar prices being more may still work with the geriatric set, but younger consumers are less likely to be swayed by it. The value of JC Penney not manipulating prices up and down is great- but, when buying fashion, the brand needs to stand for something. We’ve seen denim jeans elevated from durable work clothes to designer label with outrageous price tags- yet, say the word JC Penney and what emotional trigger do they hit?

Our friend Sally Hogshead lists seven triggers in her book Fascinate: Passion. Mystique. Alarm. Prestige. Power. Rebellion. Trust (well, actually, she changed Lust to Passion and Vice to Rebellion just to be absolutely correct). You can find out more about the seven triggers here: The Fascinate System If JC Penney is going to rebrand and be relevant to the consumer, they need to at least score highly on one or two of the triggers. right now, they don’t. Is “Rebellion” against sales and manipulation enough? Hardly, Walmart and Target have been promising some sort of everyday low prices for years.

The “Enough. is. Enough.” line is more about the mendacity of marketing than about the value to the consumer. The TV spot introducing the new pricing is enough to instantly annoy a viewer who already views TV commercials an intrusion to their entertainment.

It will take JC Penney more than a few quarters to transform themselves into a value retailer, which many consumers may find attractive as they grow to understand it. Think about how most department stores are deployed- in a mall with several other competitors. Shoppers go to the mall to find fashion, after looking in Macy’s, Sears, and the other two anchor stores, as well as places like The Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostal etc Penney’s may win over converts if they can get consumers to come through their doors to compare. Changing the experience of shopping can take time and while the pundits are quick to write this concept off, once JC Penney finds its new voice and can trip one or two more emotional triggers, they may find the success they are seeking.

Knowing what your brand stands for in the consumers head is the first step to making the sale. Since the consumer controls your brand, changing those perceptions isn’t an overnight or several quarter effort. We believe that Mr. Johnson has the right tactic but needs to find the strategy to convince customers that the value of “Fair and Square Pricing” is more than just saving a few bucks- it’s a statement above fashion about fashion.

Yes, consumers are tired of being lied to, but, they still want the mirage of an oasis beyond the doors to your store.

When wearing clothes from JCPenney becomes a fashion statement (I have the common sense not to be gullible), JC Penney will win.

 

The new Burger King looks more likeFive Guys

Driven Thru

Burger King bowing to Five Guys?

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Chris Nixon via Compfight

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.

via Burger King to Roll Out 40 Food Trucks Nationwide | Mobile Cuisine – Food Trucks, Carts & Street Eating.

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.