Showing posts from November, 2010

At 240 Calories A Bottle, Coca-Cola Gets It

This morning I was astonished to see that Coca-Cola Classic had put the calorie count of the beverage on the bottle, very prominently. One 20 ounce serving is a full 240 calories. It’s sugar water, not health food, and by giving you the calorie count they are telling you that they know that. It’s a message that, together with the ingredient label, says, “I’m not going to try to fool you - I am an unhealthy indulgence. Buy me if you want.”

In doing this, Coca-Cola continues to show a mastery of branding that is nothing short of amazing. They are accused of peddling junk food, and there they go admitting it. Emblazoning themselves with the evidence.

I can’t think of any other brand even remotely as smart as this one. They understand their flagship brand so well that they’re not threatened by health food activists, concerned parents, or sugar-busters in the least. Their target audience is going to buy the soda regardless of the calorie count. So there isn’t any need to deceive.

Coca-Cola …

127 Hours of Product Placement

Consider this.

I go to see a movie about Aron Ralston, a hiker who has an accident so bad that he nearly doesn't survive.

The movie portrays his accident vividly, gruesomely, and in every physical detail.

Yet what do I notice equally as much as his plight?

That he is starving with thirst (see bluish, cracked lips in the photo) - and thinking about a Gatorade, orange flavor.

Distracted from the plot, I think to myself, how much did Gatorade pay to get their product placed into this movie so obviously? (In the film, hiker Aron Ralston dreams about a bottle of Gatorade, placed on its side, the orange liquid sloshing up and down. Inviting him to drink.)

Gatorade is made by Pepsi. But Pepsi doesn't dominate the movie. Coca-Cola is there too. So is Scooby-Doo.

In fact there are so many product placements, but they're so well-done, that I can't tell whether the hiker is really obsessed with brands, and the movie documents this, or whether the movie was somehow compromised to enable …

Swiffer, Pine-Sol, and the Brilliant Exploitation of Women’s Fantasies About Housework

Three reasons why I initially loved the Swiffer brand:

A dedicated Gen Xer who loves ‘80s pop culture and music, I love The Human League song “Don’t You Want Me” – featured in its TV commercial
A dedicated mom who counts herself a feminist too, I liked the “women are in power” theme of the commercial
It seemed like Swiffer was promising to actually do a better job than anything that came before it, and the ad was so slick I thought “there must be some truth to this”. The website does say: “A great clean on virtually any floor in up to half the time.”

Of course, I didn’t think about any of this in detail. I just liked it. Countless times I passed the Swiffer display in the grocery store and asked myself, “It looks good. Should I buy this?”

The only thing stopping me was the price. It seemed a bit expensive, and wasteful to buy a Swiffer.

Still, clearly the brand is incredibly popular.

According to BusinessWeek (January 2010), it’s one of “20 Products that Rocked the Stock Market.”
The first y…

On “National Opt-Out Day,” Healing the TSA’s Relationship With The Public

(Note: I work for a component of the Department of Homeland Security,
but am writing this post independently.)Today's Washington Post
covers "National Opt-Out Day," a citizen protest day against the
current scanner/patdown policy that is scheduled for today, the travel
day before Thanksgiving 2010. Basically, they're going to jam the
lines purposely.The weather is supposed to be bad in some parts of the country on this
busy travel day, so the fury on both sides could rise to significant
heights if a lot of people start missing their flights.Some key facts and statistics as backdrop:• There are 400+ imaging machines at 70 airports
• Imaging takes less than a minute
• A full body patdown takes twice as long (or more) as imaging
• 50% oppose patdowns (today's USA Today says it's "nearly 6 in 10")
• 32% oppose the scanners (USA Today has it at 42%)
• Roughly 1 million patdowns so …

Branding: Undrinking the Kool-Aid

We are drawn to the things we need to overcome in life.I studied sociology in graduate school. At the time all I knew was
that I couldn't think of a better option. All my life "they" told me
to become a lawyer, and then I wanted to be a fashion designer, and
then a writer and possibly a social worker. None of these made any
sense for me, and I didn't have a career counselor urging me to go out
and get an MBA in marketing like I was probably meant to do. So I got
a fellowship to study sociology, which I knew nothing about, and
wouldn't have even followed through with if not for a former roommate
who – although we weren't best of friends – took mercy on me and let
me know about the offer after I had already moved out.So I guess you could say that I became a sociologist because I
couldn't figure out what to do with myself. But as soon as I walked
through the doors of The Graduate School (CUNY), I felt like I was
(intellectually) home. Not to name drop, but what the heck…

MSG or Aspartame: What Brand Ingredient Will You Thank for Your Thanksgiving "Pigout"?

Yesterday I happened to flip through this month's Health magazine (which features an amazing-looking Janet Jackson BTW - between her and Emma Thompson, who thought the pixie haircut could look so good on so many?) and see an interesting "diagram" purporting to help you avoid the traditional Turkey Day pigout.

(Photo source: Health Magazine)

Normally I am one of those people who reads such diagrams intently, trying to understand why this factor or that has led me to overindulge in the party tray full of chips or the brownies piled high on the side.

On this particular day however I had been testing the argument being made by a variety of doctors and medical researchers that MSG and aspartame make you crave food, and therefore, get fat. Names include:

* Kevin Trudeau - "More Natural Cures Revealed"
* Suzanne Somers - "Breakthrough"
* Mike Adams - Web articles under the name "The Health Ranger"
* Dr. Joseph Mercola - Website
* Dr. Russell Blaylock - …

Crazy for QR, Mastercard Risks Alienating Its Audience

Everybody loves those “Priceless” ads by Mastercard, where they do an admirable job of connecting their brand with everything valuable in life. Who hasn’t seen the tagline:

“There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”

But when it comes to the new communication technology known as the QR Code, they seem to have gone absolutely crazy.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the QR code enables the advertiser to put a lot of communication in a little space – and have the user opt into it. Forgive me for sounding like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde here, but they put a little black and white barcode-looking thing somewhere on an ad, you scan the code (it looks like a UPC code on a package), and the user gets more information, offers, etc. (See BBC example below.)

Shel Holtz wrote a good blog on this in September 2010.

QR codes are really cool and we’re going to be seeing a lot of them in the future.

But what’s stupid, from a brand perspective, is when a …

Cheapening the Harvard Brand – Can Anybody Say “Moo?”

Saw an ad on the train promoting something called "Harvard Distance Education" through "Harvard University Extension School." It's not the first such ad I've seen or even inquired into, as we see schools like Stanford and MIT getting into the distance learning business, with modules that are either paid or free. Jack Welch has an MBA program. On iTunes you can find a lot of this stuff, either in the form of podcasts or "iTunes University."

In the free format, providing Ivy League syllabi is a great idea. Not only does it promote brand awareness, it shows transparency, shows goodwill to the customer who can't afford the brand, and facilitates an environment where the ideas and names associated with the school have greater influence. And the fact that it's free shows that the school is not exploitive or desperate, but rather knows that there is a time and place to make money and a time to step aside and facilitate learning in its own right.

Decision Filters: A Brand Strategy for You and Your Organization

In his book Brand Simple, Landor brand strategist Allen Adamson points out one of the key benefits of a brand, both for manufacturers and consumers: They make our lives simpler.

This may seem simple, obvious and unimportant. But it is 100% true. And exciting or not, it is a truth that is extraordinarily profitable. Because people, being survival-oriented, need to save time and energy for the critical things in life – like hunting for food and preparing for war. In addition, they will tend to avoid risk, because doing risky things can put your life and livelihood in danger. For example:

* When you’re in a place you don’t recognize, you’ll eat at McDonald’s or Subway or Taco Bell rather than a no-name diner because you know basically what to expect, how it will taste, what will be in it, and the quality is guaranteed.

* When your resume is submitted for a job opportunity, if it is stamped with the name of an Ivy League school, the recruiter will be more likely to put yours in the “intervie…

Brand Break: 15+ Stress-Busters That May Save Your Life

This week a study came out showing that women experiencing high job strain (high demand, low creativity, insecurity) have an 88% increased risk of heart attack. This led me to think about the techniques I use to lower stress in my own life. Hope these are helpful to you, no matter what line of work you happen to be in. Notice that I haven't numbered them. Numbering is stressful! THE LIST Spirituality - thinking about higher things. Striving for serenity. I like the worldview of the Dalai Lama. New Agey thinking in general. (Also Jewish mysticism - the inner meaning of things. Emphasis on making the world right and whole again, ending injustice and suffering, through personal growth and development.) Taking care of my family. Achieving something concrete. Doing my job the best I can. Focusing on my efforts, not worrying about outcomes I can't control. Writing. Observing advertising and popular culture. Observing photography and art. Diet: No sugar - high protein - nutritional s…

Branding, Social Media and How to Avoid a Communication Crisis

Many people have asked me what branding and social media have to do
with each other.This is an incredibly important question – actually THE most important
question communication experts must deal with today.If you understand the importance and connection between these two
things, you will be equipped with "risk insurance" for your
organization in the case of a communication disaster. You will be able
to:• Predict a crisis that will come way before it ever starts
• Perceive the signs of a crisis before it starts to affect the value
of your organization
• Minimize the damage of a crisis in its early stages
• Help the organization recover from a crisis once it's blown upThe fact of the matter is that communication crises, like fires, are
normally completely avoidable. It is only our own sense of
invincibility and denial of reality that causes them to fester.But let's start at the beginning – let's talk about branding for a minute.Brands are a fact of life today. Every organiza…

A $500 million movie idea - based on a brand lesson from RED vs. Unstoppable

Unstoppable is a pretty good movie. From a branding perspective, it proves the "law" that successful brands are about delivering consistent value. I didn't even have to know the plot to know that if Denzel Washington was in it, it was going to be worth watching - and not just on DVD, but in a theater. Read: nearly $10 ticket price, per person, when all of you can see the same thing on Redbox for $1. Wow.

Yet RED was even better. Let me tell you why.

The culture of branding today has shifted away from celebrating the individual. The truth is, individuals are only of limited interest, because people today are so distractible, so distracted, so used to multitasking, as well as so demanding that every moment of their time be maximized, that they want to focus their attention on many things at once. The synthesis is more important than the one.

In RED, it's not all about Bruce Willis the hero (as Unstoppable is about Denzel Washington), but it is about celebrating the entour…

5 Trends Driving Branding In The Age of Post-Capitalism (a.k.a. "Why It's Time to Take the Marketing Out of Branding")

Human beings have always relied on symbols to distinguish things (and people) from one another. Yet we are entering an age when branding is going to transcend its traditional, 20th-century identification with traditional "mass marketing."

Branding in the past was a business strategy that enabled companies to sell products at a fictitious markup - the brand being the imaginary factor that enabled this premium to be charged successfully.

In the future, branding will not be useful in this way, at least partly because of the following factors:

1. Transparency

People are now able, thanks in large part to the Internet, to find out the truth behind the brands, in three important ways:
They know where to get similar products cheaper.They know what ingredients are going into the brand - good and bad.They know about unethical labor practices.Eventually there will be a Wikileaks-type site just for products.

2. Technology

Mass production techniques are getting better and better all the time.


Kelly Cutrone on The Dr. Phil show: A Brand Is Born

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Kelly Cutrone's book, "If You Have to Cry, Go Outside (And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You)" and was pleased to see that she appeared on the Dr. Phil show on Veteran's Day, when I had an opportunity to watch.

The episode was about "spoiled and entitled" young women who can't seem to grow up and take responsibility for their lives.

Cutrone, who owns the fashion PR firm The People's Revolution, took one of the guests for a trial run at her company and was shocked to learn that she could not even do the simplest self-sufficient thing possible: folding clothes.

What makes her a great brand for today is the following:
A unique and relevant positioning - a Generation X "mama bear" for Generation Y
An aura of authenticity that can't be faked
A truly unique, daring, and compelling look - long black hair with no makeup
Credibility - she's been there and done that
Something of value to contribute - it's not …

Don’t Be Boring – Madonna and the #1 Rule of Personal Branding

You may think that you have to look like a U.S. president or the First
Spouse to get the job of CEO, but as we move forward into the 21st
century that will not be the case at all. Instead, people who look
like everybody else are going to be viewed as lacking in creativity.
Those who are speckled, feathered, covered in pink polka dots and
otherwise strange-looking are going to be the stars. And those who
change their speckles, feathers and dots on a regular basis to evolve
with the times are going to be the superstars.Way before Tom Peters' landmark article in Fast Company, "The Brand
Called You," Madonna served as the "spokesperson" and absolute pioneer
of the be-yourself and even constantly-reinvent-yourself approach to
personal branding. See the 100th anniversary celebration magazine for
Women's Wear Daily (WWD) – suffer through it, if you aren't into
clothes. It's important because the growth of the fashion industry
over the past century is integrally related…

Self-branding around the world: Facehunter

Interesting photo book showing how today's global citizens construct their own identities - they take what's out there as only a starting point.This supports Alex Wipperfurth's thesis in Brand Hijack.Fun to flip through - I saw a copy at Urban Outfitters.

10 Reasons Why Branding Unites Americans More Than Anything

Branding brings Americans together like no religion, political party,
or social movement can.Think about it – as a rule:1.     Brands are a necessity of life – we need to know what products
are best for us, and which are trustworthy2.     Brands are available to everyone – no matter how rich or poor
you are, and no matter what your cultural background3.     Brands provide a marker of achievement as you move up the
socio-economic ladder4.     Brands are simple and therefore satisfying to talk about, while
issues are complicated5.     Brands provide a common reference point in a global, diverse world6.     Brands enable you to construct your own identity rather than
accept tradition7.     Brands help you understand the identity of others8.     Brands offer a way to transcend traditional affiliations and
talk a common language9.     Brands are always changing and evolving, so they offer
something interesting and non-controversial to talk about10.  Brands fulfills people's spiritual needs, as…

Have you seen these running shoes with toes from Vibram?

I really like them a lot. They are cool. Wonder if they will catch on.Posted via email from Think Brand First

Empty half-and-half = unforgivable offense

For shame! For shame! The customer is looking for the cream, not the coffee. Everybody knows THAT.Posted via email from Think Brand First

“Healthy Decadence”—How Subway Can Challenge McDonald’s & Win

In the world of positioning, the sandwich chain Subway is in an enviable place. In a February 2010 survey by market research firm Decision Analyst, nearly 1 out of every 4 consumers (24.2%) “completely trust” its nutritional claims – more than any other restaurant in the quick service category. The second in line, Chick-fil-A, had less than half that See chart.And Subway is undoubtedly an incredibly successful fast-food brand, coming in second only to McDonald’s in 2009.

You might think that Subway, with an estimated $10 billion in sales last year compared with more than $30 billion for McDonald’s in the U.S. alone, doesn’t stand a chance of overcoming that behemoth bastion of serious and classic American fast food—cheeseburgers, shakes, and salty French fries.

I am here to tell you that it can—Subway had 4.2% sales growth last year vs. 2.9% for McDonald’s—but that for some reason it’s not leveraging the positioning opportunity that it has. That opportunity is to grab and run with the …

Empire of Shlep - Urban Outfitters

The clothes here are horrendous if you want to look pulled together. Everything else - fun and funky. Especially clever books. Can they subtract the clothing and keep the name?See and download the full gallery on posterous Posted via email from Think Brand First

Brand Yourself The Right Way On PowerPoint

We've all suffered through bad PowerPoints. Having seen a few really good ones like this, I realize that it's not the medium but the messenger. Learning the basics of PPT is not just kind to your audience but will benefit your career as well. Good luck!YOU SUCK AT POWERPOINT!View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.

How to Really Measure Brand Equity: Brand Amplitude White Paper (May 2010)

Brand Amplitude offers a well-thought out and punchily (is that a word?) visual white paper on brand equity. Key point: Measure the actual contribution of loyal users to the bottom line.  Excellent. via email from Think Brand First

5 Products The Kardashian Brand Can Endorse

In the beginning I had no clue why anyone would watch "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Now, I'm absolutely hooked to this show. It is a must-watch, and I hate most TV.
One could analyze why this is about a million ways to Sunday - given my demographics, psychographics, whatever.
The bottom line, though, is that anytime a consumer is strongly drawn to a popular culture phenomenon, that is an opportunity to sell them things. Especially, branded things. Because by and large, whatever it is you're watching on TV isn't a basic and generic need, but rather an escapist one. And escapist brands are ripe for charging a brand premium.
Right now I am aware that the Kardashians push at least two brands: QuickTrim diet pills and a clothing boutique called Dash.
To me these are both total loser propositions. QuickTrim has a very generic-sounding name and like all quick-fix diet pills, seems like a scam - unless you're the type of person who is desperate, or willing to bel…