Tag Archives: Brand

Digital Upgrade At Your Own Risk – Brand Be Damned!

It seems that many apps and digital offerings have been updated since the beginning of the year – and an interesting trend has taken shape. What once was so wonderfully free – with few ad breaks and just slightly more privacy – has turned the corner and has become, well… less. Additionally, a huge sector of mobile users that excitedly upgraded to Android 4.3 before the end of the year have only further lamented the multitude of issues they’ve encountered since (with battery life reducing drastically being a consistent theme).  All of this leads to the question – To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade?  Unfortunately, in many instances, the consumer never gets the chance to question and the brand is damned to stumble.

Screenshot_2014-01-28-16-57-38

The gray area is meant to have content served within.

 

In the case of ESPN, they chose to re-brand their scores and news app to be more aligned with their colossal SportsCenter brand – changing it from Scorecenter to SportsCenter. That change makes sense – as does the twitter feed from their on-air personalities.  What’s more challenging is that the app is much more volatile (see above) with nothing showing much of the time.  Even more annoying is the fact that users now have to log in or register in order to automatically keep track of their favorite teams. For most, this might not be an issue, but for those trying to hold on to the last piece of privacy, that component might be a deal breaker. The fact that there’s now far more advertising with page overlays and in-feed ads only adds salt to the wound.

Diminished revenue generation is definitely an issue for all content providers, but it will be interesting to see how conversion plays out as more and more previously free apps move into the paid model. Since the new year, at least 4 of my news apps have moved behind a paywall – with only headlines available for free – rendering it useless. Hopefully, we’ll soon see the ramifications – one way or the other – on this change soon. We’ll definitely see if people have an appetite for paying in multiple places for content.

Even in the free realm, questionable choices have been made:

  • ABC force upgraded the app leaving users with a lot less content choices and a lot more ill will. Checking the ratings on the App Store and Google Play shows a very large distaste for something that was the standard bearer for innovative video presentation. With the previous usage and inability to skip through commercials, it made sense.  Who knows what will happen now.
  • Yahoo! changed their mobile product to supposedly simplify their content delivery. The only problem is that the UI leads one to believe that if they click on search, they’ll be able to search within the category (i.e.,Entertainment, Sports, Life), only to find that it takes them out of the app environment and to their general search interface.
  • Sporting News is struggling to keep from crashing as they deal with issues stemming from iOS 7 in their newest update. The fix might come with the supposed release of iOS 7.1 in March, but that brings us to the next issue.

With all of the concerns users have with upgrading already – and the worries of what they will have to learn or not have access to – is the update to iOS 7.1 or Android’s 4.4 KitKat one that people will venture into widely or quickly?  Microsoft is having it’s own issues getting consumers to upgrade Windows OS – especially as people realized how much was still left to be done with each release. Is the same lack of concern for the user experience – and the interest of meeting ambiguous deadlines worthwhile for consumers who are quick to pull the trigger and move elsewhere? A concern is that, among developers, there is an excuse permeating that everyone expects issues. How sad is that?

The debate can continue as to whether it’s human nature to always want the new bright and shiny object. But, it is pretty clear cut that when forced to the new, something good should be delivered.  If companies/brands keep forcing the issue, they might be damned to losing the loyalty of those who just want to keep interacting the way they always have.

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Hey Wendy’s, Where’s The Beef!?

It is now nearly two months after the Wendy’s fast food chain announced that it was updating its branding and environment.  Wendy’s had coverage and articles all over  though they knew they weren’t changing over until March of 2013. Its understandable that changeovers cannot happen with the snap of a finger. But, did they have to make a big bang about it six months ahead of time? Was there a strategy in Wendy’s announce strategy, or has the company responsible for “Where’s The Beef?” let the meat get a little cold?

Wendy's Old and New Logo

Wendy’s Old and New Logo

I am not a Wendy’s fanatic, but I do appreciate a couple of fries dipped in a Frosty drink every once in a while.  With that, I’ve had my eye on any change in marketing or signage to help make a smooth transition from the imagery of the past three decades into the future. Strangely, I’ve seen nothing of the sort and have even seen an on-air media cycle that goes full bore with the old branding.

It might not be a surprise that Wendy’s is still holding on to the past.  Their slogan has always been Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and there is an odd bit of values presentation in the restaurants with Dave Thomas’ image and his signature on posters.  On a side note – I totally respect the use of the deceased founder of the company and the food values under his image – I just find the bizarre facsimile autograph style that insinuates that he has personally signed off on these posters from the grave. But all of this really plays into how much the franchise values its history and old-fashioned ideals AND highlights that it is a big step to go in this new direction.

Wendy’s is missing an opportunity.  Either they missed it by announcing the switch too early, or they’re missing it now by not leveraging existing spends to create anticipation for the forthcoming transition to the new. Hell, they could even be playful and relate it to the atmosphere of most everyone who can’t wait for 2012 to be over and the Economy to grow. Either way, they continue to spend a lot of money on propping up the three-decade-old look of the brand.

I can buy into CEO Emil Brolick’s attempt to modernize the brand and reposition it as a high-end burger joint, but just get on with it.  Any buzz that could have been generated by the press coverage will surely dissipate by March.  If you knew about the March timing, did the announce have to come so soon?  And if it had to come so soon, couldn’t there be smarter awareness programs to bridge the gap?  The worst thing that could come out of this is the redesign of all the restaurants and the change alone not generating excitement that drives sampling.  It would have been a whole lot easier to keep that buzz going by doing any of the things listed above – otherwise, people might not care enough about the beef.

Lacking Vision and Strategy, Everyone Witnessed the Hemmorhaging While Waiting For Others To Act

On the heels of Advertising Week and all of the feel-good excitement it generates, the feeling intensified that there’s too much mis-directed emphasis in digital media.  The reasons for this could be due to digital media’s “youth,” but I’m worried it’s based more on lack of vision or creativity. Far too often, the take-aways from large events or provider presentations are mired in technical/representational capabilities.  The buzz analysis emphasizes media’s reach via platforms, pushes, networks and the like. But reach and placement opportunity is only part of the equation – the thing that’s too often left out of the mix is how they could fit with a brand’s strategy.  No matter how cool the technology is or how many eyeballs are reached, if there’s not a clear plan for how the story connects with the eyeballs emotionally or what the end-user will do with this new-found information, all that advertisers are doing is filling pipeline just because it is there.

Image from Advertising Week 2012
(Courtesy of Hunt Mobile)

While we can focus on any part of the media environment to illustrate this, we can look at mobile. Yesterday I came across two pieces online to help convey the concern – CMO Council’s report on companies’ relationship with Mobile and David Gwozdz’ (CEO of Mojiva – a major global player in mobile advertising) recap of Advertising Week in the Huffington Post.

First off, I really like Mojiva and what they are able to do in the mobile space in many global markets via great targeting and interesting ad formats.  As such, I was interested in Gwozdz’ take on the conference.  Near the top of his recap, he astutely conveys the conference’s permeating message that “technology has to work collaboratively with creative,” but then numbers his top things heard/learned at the conference and all of them relate to mechanics.  They are definitely important, but what is missing are the opportunities to connect creatively and what needs to happen strategically to be able to count mobile as a success.  He does end on the note that what he listed (and the conference in general) was just a first step and I agree.

The concern is that judgements are being made by CMOs and other C-Level executives relating to mobile based on the possibilities, platforms and metrics, but those don’t always relate to any true strategies or even opportunities to genuinely connect in ways that are right for the medium. As with any new medium, it is a challenge to shift people to do things in ways they had not previously. The thing is, we should have learned from our growing pains with the advent of “New Media” years ago.  Everything was mentioned about the mechanics of reaching consumers but it was all in the jargon of other forms of media. Nobody was formulating campaigns to leverage the platform and its capabilities.  In mobile, there is a lot to be learned, but that learning curve will be longer as we try to just fill the hole with something that worked for other platforms.  Again, as we’ve learned with online advertising — not only do the same rules not apply, they keep evolving.

The one thing that can remain consistent regardless of platform is clear and cohesive strategy – which brings us to the report published by the CMO Council.

The survey of  250 companies’ chief marketer found that there is a general struggle with mobile.  Only 8% felt that they had advanced capabilities in the mobile channel.  The thing that struck me is — 26% of the respondents are currently building mobile apps and an extra 17% stated that they have a “good level” of competence in mobile marketing — yet only 16% currently have a mobile strategy in place. Of the 43% delving in mobile, only 16% bothered to devise a strategy first?

Once that caveat was established, it didn’t really matter that 43% of the respondents were unimpressed with their results in mobile or the fact that 69% are most interested in social media ads with 54% hot on paid media in mobile. It’s all irrelevant when there is no real strategy to base it on – it reverts back to the shiny object factor and executives’ chase after the hottest new thing.

This obviously doesn’t just relate to mobile media – it relates to every facet of the marketing puzzle. If companies skimp on the foundation of establishing a strategy and just pay for marketing based on what sounds cool or what is the shiny object du jour, there will certainly be a lot of money wasted.

For the sake of all media – publishers, technology firms, brands, planners and agencies need to step up and fully increase their chops in the strategy and storytelling departments.  It needs to be a collaborative process.  Planners can’t absolve themselves of all creative responsibility. Brands can’t leave it to agencies to fully develop product strategies. Technology firms and publishers can’t figure that clients will easily connect the dots between the ways the shiny object could connect correctly with the consumer. A clear and consistent strategy enables all the parties to up their game and create successful campaigns. That strong strategy also allows others to gain insight into the original vision.

For all players, if you’re not going to formulate a dynamic strategy that energizes the brand, enables those working on it and allows for format flexibility, all you’ll be left with is a bunch of data that doesn’t mean much and even more opportunity (costs/revenue) flowing out the door.

While it sort of makes sense for publishers and technologists to emphasize mechanics, the lack of marketing vision creates an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there. It places too much burden on the clients to figure out how the platform helps them. Conversely, marketers need to build the marketing and media strategy that provide the vision to immediately determine whether a technology or platform works or not.  If they don’t fit your strategy, there’s no easier way to move along until you find just the right platform for connecting with your consumers.

Until the emphasis on strategy and the vision it helps to convey becomes commonplace within companies of all kinds, resources will continue to be hemmorhaged with diminishing chances for ROI.

Apple Changing Direction With Celebrities in Ads? That’s Funny…

Often, our memories escape us when thinking about our beloved brands.  Certainly, some commercials and jingles that we’ve seen for brands will be etched clearly in our memories.  For others, that might not be the case.  Perhaps that’s why – as Apple’s better-than-expected quarterly earnings announcement continued the upward climb of its stock price – the buzz of discontent with the star-studded iPhone 4S commercials is reaching a crescendo.  In a couple of instances, I’ve even seen people lamenting that Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave with this supposed about-face. The funny thing is that they’re lamenting the use of celebrities in Apple ads, as if they’ve never been used before, when they’ve been doing so all along.

Perhaps the biggest concern for people is the use of Zooey Deschanel in a rainy day commercial showcasing the Siri product. One of the more succinct critiques abounding can be found on the Death + Taxes blog. I actually think the spot goes along with her established character and almost seems like a co-brand for her television show, THE NEW GIRL. I was a little more wierded out by the use of Samuel L. Jackson in another commercial – where he was using the assistance of Siri for gazpacho. Perhaps it is still within his “character” too, but his “brand” is emblazoned in my mind as bearing guns and dropping plenty of F bombs.

But, while Apple has set itself up well recently as a series of products for the everyman and made its largest statement with its ground-breaking 1984 commercial, they do have a history of using celebrities to pitch their wares.

They have ranged from the iconic musicians (U2, Eminem, Bob Dylan, etc.) in silhouette for the iPod release, to the celebrity as “A Mac” against the PC (Justin Long – pre Barrymore relationship and starring roles), and even “actor as geek” (Jeff Goldblum explaining simplicity of the iMac – funny to see phone jack for modem…) On a different note, but somewhat related: While doing the research for this, I even found a commercial for the Apple Lisa product featuring Kevin Costner before he became famous.

William Wei of Business Insider put together a 60 second history of Apple’s use of Celebrities in their ads. Does it say something about the company or brand that we can think that their history does not rely on celebrity if Goldblum was used and the iPod campaign was a little groundbreaking in itself? Check out the video to get caught up on their history.

As a brand, it is something to weigh when people have certain expectations of not just your products, but the way you market them. I think what sets Apple so far apart in this realm of “confusion” about celebrity usage is the fact that they have done such varied campaigns over the years. From groundbreaking TV ad creative to groundbreaking online advertising (remember the ESPN.com page that shifted and broke apart as a game was played on the iPhone a number of years ago? Their recent billboards around big cities show only an iPad and a finger reaching out to touch it.

Apple found itself in trouble a number of years ago when their computers were reaching only 3% of the market – in part because it was relying most heavily on the design and graphics community.  Since they have really broadened their product offering and communications to enable use by many different kinds of people in many ways, the change has been evident in their stock rising about $600 per share.

Are these celebrity spots the exclusive way they will move forward in the future? Probably not.  Will every Apple marketing product be fantastic? I would be shocked. If you look at the wealth of campaign elements for the iPhone 4S and Siri, they have had more annoying spots (remember the Rock God one?) than the better ones that show many more good reasons to have Siri (when it works.)

The key is, they keep trying different things and are seemingly able to hit where they need to hit.  For that reason, I can’t see Steve Jobs turning over in his grave.  I just think its funny that such a large number of Apple lovers would think so.

Sometimes A New Product Launch Just Needs A Little Elbow Grease

SymphonyIRI Group’s 2011 New Products Pacesetters report was just released the other day and it seems to play right into the nexus between the old way of advertising and the new way.  In this picture, I don’t look at the old way as a bad thing, especially as the new products listed in the report relate mostly to items found in grocery stores. As we continue to move deeper into technology and digital connectivity, grocery stores and the products they sell are still a strong remnant of the past.  When launching food/beverage products and even the top performing non-food items, you can’t disregard traditional techniques – but the opportunity is there to smartly build the consumer base with targeted digital advertising and a little elbow grease.

 

Looking at the top food/beverage launch for 2011 – P.F. Chang’s Home Menu line ($101.6 Million) – and the top non-food launch – Pampers Cruisers/Swaddlers with Dry Max ($296 Million) – there’s no surprise that most of these top-selling items are most likely found  on the shelves at the grocery store.

With a few exceptions, the same would be said for those other products that launched in 2011 and found themselves in the top 10 for each category:

Food/beverage launches (in $ millions) included Thomas’ Bagel  Thins ($73.6); Oscar Mayer Selects ($69.2); Folgers Gourmet Selections K-Cups  ($58.4); M&M’s Pretzel ($58.4); Sun Drop carbonated beverages ($55.8); Kellogg’s Special K Cracker Chips ($50.6); Lean Cuisine Market Creations  ($48.6); Gold Peak Chilled Tea ($44.3); and Bailey’s Coffee Creamer ($44.2).

Non-foods launches (in $ millions) included Gillette Fusion  ProGlide ($169.4); U by Kotex ($74.6); Schick Hydro ($64.9); Maybelline Volum’ Express Falsies eye cosmetics ($46.5); Nicorette Lozenge ($45.2); Sally Hansen  Salon Effects ($41.8); Tide Plus Febreze Freshness ($37.9); Ensure with Revigor  ($37.5); and Maybelline Fit Me facial cosmetics ($36.2).

If the grocery store is still where most items are bought on a weekly basis – and this judgement is just based on the fact that people generally have less to spend, eat out less than half as much as they did when the recession began and the stores are stocking more and more varied products beyond foods – then the way in which they have historically done (and continue to do) business is of the utmost importance.

There are still the “games” played for placement in store, but the old-school component that still plays a huge role is the one of Circulars. As junk mail continues to dwindle (thankfully), there is still a circular that arrives in mailboxes once a week.  In times of a strong economy, perhaps more people would have thrown them away without reading. But now, it has become a piece of interest delivered to the door.  Even with the growth of digital coupon outlets, there is still huge amounts of money spent on advertising in circulars. And, unless the marketers who pay for them are bad business people, they must be working to a great extent.

Most of the top-sellers from last year are brand extensions and not wholly new products. If you didn’t go into a store, you might not have even noticed that they were available.  There were certainly some products that had television campaigns and a larger number who engaged in targeted digital media.  Ultimately, if the budget allows for it, the proper media mix can grow the consumption well beyond what might have been found by foot traffic or circular impressions.

It seems to me, that by looking at the top launches above and the way things are currently being done, it’s not a completely new world, just one that is augmented by new technologies. Yet again, an opportunity to rev-up consumption by putting a little elbow grease into it and augmenting the norm with compelling and smart campaigns.

 

A Bold Campaign By A Bold Brand

There are some brands that are of a certain ilk that make you wonder whether they really need to do any marketing at all.  They are the ones that everyone who would ever covet their product knows exactly who they are and can either get their products or just dream about them.  Some, like Tiffany, are forever embedded in the psyche as key parts of movies – or their opulence speaks for itself. Another example is that we don’t see a lot of commercials, banners or other for Bentleys, Ferraris or Lamborghinis.  In these cases, one might even think that the companies would be in trouble if they started doing mass advertising.  Cartier could be considered one such company with a history of selling to royalty, celebrities and the elite.  Granted, we do see advertising for high-end clothing lines and jewelry brands, but they are very specific and not as large-scale as this. With Cartier’s jewelery and designs celebrated in museums, it is commendable that they should launch their new “L’Odyssée de Cartier” campaign as a bold celebration of the brand.

The centerpiece is a three-and-a-half minute film that fantastically evokes the 165 year history of the company.  It uses a central icon of the company’s design, the panther, and really had fun with it. Around that film, they built a site and advertising campaign that retains the exclusive feel that would ordinarily be expressed through private parties or elaborate mailers through its tasteful execution. Expense did not seem to be an object with the elaborate and elegant production and full page color ads in Sunday papers.

The video treatment was not completely out of the ordinary as you can see many product videos that evoke the same whimsy on their YouTube channel. Most everything there is of a longform video nature, but not at this scale. The fact that they did this provided the opportunity to not only promote it more than their previous campaigns and create a source of content that can continue to be re-packaged for many shorter pieces and needs.

They’ve even gone so far as to include bonus features –  a “making of”, discussion of the score and a piece on the panther and its place in the company – in the L’Odyssée site.

By making everything effectively larger than life with all parts, it seems like they really hit the mark by doing mainstream advertising and maintaining the exclusive feel of the brand.

All in, its great to be able to see a well orchestrated execution work so beautifully when a brand mounts a big and bold campaign that stays true to it’s core and invites consumers to join it’s odyssée.