Tag Archives: Identity

Tesco’s American Invasion Was DOA

UK grocery company, Tesco, has decided to pull out of their American Invasion and take a $1.8 Billion write-off (with the favorable UK exchange rate – only 1.2 Billion Pounds – it still doesn’t soften the blow of the astounding loss.) Tiffany Hsu’s LA Times article points to Tesco’s misunderstanding of what the public wants and the dire consequences of trying to compete with the Wal-Marts, Costcos, Trader Joes and the like. If Tesco believed those were their competition, their analysis was very off – regardless of recession or not. Tesco saw themselves as something they were not – and in America, it’s foolish to think that customers will save bad branding by finding the hidden gems behind whatever facade is presented. Any way you slice it, its unfortunate that Tesco’s invasion of the American market was dead on arrival.

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

It had a lot more to do with branding, design and store locations than what Americans do or do not want. Admittedly, my exposure is limited to their locations in the Los Angeles market, but it quickly became very clear how Fresh & Easy was positioned counter-intuitively and ineffectively.

The first store I visited was a huge space on heavily trafficked tourist destination Hollywood Boulevard. It was large, dark and depressing. Another location was also in midtown on a heavily trafficked car artery with no abundance of parking spaces. And the last one I was in a week ago was probably the best model of what they should have been doing all along – a small, bright and colorful store in a heavy pedestrian area near USC.

Beyond their questionable locations and early dreary decor, they should have positioned themselves as the perfect last minute spot to pick up quality prepared meals and sundry items on the way to work or on the way home for dinner. They couldn’t/shouldn’t have felt they could compete with the established big markets.

The article compares them to a Wal-Mart, but Tesco should have positioned Fresh & Healthy as more akin to a refined and healthier 7-11 – like their own Tesco Metros back in the UK. That healthy option would have been the right aspirational touch – especially in Southern California.

Fresh & Easy might have worked if they had stronger positioning. It seems they were even unclear on who they were meant to be. Because of that, their marketing never worked. It’s a shame, because if you look at their location near USC, they could have focused on smaller spaces in higher foot-traffic (or more easily accessible) areas to create something akin to the Marks & Spencer Simply Food product in the UK. Another similarity to M&S in the USC location was the automated tellers that allowed staff to be focused around the store to help out in ways you certainly don’t see in a 7-11.

The promise of getting in and out of a market in five minutes with inexpensive essentials and healthy prepared meals would have been something that might have made it a success.

Short of that, its another example of a move that a company should have never ventured in the first place. Or, its an example of a good thing that never had the required clarity and forethought to drive success. Fresh & Easy is Dead. Long Live Fresh & Easy.

How to Parlay Sweet Swine Beyond 15 Minutes of Fame

Now that we know the truth, we can sit in awe of one woman’s brilliance in jumping into a press opportunity. Mirlande Wilson made headlines after the MegaMillions lottery jumped over the $600M mark.  The 37-year-old fast-food worker from Maryland claimed to have one of the three winning lottery tickets.  Only, she didn’t know where it was. Typically, the media jumped all over it. Thus, Wilson found her 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol said we would all get. It’s too bad she didn’t know how to parlay that excitement beyond the 15 minutes (when the real lottery winners from Maryland showed up), but at least she has her Sweet Swine cap.

Courtesy FOX affiliate

We will quickly forget about Mrs. Wilson once the news cycle about the actual winners (three teachers and administrators in the Baltimore public school system) plays its course – but, hopefully we won’t forget what she has taught us. Ultimately, we can laud her carpe diem spirit as she jumped into the fray at the right time. Though let us learn from the ways in which she not only couldn’t leverage the popularity, she allowed others to swoop in for the good stuff – the marketing optimization.

When she appeared at her news conference, she seemed out of it, but dressed for the occasion donning a Sweet Swine Pork Rinds hat. Once a marketer out of Alabama saw that, he immediately picked up the sweetswineporkrinds.com url and began building on what Wilson started.  All of this without Wilson’s knowledge and, surely, not to her benefit.

To break it down into bite-sized tidbits, these are the places Wilson could have done differently after making the “positive” jump into the fray:

  • Come up with a bit more compelling and consistent story of why you can’t produce your winning ticket. Though this might not have mattered because the press still bought the excuse one that was equivalent to my “I forgot my homework” BS that I don’t think my teachers ever bought into, so I stopped using in junior high school. In reality, more creativity could have parlayed her 15 minutes into a reality show.
  • Be careful about how you present yourself at all times because you don’t know when the cameras are going to pop out – especially when you attend your own press conference… For benefits of doing this right, see the note above about a reality show.
  • When wearing an item that could be construed as marketing or product placement, make sure you have some connection to the back-end profits.  Don’t allow the profits you drive to go into another person’s hand without your own financial benefit.
  • If you absolutely must wear something that has words on it, at least check to see if there is a url available for it.  There is no reason that someone should be able to swoop in and register that url based on your hard-earned publicity.
  • Be thinking about your online or digital identity to prolong your “popularity”. Don’t allow the only items to be seen online to be pictures of you looking like you are completely out of it. At least have some destination that presents the real you – unless the real you is completely out of it.  In other words, be sure to invest in forms of presenting yourself the way you want to be seen. You might only get one chance to make that impression – make it count.

As you can see, there’s many things that companies and other individuals can learn from this.  I am sure that Mrs. Wilson can persevere and will still end up with an agent of some sort and a producing partner for a reality show. (I’ve seen smaller train wrecks waiting to happen in reality television.) Be prepared when taking that first step into the limelight because you may never get a second chance and that one chance has to count.

We do have to give props to Mrs. Wilson as the chances of getting that much international attention – by doing virtually nothing – have longer odds than actually winning the lottery.

Now, where can we get ourselves some of that tasty Sweet Swine Pork Rind?

Consistent Branding and the Key to Not Disappearing

While many small business executives state their belief in the importance of branding and identity, a surprising amount miss the mark.  When proper branding can have the largest impact on their company and its survival, they either choose to skimp on it by just having a logo created or worse, working counter to any identity at all.  In some of the worse cases, the branding – or lack thereof – is so diabolical to the product offered that it actually taints the product.  There are examples from all different sizes of companies showing where companies that are consistent across the board on identity excel and companies that seem to have no clue remain stagnant or disappear entirely.

Proper branding doesn’t just provide a logo for your letterhead or website – it provides a clear communication of the company and its values across all connection points.  It should certainly help convey what you’re offering is, but it should also enable clear guidelines for how you actually do your business.  Consistent identity informs your staff or perspective employees what you’re all about from a day-to-day and ethics basis when related to communications and even the design of the offices. And, it doesn’t even have to do with imagery alone.  In the case of Zappos, they laid their identity foundation when they made clear that customer service comes first.  That identity persists even after their phenomenal success led them to be acquired by Amazon in 2009.  That unique and established identity enabled them to continue as they were and not be rolled into Amazon outright.  You can read further about this in a Mashable post by Ben Parr soon after the deal was announced.  Ultimately, it was not just about the logo or the business, but the entire brand, business and culture.

Just the other day, I experienced a small example of how consistency of brand is so important on a small-scale.  In this case, it was about how a small restaurant was able to change the taste and perceived value of its food by changing the decorations – and not for the better.

This restaurant used to have stark white walls and clear tables. Just recently, they added the strip of wallpaper, lace tablecloths and placemats that sort of match the wallpaper strip.  From this look alone, you would think the style of food is down-home cooking, comfort foods or maybe Italian if you want to stretch it.  Either way, it does not seem like the sushi restaurant that it actually is. As a relatively frequent customer, I was shocked to see the decor change.  To me, I would rather see stark white when it comes to Japanese food and this was so off to me that I wonder if they changed ownership and the quality of the food is going to suffer.

To be honest, the food didn’t taste as good as usual – and I wonder if that was because of the visuals.  As with anything, all of the senses play a part in the experiencing of the product.  In this case, the sense of sight colored my sense of taste.  My hope is that they work through this and change it back to what it was.

In the same way senses affect everything, just because you put out a great product doesn’t mean you can skimp on the office space or the characteristics of your staff.  Having a clear and consistent brand and identity makes it easier to convey what you want – rather than leaving it to your customer’s or partner’s imagination.  Without strong adherence to consistency, it will prove to hurt you in the long run. 

So, when you are small or just starting, the establishment, sharpening or even changing of identity is that much easier since you wont have to touch so many people and places to pull it off.  Therefore, it is that much more cost-effective to do so at the beginning of your company’s life cycle rather than later when you’re trying to round the corner to ultimate sustainability at whatever cost. The vision that is created by clear and consistent branding is that much harder to disappear – don’t skimp on that vision.

Positioning the Brand For the Rebound

Just because the economy is bad and your brand is not enjoying the growth it has been seeing previously doesn’t mean you have to hunker down and keep doing what you’re doing.  In previous posts, we’ve mentioned ways you can use the downtime to get stronger either in your existing business, business practices or innovation.  But, what about in your branding? 

Please don’t go out and update your branding just because business is slow, but perhaps now is the time to take an objective look at whether your business or brand needs to be re-positioned and see if you might be best served to work on that in a down time so that when the economy’s outlook brightens, consumers can also get a new outlook on your product.  When the economy rebounds, it is not certain that consumers will return to the products they were using before.  As such, it may be assumed that they will be looking at new ones to take their place either based on revised personal or business priorities.

It doesn’t even need to be a major overhaul.  It can be a tag line or a simple change in part of your logo or identity.  Have you changed the way you do your business that provides benefit to something other than your bottom line – community, environment, lifestyle, etc. – that may connect with a new type of consumer?  Have you been lying low after embarrassing business situations where a new identity or even the conveyance of a new corporate consciousness could help you rise from the nadir?

Effectively, you always need to be aware of how things have changed and the affect it has on your branding – even in good times. Make the most of what is happening in the world around you to ensure that you are best suited to move forward smoothly upon the rebound in the economy.

The Color of Crazy?

When branding or doing product design, color is a major factor.  Colors can evoke emotion and tip-off direction. 

Green Can evoke Acceptance, Nature, Harmony, Communication…

Orange points to Optimism, Productivity, Creativity…

Violet lends itself to Creativity, Imagination, intuition…

Since well before people tied a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree to signify that a family member was welcomed home, color has been used to signify many things, and ribbons have become pervasive over the past decade in association with causes.  It seems that every organization has laid its claims on a color.  When I saw this list, I was blown away by all the causes that have attached themselves to the colors for awareness purposes.  With that being said, I was surprised by a report that was just published saying the one of the best known cause colors – Pink for Breast Cancer – was counterproductive.

The study by Rotterdam School of Management professor, Stefano Puntoni, suggests that:

The problem is not that some women are turned off by the traditionalism and underlying stereotype of a pink brand, but rather that too large a proportion of women directly identify with the color. Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/28/study-pink-ads-prove-counterproductive-for-breast-cancer-awareness/#ixzz1TWmfc2IB
I am left shaking my head about some of the findings.  In this case, I can see how they might be true on individual levels, but if you’re looking at an icon that best conveys a brand, product or event, its got to work somehow – I don’t know how much people – specifically women – disregard the message and meaning of the pink ribbon based on what is talked about in the study.  Perhaps the scientific numbers work, but we don’t know what the group consisted of, and it certainly did not seem to make any suggestions of what’s better…
Having been involved in a number of Susan Komen Breast Cancer walks, it seems oddly funny to me that anyone would have a bad response to the cause or its color of ribbon.  They have worked hard to create a solid brand that is absolutely clear from first sight.
With the import of color in any identity or logo, it is advantageous to analyze the choices of color.  Just don’t overdo it…

Ai Weiwei Is “Free”

The good news is that Ai Weiwei is free.  The bad news is that he really isn’t. 

The good news is that a lot of the reason why he was let out of jail was international pressure.  The bad news is that there are at least 130 civil rights activists still held in China with no seeming opportunity to be let out of jail.

The good news is that the movement identity I wrote about in my post last month, Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei? , helped build the groundswell of international support that pressured the Chinese government to release Weiwei from custody. The bad news is that it remains to be seen whether the movement I wrote about will be able to build a push for releasing the others.

The limits that have been placed on Ai Weiwei upon his “release” are quite huge – in spirit if not confinement.  While the full restrictions of his “freedom on bail” are not known.  He cannot leave his home city for a year without letting the authorities know.  He cannot participate in interviews and it is assumed he will not be able to present art or feed his twitter followers with daily messages as he did before he was detained.

Now is the true test of how strong that WHO IS AI WEIWEI movement really is.  My hope is that it doesn’t stop with his
release, but becomes a lot bigger and forces change in a country that is doing everything it can to do anything but, when it comes to human rights.

My hope, also, is that he and others acting out for human right in China finally does find a freedom. Let’s all hope this movement and identity form a stronghold that brings along change.