Tag Archives: Timing

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.

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The Brouhaha about #WinFromWithin – History or Silliness In The Making?

There’s something about athletes having a great game when they’ve got he flu.  Just last week, I was talking to a friend and we were both saying that we’ve played better when we were sick and had to play – and we’re not athletes by any stretch of the imagination. That’s why there’s an interesting argument about a commercial that is effectively passed off as a documentary about one of the greatest showcases of the theory that one plays better when they are sick. Taken directly from an article in Broadcast & Cable, the following captures the complaint –  In a letter to the FTC commissioners dated Tuesday (May 8), the Yale U Rudd Center, Center for Science in Public Interest and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law (together, the Public Health Advocacy Institute) asked the FTC to investigate PepsiCo’s ad , which features a stomach flu-stricken Michael Jordan apparently getting some help from a cup of Gatorade in his effort to play through the illness and help his team secure a win in game five (the “Flu” game) of the 1997 NBA finals (the Bulls won in six).

First of all, that was an amazing feat by an individual – one that people still refer to when citing the belief that somehow, you can have amazing games when you’re sick. Second, if you watch the commercial, they do insinuate that drinking Gatorade helped, but Phil Jackson’s VO is all about the drive from within. There’s nothing said that the Gatorade helped him through it. Additionally, it’s not like the team didn’t drink Gatorade through all their other games and only did so when Michael Jordan was sick.

The complaint lodged with the FTC speaks to the concern that the commercial will drive teenagers to engage in “Dangerous Behavior” by continuing to play when they are ill and believe that Gatorade will help them through it.

I guess they have a point if they feel that consumers will only watch the visuals and believe that they will “be like Mike” if they drink it.  My problem is that this one commercial is really no different that every single other commercial PepsiCo has run for the product – drink this and you will perform better. Many would argue that drinking Gatorade (or any of its competitors) will absolutely help athletes compete better than if they drank water or nothing at all.

It then all comes down to branding and history. Gatorade has always enjoyed the fact that they were the first out of the gates with drink products for athletes.  As such, they had a corner on the market and were at seemingly every event – including the NBA finals in 1997. As such, was the commercial not really just a historical documentation?

Whether it really helped Michael Jordan to not only play, but have an amazing game, we’ll never know one way or the other.  What we do know is that many people drink Gatorade when they are sick.  They don’t have to be athletes to recognize how it helps alleviate dehydration. In fact, our family always bottles of Gatorade in storage in case we’re not feeling well.  Was it prescribed by our doctors? No.  Did any advertising say it would help us when we’re sick? I don’t believe so. But, we still use it for those needs because it has worked for us in the past.

It is hard to understand why there would be so much excitement on the part of the public health activists in this case. I do believe that teens need to be educated on how hard they can push themselves, and there needs to be support around them.  But to take it out on a television ad seems a little self-serving. Maybe they wanted to take advantage of the large platform of the NBA Playoffs (the commercial has been running since February – way before the Playoffs) to make their point. Maybe this documentary deserves to be used as the lightning rod for a discussion. Or perhaps the complainants are still bitter about their Jazz’ loss to the Bulls.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that the organizers are being silly and just complaining about the spot rather than bringing forward a program to help educate the young people they’re supposedly trying to help. After all, it is history that athletes and spectators are constantly looking to find deeper meaning in. Take the opportunity to allow history to prove your point…

Executing the Scarcity Tactic in Marketing Can Do Harm

I can understand a company wanting to generate the buzz that Apple has been getting with their product scarcity tactic, but it’s getting out of hand. But the past couple of days, there’s been a major instance of a product release coming when stores aren’t even open or the product is not available online and in only one store in the country in daily limited supply. Both products have strong stories to tell, but they’re not stories that consumers are actively seeking out – like they do for Apple products. When there is a demand for 4 million units in the first weeks of a product release (New iPad) you can deal with some folks being upset they can’t get their hands on the product.  When there is very little demand, you can’t risk people being upset that the product is not available. As such, the scarcity tactic does more harm than good.

The bigger fail of the two is AT&T’s launch with Microsoft of the Lumia 900 Windows 7 phone. They supposedly spent $150M to promote the product’s launch date on April 8th. That would be fine if the 8th was not Easter Sunday. Did they think that people would separate from family to buy products – even if stores were open?  The NY Times did their own research to find that there were just no units to be found in the few Manhattan stores that were open. I personally don’t buy that it was smart marketing to launch a big product on a commercially dead day. There certainly is not any buzz that’s coming from the lack of found product.

They had to have spent a pretty penny on the Nicki Minaj performance in Times Square.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have drafted any of that into sales through the weekend at those 30+ stores within five miles of Times Square.

Nike also did something weird with its marketing schedule. They launched a video yesterday on YouTube that stands as their key video campaign element for the Nike+ FuelBand product. The “Make It Count” campaign centerpiece conveys a great Nike spirit:

Whether the production was as clandestine as they would lead you to believe – with the director, Casey Neistat, taking the entire budget to travel around the world with his best friend – doesn’t really matter.  With nearly 150K views in just over a day, they are doing pretty nicely from a numbers sense. It is a great long form piece if you want to capture the Nike Brand, but I don’t know if it does a great job at conveying what the FuelBand actually is.  When I went to the site to find out, its features made me interested but there was no price and they didn’t have any in stock.  They do point out that stock is updated on the site as it becomes available and each morning the NYC Niketown gets an extremely limited quantity.

I don’t know that I would be interested in checking back regularly for this product as I don’t have to have it and can stand to wait for a while. But I would imagine both Nike and AT&T/Microsoft/Nokia dearly hope that people will feel they must have it in order to drive the opening weekend numbers.

The problem in both instances is that they have executed big bangs for the product launches with no way to leverage the excitement to drive conversions to purchase. I know I’m being cynical when comparing the scarcity “theory” between these products and Apple products, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that there is such a huge disconnect between marketing decisions and distribution capabilities. If this new marketing phenomenon is all about a press release, then it certainly will do harm to many bottom lines.

The Streaming Could Get Deliciously Messy

Late Friday, Netflix announced that they had struck a deal with 20th Television and Imagine Television to create new episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT beginning in 2013.  This could have huge repercussions across the board.  Netflix assuredly hopes that this makes people forget about their recent mis-steps and Hulu has got to be wondering how they missed getting a seat at the table. Does it also get messy when formats and structure change to enable the best streaming experience?

Over the past few months, the murmurs had been growing that there would be a feature version of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT with a limited series of sorts to lead up to its release.  The fan base for the show is strong and had been clamoring for something like this for some time.  The show does well on DVD and via streaming because of that fan base and the fact that the rest of the sitcom universe caught up to what AD was doing years ago.  When the show came out, there were few single camera sitcoms and the type of comedy was more “mature” than most – not in terms of the M rating for nudity, language and such, but just perhaps more cerebral.  Now, there are at least a half-dozen shows on broadcast and cable that carry the same tone and style finding high ratings and an enlarged fan base.

Image Credit: Everett Collection

Are there other shows that might have been ahead of their time that could find a second life on streaming sites?  Perhaps there are, but wouldn’t it have to be considerably different in this new form?  On FOX, AD had the standard three act structure to allow for commercial breaks. Does it change when it no longer has to work on the structured timing of act breaks for commercials? Does it even keep to a 22 or 24 minute length like on broadcast for streaming or does it get shorter or longer?  Do they have the budget to create episodes like they used to?  Of course, a lot of this has to do with the terms of the deal (which we don’t know yet) but I can’t imagine it will be the same as it was – with a cast whose rates have risen since they were last on the show.  I can’t imagine that Netflix would add commercials in there as this would be part of their premium offerings.

Netflix seems to be trying to follow the lead of HBO when they started creating original content in order to generate more subscribers.  It worked so well for them that other premium movie channels followed suit.  The latest is Starz – now headed by Chris Albrecht who was the architect of the original content movement at HBO more than two decades ago.  Netflix had already committed to 26 episodes of HOUSE OF CARDS starring Kevin Spacey.  It’s a remake of a 1990 BBC miniseries about British politics – but they’ll change the locale to the US.  In neither case has the licensing terms been made available, so we won’t know what the creative execution will look like until late 2012 – when HOUSE OF CARDS premieres.

Another element of the messiness is the fact that Hulu is supposed to be so closely tied to 20th Television through their parent, News Corp.  We still don’t know if they were even at the table offering such a licensing deal, but this could end up to be like egg on the face if it helps push Netflix that much further ahead as a streaming content destination.  The act of a studio placing shows on a competitor’s network or outlet is certainly nothing new – it is done all the time and effectively acts as a counter-balance.  Years ago, ABC decided to allow CBS to air the new show CSI because it meant that the financial risk was minimized.  It ended up to be huge for CBS, but it has also made huge amounts of money for Disney. But, those financials were different and it was not in an environment of competition where the stakes are whether your outlet (HULU, Netflix, etc.) will survive if people stop going there.  For all intents and purposes, the financial model is completely up in the air. A show like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT would be a huge platform for any video site – Netflix seems to have won this battle.

Ultimately, it will take quite a long time to figure out whether this was a smart deal or not. Two years are an incredibly long time in this environment.  Who knows what form Netflix will be in by then? whereas TV provides the opportunity to think in 24 month increments (or longer), the digital pace is much quicker than that.  It could be even more messy if the financials are skewed further in one party’s favor by the time the episodes are produced.  In theory, I think that Netflix’ strategy is a sound one using the model of premium cable.  Except, the world is changing so much – so quickly – that this time horizon may be too long to be succesful.  It will be interesting to see if it ever really comes to fruition or if it just becomes another messy lesson in streaming.  Only time will tell, and 2013 might be too long in this environment.

Holiday Season Starts Too Damn Early!

Because even though Costco started selling Christmas stuff months ago and National ads have been conveying the Holiday Cheer prematurely for the past week, someone must keep the sanity and not post too early.  Wait until the day after Halloween. 

If the following infograph tells you anything, you really don’t need that much time before the 24th anyway – Santa’s so damn fast!  If you read closely, iGO does a nice job of subtly saying he couldn’t do it without solid navigation software.  They did it cheaply and cost-effectively through the distribution of this online infograph. Kudos to them for finding a fun way to spread a timely or seasonal message without hammering people on the head with the product or service – even if this marketing is so damn early!

Perhaps RIM Can Stave Off Death A Little Longer

In what seems like either a strong or last-gasp move by RIM to remain relevant for just a bit longer – and attempt to compete (or merely survive) with the Android and iOS smartphones that have worked together to decimate their market share – they announced they will be allowing Android Apps within new models.  Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that its going to be enough. 

RIM (Research in Motion) are the makers of BlackBerrys – the ubiquitous communication device for businesses only a short few years ago.  They are still relative favorites of IT departments due to their secure interface with Enterprise solutions.  The problem for them is that iPhones and Androids are so much more popular due to the applications that are available and their user interfaces.  While RIM has provided some nice BlackBerrys with solid UI, there is just not enough development of essential apps for their platform. Developers have long lamented the challenges of programming for and distributing of BlackBerry apps.  So, they mainly stopped.  The Apple App Store and Android Market products dwarf the BlackBerry App World inventory.

With the addition of Android app integration in the QNX operating system they are set to release next year, they certainly solve some issues.  But, the larger issue is how many people already have or had BlackBerrys and the move to iOS or Android is already made.  RIM had less than stellar sales on their tablets and it begs the question whether they can still be relevant.

One of RIMs successes was their security that made IT professionals comfortable with it. By including Google’s Android products, they are possibly opening themselves up to the malware attacks that hit the Android Market recently. 

It will be interesting to see if this move was also to entice Google to acquire RIM – something that has been buzzing through the blogosphere recently, but now less likely after Google’s Motorola Mobility pending acquisition.

So, while there are strong merits to the move, I feel they waited too long to make this shift.    If there were a software upgrade to existing phones, it would certainly help – who knows if that will ultimately come.  Heading into a weekend, I don’t want to post something stupid about RIM and gRIM reaper, so I won’t.  I don’t see this as anything more than something to prolong the death – or M&A from a larger company – but I’ve been wrong before…