September 29, 2014#

Starbucks Wants Human Connections

Starbucks new global ad campaign (just one example of a fully integrated media campaign shown here) is designed to remind consumers how it’s the place—and always has been—to make human connections.

The company’s stated goal for this campaign is to increase “dwell time” at its stores, but one suspects that there may also be another, equally important motivation.

Starbucks was created not simply as a place to get a great cup of coffee, but as a place, beyond home and work, to connect with others: what the company terms the “third place”.

This notion of a third place is as important to their values as anything.

But it appears this core value is being redefined by its very own customers, and not in a good way. Recently, Starbucks has morphed into the “screening” place. Anyone who has visited a Starbucks recently, particularly in urban locations, will have noticed that customers seem to be happy being alone together, each staring into their personal digital devise, be it an phone, tablet, or computer. With the exception of the sound of the coffee machine grinding away, it’s become a remarkably quiet setting, devoid of much real-world human connection.

Perhaps I overstate the reality of the situation, but I suspect that Starbucks is seeing a trend—which is also pervasive throughout our society—and would like it to be otherwise.

But can they truly affect a change in customers’ behavior? Maybe. But they’ll need to do more than just advertise it off and on-line.

According to BJ Fogg at the Stanford Persuasion Tech Lab, three core elements of persuasion have to exist to effect behavior change.  You have to be motivated, the change has to be made simple, and there has to be triggers to nudge you/remind you to effect the behavior change.

Right now, Starbucks is focused on influencing customers’ motivation via their “Connections” campaign. And doing a nice job of it. To effect behavior change, though, they’ll not only need to commit to this campaign for a long-time, but they’ll also need to provide real-world rewarding triggers that make it easy and enjoyable to experience Starbucks with their electronic devises turned off.

September 14, 2014#

Is the NFL Brand Damaged?

There’s been much talk recently about how the Ray Rice mess is damaging the NFL brand. But is it really?

Certainly, perceptions of the NFL are more negative today than they’ve been for some years. A recent study by YouGov BrandIndex shows that consumer perception of the NFL has dropped to the lowest point since June 2012. They asked respondents “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?’

But does this really tell us anything about the enduring strength of the NFL brand? Not really.

On the basis of the key measures of brand strength–relevance, perceived product quality and loyalty–there’s a good chance that the NFL brand remains largely unscathed.

Will the behavior Ray Rice, Richie Incognito, Michael Vick or the other bad boys of football, compel fans to turn-off their TVs on Sunday afternoon, stop attending games, stop placing bets on fantasy football, substitute Madden NFL with Minecraft, take long walks instead of watching the Super Bowl? What’s more, are sponsors going to stop advertising on the most popular product on TV? (Despite the recent Rice controversy, 20 million Americans tuned into the Ravens’ game last Thursday night).

As long as people love the NFL product—the game itself, and they do—the brand will be just fine. Players come and go. The game endures. The bigger issues are more likely to be too many commercials, too many replay reviews, too many time-outs, and too many brain damage causing injuries which may turn-off protective parents from allowing their children to enter the sport.

More than anything, the Ray Rice mess, and other negative incidences involving NFL players, spotlight national attention on the pervasive real-life societal issues of domestic violence, child discipline, drug use, drunk driving, and racism that face all Americans.   Because the NFL is such a deep part of the American experience—an imbedded part of our cultural DNA—it’s really a refection of ourselves.

No question, the NFL needs to get its house in order; not simply to protect its brand, which would be cynical, but because it’s the right thing to do—and because as a beloved national institution it has an obligation to set a higher standard of human behavior for all of us to admire and aspire to.





September 13, 2014#

Apple Launches New Naming Convention

With the launch of its Pay mobile payments platform and Watch smartwatch , Apple has also introduced a new naming convention. Rather than continuing with the “i” prefix for each product descriptor, they have opted to brand these new products with the Apple name.

From a branding standpoint, this makes good sense.

First, the use of “i” is starting to seem a bit dated. It was initially intended to stand for “internet”, and to suggest that it was easy to connect to the Internet with Apple’s internet-ready products. Perhaps, too, it stood for “me”, as in Apple’s products are designed to work for each of us as individuals.   But these notions are now the ubiquitous reality of “the internet of all things”. Everything is internet, everything is me.

Second, Apple’s goal with each new product introduction is to sell the Apple family that together form one big happy, interconnected platform. Against this objective, it’s more compelling to brand the family “Apple” than “i”.

And last, with the launch of a mobile payment platform and smartwatch, Apple is entering into product areas of great interest to their main competitor, Google. Tapping into the strong equities inherent in Apple’s brand name will be of significant value as they battle head-to-head.

September 12, 2014#

9/11 Brand Bellyflops

Andy Rooney, the late, great commentator on 60 Minutes once said, “what we need today is less marketing and more quality.”

There was simple wisdom in those words spoken many years ago. Apparently it’s lost today on the many brands that choose to hijack the nation’s solemn annual commemoration of 9/11 with their own vacuous sales pitches.


March 4, 2012#

Positioning Powerade as an Underdog

Positioning your brand as an underdog–#2 to a powerful #1–is nothing new.

Avis, most famously, positioned itself as the car rental company that tried harder, especially with regard to customer service compared to market leader, Hertz.  And, of course, we’re all familiar with Apple vs. Microsoft, Under Armor vs. Nike, and the Jamaican bobsled team against . . . all odds.  These brands caught our attention and generated broad-based appeal because they were all a variation on the classic David vs. Goliath story–the humble but determined underdog pitted against the arrogant, bloated titan.
Continue Reading

December 19, 2011#
December 16, 2011#

Describing Brand “You”

If you’re dynamic, have communication skills, a problem solver, motivated, have extensive experience, innovate, effective, have a track record, organizational and creative then chances are you’re not standing out on LinkedIn.
Continue Reading

November 8, 2011#

How a Dominant Selling Idea Can Save You Money

Clients and prospective clients often ask:  How do I win in the marketplace without a lot of money to spend on advertising?  They cite well-known examples of companies that have succeeded with little to no traditional marketing support.
Continue Reading

October 24, 2011#

Repositioning Baby Carrots as Junk Food

We talk a lot here about the power of reframing your category in order to stand out from your competition.

Here’s a terrific example of a unique, creative and compelling approach.
Continue Reading

September 15, 2010#

Re-Naming “High Fructose Corn Syrup”

There are few things in branding as important as a name.  Names are the embodiment of brand equity – the simple, singular, tangible focal point for all that your brand stands for.  It’s literally the first thought we have in the mental sequencing that constitutes a brand idea; the handle we remember.

Sometimes names need to be changed.  Especially when the name becomes a liability.  For instance, when low-cost airplanes crash (from ValuJet to AirTran), when government contracted security firms get caught going rogue (from Blackwater to Xe), and when universities want to be perceived as more than a secretarial school (from Villa Julie to Stevenson University).

Sometimes, too, name changes are needed at the ingredient and product level.  Like when a healthy, natural cooking oil sounds as if it belongs in your car rather than your stomach (from low erucic acid rapeseed oil to canola oil), or when a healthy food that aids digestion and regularity sounds too much like its aged target audience (from prunes to dried plums).

Or when a food sweetner is erroneously perceived as particularly unhealthy by consumers.  That’s the case today with high-fructose corn syrup.   As reported in the NY Times today (“A Move to Relabel High-Fructose Corn Syrup“), the Corn Refiners Association wants the FDA to rename the ingredient corn sugar.   The concern:  58% of Americans say they worry about the health risk posed by high-fructose corn syrup.     And yet, “most leading scientists and nutrition experts agree that the effect of high-fructose corn syrup on health is no different than regular sugar.”

While high-fructose corn syrup may not be exactly healthy, it’s no more unhealthy, if consumed in moderation, than plain old sugar, which is derived primarily from sugar cane and sugar beets.

While we think the name change is a smart move, we’d argue that since there’s really only one chance to do it, they ought to have come up with a better name than corn sugar.  Corn suggest starch:  not necessarily a good thing in peoples’ minds.  And sugar?  Well, that in itself is a loader word.   The folks at Spenda might have a few suggestions for new names that bypass old baggage.