Foodie heaven

February 4, 2011

One of the most brilliant marketing moves I’ve seen in a long time comes from a great love of mine – the Food Network. And I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased. Because I’ve long said – and meant – that I would pay my cable bill if the Food Network was the only channel I got. I DVR shows and don’t even fast forward through commercials half the time because they are usually about food. So I was watching said commercials one Saturday while writing a paper and heard something about “cruise” and “Anne Burrell” – who is one of my new favorite chefs. I perked up and saw this URL:

(Mini marketing lesson one – yes, commercials still do work. Mini lesson two: make your URL easy to remember and type.)

Of course they are touting the Food and Wine show in South Beach (on my bucket list), but I also saw more information about this cruise – it features lessons and cooking demos with Anne Burrell, and includes a few fun, must see European cities as well as a transatlantic crossing. The overview page has a basic layout with reasons why I should go, information about the cruise and an overall price. The navigation is simple and includes more detailed spots about the ship, pricing details and an itinerary, as well as packing tips and information for first time cruisers. Overall, very easy to navigate and answers all your first questions quickly and easily.

As an overall strategy, this is just…brilliant. Not only does it allow you to experience food in a variety of places, but it allows you to really take a “cooking vacation” and have an experience unlike anything else offered out there right now. Food Network did two things right – they tapped into the existing travel market and they are offering a unique experience. Will they get a ton of people to book? The Food and Wine show package is already sold out – I’ll be interested to see how long it takes for the cruise to do the same.

How niche buying affects creatives

January 6, 2011

Discussing old and new media in my media buying class, my professor posed this question – what if we think about old and mew media not in terms of the actual media, but the behavior? What is old media behavior versus new media behavior? And how does that behavior affect media buying and creative pieces?

To me, it comes down to the involvement of the consumer. In old media behavior, a company or publication talks at the consumer. It creates material, whether an ad, an article or a broadcast, and presents it to the consumer. The consumer can read or watch passively, or ignore the material all together. In new media behavior, the line between creator and consumer is blurred, and there is an opportunity for interaction between the two. The creator of the media can be a media company, or an advertiser – but it doesn’t have to be. In new media behavior, anyone can create content – and anyone can interact with the content. A news article, blog post or YouTube video allows real-time comments and discussion from anyone who consumes that media.

So what does that mean? Well, in the context of media buying, I think it means a focus on more niche media buying – targeting consumers through behavior. People don’t want to interact with any kind of media unless it is relevant to them. You’ve heard the stats on the super bowl ads – according to a CNN article, CBS charged about $2.5 million for a 30-second spot in 2007. But with an audience of 90.7 million people, the cost per impression suddenly it seems like a bargain. And for large brands with a wide and diverse target market, these kinds of ads can be. But another factor in the cost spent is reaching the RIGHT people. If you are a cooking company and target random consumers, you might hit on some of them. But if you specifically target consumers searching for food related sites, or products, or who visit other cooking sites, you have a much better chance of that ad being relevant to them – and them clicking. In this case, the interaction comes from choosing to click the ad and view more about the company, but the logic can be applied to any kind of “advertisement.”

For someone who focuses on creating the actual advertisement, this means I need to not only study the research and find out who my customer is, but research the various sites and places where my advertisement appears and attempt to leverage that space in the most effective way (both visually and in messaging). It means my work will take longer and there will be more versions – but it’s also a more effective reach.

Dockers vs Snapple

December 9, 2010

So, you might see that title and think “Wait, am I in a Netflix commercial?” But I was asked in my branding class which company – Dockers or Snapple – did better in using marketing programs and branding elements. While there are great arguments for both sides, I came down on the side of Dockers. Here’s why.

When Levi’s created the Dockers brand, it created an entirely new brand market. The messaging was an “everyman” image, showing ordinary men wearing Dockers in everyday situations. Though the core essence of the brand was the same, the brand proved adaptable when it moved into new marketing campaigns. Dockers relied on distributors to sell its product, so it worked with retailers from the beginning to ensure the “everyman” image was promoted to the end consumer. The brand was positioned to be viewed as accessible by all categories of men, and the price point and variety of distribution channels reflected that accessibility. Dockers used a combination of marketing programs, including traditional print and TV advertisements as well as in store displays and sponsorships (such as the US Open.) Dockers found itself needing to innovate its marketing as competitors like the Gap started eating into market share, but continued to preserve its image with new products and more updated advertising.

In contrast, Snapple started as a similarly unique brand, but I would argue it was not as successful in keeping a solid brand identity. Originally, it focused on all natural products and a slogan that showcased that it was  – “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth.” The Keller case notes that Snapple practically created the non-carbonated beverage category (Case, 329). Its high price point and limited distribution contributed to an image of an upscale, high-quality brand. However, product placement in various sitcoms and the use of a real-life employee spokeswoman also gave the brand a human and engaging face. But the brand did not respond well to competitive threats and was sold to Quaker Oats after loosing market share. Snapple attempted to recover, re-engaging with its customer base through promotions like naming a beverage after a customer and creating a “Snapple-fest,” but the lack of product innovation stalled the brand. In addition, an outside heath audit and distribution issues further damaged the brand. Snapple resorted to traditional advertising techniques, which further diluted the brand.

While I would argue that the Snapple brand has more “heart,” Dockers has maintained a more consistent brand over its life cycle.  What can you do to focus on consistency in your brand messaging. If your brand is stale, what can you do to shake things up (while still maintaining your brand)?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Three reasons why you need research at the front of your marketing plan

December 2, 2010

I used to think as a marketer, you had to know what good marketing was in your “gut” – it was all about the “feel” of something. If the copy is sharp and the design edgy, it will sell. I was wrong. Feel is important – but it’s not the whole picture. In reality, it should be balanced with an equal amount of research. Unfortunately, research suffers from a lack of sex appeal – do you see anyone in Mad Men researching? Well, okay, Faye was brought in this season, but I think we all saw how seriously she was taken. Plus, it’s often overlooked or dismissed due to cost and time. It shouldn’t be. Here’s three reasons why marketing research is an essential first step in your marketing plan:

1. You need to know your customer. It’s not enough to have a good product – customers don’t care. What they do care about is how that product is going to help them. Your job is to tell them. You can’t do that if you don’t have an idea who your customer is. Finding out age, gender and income level is a great place to start. David Meerman Scott has some great posts on finding and creating buyer personas – taking demographic and other information about your customers and creating a real “person” out of them. It’s much easier to market to one person than it is to a group of nameless faceless people – and for the sake of your brand, isn’t it better if that person is an actual representation of your customers, instead of your CEO or VP of marketing? (I’m sure they are great too, but I doubt they accurately represent your entire customer base.)

2. Without research, you don’t know if your intended message is actually reaching the customer. You could be talking about your product in third grade language when your customers read at the college level – or vice versa. In my journalism classes I was taught to write at a 6th grade level, because apparently that’s the average reading level of Americans. Does your customer understand your witty references, or are they flying right overhead? If you’ve ever seen the TV show Gilmore Girls and know nothing about pop culture, half of what they say on that show will make no sense. If you have customers in the UK and you use American slang, they might not get it. Now, that doesn’t mean everything you write will resonate with every customer, but if you have a general idea of your customer base, you have a better idea of what might work and what might not in copy and design.

3. You can’t set targets without having something to compare.  You might think it’s great that you’re selling 100 widgets a day, but if the company down the street/in the next town/around the globe doing the same thing is selling 500, does that change your perspective? It might. It might not. Maybe your widget is special. Maybe you’re happy with 100 and have no desire to grow. But, that ought to be a conscious decision you make as a business, not a consequence of not paying attention to what’s happening in your market.

You’ll notice I didn’t write a blog post about how to overcome the time and money barriers for research. You can, in certain ways, but that’s not the point – you need to do it regardless of the barriers. It a necessary part of your plan. See last week’s post – if a global company can do a rebrand in four months and still research, so can you.

You need research. Yes, even you.

November 18, 2010

The fact that I have studied Accenture in not one, not even two, but every single one of my FOUR marketing classes should say something – especially for a brand that makes its money on consulting (not the sexiest business in the world.) Here’s the back story: Accenture started as part of Arthur Andersen and broke out as ‘Andersen Consulting.’ A case study on the company notes, “It was widely credited for being the first professional services firm to advertise aggressively” (355.) However, it fought (and won) the chance to separate from its parent company. The only problem? It had to come up with a new name. And this global giant, which had dumped millions into building a brand, had four months to do it. It needed all the aggressive marketing it could get.

First, the company did research in the field to measure its brand equity against competitors. This research showed the company where it stood out in the marketplace and where competitors were better (Case, 362.) This research proved vital in moving ahead with a rebranding, especially on such a short timescale.

Accenture worked with Young & Rubicam to create a teaser advertising campaign to promote the brand, which was launching Jan 1. The campaign played off of the binary code in the launch date (01.01.01), which spoke to its IT audiences, but also let the public know to expect a change on Jan. 1.

It picked the brand name through an internal competition – employees were encouraged to submit ideas, which were then researched for trademark, global usage and customer mindset.The use of research allowed Accenture to find a brand name that could span a global audience and still resonate with its customer base. The internal competition was a great way to launch the brand internally and get the buy-in of the entire company.

The market performance of the new brand was evident – “At the end of 2001, one year after the launch of the new brand, the awareness for Accenture name remained at, or above, previous levels for Andersen Consulting in most countries” (Case 368.) In addition, the firm became an IPO in 2001, and in a down market increased its share price 80 percent (Case, 369).

Accenture’s rebrand was clearly a success. The company focused first on understanding its brand – where it fit into the marketplace and how it was viewed by consumers on is own as well as against competitors. That understanding, coupled with aggressive advertising, allowed Accenture to not only transfer its brand equity, but to increase upon that equity. By proactively creating a brand and reinforcing that brand through advertising, Accenture was able to stay out ahead of the marketplace not only for its name rebrand, but for additional challenges in the market.

If a huge company that spans the globe can manage to rebrand in four months while still conducting research – what’s the excuse for the rest of us?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Traditional marketing vs. customer experience

November 11, 2010

Starbucks and Intel might seem like two of the most opposite companies you could find, with completely different brand tactics and messaging. However, both companies worked within these strategies to emerge at the top of their industries. Intel used traditional marketing methods to become a very strong ingredient brand, while Starbucks used marketing through customer service (long before it was popular) to build a coffee house on practically every corner. Two different companies, two different methods – same successful result.

Starbucks – Marketing through customer experience

Starbucks saw an opportunity in the market and utilized an already existing (though small) brand – a Seattle area coffee roaster – to create a new, larger brand. Its use of integrated marketing communications ensured consumers saw the core vales of the Starbucks’ brand from start to finish, on everything it did. A brand case study says one of its founders, “realized the powerful business opportunities that lay ahead of the company if he could preserve Starbucks’ core values while exposing a wider range of people to the brand” (306). From its logo, to the design of the store, to the training of the staff, Starbucks focused its brand building on the experience of the company.

Keller discusses six concepts of an IMC program in his text: coverage, contribution, commonality, complementarity, versatility, and cost (267). By creating a “third place” for consumers to gather (outside of the home or work) Starbucks addressed the contribution aspect through its store design and customer experience (Keller case, 307). By keeping all stores owned by the corporation, Starbucks was able to capitalize on commonality by making the experience as similar as possible  for all customers (Keller case, 310). Coverage was achieved through using a “hub store” to draw in traffic and then expand into an even wider market (Keller case, 311).

Only once the brand was stable did it expand into other markets with joint partnerships like Host Marriott and United Airlines. Though Starbucks faced the challenge of keeping the quality similar, the company focused on training its partners and eventually was able to expand the message of the Starbucks brand. It continued to do so with branded items such as Frappucinos and ice cream (Keller case, 312). In each case, it focused on first making sure the technology and logistics were in place to ensure quality, which in turn, enhanced the brand. Throughout all of its approaches, Starbucks was single-minded in its promotion of quality and focused on integrating that quality throughout its brand channels and marketing.

Intel – Lots of dollars, lots of return

Intel utilized more advertising than Starbucks in its IMC approach. Intel started its coverage with billboards targeting only its business consumers, but noticing an increase in sales, realized it could directly target end-users through print, TV and billboard advertising. One way Intel focused on maximizing it coverage, complementarity and cost was through the development of a logo and sound that its business partners could play at the end of their advertising. In addition, Intel focused on creating a brand name for its processor, which allowed it to be single-minded in promotion (focusing on the same logo, sound and brand name) as well as the ability to protect its copyright. Though Intel faced a challenge of branding an ingredient most people never see, the campaign proved successful – due to Intel’s $500 million ad spend, 80 percent of the public recognized Intel, 75 percent thought positively about the brand and 50 percent looked for logo when they shopped.

Both of these companies had huge success using two very different marketing methods – but the methods they used were well thought-out and resonated with their audiences. What does your brand stand for? How can you portray that not just in your creatives, but in the way in which you use those creatives?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Why the ‘got milk?’ campaign worked

November 4, 2010

I was pretty young when the ‘got milk?’ campaign launched, so I remember more about the celebrity milk mustaches than anything else. In reading for my branding class, I learned how the first ‘got milk?’ campaign was not only a runaway success, but accomplished a pretty difficult branding challenge – branding a commodity.

The ‘got milk?’ campaign was created in the 1990’s to renew the interest in an existing product – milk. The point of the campaign was to find a new way to market milk. People already knew about the health benefits, and milk itself wasn’t combating a negative image – rather, it was trying to fix a backslide in sales. The campaign built milk’s image by imaging a world where milk no longer existed in certain common scenarios (milk and cookies, milk and cereal). The campaign underscored this creative by running advertisements in a variety of media during the times people were most likely to think about drinking milk – breakfast, afternoon snack and late night snacking (Keller Case, 39). This combination of creative work and media buying really made the most of the campaign.

The campaign  effectively positioned milk as a brand. Originally the target market was California residents, but the campaign was expanded to a national and global level (Keller Case, 40). In both stages the campaign focused mainly on stressing milk’s points of difference (Keller Text, 107). You can’t dunk a cookie into a glass of soda, or use water on your cereal and get the satisfaction you receive when using milk.  The campaign was well timed by first reminding consumers about milk’s unique taste and following up with health benefits. Had the campaign focused on the health benefits first, consumers may have found other drinks that could supplement those needs (orange juice with calcium, for example.) The surge in milk consumption and the sheer popularity of the campaign prove its success.

So, the question for your brand is – what do you offer that no one else does? What does your company offer that people can’t live without? How can you use that in your branding?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Building brand equity through products

October 28, 2010

There are plenty of boundaries when it comes to creating a brand, and one of those boundaries can be product development.  Does the product speak to the overall feeling of the brand? Are there too many products? Not enough? Two companies we studied in my brand equity class – Nivea and Nike – did a great job of using their product lines to contribute to brand equity (aka, the character of the brand). While both companies had their issues, they provide an interesting look into what it means to expand a product line.

Nike started their product with something they knew well – running shoes – and continued to develop that line for many years. In our class text, one piece of advice was to increase the efficiency of promotional expenditures (Keller Text, 498)  – which Nike did when it hired Steve Prefontaine as its first professional spokesperson. He was successful in the running market and Nike signed him before his fame – the sponsorship helped build the brand as a premier running shoe (Keller Case, 127.) That equity stuck with Nike when it developed shoes for other sports, including basketball. Nike was able to leverage its reputation for making a superior running shoe into creating superior shoes for all sports (Keller Text, 512-513). It’s product line continued to evolve, both on a US and a global scale. Nike sought out opportunities to understand the global market by finding different sports to promote, such as soccer, and integrating those promotions.

Nivea focused on building sub-brands in the same category – skin care. The success of Nivea Creme became a building block for the brand, which then extended into lines such as Nivea Visage and Nivea Body. In each extension case, Nivea focused on branding the project separately but keeping all the brand linked by a “Blue Bible” (Keller Case, 240.) This brand book outlined how Nivea’s different products lines could market themselves (in looks and in messaging) to stand out yet be seen as part of the Nivea family.  In fact, executives credited the Bible for being the most important branding step they took – as a global company with many different sub-brands, the document helped tie messaging, packing and promotion together so the brand was recognizable as one entity. (Keller Case, 243).

As a brand and a company, what can you do to focus on expanding your product line while keeping true to your brand?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Ingredient Brand Strategy – DuPont

October 21, 2010

One of the questions in my branding class last quarter was to analyze the branding strategy of DuPont®. DuPont® employs an ‘ingredient’ branding strategy – that is instead of branding individual product, DuPont® branded an ingredient (that it created) which is used in many different products. DuPont® is a company that has its name on a lot of things, but the list of what it’s actually created really surprised me – it’s the company behind nylon, Teflon® and STAINMASTER®, to name a few.

DuPont® discovered early on that by branding individual ingredients, rather than whole products, it had more control over its brand name (Keller Case, 176.) Instead of worrying about quality control with many different companies, DuPont® chose to market what it could control. In addition, DuPont® went beyond traditional B2B advertising and brought those ingredients right to consumers, so they knew what to look for. It also focused on a corporate image campaign through its sponsorship of NASCAR and cause marketing through its green efforts and donations to victims of natural disasters (Keller Case, 178, 190.)

Take a look at your brand. Is there something you can pull out – a way to market what you can actually control, instead of something you can’t? What other brands do you think are really effective in this type of branding?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Consumer behavior blows my mind

April 26, 2010

From the lack of posts, you can see grad school caught up with me a bit. This last class  – consumer behavior – was especially challenging. Why people do what they do has always fascinated me, but I never really put much stock into how that plays into marketing.

The part of the class that stuck with me the most was watching a (sadly, very old) video about a market research firm that tracked consumers as they moved throughout different stores. Once the firm watched videos of consumers moving through the store, they made recommendations about where to place products, how to set up lines (especially important for banks) and where to place promotional material.

In one store they moved an ad kiosk by 20 feet and could directly attribute that to a 20 percent increase in sales. In a bank, they helped clearly define the lines and placed brochures about mortgages and other offerings toward the back of the line. This way, consumers had something to do while they were in line.

On a large scale, this made me think about the layout of a newer Meijer (for those of you not from Mich., Meijer is like a super Target – one stop shopping). Instead of having one “food” side and one “not food” side, the store was laid out so that you started in the produce section on one side and once you ended up in the dairy – boom, you were on the other side of the store. They did it by laying the aisles open. Normally, the aisles run “sideways” but these aisles faced you straight on, so you could see down the whole length of them as soon as you walked in. The “main” aisle ran the width of the store instead of the length of it.

When I am grocery shopping in a normal Meijer, I always stick to the “food” side, so that I’m not tempted by other items. However, since the food ran the whole length of the store, while I was grocery shopping I also passed by all of the “non food” items. I remember thinking how smart the layout was – and I did buy more. Passing by, I was reminded that oh yes, we did need a humidifier and some candles and a card for someone’s birthday. It didn’t make me buy things I didn’t need, but it did make more things top of mind.

Consumer behavior is something many businesses research – restaurants use certain colors, for example, and a clothing store might use a particular kind of mirror or lighting. Have you noticed what kinds of marketing make a difference in your shopping?