We Compare All Brand Experiences to Just a Few Brands

Have you noticed the same handful of businesses lead every brand ranking, are mentioned repeatedly at conferences, and are consistently referenced in books and articles? One cannot escape testimonials to Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Harley-Davidson, and Disney. It is if there are only a handful of successful brands on the planet.

Now it seems consumers believe that to be true. Wunderman and Penn Schoen Berland surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 65 in the US and the UK, and the findings were consistent across generations, geography and gender. Here is an amazing finding: 87% of US and 85% of UK consumers compare all brand experiences to those they consider the best, such as Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks.

That means when we pick up our dry cleaning, rent a bicycle, or buy a shirt we are judging the experience as compared to ordering a venti cappuccino from Starbucks or streaming Better Call Saul.

After working with tons of brands and consulting to agencies who work with an exponential number of brands I am confident I know what consumers truly want from brands. They demand a solution. A solution that makes their lives easier and more enjoyable. Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks do that.

All that other brand stuff involving authenticity, consistency, and transparency are in the next consideration set. Those considerations are important for sure but when you boil it down consumers consume. Sure, some vote with their wallets if a brand does bad or badly but we buy to satisfy our very selfish needs and wants.

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Creativity: The Rituals and Routines

Recently my stepdaughter shared an article called Rise and Shine: The Daily Routines of History’s Most Creative Minds. She is entering the creative and competitive world of acting and writing in film and television. In sharing she could not help but note that I am well practiced in the routines of coffee, long walks, and inebriation (aren’t I the greatest influence?).

All family kidding aside, I struggle with the discipline and creativity required by writing. Writing is so much of what I do now. Branding and marketing requires conveying relevant and different ideas so I have always honed this talent. Now I am writing fiction and screenplays, as well as, ghostwriting for others. I like to think I am getting better at the craft but that does not mean it gets any easier.

Oliver Burkman’s article is a review of Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In it Currey notes that Joyce Carol Oats worked the morning, took a big break and cranked up again in the evening. Anthony Trollope set the goal of 250-words per quarter-hour. Meanwhile, Friedrich Schiller could only write in the presence of the smell of rotting apples (for me it’s fermenting grapes).

I like background noise and always have. Since studying in high school and university, the tunes or television have been on. As I type this blog on my computer, one earbud is in place hooked to my tablet where Better Call Saul is in rotation.

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Too Cool? Men’s Fashion Brand Naming

A fun day in my life was when I happened across the brand Scotch and Soda. Originally launched in the 80’s, the brand was revamped in 2001. My affection was, and is, for the name. If I had the gumption to start a clothing brand then “scotch and soda” would be a gutsy moniker I would be proud of.

Recently, I was surfing and shopping. You know, that time wasting trend of attempting to satisfy more complex needs through hollow and vacuous retail therapy. The activity turned out to be more rewarding and fulfilling than expected because of the men’s wear brand names I happened across.

Still, none of them made me buy more or switch my favourites. They did, however, catch my attention. Consider the first up: A Fish Named Fred. That name conjured a tinge of nostalgia for the John Cleese and Jamie-Lee Curtis movie. Overall, it was a foreshadowing of the extreme irreverence that these brands draw upon and strive for.

Then came ArboristBespoken and Cheap Monday. A tree trimmer, elite, and price sensitive offer all install different meanings. Next consider the brands called EmbellishFilling Pieces, and Fish N Chips. They sound like Michael Chabon or Irvine Welsh novels.

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TV Spots that are Spot-On

Where are those loud pundits in the ad industry who forecasted the death of the 30 second television ad? Here we are and video in all forms is stronger than ever. Check out five notable recent ads of varying length and why we like them.

Costa Rica: PSA

Sometimes what you think is happening is not. This ad reminds us of a fact and balances the direction of our compassion. The dog is a great actor as well.

Notes: Take Note

This kind of thing has been done before (what hasn’t?), however, the execution is engaging. It also gets a bit uncomfortable. Not all is peaches and cream in life. Even with communications there is miscommunication and that is why this will stay with you for some time.

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The Coming Difference in Brand Storytelling

“Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known and have told us again and again: books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.” Novelist Umberto Eco was echoing (all pun intended) Charles Dickens who previously spoke of life as a “furious plagiarism”.

This addresses the fun conundrum of brand storytelling. If every story has already been told then how can a plagiarism differentiate a brand?

Of course, the answer is that stories differentiate in their execution. Protagonist and antagonist. Character archetypes and fables. Three acts. These notions are important but are not at the core. The answer for brands lies in relevant and fresh approaches. Ones that are not one-way narratives but a dialogue and experience that influence changes in thought and behavior.

In the old days ad gurus would say, “Do not sell the mattress, sell the sleep.” Coke does not sell beverages, it sells happiness. AirBnb promises you will live like a local rather than making a hotel room the destination.

Michael Shermer believes, “Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” Storytelling in marketing is constantly debated. Yet, the fact remains a banner ad, a poster, a 30-second television ad all tell stories. If they don’t the consumer makes up their own. If they do it well, a consumer inserts themselves into the narrative.

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What’s New in Storytelling

“Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” So says Michael Shermer. Storytelling in marketing is constantly debated. Yet, the fact remains a banner ad, a 30-second television ad, a poster all tell stories. If they don’t the consumer makes up their own.

Here is a roundup of current thinking on the art and science of storytelling…

How Barbie is evolving its storytelling for the digital age

The Drum covers interviews Mattel’s chief content officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, to find out how the toymaker is evolving its approach to storytelling. We are living in a Barbie world.

How Equinox, Coca-Cola, American Express and Marcus use data for storytelling

This is topic worthy of further examination. Stories are only going to get more dynamic. Static tales may become a thing of the past. Brands need to recognize that.

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Big Brands Go Analog With Merchandise

In this time of all things digital it is fun to see big brands going “analog”. Promotional merchandise or merch or schwag is hot right now. And I love that it is. Perhaps I am dating myself but promotions were always a fun part of the marketing mix for me.

KCF loves to print the Colonel’s likeness on shirts and pillows while self-desprecating about fried chicken in general. The brand has been taken to ‘quirky territory’ by its agencies. It may be time for KFC management to exert a little more control.

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Why Are So Many Brands Named for a Fruit?

There are definite trends in brand naming. Some become faddish and others earn iconic status. Think of the advertising industry. While at DDB we would joke about changing the name to Tartan Elephant or Lollipop Attack. This was to sarcastically compete with Big Spaceship, 72 and Sunny, and Blammo, and others.

Now you have dropped vowels businesses like Tumblr, Flickr, and Grindr. Twitter began as Twtter but then thought better. Then there is the -ify movement that includes Adify, Crowdify, Mobify, Navify, Optify, Shopify, Spotify, Storify, Topify, and Soapboxify.

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Selling Happiness: Flaws in Marketing Wellness

Before bookstores became dinosaurs I worshipped within their walls. The Strand in New York, Chapters in Toronto, Barnes & Noble in Chicago, and Nicholas Hoare in Ottawa. Now bookstores sell more tchotchkes than actual books (but that is another story). One section that never drew me in was “Self Help” books. That category was always expanding and encroaching on my beloved literary fiction and history sections.

From The Power of Positive Thinking to Chicken Soup for the Soul to Awaken the Giant Within the shelves were stuffed with how-to’s to become a happier and healthier winner. What screamed out at me was, “Snake-oil!” That is my active skeptic (and I love him) though I conceded there must be a few things of value in so many books and so many pages.

Mostly though the content is all derived from the same few pieces of common sense wisdom. Then it is repackaged and regurgitated resulting in a nauseous cycle of vacuous repetition. Of course the writing, publishing and selling of these magic panaceas continues. In fact, Amazon has 660,249 Self Help books available online.

In the last decade we have seen the definition and explosion of a broader industry. This is wellness. It encompasses so many businesses that it is losing specificity. The Global Wellness Institute has proclaimed that the industry is now worth $3.7 trillion. That is more three times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry.

In one sense that is a victory for humanity. Simply speaking we are seeking solutions beyond doctor-written prescriptions but we are medicating in new ways. That is because marketers would have us believe we are facing new problems. Stress, anxiety and depression are more widely accepted and talked about. That is fine as long as it is never absolutely normalized. We are close to having normalized divorce even though it is incredibly destructive within the family unit and society overall.

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Ad Greats on Social Media

The advertising greats who dominated Madison Avenue in the 1950’s and 1960’s left the industry an incredible legacy. Among the assets passed down and still passionately referenced are their quotes. Taken in the aggregate these bon mots represent key philosophies of business and communication. It is amazing how timeless these musings and lessons remain. Yet, much has changed in the practice of delivering compelling communications.

“Advertising” is too confining a label, consumers play an ever increasing role in how brands define themselves, technologies proliferate at ever greater speeds and we are firmly in the grip and promise of social media. This led me to wonder what the leaders of Madison Avenue would think about social media. So I combed through their thoughts to find relevance and application.

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