Branding Needs Rebranding

The past fifteen years has been amazing for the practice and profession of branding. Its influence and application is undisputed. Branding is now a primary consideration and investment for any business or organization. It is also part of society’s generally accepted lexicon. For fun, over the next few days I ask you to keep track of how many times you hear the word “brand” in any context and how often you say it. You will be amazed at the number especially given that twenty years ago you would be hard-pressed to hear it at all.

To be fair and accurate, branding did not come out of the blue. Arguably, it has been around in a commercial sense for centuries. In the mid 20th century branding was first documented and formalized through the efforts of Procter & Gamble and other consumer products companies. For theiStock_000016171352XSmall next fifty years that is where branding remained. It was mostly applied to cars, colas and confectionary.

At the turn of this century branding exploded. It was soon employed by every type of business and organization (and in too many contexts and situations). Curiously, there is precious little thinking or writing on why this happened. Let me take a stab at it. Think back to 2000 and 2001 before the Dotcom bust.

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Spam’s Last Marketing Frontier

What do you think of when you hear the word “Spam”? And let me clarify that I am talking about the tinned variety. We will get to intrusive communications in due course. For most of Spam’s 78-year history, the product has been disparaged and dismissed as inedible and “Something Posing As Meat” or “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter”. Yet, more than eight billion cans have been sold since Hormel launched the product in 1937.

Americans buy 113 million cans of Spam annually. This means 3.8 cans are consumed every canssecond in the United States. To keep up with demand, the slaughterhouse next to the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota butchers 20,000 pigs a day. So how can we reconcile what is bashed so publicly with what is bought in such mass amounts?

Spam was successful out of the gate having grabbed 18% market share in its first year of sales. By 1940, over 70% of Americans had tried Spam which on any measure is incredible. This was largely attributed to an economy still suffering from the Depression and it began Spam’s longstanding association with low-cost and frugality. Sales still spike when times are tough.

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Top-Drawer Business Books 2014

Welcome to the 7th edition of Top-Drawer Business Books. The listing’s tongue-in-cheek title describes books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. In short, books that are excellent and should be kept within easy reach for repeated reference.

The Top-Drawer list has always been less than traditional (or duplicative). Too many of the other best business book lists are narrow in definition and focus. As Robert Weider said, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” That is why this list includes books not categorized as “business”.

There are no shortcuts or magic panaceas in business. We have to do the work even when reading, as John Locke stated, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” This list is built on that premise. We avoid books promising four-hour work weeks because they are fables, how-to books that are vacuous and dangerous, and the content of so-called inspirational works that are trite, ineffectual and soon tossed out when met with the blunt adversities found in actual commerce.

Life is too short to drink cheap scotch and to read books that are not ‘Top-Drawer’. This year just 9 made our list appearing in no particular order. Enjoy!

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Building a Sustainable Brand Community

Years ago a study was released proving that children recognized brand logos more so than symbols of century-old religions. The McDonalds’ Golden Arches was called out more readily than the Christian cross. This made for great fodder in the press at the time with many pundits decrying the shameful state of civilization but the dismay was short-lived.

Religion of all stripes and types are horribly outspent from a media perspective by big brands and, in the case of fast food, the fervent will visit a Burger King or KFC much more often than the occasional Sunday service. Churches, 234-ronald-mcdonalds-waisynagogues and mosques have been outnumbered for decades.

Branding has always been about belonging to a club. Brands provide a vessel of perceived shared values and a homogeneity that our tribal natures desire. To put this in context I often joke about the skateboarder and snowboarder tribes asking ‘Why do they all dress the same?’ The sarcastic but accurate answer is, ‘To be different’.

In the past few years I have been exposed to the Ironman phenomena. These grueling contests see participants swim 2.4-miles (3.86 km), bike 112-miles (180.25 km) and run a 26.2-mile marathon (42.2 km). Mont Tremblant, Quebec, where I make my home, has begun hosting Ironman events making a name for itself as a mecca for triathletes (note my deliberate use of “mecca”). The area has now held several Ironmen including the North American Championship in 2014.

My wife and I have volunteered to help out several times serving as security, banquet server, and bike course monitors. We have also been happy to cheer on the sweaty competitors before we retire to our deck for a triathlon of cocktails. In all seriousness, our catbird seat has allowed for some interesting observations about Ironman or what I term an “event and achievement brand”.

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Jeff Talks Agency Strategy in Advertising Age

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What Digital Agency Clients, Staff and Lead

 

ers Say in Private
These Shops Market Themselves as Hip, but They’re Actually Pretty Old-School
By: Jeff Swystun

Digital agencies enjoy a reputation of being cool, cutting-edge and creative. They even have a bit of a bad-boy persona because they talk about challenging the status quo. Their offices are hip and their employees are hipsters. They are positioned as the future of marketing and advertising.

In the past year I have consulted to six digital agencies on branding and marketing. Between them they operate in over 12 countries, employing over 2,000. The results are revealing. First up is the dissatisfaction among employees. This cannot be attributed solely to the stereotypical millennial, because,many who shared these experiences were over 35. Comments included:

“We lecture clients about technology when our time and expense sheets are manual.”

“Fun perks promised are always sacrificed because of proposals or client work. I understand business is business, but don’t promise it if you only hand it out when convenient.” Read more

Lululemon Sheerly You’re Joking

Losing $67 million on a massive recall of one of your signature products is serious business. More sheer than normal products, dye leaking from some of the brightly colored pieces and other quality issues are undeniably serious.

So Lululemon Athletica Inc. has responded very seriously. Chief product officer Sheree Waterson has been let go. The company apologized to customers and investors. It changed its manufacturing and quality control processes.downwarddog-300

In short, it responded like it’s Tylenol or Toyota.

But it is not. Lululemon is a yoga lifestyle brand. Inherent in that is some degree of brevity and lightheartedness. I understand that its mission is tied to health and wellness and that it is a significant business, but let’s face it, it’s not a pharmaceutical company. Read more