Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Animals in Advertising

Those of us who are old enough remember Kellogg's Frosted Flake's Tony the Tiger. Leo Burnett also created Charlie the Tuna for StarKist and Morris the Cat for 9Lives. And Taco Bell used a chihuahua dog in its advertising.

But lately, more and more advertisers are using animals in their ads. One might ask "Why?" It has long been known that humor lowers resistance to advertising messages and that sex, violence and emotion lead to better recall. Animals in ads are attention grabbing. Research has also shown that animals reduce resistance to ads and create emotional connection with people. People are naturally attracted to animals, especially baby animals, which are perceived to be cute and stimulate the nurturing instinct. Further, there are big advantages to anthropomorphizing animals, not only because they are more relatable but also because their personalities can reinforce the personalities of the brand. Finally, using animals instead of celebrities as brand spokespeople is less risky and much more cost effective. 

Here are some other brands that have used animals in their advertising:

Geico has also used a squirrel in its advertising. Bridgestone used a squirrel in its similar but funnier ad. And Nestle Kit Kat ran a squirrel ad in India. 

Notice that many of these ads also use humor. And John West Salmon uses a very power combination - animals, humor and violence.

Here is a video of the top 10 Super Bowl ads featuring animals. And here is a video featuring funny animals in commercials. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Using Lexicon to Build Brand Mystique

Some activities have their own lexicon, as do some brands. When I was growing up, I fished for muskies, walleye, perch and bass with my family. We took an annual two week vacation at Black Lake and spent much of our time fishing. Later in life, I took up fly fishing. In regular fishing, people sometimes use bobbers to indicate when a fish strikes. In fly fishing, these floating devices are called indicators. And in fly fishing, the study of etymology is critical. An attractor is an impressionistic fly pattern tied with certain fish-enticing characteristics. And one must know the meaning of caddis, callibaetis, chironomid, comparadun and Czech nymphing - and that is just a very small example of fly fishing terms beginning with the letter C.  Clearly fly fishing is more high-brow than bass fishing. 

Sailing has its own terms too. A sailor must know the difference between port and starboard. And one must know the difference between a close reach, a beam reach and a broad reach. It is really important to know the difference between tacking and jibing. And there are lots of terms for boat parts - i.e. halyards, a boom vang, a topping lift, stanchions and a windlass. 

And consider some surfing terms - focusing on just the terms beginning with C again - carving, charging, cheater five, choka, chowder, clidro, closeout, clucked, cranking, cripples and cutback. 

These terms seem to create a shared secret language or lexicon. It is a way to talk with precision about the essence and art of your activity. And it lets you know that the other person is part of your club. 

Brands also create their own lexicon. Consider Starbucks with its short, tall, grande, venti and trenta drink sizes. And how about skinny drinks and leaving room? Starbucks also introduced frappuccinos and macchiatos, terms people had not heard of related to the Maxwell House, Folgers or Sanka coffee brands. 

And consider Harley-Davidson related terms - ape hangers, bobber or bobtail, blockhead and chopper. And how about the Duo-Glide, Dyna Glide, Electra Glide, Hydra Glide, Super Glide, Tour Glide and Wide Glide, which are all Harley-Davidson registered terms?

And of course Apple has iMacs, iOS, iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTunes, iBooks, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD.

Brand-specific lexicon helps people feel the bond of a shared language. It can lead to the sense of being an insider and even to a cult-like emotional connection to the brand. Consider what creating a brand-specific lexicon might do for your brand. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marketing & Sales

Marketing and sales are important partners in increasing an organization's revenues. However, some might perceive them to be an odd couple, but more about that later.

First, marketing and sales are different. Marketing has many sub-disciplines but overall it is the organization's investment in identifying and building demand for its products and services. Sales, on the other hand, tends to be more tactical and immediate (strategic sales and enterprise sales notwithstanding). It is all about getting the customer to purchase something as quickly as possible. It is about closing the deal. 

Earlier in my career, when I was interviewing for marketing positions, it always raised major "red flags" with me when the employer in question used the words marketing and sales interchangeably or when that employer said he or she was looking for a marketing person when he or she was really looking for a salesperson. 

In many organizations, especially B2B organizations and those organizations that are not marketing-driven, marketing's primary responsibility is to support the selling effort. In this way, the marketing function is primarily a support function for the sales force. In marketing-driven organizations, marketing typically drives many decisions including target customers, product, packaging, pricing and distribution. Product managers or brand managers may also have P&L responsibility. And this is informed by a marketing sub-discipline, marketing research. In these organizations, it would be wise not to refer to marketing as a support function or a marketing professional as a support person. 

Most marketers will have strong communication skills. Depending on the marketing sub-discipline, the ideal marketer might be more intuitive or more analytical. Many marketers are strong both intuitively and analytically. And generally, a marketer is driven by curiosity and variety. A marketer may be introverted or extroverted. 

Alternatively, salespeople must be outgoing, friendly and likable. They must be good at building personal rapport quickly. And it helps if they are good at reading people. Salespeople are often driven by money, which is why sales commissions work so well as incentives. While engineers and scientists can be trained as salespeople to pursue technical sales, the average salesperson is more focused on interpersonal skills than technical skills. Salespeople should not be afraid to make cold calls and they must be able to take rejection in their stride. On the negative side, I have witnessed more than a few salespeople tell potential customers whatever they wanted to hear regardless of the statement's veracity to close the sale.

Organizations that are serious about their marketing functions often require marketers to first take a sales position (or at least a rotation in sales) to better understand the customer and the work of the salesperson before he or she assumes his or her marketing responsibilities. Similarly, some organizations require their marketing managers to monitor or even personally handle customer service calls at least once a year. 

Marketers can help salespeople by creating the appropriate brochures, product spec sheets and other collateral materials. They can also support trades shows, national sales meetings and user conferences. Further, marketers can set up CRM systems that salespeople can use. And marketers can create many online and offline mechanisms to create sales leads for salespeople. And one should not forget strong marketing campaigns and, perhaps even more importantly, strong brands that create customer pull and make the salesperson's job significantly easier. 

Going back to my earlier "odd couple" comment, marketers are often motivated by the brilliant consumer insight, the analytical discovery or the inspired creative campaign, while salespeople are driven by the closed sale and the increased commission. However, the two functions comprise an important duo for any organization that wants to increase its revenues. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Brands and Distribution Strategy

When I am advising start-ups and rapidly growing brands, often distribution strategy is critical to the success of the brand. Choosing the right distribution channels in the right order can make a big difference in three ways: (a) brand awareness building, (2) brand accessibility and (3) brand positioning and quality perceptions. 

Usually, start-up brands have little to no awareness. If the brand in question has a first mover advantage in its category, rapid distribution expansion is critical to its success. If it is an industry disruptive brand, it sometimes needs to choose a new distribution method that circumvents prevailing distribution methods.

If the brand has only slight advantages over its competition, accessibility advantages will make a huge difference in sales and market share. 

Brands that want to be perceived as luxury brands may choose more limited distribution options, focusing on those channels that will reinforce their luxury status. Sometimes a brand that eventually intends to be an aspirational luxury brand with a wider audience starts out as being very exclusive at first to establish itself among the affluent influencers first before expanding distribution to a wider audience. 

Sometimes distribution expansion is sequenced based on early adoption by the most important influencer groups first. 

There are many considerations in choosing the sequence of distribution expansion. It can make a difference in quality perceptions, pricing, exclusivity perceptions, perceived popularity and momentum, speed of adoption and even the ultimate success of the brand. Related issues to be considered are retailer leverage, the ability to control price discounts and perceptions, exclusivity, brand association transfer (between retailer and manufacturer), service and technical support levels, ability to control brand identity and customer experience, access to end consumer data and channel conflict. 

I hope this helps you think about distribution in a more strategic way as it relates to brands and branding. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Brand Management Today

In the past 30 years, I have witnessed significant changes in brand management and marketing. In this post, I will summarize what has stayed the same, what has changed significantly and what some of the most important considerations in brand management and marketing are today.

What has remained important over time:
  • Having carefully identified the brand's target customers and having gained deep insight about their hopes, fears, attitudes, values, needs and desires
  • Identifying and communicating the brand's unique value proposition 
  • Having developed a well-thought through brand identity system and being consistent in presenting the brand's identity
  • Being trustworthy
  • Being dependable and responsive
  • Product/service innovation
  • For some brands, serving as a status symbol

What has emerged as very important:
  • Creating the total brand experience - customer experience design including customer touch point design
  • Focusing on customer service
  • Telling a compelling brand story
  • Interacting with customers through social media
  • Creating a seamless online and offline presence 
  • Gaining information on and targeting individuals
  • Standing for something and sharing a set of values with customers
  • Creating a community platform for customers who share the brand's values
  • Being able to justify the value of specific marketing activities through measurement
  • Delivering a good overall value, including delivering quality commensurate with price

And what has emerged as helpful to brands:
  • Humanizing the brand
  • Giving the brand a sense of humor
  • Surprising and delighting customers, adding an element of unpredictability without sacrificing dependability
  • Treating the customer as an intelligent human being
  • For some brands, taking a courageous and admirable stand on societal issues

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Purchase Patterns of Wealthy Households

There are many stereotypes about how the wealthiest households spend their money. Here are some of the research-based findings on that topic.

According to a The Wall Street Journal article, the most popular cars among people in the wealthiest 25 zip codes in the USA (median home prices from $3.4 to $6.7 million) are: Tesla Model S (starting price: $71,070) (accounting for the most car sales in 8 of the 25 zip codes - all in California), Mercedes-Benz E-Class ($51,905), Jeep Grand Cherokee ($28,690), BMW 3 Series ($33,475) and Ford F Series ($25,065). Notice that the list does not include Bentleys, Bugattis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maybachs or Porsches.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high income households spend significantly more than average households on food away from home (more than one-half of their food purchases), housing operations, supplies and furnishings, personal insurance and pensions, cash contributions, education, entertainment and apparel and services. High income households also spend more on alcoholic beverages, reading and transportation.

According to Experian's 2011 Discretionary Spend Report, households with discretionary spending of $30,000+ (that is, households with median household incomes of $204,000+) index much higher on airline affiliation cards, American Express cards, paying full balance on credit cards, having home improvement, home equity and mortgage loans, and contributing to arts, culture and humanities organizations. 

According to another study high-end department and technology stores and cultural amenities (museums, art galleries, concert halls, etc.) are frequented most by high income households. 

According to AdAge, The Wall Street Journal is the periodical with the highest household income, followed by Barron's, The Economist, United Hemispheres, Washington Post Sunday, The New York Times Sunday, The New York Times daily, American Way, Conde Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, Southwest Spirit, Architectural Digest and Yachting. Magazine reading habits of the affluent also include Ivy League Magazine Network publications (alumni magazines (Brown, Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) and several other travel magazines (Global Living, Afar, Travel & Leisure and Elite Traveler). Other interesting publications include Boat International (super yachts and luxury yachts), Private Islands (for people who own or want to own private islands) and Black Ink (only available to American Express Centurion cardholders - $7,500 initiation fee).

While the nouveau riche might strive for outward expressions of their newfound wealth to establish their socioeconomic status, old money prefers to downplay their wealth, not only because they are secure in their position but also because they have discovered that too much outward display of wealth only invites unwanted interest. 

So, on what types of spending are households with large disposable incomes focused? Mostly services and experiences- travel, fine dining, educational and personal development experiences, cultural activities and charitable activities. And if they are seeking luxury products and experiences, what are they looking for in those products and experiences? Artistry or beauty, exceptional design, quality craftsmanship, limited availability (exclusivity), a rich history and heritage, and a high level of service including respect and civility. 

Regarding today's status symbols of the wealthy - college or university (Ivy League is best), zip code, travel (exotic is best), unusual experiences, private jets, multiple homes, equestrian sports, yachting (super yachts among billionaires), wine cellars, ultra-luxury watches, jewelry, art, private clubs, board memberships, civic involvement and ample leisure time.