Monday, May 21, 2018

Identifying Riding Lawn Mower Brands by Color

I live in a town in which the minimum acreage per residential parcel is 3 acres. However, many of my neighbors have 30 acres or more. People live in this exurban location because they like its rural character. Many people fancy themselves as gentlemen farmers and some have horses and chickens and even llamas and bison. 

While some people use lawn services, most like to tend to their own grounds using lots of equipment, chief among them being the riding mower. The interesting thing about riding mowers (and other more expensive farm equipment) is the strong use of color to identify the brand. Having said that, many of the brands use the color red and to a somewhat lesser extent orange. Only John Deere features a green and white combination. And Cub Cadet, which historically featured yellow and white, now features only yellow. Both of these brands are quite distinctive and can be identified from a distance when someone is mowing his or her field or grounds. Roybi, a recent entry in this category, is also distinctive given its chartreuse and black color combination. It also has a distinctive shape. While Snapper has a common color, its shape is closer to Roybi's, which is unique and identifiable. 

Here are images of ten more popular riding mower brands. Notice which brands stand out due to color. Also notice how big the brand name appears on the vehicle and whether there is a logo hood ornament and how distinctive it is. Finally, identify other distinctive visual features such as vehicle shape, seat shape or tire treatment. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fast Food and the Customer Experience

McDonald's recently created a marketing campaign promoting its new customer service including mobile ordering, customer touch screens and table service. Panera Bread has been using customer touch screens for awhile now. Wendy's has upped its game with very friendly and efficient staff who always greet customers and help them however they can. My local Boston Market is very well run with friendly table service and very clean bathrooms. I recently went to a Boston Market in Ft. Lauderdale that did not have table service, had a sparse number of tables and a very dirty bathroom. Boston Market clearly does not have uniform quality control or at least has a huge variance in quality of its restaurant managers. The Ft. Lauderdale Boston Market looked so neglected that I was sure it would soon go out of business.

The worst example yet of a poorly run fast food restaurant was one I recently had at a local Burger King restaurant. I must admit that I am not a big fast food restaurant user and I had not been to a Burger King in several years before I had the experience I am about to describe. The bathrooms were filthy, the tables were dirty, the staff members looked disheleved with poor personal hygiene. One employee wiped his nose with his hand while standing on the other side of the counter from me. And the person who took my order got the order wrong. When I pointed this out, he told me that the machine that made the drink I wanted was not operable so he substituted another drink of lesser value, a drink I did not want. He did not offer to get me something else or reimburse me for the difference in price. Based on this experience, I am pretty certain that I will not step foot in a Burger King again for a very long time if ever.

The point of this post is to point out how important a carefully designed and consistently executed customer experience is to brand perceptions and repeat purchase probabilities. I will continue to eat at my local Boston Market, Panera Bread and Wendy's but am very unlikely to step foot in a Burger King again. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Brand Identification in Advertising

While great ads will immediately capture your attention, draw you in, tell a story and make you laugh or cry, sometimes those ads miss one very important element - identifying the brand that it is advertising. 

There are many ways to make sure the brand is present throughout the ad. The advertiser could display the brand logo or icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen or on employee uniforms, vehicles, signage, product packaging or the product itself. Or the advertiser could use a very recognizable brand spokesperson or character in the ad. Further, the advertiser could play the brand jingle or at least music or sound effects that are consistently associated with the brand. Further, the advertiser could use a distinctive and recognizable filming style. A consistent campaign of ads over time increases brand recognition. The worst possible brand identification approach is to cut to the brand identification only in the last second or two of the ad as a sign-off, especially if it seems disconnected from the ad itself. The best approach is to integrate several different brand identity components into the ad in a seamless and natural way. 

If you have created a compelling ad that demands to be watched and conveys a powerful reason to purchase the product or service, don't forget to adequately identify the brand or you will have wasted an otherwise perfectly effective ad. 

Here are some exercises for you to do when you are watching television ads:

  • If you have seen the ad before, do you immediately know which brand is advertising when the ad begins?
  • Time how long it takes for you to identify which brand is advertising.
  • Count the number of times and ways in which the brand is identified in the ad.
  • Count how many times the brand is mentioned in the ad.
  • Assess how seamless the brand identification is with the ad itself. 
  • After having seen the ad, do you get the sense that it could have only come from one specific brand?

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.