Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bayer Acquires & Abandons Monsanto Brand

On June 7, Bayer officially acquired the Monsanto brand for $66 billion. Bayer remains the company name and Monsanto has disappeared as a brand. The acquired products are retaining their brand names and have become part of the Bayer portfolio. 

The Monsanto brand had become significantly tarnished in the minds of the general public for its use of harmful chemicals and their negative impact on the environment and human health. At the same time, the brand had a much more positive perception by most farmers as its products result in increased food production and profitability. Farmers are familiar with the individual product names. This is a smart move from a branding perspective. 

Bayer has been a trusted name for a long time, especially due to its close link with aspirin, a miracle drug for aches, pains and heart health with virtually no negative side effects. Bayer has operated in the agriculture space for some time independent of its recent Monsanto purchase. 

Bayer indicated that it will "strengthen its commitment in the area of sustainability." Bayer chairman Werner Baumann said, "We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill."

Meanwhile, the USDA recently shared its GMO labeling proposal, including these label images which have many environmentalists upset. 

It will remain to be seen how acquisition of the Monsanto brand might affect perceptions of the Bayer brand and whether Bayer is more receptive to addressing environmental concerns. Honest, open dialog with the general public to find common ground would be a step in the right direction for the Bayer brand.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Branding Municipalities

I am a keen observer of place branding and I have been privileged to help several places brand themselves. Here are some of my observations regarding municipality branding: 

  • Most places do a terrible job of branding themselves. There are many contributing factors. Many places do not have ample budgets to include rigorous research in their branding efforts. Some places hire branding companies that use the same positioning and tag lines for multiple municipal clients. Municipalities have diverse constituencies that must be included in the process. It is difficult for larger municipalities to focus on one or two differentiating benefits when they have so many assets that appeal to different groups of people. Sometimes there is a conflict between the more limited geographic boundaries of the hiring municipality and how the general public views the metropolitan area boundaries. Many municipalities do not have a designated person whose role it is to brand and promote the place. Some marketing agencies jump right to a tagline and ad campaign without doing the important brand research and positioning work.
  • Many municipalities choose catchy but totally meaningless tag lines
  • First, municipalities need to understand to which people they are most likely to appeal. This includes looking at demographics and psychographics. Lifestage and family formation are important components in this mix.
  • Competitive analysis is a key part of branding places
  • Municipalities should not spend too much time thinking about their weaknesses. They should focus on their assets when determining what their brand should stand for.
  • We help places understand their different clusters of assets and how important each cluster is to different target audiences. Through asset clustering, we can help places determine the most powerful umbrella brand positioning and messaging. 
  • It is important to involve all key stakeholders in the branding process. The process requires lots of informal influencing with multiple constituencies over time. It also requires outstanding consensus building skills/facilitation. 
  • Every potential brand position must be evaluated against three criteria: (1) how emotionally compelling it is, (2) how unique it is among competing places and (3) how believable it is for the place in question. 
  • While a place's brand must be compelling to all audiences including residents, visitors, businesses and event planners, first and foremost, it must be compelling to current and potential residents. If it appeals to them, there will be a much higher likelihood that it can be made compelling to the other audiences. 
Here are links to some of my other place branding blog posts:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Tesla Brand

Tesla is a wildly popular brand. Today, it's stock is up 1.98%, trading at $351.60 per share despite continuing to return an earnings per share loss. 

So what is behind such a successful brand? First, there is Elon Musk, a highly successful serial entrepreneur. He cofounded Zip2, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million and Xcom, an online payment company that merged with Confinity to become PayPal. PayPal was purchased by eBay for $1.5 billion. Then there is Tesla and SpaceX and Neuralink and SolarCity and OpenAI and the Boring Company. Behind SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity is Elon Musk's vision to reduce global warming, create a more sustainable energy future and reduce the risk of human extinction. 

I admire Elon Musk for the following reasons. He has a positive vision for humanity. He is willing to take big risks. He is a successful entrepreneur. He is a great salesperson and marketer. He is also smart and creative about financing. He is an American success story. And what he is doing is good for the world. He demonstrates what I believe America should be all about. He so inspires me that I want to be a part of his continued success. 

I started following Tesla from the very beginning. While I admired its roadster and its Model S, I really couldn't afford either. I vowed to buy the more affordable Model 3 when it came out and I was one of the very first to order it online at 12:01 am on the date it was first available in 2016. I received it two weeks ago. I love it. 

If I am honest with myself and put my consumer behavior hat on, here are the reasons I bought a Tesla:

  • I wanted to support Elon Musk and his vision.
  • I wanted to do my part to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
  • I really liked the notion of driving a car with an electric engine that goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds.
  • The car definitely has the "cool" factor. The salesperson at the Tesla delivery station warned me that I would be a celebrity for awhile. (Definitely a marketing pitch aimed at status and the ego.) While I have not found that I have achieved celebrity status, I have given 20 friends rides in the car and more are waiting for the opportunity to do so. And lots of people have asked very specific questions about the car. I like being an expert. I also like being perceived to be an early adopter, even if I am only that on occasion.
  • I believe the car says these things about me (whether it does or not): I am progressive. I am environmentally conscious. I have good taste. I am successful. I can afford nice things. So, I believe the car signals a lot about me. And it is an extension of my self image. Frankly, it really feels like "me" to me. While I really enjoyed test driving the Model S, the Model 3 feels even more like "me" because of its elements of pragmatism, value and understatement (relative to the Model S).
  • And here is what makes me love the car (some of which I did not discover until after I took possession of the car, having purchased it sight unseen).  It is really, really fun to drive. It is aesthetically understated and beautiful. I love its lines, inside and out. It is very well conceived and designed. It is functional. There is a larger than average amount of storage space in the front and back trunks. Its user interface is intuitive. With a home garage charger, it is easy to keep its battery mostly charged most of the time. I will never have to fill up at a gas station in the winter again. The sound system is amazing and I love its Pandora-like radio stations. With an all-glass roof and big glass windows it feels expansive and spacious. It has every modern amenity. It has a fully autonomous driving mode. I just absolutely love to drive it.

So, regarding brand benefits, Tesla is delivering at multiple levels - beauty/aesthetics/self-actualization, shared environmental and social values, social status, excitement/fun, comfort and even basic transportation. At least for me, this brand has a winning combination of brand benefits. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Marketing to Satiated Consumers

I have a birthday coming up. My wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said,"nothing" and I meant it. Why? I just bought a new Tesla for myself and we are in the middle of a master bathroom remodel. We have spent enough money for the year as far as I am concerned. Plus, there is absolutely nothing I need. I am at an age at which most people are focused on downsizing and simplification (though we are not quite there yet). However, there is truly nothing I want or need that I don't already have. 

I am aware of how blessed I am. Many people are in a different place. They still have many unmet wants and needs. Certainly, if you have a smaller income or fewer assets or many more mouths to feed and certainly if you are in an earlier life stage in which you are still forming or growing your household, you still may need many physical things. Or, on the other end of the continuum, if you are unable to stop comparing yourself to people who have more than you do, you might want that second home, a more expensive car or a bigger boat. Heaven knows, some billionaires are trading in their 200+ foot yachts for 300+ foot yachts. And they are buying an increasing number of yacht toys - water slides, tenders, helicopters, personal submersibles (submarines),  etc. - for their super yachts.

But for most of the rest of us, at some point in our lives we move from wanting more "things" to spending more of our money (and often more of our time) on services and experiences.  Services can make your life easier, give you more time, remove unwanted tasks, make your life more comfortable and even indulge your senses. Services include lawn care, spa services, baby sitting, pet sitting, pest control, house cleaning, pool cleaning, personal trainers, etc. Experiences include fine dining, travel, concerts, theater, dance performances, comedy improv, wine tastings, massage, flotation therapy, spectator sports, water parks, theme parks, haunted houses, adventure sports, hobbies, etc.

One way for product brands to deal with satiated consumers is to bundle services or experiences with their products. Another is to offer product novelty or more sophisticated products with better aesthetics or otherwise enhanced sensory experiences. Some hotel brands have significantly improved their customer services. Others have added rooftop lounges, swimming pools, hot tubs and bars. Yet others have added unique soothing aromatherapy scents to their hotels. Some products include extended service support. Yet others deliver their products in unique experiential ways. Build-A-Bear is an example of this. While novelty and gimmicks can have a limited life, many restaurants have created unique dining experiences to lure more customers. Consider Opaque, the restaurant in which you dine in the dark or the Ice Restaurant in Dubai or the underwater restaurant at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa in the Maldives.  

So, if you have maxed out with your brand's product sales, consider enhancing your brand's offering with services, experiences, enhanced aesthetics or additional sensory elements. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Brand Identity Elements

When most people speak about brand identity, they are speaking about the brand's visual identity. I will cover all of the components of a visual identity system later in this blog post. But first let's define brand identity. A brand's identity system is comprised of all the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory elements that are designed to identify the brand. 

Here is an example of each:

  • Visual: McDonald's arches
  • Auditory: Harley-Davidson's engine sound
  • Kinesthetic: The unique feel of Apple's products
  • Olfactory: Cinnabon's cinnamon scent
  • Gustatory: Grey Poupon mustard's unique flavor

Within a visual identity system, these are the most important elements:
  • Shapes, symbols and icons
  • Fonts and typography
  • Primary and secondary colors
  • Signature/logo lockup
  • Name
  • Tagline

Other elements of identity systems include visual blocking, brand voice and visual style, characters and spokespeople. More ephemeral elements of a brand's identity system include the brand's archetype and personality. 

Together, all of these elements help identify a brand and help it stand out from its competitors. 

Mastering the Art of Brand Engagement

Brands that engage their audiences grow and thrive. Brands that don't survive or gradually wither away. So, what are the key elements of engaging brands?

  1. Establish compelling mission, vision and values.
  2. Build internal consensus and alignment around the mission, vision and values.
  3. Embrace 360 degree engagement of all employees, strategic partners, vendors, customers, volunteers, members, board members, etc. around achievement of the organization's mission, vision and values.
  4. Have a people-first philosophy. Use the servant leadership model. Surprise and delight people with exceptional service
  5. Build a collaborative environment. Think "win-win," not "win-lose."
  6. Know that education and entertainment are important parts of any brand experience. 
  7. Widen the circle of engagement. Reach out to new groups. Create products, services and programs for diverse groups. Be inclusive.
  8. Become essential. Create meaning for customers. Share values with customers. Become a platform through which a broad group of people can share the same values. 
  9. Co-create your products, services and programs with your customers and other stakeholder groups. Engage people and listen to what they have to say.
  10. Become a high performance organization. Become a continuous learning organization. Constantly innovate, improve and evolve. Never stand still. Never rest on your laurels. Recognize and reward excellence. Be your own toughest competition. 
  11. Know that in the end, everything you do is all about people and serving those people.