Archive for February, 2010

Tiger’s Very Small Step

February 22, 2010

Tiger Woods took a step toward rebuilding his brand on Friday, but it was a small step indeed.

His statement on Friday was most notable for what was absent, including most of the press, questions and a timetable for his return to golf. And, of course, Tiger’s usual confidence and poise.

I think the only conclusion one can draw from the odd event is that the issues facing Tiger are big, perhaps much bigger than has been revealed to date.

At some point Tiger will have to answer questions about his actions. The fact that this didn’t happen on Friday is surprising.

The best way for Tiger to rebuild his brand is to apologize, answer questions honestly and directly, and then get back to playing golf. He clearly did the first of these three things on Friday.

It was a start, but just that.

P&G’s Olympic Shocker

February 16, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics are turning out to be quite surprising, at least in terms of the advertising.

Topping the list is P&G, which this weekened unveiled a new advertising campaign that represents a huge strategic shift for the company.

P&G has long been one of the world’s best examples of a company with a “house of brands” strategy.  The name P&G has largely served just as a company name.  Each brand stood alone: Tide, Crest, Papers and all the rest.  While it was possible to figure out the brands were from P&G, this fact was not promoted at all.  P&G put coupons for all the brands in the same Sunday insert, but that was about as far as it went.

This week, however, P&G started advertising the P&G brand.  This is a dramatic strategic shift.  The company is targeting Moms with the tag line: “P&G. Proud Sponsor of Moms.”  You can see all the ads and other elements of the program at the website,

The campaign is pure emotion. There are no attributes and no benefits. The ads include many P&G brands; the logos flash up at the end of the commercials. But the ads are overwhelmingly branded P&G.

This is big shift for P&G and it is a bit hard to figure out.  Has P&G decided that the corporate parent brand plays an important role in decision-making?  Will the company turn P&G into a consumer brand?  Will we be seeing a lot more of P&G?

There are pros and cons to a move like this.  Supporting P&G is certainly efficient, since P&G has brands in dozens of categories.  But it isn’t clear how much consumers care about the P&G brand or to what degree P&G can own a positioning that really differentiates and adds value.  P&G cares about moms.  This is great, but does that make someone choose Crest over Colgate?

The $200 Super Bowl Ad

February 11, 2010

Stuart Elliott, from The New York Times, wrote in an article earlier this week that the cost to produce one of the Doritos spots that ran on the Super Bowl was less than $200.


That is an astonishing figure.

I spent many years at Kraft managing brands such as Miracle Whip and Taco Bell.  While at Kraft I worked on dozens of different advertising campaigns.  Producing the commercials would routinely cost $300,000 per spot.  A particularly expensive ad might cost $800,000 or more.  I don’t think I ever saw a production estimate for less than $200,000.

Several years back I talked with Tim Smithe, head of marketing for Walter E. Smithe furniture in Chicago.  I was astonished to learn that his team could produce a very respectable ad for $15,000 or so. 

The fact that it is now possible to produce a quality Super Bowl spot for $200 is a new milestone.

The implications of this transformation in production cost are enormous.  Advertisers can test produced spots, not just story boards.  More importantly, advertisers can quickly change the creative.  This means advertising can play off the very latest trends.  It also means marketers can try one message and then quickly change it based on the results. 

In the old days marketing moved slowly.  Brand managers would work on each commercial for six or nine months, then put in on the air and hope to see some results in three or six months.  Those days are gone.  The dramatic fall in production costs means that marketers can continually adjust and refine advertising campaigns.  This makes the marketer’s job more demanding but it also means there are many more opportunities for success.

One other thought: anyone paying $1,000,000 to produce a commercial these days should ask themselves if the extra $999,800 of production cost is really a good investment.

Toyota’s Nightmares

February 3, 2010

Here is a nightmare to think about. You are driving along in a car when it suddenly and for no apparent reason starts speeding up. You can’t stop it; the car just goes faster and faster. You try to get it to slow down but you can’t. The brakes don’t work. You weave in and out of traffic, desperately trying to avoid what seems more and more like an inevitable, horrible crash. It is simply terrifying.

Here is another one. You run a car company with a reputation for quality and reliability. A problem develops that affects millions and millions of your cars and this problem actually causes some spectacular crashes that kill people. You can’t figure out precisely what is wrong, so you try one fix and then another but you can’t really find the problem or say that you have solved it. The press grabs the story, your competitors attack and government regulators pounce. You have to shut down your factories while searching for the answer. It is simply terrifying.

Of course, both of these nightmares are very real.

Toyota is facing a massive problem. The Toyota brand may come through this fine, but it certainly isn’t a given. The longer the nightmares continue the tougher it will be for Toyota to bounce back.


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