Archive for November, 2012

The Value of the Twinkie Brand

November 19, 2012

Frank Hurt, head of the second largest union at Hostess Brands, seems to have made a classic branding mistake, confusing brand awareness and brand value.

Mr. Hurt’s union, as you know, recently went on strike and continued even when company management said that doing so would force it to liquidate the company. On Friday, company leaders announced that they were shutting down 36 factories and firing 18,000 people.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Mr. Hurt is hopeful that someone will step in and restart the company.

Mr. Hurt seems to believe there so much value in the Twinkie and Ding Dong brands that the company will of course keep going. Kill off the Twinkie? Inconceivable!



The problem is that there is a big difference between a well-known brand and a brand that actually has value. Awareness has no value. Everyone knew Borders but that didn’t stop it from failing.  Everyone knew Circuit City, Blockbuster, Lehman Brothers and Northwest Airlines.

Everyone knows Mitt Romney but he didn’t win.

Brands have value when they create customer advantage, when people care about the benefits the brand provides, are willing to pay for them and see the brand as best at providing them.

Twinkies and Ding Dongs have awareness and some value but clearly not enough to support an expensive work force.

The Twinkie may not disappear; a buyer will probably purchase the brand and keep it alive in some fashion. But Mr. Hurt should realize that the brands at Hostess just don’t have a lot of value so someone isn’t likely to step in and restore the well-paying jobs that are now going away.

The Incredible 007 Brand

November 12, 2012

The new James Bond film “Skyfall” brought in a remarkable $87.8 million in North America this weekend, an exceptionally strong start for the production.

The strong results are largely due to two things: a good film and a terrific brand.


You can learn three important things about branding from James Bond.

First, a strong brand has clear associations. This is a critical point: great brands stand for something distinct. James Bond is brave, daring, sophisticated, British and debonair. He isn’t slow, studious, old or cautious. People associate the Bond brand with fast cars, grand adventures and beautiful women.

Second, a brand needs to change over time. The Bond franchise has managed to stay relevant by shifting so it always reflects society. James Bond has been around since Ian Fleming created the character in 1953. But Bond movies are always current; they are new and fresh. The technology and the setting change. The core of the brand doesn’t.

Third, a great brand attracts other brands. The new Bond film has received a bit of criticism for the amount of sponsorship in the movie, especially for swapping Bond’s classic martini for a Heineken. Phil Rosenthal at The Chicago Tribune explored this in his article yesterday. You can read it here:–20121111,0,2834053.column

The more important point, however, is that a great brand such as 007 attracts other strong brands. A strong brand is a magnet for people and for companies.

Brand managers are often tempted to change a brand to keep it fresh. This isn’t bad but the challenge is to be consistent while evolving. James Bond shows how to pull this off.

Learning from Obama’s Big Win

November 7, 2012

Now that President Obama has secured another four years in the White House it is time to reflect on the election and what we can learn about marketing and branding from the past few months.

There will be time for in-depth analysis and consideration, but here are three initial observations.

1.  Marketing isn’t cheap.

Total spending in the presidential election apparently exceeded $2 billion. That is simply an astonishing figure.

Marketing isn’t cheap. It takes money to create and run advertisements, send out brochures, call targeted households and engage people on Facebook.

If you want to assemble a strong marketing effect you have to be willing to spend money.


2.  Defining your competition is a highly effective defensive strategy.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney early in the election season and this move paid off; Obama created the perception that Romney was an out of touch, socially conservative, super-wealthy hedge fund manager. By the time Romney get around to investing in marketing, Obama had already defined the Romney brand.

This was a brilliant strategy. Obama had a pretty weak track record to run on and few big new ideas for the future. The best way to win: make Romney unacceptable and do it early.

Defining your competition in a negative way is a key defensive tactic; one way to prevent people from moving to a new product is to convince them the new item has problems.


3.  Keep things simple.

There are wonderful studies out there about the power and importance of simplicity. The evidence is pretty clear: people don’t like and can’t follow complicated things.

This dynamic played out in the election. Both candidates stayed away from complicated arguments and policies. But Obama put forth a stronger and more focused case. Obama’s theme was pretty clear: forward. Romney’s plan just didn’t emerge cleanly enough; his five point economic plan just didn’t resonate.

What was Romney’s slogan, anyway?


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