Archive for January, 2013

Coke’s Difficult Choice

January 31, 2013

Coca-Cola has a Super Bowl problem.

The iconic brand’s Super Bowl campaign is coming under fire from people who claim it reflects negative stereotypes of Arabs. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, for example, is calling on Coke to change course.

Coke has to be concerned; you never want your brand to be accused of discrimination.

Back when I was at Kraft Foods I worked on a spectacular commercial for Miracle Whip that featured an Indiana Jones type character making his way through a traditional Moroccan market. I can’t recall the plot but at some point he ended up with an empty jar of Miracle Whip and this caused much concern, as you might imagine.

We put the spot on network television and immediately received word that some groups (including, I believe, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) found it offensive because it promoted stereotypes. We quickly took the spot off the air and ran another one instead.

It isn’t quite so easy for Coke; companies don’t have lots of Super Bowl spots sitting around.

So what are the options?

- Drop the entire campaign and run something else. This is not an appealing proposition.

- Run it despite the criticism. This is also an unattractive option.

- Edit the spot to reduce the offensive images. This is not a good option, either; changes might impact the quality of the spot and fail to address the criticism.

I understand why some marketers choose to avoid all the Super Bowl scrutiny.

Two Brands Needing a Super Bowl Save

January 29, 2013

The Super Bowl is always important for marketers; people scrutinize every spot. If all goes well, senior executives will shower the brand manager with praise, hand out a big bonus and offer up a promotion. If things go poorly, however, he will be criticized and, in some cases, fired.

For two brands this year, however, the Super Bowl is particularly important. In some ways, the Super Bowl will either spark a revival or mark the beginning of the end. If things go poorly, it isn’t likely they will be back next year; this is it.

Lincoln

Ford’s Lincoln is counting on a strong Super Bowl performance. The brand has struggled for years with slumping sales and an undefined brand image. Lincoln really can’t compete with luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. Ford has been quick to drop brands that don’t fit the portfolio such as Jaguar and Land Rover but Lincoln remains.

Late in 2012 Ford rolled out a turn-around plan for Lincoln. The goal is to revitalize the brand. The Super Bowl plays a big part in this effort; it is Lincoln’s opportunity to present its case.

If the Super Bowl effort works, it will jump-start Lincoln sales and advance the brand revitalization. If the effort fails, however, Lincoln will have missed its big moment and the brand may well fail.

Blackberry

RIM’s Blackberry needs a Super Bowl bounce perhaps more than any other brand. The struggling smart phone maker is losing steam as its market share slips away and people abandon the devices. The company is rolling out a new platform this week, Blackberry 10, and two new devices. The Super Bowl is its moment to explain why people should use a Blackberry instead of a device from Samsung and Apple.

If Blackberry fails to make a strong case on the Super Bowl, there is little reason to have much hope for the firm. In the fast-moving world of technology, a brand can quickly be left behind. This is Blackberry’s opportunity to gain some ground.

Audi Engages

January 25, 2013

Super Bowl advertisers want to engage consumers; getting people to watch a sixty-second commercial during the Super Bowl is good, but getting them to visit a site and interact with a brand is better.

The challenge is doing so in an effective manner. Turning over total creative control isn’t a good idea; this is why few advertisers rely on consumer generated ads any more. Best case, a brand lets consumers have an impact while keeping the campaign on message.

This year Audi is running an innovative program to drive engagement: people can vote to choose the ending of Audi’s Super Bowl ad. Audi posted three videos on You Tube, each with a different ending. Voting runs for just 24 hours.

You can vote here, but only today:

http://www.youtube.com/audiusa

This is an example of good marketing. Audi risks giving away creative surprise but in return the brand guarantees that people who vote will watch the ad three times (or more). This is a pretty good tradeoff.

CareerBuilder Takes a Pass

January 23, 2013

One of the advertisers I’ll miss seeing on the Super Bowl this year is CareerBuilder.

CareerBuilder first advertised on the game back in 2005. The brand was quite new at the time; Monster.com dominated the space and CareerBuilder was a much smaller challenger. CareerBuilder ran a charming commercial featuring the now iconic chimps. The Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review panel gave it a B, a good grade (the average grade is a C). The chimps did even better for CareerBuilder in 2006; the Kellogg panel gave that spot one of the top scores of the year, an A.

CareerBuilder moved away from the chimps in 2007, running an ad that compared office life to surviving in a jungle. Perhaps the brand’s lowest moment came in 2008 when its Super Bowl ad featured a heart graphically emerging from a lady’s chest. The Kellogg panel gave CareerBuilder a D that year.

CareerBuilder rebounded in 2009 and 2010, receiving an A and a B. The 2010 spot featured people with no pants. Then, at long last, Career Builder brought back the chimps in 2011 and 2012.

During this time, CareerBuilder grew to become a category leader, eventually overtaking Monster.com. The Super Bowl clearly played an important part in this growth.

So why is CareerBuilder taking a pass in 2013?

The company isn’t offering much of an explanation; the official line is that CareerBuilder is spending on other things, which I’m certain is true.

I suspect there are several reasons.

One problem is simple; the chimps are an issue. Over the years, animal rights groups criticized CareerBuilder for using chimps in its spot. The criticism reached a new peak in 2012.

Without the chimps, CareerBuilder would have to develop a new campaign. This is costly and complicated and, as the team at CareerBuilder has learned, not easy to do when you have established equity in an iconic image like the chimps.

It wasn’t clear how much the Super Bowl was doing for Career Builder, either. After eight years, how much more growth is there? What is the return on investment, anyway? The only way to really know is to skip a year and see what happens. This is a real life test market.

I suspect the marketers at CareerBuilder will again be watching this year’s Super Bowl with great interest. This year, however, they won’t be watching to see how well their ad does; they will be watching to see what happens when they sit out.

I predict we will see them back on the Super Bowl in 2014.

Launching the Gildan Brand

January 17, 2013

The Super Bowl is a great place to launch a new brand; the event’s huge viewership provides a platform for introducing a new product to a significant portion of people in the United States. Brands like Monster, CareerBuilder and Go Daddy used the Super Bowl effectively during their launch.

One of this year’s new brands, and one of the most interesting Super Bowl stories, is Gildan.

Gildan is a huge apparel company with almost $2 billion in annual revenues. Gildan produces millions of shirts and sweatshirts. When you buy one of those shirts saying “My friends went to Cleveland and all I got was this stupid shirt” you are probably buying a Gildan product.

The Gildan brand is largely unknown; most people don’t know or care about it. This is a problem, of course, because branding is critical for differentiation in the apparel world. It is difficult to command an enormous price premium based on fabric or cut. Without differentiation, the focus shifts to price and fighting based on low price is hard.

Gildan is now trying to build its brand. The goal is clear: grow awareness of the Gildan brand and build customer advantage. If all goes well, people will eventually seek out Gildan and pay a premium for it.

This makes very good strategic sense. Differentiation drives profitability.

The problem is that this will not be easy. Building a brand in this cluttered world takes money and time, especially in a somewhat low-interest category like t-shirts.

The Super Bowl is a logical choice for Gildan; it is a strong platform to launch the brand.

Will it work?

To be successful, Gildan will have to do what all Super Bowl advertisers have to do: get breakthrough, deliver a benefit and communicate the brand.

Gildan’s first spot isn’t all that encouraging. You can watch it here.

http://permalink.fliqz.com/aspx/permalink.aspx?at=f9bf390abfde4e63a5bc77640bea4096&a=7575d9fb737a4193a5ef6df3c0b4744b

The ad has fairly good breakthrough. But there isn’t a clear benefit (why Gildan?) and the branding is weak. Hopefully the Super Bowl spot will be better.

The Ad That Changed the Game

January 10, 2013

Every once in a while an advertiser tries something new on the Super Bowl and fundamentally changes the marketing game. Apple’s Super Bowl spot “1984” falls into this group, as does the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl program.

It is becoming clear that Chrysler’s 2011 spot featuring Eminem should join this group.

Chrysler broke a lot of informal Super Bowl advertising rules with its 2011 ad. The spot was dark and gritty, not a funny, catchy piece of film like so many other Super Bowl ads. The ad didn’t prominently display a logo. And it went on and on, running for a remarkable two minutes. On the Super Bowl, when every second is worth more than $75,000, buying such a long  spot was almost unheard of.

But Chrysler’s ad worked exceptionally well. The Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review panel gave it an A, presumably because the spot was exceptionally strong on three elements of our ADPLAN framework: awareness, distinction and linkage. It stood out in a very unique way and the story ultimately connected to the brand. The ad generated an extraordinary amount of buzz. Most important, the ad became the foundation of a marketing campaign that has helped revitalize the Chrysler brand. By breaking the rules, Chrysler built interest and transformed its brand image.

Now other advertisers are following Chrysler’s lead. This year we apparently will see many brands run sixty-second spots and at least three run spots lasting more than a minute.  This is a very big shift.

In 2011 Chrysler showed that telling a story and engaging people really works. It is tough to do this in thirty-seconds; you need time to tell a story, even when each second is worth a small fortune. Marketers clearly learned this lesson from Chrysler.

Gearing Up for the 2013 Super Bowl

January 7, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII, marketing’s biggest event, is less than one month away. This year Kellogg Professor Derek Rucker and I will once again be leading the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review; we will assemble a panel of Kellogg students and evaluate all the advertisers, awarding grades of A, B, C, D and, on occasion, F. This is our ninth year.

The Kellogg rankings are unique because we focus entirely on business impact. While we enjoy watching all the spots, we aren’t interested in humor or creativity. We think about just two main questions: Will the spot build the business? And will it build the brand?

Over the years, the Kellogg panel has given low grades to some advertisers who ran ads that were exceptionally funny but fundamentally flawed; the branding might have been weak, for example, or the spots didn’t convey a benefit. We’re looking forward to seeing what this year will bring.

*   *   *

At this point it is clear that three big trends we identified last year will continue in 2013:

First, demand continues to grow. Prices are apparently up again this year, to nearly $4 million per thirty-second spot. This is up from about $3.5 million last year and $2.5 million back in 2010. Despite the higher prices, demand is strong. For advertisers, the Super Bowl is unique; it is the only time you can reach a large percentage of the U.S. population at one time. It is also the one time people actually want to watch your ads.

Second, there is more activity before the game. I suspect that every Super Bowl advertiser will be talking about the Super Bowl well in advance of the game. Over the next several weeks we will see promotions, public relations efforts and contests. This makes perfect sense, of course; the best way to justify the price of a Super Bowl ad is to use the spot as one part of a fully integrated marketing campaign spanning several weeks.

Third, online efforts will be an increasingly important part of the mix. If you want to see where the business world is in terms of online promotion and social media marketing follow the Super Bowl advertisers this month. Watch Pepsi, Budweiser, Coke, Audi, Best Buy and all the other advertisers to see how they are using these tactics. One big question: will Facebook be front and center for the savviest marketers? Or will they try to move people from that platform?

It promises to be another remarkable month of marketing activity. Things really get rolling today.

In the weeks leading up to the big game, Derek and I will be blogging about interesting developments related to the 2013 Super Bowl. You can see all the posts on our Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review Blog. I’ll also put my posts on this blog, Building Strong Brands.

*  *  *

Winter semester classes start this week. I’m teaching Marketing Strategy in the evening program. The first class is later today; it is nice to be starting up again.

The second edition of my book Breakthrough Marketing Plans is now available. This new edition is updated and has more examples. You can order it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Marketing-Plans-Wasting-Driving/dp/0230340334

 

Brands to Watch in 2013

January 1, 2013

The New Year brings significant challenges for many brands. Here are several brands that are worth keeping an eye on as 2013 unfolds.

J.C. Penney is implementing a major turn-around plan under the leadership of CEO Ron Johnson. Results to date have been fairly grim; sales and profits have slumped and the stock with it. Will J.C Penney stick with the plan? Or will the company be forced to reverse course and compete more on price?

Best Buy is also struggling but for a different reason; the company is trying to compete with growing on-line retailers, especially Amazon. Will Best Buy manage to stabilize the business? Or will the retailer collapse under the competitive pressure?

One of the great business turn-around stories continues to unfold at McDonald’s; to the surprise of many business analysts McDonald’s is still building sales and profits. Will McDonald’s continue to grow? Or will the brand begin to flatten out in 2013, forcing the company to consider adding a second brand to its portfolio?

PepsiCo will receive a lot of attention this year. I suspect by the end of 2013 CEO Indra Nooyi will either be receiving acclaim for getting the beverage business back on track or pursuing other opportunities.

The U.S. auto makers are all companies to watch. Chrysler’s efforts to build the Chrysler brand seem to be working, sparked by some inspired Super Bowl advertising. The challenge is to continue the momentum. The Fiat brand is heading into a critical year in the U.S. market, needing to build on some success coming out of 2012. Revitalizing the Lincoln brand won’t be easy for Ford. Look for early results on that effort mid-year. And people will be watching GM: Will the company manage to revitalize its pared down portfolio of brands?

In the technology world, HP and Microsoft are both facing interesting years. HP, having fallen about as far as a brand can possibly fall, is looking for some sign of hope. Figuring out a positioning would be a good first step. What really is HP, anyway? Microsoft has some promising new products and the money to invest but it is not yet clear if that combination will turn into meaningful growth.

Perhaps the biggest question of all: will Apple continue to grow? Will the company manage to launch a significant new platform and build on its recent success?

For all marketers, a priority this year will be figuring out how to best use social media and mobile. All while driving growth and defending the brand.

Best wishes for 2013.


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