Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brand Immersion is now Nucleus

Brand Immersion has moved to Nucleus, located at nucleusbranding.com. We’ll now be posting exclusively to that site and we’ve moved the latest Brand Immersion posts over to the new site.

Please visit us at the Nucleus site and enjoy its many offerings: information about who we are, what we do, what drives us, and, of course, our blog. Thank you for your interest!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Refreshing branding

KFC is creating a reservoir of goodwill by refreshing Louisville Kentucky one pothole at a time.

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Don't be surprised if you see Col. Sanders out filling potholes. In an unusual cause-marketing push, KFC is tackling the pothole problem in Louisville, Ky., in exchange for stamping the fresh pavement with "Re-freshed by KFC," a chalky stencil likely to fade away in the next downpour. This past holiday season, Charmin provided a public restroom in Times Square for the third year running. The company has also developed an application for iPhone and BlackBerry that helps consumers find toilets when the need arises. Samsung has installed electrical charging stations in many major airports to help travelers stay connected while in limbo.

Brands that lead with behavior, engage with the community, and that have a sense of civic responsibility are the brands we'll long remember and value through the recession and after it.

What do you think? And what other brands are doing the right thing and creating goodwill?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brand Failure and the Big Three

Recently I was asked to share some thoughts on the brand failures of the big three automakers with Adaora Udoji, John Hockenberry and the listeners of their Public Radio show, The Takeaway.

Adaora asked; "Did the brand of the American made car fail the American consumer? If so, when? "

Great brands know themselves and shine like beacons; lighthouses by which consumers navigate. The ability to predict an experience before we have it is the purpose of a brand. We know it will be thoughtfully designed and reliable if it’s a Toyota, that it will be exhilarating if it’s a BMW, but if it’s a Chrysler, what does that really mean?

Detroit’s willing disregard of the most basic tenants of branding coupled with a lack of focus on anticipating and delivering against consumer needs has contributed to the colossal collapse of the industry.

In preparing for my radio debut, I reached out to NYU professor, Robert Salomon, who pointed out two major gaffs by the Big Three; Detroit has over done it with production that exceeds demand and they've created a complex web of far too many brands. BMW has the 3, 5, and 7 series. Can you name all the Chrysler or GM brands off the top of your head? Either company could cut the number of brands it offers by half, increase efficiencies, and boost customer awarness and affinity.

Beyond creating far too many options for consumers (creating a paradox of choice), the Big Three churn through brands at a rapid rate and retire brands for reasons that are hard to fathom. The Ford Taurus was a hit in 1996 and instead of investing in a process of continual innovation, Ford discontinued it in 2006. Chrysler introduced the popular Neon in 1995 to great fanfare as articles in business publications hailed that Detroit had finally made a great small car. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in 2005. Contrast that with the Honda Civic which was introduced in 1972 and has been continuously made since then, or the Toyota Corolla which has been continuously made since 1968 and improved for 40 years.

Kelly O'Keefe, brand guru, VCU Brandcenter faculty member, and Detroit native points out, "It’s hard to be loyal to a brand when they keep taking away your favorite vehicle. The constant juggling looks like chaos to the consumer, but there’s another problem with it. It becomes a distraction from refinement. We all know that innovation is seasoned over time. History often forgets that innovations like the iPod took years to perfect and gain widespread adoption. Foreign car makers stick with their brands and improve them, year in and year out. They keep it simple and they keep getting better. By churning brands so frequently, Detroit doesn’t leave themselves the time to get it right."

After I left the studio, I thought about the most basic principles of branding that the American car companies could observe in order to get things back on track.

Branding and the Big Three: 7 Steps to Brand Recovery

1. Nothing kills a great brand faster than a bad product. Or, as my friend Kelly Hoey likes to say, "you can’t polish dirt!" There is no amount of advertising or promotion that will cultivate consumer trust and loyalty if the product doesn’t deliver.

2. Great brands know themselves and act with unwavering consistency. Nike stands for one thing – authentic athletic performance. We see this in every product they make, every ad they run and everything they do. As a result, we trust them.

3. Brands that lead with behavior and not rhetoric win. While Ford talked about “Quality is job 1,” Honda delivered a quality product every day, and has for over 30 years.

4. Anticipating consumer needs leads to game changing innovation and marketplace advantage. Tide is over 60-years old and remains one of the fastest growing brands in the P&G portfolio. Their growth, leadership and profitability are attributable to a clear understanding of the customer, a desire to make life better, and a committed focus on continuous innovation.

5. Satisfying a customer means not only meeting their needs but satisfying desires. Whole Foods turned grocery shopping into high art and capitalized on a wave of foodie obsession.

6. Brands that cultivate a sense of belonging create emotional bonds with consumers that are almost impossible to break. Apple told us that they were for the crazy ones, those who dare to think different and in the process, change the world. Who, among the rapidly growing creative class, would not want to consider themselves among the crazy likes of Gandhi, Picasso or Amelia Earhart?

7. Great brands inspire evangelism. Ikea, Mini and Google enjoy profound mind- and market-share with astoundingly small advertising budgets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Branding Joe the Plumber

In catching up on some reading today I came across an article in AdAge about at team at Ketchum who were doing some fast thinking. While watching the last presidential debate, they began to twitch and twitter each time Mr. McCain invoked the now famous Joe. It just so happens that Ketchum works with Roto Rooter, and the gang running the "Disruptive Media Team" couldn't help but think Joe might just be a creative and disruptive branding tool. Despite their efforts, their Roto Rooter client wasn't quite sure the Joe story would stick. And it didn't help that Joe is not actually a certified plumber.

All this got me to thinking - have we (in the marketing and communications business) gone to far? Is any citizen with a yen to get politically involved a target for branding? Joe shows up at a rally and has a heart-to-heart with a political candidate. That gets exploited for political gain in ways Joe probably never imagined. And before you can warn the guy to duck - the brands come a calling.

I'm all for opportunistic communications, and smart brands immerse themselves in culture and current events - but in this case something is just not right. I can't quite put my finger on it - but it just feels like Ketchum was trying to push this one too far.

What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Musical Road Lancaster,CA

VSL brought my attention to this fantastic branded utility that is now gone. My favorite part of this video is the driver and passenger response not only to the "utility" but also the sponsoring brand. Way to go Honda!

The Santa Monica ad agency RPA cut half-inch grooves into a quarter-mile stretch of Avenue K, in the exurban L.A. desert city of Lancaster. The grooves were synched in such a way that driving over them at precisely 55mph caused Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” — a.k.a. the Lone Ranger theme — to echo in the air around you. Well, not so fast, Kemosabe! Avenue K borders a quiet subdivision, the RPA failed to take variables such as tire pressure into account, and the Civic ad became a civic nuisance. The road has already been repaved, but YouTube is loaded with clips of drivers getting their grooves on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Use and Reuse

Via PSFK and Dinosaurs and Robots

In 1963 Heineken introduced a beer bottle brick. Called the World Bottle this ingenious design helped solve the problem of refuse and broken glass littering the beaches of the Caribbean coupled with the problem many islands face, a lack of affordable building materials. Wish they'd bring this back!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Anticipatory Customer Service and Brand Love

Several years ago I chose Geico because I had heard that they were a low cost, easy-to-access provider of auto insurance. I liked that I could do business with them on the Web too.

And now, with this anticipatory customer service email, along with a cute gecko and a CEO named Nicely, Geico has turned from an insurance company that I do business with into a brand I love.

Take note Jet Blue ($7 for a pillow and blankee?!) - a brand I loved which has turned into a company that I'm not sure I want to do business with.