Monday, February 21, 2011

update: simplicity

Ran across this article from MediaPost on a new survey that found the simpler the brand, the higher the appeal to consumers.

According to a new survey by branding consultant Siegel + Gale, U.S. consumers are willing to pay a 4-6% premium for brands they believe offer a greater degree of simplicity (defined as ease of understanding, transparency, caring, innovation and usefulness of communications, as well as interactions in relation to industry peers) over their competitors. Extrapolated out across all industries and sectors, that could translate into $27 billion more, says Siegel + Gale co-president and CEO David Srere.

Another point for the "simplicity" concept in everything that you do when it comes to advertising.

generational branding

Thanks to a retweet by @TalentZoo, I ran across a great article from Beneath the Brand (@BeneaththeBrand on Twitter, and you should definitely give them a follow) on the emotion of generational branding.

The article featured a book by Marc Gobe called Emotional Branding.

Gobe explores emotional branding specific to generational demographics. Gobe asserts that each generation responds differently to emotion, and the key to emotional branding is finding that specific emotional appeal.

The same emotional pitch you use for Gen Y-ers is not going to work for Baby Boomers.

Obvious, sure. But, how often do you consider this when developing creative?

On Baby Boomers, Beneath the Brand says:

With a “hard work pays off” mentality, this [Baby Boomer] segment is far less emotional than generations that follow. Campaigns that play on emotional comfort, status, heroism and “I’ve earned it” luxury will reach—and touch deeply—this audience.

As for Gen X-ers, Beneath the Brand says that "campaigns targeting X’s usually win when they employ nontraditional approaches, fierce sarcasm, style, imagination, and money-driven themes."

Beneath the Brand says that Gen Y-ers are the most sensitive to the brand experience. "must be highly experiential in order to be engaging. "Generation Y has defined the necessary behavior for brands, which must be highly experiential in order to be engaging," writes Beneath the Brand.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

think simple.

"Some copywriters write tricky headlines -- double meanings, puns, and other obscurities," David Ogilvy, one of the greatest minds in advertising, once wrote. "This is counter-productive…your headline should telegraph what you want to say."

"Iconic designs that stand out apart from the crowd have just one feature to help them stand out," writes brand identity guru David Airey. "That's it. Just one. Not two, three, or four."

More recently, AdAge Editor in Chief Rance Crain flatly stated, "Good ads are simple and direct."

"Bad ads aren't," he continued.

If there is one ubiquitous theme throughout all the disciplines of advertising, it's simplicity. Simple headlines. Simple logos. Simple ads.

Unfortunately, as Crain points out, simplicity is "a characteristic that advertisers have a woeful lack of these days."

Simplicity seems like a simple concept for advertisers. You only have 30 sec. in which to sell a product to a customer, so it would seem like ad should be as concise and direct as possible. Sometimes, in the case of print, the time to capture a prospect's attention is even shorter -- three seconds at most.

So, why then do copywriters write blind headlines, or creative directors piece together television spots that waste 80 percent of the airtime on setting up some plot or twist unrelated to the actual product?

The war for consumer "attention" is certainly not anything new. It's a battle advertisers have been fighting since the days of Claude Hopkins and before.

The new war, however, has evolved. Advertisers now seem certain that in order to grab a consumer's attention, a commercial must be "novel," "sensational," or "spellbinding." They try to engage audiences with complex plots or graphics, or either misguided attempts at comedy.

The result is often a complete bust; for example, Kia's cosmic adventure advertisement during the Super Bowl.

Do you even remember what car they were advertising?

Simple and direct ads are, many times, very vanilla. They don't have the "wow" factor. That is, they're not built to entertain.

They're meant to sell product, which (used to be) the purpose of advertising.
And, you don't have sacrifice engagement for simplicity. Apple ads (agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day) are some of the simplest campaigns running right now. Yet, I bet after reading that sentence, you immediately thought of an iPad or iPod.

The Reese's "Perfect" campaign, from ArnoldWorldwide, is another exam of utterly uncomplicated ads accomplishing everything they need to do.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to trick the audience into being engaged. As Leo Burnett said, there is "inherent drama" in every product. The true skill of an advertiser is to find this drama and bring it to life. That is, without tricks and games.

Think simple.

Monday, February 14, 2011

is groupon a “road-to-ruin” for local retailers?

In a February editorial published at, marketing guru Al Ries called Groupon – and the whoring of coupons – a “road-to-ruin deal for local retailers.”

“Presumably, all those consumers who bought products and services for 50% off are going to be happy to return to their local retailers and return to buy those same products and services at full prices,” Ries asserts. "That's not going to happen."

Speaking about the "coupon culture" as a whole, Ries has a point.

Coupons are like crack to companies looking for a quick fix in sales numbers. As such, it’s easy for companies to get addicted. And, unfortunately, it can come with some harsh realities after the rush wears off.

Companies that routinely use coupons lock themselves into a dangerous pattern where consumers shop only when product is on sale, or discounted by coupons.

It’s hard to lay off that sweet, sweet discount, man.

Ries points to department store retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s who have begun to rely on steep discounts to move product rather than the strength of their brand. It’s basically a discount war.

Personally, I find this to be true. I love Macy’s because, from time-to-time, they have a huge discount on dress shirts and ties. Sure, the quality of the store will push me to Macy’s above JC Penny, Belk, or Sears, but I don’t find myself frequently shopping at Macy’s unless I run across a sale.

As a cost-conscience consumer, I know that all I have to do is delay my purchase by a little bit of time, and that the same shirt that costs $39.99 will be $15.99 two or three weeks later.

The distorting effects of coupons also fueled skepticism of the potency of Proctor & Gamble’s Old Spice commercial featuring “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” During the explosion of publicity and social media conversation regarding this pop-sensation of a commercial, a simultaneous marketing campaign using coupons was launched.

“It's hard to determine how much of (the sales increase) was due to an aggressive couponing campaign which was in market simultaneously,” says Adweek’s Joseph Jaffe, though he did admit that there was some impact that could be attributed to the viral success of the commercial.

But, is Groupon the same as a packaged good, or department store?

I have to disagree with Ries on this one. While discounts and coupons can ultimately undermine the strength of a brand when they become assimilated into the shopping behavior of a consumer, the platform of Groupon is much different.

The variety of Groupon’s clients makes discounts unpredictable. There is no reason to expect that a discount for an eatery will appear at a specific time in the future – or ever again. Consumers can’t anticipate the appearance of an additional discount in a way that will cause a delayed sale.

If Groupon’s discounts from clients rotated on a predictable schedule – say, a discount to a local retailer that appeared every two weeks – then Ries’ comments would hold some water.

But, it doesn’t; at least, not yet.

Retailers advertising on Groupon have a chance to offer a discount to their products much in the same way a loss leader is used to entice future sales. It’s more of a premium than a discount.

Retailers with relatively small advertising budgets can get a high profile spotlight in the community through the use of Groupon, which is the appeal that has sent Groupon’s value through the roof. As more retailers partner with Groupon, the more varied the discounts will be, and the less likely company’s are to fall into the “coupon trap” Ries fears.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

audi v. chrysler; the two memorable car ads of super bowl 45

There were two car commercials during the 2011 Super Bowl that really stood out among the others. They were Audi’s "Release the Hounds" ad by Venables Bell & Partners, and Chrysler’s "Born of Fire" ad (presumably done by Duffey Petrosky Wieden+Kennedy).

The two commercials were unique for how differently they tried to sell their client. One used humor with a clever positioning strategy. The other used a serious tone and tried to use American tradition and nationalism. One worked. The other did not.

I wrote recently about Venables Bell’s new strategy to position Audi as the "youthful" luxury car among high-end German automakers. Without disappointment, they delivered during the Super Bowl with a comedic--but potent--shot at Mercedes. The ad’s theme, "progressive luxury," drives home the message that Mercedes is a relic of stuffy luxury vehicles, driven by posh old men with no taste (or, as the commercial insinuated, sense).

As long as Audi sticks with this positioning, they will surely close the gap in market share and begin nipping at the heels of BMW and Mercedes.

Chrysler’s two-minute ad--the longest Super Bowl commercial yet for the company--was supposed to be the kick-off for the brand’s rejuvenation attempt.

It failed, miserably.

There were so many mistakes in Chrysler’s commercial it’s hard to recount them here. From using a celebrity to sell a product, to strongly tying itself to a city that has come to symbolize American automaker’s hubris and unimaginative styling; there just wasn’t much that they did right.

Most Americans aren’t stupid. They know that the failure of American automakers is largely their own. For decades, they have made ugly cars with horrible reliability. Unlike their foreign counterparts, American automakers continued to pump-out uninspired cars on the presumption that their "American-made" hokum would sell them.

It didn’t, and one of the worst offenders is Chrysler.

Detroit is not an American symbol of hope and change. It is a symbol of failure and lack of inspiration. Tying your brand to that, no matter how hard you try to pull at the heartstrings of Americans, will not work. This is especially true when touting the product line as a luxury vehicle, when at no point has Chrysler ever been thought of as an American luxury vehicle (the brand that definitively owns that position is Cadillac).

Chrysler additionally wasted extra money hiring rapper Eminem to be featured in the commercial. Eminem’s ties to Detroit are most likely unknown except to a small minority of consumers, so his purpose is the commercial was completely lost on the audience. Additionally, celebrities rarely (if ever) move the needle on sales. And, the use of a youth-oriented rapper is definitely not going to help launch a "luxury" brand targeted to adults.

Reflecting on the commercial, I mostly remember Eminem and images of a decrepit Detroit. I don’t remember the product, much less anything that would encourage me, as a consumer, to think any differently about Chrysler than I did before.

For having two-minutes of airtime, I can’t think of a way Chrysler could have wasted it more efficiently other than just to run two solid minutes of dead air.

For a company that has yet to repay its debt to taxpayers for the bailouts it received to keep its doors open, this commercial was an insult. As a taxpaying advertising junkie, it was an abomination.