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Archive for February, 2009

Branding Ideas

Brands Excel With Over Delivery

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Recently I checked into The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Knowing the brand your expectations are by default tuned to the highest level – still I’ve time after time managed to be surprised. When I wished to access music in my room, I was told that the CD library didn’t exist in this particular hotel. The apologetic concierge however asked me out of curiosity which CD’s I was looking for. Listing all my favourite artists I hang up wondering the reason for this curiosity. 20 minutes later the bell rang on my door. The same person as I’ve been speaking with over the phone handed over a bag with three CD’s purchased by the hotel, all the favourites I mentioned – and given as a gift to me.

I bet you’ll never forget this story – neither do I. But the case is that the extra $20 the hotel decided to spend on my account makes me spread the story – just like now. Would you still claim this wasn’t worth the investment … hardly!

The story is very much in line with another experience taking place in a Louis Vuitton store, the maker of luxury leather goods, which explicitly does not offer a lifetime warranty on its products. In fact, the company's documentation states a charge will be applied for repairs. The salesperson to whom you return your faulty product further reiterates this when you take it in for repair. But when you come back to collect your item, you'll almost never pay for the service. The salesperson assures you this was done especially for you.

The over deliver and under promise builds your brand in ways which few can imagine – as it reflects a brand which cares about you – rather than a brand which traditionally only cares about it’s shareholders. It’s a story, which stays with you for life – and not only keeps you as a loyal customer – it makes you spread the rumour. If you don’t believe me ask any kid about how many bricks there is in any box of LEGO –and the answer would be – “there are always too many bricks in the box”. I remember as a kid I always noticed the pleasant surprise – which always made me think this was a special gift for me. Many years later, when visiting the factory I realized, other factors were the true reason for this generosity – still the story stays with me forever.

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Advertising

Today’s Ad Business: Land of the Lost

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With this year's Super Bowl behind us, this seems like a good time to address the advertising business and how it has lost its way.

My overall comment on the array of wildly expensive and unintelligible commercials that ran: What in the world are advertisers thinking about? Most of the people sitting in my living room kept asking me, "What are they selling?" My response was that I was just as bewildered as they were. (And I'm in the business.)

When it comes to Super Bowl advertising, it would seem that all the rules go out the window. It has become an all out effort to be as entertaining as possible. It's damn the selling message, full speed ahead. As a result, you get overproduced dance numbers, horses playing football, chimpanzees and funny vignettes with very little connection to the company or product advertised. All in all, you get a colossal waste of money. It's as if clients and agencies say that this weekend we are in the entertainment business.

What's the measure of success? Like a movie, it's how well they are reviewed. The press is an enormous contributor to this phenomenon. Everybody weighs in on what commercials were most popular, leading to adjectives such as charming, hilarious, cute, crisp and funny. Sure, they will occasionally say a commercial is unfunny or silly, but you never read a critic saying, "I didn’t see a reason to buy that product anywhere." Hey, this is the Super Bowl, and the object is to entertain, not sell.

What do I consider to be a great Super Bowl ad? Well, to me, the greatest ad ran some years ago. It was for a lock made by Master Lock, a unit of Fortune Brands. In this commercial, all they did was shoot a high-powered bullet right through the center of the lock and to the amazement of all, it stayed locked. That was one of the best product demonstrations I’ve ever seen, and it made a great commercial. Not funny, just dramatic. Not cute, it just made the powerful point that this is one tough lock.

Recent times have brought a  twist with most companies putting their commercials online so that people could see them again.

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?Branding Bag?

Building Emotional Ties To Your Brand

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A couple days ago, I was in a Scandinavian airplane on my way to Los Angeles. Ignoring the airline food, I noticed a cute little branding experiment on the tray. A small notice was printed on an item. It declared, "Pepper has been called the gift of the East." (I overlooked the fact "gift" means poison in my native Danish.)

The statement aptly communicates the airline's Scandinavian values: among them the Northern European delight in thoughtful detail, appropriate explanation, and historical attribution.

Why would I call this branding at all? Because taken together, the smallest of onboard details conspire to build a total airline brand picture. Normally, I can barely distinguish one airline's food tray from the next. Sure, the cutlery may carry the company logo. So what? A logo is a given. It doesn't make you think about, act on, or consider the brand. But the Scandinavian airline's pepper packet did.

Branding creates attachments between consumers and your brand. The stronger the attachment, the better the branding. So, let me ask you this: Is it possible to create human attachments between, say, stereo equipment manufacturers and their customers? If so, how would you achieve it?

If you're drawing a mental blank, visit the Bang & Olufsen website. The experience is an interesting take on branding through emotional attachment. Besides all the hi-tech talk you'd expect, the site has extra finesse: a story element.

The flat-screen product section offers the story of the flat-screen — how it was invented and conceived. A Flash intro transports you through the designer's ideas and inspiration sources. Who knew the designer's inspiration was found in not-yet-hung paintings, propped up against a gallery wall?

The story changed my impression of the product. The flat-screen TV is no longer just a TV, but a piece of history. Now, whenever I pass flat-screen TVs in a store window, I'm instantly transported into the mind of the designer. I'm able to see the appliances as the outcome of inspiration. Thus, an emotional link between the brand and me.

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Brand Watch

Competitor-Oriented: Danger for Brands

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More than 20 years ago, I went to university. A marketing man from the start, I picked the oldest and biggest Marketing department in the country, at Lancaster University. It was in one of my first classes, Retail Marketing, that I learned about Tesco.

It sounds surprising now, but in 1989 Tesco was a case study in marketing mismanagement. I learned how it had committed the huge error of 'competitor orientation'. For most of the 80s it had been copying Sainsbury's tactics, and this, according to my lecturer, was why it was a second-class operation.

In 1993, I went back to Lancaster to do my PhD in Marketing. For the first time, I had to teach students. Once again, I turned to Tesco; but things were changing. A marketer, Terry Leahy, had been appointed to the board. I taught my students how rare it was to have a board-level marketer and then talked about why Leahy demonstrated the big advantages of a seat for the discipline at the top table. He had outlined a new direction for Tesco: it would start to build its service and merchandising around consumers. It was early days, but Tesco was an interesting example of attempted consumer orientation.

I secured my first faculty position, as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, in 1997 – the same year Leahy became chief executive of Tesco. For the first time I had to teach MBA students, so I picked the subject of Tesco. How the British supermarket was breaking the rules of the category by listening to consumers. How it had introduced a successful low-priced private label, even though marketing experts warned it was a bad idea, and had instituted a policy to ensure that if more than one person were waiting at the checkout, staff would open more immediately. We talked about what great consumer orientation means, and used Tesco to illustrate the point.

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?Branding Bag? Brand Legacy

The Past Can Power Online Brands

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Brand Strategy Brand Legacy Oreo Cookies

Social values redolent of the '50s, '60s, and even '70s are quietly being readopted by brands. These values are becoming more strongly expressed in the communications of brands plugged into the trend.

Why is this happening? How can you leverage this? Why is simple. As the global community endures crisis after crisis — natural disasters, an ever-present threat of political instability, shadows of war, and continual damage to already fragile economies — humans long for stability. We're united in a need for something we can trust, rely on, and think about with joy.

Aside from the macro situation of global instability, there's the micro situation of individual uncertainty. Close to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The strong family unit celebrated in earlier decades' wholesome sitcoms and movies seems an anachronism. Nostalgia encourages parents and kids alike to think about the past in romantic terms. The past is an icon of stability.

How does this affect your Web site? Well, forget about innovative, flash graphics hearkening to 2010. Personally, I'm convinced most consumers are repelled rather than attracted to a sci-fi, futuristic approach. Go the opposite direction. Contribute stability to your customers' lives by evoking the past in your communications.

If your brand is an old, familiar favourite, dig out some promotional material from the archives. Look at those old graphics and catchphrases and try to integrate them in current communications.

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