The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
When Naomi Klein wrote her book No Logo ten years ago, I refused to waste my time making a comment because it was so void of value for the reader that it would die a natural death. I believed the minor sensation it created was mostly on college campuses and in the offices of a few business executives.
Ten years later, however, Naomi Klein seems poised for a victory lap. For the life of me, I do not see the appeal of her philosophy as she looks at the world through smog covered glasses. She has a distinctly old Soviet dreary point of view since she lives in a world where everything is painted gray. Still, she makes a living dishing out her
glum perceptions to willing recipients. This time I say, "Enough!"
I've worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, but I've never seen one that plots hatred like Klein portrays in her books. Do companies make mistakes? Absolutely. Are there greedy executives? Without a doubt. There always have been and always will be villains in business and politics. It is human nature. Does the system need to be destroyed to create the grim, undifferentiated, life in the Klein gulag? No.
Klein's writings are in many ways offensive and without any constructive value. She talks about her research for No Logo, which included, "reading soul-destroying books on how to get in touch with your personal brand values…." Soul-destroying is a pretty damning accusation without a word of definition. I've written four books on brand building, and I wonder how many souls I destroyed vs. how many souls I helped. She makes ridiculous accusations that an "…increasingly voracious marketing culture was encroaching on previously protected non-corporate spaces - schools, museums, parks…." I guess the bad corporations just forced themselves upon these parks, breaking into them and plastering their billboards on every tree. Get real.Read More
I think Howard Schultz blinked. It's understandable — when McDonald's runs ads that say, "four dollars is dumb," it's bound to piss him off. I'll be watching for the ads to see how he's responding.
BUT, I think he's missing the real value in the Starbucks proposition: He pioneered the "third space" notion — gotta go to work; gotta go home; Starbucks is the "green room" for both venues.
First up: Anyone who has ordered a cup of coffee at a McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts knows they don't want you to linger there — and you don't want to. Their model is the old one — turn those tables, move 'em in and out, fast.
Starbucks is the place you go and feel it's perfectly okay to linger. That's a tremendous value — particularly as people get laid off and need a place to go (rather than hanging out at home in their bathrobes) to work on their resume, see people, wait for the interview or decompress after it.
I think Starbucks ought to be talking about that welcoming part of the brand DNA, that and then too, there's the less consumer-centric bits that still add up to a terrific brand personality, i.e. the professionalization of the barista — and the company's values in terms of health care and stock options for part-time workers, free trade coffee, all that.
Starbucks shouldn't be competing on price with McD's. Eeck.
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Like many business school professors, I often find the things I teach in the classroom contrast with the things I experience in the boardroom. Last week provided me with the latest in a long line of contradictory experiences.
In the classroom, my MBAs are coming to the end of their Marketing communications class. The group work for this class will culminate in the students pitching competitively against each other and in front of a real client. So, I ended the session by listing three concepts that they should not even consider using in their pitch because they would instantly signal a lack of expertise and strategic naivety.
Throughout the week, I was also working for a client and helping them to select a new advertising agency. Lo and behold, all three of the concepts I had counselled my students against were prominently on display in all the pitches I witnessed.
First up is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Back in 1943, when Abraham Maslow published 'A theory of human motivation' in the Psychological Review, he was probably unaware that the central model of his thesis would one day grace thousands of PowerPoint charts. However, his claim that human beings must first fulfil basic physiological needs, such as water and shelter, before they can be motivated by higher goals such as safety, friendship and eventually truth has proven to be a stalwart of many tired, old presentations.
The fact that there is no evidence to support Maslow's contentions, and that plenty of experimental psychology suggests his theory is wildly wrong, is neither here nor there. He sounds foreign and therefore clever, and big words such as 'hierarchy' imply some form of scientific rigour. If you are walking into a client pitch with nothing more than a first in history from Oxbridge and a dodgy big idea, you'll take what you can.Read More
The world of marketing has evolved, and today the companies that supply marketing communications and brand strategy are very different. There was a time when ad agencies were also the chief brand builders for their clients. It was called the 20th century. But that era is over and even big and brilliant agencies are no longer qualified to work on brand strategy.
Ad agencies should do what it says on their tin – be agents for the creation of advertising – and accept that the strategy work that feeds their creativity will be devised elsewhere and without their involvement.
As brand has become more central to the success of most major clients, it has moved further away from the core competencies of advertising agencies.
Niall FitzGerald identified this separation while he was chief executive officer at Unilever. Eleven years ago, he gave the keynote speech to the European Association of Advertising Agencies and noted the 'alarming discrepancy developing between what our brands are going to need and what contemporary agencies are good at'. His prediction has proved to be accurate.
Today, brand strategy requires a fundamental knowledge of business operations, finances, employees and internal culture – subjects most ad agencies, which often struggle even to understand how their clients make money, are ignorant of.Read More
It looks like things are tightening up in Latte Land. The economy and competition are making Starbucks' glorious run a lot more difficult to sustain.
The first sign of trouble came from the stock market. Starbucks' share price has been cut in half in the last year after more than a decade of nearly continuous growth.
The next sign was the firing of its CEO who is to be replaced by the man who built the business from just four stores, Howard Schultz. Now it has 15,000 locations in 43 countries. What Schultz is learning is that the bigger you are, the harder it is to manage. He promoted rapid growth and he now has to clean up the problems he fostered by probably building far too many stores.
On the competitive front, Dunkin Donuts and now McDonald's are threatening to take more and more business by offering a good cup of coffee at considerably less than those $3 to $4 a cup that you pay at Starbucks.
I find it interesting that Schultz is not too concerned about competition. He feels that the problem is with Starbucks itself and all he needs is to fix it. In many ways he is right but I'm not sure that he is focused on the right problem.Read More