Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brand in Brief

Winning brands know how to build emotional connections and stay relevant by helping people realize deeply held dreams or beliefs. Some of my favourite brands are ones that take a leadership role in trying to make the world a better place. (Patagonia is probably at the top of my personal list).

There seems to be a new crop of companies that start with “being good” as their inspiration for developing their brand. Here’s one that I recently found that is interesting. They have also sponsored a cool phone app to build brand awareness virally.

The Brand: Ecolife

Ecolife is an energy efficient apparel line owned by Delta Galil USA. What does this mean? Did you know that clothing is responsible for approximately 25% of an individual's C02 emissions – about 1 ton per person. Or that 75% of the energy consumption in apparel, is not in its manufacture or distribution, but in the laundering of the garments after they are bought? In fact, washing and drying consume far more energy than the actual manufacturing process.

Who knew?

Enter Ecolife, a fabric built on the premise that if you can reduce the need for washing and drying, you can reduce energy consumption. They’ve created a treated cotton fabric that is anti-bacterial (thus does not need as much washing), dries in half the time, and lasts longer than regular cotton .

Visiting their website, it looks like they are starting off in guy’s underwear. Cool – earth-friendly undies

The Promotion - The iPhorest

Ecolife is sponsoring the “iPhorest” , a new mobile phone app that allows users to “plant trees” from their phones. You can download it to your iPhone for $4.99 and use it to plant a virtual tree on the Internet. Your phone works like a shovel, dig a hole, throw a seed in it and watch it grow. For each virtual tree planted, The Conservation Fund will plant a native tree in real life, beginning with restoration of vulnerable wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast. (If I was Ecolife, I might want a little more branding on this app- see post for Charmin and "Sit or Squat")

Friday, March 27, 2009

Attention small business owners - this book is for you.

All You Need is A Good Idea
, a new book written by Jay H. Heyman. Reviewed by Karin Koonings of The Essential Orange as part of the Post2Post Book Tour

How many times have you thought… can I build my business more effectively? Should I advertise on the radio? Should I do a direct-mail campaign? Or is an email campaign more cost effective? Have you often hired an ad agency or “marketing guy” and wondered….is this ad going to do it for me? How do you evaluate if it’s a really good piece of communication? Or are you guilty of telling your agency to add yet another key message to the perfect ad they’ve presented...?

To create marketing messages that actually get results, all you need is a good idea - and that truly is the key takeaway of Jay Heyman’s book. Entrepreneurs often have good product ideas – but a good idea without an effective marketing message or strategy is dead in the water.

What I love about this book is that it is written in a very conversational style, yet, the thinking is grounded in classical marketing strategy. The author gives real-life examples and tips that are very practical and don’t require large budgets. It’s an easy and entertaining read and unlike many business books, the ideas actually stick.

One of my favourite examples in the book of a good idea is of a New York sightseeing company that uses double-decker buses. Instead of the traditional red, the buses are painted yellow and black to resemble a New York taxi. A simple yet creative idea that made this tour company stand out from their competition.

Heyman’s whole mission is to give business owners the confidence to create or evaluate good ideas so they get sales results. Good ideas are fresh, often taking something familiar and giving it a new twist, something unexpected yet relevant. Good ideas differentiate and build a brand and also have the strength to carry a campaign. They have the power to make you smile and they are single-minded.

If there’s one thing I missed in the book, it was examples or tips on how small business can leverage the digital or social media channel. The success story of Blendtec comes to mind as a great example of a powerful idea well communicated. Nonetheless, this book is a great guide for small business and to prove this out, I thought it would be a good idea to test drive some of Heyman’s suggestions to see how they worked.

Test Driving the Book, Part I - Mythic Paint

I used the print ad evaluation exercise on p 78 and expanded it to create a “creative check-list” incorporating many of the concepts found in the book. I’ve applied the check-list below to the first print ad I found in my October 2008 issue of Dwell magazine which so happened to be for Mythic Paint. Here are my findings:

Could I understand the strategy in the headline?
• Not really unless it was that Mythic Paint was brought to earth by aliens

Was the idea unexpected yet relevant?
• Unexpected yes, relevant to me, not so much

Did it have the power to make me smile?
• It had to power to make me go “huh?” and flip the page

Was the ad single-minded? No
• Mythic Paint = aliens
• Highly durable
• Zero VOCs and zero toxins
• Uncanny combination of beauty and safety
• The world’s only high performance, non-toxic paint
• The legend (what legend?) goes on
• Dumbstruck/frowning woman a definite turn-off

Does the ad help differentiate the brand from competitors? Yes
• It is certainly different, but I’m not convinced that it’s memorable

Is the idea brand building & campaignable?
• Not in my opinion
• The ad does not build credibility or trust to support product claims
• Painting is hard work and there does not seem to be any payoff in the imagery

Test Driving the Book Part II - Safecoat Paint

Let’s look at another paint ad (perhaps it’s a tough category). In the same magazine I found an ad for Safecoat Paint that used one third of a page.

Could I understand the strategy in the headline? Yes
• Breathe easy (no fumes, non toxic)

Was the idea unexpected yet relevant? Yes
• The use of canary (think: coal mine) metaphor was very relevant

Did it have the power to make me smile? Yes
• It recognized my intelligence and gave a twist to the familiar

Was the ad single-minded? Yes
• It’s a safe paint – for you and for the environment
• The certification allows me to trust the product claims
• And hats off to whoever came up with the name and the packaging – it reinforces the message of safe and eco-friendly

Does the ad help differentiate the brand from competitors?
• yes, although I believe there is more opportunity to bring more emotion and energy into the ads

Is the idea brand building and campaignable?
Yes – it definitely has legs.

This exercise shows how “All you need is a Good Idea” can help the small business owner recognize, create and evaluate effective marketing messages.

It's a great book. Well done, Mr. Heyman!

Visit Jay's blog here
Check out more book reviews hosted by Idea Sandbox here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roadside assistance

If you've ever worked as a brand manager on big commodity categories such as paper products (toilet paper, paper towels) I can only imagine you had few levers to impact sales. Price of course was a lever, as was product efficacy (adding layers of softer tissue) and if you were lucky, you even had an advertising budget. But how many loyal customers could you really gain and, was an emotional connection even in the realm of possibility?

But now in the digital age, you can have fun with phone apps and connect with your customers. Proctor & Gamble's Charmin brand has sponsored a free mobile utility where you can find a spot to "SitOrSquat" anywhere in at least 10 countries and growing. You can download the app onto your Blackberry or iPhone. It helps locate public restrooms and provides ratings based on their cleanliness and other amenities.

A great example of a brand in a commodity category redefining their core purpose to play a more important role in the lives of their consumers - the AAA of nature's calling, if you will.

Charmin can now be your trusted guide in times of need. And isn’t that the test of a loyal friend?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Brand in glove

When you think of global brands, you usually think of Dove, Coca Cola or Heineken. But TV shows and movies have also become “global brands”, spawning off trends, products and certainly shared experiences and social networks.

A current global success is “Desperate Housewives” which is viewed in over 50 countries and has made billions for ABC. A classic soap, millions of fans sit glued to their TV or interact with fellow viewers to discuss the latest episodes or flaws of their favourite characters.

I loved this quote describing the show that I found in The Independent. “Behind its white picket fence, Desperate Housewives can often be insulting and demeaning. It is, after all, a smart satire about materialism, which exposes the foibles of women who are outwardly racy, smart, and prosperous – yet in reality selfish, weak, and Machiavellian. The show's tone is part suburban pantomime, and part sexist clichĂ©. But that, of course, lies at the heart of its appeal”.

Clever marketers and retailers are able to tap into the zeitgeist of a show and create products that catch the imagination of followers.

One such product that is making its way around the world are “Glovables”, diva-worthy gloves created by a smart entrepreneur from Chicago. These gloves, it seems, are not only gaining popularity in North America but are a hot new trend in Japan. These gloves strike the right note between brand badge and sophistication. Who needs to wear boring gloves washing dishes or gardening when instead you can gear up like Bree on Desperate Housewives, who has worn Gloveables on the show. What would the neighbours say!

Furthermore, these gloves have a heartwarming backstory. The idea was conceived by a woman entrepreneur who has bravely championed debilitating cancer. In addition, Gloveables’ parent company, Grandway, has built a wooden fabrication facility and a sewing factory to employ residents in Cholutecca, Honduras, a rural city with few employment opportunities. So by purchasing these gloves, you are helping to support the community where they are made.

A great example of the changing definitions of creating and of leveraging a global brand.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Help Goodness Grow (and build brand loyalty)

Every once in a while you come across an ad or a promotion that really makes you smile and feel good about being in the marketing industry. At The Essential Orange, I draw my inspiration from the orange because it represents the pure potential that all good brands have – they are differentiated, they have both functional and emotional benefits, they are engaging and they are “green” – responsible at a minimum, in a perfect world giving back more to the planet than what they consume. Good brands are ones we would miss if they ceased to exist.

One such brand is Campbell’s soup, and if there were an “Essential Orange award”, they would receive one for the absolutely lovely promotion they just launched for tomato soup.

Campbell’s Soup has created an interactive website that educates, gives back and inspires. This is the kind of promotion that deepens the relationship a brand has with existing customers, making them feel good about their brand choice. It’s this type of marketing activity, I would argue, that helps leading brands differentiate themselves from private label and builds long term equity with the consumer.

I encourage you to click here to visit the website

Here is a quick overview:

It’s all about the Farm

The promotion achieves a number of things:
- Creates awareness of the National Future Farmers of Amercia, (FFA) an organization that is developing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders through education and leadership skills (kind of like an "uber" 4H Club)
- Makes site visitors feel good and get them involved in a cause. For every click you make for free, tomato seeds are donated to the FFA.
- Educates folks on Campbell’s efforts to promote sustainable agriculture
- Helps us become (better) tomato gardeners – free seeds with proof of purchase and growing tips from experts. (Baby seedlings can even be started in soup cans)
- oh yes, and get us to buy more soup by using some of their recipes

And if that isn’t enough for one promotion to achieve, the site also builds awareness for what I think is a very cool project – restoring old iconic red barns. Campbell’s does a great job storytelling and you can follow the progress on new projects.

Well done Campbell’s (and G2 Interactive) – highly engaging, super relevant brand and business building promotion.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is brown the new green?

Good ideas are still aplenty at Starbucks....

After VIA (ok, not everyone a fan) and their new Heritage design store (the good idea is that they are located down the street from me -thank you free WiFi and comfy leather chairs!!)....the other good idea is the new umbrella shape.

These new umbrellas are triangularly shaped and can fit into tight spaces. They are also designed to withstand the wind and thus avoid being picked up in the air like an unfortunate Mary Poppins.

But hold on..... for all you brand & marketing gurus that follow Starbucks, check out the new graphics (click on image to enlarge) where's the familiar logo?....and wait....where's the green???

While the new style is practical and modern, people do not associate brown with Starbucks. In locating a store, the signature green umbrella has worked as a visual landmark breaking through the patchwork of overhead signage and streets littered with sandwich boards.

What do you think? Is Starbucks moving too fast and too far from the equity in the green umbrella?

Is this a good idea??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And the Sign Says....

A curious event happened today as the scaffolding around the corner of Pike and 1st Avenue in Seattle came down and a new Starbucks store was unveiled. (Another Starbucks in Seattle you may ask… is this possible??)

The store opens tomorrow but already it is a show stopper. The first thing you notice is the logo. It’s the old mermaid who is making her reappearance. We saw her last Fall with the launch of Pike Place Blend – she was on the coffee packaging and on all the paper cups. She’s also the beacon for the original Starbucks store in Pike Place Market.

I had a chance to speak to one of the Starbucks designers and this is the first store launched under a new concept called “Heritage”. As I recall from my days at Starbucks, this concept has been in the works for quite some time and draws it’s inspiration from…. guess what? You got it - the heritage of Starbucks and the traditional coffeehouse.

It’s a beautiful store. From the outside there’s lots of glass (notice the glass overhang to protect patrons from the famous Seattle rain), wooded blinds frame the windows and there is a Parisian cafĂ© style patio with marble top tables and wicker chairs. Inside the colours are warm – dark browns and large chalk boards instead of the usual “QSR” style menu boards. It’s also a Leeds certified building.

This place is probably about 3000’ feet and including the patio could seat maybe 50 people. Given it’s prominence to the entrance of Pike Place Market, Seattle’s #1 tourist draw, this store will easily be a $2.5 to $3 million dollar store for Starbucks.

This is a good sign for Starbucks. They know that their success resides in creating the “Third Place” but over the last couple of years we’ve seen stores built with cheap seats and horrible acoustics. We’ve been terrorized by blenders and loud music from tinny speakers. Business meetings become shouting matches. No fun.

So here’s my question……what about the other 8000 or so stores that need TLC??? When will you fix “My Starbucks”?

OK - perhaps I’ll walk the 3 extra blocks to this new one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I love MOO

The other day I was asked by a reader of The Essential Orange if I could also write posts that would benefit mid-sized businesses with low brand recognition. Sure, I thought, I can do that – although I’ve always tried to pick stories that are relevant no matter what the size the business. So thank you Michael for the inspiration for this post!

Because of my love-affair with paper, I’ve decided to focus on “”. MOO is a London-based online stationer that… “helps businesses and individuals stand out in an over-crowded world”. Launched in September 2006, venture-backed MOO started with a simple idea – reinventing the “business card” for the web 2.0 crowd – something that made a personal statement and wasn’t stuffy or cheezie. These Mini-Cards are half the size of regular business cards and come in packs of 100 – all with the option of having a different image on each one. Images for the cards can be imported directly or downloaded from Flickr, or you can use any of the MOO design templates.

Now, hands-up all who have heard of MOO?

Well, if you’ve attended a SXSW, chances are you have. Otherwise, having spoken to a number of friends, I’d say MOO was still fairly “undiscovered” by mainstream. Yet this company with low brand recognition seems to be fairly successful. They ship to customers in over 100 countries, in their first year they printed more than 10 million cards worldwide and have experienced triple digit growth since launching. In order to reduce shipping times, they are opening an office in Rhode Island this year – despite the recession. They’ve also expanded their offering to include Business Cards, MiniCards, NoteCards, StickerBooks, Postcards, Greeting Cards and accessories.

So what’s their secret?

Their product is differentiated – it’s a great example of mass-customization that’s affordable, personal, and has relatively short turnaround/delivery (soon to improve). And the whole process on their web-site is super easy.

They have the right kind of brand recognition from the people who really matter – the kind of people who really care about and want to buy their products. And they’ve accomplished this, not by running ads on TV or fancy magazines, but by engaging with their target in conversations in venues where they “live” and by enabling conversations between users with similar interests or passions.

To quote Seth Godin in Meatball Sundae, practices “The New Marketing” which… “treats every interaction, product, service and side effect as a form of media”. Offline they are at events like South by Southwest (US), Photoshopworld (US) and Social Media Influence (UK). Online, they’re active with fan bases in Facebook, Bedo, Flickr, and Etsy. They have an engaging blog and often host meet-ups looking for new ideas. And their SEO strategy seems to working – that’s how I discovered MOO and have become a “raving fan”.

In summary, offers a great product that stands out, excellent customer service and engages with their customer, creating meaningful opportunities for conversation and shared passions – stuff any organization – big, small, medium or indifferent could benefit from.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Creating emotional connections

Strong and enduring brands create an emotional connection with their core customer. For example, tapping into personal values such as freedom, creativity and independence are at the core of Apple’s success, whereas brands like BMW tap into values of excellence, speed, and competition.

In brand communication, there’s always been a debate between the effectiveness of the purely functional/rational hard sell (think Tide gets clothes clean) and the emotional (think Sunlight – modern, caring, gentle). In "Brand Immortality" a book published by two Brits, Hamish Pringle and Peter Field, these former ad agency execs demonstrate that there’s a quantitative link between the effectiveness of emotional advertising and business results. In fact, they posit that emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to generate large profit gains as rational ones, with campaigns that use facts as well as emotions in equal measure falling somewhere in between the two.

With trust at an all time low in today’s economic and corporate climate, this is a timely book. The current environment gives brands the opportunity to deepen the emotional connection by addressing consumers’ needs for stability, honesty and simplicity.

Brands that “get” this will win. In the case of Tropicana, we’ve seen how a change in packaging has sparked a huge negative emotional reaction. On the other hand, General Mills is using consumer sentiment to its advantage and is leveraging nostalgia to drive sales. They’ve gone into their archives and have re-introduced box designs for some of their best-selling cereals - Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Trix.

Do you have an example of a brand that has leveraged current consumer sentiment effectively to create an emotional connection?