Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Digital Makeover - just in time for Spring

This is a great case study that was presented at Ad Age's 2009 digital conference. It shows how Scotts Miracle-Gro looked to digital to architect a web-led strategic shift, transforming the brand's focus from product-centric to consumer-centric. The transformation provides a wonderful platform for dynamic, communal and targeted content. This is a place where experts and gardening enthusiasts can rub shoulders, help each other out, learn and share their passion.

A couple of lessons worth thinking about:
  • Define the business you are in from the consumer mind-set. Scott's went from defining their business as "products & services for the lawn and garden" to creating an emotional connection with the consumer "enabling dreams and creation of a homescape".
  • Create a pull vs push strategy. Scott's moved their messaging strategy from unilaterally pushing out information to creating opportunities for consumers to engage with the content through blogs, uploading of photos, and posing questions to experts. This enabled both a personal experience while building a vibrant community.
  • Build engagement vs awareness. In designing the site, Scotts invited the consumer to co-create the desired on-line experience. As a result, they created a site that is easy to navigate, is a trusted guide and resource. The site is also very interactive. For example, based on your specific geography, you can find the right products for growing a great lawn, learn about birds in your area and how to attract them or discover what pests are common to your region and how to combat them.
  • Make it inspirational vs aspirational. By providing tools and discussion forums, novice gardeners learn from others. A supportive community helps overcome fears or barriers and celebrates successes. Several groups have been formed, for example, first time home owners, pet owners, green gardeners, etc.
The investment Scott's is putting behind their brand seems to paying off. Scotts 2Q profit climbed 33% . In a press release today, Chairman and Chielf Executive Jim Hagedorn stated, "In the face of a deteriorating economy, the lawn and garden category continues to show its resiliency, and we continue to see the power of our brands."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stir it up on Earth Day

For Earth Day I thought I'd share the very inspiring story of Stonyfield farms - the organic yoghurt people from New Hampshire. This video was shot last year while Gary Hirschberg, Stonyfield’s CE-YO was on tour with his book "Stirring it up". His mission is to raise awareness of how both companies and individuals can save the planet by reducing their carbon footprint.

In 2008 Stonyfield enjoyed sales of over $300 million and compounded annual growth of 26.3% over 14 years – in a category that only grows between 3-5% annually. Gary Hirschberg believes that this growth is due to Stonyfield’s commitment to sustainability and giving back to the community. He uses the success stories and best practices of Stoneyfield and other companies to demonstrate that through enlightened self interest, companies can both reduce their carbon footprint and become more profitable.

Gary believes that any company that wants to be serious about addressing climate change needs to embrace four steps. While each step is important, addressing the supply chain is where the lion’s share of a company’s carbon footprint lays and is thus the most impactful. Here are the four steps:

1) Measure your carbon Footptint
• What you’re burning (vehicles, furnaces, etc)
• Electricity
• Supply Chain - inflow of what’s coming into the business.

2) Reduce emissions, energy efficiency, incorporating renewable energy – both direct production and supply chain

3) Offset emissions (i.e. carbon credits)

4) Educate and advocate – all stakeholders, consumers, supply chain, policy makers, etc

Gary gives some great examples of Stonyfield successes, from reduced packaging to waste management. He also shares some marketing best practices and how they get employees engaged to support their goal of achieving a neutral footprint.

My favourite quote – "anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has never slept with a mosquito in their bedroom".

There is now a scorecard that rates leading companies' efforts towards tackling the climate crisis. It's published annually by Climate Counts, a non-profit organization. We can bring about change by using our wallets to vote and our actions to make a difference, individually and collectively.

Think about it – if we don’t take steps to save the planet, who will?

Or as Gary says, ask yourself…..Why Not?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tweet this!

I meet a lot of people who are just becoming familiar with Twitter - whether it's for personal or for business use. Like many social media tools, Twitter is about building and engaging in a community, talking, listening and sharing in conversations. It takes some getting used to, and like everything in "real life", the effort you put into it will be indicative of what you will get out of it.

I've come across two presentation that I like very much that I thought I'd share. The first is from Commoncraft - they create explanations for technology tools in "plain english" - a great primer if you're just starting on Twitter.

The second presentation is from a digital consulting group out of the U.K. This deck takes you through basic "Twittequette" plus some apps you can use in conjunction with Twitter to make it even more powerful. Enjoy!

Twitter... what's all the fuss about?
View more presentations from madebymany.

Any questions? post a question or email me and I'll see if I can help you out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brand Reputation 2.0

Tylenol used to be the derigour case study in brand reputation management with their handling of the tampering scare back in 1982. The key learning was, when disaster strikes, act swiftly and boldly, and most importantly reframe the context by asking yourself …how can this be the best thing that ever happened to my brand? Tylenol used this situation in an authentic and brilliant way to avert disaster and build brand trust.

Now the writers at Biz schools will have difficulty keeping up with all the new fodder for case material. Companies might own their trademark, but more than ever it’s the people - your employees, customers, suppliers, even your detractors who own your brand.

Welcome to the dawn of the social media age which is redefining traditional approaches to brand management. The biggest change is the speed in which new media are being used to start a groundswell. But the key strategy should remain the same. How can you turn something that’s gone horribly wrong into something amazingly right and build trust and admiration for your brand?

Let’s take a peek at events over the past two weeks. .

Disgruntled Employees – yikes! The Dominos miscreants (aka super gross-out cheese in nose food defacing video). Kudos to the Domino’s team for jumping right on this. Within 24 hours, they publicly dealt with employees and the CEO issued an apology to customers on YouTube and Twitter. But is this enough? There are two issues they could leverage to build even stronger trust for their brand. What can they do to become known as a leader in food safety and how can they use this incident to build a culture where employees will respect rather than deface their brand?

Here's a good overview of the whole story from a local North Carolina TV station.

#Amazonfail protest - (# is used as a hashtag to aggregate a topic in Twitter). When Amazon deleted the sales rankings of hundreds of gay- and lesbian-themed books, it caused a Twitter and blogging storm causing outrage and over 16,000 signatures to on-line petitions. Amazon’s response – it fixed the “problem” and issued a statement saying that this was “an embarrassing and ham fisted error”. I find it interesting that, instead of directly engaging with the G&L community, they decided to issue a statement. For a company held as a paragon of understanding customer’s desires, this is surprising. Missed opportunity? I think so. For example, they could have recovered goodwill by asking one of the more influential bloggers in the community to help curate a collection of titles, or something relevant that the community would like to see.

Shock-Schlock - Burger King’s version of Baby’s Got Back.

A polarizing ad to say the least. You’ll either laugh and think this is brilliant (hmm – you’re likely male under 35) or you’re deeply shocked and offended and will never step inside a Burger King again (you might be female over 30). It has womens’ and childrens’ rights groups up in arms. This ad shot to the number 3 ranked spot in YouTube viewership in less than 3 weeks and has close to a 5 star rating.

Is Burger King the new Howard Stern of the hamburger world? Wassup? Is taking the "low road" a short sighted brand reputation management strategy for a burger joint or are they building "trust" with their core demographic by offending mainstreet? Authentic? Brilliant? You be the judge.

To top things off, BK is now being accused of racism for running an ad supporting the "Texican Whopper" in Spain and the U.K. While the ad seems harmless enough when you play it, Spaniards and Mexicans took offense to the cultural stereotyping and disrespect towards the Mexican flag in the print version (see above).

Burger King has agreed to change out the ads when they are "commercially able". Given their appetite for controversy, this seems out-of-character. Mexico is, however, the fast-food chain's #2 market.

Please share your comments.

p.s. A couple of cool sources to visit:

Church of the Customer
blog for more insights and stats on Amazon & Dominoes.
Twendz - a new tool that tracks Twitter conversations and sentiment as it's happening.
Burger King - the bad-boy of fast food

Monday, April 13, 2009


The advertising coming out of McDonald's Sweden continues to both amuse and baffle me. It is so quirky and so un-McDonalds-like that if you took away the logo, you'd never guess that it was from McD's. This print ad is composed of a bunch of one-liners - obviously scripted in the wee hours after a night on the town. When have you come across McDonald's copy such as "What's your name? Can I sleep with you?" or "Anyone that sleeps with me gets a free DVD".

And in case you missed these 2008 beauties, you have to take a look. These ads are a Swedish mashup of Dunkin Donuts meets Burger King meets IKEA meets the Brothers Grimm (ok, they were German). It's even weirder than that - you be the judge.

So how does McDonald's Sweden get away with these ads? I understand that you cannot advertise to kids in Sweden, so your communications and brand messaging strategy will be different. Global brands are constantly trying to strike the right balance between global brand consistency and local relevance. Yet, these seem way off the core brand positioning and personality.

I'm not sure what the folks in Chicago at McD's corporate are saying about their colleagues in Sweden. (Would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!)

Here is some McD's Sweden trivia in case you are interested:

McDonald's Sweden recently introduced charging posts for electrically powered vehicles.

McD's Sweden is known for their environmental responsibility leadership in the QSR world - no small feat in Europe.

I think my favourite, though, is the first Ski-thru located in Lindvallen. Even Starbucks doesn't have that that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dog friendly car - it's Elemental

Honda has introduced a car targeted specifically at dog owners. The "Dog-Friendly Element" was unveiled at the New York Auto show and will be available in Fall 2009. It comes with a doggy ramp, mesh barriers, spill proof bowl, a bed and other features to protect Fido and keep him comfy during transport. Keeping Fido safe in case of an accident means crating the dog, or for some cooperative dogs, hooking them up to a safety harness/seat-belt. Neither option ideal. Owning a large dog, for example, my rear view is somewhat obscured by the crate which sits in the back of my wagon. Not an issue in the Element.

In 2007 the website DogCars.com named the Honda Element the most dog-friendly vehicle of the year. The site, the brainchild of veterinarian Marty Becker evaluates cars on the basis of their ease of use and comfort for dog owners. Honda is leveraging the Element's reputation and is cleverly addressing an important niche by packaging up a dog-friendly model instead of simply marketing options.

What is so surprising is that, with some 45 million dog owner households in the U.S. alone, that this idea has not been pursued by any car manufacturer before. A smart move by Honda. The American pet industry is vast and growing. Last year consumers spent $41 billion on their pets - a number that is projected to grow to $52 billion in two years. Clearly we love our pets.

Honda has a history of considering the needs of man and dog in design. In 2005 they introduced a concept car at the Tokyo car show called the W.O.W. (wonderful open-hearted wagon). This car was specifically designed with the relationship of dog and owner in mind. Amongst its many features, it conceptualized the ability to put a small dog in the glove compartment and interact with him whilst driving.

The new Element, while not an engineering innovation like the WOW is certainly an example of innovative product marketing. With this new vehicle, Honda has a great opportunity to break through the over-engineered car marketing ads with something engaging that creates a strong emotional connection to the brand. I can't wait to see their advertising and social media marketing strategy. Dog owners are a very passionate and social bunch - Honda could have a lot of fun with this.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Why did the chicken stop in the middle of the road?

To fix a pothole?

Last week, KFC launched a campaign addressed to city mayors offering to patch potholes for free. In return , the company wants to leave behind a chalk stenciled logo on the patch informing people the road has been "Re-Freshed by KFC."

"In honor of our "Fresh Tastes Best" campaign, we want to come and Re-"Fresh" your roads!" KFC president Roger Eaton says in the letter. "Every patched pothole comes with the Colonel's very own stamp of approval."

I’m all for corporate citizenship, but as a branding and marketing professional, this just feels wrong. This promotion runs counter-intuitive to supporting the brand promise of “fresh taste best” and feels like old-school self-serving corporate citizenry.

Let’s use the checklist I put together from Jay Heyman’s book (All You Need is A Good Idea) to see how this promotion fairs.(See book review below)

Could I understand the strategy? Yes

  • KFC wants to be a good corporate citizen by filling in potholes

Was the idea unexpected yet relevant?

  • Unexpected yes, relevant to the brand/product – no. Road works and fried chicken have zero in common

Did it have the power to make me smile?

  • No - this made me scratch my head

Does the promotion tie in with the brand promise?

  • No. Fresh taste and refresh the roads puts gravel in my mouth and smells of tar

Does the promotion help differentiate the brand from competitors?

  • yes – but not necessarily in a good way

Is the idea brand building & campaignable?

  • Absolutely not

Based on these answers, I would not recommend this promotion.

So here’s the question. If KFC were your client, what promotion would you recommend that would be more in keeping with their brand promise and would build awareness while doing good?

Here’s mine. Please share your ideas!

Get citizens involved in a “fresh thinking” campaign

Using a tool such as “A Better Project”, get people to submit and vote on ideas on how to “refresh” their city by providing grants to the best ideas. KFC would be able to create a groundswell of involvement that would not only build brand equity but be better aligned with their brand strategy.

In the end the winning idea might be to fill in potholes. The difference is in the how – by getting people involved in a new way that taps into a fresh approach of getting folks involved in supporting their city.

Share your idea.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Selling Switzerland

YouTube is such a wonderful medium to sell a destination. Marketers are having fun creating interactive promotions that aren't just pretty pictures, but have the legs to go viral integrating their message and building communitites in Facebook and Twitter.

Queensland Australia just closed their contest for "The Best Job Ever"., a chance to visit, photograpgh and write a travelog about your trip.

I love the promotion that MySwitzerland.com is currently running. It's tapping into the obsessive compulsive Swiss stereotype with some great self-deprecating humour.

Check it out and take the test to see if you have what it takes to become a Swiss mountain-cleaner (and win a trip to Switzerland!).