Friday, February 26, 2010

Free Idea Friday

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Every Friday I will share an idea that's been rolling around in my head that I have neither the time nor the where-with-all to execute. Remember, it's free, so take it for what it's worth.

Do you want coffee with that?
In the spirit of Macaroni and cheese, Fred and Ginger, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, today's idea asks the question: what if you took two things that are great on their own and combined them?

In this case, you get JavaCola, an idea I had a few years ago. It's a lightly sweetened cola drink with a hint of coffee flavor, as well as other flavors in the line Colaccino and MochaCola, each slightly sweeter, creamy and that latter with a hint of  chocolate.

The key to this execution is using a coffee brand that brings credibility to the coffee flavor. Also using a the 8.5 ounce can helps the product stand out at retail and gives it a more adult positioning along with Starbucks Double Shot.

In doing some research this morning, I discovered that both Coke and Pepsi have tried a coffee flavored cola, but neither used a coffee co-brand and they were both sold in traditional 16 ounce bottles. They also only introduced a single flavor, not an entire line of coffee drinks.

Again thanks to Glenn Fuller for helping to bring my strange visions to life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hummer drowned in the mainstream

I'll start this off with the admission that I have never been a fan of the Hummer and not for environmental reasons. I have always felt it was a brand for posers, beginning with Hummer's first big champion, the Governator.

Hummer is a great example of how ideas and products on the fringe become mainstream – think tattoos, botox, and visiting Machu Picchu. Exotic, outsider, dangerous and rare, there's a cool factor to fringe products that gets lost as they become adopted by the mainstream. When every coed has a tramp stamp, how bad can that biker with the Harley tattoo really be? It's a phenomenon that Ryan Mathews & Watts Wacker detail in their book, The Deviant's Advantage.

Hummer started as a crazy idea by some high testosterone guys for whom regular SUVs weren't macho enough. Only barreling through town in a street-legalized military vehicle would properly reflect their manliness. It sold very well at a high margin until GM in their effort to expand the brand's appeal produced the H3 and soccer moms started driving them to the salon, effectively neutering the brand.

That's what killed Hummer.

The environmental concerns and $3 per gallon gasoline only hastened its demise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A recipe for failure

We all know that the point of business is profit. But Heineken seems to have forgotten that the way to profit is through creating customer demand... 

Despite the sales declines, Heineken did manage to boost its earnings in the U.S., saying key drivers were the price increase across the Dutch portfolio implemented at the end of 2008 and lower marketing rates. The Dutch parent did not break out specific earnings numbers for the U.S.

When I read this paragraph in Ad Age, I flashed back to the early '90s and a client of ours, Point Beer. After years of trying to out-Bud Bud, their sales slide seemed unstoppable. They had cut advertising and raised prices to remain profitable. Their core market was aging and we all know that most beer is consumed by men 21 – 25. That's when a brilliant writer and art director found an old picture in the brewery's archive and created this poster.

It reconnected Point with its heritage, but in a way that made it relevant to a younger audience. The poster sold like gangbusters and beer sales soon followed. By repositioning Point as a local treasure with a quirky personality they were able to take advantage of the nascent microbrew movement to create a future that now includes a full line of year-round and seasonal beers. And 20 years later the Pointman is still a part of the story.

So my advice to Heineken is this: Don't just create a funny Bud Lightesque commercial and expect things to turn around as you did last year (sorry that it's in Dutch, I couldn't find the English version on YouTube)...

Find a truth in your heritage that gives younger drinkers a reason to try the beer and create a story around that. If it's still here 20 years from now, you'll know you've done your job.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The tears of a clown

This is a funny, funny commercial. It has everything a good spot should have: a solid idea based on the brand promise, crisp writing, excellent casting, acting, direction and editing.

So why doesn't it move me? It's not because my brother's a clown and I can't stand to see such blatant clown abuse. And it's not because I don't like to save money. I do. Likely it's because there are parts of the Walmart brand that I'm not a fan of and this message doesn't address any of them. (This is not a political blog, so I'm not going into any of those reasons here).

That's what makes Walmart such a smart marketer. They don't waste any of their time worrying about me or anyone like me. They've built their brand on low prices and target consumers for whom the pocketbook trumps all other issues. Based on their most recent earnings statement that seems to be working very well for them.

The temptation when you get bigger is to broaden your target which reduces differentiation. Just look at what happened to brands like Sears, Schwinn and Miller Lite. If Walmart were to address my issues, it would drive up prices in their stores thus diminishing what makes them so appealing to so many people.

The lesson here, every business needs focus, no matter how big.

(Thanks to my friend, J.J. Sedelmaier for bringing this spot to my attention.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The power of a moment

Thirty years ago today, I was a 20 year-old college sophomore wondering what kind of future we were heading into. The economy was in shambles. Gas prices were at historic levels. The government had just bailed out Chrysler. Iran was holding 44 Americans hostage. And the Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan. It didn't seem like a good time to be moving toward adulthood.

Then, I sat down to watch a hockey game in the common room of South Quad on the University of Michigan campus, and two hours later the world had changed.

No, the hostages weren't released and the Soviets didn't give up in Afghanistan (not until 1988 anyway). But there was proof that if a group of people came together with a goal, excellent leadership, and a common will, anything could happen.

So even now, when the economy is in shambles, gas prices are near $3/gallon, the government bailed out Chrysler again, Iran is attempting to hold us hostage with its nuclear program, and we are fighting in Afghanistan, I still choose to believe that we can create a greater future for ourselves.

Thanks to Herb Brooks, Mark Johnson, Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey, Dave Silk, Bill Baker, Neal Broten, Dave Christian, Steve Christoff, John Harrington, Steve Janaszak, Rob McClanahan, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Pavelich, Buzz Schneider, Eric Strobel, Bob Suter, Phil Verchota, and Mark Wells for reminding us that miracles do happen if we prepare for them.