Friday, September 10, 2010

The Walmart dilemma

You have a good business selling your products in independent and specialty retail shops as well as online. Your customers think your brand is one of the best in the category because of the performance and quality that comes from first class engineering and quality manufacturing. You're slogging along in this tough economy, keeping the lights on, but things have been better.

And then Walmart calls. 

They want your brand because their customers want it. That's at least 200,000,000 potential new customers.

There's just one problem. They don't want to pay for it.

So, do you lower the price of your existing product because the volume potential will be so great, risking your relationships with your current retail partners? Do you reengineer your product to meet their price requirements knowing that it doesn't deliver quite the performance people expect from you, putting your reputation at risk? Or do you say no and give up millions of dollars of potential top-line growth for your company?

Every company that's been called by Walmart has to face this question. So which is best? Do you say yes and join the race to the bottom offering your goods for less and less each year, or say no and watch a competitor add that volume to their bottom line?

You'll know wether you've made the right choice in about 5 years.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crunch time

You sell a healthy, wholesome snack. Kids love it. But they'd still rather eat Cheetos, Starbursts, or Salted Peanuts. So how do you get them to think of your snack in the same breath as those favorites?

Maybe you try something like this.

It's carrots version of the Beef Council or the American Egg Board. A bunch of farmers got together and paid Crispin Porter + Bogusky to make their snack hip. It's a fun spot and the website with the animated carrots made me smile.

I like the fact that they didn't rename baby carrots something hip like Carrot Crunches or Carrot Bites. And it actually does a good job of skewering the conventions of the category by substituting something fresh and healthy for the 'extreme' snacks.

Will the strategy work? While they may sell more carrots, I don't think they'll be breaking our kids' addiction to sweet and salty junk food anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A great voice, a good spot

I do not think it's understatement to say that Chevrolet has just launched the most important car in the brand's history. And I'm not talking about the gas/electric Volt.

It's the Chevy Cruze, the car that must be better than Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla if GM is going to survive. This is the car that they need to help them reclaim a lost generation for the brand, because without them, Chevrolet's share will continue to dwindle and we'll lose the 50 billion dollar bet the government made on our behalf.

What I find interesting, and promising, is the tone of this launch. Unlike so many others for the brand over the years, this spot exudes quiet confidence. Using Tim Allen for the voice-over, and a copy strategy that takes direct aim at the category leader, the spot eschews the conventions of big, old Detroit launch advertising. No cars on mountaintops, no gratuitously sexy models, no special effects. Just a good look at the vehicle that hopefully will be a pace car back to prosperity for Detroit.

A couple of concerns. The spot focuses on features – blue tooth connectivity, turn by turn navigation, and remote keyless entry – which can be very easily matched. Also, 'the starting at' price of under $17,000 isn't close to the $24,785 'as equipped' price in the small type. If there's even a whiff of bait and switch in this "get used to more" strategy, it will undermine the whole premise of the car and the Chevrolet brand and we can kiss our investment goodbye.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A challenger pot pie

Want to communicate a sense of old-world, hand-made quality with your brand? It's easy.
  1. Use unbleached paper for your packaging.
  2. Pick an old typeface like Antique Caslon.
  3. Give yourself a homey name.
  4. Make sure people know the story behind your product.
And what's that kind of marketing worth? Well, if Twin Hens Chicken Pot Pies are any indication, you can charge up to 7 times more than the bargain brands in your category.

Available at upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods, the pies are made with antibiotic-free chicken, wheat flour, milk, butter, organic vegetables, sea salt, baking power, black pepper and thyme and sell for $6.99.

Banquet frozen pot pies are available everywhere. They're made with ingredients like hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken powder and sodium stearoyl lactylate and sell for a buck.

If you want to win big in your category, figure out what the big guys are doing, do the opposite, and let people know why.