Friday, November 12, 2010

They've got personality

Sometimes we get so caught up in the functional elements of a brand and product that we forget about the role personality can play in marketing.

Brand personality has long been a key component of advertising, but it's hard to define and often misapplied. Usually just a few words on paper like "innovative, quirky, friendly," brand personality statements are so ill-defined that almost any execution can fit.

That's why it's helpful to create 3-dimensional characters to define the brand. Apple did this successfully with it's classic Mac vs. PC campaign.

Allstate is doing the same thing, with a slightly different strategy personifying the brand through the actor Dennis Haysbert in some commercials, and the brand's nemesis with the Mayhem character, portrayed by Dean Winters in others.

It's not necessary to personify your brand's personality in commercials as these marketers have, but their example demonstrates how powerful having a well-defined personality can be.

So the next time you're asked to define your brand's personality, don't just toss a few well-chosen words down on paper. Create a character based on actors or characters in film or television. It will help demonstrate a clear and common understanding for all who are responsible for creating communications around your brand.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Death by hamburger

How does one burger stand in Arizona gain national attention and drive sales through the roof in the face of competition that includes multi-million dollar marketers like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and others?

By embracing a truth in the category that no one else is willing to cop to.

The Heart Attack Grill in Chandler Arizona has been featured on the Today Show and in newspapers across America and as far away as India because of its complete dedication to its positioning and excellence in the execution.

While every other restaurant in the country is racing to embrace healthier options in an attempt to slow the expansion of America's waistlines, the Heart Attack Grill proudly serves up "A taste worth dying for."

It starts with the menu: Single, Double, Triple and Quadruple Bypass Burgers, Flatliner Fries, Jolt Cola and Lucky Strike unfiltered Cigarettes. Nothing healthy here.

The Waitresses don porn star nurse outfits. The grill chef wears a physician's coat with a stethoscope around his neck while he flips burgers with a coffin nail dangling from his lip. They don't take orders, rather serve up "prescriptions." Their spokesperson is a 600 pound former football player. The disclaimer on their web video spoofs all those ridiculously long warnings in drug and diet ads with phrases like, "In some cases, mild death may occur." And when you're done with your meal, they roll you to the door in a wheelchair.

Of course, the marketing would ultimately fail if the product was no good, but according to reviews on their Facebook page people love it.

Will Heart Attack Grill ever supplant the national chains in sales? No. But it will provide the owner with a great income because it appeals to a smaller but passionate segment of the market.

This is a classic example of a challenger brand and a great lesson for marketers everywhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brands for sale

On Wednesday, December 8, nearly 150 classic brands across a number of categories will be auctioned off at the Waldorf in New York City. It will be interesting to see which brands still have some value to investors, entrepreneurs and holding companies looking to expand their portfolio of brands. A few of the brands I found interesting include:

Relax-A-Cisor – as seen on Mad Men
Meister Brau – Sounds like something Homer Simpson would drink
BOAC – I wonder if it can take me back to the USSR?

You can see the full list here.

While all the brands on the list have nostalgic value, I wonder how much commercial value is left in their tanks? It seems much easier than ever to build and gain acceptance for new brands now. Google, Hyundai, HTC weren't even on peoples' radar screens 10 years ago, yet once great legacy brands like Chrysler and Motorola have trouble regaining traction.

If a brand fits your vision for a product or company, it might be worth the money. Otherwise you might be better served to invent a new brand and create all the assets that surround it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The most powerful word in the world


Toddlers know how to use it with great efficacy. But somewhere along the way, we forgot its power. It's especially tough to wield it in these recessionary times, but now we need "no" more than ever.

No. We won't do the project for 25% less because someone else will do it cheaper.

No. We won't change the design to please the president's wife who took art history in college 30 years ago.

No. We won't take on that project because the extra money would be nice, but doing so would compromise the outcome of your project and the work we already have.

No. We won't give you our ideas for free just to show you how we'd approach the problem.


It's a great little word. And when used judiciously, it does wonders for your self respect.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great advertising does not insult the target.

Toyota is well on its way to becoming the new Chrysler. These guys can't seem to do anything right. The latest example? Their new campaign for Highlander.

Here's a great strategy: insult the very people you're trying to sell your product to by having the cool kids taunt them. Nice.

In a press release announcing the campaign, Toyota says Highlander is a "...vehicle that resonates with parents while still earning the stamp of approval from kids."

Do I need the approval of an eight year old for the car I drive? Was I a bad dad for making my kids ride in the back of that Tahoe during their formative years? Have I scarred them for life? I doubt it.

Peer pressure is real. Kids get ridiculed all the time by their schoolmates for being different. Something feels terribly wrong about building an advertising campaign around this insight.

It's not the work of a brand that respects its customers. And it's not going to help reverse Toyota's sales slide.