Friday, December 10, 2010

Not so original thinking

So I was watching TV the other night when this commercial came on.

I know it's not a direct rip off of what George Lois did in the '60s, but "so easy even a Monkey can do it" feels more than a little lazy as a creative strategy.

On top of that, if your product range is so confusing that you need a smartphone app to help your customers figure out which is the right one to buy, you may want to reconsider your product mix, your naming, your packaging and your merchandising.

Just a thought.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brand Old

Yesterday at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the rights to over 150 brands were put up for auction. Only a few dozen were actually sold and the total generated from the sale was only $132,000, with $102,500 coming from just three brand names: Meister Brau, Shearson and Handi-Wrap.

Probably the most valuable thing coming out of this auction for most marketers is the wake up call that brands die for a reason. Even great brands. They need to adapt, grow, and evolve to fit a consumer market that changes every day.

So if you don't want to end up on the scrap heap of brands along with Lucky Whip, Circus World and Braniff, make sure the things you do now will build the long-term value of your brand, not just next quarter's profits.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sheep behind the wheel

There will be a traffic jam at the Super Bowl. And it won't be leaving the parking lot after the game.

It seems that very few people learned from the near-death spiral that the automotive industry just went through. One of the key things they should have taken away is that in order to survive you not only need to offer products that have a point of difference but also a point of view.

And yet, here we are after just a few short months of profitable business to find that eight automotive brands will buy advertising on the Super Bowl.

Audi, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, Kia, and Volkswagen will all take the field in the big game in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. But how can they when they're all part of the crowd?

Yes, the Super Bowl is the biggest advertising stage of all. But too many advertisers will make distinguishing between spots nearly impossible. If you're the sixth, seven or eighth man in a lifeboat built for four or five, you're all destined to drown.

So rather than spending four million dollars for a slight chance of fame in 30 seconds on February 6th, maybe the marketing geniuses at half of these companies should try something different. Like coming up with an original idea for a change.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Antagonism is not a good business strategy

A friend of mine turned me on to this story in the New York Times about, Vitaly Borker, an internet merchant who used menacing customer service to generate hundreds of negative customer reviews which drove up the Google search results for his store. This strategy helped grow his business to sales of $20,000 per day and up.

It turns out, however, that shouting obscenities at your customers then threatening to stalk and do bodily harm to the people who've just paid $400 for counterfeit eyewear has its downside. According to CNBC, the proprietor was just arrested for making bodily threats, mail and wire fraud.

Sure you can make a living selling one item to one customer and then moving on to the next. But most businesses thrive on repeat purchases. And while your customer service may not be quite as bad as Mr. Borker's, we all are guilty of doing something to make it easy for customers to look somewhere else the next time they buy. It's just not always as obvious as this.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hyundai drives past Toyota

In the category of things that slipped under my radar screen over the past holiday comes this news from Europe: Hyundai and its sister company Kia have outsold Toyota/Lexus/Scion in Europe.

I, for one, am not surprised. Here's why.

Hyundai (and Kia) are building a fan base and gaining market share the same way Toyota did and the same way VW did it before that. They have been building cars that offer the features required in each category with styling that sets them apart from the category leaders, for a price that's significantly less expensive.

It's a simple formula, one that has worked over and over again in category after category. In 2009, Vizio passed Sony for the lead in LCD television sales. It's how Dell overtook IBM in the PC market.

New competitors come into an established market space, offer products with acceptable features and quality, lower prices, and one significant differentiator.

In Toyota's case that differentiator was quality. By failing to maintain that perception with a slew of recalls and unfavorable news stories about product issues, they opened up the door for Hyundai.

How long will it be before Hyundai becomes fat and happy, opening the door for another upstart to change the dynamics of the auto industry again?