Friday, February 4, 2011

The top of the mountain

With all the snow that's been building up around the ramshackle beach cottage lately, I've been thinking about getting back on the slopes.

So when I found out that a crazy band of ski enthusiasts are making custom skis in an old service station just outside of Telluride, Colorado, I had to do a little research.

Wagner Custom Skis are made to order. After filling out your skier DNA, they design a custom set of skis specifically for not just your height, weight and level of expertise, but also where you ski, how often you ski and many other factors. 

Not only are each set custom made to fit the way you ski, they also allow you to customize the graphics to create a look that's all your own.

They cost two to three times as much as a typical high end pair of skis. But, since skiing is all about the gear – and where you're drinking apr├Ęs ski – there's always room at the top for something really special like these.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is this really Audi?

I'm concerned.

I came across these teasers for Audi's Superbowl commercial and it has me wondering what's in their drinking water.

Audi has been using a competitive strategy for a few years, taking on Mercedes and BMW head to head. And I know that for advertising to be truly successful, it has to be about more than just the features and functional benefits.

This, however, is just silly.

The Audi brand is about innovative engineering that provides superior performance and an incredible driving experience. How does making fun of preppies and Kenny G communicate this?

These spots feel juvenile. Like a bad Saturday night live skit. And that's the real problem.

Audi has always been cool and sophisticated, quiet and confident while they kicked the rest of the automotive industry's collective ass. They didn't care what others did. They would just go and do what they knew was right and let things take care of themselves.

The tone of these commercials makes Audi feel like a 15 year old boy desperate for attention. And that has me worried.

If Audi spends too much time focusing on their competition, they run the risk of not focusing on the things that have made them great.

And that would be a real shame.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Be who you are

A lot of brands spend an inordinate amount of time and energy running from their humble origins. They try to elevate their status to increase their margins, expand their market share, or just make their executives feel better about themselves at the country club.

One of those brands was Denny's.

Originally opened in California as a 24-hour donut shop, for years marketers at Denny's have fought against that heritage trying to compete in the family dining arena. In doing so they nearly jettisoned all that made them interesting and unique.

It seems finally, that they've come to their senses based on this new campaign with the theme, "America's Diner is Always Open."

The interesting thing about this spot is that it proves honoring your heritage does not mean going retro. The food featured isn't the typical Grand Slam Breakfast and the imagery isn't packed with faux '50s diner cues. It captures the essence of what has always made Denny's different and makes it relevant for today.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is the big game the right place for niche brands?

InBev, the international conglomerate that owns both Budweiser and Stella Artois apparently has decided that what's works for Bud will work for Stella and has produced a lavish spot featuring an Academy Award winning actor. On top of a seven-figure production budget, 60-second extravaganza will cost at least five million dollars to air.

The problem is, this formula hasn't been working for Bud over the past few years. Sales of their flagship brand have continued to drop despite a 10% increase in ad spending over the past year.

Yes, the brands are at different stages of their respective life cycles in the U.S. Everyone knows what Bud is, and this familiarity has been working against the brand for years.

Stella, even with its rich history, is relatively new to the States and has a long way to go to penetrate the market in both awareness and trial. But is building a big expensive campaign the right way to build this brand for the long term?

Probably not. Stella isn't a tailgate beer. It's not a volume beer. It's not a default beer. It's a special occasion beer, one you drink maybe 10% of the time.

Treating Stella like Bud puts this specialness, as well as its high price and margin, at risk.

It seems to me there's a better way to spend six to seven million dollars to build volume while protecting all that makes Stella special.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's not 1984. Not even close

So Motorola wants to take a shot at Apple.

I understand the desire. Apple has all the momentum and a lot of positive PR, in spite of their self-righteous paranoia.

The Android platform is pretty good. Nice interface, lots of apps, and it's intuitive to use. Is it better than iOS? Will the next Droid be better than an iPhone? I have no idea.

But I doubt this teaser will change any minds or incite any action. Features are nice, but a phone is much more than its features. It's a brand statement. And launching a campaign that says, "Apple's become what they originally railed against." just seems desperate.

I'm not sure I want to carry around a phone that says, "I'm desperate."