Friday, August 12, 2011

Content isn't king

The NFL may be America's most popular sports league, but it's not a miracle worker.

"The shield" makes money by the millions for players and billions for owners, but if Bud Light expects their partnership with the NFL to resurrect their image and their sales, they may be disappointed.

Bud CEO Carlos Brito thinks otherwise and has bet $50 million on this premise. "When you become the exclusive sponsor of something as huge as the NFL, the biggest sports franchise in the U.S., you have tons of content and that's what consumers are looking for. They're not just looking for nice ads before and after games. They are looking for content ... and we can provide those contents."

Here's an idea, instead of worrying about the "content" you get from the NFL, what if you invested fifty million bucks in the content of your bottles? What if you did something to differentiate your product? And then what if you owned that instead of trying to borrow interest from the NFL.

Everyone knows Bud Light isn't great beer. It's the stuff you drink when you don't really care about taste. And since nobody cares about taste, they won't care if you make it taste good.

You can still have your gimmicky bottles. You can still put on your singles' cruise. Hell, you can still advertise on the NFL. But at least now you'll give people something to talk about.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Protecting what matters

Earlier this week Tag Heuer announced it was not renewing its contract with Tiger Woods, even though he's on tour and has pronounced himself ready to resume his normal schedule of events.

So if Tiger's back, why are his sponsors still dropping him nearly two years removed from the scandal?

Because Tiger's not back.

Tiger hasn't won a tournament since 2009. That's the only reason that sponsors flocked to him up until two years ago. He was a winner. The most spectacular winner in the history of golf.

Brands like Accenture, Buick and others aligned themselves with Tiger, not because he was a good guy, but because he set a new standard for excellence and they wanted some of his mojo to rub off on their brands.

Winning is the core asset of the Tiger Woods brand. Not his smile. Not his soft spoken style. Not his red and black outfits on Sunday. Until Tiger wins and wins regularly, he will be just another golfer.

And that's the lesson brands can take away from this.

There's always one thing that's most important to your brand. One asset, one facet, one benefit, one attribute that sets you apart from the others. Don't let anyone take that from you and don't, like Tiger, let yourself be distracted by all the shiny things that don't matter. Or one day you'll wake up to find you've lost everything.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brands need their space

In spite of all the good news swirling around the Renaissance Center these past few weeks, this article in today's the Detroit News has me a little concerned.

"By 2018, she (Mary Barra, GM Product Chief) told the Wall Street analysts at the annual briefing, GM hopes to build 90 percent of its vehicles on 14 platforms — half the number now — and boost manufacturing efficiency by 40 percent. About one-third of its globally sold vehicles now share the same underpinnings."

I have just two words in response to this: Cadillac Cimmaron.

These guys can't be that bad at history that they can't remember 1982, can they? Maybe they'll be a little more subtle about platform sharing than Roger Smith and his cronies were. Maybe they won't just take a base Chevrolet change the fascia, add some gold trim, bolt in leather seats, and call it a Cadillac.

Efficiency is important. The financial realities can't be ignored. Some sharing of components between brands is necessary – Lexus and Toyota do it, Infiniti and Nissan do it – but it can't come at the expense of the identity of each brand. That's why GM shed Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saturn, to make sure there was room to maintain differentiation between brands.

When the lines start to blur too much on the product side all the marketing in the world won't help them. Chevrolet needs to be Chevrolet. Cadillac must be Cadillac. And Buick has to be Buick.

If they're not?

Well, lets just say we've seen that movie before and everyone dies at the end.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

There's no substitute for quality

Yesterday Volkswagen announced the creation of a new post, "VP of Customer Experience."

Considering all the VW customers out there who have had less than stellar experiences with their cars and dealers over the last few years, this could be a good thing.

Unless it's not.

Of course it's important to have dealers who know how to "live the brand." (If you know what the brand is) And yes, customers must be treated consistently and well at every touch point. But if the wizards in Wolfsburg don't fix their quality problems, it's all just whitewashing.

99% of the customer experience in the automotive world is your interaction with the product. No amount of dealer hand-holding can overcome a slew of bad product experiences. VW ranks near the bottom in the latest J.D Power initial quality survey behind Kia, Chrysler and Jeep. That means a lot of people have had a bad experience where it matters most.

A good dealer can only do so much to ameliorate the damage done by poor vehicle quality. If VW doesn't get the product right, all the "experience" in the world won't help them.

Just ask the folks at Saturn.