Friday, February 10, 2012

It's not always the big things

While this spot and campaign have been around since last August, I just found out about it through an article in today's New York Times.

I like it for a few reasons.

First the strategy.

The marketing guy at Chipotle is smart enough to know that even though 75% of their customers said that taste, value and convenience were the most important reasons they came to Chipotle, none of those attributes are either differentiating or meaningful on their own.

Everybody's food tastes good to someone. Other restaurants are more convenient. And value? Well, we all know how squishy that term is.

So they defined each of those with one message – sustainability.

By saying they work with producers who don't use antibiotics, aren't factory-farm suppliers, and only serve produce that is fresh and sustainably grown, they've made each of those terms meaningful.

The promise of meats from livestock that is raised in a humane manner raises expectations of taste. We all know that if you expect something to taste better, it will in your mind whether it actually does on your tongue.

The promise of supporting family farms and sustainable methods adds value to the experience. You understand that this isn't the cheapest way to make food, but if it's something you believe is important, then it's worth paying a few extra bucks for. Value isn't always about cutting price.

And this approach changes the parameters for convenience. Sure the McDonald's and Taco Bell are closer and probably a little faster, but I can't eat well and do good at either place.

The lesson here? By building your brand around a secondary benefit, you can redefine and add value to the primary benefits in your category, differentiating yourself from the market leaders and transforming customers into advocates for your business.

When you see great markeing like this, it seems simple and obvious. But, as Willie Nelson plaintively sings, nobody said it was easy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Handling bad news

There's no easy way to lay people off in the wake of business losses, but Jeff Goodby shows us all how it's done in an email he sent to AgencySpy.
Today, we at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners have begun adjusting the size of our staff in the wake of losing Sprint and parting ways with Hewlett-Packard.  We don’t divulge the number of people or the percentage of our staff affected, but it’s commensurate with the numbers you’d have for accounts this size.

It pains us immensely to do this stuff, but we have a responsibility to the people here to maintain a healthy, vigorous company going forward. We will have that, and are confident about the work we are doing right now on all fronts.

It is an emotional day. These people are not just co-workers but friends. As always in these situations, we will help them find other positions with an open heart and no doubt welcome many of them back someday.

Thanks for respecting their privacy about all this in the meantime.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
San Francisco 
He doesn't sugar coat it. He doesn't try to weasel out of it. He doesn't try to explain it. He states the facts he's willing to share, along with the emotions I know he's feeling. This can't be a good day at Goodby, but by tackling the issue head on, they're getting out in front of the story and will make the best of it.

In the wake of all the bad PR we've seen lately, it's nice to see someone do it well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The power of a great theme line

Have you ever thought about how some brands manage to crack the code, while others do not?

Think about the frozen pizza category. There's only one brand that stands out and that's DiGiorno. It's not because they have 'rising crust' pizza – every brand has that now. It's not because they were first – if they had just said "now frozen pizza is even better!" they'd be an afterthought. It's not because they had the marketing muscle of Kraft behind them – Jack's, Tombstone and California Pizza Kitchen were all Kraft brands. 

It's that they were able to crack a code with consumers in five simple words, "It's not delivery. It's DiGiorno."

With that one phrase, they went from being just another frozen pizza to an acceptable alternative to Domino's, Pizza Hut and other delivery/take out pizza brands.

Those five words informed everything they did: their toppings, their packaging, and their marketing. It's a rare theme line that provides not just a clever hook for consumers, but a mission statement for employees. It stands for something not just functional (a better frozen pizza) but aspirational as well.

Other examples of this include Chevrolet's classic theme, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." It's a great hook that on the surface is very functional, but underneath it promised freedom at a time when America was becoming the most mobile society in the world.

GE's, "We bring good things to life" is another good example of how a theme can become something bigger than just an line at the end of an ad.

Anyone who tells you that theme lines don't matter, has never written a great one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ten lessons from this year's Super Bowl ads

We all love the Super Bowl. We love the bigness of it, the spectacle and the drama. Not just of the game, but also the ads. They're fun to watch, criticize and occasionally praise. But the fact of the matter is, most businesses can't afford to advertise in the Super Bowl.

So what marketing lessons can 99.99% of American business learn from the successes and failures of .01% of the marketers who can afford a $3,000,000 spot? Here are ten.
  1. Your brand promise must drive your idea. That's why Chevy's Silverado 2012 spot worked for me and Audi's Vampire apocalypse didn't.
  2. Big production values are not a substitute for a great story. Pepsi's King's Court is a perfect example of this.
  3. It's not enough to be different. You have to be relevant. failed on this test. As far as I know, peeing in a pool has nothing to do with preparing taxes.
  4. If you're going to have a call to action, make sure you're ready to handle the action. Acura's website crashed because it couldn't handle the traffic after Jerry and Jay were done battling over the NSX. And the UI on Toyota/Shazam contest entry was impossibly slow.
  5. Sex doesn't necessarily sell in 2012. Teleflora, H&M, and GoDaddy are proof of this.
  6. And while we're on the subject, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity, GoDaddy.
  7. Just because I like your spot, doesn't mean I'm going to like you on Facebook. Give me a reason to visit. Just about everyone.
  8. Make sure your message is appropriate to the media. Both GE and Cadillac had nice spots, but neither was right for the stage that is the Super Bowl.
  9. In our over saturated, 24/7 multi screen media environment, subtlety is not your friend. Just what is Bud Light Platinum and why should I drink it?
  10. When all else fails, remember these three words: babies and dogs.
If you haven't seen the spots I referenced or would like to see them again, you can on USA Today's Admeter home page.

Monday, February 6, 2012

That's a wrap

Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone and if you watched it just for the ads, you missed a pretty good game.

But as the sun comes up on another water cooler Monday, I'm no more inclined to buy Doritos, Pepsi, Budweiser, Coca Cola or use than I was yesterday at this time.

It wasn't all bad, but there were very few hits and even fewer surprises thanks to all the pre-releases and the formulaic spots that graced the game.

I'm not going to pick apart and bash my least favorite ads. I get tired of doing the same thing over and over. Criticizing Godaddy ads for being sexist, Doritos ads for being juvenile, and Cadillac for putting the ATS on a race track is like criticizing Donald Trump for being an egomaniac. I can do it all I want, but it's not going to change anything.

So here are a couple of my favorites:

Chevrolet Silverado 2012

Good story. Relevant to the product. Funny bit at the end with the Twinkies. It would have worked with or without the shot at Ford. Best GM Super Bowl spot in years.

Volkswagen Dog Strikes Back

Engaging, funny, and they actually made the Star Wars tie in work, if you were one of the 160,000,000 people who saw "The Force" commercial last year.

But most people in America didn't see the best Super Bowl spot this year, because it aired on the Canadian broadcast. If only Budweiser's work in the U.S. were this culturally relavent.

Okay, I lied. I can't let the others off that easy.

Coca Cola: Nobody got that the bears were actually reacting to what was going on in the game. These spots were recognizable as Coke, but not engaging.

Pepsi: If Flavor Flav is your surprise ending, you need a better spot.

Budweiser: Pepsi did the "our brand through the ages" thing ages ago.

Honda: It saddened several people at our party to learn that Ferris Bueller ended up in a CRV.

Century 21: Donald Trump is your epitome of smart? I think I need a new realtor. One word... creepy.

Chrysler: The most talked about spot at our party so they did something right, and I'm probably in the minority on this one, but for me there's something disingenuous about an Italian car company hiring Clint Eastwood to give America a pep talk. What killed the spot for me was the reference to our political divide and the phrase "after these trials," as if they are in the past or will soon be if only we get off our collective duff and buy a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge.

So the lows this year were not as low as previous years. The highs were about where I expected them to be. And the rest? Mildly entertaining, highly derivative, eminently forgettable. In short, another Super Bowl.