Friday, October 17, 2014

Apple's social strategy is its products

Recently, Christopher Heine, digital editor of Adweek was quoted on Smartbrief as saying "It's really hard to figure out what Apple's social strategy is -- if it has one at all."
This comment stems from the fact that unlike most companies, Apple doesn't have a legion of ninjas, commandos, wizards and rockstars tweeting, posting and instagramming inane content for them all hours of the day and night. Instead they decided to drop a few hundred grand on a promoted tweet for the iPad Air.
Rather than manufacturing news, here's Apple's social strategy: They manufacture remarkable products their owners love to talk about.
Just because a brand doesn't talk about itself on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram doesn't mean it doesn't get talked about on those platforms. And in the end, what is more valuable, Samsung telling everyone how cool they are, or Apple users telling everyone how cool their iPads, Macbooks and iPhones are?
Yeah, I thought so.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The penalty of idiocy

The Cadillac ELR is a fine car. Not great, but not bad at all. It's comfortable, well-appointed and drives nicely. If you're looking for a luxury electric, you should test drive it. But that's not the point of this post.

This post is about the god-awful spot that launched this pretty good car.

By now you've probably seen it. The all-too-proud American mocking others for their work ethic (or lack thereof). But in case you haven't, here it is.

First of all, Cadillac is not expecting to sell too many ELRs, especially given that this electric sled will set you back $75K. So being polarizing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just as important for a brand to know what it doesn't stand for as what it does.

The ELR is a statement car, one that's supposed to halo the brand. Unfortunately with this spot they've made the statement that the Cadillac brand is all about "me." Egoistic, self centered, arrogant and unapologetic.

GM's PR team have argued that the spot is about success, but that's not the message one takes away from the wink and sneering use of French at the end.

I think somewhere in their misguided heads, the creative team at Cadillac's new agency, Rogue, thought they were updating this classic and brand-defining print ad from 1915 for a new generation.


If  that's the case they whiffed badly.

It's one thing to voice your objection to the critics. It's another altogether to poke fun at other people and cultures.

In doing so Cadillac has alienated the very people they are hoping will buy new ATSs, CTSs, SRXs and ELRs; BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar owners.

It's time for Cadillac to admit their mistake and pull this spot.

"N'est-ce pas."

Monday, March 3, 2014

How one digit cost Sears a customer

Last Saturday, I bought a new clothes dryer at my local Sears and scheduled delivery for this past Friday. I even paid an extra $10 to narrow the delivery window from eight hours to four. As one would expect, Sears sent me an email during the week to confirm my request.

After prepping my basement, unhooking the old dryer and clearing a path for the delivery guys, they didn't show up.

Why?

It turns out the sales clerk wrote my phone number down wrong. Instead of 467-2166, they had 469-2166. So when they called to confirm delivery, they didn't reach me.

While a quick search of any of the white pages web sites would have immediately revealed my correct number – remember, they had my name and address – they couldn't bother to take that extra step. So rather than do that or just put the appliance on the truck and at least attempt to deliver it as promised, they decided to leave my dryer in the warehouse and wait for me to contact them.

So there I sat, waiting for four hours Friday morning for my dryer. There was no email saying, "Hey, something's wrong..." just silence. So at 11:45 when there was no sign of the delivery guys, I decided to call the 800 number in the email.

When the customer service rep relayed my correct phone number to the delivery guy, he finally called back about 1 PM and essentially blamed me for the delivery since the phone number was incorrect, telling me I had to call customer service again to reschedule.

Sears spent around $500 million in marketing last year. A pittance compared to Walmart's $2.6 billion, yet still a sizable amount. It doesn't matter how much they spend, however, if they can't change the culture.

When it comes to brand building, everything matters. The in-store experience, the web presence, the customer service, the delivery experience. Sears wasn't exceptional on any dimension and failed miserably at the last. After the dryer actually was delivered a day late, they added insult to injury by leaving trash at the end of my driveway.

So who won't be shopping for new appliances at Sears when they remodel their kitchen next year?

Yep, you guessed it, the Briggs family.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What the uncommon have in common

There are a lot of lists of the best restaurants in the country. The food magazines have them. Zagat has one. 

And then there's this list from Yelp. 

Created by mining the data from their site using a combination of ratings and number of reviews, this list features everything from hot dog shacks to Michelin Star restaurants. It's so diverse that at first it's hard to make heads or tails of this list. 

But read a few of the reviews and you realize there are a few common threads in all of the eateries on the list. 

They're all remarkable.
They each have a point of view.
Their points of view extend beyond the food into everything they do.
They don't compromise.

If you want to create a business and a brand that customers rate as the very best, you could do worse than emulate these restauranteurs.

I think I might need to do some field "research" to gain a deeper understanding of this topic.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jack and Frank

Celebrity endorsements are often forced and feel disingenuous, like when Tiger Woods was a spokesperson for Buick. Did anyone believe he really drove one?

This, however, is the kind of endorsement, I can endorse.



Frank Sinatra drank Jack Daniel's on stage. Every night.

He wasn't paid to do it. No marketing guru scripted his line "Nectar of the gods, baby." It was what Frank believed and how he lived. It's a very cool and authentic part of the brand's heritage, one that's still relevant today.

Jack Daniel's is smart to remind us of Ol' Blue Eyes' love of their liquid and leverage this association to enhance the timelessness of the brand.

It proves that sometimes you can move forward by looking back.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Walmart takes back America after wrecking it

Walmart was founded by Sam Walton, a smart, hard-working former Ben Franklin store franchisee who knew that through superior logistics, he could drive cost out of the system and offer goods a lower prices, thus helping people buy more of what they need.

A World War II veteran, Mr. Walton also made a concerted effort to offer American-made products in his stores, identifying domestic manufacturers who could deliver goods at or below the price of products that were made in Japan, then the worlds low-cost production center.

Somewhere along the way, Walmart went from focusing on selling low-cost American-made goods to the lowest cost products it could find no matter where they were made. This led U.S. manufacturers to move production to lower cost labor markets like Mexico, China, Indonesia and South Korea, which in turn led to the collapse of entire manufacturing sectors in the U.S. like textiles and electronics. Walmart's policies have also been a major contributing factor to wage stagnation to the point where good factory jobs: once a ticket to the middle class, now barely pay a living wage.

I'm not saying this migration of labor and stagnation of wages wouldn't have happened without Walmart, but their policies and practices certainly were a contributing factor to the pace of change.

That's why I find this new "Investing in American Jobs" ad campaign a little disingenuous.



I also find it ironic – and a little tone deaf – that the sound track for this ad, was outsourced to the Canadian band, Rush.

Other than that, this is a fine ad.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Got milk? Not anymore.

Okay, I don't want to come across as one of those old farts who decries every change, so I'll state for the record that I believe as good as it has been, after 20 years the "Got Milk" campaign has become stale and invisible.

It was definitely time for a new campaign – or at least a major overhaul based on a new strategy to help make milk more relevant among a population that has more beverage choices and more information about the choices they're making.

I'm not sure, however, this is the campaign that will make us all suddenly rush to the store and start buying gallon after gallon of the white stuff.



This campaign doesn't tell me anything new or make me feel anything I haven't already felt about the product. Protein, vitamin D, calcium; yep milk is full of good stuff. We know that.

Like the guy who replaces the John Elway or Peyton Manning, this campaign has a very high bar to live up to.



It doesn't.

If you want to replace a legend you have to be more than ordinary – and this campaign with its focus on functional benefits paired with trite imagery and a visual gimmick – is just that.