Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marketers Becoming Publishers: The Importance Of Communicating Your Content Quickly

Marketers are Publishers Now?

Why are marketers and branders becoming increasingly asked to think and act like publishers? Don’t they have enough on their plate?

Nowadays, marketers are not only expected to design and advertise, but they are also responsible for publishing meaningful content. The responsibilities for branders and marketers keep adding up over time. The reason, according to AdAge, is because “content marketing has been on the rise for several years, yet many companies still struggle with implementing their own programs, and –even more commonly – with sustaining those programs in the face of ongoing content development and distribution challenges.”

Click to go to original website

David Meerman Scott Is A Content Managing Genius

David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of PR and Marketing, goes into extreme detail as to why marketers and publishers have a connection: “In order to implement a successful strategy, think like a publisher. One of the most important things that publishers do is start with a content strategy and focus on the mechanics and design of delivering that content.” This explanation by Scott really hit home with me in his article.

But what is this content strategy that Scott talks about? In layman’s terms, it’s a plan to manage and develop the content of a company. It sounds important because it is.  Content marketing is “a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.” As Scott explained in the quote above, having a content strategy is important when a brand is trying to find new and innovative ways to publish content for their consumers.

Another quote that caught my eye in Scott’s work was the following:

“Content brands an organization as a thought leader. Many organizations create content especially to position them as thought leaders in their market.”

...and so is Paula Bernstein

Paula Bernstein also published an article titled Goodbye “Campaign”, Hello Publishing.  She is consistent with my opinion about traditional marketing: “[it] can take a long time to produce, making it difficult to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of pop culture.” She also delves into the fact that content marketing should be as fast as “news and memes, not advertising.” The new pace of the world has changed the rules for how fast content should be put out; the goal is to get it out as quickly as possible.

In order for content branders and marketers to make their content successful and well known, they must become ‘thought leaders’. Thought leaders pave the way for new, differentiated content that place them in a leadership position within the market by catching the eye of their consumers. The concept of being a ‘thought leader’ puts the content creators in the creativity seat: how are we going to get our content to our consumers, and how is going to help them? Creativity of getting specific content to your consumers will earn you brownie points with your target market.

Nowadays, customers prefer “in the moment” customer engagement rather than campaign creation. We are now in technological age, and consumers are getting antsy. Instead of waiting for a long-term campaign to be announced, people now prefer to receive customer engagement more frequently.

Leaders in Content Marketing & Publishing Content: American Express and Kraft

Some companies that are good examples of successful content marketers are American Express and Kraft. Clickz reports state that “American Express is at the top of the list of brands leveraging content marketing the right way with its AmEx Open Forum for small businesses leading the way.” Attention blooming content marketers: look at American Express for a successful strategy! The Open Forum has content written by paid and volunteer writers, which makes AmEx geniuses in “crowd sourcing.” The content in the AmEx Open Forum content website is “authoritative, trustworthy, and meaningful” to customers. No wonder they are winning the content marketing race.

Another example of a successful content marketer is the famous Kraft Foods. The company has learned how to manage its content very well over the past few years. They now have numerous Facebook accounts for the company to get in touch with customers, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, and an iPhone application. They are connecting with their consumers, using these social media outlets to show the different types of recipes you can make with Kraft products. They also take advantage of YouTube, and publish videos under “the Kraft Cooking School.” Customers feel as if the brand cares because of how much work is put into making them happy consumers.

Click here to go to original website

OtterBox Explains: "No Content For You"

Thinking about successful content marketers makes me ponder what brands still take the traditional marketing road. Surely, all companies have a social media account now due to the importance of connecting with the consumer. However, there are a few examples of brands that are more traditional and need to follow American Express and Kraft’s route to excellent content marketing.

Some brands are adamant that social media and content marketing is not essential for marketing success. OtterBox admits to not using social media to connect with their consumers. Curt Richardson explains the situation: “Social media has become a great conduit for sharing information, but it's also opened the floodgates for a constant flow of requests, inquiries, pitches, etc.”

The brand in general limits their exposed content. Why? Richardson goes on to explain that “once you put yourself out there, you're there for the entire world (of that social platform). I joined LinkedIn for a short time and was stunned by the number of personal messages I received. If email is like taking a cooling gulp from a stream, social media is akin to opening your mouth under a waterfall.” Essentially, the company has decided to use traditional marketing to not make themselves vunerable on the Web. As a marketer, I understand where the argument comes in to limit your content due to safety and the company being “spread too thin.” My critique is from my consumer point of view: why would you not want to do everything you can to connect with your customers? OtterBox has reasoning to back up why they choose traditional marketing, but it does not appeal to me as a consumer. I do not consider OtterBox trying to differentiate themselves by not opting to use content marketing strategies; I see them as impersonal. My critique is that they should try at least connecting with customers through at least one content strategy medium. I would love to see OtterBox start a blog and give information about their new products and research.

To find out more about content marketing, look at the graphic below. It breaks down the objectives that brands try to accomplish by publishing their content.

Click to go to original website

Works Cited:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Coca-Cola's "Journey" to Storytelling Success

The Coca-Cola Journey

“Coca-Cola Journey” has a ring to it. What is the “Coca-Cola Journey” you may ask? It is a new direction that the company is taking in order to “underline the intent to re-present the corporate website as an online magazine” (NY Times). Coca-Cola as a brand has decided to expand their interests, from branding their classic soft drink to making the consumer experience more than just taking a sip of a refreshing beverage on a hot day. The website will offer articles (on things like “entertainment, the environment, health and sports, etc.), video and audio clips, interviews, and other magazine-esque pieces. 

click here for original website

How do we know that this is going to appeal to Coca-Cola customers? Well, according to the New York Times, “the web site draws about 1.2 million unique visitors a month.” Some simple math shows us that that roughly 7.2 million visit the website every six months, which makes 14.4 million viewers a year. Assuming that these numbers were generated from people visiting the original website, I’d say its safe to proclaim the new website will be a Cola-Cola success. 

From A Marketing/Entrepreneurship Major's Prospective...

click here for original website

As an entrepreneurship and marketing major, the aspect about this new revamped website that caught my attention was the “storytelling” of it all. According to Stuart Elliott, “The use of the word ‘story’ is significant because the Web site changes are indicative of the growing interest among marketers in recasting their communications with consumers as storytelling rather than advertising.” 

By creating this new interactive website, Coca-Cola is enriching its brand. The company has already achieved an iconic brand status, yet they continue to strive for new consumer experiences. The best part about it all? The brand is taking its success with a grain of salt. Ashley Brown, the director for digital communications and social media at Coke, stated: “I’m sure we’re going to make mistakes, and readers are going to tell us.” 

Storytelling & Its Importance

As a consumer, I am reassured that the brand is going in the right direction by openly stating that mistakes might be on the horizon. I like to know that the executives of Coke are listening to my opinion and that my voice, as a consumer, matters. Revamping the website is always a good idea to get new customer insight, yet the brand is aware that there may be some kinks to work out. Regardless, creating a new environment for customers to play around in and connect more with the brand is both beneficial to the customers and the brand. The customers get a new toy (in terms of the new website) and the brand gets new feedback. Everybody wins.

Branding Strategy Insider defines storytelling as: “the white-hot center of how humans share ideas that matter and build relationships between them.” The storytelling of a brand essentially creates a relationship between the brand and the consumer that would otherwise be difficult to find.

According to Jesse Noyes, “As content marketing and brand journalism takes hold, better corporate storytelling examples have emerged, especially in B2B marketing where sales cycles are long and the need to engage an audience is pivotal.” There are many other examples of using social media as storytelling, and these are the brands that Coke needs to follow closely in order to get good tips for success. 

1) Cisco (They “transformed it’s former News@Cisco site into “The Network”, a dynamic, constantly changing newsroom for topics like social media, collaboration, video and data.”)
2) HSBC (This bank has a “business without borders” platform, which is “all about providing knowledge to companies who have or intend to expand internationally” by means of their website)
3) Intel (They launched the iQ project, which “uses an algorithm to identify the content employees are consuming by analyzing actions “likes” and retweets while taking into account recency and shares”)

These are just a few examples of companies that have decided to create value within their websites. When I say “create value,” I mean to say that these businesses have decided to give their consumers the ultimate experience from an intangible medium. This takes brand storytelling, and the customer experience, to the next level.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Real Marketing" And Why People Love It

Coke Zero & 007: An Example Of "Good Feeling" Advertising

Recently, I have heard people comment on their favorite advertisements and their favorite brands. We recently watched the new “Coke Zero” commercial (which had the very appealing James Bond theme) and it seemed to amaze my classmates as much as it did me. The humor of the commercial (as the contestants try to avoid many road blocks to get to their free tickets) paired with the long-awaited 007 movie and creative advertisement idea, has become a popular ad on YouTube with almost nine million views.

Seeing really good marketing puts a little more color back in my day. When I see a commercial that absolutely nailed its target market, or an advertisement that makes me think, my day gets better. That is, according to a few guest speakers we’ve had in this class, the point of good marketing: doing it right will show your customers how you will make their lives a little bit easier. That, or it will make them feel good by evoking emotion or being humorous.

Coke Zero Crushes It

Chipotle and "Food With Integrity"

Recently, I was talking to a classmate from a different class about her favorite commercials. She said that her favorite marketing campaigns are when marketers show off their brand by telling a story about the products and where they came from. She explained that she recently saw an impressive advertisement for Chipotle, a Mexican restaurant.

Chipotle's "Food With Integrity"

Upon doing research on Chipotle, I found out why they were so popular with people: they showed where their products came from. A restaurant that is against unprocessed food, Chipotle launched the commercial (that my colleage saw) with the company showing their customers where their fresh products came from.

In an article from Fast Company, Danielle Sacks goes into detail about Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer:

“Crumpacker doesn’t play that game at Chipotle, choosing instead a fast-food heresy: Tell customers what’s really inside its burritos. "Typically, fast-food marketing is a game of trying to obscure the truth," he says. "The more people know about most fast-food companies, the less likely they’d want to be a customer." His creative approach is as unusual as that of co-CEO and Chipotle founder Steve Ells, a high-school pal from Boulder, Colorado. Ells continues to obsess over sourcing the finest sustainable ingredients as the company’s culinary chef. "Today, even with 30,000 employees, the crew will come in the morning and see all this fresh produce and meats they have to marinate, rice they have to cook, and fresh herbs they have to chop," says Ells. "There have been many opportunities over the years to take that all away and introduce highly processed foods, but we’ve done just the opposite."

This article also states that Chipotle was on Fast Company’s “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” list of 2012. 

"Real Marketing"

Using fresh products and meats? Tell customers what’s really inside its burritos? Not too many food outlets other than Chipotle would take any of these into consideration, but people like being told where their products come from. In a different article from Fast Company, Mike Doherty goes into a similar issue with his article “The Story Behind The Stuff: Consumers’ Growing Interest In ‘Real’ Products”:

There’s evidence all around us--whether it’s watching someone gush over the sleek design of a new phone and then seek out the perfect hand-carved, petrified-jungle-wood case to put it in, or the proliferation of farmers markets in big cities--people are looking for, and need, realness. There is a powerful urge to get in touch with what they believe is a more “real” world, and it’s leading us to a place where signs of realness take on greater value.

Also according to Doherty, there are a few shifts that are going on that indicate the success of companies that choose to advertise “real” things:

1) People like to “know where their food comes from and what’s in it” and are overall more skeptical of what goes into their products

2) People want to see real world connections (“the desire for real personal interactions is so strong that two-thirds of teens (65%) and three-quarters of parents (75%) say they would be willing to give up a weeknight activity if it meant they could have a family dinner”)

3) People want to see accurate life styles portrayed

4) People want to see the “cracks” that depict real life flaws

Real Marketing = Really Successful

Keep It Real

The next wave of successful marketing will reside in this form of “real” marketing: marketing where your products really come from, and marketing that shows your product being made with a realistic experience. Call me a little bias, but I love this way of marketing: it’s real and it makes the overall experience more substantial in a consumer’s eyes.

Mike Doherty explains ways that brands can become marketing winners:
1) Offer Real Experiences (for example, “BMW and Volvo offering the opportunity to take delivery of your car at their factory so you could tour the countryside in your new car”) 
2) Play A Real Role That Inspires (“The rise of real has created new opportunities to help people achieve a more holistic and meaningful life”) 
3) Create Real Products (the article mentions Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” here) 
4) Give Real Access (“Whatever brands do to embrace the rise of real, it is more important than ever for brands to give people things to DO rather than just tell them what you have. More and more, consumers are seeking realness in the way they live and the products they buy.”)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marketing Your Uniqueness

Marketing Uniqueness

Referencing Mr. Kelly O’Keefe for the third blog post in a row should help convince you how much his speech opened my eyes. For this post in particular, I am going to focus on one of his more impressive quotes from the session:

“Instead of marketing what makes us unique, we market the same, boring things that everyone else does.” 

Ironically, this topic also comes up in our reading for the week: chapter six (“Marketing On A Small-Business Budget) of Sam Calagione’s Brewing Up A Business. The chapter discusses “Making Your Marketing As Unique As You Are,” which is something important for beginning branders to understand. According to Calagione:

“Three truisms apply to any effective marketing agenda.
1) Your marketing should have a unique and consistent voice that is distinctively yours and plays off the brand identity you aspire to achieve for your company.
2) Your marketing should center around the benefits and advantages that your product or service offers, and you must truly deliver on these benefits in order for the marketing to have a worthwhile impact.
3) Your marketing should motivate your targeted customer to do something. In other words, it needs to have some value beyond entertainment.”
Be different!

Fast Company's Tips For Good Advertising

Now that I’m aware of the key “unique marketing” points, I decided to do further research on good marketing campaigns. According to Fast Company, there are a few ways that can help you better promote your product or service:

1) Make it believable. (People want to believe in what they see)

2) It’s not about how much you spend. (“You don’t have to pay more to get more”)

3) Focus on content, not traffic. (Your content has the potential to drive traffic later)

4) Create an inherent reason for people to share. (For example: voting on videos, sharing with friends, all get other people involved and viewing your ad)

5) Don’t underestimate the power of content creators. (“Some number between 1% and 10% of user base of any social network are the active content creators,” but those people can affect many others)

6) Give your promotion a shelf life. (Your work will make more of a dent to the world if you do not think of it in terms of making money)

Do you talk about these issues in your marketing?

2008's Most Innovative Companies: Examples Of Leaders

Looking at another Fast Company article (“The World’s Most Innovative Companies”), you can see that the top companies use all of these points in their advertising, which has made them extremely successful. Although this article was written in 2008, most of the “most innovative companies” have not changed:
1) Google
2) Apple
3) Facebook
4) GE
5) Ideo
6) Nike
7) Nokia

A few examples of innovatively-different companies

Google has found a way to differentiate itself within the market and is widely used. Apple found connection with their technology-loving “Apple nerds” and continues to become one of the most impressive and successful companies in history. Facebook connected with the consumer by advertising easy communication that was made for a young target market (originally), and Ideo is one of the most creative brands of all time. All of these companies have created quality marketing strategies that advertise their most unique points while also explaining the benefits of using their products over other competitors.

Simply put, these companies (at one point in time) related to their consumers. They motivated their target customer, pointed out their unique points, and emotionally appealed to many. Up-and-coming companies are going to have to make their marketing even more unique and even more motivating to customers if they want to beat out brand monsters such as Apple and Google.

Brewing Up A Business by Sam Calagione

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Axe or Not To Axe?

Unilever, What Are You Doing?!

Fun fact for those reading this: I had no idea that Axe and Dove stemmed from the same parent company, Unilever. They also are the parent company of “Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, TRESemme, Vaseline, Suave, etc” (CollegeFashion). Separate these brands and you can see how successful they are.

As we discussed in class, it seems as though Dove (showing the world “real women”) has a different set of values from its sister brand, Axe (“smells so good that women will forgo everything that they are doing to jump your bones”). People have argued both sides; some say that it is disgraceful for Unilever to show conflicting values in products that represent their company, while some say the Axe campaign is just a humorous joke (not to be taken seriously).

Oh, so the girls in the "Axe" commercials, they're natural, right?!

My Change In Opinion

The truth of the matter is, Unilever owes it to their consumers to have consistency throughout their brand that sends the same message in each and every product. Unilever is placing itself in a bad business risk situation, as many consumers feel frustration from the confliction of values expressed by Dove and Axe.

At first, I thought it was slightly humorous that both brands stem from Unilever. As time passed on, I started to realize how these brand contradictions might frustrate me as a consumer. Although I do not buy Axe (and I have been exposed to it by my guy friends in our middle school years), I am a loyal customer of Dove’s. I use Dove shampoo and conditioner religiously, and occasionally dabble in their body washes. Personally, this conflict of values between Dove and Axe has not made me reconsider my investment within the brand. They have continuously provided me quality products that have outlasted all of my other short-term "shampoo relationships."

Dove, no!

Recent information has suggested that the "real women" in the Dove beauty campaign are actually photoshopped. When I first heard this, as a Dove consumer, I was a little baffled. Not surprised, but a little baffled.

Dangin, a famous retoucher, said when asked about the Dove campaign: "Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive" (Casnocha).

So, their ads were photoshopped. It happens a lot more often than many are willing to admit, but this is nothing new. My advice for Dove, however, would to be avoid doing this. It may be harder to find models that are more accepting of not being airbrushed, but it is worth the wrinkles. Dove represents two conflicting ideologies by having real women airbrushed.

Which is it?

Now Onto Axe...

With that being said, I can see both sides of the issue with Axe. Yes, it contradicts Dove’s “real beauty” campaign by depicting women as sex-driven (almost primitive) humans. A Unilever spokesperson said, “Each brand talks to its consumers in a way that’s relevant. The Dove campaign aims to give young women more confidence, where the Axe campaign is a spoof, not to be taken seriously" (College Fashion). My first instinct was to laugh off Axe as a silly commercial that does not represent the truth at all. As our guest speaker, Kelly O’Keefe, touched more on the subject, I started to change my mind.

As a marketing major and consumer, I have decided that Axe (albeit “jokingly”) too strongly contradicts Dove’s campaign. When a branding professional such as Mr. O’Keefe has qualms about a brand not being consistent within its values, it must be time for a change. The Axe ads are degrading as well as flat out nonsensical, and it is time to move on. The campaign for Axe has not changed since I can remember (before middle school) and it has deeply offended consumers enough that Unilever needs to pull its current campaign. The people have spoken.

Axe The "Axe" Campaign

Why have I decided that I would pull the plug on Axe’s campaign? It’s old, many find it offensive, and it is time to move on. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is one that I found on College Fashion:

“Unilever spends $809 million on advertising: it markets Dove, which encourages women to love their bodies, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, in which you can drown your sorrows if you don’t love your body, and Slim-Fast to make your body thin enough to love”
This is the perfect explanation of issues that this parent brand seems to be having. They own so many diverse brands that represent different values that it seems to be difficult for Unilever to tie them all together.

The inconsistency has finally caught up to Unilever, and the best thing to do is to apologize to consumers and try to attempt a different way to go about advertising Axe. Someone also mentioned in class that although the commercials portray men in their late teens/early twenties using the brand, this is not the case. Their target market, whether they know it or not, is boys from around eleven to fourteen years old.

Each brand screams different values.

The Video That Convinced Me

"Talk to your daughter before Unilever does." 

Harsh? A little. To avoid this backlash, it is time to reinvent Axe.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Consumers Parody Untruthful Articles (Take That, "Marketing Liars"!)

Wise Words

Our recent guest speaker from the VCU Brand Center, Kelly O’Keefe, recently said some words that really hit home with me. As he lectured us on TRUTH, I feel as if I was blindsided about “the truth about truth” as it relates to marketing. Here are a few of Professor O’Keefe’s quotes from the lecture:

“6% of consumers agree: companies generally tell the truth in advertising." 
“We’re in the business, and we’re trying to avoid the product we make.” [On a poll of our class stating they try to skip advertisements when possible] 
“Instead of marketing what makes us unique, we market the same, boring things.” 
“If you get it wrong, you make someone else’s life a little bit worse. If you get it right, you make someone else’s life a little bit better.”
Kelly O'Keefe

Exploring Truth In Advertising

What do all of these quotes have in common? They link truth to what we see marketed every day. Only 6% of consumers agree that companies generally tell the truth in advertising. As O’Keefe took a poll of our marketing class (with marketing major seniors), we all admitted to trying to skip advertisements while on the Internet, TiVoing, etc. He also discussed the fact that companies tend to market the things that make them synonymous with other brands (free checking at the bank you sign up with, anyone?)

Last but certainly not least, O’Keefe discussed getting it right in advertising and marketing. With the right advertisement and product, a brand can generate an easier life for some people. However, a brand pretending “to be something it’s not” will not benefit the consumer or help make their lives easier. O’Keefe emphasized the importance of being true to a brand and exposing the truthful material of what makes the brand.

As he showed us the Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl commercial, I understand why consumers would be choked up at the advertisement: it depicted realness and truthfulness. There were no magical charades, only raw depictions of Detroit. Chrysler took what made it unique, scars and all, and showed consumers that they were proud of Detroit. In this commercial, Chrysler owned what made them unique and emotionally reached its consumers by doing so. Therefore, I decided to research other brands that have done the same in the past.

Consumers Parody Untruthful Brands

“That’s what we are. That’s our story.” –Chrysler Super Bowl Commercial

Expressing a genuine story to the consumer makes all the difference. It allows them to connect with the product and feel emotion for something possibly intangible. This is exactly what Chrysler did.

As I attempted to look up marketing strategies that show some truth to their consumers, I had a more difficult time than expected. Most of the articles were sarcastic about how untruthful marketing is in general.

Interestingly enough, I found some customers have recreated ads so that they tell the truth. Here are a few examples (and a few of my favorites!):

Microsoft Vs. Apple: Where would you rather go?

Mars bars... The old "Snickers"
There are a few different issues here that seem to be rubbing customers the wrong way when it comes to certain advertising. In terms of the "Ferrari" ad, it seems as though consumers feel the brand does not represent why most people would likely buy a Ferrari. By saying "Ferrari: the car for guys with no other way to get girls," it tells me that consumers are sarcastically responding to the fact that the Ferrari will never be anything else but "the car you want to impress women."

Microsoft's parody ad centers around the fact that they do not differentiate their product enough to draw people in who may not like Apple. In the past few years, I have not seen any Microsoft ads that I remember. This ad makes fun of the fact that Apple markets to the "clever and creative," which are traits that most people like to think they possess. The rest of you, though, you can go to Microsoft.

The Mars bar ad just targets the issue that all candy has: avoiding the fact that indulging in the product will leave you "morphing into a disgusting blob of flab." This "untruth" is just plain leaving out the facts of how bad candy is for you.

There are other examples (like these) that you can look up at . Which one of the "10 Truthful Ads You'll Never See" do you think brings the most truth to the surface?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Using Listening To Move Your Brand Forward

"The Movement" Of a Brand

“The example of New Coke shows how powerful the customer can be in moving a company forward or backward for its own good. The important thing is the movement itself.” –Brewing Up A Business, Chapter 9 (page 160)

Click here to go to image original website

When I read about the New Coke issue in Brewing Up A Business, I was reassured that companies have the capability of admitting their mistakes. Many love the classic Coca Cola recipe, and the brand proved to be loyal to their customers by recalling New Coke and putting the original Coke back on the shelves.

What really struck me was how Coca Cola used the backlash to create an opportunity to show their customers that they were on their side. As soon as outraged, loyal customers began to phone in complaints, the brand rushed to emergency mode to show their customer loyalty. The company created movement, which at first was spurred by negative reviews of a new product, yet turned bad press into a way to show their customers that they value their input. After all, brands should be a customer’s friend.

As a consumer of many products, I am much more willing to go back to a brand that values the fact that I was unhappy with their product. This mistake could have cost Coca Cola a lot of loyal customers, but they leveraged the situation to prove to customers that they are important in their business decisions. Therefore, the news went from negative to positive as Coca Cola regained the trust of their customers.

The Tylenol Fiasco

Coca Cola is not the only company that has used a bad situation to launch themselves forward (and prove the importance of brand customer loyalty). Tylenol famously “spent millions of dollars recalling Tylenol from stores nationwide” after cyanide was found in Chicago in 1982. Although the incident caused a panic for Tylenol buyers, master brand Johnson & Johnson recalled all products regardless of how much profit the company lost. They acted quickly and their safety concerns were so high that customers remained loyal to the company that promised them all products were safe as they went back on the shelves, as the FDA now required tamper-proof seals on all products.

Click here for original website for image

The Forward Motion: Listening To Customers

Both of these issues occurred in the 1980s. Both Coca Cola and Tylenol were able to use the motion of bad situations to prove to customers that regardless of sales, they care about them, as brands should.

Today, brands should try to try to go forward without going backward. Although the Coca Cola and Tylenol examples are wonderful examples of using movement to create buzz about your company, this day in age is all about listening to the customer on a regular basis. Forward movement is the key. To move forward, customer input is necessary.

Christine Crandell, a writer for Forbes, says, “Every time an experience disruption occurs the relationship diminishes, the customer starts to second-guess their choice, or, worse, a decision is made to make the vendor relationship short-term instead of a corporate standard.” Coca Cola and Tylenol regained their customer’s loyalty by recovering from moving backwards; they are a great example of how to recover by appealing to customers.

Nowadays, customers tend to want their voices heard before incidents occur. To become a well-received brand, listen now instead of later. The following quote is also by Crandell, and is one of the most insightful lessons that I have ever read about:

“Too often voice of the customer programs are based on automated surveys and tech support feedback. Instead of polling, surveying or subjecting your customers to automated, impersonal scoring mechanisms, why not just ask customers what they want. I mean really talk to them. Even the unhappy ones; especially the unhappy ones. In depth, honest and in-person interviews are one of the most efficient and fulfilling ways to understand the customer.”

Click here to go to image original website

Examples Of Great Listeners

Examples of companies that do this are:

1) Dell 
Dell went through a rough patch in 2005, but eventually came to have the highest customer service rankings. The senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer at Dell explained their turnaround in terms of listening: “Listening and responding to customers is so basic and fundamental. The emergence of social media elevates how companies can act on the feedback they get from customers.”

2) Zappos
When I think of a company that really listens to me as a customer (and takes care of me like a friend) I think of Zappos. The company, known for fixing small issues before they become bigger, credits their success and customer loyalty to listening. Their social media presence enables them to respond quickly and restore faith in their customers.

3) American Express
As Zappos was #1 for best customer service in 2011, American Express was #2. Like Zappos, they avoid big problems by keeping their social media up-to-date and having employees working around the clock to ensure any tweets, Facebook messages, etc. are accounted for and taken care of for the betterment of the customer.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The JC Penney Rebranding Mishap (Explained)

Why The Rebranding Attempt Was An "Epic Failure"

Before & After: JC Penney Rebranding

While working at my internship this summer, I overheard my supervisors discussing what they called the “JC Penney mishap.” As I was a busy intern, I never had time to stop and ask them what they were talking about. I knew that JC Penney’s new rebranding strategy had not gone as well as they had hoped for, but that’s all that I knew.

As I stumbled upon the Forbes article about the “epic fail” that was the JC Penney rebranding campaign, I decided I wanted to completely understand what happened. According to the author (Steve Olenski):

“There are many definitions for the word “epic” with one being “surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.” And I would say when something – in this case a rebranding campaign, has the potential to not just threaten the brand’s plans to grow but could also drive away the brand’s core customers, I would say the word “ epic” is quite appropriate in describing what is unfolding at JC Penny where 1Q 2012 same store sales fell nearly 20%.” 

After viewing the following video, I know exactly why the JC Penney rebranding strategy failed even before I read the rest of the article. I remember seeing this ad on television a while ago and not understanding it. What does “Enough Is Enough” mean? Enough of what, and why are people so frustrated in the commercial when they see a sale sign?

Enough Is Enough (?)

My first reaction to watching this ad is simply, as Olenski states in his article, a total state of confusion. Why would sales (for example the 67% off in the first frame) aggravate customers? When they say, “enough is enough,” are they talking about sales? As the consumer, I feel a weird disconnect with JC Penney after I view this commercial. I no longer feel synonymous with the company and am even feeling like they do not understand what I want. This may deter me from actually going to JC Penney; for a company that is rebranding their company for their consumers, this is not what is desired.

Maybe it is simply confusing to customers that the commercial is not fully explained. Instead of having an overhead voice come in and be what I like to call the “voice of reason” (i.e. explaining the reasoning of the marketing strategy to customers), we are left to interpret the meaning ourselves. One thing is for sure: a brand is supposed to be a friend that we can share experiences and form a relationship with, not for causing more stress or confusion.

Breaking Down The Failure

In Six Rules for Brand Revitalization, chapter five explains “Rule #3” (reinventing the brand experience). The quote on the first page captures my attention immediately, as it is what I like to think of the bottom line of branding:

“The smile on our people’s faces is a vital part of our image.” –Ray Kroc, Grinding It Out (pg 89).

When I think of how JC Penney has tried to rebrand their company every few years, it makes me realize that finding that niche in branding is important to sustaining a successful company. The company just went about it in the wrong way. Chapter five says that, “THE TOTAL BRAND EXPERIENCE (FUNCTIONAL AND EMOTIONAL) DEFINES THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE BRAND” (pg 89).

JC Penney is unable to find that niche that gives their customers that safe, happy, consistent experience while shopping. The company’s target markets are a vast majority of people (men, women, children, lower income, higher income). When it comes to rebuilding brand trust, JC Penney should focus on the following:

  • People
  • Product
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

Enough. Is. Enough.

The “epic failure” of JC Penney’s rebranding occurred by implementing the marketing strategy too fast. Instead of taking in the P’s listed above, the company was hasty to get their brand platform recognized by consumers before it was fully formed. To keep a rebranding strategy from failing, it seems to be important to prepare for the “big day” that the new rebranding strategies are released. For example, all people associated with the brand should understand the new platform. The promotion should be straightforward and promise consumers realistic goals. The products and prices should be checked and rechecked to make sure that customers are benefitting from the brand (the pricing, coincidentally, seemed higher to customers after the rebranding). Lastly, the strategy should be not to only benefit the company, but to benefit the customer.

JC Penney suffered bad repercussions from a faulty rebranding strategy due to the fact that their previous branding strategies (in years past) also did not intrigue their customers. “Once the total brand experience defines the distinctiveness of the brand”, JC Penney will find their niche in the market.

Watch It Here (And Weep?)

To view their commercial yourself, check it out here. What are your thoughts on JC Penney's marketing attempt? As a consumer, does their logical for this commercial make sense to you?


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Toygaroo: A Shark Tank Failure

Shark Tank, a television show on ABC in which entrepreneurs and innovators are able to show potential investors their ideas, sees a wide range of potential products and services. The judges, also known as the “sharks”, are able to deliberate and decide which idea is worth investing in. For the typical marketing/entrepreneurship student, Shark Tank is a show worth investing time to watch. Each time that I watch an episode, the creative side of my brain likes to think of what products have not been invented yet. It also gets me wondering- if I were Barbara Corcoran, would I invest?


This week’s assignment was to find a Shark Tank episode that we would not invest in. After searching, I finally found what I discovered to be one of the most bizarre yet intriguing pitches: a company named Toygaroo.

Toygaroo Products

Back on Season 2 of Shark Tank, Toygaroo founder Nikki Pope appeared to pitch her product idea. Toygaroo is a company that sends toys to your doorstep for a monthly rate so that any children in the house can play with new toys if (and when) they get bored of their own toys. Pope created a website, and described her venture as “Netflix for toys.” They offered different “plans” on the website so that the customer could choose how many toys they want to be sent to them, and the amount of money that you spend adjusts to each plan. When the child is done playing with the toy, the customer sends it back to Toygaroo; they then have to wait for their next month’s shipments of toys.

While at first, this new venture proves to be interesting. However, there are many reasons why I personally would not invest, regardless of the company being the first one of its kind to create “Netflix for toys.” For me, although the company did eventually receive some investors from Shark Tank, it is not worth any investment. My first reaction to this idea was, simply, “gross.” Although the idea is intriguing itself, I would never have toys shipped to my door that other toddlers have played with. What the Shark Tank Blog refers to as the “Ick Factor” resonates with me enough for me to never do business with Toygaroo. According to the blog, SNL even spoke on the company’s ill regard for the possible germs that could be passed from toy to toy. On the ‘Weekend Update with Seth Meyers’, Meyers announced:

 “A new website has launched called ‘Toygaroo,’ which is a Netflix style system that allows parents to rent toys for their children and send them back for new ones. It’s all part of an effort to make the movie ‘Contagion’ come true.”

 Even if I thought about visiting their website for a subscription, after hearing this I would steer clear of the company. This is a classic example of how the media’s scrutiny of a company can pull a company under slowly.

Explaining Why Not Investing Is Best

In Winning At New Products, Cooper discusses the "Seven Goals of a New Product Process." By analyzing his goals, I can explain in more detail why I would not invest in this company.

Goal #1: Quality of Execution – This is very important for a new venture, as the innovator should focus on completeness, quality, and the important aspects of their company before the plan is executed. This goal explains that there must be “no gaps, no omissions, a complete process.” While it would be difficult for any innovator to come onto Shark Tank without the professionals digging to find the gaps within their product, they are more than willing to invest in a mostly good idea. As Pope explained the process of her company, the “sharks” could not get over the gap of sanitation. Her idea was good, but the quality of her execution remained low as the “Ick Factor” could not be fixed easily enough for people to invest.

Goal #2: Sharper Focus, Better Prioritization – Cooper explains, “Most companies’ new product efforts suffer from a lack of focus: too many projects and not enough resources.” What Pope lacked were resources- people that would use her company. Although she briefly talked about people that would use her company, yet people tend to be very careful with their toddlers and germs. Instead of asking “Are we still in the game?” she should have considered “Can we get into the game?” If you were to ask me, I would say they couldn’t. There was no target market strong enough for Pope to focus on that would risk the germs that wouldn’t, simply, buy new toys for their toddlers.

Goal #5: A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Customer Built In – I can sum this up easily: the “voice of the customer” was not built in to her company, yet it was her voice. Part of creating innovation means that it starts with a problem that you have. Once the innovator steps back and sees there is a bigger problem than what they have (i.e. other people have the same problem and would benefit from the venture), then it is time to brainstorm a solution. Pope may have eleven brothers and sisters as well as thirteen nieces and nephews that get sick of toys, but the majority of the population does not. It seems to me that this she does not have a strong enough market orientation to find her niche in the market. That, for me, is not worth investing in.

How Pope Failed

Fast Company’s "7 Key Activities For Getting Innovation Right" (by Seth Kahan) explains how Pope could have created a different company that would appeal to her target market better:
1) Discover Inflection Points – Pope needed to focus on what “would propel [us] forward.”
2) Build Capacity – Innovation leaders (such as Pope) need to contain stresses (pressures of everyday operations, movement and stress that comes with new ideas, and market forces) to power through.
3) Gather Business Intelligence- Pope lacked the “sea of information about products, services, customers,” etc. She went with the idea that would best serve her family, yet it would not appeal to others.
4) Shift Perspective- “In order to see new opportunity you must be able to get out of your own box.” Pope may have thought that she was thinking outside of the box with creating Toygaroo, yet her focus was narrow as she was just trying to create a company using her own issues.
5) Exploit Disruption – The company may have caused disruption themselves if a toddler was exposed to germs that would result in them becoming sick.
6) Generate Value- “Skillful innovators understand what drives value and how to generate it,” according to Fast Company. Pope may have thought she was generating value with her venture yet it fell short.
7) Drive Uptake- Kahan states: “Every stage of the innovation process holds opportunity to engage the community of people who will be most interested in your offerings.” Toygaroo’s goal was to serve the community of people with toddlers who got sick of playing with the same toys. However, there was not enough benefit in the company to unite the community together to share toys.

Toygaroo Update

Toygaroo: Start Playing (?)

Toygaroo, on Shark Tank, did get some of the sharks to invest.

Toygaroo is now closed. The website states: “On behalf of the team, I want to thank you for being part of our journey. It has been an amazing year but the growth we experienced at the end of 2011 was simply too fast and we were not able to secure the additional investment we needed to take care of all of our current and new members.” According to the Shark Tank blog, Toygaroo filed for bankruptcy in April of 2012.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Move Over Men, Gatorade Brand Is Run By Women

“For most of the last quarter of a century, the branding of the sports drink of choice for hulking linebackers and towering centers has been handled by women.” –AdAge

Who Knew? 

The quote above is about Gatorade, a product of company PepsiCo that can be described as “a sports brand closely linked to the National Football League and male athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan” (AdAge). The article goes on to say how unusual it is for women to lead any sector of the sports industry, because as we all know, men dominate that area.

This may sound odd for me to say, but I’ll go ahead: I was raised in a household where my mom was constantly pushing me to outdo the boys. She always told me, as many moms would, “You can do anything that a man does.” I always brushed it off and rolled my eyes a little because it became a cliché statement to hear.

Due to the fact that I am now a senior in college and double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship (the latter being a major that I have come to realize is dominated by males on Elon’s campus) this advice from my mother has developed more meaning for me. In a brand such as Gatorade, I tend to think of men’s sports a little more. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen many male spokespeople for the brand over the years (such as, as stated above, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan).

Now that I know that a few women have run the brand since 1985, my opinion of the brand has changed. The brand that we know today as Gatorade would be completely different if the brand managers were men. Morgan Flatley, VP of marketing for Gatorade, says, “Women tend to lead differently than men. They bring a more inclusive and consensus-building style, which has worked really well for this brand.” She also states that, “Women tend to bring creative problem solving in how they approach business issues.”

Gatorade Ad

Men Vs. Women Branding: Becoming An Equal Playing Field?

Let me just say that men are also wonderful at branding. However, this makes me backtrack a little into our classes and think about which brands are male-dominant and which are female-dominant. The fact that males and females think differently in terms of branding makes me wonder how different our favorite brands would be if a few of the brand managers were switched out.

In Brand Revitalization, “Leadership Marketing” is discussed in Chapter 4. When I read this article about Gatorade, I thought back to a quote that I read: “Leadership means leading the way to the future…marketers need to lead the way to a new brand destination” (pg.75). As I think about marketing for the future, I am also reminded that these women are doing just that. Years ago, I bet no one could imagine a brand like Gatorade being run by women. Now, women have taken the brand and have completely made it their own, and are succeeding.

This article about women branders running Gatorade is not the apocalypse of branding. It will not change the way that we think of the cool, refreshing beverage that we indulge in after working out or playing a sport. It does, however, change the way I look at Gatorade as a brand. We are moving forward in the marketing sector by allowing the professionals, whatever gender they are, to lead brand revitalization.

Be Tough- No Excuses

Gatorade is paving the way for women empowerment in branding. They're making it known that the people that can "Be Tough" and have "No Excuses" can also be women athletes. I am not sure how long it will be before the next time that I read an article about an all-women executive branding board. However, I do know that Gatorade just changed the way that I view their brand. Isn’t that the point?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Patagonia: King Of "Brands Maintaining Values"

Why Patagonia?

original website for picture

Patagonia, Inc., creator and vendor of outdoor clothing and gear, has one of the absolute best market positioning strategies of this day and age. It can be wonderfully summed up by a quote from their mission statement, which reads:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis" (Patagonia Company Info).

This company may seem an obvious choice for most when it comes to strong brand positioning. However, there is a reason for its success in the marketplace (and why I chose it to be my brand to “rant and rave” about).

What You May Not Know About The Company

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, “claims not to be a businessman and he spends more than half of his time roaming the globe engaging in a multitude of outdoor activities, his business philosophy and orientation is actually quite sharp" (Williamette). How does this matter when it comes to market segmentation and positioning?

His appeal to the "outdoorsy" type of people is strong. Chouinard not only develops their products, but he is out continuously looking for new product ideas by venturing out into the outdoor world himself. The company is always looking for outlets to keep their products as sustainable as possible while creating new products for the average outdoor lover. They have paved the way for businesses that want to be environmentally friendly, which is very appealing to consumers that believe in the “green initiative.”

Consumers of Patagonia recognize the company’s desire to make a difference with their products. In a research study done on Patagonia’s Marketing Strategy, the author writes, “Patagonia uses recycled polyester in the manufacturing of all the clothing lines, instead of using pesticides-intensive cottons.  Because of this dedication to the environment and to manufacturing processes that do not harm the environment, Patagonia’s total sales in 2009 were $340 million”, which was found on the Patagonia website (Jason Stevens, Many consumers are also aware of the founder of Patagonia’s love for the outdoors and how it overpowers his desire to focus solely on the sales of the company; the consumers get a mix of both an environmental and customer-oriented company.

Who Is The Target Market?

Patagonia’s target market consists of a wide variety of people: males, females, and children, at any age. The company reaches a wide range of markets- specifically to outdoor lovers. This may sound broad, however, the company meets the needs of its vast majority of consumers. This is one of the reasons why its market presence is so large; the brand is well-known enough to appeal to any consumers seeking products that will last them a while, and consumers will also shop to say they are being environmentally friendly.

In addition to targeting their market of avid outdoorsmen, they appeal to a non-consumerism sector. Olivia Sprinkel, blogger on SalterBaxer Blog, explains: "Patagonia’s stance challenges the standard model of consumerism, especially if we are going to follow through when we make the pledge to Reduce: ‘I pledge to buy only what I need'" (SalterBaxer). While I will discuss Patagonia's stance on reducing consumerism later, it is important to keep in mind that they also capture the attention of the market that wants to remain sustainable by buying less.

Exemplifying The Words "Do What You Love"

When I think of Patagonia, I am reminded of Professor Palin’s advice that he gave to our branding class: “do what you love.” Patagonia, although extremely successful, does not focus on profits as a means for the company’s existence. Instead, they reflect “a strong market orientation with voice of the customer built in”, as explained in Winning at New Products. Although this particular chapter discusses the new product process, it is a perfect example of why Patagonia has become so well known in their sector. Goal #5, "A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Consumer Built In", states:

“If superb new product success rates are the goal, then a market orientation – executing the key marketing activities in a quality fashion – must be built into the new product process as a matter of routine, rather than by exception" (Cooper).

Patagonia, when innovating new products, follows this rule flawlessly. They routinely create new products that will benefit their customers, not focusing on sales. Saying that they put their customers first could sum up their market success.

If you still aren’t convinced that Patagonia isn’t as concerned with sales as it is with their customers, I would recommend reading Fast Company’s article about Patagonia asking their customers to buy less. According to the Ben Schiller, “The Californian apparel company last month launched an initiative encouraging their customers to reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle their clothing and equipment. Their ad even features the line: "Reduce what you buy," in bold caps, much like something out of an anti-capitalism rally" (Fast Company).

original website for picture

Patagonia: How They Challenge Their Competition

Calling out other companies with “environmental initiatives”, such as Dell, P&G, and Chevy, the article lays out all the facts that make Patagonia the environmentalist king. Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s environmental VP, explains in the article that this initiative is “less about improving sales and customer retention, than a sincere response to the planetary crisis" (Fast Company).

My reason for picking Patagonia as a brand with strong, relevant positioning in the marketplace is because not only do they place customers first and strive to live up to their environmental reputation, but they also challenge their competitors. No one can match up to Patagonia because the company has created its own marketing position by vowing to remain true to their core values of creating customer satisfaction while being sustainable. You could even refer to them as a company that had a “blue ocean strategy”, because no company has ever asked their customers to buy less at the risk of losing sales (with meaning). They are continuously reinforcing what they believe in to their consumers, and in effect, they keep coming back for more.

Ridgeway insists this is not a marketing ploy, and that their executives are not concerned with wealth. Their customers are concerned with buying quality products that will last them long enough to make their money well spent, as well as being environmental. Patagonia more than meets the needs of their customers by branding the company separately than every other outdoor apparel store.

original website for picture

Original Patagonia Positioning Statement

As the brand manager of Patagonia, my positioning statement would be as follows:

For people who love the outdoors and the earth, Patagonia shares your passions. Our products are made from quality, recycled materials that mirror our sustainability initiative while accompanying adventurers as they embark into the outside world. Only with Patagonia products can our customers enjoy knowing they are sustainable and doing what they love at the same time.