Tag Archives: branding

Supermarket Champagne and How Quick Win is Not Always Beneficial for Your Brand

For a person coming from Finland where you only can buy wines from government-run monopoly even seeing wines in supermarket is somewhat mind-boggling. However where I advocate liberal policies, being too accessible might not be that wise strategy if you want to be regarded as premium luxury brand.

In the case of G.H. Mumm the genie is out of the bottle (no pun intented) and it has definitely positioned itself as a mainstream champagne. However even for supermarket champagne this promotion is just plain ridiculous:

gh_mumm

Taking picture of receipts?

Sending messages to dubious WhatsApp numbers?

How low will your brand go?

To me if you want to be perceived luxury you should not even be having promotions or discounts. But even if having promotion you could create a better and more luxurious experience, maybe a nice landing page or if you want to use messenger apps: a chatbot.

Brands are after quick wins and forget that those actions will deteriorate the brand on the long run.

(Some smartass might ask why I bought the bottle in the first place, which is a valid question. In this case, the wacky promotion did not stop me from buying the product (but it was close). I just ignored the promotion) 

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The Difference Between Start-up Event and Marketing Event

Last week I was in Slush Singapore and the event was awesome. It was also breath of fresh air from traditional industry events, where you usually end up when working in marketing. What was also refreshing that I had to really explain what I am doing for work as the majority of people were not familiar with the weird acronyms we have as our “brands”. Can you truly explain what you do?

When I was talking to start-ups, pretty much every single one of them was explaining how their product, innovation or service is making the world a better place. Of course everyone wants to be a unicorn and get big fat investing rounds, but that was not the first thing you heard from them. The sense of purpose was something that came across first. Therefore I had really interesting discussions there and exchanged way more cards than in typical marketing event.

When you go to advertising seminar, the dialogue goes like this:

AD WANKER #1: ME ME ME ME $$$$$$*

AD WANKER #2: ME ME ME ME GREAT WORK**

AD WANKER #1: ME ME ME ME GREAT WORK

AD WANKER #2: ME ME ME ME $$$$$$

AD WANKER #1: ME ME ME ME “INNOVATION”***

and this continues as long as there is free booze.

We are only talking about ourselves. We preach our clients how they should be consumer-centric and communicate that way, but we are not practicing what we preach. For masters of branding, we truly suck on it. To be able to make your client interesting, you have to be interesting as well.

Talking about the cobbler´s children are the worst shod.

So what is the main difference between start-up event and marketing event?

First ones are interesting and inspiring. Latter ones are just painful waste of time.

I love marketing, but our industry is standing on burning platform. The talk about changing our ways has been mostly just smoke and mirrors for majority of agencies. We have taken some buzzwords from start-up world and put it to our presentations and think that we are innovative.  Current advertising is only relevant to advertisers and agencies. Advertising is not shaping popular culture anymore. Some could almost argue that we are not even part of popular culture.

Marketing is more important than ever. This was also obvious when talking with start-ups. They need help on how to break through clutter: how to be noticed, how to create memorable brand and tell interesting stories. They are in desperate need of agency expertise, but bureaucratic processes and archaic ways of working make collaboration almost impossible. Agencies are slow, the most interesting future clients are not.

Luckily it is not only gloom and doom and there are some awesome initiatives towards right direction (and luckily in firm where I am working for). Evolution does not save us, we need revolution.

* Way less money than any start-up is getting on their financing rounds.

** And that great work is categorized by fellow ad guys not the general public

**** In reality just some scam project

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God´s Hand and The Art of Differentiation

On recent work trip to Tokyo, I stumbled upon these products in Don Quijote:

godshand

Guess which one I bought?

The role of marketing is to make the product/brand desirable. That is something that quite often is forgotten while marketers spend their efforts on creating the first ever “smart shoes” and other “innovation” projects. More often than not, brands should go back to the basics to make their products truly desirable:

Have memorable name: When I start working with the brand, I always try to find ways to differentiate. Other handgrips don´t even have name, but the hardest (70 kg) is called God´s hand. That already sets the tone that this product is not for the faint-hearted or the weak.

Catch the attention with striking visual: Other handgrips have normal people showing the product, the hardest of the handgrips has the gorilla. You should always separate your spearhead product from the others (with the name and the visuals).

Fulfill emotional not rational needs: Before entering the store I didn´t know I wanted handgrips. There is no rational reason for me to even improve my grip. Although I play basketball and do CrossFit, the grip has never been a concern for me. However, because I am vain guy (usually women don´t have this problem), I am sucker for things that tests your strength. After seeing this video, I had to immediately test one-finger dead lift. 70kg is totally arbitrary limit to handgrip because you don´t have baseline to compare. They could have named the 40kg product as the God´s hand and I would still be happy with the purchase. If you target people with competitive nature, there are no limits on how far they will go to win.

Double the price: You should try to get customers who want the best. God´s hand costs the double of the normal handgrip. I don´t know how much handgrips should cost but when I saw the product I just had to get it. The price didn´t play any role in buying the product. The initial price was something like 10 SGD, which is actually really cheap. They should have asked even more, I would have happily paid it.

I have been really happy with the product as well. I use it almost daily during my workday, especially if I am feeling pissed off about something (usually daily affair). The biggest enjoyment is when people visiting my desk try to grip the God´s hand and cannot. God´s hand is 10 SGD, but feeling stronger than your friends is priceless.

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Advertising Can Make Even Baby Carrots Desirable

babycarrots

The fact is that majority of brands and products are boring. Being boring is a challenge, because your brand will not be noticed. You are not competing against the other products and brands in category, you are competing of mindspace of your consumer which is increasingly filled with Netflix, Snapchat and other way more interesting things than you brand.

The main role for advertising is to sell more products and how you do it is by making your product more interesting, desirable and thus noticed. Rational arguments don´t really work. Every smoker knows that he would need to quit. You know that you should hit the gym. And you know that carrots are healthy, but you still choose to munch on chips because they just taste good.

This campaign from few years back is a brilliant example of the true power of advertising. You have a great product, but it has an image problem. You fix it by going totally overboard. You appeal to heart. You beg, borrow and steal from other categories. You are bold. You make that product differentiated and interesting. If your category is boring, you reframe your whole category. You do what you are supposed to do:

If advertising industry has identity problem right now, it is because we have lost our focus on making the brands we work with desirable. We have gone too deep in rabbit hole of championing social causes or doing unnecessary technological innovations, that we have forgotten why we exist in the first place.

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Vodka From A Village and The Secret of a Great Brand Film

finlandialessordinary

I hate majority of brand films. They just revisit same old clichés and not even the employees get kick out of them:

The false deduction would be to conclude that if majority is shit, everything is. Brand film, when done well, can be truly uplifting experience. It can put your brand´s stake in the ground and convey your attitude in a manner that resonates both to your consumers and your employees.

This rebranding of Koskenkorva is a great example of a good brand film. The product consists of water and barley. It is coming from a small village. It is Finnish and we don´t brag or boast. The understated tone actually oozes confidence and in a minute shows what the brand stands for. Brilliant stuff from Bob The Robot:

Finnish vodka brands seem to have learnt something during the years, because the following example is from Finlandia vodka. Whereas Koskenkorva is the rural and rustic everyday drink, Finlandia has always been a little bit upscale. Upscale in Finland meaning still that you have weird attitude that other markets don´t understand. This is a brand film that is built around the desired attitude of the brand. After seeing this you are hyped up to grab a bottle of vodka and try your new deadlift record (this is done by W+K London):

Great brand film:

1) Tells something interesting about brand.
2) Is something that only your brand can do
3) Makes you feel something
4) Looks good (there is no such thing as lo-fi brand film)

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What Deadpool Teaches You About Branding?

deadpoolemoji

I finally saw Deadpool last week and it is definitely a contender for the best movie of this year. Where I actively avoid mainstream movie theatres (especially in Singapore, where the selection is even narrower. Luckily we have Projector), it was like a breath of fresh air to watch something totally politically incorrect on big screen. And I am not the only one enjoying it, Deadpool is becoming the third biggest superhero movie of all-time.

1.Don´t listen to focus groups
There is a lie, damn lie and then your target audience analyzing your ads in focus groups. Deadpool is the kind of movie that would not ever get a green light in focus group. There is senseless violence, infantile humor and jabs and insults to everything that is sacred. The hero is flawed and does not even want to be hero. Not surprisingly, despite the strong hype movie was not exactly going anywhere:

We developed the script six years ago, wrote this fantastic script, it leaked online, Deadpool fans went nuts for it, so the studio granted us a small amount of money to make test footage. This test footage that we shot then sat on the shelf for four years, as it does, they didn’t do anything with it, then just a little under two years ago it leaked, accidentally, onto the internet.
Ryan Reynolds (in Jimmy Fallon)

Deadpool would not have happened if there had not been groundswell to get the film released. Ryan Reynolds continues:

“Here’s the thing, the fans freaked out and overwhelmed Fox, and Fox basically had to greenlight the movie. The problem is the footage was owned by Fox so it was kind of illegal … I know that one of us did it.”

If you truly believe in your product, sometimes you have to bend the rules (or even ignore them) a little bit.

2.Embrace the constraints
Fox tried to do pretty much everything to not get the movie released, e.g. cutting the budget on the last minute:

“We had to carve something like $7-8 million out of the budget in a 48-hour window. And we, as a group, just put our heads together, got creative, and said ‘How do we cut what is essentially nine pages out of a 110 page script?’”
Rhett Reese (writer)

But when there is a will, there is a way. Deadpool is not about the special effects. It is about the attitude. If you have the attitude, that can shine through but if you are only about who is having the biggest explosions, that kind of cut would be fatal.

3.Ride the trend…but in opposite direction
People start to get bored of superhero movies. They still are going to see them, because essentially you don´t have a choice, as they are everywhere. Everyone knows the formula and every superhero comes from the same mold. When someone breaks the pattern, it will definitely get noticed. That is why it is important to know your competition, so you can do exactly the opposite than them.

4.Be top-of-mind
The marketing campaign for Deadpool is a perfect example of a great integrated campaign. Top-of-mind is ensured with heavy use of traditional channels.

deadpooloooh

In digital you are really starting to have fun. Like with Deadpool emojis or a Tinder profile:

deadpooltinder

5.Keep it real
Traditionally having a R-rated film is a deathblow to a film. Deadpool has gone against all the conventional Hollywood wisdom, mainly because the makers had a strong belief to the film.

So that´s all. If you have not seen Deadpool, go see it now.

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Recipe for An Internet Hit: Cross-Section of Highbrow Concept and Lowbrow Vulgarity

Beautiful landscapes combined with pair of men´s balls. That is the latest phenomenon among guys. Being a huge fan of infantile humor myself, I am naturally delighted by this art.

nutscapes

There is nothing surprising with this phenomenon. We know that males are naturally leaning towards below the belt every time there is an opportunity. Generally the best coping mechanism in this world is to try to take the piss out of everything. At the same time it is weirdly empowering and disgusting. Like all the great memes, the “nutscaping” is inclusive and the creator has been helpful enough to give tutorial how to create your own “Nutscape” on his website.

HOW TO NUTSCAPE:

  1. Find yourself somewhere awesome.
  2. Turn your back to the awesome scene.
  3. Drop your pants.
  4. Bend over and shoot Nutscape back through your legs.

Other helpful hints include adjusting width of stance to accommodate hanging state (either high or low) of nuts. When you are nutscaping at height, use free hand the anchor and remember to “mind the tip” (so that it does not turn to dickscape).

Obsev.com turned Nutscapes into motivational posters

Obsev.com turned Nutscapes into motivational posters

The cross-section of inspiring and repulsive is something that catches like wildfire in the Internet. Instagram has already suspended Nutscapes, because essentially they are hypocritical and lack any sense of humor. What could be a new energy boost for photography is now crippled by censorship.

“I believe Nutscapes has great artistic depth because it touches upon both a low-brow vulgarity and a high-brow concept. Simply, testes are f*cking funny. Always have been; always will be. They add humor to a subject matter, landscape photography, that is typically a little dry.”

Clancy Philbrick (Creator of Nutscapes)

This highlights the dilemma brands have when they want to go viral. Extremes are interesting, but only handful of brands can truly take it to the max (and even should try to it). Quite often sharable content lacks any deeper meaning, purpose and any substance whatsoever. It is just fun because people can sense that there a no hidden agenda. Great brands are all about agenda, not even hidden one. Agenda is seldom something you want to share unless it is your agenda.

What makes a good meme does not make a good brand.

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What My Disdain for Grateful Dead Can Teach About Branding

Music has played crucial part of my life. It started with hiphop and heavy metal and has throughout the years expanded to almost every possible genre. One cult band that I have however never truly understood has been Grateful Dead. The hippy band is know for their marathon gigs like this:

I am not the biggest fan on The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa or Bruce Springsteen, but I still can get why people love them so much. I noticed that Grateful Dead was doing their farewell gig (to celebrate their 50th anniversary) on this July and that prompted me to again test some of their material on Spotify.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

I totally fail to realize what makes people to devote a cult following to band so bland. Maybe it is because I don´t do drugs or have not been part of the hippy movement. On the other hand I don´t gangbang, but I still truly enjoy and find resonance in N.W.A.´s music. Grateful dead remains as a big enigma for me and to many others as well.

Grateful Dead

Some old hippies

“We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”
Jerry Garcia

But why would I care about Grateful Dead? Or why would Grateful Dead care about me? I am not their core audience. If you are selling licorice, you don´t need to care about people who don´t like or licorice. This is the fault that many marketers have. They mistakenly believe that their target audience is everyone, which is hardly ever the case. If your target audience is everyone the individual purchase is small. When you have focused audience, you can ask for premium price.

Brands get super touchy-feely when blogger outside their target audience says something negative. It does not matter at all. Focus on your cult following. If you want to create a cult around your brand, you have to also alienate the non-brand followers. For deadhead, there are only “we” and “they”. If your product is only meant for alpha-male blokes, why should you worry about offending women ot vice versa?

“In the 1960s, Grateful Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts that businesses across all industries use today.
Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott (Marketing Lessons From Grateful Dead)

Although listening to Grateful Dead is equivalent of water torture, I have to applaud their business acumen. They were never high on the charts, but were able to focus on small devoted and lucrative audience. They kept the loyal customers happy and did not waste their efforts on trying to get new and fickle customers. Funnily enough, there are at least two books dedicated to business lessons from Grateful Dead.

Brands spend much of effort on parity. They want to make their brand easy to compare with other brands. That is the main fault. If you create your own category, the customer has only two choices: either buy or not. Love it or hate it. Ambivalence is not an option.

“They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”
-Bill Graham

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Can You Really Have A Relationship With A Brand?

77% percent of consumers don’t have a relationship with a brand.
People in US & Europe would not care if 92% of the brands would disappear.

So if you want to “converse” or “engage” with your potential audience you have to be among the 8% of all the brands in the world. Then you are fighting for only 23% of all the potential audience.
That is quite a small pie. Reflected to that it is not that surprising that you don´t get comments on your brand´s Facebook wall.
Although you should never use yourself as the target audience, I wanted to map out with how many brands I have relationship.

Below is the list and the results were quite shocking as I should be brand enthusiast by trade:

Hobby-related: Driven by passion
Nike (Basketball, running, tennis)
Reebok (Crossfit, although I am likely switching to Nike because the passion runs deeper)
Technics (Mostly one product, the epic turntable SL-1200, which has already been discontinued. I own four though, so I should be covered.)

Appearance: Driven by vanity
I generally only buy brand clothes, but I would not cry a river if I some of those brands disappeared.
Watch: Omega (although I would not mind upgrading to Rolex and later to Patek Phillippe, if I ever had the money)

Technology: Driven by convenience
iPhone, iPad, MacBook: Originally using Apple product was driven by the quality, but I have to honestly say I don´t even know have the competitors reached their level. Maybe they have, but I am already locked in Apple ecosystem and I am too lazy to reach out.

Personal care: Driven by price
For deodorant I naturally use Rexona, because it is our client.
For the rest of the personal care I mostly buy the cheapest or what happens to be easily available.

Food: Driven by quality & ideology
I try to eat healthy food and things, which are not filled with sugar and artificial coloring. Generally the rule of thumb is then to stay away from the big brands as they are mostly filled with all the above-mentioned crap.

Indulge: Driven by the quest
For coffee beans, I want to get the best quality but it is not really correlated to brand loyalty. I want to test out different beans from all over the world, from different roasteries and made with different coffee machines.
The same goes with my weekend tipple. I am sucker for expensive gins (example of how advertising and branding works), but again I would not want to drink Plymouth for the rest of my life. So although I am passionate about my coffee and cocktails, the passion translates to constant exploration between different alternatives instead of loyalty.

Working in advertising, I am probably way more brand-driven than average Joe. I generally select brands and appreciate brands. What was surprising for me to notice was that how little brand loyalty I had across the board. Although consuming good definitely shapes my identity, the brands seem to play lesser role I had thought. Only non-exchangeable category was the passion (and only part of it: sports, music) and to some extends technology (I am just too lazy to change my whole digital device ecosystem).

Being a passion brand is hard and it takes time. For certain categories it might be totally impossible (do you feel passionate about your toothpaste?). It might be wiser for your brand to compete in other categories listed above. Or try to be like Apple, where your consumer is locked-in to your system and the cost and effort of getting out just feels too daunting.

No matter what you do, you have to be ready for aggressive competition. Brand loyalty is mostly myth and no brand is safe from consumer churn. Half of the people who described themselves as highly loyal to brand were no longer loyal a later. The reason for this is simple. Even though you think you are unique, there is always opportunity to upgrade (better quality, more features, and more bragging rights) or downgrade (cheaper).

To succeed in this competitive marketplace you must be realistic about how much (or actually how little) consumers care about your brand, constantly improve your products and attract new consumers. You will be losing your current ones eventually.

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Weapons of Peace: How To Rebrand AK-47?

hotgirlskalashnikov

Firearms producer Kalashnikov has done a 380K$ brand revamp with hot girls flashing their weapons in launch event. The manufacturer best known for their iconic AK-47 assault riffle, is now sporting stylish new logo, expanding to fashion line and here is their new slogan:

kalashnikovlogo

Protecting Peace (In English)

Weapons of Peace (in Russian, has double meaning also as the world)

To quote Groucho Marx, the latter is a little bit like military music: a contradiction in terms.

However the first slogan is actually quite good as far as the slogans go. The reality is that guns kill people, despite what NRA says. If you are weapons manufacturer, the slogan “Kills both at home and abroad” only gets you so far. This slogan turns the focus from negative usage occasion (shooting people) to a higher goal (achieving peace). When brand talks about protecting it actually includes both the actual usage of the product and also the threat it provides thus the protection. The brand stresses that weapon will make a man courageous, alert and will create a sense of responsibility. They position the gun as the equalizer between strong and weak, the liberator of the world:

It precipitated not just a technological, but a social revolution. Freedom movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America could at last fight back against professional colonial armies. The AK-47 gave them the chance to demand rights and achieve justice. This is a weapon which helped people defend their families and futures, and demand the right to a peaceful future.

kalashnikov

Great work from the branding agency. For some reason they have not used famous brand ambassadors like Osama Bin-Laden in the ads. The sad reality has been that AK-47 has lately been more of the weapon of choice for criminals & terrorists. When you watch the new marketing video it gives somewhat edited history of this “weapon of peace”:

Despite the uplifting marketing speak; gun´s inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died last year, had some spiritual soul searching to be done regarding the weapon:

I keep having the same unsolved question. If my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?

It remains to be seen how far this new brand will take the company as they are facing some severe challenges. American gun market has been growing during the last years. Because of the trade sanctions Kalashnikov has now lost the whole American market, where most of their hunting products were sold (besides AK-47, Kalashnikov has a hunting & competitive shooting range, it is unclear to me are those ranges under the same slogan). Growth in Asia (Malaysia & Thailand especially) is apparently filling that gap. B2C business is only one side of the story as their main sources of their revenue are military contracts. Although they are most famous for AK-47, huge missiles deals are where the money really is. Apparently brand plays important role also in military cabinets, because CEO Sergei Chemezov declared his ambition to become the Apple of ammunition:

A brand is a considerable asset for any leading company, although we have a long way to go to Apple’s $100 billion brand. I hope Kalashnikov will become as recognised and valuable.

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