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Archive for August, 2008

Haru Sasaki, who read our post about Tony Sinclair, alerted us to a fictional spokesperson who absolutely rocks. That would be The Most Interesting Man in the World, spokesperson for that very fine Mexican beer, Dos Equis. His signature line?

Most_Interesting_Man“I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

That’s a line that makes me want to kiss the client. Because it absolutely connects with how a lot of people drink beer today without trying to pretend otherwise. Beer is becoming just part of the mix for a lot of people, along with liquor and wine. It’s an incredibly honest line, a believable line, and more of an invitation than a sales pitch. I could completely imagine the MIM (as Dos Equis communications refer to him) does, in fact, prefer Dos Equis.

And I, of course, want to BE The Most Interesting Man in the World. What guy doesn’t?

He’s a beautiful invention. He lives up to the line from the first Austin Powers movie, “Woman want him, men want to be him.” The spots have the kind of humor and fun that Tony Sinclair (Tanqueray) should have had. And this is a campaign with long and strong legs. (Dos Equis already is taking applications for the Most Interesting Man in the World’s assistant – to replace the previous assistant, Steve, who was killed in the line of duty.) Yet it’s far more than a campaign – it’s an embodiment of an ethos and worldview that a lot of people are going to connect with. And that’s the basis for a brand culture.

Beautiful.

Stay thirsty, indeed.

So why do I want to kiss the client, and not the creatives and the rest of the team at EURO RSCG? Because the agency did what I expect them to do – they were brilliant. But a client who has the courage to run with this invention? That is a rare creature, indeed. And I know that he, she, or they will be rewarded, one way or another, for their courage. Most likely with the awakening of a strong brand and a growing embrace of Dos Equis in the US.

So, thank you, Dos Equis client, whoever you are, for doing the right thing and keeping hope alive in the hearts of branding agencies around the world, that someday, they too will find a client with your courage.

– Doug

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Hey, there, Clients.

Are you thrilled with your current agency or agencies? Or do you have the sense that something’s missing? What are you looking for that you’re NOT getting right now?

The marketing world is in rampant change. Are agencies out leading the way or lagging far behind?

Go ahead and let ‘er rip – you can do it anonymously. Here’s your chance to tell us if we’re making you proud or making you cringe. Be brutal.

– Doug

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Are you shallow?

Didn’t think so. So how come so many brands are content to be shallow?

For instance, Tanqueray’s current fictional spokesperson, Tony Sinclair.

At first glance you think he’s a smart embodiment of the cocktail culture that reveres a good gin. Uh, nope. Watch his commercials, go to “his” web site, and you’ll soon figure out he’s nothing but thin veneer and a sales pitch.

Too bad. Tanqueray once had the ultimate fictional spokesperson for cocktail culture: Mr. Jenkins. Invented by Dallas Itzen and Patrick O’Neil at Deutsch, he was a suave, mysterious, grey-haired, tuxedo-clad martini man who hung with the young and hip. He showed up at gallery openings, swanky penthouse parties, and late-night soirées. He was witty, but not just witty. As the print campaign unfolded between 1994 and 1999, Mr. Jenkins attracted a cult following. He was the kind of guy people wanted to know more about. He definitely had all kinds of cool, else why would the young hipsters tolerate him – let alone worship him?

But, alas, Tanqueray changed their label to read “London Dry Gin” and decided they needed to tell the London story in their advertising – despite the fact that Tanqueray sales were rising while overall gin sales were declining. They believed it was time to be “authentic.” So they retired Mr. Jenkins to an island. Little did they know that cocktail culture was about to explode, and that they had an authentic embodiment of cocktail culture right in their hands.

Explode it did. And then came Austin Powers. And so, eventually, Tanqueray and Grey Advertising concocted this British-accented young partying “man of mystery” who would supposedly capitalize on the Austin Powers craze, youth culture, and the rise of the martini. Oh, and best of all, they gave him a slogan, with the implicit hope that it just might magically morph into popular culture. The line is: “Ready to Tanqueray?”

Oh, yeah! I mean, don’t all your friends, at the beginning of a Friday night, turn to each other and say, “Ready to Tanqueray?”

Because it is, in fact, a fine gin, Tanqueray still sells well despite this hodge-podge mess. Wikipedia calls Tony Sinclair a “mad-cap socialite.” Personally, I think he’s more like Jar-Jar Binks with a tie.

There is absolutely no mystery to Tony Sinclair, unlike the enigmatic and stylish Mr. Jenkins. And this is too bad, since the actor (comedian Rodney Mason) is obviously talented. He just has no real character to work with. Also, Mr. Jenkins had more self-respect – and respect for his audience – than to pimp the brand with a ridiculous line like “Ready to Tanqueray?” The truth is, gin sales are on the rise and Tanqueray will do just fine despite this shallow pitchman.

On the other hand, let us mourn the lost opportunity. Mr. Jenkins stood for an entire philosophy of life–the kind of philosophy that’s at the heart of today’s cocktail culture. Namely, that life can be celebrated with style and sophistication, and that great pleasure can be had from indulging in the finer things, like a gin (i.e. true) martini.

A buddy of mine in college had a personal philosophy he called “gracious living.” It was all about living life well and enjoying high culture, even as poor college students. And that, to me, is what both cocktail culture and Mr. Jenkins are all about. Art, fashion, style, conversation, martinis. Had he survived, Mr. Jenkins by now would no doubt have a highly-successful blog and probably several published books guiding people to enjoying the finer points of cocktail culture.

Mr. Jenkins, in other words, was a fiction that could have been deeply realized, and therefore deeply meaningful to Tanqueray’s audience. And make no mistake about it, a fiction can be a true embodiment of a brand’s values and its worldview, and a powerful catalyst in growing a brand culture.

Could the Tony Sinclair character have achieved the same depth that Mr. Jenkins promised? Possibly, if he had been given a compelling and mysterious character at birth, rather than entering the world as a disingenuous cardboard cut-out that offered nothing new but instead faintly echoed current trends in popular culture. For awhile there, Mr. Jenkins was popular culture. There’s a big difference.

– Doug

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We salute TriMet for their recent ADWheel Award 1st place for the WES collateral piece we created together. The ADWheel Awards are given by the American Public Transportation Association, and the award show will be held in San Diego this year.

We love it when our clients win an award within their industry, because it means we’re starting to succeed in our quest to make our clients famous in their industry. Famous for marketing leadership and bold efforts that make stuff happen.

My thanks to Pam, Drew, Carolyn and Debbie for their guidance and partnership.

– Doug

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Under the category of constant inspiration I have filed the name Guy Kawasaki. His most recent brilliant idea is Alltop, a site that aggregates other sites and blogs and sorts them by topic and then gives you the most recent entries for those sites.

Here’s how Alltop explains it in their FAQ:

We import the stories of the top news websites and blogs for any given topic and display the headlines of the five most recent stories (except Moms.alltop which has fewer headlines because there are so many feeds). When you place the cursor over a headline, we display part of the story so that you can decide if you’d like to read it. To read the story, click on its title. To go to the home page of the site, click on its domain name.

Just so happens he has a category for branding, and id-ology is now one of the blogs and sites listed there.

Our thanks to Mr. Kawasaki for listing us. And for his continuous cool thinking.

– Doug

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Oh, Man, Not Another Fable

Yeah, looks like.

Once upon a time there was a smart young prince named Palm and he invented the most wonderful magical devices, things that no mortal had ever seen before. He even invented Treo, essentially the first smart phone, which all his subjects loved. But a wicked witch cast a spell on him and caused him to go to sleep for years and years, and when he woke up he had only 16% market share – of the market he had invented, no less. The prince was very sad. And so were all the elves on Wall Street, who had reduced the prince’s stock value by 90% from it’s 2000 high.

Moral: Every brand is vulnerable to a severe and brutal beating at any time, no matter how dominant it might be.

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Chrysler won’t have a fuel-efficient car till 2010. Unless maybe they have Nissan build one for them.

GM is scrambling to shake off its truck addiction. So is Ford. The big three are desperately scrambling to be relevant – and, quite possibly, to survive.

Scrambling to do what Toyota and Honda have been doing for years, which is to offer hybrids and innovative fuel-efficient alternatives.

How could this be? How could these successful corporations so badly predict what their customers cared about?

Could it be because they’re about selling, not serving? Could it be they figured that, as long as people keep buying what they’re selling (which is big trucks and SUVs), there’s no need to change?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m Detroit’s biggest fan. My favorite car of the last three years was my 1996 Lincoln Town Car, Cartier Edition. That ride ruled. It was destroyed six months ago while parked in front of my house by a drunk driver, which caused real tears to flow. But what did I replace it with? An ’08 Scion XB. Because I had to come to terms with the global warming issue. And the big three couldn’t win my heart or my head. (Note: gas prices hadn’t even gone through the roof yet.)

Serving means looking around and saying, We’re in the car business. And cars cause greenhouse gases. And, despite what our current commander in chief thinks, and despite what we’d like to believe, it’s pretty darn clear that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. And that’s bad for everyone.

Serving means putting yourself in your customer’s skin and trying to figure out what that customer really wants from you. Serving is looking at the big ethical picture and saying, if what we do is bad, then it’s time to do things differently. Serving is opting to do the right thing before the marketplace smacks you up side the head with a spiked baseball bat.

A brand culture serves, it doesn’t sell. Because it realizes that no one likes to be “sold.”

A brand culture is sustainable. Selling until people stop buying is hardly sustainable.

A brand culture shares the values and worldview of the people who belong to it, and knows what those people care about, and knows how to serve their values.

A brand culture anticipates needs based on those values.

It’s a sad comment when the Japanese car companies are more in tune with the values of the American public than GM, Ford, and Chrysler. How did the Japanese know that Americans will not persist in destroying the environment once they truly understand the problem? And weren’t they fortunate that, because of this, they were sitting pretty with hybrid models when oil prices skyrocketed?

It’s not too late for the big three to create brand cultures that serve their customers’ values. It is just as conceivable as building an all-electric car, which we know is happening at GM. Like many others, I’m ready to believe, I’m ready to join. It comes down to leadership making the choice.

Meantime, there’s a lot we can all learn from their predicament, and from their previous choices.

– Doug

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