Archive for the ‘Misguided Work’ Category

spend to save?

Spend to save?

The headline says “Every Bottle Makes a Difference.” Ethos water, acquired by Starbucks in 2005 distributes .05¢ from each $1.80USD bottle sold ($.10 per unit in Canada) to fund clean water projects in under-developed areas. Although sales of Ethos water have raised over $4,000,000 for clean water efforts, and the marketing positioning suggests clearly that purchase of this water will make the lives better for people who make less per week than the cost of the bottle itself, the brand is not a charity organization. 94% of the sale price does not support clean-water projects, but rather the Starbucks bottom line. “So what?” you might say, “Starbucks is giving back.” The founders of Ethos say the brand is intended to raise awareness of third-world clean water issues and provide socially responsible consumers with an opportunity to support the cause by choosing Ethos over other brands. After all, nearly 2/3 of the people on the planet do not have access to clean water, and as global population increases, sources are becoming fewer and fewer.

There is no doubt that the money and awareness Ethos raises is (more…)


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Unified Field Theory


We at ID Branding are constantly in pursuit of breakthrough paradigms on how the world understands and consumes brand. We rely on our branding experts, hand-picked from a broad field of disciplines, to develop innovative new models for vetting by agency leadership. Once these models have been put through intensive intellectual study, they are applied rigorously in the field for months to years with actual brands. Throughout this intensive process, we are collecting, crunching and analyzing everything from established KPI data to the cognitive psychology of consumers. From this, we publish our findings and case studies to share with the branding world.

After digesting our latest model, please share your thoughts with us. If this one doesn’t work for you, then you can read about our other model of Brand Culture. That one does not include Space Invaders.

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The makeover of the Skittles web site this past week has sparked a number of responses from industry professionals ranging from “bold campaign” to “bad use of social media.” If you don’t know by now, Skittles.com is using a number of prominent social media destinations as its website homepage, ranging from Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. The homepage changes daily amongst them, and you navigate between them through a non-movable widget hovering over the page in the upper left-hand corner.

My initial response was that Skittles doesn’t get social media and how could MARS, Inc. go along with this? Clearly it seems irresponsible to turn control of your (more…)

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From the Facebook page

From the Facebook page

OK, ad agencies, media buyers, and clients. What don’t you get about consumers complaining that they’re seeing the same ads over and over? Here’s what you don’t get: the world we live in.

The model has changed. The model has changed. The model has changed. The model has changed. The model has changed.

There. Did repetition make my message clearer? Are you more predisposed to my brand right now? I doubt it.

Here’s the problem. You’re still trying to do something to consumers instead of with consumers. I’m referring to the cover article in Advertising Age this week, “Repeat ad nauseam.” The article is all about how, with a fragmented media world and smaller audiences watching each show, advertisers have to repeat the same ad more often to reach the number of consumers they’re targeting. And people (another word for “consumers”) are getting sick of seeing the same thing over and over again.

One of the worst violators: Toyota with their “Saved by Zero” ads. There’s actually a group on Facebook (more…)

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This article from AdAge, New Dunkin’ Spots Say Chain Beats Starbucks on Taste, caught my eye today so I decided to check it out. Basically, this story reports that Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee tastes better than Starbucks, according to an “independent taste test” the company commissioned. Dunkin’ Donuts has decided to exploit this “strategy” in an advertising campaign by running TV spots and a microsite called dunkinbeatstarbucks.com. Down with the man, and up with the people. Hurrah.

In our white paper, Give Them Something to Believe In: The Value of Brand Culture, we talk about how the old model of brand image is dead and that the new model of branding is based on values that drive a company’s every action and communication. Maybe the folks at Hill Holliday who created the campaign didn’t read our paper. Or maybe they are too busy discussing how they are “Rethinking Marketing” on their blog, which seems to be fancy talk for how to sell more advertising. In any event, this campaign reeks of the same old tired ad-driven approach. And a taste test no less! Is this the best you could do?

Instead, maybe Dunkin’ Donuts should be focusing more on what it really stands for as a brand, and then building a culture around it for its employees and its fans (of which it has many). But no, they’d rather run ads that focus on product features (e.g., the taste of the coffee) which frankly nobody cares about that much anyway. People are going to get their coffee at the place that aligns with their own personal values, not because the advertising tells them which one is better. Is that how you decide where to buy your coffee? I didn’t think so.

And if you think what I’m saying is nonsense, then let’s look at the numbers. Dunkin’ outspends Starbucks by $69M per year in measured media, has been in business 21 more years than Starbucks, but generates $4.4B in revenue per year LESS than Starbucks. Yes, that’s Billion folks. So who has the better game plan? It’s time to wake up people and find a better way. It’s out there—are you looking?


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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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Spirit Mountain Casino’s Buck and Simon

Here’s a perfect example of the old approach to branding – the failed, broken model we’re all trying to avoid. It’s the fabrication of a “brand image” designed to attract customers, much the way bait attracts coyotes into a trap. And it has nothing to do with the truth of the real, hidden and sadly therefore unrealized brand of Spirit Mountain Casino.

Buck and Simon are, if you didn’t know it, two cartoon coyotes. It seems they’re wacky and fun–although not really. They show up in animated tv spots and on billboards, bus sides, and other places. It’s the latest ad campaign for Spirit Mountain Casino, which once had a stellar brand representation in the marketplace. Apparently Spirit Mountain is continuing to search for a campaign – and a brand – their customers will embrace.

And it’s exactly the kind of thing real humans (as opposed to demographics) are likely to see not so much an endearing fiction but as a manipulation with the sole purpose of getting a certain set of demographics into the casino.

Today, real humans are using the internet and other tools to circumvent brand images and to go straight into the truth of what a brand really stands for. They’re looking at a brand’s policies, actions, secret memos, history, leadership, vision, communications, blunders, and true moments of glory as evidence of what the brand means. As real humans, they are looking (aren’t we all?) for honesty, and they’re not terribly excited about being manipulated.

So, along comes Buck and Simon who are neither funny, like South Park or Sponge Bob, nor entertaining and meaningful, like the trickster coyote figure from The Grande Ronde tribe’s traditional lore. Buck and Simon come across not as some sincere representation of the core values and true nature of the Spirit Mountain Casino brand, but simply as an advertising ploy–and not a very artful one at that.

How big is the missed opportunity? Massive. Spirit Mountain Casino, when it launched, had a gorgeous brand presence, created by Sandstrom & Partners, that felt real and sincere. The Grande Ronde tribe has a deep pool of historic and contemporary meaning which could inform the brand, and a rich value system, which we hope is driving this brand. Most of all, there’s a way for the casino to both cater to the gaming audience, give them a great experience, and, at the same time, represent something truthful and meaningful at the heart of the Spirit Mountain brand–something which doesn’t feel like just another ad campaign tossed at the wall to see if it sticks.

And why does this matter? Because people are looking for meaning from brands. That’s one of the core principles of our whole Brand Culture theory. They’re shopping for value systems that align with their own values, and for brands which they can use in creating their mosaic of the self. Surprise, surprise–they’re not interested in bait that leads them into just another trap

– Doug

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