Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How To Create A Brand Name

Forget who you're targeting. Say what you do. That appeals to the broadest audience with a call-to-action AND a reason-for-being. Vaseline INTENSIVE CARE Lotion, COLD-FILTERED Miller Genuine Draft, BAKED Lays. Well. You get the point. Drop the letters, V, S, A, Z and any other letters that slither off your tongue. They make your name sound soft like a shemale. "What do you drive?" "I drive a Venza." Sounds like you have an STD. "What do you drive." "I drive a Versa." Brand names with soft letters (V & A) just don't sound like they work or would last a long time. Use lots of strong letters like R, M, L, F, G, D, C, N, etc. Folgers sounds like coffee that will wake you up. It's also the #1 brand of ground roast coffee. MGD; Miller Genuine Draft is the most successful brand launched by Miller Brewing in the last 25 years. Chanel just sounds like it will make you sexy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty. General Motors is free at last.

It's not that General Motors product management ignores new product ideas that have a 97% top two box intent to purchase score among import-minded and domestic car buyers in bread and butter and higher margin luxury segments. It's not that they ignore those ideas even though they were presented with enough lead time to address current market conditions. You knew General Motors is/was really in trouble when letters on the subject sent to CEO Rick Wagoner went totally ignored. When those letters never reached his desk. When those letters were redirected by staff to underlings powerless to do anything about them - and who didn't have a care in the world about addressing company saving information further. But more importantly, you knew Genberal Motors is/was really in trouble when you followed up on those letters and you were told to call back because it takes Rick Wagoner's or any staffer's office five days just to acknowledge receipt of that letter. Way too slow in the information age and marketplace. If it takes five days just to log in a letter, imagine how slowly the organization responds to doing important work - like developing and properly marketing the products people want.

The answer isn't cost-cutting, delaying health benefit and pension plan disbursements or renegotiating union contracts and worker pay. Those are all the solution of linear thinking managements. The answer, rather than ignoring what people want and making what GM wants is to make what people want, not what trend forecasters say will sell. That's how GM and Detroit got stuck with all those SUVs. The problem is the results are , well, just too general. Not creative. Not abstract and interesting. Like one ex-head of GM strategy told me time and time again, "No one was/is going to save General Motors single handedly." Wagoner's ouster verifies that; but does it? He's been with the firm since 1977; steeped in the corporations culture so deeply that he never stood a chance. And that's the problem for other insiders. So if I were President Barak Obama, I'd bring in an outsider like Jim Sinegal who knows how to get things done at the speed of Kirkland as the CEO of Costco. Humble, efficient, a cracker-jack manager and he knows how to sell pallets of product everyday. Just the kind of volume General Motors needs. And you know what? American consumers are predisposed to want to buy cars a new way. We knew that 20 years ago. And GM didn't like the dealers either - always looking for new ways to eliminate those lengthy obligations, Abandon the dealers, streamline the pipeline and let people just order cars the way they shop for any other consumer good. Here's my credit card. Here's my down payment and my permission to automatically deduct each payment over the next 36 month. Kind of gets rid of the people with the bad credit and the whole finance infrastructure. Not needed to make the second most expensive purchase in your life today.

Why not take Saturn and make it the Kirkland brand. That'd be an interesting test! Then of course, there's my other solution for GM. Stop building cars altogether, lease the brand names to Toyota and let Toyota make the products in exchange for a payment on each and every sale to GM. What then to do with GM? Easy! Clean slate. Start over. Invent new product lines and brands. Sound hard? Not at all. At one time American's only had sticky paste and roll-ons as antiperspirants and deodorants. Then we invented a new form; Mennen Speed Stick; the first solid antiperspirant and still the most popular item in the category today. Just takes a little abstract thinking to determine what people want before they know they need it; then give it to them. Plenty of people happy to get paid $48 an hour to build cars since receiving their pink slips from the Japanese auto companies too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Relevance of Motown

Not the record company. The Motor City. That's the question Detroit and the Big Three General Motors, Ford and Chrysler need to ask. What's the relevance of Motown? Obviously, their ridgid adherence to styling queues didn't do enough to set Oldsmobile apart. Oldsmobile's now extinct. So why'd they stick to portholes at Buick? Same reason. Dogma. Which is why portholes are still potholes at Buick. And when you see those portholes glued to the front quarter panels of some old import car you know they've given your brand equity the kiss of death. So what is the relevancy of brands such as Buick? Hopefully, the news of the auto maker's brands demise is premature. But the answer isn't in price. Once you trade on price your brand equity sinks so low you have to climb up a ladder to get to the bottom. And the US auto industry habitually throws promotions all the time - further decreasing their value. Now we can't get the credit even if we wanted to make a purchase. Quality, dependability, design and styling, J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Road & Track, Car & Driver and other media recognition, annual auto shows, all hype. And the only junkie who's hooked is our own US auto industry who continue to believe they can make what they want and use advertising to continue to convince us it's what we need.

Detroit's real salvation is in the identification of a Product Potential so relevant and meaningful to consumers that we'd mortgage our homes to buy their products. It's merely not sufficient to trot the "buy American" motto back out of mothballs. We've been there and done that. But as Procter & Gamble learned through Folgers it is possible to kick the habit. As all food and beverage manufacturers believe, we buy their products for taste, or flavor and aroma. Sometimes convenience. But that bar's too low. Of course you taste good. Otherwise I'll become a trier/rejector. But what is more relevant to heavy ground roast coffee consumers is "control." The best part of waking up is that stimulant in their cup. It helps them think earlier. They take flavor for granted.

And that's what Detroit needs to do. Realize that everything it says and does is taken for granted. Now give us a selling dimension that's more relevant to the US car buyer. It's all a matter of seeking out and finding that answer through the process of Perceptual Innovation. How you change the way we all think. Another "halo" new product just won't cut the mustard. We take 'em for granted.

And if they can't do it maybe they should hire Motown Record's founder Barry Gordy. At least he can identify a hit. He didn't make black music. As he said the other night, he makes music for everyone.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Problem With Advertising

The problem with advertising today is that it informs rather than sells. And there is a difference. Every time an ad informs it conveys the manufacturer's or provider's thoughts on a subject. A slice of thinking or tangent not relevant to all. As Simon Cowell would say on AMerican Idol; "an indulgence." That is different than focusing on a well-reasoned and highly differentiating reason-for-being for a product or service. The information ad only appeals to those who think like a minority - you - the ad or marketing manager. The ad that sells a reason-for-being makes the product or service relevant to a much larger audience. Examples on request.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Does MyStarbucksIdea.Com actually make Starbucks a more valuable company or materially improve the value of the company's stock? Or is this just another self-pat on the back by those who email us singing the site's praises. It says it's been a year and 70,000 ideas later. But other than oatmeal for breakfast we have seen little. The company value/stock meter has not moved anywhere near the $22 lows it would hover before rebounding to thye $40s during the company's rapid growth phase. So who's still working on the real problem Starbuck's needs to address? "What do you do when the strategy that at one time made you all powerful has now rendered you a commodity? Obviously the solution will not be found by incumbent straight forward linear thinking problem solvers. As always in these situations the answer will be found in the realm of Perceptual Innovation that once again changes consumer habits and practices. A new product won't fix this. It's a consumer perception/positioning issue where the best answers are always abstract and so obvious they're just not obvious.