Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is your product positioning "corn fed?"

Is your product positioning "corn fed?" Why do I ask? If you've read Polan's The Omnivore's Dilemma then you already know cows don't eat corn. Cows eat grass. And if you try to make cows eat grass then 40% of the herd will die unless you feed the cows massive quantities of steroids, hormones and antibiotics to keep them alive. A rancher in the eastern Sierras just passed me. On his bumper was a sticker that boasted "corn fed elk." Same thing. Elk don't eat corn. Elk eat grass. So like Clint Eastwood I must ask you: "Are you artificially stimulating the success of your product positioning strategy with massive infusions of cash and marketing support?" This expenditure is exactly the same thing as infusing cattle or elk with artificial life inducing steroids, antibiotics and hormones. Want to get your consumer package good product (or a product in any other category for that matter) on a more beneficial grass fed positioning? Reply if interested.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Coke Cannes

Across the globe, Coca-Cola is a harbinger of 'happiness'. Coke's messaging spreads bits of joy across multiple platforms. The happy ideas led Coca-Cola to its most-awarded year in Cannes -- the brand took home 30 Lions. Coke Cannes

How did Coke find happiness? By graduating our Extreme Product Makeovers Coke found that "a sale is a transfer of enthusiasm." Happiness promotes enthusiasm. Happiness promotes positive emotional response. But does happiness promote carbonated sales? True, Coke spreads Happiness and wins advertising awards but does happiness translate into sales for Coke?

Happiness is not "It" for Coke. Happiness is a generic cost-of-entry parameter. Happiness is not 'ownable' - No matter how many impressions the company's corporate coffers cough up. The most highly consumer-desired product potential to use to reverse declines in carbonated beverage consumption is something else. There is a more powerful "Special User Effect" to better drive consumer habits and practices that can be owned. But nice work collecting the bling. Does anyone other than the agency take that to the bank?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Strategy of Whiz Kids

My son wanted to know why competing orthodontists would set up their practices right next to each other. I had to admit that one never knows why decision makers pick one orthodontist over another. But my son's question prompted my to think of most highly price-driven commodity categories and the fact that most competitors do a very poor job of differentiating themselves. Now our orthodontist does a great job targeting kids in our community. Particularly those involved in high performance sports. I explained that the orthodontist next door may target only adults, and in that way "differentiate" him or herself.

But in this is the point that the two competitors target audiences based on "cost-of-entry" parameters. Things taken for granted by the majority. An adult with no children would feel uncomfortable working with our orthodontist. A child would feel uncomfortable being treated in a room surrounded by 55 year old adults.

So how would orthodontists better differentiate themselves within their respective audiences? Orthodontists targeting children and orthodontists targeting adults better differentiate themselves by identifying a "reason-for-being" within their sphere to which patients better relate. In the same way both Folgers and Maxwell House "deliver" flavor and aroma both cannot occupy the same "mental space."

To set themselves apart Maxwell House stays the course with various forms of "Good to the last drop" messaging. What's good to the last drop? The coffee. What about the coffee's good to the last drop? The flavor and aroma. What could be finer than that?

Mrs Olsen! She said drink "Mountain Grown" Folgers. Mountain grown was supposed to be the support point to the contention or unique selling proposition that Folgers was "the richest kind." The richest kind of what? The richest kind of coffee. What about the coffee was "the richest kind?" The flavor and aroma. So you see, we have two products not doing a very good job differentiating themselves. Both focus on a "sensory" parameter category consumers generally take for granted.

How'd one get off the treadmill? By focusing on another and more consumer-relevant "reason-for-being." By focusing on "stimulation" rather than "flavor" and "aroma" Folgers became "the best part of waking up is Folgers [or caffiene] in your cup?

What happened? A $300 million Folgers business became a $1.6 product.

So what's your "reason-for-being" versus your competitors. And is it that good?

That's thinking outside of the box :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "SuperSized" Economy; There is no "value added."

We're headed for more bad economic times. It's not a question as if we're asking, "Are we headed for more economic hardships?" It's a fact. We are. And here's why.
We're headed for more bad times because there's no way to "add value" to the economy the way marketers "add value" to soft drinks by replacing sugar with cheaper high fructose corn syrup. The economy is chock full of artificial ingredients and the only way to return to solid ground is to subtract the "value added" components of the economy that got us in self-induced trouble in the first place.

For example, General Mills "added value" to Wheaties in the 80s by replacing "whole wheat" with non-descript "whole grain." As consumer pull-through diminished retailers began delisting the brand. General Mills had hoped no one would notice the change the same way no one noticed when Coke replaced sugar with HFCS - consumers just drank more because Coke could sell larger quantities (20 ounce bottles vesus 12) for fractions of a cent more. Supersizing was a great way to get a larger share of stomach. But it didn't work with Wheaties. General Mills never gave consumers more product for just a little more money. That was Steve Sanger's fault as inextricably linked to companies such as ADM and Cargill as he is. By repositioning the brand as "whole wheat" again Wheaties increased distribution 24% and won Advertising Age Magazine's recognition as "The Year's Best Repositioned Brand.

The bottom line here is that we've already "SuperSized" the economy the same way McDonald's "supersized us. We found out it was unhealthy. Food scientists are just wonderful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

California Governor's Election - Let's Delist The Candidates

Who do you vote for when there's no one to vote for? The front runner is front runner simply by means of having the largest budget. She has no political experience outside of the CEO and corporate ladder's suite. The other two ... well ... they're the other two candidates. So what would happen if everyone meaning the popular voters simply did not take part in the election? What if we vote for no one? I know voting is a right and a duty. That makes it more than a privledge. But what does one do when their is no choice and your choice is simply the lesser of three evils? Like a delisted brand in a grocery store voters should delist the products by not voting and blindly following the herd on election day. If we keep doing what we've always done we're going to keep getting what we've always got ... and that's not good for Californians. Are we waiting for newspapers to proclaim THE POLITICAL CRISIS the same way American's had to await for someone to tell them they were creating an economic crisis. Let's start thinking for ourselves people. If anything, vote for someone who's not running. Vote for the reluctant candidate. The guy that really doesn't want the office. Shucks, vote for yourself as a write in candidate What would happen if 36,961,664 voted for themselves? Wouldn't THAT send an appropriate message? What was that line in the movie "Network?" "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

What business are you really in?

My friend Ray Baird is President of RiechesBaird, one of the world's top B2B ad agencies. Ray publishes a great blog called GigaBrand. Go there. Ray always asks great questions like "What business are you really in?" Now Ray focuses on technology, and in this case he's focussing on ERP technology.  Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an integrated computer-based system used to manage internal and external resources including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources. It is a software architecture whose purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. Built on a centralized database and normally utilizing a common computing platform, ERP systems consolidate all business operations into a uniform and enterprise wide system environment.

So it's easy to see why Ray asks this question. ERP can easily become a commodity. Now Ray argues that mispositioning can put you in the wrong category and thus retard sales, buyer perception and hence PROFIT. But I say if you sell technology you sell that technology. iPads are selling iPads. If you're selling corneal transplants you're selling corneal transplants. If you're selling ERP you're selling ERP. But look at iPads. As a category they may be the emerging thin clients cloud computing's been wanting to make popular. In the end all human/technology interfaces will be thin clients. But you're still selling iPads. That's your category even though iPads are mostly used for fun. Now that you're in the category, the question is differentiating yourself within the category. Here's what I said.

Exactly Ray, Toss out all quadrant or matrix position systems quant jocks employ. They’ll throw any product, company, brand or category off track because it gives brands nothing they can own or use to differentiate. This is how categories become composed of highly price driven commodities in every category. So we discovered a company, product, brand or category’s reason-for-being best defined by finding it’s Special User Effect.

As General Motor’s proved, you can target exciting fun family products (Pontiac), versus family value products (Chevrolet) but GM killed Pontiac. It’s matrix quadrant was irrelevant to car buyers even though corporate strategy thought it viable. In reality, the division never knew what consumers wanted. It just made what they wanted then told advertising we needed it. That’s bass ackwards. The Pontiac Division never had a “consumer” reason-for-being. Same with brands I turned around like Folgers or Pampers. Though heralded as the second coming of CHrist by quant jocks and market research consumers perceived pre-ground convenience, flavor and aroma as “me-too” cost-of-entry sensory parameters so the agency direction of “Mountain Grown” to support the contention that Folgers was the richest kind of coffee NEVER moved the needle even though my client spent $100 million that year domestically to support the message. The SPECIAL USER EFFECT we found was “stimulation.” Stimulation was a “brand ownable” differentiator versus the “category generic” sales drivers of ‘convenience’, ‘flavor’, and ‘aroma’. To the 23% of heavy users who account for 87% of category volume annually “the best part of [their] waking up is caffiene [Folgers] in their cup.” To them, Folgers is in THE STIMULATION business. With this insight we turned a $300 million brand into a $1.6 billion business by stealing all that share from Maxwell House, MJB & Hills Bros who could not take off their matrix driven “category consumption” blinders. Great post Ray Man. So is the real question, "How should an ERP client best differentiate themselves in a highly price-driven commodity category."

By the way, was speaking to Kraft’s Beverage President Bob Levi who oversees Maxwell House for Kraft Foods. Though he knows all this he still just launched a new flavor and aroma campaign that bounced off the market like spit wads fired at an M1 Abrahms Tank. No impact against the 47 to 14 share lead stimulation gave Folgers…and only Starbucks once came close to hitting our competitive strategy on the head with their “Think Earlier” campaign. Anyway, the same thinking works regardless of what business you’re in.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How do you tell a brand's story? Marketing: Is your brand telling a great story or telling a story greatly?

How do you tell a brand's story?

Contrary to popular belief most brands tell a great story. At least that's what they believe. In reality they're telling a story greatly. What's the difference? Well, brands that tell stories greatly tend to say the same thing their rival does ... their advertising agency just says it differently. Brands that tell great stories have identified a product based selling dimension that dramatically differentiates themselves from competitors.

What are examples of brands that tell their stories greatly? Well, any category composed of heavily price driven commodity brands such as alcohol (beer, wine, ale, spirits), paper (paper towels, bath tissue, disposable diapers, napkins) or personal care products (shampoos, conditioners, oral care, etc.) ... some of the largest categories in consumer products utilize positioning strategies that converge on the same position as their rival ... they just have ad agencies that say the same thing differently. Detergents all claim to clean better and faster. All alcoholic beverages address the need state "to party" or "to relax." There isn't a single toothpaste (sensitive teeth being the exception) that doesn't trade on one of the five category attributes that account for all consumer perceptions in oral care - whitening, cavity prevention, breath care, gum care and tartar control. Year after year the message gets stale and only updated with new copy and actors ... not product based differentiators. Consequently, their ad spending drives category consumption rather than brand selection - ergo the saying, " I know that at least half of my advertising budget works ... I just don't know which half."

What are examples of brands that tell a great story? Well, Pampers recognized that 'fit' and 'dryness' were generic category cost of entry story parameters. Identifying an infant and toddler's 'development' finally enabled Pampers Phases Developmental Diapers to grow the business (ownable by Pampers) rather than the category by $1.2 billion per year for a decade, better relate to the emotional rewards of parenting and arrest toddler migration to arch rival Kimberly-Clark's Pull Ups. And for a fraction of the previous brand budget. Just one word, "development" made all the difference.

Now that's telling a great story, not telling a story greatly.

Another example of using a product-based selling dimension for the first time no one has seen to tell a great story? Back in the day the big three GRC (Ground Roast Coffee) brands - Maxwell House, Folgers and Hills Bros/MJB all thought people bought their product for convenience, flavor and aroma. Not true. These "me too" cost of entry parameters did not enable the brands to connect with their customer's lifestyles. For example, New Englanders did not spend their Sunday mornings with the New York Times and Maxwell House because of the brand's flavor and aroma. They bought the brand because the best part of their waking up is/was caffiene in their cup. The active product based selling dimension is 'stimulation' not flavor or aroma. This realization turned $300 million Folgers into a $1.6 billion brand and left Maxwell House standing in the dust.

Not long ago I was speaking with a Kraft Foods Marketing Director running the Gevalia Business. He wanted to know if I had any coffee experience. The conversation ended with his exclamation, "So you're the son of a bitch that did that to Maxwell House!" "You need to speak with Bob Levi." Bob is President of Kraft Foods Beverage Business. Having called Bob he listened then said, "Well I've been working for Kraft 22 years and I've never heard of you." And I said, "Well I've been working for Kraft for 35 years and I've never heard of you either. Would you like to hear what I've worked on at Kraft?" He "harumphed" and said I'd never worked at Kraft. I guess he'd better go ask, Karen Scott, Eric Strobel, Bob Morrison, and about 50 other functional line management and C-suite execs who welcomed me to the company to work on their brands. Needless to say I wasn't going to get a chance to work on Maxwell House or for Bob Levi though I've been pitching Maxwell House for about 40 years. Then I saw new advertising for Maxwell House. Same flavor and aroma crap. Bob Levi was so busy putting up walls and protecting his turf he hadn't heard a thing I said.

Now that's telling a great story. Not telling a story greatly.