Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kaiser stands out with the right stretch

Brand actions were the topic of the last Stirring Bulletin. Another great example was encountered today and Friday traveling through SFO.

Right after passing through security towards gates 76-90, a rectangular area was cordoned off by ropes. Within it were floor mats, with two people moving through a series of stretches. Their purpose: to dispense advice on how passengers can stay fit while traveling. Small pocket sized leaflets were available to take away. The display area was unusual and evoked curiosity among a large number of people passing by, causing them to stop to find out what the activity was all about.

It's a great example of a brand taking an action and - for a health insurance company - engaging people in an airport is innovative precisely because it's not expected yet it's a highly relevant context. Most people aren't thinking about well-being when they travel but flying certain has a impact upon it. By taking practical steps to educate the public about activities and actions that can improve flying fitness, Kaiser is showing concern and proactiveness in a tangible way rather than merely rhetoric.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stirring Bulletins (TM) # 5


Brand actions make more impact - and count for more - in the eyes of prospects and customers.

People are more sophisticated and savvy about marketing practices than ever before. They have become increasingly aware of marketing techniques and strategies that companies use to appeal to them – it’s not just the younger generations that are seeing through it and reacting indifferently when something looks and smells like marketing.

Rising consumer economic power, more informed choices driven by internet-driven information and social networks had shifted the balance of power towards consumers in how they think and feel about brands.

Compounded by a market situation of product and brand proliferation at shelf and on-line, communications ‘promise-making’ is no longer as effective.

Brands that engage in actions as a way to connect with people will be more successful because, as with people, behavior speaks louder than words.


Middle Ages Thinking

Communications is the dominant strategy to reach and shape perceptions of prospects to attract them towards the brand

Renaissance thinking

It is through actions - and dynamic interactions - that brands deliver value to the prospects that experience them, who in turn fuel a buzz which enable other people to connect with it vicariously.


Charmin’s brand action in New York City

The brand delivered a welcome experience for tourist about town (and one presumes, locals too) with its 20 individual restrooms staffed with a dedicated team of attendants and cleaners, along with a comfortable waiting area. The communications’ wit and style only added to were charming too.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What's hip is the flask

At this weeks psfk conference in LA, Adam Gaynor presented a case study about his recently born baby, Fred. It’s a new brand of water still in its infancy but which will be growing rapidly thanks to a new round of financing.

The idea of Fred is simple and compelling. Most water brands romance the source and extol the purity, taste and minerals of the water that comes from it. Adam's shrewd assessment was that there's room in the market for a brand positioned and differentiated on personality alone – one that’s friendly, inviting, a little cheeky and relaxed.

It’s certainly a novel idea in the water category but in the marketing world it’s not new. Many categories have products which have successfully used attitude and personality as the basis for the brand when little functional difference from competitors. Ted for example – launched by United Airlines before Song, Jet Blue or Virgin existed – was really no different in pricing and product offering than Southwest but had a unique brand personality of friendliness, openness, simplicity and fun in the category.

With Fred, the packaging is the most tangible aspect that supports this 'water with a different point of view'. Against a clutter of rounded bottles that fit ably only in cup holders, Fred stands apart. The brand’s relaxed, laid back persona is reflected in how easily it slips into a jacket pocket or back pocket, and even how comfortable it feels in the hand.

One part of this brand’s distinctive visual identity that’s hard to overlook even though it wasn’t mentioned in the presentation is an alcohol cue. The bottle has a hip flask shape immediately recalling the smaller sized package that spirits are sold in. The further reference to “velvety-smooth” spring water on the reverse side suggests the association to liquor is not an accident. It will no doubt only add to the appeal of brand coming to a grocery store near you soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Stirring Bulletin (TM) # 4

Companies need to embrace the latitude to vary brand expression that the current marketing era provides and use it to their advantage.

We live in an age of fragmentation. The domination of a few networks and a limited number of channels has given way to an ever expanding distribution of content through the web, in which narrow-casting when sufficiently precise is substantial enough to be a viable business model (the long-tail).

More than anyone else, Gen Y and Millenials are particularly comfortable in a world of fragmentation; through the explosion of channels and content they see no pervasive homogeneity in a fast-moving world. They live in a world full of contradictions, exceptions and differences that complexity brings and accept it is they who have to put the pieces together and fashion them into a personal understanding.


Middle Ages Thinking

Ensuring consistency in the brand across all points of expression and across product lines delivers clarity of consumer understanding and ensures the company controls what the brand stands for.

Renaissance thinking

Driving effective brand–consumer connections means it is inevitable that the brand will talk to different groups in different ways. People who witness a brand marketing to other groups accept it as a natural reality of marketing practice, not identity crises.


VW markets its cars to a number of different groups spanning at least three life stages. The communications are vastly different in idea and executional form, yet speak to each specific group authentically and with real insight about their outlook and relationship with driving.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

In the age of transparency companies can't re-write history

Many of the less enlightened companies must lament the marketing era they find themselves in. The balance of power for influencing consumer perceptions and defining what brands stand for has shifted out of their hands into the hands of people. In web 2.0 life, companies find themselves unwelcome or shut out of many internet venues in which people discuss their brands.

What to do? Some companies have sought to influence from the sidelines. Several firms have quietly re-written public posts about their endeavors on wikipedia in an effort to shape perceptions. But in today's age of greater transparency it's not surprising that their efforts were exposed, as described in a recent NYT article.

Anheuser Busch, Pepsi, Diebold, Walmart and even the CIA have altered or deleted material that is not flattering to their enterprises. Hopefully the publicity surrounding their legerdemain will serve to focus them upon more honest and productive undertakings.