Have you ever thought about what drives your desire to buy things? Any thought given to why we brand things? Those are two questions Debbie set out to answer when she began an anthropological quest back in 2005. What got her started? A simple question about the most popular brand on the planet at the time. Check out her recent presentation at Khosla Ventures, one of Silicon Valley’s largest venture capital firms, as she describes her findings.
Archive for the ‘The 3rd Button’ Category
Did you know that your next cup of coffee could help eradicate poverty in coffee-producing countries? With more than $175 billion of coffee consumed globally every year, the industry generates tens of millions of dollars for their exporting countries, but very little of it goes back to the more than 26 million growers. As a result, most of the people that depend directly or indirectly on coffee production live in poverty or extreme poverty, with little hope for change, even with the best fair trade deals. CafĂ© for Change, an organization founded just last year, is working to change that, and we worked with them to get the brand off the ground. We worked on the brand idea of creating a fair and just world for all producers. The brand identity, featuring a coffee bean, beautifully emphasizes the need for change in the industry. The supporting visual identity system is modular, allowing for the brand to be used digitally, on packaging, and for other similar crops, like tea and chocolate, so they can generate their own movements.
Ever wondered how brands are able to influence business and culture?
PBS Newshour recently spoke with Deedee Gordon, Sterling’s President of Innovation, to better understand how certain trends will shape and reshape the products and services already in our lives. Using insights from On The Future, our 2015 trends report, Deedee discusses how gender fluidity, frugeois and bulklash will shake things up.
Competition is tough and often brutal- it’s not for the faint of heart or politically correct.
In my early days as a packaged goods marketer, I remember the annual high stakes game of writing the marketing plan. We always segmented our plan into the different elements of the marketing mix. If we were smart, we also prepared a section on the competition. The problem was that we tended to report on the competition as if it were an object fixed in time and space. An object with a brain, perhaps, but just not as smart or creative as we were. An object largely built of facts and figures rather than any real understanding and empathy.
One year I wised up. I created three teams to represent our three major competitors. Each team consisted of managers representing finance, sale, R&D, marketing and ad agencies. Each had two weeks to go to school on its designated competitor an learn all it could until it became that competitor. The final task was to outline a ten-point plan to attack our business.
We set up a two part competition: the team that compiled the most interesting and useful information won the first part; and the team that created the best ‘kill our business’ plan won the second part. We made the competition fun because annual planning is never fun.
The results were amazing- I was stunned by how much we had learned. We found out so much that I started to become concerned about legal liability.
The second phase was even more interesting. There is a huge difference between writing a page on a competitor and actually becoming that competitor in a no-holds-barred way. The 10 point plans highlighted some of our key weaknesses on the home front and were very instructive on the steps we needed to take- immediately- to ensure that they weren’t put into place by our competitors.
I believe the brands that succeed look at the marketplace in just this manner.
Here are some historical examples of fierce competition that won:
-Remember Pepsi taste tests? Pepsi’s marketers had limited success with cultured and creative campaigns, so they rolled up their sleeves and took out the brass knuckles with a blind taste test that proved consumers preferred Pepsi on pure taste. Not only did this simple approach bypass expensively produced ads, but it caught Coke completely off-guard and unable to adequately retaliate.
-I love what Budweiser advertising did a few years ago. Miller had introduced an ad campaign featuring football refs taking Bud away from people and replacing it with Miller. Bud promptly countered with ads showing police capturing the refs running away with the stolen Bud, revealing that they planned to drink it themselves. Miller eventually retreated to a less competitive plot. A trivial example, perhaps, but it shows how a dominant brand can make creative use of its power to remind the competition just who is in charge of the game.
In sum, be competitive. Be very competitive. Be like Phil Knight of Nike. Think like Yoda: “Do or Do Not. There is no Try.” The competition want to eat your lunch. Each theirs first.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy
This week, Debbie interviewed illustrator Chris Ware on the podcast!
Tune in here<< to learn about the first cartoonist to win a literary prize and the first cartoonist chosen to regularly serialize in The New York Times Magazine.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some general thoughts that I’d like to convey to marketers – let’s call this section ‘Just Thoughts,’ and thanks for indulging me.
Unless you have unlimited resources, lots of time and a penchant for failure, do not fight your marketplace. Figuratively speaking, marketers should always try to avoid using “karate”- that is, fighting force with force. Instead, they should use “judo”- finding the momentum that already exists in the marketplace and using it to their advantage.
How do you practice marketing judo? Fit what you want the customer to think and feel into what the customer already thinks and feels. Anything is better than trying to “convince” a customer to change his or her mind.
Here are a few examples to illustrate my point:
-For years, Kellogg’s spent its marketing dollars on core brands like Corn Flakes. But when the high-fiber craze erupted, money was shifted into All Bran and Raisin Bran. Business went through the roof.
-A few years back, Toyota saw high gas prices in our future. Prius effectively “owns” the hybrid idea because Toyota shifted with the broader “green” shift in customer attitudes just as that wave hit. Meanwhile, many competitors were still trying to push gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.
Remember that radical new concepts may stimulate the marketer’s imagination, but if they don’t track for the consumer, they won’t track for the business.
For example, TiVo wasted a huge amount of money and time trying to convince us that we wanted some form of media revolution. All we wanted was a simple-to-use digital recorder.
Of course, if judo marketing was easy, everyone would be doing it. In fact, this technique requires that you really know your prospects, what they think and feel, and how they are reacting to the waves flowing through the marketplace. It requires that you know what those waves are and, most important, how to translate them into ideas that can drive your business forward. This takes a real commitment to market research- but research in the field, because it’s hard to spot shifts in the zeitgeist by hanging out at corporate headquarters.
Know your marketplace, know your audience, and know where the momentum lies. Then make your move… before somebody else does.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling strategy
Marketers talk a lot about people we call influencers. Depending on the industry in which you work, you may hear them referred to as trend leaders, gadget geeks, early adopters/adapters or fashionistas. The implication is that there is a group of people in each market whose knowledge and passion for the category makes them worth more than their weight in gold thanks to the influence they can have on people who are not as “category involved” as they are.
Influencers might lead because of passion and knowledge, or they might lead because of status. Hip-hop artists are huge influencers across all kinds of categories, from cars to liquor to clothes. Movie stars can make or break brands.
These people, and others, influence us because they have access to media. They can easily broadcast their tastes.
But media is quickly being democratized by vehicles that go by such mash-up names as blog, vlog and podcast. Personal playlists can be marketable commodities. In theory at least, everyone can be a broadcaster of some kind. Anyone and everyone can lead- so long as others choose to follow you.
These days, broadcasters are simply people who pass on their thoughts, opinions and passions to others. The number of those others represents the order of magnification these broadcasters can bring to their ideas. They can help you disproportionately, but they can also hurt you to the same order of magnitude.
At some point, perhaps we’ll be assessing media plans on their “cost per broadcaster” as well as their “cost per point of purchase,” having long ago done away with such archaic terms as “cost per thousand.”
In many categories, these citizen broadcasters have become the most important population of influencers. Know what they look like, have someone dedicated to reading their blogs, and realize that broadcasters can work against you as easily as they can work for you.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling’s strategy team
Check out one of the latest episodes of Design Matters, in which Debbie interviews Ben Watson – Executive Creative Director at Herman Miller.
As former CEO of haute Italian furniture house Moroso, and also former Global Creative Officer at Nike, Ben is able to share some enlightening tales of growth in design with Debbie.