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.
Posts Tagged ‘brand’
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
Immediate access to the world’s information means a bit of retraining for those of us who grew up in the one-way persuasion school of marketing. The task before us is to adjust to the much more challenging “interactive-objective” school of marketing.
Today, our claims cannot simply be louder than our competitors to win out. Our customers can easily find out how our product or service actually performs- and trust me, if it’s at all important to them, they’ll be checking. If you’ve misled them through your claims in any way, they’ll know. If you’ve mislead them, they’ll leave- and they won’t be back.
This last ‘they’re not coming back’ observation is important. Too often, marketers act as if there are only two possible outcomes to an activity on their part- it works or it doesn’t- a one or a zero. If only life were that simple and binary. The reality is that if you set up an expectation you can’t meet or, worse, you actively mislead, you may never see those customers again. No matter what you say or do, they will be lost to you forever- and even the quietest of them will take a few friends with them on their way out.
It is critical to your success to make the most of this new reality of open access to information. Use truth as a marketing tool.
A few years ago a BMW die-hard compared the official BMW website to his favorite BMW enthusiast site. At the time, the BMW site was recognized as being at the leading edge of the art. But this person’s perspective was different. He liked the corporate site, but found it too one-sided, too perfect and too sleek. By comparison, the enthusiast site was more ‘real,’ more down to earth. The contributors loved the brand, but they loved it in its entirety- warts and all. They didn’t shy away from the imperfections, but celebrated them. The net result was a much more honest, emotionally engaging and deeper conversation about the BMW brand.
There is nothing wrong with perfection, but don’t allow it to blind you to passion. Embrace the truth in your brand, allowing your customer to believe you and incite an honest passion.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling strategy
The information on brands that is now available via the Internet brings with it a new approach to marketing. As marketers we must now actively manage noise, recognize and deal with lies, we must actively promote the truth- but ultimately, we must abandon the traditional, one-sided model of marketing known as “persuasion.” Product performance claims will be increasingly transparent to prospective customers. And once the truth is known, those customers will feel betrayed if they are lied to… and they will never return.
Whether it’s a new car or a pair of jeans, shopping is just an equation that balances degree of importance against ease of information access. Soon no one will buy a durable good without first doing a little homework. Customers will do the online research and use digital channels to tell their friends. Transparency becomes assumed, and not making this assumption invites difficulty.
Your product doesn’t perform? Your service sucks? Before you know it a quiet buzz will be felt on the Internet. This type of buzz could leak onto influential blogs and with a day- hell even within hours- a lot of hard work and good thinking will be completely undone by the very people you were counting on to build your business.
On a positive note, if you product delights the customer or your service over-delivers, you’ll quickly find the tide of information working on your behalf. This is not a new phenomenon. Word of mouth has always been the most powerful marketing mechanism, but now it’s accelerated and universal. We have more “friends” than we ever dreamed of having, and we are instantly connected to information, opinion and expertise, wherever and whenever we want.
These days, your customers are knocking on your door and you have to let them in- and they’d better like what they see. We’ve always understood outbound marketing, but the best practices of inbound marketing are still unfolding before our eyes.
Marketing is good. Persuasion is good. Brands count. But also know that the facts will matter. Those facts, as seen from several different vantage points, will be applied ruthlessly and at great speed.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling’s strategy team
“Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.“
If we don’t have the time to get it right up front, how is it that we find the time to fix it later? If there is a single message I hope to impart to you it’s this: don’t say anything, don’t do anything, until you’re convinced that you have everything right. Don’t execute a communications campaign (spending big money on ad space or time) unless you’re sure of your strategy and have perfected your tactics and tools.
Is your advertisement going to cut through the noise? If not, tell your agency the plan is on hold (as is some portion of their compensation) until it’s ready. The same goes for all areas of marketing communication. Needless to say, this approach will also add significant incentive for your communication partners to get it right.
Here’s the important part – the difficult part: Have the nerve to hold back until you feel the campaign/plan is perfect- until you have no reservations about it. There will be forces pushing for you to give the green light. Resist until you are ready.
Which seems like the more intelligent choice: To launch an acceptable campaign in May or launch a great campaign in July? It’s the difference of being invisible or getting noticed in the real world. It’s worth the wait. Try thinking of these as binary choices, between a 0 and a 1, because that’s closer to the reality of market impact than any incrementalist model.
Real marketing communication always does better when it moves from blunt instrument to scalpel. Blunt instruments need too much force behind them to work, whereas a scalpel just needs a perfect cutting edge. Start sharpening, and don’t cut until you find that edge.
Stay tuned for more from Austin McGhie, head of Sterling Strategy, on aligning your strategy with creative execution.
Here’s the thing about strategy. The people who matter, your customers, never see it.
Real people experience your product or service- the see, feel and touch your tactics- but they never, ever see your strategy. The corollary of this observation is that it can only be great strategy if it makes for great tactics. This one’s worth repeating:
It’s only great strategy if it makes for great tactics.
When I worked in the ad business, every now and then I’d hear people both inside and outside the agency say something along the lines of “Yeah, I know the strategy’s a bit flat, but the creative team will bring it to life.” That is dangerously lazy and wrong thinking.
Great positioning strategies are creative in their own right. When the strategy is great, it ends up being something fun and easy to communicate just as an idea. You will know that idea will provoke, maybe even disrupt. That idea will demand a response from the target audience- even when it’s still a raw idea, before it becomes a beautifully finished piece of communication. When you have a great strategy, you can already see the advertising, events and promotions falling into place.
When someone in a long-ago meeting suggested positioning 7-Up as “The Uncola,” everyone there knew that a breakthrough had been made, and that powerful communication programs would be an inevitable outcome. Similarly, Sterling Brands helped the Dove brand team create the “Real Beauty” strategy that has guided their brand so effectively, and Ogilvy & Mather (and others) created the communications programs that made it count.
Great positions are themselves marketable ideas. If you can’t immediately see the path from a positioning strategy to its tactics, you’ve probably got some work left to do on the strategy itself.
Creativity has greater dollar value in the marketplace today than ever before. The creativity that later lends itself to effective tactics, to the amplified effects of people sharing your ads around the Internet, to an event or experience that feels ‘just right’ to your target audience- all begins in your positioning. And in an Internet-based global economy, creativity has become the competitive differentiator.
For brands this means that you should seek out partners and people who are truly creative, but also smart enough to get strategy. They are few and far in between, so treat them well. They are the few who will make a difference in this new marketplace – and that difference is only going to get bigger.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy
Welcome to 2015! We are going to usher in the new year with a few of Austin’s thought on effectively communication your Position. Let’s dive in with a lesson on keeping it real.
People don’t deal well with concepts. They prefer reality. Brand positioning is a good thing so long as it isn’t entirely conceptual. Instead, a brand position must be real, and it must be brought to life through the product or service itself. If there are multiple products under a brand umbrella, find the catalyst- the one that best exemplifies the position and makes it real to the audience.
All this is especially true if you want to change the way people see you. Yeah, maybe you can convince them you’ve changed just by telling them so, but wouldn’t you be more certain of their response if you could present some evidence?
When Oldsmobile told you it was “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile,” the unspoken response was “Um…yeah, it actually is.” Oldsmobile had a catchy line, a good communication strategy, but didn’t have a product to back up its claims. Cadillac, on the other hand, didn’t need to say a whole lot about its new and younger outlook. It simply showed you the Escalade and- perhaps just as important- who was driving it.
Consider these additional examples:
-Target doesn’t claim to be hip. It just is. No amount of claiming to be chic can substitute for real-life presence of top designers and brands in its stores.
-Sun Microsystems may have been “the dot in dot com,” but it was the Java programming language that brought the company’s Internet-centricity to life, getting Sun into thousands of offices where it was subsequently able to sell a lot of profitable servers.
-You can say you’re in the entertainment business and that intuitive design is important to you. Or you can be Apple and simply introduce the iPod. And then follow it up with the iPhone.
-Motorola called itself Moto and tried to act very, very hip, but it didn’t work until the company launched the Razr. (Unfortunately, although the phone looked great, it didn’t work well, so success was fleeting.)
Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a real product or service that brings strategy to life is worth millions of marketing communications dollars.
The recent increase in ‘environmental branding’ is a testimony to the benefits of keeping it real. Niketown, Levi’s, Disney and Apple stores are all great examples of a brand being brought to life in a controlled retail experience. ‘Pop-up stores’ can also showcase a brand for the same purpose. That purpose, that focus, is almost entirely on creating a great brand experience.
So keep it real. Never forget that a real product and a real brand experience are generally worth more than all the words you write and all the marketing communication money you spend.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy
In the words of Rutherford Rogers of Yale:Â “We’re drowning in information and starving for knowledge.”
Most marketers don’t need more research or more data. They need more insight.
That may seem a small point, or even an obvious one, but I remain astonished by the high ratio of money spent on research that doesn’t lead to action compared to money spent on research that does lead to action.
Information is useless in its own right, and far too many people and organizations are satisfied with spending millions of dollars on useless information. Yes, you need to know what’s going on out there- but only if you are actually going to do something with the knowledge. Only if that information somehow yields competitive advantage.
The missing ingredient can sound trite. Insight is a much-overused term in the world of marketing. But it’s insight that you’re looking for. It’s insight that’s worth paying for- not information.
So try this: review every “research” expenditure you have. Ask the same two questions of each program or project:
-Will it lead to an action?
-Will it lead to insights that will yield competitive advantage?
If the answer is no to both questions, don’t do it. Save the money and- perhaps more important- save the organizational time and focus that can be much better spent on insight generation.
Many companies seem to be so busy processing information that they lose track of its purpose. What if all that processing time and the minds that like to do that type of processing were replaced with insight-generation time and minds that like to create insight? It’s time to find out.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling’s Strategy team
For what it’s worth, the term ‘consumer’ really irritates me. I still use it to make myself understood, but it bugs me. With time, I’ve concluded that the word bugs me for strategic reasons- not just because I don’t like the word itself.
‘Consumer’ conjures up a mass of people ready to blindly ‘consume’ my product. By comparison, the word ‘customer’ seems more singular and implies a relationship of some kind. Consumers consume. Customers purchase- if they are treated right. Consumers are the way of the past. Customers are the wave of the future.
This makes a difference on a couple of fronts. Right now, retailers have customers and most of their suppliers have consumers. For structural reasons, but also because of this schizoid mindset, the retailer often has a much stronger relationship with that person than does the manufacturer. Over time, this almost always leads the retailer to become a more trusted ‘guarantor’ of product quality than the manufacturer. Ultimately, this means that the retailer can source products and build brands that the customer trusts more than those from the manufacturer- and they’ll be cheaper for many of the same structural reasons.
I believe everyone needs to build a real, working customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. Forget the software for now; just embrace the theory. In the old world, terms like 1:1 marketing, segmentation and mass marketing were too often viewed as distinct alternatives. The fact is, for many marketers, inside their customer database reside customers who deserve to be handled 1:1 and can be profitably marketed to this way, customers who can be approached on a segment basis, and customers who can only be profitable if they’re treated en masse.
Depending on your business, you may even be able to determine the unprofitable customer- and although all consumers may seem like they are worth having, some are definitely best sent over to your competition.
So, let’s stop thinking about the people buying our products and services as consumers and promote them to the exalted status of customer… and then we can all go back to fighting over them.
If you’re a manufacturer and this creates confusion with intermediates such as retailers, who you currently call customers, I have another suggestion. Call them partners and treat them accordingly.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy. Stay tuned for a continued, in-depth take on the customer all month long.