Tuesday 29 December 2009

Do you agree ?

The new #LinkedIn 3.0 (for Iphone) and the new web platform look and feel very 'facebookesque' is there something they're not telling us ?

Friday 18 December 2009

Its ok to be 'Good Enough'

So I finally relented, and tried Starbucks Via today. Over the last 5 years my pallet has adapted to love only Espresso based coffee, but that was not an available option at an event I attended today.

Out of curiosity I tried Via instead of the brewed Coffee option, and was stunned to find it so drinkable. So much so that I was tempted enough to have a refill - an unexpected positive experience. Yet it wasn't really so unexpected, because they keep telling me it tastes better than brewed coffee...but that just was not believable until now.
For sceptics of Via like myself they could have done much more to get me to try it, to provoke me out of my apathy/rejection.
But how ? As I follow Starbucks on Twitter, they could have sent me a DM or @ message, and I wouldn't have minded that, because I'm enough of a fan to follow them. If they had incentivized me I probably would have driven to a store flashed my Iphone app and tried a free sample, but they didn't.
Ultimately they had my permission to change my mind because I had already reached out to them through my Twitter follow and my Iphone app, but in the end they got me by accident.
I struggle with the fact that by only delivering a 'good enough' (according to me) product they managed to change my perception and make me an advocate. I also struggle with how Starbucks is re-framing its coffee Equity. Do they stand for great tasting coffee or good enough coffee ? Do they stand for a great experience or more frequent good enough experiences ? I think you know which one to choose here ...right ?

Thursday 3 December 2009

Revealed:The Linchpin's (not so) secret weapon

Joyfulness Restored
Following my previous post "Black Friday and the GPS Blues", joyfulness has been restored and marketing once more triumphs.

(not so) Secret Weapon to monetary attraction
Seth Godin has smartly cultivated his fans in order to launch his new book "The Linchpin" with a simple yet compelling formula (with his actions in brackets):

  1. Functional Benefit (book) +

  2. Emotional benefit (Acumen Fund - Charity endorsement) +

  3. Motivation (limited offer of 3000 + request to blog a review)

= Monetary Attraction

The formula is masterful ...savour, digest, share and reapply.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Black Friday and the GPS Blues

Black Friday

During Black Friday the new Rhianna album Rated R was available for $3.99 on Amazon.com. You could also have used a $3 e-voucher which meant for the princely sum of $0.99 you would get the album. Is this a great deal or does it make me question if the album is any good or not ?

For any brand this is a slippery downward slope..Rhianna may have sold lots of copies, but is the consumer being conditioned to value her product for less in the future ?

GPS Blues

The GPS manufacturers such as Garmin and Tom Tom are having a severely tough time of maintaining the (premium) value of their products as price competition drives down the $$ value of each and every product innovation in days ...let alone weeks, as reported by daily finance.

Value for me experiences

Spending time building engaging (value for me) experiences for consumers is a way out of this challenge - with a front of mind brand being Apple.
Less obvious and more interesting examples from Fox such as "24", and the band Sade are case studies of how to achieve this by 'cultivating' their fans.

You wont find these cases in the marketing books or too many blogs.....yet, but I may just have to change that....

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Soldier of Love - Sade the brand queen

Very few brands can gain attention after c.10 years without consistent communication with their their consumers. Sade has managed that.

Very few brands can re-create their visual identity and be incredibly captivating. Sade has managed that with the cover art for their new album.

What brand would easily generate 1 million sales in its first week after being absent for a decade. Yes, you've guessed ! Sade.

If Sade were a product its brand equity would be off the scale, by being unique, authentic and the best at what they do.

Marketers - start emulating brands like Sade - the brand queen(and kings).

Sunday 8 November 2009

Gladwell book: $25 vs free - experience is priceless

Malcom Gladwell's latest book - what the Dog Saw can cost you nothing if you go to his website and download his articles from the New Yorker. (I wont include the link...just to make you work a little bit harder if you want to read his stuff for free).

I chose to invest $25 to download the 'priceless' mp3 audio book version, and Its money truly well spent. I get to hear the author breathe fresh life into his work, and hear him re-tell all the stories. I get to feel what he felt when writing it, and share his joy, surprise, fear and confusion. I get to build a relationship with him (of sorts), and it only cost me $25.

The publishing industry is in shock, and charging for content you can find for free is pretty audacious. With e-books (and Amazon) keeping prices at c. $10 it will be a tough task to create more value via price rises.....and I fear for authors who don't look to innovate with these new book mediums.

But if you know your consumer well enough you realise that they will pay more for a special experience such as a 'tried and tested' audio book....As I said - you can get it all for free, but who wants free when you can get true experiential value for such a small investment.....

Sunday 11 October 2009

Just do it

There aren’t too many opportunities to immerse yourself in the business and marketing world at the movie theatre, so take advantage of two great films showing in selected theatres right now.

The September Issue
This narrates the creation of American Vogue's seminal ‘September’ issue (in 2007). The standout drama comes from the fascinating relationship between Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, where methodical and meticulous editing alongside visionary creativity coexist - beautiful and truly fascinating.

Art and Copy
The film is a masterpiece that tells the magic stories behind seminal ad campaigns such as ‘got milk’, and of course 'Just Do it' from Nike. It's so much fun to revel in the journey of the campaigns and become mesmerized by the genius and talent of the protagonists.

The simple way I connect both films is that in these industries breakthrough success can only arise from three things:

• passion for what you do
• rejection of mediocrity
• Unbridled joy at expressing your creative self
Check them both out now !

Sunday 4 October 2009

The World's softest sock

So what makes a great claim?

1.It must be simple
2.It needs to have stopping power
3.It needs to be believable, (or at least make you feel that its believable)
4.It needs to make you buy
5.It needs to make you come back and buy again

Well this one certainly meets all 5 criteria. My wife has purchased 4 pairs of these socks in the last 4 months, and at c. $8-10 a pair (in stores) they certainly are high margin for the manufacturer and retailer alike.

I cannot figure out how they substantiate this claim "world's softest sock", unless of course they test each and every sock in the world for softness (unlikely)…..or perhaps this counts as ‘marketing puffery’ (more likely)?

In any case its fantastic marketing, because it works !

Monday 21 September 2009

Twitter 101 – Smart Twips and Top Links

As a fan of Twitter and self taught user (via trial and error) I have collated dozen's of sources to write a 2 page guide called "Twitter 101 - Smart Twips and Top Links". It's ideal for beginners and intermediate users. Find it at the following link.

Hope it helps and please leave comments on the blog.

Friday 18 September 2009

Mraketing – how to make Sreach work for you….

So now I got your attention didn’t I ! Think about it - how often do you miss-spell a word in an email – 50% of the time ? How about miss-spelling a word in a search ? I would guess its MOST of the time.

So If marketing is about gaining attention, and search marketing is about defining and choosing the optimum words for your 'bsusines' or 'barnd'…then you may be missing a trick by not actively buying miss-spelled words.

Simply, get someone to type your top 5 search words out 20 times, and keep the mistakes for some of your key words!

I credit this highly original thought to the great guys at the Marketing over Coffee site and podcast ….listen to the show dated 16th Sept (at 06:25) to learn more….

Rebranding London - 3 tips for success

As a former resident I’m a big fan of London. However, it does need to step up its game to keep up with wonderful cities such as Barcelona, Stockholm and Melbourne. So Im watching the rebranding London campaign brief and pitch process with interest. Moving Brands have breathed some great energy into the process by leveraging crowdsourcing - with some amazing ideas sent in : check them out here .

My three tips for success

1. Bring the Outside In
The opportunity to re-brand london should be championed outside of the country – after all visitors and tourists will be the key customers of any new identity.

2. Engage the Masses
Internally, It could be a great opportunity to reach out to the wider community of ‘brands’ that actively touch London – eg airlines, sports teams, retailers that also have a vested stake in the success of the output, tapping into their creative minds and ample resources – encouraging them to submit.

3.Inspire the Kids
This could be a great school project – to get kids engaged in the discussion – reaching out to school bodies to encourage submissions. Good Luck London.

Friday 4 September 2009

Passion for your brand is infectious

Dining last night at Busaba Eathi - a Thai restaurant chain in London's Soho last night was a real pleasure. The food, atmosphere (and weather !) were all great last night, but that's not what made the difference.

The difference was the waitress, who had a genuine love and excitement about the food. She was just so keen to recommend her favourites, and delighted to offer sides of the delicious peanut sauce that they have (at no extra charge !). She was fast, efficient and just fantastic at her job, and did it all with passion !

This was not the usual friendly and forced smile, this was not the usual coached and trained service - no this felt genuine, authentic and honest. The positive energy and excitement rubbed off on me, and that makes all the difference to the consumer.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Is Bing faster than Usain Bolt ?

Ok, so you have to read a bit further to decipher my metaphor (suffice to say that Bing clearly isn’t Bolt)…..‘Google’ - formerly a proper noun, has effectively morphed into a verb. Yes it was slow, but is now widely accepted and understood, entering the lexicon as the verb referring ‘to execute a web search’ (ie they are the Bolt of web search).

Lets Bing it

I first heard the expression ‘let’s Bing it’ – in a sponsored section of the Rachel Zoe Project tv show earlier this week. Having taken a couple of days to ponder my reaction, I still feel that the expression frankly sounds forced and quite odd.

Although Bing has to differentiate itself from Google, (with eg their TV creative poking fun at the shortcomings of other search engines) they now go head on to challenge Googles’ ubiquity. But can you think of anyone who would get what you meant if you said “I binged that ”?.. I don’t think so !...not yet anyway.

Going for Gold

Bing works really well, looks good, and provides different results to Google, and I love any brand that offers me a better solution. So, yes I applaud Microsoft for having the tenacity to set their benchmark as at least a dead heat – and to metaphorically race their Usain Bolt.
Imagine being the Bing CMO who could also change the language – and claim to have turned Bing into a verb from a noun, let’s watch and see.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Brands. Don’t hide the facts - talk about price rises !

Kudos to Starbucks. I’ve been impressed with the recent Twitter communication from @Starbucks and the intelligent way they have engaged their followers after raising (and also reducing) some prices, by following 2 simple rules.

1.Be Transparent
As smart users of social media they maintained transparency in their communication, and didn’t hide from the facts. The first tweet was a link to an ABC report that was neutral in overall tonality; containing both positive and negative comments about pricing, but also referenced a competitors’ success (McDonalds).

2.Be Authentic
Today they posted a tweet to savvy sugar which gave 10 tips on how to save money, nicely balancing being informative vs overtly sales focused. The tonality of the piece felt authentic, and I love this grown up approach.

By building this kind of relationship with their consumers Starbucks is adopting a winning strategy to strengthen their brand.

Monday 24 August 2009

No more crumbles…a simple way to loyalty

No more crumbled Nutrigrain bars for me ! I’m ecstatically buying them at the moment, because they have a promotion – that provides the perfect solution to my perennial squashed snack problem. For years now, when I’m on my travels I have been forced to develop makeshift solutions (eg placing them in my glasses case) to avoid the snack time disaster of a flattened, crumbled, ‘squished’ bar.

The ‘on the go’ carrier is free (with 3 tokens from purchase). I know what you’re thinking …and no despite the fact this piece reads like a press release absolutely no remuneration has been provided by Kellogg’s. This is simply the celebration and joy of a marketeer who just loves it when a brand finds such a simple and emotive way to positively surprise me and solve my problems. By doing this they strengthen their relationship with me, and make me that little bit more loyal, and less likely to buy an own label substitute.

NB Now my only dismay will be if it takes the full 90 days for me to receive it !

Sunday 16 August 2009

In search of the Remarkable: No.1 Dan Roam

Inspired by Seth Godin, I'm consistently in search of the remarkable, and this pursuit has led me to the fabulous work of Dan Roam.

Start at the Beginning
My visits to Barnes & Noble stores, are underpinned by a compulsion to browse the business section, with my working theory that the market is fuelled by 3 drivers:
a) a race to create the latest buzz word
b) a plethora of new/breakthrough 7-10 step processes that will revolutionize the way we think
c) the emerging/returning Guru with the as seen on ‘Oprah/The View/Fast Money/Today’ sticker on the front cover, (with accompanying endorsements from all the usual suspects).

The Discovery
The above theory is being threatened by Dan Roam’s book ‘The Back of the Napkin – Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures’. This literally jumped out at me; as my preference for visualizing my thinking is the core of his work - via ingenious illustrations that help captivate and inform. I just Had to buy it, and i dont think he's been on Oprah ...yet !

Demanding Attention
...But... to be honest I haven’t yet read it, as Dan’s book was in the queue - behind ‘Purple Cow’ (Seth Godin) and The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) which I’m attempting to read simultaneously…

Well, not any more, Dan has captivated my attention by writing 4 amazing 'Napkins' which demystify the healthcare reform debate (in the US) - leveraging his truly unique pictorial eloquence and elegance…I’m absolutely hooked, and he’s forced me into choosing him first (and hence placing on hold the other books I'm reading), and that’s what any great brand should achieve…

NB I’ll post a review when im finished, but go and check out the book website

Now that’s what I call a logo

CNN and Fortune magazine have a great piece highlighting 12 major link brand identity restages of companies with strong examples being Walmart, IBM and Starbucks. I posted last month about how much I love the restage by Pepsi – which shook my complacency with Coke drove me to try Pepsi with the ultimate result of that I switched allegiance to Pepsi. Of the examples the stand out is UPS, providing effortless proof that the colour brown can successfully be used to differentiate and connote positive attributes that engage the consumer and fit a brand so well.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Brand Loyalty in action - Twitter CEO’s Wife Tweeting While in Labor

I love this Twitter story , a classic example, and a perfect way to spontaneously translate the benefit of a brand into something compelling and emotive.

A perfect definition of brand loyalty and brand equity in action ! PS congrats to the new parents.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Loyalty beyond reason = Nespresso

There are some brands that just permeate the soul, and in my case one of them is Nespresso. Acquiring the newly launched Citiz machine cost me 5 hours – the time it took for a round trip to my nearest Sur Le Table store (courtesy of the Chicago area traffic). Although the official launch was 1st August I have been enjoying my machine for 2 weeks now.NB this proves the power of exclusive launches works for brands (as Sur Le Table get a 1 month head start on the other retailers).

What did I get: a) exquisite design, b) an in built milk frothing (Aerocino) for Lattes and Cappuccino’s, and c) consistently darn good tasting coffee. I have already overinvested in 200 capsules (when purchasing my welcome pack) – and cant wait for the ongoing interaction with the Nespresso Club.

My next goal is to understand how well the folks at Nespresso build their brand relationship with me.

KISS - Keep it Short and Sweet

In the current age being time poor is inevitable, with the added burden of yearning for continuous development and learning. There is however a practical way to know what’s hot, and stay ahead of the curve as efficiently as possible.

I have become an immediate fan of Seth Godin, who gets his messages across by owning the mantle of being brutally honest, repetitive and most importantly short and 'sweet'.

In ‘The Dip – the little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)’’ he talks about the same 2 themes over and over, and abruptly stops after only 80 pages. Its successor ‘Tribes – we need you to lead us’ on the other hands runs a little longer (150 pages), but doesn’t stray too much from the 2 topics of leadership and avoiding mediocrity.

In tribute to Seth I leave you with my review of Tribes - in as succinct a manner as possible: provoke, frustrate, enlighten, motivate, enable !

NB I’m waiting on Amazon to deliver ‘Purple Cow’, with the hope it’s equally as short and just as engaging.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Trial: The holy grail !

Remember the last time you tried a new brand or product - how did you feel?

Let me take you back a week
As a happy Coke zero consumer, (and an occasional Sprite zero drinker) I happened to be thirsty and needed a drink whilst shopping in Target. So on auto pilot I searched for Coke zero and couldn’t find it in the chillers by the checkout (I don’t like Diet Coke).

A sudden appearance
Now, all of a sudden I noticed diet Pepsi. Why did I notice ? Well in the last few months Pepsi has rolled out new designs across the lineup, and they just seem to attract me that little bit more, and as they were the same price as Coke I thought why not try diet Pepsi. Why am I telling you all this, well it’s because I absolutely love diet Pepsi, in fact I prefer it to Coke Zero.

I have defected from Coke zero after one trial of diet Pepsi !

The Power of New
As a brand manager this experience troubles me. It seems that my action was sparked by 3 things:
a) there was no real risk to my decision, after all I was thirsty, so I was desperate to consume anything cold and wet.
b) no incremental cost - ie diet Pepsi was the same price as the Coke equivalent, BUT
c) there was something new and interesting about Pepsi. The new packaging design made me feel different about Pepsi, it made me think differently about Pepsi, it helped interest me enough to try Pepsi.

What's going through your mind ? Do diet Pepsi know that their taste beats Coke zero ? Am I going to revert back to Coke ? Why doesn't Target have Coke Zero in the chillers ?

It feels liberating to try something new, and I guess Pepsi were counting on that simple response.ix74wmjf2r

Monday 27 July 2009

Billboard.com – how to refresh brand equity without alienating your consumers

As a music fan one of the sites I visit almost on a daily basis is billboard with core brand equity elements of the 'authority', and 'champion' of the music industry. It’s a great portal for sales and shipment data, charts, news, reviews and general music industry gossip. So on Saturday when I logged in – I was surprised to see a radical site redesign. Granted the old site was tired and driven by banner ad’s, but was easy to navigate and content rich.

A New Business Model

With focus on downloading music (via lala.com), I sense a change of business model – to actively generate user revenue and return visits vs. the ad driven model.

Is it the same brand?
I’m not sure that I like the new ‘MySpace’ feel which undermines the ‘authority’ brand value. The brand clearly needs to evolve and perhaps has succeeded - I have already opened a www.Lala.com account and downloaded music (by Alexi Murdoch).

Marketing works !

This could prove to be a classic marketing case study where a brand:
a) Reinvents itself by refreshing its equity - but not straying too far (simply by adding ‘first choice’) as an additional equity element
b) Ensures it understand how to engage and retain consumers
c) Drives the top and bottom line

Bravo to the marketing folks at Billboard.

Monday 20 July 2009

Battle of the Beans - Is McCafe Better Than Starbucks ?

The Good
Having seemingly lost its way as consumers tighten their discretionary spending at last Starbucks is back and returning to their premium (coffee) experience roots via the Inspired by Starbucks brand of stores.

The Bad
For years the key characteristics of:
a) great tasting coffee, and b) a truly unique and engaging experience, have been hindered by the push behind stretching the brand into for example, cold ice filled flavoured drinks - coupled with the sense that the role of the Barista was being diminished .

To make matters worse brands such as Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds (McCafe) have successfully infiltrated Starbucks territory and spent significantly to communicate their offerings. NB in Europe McCafe’s are also nicely decked out in comfy leather seats, wooden tables, and art alongside an offering of muffins, cookies etc.

The Ugly (Truth)
Contrary to the experts at Coffee Review, my current tally is a stirring 20:1 visits in favour of McCafe vs Starbucks. Yes, I freely admit to preferring a McCafe ‘Medium’ Cappuccino vs the ‘Tall’ Starbucks equivalent.

The winning Formula
Lower McCafe price (by 50c or so) + incentive (discount coupons on ‘Medium’ size) = Starbucks disloyalty.

But with hope of the “inspired by Starbucks” franchise on the horizon, perhaps there is a way for Starbucks to win back my business.

Thursday 16 July 2009


Remember the Time ?

So did President Obama’s visit to Ghana help build the Ghana brand ? If yes what can you remember ? Well, a CNN search of ‘Ghana’ today (Thursday July 16th 2009) shows perhaps the message decay has already set in, and the lead story is about a charity that donates used computers to village schools . Great stuff, but what does brand Ghana actually stand for ?

What’s great about Brand Ghana

From the CNN reports I give top marks for clearly identifiable core values of democracy and independence, and a solid brand character of passionate, proud, and hopeful. However, with no clear overall equity – and no real executional elements Im left a little disappointed.

Execution, execution, execution…

Yes there were merchandise and memorabilia (sold locally of course)and even official songs but without a video there’s no chance to generate the 3m+ views that eg the United Breaks Guitars song has achieved on Youtube. The missed opportunity here is develop a visual identity that could travel the world and lodge in peoples minds.

Visual Brand icons

Simple question - from this event what will the international consumer (ie viewer) take away ?

As awareness slips, a simple distinctive visual identity would help recollection. I’m not saying its easy to do, but two great recent examples :
1. Michael Jackson’s memorial service silver glove and aviator shades
2. fireworks and the singing girl from the Beijing Olympics

Unfortunately for Ghana, from president Obama’s trip, all I can clearly remember is, well President Obama in a suit....

Saturday 11 July 2009


I’m not an advocate of negative marketing, but after reading the story "United Breaks Guitars" a Smash Hit on YouTube! (as reported on MSNBC) http://tiny.cc/4NRaN , a contentious thought came to mind - that there could be ‘a gap in the market’ for a new marketing career path - namely sabotage marketing !

Don’t buy it huh, well hear me out…..

1.In the above case United Airlines get lots of coverage and can use it to show how they will learn and improve, and Dave Carroll (the inconvenienced customer) will get some belated compensation.

2.After all we have recently seen a number of cases of very smart and highly impactful ‘crisis management/turnarounds’ to handle negative publicity following inappropriate staff behavior at Domino’s (as reported on Fox) http://tiny.cc/quWZx and a chicken shortage at KFC http://tiny.cc/LpDQq

3.Although I’m not suggesting it was a premeditated strategy in the above examples, the results are impressive. What would stop a brand thinking ‘aha’ perhaps we ‘stage’ a negative experience as a way to build a viral ‘turnaround’ story.

4.That’s why I argue that there’s a gap in the market for the ‘sabotage marketer’, their sole job would be to actively and purposefully stuff up - and yes annoy consumers!

For those inclined - some sabotage marketing tips:

a)have a ready made press release, b) get your CEO Youtube response recorded, and of course - c) your Twitter apology posted, and d) fingers crossed either Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper cover you on CNN.


Typing the phrase ‘sabotage marketing’ into your search engine produces descriptions not as extreme as the way described in point 4 above…..but you never know, so keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you find any concrete examples.


Ever since discovering the ‘Lovemarks’ concept from Kevin Roberts (CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi) ie a brand that generates loyalty beyond reason, http://www.lovemarks.com/. I have been weighing up potential candidates of brands that I am unreasonably loyal to, and so the inaugural Global Marketeer nomination goes to NESPRESSO.

The Pro’s: (captivating brand experience)

Nespresso has won my heart because it gives me a delightfully captivating experience each and every time I need it. I’m fanatical enough to visit a store everywhere I travel, and so be it Barcelona, Stockholm, Geneva, Frankfurt or New York, I’m left in awe at how they excel at deliveing a perfect brand representation of style, indulgence, and premiumness in each location. Add to this incredible on line work, eg this new Swiss website gives me access to their ‘experts’, providing yet another level of fascination to what Nespresso means to me.

The Con’s: (waiting for new product launches)

The low point is that new products are launched later in the US vs Europe - I’ve had to wait to get my hands on a new Citiz Machine. Although they’ve been missing out on my coffee capsule sales for the last 3 months, I don’t think they’re hurting right now - despite the current economic crisis sales are up : +20% . These girls and guys are damn good at marketing.