I posted earlier this year on a book called "The Element". Its pretty life-changing stuff about doing something you love and have a natural talent for. I sum it up with the idea of "finding your own adventure playground". And there's no better way to do this than to create your own business. Some are leaving bigcompany plc to start their own businesses, such as Peter from Unilever who started Trattoria Guilia. Others are having a bit on the side: doing a "real job" by day, and creating a playground in their spare time, as covered in Marketing magazine.
Phone seller and boutique hotel owner
Russel Braterman is Marketing Director of Phone4U. He also launched and runs the Kemp Townhouse boutique hotel in Brighton. With his partner he created the hotel from scratch, completely gutting the building and refurbishing it in just 3 months.
One of the things he likes of having his own business is the autonomy: "The big difference when its your own business is you don't have to compromise and you can make decisions on the spot".
Shopping mal director and pickled onion purveyor
John Wringe is a director of The Mall, who run shopping centres. He has also created a £1million brand of pickled onions [non-UK readers, one of our peculiar haute cuisine foods ;-) ], endorsed by TV film critic Barry Norman. He developed the recipe, worked on the pack and design and pitched the idea successfully to retailers.
The first thing I took from John's story is creating a product you want, using your own intuition. Not understanding the consumer. Being the consumer. He'd been unable to find a pickled onion strong enough for his taste. So he made his own.
Second, he talks about how marketing folk should be good at creating new businesses: "You can have an expert who sees an opportunity, but it's bringing them to market that is key".
Voucher-scheme provider and music biz dude
Kevin Harrington is a director at Sodexho Pass. He also runs Josaka, a record label, webzine and live music promoter. He started with a webzine promoting local music, then brought out a CD. He know also sets up gigs for bands.
This experience has helped him be creative at finding low-cost marketing. "Its suprising how creative you can be when you have no money, and the fact I can transfer this to my day-job is great"
In conclusion, launching your own business is a great way of building your own adventure playground. You make the rules, you follow your passion and you get to use your marketing creativity. Why are you waiting?
Interesting to read in Marketing that Unilever brand Pepperami has received 1185 ad ideas via the "crowdsourcing" website Idea Bounty. I posted back in August on the brand's decision to fire its agency of 16 years, Lowe London, and take the bold move of tapping into Idea Bounty's global network of freelance creatives.
The brand team have whittled down the ads to a final shortlist of 22 ideas. They will pick the winner by the end of the month, with the victorious creative team bagging a bounty of $10,000.
A few learnings from this innovative process already:
1. Works best when you have a defined creative territory. In this case Pepperami has its "animal" character, with the endline "Its a bit of an animal". This I find tough on Lowe, whose creative brilliance came up with this branding property. Shouldn't they at least get some sort of licensing fee?
2. Saves money, but not time. Noam Buchalter, of Unilever business unit Chrysalis, reports that the mew approach saved money, but the time spent was the same as on a traditional brief. I would guess it takes even more time, as someone had to sift through 1185 ad ideas to find the good ones.
3. Clever PR for Unilever. The company has got great coverage in the marketing press for this move. Not the main objective, but a good way of promoting the company as being innovative.
So, watch this space to see what creative work comes out of this fascinating process.
News that Microsoft is delaying the much-heralded launch of its Bing search engine till at least quarter 1 of next year shows how hard it is for a "follower brand" to take on a strong leader brand, in this case Google.
Bing has been available in the UK since June of this year, although it has not had any marketing activity. So far, it has less then 5% market share, compared to 90% for Google (combining the .co.uk and .com sites). My guess is that even with marketing support Bing will struggle to get more than 15-20% market share at most. Why?
1. Strong leader brands own "the high-ground"
Leader brands like Google own the key central benefits of the market, in this case speed, accuracy and ease of use. These associations are hard-wired into our brains. Say search, and you think Google. Or rather you feel Google instinctively, without even thinking. Indeed, "to Google" has become a verb. This is shown by my 11 year old daughter, whose response to most questions is "Let's Google it".
2. Follower brands are forced to differentiate
Follower brands like Bing are forced to differentiate. And this is, contrary to popular belief, a recipe to be a niche brand, not a leader. Leader brands stay leaders not by being different, but by being distinctive. They offer what are sometimes called "generic" benefits. But do this with an ownable twist. In the case of Google, their search engine is unbelievably simple. Despite launching a plethora of new services (mail, maps etc.) they have stuck to what made them famous by keeping the purity of their home-page with the single search box.
Bing is forced to be different. But in doing so, makes itself less relevant, not more. Their home-page has a fancy picture. It has floating boxes that reveal obscure facts. Which of the 2 sites below would you trust to be simple, quick and accurate, even taking off the branding? Bing looks more like a travel agency or a photography site to me.
And the added complexity continues when you search. On the results page as you move your cursor down, more boxes appear with extra information that distract you. Most people are used to Google's way of showing headline info, and then inviting you to click through.
To sum up the service, VCCP Search MD Paul Meed said in Marketing, "The user experience from the UK is not living up to expectations, so they go back to Google".
3. True leader brands renvate relentlessly
Bing is doomed to always be in catch-up mode vs. Google, as the Leader Brand is a great example of constant renovation to make the service better. Google employs the brightest and best, and spends millions of dollars a year on R&D. This includes the core search service, and new services such as maps, mail that make the site even "stickier".
In summary, think twice about taking on a Leader Brand unless you believe there is a real opportunity to deliver the core benefits of the market in a distinctive and more relevant way.
Came across a great article on how killing the "dwarves" in your brand's product range can help you grow, in BA's Business Life magazine, by Steve Martin.
The challenge of trying to focus
One of the most common challenges on projects we do is the need to try and focus a brand's product range. Often, the range is cluttered with small and poorly performing products. These are versions, formats or sizes that don't add real value for the consumer. We call these "dwarves". They suck away attention and budget from the core product in the range, or Snow White.
Even when a team is persuaded of the need to kill these smaller products, the problem is proving that this is good for business. Push-back comes from the organisation, who fear that it will result in a loss in sales. Well, Steve Martin's piece explains why it can actually help you grow.
Less really is more
Martin is an expert on persuasion, having written a book on it called Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion. And his research show that having too much choice can actually backfire. In one experiment on a jam brand shoppers were exposed to two product ranges. The first had six flavours. The second had 24. Which produced better results? You might think the one with 24 flavours. Surely, more choice is a good thing. In fact, with the bigger range 3% of shoppers bought the brand. With the smaller range of six flavours a whopping 30% made a purchase.
Martin has not only experiments to prove that less can be more. He quotes a case of a well-known shampoo reducing its range from 26 to 15 varieties and experiencing a 10% increase in sales.
Why focus works
Works for consumers: Offering less choice makes it easy for shopper to decide what they want, and reduces the risk they get frustrated at trying to choose. Given that people spend on average 30 to 60 seconds in front of a shelf for a given category, this is a big plus. It makes it easier for them to "zoom in" and find the product they want.
Works for the business: Beyond the consumer benefit, killing the dwarves can have huge benefits for the business. It simplifies manufacturing and the supply chain. And it re-focuses of marketing and management on the core products
Works for the customers: As reported in Marketing this week, retailers are busy killing dwarves, reducing the number of lines across most product ranges. So, you can either wait for the retailers to get out the gun, and risk loosing the shelf-space. Or, you can be pro-active, and do it yourself. This way you at least have a chance of making a case to re-allocate the space to your better performing product lines. This is the approach taken by Unilever, who have simplified the Knorr stock cube range (removing 4 and 9 packs, and leaving just 8 and 12 packs). They have also killed Persil Washing Up Liquid, giving up on trying to compete with the dominant Leader Brand, P&G's Fairy Liquid.
In conclusion, killing the "dwarves" in your range can be good for business, with benefits for consumers, business and customers. And, better to do the shooting yourself before someone else does it for you.
Nice post by Jez Paxman of Live Union on how to make live experiences an integral part of your brand. Live events can be gimmicky and one-off affairs that do little to build the brand. But the examples Jez talks about are different. They show how live experiences can become a strategic and long-term part of the brand mix.
Times + uses privileged access to live events as a way of driving the
paper's subscription service
Apple Camp - summer classes at Apple stores teaching kids how to use iLife programmes such as Garageband and iMovies.
Mark's Work Wearhouse
- a smallish brand in Canada has installed walk-in freezers with fans to create windchill
in its stores so you can trial their clothing and see how they perform
at temperatures as low as -40.
Nike Human Race - allows you to compete in a global 10k race, trying to set your own personal best, but also having your time be part of your own country competing against others. One of a host of live experiences that Nike uses to bring to life the brand.
O2's priority campaign gives customers exclusive early access to tickets at the O2 venue, and also entry to a special VIP area at Twickenham rugby ground and other sporting events. This has helped the brand be distinctive in the ultra competitive mobile network market.
Howies Do Lectures
- This annual retreat in the Welsh hills plays a fundamental role in
helping the ethical clothing brand spark
conversation and build a community around itself.
In conclusion, live experiences can play a big role in creating a distinctive and relevant brand. The challenge is to create events that really connect with your consumer and dramatise the brand positioning. And then put real and long-term support behind them so they become true brand poperties, not just one-shot events.
Great article in the FT on how Maclaren, the pushchair people, mis-managed a product crisis (thanks to my mate Mark for the tip-off). And this was no minor hiccup: the baby buggies in question, wait for it, cut the fingers off children. Ow.
The shit storm
On Monday, the company announced it was 1m issuing kits in the USA to repair pushairs sold in the last 10 years, after 12 cases of children having fingertips chopped off in the
pushchairs’ hinges. The website crashed. Phone lines were swamped by irate parents. And Twitter was full of messages such as “OH MY GOD. Amputations from a stroller?!”
So, what can we learn from this?
1. Act fast and bold
This is a lesson we saw in an earlier post on Renault's handling of the F1 crashing scandal. It pays to be decisive, act quickly and boldly. Maclaren failed to do this. First, the 15
incidents fingertip mutilation happened over
10 years. They could have acted faster to solve this. At the least they should have had a properly thought through crisis plan, including an online element, ready in case hell broke loose.
2. Use the online world, don't be a victim of it
It seems McClaren seriously under-estimated the viral power of the story. In the FT article the CEO of the US business, Farzad Rastegar, said “Did I expect this kind of coverage? No I did
not.” As the journalist, John Gapper commented, "It was hard to grasp why. The words 'child' and 'amputation' in a media release from the US safety regulator would
surely terrify anyone."
I am also amazed that the home-page of the US business doesn't open with a reassuring message about the repair kit. Instead, it has some bland message about how important safety is.
Close this and you get a happy-clappy picture of a toddler in a pushchair! Look closer and you can see the little boy looks like he is missing a few fingers ;-)
3. Empathise, don't lecture
As Gapper says, "Maclaren is the latest of many companies to fall into
the trap of being inwardly focused and failing to realise how customers
will react." McClaren actually has an excellent safety record. But its the way they are getting this message across that is wrong. Check out this quote from the homepage of the UK website, explaining
why repair kits are only available in the USA: "If a buggy is folded or
unfolded in line with our operating instructionsthe risk of injur is non-existent". Protesting that their pushchairs are safe if used properly is a cold, logical and uncaring reaction.
4. Think global
Maclaren made the mistake of treating US consumers differently. In our online world the news of the US repair kit has spread around the globe. Even though safety regulators in most
countries were content with Maclaren issuing a short-term warning, it would have been smarter to offer the kit to anyone who wanted it. Only now
is Maclaren is backtracking, under pressure from consumers and retailers, saying anyone can have the hinge cover if they ask for it.
In conclusion, companies need to think like human beings. How would the Mclaren CEO have felt like if his kid had a finger chopped off by a product? And how would he expect the company in question to act. As we say, don't try to understand the consumer. Be the consumer.
Update on last year's post on the stretch of smoothie brand innocent into veg pots. These are individual, veggie based meals sold for £3.50. 85% of people had then down as a miss in our 2009 hit 'n miss survey. However, based on a record amount of 20 positive comments on the blog, I started to wonder if we called it wrong. Let's look at the issues raised, and what has happened.
Will veg pots will be "a dwarf"?
On the one hand....
The biggest question was would these pots make pots of money? My concerns were not with the brand equity stretch. We can trust innocent to go from fruit to veg. And the funky new design and quirky pack copy are very innocent. No, the concerns raised were about the business model stretch. Could innocent profitably create a new market sector, and get the product into peoples' repertoires, given a high price-point of £3.50?
The only report I have been able to find suggest sales are c.£8million. And the fact innocent are advertising the veg pots suggest they must be doing OK. So, on the one hand, not bad. And by no means a flop. I think I didn't give enough credit to innocent for the good stuff in this brand extension:
- Solves real consumer problems: i) what to have for lunch?, ii) getting 3 of your 5 daily fruit and veg
- Decent, tasty product: made by one of our clients, Kerry Foods, who know a thing or too about tasty products
- Creating a new, premium segment: what I under-estimated is how keen the innocent fan-base of pretty upscale folk would be to buy these pots. They see £3.50 as a fair price for a hot, healthy, tasty lunch
On the other hand....
However, compare this to the sales of smoothies at c.£100 million, and you do get a slightly different picture (see below, done to scale). The veg pots are still dwarfed by the smoothie business. Now, as one smart Unilever manager asked at a recent workshop in Cape
Town, "Is this a dwarf, or a toddler?". As it stands, the veg pots look
pretty dwarf-like. But, innocent seem to think they have potential to
grow. Net, I think we need more time to see what happens. Also, I'd love to know the profitability of the veg pots vs. the smoothies, as in most cases new products make less profit than core products.
Risk of neglecting the core
The other issue raised, which has unfortunately come true, is the risk to the core business when stretching. We predicted that the time spent by management in 2008 on developing veg pots should have been spent on driving growth of the core smoothies business, and defending it against the launch of Tropicana. I shared this view with innocent founder Richard Reed when I met him at the innocent AGM back in Jan 2008, suggesting a need to drive distribution and also move down pricing to make the brand more accessible. This would also have protected the business against the ravages of the recession that was to come.
Well, unfortunately this bit we called right. UK smoothie sales fell 17% last year, a loss of £17million. In other words, twice the amount of new sales in veg pots. If effort had been focused on the core smoothies business, lets say half of this loss could have been avoided. This would have produced the same revenue result, but a much stronger business.
Now, to innocent's credit they learnt from what went wrong. They worked to get the price point of the smoothies down. They have promoted the brand at point-of-sale. Supported them with advertising. And, benefited from a recent Department of Health ruling supporting the "2 of your 5-a-day claim". These efforts are making an impact, with sales for the quarter to September reported as up 10%. They have won back just over half of the 2008 losses. Add in the veg pots and you have the same business as last year. But, more fragmented, with two different product lines.
First, credit where credit is due, innocent have shown the importance of creating new products that meet a true consumer need, in a way that builds on the trust and user-base the brand has created. Second, neglect the core at your peril. The growth in sales from the new product was more than off-set by loss in sales on the core. If you are going to stretch, ensure your protect enough time, effort and money for the core.
Now for a cool 21st century brand: Freitag. Probably the most successful and interesting brand launch from Switzerland since Swatch. As often with great idea, the concept is simple : Freitag makes recycled bags out of truck tarpaulins, seat belts and inner tubes. They are becoming the epitome of urban chic.
It all started with two bike-riding designers living next to the truck route in Zurich. They started designing bags using the discarded truck tarps they saw - virtually indestructible and 100% waterproof. And free.
This was back in 1993. Soon, the 2 brothers began making the tarp bags for their friends. Before long, word got around, and shops began requesting lines to sell in their stores.
Great sausage = product truth: tough as a truck!
Freitag products are made out of recycled seat-belt and truck material. Because trucks are tough, your Freitag product is tough too. And as the brand say on the site, "We are Swiss, which means we are acutely quality-conscious".
Great sizzle: Naturally unique design.
Each bag is unique in style and design, but this uniqueness is not artificially create. Colours vary 'according to pan-European trucks of Western Europe'. This is because the tarps are usually used for advertising, and painted to reflect the brand being carried or the corporate logo. This is like Nike ID, but better!
Brand Social Responsibilty
Frietag is a good example of going beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (supporting a good cause like recycling) to BRAND social responsibility. The doing good aspect, recycling, is an integral part of the sausage/product recipe.
Route to consumer
Distribution is a strategic part of the brand mix. There are flagship stores, an online store, and an online tool for designing your own bag. The brand personality comes through in the naming of this: "F-Cut" = It's Your Fault.
Brought to life and across all touch points
Check out the flagship store is Zurich. This is really about walking the talk: the shop itself is made out of truck containers. And guess what, to close the loop wonderfully, from the top of the store you can enjoy a good session of…truck-spotting!
In conclusion, Freitag is the perfect post-recession brand, combining sounds brand social leadership, modern product truths and cool factor. This is authentic branding, with close alignment of beliefs and behaviours. Vision and action working perfectly together.
Popped over to Living Brands, the blog of Jon Howard from agency Quietstorm, after having finally met him in a client workshop for Richmond sausages. And I was rewarded with a great post about changing consumer behaviour using fun, via Charles at Punk Planning. I posted on this subject a while back, about how Amsterdam Schipol airport get men to pee straight by drawing a little fly on each urinal.
The post is about a very cool website called "The Fun Theory" which is done by VW. It looks at how fun can be used to change consumer behaviour for the better. This is really a big idea. You can waste bags of money and time trying to force people to change, and get nowhere. Think of the gazillions spent on telling people to eat properly, and yet obesity rates continue to climb. Much better to make it easy, and even fun, for people to change.
The first example is about how you get people to use the stairs rather than the escaltor as a nice easy way of staying fit. By making it fun to climb the stairs, with piano key-like steps that lit up and played a tune, they got hundreds of people to use them. This hits a real nerve, as shown by over 4million views on YouTube. Click below if you are on the blog, or here to watch it on YouTube.
The second example is getting people to recycle glass bottles. By making the bottle bank like a slot machine in a casino they boosted usage from 2 people per day to 100. A 50 time increase in behaviour.
So, if you want to change consumer behaviour, make it fun and easy. For example, innocent have made it nice and easy to get 2 of your 5 fruit and veg a day with their smoothies. And though I've expressed doubt about the business model of their veg pots, they make it nice and easy to get another 3 of you fruit and veg portions.
The thing I'm not sure about is if this does anything for VW. You have to go from YouTube to the Fun Theory website to get any VW branding. I know you don't want to be too in-your-face, but this is very subtle. Also, the Fun Theory site is supposed to have lots of examlpes, with people voting. Up to now there are only 3, and the contest ends mid November.