trash talking yourself

Marketing has always been about promoting something so that people will buy it.

So it’s always interesting to see campaigns where a company is encouraging customers not to use their own product. Probably the most (in)famous example is the tobacco industry funded anti-smoking campaign. I’ve also always liked how McCormick tells people to throw their old spices away. (albeit to buy fresh ones)

But lately, I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s campaign to get people to stop using the Internet Explorer 6 web browser.

IE6 has lots of problems that I won’t get into here, but Microsoft has launched a campaign to get people to stop using the program. There’s a consumer-side campaign centered around the website, IE6countdown.com, as well as developer-side messaging like this…

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It’s an interesting thought experiment for your own business. If you had to launch a campaign today that encouraged people NOT to use your product, what would be the negative aspects you would center the campaign around?

After you figure that out, why not go ahead and fix those things now?

watered down

I realize I just picked on Tropicana not too long ago, but their latest product has me back on the warpath.trop50They’ve introduced a product called Trop 50 which is supposedly a lower sugar juice.

If you’ll glance at the ingredient list on the back of ANY juice that says it has low sugar, you’ll find that the percentage of juice is less than 50%. In other words, they’ve watered it down. Trop 50 is a bit different as they’ve added a stevia type sweetener to mask the fact that it’s just watered down, but it’s still only 42% juice. Charging people the same amount (or more!) for half the product is a bold move in rough economic times.

btw — what happened to changing back to the old logos and packaging after the consumer backlash? They’ve changed the standard juice back, but the new product lines keep the new look? Inconsistent imaging is the first mistake on the path of brand destruction.

Even God has brand problems

This post is about brands so stick with me for a minute.

The area I live in has been in a drought. It hasn’t been the “sure could use some rain” kind of drought — but rather the “kind that imposes water restrictions and stuff starts dying” kind of drought.

But for the past few days, it’s been raining. It’s the good type of rain — the slow steady kind that sinks in. And we needed it — desperately.

But I’ve noticed something in the past few days.

The rain was so needed that the local paper did an entire photo essay about the rain. In one of the captions, a woman says — “I hate the rain.”

A few months ago, when we were in the worst of the drought, I heard one of the weather kids on the local TV station says something to the effect of “30% chance of showers this weekend, but maybe we’ll miss it if we’re lucky so it doesn’t ruin your weekend golf game”

On the radio yesterday morning, the host was taking requests for a good rain song to celebrate the fact it was raining. One of the callers said — “I don’t like this rain — I’m not a farmer so I don’t really need it”. I guess she shops at the grocery where the food magically appears on the shelves. (She should read this book — and you should too)

The point is that even a “product” like the rain that is fundamentally required by people to sustain their lives — is not welcomed with open arms.

Your product/service is NOT as important as the rain.

Are you constantly wondering why people aren’t embracing your product?

Maybe they have a skewed worldview of your brand.

The rain’s “brand” has been reinforced by a culture as something that is bad. It messes up your car, it ruins the cheesy TV anchor’s golf game, etc.

What message is the current culture delivering to your market about your business?

Thank You Thank You Very Much

Today is Elvis’ death day.

When I was in college, I and a friend accidentally wound up in Memphis on Aug 16. It’s very interesting. Lots of interesting people. Lots of corny stuff. Everything at the Graceland complex is exactly what you would imagine it would be.

And if you say the name Elvis to almost anyone, they will know what you’re talking about.

That’s a powerful brand

However, Elvis stopped “managing” the brand 30 years ago.

It’s a good example of what a brand really is. A brand is created by the people that use it.

Did Elvis (or Colonel Tom) ever want the brand to be associated with cheesy impersonators or peanut butter banana sandwiches?

Probably not.

Would they be happy that the brand is still alive, massively strong, and generating money?

Maybe you should do with your brand what Elvis did with his. Let the people have it.

Cream and Sugar

Saturday afternoon on the way to Nashville, I stopped at a McDonalds to get a Coke. Here’s the conversation that the person in front of me had with the cashier…

GUY: Senior coffee, please

MICKEY D: Would you like for us to add the cream and sugar?

GUY: (While glancing down the counter at the cream and sugar) It’s right there.

MICKEY D: Would you like for us to add it?

GUY: Why? It’s right there.

MICKEY D: Silence and blank stare

GUY: Silence and blank stare

While the McDonalds counter guy couldn’t offer an answer….let me.

It’s because there was a committee meeting of the “premium” coffee folks in Oak Brook, IL. Phrases such as “compete with Dunkin Donuts”….”create a customer experience”….and “an upscale Starbucks interaction” were used heavily.

I’m sure they came out of the meeting thinking they had the next McDLT.

Of course, if they’d just asked a senior citizen and a teenager at a rural McDonalds off of I-65 what they thought of the idea, they’d told them….”but it’s right there!”

McDonalds next big and great ideas?
–Would you like for me to squirt ketchup on your fries?
–Would you like for me to chew your food?
–Would you like for me to have the angioplasty for you?

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Everything old

The old energy drinks were before their time…now they’re being marketed again.

They’re re-introducing Jolt Cola…(via AdJab)

Surge has been re-tooled as Vault.

Now if we can just get Pepsi to return my favorite discontinued drink, Josta, to store shelves, I’ll be happy. I’m having a hard time getting guarana berries to grow in KY.

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Slam Dunk

It’s always interesting to know how consumers actually use your product. The more you know about the use, the better you can market it.

A great example is when Avon found out people were using Skin-So-Soft as an insect repellent. They changed the marketing to match how the consumers were using it.

Nabisco has announced that the shape of Oreos will change for 6 weeks this summer. They will become oblong “Oreo Dunkers” with messages written on them like “Dunk Me” and “Milk’s Favorite Cookie”. The dunkers will also have lines showing levels of “dry,” “soaked,” and “soggy.”

Apart from my questions of why Oreos would pull such a really bad branding move….My big question is: Who actually eats Oreos this way? I’ve never dunked a cookie…and I’ve never seen anyone in real life eat an Oreo this way. Maybe I’m just sheltered and out of the mainstream (wouldn’t be the 1st time).

But I think it’s something else. Nearly every Oreo ad has someone dunking the cookie in a glass of milk. I think Oreo dunking is a public lie, something that everyone believes, but still isn’t true. And maybe Nabisco has fallen prey to its own ad message.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Do you dunk?

Update: Apparently, I was wrong. The comments on this post reflect a bunch of dunkers.

However, from the larger P.O.V. of brand strategy…I still think it’s risky to change one of the Oreo brand hallmarks (the shape) for a stunt.

Hard to Dance with Fruit on Your Head

I was perusing the Sunday coupons and saw that Chiquita has launched a brand extension called Fruit Bites….cut apples in bags that the kiddies can take to school.

Questions…
1) Apples are pretty portable in the natural state…why is this product needed?
2) What happens to apples when you cut them?…How many preservatives will they throw to the natural apple to keep it from turning brown?
3) Why do companies brand extend themselves to death?
4) Why will consumers grab onto this?

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