I’ve always thought Simply Orange does an amazing job of consistently communicating their brand’s promise.  The message is simple: “Do not sweeten.  Do not freeze. Do not concentrate.  Just let oranges be oranges.  And let their taste speak for itself….Simply Orange, Simply Unfooled-Around With.”  Orange juice is not a complicated product, and Simply Orange is committed to making it as authentic as possible.

Many, many brands go the route of “guaranteeing satisfaction.”  Brand managers use promotional offers like this in an attempt to demonstrate that they are so confident in their product’s superiority that they will offer a full refund–or, for example, ‘buy you a free stick of your favorite deodorant”–if you don’t agree.  For the most part, it’s a great way of enticing non-users to give your brand a try, because, really, “what have they got to lose?”  The difference here is this promotional strategy is very rarely able to actually deliver on the brand promise and reinforce its positioning.

Simply Orange doesn’t believe they compete with Tropicana or Florida Natural or (fill in the blank).  They think the only competitive force is an actual orange.  If you want to buy something that truly compares to the taste you get from Simply Orange, you need to buy a bag of oranges and squeeze them yourself.  Enter the Simply Orange “Orange Back Guarantee“: “If, after tasting, you don’t agree that Simply Orange orange juice tastes as fresh as biting into a juicy orange, (they) will send you a $7.00 check good for a bag of oranges.”

What could be more authentic? What could be more simple and consistent with the brand’s promise?

Not very many, I would imagine.  If you are eight years old and are up at 10:30pm on a Monday and you are watching reruns of Seinfeld on TBS, your parents are twits.  But, regardless of whether or not Seinfeld has become a secret obsession of eight year olds around the world, this spot struck me because of how dissimilar the spokesperson is to the apparent target demographic.

We all know Microsoft is smart and isn’t blind to the fact that very few eight year olds are up at this hour.  In these tough economic times, we have to believe they are not just paying for random time slots without care or measure.  No, the “8 year old PC” spot IS meant for me and I think the stealthiness of it is brilliant.

At first, however, the “I’m a PC and (fill in the blank)”  campaign did not impress me.  In fact, I really didn’t like it.  Maybe it was because Microsoft abrubtly pulled Crispin’s first series of the brand’s “face-lift” (featuring Gates and Seinfeld, which were, in my opinion, too smart for the masses/TV) and replaced them with the apparent “Plan B.”  Maybe I was just annoyed they didn’t decide to go with “I’m a PC” from the get-go.  Either way, the first spot of the campaign seemed like Microsoft was crying about how Apple was making fun of them (via I’m a PC and I’m a Mac), and, in a certain light, seemed like they were desperately trying to win over the youth/creative culture.  It was a little embarrassing to watch.

Looking back though, these spots were just the “growing pains.”  Microsoft and Crispin have worked out the kinks and have started to unleash an onslaught of spots that are truly relevant, substantive and engaging.  These are the kinds of messages that, I think, will help to humanize and, ultimately, revitalize the Microsoft brand.

As someone in his mid-20s, I am not exactly amazed at the PCs capabilities (which the eight year old clearly demonstrates), but I am amazed at the kid’s creative spirit and technical knowledge of, and comfort with, the machine.  I may be part of the current creative culture, but I wasn’t mixing and editing movies when I was eight–my creativity was limited to “analog.”  This kid represents the future youth/creative culture that even I can’t totally relate to…they are “The Rookies.”

Microsoft, realized they couldn’t fake their presence in the current creative culture, so they decided to attach themselves to the future.  Not only do these capable youngsters–with their bright futures and enthusiastic attitudes–make us smile and feel warm and fuzzy, they remind us, even though you and I may be Macs, the future youth demographic is still fair game and could end up putting Microsoft and the “PC” world back on top.

(Originally posted at Treehugger)

Originally posted on 3.18.09

Some people may not see this as a branding decision, but I do…

I’m really irritated Yellow Pages–or “Dex”–continues to send out phone books to everyone possible–sometimes two per household!  I just walked down the street and must have seen 30 or so piled up along the sidewalk…just on one block!

I realize the majority of Americans don’t have access to the internet and do actually use the physical book, but I do have the internet and I don’t need five pounds of paper delivered to me from Yellow Pages every year, or, really, ever again. Honestly, I would imagine there are thousands, maybe millions of others who feel the same way. If I need to know where something is, I Google it, or I use Yelp! or I use the F-ing YELLOW PAGES App on my phone!

I’m no genius, but I would think it would be fairly simple to buy a list from Comcast or AT&T or any other internet provider and basically take those residents OFF the mailing list. Is it more complicated than that, Dex? Would this process really cost more than what you now pay for paper, manufacturing, delivery, etc? I truly doubt it.

Yellow Pages has done very little in terms of brand building or reputation management, but this has to be one of the biggest no-brainers I’ve ever witnessed. They would not only cut down on paper consumption and costs, they would reduce their manufacturing impact and costs, and decrease their delivery impact and costs.  It would be such an easy shift and it would all be so simple to measure and report. There is absolutely zero downside. Does anyone understand the hold up?

UPDATE: A very cool phonebook reuse-design is pointed to by Inhabitat, who mentions, “every year in the United States alone 500 million directories are printed, and the E.P.A. estimates that they account for nearly 5% of total landfill waste.”

Clutter Busters?

March 21, 2009

Originally posted on 3.18.2009

Rob Walker pointed out a interesting AdWeek article today that mentions Wal-Mart’s upcoming in-store video display system which they are claiming will help REDUCE advertisement clutter and offer a more seamless shopping experience…

Stephen Quinn, CMO of Wal-Mart Stores U.S., says that the only clutter-proof medium he’s aware of is the one that the company created itself, the Walmart Smart Network….When it’s fully rolled out next year, it will include some 27,000 in-store video screens in 2,700 stores. The content includes both infomercials and advertisements from Wal-Mart suppliers, and the schedules are customized to individual stores and shopping occasions.

Perhaps I don’t fully understand how Wal-Mart envisions this program working, but it sounds more like a clutter-MULTIPLIER than any sort of simplifier. Do they really think this will enhance their customer’s in-store experience? Customers are already surrounded by thousands of products vying for their attention, and Wal-Mart thinks adding video screens that bark out offers while they stroll down the aisles will reduce clutter?!

As Walker mentions, Wal-Mart is clearly very excited about the ability to eliminate “non-Wal-Mart sactioned” brands, but they are completely neglecting how this will affect the Wal-Mart brand experience. Sure, this may be an attractive opportunity for many of the brands housed inside Wal-Mart, but I suspect, in the long term, everyone’s brand will end up suffering from such a short-sighted strategy.

Originally posted on 3.04.2009

The iPhone’s impact–the way it has completely revolutionized how the world thinks about mobile–can no longer be challenged. If you are still trying to debate this, you’re an idiot. Period. So, with that in mind, this story in the WSJ struck me as a bit nutty…

Basically, a few small interest groups and mobile providers are bummed they weren’t invited to the “Mobile 2.0-Party” and feel like they might never be able to hang out with the cool kids and the movement they’ve created as a result. In order to “promote competition” these smaller companies and interest groups want Apple to lift its exclusive agreement with AT&T so they can have the option of offering the device too. Although the primary target is Apple, the case for banning exclusivity would extend to other major providers who have done the same, such as: Verizon with Blackberry’s “Storm,” T-Mobile with Google’sG1,” and Sprint with Palm’s upcoming “Pre.” Business Week says,

“The Consumers Union, the New America Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as software provider Mozilla and small wireless carriers MetroPCS (PCS) and Leap Wireless International (LEAP), are lining up in opposition not only to the Apple-AT&T partnership, but to all manner of arrangements whereby mobile phones are tethered exclusively to a single wireless service provider.”

Now, I completely understand how not being one of the “pioneers” shaping Mobile 2.0 would leave you feeling pretty helpless, but, to me, fighting technological exclusivity is contradictory to the shift that the mobile market (phone manufacturers, service providers and consumers) is currently undergoing. The way I see it, AT&T’s brand and the iPhone are synonymous. If you bought-in to the iPhone and Apple’s AppStore platform, you’ve bought-in to the AT&T brand, too. If you’re a Blackberry guy or girl, and have started to sync up to their marketplace, you’ve bought-in to Verizon. G1 users? You’ve bought-in to the Google brand, but you’ve become a T-Mobile follower as well. These unique phones and their corresponding web-based platforms have become an essential element of the service provider’s brand.

More and more, individuals are choosing their mobile device based on the phone’s interface and the “marketplace” or platform it is tethered to. Every “platform” has its own unique features and functions (the technical pluses and minus), but they also have their own unique personality that the consumer associates with. This is a good thing and will eventually be the basis for competition.

If you are one of the smaller service providers that “wants in,” why don’t you start by creating your own? Don’t fight it, embrace it. Carve out your own niche in the already established, increasingly solidified, Mobile 2.0 market. Tech companies all over the world are developing their own “iPhone” or “G1” and are finding ways of tethering them to proprietary, web-based platforms. Find one of ’em! Choose a device and platform you want to represent your brand and start competing.

AT&T, who is obviously in the most fortunate position of the bunch, says…

“Exclusive arrangements are an important form of competition…The popularity of the iPhone and its innovative features and applications have provoked a strong competitive response, accelerating not only handset innovation but also the pace of wireless broadband investment and applications development.”

I couldn’t agree more. Get on board. Stop whining about not being invited to their party, create your own and invite your own friends.

The Verizon “Hub”

March 21, 2009

Originally posted on 12.26.09

Last night, I saw a pretty intriguing spot for the new Verizon Hub

Engadget describes:

The system boasts a 7-inch touchscreen display, and will work with Verizon wireless subscribers handset(s) to eliminate the need for a landline (people still have those!?) The idea here is that the hub can sync to your calendar, contacts, maps, traffic and weather reports via broadband. It can also send and receive text messages, and do all kinds of cute little tasks like send driving directions to your phone. Subscribers have to live in an E911-capable area, and will be able to bring any phone number with them if they want to sign up for new service. The hardware’s going to cost $200 (after a $50 mail-in rebate) with a subscription fee of $35 per month — which comes with unlimited minutes and texts to and from the device. It’ll be available starting February 1st. Get ready.

I think this is a perfect way for Verizon to extend the brand and solidify its own unique platform within the broadband/telecommunications world: I don’t know what Verizon is calling it, but I’m going to say “Life Operations Management.” The Verizon brand has become so strongly tied to the image of Blackberry that they needed to figure out a way of tethering the technology/ability to a more complete system for life management.

I’m assuming the Hub is primarily targeted towards the homemaker, or “manager” of a family’s overall needs and activities, and I think this could potentially become a very effective differentiator, influencing entire families to become more complete and loyal Verizon users. Essentially, everything the “Verizon family” does could be connected and accessible to the varioous members, and I think many families will find that concept to be an extremely appealing possibility.

The problem, or potential issue I continue to see with Verizon and RIM’s Blackberry, however, is the nascence of their marketplace-platform. With iTunes continuing to expand and become more comprehensive (with thousands of new apps created every day!), and Google, basically just being Google, with a massive amount of “liquidity” created through an ever growing line of products, it is hard to believe Verizon and Blackberry will be able to avoid having to partner with Google, who will end up being the only option they will have. Apple will undoubtedly come up with their own version of the Hub, which would scare the absolute hell out of me if I were Verizon.

It will be interesting to watch.