“Schizophrenic behavior dilutes core brand equity. While it may help in the short term, knee-jerk reactions to the immediate environment can prove detrimental to the long-term value of the brand, especially if they don’t link up to what a brand represents or the bigger brand idea.”

Defying The Genericizing of Brands – BSI

KFC is a cysts on the ass of American culture…

OK, I apologize for the graphic language, but we should all be reminded of the enormous role KFC and all the YUM! Brands continue to play in the perpetuation of gluttony and unhealithness around the world.  And, as much as I hate the product KFC injects into global societies, their brand strategy, which has become increasingly disillusioned, has me more concerned.

First, the “Re-Freshed by KFC” idea, where a man dressed up as Colonel Sanders (and a professional crew) fixed potholes around five US cities, was one of the strangest ideas I’d ever heard.  Did they really think people would get hungry and/or be reminded of “freshness” when they starred at and smelled freshly laid gravel? eh…

More recently, the TV spots focusing on KFC’s new grilled chicken recipe seem even more off beat to me.  They show KFC President, Roger Eaton, front and center professing his love for the grilled bird.  This spot is supplemented by spots that feature well-known chefs (i.e. Sandra Lee) explaining how delicious the new recipe is –this was smart.  But who thought it was a smart to use the blantently Austrailian (non-American, non-Kentuckian) Roger Eaton, as the spokesman?  For me this screams “phoney, corporate, mass-produced, chain food.”  KFC still stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken, right?  “Kentucky” and “Fried” have clearly begun to fade from the brand.  The next step will likely be the introduction of a KFC burger.

UPDATE: A brilliant piece from The Onion on how KFC will no longer be allowed to use the word “eat” in any of their advertisements…

“KFC’s claim that its fried offerings have ‘that taste you’ll just love to eat’ is in direct violation of federal regulations,” acting FCC chairman Michael Copps said. “The word ‘eat’ is legally permissible only in reference to substances appropriate for human consumption. Any implication that a consumer could or should ‘enjoy’ a KFC Crispy Strip fails to meet these standards, and presents an unlawful deception to consumers.”

“Any future appeals by KFC for the public to ingest its products will be met with swift legal action,” he added.

Working in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission to defend consumers from what they call “blatant untruths regarding the edibility of KFC menu items,” officials at the FCC have issued a list of acceptable words and phrases the restaurant can use in its television and print ads. While “eat,” “feast on,” and “taste” remain off-limits, the FCC has approved the use of “purchase,” “be near to,” “look at,” and “hold.”\

…In keeping with the false advertising subchapter of the FTC Act of 1914, the fast food chain is prohibited from setting its commercials in a kitchen, dining room, or any space generally associated with the act of eating. It is also not permitted to show people chewing, rubbing their stomachs contentedly, or exiting a bathroom stall with a look of relief that suggests they have digested the product. Utensils of any kind are also expressly forbidden, even when held by an animated character.

I was down in Florida for a few days recently and was reminded of how painfully obvious the absence of “sun-protection” is when down there. The sun is so intensely bright and relentless that without the proper precautions, your skin and eyes can get absolutely smoked. My brother, who is still in high school, came to that realization within the first hour.

As we made the short drive from the Ft. Myers airport toward the causeway and over to Sanibel Island, John was squinting so hard his eyes were watering and he had a headache from the strain. Having had the same experience before, I felt his pain and knew what needed to be done…we were on a mission to find John a pair of “keeper” sunglasses.

FYI: I think it’s important for me to make note of my philosophy on making purchases such as these: Go into every purchase with the idea that you are investing in something you will live with for the rest of your life (even if you know that’s not possible)…this means–within reason–you should buy something you like and think you will like for years and years to come, and you should buy something that has the quality (and style!) to last that long.

So, my cousin and I drove my brother out to the mall, which actually had two sunglass shops, virtually right next to one another. We made our way into Solstice first, which had a sort of Sunglass Hut-experience: a fairly small rectangular space with open racks of sunglasses, organized by brand, lining every inch of the walls and a friendly saleswoman making every effort to help get you in a new pair (pictured above). At first, this was nothing special–a very typical sunglass-store experience. That was until, after a good 15-20 minutes of experimentation at Solstice, we walked over to the second store, Tote’s Sunglass Shop–just to make sure we weren’t missing anything…

Unfortunately, Tote’s was such a mess we weren’t even able to make the judgment.  Not only was there far too much variety, in terms of product offerings (especially for a store with the word “sunglass” in the name), but every pair of sunglasses was locked inside a glass case!  To make it worse, even as the three of us began curiously peering into the cases, the salesman remained tethered to his post behind the register, making no effort to help or see if we wanted to “demo” some of the choices. Honestly, even if he had opened the case and let us fish around, the environment was so non-conducive to experimentation–with small, awkwardly placed mirrors pressed up against racks of clothes–that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. The whole place was truly baffling.

Aren’t retailers actually more successful the longer they get customers to hang around, experiment and go through the mental process of picturing their lives with the product in question? Shouldn’t you do everything you can to facilitate that experience? Have Apple stores still not been around long enough for everyone to realize this? What seemed like a no-brainer for the creation of a successful retail experience was completely lost by a clear lack of focus and direction at Tote’s. The experience we had seconds before at Solstice only highlighted this failure.

Needless to say, we spent about 1 minute in the cluster-fuck of an “in-store experience” before returning to Solstice where we spent an additional 10 minutes experimenting before my brother settled on a pair he was happy with; a pair that would protect him from the mean Florida sun and, hopefully, a pair he would continue wear for many years to come.

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.

Anyone seen this new Hyundai commercial for their new Gensis Coupe?

What struck me about the ad actually had little to do with the Hyundai brand strategy, because, for one, I don’t think Hyundai has anywhere to go but up in terms of image, and two, I think the spot actually does a pretty decent job of communicating the “fast and the furious” mentality that the sporty little race car is going for. What did bug me was the Smashing Pumpkins’ presence in it.

Is this really the association they want the public to have of their music and the people who listen to it? It’s hard for me to believe they really thought this one through, because, as a long time fan, this really turned me off.

I’ve listened to the Smashing Pumpkins, on and off, for well over ten years now, and I have never thought of them as a group that supported the reckless, street racing culture. In fact, I don’t know that I had ever put a specific label on their audience or the culture that I was a part of. And, I think that was the point…

Why, as a band (brand), would you broadcast to millions of people (by the way this was intended to be a Super Bowl spot), a VERY specific, cultural association? The strategy that I think many bands (brands) benefit from is being relatively undefined. They allow current and prospective fans and followers to cast their own feelings and experiences into the brand. Rob Walker illustrates this strategy really well in his book, Buying In. Think, Red Bull or Nike…Sure these brands have distinct personalities and associations–that is the essence of a brand, but they stay broad enough that they leave the door open for anyone to participate, or at least feel like they have the option.

Way to go, Billy Corgan, you’ve shut the door on me…your music has officially been associated with street racing punks. I never saw it coming.

Originally posted on 2.10.2009

This is more of a general observation, but, at this point, why haven’t more brands created their own app for the iPhone?

This really seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s just the most game-changing, culturally significant, increasingly ubiquitous device/interface available today…what’s the hold up? The iPhone app basically serves up the most targeted, customizable vehicle for your brand to become further infused into the lives of your consumers. Why are you not there yet? Whether you are a service company or a consumer product, you should be fully embracing this technology. You’ve had almost a full year to figure it out…where are you?

Miller High Life…as much as I loved your 5, 1-second spot strategy for the Super Bowl, you have still failed to create your own app. You know that beer drinking app? That should have been yours! Regardless of how long your Super Bowl time slot(s) were, I will guarantee that a Miller High Life app would have gained a hell of lot more attention and brand-LOVE, while costing you a fraction of the price.

Hey, Charles Schwab…I have to say, I’ve been banking with you for only a year, but almost every interaction I’ve had has reinforced your brand message of making things easy and doing things that make sense. But, where is your banking app? That would certainly be something that made sense right now. Did you know Chase has one out already? We are all waiting….

UPDATE: Here is a nice slideshow from Viximo Studios on the branded iPhone app.