Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Brand Better than McDonalds

The McDonald's golden "m"... can any brand identity be better than that?

Most likely, no.

What does it mean? Cheap hamburgers? Great french fries? Happy Meals? Mick-anythings? If you have a child, that golden M means only one thing: toys. You did realize that the largest distributor of toys in the world is McDonalds? Well it is. And anyone charged with chauffeuring toddlers around in their mini-vans and SUVs knows that if they don't want to go to Mickey-D's for lunch, they better start distracting junior as they race by.

Amazing - a child that does not even know what the alphabet is, can discern what that "m" means. Now that's branding!

But when Dick and Mac McDonald first founded McDonald's (as a BBQ car hop)in 1940, the logo wasn't the golden arches - it was a funny little baker-dude who later turned into the "burgerman" cartoon who then became Mayor McCheese. The golden arches weren't invented until architect Stanley Meston designed them into the modern day founder Ray Kroc's Des Plaines, Illinois franchise. It really wasn't until the 1960's that McDonalds recognized that their golden arches was actually an "m" and until 1969 to actually promote it. You can almost see Ray driving by one of his restaurants and watching those golden arches turn into an "M". Guess it just goes to show you that the genius of inventing a better way to buy, cook, and sell hamburgers is more important than the genius behind the logo.

That being said, how much further and faster would the brand have traveled had they recognized what they had from the very start? Happy Meals weren't invented until 1979! How many kids (aka families) did they miss from 1953 to 1979? Quite literally, millions.

The point is, you have an opportunity — right from the start — to recognize what you have in your brand and utilize it in every piece of marketing you create. Do so, and you maximize the profit potential from every marketing dollar you spend. And what if you don't? Well, if you recognize that your brand is greater than your logo, you could well be on your way just the same - just not as smartly or as profitably. McDonalds didn't know what they had, but forged ahead just the same and became one of the world's greatest companies.

So here's your chance to outshine Ronald McDonald and all of his friends. Start by seeing your own golden "m".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching an Old Dog a New Trick

Who hasn't seen the funny Old Spice spots?

This one, was recently selected as the best TV spot at the Film Grand Prix in Cannes. Why? I suspect it goes to the ability this spot has at holding your attention, the use of humor and the juxtaposition of one of the world's stodgiest brands with the new "Mustafa" pitchman. Thing is, Proctor & Gamble's gamble, actually started in 1990 when it acquired the brand and worked on revitalizing it's image. Long the mainstay of any mature man's medicine cabinet, the old ivory bottle of Old Spice aftershave seemed closer to a ship wreck than ship shape. It wasn't until 2003 that it overtook Gillette's Right Guard as the no. 1 men's personal care brand. What's been happening lately, is just the logical extension of a bold path and vision they had for their brand. Namely, "We want to own what men spread or spray on their bodies."

In a $10 billion industry, that's not a timid statement.

The Isaiah Musafa "Smell Like a Man, Man" commercial that went viral was the continued extension of applying solid branding principles to a brand. Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency behind the effort, has been one of the world's great creative firms, ever since it first tackled the Nike brand in it's early days. So sharp is this recent round of spots, that many may have forgotten that just a few month's before, they launched the Terry Crews Old Spice Odor Blocker Body Wash campaign. It too, was a smash online sensation.

Now, for their third act, W+K's creative team pulled off the proverbial social media trifecta, by upping the ante on Twitter - utilizing the buzz around Mustafa by writing and filming video responses to popular Twitterers like Perez Hilton, Yahoo!, various regular Tweeters and even his own daughter, Haley. It's good clean zaniness, delivered Flip video style in a single 24-hour period on the 13th of this month. The "buzz factor" is over the top, as each "tweet" video link has received well over 300,000 hits a piece (many, in excess of 1,000,000 views). That's a lot of eyeballs on your man... er, your brand.

So what's the take-away for the rest of us? If you or I simply supplied shower video answers to the many followers we have on Twitter, would it go viral? Does one need to have a million dollar ad campaign already underway to attempt such a thing?

The answer is no, and thankfully, no.

Doing the shower scene now would be viewed negatively because it's a copycat; wouldn't be written nearly as cleverly or performed with as much panache, and, let's face it, takes balls (ahem) to deliver this kind of marketing campaign. But for any of us to create simple and fun real-time video replies to customer oriented tweets... I think it's safe to say that you'd generate some buzz for your business. OK, maybe not the 1,000,000 views kind - but what's the harm in trying? Everyone is looking for a positive surprise. When the manager of the store actually handles the complaint, negative feelings are usually dismissed. When we're given a little something extra for our efforts, we smile and place a mental note to think more kindly of even the cheapest of trinkets. Doing the unexpected is the very essence of changing stodginess into contemporary value. 

Find that in your brand, and you win.

The key to updating the branding image of an old brand is in affording your marketing team the kind of freedom to risk failure.  That's the real test for the rest of us: Do you really want to do what it takes to create publicity?

Like what you've been reading, subscribe to theJacksonSpencerBlog.

Want to get into more Big Ideas? Join my LinkedIn Group here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

That Idea Blow'd Up Real Good!

I recently drove my "college boy" back to college for summer school... 5-1/2 hours. That's a lot of time to think about things and to share a discussion only a father and son can share. In our case, we spoke of the fireworks industry, as we noticed all of the "pole barns" erected near the freeway selling fireworks, 365 days a year.

OK, so that might not have been the discussion you'd have, but then, you weren't in my car and you most definitely are not my son. And in his world, life moves at a frenetic pace with thoughts that careen between the sophomoric and the brilliant.

We both had a thought.

The idea I'm about to share is a million dollar idea. You know, the kind I say I have at least once a week. So instead of hoarding it, I'm sharing it with you to: 1) Practice what I preach 2) This is the only way to give the idea a chance to actually succeed.

"Why on earth would fireworks stands operate all year long? There just can't be any business other than just prior to the 4th of July?"

That's what we thought. We stopped at one of them and asked the owner, and she answered our questions candidly. We found out that 90% of their business occurs within 4 days of the 4th. Four days! The problem is being found and available when folks want their fireworks. So most fireworks dealers concluded that you erect an inexpensive building to warehouse the stuff, pay for the licenses and taxes, and simply stay open to ensure that you get as much of a billion dollar industry as you can. The days of the small road-side stand have evaporated, primarily because after 9-11, the kinds of materials you could distribute changed and the rising costs of Chinese fireworks, as cheap as they are, needed to be bought in larger volumes to make the kind of profit that made sense for these fireworks sellers. But 361 days of nothing for 4 days of sales?

The answer is BOOMTOWN!

Here's the idea in a nutshell:

1) Erect a flag pole with a giant branded flag for Boomtown and pay rent to a farmer who's field runs next to a freeway with a nearby exit. The pole and flag stays up for 365 days, the warehouse, does not.

2) In June, you pay additional rent to the farmer to construct "Amish style", a warehouse where you will sell the fireworks. You even get locals to help do it for free because you are willing to barter the best seats in the house for the spectacle which is to occur on the 4th.

3) All of the advertising - billboard, radio and local paper and posters heads out the door in June as well, alerting everyone to Boomtown.

4) Boomtown is open from June 30th to July 5th. 

Folks park in the farmer's field just off the freeway. They buy their fireworks just like they normally would. The flag allows traffic to recognize where Boomtown is located throughout the year without paying for the upkeep and taxes on a building the rest of year.  Smart, right?

Now for the best part. Everyone lights off their fireworks and goes to the fireworks shows on the 3rd and 4th... and on the 5th, they buy fireworks at steep discounts. They do so at Boomtown, too, only the "spectacle" that occurs on the evening of the 5th. That's when we blow up Boomtown. 

That's right, whatever isn't sold, is part of the theatrical event of the season. Folks can even be encouraged to bring other stuff to be blown up, too. Maybe additional structures are built (i.e. a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a statue of some foreign despot, your old crashing computer) so that they can be blown up. The local fire department can be called in to keep everyone at a safe distance, ensure the safety of the event and to help train their volunteer fire fighters. There's a band, t-shirt sales, food vendors and a whole entourage of like-minded businesses who would love to take part in the festivities. Tickets could be sold to the event (or not). Maybe the sales of the fireworks is enough? Maybe the ice cream vendor who sets up shop with you, pays a cut of their action for the opportunity to join in the fun. I don't know. I don't care... go nuts.

It's Woodstock... with gun powder. What could go wrong?

Are there 1,000 reasons NOT to do this? Of course. What permits and ordinances need to be satisfied? Which mayoral candidate wants to get behind this one? Would any farmer be willing to go along with this madness? Kids and explosives... should I say more?

That's why giving away the idea is such a blessing. I have the 2% inspiration in spades, what I don't have is the 98% perspiration that's necessary to achieve the results. Someone has to pick up the ball and run with it. It could be you. Do you have to pay me for it? Nope, but you will... because if you can make this one fly, I've got 100 more ideas where this one came from — and a son in college who might just be your point man for Boomtown!

For those of my generation... you might recall this skit from SCTV, where the inspiration for this idea may have first taken shape.

Follow this blog... or follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, view me on YouTube or join my group on LinkedIn if you're interested for more.