The Tom Dougherty Blog
Twitter is finished: Only a gnat wants it.
OK, so in full disclosure, I tweet on a daily basis (#BrandGenius). But I have to tell you I do it because I think I have to rather than because I want to, or see it as valuable. It is also funny that some of you who read this today will do so because of a tweet. Such is the conflicted world we live in today. But the exception does not nullify the truth. Twitter is finished and is only for those with the attentions span of a gnat.
I am not part of the controversy as to if Twitter is a news medium or a social network. For me, it is an almost obsolete social network with about half the value of the valueless Googgle+ which is only important because Google cares about it as part of your web sites SEO. (You can read an earlier blog on Twitter here)
As a brand guy, I completely get the importance of clarity and simplicity but even Abraham Lincoln would have trouble saying anything of meaning in 140 characters. (Lincoln would have found Twitter lacking in that he used 1,471 words in his famously brief Gettysburg address.)
What I find in Twitter is a lot of pandering garbage. Vainglorious snippets of self-importance or snarky rebuttals.
Twitter is finished and is aging.
For me, Twitter has already outgrown its value and, in many ways, the more people that use it, the less valuable it becomes. Greater use just means more noise. How much opinionated overload can we bear in the din of noise hitting us from every direction? If you are like me, you don’t find yourself in the information age, you find yourself in the age of noise. I spend most of my time trying to filter out the few bits of information that I find valuable. The rest is all SPAM.
Twitter is finished and I now look at it with the same vision I had some years back for Myspace. I remember when it had value for musicians and bands and then became more mainstream before imploding on itself as other social media did what Myspace did but in a better and more efficient way.
I still remember the idea of net years and how time was speeding up and relevancy was becoming more compressed. Nowhere is this more true than with Twitter. Like a supernova, it burst upon the heavens with a big flash. Everyone looked at it with awe and anticipation for what it promised. Now it is just a fading patch of light destined to become a black hole.
If you use Twitter, I have a bit of wisdom to share with you that was passed on to me by a childhood friend. His dad once told him, “a man who walks around with his hands in his pockets has too much time on his hands.” I think that if you have time to engage in 140 character blurbs about anything and everything… well you have too much time on your hands.
Wall Street agrees with me— Twitter is finished and, as a result, Twitter’s value has tanked in recent weeks. I would be interested in what you have to say. Let me know how Twitter has advanced your life, business or cause. But, hey, don’t tweet me at @BrandGenius. Please just comment on my blog. That way, I can assure you I will read it.
The fast food industry has unstable in the last few years with major category players posting losses quarter after quarter. Arby’s is bucking the trend and posted a rather nice increase of same-store sales in the first quarter of 2015 of 9.8% system wide.
Arby’s has done a rather nice job of positioning itself within the fast food category because it has its own niche. Arby’s as a product is always been something a little different, traditionally focused on roast beef sandwiches. It’s relatively new positioning summarized by Arby’s We Have the Meats campaign is both true to its core business as well as differentiating in a crowded marketplace.
“We have the meats” is after all the only reason that people go to Arby’s in the first place, to have a hot ham and cheese or piled-high roast beef sandwich. But more than that, this positioning has helped Arby’s redefine what it does internally, including bringing even more “meat centric” items to its menu. Simply put, Arby’s is for those who want the meats.
Just wish the campaign itself was executed better.
Arby’s revenue numbers do not lie. This unique positioning is working, especially as competitors are trying to out-menu each other.
What is interesting to me, however, is that the execution of this position is mediocre at best. Given how unique the position is, I would really like to see advertising messages that are a little more emotional. But the reality is that this positioning is so good and, in a crowded market where the other guys are either saying the same thing or nothing at all, Arby’s is succeeding.
Let’s face it. Even when you consider the mediocre execution of this position, it still goes to show that a position that is both different and better than everything else in the marketplace and stays true to its core business can be successful even in a declining market.
The biggest news in the tech world right now, aside from possibly the Tesla home batteries, is the release of the Apple Watch. Being an Apple guy through and through, any news about the company is intriguing to me.
But you probably knew that already.
I’ve written countless blogs about the Apple brand, as well as several blogs about the Apple Watch. Most recently, I discussed the watchbands that Apple is selling and how the company is, wisely, thinking fashion forward. Yet, I want to take that fashion forward marketing a step further and expose some of the real genius behind the Apple brand.
The Apple Watch marketing targets women too.
Most days when I commute to work, I listen to bits of the TWIT podcast. This week’s TWIT, which stands for This Week in Tech, primarily focused on the host of the show, Leo Laporte, receiving his new Apple Watch and how his guests were still waiting on theirs. Most of the banter, as I expected, centered around Leo not being a huge Apple guy so he was still skeptical about the necessity of the Apple Watch.
Then one brilliant point was made by the female guest, Christina Warren: The Apple Watch is the only smart watch that has been created with women in mind too.
Think about it, what other smart watch company has even considered women when designing watches?
I’ll give you the short answer: none.
Apple puts the “smart” in its smart watches.
Of all the other smart watch companies in existence, aside from maybe Pebble, Apple consciously included designs that would appeal to both sexes and much of the Apple Watch marketing has been targeted to women. Warren said she had already ordered a female-friendly watch with an additional leather strap. Moreover, she commented several times about how excited she was to get her watch.
While all smart watches are still seeking their niche, one thing has become vividly apparent to me. Apple will be the company that finds that niche. Reason being: It has kept all doors open, while its competitors have shut half of theirs already by opting to design bulky, male-centric technology.
Most brands get it completely wrong when marketing themselves. Oh, they do a great job of portraying the benefits of the product or service they are selling. But they miss the important element of emotional intensity when trying to create a preference. They think purchase decisions are rational. They could not be more wrong.
Here is an example of a brand that gets it mostly right (maybe even completely right). Advance Auto Parts has a campaign running right now that makes me think it actually gets it.
When you are looking to steal market share, all the bells and whistles that your brand claims are important and most marketers communicate those in spades. But they usually miss the great tiebreaker in preference. Highest emotional intensity.
We all buy the things we believe we need and want. Few, excepting compulsive shoppers, buy just for the satisfaction of buying. But preference for like products or offerings comes down to emotion. The best brands find a way to reflect the sense of self that the prospect wears on their sleeves. At the end of the day we all prefer to buy brands that reinforce our own emotional identity.
Advance Auto Parts seems to get it right.
In the Advance Auto parts commercial, the car repairman is portrayed as a hero. A no-nonsense, straight talking and hard working guy who has his priorities straight. He dislikes those feminine (their definition) discount cards and affinity programs that make you carry a membership card or enter a number or address. If Advance Auto Parts is right in this assertion, it is a great campaign. If it is wrong…well, it’s still a good campaign.
In a category that is a desert of emotion, this campaign stands out. It will do more to build its business than any sale or featured product. After all, we all know where to buy the brake pads. That is a no brainer. Now we also know who shops at Advance Auto Parts and that is the dealmaker. It works because it honors the customer. It says he is worthy and smart. Smart enough to realize that there are always sales and deals.
We always conduct projectable market research to understand the underpinnings of those emotional triggers. If Advance Auto Parts has done exactly that then it has just hit a home run. Usually, however, brands try to save cash and rely on instinct and the best guess of the ad agency to figure all this out.
So ,Advance Auto Parts, if you do not have the research to back up the highest emotional intensity of the brand promise, and the needle does not move, don’t blame the campaign. Blame the agency. If it works, stick with it. Sometimes it’s great just to be lucky.
I am thinking that, to the executives at Advance Auto Parts, they see this as just an advertising campaign and not a brand reposition. I say that because the web site reflects none of the emotional intensity or even look and feel of the campaign, for that matter. You would not even know you were navigating to the same brand that was advertised. Too bad. It might have lightening in a bottle.
The news that the Comcast Time Warner Cable merger will not be pursued is good news for consumers. But it’s no reason to celebrate.
Comcast saw how the proposed merger was going to be received by the FCC, so it backed out of the $45 billion merger before the regulatory body could say no.
The Justice Department and public interest groups had rallied against the merger because it would have given the proposed cable company 60% of the broadband business in the US. That would have created a near monopoly and everyone would suffer, from me to you, and to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. It’s consumers who suffer most from mergers.
The newly merged company would have charged higher rates for Internet services and probably would have charged a premium for streaming services to reach you because they take up so much bandwidth.
So, yeah, the news that Comcast is backing out is good news. But it’s not all peaches and cream out there. Comcast and Time Warner Cable rarely compete against one another, so those dangers still exist.
Streaming services should also be on alert.
Cable companies know they are going to be more Internet Service Providers than they are cable TV companies in the future. Another report by MoffetNathanson Research found that Netflix accounts for 6% of all viewing in first quarter 2015, with more than 10 billion hours streamed.
Many estimate that those numbers will continue to rise and, while I suspect those numbers are generally right, Netflix is notoriously protective of its own viewing data. (Meaning that MoffetNathanson did a projection based on consumer surveys.)
What this means is that, while the Comcast Time Warner Cable merger is not happening now (don’t think they won’t re-group with a better strategy down the road), it doesn’t stop them from controlling the Internet to stay afloat. They know they will not be the TV viewing powers that they once were, so they are going to control the medium by which their competitors reach viewers.
So, yes, the failed merger is good news for consumers. But it doesn’t mean that we can now dance in the street.
We live in a world where we see compressed time. In 1965, Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, postulated in Moore’s Law that the speed of processors and the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every two years. He has been right ever since. To bad the idea of rebranding constantly has not been understood as a law in ensuring success.
Marketers all know that the way in which we reach the target audience is changing and evolving even as I write this essay. Competition seems to come out of the woodwork and the markets in which we compete are in turmoil. The status quo means falling behind.
Keeping up with changes in the market and the seemingly insatiable demand for new and fresh communications in advertising causes brands to adjust and change their advertising at a much greater rate than just a few years ago. Even when companies like DirecTV, who seem to have an endless portfolio of advertising executions (like the Don’t be like this me Rob Lowe campaign), shelve the successful campaign before it is long in the tooth with a new campaign like Hannah and Her Horse.
The reason for this rapid change in executions and campaigns is because marketers realize that target audiences have the attention spans of a gnat and that brands have to constantly pump out new angles to keep their interest. Your prospects are simply overloaded with marketing messages and communication channels. But do they realize that constantly rebranding is a crucial element to ensure success?
So why is rebranding constantly not on everyone’s to-do list?
Mainly because of a blatant failure of my own branding industry to speak to what brand actually is. The branding goliaths of the world have always confused corporate identity (or identity in general) with brand equity.
Identity is who you are.
Brand is who the customer believe they are when they use or buy the brand. If I believed that brand was the same thing as your identity, I would not have a process to rebrand constantly either.
Brand must be a real and powerful emotional connection that causes the prospect and customer to notice, prefer and covet the brand. The target audience develops these attachments because the brand helps them reinforce their own self-identity. They only covet it because it is all about them.
We are in the persuasion business and we are in the business of rebranding constantly. We create equities that help the customer and prospect see themselves or a clear reflection of themselves in the brand itself. And, as we all know, those emotional underpinnings are changing quickly.
You might find it interesting to know that the world’s leading brand agency in persuasion (Stealing Share) only makes adjustments to logos and color palettes about 20% of the time. Most of our work is in adjusting the brand persona to more highly represent the values and beliefs of the target market so that the marketing messages and advertising has permission to say what they say.
If your goal is to increase your business and steal market share, constantly rebranding needs to be on your to-do list every two years. That is unless your idea of a branding expert is the traditional and misguided brand giants. They simply throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The Tidal failure has become a case study in thinking inside out, failing to understand your customer and even failing to target the right customer.
Tidal, the brainchild of Jay Z, tried to separate itself from the other offerings by offering a streaming solution that allows for streaming of CD quality FLAC music. But its main goal has been to change how artists get paid for their songs. So for the better sound quality, music videos and editorial, the monthly fee is $20. That’s $10 more per month than any other streaming service.
The difference in sound quality compared to a service like Spotify is quite amazing. But you can only appreciated it if you are listening with good headphones or speakers. For most, the price will be prohibitive even with the amazing sound quality.
Coupled with its misguided brand launch, it has predictably failed.
Today, it fell out of the top 700 on the iTunes apps chart.
Let’s face it; the reality is that people can now get most of the music they want for free. YouTube, Spotify Free, Pandora and others offer free solutions with an ad thrown in every once in a while. Amazon Prime music is free for those of us who are Prime members.
The biggest problem? Who Tidal was for – the musicians.
The brand Jay Z and Co. created is a larger hurdle to prospective customers than the cost. The Tidal failure happened because it positioned itself as the music streaming service for the artists. It didn’t even consider customers. Its launch event was a stage of artists smiling in their $1,000 shoes and $25,000 watches. Tidal’s brand became about the people who are getting paid, not the listener.
Imagine a commercial for Nike that featured Mark Parker in his beautiful home, checking his stock portfolio, then playing golf at his country club, followed by the Nike logo.
Or a Walmart commercial with C. Douglas McMillon wearing his custom-made suit and sipping a martini on his patio then the Walmart: Save money. Live better logo. As I think about it, that’s my main beef with the Papa John’s ads with John Schnatter. Your brand is not about you. It’s about those you want to influence.
If we take that last statement and apply it to Tidal, Jay Z is brilliant – if he only wants to influence the musicians. Sure, he may have a larger stable of artists with more songs and more exclusive content but the artists are not paying the bills. You, me and the rest of the music listening consumers are. The positioning is just wrong. Tidal is simply not a brand for me because it is not about me.
There are and have been a handful of television shows that I have absolutely adored and wasn’t quite ready to see go.
I look back on my viewing experience of HBO’s The Sopranos, for example, and how I relished every Sunday evening it was on. From the alluring opening credits to the close, watching the show was a ritual for my family as we would head up to the family room each week to watch Tony and his loveable group of thugs. When the series concluded and cut to black, I ached for just another minute. I would do anything to find out if Tony really died.
But that never happened and I was forced to make my speculation – he did die, I believe. That said. I still consider the ending today. This is a testament to the power of story told by the masterful actors and David Chase.
My appreciation of the television series does not end with The Sopranos. In fact, it pained me to have to wait for season three of Rectify or to sit through the untimely and rushed ending of Carnivale.
TV shows should end. We don’t need unnecessary story arcs.
The end of a monumental show (or film or book for that matter) is like the parting of a best friend. But it’s a separation that should happen as it allows for appreciation and closure.
I’ve been reading a lot of hubbub about TV revivals, shows from the past coming back. Coach, Twin Peaks and The X-Files, for instance, are rumored to return or are on the verge of being remade. Not to mention Full House (which we could all have done without to begin with). Some of these shows were brilliant, others just okay. Either way, they should be left alone.
This trend of TV revivals makes me dubious for a few reasons. The obvious being that we should leave a good thing alone.
Even Netflix is in the TV revival game.
Beyond this, seeing all these revivals just sends the feeling that the networks are out of ideas and are grasping at straws.
Last week I wrote about the power of Netflix and HBO but even Netflix is in this revival game, having already brought back Arrested Development and the streaming service is the one bringing back Full House.
My suggestion to the networks considering bringing back a show from the old days: Let’s avoid trying to fix what isn’t broken.