The Tom Dougherty Blog
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with its site, but the Facebook parental leave is one idea I can admire.
Facebook has made it too easy to spend a considerable amount of time on general meaninglessness. Lives are often glamorized to unrealistic levels. Opinions are exasperated. And relevance boils down to how many likes or comments you are able to collect. Seems a bit like a fruition mentioned in Yeats’ Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.
My relationship with Facebook is peculiar. It’s easy to get hooked. Yet, I’ve found myself in discourses with family members and friends, or worse, a troll on my page. There have been times when I cancelled my account, blocked people and de-friended others. Passive aggressive stances, I must admit.
Like all things, it’s about balance, one that I believe I have come around to finding. Funny, with the recent news that Facebook parental leave allows all employees to take four months of paid leave, it seems Zuckerberg & Co. have found some balance, too. And just maybe, Facebook does care.
Unlike Netflix’s newsworthy parental leave policy, which grants some employees with 12 months and others with 12 weeks, Facebook seems more genuine and real.
Lori Matloff Goler, Facebook’s head of human relations, had this to say about the new policy:
“We want to be there for our people at all stages of life, and in particular we strive to be a leading place to work for families. An important part of this is offering paid parental or ‘baby’ leave.”
The effect of Facebook parental leave on its brand.
One part of building an effective brand that often gets missed is how the company itself fulfills a brand promise. In a strange (and not altogether politically correct) way, a brand like Walmart that promises the lowest price probably shouldn’t have high-paying employees in its stores.
For Facebook, its brand is about social interaction of all things in our lives, including work-life balance. If Facebook doesn’t act the brand, then it eventually becomes less believable.
The Facebook parental leave backs up the brand.
When it comes to new and interesting branding, the last place you’d suspect to see something unique is in men’s underwear.
Yet, over the weekend, a series of ads touting Duluth Trading’s Buck Naked Underwear flooded our TV screens during the football (and Thanksgiving) feast – and I, for one, took notice.
The simplest way to explain what makes a brand work is that it is different than its competition (Buck Naked, check), its promise can be fulfilled by the brand (users will eventually decide that) and is most meaningful to target audiences (Buck Naked has honed in on the idea of comfort).
But part of that differentiation is something that most brands miss: A difference in tone.
The difference in tone here is everywhere. It’s in the unique animation, but it’s also in that it directly takes on the competition in a noticeable way (the meat grinder) that would be shocking if it weren’t so funny.
The Buck Naked Underwear name.
Then there’s the name. Duluth Trading has decided that comfort is the highest emotional intensity in this marketplace. I don’t know if that’s true. But, if it is, then Buck Naked Underwear is a name that unabashedly states that.
It is unashamed of its comfort position by claiming it in a compelling way that skirts the edge of being a little too cute and a little offensive.
I think it’s brave. So many brands settle into a tone and position that, even if they are slightly different, are still related to how the competition delivers a similar message. I’m sure Hanes and Fruit of the Loom have also marketed the idea of comfort before, but they used that exact word (comfort), which is just a value without any differentiating tone, and a delivery that is easily dismissed.
By adopting this tone, Buck Naked Underwear says its users are different and aren’t afraid of extremes. That’s a brand position that transforms what could become a clichéd message into something new.
Just yesterday, I found myself calling the AT&T customer service number. The reason for that? The day prior, I was paying the U-Verse (AT&T’s internet option) bill and noticed that AT&T was offering a deal for the 1GB GigaPower network option — for just a dollar more than I was paying for basic internet service.
This is what the link took me to. As the U-Verse link showed, that deal was plain as day. Right?
The deal seemed like a no brainer. For 36 months, I could relish in the quickest internet option AT&T has to offer. As is my style, I had to have it.
So I called customer service attempting to upgrade the U-Verse service. Forty-five minutes later, I was hanging up up on the sales rep, angry and resentful over all the time I wasted.
Clearly, AT&T was ignorant of the U-Verse deal.
I wasted the first five or so minutes of my call attempting to figure who I needed to speak with by way of a puzzling automated service. My safest best was with U-Verse “customer service.” There, a foreign voice greeted me. She knew nothing of the deal I was speaking of and, after putting me on hold twice, elected to send me over to “technical support.”
The fellow on the other end of “technical support “ knew nothing of the U-Verse deal as well. He asked a ton of questions, to which I continually replied: I just want the deal that’s on the website. After placing me on hold, he prodded me along to “sales.”
My new phone companion could barely audible — interesting, considering it was a phone company I was connected to. That and he seemed as coherent as David Crosby circa Woodstock. The sales rep asked me to explain to him the U-Verse deal I was referring to, all the while insisting there was no such thing in a half baked kind of way. To which I assured him, it was on the website, plain as day.
Time dragged on and, while I was not finding any luck with the Internet, I was offered a discounted rate on TV twice and a more expensive internet with lesser GB – to which I responded by hanging up the phone. Probably not the nicest move, but I was heated.
At this juncture, a thought raced through my hot head: “I should just cancel and go with Time Warner.”
But then, “Time Warner is more expensive than what I have with AT&T.”
So I stayed put. Interesting, huh?
Switching triggers are important in influencing purchases but they can only be effective if barriers are reduced. With my Internet, the only emotion driving me is price. Even though I was pushed around and made angry for an hour by an inept group of customer service reps, I decided to do nothing about. The idea of cancelling services to join another just seemed worse than what I just went through.
The factors that are driving my Internet choice are primal. My basic needs overshadow any willingness to affiliate with a brand. That’s because none of them hold any deep meaning with me.
Which leads me to this. Internet providers take heed: all you need do to steal share is make your brand emotionally worthwhile to the consumer and reduce barriers, and they’ll find the reasons to switch.
It’s their own fault. As forecasts predict declining sales on Black Friday this week, the retailers only have themselves to blame. What was once considered a special event – a social one, even – has been diluted by sales before and after the day, while online sales continue to rise.
Based on a survey by retail consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, only 29% of women (the primary audience for Black Friday) intend to shop that day.
Now that doesn’t mean retailers are going in the tank that day. Black Friday will still exist, but it may never be the special day that it once was. The impact of online shopping is one reason, with 33% of women saying they will shop online (including 71% of Millennial women), which is simply the way of the world now.
The problem for major retailers is that a vast majority of those online shoppers will head over to Amazon, the single biggest threat to the brick and mortar stores that have long been the bedrock of holiday shopping.
But it was the retailers’ own greed that has done them in. In the rush to claim as much space in the holiday shopping market, retailers began Black Friday earlier and earlier. (That’s why our own senior brand strategist, Corbin Rusch, applauded REI for its no Black Friday promotion.)
In fact, one of the reasons why women in the WSL survey said they wouldn’t shop on Black Friday is because sales aren’t as good as they used to be (73%) and, more importantly, because sales are just as good before and after Thanksgiving (78%).
As a whole, retailers may make out OK this holiday season, although I suspect Amazon is going to eat up a large chunk of that market share.
How to fix Black Friday.
So what’s a retailer to do? For one, retailers need to stop trying to “out open” each other by pushing back the clock further and further until the sales start on Halloween.
For another, they need to face the biggest problem in retail: The lack of brand identity for the individual chains and brick and mortar shopping itself.
Black Friday has long focused solely on sales, getting the best price for a gift. That trigger has lost its impact now that sales start when the kids are trick and treating and last until Christmas Eve.
Instead, to re-build the category of Black Friday, retailers need to highlight the fun of the event itself. The social interaction (even though sometimes they lead to fights) should be improved as a whole so that shoppers feel like they are having fun.
Right now, Black Friday feels worthless because you fight crowds for prices shoppers can get elsewhere and at another time. But the day used to be something a little bit exciting. Market the day, not the low prices.
Paris terrorism and the French brand
Firstly, I want to say that I am not a Francophile. I travel all over the globe on business and enjoy France no more or no less than I do the UK, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria and every other nation I am privileged to visit. Oddly though, France has a brand that certainly rivals the US in its values on liberty and freedom. The recent Paris terrorism attacks have upset me to no end. The troubled human beings from ISIS could have picked no better target than Paris when attacking freedom of speech and liberty. They also could not have been more mistaken in the outcome of such a tragic attack. They forgot the French promise of Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
I think France today enjoys the same world-wide sympathy that the US had after 9/11. Everyone feels for this city and country. All of us expect the French to exact retribution and never back down. Paris terrorism will not go unpunished or unresolved.
We should remember that France has been a willing and exemplary symbol of freedom for immigration. Freedom has a cost and France has always been willing to fall on the sword for such deep rooted beliefs. In my lifetime, I remember the frustration that the US had for many years with Charles de Gaulle, the oft times President of France who seemed never willing to tow the line. He marched France to a different drummer and certainly represented the independent nature of the nation he represented.
Paris terrorism will leave the French undaunted
So what does the brand of France mean today? It means that it will move heaven and earth to root out and bring to justice the perpetrators in this crime. It means it will take an active roll on the war with ISIS and it means the French will still pay strict adherence to their precept of liberté, égalité, fraternité. Count on France to lead the way in demonstrating how no bad apples will force them to give up its principles. In this, France continues to have my continual reverence. Vive la France!
For your consideration, I am including the lyrics from La Marseillaise the rousing French National Anthem. I have also included a recording form the legendary movie Casablanca when the French patrons at Rick’s Café drowned out the occupying Germans from singing about their fatherland. Even today, this clip gives me goosebumps.
Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of the Fatherland,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us tyranny’s
L’étendard sanglant est levé, (bis) Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Do you hear, in the countryside,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ? The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras They’re coming right into your arms
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes ! To cut the throats of your sons, your women!
Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens,
Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons ! Let’s march, let’s march!
Qu’un sang impur Let an impure blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! (bis) Water our furrows! (Repeat)
If you look at the fast food marketplace, the brands – McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc., – are in chaos.
And that’s being kind.
They are fighting with every last bit of strength to reposition themselves in the marketplace as sales are dwindling.
McDonalds, for instance, is offering its breakfast menu all day. Now, you can get that Egg McMuffin as a midnight snack, which I’ve described as just a Band-Aid.
The new move by Taco Bell.
The new trend in fast food is to provide food that’s healthier for you than what chains normally offer, even though studies have proven that consumers usually still opt for the fatter foods. In fact, the main problem is that fast food chains don’t have the permission to be accepted as healthy by consumers. Even McDonalds failed to gain traction going that route, potentially damaging its brand.
Taco Bell has now announced it is committed to using cage-free eggs in the menu items at all of its 6,000-plus restaurants by this time next year. Let’s just assume that cage-free eggs are healthier, does the Taco Bell customer care? More importantly, will the cage-free eggs get someone who thinks of Taco Bell food as worthless crap into the store?
I feel resolute in my belief that one will never believe in a healthy Taco Bell. No amount of cage-free eggs will change my assumption nor the assumption of many others.
When you order a Biscuit Taco Combo, does it matter what kind of egg you’re eating? Nope. Each bite of that 870-calorie monstrosity isn’t anywhere near being healthy. Don’t fool yourself.
Think about this: The fast riser in the industry is Hardee’s (or Carl’s Jr., depending on where you live). It has positioned itself as the opposite – “Eat it like you mean it” – and it’s doing wonders for the brand.
I’m not saying others should follow that example, except that the message is a brand one. Cage-free eggs is a menu item and chains that attempt to out-menu their competition will find themselves changing to something else down the road.
This is a guest blog from one of our strategists, Corbin Rusch, as a rebuttal to my own blog earlier this month, which you can read here.
Meanwhile, here’s Corbin:
Next week, the annual survival of the fittest shopping holiday, Black Friday, will begin and REI has opted to sit it out. While this move will undoubtedly cost REI a few dollars in lost sales, it is absolutely one of the best brand-centric moves I have seen in a long while.
REI sells outdoor gear. Its brand is all about getting outside. Everything that REI does and says is about getting outside because “a life outdoors is a life well lived.” REI’s philanthropic efforts are targeted towards conservation, upkeep and establishment of trails and wildlife habitat restoration. REI has authored the hashtag #OptOutside to not only promote the retailer opting out of Black Friday but to reinforce the core of its brand. Not only is REI closing its stores and delaying online purchases, but it is also paying its employees for the day to live the REI brand and #OptOutside themselves.
What REI Black Friday does for the brand.
What is so great about this move is that it directly positions the brand against anyone in the category that is encouraging people to forgo a portion of their Thanksgiving holiday to go inside, wait in lines and fight for merchandise. Going shopping is the polar opposite of the REI brand. REI is making its brand more important than Black Friday revenue. This will increase awareness for its brand and what it means.
Brand at its core is a system of understanding. It enables a company to precisely tell consumers who they are, who the brand is for and who it is not for. However, many of today’s brands fail to stay true to what they say their brand is, especially when money is on the line. Let’s be honest, REI will not change Black Friday by closing its stores for the day. The reality is that, for the vast majority of the shopping public, they would rather stay inside anyway. They are not REI’s customers and I don’t think this move will have much impact on REI’s sales. But that is exactly why this move is so refreshing. REI is staying true to its brand and I applaud them for that.
For almost all of retail – whether you’re talking about consumer goods or ordering pizza – delivery is the river from which all life flows. Because of that, retail stores are closing outlets, convenience stores can’t get customers to come into the store and fast food restaurants are almost solely focused on the drive-thru.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder 7-Eleven and KFC are entering the area of delivery – and I predict doom for one of them and success for the other.
The doom is for 7-Eleven, which will add lockers to 200 outlets in North America so shoppers can pick up their packages from UPS or FedEx. This is an obvious attempt to get those that simply gas up to come into the store and buy a Slurpee or some such thing.
7-Eleven has been under siege with greater competition, not just by the many local convenience stores you find in every town and city – but also by rising giant Sheetz, one of the few brands in the category with a unique brand and look. 7-Eleven has been a follower, also offering food like Sheetz and now believes that this shipping option will make it a leader.
Here’s the basic problem. Let’s say you do order something online. Why would you need to have it shipped to 7-Eleven when it can be delivered right to your door? Seriously. Why?
That’s not mentioning that Amazon, which its Amazon Prime membership, just about dominates the online category and can get you what you ordered next day without any additional cost. Why have it shipped to 7-Eleven?
7-Eleven and KFC are desperate.
The move feels desperate; as does KFC’s announcement that it will start delivering in a few select markets next month. There’s a difference here, though. The food will be delivered…what for it…to your door.
I’ve always wondered why other fast food chains haven’t done this before. The pizza brands figured out a long time ago that people would rather eat fast food at home (or in their cars) rather than go into the restaurant itself. It’s the reason why many chains make most of their money in the drive thru. There’s always a little bit of guilt in eating at a fast food restaurant that going through the drive-thru alleviates. Delivery is the natural progression.
Most fast food restaurants fear they will be left with expensive billboards – the restaurants themselves. But it’s already moving in that direction.
There’s no good reason why McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King can’t deliver. In a category that seeing sales drop across the board, delivery is a natural option – and it allows those brands to take on the pizza brands of Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s.
While KFC has its own problems, this is a smart, leadership move. Ordering packages to be delivered to 7-Eleven is just plain stupid.