The Tom Dougherty Blog
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.
Taco Bell, which has a disadvantage in entering the breakfast daypart, is taking that disadvantage head-on with its new campaign asking consumers to be breakfast defectors and eat something different at Taco Bell.
The disadvantage is that Taco Bell does not have brand permission to enter the breakfast segment because of its name and brand equity. It is about cheap Tex-Mex food, usually eaten by night owls on their late-night visits.
That has been enough to make the fast food chain a success. But, as I’ve explained before, the only daypart with opportunity in the slipping fast food industry is breakfast. That’s why you’ve seen more of the chains target their marketing dollars to getting more customers for breakfast.
Taco Bell has struggled in this area because of its lack of brand permission, but the new campaign is interesting because it is positioned against the rest of the market while leveraging its own equities.
That’s one of the tenants of any brand marketing. (Or any kind of marketing, for that matter.) To be a true choice, you must be positioned against the other options in the market.
The Taco Bell Breakfast Defector campaign relies on a belief
What Taco Bell is doing here is aligning itself with a belief, that all fast food breakfast is basically the same, and using its own brand equity to say what it has is different. Defect from breakfast and choose differently.
It must be working because, even though Taco Bell has been serving breakfast for more than a year now, market-leading McDonald’s has recently taken to social media by offering consumers (at least in some selected markets) a free Egg McMuffin if they bring in their Taco Bell breakfast receipt.
McDonald’s has been having its own problems, which are reflective of the industry itself. Sales all across the board are down and McDonald’s is responding by paring down its menu to offset what had previously been an industry trend: Adding more and more menu items in an attempt to stave off lost market share. But in doing that, chains have lost whatever equity they’ve had.
The major problem most of the fast food brands have is that they don’t know who they are for or what their brand means. The brands basically stand for cheap, quick food today because the expanded menus told consumers that.
At least Taco Bell has an understanding of its brand, even though I suspect its lack of brand permission will prevent it from being a market leader. The chain also understands the customer base (tired of the same old thing for breakfast) and that what it offers that is different.
Fast food brands should take notice because breakfast consumers are defecting.
You’re hearing it here. I was wrong. For the last month, I’ve been extolling the virtues of the DirecTV Rob Lowe spots and thought its advertising agency, Grey Advertising, finally became an advertising agency that understood strategy.
Well, maybe Grey isn’t so great, after all. DirecTV pulled the Rob Lowe spots when cable companies, specifically Comcast, complained that the spots were making unfounded claims. Of course, Comcast made the stink because the ads worked. If they didn’t, Comcast would’ve have cared because those claims have been made in previous DirecTV campaigns. It only cared because the campaign threatened its market share.
So what did DirecTV and Grey Advertising do to replace Rob Lowe? They replaced him with a talking horse.
This Hannah and Her Horse campaign is so awful I don’t even know where to begin. For one, there’s no counterpart to Hannah like there was in the Rob Lowe spots where the two identities gave viewers a (albeit, humorous) choice. There’s no sense whatsoever of viewer identification.
In fact, what happens here is that the talking horse is the story. Not the prospective DirecTV customer. The campaign is similar, in a way, to the non-stop series of GEICO ads in which supposedly funny off-the-wall characters chime in on the insurance company’s virtues with little effect. (GEICO has to keep spending all that money on advertising to protect its market share because it hasn’t gained much in some years.)
But at least GEICO has a strategy (price), as ineffective as it is. The DirecTV Hannah and Her Horse campaign has none. It’s just stupid.
The really disturbing part of Hannah and Her Horse
There is also another aspect to this that deeply disturbs me. I always wondered why DirecTV acted so quickly to Comcast’s complaints by dropping the Rob Lowe spots when it wasn’t required to. Comcast only complained to an industry body, not a regulatory one.
Well, now we know why. DirecTV already had the Hannah and Her Horse campaign ready to replace it. It was in the can, all set to go. This isn’t just one ad. This is a whole campaign with a handful of ads. That means DirecTV (and Grey) were already planning on replacing Rob Lowe.
This is the GEICO strategy where ad campaigns are just funny skits without a strategy or a pay-off of the brand promise. It’s just money and time wasted.
Hannah and Her Horse just makes me think that neither DirecTV nor Grey Advertising even knew what they had with the Rob Lowe spots or even why they worked.
They had it. And now they’ve lost it.