Bodyform. Bloody, real, important?

Have you seen the new Bodyform TV Commercial?

The pregnant man and the BodyForm Commercial
Saatchi used boldness to great effect

Bodyform got me thinking. I started my career in brand building and advertising many years ago with Saatchi & Saatchi in London. At the time, it was the largest and possibly the most influential ad agency in the world. I don’t think you would get much of an argument with advertising historians and adfolks in general if I stated that the best advertising in the world was coming out of the UK in those days. It was at times edgy, funny, controversial and often provocative.

Is the UK raising the bar again? I ‘ll leave that to you to decide. A friend brought the new BodyForm TV commercial to my attention and was even kind enough to ask for my opinion on it. The truth is, my opinion does not count for much as I am not the target audience for menstrual pads. But I have to say, it seems to fulfill all of my prejudices for great advertising and communication.

Bodyform PackagingIt is bold, unapologetic and controversial. The spin on the web has been mostly positive as the brand has been praised for its use of real blood in the ad and equating a woman’s regular menstral cycle as being as common place as athletics, striving and accomplishment. I think it works on that level.

Bodyform is blazing its own path

But I would really like to hear what you think (I’m talking to the females here). Is it pandering or real? Is it too clever or does it hit you as authentic? Is it too symbolic or does it make the brand (and therefore the user) feel heroic? Do you feel strongly about the brand? Does Bodyform represent something that you want to identify with?

Bodyform BloodMy friend Pam, who brought my attention to the ad, said this: “I understand where they’re coming from. Women are powerful, menstruation is part of being a woman, we bleed. But the imagery, especially the beginning, sets an uncomfortable tone. The woman under water with blood on her head looks like a victim of a horrible crime, that stays with me for the rest of the ad.”

Great communications and great advertising should shine a bright beam of light on the brand itself and the identification that the target audience develops or possesses with the brand. The worst advertising brings attention to itself. The message becomes secondary to the medium itself. What’s the truth here?

I leave that to you to tell me.

Preference. It’s amazingly flawed.

Why your preference is misguided

Preference in blindfolded tests
Blindfolds often reveal truths

A Bud Lite drinker once told me that Miller or Coors “would not cross these lips unless they were cold, blue and dead.” He had unshakable preference. I asked him why he hated the other lagers so much and he said “they taste like raccoon urine.”

I asked a large assembly of bankers once if they felt like they were much affected by brand in their preferences. About two-third raised their hands to let me know that brand had no influence on their purchase decisions. Budweiser preferenceI then asked a few of the brand deniers what brand of mayonnaise they had in the refrigerator. To a person, they all responded, “Well, Hellman’s of course.” By a show of hands, almost three-quarters of the group who said they were not influenced by brands admitted that they too had Hellman’s mayonnaise in their fridge. So much for brand having no influence on decisions.

For those of you who are thinking that Hellman’s just tastes better, I have a few facts to share with you that might just surprise you.

Remember the Bud Lite drinker I mentioned earlier. In blind taste tests with hundreds of subjects, beyond the normal distribution of randomness, no one, NO ONE could tell the difference between Bud Lite and its light beer competitors. But it gets worse.

Preference is not a reliable barometer of goodness.Preferences

If you are over the age of 71, in blind taste tests (blindfolded), you can’t tell the difference in taste between Coca-cola and…  7-Up. (Read my article on what happened to 7 Up here) That’s right. They taste the same to you. This is not because human taste buds die at age 71, the age is simply a dividing line between those that grew up on soft drinks and those that did not.

Preference in sodaAs most of you reading this are under the age of 71, I challenge you to do this. Buy either Coke or Pepsi (I don’t care which one but they must not be a diet version) and a non-diet can or bottle of 7-Up.  Have your significant other blindfold you and pour some of each into identical glasses. Then take the blind taste test. Will you be able to tell the difference? Probably. But, you will be shocked at how similar they taste. If it weren’t for a hint of lemon/lime scent from the 7-Up, you would find them identical. The reason is that the predominant flavor exciter is sugar.

I share all this with you because none of us do blind taste tests to choose the things we prefer. Have you ever made two batches of potato salad, one with Hellman’s mayo and another with the store brand? Have you ever compared the side-by-side results of two batches of laundry cleaned with your preferred laundry soap and that of a competitor? I think you get my point. If things that seem so different as Coke and 7-up can be confused, imaging how much of our lives are directed from perceived differences that have nothing to do with rational reasons.

Preference is confusing
Brand prejudice is a reasonable thing

Purchase decisions, ALL PURCHASE decisions are emotional decisions. We perceive the differences that we anticipate and we reinforce our past decisions with over stated differences and inflated preference memories.

This is not a damnation of human behavior. Brand loyalty is a needed and necessary means of simplifying our lives. We place trust in our preferences because it allows us to live in the crowded and loud world we find ourselves in today. Having to make a continual series of rational choices would be exhausting to us. Prejudice, in terms of making sense of our consumer world, is not only a good thing but it is a necessary thing.

So I leave you with one more example. Can you imagine your misfortune to be a child of a brand strategist like myself? When my kids were young, I blindfolded the lot of them and gave them a choice of Nestle’s Quick in whole milk and the same whole milk with confectioner’s sugar. Sure enough, my hapless guinea pigs could not tell the difference.

(Read an article on motivations and brand preference here)

The SEC Brand is more important than team excellence

No one manages its brand better than the SEC. How great is that SEC brand? Better than the real greatness of any of its member football teams.

SEC Brand logoAs brand guy, I give keynote speeches on what corporations can learn from the SEC brand in terms of brand management. The SEC brand manages media reports, sport commentary, game day analysts and the supposed independent polls that make up the college football rankings. They manage the message and the message is BIGGER than the talent in the league.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the teams are bad. Far from it. They are a good football conference made up of very good football teams who manage the SEC brand’s polish by trying very hard not to give the outside world any means to judge the actual talent level of the individual teams. They have succeeded in this. They do this by playing virtually no one of substance from outside of their own co-conspirators.

Before I get into the examples of the conference’s brand management for this year, I want to point out that last year the vast superiority of all the SEC teams found a rough landing in the post-season bowl games. The ongoing claim of the inherent mediocrity of everyone (except SEC teams) really showed its ugly side in post season.

SEC brand-Logos
The 14 SEC brand members are a tight club

In a recap of last year’s SEC performance, Alabama lost to Ohio State in the first round of the National Championship series. Ole Miss was spanked by TCU in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl. Mississippi State (Number 1 in the polls for a bit) was handily beaten by Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame beat LSU 31-28 and Auburn lost to Wisconsin. South Carolina was one of the few bright spots in the postseason by beating Miami (whose current coach is on the hot seat) 24-21. Arkansas beat a 6-6 Texas team 31-7. Missouri beat Minnesota, Georgia beat Louisville, Tennessee beat Iowa and Florida beat ECU. So in the final tally last year the SEC brand was 6-5. Not a bad record but by no means a dominating performance by a conference with that much hype. Why such a letdown? Does such a poor finish matter?

SEC brand Bama LogoThe SEC brand and Alabama

Nope. Not a jot. Let’s look at Alabama this year and see exactly what is going on. Alabama was ranked third in preseason polls. It moved up to second with a 35-17 win over Wisconsin (3-2 at this writing with no wins over any major program). The Crimson Tide remained in that spot until it was defeated and nearly spanked at home by Ole Miss 37-43 (Ole Miss another SEC brand school and my sister’s passion). So what happened to Alabama with that loss? Alabama dropped to 12th and Ole Miss rolled up to 3rd. After all, one team beat another SEC team and the other team lost to an SEC team. Neither scenario should matter in the eye of an SEC fan.Ole Mis Script SEC brand

This past weekend, Alabama (an underdog for the first time in years) beat an undefeated SEC Georgia team. It had major repercussions in the national rankings because it was an SEC game. I am not even going to get into the shenanigans in the polls after The Gators beat the Rebels last week. Good grief.

This is where the SEC brand power diverges from the reality of the actual team performance. Georgia was favored and ranked SEC BRAND and brand awareness8thnationaly. Yet, when you look at the Georgia schedule, the Bulldogs have no major wins under their belt—unless you consider any win against any SEC team a signature win (I guess many do). Georgia beat lowly South Carolina and a 2-3 Vanderbilt team. The rest of its wins came against schools that were scheduled as gimmees. Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Monroe (who also played Alabama). Louisiana Monroe, by the way, is like the SEC version of the Harlem Globetrotters’ arch rivals, the Washington Generals. You play them to ensure a win. They play you for the money. After this Alabama win, the ‘Bama schedule toughens up until the matchup with their arch rivals Charleston Southern on November 21.

SEC brand value
Brand value does not have to be true to be powerful

Why the SEC Brand and not SEC football?

So why is this about brand and not about reality? I am sure this blog will excite all sorts of emotional reactions from SEC fans. It’s hard to dispassionately argue with the patsy scheduling and the lack of a desire to measure the conference mettle against quality non-conference foes. But considering the brand blindness exhibited by the fans, I don’t blame them (the SEC brand managers). Why risk upsetting the brand battlewagon by stretching into no-win scenarios like playing a Pac 12, ACC or, dare I say, the AAC powerhouses? Ole Miss might have made a major mistake in scheduling Memphis, habitually a gimmee, but an undefeated squad this year. I’m sure Memphis is not up to SEC standards because it is not in the SEC.

By playing only each other, the mystique of the SEC conference remains intact and no one will ever fault them for losing to other SEC conference teams. All true SEC fans know that every slot of the top 14 rankings rightly belongs to the SEC conference teams.

brand context and the SEC Brand
Emotional connections define brand power

The power of a brand is always seen in emotional attachments that have very little, if anything, to do with product performance or side-by-side comparisons. Adherents will defend a brand choice with virulent emotional defense because, when the brand is attacked, they feel as if they have been personally affronted. I always count on this power of retention in creating brands and the SEC is chock full of such devotees. At the end of the day, the brand is not about the schools or the conference. Like all successful brands, it has transcended all that and the brand is about them, the fan. This is not an accident.

If you are an SEC fan and you see this blog as an attack on you… You prove my point. This is not an attack on the SEC teams. They play VERY good football. It’s just a brand reality that can be said of many other schools and conferences. What other football teams and conferences envy is not the caliber of the athletes or the fame of the coaches. They envy the SEC brand and the emotional connection that the SEC brand has created with fans who see no correlation between the reality of a 6-5 finish last year and their own personal recollection of the season. (Read our market study on University Brands and college branding here)

Rebranding is all about the mindset

I’m about halfway through a book that’s transforming the way I see the world around me. The book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is filled with prolific insight on how to identify the type of mindsets we have (either a growth or fixed mindset) and how those mindsets can be seen everywhere around us. And, in my case, how those mindsets affect successful rebranding.

The right mindset drives success.
The right mindset drives success.

Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, has spent 20 years researching what makes someone successful and, conversely, what keeps others from being a success. The gist is the how the successful and non-successful see themselves.

On one side of the spectrum are those individuals that Dweck coins as having a fixed mindset. This literally means people who are stuck or that they are “fixed” in how they see themselves.

Consider children who call themselves “stupid,” athletes who believes they have hit their ceiling, or parents telling their children they “are the best.” All of these instances are “fixed” as they lack a belief in personal growth; that each individual has maximized their potential.

Those with a growth mindset are motivated to improve and learn from the obstacles presented by the world around them. Dweck refers to Michael Jordan, who could have given up when he was cut by his coach in high school, but rather used that challenge as fuel to work harder.

What does mindset have to do with rebranding?

Just about everything.

Take a look about what we have to say on the rebranding process. To quote our website: “Other branding companies start with the status quo and tell you what they think you want to hear. We don’t. We challenge you. We start by building a new position and meaning for your brand. The preferences of prospective customers are based on deep-seated emotional beliefs – not just rational judgments such as price, quality and effectiveness.”

If your company lacks the willingness to look critically at itself and seek areas of improvement, then, quite simply, you cannot.

And what’s more, Stealing Share is not for you.

Mayweather Pacquiao a bust

I’m an idiot. I should have known better but I couldn’t help myself in ordering the pay-per-view Mayweather Pacquiao boxing match. It was, as many of you who did the same thing know, a bust.

It wasn’t just because I wanted Pacquiao to win (because I do think Mayweather is a scumbag) but because I wanted to see a championship fight. What we got was a lot of Mayweather evading, using the calculator in his head and responding with light touches to score points. It wasn’t boxing. It was touch football.

My belief system made me do it.
My belief system made me do it.

The thing is, I should have known better. Boxing has become horribly irrelevant ever since boxing went to this pay-per-view model because it sets up expectations when you’re paying nearly $100 to watch.

Gone are the days when boxing was a regular feature on network TV so you knew the fighters, your expectations were akin to checking in on your favorite TV drama and watching the big fights was a communal experience.

Now, even though NBC Sports and other outlets are trying to resurrect the sport with regular broadcasts on a lower level, the pay-per-view model sets up an expectation that can’t be met. The Fight of the Century? Please.

My own precepts made me do a silly thing.

There’s a lesson here that goes far beyond Mayweather’s boxing style. (I was warned ahead of time on that too.) Consumers of all types believe that you get what you pay for, meaning that the lowest cost item in any category is believed to be the worst. While a premium price means you are getting the best quality. It is a precept that most of us share.

While that didn’t turn out to be true in the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, it was believed. That’s why the purse for this fight, when you include the pay-per-view numbers, is expected to top $300 million.

We all tuned in because, with that price point, we believed it would be the Fight of the Century.

I believed. Because I longed for the days when I was coming of age in the 70s and watching Ali, Frazier and Foreman on a regular basis. We’re never going to see that again – no matter what I believe when the next so-called super fight comes around again.