5 Branding Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Campaign

The 2016 Presidential Campaign is loaded with great branding lessons that every company and person can apply to their favorite brand.   I’ll try to be unbiased.

1.   Awareness Trumps –  The ascension of the Trump brand has been astronomical, largely due to awareness.   You had heard Trumpof him before, and you’ve certainly heard of him now. Millions of Americans were exposed to the Trump brand through his television series, real estate and entertainment holdings, media-inducing polarizing comments, and the unique, visual persona.  He’s said more soundbite friendly and contentious comments since, further gaining publicity.   The political pundits were quick to downplay his legitimacy, yet he dominated media mentions.   If you’ve heard of something and it registers in your mind, it has successfully penetrated the critical consideration set – the short list of things you might choose.

Latest NBC/WSJ Poll

2.   Differentiate –  Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders are succeeding, largely on their ability to  differentiate themselves.  carson Ben Carson expertly plays the ‘I’m from outside of politics, plain-speaking neurosurgeon’ game, Carly is the ‘seasoned ex-HP CEO, non-Hilary female leader,’ who deftly leveraged the “look at that face” Trump gaffe into a gift, and Bernie Sanders is the self-described democratic socialist focused on improving middle class inequality.   He also is the sole non-Hilary Democratic option.   Conversely, Scott Walker, an early front-runner dropped to oblivion and out as one of the many ‘successful governor with relevant experience’ options. You must be different, and relevantly different, to be selected from your competition.

3.   Be Authentic – Consumers demand authenticity in their brands and selections.   Consumers have a strong “bs meter” Clinton and have 24/7 access to social media that can uncover and amplify lies, inconsistencies, and skeletons.   On the (at least perceived) authenticity meter (net score on honest and trustworthy, latest Quinnipiac poll) Carson (+51),  Biden (+45), Sanders (+23), and Bush (+19) lead, while Clinton (-31) and Trump (-22) take a beating.   A brand is a promise to consumers – what you are, what you stand for, and what you consistently do – and consumers value and crave credibility and authenticity.

4.   Resonate – Your offer must resonate with your target audience; know what their key issues are, articulate how you solve their most important issues, and speak their language.    Despite his polarizing personality and image (top 4 Quinnipiac poll descriptors: arrogant, blowhard, idiot, businessman), his surge is largely explained because his messages of ‘make America great again’ and ‘sick of insider incompetence’ resonate deeply with a vast population.   He may ultimately have a product and personal credibility gap (29% of GOP voters would definitely not support Trump), but his message unquestionably resonates.

5.    Cut Through the Clutter – You must sharply define and articulate your unique brand positioning.  At the moment, Presidential_DebatesTrump, Carson, Fiorina, and Sanders’ brands are memorable and clear.   Although still early in the campaign where Trump’s style over substance noise is captivating consumers and the media, several extremely solid, admirable and, arguably, superior talent – like  Kasich and Pataki are going relatively unnoticed so far, as 57% and 58% “haven’t heard enough” about them, respectively.

As the campaigning and jockeying for position continues, we continue to enjoy the show and its rich brand and marketing lessons.   The marketing communication is riveting, but great brands perform on measurable criteria over time.

 

4 Ways to Raise Pricing and Delight Customers

Most companies loathe or mismanage the harsh reality that pricing increases are often necessary to offset inflation, even with the most diligent cost control.     Often, this is a painful across the board price percentage increase on all units, on largely unchanged products and services.     Here are five great ways to drive price increases that consumers will willingly accept, and, even enhance loyalty to your company.tide_pods
1.   Innovate to improve the customer’s user experienceTide Pods is a brilliant innovation that makes washing clothes more convenient, portable, and less messy.    The idea is grounded in solving problems and consumer irritants in the category    Tide virtually reinvented laundry detergent from the customer’s perspective of easily, and properly doing a load of laundry.    Pricing impact:   +10-15% increase per load, plus a more space efficient configuration, which reduces distribution expenses.

2.  Resize to meet changing consumer preferences –   As consumers are trying to reduce their consumption of soft drinks and/or improve their portion control, Coke has come to their rescue with their new, appealing 7 1/2 ounce cans, ostensibly for consumers to choose versus 12 ounce cans.   150114_EM_PayMoreLessSoda And consumers are delighted; sales volume is up 9% according to the Wall Street Journal, while paying nearly double – yes double – the price per ounce for these cute cans.     Yes, this is an exaggerated, albeit successful example, but the bigger point is that Coke is re-evaluating serving sizes from a consumer perspective and looking at pricing on a price per ounce vs. price per unit basis.
3.   Innovate for new usage occasions –  Similarly, Crystal Light did this brilliantly by adding smaller On-The-Go packages, specifically designed to enhance the staple 8 oz.Crystal Light brand water bottle, again at a +100% price premium versus their traditional make a gallon at home package.    Lest you forget to buy these in the supermarket, they are brilliantly merchandised in convenience stores and gyms, right at your (now enhanced) water bottle point of purchase.

4.  Adjust product mix and package sizes –  Cereal and snack companies master the ability to change their product size mix and selectively reduce the amount of product in certain packages.     This can often mask direct comparisons versus the previous product line up and  pricing.    Further, you can strategically promote your more profitable package sizes more frequently, again, driving an effective price increase that is often invisible, and/or preferred by the consumer.

Lessons Learned:
1.   Think of pricing in broader terms than price per unit.     Price per ounce, price per pound, price per consumer usage occasion give you far more latitude for consumer-accepted price increases.
2.   Solve consumers’ most nagging problems in a product improvement or innovation and they’ll pay for that privilege.   Increasing convenience or reducing waste are among two widespread benefits that consumers will pay for.
3.   Build an expectation of gross margin enhancement into your innovation program and project selection criteria.

Super Bowl XLVIII Ad Rankings: Budweiser, Doritos (and Seahawks) Blowout

Budweiser and Doritos were the uncontested winners in last night’s Ad Bowl, as measured by USAToday (popularity),  Brand Bowl (social media buzz) and Katz Marketing Solutions (effectiveness).   Both brands had two exceptional spots (Budweiser: Puppy Love and Hero’s Welcome; Doritos: Cowboy Kid and Time Machine) that nailed all the essentials of great advertising:   enhances brand equity, persuasive, resonates with the target audience, compelling main message, brand integral to the story, and the Super Bowl ‘wow’ factor for entertainment.   Doritos spots were particularly outstanding – the story line is the quest for the coveted product.

Kudos to several highly effective campaigns that clearly communicated a persuasive sales message (oh – – remember that?) such as Radio Shack (visit our contemporary stores), T-Mobile (no contract carrier), and Volkswagen (durability).     These are the companies most likely to reap the best returns on their +$4 million per ad Super Bowl investments.

While the lovable animals remain timeless, increasingly grating are the formulaic ‘sex sells’ ads, sorely lacking in reasons to prefer their brands.    Sure, they ‘made ya look,” but we doubt H&M, Oikos, or SodaStream need to run out and up their production forecasts.

Lastly, we applaud two brands’ continued respect for diversity:  Cheerios and Coca-Cola.      While Coke’s song choice and multilingual approach pushed the edge with some consumers (a fairly low 57% positive sentiment score), it placed an enviable #5 on BrandBowl’s social media ranking with +33,000 tweets.

As for the worst:  the cringe worthy attempts to be funny, contemporary and cool.    Better luck next year Wonderful Pistachios, GoDaddy, and Beats Music.

Here are the winners (and worst) from three marketing mavens – USAToday’s AdMeter (panel popularity), Pointslocal and Boston.com’s Brand Bowl (twitter volume and sentiment), and Katz Marketing Solutions (effectiveness).

USA Today – AdMeter                              

Best:
1.   Budweiser (“Puppy Love”)

2.  Doritos (“Cowboy Kid”)
3.  Budweiser (“Hero’s Welcome”)
4.  Doritos (“Time Machine”)
5.  Radio Shack (“Phone Call”)

Worst:  BudLight “Cool Twist.”   Good reminder that great advertising requires risk taking.

Pointslocal and Boston.com’s BrandBowl

1.  Budweiser

2.  Doritos
3.  Cheerios
4.  Pepsi
5.  Coke

Worst:  Staples

Katz Marketing Solutions

1.   Budweiser (“Puppy Love”)

2.   Doritos (“Cowboy Kid”)
3.   Doritos (“Time Machine”)
4.   Cheerios (“Gracie”)
5.   Radio Shack (“Phone Call”)

Worst:  GoDaddy

The Ted Williams Phenomenon: Big Marketing Winners… so far

The world is temporarily fascinated with the Ted Williams homeless to celebrity voice internet star phenomenon.    At its core, it’s a heartwarming and inspiring story of second chance – and a little bit of refreshing, upbeat  news.      Of course, I’m fascinated with how  talent and instant celebrity translates to effective  brand marketing.    Here are the big winners, so far…

1.   Ted Williams, the man –  Clearly he has great talent and appears to know how to use it.    Continue reading

Brand Authenticity: Tiger’s Tailspin

Brands must be authentic.    Great brands, like people, create positive enduring relationships based on their credibility and consistency.      While brands have always needed to continuously earn their esteem, social media now makes brand authenticity a mandate.     All eyes are watching your brand, and missteps are reported globally in an instant.    Keep it simple.    Make your brand authentic.

Lack of authenticity is what’s driving the unprecedented demise of the Tiger Woods brand.   His ‘brand truth’ is dramatically different from the carefully honed aspirational brand image.    And it was that faux brand image and esteem that made brand Tiger so ideal for corporate sponsorships.     Incessant media coverage and its exponential visibility in the blogosphere unearthed the size of brand Tiger’s lack of authenticity.     Post-media frenzy, his champion credentials will remain, but the ‘wonderful man’ imagery has been unveiled as a sham.      Brand Tiger’s demise is an extreme, but illustrative example, of the danger of lack of brand authenticity.     Last week, AT&T joined the growing list of multi-million dollar sponsors who really had no choice but to stop aligning their brand with Tiger Woods.    The financial value of the Tiger Woods brand is a fraction of what it was just a month ago.     Continue reading

Swine Flu: CDC’s Brand Coup?!

As we all wash our hands for the 89th time today, you have to admire the Center for Disease Control‘s effective branding and positioning of the Swine Flu. Really, swine fluwould the threat of an obscure H1N1 virus sufficiently capture our attention or become a media darling? ‘Swine flu brand’ has gained exceptionally high consumer awareness in a short time, reinforced awareness with frequent and relevant messages, generated buzz and driven preventive activity. Amazing, given that medical professionals are still sorting through the validity of this flu’s unique severity. Continue reading