Almost exactly a year ago (give or take 3 weeks) I wrote a post on Microsofts’s then new XBox accessory, the motion sensing Kinect. Back then I noted how the Kinect had been passionately embraced by hackers and scientists across America and the globe. Engineering grad students were finding uses for the Kinect that Microsoft could not have even begun to dream of. Microsoft’s initial reaction was to lets it’s lawyers off the leash but luckily, someone with a modicum of sense managed to beat that instinct down and lock it in cupboard. However, after that, Microsoft largely turned silent. Videos of new and creative uses for the Kinect kept coming but the big M seemed to stick to the plan that the Kinect should be nothing but a cool addition to a gaming console. Truly a horrific waste in terms of marketing and a sad testament to Microsofts ability to grasp the reins of a potentially paradigm shifting opportunity. I was genuinely sad.
Until this video was passed around my office on Monday morning.
That video is goddamn magic.
For me it is more than just the hauntingly beautiful interpretation of the Pixies “Where is my mind?” that accompanies the video* of people using the Kinect in ways that most hardcore gamers would find baffling, if not downright infuriating.
The video is accompanies Microsoft’s recent launch of The Kinect Effect website and the release of SDK Beta, a software package that will make it easier for people to write programs for their Kinect. The company has finally decided to throw its full weight behind the modding community, a move we usually only get from Google. What is more, Microsoft has decided that the Kinect has the heft and power to stand on it’s own. No longer is it merely an fancy gadget that will allow your kids to interact with Elmo or for you to impress your drunk friends with your Dance Central moves. It is a product, no, it is brand all on its own and the video is testament to this.
Only once do you hear someone in the video mention the word XBox, but the fabled entertainment console is nowhere to be seen in the video. At the end of the video, the word “Kinect” stands entirely on it’s own. It is no longer the XBox Kinect, it has grown beyond it.
I don’t think that I would be out of line by saying that even the great, late Steve Jobs could not help but be impressed by this.
- Philip Beickler
* The video was made by twofifteenmccann, a division of McCann Erikson, the global ad agency that won the exclusive contract to all Microsoft advertising. The company is responsible for the hugely impressive Halo and Gears of War ad campaigns that I have mentioned in this space previously. They really have done some amazing work for Microsoft and for the XBox division in particular. I will definitely write about those campaigns in the future.
Before you read the rest of this article, please read this article. It should only take a moment and it will be well worth your time.
For those of you too lazy to do the actual work I will do a quick synopsis, though you ought to feel ashamed of yourselves while you are reading it. Basically, the post discusses how Ad Age has previewed a study that the position of Brand Manager is dead. David Kiley, the author of the post counters that it isn’t dead, but that the job has changed so drastically it should be called something else. As proof for this he quotes Larry Light, former CMO of McDonald’s. Light believes the post should be termed “Brand Editor” as managing brands has become a multileve process that involves talking to numerous groups of people who only engage with the brand on a certain level, often not aware of or ignoring the whole picture. He likens this to people only reading those parts of a magazine that interest them, hence the term “editor”.
Interesting isn’t it? I find the concept of “Brand Editor” to be quite intriguing though I don’t quite agree with it. Obviously Larry Light is a man many times more accomplished than myself with experience in handling one of the worlds most powerful brands, so really I ought to just STFU, sit down and buy his book. However, I can’t help but feel that what he is engaging in is just a clever bit of renaming for a job that brand managers have been doing for years. Beyond this, the title editor, just seems a bit too static. But essentially this is just me nit picking about what is otherwise a facsinating look behind the curtain of what a brand managers job looks like in the new century. It also gives us a glimpse into how important Brand managers or “editors” will be in the future.
Reading the article I was struck by a sudden thought: companies communicate with their customers through their brands, and this interaction (as can be read in the article) is becoming much more intricate, in depth and personal. A brand has multipile facets, and not everyone engages with each part of the brand but the “Brand Advocate” must work hard to ensure that the brand is consistent no matter who it engages in and how, whether they be dyed in the wool loyalists or crusading opponents. However, as of the Citizens United ruling in 2010, corporations are legally considered to be people. If that is the case, does this mean that the companies brand could be considered the companies personality come to life? It’s soul if you will?
If we assume for the moment that this is the case, what does it mean for brand managers. Suddenly their job will have become far more important. Not only are they responsible for how customers interact with the brand/company, they are essentially dictating what that companies personality looks like. However, this brought on a hole tidal wave of new questions: how much of the brand managers own personality becomes the personality of the brand/company? What happens with companies like P&G who hold hundreds of brands? Would the company be legally considered schizophrenic and suffering from multiple personality disorder? Could a company be ordered to attend court mandated brand therapy should the brand identity become splintered between conflicting messages?
Obviously I am poking fun, but there are things here worth thinking about. Brands are going to continue to evolve along with technology. The more personal technology becomes the closer the brand would like to become with us. However, brands can only become so close to us. At the moment they have a kind of proto personality that we can interact with on a daily basis, but this is still quite liimited. Imagine a world where Mc Donalds had a living breathing personality, an identity gestalt that could speak with you directly the moment you entered one of their locations. The gestalt could talk, ask about your day and make personal suggestions and ask for direct, honest feedback and criticism.
It sounds like sci-fi and for the moment it is. But lets be honest, right at this minute you are carrying a pocket computer that is 200x more powerful than the laptop you had while you were in college. And you use it to make videos of cats falling into buckets. Who is to say that our grandchildren will not have a personal and immediately interactive relationship with the Mc Donalds company because it greets them at the door whenever you take them there to buy their love with milkshakes and fries?
I ask again: if corporations are people, what are brands? And what does this mean for the position of CMO or “Brand Chief Negotiator”? I have no bloody clue. But I can say for certain that it will be important one day.
- by Philip Beickler
As a continually recovering and relapsing European, I am the first to admit there is not much to be excited about where The Continent is concerned right now. Politicians are dithering and cowardly trying to avoid doing what needs to be done to save the single currency, rioting and public vandalism is once more a vogue activity and Silvio Berlusconi some how has not ended up in a Maximum Security prison with Bernie Madoff as a cell mate. On the bright side, We do have the most exquistly designed soda bottles!
I probably should state this upfront, but I am not a packaging person. I mean it, I generally consider packaging to be something that get between me and the product rather than part of the experience. Intellectually I am aware of its importance in the branding world, and that it probably has some sort of effect on me. I just do not care about it. So you can imagine what it must have taken when, at lunch the other day, I nearly missed picking up my curry turkey wrap because I was facsinated by the shape of my Afri Cola bottle. You can see it below:
Now despite the slightly unsavory history (the brand was founded in 1931 and was a product of its time) Afri Cola has endured to this day by producing a very refreshing beverage that tastes distinctly different from the two super brands. Beyond which, just look at that bottle! It is beautiful. I have it on my desk at home, I am so facsinated by it. The bottle also got me thinking about what other european soda bottles might have such startling designs. What do you know, we are positively drowning in them.
Alright. Way back when we at YBiS were still updating with some regularity, my colleagues showed you some stellar examples of humerous baseball and American football advertisements. Now it is my turn to represent some of the best and funniest soccer clips. Beware, some of the them go back to the early to mid 90’s, as you can see in the first clip by the apperance of one Eric Cantona (still the most brutal Frenchman to have ever played the game) and a 19 year old Ronaldo. If these names don’t mean anything to you then you ought to be deeply ashamed of yourself. Enjoy!
This one was absolutely legendary back in the day. Oddly enough, it too seems to feature Eric Cantona, who was well retired by this point.
This is just getting strange, I am beginning to wonder if Eric might have some serious blackmail material on Nike.
Now for a little something from the competition.
The irony of this video would not be appreciated until years later.
Well folks, that is all. I wish you all a good weekend!
- Philip Beickler
The online marketing folks over at L’Oreal Men Expert UK must enjoy a XX Cerveza on occasion because their most recent online video campaign “The Expert” carries more than a whiff of those much beloved television ads. In fact, The Expert could be The Most Interesting Man in the World’s Grandson, graduated summa cum laude from the John Cleese School of Gentlemanly Conduct, with an extra helping of internet savviness. While some of the ads address your basic satorical issues like tying a tie (via ninjas) most of the ads have a strong social media bent. An entire video is given over to creating the perfect Facebook profile picture (which is then shown), while another has him using his smartphone to deploy particularly interesting L’Oreal Men apps. All videos invite you to visit The Expert’s aforementioned Facebook page. The Expert generally answers all question with his usual tongue-in-check charm and amuses his followers with his insights and goings-about town:
The Expert must be hitting the right tone, because the Facebook site already has over 6,000 followers and the videos are tracking at tens of thousand hits. Personally, I like it a lot. It was one of those rare ads where the spokesperson rarely if ever mentions the product. Most of the time, The Expert is seen using L’Oreal Men Expert products without ever commenting on them or suggesting that the product is somehow the key to his suave self parody. The product is enhanced and promoted through the shenanigans of it’s spokeperson without necessairly coming off as prop in his fracical schemes. Whats more, he had the whole office in stitches. Kudos to L’Oreal and hail to The Expert.
- Philip Beickler
Big news everybody! If you haven’t been living inside a black hole on the outer edge of the Universe, chances are high you have already heard about the rather large purchase Google made on its latest shopping trip. For $12.5 billion, the digital masters of Mountain View have gotten their very own mobile phone manufacturer! Yay!
The brander in me wants to get really excited about the possibilities here. Motorola (now Motorola Mobile) basically created the modern cell phone. Their Razor line of phones dominated the market for years. True they had fallen on hard times recently, but the launch of their Droid Android OS based phones seemed to hearld a more positive trend for the company. A patron like Google, with its almost bottomless pockets, could be the boost the brand needed to get back to the top!
That slight sense of euphoria lasted for about 5 seconds. Almost instantly, questions started popping up, might Google just try to eat the Motorola brand? Google is generally a superbly run company, but hardware is not their forte. Also, Google’s Android Mobile OS had gained market dominence by being available to multiple manufacturers on multiple networks. Was Google turning its back on it’s partners and the very strategy that had made them so successful, just for the opportunity to be more like Apple? The company tried that with the Nexus One, which was discontinued after 6 months and the new Nexus S line isn’t exactly setting the World alight. Those phones were manufactured by HTC and Samsung respectively, companies that produce killer smart phones. Did Google think that they would be able to do it better themselves? Were they willing to run the risk of their partners switching to the Windows 7 OS?
Sure enough, Google’s major partner in cell phone manufacturing released statements that support the purchase. Your can practicaly hear the CEOs grinding their molars into dust (they also all seem to share the same speech writer). They also all refer to Google trying to protect the Android OS. Doing a bit of research revealed why. It also made me horribly depressed.
It seems that the new strategy in the mobile phone and OS world is not to make better products or provide the customer with greater value. No, today’s cutting edge, on the go, job creator corporations are looking to beat the competition by nickle and diming them with patent infringement law suits. It seems that the technology within the various phones is so similar that that these lawsuits do have some traction and Apple Inc. has been making its law department earn their overtime. Motorola holds some 17,500 patents with anoter 7,000 pending approval. Google has essentially bought itself a shield against future and current lawsuits.
While CEO and Google founder Larry Page has announced that Google intends to run Motorola as a seperate company, he isn’t really calming any nerves. $12.5 billion is a lot of cash to plunk on the table for a a bunch of patents, whose to say that he won’t want to start playing with all the toys that come with it? Microsoft is looking hungrily at Nokia and along with their recent purchase of Skype, it is looking like that company may be trying to become a complete (phones, VOIP, OS, Xbox 360) interactive communications provider. The question is, would that be a good thing, either for the consumer, the shareholders or the company itself?
For myself I can only say that I am not impressed with the current practices. Yes, Google must protect itself from lawsuits and yes, Apple must protect its IP from infringement. However, once legal attack become the tactic du jour, companies will rapidly lose sight of doing what they do best. Apple has already done this once with Microsoft over computer OS, and in the end all the legal brawling didn’t really amount to anything. In terms of branding this strategy can only lose as customers tire quickly of corporations crying booboo over small technicalities. These companies should be trying to beat each other in the market, not in court room.
As ever your opinions are appreciated.
- Philip Beickler
I am going to do something very mean and allow you all to watch these videos first. Then once you are done clawing out your eyes and stuffing pencils in your ears, I’ll continue.
That’s right let it all out. It is better out than in. So, now that you have picked yourself off the floor, time for us to get down to brass tacks.
You probably had some indication from the header, that I don’t like these ads. I find them to be offensive to me as a man, as a marketer and as human being with the mental capacity to dress myself in the mornings. Some might be tempted to say that I have no right to comment on “Hail to the V” *shudder* campaign as I am obviously not the target demographic, but that is a weak counter argument. While Summer’s Eve products may not be meant for me, I am still fully capable of being offended on behalf of the women who this ad campaign is meant to appeal to. I don’t think anyone would hesitate to denounce an ad campaign involving a talking penis. (Editors note: Stephen Colbert has done a humorous take on this)
However, looking past the squick factor of a talking set of genitals, the question does eventually spring to mind “is this a bad campaign?”. My answer to that would: yes. It really is.
The person who came up with the phrase “there is no such thing as bad publicity” was a filthy, devious liar, probably trying to save their job after a particularly sordid scandal, because this is bad publicity. People may be talking about the campaign but conversations that generally start with “Did you see that awful…” are not ones that you want your company’s name involved in. Beyond which, it is impossible to ignore fact that these videos indulge in extremely lazy ethnic stereotyping. We have Vanilla Vagina, Sassy Black Vagina and Fiery Latina Vagina. Why did they stop there? Why not go for Mysterious Middle Eastern Vagina or Unshaven European Vagina. Yes, these are crass ideas but it doesn’t change the fact that it would fit snugly into the narrative of the campaign.
You could give Summer’s Eve credit for trying something new and daring, but that doesn’t make it good. The purpose of ad campaigns is to boost revenues through increased brand awareness. I am certain “Summer’s Eve” and “Hail to the V” are trending high on Google and twitter, but given the context I wouldn’t call that a good thing. I am also pretty sure that women who see these ads will not be inspired to buy their products. After all the implication seems to be: use Summer’s Eve, and your vagina will talk to you.
- (with his sincerest apologies) Philip Beickler
Last month, the Telegraph published an article, claiming that Germany was now “officially” the Worlds least funny country. Now, as a funny German myself and a man who has had his baggage “randomly searched” by US custom officials, I can confidently say that this “study” is complete rubbish. If you need further proof, look at these Burger King ads by Munich based agency .start titled “Veg City”. We expect the Telegraph’s retraction and apology forthwith.
- The Brats by Philip Beickler
This is part 2 of our bagels and brats series on Porsche’s new ad campaign. Click here to read part 1.
Once more I find myself in the unenviable position of agreeing with you, Ben. This advert does a spectacular job of undermining almost all of the brand equity that Porsche has built up over it’s almost 80 year history. As a German I almost feel fatally insulted; a person loading up turf into his Porsche?? Not only is that offensive to the brand, it just doesn’t make any damned sense. When I go to Home Depot I don’t think that I want to give the turf a thrilling ride back to my garden. I think “what car can I use that has enough room and which I would not be too fussed about if it gets messy?”. You think Dodge truck, or VW Touran or even a Fiat bloody Panda. Anything with a larger trunk. Porsche shouldn’t even enter into the conversation.
Once the initial rage had subsided, the inevitable question surfaced “Why did they do this?”. It wasn’t good enough to know that this campaign was a bad move, that was screamingly obvious. But this seemed to be a strictly American phenomenon and what on Earth would convince Porsche USA that this would be the the correct strategy for them? So I went snooping on the ole internets and found out that Wikipedia had some very decent statistics on Porsche North America sales.*
Do you know what Porsche’s biggest selling models were in the US in 2010? It was the Porsche Cayenne (8,343 units, up 7.9% from 2009) and the Porsche Panamera (7,741 units, up a whooping 520.8% from 2009. To be fair, the line was only unveiled in April 2009). Together the two lines total over 63% of Porsche US total sales!
The Porsche Cayenne should be known to most of you by now as it has been kicking around since 2003. Porsche went with the Ben & Jerry’s product strategy, manufacturing the car in almost every conceivable variation, including the hybrid Ben mentioned in his Bagels post. It’s the high end SUV for those soccer moms who want to pick up their kids while bathing in the seething envy of their peers. It has been wildly successful in the US.
This is the Porsche Panamera. If you are thinking “Wait, that doesn’t look like a Porsche, that looks like a station wagon.” then rest assured you are not the only one. Pegged as “family friendly”, the Panamera is one gigantic vehicle. Forgoing entirely the old school Porsche feel of a small, fast, two-seater sports car, the Panamera feels like you sitting in an urban tank that can fit 12. I am not exaggerating. It’s what Bruce Wayne might drive his kids to school in, if he really needed 300-550 horsepower to get him there.
Having looked at these numbers, let us for our moment put ourselves into the shoes of a hypothetical Porsche US marketing manager. Call him Kenny. Kenny sees these numbers and they are quite inescapable. “The big sellers are the SUV or station wagon type lines,” he thinks to himself “while the other models are either declining or don’t make up enough of the revenue to really matter.” Good job Kenny, you have recognized the situation at hand. Now what are you going to do about it? How are you going to bring up the numbers of the other models? “If the family friendly/everyday use models are what’s selling, then it is obvious we need to market the other models as equally appropriate for everyday use!”. Smugly satisfied with his cleverness, Kenny orders the new marketing strategy to be executed and then crowns himself King of his Desk by putting his paper basket on his head.
This is more or less the logical fallacy that I imagine went into the making of this campaign.
No one can doubt that luxury brands were affected in the last two years, but instead of trying to alter 80 years of brand identity Porsche should have taken pointers from its corporate sibling Audi. Audi of America’s “Luxury has Progressed” campaign does not try to alter the perception of the car as a high end brand. It embraces it while differentiating itself from it’s competitors as the high end automobile brand with personality, dynamism and fun. Audi knows that it’s customers don’t buy their cars for the “everyday” experience. Their customers buy their cars for the “extraordinary” experience. And as well we all know, if you experience the extraordinary every day, it rapidly become ordinary, boring and not worth the money.
Remember that Porsche. You are an luxury brand that charges a premium price for a extraordinary experience. You have never been and should never be everyday.
- Philip Beickler
*(Before any of you smart asses start bouncing up and down and yelling to teacher that Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source, I checked the sources. The numbers are from Porsche Press releases. Now sit down and shut up you pack of obnoxious busybodies.)
Augmented reality is the “live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics” according to it’s Wikipedia page. The basic idea is that you point your phone or other viewing device at some real world location and it will then show you something about it, either information, digital art or advertisements. The concept is still in the process of being birthed but the potential is immense, for any number of industries including advertising and branding.
Imagine you go to your favorite shop, pull out your phone, activate AR app and WHAM, what was once an ordinary store front lights up with information. The types of items they sell, sales events, profiles of people who work there, little commercial videos even your own purchasing history and frequent shopper status. Just imagine the Terminator vision from the movies and you are essentially there.
At the moment you need to use a webcam or a smartphone with the appropriate app in order to see the foundations of this new world. However that is merely a temporary state of affairs. One day we will be able to switch between the AR world and the real world at whim, likely wearing glasses not to dissimilar from the ones pictured below or even using contact lenses.
For now though, let us marvel at some of the imaginative ways branders have started to use augmented reality to give their campaigns that added special touch. Below are some of the most impressive examples I found on the web. Enjoy!
Digital billboards that turn the background landscape into Lego
Angels fall on people in Victoria Station in London.
You can find many more excellent examples of AR campaigns here. Don’t forget to comment and let us know of any other campaigns out there in the wilderness of the internet.
The term “green” has become nauseatingly ubiquitous since the early 00’s. Used as a prefix for everything from cars to coal factories, any meaning that the word used to hold has been ground into a fine powder and thrown to the winds like so much carbon monoxide. (It really has become unfathomable. Wikipedia has a page for green accounting. I stared at the link for a full minute before clicking away because I was certain that reality could not live up to my imagination).
“The Green Movement”, has been an active political and social force globally since the 1970’s, with roots going back to the late 19th century. Many countries have active and influential Green political parties. While the Movement has long held a small presence in the United States, it surged back into the forefront of the American consciousness in 2005-2006, when Hurricane Katrina knocked on America’s door (using the neighbors Ford Taurus as a door knocker) followed by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
What followed this brutal wake up call was a nigh unstoppable (and deliciously ironic) wave of green washing (which should be strongly differentiated from legitimate green marketing) by every company with a semi functioning marketing department. Green jobs, green energy, green cars, green packaging, it seemed that America would become a green economy overnight. The Movement could smell victory and thought it had reached nirvana with the election of Barack Obama (one of the Presidents more bombastic campaign promises was that he would dedicate billions of dollars to the construction of a green energy industry, almost literally from nothing.).
Why the Green Movement thought it would be able to alter human economic behavior in just a few years through the sheer power of its moral superiority and pictures of increasingly heart breaking natural disasters is anyone’s guess. However, reality soon struck them like an Oxford English Dictionary to the face.
Calling something “green” is very easy. However there are no objective standards that dictate whether something is in fact environmentally sound. This has made the aforementioned green washing riotously easy while hardening consumer skepticism. Additionally, green products tend to be very expensive and as is so often with human nature, good intentions often give way to pragmatism.
The 2011 ImagePower Global Green Brands Study gives us some insight into the mindset of customers in developed and developing countries. Conducted by WPP, 9,000 consumers were interviewed in 8 different countries. The results are, dolorously, generally what marketer researchers have come to expect from such surveys. Respondents are full of concerns about the environment but when it comes to how the chose products, priorities shift so quickly it becomes schizophrenic. French, Germans, Britons, Americans and Australians all rank “offers good value” as the most important criteria when considering which brands to purchase. The emerging economies rank “cares about its customers” (India), “is responsible” (China) and “reliable” and “high quality” (Brazil) as their top concern. For none of them does the term “is green” even crack the top 3. Developed countries bemoan the price premium green products demand while emerging ones name packaging and labeling as the major hurdles that prevent purchases.
None of this is all that surprising, and there is some data that would give the more environmentally minded individual reason to hope (in all countries respondents noted that there are less barriers to purchasing green products than in the past and intent to purchase is up). That is until you look at the lists naming each countries top 10 green brands. Here is the list given by US respondents:
1. Seventh Generation
2. Whole Foods
3. Tom’s of Maine
4. Burt’s Bees
5. Trader Joe’s
6. The Walt Disney Company
7. S.C. Johnson
10. Starbucks, Microsoft (tied)
If you are anything like me, you will have at least have gotten to No. 6 on that list before your jaw dropped in your lap and you muttered “What the fu…” under your breath. It would seem that good intentions non withstanding, the average American consumer is still largely misinformed as to what does or does not constitute a green brand. However, given how hard it is to actually communicate this information in such a way to actually promote consumer action, this is hardly a surprise.
So back to my own question. Does being a green brand matter? My best assumption from the data presented in these studies (the 2010 study can be found here) is that once more, consumer intentions and consumer behavior are two rather different kettle of fish. Which is a a evasive way of saying “no”. At least not at the moment. There are signs of hope, but we still have a ways yet to go. So while it may not matter all that much right now, it is a worthy goal and once critical mass has been achieved, it surely will be a lucrative one.
- Philip Beickler
Ladies and gentlemen, for your Friday Memorial Weekend entertainment we present you with some very creative adverts from Honda and RPA. Pay attention to these, as we will be discussing them in the future. This will be on the test.
Have fun and have a good weekend!
Perusing the internet for interesting brand bits, I stumbled upon Brand New, a site that could very well be considered a sister blog to YBiS showing, albeit a much prettier sister that is head cheerleader, gets straight A’s and receives a lot of male attention (hate her soooooo much…). Jealous reactions aside, I found a lot to like about the site and heartily recommend it to the five of you who read our blog. Special mention goes to the blogs list of Best and Worst Brand Identities of 2010 (Part 2 found here). Enjoy the lists and have a great weekend!
- Philip Beickler