Sunday, September 27, 2009

Branding Essentials: Why Do You Need A Strong Slogan?

Today is Brand Critical's second birthday!!! Happy year two BC! I apologize the entries over the past few months have been more scattered than regular, but that's what happens when you work long hours and have had 14+ hours of travel every week. Luckily I'm on a new assignment and am spending fewer hours running through airports. Whew! In the meantime, I've been gathering some topics recently to help make up for my absence and hope they'll be of interest...including this entry on one of the key elements of an integrated brand identity.

In case your memory needs a jogger, an integrated brand identity contains three basics: a name, a logo, and a slogan and today I want to discuss the third of these. In the world of branding, the slogan is generally used as the positioning factor. Its purpose is to convey your brand promise to the customer. And since each of us is exposed to millions of messages every day (whether or not we decide to pay attention to them), our brand's tag line needs to be clearly understood to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation.

When you look at a brand from inception, all three elements are generally present. However, for some reason the slogan is the one that's the most difficult to pin down as a constant thread (i.e. as the name and logo remain the same the slogan doesn't). Why? The reason is fairly simple. Sometimes (OK, often) brand managers find themselves in a position where their ad agencies want to change their slogan to fit each new, flashy ad campaign whim (Are the brand manager warning bells should be going off in your head yet?). Since they are the advertising experts, why should you resist? I'll give you some good reasons...

When you change a brand’s slogan too often, customers start to get confused or think you’re hiding something. Inconsistency can be extremely destructive to a brand. You wouldn’t go and change your logo or name every two years (or less), so why do the same with a slogan? You don't want to give your customer the impression you're wishy-washy. Sure there are some factors that would require the creation of a new slogan. But these aren't things that happen every day. (Some reasons would include your competition (or market) has changed, your potential customer needs to be re-educated due to a major product quality issue, etc.). Get the picture?

Max Sutherland, author of "Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why" summarized that most brand names, being only one or two words, can't stand alone as compressed communication. As a result, the brand slogan plays a key role and the usage of this slogan should be disciplined. "Discipline means keeping sight of the need for each message to reinforce previous messages and to reinforce the prĂ©cis of the brand’s DNA...(it) should not change. If it does, then pretty soon the brand loses sight of its own essence. Buyers get confused and wonder does the brand truly stands for anything if it keeps switching?"

Now we come to the example of a brand possessing two strong elements and one that is a little bit fuzzy. Ford is the perfect example of a brand with a strong name and impactful logo. However, it seems to have struggled over the years to come up with (and stick to) a meaningful and lasting slogan. You may ask why it really needs one seeing that Ford has such great brand recognition even though it has changed its slogan numerous times. In fact, if you see the Ford name or the Blue Oval on anything you think cars, don't you? The reason Ford needs a strong slogan is due to three major factors occurring today:
  1. Its industry is in tumoil
  2. Overall Americans have become disenchanted with American automobiles
  3. Although Ford currently has quality topping its major competitors it still needs to sell itself to the many disbelievers out there

A couple of months ago the Detroit Free Press ran an article claiming "Americans are buying Fords: 'Drive One' slogan isn't connecting with public." In it, Art Spinella (President of CNW Marketing Research, Inc) said of Ford's most recent slogan: "The Drive One campaign is so amorphous that it doesn't mean anything." This isn't surprising seeing that the company seems to have changed it's bread-and-butter brand's slogan every couple of years:

  • Bold Moves.
  • Built for the road ahead.
  • Designed for living. Engineered to last.
  • Have you driven a Ford lately?
  • Drive One.
  • Feel the difference.
  • Built Ford Tough. (Generally consistent with their truck products, not the entire brand)

For a brand with such a rich history and great products it’s difficult to understand why no one’s created a strong, lasting slogan that fits the brand’s image. Why not come up with something that will last more than a couple of years – say something that follows the brand at least into the next couple of decades? Something that truly stands for what the brand is about and plans to be in the future? Other major companies have successfully used their slogans for 20+ years (and psst, of them is a fellow automaker):

  • "Just Do It." (1988)
  • "The Ultimate Driving Machine." (1975)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are Stadium Naming Rights an Effective Marketing Practice?

Photo found on: Ad Pulp

After the Final Four wrapped up here in Detroit, The Detroit Free Press published an article stating that as a result of the event being held at Ford Field, Ford Motor Company had won $22.5M in free advertising from media coverage. The "Freep" noted that despite the fact there were no courtside signs present, "Ford received more than a minute of clear, focused exposure time during the two nights of coverage. Ford Field was also mentioned by the CBS announcers 23 times." (For background, when Ford purchased the naming rights to the stadium (completed in 2002), it agreed to pay $40 million over 20 years).

This article inspired me to bring up the use of stadium-naming rights as a marketing tool. It's a topic on the heat of many tongues over the past few months, primarily due to public criticism of Federal-bailout-money-funded banks continuing on with naming-right plans. Although the practice isn't anything new, over the past few years as stadiums have become larger and more luxurious, naming-rights prices have skyrocketed. For example, in July of last year
Ad Age reported the naming-rights for the new Giants/Jets stadium, was estimated at $800M. And on February 4 of this year, MSNBC reported (via the AP) that “Citigroup's contract with the Mets is the biggest stadium naming rights deal ever...paying the team $400 million over 20 years...” At rates this high and the economy this low, is it even worth it?
In the MSNBC report, William Madway, marketing instructor at Villanova had said in regards to purchasing naming-rights as a marketing tool, “This is not a silly thing…this is not a corporate jet.” (Although I don't think this is a very good comparison, because an asset like a corporate jet isn’t intended for marketing purposes and in many cases the jet isn’t silly because the plane is already a sunk cost and the company is only paying for operation costs to fly (instead of paying for fluxuating, booked-at-the-last-minute, high-priced commercial airline tickets). It makes business sense because the plane flys large numbers of employees (not just executives) to highly frequented company destinations multiple times a week. But I digress.). Don Sexton, a professor of marketing at Columbia, on the other hand said "You have to have the right tone. People in these times have very sensitive ears...Perceptions rule." In other words, if people are highly critical of how you're spending taxpayer money, it probably isn't a good time to continue with a high-priced, high-exposure sponsorship. He also said, "from a branding perspective, there's no hard data to prove how effective stadium naming rights are for financial services firms."

This brings us back to the Freep article. So what if the company name was mentioned on the air? Did the name make people think of cars or football (the Detroit Lions) or college basketball? What was the actual ROI for Ford Motor Company - the car company? Did more people go out there and buy or lease new cars/trucks or get a warm fuzzy feeling when they thought of the Blue Oval? Can it be compared to $22.5M of strategized, paid-for advertising when it may not have been reaching or connecting with the appropriate target audience? What has been the actual naming-rights ROI over the past few years for Ford?
In 2005, Brand Channel posted a Brand Debate asking readers whether or not corporate sponsorship (specifically stadium naming-rights) scored with consumers. There was a range of differing opinions, from those who didn't believe it made people more inclined to purchase products/use services, to those who said it may help increase or strengthen top of mind awareness if the stadium/sport has something to do with the product and brand experience. In other words, before throwing money at naming-rights a company needs to remind themselves of their brand basics. What does your brand stand for? What do you want the customer to think or experience when they're exposed to your brand? So what if a customer knows your they know what the brand is about and like what it stands for? Does tying the brand name to a stadium or sports team compliment your overall brand goal? What if the sports team is a losing one or tends to get a lot of bad PR?

In my opinion, not only is it difficult to measure the ROI to justify buying naming-rights as a marketing plan, but there are an unlimited number of ways to more effectively reach your customer for far less spend. You can do a lot of marketing for $400M and do it smartly - i.e. in ways that won't anger consumers and tarnish your brand image. But, if you do decide your brand might fit with a sports team (maybe you are a maker of athletic shoes or something), just remember to go back to the brand basics before pulling the trigger.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Iconic Brand Power Proved: Snicker's Snacklish Campaign

Over the past few weeks I've been seeing billboards and buses in the Detroit-area that seem to be all about jibberish: "Get some bling with Master P-Nut," "Pledge Sigma Nougat," "Nougetaboutit." Realizing these ads were for Snickers (based on the logo and brown background), I did a Google search and discovered Snickers' new "Snickers Speak" campaign from TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. Snickers is putting on a full-court press to encourage people to learn "Snacklish."

This isn't the first time Snickers has tried to get people to speak its "language." Similar ads were launched in 2006 using words like hungerectomy, peanutopolis, and nougatocity (Arnold Zwicky has a nice list of words and definitions from the 2006 campaign here). Back then, it got people talking, but not everyone was sold on the new words. For example, two commenters on Ad Freak said that "Hungerectomy" reminded them of rectom and hysterectomy rather than the intended meaning of removing hunger. Although it isn't certain Snacklish will actually work its way into conversations with friends (NWT reported "Executives at Mars and TBWA/Chiat/Day New York say the Snickers language will resonate with 'young adults who are texting each other...making up their own words, their own shorthand.'"), what this campaign proves to me is the power of Snickers' brand.
How many other brands would get away with only using a single word on a billboard and have people tie it back to the correct product? These ads prove Snickers is an iconic brand, a brand according to WPP that is "...instantly recognizable...with such powerful visual cues (it) has an intrinsic advantage over others, not least beacuse it ensures that marketing communication is linked to the right brand...Our analysis found that brands considered iconic enjoyed far higher top-of-mind awareness...(suggesting) that iconic brands are strongly associated with their specific categories."
So what are the take-aways from this campaign? First, these ads serve as a reminder to those of us with newer brands to be specific in our advertising and to be smart about what visual cues we link to our products. For example, if Dove were a new entry into the soap market, just showing the word "Clean" inside the outline of our logo probably won't make much sense to the consumer...yet. Second, for those of us working with the brand powerhouses, it reminds us to be sure we don't lose sight of what makes our brand an icon. Would a McDonald's commercial be the same without seeing golden arches? Would Energizer batteries be the same without the bunny?

If you want to see more Snickers' Snacklish ads, Ad Land has a several posted to their
website. Or you can visit Snickers' website to learn more about the campaign.