Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Category — Brands

Top 10 Examples Of Brands Levering Twitter

What if you asked a question about a brand and the brand answered back?

On Twitter these days, that’s exactly what is happening.  Twitter has evolved from a a microblogging tool that allowed first adopters to share exactly what was going on in their lives in 140 character or less, into an increasingly mainstream conversation tool that companies and brands are just beginning to use to connect to consumers.

Some brands have made mistakes along the way, while others have had their brands hijacked by others (e.g. “Janet” of Exxon Mobil).

But the brands listed below have all used Twitter to engage their consumers directly, in ways that traditional brand communication tools could never have been able to do as effectively or efficiently:

1.) Comcastcomcastcares

Comcast has made a significant dent in its negative perception of poor customer service with a Twitter presence that is really turning heads.  For starters they use a real person, with a real photo instead of a logo. Check out this NY Times article for a more about Comcast’s presence on Twitter.

2.) Zappos - zappos

Here is a great post from AdFreak about how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh becomes a “one-man-customer- service machine” on Twitter.

3.) Southwest Airlines - southwestair

As usual, Southwest Airlines takes one of the most maligned industries out there and puts a smiling (and branded) face on it.

4.) Dell Computers - Dell on Twitter

Dell lists out all Dell related Twitter accounts, ranging from those talking about the latest deals and promotions, to international Dell news, and Dell focused bloggers.

5.) Oracle - Oracle Tweeters

A complete list by Oracle of all their employees with external blogs and Twitter accounts.

6.) Whole Foods - wholefoods

A great mix of answering consumer questions, posting news of interest, and sharing links to favorite recipes.

7.) British Prime Minister’s Office - downingstreet

Not necessarily a brand or company, but I like the official government presence on Twitter.  I found this Tweet interesting: “Cabinet reshuffle is taking place today. We will have details of confirmed movements and appointments on the website later…”

8.) Forrester Research - forrester

One of the top digital marketing research agencies, Forrester Research, levers Twitter as both a way to monitor chatter about its brand, as well as a way to keep a pulse on the broader digital conversation.

9.) method - methodtweet

This green consumer goods manufacturer Tweets on everything from environmental factoids, to the latest update on their corporate dodgeball team.

10.) HR Block - HRBlock

I would imagine this Twitter account will really heat up as we get closer to the April 15th tax deadline next year.

Twitter is still in an early phase from a broad reach adoption curve standpoint.  However, mainstream brands are staking out effective presences and levering Twitter’s ability to foster meaningful interactions with a wide range of people.

If there are other brands who you think are doing a good job on Twitter, please feel free to comment or just send me a Tweet @ paulbanas.

October 10, 2008   No Comments

Best In Consumer Insights: ESPN Sportscenter

In the mind of most sports fans, ESPN is sports. And Sportscenter defines ESPN.

espn logoWhat is insightful on the part of ESPN is rather than positioning themselves as a top sports news network, coming across like the CNN of sports, ESPN instead positions themselves as the world’s biggest sports fan.

This allows them to match the seriousness that fans have about sports and their teams and players, while at the same time recognizing that sports at their essence are still just a bunch of people playing games. So while they take their reporting and analysis seriously, they don’t necessarily take themselves too seriously.

All of this is why their ongoing, “This is Sportscenter” campaign has had such a successful run since it first started airing in 1995. The spots use dry humor to show top athletes together with ESPN anchors into mini-mockumentaries of everyday office situations at Sportscenter. This campaign developed by Wieden+Kennedy recently ran its 300th spot in late 2007.

Below is a great example from the campaign, which has Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers helping out during an ESPN office fire drill.

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January 11, 2008   No Comments

Top 10 Insights Into Brands

As marketing makes a transition between traditional to digital media, understanding how this affects the practices of developing brands and brand strategy will be critical.

There have been a lot of articles and blog posts recently on branding and brand strategy, so I wanted to collect and share the work of some very smart people. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they do represent some of the freshest thinking on the topic.

  1. First, it may be helpful to start out by getting a definition of what a brand is, and I like the thoughts behind this definition at Stephen Sammartino’s Start Up Blog.
  2. Of Max Kalehoff’s 10 principles on brands, I think transparency is the most critical in the new digital environment. Consumers will respond positively to your candor, and additionally, in a digital environment, keeping things hidden won’t last long.
  3. I could do a top 10 lists of brand insights from the Brand Strategy Insider alone, however I’ll focus on this article by Brad VanAuken on how marketing research is essential across several steps of brand development.
  4. John Caddell, as posted on the Marketing Strategy and Innovation blog, talks about how much we can actually change about a brand when a marketing team decides to do some “Re-branding”.
  5. What separates mythic brands versus the ordinary is that brands with a mythology have a rich story that consumers can connect to and identify with. As Seth Godin points out in his post about Brand as Mythology, “People use a Dell, they are an Apple”.
  6. Roger Dooley at Neuromarketing writes about how branding can be reinforced through the effects of sound. It’s why I think jingles had been so effective as an equity element.
  7. By using the Method Home brand as an example, David Taylor at the BrandGymBlog, lists five principles why this brand has been such a success. The principle of defining your brand simply, but boldly can be found in their slogan “Detox your home”.
  8. This post at highlights the tension between living up to a Brand Promise and the need to deliver business profits: Johnson & Johnson 1, British Airways 0.
  9. While this Wired article by James Surowiecki on The Decline of Brands is a couple years old, like most things by Surowiecki, it is packed full of evergreen insights.
  10. Finally, Seth Godin shares some thoughts on a brand formula based upon people’s expectation of a brand and whether the brand delivers on that expectation. He cites FedEx:

“Fedex is a powerful brand because you always get what you expect, and the relief you get from their consistency is high.”

Are there any other great posts on branding or brand strategy that people could share?

January 7, 2008   No Comments

Who Stopped the Marketing Music?

When was the last time you heard a truly memorable advertising jingle? One that you simply couldn’t stop humming and that you heard repeated wherever you went, with even kids on the street singing it to each other.

One look at this list from the Branding Strategy Insider and the dates they were introduced and you can guess it was probably about the time ad agency types such as the fictional Darrin Stevens and the rest of the “Mad Men” retired to Florida in the early 80′s. Only two from the list were from the 1990′s, and one was the four note Intel Inside tones, which barely qualifies as a true jingle in my mind.

I do have a belief (which I’m open for a challenge) that as media moved from being auditory dominant (radio) to more visual dominant (TV), the skill sets of ad agency creative talent shifted as well. We got visually stunning commercials, but the auditory complement was usually a pop song. But using popular music is expensive and it generally has stronger links back to the original artist that the brand it is advertising (“Like a Rock” for Chevy being a notable exception).

When I think about the emerging discipline of neuromarketing, I can’t help but wonder why marketers and their ad agency partners walked away from jingles. Although the medium is dated, I can’t think of any other form of equity communication that did a better job of cementing a brand into one’s brain than jingles did.

December 10, 2007   No Comments

When Brand Expansion Becomes a Brand Implosion

Sometimes marketers can expand a brand so dramatically, that the net consumer effect is to undermine the very element of the brand that made it stand out to begin with.

In the mid 90s, Boston Market was flying high as a franchise, with it stock jumping 143% on its first day of trading alone. Boston Market was a pioneer in the concept of home meal replacement, which levered the trend that started in the 1980′s of consumers moving a majority of their meals from being made in the home to being eaten or sourced from outside the home.

Versus fast food, Boston Market provided high quality meals that seemed a good substitute for a traditional family dinner. However, Boston Market wasn’t making a lot of money, mostly due to poor real estate and franchising decisions, as this article by Kurt Helin from Entrepreneur lays out.

So in 1997, the chain launched a line of sandwiches called Boston Carvers in order to boost profits. It was this marketing blunder that finally sunk the company. By trading consumers down from high dollar ring family dinners of rotisserie chicken and meatloaf, to fast food level sandwiches, Boston Market basically pull the rug out from underneath its brand. Besides cutting revenue, it also made the chain seem just like any other quick serve restaurant in the eyes of the consumer.

In 1998, Boston Market declared bankruptcy and was subsequently swept up by McDonalds, which brought it back to profitability and recently sold it.

Another more recent example of brand implosion is Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Four years ago, they were Wall Street’s consumer darling, a Southern institution based upon hot doughnuts that would have consumers waiting outside for the neon “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign to light up. With consumers clamoring at your doors, what self-respecting marketer wouldn’t push his brand to the limit by expanding as fast as possible. And that’s just what Krispy Kreme did.

Except one small problem: all this expansion led from their own stores into grocery chains and gas stations. Which meant the doughnuts lost the one thing that drove all that consumer buzz and word of mouth activity in the first place: they weren’t hot anymore. A cold doughnut is just that: a cold doughnut. As Andy Sernovitz points out in this post about the Krispy Kreme debacle, “Nobody tells their friends about food you buy in a gas station”.

The stock, which traded in 2003 at almost $50 a share, can now be had for less than three bucks.

December 3, 2007   No Comments

What Wines Can Teach Us About Brands, Again

I hadn’t planned another post on wine, but it’s almost the holidays and Roger Dooley at Neuromarketing has another great post, this time on how even an expert’s sensory perception of a wine can be influenced by external elements such as the name, the label, and whether the bottle has a cap or a cork. If you want to get a cutting edge and very unique perspective on the cognitive part of marketing and brands, spend a little time in Neuromarketing’s archives.

The effect of branding and other external elements on product quality is a great counterpoint to blind only product evaluations. The key is being able to understand where a product sits both blind and branded in order to understand the full perspective of its product quality to consumers.

November 20, 2007   No Comments

Can Your Brand Survive Going Blind?

Blind tastings of products have always had interesting results, the most famous being the Pepsi challenge of the 1970′s. Another less famous but no less impactful, was the 1976 blind tasting between French and California wines that marked the coming of age for American wines. Called the “Judgement of Paris”, it had upstart California wines beating legendary wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux in a blind tasting.

What blind tastings do is strip away from a product all the heritage, myth and hype of a brand (although many high end wineries would cringe at the word brand being applied to their product). What’s left is a product’s sensory baseline, the bedrock of its product quality.

While France still makes incredible, high quality wines, the effect of removing the “French Mystique” from its wines left its lesser quality bulk wines vulnerable. The subsequent results have been predictable in the face of inexpensive, but high quality wines from South America, Australia, and South Africa: as mentioned in this article from Slate by Mike Steinberger on the “Judgment of Paris”, France’s market in the US for imported wines fell from 26 percent in 1994 to 14 percent in 2004.

Rather than wait for a competitor to do it to your disadvantage, a good check for any brand would be to see if it can survive going blind. If it can’t, all the advertising and price discounts in the world won’t be able to save it.

November 19, 2007   No Comments

You Are What You Buy

Someone once said, “You are what you eat”. Is there are corollary in consumer goods that you are what you buy? I found this interesting study on product design by Ruth Mugge of Delft University of Technology while trolling through some posts on Advertising Lab. A summary of past research she references suggests “that consumers become attached to certain products, because they convey a personal and special meaning over and above the product’s utilitarian meaning”. This attachment is driven by four distinct factors:

  1. Pleasure (provided by the product)
  2. Memories (related to the product)
  3. Group affiliation (does ownership of the product connect me to a group?)
  4. Self-expression (can I distinguish myself from others with the product?)

What this becomes is an attachment gauge for brands and products. I’ve ordered the list so that it starts with the most basic, functional part of product attachment, which is how much pleasure it brings us. At this level, we buy products that taste good or that take care of a need (think potato chips or toothpaste). The next level is reserved for brands that are associated with positive moments in our past or have something of a personal heritage to them (i.e., the potato chips I got when visiting my grandparents or the toothpaste I’ve used since I was a kid). The last two categories belong to brands or products that move from the personal to the social. The products provide some form of social validation, by either attaching oneself to a group or separating oneself from another. These products could range anywhere from an NFL team jacket to an iMac to a Lexus sedan.

Obviously, brands or products that can move up the list can lever powerful emotional connections in their advertising that more functional brands or products cannot. Would you rather get a Lexus for Christmas or your father’s Oldsmobile?

October 30, 2007   No Comments