I drink Pepsi. I don’t drink Coke. You know when you go to a restaurant and you ask for Pepsi, and they say, will a Coke do, I usually say no. Yes, I’m that brand stubborn.
I drink Pepsi. I don’t drink Coke. You know when you go to a restaurant and you ask for Pepsi, and they say, will a Coke do, I usually say no. Yes, I’m that brand stubborn.
Brand loyalty is something every company strives for. We want people to buy into a brand so much that they’d choose it over all other options. The holy grail of course is a situation where the consumer won’t even choose the alternative when their preference isn’t available.
This is of course the famous Coke vs. Pepsi at a restaurant situation. Person A asks for Pepsi. The waiter says, sorry we only have Coke. This is the moment of truth. If the person says, “ok” they aren’t exactly what you’d call loyal. But, if they say, “ok, I’ll have water then” they are hard core loyal. But, are they being loyal just to spite themselves? Are they being brand loyal or are they being stubborn?
I’m pretty damn hardcore loyal to brands, but I’m insanely stubborn. For example, if a restraint doesn’t take Discover Card (my preferred choice) I put them on a list and don’t eat there. That’s tough when you consider how many awesome restaurants there are that don’t take Discover Card.
This got me thinking about the brands I’m stubborn about. Stubbornness works both ways. There are brands I’m passionate about that I choose over others and there are brands I’m passionate about that I’ll never choose.
Here’s my top 10 list of brands I love and brands I loathe. Just to clarify, brands I love are those that I’d buy over the competition every single time…and brands I loath are those that I would never purchase, no matter how great a deal.
The Love List
The Loathe List
This is all about the emotional connection. There are brands that stimulate a visceral reaction deep inside of us. Reaching consumers on an emotional level is what makes marketing effective. Apparently there are some brands out there who have empowered their agency to create some very effective marketing.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. We’ve heard that phrase for decades. As marketers and consumers that idea has been reinforced hundreds of times. If you want something you’ve got to be willing to pay for it. Pay of course is a broad term and isn’t restricted to money. You’ve heard the phrase, “no pain – no gain.” There’s no money exchanging hands, but you are making trading time and sweat for physical and health results.
I’ve always called referred to this idea as the concept of mutual exchange. When you give something you get something. In theory what you get should be equal to what you give. Want a coupon? Give your email address. Want a Coke? Hand over $0.99. Every day we’re engaging in a form of mutual exchange.
It’s a simple concept. But, lately it seems that people and companies are taking gross advantage of the concept. For example, the airline industry. The nickel and dime-ing for things like checking luggage, charging for water, or my personal favorite charging for bathroom usage, doesn’t seem consistent with a mutual exchange, does it. What about the financial crisis? People who were doing the “right thing” – borrowing only what they needed, not over-extending, and still paying their mortgage are not getting a fair shake. Where’s their “bail out.” Essentially they’re being punished for doing the right thing, while others are being rewarded for doing the wrong thing. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
But, not everyone is failing at the concept of mutual exchange. In fact some are going over and beyond the call of duty. There’s no finer example than the Hyundai Assurance program.
If the auto industry is going to turn around it’s going to need to fix the balance of the mutual exchange. Hyundai is doing this in spades. The Hyundai Assurance program states ever so eloquently:
A decade ago Hyundai pioneered America’s Best Warranty™. Now we’re providing another kind of confidence. Finance or lease any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income*, we’ll let you return it. That’s the Hyundai Assurance.
At Hyundai we think it’s easier to find a job when you’ve got a car. That’s why, for a limited time, we expanded Hyundai Assurance, and we’ve added…something extra. A plus, as in Hyundai Assurance Plus. If you lose your income, we’ll make your payments for 3 months while you get back on your feet, and if that’s not enough time to work things out, you can return the car with no impact on your credit.
We’re all in this together, and we think it’ll be a little easier to get through it with a good set of wheels.
The key piece of copy is “we’re all in this together.” As I wrote in my contribution to The Project 100, “we all have a role to play in the community.”
Now, more than ever companies and consumers need to realize that the concept of mutual exchange works both ways. You, as a consumer, have to be willing to pay a fair value and yes even provide some information if you want to get a fair deal from a company. The flip side is true as well – companies, now is the time to right your wrongs and be willing to give a little to get a little. Yes, that could mean sacrificing a few percentage points of margin to make it happen.
Lennon and McCartney had it right, “in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
I’m out on vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!
In April 1985, the management of Coca-Cola announced a decision to change the flavor of its flagship brand. New Coke came in a new can, with updated red and silver graphics replacing the traditional red and white look. The rest is history: a large public outcry ensued and after 79 days the new was replaced with the old. This was 24 years ago. Now imagine what would happen if Coke would do the same in today’s world: Just like David Neeleman from JetBlue Coke’s management would have to apologize on any radio and TV station that wanted to hear from them. Just like Starbucks, they would have to create a newcokeidea.com. Just like Comcast, Coke would have to create @newcokecares. And just like many brands experienced, the public flogging would have been merciless, constant and extremely painful.
While we always ask brands to experiment and test, we have a schizophrenic relationship to mistakes: Deeply outraged and always ready to forgive. Mistakes happen in the land of endless possibilities all the time; the cultural mix is just too volatile. Everybody has to deal with the limits of political correctness, limits that continue to change and evolve. But, beware: if you cross that line of good behavior, taste and decent business practices, you better be prepared to present yourself as a shameful sinner.
The public expects the spectacle of admission and asking for forgiveness from the sinner. Just like a dog, craning his head away to display submission, it’s a spectacle that doesn’t change anything about the balance of power – but it’s a double dose of Valium for our religion-based psyche, asking for salvation that supposedly lurks around the corner. There’s a reason why self-help books were invented in the United States.
Fossils like Nixon or Rumsfeld didn’t get it when they proclaimed not to be crooks or didn’t admit any mistakes. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, remains one of the most popular Presidents, even though he lied about his affair until he finally asked for forgiveness. When you mess up, book yourself on Larry King and claim to be a changed person. As long as you’re not a heinous racist, people will forgive the poor sinner. Or better, the rich sinner.
Add to that a crumbling infrastructure and an economy constructed out of weak intellectual constructs based upon unproven theories. While advertising continues to showcase a perfect world, people have to deal with imperfect products and service. Europeans or Japanese wouldn’t put up with this for long. But we do. Piecemealing needs a lot of patience:
In my almost 30 years in Europe, I never experienced one blackout. Living in Los Angeles, we had at least 30 since I moved here. Phone companies that don’t show up for hours. Contractors that leave ruins behind. Customer Service agents barely able to speak English. Electronics that need to be returned to the store, just to malfunction again. And, at the end, agents ask you “Did we serve you well today?” Even though the answer is “Hell, no.”, the ritual remains the same.
The throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained that we don’t mind if a $300 camera stops working after 3 months. We just get a new one.
Just have a close look at contractors: There are no real standards, no training, no real foundation to be proud of your work. You can visit super-expensive homes and see shoddy craftsmanship when it comes to details. Such a tolerance for poor work standards allow for immense creativity when everything works out well. When it doesn’t, we always have this new tool of Web 2.0. Every time I go to Best Buy, I have a bad, bad, bad experience. But the Twitter existence of @bestbuycmo and my few exchanges with him lulls me into this idea that they really care. And they want to change. Or is it just enough to show the public that you’re reacting to criticism and we use this reaction as a Xanax to calm our anger? Sure, it’s nice that @richardbranson is on Twitter but he never answered any of my tweets when I asked him about the poor website experience that lead to a missed sale for Virgin Atlantic. And don’t get me started on Virgin’s Customer Avoidance program.
The advent of the Internet and especially Social Marketing tools have fundamentally changed the way brands deal with mistakes (Or issues, as the PR person loves to say.) But, in some ways, we have retreated to life in the Middle Ages: Public pillorying continues to thrive in the new marketing reality. Just ask Motrin. Or better, ask @scottmonty. He was one of the latest victims in a discussion about the usage of his private brand to shill ( I mean, work the Social Marketing angle) for Ford. @chrisbrogan had to deal with a lot of backlash for his Kmart promotion (And, yes,, I was one of many who thought he might have gone too far.) And, @keyinfluencer was treated as the second coming of Hitler when he made a stupid remark upon his arrival in Memphis. Everything brands and people do is inspected, dissected and torn apart. Everything is public now: your location on Google Latitude, your deepest secrets on @secrettweet and your beer pong pictures on Facebook that will cost you a job offer in the near future.
We are stumbling through this new reality, enabled by technology and embracing David Armano’s brilliant statement of “Always in beta.” It’s a mindset based in Silicone Valley where you start a company yesterday, go bankrupt today and start something new tomorrow.
Just look at startups: slap a ‘Beta’ on your site and when you have a bad user experience, point back to the beta sign and explain that it’s half-baked now but will be perfect at some unknown time. (Translated: never)And crowdsource the user to eliminate those bad experiences because the user knows better than anyone in the company anyway.
This mindset might have worked in the good times, it sure doesn’t work in recessionary times. Trust me, real life doesn’t have any beta. Failure is not an option when you have a family to feed. A mortgage to pay. This ideal of ‘Always in beta’ is the perfect mindset for Silicon Valley. But it’s a mindset that doesn’t connect with the majority of America.
However, this experimentation thing we work through every day has a huge effect on our lives: People are getting used to trying out things that are not ready for public consumption yet, things that don’t claim to be perfect. The idea of making mistakes because it is part of the process starts to become very common and a typical mindset in executive suites.
Just look at our economy: Nobody really knows what to do during the current crisis but, besides the dopes on CNBC, we’re okay as a country when Obama’s economic team tries out things nobody has ever done before. And, while we’re at it, let’s throw up www.recovery.org and make sure Obama joins the conversation soon to get a Twitter ovation that the government is right there with us. Hey, if it doesn’t work, somebody will come up with a new theory and we’ll try that again. Will real people are suffering, losing their houses and hope.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in the power of Social Marketing. I believe that traditional, one-way advertising is destined to fail in this new technology reality. But I want to see real change, not Twitter band-aids, I’m not interested to live in a Doritos world where amateurs are crowdsourced to be the advertising monkeys of big brands. Or Starbucks claiming to allow their customers to be part of the solution. And offer Folgers-style coffee 2 months later. All these crowdsourcing efforts push the responsibility for finding and mitigating mistakes to consumers. While, at the same time, decisions continue to be made top-down.
Let’s continue experimentation and testing, we desperately need it. But, at the same time, let’s build something solid and durable. Something that will stand the test of time and not crumble under pressure. That’s my biggest concern with the Kmart and SeaWorld experiments: They are just stopgaps. Nothing more. They don’t move us along to a new marketing reality where people are real participants and brands really listen and take people seriously.
Brands and fellow government, we do believe in the audacity of hope. We do think there’s change possible we can believe in. But, don’t use these tools to fool us again. To make us believe into this new world where we have a say and are part of the process. Just to be left out again.
We won’t be fooled again.
So Super Bowl XLIII has come and gone. Congratulations Steelers on winning. As much as I enjoyed the game, let’s be honest, I was watching it for the ads. I tried something new this year. I actually didn’t want the game in real time. Instead I opted to TIVO the game, but watch and read the stream of tweets from the people I follow on Twitter. The experience was amazing. By the time the game was over and I started watching the game on delay I could nearly contain my excitement.
I’m not going to dissect every commercial. People like Steve Hall at Adrants do a much better job than I ever could at doing that. You can see every one of the commercials here,here or here. I though NBC did a great job of continually reminding viewers they could see the ads and vote on them at Hulu.
A few notes I want to make before I get into the ads:
With that out of the way, let’s cover some of the ads:
This was the ad that made me rewind and watch it again about 6 times. To call the copywriting edgy would be an understatement. Just watch and enjoy.
Wow, I’m impressed. This brand has come a long way. When the Hyundai Genesis first came on the scene I took some notice. I even considered it as a new car, but I never test drove it. After seeing the ads for the Genesis Coupe I’m ready to test drive. That’s an ad that worked. There presence throughout the game was great. Hyundai ran a few different ads, with my favorite one being this one:
Of all the advertisers they had the best connection to web. Just watch how long they hold the final frame. They give you more than enough time to read the URL and place it into memory. The call to action is fantastic and fits perfectly into their brand identity.
This is probably my favorite ad of the entire Super Bowl. I have Bridgestone tires and love the brand. In full disclosure I also have several Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters at my desk. So it’s possible I’m biased. However, I just happen to think Bridgestone does a great job of delivering the product benefit (eg stopping power) in a manner that sticks out and is memorable.
While the ads themselves were ok, what really caught my eye is how well E*Trade integrated the web. For starters the main message on their home page was a call to action to view their Super Bowl ads. Thank you for not making me hunt the web to find it. They also launched a Facebook Fan Page for the E*Trade Baby just before the Super Bowl. On the page you could watch the baby ads in HD quality. Very cool.
The Avatar commercial was funny especially when you consider how many people have them on their plethora of social networking and community sites; like Twitter. I checked out 2nd Life because it seemed like such a logical tie in for the ad, but alas nothing there. Kinda bummed me out.
Doritos had a few ads in the Super Bowl. The first one that ran was very Bud Light feeling. The toilet humor just didn’t seem true to the Doritos brand.
On the other hand, the 2nd spot called the Power of Crunch was very cool and very Doritos.
Yes, the ad is very Bud Light, but I just feel like it’s in poor taste given the current economic climate. Something about throwing a guy out the window for offering up a way to cut costs just seems wrong.
I’m split. This commercial is much better than last year’s Godfather rip off. I love the integration of Jason Statham. He’s a perfectly casted fit for the ad. But, just like last year it takes too long for the payoff. Also, there was NO URL insertion of call to action. Just strange.
Sigh. Where to start. Well, the first thing to say is, Pepsi, please stop glomming on to Obama. From the logo to the ad campaign for Refresh Everything has been Obama-centric. This ad could have been awesome. But, the payoff takes too long. It’s not till you get to the final few seconds that you realize it’s a Pepsi commercial. That’s a lot of money to spend for such little branding. Maybe they thought the inclusion of Will I. Am (the huge Obama supporter) was helping build the brand by conjuring up memories of Obama’s campaign. I love the remix of the Dylan song and wish they made it available for purchase/download.
The Brand Formally Known As Gatorade
What are they doing with this brand? You are killing years and years of brand awareness and equity. Seriously, you are calling the brand “G.” I’m not making this up. The change is so dramatic they are running Super Bowl ads that help explain what “G” is. I’ve watched the ads and I still don’t know “G” is.
Question: What happens when a poor creative concept meets a great message? Answer: You get a mediocre ad. For a good portion of this ad I thought it was for Reddi-Wip. The message though is awesome. They are giving EVERYONE a free Grand Slam. That’s gonna drive a lot of foot traffic to the store. If the breakfast experience delivers it’s a huge win. If it underwhelms this ad was like throwing gas on a fire.
So Pepsi has an answer for My Coke Rewards. Let’s see if they have the stones to stick it out. Most loyalty programs don’t cross into the black till year 3. The Justin Timberlake ad was fun; I have to admit thought I’d still like to see him say something about a box All Pepsi ads can be seen here.