Is Chrysler on the right Path to Becoming a Beloved Brand?

As we hit the US Presidential election cycle, there will be lots of talk about the Bail Outs.   Was it a good idea?   Did it work?  Who was for it?   Who was against it?

Case in point: After receiving $12 Billion in loans, Chrysler has seen three straight years of significant growth since the loans in 08 and 09.   They saw growth rates of 17% in 2010 and 26% in 2011.   And Chrysler is  off to a great start in 2012, growing by 44% and gaining over 2.5 share points in the month of January.   Chrysler is now in a fairly profitable position and has paid back most of the loans, even despite adding a complaint about the high interest rate.   It appears the bail out worked, and it kept and created a few jobs–at least for now.  Right after the bail out, Chrysler is once again in European hands, this time Fiat of Italy owns the majority compared to Mercedes of Germany.   So is Chrysler still American?

It seems that Chrysler has had bouts of desperation and recovery for my entire life.  I remember the Chrysler New Yorker of the 1970s–big huge gas guzzler cars, not an ideal fit as gas prices went through the roof.  Chrysler collapsed in 1980, only to be recovered by the Lee Iacoca legendary story which gave birth to the Yuppy word of a generation: the Mini Van.

With the current recovery, just how is Chrysler doing it?   Smoke and Mirrors and Patriotism?   Or has the product quality really improved?   Do they have a product offering as unique as the Mini Van?  Not really.  Especially if you read the reviews.  Can Chrysler survive with a mediocre product?

Consumers Report said:  “It’s clear that Chrysler is on the right path, but they still have a long way to go.”  Testers were unimpressed with the Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass, adding that they scored at or near the bottom of their respective categories.  I know that when I buy a new car, the search component is high, spending months looking and reading.   Cars are a big investment and I don’t want to be saddled with a car that is “only ok”.  Bad reviews scare me.  The last few cars I’ve bought,  I’m sorry to say that the American cars are aren’t standing up to the Japanese cars.  Even when I look up the basic car features (mileage, horsepower, features) the American cars come up short.    Yes, I have that embedded perception problem, mainly because I’ve driven in a Chevrolet Chevette and a Ford Tempo.  It’s going to be really hard to get those out of my mind.

Chrysler needs to find some way to create an emotional bond with their consumers.   It has to be more than just a recovery and American patriotism.  For decades, consumers have been Indifferent about Chrysler.   Their cars do the basics and nothing really else.  Nothing to get excited about.  On the other hand,Lincoln made an unexpected comeback to get to the Like It stage, even more unexpected it was female buyers that drove it.  And yet, brands like Lexus and Toyota are clearly at the Love It stage.  Toyota consumers are outspoken about their brand, and return the dealer every 4-5 years to buy another Toyota.   Toyota survived what was an attack on it’s safety record, since putting it in their rear view mirror.

The recent Chrysler advertising has been strong with back-to-back SuperBowl ads that stood out.  In 2011 it was home-grown Detroit icon Eminem and this year it was Clint Eastwood.  Two minute ads at half time must have cost them $25 Million just for the media alone. The campaign tag line “Imported from Detroit” is cute, but really is just a new twist on “Made In America” or the “Buy America” calls for patriotitic purchases.  Maybe the only people buying the Chryslers are the people who were in favour of the bail out, which is some type of circular patriotism logic.

Maybe Chrysler isn’t selling cars, but selling hope for America.  But to survive the long term, they need to stand for something more, and build unique quality products that deliver.

So is the sales blip just a blip?   Or just a delay to the inevitable?

So the question remains:  Do you think the bail out helped Chrysler get on the path to becoming a beloved brand?   

The 2011 Chrysler ad seemed to hit the chords even stronger.   Home town icon Eminem is more authentic than California Clint and the ads were selling Detroit, not America.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’ve done executive training of marketing executives and managers as well as taught marketing at Major Universities including York University, Queen’s University and Cornell University.  If you have interest for your team, email me and we can customize a program to your needs.  For Powerpoint versions of Beloved Brands as well as other team learning presentations, visit Beloved Brands Learning Sessions

Finding Your Love in the Art of Being Different.

I found this year’s Super Bowl ads were “pretty good”.   While the Farmers ad stood out as amazing, the Budweiser ad was nice.  But the rest of it while well executed feels like something we see on CNN all the time.  Nothing was different.

Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road?   Let’s hope someone has the strength to do something different.

The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass.   Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do.  Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily.  Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad.   Tell the agency you’re excited.   They’ll tell you they’re excited as well.  Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want.  Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief.  Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins.  That way, no one can blame you.  Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice.  Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched.   Maybe even a game on the website.

Ah, we have our launch. 

This is a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year.   Convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done.   What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.

At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out:  now, more than ever.   It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.

Push yourself to be different.  The most Beloved Brands are different, better or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.  

There are four types of launches:


Good But Not Different (our launch above) 

These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar.   However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all.  So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat.  This option offers limited potential.

Good But Different:

These don’t always test well:  consumers don’t really know what to make of it.   Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life.  But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”.   It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand.   This option offers long-term sustainability.

Not Good and Not Different:

These are the safest of safe.  Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good.   The tallest of midgets.  They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market.  But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically.   What appears safe is actually highly risky.  You should have followed your instincts and not launched.  This option is a boring failure.

Different but Not that Good

Sometimes we get focused on the product first:  it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need.  So we launch what is different for the sake of being different.  It does poorly in testing.  Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching.   But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference.  And it fails.  The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad.   One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts.  As Steve Jobs said:  “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.   Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”

We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out.   Don’t just settle for ok.  Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive:  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.   Just because they are different!   And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

Push Yourself to Find Your Difference


To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:


For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits


Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center


Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below

 linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

To reach out directly, email me at

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at so we can stay connected.

How to Be a Successful Brand Manager

Slide1After 20 years of CPG marketing, I have hired so many potentially great marketers–who were eager for success, brilliant, hard-working and dedicated.   But in reality, about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers get promoted to Brand Manager and less than 20% of Brand Managers make it to the Director level.

What separates the good from the great?  

There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner:  #1:  They get what they need.   #2:  What they need is the right thing to do.   Very simply put, great marketers get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.  To get what you want, keep things simple and move fast to take the positional advantage.   What separates many Brand Managers is the inability to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer.   You get so busy, so deadline focused, so scared to make a mistake that you forget to think in a confused state of ambiguity.   It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you.  Revel in ambiguity.   

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve.  At every new job, including Brand Manager, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.  The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter.     We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake.  But the idiot curve is inevitable.   It just shows up differently for each person.  No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve.  (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival)  The biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts.  You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains.   You might be working on a project for weeks before you think to even look at the budget.   You work on a promotion for Wal-Mart and then think “oh ya, I should talk to the Wal-Mart sales manager and see what he thinks”.  Or you say something in a meeting you think you’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t even resemble anything that you think, feel or believe in.  That’s the idiot curve.  And it will last 3 months.   And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict.  Feel free to let me know which way so I can add it to the list.  (I won’t reveal names)

Five Factors to Being a Great Brand Manager:
  1. A great BM takes ownership of the brand.  I’ve seen many BMs struggle with the transition from being a helper to being the owner.  As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of having someone hand you a project list.
     Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come  up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.  A good owner talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense.  It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most are going to be looking to you for the answers.  They’ll be recommending and you’ll be deciding.  When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions.  “I think we should build a big bridge” instead of “any ideas for how we can get over the water”.  You just gave up your ownership.  I’d rather have you tell me what you want to do, and we debate from there, rather than you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion and your vision.  You run the brand, don’t let it run you.  
  2. A great BM provides the vision & strategies to match up to.  Vision is sometimes a hard thing to articulate. It’s sometimes easy to see times when there is a lack of vision.  You have to let everyone know where you want to go.  The strategy that matches becomes the road map for how to get there.  As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy.  Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected and your role is to find ways to steer them back on track.  It’s easy to get side-tracked by exciting programs or cool ideas, but if they are off-strategy then you’ve got to park that excitement.  The expression of the strategy through ideas is a key skill–just as important as the strategy itself.  Learn to talk in strategic stories that can frame your direction.  Learn to think in terms of pillars—which forces your hand around 3 different areas to help achieve your strategy.  Having pillars constantly grounds you back in your strategy, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions—the people you’re dealing with may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them personally, but seeing the other parts makes them feel as though their work is worth it.
  3. A great BM spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.  If you make your ABM better, then it reflects back on you.  Too many brand managers struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach”.  They think they can do it faster than their ABM, so they may as well do it and they do.  The ABM really hates this.  But, they think their ABM will learn the hard way, just like they did.  They struggle to share the spot light, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM.  They are too busy trying to prove themselves.  Keep in mind that the work of your ABM reflects 100% of who you are.  This challenge forces your hand on helping to develop your ABM.  Sometimes it can feel more motivating to just talk the positive stuff.  But if the ABM job is a learning position, then you have to provide areas for improvement.  Intuitively, you’d think the BM/ABM relationship would be constant “negative feedback”, but I see too many BMs afraid of going “negative”.  You need the balance.   My question is, that if you were coaching a gymnast and their “toes weren’t straight, wouldn’t they want to know?”  Then why are you not working on a relationship where you can get to that point.  Share with them better ways for doing things—which you have learned.  Spend some time teaching from your experience.
  4. A great BM gets what they need.   The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations.  Working the system entails taking what you have learned about ownership one step further.  You understand the organizational components, and then you go get what you need.  Again communication becomes key—you can’t let missed communications cause angst or concerns.  Also, its crucial that you get the best from everyone.  I have found it useful upfront to ask everyone for their best work.  It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful.   But you have to promise them you’ll support their best work. If you really have someone that’s good, you know they’ll respond to this.  The good news is that only 0.1% of people ask them, so it’s not like they’ve heard it that many times.  And let them know if they are or aren’t there yet.
  5. A Great BM Can Handle Pressure.   Ambiguity is one of the hardest.  This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision.   If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating.  Reach for your logic as you re-group.  Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  Relationships.  Be pro-active in making the first move.  Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them.   Most times, the common ground is not that far away.  Time Pressure.  It’s similar to the ambiguity.  Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions.

Love the Magic of Marketing–let it breathe and let it come to life.

Don’t just do the job, do it with all your passion.   Love it please so we can love the work that comes from your passion.   Or else just become an actuary and let someone else take your spot please.

Love what you do.  Live Why You Do it

To read the related story on how to be a succesful Assistant Brand Manager click on this:  Beloved Brands Story on Being a Succesful Assistant Brand Manager or read the following presentation:

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask us how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Ikea: “Long Live the Home” is Easy to Love

I’ve always loved Ikea.   As a kid, I’d pour through their catalogues reconfiguring my room in my mind.  Most recently, I took my 13-year-old girl to Ikea and she must have said about 38 times “I’m serious Dad, I want that.”   I can sympathize.

Ikea is fully committed to creating magic for their consumers, whether it is in product designs or in their advertising.    Whether it was the Ikea Lamp Ad (“Many of you feel bad for this lamp.  That is because you’re crazy…”) or the Subway ad where they took a plain and boring subway car and turned it into a lively home you could live in.   Ikea was in the same class as Volkswagen where they’d surprise and delight you on a regular basis.   However, over the last few years, the ads seemed to be missing the magic—I was trying to understand the symbolic nature of the ads, but it wasn’t really connecting with me.  The risk of talking to yourself is you don’t connect and you lose your beloved status.   Ask the Gap.

But this year, Ikea has begun to make their advertising comeback, thanks to the powers of Leo Burnett who can turn brand purpose into brand magic.   And while Ikea always had great ads, it was always hard to piece these ads together until “Long Live the Home” came along this year to establish a Big Idea in the marketplace.   The work is truly beautiful.

One of the hardest things to do is come up with a Big Idea for a Brand, especially in the case of a Branded House.   For a case like Ikea, the idea needs to be big enough to establish the brand idea, yet still sell kitchen cabinets, chairs and closets.   Internal conflict gets in the way of creating a Big Idea and standing behind it:  a) how much brand vs product b) how much equity vs selling c) who makes the ad and finally d) who pays for it internally—brand or product marketing?    You really need to commit to making it happen, and gain the full support across the organization—usually starting from the Top.   Big Ideas like “Think Different”, “Just Do It” and “I’m Loving It” are some of the best examples of Idea lines that connect the brand with consumers and even transform their way right into the culture of everything they do.  That’s where Ikea needs to go next.

There are many brand and business benefits to a Big Idea.   Big ideas should have a 5-10 year life, giving brands a consistent idea to connect behind.   It makes it easier to come back to the brief each year.  Also, there becomes a tone, a character and sometimes a series of devices that help frame the Idea that makes it easier to control how the brand shows up, over time, across various mediums and across the various business units.

Ikea follows the best in class use of the Big Idea, with a 60 second anthem style Ad to establish the Big Idea in the consumers mind, and then separate product ads across various mediums and built into the website, in-store and catalogue.   The TV ads are beautifully shot and connect on a deeply emotinal level, the print ads of high quality and connect.  I really like the unique product Ads they’ve done wheter it is TV ads that sell kitchens or print ideas that sell closets, while staying within the Big Idea.

However, I didn’t notice the idea making its way when I looked at the store level.  I’d love to see “Long Live the Home” be built right into the Ikea culture, brought down to the store level and even begin to influence their customer service.   The big idea becomes more than a tag line, but rather a promise the brand stands behind at every stage of the brand. Without the full comittment to brand all the way through the Love Curve, the magic of the great advertising and cool product designs sets up a High Promise that Ikea struggles to deliver at the experience stage and leaves consumers yearning for more.

That commitment to brand at every touch point has helped propel the Apple brand to the next stratosphere of Beloved Brand.  Ikea, you’ve done such a fantastic job with the advertising, my only ask is that you keep going to make it part of the brand. 

As a bonus for fans of past Ikea Advertising, here is Lamp and the Subway Spots.

Tebow Time has little to do with Football.

Tebow Time, a pose we've all learned this year.

The last few weeks has clearly been Tebow time.  We have seen the rush of casual football fans to the TVs and Social Media, who knew nothing really about Football.   Twitter saw the highest tweets per minute right after his win against the Steelers, “John 3:16” was one of the three most googled after he threw for 316 yards and the TV ratings for last week’s game were the highest since the year before Tebow was born.  He has over a milliion Twitter followers, gaining 22,000 per day.   His #15 jersey is the highest selling and an ESPN poll rated him more popular than Tiger Woods, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant—three athletes with considerably more athletic talent, but each quite lower on the morality ratings.   He’s reached the masses.  My mom phoned me a few weeks ago and asked me “what is a Teebow”.   Last night my wife watched the beginning of the game, claiming interest despite never having watched a football game in her life.  I’m sure she was not alone.   We’ve seen him portrayed on Jimmy Kimmell and Saturday Night Live, a sure sign he’s reached the masses.

Technically, his wind up is too long. As a result, his passes are obvious to defenders, they float and wobble.

I’m a football fan, so I have snickered at quite a few of his wobbly passes, fumbles and blunders.   He does kind of suck as a QB.   But I have also marveled at the wins from nowhere and began to wonder what is this thing called “Tebow time”.  HIs effort is incredible.  But what is it that people like about Tebow?    Tim Tebow is definitely a Beloved Brand, loved by so many of the masses beyond the traditional football fans.  I think the Tim Tebow brand is a throwback:  humility, sincerity and offering hope to all.  He feels like he should be on Happy Days with Richie Cunningham when times were simpler and easier.

In terms of humility, Tebow doesn’t speak in the third person like Lebron does, nor would he ever use the phrase “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”.   Instead, he publicly displays his faith with his renowned pose of kneeling with his fist to his forehead.  Tebow has become the standard bearer of the All-American kid who the public adores whether or not they like his team. Even while in college at Florida, Tebow was liked by his rivals, even the Georgia Bulldogs, due to his first-class gentleman behavior.

In terms of his sincerity, yes he flaunts his religious beliefs but it is his beliefs.  The difference for him is he actually attempts to live up to them.  Every week, as Rick Reilly points out, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured, flies them and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner, gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff, gets them 30-yard line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.  Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat.   In the hour after last week’s game when twitter was abuzz, he spent it with 16-year-old Bailey Knaub, talking about her 73 surgeries so far and what TV shows she likes.   She wrote him a letter after saying “It was the best day of my life.  It was a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days. Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He gave me the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me.”  When Tim Tebow heard of the letter his genuine response was “Why me? Why should I inspire her? I just don’t feel adequate. Really, hearing her story inspires me.”

Every week he makes it special for someone else.

It’s easy to go after a big win, but he even did after getting demolished 40-14 by Buffalo.  “He walked in and took a big sigh and said…Well, that didn’t go as planned” said Jacob Rainey.  Rainey got his prosthetic leg a few weeks ago and he wants to play high school football next season.  He would be the first ever to play tackle football.   “Tim told me to keep fighting, no matter what,” Rainey says. “I am.”

He's given hope to those less fortunate.

The stories become very special:  Take 9-year-old Zac Taylor, a child who lives in constant pain.  Immediately after Tebow shocked the Chicago Bears with a 13-10 comeback win, Tebow spent an hour with Zac and his family.  At one point, Zac, who has 10 doctors, asked Tebow if he has a secret prayer for hospital visits. Tebow whispered it in his ear. And since Tebow still needed to be checked out by the Broncos’ team doctor, he took Zac in with him, but only after they’d whispered it together.

Tebow also gives us all hope.   And we want hope.   He’s not the most talented, far from it.   All he does is win.  Yes, many times in odd miraculous ways that we can’t believe.  They make no sense even—many times there are a series of disconnected events in the game that come together to produce a Broncos win.   But he wins.  He’s only a starting QB because his team can’t find anyone better yet.  But they will.   And Tebow time will be over.   Or will it?

Tebow sincerely seems to care more about people than he does about football.  “Helping people is by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”

In today’s sports world, that thinking is kind of crazy.   I hope that explains why Tebow is so beloved by so many.  It’s not about the football.  He offers us hope, wrapped up in a package that is humble and sincere.   And like all beloved brands, he lives up to that promise.

I hope the Broncos don’t find a better QB for next year.

Tis the Season for….Returns.

“I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and customer is still satisfied.”  L.L. Bean, 1916

Research shows that nearly $50 billion in merchandise is returned to retail stores during the holiday season.  This year,  I had three items up for returns:  running shoes (wrong size), two t-shirts (wrong size) and a DVD (which didn’t work)   I had all the receipts, original bags and my story well-rehearsed to avoid any confrontation.   I figured this should be pretty easy; all three are exchanges not returns.

Store #1:  I brought in my shoes and handed the clerk the receipt.   I said “I’m looking for the same shoe in a different size”.   She grabbed the receipt and said “the best that I can do for is you give you a gift receipt”.  I said “all I want is the same shoe in a different size”.  And she snapped back, “Sorry sir, I can’t do that, since we need to be able to track all the returns”.   Two minutes later, I was walking out of the store, completely stunned and frustrated, with a plastic little gift card that I figured my wife or daughter could use on her next purchase.  They just lost $100 sale, and created a frustrated customer not to return again.

Store #2:  I brought in the DVD that failed to work.   It was only $15, but in my mind “Brian’s Song” is a rare movie I wanted to share with my son.  The clerk said “we can exchange it if you’d like”.   He looked up in his computer and said “oh we are out of it, we could order one for you, it should be here within two weeks”.   Since the store is 45 min from my house, I said “no thanks, I’ll just take the cash then”.   The store manager then murmured something to the clerk, never looking at or addressing me directly.  The clerk then said “I’m sorry sir; we can’t do a return if it’s been opened”.   I said “how can I know it didn’t work if I didn’t open it?”    After a few more back and forth, they did eventually give me my money back.  Another lost sale and frustrated customer determined to find it on I-tunes.

Store #3:  This should be easy,  I wanted the same t-shirts in a different size.   With no return desk, I went to shelf, grabbed two t-shirts and got in line at the cash.  I said “I’d just like to exchange sizes”.  She scans each of the 4 shirts in and says “that will be $2.26”, handing me a coupon for my next visit.   I said “I just want to change sizes, shouldn’t that be free?”  After a two minute conversation, the manager came over to do the classic over-ride followed by a long explanation to me of what just happened.   All I wanted was my t-shirts.  And while I was now a frustrated customer, I thought it was hilarious that the store clerk took the coupon away, since it wasn’t a sale after all.

Each store completely forgot about the consumer.   All the work the brand had done to create loyalty over the years is gone in a blink of an eye.   If your brand is loved, it can turn to Indifferent in a heart beat.  Imagine losing a life long customer over $2.26.   Most marketers think that creating a great brand is about creating awareness and demand.   But they forget the post purchase experience which includes a great returns policy.   Brands that get it include Costco, which has such an amazing returns policy it makes the membership fee worth it.  They never ask questions, sending it right back to the manufacturer.    L.L. Bean still has that same amazing returns policy fast forward to the modern day:  Customers can send any item back, at any time, with or without receipts, in any condition…and still get a refund or exchange.  Brands that get it, stand behind the sale.  

With these three brands, two out of three expected exchanges turned into full refunds.  I walked away frustrated and stunned at how bad the policies were.

And for some humour, the best clip I could find on “returns” is from the Office.   I’m sending it back!!!

A Beloved Christmas Ad that Will Bring a Tear to Your Eye….and a lift in your bonus.

At this time of year, we see so many Christmas ads on TV.   In fact, we are bombarded.   Like my local radio station that plays non-stop Christmas music, I’ve come to realize there are only 3-4 great Christmas songs and lots and lots of crap all day long.   It’s the same thing with Christmas ads.  Lots of call to action “start your shopping” crap on TV.

The best Christmas ads I’ve ever seen are from John Lewis, the department store in the UK.  They use beautiful music, a movie-like storyline that demonstrates the beauty of gift giving, stretched out over 90 seconds.    No words are needed to tell the story.  They are not loaded with so much branding that they would turn you off before inviting you in.  They tug at the heart and bring a reminder of what the season is all about:  the gift of Giving. 

Every marketer asks their ad agency “I want a big idea”, but no one really has the patience to build one.   It can take years of continually layering on the creative idea for consumers to know that it’s you.   John Lewis has been doing this same type of ads for years, helping to move the brand from indifferent to liked and to loved.

With deeply emotional ads, John Lewis is able to move the consumers from the Liked to Loved stage. Result is 10% growth in a tough economy.

Consistency in ad technique is a great device for driving brand link.   With each year of the campaign, consumers are now starting to look forward to the latest John Lewis ad.  They don’t need to load the screen with excessive branding, because they now own the idea.

For all those concerned that advertising has to drive hard against short term sales, these softer more emotional ads connect deeply, and live the idea that “if you build it, they will come”.   In fact, John Lewis sales for 2011 are up 10%, and have doubled in the past 10 years.   Contrast that to the dismal sales at other stores in the UK and around the world.  Here’s the last two years of John Lewis Ads, 2010 and 2009, and you’ll see the consistency of the idea building over time.

It’s not just about advertising with John Lewis, it’s about employee commitment.  One very interesting aspect of John Lewis is the culture of the company, which is 100% employee owned.  Every employee is a partner and can influence the business through branch forums, which discuss local issues at every store.   All employees are on a bonus plan, with cheques at the end of the year tied to results.  Happy employees work harder to drive the brand.

This is what employees look like when they make their bonus in the midst of the Great Recession of 2009.

The partnership also has numerous social activities for partners including large country estates, golf clubs, sailing clubs and two hotels that offer holiday accommodations.  They have great pension plans, insurance coverage and generous holidays.   Upon completing 25 years of service, employees are given 6 months off with pay

Happy holidays to all and here’s to a prosperous 2012 for all brands daring to strive for Beloved Status.

Confession: I Killed Two Doctors in 2006

Take a Benylin Day, was all about the consumer.

In the fall of 2006, I can now confess that I murdered two doctors.   One was a 15 year “Doctor Recommended” campaign for Benylin Cough Medicine, and the other was a 10 year “Doctor and Pharmacist recommended” campaign for Nicoderm Quit Smoking Patches.  Both murders were pre-meditated.   And both doctors deserved it.

Inheriting doctor spots is one big yawn.  They feel very 1980s.  In fact, people have been making fun of doctor ads since the 1970s, which must mean that consumers have long been sick of this technique.  

The First Doctor I murdered:  An Old Benylin “Doctor” Advertising

Year after year from 1990 to 2005, Benylin trudged out a new doctor spot, each following the same formula.  There was the pompous doctor speaking down to everyone including the consumer to establish a position of authority hoping that people would assume “wow, that Benylin must really work”.  Here’s an example of the condescending advertising.  

The second Doctor I murdered:  Old Nicoderm “Doctor” Advertising

On the other hand, Nicoderm was so insecure they used BOTH doctors and pharmacists, just in case you thought one was not enough.   One big yawn.  For most campaigns, one of the big challenges is finding ways to keep it fresh year after year.  But let’s admit it, the best ads are usually in the first few years.  With Benylin and Nicoderm, having such a small idea to start made it hard for the best of creatives to keep it fresh and interesting.  

The ad tracking on both brands were flat and declining for years, but everyone on the team was afraid to do anything.  Nicoderm was rapidly losing share while Benylin was stuck, almost unable to fight off the new comers to the category.

What’s Wrong with Using Doctors?

Doctor campaigns force you into a zone where it’s non-stop talk about the product.   No focus at all on consumers–they don’t matter when you have such a great product.   And Doctors mainly talk features, not even benefits.  It’s all about association, not about consumer insights.    Doctor ads have been done to death, making them wall paper.   Consumers who see these ads are left feeling indifferent, and can barely find a way to even “Like” the brand.  

Advertising is a great tool to really connect with consumers.  But Brand Leaders afraid of getting emotional feel in a safe zone with a vehicle that just talks about the product.    They can tell the consumer everything they know about their brand.   And they avoid getting all  emotional with consumers because that can feel scary.  But in reality, the consumer will never care about what you do, until you start showing that you care about what they want.   Sales 101 or Dating 101, use the same rule: “get them talking about themselves.”   How come advertising 101 says “Let’s talk about ourselves and hope they love us”?  Great advertising should start with the consumer first, not the product. 

New Benylin TV Ads Without Doctors

With Benylin, it’s pretty darn obvious that when consumers get a cold, they feel like total crap and want to take a day off.   But no brand would ever say that, would they? Advil tells consumers they can do anything (go for a swim, a run, a hike or work all day) when they are sick.  Benylin did the un-thinkable, the riskiest thing that a Cough Medicine could do.   They said “take a day off, rest up and get better”.    This put the brand on the side of the consumer.   Benylin found that magic insight to move the brand from Indifferent all the way to “Love It”.  The Benylin brand team took a huge risk that year, and it paid off, with strong solid share gains in a tough category to make gains and won a Cassie Award for the results.   The lesson here:  going down the middle of the road is riskier than going either left or right.   I followed my team’s lead on this, admiring their guts in killing doctors.   I kept saying, “Can you believe we used The Clash in a Benylin spot?”

New Nicoderm TV Ads Without Doctors

On Nicoderm, the insight we used was “consumers don’t feel themselves when they try to quit smoking”.   Basically, it sucks &*!$% when you quit smoking.  There was a push to have a claim, like most medical marketing.  (eg Our product is better than yours,  or with us, you can quit 6x as good).   But really, the only claim we saw was “quitting smoking will suck less with Nicoderm”.   People on our team kept saying “quitting smoking is serious, so we need to have a serious TV ad to convey how serious it is”.  That restriction put a major handcuff on the creative team and we saw some pretty boring ads.   The creative team was asking to have that restriction lifted and when we did, pure magic happened.   In Ipsos AdLab testing, this was the strongest ad we ever tested at J&J.  This ad has generated over 1 Million hits on youtube and won the best Global Ad for J&J in 2006.  Nicoderm saw a big 20% spike in sales.  The lesson here is to always eliminate creative road blocks and trust that the work gets better.

One last thing:  when we killed doctors on both of these, we won over the creative teams.  We showed up differently to the agency and the creative teams.  Creative People wanted to work on our brands, and the work on other brands got even better.  With two great campaigns in a row from our shop, everyone on our team wanted to make better work.   A huge overall lesson:  great people, empowered and motivated will make great work.

You get the advertising you deserve.


Here’s an insight video, done by Jack Perone at JWT, supporting the Benylin Day idea.

If you are in the mood to see other great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 

People around the World are so addicted to Facebook. And now it’s a Beloved Brand Worth $100 Billion.

Facebook has just announced that it expects to reach a Value of $100 Billion by next year.   That’s incredible. 

Facebook has over 800 million users, so if it were a country, it would be the third biggest country in the world just behind China and India.   Facebook has over 70 languages and 75% of users are outside the U.S.   Facebook has gained 200 million users in 2011, a growth rate of 33%.  For those of you thinking Facebook has hit their peak, forget it.

People love Facebook and can’t get enough of it.  About 50% of those users go on every day and 40% have accessed Facebook through a mobile device.   Users spend an average of 15 hours a month on Facebook, probably more time they spend at the dinner table.   Facebook is not for kids, over 75% of users are over 18, and the fastest growing segment is 55+.   Even my mom is on it, even though she won’t want me giving her age out (I’d get a phone call saying “Did you need to say how old I was).   On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded per day.  Facebook has truly utilized the addictive nature of us all, looking up statuses, linking in with friends from years ago and randomly clicking “Like” here and there.  We’re all guilty of it, in fact 800 million of us are.

20% of women would give up sex before giving up facebook.

A recent survey in Cosmopolitan Magazine says that 20% of women would give up sex before they’d give up their beloved Facebook.   Mind you, the same survey said 25% of college students would give up sex if they didn’t have to lug around text books, which supports that great pick up line of “Hi Can I carry your books”.

Facebook has turned this phenomena into a money making machine.   Facebook has revenues of $4.2 Billion in 2011, up 114% from last year.   Like most on-line sites, Facebook makes most of their revenue from advertising, all those ads you see down the side of the page.   While not the strongest click-through rates, the sheer girth of reaching 800 million users for 40 hours a month gives Facebook plenty of opportunity for sales.   Facebook has tinkered around with Facebook Points, not yet making it work.  But what Facebook points really are is a currency where you can buy things.   If Facebook will be the biggest “country” one day, it’s a natural step that they would have a currency.   Imagine how addicted we’d be when Black Friday has us all on Facebook trading “Facebook dollars” for a new Coach bag for my wife.

If you've already won Time Person of the Year Award at 27, what's next?

Mark Zuckerberg is still only 27.  He’s finally old enough for a low level manager role at a Fortune 500 company, but they’d still be cautious and put him on a low risk brand assignment.   Maybe that’s because he still looks about 19.   Yet he’s worth $17.5 Billion and he’s already been named Time Magazine Person of the Year.


The Most Beloved Celebrity Brand is Betty White!

I Love this TV ad.

In a recent poll, Betty White beat out the likes of Oprah, Kate Middleton, Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks for the most loved celebrity.

The comeback for Betty started with the 2010 Super Bowl Ad for Snickers, where she was tackled during a game of football.  In most polls, that TV ad won “Best Super Bowl Ad”.  

Grassroots Facebook page generated 500k people, and convinced NBC to make Betty the SNL host.

From there, a grassroots campaign on facebook was started to start a petition to get Betty White to Host Saturday Night Live.   With 500,000 members (myself included), NBC confirmed she would host.  The show was the highest rated SNL in the previous 3 years.  In her opening monologue, White thanked Facebook and said  “I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.”  Betty was everywhere:  Larry King, Late Night TV, and got her own TV show called “Hot in Cleveland”

Sue Anne Nivens was a great character among many on Mary Tyler Moore in the 70s.

At the age of 89, Betty was able to generate $3 Million from all the activity generated from her new claim to fame, which added to her Net Worth of $18 Million.   Unless you’ve got a darn good pension of some amazing stock swings, none of us will be earning that amount at 89!   It’s her 4th comeback in a long career that started as a model in the 40s. She was big in the early days of TV, with her first Emmy nomination in 1951.   She then played Sue Anne Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore show in the 70s, where she won three Emmy Awards then played Rose on the Golden Girls in the 80s.  It even makes her more loved to know that Bea Arthur hated her.   Heck, she won her first Lifetime Achievement award back twenty years ago.

What is it about Betty that we like?   She has that sweet demeanor,  yet she’s quick witted and sharp-tongued, which makes it come out so unexpected.   Most of us have a Grandmother like that.  She called Sarah Palin a “crazy bitch”.   When told that 500,000 people signed the Facebook petition she said “my god, that’s more people than I’ve dated”.  And of course, only she could have said “Why do people say Grow Some balls?   Balls are weak and Sensitive!  If you really wanna get tough, grow a Vagina!  Those things take a pounding”.  And “I’ve always liked older men. They’re just more attractive to me. Of course, at my age there aren’t that many left!”

For those wondering who else is on the list:

Most Beloved:

1. Betty White – 86% Favorable
2. Denzel Washington – 85%
3. Sandra Bullock – 84%
4. Clint Eastwood – 83%
5. Tom Hanks – 81%
6. Harrison Ford – 80%
7. Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) – 79%
7. Morgan Freeman – 79%
9. Will Smith – 77%
10. Johnny Depp – 76%

And those on the Mot Hated List, Paris Hilton and Charlie Sheen head up that list:

Most Unpopular

1. Paris Hilton – 60% Unfavorable
2. Charlie Sheen – 52%
3. Britney Spears – 45% (tie)
3. Kanye West – 45% (tie)
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger – 44%
6. Tiger Woods – 42%
7. Kim Kardashian – 38%
8. Mel Gibson – 33%
9. Donald Trump – 31%
10. LeBron James – 29%

Holt Renfrew, A Beloved Brand trying to Be Liked By The Masses

“No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded”  – Yogi Berra quote

The never-ending recession has every brand agonizing over decisions on a daily basis.   The biggest decision is around Price, and the need for volume balanced off against the perceptions of Brand Equity.

This past week, I was at Holt Renfrew, Canada’s answer to Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Selfridges.  I’m not a big fan of Holts.  I wish I was a fan, but my Scottish blood makes me way too cheap to ever find something within a reasonable price range.   Well, guess what people?   Holt’s is now filled with items you can afford, and the place is packed.

At first glance, it appears as though Holt Renfrew is immune to the recession.  So I decided to join the crowd and look around.   I saw a Holt Renfrew branded travel beauty bag, which was a $100 value, but for sale at a price of only $25–and it even included a $10 bounce back coupon off my next purchase.   Perfect gift for my daughter.    Next, I walked past ladies winter hats, saw the perfect gift for my mom.  I flipped over the tag:  $25.  I even got the nice pink box to the put the hat in, which I think the box has even more prestige value than the money I paid.  I walked out with the nice big pink Holts bag, proudly walking along Bloor Street, knowing that everyone must have thought “wow, that guy has money”.   If only they knew, I spent 56 bucks, including GST.  It just seems wrong.

For those who want the $25 Make Up Bag, here’s the link and you better move fast: 

Did I mistakenly walk into the Bay, instead of Holts?  No, there’s no way the Bay would be dumb enough to sell a Travel Bag or a winter hat for only $25.   This is like getting a Mercedes for around $15,000 or staying at the Four Seasons Hotel for $59 a night.  It gives the masses a piece of luxury, but at a cost.

The short term attempt at sales gains is off-set by the longer term sales decline when your core customer stops coming.  For Holts, they’d have to sell 100 make up bags to the masses just to make up for the revenue lost from one $2500 dress from a core consumer.  And in terms of profitability, if we assume the dress has 40% margins and the make up bag only 10% margins, Holts would have to sell 400 make up bags to make up for that one dress.   And it gets even worse when the masses realize they still can’t afford to buy anything beyond these cheap and cheerful items.

Famous little blue box from Birks.

But we’ve seen this story before, in Birks.   Through the 1980s, Birks had grown to 225 stores, and was trying to be all things to all people.  You could walk into a Birks in Mississauga, put down $125 for some nice pearls and walk out with the little blue box, guaranteed to make any woman drool when she sees that box.  But in 1992, Birks declared bankruptcy–they went back to what made them famous and who they were.   They re-trenched so that all Birks locations were in special locations.  And you needed to save up so you could afford something to go in the pretty blue box.  They figured out that it’s ok if the masses drool, but can’t afford.

Holt Renfrew Pink bag carried with pride around Toronto.

As we’re in the midst of the debate around 99% vs 1%, Holts has to realize who they are and who they cater to.  Every time they dip into the 99%, they lose a consumer in the 1%.   There has to be some reverence the masses have when they walk past the windows at Holts.   They have to feel a bit scared when they look at the price tags.   They have to be worried they are out of their element.   If that Pink Holts bag I so proudly displayed quickly becomes a commodity, then the core audience–the one percenters–will find somewhere else to shop.

As Holt’s looks to see if they can see the end in sight to the recession, they might not realize that they are already seeing the beginning of the end in sight of their status as a Beloved Brand.  The lesson:  trying to be liked by everyone might mean you end up loved by no one.  

A Truly Beloved Brand: G Adventures


Ask a communications expert about the wisdom of changing the name of a successful company, and you’ll get succinct advice: don’t. “Unless it’s completely irrelevant or legally necessary, or the name has become totally stagnant, I wouldn’t change your name because it’s such a massive undertaking,” says Mia Wedgbury, president of High Road Communications in Toronto.

But this fall, Toronto-based tour operator Gap Adventures was forced to do just that when a legal ruling in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Gap Inc. gave it three months to devise a new identity in the U.S. market. The apparel chain claimed the Canadian company was intentionally confusing consumers to boost its business. Bruce Poon Tip, the travel company’s founder, initially waved off the attack. “I didn’t see how people might think they were buying pants when they were buying adventure travel.” He had picked the name (which stands for Great Adventure People) in 1990 only after deciding the original moniker, Pathfinder, might produce confusion with the car brand.

But after a four-year legal battle that cost more than $5 million to fight, Poon Tip was tired of the distraction. Initially, he considered only changing the name in the U.S., which represents 14% of the company’s business. However, several factors argued for a global revamp. First, in Europe and Australia, a “gap year” denotes a year off between school and work, creating the suggestion the company catered to students. According to Branding 101, a global company must have a consistent image. Finally, Poon Tip thought Gap’s highly loyal customers would take a name change in stride. “I’ve never believed that the name matters,” he says. “It’s what you do that breathes life into your name.”

At it turned out, customers disagreed. When Toronto branding firm Level5 Strategic Advisors polled consumers, the results were stunning. A question asking for alternate name suggestions produced such aggressive opposition to a name change that Level5 took the question out mid-survey. The agency’s president David Kincaid compares consumers’ attachment to Gap to the intense passion fans feel for their favourite rock band. Adventure travel is a “highly emotionally driven category,” he says, and his research found a striking uniformity in how employees, customers and partners viewed the brand. That was the good news; the downside, warned Kincaid, was that a renaming would erode that brand equity.

It was a scary finding, Poon Tip says, but he pushed on. Over eight weeks, Gap’s marketing team and Level5 ran strategy workshops and “name-storming” sessions, with employees invited to contribute suggestions. Poon Tip had two favourites: G Adventures, which would be relatively low-hassle and allow the company to keep its G logo; and Yolo, an internal brand that’s an acronym for “you only live once.” Staff liked the idea of creating their own word, like Google or Geiko. Kincaid’s team, however, resisted Yolo, saying it would require too much explanation in the marketplace. Meanwhile, G Adventures didn’t make it past an early poll of company executives.

Level5 narrowed the options down to two: Planeterra, the already trademarked name of Gap’s non-profit foundation, and Go, an active word inherently linked to travel. Poon Tip realized that Go could also stand for “great ocean,” which is the English translation of the Dalai Lama, a significant figure for Poon Tip who inspired him to stick with the business during an early crisis. While both Go and Planeterra scored strongly, Go skyrocketed when consumers heard the story behind the name.

Go was a go. The company even bought the domain, at considerable cost. But Poon Tip started having second thoughts. It bothered him that some survey respondents found the name boring. “When they thought of it in relation to us, they thought it was unexciting,” he says. There were also lots of companies already using that name. Even the fact it was so specific to travel started to strike Poon Tip as too safe, and potentially limiting. He looked at other name changes, such as changing to, and that took him back to G.

Not long after, he held a conference call with 18 global executives. He stated the case for Go and for G, then asked for opinions. His team leaned slightly toward Go. Though he went into the meeting split 50/50, it proved to be like the coin toss test: his reaction to the outcome showed him which way he really leaned. He especially liked that the word “go” is still present in the logo’s circle around the G but, likethe Fedex arrow hidden within its wordmark, it’s speaking only to those who know it’s there.

While the change is relatively small—the company is just dropping two letters, and keeping the Great Adventure People tagline—the logistical challenge is significant, says Wedgbury. “The name is how people find your brand,” she says, and there’s a risk of confusing the marketplace and losing clients, and, of course, the cost of changing everything from signage to the website to merchandise. The company’s dispersed operations complicate the picture. “If I’ve booked a trip with Gap and I suddenly I see a new company name when I arrive, that doesn’t instill confidence,” says Wedgbury. And since it’s a court-mandated change, an oversight, at least within the U.S., can have financial implications.

But it’s the soft costs that will be most complex, says Kincaid. “They need to make sure that every consumer touchpoint understands the reason behind the new name,” from employees at an Australian call centre to tour leaders in Peru. “This isn’t something you can dribble out. The most effective word in marketing is ‘new,’ but you only get one chance to say it.”

Since Gap isn’t required to rebrand outside the U.S., Poon Tip plans to roll out the name change over six to 12 months. The company has generally eschewed traditional advertising in favour of viral marketing and referrals, but this change, says acting global VP of marketing Cindy Zesk, “will present a new set of challenges.” Travel agents, who represent 70% of Gap’s bookings, will be the biggest one, she says. “So we’ll take it to a real personal level, with speaking engagements, personalized emails and phone call explaining why we’re doing this.” With consumers, she says, the company’s value proposition “is a way of life. It’s not something we can put in an advertising tagline.”

G Adventures, Poon Tip admits, tends to leave people cold until he explains his vision for spinoff brands such as GLodge (a property being built in the jungle of Peru) and GNation (a social networking platform). Like Apple’s ‘i’, the G offers limitless extendibility. Having to change your name after 21 years in business is “not an ideal situation,” he admits, “but we’re taking it as an opportunity.”

Nevertheless, he remains bitter about the legal fight. He still owns the domain name. “I might sell it to a porn company.” He insists he’s not kidding.

Swagger Wagon: Toyota’s Attempt to Make Mini-Vans Beloved

These spots by Toyota celebrate this new stage of life by allowing parents to laugh at themselves.   And that’s a great device for connecting on an emotional level.   Toyota is selling more than just the van, they’re selling parenting.   Toyota has had a tough go of it, since the recalls of 2009.   But they’ve sustained their relative strong sales, even during the tough economic times—and things like Swagger Wagon are a great example of how maintaining the love of your most loyalty consumers.

What’s the Most Beloved Brand In Education?

It depends what kind of love you're looking for from higher education.

It depends on your criteria.  If it’s a non-stop party action without getting kicked out, University of Georgia is consistently ranked in the top 10 of parties schools.   And technically, that might make it the most beloved.   Georgia actually has tough admission standards, but that might just be the same way that a hot bar also attracts a crowd.

But the strongest most respected brands in higher education are Harvard at the top followed by schools such as Princeton, Oxford or Cambridge.  Maybe Stanford, as the cooler, hipper, west coast answer to Harvard.   Maybe MIT or Cal Tech for the more mathematically inclined.  Criticize them all you want, snub your nose back at them or rationalize why you chose somewhere else.  To many people, it sounds like you got help from Daddy.   But these brands do help to separate a student from the pack upon graduation and sits on their resume for the rest of their lives.

Harvard makes $150 Million a year from selling t-shirts.

When students choose a school, in a way, they are borrowing  a piece of the equity from that school in how they want to portray themselves.  Harvard has a lot of equity from which Students can borrow.   Place in History:  With 375 years, there’s a long list of noble alumni–including 8 U.S. Presidents, 50 Nobel Prize Winners, dozens of Pulitzer Prize Winners and Supreme Court Justices plus a very long list of CEO’s.  Harvard even has a long list of Harvard drop outs including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or even Matt Damon.  Harvard Schools: Whether it’s Law, Medicine, Business or Political Science, each school on it’s own, finishes at or near the top of their disciplines.  Graduates are sought after, commanding strong salaries and a robust Harvard Alumni network, notorious for helping out at all stages of their careers.  The Harvard Cache:  There’s something romantic about Harvard, as it’s portrayed in movies such as Love Story, Paper Chase or The Firm.

Harvard’s beloved brand status translates into Brand Wealth.   Harvard’s endowment is estimated at $28 Billion, double it’s closest rivals and dwarfing the University of Georgia party school ($572 Million) or Canadian schools like University of Western Ontario ($318 Million) or Queen’s ($527 Million)   Harvard’s revenue per year is $9.3 Billion which would be about the same size as Starbucks or Southwest Airlines.   Harvard has many sources of revenue, including investment gains, student tuition and donations.  Harvard even generates a whopping $150 Million in T-shirt sales, people just wanting the smallest slice of the Harvard brand.  Now that’s brand wealth.

The Most Beloved Coffee Brand: What’s your Call?

Starbucks or Tim’s?   If you’re in Canada, it’s clearly Tim Horton’s.   if you’re a Starbucks fan, you’re likely pissed right now and hopefully ready to engage.  But I imagine there are not a slew of Coffee Time loyalists ready to pounce.

What Tim’s has done so well, is they have  turned a lonely little donut shop into a brand envy.  Back in 1980, there were no signs of greatness, evidenced by this TV Ad: Functional.  Just another donut shop.

Brands travel along a pathway from indifferent to like it to love it, most brands getting stuck.  At the INDIFFERENT stage, it is basic needs and “it will do”.   You never see a line up at Coffee Time.   Tim’s has reached LOVE IT.  It’s possessive, outspoken and unrelenting–willing to add 15 minutes to their morning drive.

Yes Tim’s has very good coffee and good quality in everything they do.  But it’s more than that.  Tim’s layers in deeply emotional connections to the community, into the lives of families and into the Canadian mystique.

Kids play in Tim Bits hockey, at lunch people go on a “Timmies Run”.  The TV ad from last year featuring Sidney Crosby showing him as a Tim Bit player all the way up to current gave you goose bumps as a Canadian watching it.   Wow.  

Media buy is a gentle mix of new product ads with deeply emotional.    Goosebumps, tears, exciting, all comes back to building that emotional connection.   The spot in the Olympics made me proud to be Canadian. 

They’ve continued expansion plans, across Canada and now into NYC.  For you, is it the coffee, is it comfort or the Canadiana or is a bit of all three that keep you coming back?   Getting to the Love It stage drives real brand value.  The stock price has nearly doubled the past 5 years going up from $26 up to $48.

Most Beloved Hockey Team Brand: The Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are clearly the most Beloved Brand in Hockey.   While there are lots of great fans of great teams, the Leafs stand alone with insane fans about a bad hockey team.   The Leafs have not made the playoffs since 2004 and have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, yet it has a following like no other hockey team.  Most of the other Beloved sports Teams, whether it’s the Yankees or Man U or the Montreal Canadiens all reward their fans constantly with victories.   It’s not very hard to be a fan of a team that has won 25 championships.   But with a few teams like the Leafs or the Chicago Cubs, it’s not easy being a fan.   Constant let down and heart break.   The connection to the Leafs is not a rational one, but rather an irrational choice–or as Hotspex would say “e” rational that talks to the EMOTIONAL connection.

It's a 40 year wait for Leaf seasons tickets. These end up in people's wills.

Let’s look at how the Leafs business model works.  1.  Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan.   They have strong luxury box sales and a strong base of seasons tickets.   Season Tickets are passed down to family members in wills.  At Pfizer, we put our name on the waiting list and they said it could be up to 40 years to get tickets.  If you do have tickets, you can easily scalp them for twice the value on game night.  2.  Every game is on TV, with strong ratings–a usual top 20 in the ratings for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.  In fact, if CBC every lost HNIC, it’s possibly the end of the network.   The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes.   3.  The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 52 sponsors on it’s roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks.   4.  Merchandise sales are very strong.   The Leafs have just announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey.   Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey.  This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people.   5.  Control of Costs works for the Leafs.  In the 90s, as the Canadian dollar slid, players started to demand being paid in US dollars.  Since that decision, the dollar has gone from 63 cents to parity and the Leafs bottom line has benefitted.   In terms of Brand as a Business System, the Leafs get it.   They derive all their value from their brand.

Leafs value continues to climb: In 2011, it's now up to $527Million.

If we look at the hockey results, the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004.   So let’s use 2004 and 2010 as the basis for comparison on numbers.   In those six years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117million to $187million.  In the last year, with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57million.   That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.      The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs value go from $280million in 2004 up to $505 million in 2010–making it the #1 valued team in hockey.   Seven years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.

Compare the Leafs to the Red Wings, who use the slogan “HOCKEY TOWN”.   The Red Wings are clearly the best hockey team in the past decade, best win percentage, most playoff appearances, most Stanley Cups.   Let’s use 2004 and 2010 again.  In those six years, Detroit’s revenue has gone up from $97million to $117million, a gain of 20% while the Leafs revenue were up 60% over the same period.  Ticket sales are actually down at Joe Louis arena by about 10%.   While the Red Wings made back to back Stanley Cup finals, you could have actually gotten a ticket at face value the day before one of the games.     The value of Red Wings team has gone from $248million up to $315million, a solid gain of 27% in value but dwarfed in comparision to the Leafs 80% gain in value over the same period.

It's not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet no one really stops being a Leaf fan.

Now, we must come to the question of why?   Are Leaf fans crazy?   I do remember a few years ago, on Trade Deadline day in late February, there was a quote from a fan who said “I can’t believe I took the day off from work to watch the Trade Deadline and my Leafs didn’t do anything”.   That’s borderline crazy.   The Leafs are the eternal underdog, where the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.  But we might not ever find out.   I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the Leafs WILL NOT win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime.   And yet, I remain a fan.   If they ever do win the cup, I’m not sure if the team’s value will go up or even down from there.   Debate all you want, we may never find out.

Toronto likes to think of itself as the centre of the hockey universe.   Not even close.   Name me great hockey heroes from Toronto and the list is much shorter than that of Montreal.   In fact, on a per capita basis, Saskatchewan is the true centre of the hockey universe.  Most hockey superstars are from the remote locations like Perry Sound, Brantford or Flin Flon Manitoba.   Maybe Stamkos will be the one that breaks through the top 50 all time.   In the past 30 years, it sure hasn’t been the great players on the team.  The Leafs have only had two players, Gilmour and Sundin, that you could call superstars, and a handful of good players like Curtis Joseph, Borje Salming, Wendell Clarke or Rick Vaive.  But Toronto fans have made the most of average and have created mythical figures in Felix Potvin, Bryan McCabe or Mike Palmateer.  Not sure where Reimer will be on this list, but if you talk with a Leaf fan, they think of him in the same breath as Patrick Roy.

As we are on the cusp of a new season, Leaf fans are optimistic.   And ready for another Cup run.  There’s only one thing I know for certain and would actually bet on it.   The value of the Leafs will go up this year.   YEAH!!!

The Beloved Burger: BURGER’S PRIEST.

Original Story, October 2011:  This saturday, I visited THE BURGER’S PRIEST in Toronto.

Great Mystique created around the whole Priest thing. Different makes them stand out.

Burger 9 out of 10, fries 6.5 out of 10.

Even before you try the burger, you hear the story first, and it’s quite crazy.   That’s the way a brand should be.  I have had quite a few people tell me that the Burgers Priest was clearly the best in Toronto.   But then they get into the story telling of what they know.   Part of the story is this idea of a secret menu, that you have to ask for.   Funny enough but if you google “Priest Secret Menu”, you’ll see about 15 stories come up from various Food Critic reviews.   Confirms that it’s a marketing ploy–and a great one for driving word of mouth.   The second part of the story is that the owner, who most describe as crazy, even though they never likely interact with him.   Apparently, one day he was looking for a really good burger and couldn’t find one.  So, he decided to just get in his car and drive until he could find one.  He ended up in his car for six months, travelling all through the US from New York to the South, through Texas and Out to California and back.   He was intent on learning about the secrets of the best hamburgers he could find.   He’s has photos, up at the Priest, of all the great burger places that inspired this burger.   Once back, he took all the great ideas and build his own burger.   He’s layered in the idea that this burger is a religious experience, with the priest idea.  And the mission is to  missio “redeem the burger one at a time”.  That’s the brand story anyway.

Now with a brand story, you need to create buzz.  Word of mouth on this is amazing.   When I got there, just before noon on Saturday, there were already 10 people in line about 10 minutes before the place was open.   I also saw the attached sign, asking people to line up to the left to avoid blocking the entrance to the Apartment.   I looked for the appartment, and it’s about a good 50 feet away.

Here's the sign they had in the window. Line ups are good for brand value

So clearly, all the story and mystique has created a word of mouth that is getting people to travel for this burger.   It’s 45 min from my house, and I ran into someone I knew who lives 45 minutes the other way.   Both of us just felt compelled to try it.  Keep in mind, the stories he’s created help drive word of mouth and in turn demand.   The line up makes things much more predictable for him, so the food is fresher/better tasting.   He can manage his inventories, staff accordingly and drive down his costs by driving up his volume.   Plus, I would have paid anything at this moment for the burger.   Lastly, I started to tell my friend in line that about the Five Guys burger I had which was amazing and a stranger jumped into our conversation to defend his priest, saying it’s not even close.   Already has brand advocates defending the brand.   He’s clearly working his branded business system.

As for the burger, it was ideal.   I’d say it’s a tie with Five Guys Burgers–which has a story unto itself–with celebrity endorsement like Obama and Shaquille O’Neil.   Both use the same technique of keeping the burger juicy, while ensuring it’s well done on the outside.  Very similar taste.   (More bacon on the Five Guys, and the Fries are better)  The fries at the Priest need improving to be great.    Poor Licks, a Toronto icon for many years, has been losing out the last few.  The only good thing about Licks now, is there’s never any wait and you can have a nice quiet meal (e.g. no one goes there)

For those of you looking for a great burger, I’d recommend it for sure.  For those of you looking for unique marketing and seeing how a small business is trying to drive a BELOVED BURGER, this is a great example.  Not sure if he spent six months figuring out the world’s best burger, or just six months becoming the world’s best marketer.   A great brand in the making.

Top 3 Burgers in Toronto (my view)

  1. Five Guys Burgers
  2. Burgers Priest
  3. Craft Burger (now the Big Smoke)

Nov 16th, 2011, Update to the Story:  Burger’s Priest opening a second location in North Toronto, on Yonge Street between York Mills and Lawrence.  Great location choice.   Talk of further expansion into the West end of Toronto, likely High Park or Bloor West Village.   Need a good income level to afford 9 dollar burgers.   It will be interesting to see how many they put into Toronto, and then into the rest of Canada.   One big fan of the Priest who I told was actually disappointed about the expansion plans..

The more beloved the brand, the more profitable and valuable the brand is.

Consumers have relationships with their brands, some simple and shallow while others are tremendously deep and personal.   There is almost a LOVE CURVE the consumer goes on,  moving from INDIFFERENT to LIKING to LOVING and then on to a BRAND FOR LIFE.   At a given point, consumers stop thinking and start feeling.   It can take years or just minutes.   For Brand owners, what’s important is to know where your brand is on the curve and how to move it along to the next stage.

There are significant benefits to moving the brand along the Love Curve.   At stage 1, consumers are INDIFFERENT, your brand is basically replaceable and you only get used because “this will do”.   You’re not really anyone’s favourite.    As they move to stage 2, they LIKE it and make logical, solid functional choices.   But at stage 3, consumers  LOVE the brand, are outspoken, possessive, unrelenting, and it becomes very personal.  Along the way, people stop thinking and start feeling.   And consumers enter stage 4 where it’s their BRAND FOR LIFE, where the brand is almost an extension of the consumers themselves.  They would never use another brand because they’d almost feel like they are cheating.

Look at how we feel when we love a brand (Unrelenting, Possessive), compared to Indifferent (It will do, Basic Needs)

Apple is a great example of a modern day beloved brand.   They hate Microsoft as much as they love Mac.  Try telling a Loyal Mac user that “Windows 7 is really good” you’re certain to start a fight.   You might even lose a friend.    One of the most beloved brands is Ferrari which Italians from around the world see as a statement of their Italian culture and personal identity.  They wear the logo with pride, cheer for Ferrari each week in the F1 and yet they most likely have never driven a Ferrari.  They spend zero dollars on Advertising, relying on consumers wearing their brand, cheering for their brand or just dreaming of it.   What a place to be as a marketer where your consumers act as brand fans, and standing up for you.  Another great example to show the differences is Coffee, where Tim Horton’s is the Beloved Brand.

But what goes up, can also come down and brands can move backwards on the curve.  For instance Gap Clothing, Levis or even Olive Garden were all once loved and have slid back to indifferent.

The only true goal of brand building is profit and brand value.  Every choice you make that moves your brand along the LOVE CURVE towards being beloved helps you drive long term value into your brand.


  1. Brand is more than just positioning.  Brand serves to match up the brand’s external promise with the internal culture and operations that delivers that brand promise.   While most brands look for an external positioning, that’s the promise you make to the consumer.   It’s equally important to focus on delivering that promise with the Brand serving as a beacon for the culture and operations and helps to steer behaviour, thinking and decisions employees make to support the brand.  For many brands, the people and the culture are the “secret sauce” to that brand’s success.  It’s like an iceberg where the brand promise is the tip the consumer sees, but below is the culture that needs to be aligned to deliver that promise.
  2. It’s easier to run a branded business with a line up at the door.    Longer lines means fresher product, and that means a better customer experience.   A baquette in Paris tastes so much better, not because it’s in Paris, but because the pâtisserie in Paris  sells 300 baquettes by 10 am, all fresh out of the oven.  The poor baguette in the North American grocery store looks lonely, dry, crusty.  Also, people love to follow the crowds, figuring others have already made the decision for you.
  3. Strong Sales Growth helps The P&L Starts to Work Better:  Using Porter’s Model, strong steady sales also means you can control your variable and fixed costs.    a) More Buying Power over Suppliers: higher volume means you can go to suppliers with a big order and exert pressure on the costs  b) Power Over Customer Channels: you can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade with retailers while demanding more in return including more control over pricing. c) Smarter More Efficient Management:  manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs.  d) Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs.  This includes start up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs.  e)  Lower Cost of Capital:More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.

    There are 4 profit drivers you can push through the brand: price, cost, share and market size.

  4. The Poor Competition has no chance.   Most categories play the zero sum game, where one brands’ gain is the other guys’ loss.   Leader brands that build an emotional connection back the competition into the rational zone–facing scrutiny, doubt and skepticism.   As a marketer, the more emotional heat you can generate leaves almost nothing left for your competitor.  You reach that tipping point, where your gain is their loss.  When it’s all about share gain, the beloved brand has a competitive advantage.
  5. Great Brands have a certain magic to them.  Gaining that deep Emotional connection is hard work, but also takes a certain flare or an art form.  Gather all the data, be ruthless in your decisions, always focus on ROI, and eliminate risk and you’ll be liked but never loved.  You need to use instincts, take chances, use a certain flare and believe that execution matters.  If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do.  Look at the love Apple projects to it’s consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.