Archive for Branding

200,000 Facebook Friends sacrificed for Burger King

233,906 to be precise.  Burger King offered Facebook users a free Whopper in exchange for “de-friending” 10 friends. 82,771 people took up the offer within a week before Facebook shut down the application citing privacy concerns.


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Buddha & the Marketing of Chinese Soup

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall.

Another one for the collection of great product names.

Cool News writes about this awe-inspiring Chinese soup made from quail eggs, bamboo shoots, scallop, abalone, shark fin, chicken, Jinhua ham, pork tendon, ginseng, mushrooms, and taro.

The name reflects the appeal of the soup: it is said to be so enticing that even a vegetarian monk could not restrain himself and would sneak out of the monastery (literally “jump over the wall”) to steal a taste.

Previous posts on the subject of interesting brand / product names:
Patagonian Toothfish for Lunch?
Change your Name for Success
Non-Descriptive but Effective Product Names

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Net Promoters: From brand loyalists to brand evangelists

evangelistsNet promoters are those customers who are likely to recommend a brand to others. This makes them especially valuable customers. They are also a very good reflection of overall customer preference and loyalty to a brand.

Martha Rogers at 121media writes:

In the high-tech space, Apple, Google, and Symantec have the most “Net Promoters,” according to a recent survey by Satmetrix Systems, which created the Net Promoter system with Reichheld. The survey was conducted in three high-tech sectors: computers, online services, and consumer software. Opt-in surveys were sent to end consumers who had direct experience with a given product or service. Replies were then ranked on a scale of 1-10. Only respondents giving a firm a 9 or 10 are classified as promoters.

I think this is a very useful metric, especially in categories such as search engines, where customers make several transactions every day, with each transaction offering the possibility of switching to a different brand. Net promoter scores (and the underlying drivers) can be a very useful diagnostic of the brand’s offering – that is, which parts are working and which ones need to be fixed.

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Beam me up: Lessons from Star Trek

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I first saw the original series on a black and white TV in the early 1980s when they first aired on Sunday morning DD. Since then, I’ve given everything in the Star Trek universe a try – I’ve watched and enjoyed all 7 seasons of ‘The Next Generation’, most of the movies, hated ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Enterprise’ and liked some episodes of ‘Voyager’.

I think the rise and fall of the Star Trek franchise holds some useful lessons for marketeers:

1. Unsuccessful? Maybe you just haven’t found your audience/market yet.
The original run of Star Trek was cancelled after just three seasons. But it became a cult favourite when it was re-run on late night television – a channel that helped it to find an audience that was large enough to justify further investments in the franchise such as Star Trek – The Animated Series and the first Star Trek movie.

2. Successful but ageing? Hold on to the core premise but refresh everything else.
Star Trek – The Next Generation is set in the same fictional universe as the original series, but it takes place a hundred years later. This allowed the creators to bring in an all-new cast as well as bring the special effects up to modern standards.

3. How to make spin-offs or extensions successful.
Spin-off shows like Deep Space Nine or Voyager ran for seven seasons each. Both held on to the core bits of Star Trek – strong characters with interesting back-story, intelligent scripts and good crew chemistry – while pushing the boundaries of the universe in which they existed and telling new kinds of stories in that setting. The most recent show – Enterprise – was a failure. The best special effects can’t make up for weak characters and really bad scripts.

4. How long can it last? Until the 23rd Century.
Even the failure of the most recent Star Trek movie – Nemesis – and the cancellation of Enterprise don’t spell the end for the franchise. A new upcoming movie and a fan-created series testify to the thriving equity of Star Trek. Even a couple of duds can’t keep it down so long as the franchise owners learn the lessons from previous incarnations and spin-offs.
5. What about all those hi-tech gadgets?
Well, I’ve said before that science fiction is a big source of innovation and clam-shell cellphones have been mimicking Captain Kirk’s handheld Communicator for several years now. Here’s some more Trek Tech that scientists are actively working on:

It’s the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek. Beam across to StarTrek.Com for the celebrations!

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Animal freaks on rainy days: how to market a museum

Ever wonder how to sell the same thing to different people?

It’s probably easier if what you’re selling is an offer to view art or entertainment, such as the Tate Museum in London. But the Tate’s latest innovation, called “Your Collection” is absolutely brilliant! They describe it thus:

Tate Britain displays British art from 1500 to today. Yes, it’s a museum, but it’s also like a big living room. All those works of art are yours.

Tate has devised a new way of looking at the Displays with a range of themed ‘Collections’. These suggest a number of personal journeys you could take, reflecting different moods and enthusiasms and revealing the extraordinary breadth of work on show.


Underlying this innovative approach are a couple of old-fashioned marketing tools (and one new tool) combined with a large dose of marketing imagination:

1. Segmentation: Mutually exclusive ways of dividing the market into homogenous groups of people. I’m guessing that the variable here is “reasons why someone might want to visit a museum”. And they have certainly pushed that thought to the limit.

2. Concept design: Bundling relevant product attributes into a concept that appeals to the target segment. A simple idea executed with elegance by the Tate.

3. Mass customization: Using the “power of the Internet” to allow people to create their own concepts (“Your Collection”).

4. Branding: The very fact that the Tate is doing this and the way in which they’ve done it says something about the Tate brand – it’s cool, innovative, entertaining and fun and it’s for people like me! Quite different from the immediate mental image of a “museum”.

Take a look at the Snake Coffee Collection at the Tate!


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Brand Meaning: Manufactured or Discovered?

Rob Walker recently wrote about brands in the NY Times:

[A brand is] a process of attaching an idea to a product… Even companies like Apple and Nike, while celebrated for the tangible attributes of their products, work hard to associate themselves with abstract notions of nonconformity or achievement. A potent brand becomes a form of identity in shorthand.

Commenting on this on his blog, Grant McCracken wrote this provocative definition of branding:

If brands are ideas, then branding is a process of meaning manufacture and management.

Businessweek recently published their list of the world’s top 100 brands. Thinking about some of them in the light of Mr. McCracken’s definition, this is what I came up with:

1. Coca Cola: As a product, Coke is hardly different from any other cola brand. The appeal of the brand idea (Classic, American) is probably the single biggest reason for consumers to buy it. A ‘manufactured’ brand? Yes.

2. Microsoft: Brand? Idea? Consumer? Meaning? Clearly there’s little to talk about there. However, one could argue that there is the potential to develop the brand – to attach emotion and true meaning to its products. But this can’t be a superficial task and certainly can’t be achieved by mere advertising. In fact, unless the products themselves reflect the brand, everything else is pure faff.

3. IBM: I think this is a case where the brand has been ‘manufactured’ in the recent past. It used to stand for cutting-edge, reliable computers, lost that meaning when its products couldn’t keep up and now wraps its new IT services offering inside the hugely appealing brand idea of a helpful, almost god-like person from the ‘helpdesk’.

4. Disney: Sure, this brand has a lot of wonderful emotion and meaning attached to it. But Disney was a real person who built an entertainment and media empire. In a sense, he was the brand. That it has endured beyond his lifetime is due to good management of the characters and storytelling franchises which he created. One wonders if the Virgin brand will endure as long. Is Disney a ‘manufactured’ brand? No.

5. Toyota: This is a brand built upon the quality of its products. Has it been ‘manufactured’? No. However, this is a product category which has plenty of meaning to its consumers and Toyota has recognized and utilized that meaning in its communication activities.

(Note that the above are all ranked in Businessweek’s top ten brands for 2006. I chose them based solely on whether I knew enough about them to think about how they have developed as brands over time.)
Therefore, one can conclude that:
a. Brand meaning CAN be manufactured; products CAN be imbued with meaning. However, many existing brands already have meaning in consumers’ minds and not all of it is ‘manufactured’. Such brands need to be understood and carefully managed by their stewards.

b. Some brands, especially newer ones, do not yet have strong meaning. The meaning CAN and SHOULD be ‘constructed‘. However, this can’t be a superficial process involving brand names and advertising. Unless the product or offering truly delivers what the brand promises, the effort of branding will be unsuccessful.

(Developed from a comment originally written on Grant McCracken’s blog).

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Science Fiction inspires modern innovation

I’ve often felt that many of todays taken-for-granted technologies were invented in 1970s science fiction novels. Now for the first time, I’ve come across an innovation that may have been first invented in a 1990s fantasy novel. In their book Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett describe a diabolical fast-food tycoon who creates CHOW – tasty food products with “the nutritional value of a Sony Walkman. It didn’t matter how much you ate, you lost weight”

Chef / inventor David Burke has created Flavor Spray Diet – a range of spray-on artificial food flavourings that contain zero calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol and zero carbohydrates. With recipe tips like Chocolate Flavor Spray on strawberries or pineapple or Tomato Basil Flavor Spray on crackers, this could be the answer to many a wannabe dieter’s dreams.

Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park describes the resurrection of long-extinct dinosaurs by scientists working with DNA from fossils.

Now, the US Agricultural Research Service has resurrected some of the extinct varieties of carrots. Carrots used to naturally occur in many colours including yellow, white, dark orange, bright red and even purple. Orange carrots captured the world market decades ago, but carrots of other colours contain pigments with distinct health benefits. The best part is they all taste the same!

From Communication Satellites (Arthur Clarke), to Clamshell Cellphones (Star Trek), to Virtual Reality (Neuromancer), many of the late 20th and early 21st century’s innovations have their origins in science fiction.

The lesson is clear: marketeers looking for new ideas should read lots of science fiction. 😉

PS – To illustrate the point from my previous post, I’ve renamed and re-posted this article! It used to be called “Fantasy foods come to life”

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