Archive for the ‘Mktg – Brands’ Category

Aunt Jemima wants to friend you … no kidding.

March 7, 2011

TakeAway: One of America’s oldest brands, Aunt Jemima (established in 1889), launched its first ever social media campaign to show consumers exactly how the pancakes and other menu items from its frozen breakfasts division are made. 

The company plans to have the social campaign “in perpetuity.”  In addition to the Facebook page, there will be a Twitter handle to engage with fans and have a two-way conversation.

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Excerpted from Brandweek, “Aunt Jemima Deconstructs the Pancake (and More)” By Steve McClellan, February 17, 2011

Aunt Jemima purposefully wants consumers to see that the way the company makes flapjacks and waffles is just like they do at home. 

The core of the campaign is a series of videos appearing on the brand’s new Facebook page, featuring veteran Aunt Jemima employees who describe the “just like homemade process” and the people behind it.

The company held a contest to determine which employees would be featured in the videos and they’ll be appearing at numerous events throughout the coming year.

The campaign will also have an extensive online ad component to drive people to the page, where they can access the videos. Coupons and recipes are also available at the page.

The core target: families with harried weekday mornings, or pretty much everybody.

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I took this to a drugstore and they didn’t even know what it was …

February 17, 2011

In my marketing strategy class, we were chatting about product life cycles, and I commented that being the ‘last guy standing’ in a declining market can be a profitable position since the last guy is by definition a monopolist, and momopolists are positioned to make beaucoup d’argent — that is, lots of money.

A student pointed out that might be true … until the declining market just flat out dies.

Good point …  supported by an interesting story about the end of a photography era and an iconic brand:

A sign on the wall reads: “I took this to a drugstore and they didn’t even know what it was”.

Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

Kodachrome …  is noteworthy in no small part for how long it survived.

Created in 1935, Kodachrome was an instant hit as the first film to effectively render color.

Even when it stopped being the default film for chronicling everyday life — thanks in part to the move to prints from slides — it continued to be the film of choice for many hobbyists.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down at Swayne’s —  to be sold for scrap.

Kodachrome rewarded generations of skilled users with a richness of color and a unique treatment of light that many photographers described as incomparable even as they shifted to digital cameras.

Kodak stopped producing the film last year.

At the peak, there were about 25 labs worldwide that processed Kodachrome. That number got winnowed down to one – Dwayne’s.

Last year, Kodak stopped producing the chemicals needed to develop the film.

The last frame of the last roll to be processed: a picture of all Dwayne’s employees standing in front of the store wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

NYT, For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas, December 29, 2010

Thanks to DM for feeding the lead

Hey, that handbag is a fake !

February 15, 2011

TakeAway: Counterfeit products, especially low quality versions can damage a brand’s reputation.

For pharmaceutical products, counterfeits can also be very dangerous.

There are some promising new solutions to thwart counterfeiters like the one described below.

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Excerpted from brandchannel, “New Tag Aims to Impede Chinese Counterfeiting,” by Barry Silverstein, February 2, 2011

Counterfeit branded products continue to plague legitimate marketers both on the street and online. Fueled by wary consumers seeking bargains and a global economy hampered by weak or non-existent intellectual property protection, phony goods skyrocketed last year, and this year will likely be no different.

Counterfeiting is a global problem, but it seems that China has developed a reputation as ground zero for fake brands. In China, counterfeiting is a black market industry that goes far beyond luxury brands, pervading virtually every product category.  …

Now the Leo Burnett ad agency thinks it may have the ultimate solution — the 1-TAG, a proprietary anti-counterfeiting application … which can be applied to a product during manufacturing and serve as “a signature authentication.”

With the 1-TAG, products “can be verified and authenticated at every stage of their manufacture and distribution, right through to the consumer.” The brand manufacturer can associate data to the tag code, including a product description, the manufacturing date, a product expiration date, and the product’s destination.

A salesperson or a consumer uses a standard mobile phone camera to “decode” the information via a free software application loaded on the phone. Burnett says the 1-TAG can be valuable for supply-chain inspections and to authenticate a product every step of the way. So the 1-TAG is both a behind-the-scenes product control mechanism, as well as something the consumer can use to protect herself against brand fakes.

The 1-TAG is currently in development and is likely to be tested in China soon. Burnett intends to market and sell 1-TAG beyond its own clients and potentially roll it out on a global basis. …

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This season’s latest trend: revamping your logo

February 11, 2011

TakeAway: Changing up your brand’s logo seems to be this seasons latest fad. 

But just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t mean you should, and especially not if you are removing the most iconic parts of your logo. 

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Excerpted from Brandchannel, “NBCUniversal new logo might be ‘the Gap logo’ of 2011” by Abe Sauer, January 27, 2011

Look, we know the economy is bad and times are tough and the future is unknown. And we know that a brand looks at its logo …and wonders if it’s doing everything it can, if it maybe isn’t doing enough. …

But seriously, would brands all stop destroying the most recognizable elements of themselves.

…And now we come to NBC Universal. Is it a passive aggressive move … to pluck the iconic peacock from the new corporate logo?

Or is America’s biggest cable operator’s belief t that it needs to downplay the NBC part of NBCUniversal — name? It surely understands the NBC peacock is one of the most identifiable logos in America, if not the world, right?

We appreciate that it’s Comcast acquiring NBC Universal, …And it’s a new owner’s house and they can gussy up the joint as they see fit.

But Comcast — and Burke — are cable operators not known for their branding, naming (Xfinity?) or design savvy. NBCU, on the other hand, is home to some of the smartest branders on the planet, particularly on the cable networks’ side. Which would you rather do the redecorating in your house?

Also, what’s with running it all together into one word? Just try to pronounce how it looks. Do it, try. “NBCUniversal.”

This rebranding … celebrates the rich and dynamic content, a meeting of brands — so why would Comcast want new toy to be so…. blah? no vibrancy? no color? so… undistinguishable?



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Keep your Bud, gimme a Walgreen’s … huh?

February 10, 2011

TakeAway: Cheap beer is nothing new, but private label beer is not so common.

But now, Walgreens is introducing its line of Big Flats lager across 4,600 stores.

As if AmBev and MillerCoors didn’t have enough to worry about, there might be some more competition among those companies’ low-end offerings.

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Excerpted from brandchannel, “Walgreens Offers Private-Label Beer,” by Jennifer Sokolowsky, January 31, 2011

Drugstores are the place to go to get your cough drops and allergy tablets, and now they are the places to pick up another kind of medicine — the self-medicating kind found in alcoholic beverages.

Duane Reade is luring Brooklyn hipsters by offering high-end bottled beer and fresh beer on tap to go in Williamsburg.

Now Walgreens is going in a completely different direction: offering its own private-label beer at the low end of the price scale.

Quietly introduced in mid-December, Walgreens now offers Big Flats 1901 lager in more than 4,600 of the chain’s 7,655 locations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Big Flats 1901 may be labeled “premium brew,” but its price is anything but premium at about 50 cents a can, or $2.99 for a six-pack, though prices may vary by region. …

Walgreens is surely betting that those who come in looking for cheap beer will probably leave with something else as well — and that those who come in for something else just might not be able to resist leaving with some cheap beer. …

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again … unless it’s not working, that is.

January 27, 2011

TakeAway: If what you’ve done in the past isn’t working, understanding why and communicating changes to consumers is imperative. 

But if what you are offering is not what the consumers want, no amount of restaging will solve the problem. 

It’s also important to understand where in the PLC your product is and what are the feasible alternatives for stretching maturity out as long as possible.

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Excerpted from AdAge, “Pantene set to try again to reverse slide,” by Jack Neff, January 17, 2011

After a second restage in three years failed to take hold with consumers last year, the Procter & Gamble Co. brand is preparing another course correction later this month for what remains the leading brand in U.S. and global hair care.

P&G believes it’s identified and will soon fix problems with the latest restage. … problems included consumers being more loyal to discontinued products (particularly two-in-one shampoo-conditioners) than the brand, and restrictive policies at Walmart that kept the brand from communicating changes to consumers

But some say the problem goes deeper to the basic premise behind the restage. Traditionally hair-care products touted what they do for your hair — be it volumize, smooth or add shine. Pantene took a different approach — organizing into ranges based on hair types, not solutions.

One hopeful sign is that the midcourse correction following Pantene’s last restage, which included more readable packaging and more focus on value positioning vs. salon brands, ended a similar skid.

Even so, the restages and tweaks have engendered skepticism among analysts. Pantene may be facing consequences of line extensions that aimed to blunt advances by competitors leaving Pantene with a complex product lineup and growing distance from its “healthy, beautiful hair that shines” equity.

To be sure, the U.S. hair-care business has been brutal for big players and design firms beyond P&G — though the mass business did begin growing again last year after two years of decline. Unilever last year discontinued Sunsilk in the U.S. four years after its launch and little more than two years after a 2008 Super Bowl ad for the brand created by design firm Desgrippes Gobe (now BrandImage) and positioning specialist BrandThinkTank. L’Oréal Vive, launched in the 1990s, is hanging on in drug and grocery stores, but is off shelves at Walmart and Target.

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Messing with my brand … How dare you !

January 24, 2011

TakeAway: While some consumers balk at logo changes for aesthetic reasons, others react due to an emotional connection companies wanted to create in the first place. Companies involve consumers in what used to be regarded as internal corporate operations. Sometimes, you get what you ask for.

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Excerpted from The Economist, “Logoland: Why consumers balk at companies’ efforts to rebrand themselves” By Schumpeter, January 13, 2011

Starbucks wants to join the small club of companies that are so recognizable they can rely on nothing but a symbol: Nike and its swoosh; McDonald’s and its golden arches; Playboy and its bunny; Apple and its apple.

The danger is that it will join the much larger class of companies that have tried to change their logos only to be forced to backtrack by an electronic lynch mob.

The people who spend their lives creating new logos and brand names have a peculiar weakness for management drivel. Marka Hansen, Gap’s president for North America, defended the firm’s new logo (three letters and a little blue square) with a lot of guff about “our journey to make Gap more relevant to our customers”. The Arnell Group explained its $1m redesign of Pepsi’s logo with references to the “golden ratio” and “gravitational pull”, arguing that “going back-to-the-roots moves the brand forward as it changes the trajectory of the future”.

People have a passionate attachment to some brands. They do not merely buy clothes at Gap or coffee at Starbucks, but consider themselves to belong to “communities” defined by what they consume. A second reason is that the more choices people have, the more they seem to value the familiar.

The debate about logos reveals something interesting about power as well as passion. Much of the rage in the blogosphere is driven by a sense that “they” (the corporate stiffs) have changed something without consulting “us” (the people who really matter). This partly reflects a hunch that consumers have more power in an increasingly crowded market for goods. But it also reflects the sense that brands belong to everyone, not just to the corporations that nominally control them.

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Dial Puts Crystals in Your Laundry

January 18, 2011

TakeAway: Dial hit it big in 2009 with Purex Complete 3-in-1, which combines detergent, fabric softener and an antistatic treatment in a single laundry sheet. 

Now, for the new year, Dial is seeking to score a second success by bringing Purex Complete Crystals Softener to the United States.  The softener is in crystal form, meant to replace liquids and sheets.

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Excerpted from NYTimes, “Laundry Products Put Into Yet Another Form” By Stuart Elliott, January 5, 2011  

The product is being billed as “a purer way to get laundry that smells clean and fresh for weeks.” It is making its way this month onto the shelves of American grocery, drug and mass-merchandise stores, priced around $4 to $7 for a 28-ounce package that can be used for 32 loads of laundry.

The campaign will include, in addition to television and print advertising, discount coupons, online ads, ads in stores and an extensive presence in social media. For instance, a group of so-called mom bloggers, whom Dial describes as Purex Insiders, have received samples of Purex Complete Crystals to write about on their blogs.  To help sell consumers on the idea that Purex is more than just prosaic laundry products, the campaign for Purex Complete Crystals ends with a word, “Purextraordinary” that also appeared in the campaign to introduce the 3-in-1 laundry sheets.  The idea is that there would be a brand story of continual innovation,” said Dan Fietsam, chief creative officer at Energy BBDO, “a substantial innovation story in a category that isn’t known for a lot of innovation.”  A commercial for Purex Complete Crystals plays up its distinctive differences, among them that the product is to be added to the washer with the laundry at the beginning of the wash cycle rather than placed in the dispenser for liquid softener.

“In this recession, we learned consumers are looking for value,” said Eric Schwartz, vice president for United States laundry care marketing at Dial, “but ‘value’ doesn’t mean just low price.”  The word “value” can also mean “products that work differently.”

Dial tested the laundry sheets under names besides Purex, in case consumers said they associated the brand only with lower-price mainstay products like liquid detergent.  But “we found our brand is more extendable than we expected,” Mr. Schwartz said, so 3-in-1 and Crystals are part of a new Purex Complete line.  It can cost less to market a new product under a familiar brand name than to try to make shoppers aware of a name they have not heard before.

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When it comes to Under Armour bet ‘over’ …

January 17, 2011

TakeAway: Under Armour started slowly, but wants “to be a legitimate number two [after Nike] in the basketball market, and that may take time.” 

To get there, CEO Plank focuses on a set of principles for success – “Passion,” “Vision” and “People.”  He also abides by what he calls the “four pillars of greatness:

  1. Build a great product
  2. Tell a great story
  3. Service the business
  4. Build a great team.

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Excerpted from Knowledge@Wharton, “Under Armour’s Kevin Plank: Creating ‘the Biggest, Baddest Brand on the Planet’” By Suzanne Vranica, January 5, 2011  

Plank says: “Great companies have to manage the cadence of what they do.  Every great brand is like a great story. Every commercial we run, every product we make, is like a chapter in that book. If we don’t manage the cadence, though, we will get too far ahead of ourselves.”

“Organic growth is happening everywhere,” Plank noted. “Our object cannot be to try to convince 25-year-olds to change brands, though that is always something good. But now 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds have a relationship with Under Armour [and say] it is their brand. I tell them that their great-great grandfather [bought products from] the guys from Germany [Adidas] and their grandfather grew up with the guys from Oregon [Nike]. But you will grow up with Under Armour.”  Accordingly, Plank has gone after young athletes to become the faces of Under Armour because they have great potential for marketing into the futurePlank also likes his team young. He said the average age of his more than 3,000 employees is 32, “and we want to keep [the work environment] young and fresh.” Under Armour’s advertisements tend to include young athletes in action – competing in extreme sports “X Games” events, snowboarding, soccer, wall-climbing, ultimate fighting and beach volleyball.

Plank plans to solidify the company’s growth in the women’s sports apparel market, which he said now accounts for about 30% of sales. He is also looking to create more of a presence for the brand in Europe and Asia – an effort that will take time because the company has to break into the soccer and, to a lesser extent, basketball markets.

Under Armour’s advertising makes full use of two of Plank’s favorite slogans – often together: “We must protect this house” and “We will.”  Protecting the brand ensures consumer respect, and Plank believes the company must work hard to continually improve.  In fact, he says “we have not yet built our defining product at Under Armour. We are not living in the past. Our larger competitors are 20 times our size. There is running room all over.”

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First, it was the artist formerly known as Prince. Now, it’s …

January 12, 2011


Remember when Prince decided to chuck his name and start going by a symbol ? Many folks thought it a bizarre move.

Apparently Starbucks thought it was a stroke of brilliance.

The Seattle-based coffee giant unveiled a simpler logo (below) that no longer includes the green circle that says “Starbucks coffee.” The iconic mermaid inside the circle is now larger

The company says the move is preparatory to it becoming more of a consumer packaged-goods company.

“Even though we have been and always will be a coffee company and retailer, it’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it.”

Already, the move has generated some backlash.

Some folks have accused the company of arrogance for losing their name … others think the mermaid is sexist or sexy – a blade that cuts 2 ways.


HTC builds a name, and profits for itself

December 17, 2010

TakeAway: In a short period of time, HTC has risen from a nameless contract manufacturer to the world’s market leader in Android phones.

With Android sales growing faster than iPhone sales, HTC is well-positioned to grow even more.

Such a position has given HTC more clout, and more profits than it could ever earn as a brandless company.

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Excerpted from Bloomberg Businessweek, “A Former No-Name from Taiwan Builds a Global Brand,” by Bruce Einhorn, October 28, 2010

 HTC, a brand virtually unknown in the U.S. two years ago, is the market leader in Android phones—the one segment of the market that’s growing faster than Apple’s iPhone. …

… with a market cap of 552 billion Taiwan dollars ($18 billion) the company is now the third-most-valuable Taiwanese technology company … HTC launched the first Android smartphone in 2008 … and has a 39 percent share of that market globally. Thanks to the success with Android … analysts expect sales to soar 78 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s far better than rivals Apple, Nokia, Research In Motion, and Samsung Electronics. …

HTC is an unlikely Android leader. When the company got its start in 1997, it manufactured personal digital assistants for Compaq. HTC followed the tried-and-true Taiwanese outsourcing formula of designing and manufacturing gadgets for other companies without a brand name of its own. … In 2002 … Microsoft awarded HTC a contract to make smartphones, and the manufacturer quickly became the world’s top producer of Windows phones. …

Even as the Microsoft business was growing, [the CEO] worried that a brandless HTC would forever remain a low-margin manufacturer of commodity products. … In 2007, the year Apple … [HTC] decided to move away from the anonymous contract-manufacturing business. Last year, HTC spent $100 million on a fourth-quarter marketing blitz, and … will spend up to $400 million this year. The company is now the world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer after Nokia, RIM, and Apple, according to IDC.

HTC’s rise to the top tier of handset makers has given it more clout with partners … [and] wireless operators are more willing than before to work with HTC on technology and marketing plans. …

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Under Armour tries to play in Nike’s sandbox

November 16, 2010

TakeAway: Just a small piece of the $2.5 billion U.S. market for basketball sneakers would meaningfully add to Under Armour’s $856 million annual sales.

Never mind that Nike owns 95% of that market and spends $2.4 billion annually on marketing to defend it.  CEO Kevin Plank has set his sights on being the number one basketball shoe manufacturer.

That’s a quite lofty goal for a company that has already failed in other types of athletic shoes.

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Excerpted from Bloomberg Businessweek, “A Half-Court Shot for Under Armour,” by Matt Townsend, October 28, 2010

… Under Armour  launched a basketball shoe line, called Micro G, to take on the longtime ruler of the court, Nike. …

In the $2.5 billion U.S. market for basketball sneakers, Plank confronts more than just Nike’s 95 percent share and the billions it spends on marketing. Sales of basketball shoes in the U.S. have slid for the past three years as fewer people play the sport …. And Under Armour’s earlier disappointments in cross-training and running shoes suggest its hoop dreams may be tough to realize.

If Plank harbors doubts about taking on Nike in its stronghold, he isn’t showing it. “Our goal for getting into basketball is to be No. 1,” he says. …

Despite the trash talk and Baltimore-based Under Armour’s fast growth (sales at its core apparel business have tripled in the past five years), Plank has had difficulty climbing the learning curve in sports footwear. In 2008, Under Armour spent big on a Super Bowl ad for a line of cross-training shoes—months before the shoes actually reached stores. Many shoppers had forgotten the ad by the time of the shoes’ debut. Meanwhile, tepid sales of the line of running shoes it introduced in 2009 have led the company to allow retailers to discount them or simply send them back to clean out inventories. …

As Plank prepared for the Micro G launch, he told employees to start thinking of Under Armour as a footwear brand, not just an apparel maker. “I called our marketing team and said, ‘Go through this building and find anything that says we are only an apparel brand and throw it away,'” Plank says. …

Plank expanded Under Armour by identifying profitable market niches, such as its namesake undergarments that pull moisture away from athletes’ skin …. Getting into basketball shoes, however, is “a whole other level,”…

One reason: Nike spent $2.4 billion on marketing in its last fiscal year, or almost three times Under Armour’s annual sales and 20 times its marketing outlays. Perhaps that’s why the Beaverton (Ore.) sports giant isn’t exactly running scared. “While our main focus is on fulfilling our own potential, which is unlimited, we thrive on competition of any kind,” says Nike spokesman Derek Kent when asked about Under Armour’s foray into basketball. “We expect to further expand our leadership position.”

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My name is Domino’s, and my pizza was bad. Now it’s better.

November 15, 2010

TakeAway: Domino’s admitted its old pizza was lacking (to put it politely) and introduced a new recipe by revealing it to its staunchest critics.

The company continued the transparency theme by encouraging customers to alert Domino’s when the pizzas they ordered were not up to par.

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Excerpted from AdAge, “Domino’s Talks Radical Authenticity” By Abbey Klaassen, October 28, 2010

It was arguably one of the riskiest marketing campaigns of all time — so how, exactly, did Domino’s get its “Oh Yes We Did” campaign, which touted a revamp of pizza by admitting the previous version was terrible?

“We had to do something” because sales were so bad, said Domino’s CMO. 

“New and improved” campaigns typically feel cliché and disingenuous.  So Domino’s looked at what was going on in the news and culture and launched it under a new guise: radical transparency.

So far, the company has seen only positive results; most recently, its third-quarter same-store sales were up 11.7%.

Additionally, the “Show Us Your Pizza” campaign, in which Domino’s asked customers to take their own photographs of the food to be used in ad campaigns, has resulted in 13,000 submissions. Domino’s also responded in ads to customers whose photos showed a pizza that didn’t arrive photo-ready.

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Ben & Jerry’s isn’t all natural?

October 25, 2010

TakeAway: Ben & Jerry’s has come a long way since it was just two guys making ice cream.

Now owned by Unilever, the brand is trying to remain authentic.

However, it’s “All Natural” ingredients aren’t what everyone considers natural.

Bowing to pressure from an advocacy group, Ben & Jerry’s will remove “All Natural” labeling from 48 products.

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Excerpted from Brandchannel, “Ben & Jerry’s Bows to ‘All Natural’ Pressure,” by Shirley Brady, September 27, 2010

Ben & Jerry’s is removing the phrase “All Natural” from its packaging as a result of a request from a health advocacy group.

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest announced that the Vermont-based ice cream-maker, which is owned by Unilever, has agreed to remove the words “All Natural” from all its ice creams and frozen yogurts “that contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, or other ingredients that aren’t natural.”

The move “amicably” resolves a dispute arising from a letter that the Center for Science in the Public Interest sent last month to Unilever. The letter said that at least 48 Ben & Jerry’s products were “improperly labeled.”

Ben & Jerry’s responded to an inquiry from AP it won’t change any recipes, but will remove the disputed phrase gradually from all packaging.

One major point of contention: the FDA “has no formal definition for ‘natural.'” … “The Food and Drug Administration could do consumers and food manufacturers a great service by actually defining when the word ‘natural’ can and cannot be used to characterize a given ingredient,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. …


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Harley gets some gray hairs …

October 14, 2010

TakeAway: Times are tough at Harley-Davidson, but not just because of the economy.

The guy who comes to mind when you think of a Harley owner is getting too old to ride.

Even worse, there are not enough younger potential customers who want a Harley because it’s not as exclusive as it used to be.

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Excerpted from Fortune, “Harley-Davidson’s aging biker problem,” by Alex Taylor, September 17, 2010

Harley-Davidson was the feel-good turnaround story of the 1990s and then the poster-boy for brand values in the 2000s. How often did you read that Harley was the only consumer brand whose customers were so loyal they wore the company’s logo tattooed on their chest?

But after expanding exuberantly in the last decade, Harley has fallen on hard times. Now it is struggling against a foe that not even cost-cutting nor brand loyalty can overcome: demographics. Its current owners are getting old, and not enough younger ones are coming up behind them.

Harley’s core customer is a middle-aged white American male, a group that will contract in the coming decade. …

Bumpy roads are nothing new for Harley. … Fighting back at what it perceived as unfair competition [from Japanese manufacturers], the company won an anti-dumping ruling from the International Trade Commission in 1982, and President Reagan imposed a 45% additional tariff on super heavyweight Japanese bikes.

Given an opening, Harley used the opportunity provided by the tariffs to regroup. … Harleys became a cult item; Harley dealers packed extra charges onto list prices and compiled waiting lists for prospective customers. By the late 1990s, certain models were back-ordered for two years.

After resisting the temptation to expand, Harley belatedly added production capacity and grandiosely predicted sales would reach 400,000 by 2007. But with ample supply, Harleys began to lose their cachet. Sales peaked in 2006 at 349,000. …

Harley’s famous brand couldn’t buffer it from the downturn once owning a Harley stopped being cool.

… Harley survived earlier economic downturns when other discretionary consumer durables slumped because Harleys were in short supply. As it built capacity to meet demand, Harley became just another manufacturer, vulnerable to a cyclical economy. In the fourth quarter of 2009, it suffered its first quarterly loss in 16 years.

The days when Harleys were a fashion accessory are likely over. …The challenge for Harley-Davidson in 2010 is to adjust to the new normal.

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Kenmore – Sear’s jewel – gets modern.

September 29, 2010

TakeAway: By any measure Kenmore has been successful over a long period of time. 

Even in today’s intensely competitive home appliance market, it has managed to stay on top across all major appliance categories. 

Now, the brand is being  overhauled in an effort to modernize.

With customer-focused innovations geared toward a new generation, including appliances that transmit data over a phone line in order to troubleshoot, the brand seems likely to stay on top for the foreseeable future.

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Excerpted from Brandchannel, “Kenmore – A classic appliance brand gets a makeover,” by Barry Silverstein, August 17, 2010

There was a time in the annals of American retailing when Sears ruled the universe in both mail order and store sales. While that era is long gone, the venerable Kenmore brand, originally associated with Sears, has maintained its independent leadership position in household appliances.

First introduced on a laundry appliance in 1927 … The brand’s awareness factor is legendary. Today, more people in the United States buy Kenmore than any other appliance brand, one in every three American homes contains a Kenmore appliance, and Kenmore ranks number one or number two in every major appliance category.

Even its rivals know the unshakeable power of the brand — Frigidaire, LG and Whirlpool all manufacture products that are sold under the Kenmore name.

But Kenmore has not rested on its laurels

The trick, of course, is to modernize the brand while retaining and enhancing its long-standing reputation. … that involves four primary areas:

1. “Premium customer touch points,” such as higher quality handles and knobs that are both elegant and ergonomic.
2. “Premium technology,” including user-friendly interfaces such as color-touch LCD displays that are advanced but intuitive and easy to use.
3. Streamlined modern design.
4. New logo and custom font, as well as a new sound palette on select products.

… Kenmore announced an additional innovation called Kenmore Connect, a technology designed to speed up appliance repairs. Kenmore machines with problems have the ability to transmit data over a toll-free phone line for review by company representatives. …

Product design isn’t the only area getting a … makeover. … Kenmore launched an interactive “Kenmore Live Studio” in Chicago. The studio is equipped with cameras that broadcast video via the Internet and includes demonstrations by chefs, presentations, and unveilings of new products that can be shared in real time on the brand’s Facebook page. …

Obviously, Kenmore is making a concerted effort to gain relevancy with a whole new generation of consumers.
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Kenmore – Sear's jewel – gets modern.

September 29, 2010

TakeAway: By any measure Kenmore has been successful over a long period of time. 

Even in today’s intensely competitive home appliance market, it has managed to stay on top across all major appliance categories. 

Now, the brand is being  overhauled in an effort to modernize.

With customer-focused innovations geared toward a new generation, including appliances that transmit data over a phone line in order to troubleshoot, the brand seems likely to stay on top for the foreseeable future.

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Excerpted from Brandchannel, “Kenmore – A classic appliance brand gets a makeover,” by Barry Silverstein, August 17, 2010

There was a time in the annals of American retailing when Sears ruled the universe in both mail order and store sales. While that era is long gone, the venerable Kenmore brand, originally associated with Sears, has maintained its independent leadership position in household appliances.

First introduced on a laundry appliance in 1927 … The brand’s awareness factor is legendary. Today, more people in the United States buy Kenmore than any other appliance brand, one in every three American homes contains a Kenmore appliance, and Kenmore ranks number one or number two in every major appliance category.

Even its rivals know the unshakeable power of the brand — Frigidaire, LG and Whirlpool all manufacture products that are sold under the Kenmore name.

But Kenmore has not rested on its laurels

The trick, of course, is to modernize the brand while retaining and enhancing its long-standing reputation. … that involves four primary areas:

1. “Premium customer touch points,” such as higher quality handles and knobs that are both elegant and ergonomic.
2. “Premium technology,” including user-friendly interfaces such as color-touch LCD displays that are advanced but intuitive and easy to use.
3. Streamlined modern design.
4. New logo and custom font, as well as a new sound palette on select products.

… Kenmore announced an additional innovation called Kenmore Connect, a technology designed to speed up appliance repairs. Kenmore machines with problems have the ability to transmit data over a toll-free phone line for review by company representatives. …

Product design isn’t the only area getting a … makeover. … Kenmore launched an interactive “Kenmore Live Studio” in Chicago. The studio is equipped with cameras that broadcast video via the Internet and includes demonstrations by chefs, presentations, and unveilings of new products that can be shared in real time on the brand’s Facebook page. …

Obviously, Kenmore is making a concerted effort to gain relevancy with a whole new generation of consumers.
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Coca-Cola: You’re Still the One

September 22, 2010

TakeAway:  Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft again scored highly in this year’s Interbrand ranking of the 100 Best Global Brands.

Among other highlights, BP fell off the list (not a surprise, given the oil spill) and Hewlett-Packard jumped into the top 10 for the first time.

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Excerpted from the AdWeek, “Coke Tops List of Global Brands” By Todd Wasserman,September 16, 2010 

The list, based on “a unique methodology analyzing the many ways a brand touches and benefits an organization, from attracting top talent to delivering on customer expectation,” according to Interbrand, showed some big movers over the course of 2009-2010.

But in some cases, brands seemed to weather crises well. Toyota, No. 11 on the list, lost 16 percent of its value after its recall PR disaster earlier this year. However, it only fell three places. Goldman Sachs, despite its well-publicized troubles, actually rose from No. 38 to No. 37.

The biggest winners were tech brands, which seemed to withstand the economic times particularly well.

For example, Google’s brand value jumped 36 percent, making it a solid No. 4, while Intel (7) and HP (10) had a strong showing, as did Apple (17).

For the full ranking and explanation, go to

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Coca-Cola: You’re Still the One

September 22, 2010

TakeAway:  Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft again scored highly in this year’s Interbrand ranking of the 100 Best Global Brands.

Among other highlights, BP fell off the list (not a surprise, given the oil spill) and Hewlett-Packard jumped into the top 10 for the first time.

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Excerpted from the AdWeek, “Coke Tops List of Global Brands” By Todd Wasserman,September 16, 2010 

The list, based on “a unique methodology analyzing the many ways a brand touches and benefits an organization, from attracting top talent to delivering on customer expectation,” according to Interbrand, showed some big movers over the course of 2009-2010.

But in some cases, brands seemed to weather crises well. Toyota, No. 11 on the list, lost 16 percent of its value after its recall PR disaster earlier this year. However, it only fell three places. Goldman Sachs, despite its well-publicized troubles, actually rose from No. 38 to No. 37.

The biggest winners were tech brands, which seemed to withstand the economic times particularly well.

For example, Google’s brand value jumped 36 percent, making it a solid No. 4, while Intel (7) and HP (10) had a strong showing, as did Apple (17).

For the full ranking and explanation, go to

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Xerox to Its Clients: “Lend Me Your Icons”

September 20, 2010

TakeAway: Xerox takes a risk with borrowed-interest advertising. 

What if people who see their new ads featuring some of their clients remember Marriott’s customer service pitch rather than Xerox? 

Xerox says, “We think because these clients are being seen in an unusual space that it will make people look twice. We think the risk is offset by the power of the creative and the relevance of the message in the marketplace.” 

Time will tell…

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Excerpted from, “Xerox Hopes Other Brands Help New Ads Shine” By Melanie Wells,September 1, 2010

It can be difficult for B-to-B companies to create lapel-grabbing advertising. Xerox hopes to get around that in its biggest ad effort in decades by featuring clients, such as P&G and Target. Some ads feature their well-recognized brand icons shown doing Xerox-related work, such as invoicing or digitizing documents. The campaign tagline: “Ready for Real Business.” The campaign will feature 20 companies that use Xerox products or services by the end of 2011. Companies featured in the initial TV and print ads include Marriott Hotels & Resorts; Ducati, the motorcycle maker; and the University of Notre Dame. Xerox admits some companies it approached weren’t comfortable lending their brands to this campaign, other executives liked the idea of having their icons appear in media where Xerox advertises but consumer-focused companies do not. CEO Ursula Burns “picked up the phone [to fellow CEOs], saying ‘Would you be interested in being in this campaign?’” Edit by AMW* * * * *

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A Coke by any other name would taste as sweet

September 9, 2010

TakeAway: When one brand becomes dominant enough in the marketplace, its name can become a synonym for the entire category.  In many places of the U.S. Coke simply means any cola soft drink. 

However, in India, Pepsi is the default name for a cola soft drink

This is problematic for Coke as it seeks growth opportunities outside of the mature U.S. market.  To gain some mindshare, Coke is trying to associate its name with cold as it seeks to promote a broad category of beverages in India, not just cola.

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Excerpted from Bloomberg Businessweek, “Coca-Cola can’t speak its name in India as Pepsi enters Hindi,” by Mehul Srivastava, September 8, 2010

Coca-Cola Co. offered to buy Rajesh Yadav a refrigerator for his New Delhi store if he would sell only the company’s drinks.

He kept his part of the bargain and lines of Coke and Diet Coke cans glisten behind the glass screens of the fridge. … Yet Yadav doesn’t mention his partner when he describes his shop.

I sell Pepsi and cigarettes,” said Yadav …

Yadav isn’t reneging on his deal with Atlanta-based Coca- Cola. Pepsi became a common synonym for cola in India’s most widely spoken language after having the market to itself for three years until 1993. PepsiCo Inc.’s linguistic advantage translates into higher sales. Its cola brand’s market share is 73 percent greater than Coke’s, according to Euromonitor …


In much of the Hindi-speaking belt of northern India, home to three of the five most populous states, children begging at street corners will point to bottled juices inside cars and plead for “Pepsi.”


In addition to competition from Pepsi, Coca-Cola … has to contend with consumer preferences for other drinks. About 90 percent of India’s beverage market is composed of tea, milk and coffee-based drinks, with bottled soft drinks holding less than 5 percent … The company relies on drinks other than Coke to be the country’s top beverage seller.


While Coca-Cola uses the cola brand to drive market share in other countries, the company’s top three products in India by sales volume are Kinley bottled water, Thums Up cola, and Sprite, according to Euromonitor. …“Pepsi is bigger than Coke as a brand, but Coke as a company has very smartly introduced other brands that have done very well,” said Bijoor, [a] consultant. …

That’s Coca-Cola’s strategy, said Atul Singh, the company’s president for India and South West Asia.

“We want every part of our portfolio to grow, so that any consumer, on any occasion, anywhere in India, makes a choice to drink a Coca-Cola product” …

Coca-Cola has run an advertising campaign called “Thanda Matlab Coke,” which translates to “Cold Means Coke.” North Indians speaking in Hindi regularly use “thanda,” the word for cold, as a noun when offering someone a drink.

“It was definitely a good idea,” said Bhushi, [an] anthropologist. “If Pepsi means cola, then emphasizing that a ‘thanda’ means Coke is perhaps the best way to gain control of the vocabulary.” …

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All MBAs are simply clones … so predictable!

September 1, 2010

Just finished reading two books that started with a similar observation – that products and brands are becoming commoditized — then prescribed radically different remedies.

In Outsmart the MBA Clones, Dan Herman argues MBA degree holders are all clones who studied the same materials, learned the same analytical techniques, and oversimplify everything.  He suggests using nuanced research to differentiate your products “at the margin” – adding distinctive features to separate from competition.

That sounded OK to me until I read Different by HBS Prof Youngme Moon.  She argues that  companies are so focused on their competitors and competitive benchmarking that all competitors quickly converge on similarity, becoming “heterogeneously homogenized” – adding superfluous product benefits that are apparent only to category expects.

Her answer: don’t get mired in all of the tradition (and predictable) research methods.  Step back and let your intuition (counter-intuition) drive big idea brands and products.

One of her notions: “reduced brands”. Stripping products of all but their potent and necessary features & benefits … and then adding back in some features or benefits that are unexpected.

Her poster child: IKEA … stripped out in-store service,and delivery, outsourced assembly to customers, and made no claims of quality or durability … but added back in the “personal journey” of finding the right product and the “personal fulfillment” of screwing the stuff together when you get it home.

So, should we be adding bells & whistles at the margin or stripping out the ones that are already there ?

I report, you decide.

In this economy, even counterfeiters are trading down …

August 6, 2010

Punch Line: It used to be that flashy names like Rolex were the ones susceptible to counterfeiting. 

Now, there’s more money in downscale brands …

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Excerpted from NY Times: Even Cheaper Knockoffs, Jul 31,2010

After years of knocking off luxury products like $2,800 Louis Vuitton handbags, criminals are discovering there is money to be made in faking the more ordinary — like $295 Kooba bags and $140 Ugg boots.

In California, the authorities recently seized a shipment of counterfeit Angel Soft toilet paper.

The shift in the counterfeiting industry plays to recession-weary customers looking for downmarket deals.

Knockoffs of lesser-known brands, which are easy to sell on the Internet, can be priced higher than obvious fakes, and avoid the aggressive programs by the big luxury brands to protect their labels, retail companies and customs enforcement officials say.

“If it’s making money over here in the U.S., it’s going to be reverse-engineered or made overseas.”

The lesson for many counterfeiters has been that they have a better chance of getting away with it if they copy smaller brands and market them on the Internet.

Back to the Future: BP distributors consider “retro-branding”

August 1, 2010

BP  bought Amoco in 1998 and many current BP distributors used to be Amoco distributors.

Those distributors began a campaign soon after the spill started, emphasizing that BP fuel stations are locally owned and operated.

Now, some BP gas station owners in the United States want to drop the BP name and return to the Amoco brand to recover business hit by public anger over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

Note: there’s a major complication: the Amoco brand name is owned by BP, not by the distributors.

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Source: Reuters, US BP distributors consider reverting to Amoco brand, Aug 1, 2010

How far can a brand be extended? … Answer: it depends.

July 7, 2010

Many  successful new product introductions each year are brand extensions, such as Apple’s iPhone, Godiva coffee, and Jeep strollers.

Researchers conducted a few experiments to determine what makes a brand “elastic.” That is, having brand power that extends beyond a brand’s core product.

Their findings:

  • Consumers tend to respond more favorably to extensions that fit with their perceptions of the parent brand.
  • Consumers are more accepting of extensions into distant product categories for brands with prestige concepts (think Rolex) than brands with functional concepts (think Timex).
  • With functional brands, holistic thinkers provide more favorable responses to distant extensions than analytic thinkers.

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Marketing Tip

Match product information with the consumer’s style of thinking.

“Adjectives induce a holistic frame by encouraging a focus on global, abstract relationships.

Verbs induce an analytic frame by encouraging focus on specific properties and details.” 

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Source: “What Makes Brands Elastic? The Influence of Brand Concept and Styles of Thinking on Brand Extension Evaluation,” by Alokparna Basu Monga and Deborah Roedder John. Journal of Marketing, 2010.

Source article from Marketing Profs:

Caddy’s puttin’ on the Ritz … lipstick on a pig ?

July 6, 2010

Bottom line: After years of decline, Cadillac is trying to regain its luxury aura.

But given its older and less affluent owner base, that’s an uphill battle.

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Excerpted from BusinessWeek, What Cadillac Is Learning from the Ritz, June 17, 2010

Last year, General Motors spent $354 million on marketing for its Cadillac division — more than any other luxury car maker in the U.S.

The branding campaign was largely ineffective: In 2009 Cadillac sold all of 109,092 vehicles, its worst year since 1953.

The brand’s product lineup needs refreshing, the average age of its buyers is a less-than-youthful 62 (13 years older than typical BMW owners), and Cadillac hasn’t been the top-selling luxury auto brand in the U.S. since 1997.

What to do? Sell like the Ritz.

It’s taking a cue from the hotel chain’s attention to customer service to restore a brand that’s sorely lacking in luster

In its effort to reconnect with upscale customers, GM has brought in trainers from Ritz-Carlton to show Cadillac dealers how to create a consistent sales experience across the U.S.

Cadillac has copied Ritz’s pocket-size “Credo” cards, which explain how customers should be treated.

Ritz employees also have $2,000 that can be used to make up for a bad experience or surprise a guest with a better one.

So Cadillac service chiefs are now given greater flexibility to extend OnStar subscriptions, provide free maintenance, or even reduce service charges for customers who are unhappy.

GM also is trying to garnish the brand image. Cadillac recently removed most references to mass-market icon GM from its Web pages and e-mails.

Still, no image remake can fully succeed until Cadillac comes up with more stylish models that can attract younger buyers.

For now, the company’s image will likely remain dinged as it continues churning out land yachts which appeal mainly to buyers in their 70s.

“They don’t need another  geezer-mobile.”

Full article:

Making quirky profitable … the Subaru way.

June 24, 2010

Punch line: By maintaining the quirky persona of its brand and keeping prices low, Subaru has quietly, but aggressively, increased growth … even through the recession.

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Excerpted from: Bloomberg Business Week, At Subaru, Sharing the Love Is a Market Strategy, May 20, 2010

While much of the U.S. auto business is just beginning to emerge from retrenchment mode, sales at Subaru are climbing.

“Our customers were not affected by the recession … They have a better financial situation.”

By courting financially solid buyers with a taste for the quirky, has grown steadily and, for the first time, its unit sales exceed those of such better-known brands as BMW, Lexus, Mazda, and Volkswagen.

Subaru has long been popular with a core of professorial drivers in tweed in the Northeast and flannel-clad outdoor enthusiasts in the Northwest. Lately, however, the carmaker has been aggressively moving beyond the snowy, soggy, and mountainous regions that are its stronghold.

Subaru’s secret is that it understands the customers who drive its cars and has gotten smarter and more aggressive about reaching out to new ones who would feel at home as part of that clan.

  • The average household income of a Subaru owner is $88,000, the same as Honda Motor and $10,000 more than Toyota.
  • Subaru buyers are three years younger than the industry average and a quarter more likely to have a college degree.
  • They are a thrifty lot, traditionally buying less car than they can afford. Some 36 percent pay cash.

Much of the automaker’s marketing focuses on cementing its connection to customers.

  • Subaru’s research shows them to be an eco-friendly bunch who value the freedom to go where they want, when they want.
  • Subaru supports causes such as the American Canoe Assn. and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Unlike luxury car buyers, Subaruers are “customers who are not buying things, but experiences.”
  • “In their marketing they’ve been focusing on what creates love between the owner and the automobile.”
  • “They are basically adding people who are Subaru buyers in their hearts, but don’t know it.”

The bottom line: By maintaining the quirky persona of its brand and keeping prices low, Subaru has quietly, but aggressively, increased growth.

Full article:

That American brand may be, well, Mexican.

June 23, 2010

Punch line: From Thomas’ English Muffins to Borden milk, Saks Fifth Avenue department stores to The New York Times newspaper, Mexican investors have taken advantage of low interest rates and depressed prices during the economic downturn to expand their holdings in el norte.

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USA TODAY, Mexico invests, puts its mark on more U.S. brands, June 18, 2010 

Huge Mexican corporations are snapping up U.S. brand names, opening U.S. factories and investing millions of pesos north of the border.

  • Grupo Lala, Mexico’s largest dairy company, purchased Dallas-based National Dairy Holdings, which controls the Borden brand and 18 regional dairies selling milk under the names Flav-O-Rich, Dairy Fresh, Velda Farms, Sinton’s, Cream O’ Weber, Goldenrod and others.
  • Grupo Bimbo, Latin America’s largest baked-goods company, bought the U.S. baked-goods operations of Weston Foods for $2.4 billion, taking over 22 industrial bakeries and 4,000 distribution routes, and national brands such as Entenmann’s pastries.
  • Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has expanded his empire into the USA. In 2008, Slim bought a 6.9% share in The New York Times and  increased his stake in the Saks Fifth Avenue department stores from 10.9% to 18%.

Smackdown: Hulk Hogan vs. the Flintstones

June 18, 2010

Punch line: Wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan says  a Cocoa Pebbles commercial degrades his image.

Gotta be stopped !  Otherwise, some jabrone will start claiming that wrestling is fake. Go Hulk !

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Excerpted from:  Tampa Tribune: Yabba-Dabba-Sue! Hulk Hogan files suit against Cocoa Pebbles maker,  May 21, 2010

Hulk Hogan is suing the maker of Cocoa Pebbles, accusing the company of appropriating his image in commercials for the cereal.

In the “Cocoa Smashdown” commercial, a cartoon character resembling Hogan easily beats Fred and Barney inside the ring. But then Bamm-Bamm steps in and pounds the blond-haired, mustachioed wrestler to bits.

Hulk, the federal lawsuit states, “is shown humiliated and cracked into pieces with broken teeth.'”

The commercial character goes by the name “Hulk Boulder,” which Hogan’s lawsuit says is a name he used early in his career until wrestling promoter Vince McMahon decided he should have an Irish name.

The wrestler contends he has been harmed by, among other things, “the unauthorized and degrading depictions.”

Source article:

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To view commercial click pic or link below


Subway claims only their’s is a footlong … depends where you measure from, I guess.

June 17, 2010

Punch line: The term “footlong” has been around for decades – maybe centuries. 

But Subway, fresh off its $5 footlong promotion, is trying to claim the phrase is proprietary and suing other folks who use the term.

Come on, Subway …  go fight McDonald’s, not push-cart vendors.

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Excerpted from BrandChannel: Did Subway Put Its Foot(long) In Its Mouth? ,  May 19, 2010

Subway successfully positioned itself via its Jared Fogle healthier eating campaign as the antithesis of “fast food.”

Launched in 2008, the chain’s $5-footlong deal has become its most successful campaign ever.

Now, Subway is moving to protect its “footlong” golden goose …

Subway is sending cease-and-desist letters to hotdog vendors using the term “footlong” to sell their wares.

In one case, Subway even targeted a hotdog vendor that has been selling “footlong” dogs for 40 years.

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A patent attorney points out, “Federal trademark law prohibits federal trademark registrations on words which, when used in connection with the goods, are merely descriptive. A cursory Google search reveals over 6,000 uses of the words ‘footlong sandwich’ apart from the term ‘Subway.'”

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Don’t call me ‘Chevy’ … my name is Chevrolet

June 15, 2010

GM thinks the name Chevy causes brand confusion – that some dolts don’t know it’s short for Chevrolet.

I guess that these guys have never ordered a Coke — a.k.a. Coca-Cola.

Talk about swimming upstream … unnecessarily. 

* * * * * GM dumps Chevy for Chevrolet, June 10, 2010

General Motors has banned the use of the Chevy name in all of its corporate communications.

From now on, the bow-tie brand will go by its proper name, Chevrolet.

It’s OK if you still call your car a Chevy. It’s just that GM won’t.

According to GM:  the use of two different names for one car brand — Chevy and Chevrolet — can cause confusion abroad.

While Chevy is a popular nickname for the brand in the U.S. and Canada, it’s not used in any of the other 130 or so countries where the brand is sold.

Customers in other countries who want to learn more about Chevrolet and come across the name Chevy on a U.S.-based Web site might think it refers to a separate brand.

A memo that was sent out to GM employees even asked them not to use the Chevy name in conversation. However, the ban on speaking the two-syllable word won’t be strictly enforced.

Existing advertising and corporate communications won’t be changed, he added, but the rule will be enforced in any materials produced from here on out.

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Founded in 1911 as the Chevrolet Motor Co., Chevrolet was named for founding partner Louis Chevrolet, an early race car driver.

Full article:

Going where no Starbucks coffee could go before.

June 14, 2010

TakeAway: The ubiquity of Starbucks stores, combined with management resistance to further de-value the Starbucks “experience,” has left few opportunities for continued domestic growth of the Starbucks brand. 

To provide growth opportunities for shareholders, Starbucks will roll out a second brand, Seattle’s Best Coffee, targeting the mass-market crowd. 

In addition to distribution in fast-food outlets, supermarkets and coffee houses, Seattle’s Best will be sold in c-stores, coffee carts, and vending machines, places Howard Schultz would never consider for the Starbucks brand.

If successful, the venture will put Starbucks on the offensive against its fast-food rivals while minimizing cannibalization of Starbucks-brand sales.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Starbucks Targets Regular Joes,” by Kevin Helliker, May 12, 2010 

In a counterattack against its lower-priced fast-food rivals, Starbucks Corp. plans to roll out a second coffee brand.

By autumn, Seattle’s Best Coffee … will be sold in about 30,000 fast-food outlets, supermarkets and coffee houses. … Eventually … the brand will also be sold in convenience stores, drive-through kiosks, coffee carts, vending machines and mobile trucks. …

The new push by Starbucks is a response to the invasion of the specialty-coffee market by McDonald’s Corp., Dunkin’ Donuts and other fast-food chains, which offer espresso-based drinks at lower prices than Starbucks.

Starbucks has struggled to expand beyond a limited menu and a largely morning clientele.

… executives unveiled a new logo for Seattle’s Best, along with a new motto: “Great Coffee Everywhere.” The motto reflects the Starbucks theory that the success of McDonald’s and others in selling coffee has created a fresh opportunity to sell a mass-market brand.

Associating Starbucks with a product sold from vending machines could … damage the brand’s upscale image. And it could cannibalize Starbucks customers. …

But Seattle’s Best is intended to appeal to just this sort of Starbucks critic. For those who find Starbucks coffee too strong-tasting, Seattle’s Best is promoting the “smoothness” of its blend …. For those turned off by the prices and ambiance at Starbucks stores, Seattle’s Best is touted as “unpretentious.” …  

Pricing will vary widely. … Seattle’s Best beans will cost consumers less than Starbucks-brand beans but more than conventional brands …

Seattle’s Best helped pioneer the specialty coffee-house concept when it opened its first store in Seattle 40 years ago. … When Starbucks acquired it in 2003, Seattle’s Best had about 50 stores and a sizable supermarket presence, particularly in flavored beans, a lucrative category that Starbucks never entered.

Perhaps the most radical feature of the Starbucks strategy calls for selling Seattle’s Best from vending machines. Vending-machine coffee has long been regarded as a last resort, … But Seattle’s Best engineers have developed a coffee-making machine that Starbucks predicts will improve that image. …

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The power of branding: Ally Bank

June 2, 2010

Have you seen any of the clever commercials promoting Ally Bank?

The ads show a con man  banker taking advantage of innocent children with the equivalent of typical bank practices (e.g. teaser offers, high service fees, misleading fine print).

My opinion: the campaign is very effective positioning Ally as a fair, customer-oriented bank.

Embarrassed to admit that I thought Ally was a new bank, or maybe an obscure one that I just hadn’t heard of …

Then today I picked up on an incidental mention in the WSJ:

Keeping GM alive, albeit in shrunken form, was an expensive undertaking for America’s taxpayers: about $65 billion in all, if one counts government aid to the company’s former financial arm, formerly GMAC, now renamed Ally Bank.

How did I miss that one ?

Below is a recap of the rebranding announcement.

Re-branding is usually done out of necessity.

Sometimes an acquiring company loses the right to use a brand name  — think GE household appliances to Black & Decker.

In those instances, you see references back to the old brand – think Brinks Home Security is now Broadview Security – to transfer some of the old brand equity to the new brand.

But, who would want to be associated with GMAC these days?

So, you see Ally signaling that it’s new from scratch with no references to its original branding.

Worked on me !

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Excerpted from USA Today: GMAC Bank re-brands itself as Ally Bank, 5/15/2009

The banking arm of ailing auto finance company GMAC is taking on a new name, hoping to smooth its image and entice new customers as it works to drive deposit growth.

GMAC has since been trying to expand its consumer banking offerings to offset sharp declines in new vehicle loan and home mortgage originations.

GMAC Bank has become Ally Bank, which will offer a variety of savings products, including no-penalty certificates of deposits, online savings accounts and money market accounts.

“We are launching a new brand with a new approach of treating customers with total transparency.”

The company settled on the name Ally after extensive interviews with customers.

“The name Ally aptly fit the character of the brand”

The re-branding of the bank, a unit of GMAC Financial Services, is a clear effort to distance itself from its troubled parents, GM and GMAC. 

Full article:

Taster’s Choice: Nescafe whoops Starbucks’ Via …

May 24, 2010

Punch line: Starbucks decided to go downmarket with Via instant coffee and now finds itself in a street brawl with the potential to knife Starbucks premium image. 

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Excerpted from BrandChannel: Nescafe Calls Starbucks’ Instant Coffee Bluff,  November 19, 2009

Under pressure from Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, and with its brand value in decline, Starbucks introduced Via instant coffee with an in-store taste-test promotion intended to prove that the new instant can’t be told apart from the store brew.

Starbucks competing against store brands ?

Not the usual way to maintain a brand that was built upon premium-quality coffee and the idea that Starbucks stores are America’s “third place” (after home and work).

To counter Via, Nescafé is setting up sampling stations for a taste tests of their own: Nescafe vs. Via. 

The Nescafe mantra: “A lot of hype. OR a lot of flavor.”

According to Nescafe, they’re winning convincingly.


Nescafé stands as a reminder and a warning: you can always take your brand down and compete on the low end.

But don’t expect your new competitors to take it lying down.

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Full article:

Is it live or is it Memorex ?

May 19, 2010

Punch line: Some dead (and nearly dead) brands — called “zombies” — still have high residual awareness that can be leveraged for relatively low cost comebacks – and extended to adjacent categories …

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Excerpted from Business week: Imation Brings Dead Brands Back to Life, April 1, 2010

You might think a brand is dead when stores stop selling it. Imation doesn’t think so.

Imation initially made its name on floppy disks (remember them ? ) — then became the world’s largest seller of recordable compact discs.

The company knows that consumers are skipping past data-storage media like compact discs and putting their data on flash memory, where Imation is only a minor player, or on the Net.

So, Imation has spent the last couple of years acquiring so-called “zombie brands” and leveraging their built-in consumer awareness to reincarnate them.

For example, remember Memorex and TDK?  Most consumers do.

That’s why Imation is reviving them to expand into low- and high-end audio gear Imation is using Memorex and TDK to move into higher-margin products.

Memorex was a ghost of its former self when Imation bought it in 2006 for $330 million. Sales of blank audio cassettes had been declining since Sony’s CD-playing Discman came out in 1991.  Memorex dropped its signature TV ads, with their “Is it live or is it Memorex?” tagline, more than 30 years ago. And yet, research surveys showed that 95% of U.S. consumers knew the name, even among people in their 30s.

Imation came up with new product categories to refresh the Memorex brand.

Today Imation is selling Memorex-branded iPod accessories, digital photo frames, DVD players, MP3 players, karaoke machines, and TVs at retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores  and Target.

The company unveiled a new Memorex collection of Wii accessories. Imation is also bringing back another relic from the predigital age, TDK, as a high-end line of stereo gear.

The company plans to sell speakers, turntables, and other audio gear costing as much as $500 under the label TDK brand.

Imation says: “The combination of having good solid technology along with a portfolio of brands and a goal of differentiation is going to set us apart.”

Full article:

How cool are you? …. Quick, what are the top 10 booze brands?

May 13, 2010

The World’s Most Powerful Spirits & Wine Brands, 2010


Smirnoff‘Smirnoff  launched a wide range of flavoured variants and a number of quality variants.

It faces fresh challenges at the top end from Absolut  and Grey Goose.

It is also being undermined from below, from the likes of Svedka – the highest new entrant in 2010 – and Eristoff. 

Johnnie WalkerJohnnie Walker has had a pretty tough year with volumes down 11%.

However, Johnnie Walker still remains the most powerful whisky brand in the world outstripping its nearest rivals by some margin – three times bigger than its nearest Scotch rival, J&B,


Barcardi is the rum market …

The brand leverages its relationship with music which helps drive relevance and volume in the nightclubs and bars on which it so much depends.

Martini VermouthThe sustained appeal of cocktails and Martini’s consistent association and sponsorship of glamorous events …

Positioning Martini as a versatile summer long drink and pitcher option when mixed with fruit juice will extend the brand’s relevance and opportunities for consumption.

HennessyFrench brand Hennessy is the most powerful cognac brand in the world.

The Hennessy brand remains incredibly strong and continues to be a hit with the rap community which has adopted the brand as its own. This association with some of the world’s hippest stars ensures Hennessy’s continued cultural relevance and presence among the world’s most powerful spirits brands.

Jack Daniel'sIts iconic square bottle and black and white label help differentiate Jack Daniel’s from the rest of the whiskey market.

Jack Daniel’s volumes increased slightly in one of the most difficult years for a generation, testament to the brand’s strength and loyal following.

AbsolutAbsolut has lost its status as the world’s strongest vodka brand to Smirnoff.

However, Absolut’s history of innovative marketing activities, that have given it its unique position in the market, gives the brand a solid platform from which to regain its crown.


Chivas RegalChivas Regal’s premium range of aged whisky continues to be appreciated as one of the finest in the world.

The brand’s premium status is supported with sponsorship of premium creative events such as Chivas and Cannes Film Festival.


Captain MorganCaptain Morgan reached the top 10 by entering into the spirit of social media trend, accumulating over 200,000 Facebook fans.


Ballantine'sBallentine’s  caters for different tastes, giving consumers choice without having to leave the brand.

The brand is beginning to make inroads into the lucrative cocktail market …  introducing the  brand to a new generation of loyal followers.


BP’s brand equity … it’s leaking, too.

May 5, 2010

Some Homa family members avoided Exxon stations like the plague after the Valdez accident.  My bet: they weren’t alone.

Same fate for BP (nee British Petroleum} ?

Early data says yes — BP has gone from being No. 1 in its category in a brand-loyalty index maintained by research company Brand Keys — to dead last.

Next question for BP: how to restore its brand equity ?

Good news for BP: no signifcant retail competitors except , well, Exxon.

Excerpted from BrandChannel: BP’s Brand: Is the Damage Done?, May 3, 2010

BP’s brand equity has exploded almost as quickly as its faulty well mechanism at the bottom of the Gulf. Reportedly, BP has gone from being No. 1 in its category in the brand-loyalty index maintained by Brand Keys — to dead last.

Part of BP’s long-term problem will be that the company has gone so far out of its way over the last several years to position itself as the “green” oil company, with a sunny new logo composed of green and yellow; a new slogan, “Beyond Petroleum,” and the playing up of the BP acronym instead of its name; and its boasts about alternative-energy initiatives such as wind farms.

All of that seems laughably hollow now as BP is unmasked as – gasp! – basically an oil company — drilling the world’s deepest wells in the Gulf of Mexico, scouring for oil in the Arctic, squeezing natural gas from the rocks of Oman.

British Petroleum must fight to not join the ranks of all-time corporate villains, a list that includes fellow oil giant Exxon Mobil, which achieved infamy for Alaska’s Valdez disaster in 1989.

While BP is adamant that it will clean up this spill — the bigger challenge may very well be cleaning up and restoring the BP brand.

Full article:

The power of branding … What does "BP" stand for ?

May 4, 2010

I’ve been a bit surprised that I haven’t heard or seen a single news report of the rig blast and oil spill that has referred to BP by its former name BRITISH PETROLEUM … or have made reference to the fact that its the UK’s largest corporation.

Now, I imagine that there have been some references that I’ve missed.  The bigger points are:

(1) Why the hush-hush ? the omission strikes me as odd — certainly the reports would be different if the company were, say, formerly known as Bush Petroleum 

(2) Why haven’t we heard a peep from the British government ?maybe because they’re in an election cycle

(3) Isn’t branding a powerful tool ?imagine if the company was still called British Petroleum.

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For the record … right from the people’s encyclopedia:

BP is the UK’s largest corporation.

BP plc (formerly The British Petroleum Company plc then BP Amoco plc) is a British global energy company that is the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest company in the world.

The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six “supermajors” (vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies).

The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

British Petroleum merged with Amoco (formerly Standard Oil of Indiana) in December 1998, becoming BPAmoco until 2000 when it was renamed BP and adopted the tagline “Beyond Petroleum,” which remains in use today.

The company states that BP was never meant to be an abbreviation of its tagline.


If you’re opposed to the illegal immigration law … then boycott Arizona (Tea) … huh ?

April 30, 2010

The problem: Other than its brand name, Arizona Tea has nothing to do with the state of Arizona … it’s brewed in New York. 

Ready  =>  shoot  => aim …

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Excerpted from NY Daily News: Opponents of immigration law call for boycott of Arizona Iced Tea, April 28th 2010

Arizona’s new state law allows cops to demand citizenship papers from anyone they stop for a violation and think looks illegal.

Opponents of Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law are calling for a boycott of the state’s products – including the popular Arizona Iced Tea.

The problem: Arizona Iced Tea is actually brewed in New York.

Misguided tea fans vowed to switch to Lipton or Snapple:

  • “Dear Arizona: If you don’t change your immigration policy, I will have to stop drinking your enjoyable brand of iced tea” 
  • “It is the drink of fascists”.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1992, the firm was based in Queens before moving into a new $35 million headquarters in Nassau County last year.

Actual Arizona firms facing a boycott: Cold Stone Creamery, U-Haul and Best Western.

Full article:

An undercover look at a television show’s impact on a brand

April 27, 2010

Key Takeaway: With viewership that can reach in the tens of millions, popular television shows tend to be the golden child of advertising. Perhaps the only thing better than having a 30-second commercial is having an entire show focus on your product…right?

A study looked at how CBS’ hit show, Undercover Boss, has influenced three establishments. The research shows that while perceptions improved in the short-run, they ultimately drifted back towards the pre-show numbers.

It goes to show that while you can expect television to create buzz around your product, it cannot be the only tactic if trying to change your brand image.

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Excerpted from Brandweek, “‘Undercover’ Boosts Brands?” April 23, 2010

Retail chains with negative reputations expecting big, long-lasting buzz boosts from appearances on CBS’ Undercover Boss better think again.

YouGov’s BrandIndex examined three establishments featured on the hit program to learn if the exposure persuaded consumers that these were places they’d consider working for.

7-Eleven received the lowest reputation score in the Grocery Store sector, so the timing was ideal for the February 21 broadcast.
President and CEO Joseph DePinto’s disguised himself as a trainee on the night shift in a Long Island, N.Y., store, where one employee confides that he’d never recommend working at the chain because it’s a dead end job.

That out-of-the-blue upbeat finale moved the meter only slightly for 7-Eleven — from -23.1 on the night the show aired to a short-term gain of a couple of points. However, in the long run, the chain made it as high as -17.2, and is now tracking at -19.3, a decent amount above its -24.7 score from January 1

Dave Rife — great-grandson of the hamburger chain’s founder — was surrounded by relatives, expensive cars and a personal trainer when his turn to work undercover arrived on February 28.

After revealing his identity, he told an employee to start a wellness program. He also handed out two $5,000 checks: one to an aspiring cook as a scholarship, and another to a worker for a “leaders of tomorrow” program.
That resonated the most with consumers, who sent White Castle’s reputation score upwards from -11.4 to -5.9 in a matter of three weeks. The brand has since settled in at -9.8, just a few points higher than the January 1 score of -13.4.

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain has had one of the most undesirable workplace perceptions in the dining sector, so the appearance of president and CEO Coby G. Brooks on Valentine’s Day couldn’t have come at a better time. The chain’s reputation low point of the year came on January 21, with -31.1, around the same time the owners who licensed the brand name for Las Vegas’ Hooters Hotel and Casino announced they had “substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.”

Hooters’ reputation score got a modest shot in the arm, as it climbed leading up to the February 14 airing, hitting -26.2. It then moved up to -23.7 in late March — the chain’s highest score since November 2009. However, Hooters has slid to -27.7 — and its very existence is shaky now that it has one month to find a buyer to resolve a legal brawl over Coby Brooks’ father’s estate.

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ObamaCare and New Coke

April 26, 2010

Punchline: “Admitting a mistake is almost constitutionally impossible for today’s corporate chiefs, and even harder for politicians. Sometimes it’s best to admit your mistakes. Presidents, like CEOs, can pay a steep price for not admitting error.”

Note: My students will know that I’m conflicted on this one.  While I like the message and the implied recommendation, I may be the last living person who thinks that New Coke was a strategic coup — it got Coke plenty of heightened exposure, it strengthened ties with the Classic Coke buyer (when Classic was promptly re-introduced), it got Coke extra shelf facings (New Coke + Classic Coke), and it provided the flavor formula for Diet Coke (<= bet you didn’t know that).

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Excerpted from WSJ:  ObamaCare and New Coke, April 24, 2010

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the introduction of “New Coke.”

New Coke was not just another product launch: It crossed over from product marketing into the social and political sphere.

New Coke was introduced by the company with high hopes: It was a drink that consumers in blind taste tests rated superior not only to Pepsi, but also to Coca-Cola.

Despite consumers’ immediate acceptance of the new beverage and an initial jump in sales, resistance began to form in small protests around the country. Sales began to lag.

The objection was not so much to the new product itself, but to the company’s hubris in removing the traditional Coca-Cola from the shelves to make way for the new.

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There may be some lessons here regarding ObamaCare.

Just as most Americans were happy with the old Coke, 85% of Americans were happy with their own health-care plans at the time that ObamaCare was introduced.

In essence, those plans were taken away from them in the same way the old Coke was taken away.

And, as was the case with New Coke, opposition has continued to grow.

This is personal for the American people.

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Faced with a successful launch but growing and vocal public resistance, the Coca-Cola Company’s leadership did the extraordinary.

Coke reversed paths and returned classic Coca-Cola to supermarket shelves just 77 days after the debut of New Coke.

Coke said: We were wrong, but at least we’re smart enough to listen to you.

People not only rejoiced, they rewarded the company with unprecedented gains in volume and market share.

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Full article:

Wallet’s are opening … for consumers and advertisers.

April 19, 2010

TakeAway:  Whew.   Consumers are spending again. But this sigh of relief is not heard in the halls of the big CPGs. 

The latest recession provided private-label brands with the momentum needed to overcome consumers’ quality perceptions and induce trial. 

The result: consumers liked or were at least satisfied with the PL products. 

Now that the economy is recovering and consumers have the dough to go back to the brand-name staple goods, companies are hoping that a long-held theory – more advertising will increase market share – will ensure that consumers trade-up for their staple goods.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Consumer-Goods Makers Pour Out Ads,” By Ellen Byron, April 12, 2010

As wary Americans start to crack open their wallets, household-goods makers like Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark and Clorox are cranking up their advertising, hoping to coax consumers farther out of their shells.

Amid signs of an improving economy, recent survey data show consumers are more willing to splurge by eating out or buying new shoes, but the same doesn’t necessarily hold for everyday household goods.

“In consumer staples, you saw consumers trade down” to cheaper products due to the recession, and they were “quite satisfied,” says chief executive of Consumer Edge Research.

To lure them back to premium products—and prices—brand-name manufacturers are churning out “new and improved” goods ranging from more-absorbent diapers, to specialized toothpastes to closer-shaving razors. The strategy relies on advertising to get the word out.

That’s one reason the industry’s ad spending is expected to grow in 2010. So far such spending has been running well ahead of 2009 levels, with year-to-year increases for household products of 15% in January and 11% in February …

P&G, the world’s biggest ad spender, plans a 20% increase in “consumer impressions,” or instances when consumers see its ads … and it will introduce 30% more “significant” innovations in products this year, which its CEO describes as the most in his 30-year career at the company …

The big-name marketers face the challenge of overcoming consumers’s newfound thrift. While U.S. sales of household staples have posted middling gains overall, sales of cheaper private label, or store-branded, goods, have risen more sharply.

In the four weeks ended March 20, overall U.S. sales of household and personal products increased 0.2% from a year earlier, compared with a 5.4% gain in private-label sales …

The new spending will test a long-held theory: that boosting a brand’s share of advertising beyond its market share will raise that market share. Among major household products, market share stayed the same or rose 64% of the time over the past 16 quarters when a company’s advertising reach exceeded its market share by 50% or more …

Some experts say winning over consumers will require not just advertising, but a new approach: emphasizing value.

“For many years, any hint of price was a no-no. It was all about generating emotional connections,” says chief brand strategist at consulting firm Portnoy Group:”Now you’re going to have to work harder to convince me that I’m getting much more value by trading up.. You need to show me that I’m getting more for my money, and it’s not frivolous.”

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LVHM’s luxury house of brands expands to include hotels

April 15, 2010

TakeAway:   LVMH made an interesting business decision when it decided that opening hotels was the best option to continue its corporate growth. 

Yes, it said that there were no good acquisition targets left in its core business area. 

Yes, it observed that other high-end brands had opened hotels. 

But, the hospitality business is very different from the luxury consumer goods business. 

Although hotels may be a good way for LVMH to expand its presence in the luxury market and provide a new point of sale for its luxury goods, this strategy could require LVMH to devote enormous marketing funds to gain customers in the already-crowded luxury hotel market and could backfire if the hotel experience does not meet customers’ expectations of the LVMH brand.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “LVMH Extends Posh Label To New Luxury Resorts,” By Christina Passariello, April 9, 2010

… LVHM, the world’s largest luxury-goods company, said Thursday it will develop resorts using the name of its Bordeaux winery, Cheval Blanc. 

LVMH tested the concept with a first location that opened in the French ski resort Courchevel in 2006. Two more hotels are scheduled to join the chain by 2012 in Oman and Egypt …

The project is “a natural extension of activities in luxury hospitality with Cheval Blanc,” LVMH said in a statement.

Like many top hotel operators, LVMH is limiting its exposure to the volatile hotel industry. It won’t own the real estate or finance construction, but will instead run the resorts under management contract, a similar model to other high-end chains such as The Ritz-Carlton …


The move shows how LVMH is trying to grow without resorting to costly acquisitions. Two years ago, the company pushed the boundaries of its luxury-goods universe to include yachts when it bought Dutch ship builder Royal Van Lent. A few years earlier, LVMH developed a new high-end rum, 10 Cane, instead of buying an existing brand.

LVMH grew throughout the 1990s and until 2001 thanks to expensive acquisitions. But many purchases … haven’t turned into major successes. Now, as the industry leader, there are few targets for LVMH that would have a significant impact on its growth.

LVMH’s hotels will be a showcase for many of its brands. The Cheval Blanc in Courchevel has a Givenchy spa, and visitors can buy its Louis Vuitton and Dior goods in the hotel.

Luxury brands have moved into the hotel business in recent years, looking for new ways to increase their presence …

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Mavericky Brand Building 101

April 12, 2010

Takeaway: Many folks make fun of her, but does Sarah Palin know more about brand building than we MBAs do?

In a matter of months, and against all odds, Palin built herself into a multi-million dollar national brand with droves of loyal followers. How many classically-trained marketing whizzes can boast the same?

Palin may not be able to see Russia from her house, but marketers take note, she is likely to understand many Americans better than we do. This begs the question: What can we learn from Palin?
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Excerpt from New York Times, “How Sarah Palin Became a Brand” by David Carr, April 4, 2010.

When Sarah Palin made her debut as the host of “Real American Stories” on Fox News, she described several triumphs of regular people over insurmountable odds, but she missed an obvious one: her own.

After her failed bid for the vice presidency, she was more or less told to head back to Alaska to serve out her term as governor.

Instead, she quit her day job and proceeded to become a one-woman national media empire, with the ratings and lucre to show for it.

With its tales of uplift and pluck, “Real American Stories” trades in the kind of easy sentimentality that provokes eye rolls among those of us who work in media while quickening the pulse and patriotic ardor of almost everyone else. At the beginning of the show, Ms. Palin promised that it would “reaffirm our pioneering spirit and unmatched generosity, here and around the world.”

“It’s not the kind of thing that’s going to excite you guys on the East Coast, but everyone else is dying to hear stories like these,” said one of her representatives.

Beyond her Tea Party theatrics, Palin has tunneled her own route into the public consciousness and gone into the Sarah Palin Across America business. And what a business it is.

She was paid a $1.25 million retainer by HarperCollins. Her book, “Going Rogue,” has sold 2.2 million copies, according to its publisher, and she has another tentatively scheduled for this fall.

She now has an actual television career, including appearances as a pundit on Fox News, her gig as the host of “Real American Stories” four times a year, and a coming eight-part series on TLC called “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which will cost, according to some media reports, $1 million an episode.

Other people have crossed the border from politics to media to very good effect — George Stephanopoulos, Patrick Buchanan and Chris Matthews, to name a few — but the transition was far more gradual. Ms. Palin turned on a dime and was a ratings sensation from the word go: her first paid appearance, as a commentator on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Jan. 12, was good for an extra million viewers.

Her appeal doesn’t stop at the red states. When Ms. Palin stopped by to chat with Oprah Winfrey — not exactly friendly territory — the show achieved its biggest ratings in two years.

Ms. Palin didn’t go on the show to run for president as much as to become the next Oprah. And it seems to be working. So what are the rest of us missing?

Back in September 2008, when she was unveiled in St. Paul during the Republican convention, a longtime political reporter told me that her appeal would burn off over time. I wondered about that. I’m from Minnesota, which is sometimes considered the southernmost tip of Alaska, and her way of speaking in credulous golly-gee may have been off-putting to some, but there is a kind of authenticity there that no image handler could conjure.

In Ms. Palin’s America, everyone’s got bootstraps; they just need to have the gumption to find them. And her version is full of plain old folks spending a lot of time overcoming a great deal, including a government that she posits usually intends to do them harm.

She’s also imported the political trick of coming from the outside and ruling from the center. When she sets down the ear piece and leaves the studio lights, even the way she says the word “media” in her speeches — “MEE-dee-uh” — makes it sound like something yucky and foul, a swamp to be avoided at all costs. Unless, of course, you are promoting a show, a book or a cause.

Many observers thought her unwillingness to serve out her term would be fatal to her ambitions, but the fact that governance did not suit her — she resigned as governor back in July — has become a kind of credential.

Ms. Palin still gets a session in the media spanking machine every time she does anything, but the disapproval seems to further cement the support of her loyalists. Ms. Palin may or may not be qualified to represent America around the world, but she certainly represents vast swaths of the American public and has a lucrative new career to show for it.

If we don’t see why, then maybe we deserve the “lamestream media” label she likes to give us.
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Memo to Playboy: Even a bunny knows when to stop …

April 9, 2010

TakeAway:  Playboy’s loyal collectors have followed the brand for decades and some have even dedicated entire wings of their houses to Playboy paraphernalia.

So, you know something has gone really wrong when these loyalists complain about Playboy’s latest category extensions. 

Though it is better to get consumers to switch within a brand franchise, it appears that Playboy has gone beyond the loyalists perceptions of fit.  Maybe Playboy executives need to step back and reacquaint themselves with the loyalists associations to and beliefs about the brand.   

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Excerpted from WSJ, “As Playboy Bunny Logo Multiplies, Collectors Are Barely Interested in It,” By Russell Adams, April 5, 2010

Over the past nine months, Playboy has turned its bunny loose, slapping its famous logo on a tanning spray, a disposable lighter, a mattress, a couch and a line of drinks designed to boost the libido.

The new Playboy paraphernalia should be welcome news for Ken Ritchie, who has a wing on his house precisely to hold stuff like this.

Ken has spent most of his adult life collecting and selling Playboy merchandise. For about a decade, he was spending $3,000 a month on paraphernalia … But Mr. Ritchie turns up his nose at what Playboy is selling now.

“These are a lot of silly things that have no connection with Playboy,” Mr. Ritchie says. “How many guys do you think are going to go out and buy navel rings because they’ve been licensed by Playboy? It’s not a must-have item.”

Playboy launched more than a magazine when it put Marilyn Monroe on its inaugural issue in 1953. It created a brand that came to represent a rebel ethos … Over the years Playboy Enterprises has capitalized on it by attaching its logo to nightclubs, cuff links and other trinkets.

As advertising has drained from its magazine, Playboy has come to rely more heavily on its licensing efforts. That’s rankled some core fans, highlighting the delicate task facing Playboy and other struggling magazine companies: how to capitalize on their brands without diminishing their value in the eyes of the people who cherish—and in some cases profit from—them most …

Playboy has been licensing its brand on an array of seemingly random products for decades … However Playboy has sought to usher the brand up-market during the last 20 years … canceled licensing contracts with makers of items such as fuzzy dice and air fresheners and instead targeted high-end apparel and accessories for women.

Playboy’s new CEO … is shifting gears, making expansion of licensing a priority. “I think we might have been a bit more conservative about category expansion previously” …

The CEO acknowledges that it is difficult to expand the high-margin licensing business and please hard-core collectors at the same time. The ubiquity that fuels strong sales is precisely what turns off collectors …

Still, the CEO says Playboy takes pains to determine whether new products will sully its media properties or other products. “So far, we can’t point to an example of a product we’ve licensed that we regret,” …

In February, Playboy reached a deal to outsource its licensing business in Asia, where Playboy-branded apparel has become especially popular among young women.

That doesn’t sit well with male collectors … they are reluctant to put on a Playboy shirt given the growing popularity of Playboy apparel among women. “Now it’s almost too feminine to wear something like that,” …

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How ROIDs can help bulk up profits

April 7, 2010

Key Takeaway: There is no doubt that a company’s marketing strategy and techniques must evolve over time. As consumer needs, desires, and beliefs change, it is important that organizations address these new insights.

ROIDs marketing focuses on four areas that can help enhance your analysis of the traditional P’s of marketing: responsibility marketing, organizational leadership, insights about customers, and digital marketing.

Perhaps when Mark McGwire recently admitted he ‘roided during his career he was just trying to tell us about his savvy marketing knowledge?

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Excerpted from Harvard Business Review, “Putting Marketing on ‘ROIDs'” by Dick Patton, March 1, 2010

In conversation after conversation, CEOs, presidents, and CMOs tell me that their companies are looking to marketing to lead the business into the customer-centric future. And in a future that looks vastly different from the past, natural talent no longer suffices. Looking ahead, they say they want to supplement the indispensable four P’s of the traditional marketing mix (product, price, placement and promotion) with some powerful new elements. They describe this potent brew in various ways, but I think its essential ingredients can be summed up in the easily remembered acronym: ROIDs.

  • Responsibility marketing, including social responsibility, green marketing, and sustainability
  • Organizational leadership, requiring marketing to touch as much of the value chain as possible
  • Insights about customers, based on new analytic techniques that replace yesterday’s market research
  • Digital marketing, requiring companies to master an amorphous bundle of fast-changing media 

    All four elements mean bulking up on knowledge, not simply improving marketing technique. In responsibility marketing alone, the required knowledge could range from understanding carbon footprint and endocrine disruptors to microloans and foreign labor practices. Organizational leadership requires knowing how each step in the value chain can add value for customers. Customer insights rely on exacting new disciplines like Web analytics. Digital marketing obviously means understanding an array of digital media, but with social networking it means knowledge of social dynamics, not merely customer behavior.

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  • Ball Park Franks turned Oscar Meyer into just another dog

    April 6, 2010

    Key Takeaway: Sometimes taking advantage of a deep consumer insight is all a brand needs to do in order to be the top dog in a category.

    Ball Park Franks, which focused for years on linking their product to the outdoor grilling experience, realized that mom is the one who does the vast majority of hot dog purchasing in the family.

    By concentrating their marketing efforts on mom’s ability to satisfy their family’s cravings for flavorful, high-quality food, Ball Park was able to appeal to both the purchaser and end-user of its product.

    There is no doubt that Ball Park’s profits plumped when they cooked up this strategy.

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    Excerpted from Brandweek, “How Sara Lee’s Ball Park Brand Became the Top Dog” by Elaine Wong, March 28, 2010

    For years, Ball Park was the No. 2 player in hot dogs. That is, until parent company Sara Lee—maker of Hillshire Farm meats and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches—turned to insights, backed by innovation, to take share from and ultimately usurp the lead spot from Kraft competitor Oscar Mayer…The brand’s ascension was informed by research which showed that moms were the primary buyers of the product, but that teenage boys, too, enjoyed eating it.

    Brandweek: At a recent industry conference, you spoke about how Sara Lee is using insights to drive innovation. Give us an example of how that worked for a major brand.

    Philippe Schaillee:

    For many years, we communicated Ball Park through traditional TV and print, primarily to a male audience. We had this character called Frank, and we’d talk about the grilling occasion and that great experience you’d get from [cooking with] Ball Park hot dogs.

    Looking back, I’d say that was [both] intuition and research-based, but it wasn’t really insights- based.

    As we dove much deeper into an understanding of the consumer and shopper, we learned a few things.

    One was that the brand was overindexing with males. They are looking for the heartiness and real quality of a Ball Park hot dog. But [the brand] was also overindexing more with teenage boys than with adult males.

    Once we learned that, we started to look into the shopper of this [brand] and learned that she was really looking for a hearty solution for her teenage son and husband.

    She [wanted something that wasn’t] just a lower quality snack or that would get them into this mindless eating behavior, but something that was solid, yet still fast and convenient. That [discovery] was a breakthrough.

    BW: And then what?

    PS: We decided we had an opportunity to build this platform around “guy foods.”

    However, the person we had to reach out to and that we had to convince from a purchasing behavior perspective was mom.

    So, from an activation perspective, we shifted our spending radically from what, before, was 80 percent against a male target, to 70 percent [to reach] this female shopper, and the other 30 percent was spent against [targeting] teenage boys.

    Our communication to teenage boys, [meanwhile,] was a radical departure from the past.

    Teenage boys watch TV, but they are absolutely not loyal. That is not where we should be spending our money, [nor do they] really read any magazines or newspapers. Where we have to be to reach that target is in the individual gaming and online action sports [arena]…

    We teamed up with a couple of sports spokespersons to build credibility and really ensure that the Ball Park brand would be [engaged in and participating in] the action sport, versus just advertising at [the event].

    As for business results, after having eternally been the No. 2 brand in the hot dog category, we overtook Oscar Mayer about two years ago, and we’ve been growing our share advantage every year.

    When looking at equity parameters like awareness and household penetration, our loyalty metrics are inching up, and we’ve seen that with teenage boys, especially. We’ve moved from being not on their radar screen to more on their radar screen.

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    A rose by any other name … Comcast rebrands as Xfinity

    April 2, 2010

    TakeAwayThe Comcast cable guy and his truck are getting a new look.

    With a reputation for poor service and network problems decided a new name might make people forget.

    We’ll see.

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    Excerpted from, “Comcast unveils new brand name and logo,” By Bob Fernandez, February 4, 2010

    Comcast  re-branded its TV, Internet, and telephone services as Xfinity  to signal to customers that this isn’t the same old company.

    Comcast will remain as the corporate name, but the company will emphasize Xfinity in advertisements and on 24,000 service trucks and thousands of employee uniforms.

    The new brand name first appeared in Comcast ads, around the time of the Winter Olympics, in Philadelphia and 10 other markets.

    “This is a pretty big moment where we are upgrading every product area … the new name communicates Comcast’s constant product upgrades and innovation.”

    The new brand name … will appear eventually as a logo on the Comcast TV guide and Web sites, and will also appear on customer bills under headings for different services …

    Xfinity seems to position the company to compete with Verizon, which markets its TV and Internet services as FiOS, and AT&T, which uses U-verse …

    This re-branding comes as Comcast has struggled to rebuild its reputation because of poor service and problems with its network that resulted in telephone and Internet outages. Its customer-satisfaction rating is among the lowest in the industry, but it has improved slightly in the last year.

    Comcast spokeswoman said the re-branding was not an attempt to distance the service from the Comcast name. “This is about our product. It is about providing our customers with products that just keep getting better” …

    Comcast tried to keep more customers happy by limiting its cable rate increases to 6.9 million subscribers in late 2009 compared with 16.2 million customers in the fourth quarter of 2008 …

    Comcast has been on a tear by boosting its Internet speeds, offering more TV channels as a result of its digital transition, and is adding features to its new phone service …

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    Red Bull’s extreme marketing …soccer in the U.S.?

    March 30, 2010

    TakeAway: When does a marketing playbook need to be adjusted? 

    Red Bull may provide us with an example very soon. 

    The U.S. energy drink category-leader just invested $220M in a struggling MLS team and a massive MLS stadium — an investment in, well, a non-extreme sport that doesn’t exactly match RB’s image.

    Soccer sponsorships have worked in other countries, but in the U.S. professional soccer has yet to generate even a fraction of the following that soccer boasts in the rest of the world. 

    And, it is very unclear how many soccer moms are going to let their young kids embrace this high caffeine drink.

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    Excerpted from WSJ, “Red Bull’s Latest Buzz: New Soccer Stadium,” By Matthew Futterman, March 18, 2010

    There may be easier ways to sell drinks than buying a struggling sports team and building the biggest soccer stadium the country has ever seen atop a former industrial-waste site.

    Yet that’s exactly the playbook Austrian “energy drink” maker Red Bull has been following for the past four years. The strategy will be unleashed this [last] weekend when the $220 million Red Bull Arena opens in Harrison, N.J. …

    The team [New York Red Bulls] and stadium represent the biggest and most visible foreign investment ever made in professional soccer in the U.S.— even as closely held Red Bull had flat revenue and faces challenges from rivals like Monster Energy, distributed by Coke, and Rockstar, distributed by Pepsi.

    “As soon as we decide to take part in a sport, we either do it properly or we don’t do it at all.”

    Still, 15 years into its existence, Major League Soccer boasts just two profitable teams, and a labor dispute with players has jeopardized the current season. The Red Bulls themselves … have been something of a flop …

    The venture is in keeping with the unorthodox marketing moves — including a festival for homemade flying machines and a half-pipe built for Olympic snowboarder Shaun White — Red Bull has become known for since its emergence in Europe in the late 1980s …

    “Edgy marketing is part of this category, and they’re the grand-daddy of energy drinks,” says publisher of Beverage Digest. “They’ve done a great job building their brand both here and in Europe.”

    Red Bull’s brand strength allowed it to outpace the industry last year in the U.S., when the premium-priced energy-drink market was growing at just 0.1% and Red Bull sales were up 1.1% …

    In the U.S., Red Bull has a 33% share of the energy-drink market by dollars, ahead of Coke’s Monster, which has a 27% share and holds second place. But Monster has been gaining with the help of its parent company, as has Pepsi’s Rockstar.

    Red Bull wields its identity as a rebellious category creator, associating itself mostly with activities and athletes that display a mix of courage and daring, such as Shawn White, the snowboarder sometimes known as the “Flying Tomato” for his shoulder-length red hair.

    Other sports stars the company favors include airborne surfers, dirt bikers, skiers, stunt specialists or race-car drivers more obsessed with speed than grounded team-sport athletes.

    It’s rare to see a Red Bull commercial on television — though the brand still gets plenty of play, whether it’s Britney Spears photographed drinking it or Lindsey Vonn sporting its logo on her helmet …

    Within the stadium, the company’s logo —two bulls butting horns in front of a yellow sun—is emblazoned on the lower-deck seats. Where some companies might have plastered billboards throughout the building, Red Bull CEO says the idea is to build his brand through the quality of the experience the arena offers …

    This project was about soccer … And selling caffeinated drinks.

    “Everything that we do is for the value and the image of the brand.”

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    From soup to nuts: Campbell’s turns to psychology for consumer insights

    March 23, 2010

    Takeaway: Consumer anxiety commonly runs high when companies discontinue iconic images — last year scores of consumers protested the redesigned Tropicana carton.

    In this high-stakes branding game, Campbell’s has sided with science and will soon abandon its widely-recognized red and white labels for a design the company believes will evoke a deeper emotional response from shoppers.

    To arrive at this decision, the company employed neuromarketing – an emerging discipline that augments traditional market research with analysis of consumers’ biometric responses to new stimuli.

    If successful, Campbell’s approach may provide marketers with powerful new tools for understanding their customers.
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    Excerpt from FastCompany, “Campbell’s Soup Neuromarketing Redux: There’s Chunks of Real Science in That Recipe” by Jennifer Williams, February 22, 2010.

    About a week ago, the Campbell’s publicized a bold redesign of its iconic label with the assistance of neuromarketing. Pundits promptly predicted brand suicide, decrying the company for using pseudo-science.

    With help from its parter Interscope Research, Campbell’s spent two years studying microscopic changes in skin moisture, heart rate, and other biometrics to see how consumers react to everything from pictures of bowls of soup to logo design.

    By the end of a two-year study, more than 1,500 subjects were interviewed and tested using multiple methodologies–which ranged from traditional consumer feedback to cutting edge neuromarketing techniques.

    The team used a combination of proprietary micro facial expression analysis obtained by in-store cameras, in-aisle eye tracking and pupilometry, and intercept interviews.

    One brand team member explained that the type of cutting edge technology they employed enhanced traditional methods of market research.

    An Innerscope researcher explains, “Companies that rely exclusively on traditional measures, focused only at the conscious level, are missing a critical component of what drives purchase behavior. The vast majority of brain processing (75 to 95%) is done below conscious awareness. Because emotional responses are unconscious, it is virtually impossible for people to fully identify what caused them through conscious measures such as surveys and focus groups.”

    Many argue that the new label design could just as easily been arrived at by a savvy designer with good instincts. Perhaps. After all, understanding that a steamy bowl of soup is likely to elicit a positive emotional response isn’t much of a leap.

    The end result offered many things that savvy design or consumer feedback alone could not have predicted. This fall, consumers can expect their soup shopping to be easier and more emotionally enjoyable than it is with Campbell’s current label. Flavor and style will be easily distinguished, and the familiar red logo will still be there. However, the logo will be smaller and out of the way in the scan and selection process, and the updated images will tap into emotions that consumers already associate with and want to feel about soup.

    Was this a case of a mere marketing fad masquerading as science meant to mesmerize corporate clients more than consumers? Campbell’s synchronizing of careful research done by three agencies–research which triangulated two years of data gathering and statistical analysis–looks a lot like genuine science.

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