McDonald's is rolling out new designs for its food packaging aimed at fortifying the brand and staying ahead of obesity concerns.
Like so many others her age, Casey Barber, 33, furnished her home with affordable basics from major retailers, pieces like that requisite “Ikea table that is still making the rounds after all these years,” she said. But when it came to accessories, Ms. Barber, a writer and the editor of the Web site Good.Food.Stories., took care to search out the unique and handmade — things that communicated her personality and a certain sense of authenticity.
The Authenticity Trend has been fully infiltrated into mainstream culture for years. We see its implications from politics to household products. Consumers are attracted to "the real." This is evident in the rise of farmers markets and the dislike of preservatives like parabens, for example. As if through a prism, when the recession hit, the Authenticity Trend evolved to that of "Imperfection." We still want "the real" but, now, we don't believe the hype. We sense when something is fishy and want to see behind the curtain. Think of those great Ally Bank ads with the pony. If nothing else, we learned from the recession that there is no such thing as "perfect."
If you had to name the business age we’re entering right now, what would it be? The Age of Meaning, Proof and Authenticity. In the past, you could largely succeed on reputation, image, pedigree, even performance. That’s not enough any more. Now you have to prove substance and sustainability across the board. From having a clear business vision and a structure that can support and advance it, to creating true and needed value.
When it comes to conversations, and specifically those conversations that are deemed valuable, I believe the overriding issue is authenticity. People tend to be pretty good at discerning who is real and who is merely a self-promoter, and power and influence tends to flow to those who are authentic. Do people want to converse with brands? I think that is the wrong question. The right question is "Do people want to converse with people who are authentic in their support of brands?" Starbucks the brand can't talk to you, but a passionate Starbucks employee can.
Things have changed a great deal in the last 18 months. Companies are getting serious about social media. And we've seen enough cases recently about mishandled situations in social media to bethinking about what makes sense as a team mix. In a quick email exchange about his post good agencies don't hire social media strategists, Sean Howard and I were musing that outsourcing digital is as much a risk as is hoping that a social media expert will save the day. Is there a role for agencies in the digital space?
Ben & Jerry's new chief executive, in Burlington for Free Cone Day, said corporate owner Unilever (UN) is "100% committed" to having Ben & Jerry's in the state where it began. Ben & Jerry's will remain anchored in Vermont, Jostein Solheim promised Tuesday after he scooped a few cones at the company's Church Street parlor, because of "the history and the authenticity of the culture and values." Free Cone Day for Ben & Jerry's, one of corporate owner Unilever 's 400 brands, was Solheim's second day on the job and it came with an appearance by Olympic medalist Hannah Teter, the snowboarder from Belmont, Vt. Although new to Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Solheim is a 19-year Unilever veteran. Fourteen of those years have been with the global conglomerate's ice cream division.
We've seen and heard this commercial a thousand times, the one with the flawless model posing in an ad for facial-blemish cream... an extremely powerful cleaner that removes every trace of dirt in one effortless wipe... the picture-perfect baby modeling the 100% waterproof diaper. In these scenarios, there's not even a hint of a single red spot, a stubborn stain, or a bedraggled mother. This is the story of the past 50 years of commercials, and they all have one thing in common: perfect brands in perfect environments. But there is a strong case to be made for imperfection. Nothing is ever perfect, and even when it appears to be so, we are subconsciously looking for the flaw. Because our point of connection lies in imperfection--it's what makes something unique and, ultimately, authentic.
There's still nothing like the real thing. Or so say food marketers looking to stand out in the mass-produced herd. What really is "real" could eventually be for the government to determine. In the meantime, real people drink Caribou, real dogs eat Alpo, real sandwiches have Hellmann's and Canada Dry ginger ale is made with real ginger. Don't bother taking notes, because Wendy's says "You know when it's real" anyway. Advertised "real" foods, products, services and even experiences aren't new, but they're on the rise.
It may have been easy to miss if you don't work in the world of corporate led cause related marketing, but Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) programs are in the midst of a crisis. The subject of the debate mainly centers around two big issues: brand value and authenticity. On the one hand, CSR programs are attacked by shareholder groups and business investors who argue that they are a needless distraction and remove money (and value) from the investors of a business. CSR programs are also attacked by industry watchdogs and groups who argue that businesses only engage in CSR programs to create an artificial connection with consumers and claim allegiance to causes they don't really care about. On the other side, those who work on these programs make a more idealist argument - that companies can do well and do good at the same time.
It took 30 years of playing guitar in Grand Central Terminal and on New York City streets, but Luke Ryan finally landed a corporate sponsor. Mr. Ryan, 58, usually plays a couple of mornings a week at Grand Central, making him a fixture there, whether commuters notice or not. On Thursday, Mr. Ryan had set up his microphone and speakers in front of where the Times Square shuttles scoot in and out, and there were near constant lines of people heading in both directions. Some people glanced at the source of the sound, some even tugged at their pockets as they passed as though retrieving a dollar, but no one dropped in any change.
Over the course of two days, I saw two stark examples of what could easily be considered the best and worst of airline advertising messages encompassed in two ads done for domestic US-based airlines.
Fear and savings are up. Consumer confidence teeters. We turn on the TV and hear media talk of the shame of the luxury goods buyer hiding newly purchased high-end extravagances in discount store shopping bags. If marketers looked closer and listened harder, they would realize that something else is afoot: Frugality is not antithetical with luxury. Let me explain.
There’s a blog post on MobileCrunch regarding a PR firm having their employees/interns put up fake product reviews on behalf of their clients. For the younger folk in the industry, let me make sure it’s clear that these techniques are nothing new. The difference is in today’s world the risks associated with such a move are so much higher, as you are more likely to get caught. For us to simply say “duh, don’t do it” just isn’t enough. The massive shift into self-publishing platforms (aka “the era of social media” – yawn) has radically enabled individuals to expose virtually every “truth” that’s out there.
Recent efforts to put a brand on Nigeria to attract tourists remind me of how easy it is slap a label on something and hope that its uglier characteristics will go away. Long before the phrase "lipstick on a pig" became an election issue, I had warned of the dangers of putting "lipstick on a bulldog" - that is, making superficial cosmetic change in organizations rather than looking at the real underlying problems. The problem with putting lipstick on a bulldog is that it is hard to wrestle the bulldog to the ground long enough to do it and then doesn't change the nature of the beast.
The Chipotle restaurant chain just announced that it will sponsor free screenings of the newly released documentary film, Food Inc. Kudos to them. There is something very authentic about allowing your brand to become vulnerable in this way. By inviting its customers to see the ugly truth, Chiptole is walking its talk of a responsible and healthy food movement.
Dear Old People Who Run the World, My generation would like to break up with you. Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.
As a marketing and communications professional, I stress simple, straightforward language in my work, and I’m always watching for the evolving lexicon of the market. Two words that have been showing up all over the blogosphere, Web and in print like they’re on sale are authenticity and authority. After reading scores of bogs and articles featuring one or both words, it struck me there were two schools of thought among web experts, bloggers and marketers about which was more important, or which begat the other.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about monetizing social networks. MySpace has swapped out much of its senior leadership with talent more experienced in marketing. Facebook is floating plans to launch an ad network someday. Both services already put ads on their sites, sell sponsorships, etc. Most, if not all, of these kinds of efforts focus on using social networks as glorified channels for branding. Companies hope to sell things by paying to put their brands in front of consumers as they’re on their way to, doing things at, and planning to leave their networked communities. How is this any different than putting up billboards on the way to the fair? Is it possible that the true value of social networks could be derived from seeing them as places?
Best Buy plans to expand significantly its private label technology products business, believing that customer feedback in its stores will let it make simple improvements that the big name brands might miss. Such vertical integration might be torn right from Capitalism 101, but I'm not sure that I buy it.
When companies use print and broadcast media channels, it’s important to have a brand voice so that brand messages to customers are consistent, regardless of channel. Social media channels require different voices, according to Shiv Singh, VP of Social Media for Razorfish. At the 2009 Razorfish Client Summit, Singh said that being effective of social media platforms requires a transparency and authenticity. As a result, he said that companies that attempt to perpetuate a single all-encompassing brand voice are likely to fail. “When you see the companies that are most effective , you’ll notice that they are using social medial voices — not brand voices,” Singh said.
Advertising has long been criticized for making hollow unbelievable and overblown promises that aren't grounded and simply pandering to people's emotions. The public has gotten sick of this stuff, which presents a problem for clients and their agencies who want to say something big. I think T-Mobile in the UK has gotten it right.
People expect companies to do more than just sell stuff. They want to know what you stand for, what choices you make as a result and what difference that could make in the world. So when it comes to people making their brand choices, Cause Marketing can be a tiebreaker. Almost 80% of Americans are more likely to switch to the brand supporting a good cause over a competitor with the same price and quality. But Cause Marketing is not just about photo opportunities, oversized checks and warm fuzzies. It can be an opportunity to turn commercial interest into real change.
A television commercial for the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio presents Austin, who is 14 and bald from chemotherapy, wearing a blue varsity jacket while seated in a rocking chair. “I don’t really see like how this all happened — the whole cancer situation,” says Austin, over footage of his playing basketball in his school gym, and walking down a hallway in a hospital gown. “It just blows my mind that I end up getting it. I knew as soon as the doctor told me, I was like, ‘I’m going to beat it, no matter what. It’s just a disease.’ ” It is emblematic of a new approach to advertising by hospitals — an industry that, despite the recession, is not slashing ad spending.
"Know your consumer" is a business commandment certain to be deeply ingrained at the heart of any successful company. Never, however, has that consumer morphed so quickly or become so elusive. It is important for marketers to grasp and understand the key drivers of this new empowered consumer, one who has grown up with brand new perspectives and redefined the interplay of communications, relationships, brands, technology and media. This is Consumer 2.0.
If you are among the millions of Americans dreading the next few days until April 15th, you are not alone. Tax season is upon us and as every form of media conspires to remind you of the significance of Wednesday, whether you do your own taxes or not, you are likely feeling some pressure. In this midst of this 1099-imposed national rise in stress, TurboTax (a leading self-service software solution to do your own taxes) is finding their authenticity through social media and helping to reduce (if not to remove) the stress involved in these last few days of taxes.
Kodak has just announced its new "Print and Prosper" marketing campaign, and I think it's utterly brilliant branding. The premise is simple: Kodak printers use cheaper ink without sacrificing quality, so they cost less to use. As most everyone knows, at least viscerally, cartridges are the not-so-secret whammy that lets HP, Lexmark, Brother, and the other manufacturers push down the hardware cost..and then recoup everything, and more, through ink usage over time.
Kimberly-Clark's Depend brand is rolling out the first gender-specific underwear in the $1.2 billion adult care category with the largest single ad push in the history of the brand.
I’ve been thinking about a central marketing issue, as both a consumer and as a branding and design consultant. The issue of trust.
Character licensing is nothing new to the Disney brand, dating back to Walt Disney licensing the Mickey Mouse image for use on a children’s writing tablet in 1929. Eighty years later, Disney says it has shifted from a strictly licensing business model to a consumer products firm capable of multifaceted strategies for innovation, quality and integrated branding efforts.
Justin Timberlake is launching a new Tequila called 901, referring to the area code of Memphis, his former hometown.
As the economic crisis continues, so does the hibernating. We are becoming more of a "hiber-nation" as families hunker down to weather the storm with more time spent at home and less out spending at malls and restaurants. (Movie sales are up but that's an annex of the hibernation cave that helps us to escape for a few hours). With families spending more time together at home, they are slowing down, bonding differently and discovering joy in spending real time together. Moms are enjoying the experience of a stronger family unit. And, as head of domestic purchasing, Moms are finding strength and are taking pride in not buying.
Jack has risen, hallelujah. After being hit by a bus in a Super Bowl TV/Web commercial Feb. 1, Jack -- the grand-tete CEO-mascot of Jack in the Box -- emerged from his coma March 4, newly inspired. At Jack's direction, the San Diego-based restaurant chain will undertake a brand makeover this spring, including a new logo (Duffy & Partners, Minneapolis), redesigned store environments and a new corporate website that launched Monday.
I am worried about Twitter. I love it the way it is today. But it's about to change big time, and I wonder whether it can survive the transition.
When businesses open an account on Twitter, they must consider the right “Brand Voice.” One that is appropriate for what they want to say, and who they want to reach. This is a different sort of voice than the one companies have been familiar with in their traditional print and broadcast media channels, as it’s a more open and authentic form of communication.
After years of cool marketing campaigns revolving around football, music and latterly computer gaming, the world’s most famous brand is going back to basics. Coca-Cola has been communicating about its product, what’s in it ("Nothing artificial. Never had been, never will be") and the product heritage, dating back to 1886 when John Pemberton created his secret formula.
Why should anyone care about brands in times like these? Because it's during these times of transition, internally or through market shifts, that businesses simultaneously have the highest level of vulnerability and opportunity. Those responsible for shaping and maintaining a brand have much more influence over whether the current news climate weakens or strengthens their brand than they may realize.
We live in an age where the Internet and the telephone have created enormous scale and opportunity for businesses large and small. For the most part, this has been a good thing, allowing companies to reach, acquire and serve more customers than ever before. While this reach and scale has helped to foster innovation at an unprecedented rate, it has also served to disintermediate companies from their customers.
Cheap, imperfect product knock-offs are the bane of a branded products business, right? They pollute the value equation, and risk diluting the brand with ersatz materials, attributes, and associations. So why would a fashion brand create a knock-off brand on purpose? That's exactly what a South African T-shirt company called Love Jozi did...for two years, until it admitted to the ruse just before Christmas last year.