On July 30, 1993, the Missouri river’s Monarch Levee buckled, flooding Chesterfield Valley, Missouri. The rising waters quickly submerged a 10x30 public storage locker a few miles from the breach, drowning 15 years of my family’s accumulated artifacts. 15 years of photo albums. Within hours, our Kodak moments dissolved in a toxic bath of runoff and gasoline. Gone forever.
In 2007, I lauded BP's rebranding for its aesthetics and the company's willingness to position itself at the forefront of social and cultural debate. But I questioned its ability and willingness to "walk the walk" of its "beyond petroleum" talk. Sadly, the Gulf of Mexico spill will prove an excellent case study on the perils of disingenuous branding.
Going to market effectively these days, no matter what business you're in, means relating to customers as individuals — even if there are millions of them.
From globally recognized brands to startup organizations, many of the problems that keep marketers up at night boil down to gaps in operational structure.
I really like the ad campaign that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been running for a while now. I just wish it was better, and I wish the USPS was doing more. The ads -- I'm guessing the campaign is called "If it fits, it ships" -- fire on all cylinders.
Leave it to the company that so many people love to hate to first reinvent corporate social responsibility ("CSR") and now take on marketing. Walmart has announced that it's creating a new function, called "marketing operations," and slotting its architect of corporate sustainability into the role, and it's taking its private brands marketer and putting her into the sustainability job. These moves say profound things about the marketing world, how Walmart is reinventing it and, by default, how it's leaving other marketers in the dust.
Eliminating co-pilots; offering standing-only cabins; asking customers to work the baggage conveyor belt – these are the things Michael O’Leary dreams of. As CEO of Ryanair, O’Leary loves to propose provocative potential developments for his airline. Does he do it because he’s a rabble-rousing PR machine or because he’s a shrewd businessman – or both? I don’t know. But I do know that I both hate his brand and love it at the same time.
Despite having more aggressively mounted an original-content strategy this year, Yahoo posted middling revenue for the second quarter, booking $1.13 billion, representing a 0.7% drop from the same period last year. More tellingly, that figure is down 16% from 2008, suggesting the portal giant hasn't fully recovered from the recession's effects on digital advertising.
BP's name now is inextricably linked with the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history. No amount of public relations razzle-dazzle can change that reality. And while oil still is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, almost any step that even seems like PR has a risk of backfiring.
I am in Tampa waiting to fly back home to New Jersey and, thanks to the snowicane but rather than sitting in the usual information vacuum to which airlines subject us, I am watching as Continental shows us the status of the flights that were supposed to bring our jet in from LA to Cleveland to Newark to Tampa. I saw the flight to Cleveland canceled, then the one to Newark canceled, and I figured we were doomed when I saw the aircraft number for my flight erased. But then I saw us assigned a new jet, one that flew into Tampa from Houston last night. That’s simply amazing. Continental is practicing operational transparency. It opened up information is already has to us, the customers, so we can be informed and empowered.
General Motors Co will wind down operations at Saab, its money-losing Swedish unit, after a last-ditch attempt to sell it to small Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker Cars failed, the automaker said on Friday.
In the last couple of weeks, we've been talking about leveraging content to start or continue a conversation with your customers or prospects. Offering something of value in exchange for attention towards a mutually accepted goal or direction goes to the heart of communications. There is still plenty of unrealized opportunity for B2B companies to unlock this value through social media. That's because the greatest value to the organization that gets involved in social media is not the cool promotional glitz. We talk about customer support regularly. What about customer acquisition and real time retention? We kind of know about new product ideas. What about strategic business intelligence? These more operational business ideas go along with humanizing the organization, establishing yourself as a thought leader, and tracking marketing effectiveness.
Bucking the rewards-cutting trend at some organizations, PepsiCo has announced the expansion of its global recognition program. The beverage and snack giant announced, last week, that it has created the “Chairman’s Circle of Champions” to reward the company’s top operations associates around the world. The new award program focuses on backend employees for their strong performance in areas such as safety, job performance, service and even people skills. Recipients will be recognized for their accomplishments at a three- to four-day event in New York where they can also receive training to enhance their work performance upon their return. Top leaders from the company will give presentations and breakout sessions will be held. Winners will also go on tours of the city and the trip will culminate with an awards ceremony.
Iceland edged further towards the margins of the global economy yesterday when McDonald's announced the closure of its three restaurants in the crisis-hit country and said that it had no plans to return. The move will see Iceland, one of the world's wealthiest nations per capita until the collapse of its banking sector last year, join Albania, Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in a small band of European countries without a McDonald's. The loss of the golden arches highlights the extent of Iceland's economic demise since the pre-crisis boom years when its "Viking raider" entrepreneurs turned Reykjavik into an international finance centre and launched a buying spree of high-profile European assets.
It was not so long ago that employees in most retail environments were held in little regard by marketing teams. Sure, there was some training, but in the main they were under utilized as brand communicators. This was obviously something of an oversight and since the sale of Zappos to Amazon and the 12 page essay on the company in The New Yorker, it's now fashionable to make sure employees are a critical part of your brand arsenal. The latest case is Starbucks who seem keen to shine a light on the diversity and personality of its employee base and is turning to user generated content to collect the stories.
Sheraton is giving away free nights in dozens of its locations as part of a campaign to promote the $6 billion it has spent on renovations. It's a missed opportunity to do more for its brand and business. Staying at a Sheraton has always been a hit-or-miss proposition. I don't know if the differences in facilities are due to uneven franchisees and/or poor central management, but I can attest from personal experience that some Sheratons have been shockingly terrible, and others have qualified as just stunningly OK. An overhaul has been long overdue, and it's a really good thing. But the project is incomplete; less than half of the hotel's locations have been updated.
It's doubly depressing to see Saturn make its final bow. Depressing, because it's always hard to watch loyal employees lose their jobs. Depressing, too, because many of the brand's newly written obituaries completely miss the real reasons behind Saturn's demise, and the real damage the brand did to GM. To understand why Saturn was destined to fail you must travel back to a freezing cold January day in 1985 in Warren, Michigan.
As Citigroup mulls over closing some of its 1,000 or so branches in the U.S. and Canada, it has been exploring technology solutions in a project it calls "Bank of the Future." It hired someone from Travelocity.com to lead the project. "Citi after all invented the ATM and was once a leader in consumer banking technology," explained CEO Vikram Pandit earlier this month. "It is our aim to make sure we regain that edge." He also said that the key to growth was "much, much better execution." Supposedly the company is looking at possible future Internet and cell phone tools. I think it should focus more on the present.
You’re going to hear more and more people in the social media space start using the term “social business” in the coming months. It will likely replace “community building” as the corporate catch phrase of the moment. Trend setters in the industry like Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Peter Kim and random other former Forrester Research employees now cashing in are already tossing it around. It puts a prettier wrapping paper on the larger payoff for what social media thinkers do. What the term implies, at least from my perspective, is that the business in question, or what they’re trying to sell you, is one that is not driven by products or services.
It’s easy to blame a brand bankruptcy on the economy, but it may be more complicated than that. “The brutality of this economy is not only exposing toxic assets, but poorly differentiated brands,” says John Gerzema, author of the best-selling book The Brand Bubble. “Many had a common inability to build strong brand differentiation and lead the consumer forward. Deficits that became that much more apparent in times like these”. Gerzema’s point is well taken. In his book, Gerzema addresses the changing role of the consumer when it comes to assessing brands. He says consumers “are increasingly acting like investors. They have heightened expectations for brands to continuously surprise, adapt, and evolve.” Brands that go bankrupt, Gerzema says, “aren’t evolving, or aren’t different enough to begin with.”
"We're sorry." That's what you say when a large number of your customers are upset with you. AT&T customers have been complaining for months about dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and slow download speeds for the iPhone. So, AT&T released this video on YouTube.
I frequently preach to my peers at Clickable that the marketing team is NOT the "marketing business unit." Rather, the marketing team IS the entire company and our external stakeholders. We all contribute to the product, experience and culture that forges our reputation and business success. Departmental structures help drive accountability. But if marketing is not fully embraced as part of everyone's job, then the firm is strategically disadvantaged. Which is why I was delighted by three events that occurred at our startup this week. Specifically, three significant marketing and business development contributions came from unexpected places.
Here is a tale of two businesses. There is good news and there is bad news. Let's try and stay positive. Good news first. Hiscox, the insurance company, announced some impressive results last week - a 30 per cent increase in pre-tax profits in the first half of the year. The company has outperformed most of its rivals at a difficult time. Something is going seriously right. I trawled through my paperwork and found the notes from a conversation I'd had with Bronek Masojada, Hiscox's chief executive, some time ago. The topic for that conversation had been the rather abstract concept of the "employer brand". You might not feel that an employer brand would have a great deal to do with your decision to pick company X over company Y to insure the contents of your house. Indeed, you might feel that the term is a typical example of business's unfailing ability to invent grand-sounding but ultimately flaky jargon. Secretly, you might not really know what an employer brand is at all.
In a couple of weeks we’ll be partnering with Microsoft to give a joint presentation to some IT and Marketing directors about the idea that their two disciplines are starting to (or needing to) work much more closely these days. Regular readers will recognise this as a favourite theme of ours - we like to think that the best marketing ideas are actually company operations that happen to be really appealing or compelling to customers too. One of the many advantages of this line of thought is that marketing is completely integrated into the business and you don’t have to spend money to build marketing programs that then build your business, you simply spend money on building your business.
No, not its inane brand image campaign and logo nonsense. I'm talking about its announced intention to spend $6 billion to take control of its bottling and distribution operations. I think it is the smartest branding move the company has made in recent memory.
Cable station AMC has announced a new slogan -- "Story matters here" -- and plans to market new original programming and themed movie nights. I'm intrigued by the idea that the station could give itself an identity, of sorts, perhaps in the spirit (if not the exact execution) of a Disney and its kid movies. It makes sense as a branding strategy, especially when you consider the wash of cable programming, and how tough it is to make money in the content distribution business.
It's a big deal when a major corporation pledges to cut its carbon footprint--every detail of energy and transportation use needs to be taken into account--and it's an even bigger deal when a company as large as Microsoft says that it will reduce its carbon footprint by 30% compared to 2007 levels in the next three years. The company hasn't provided details on its 2007 carbon emissions, but it's safe to assume that Microsoft will be making some serious changes.