Starbucks or Tim’s? If you’re in Canada, it’s clearly Tim Horton’s. if you’re a Starbucks fan, you’re likely pissed right now and hopefully ready to engage. But I imagine there are not a slew of Coffee Time loyalists ready to pounce.
What Tim’s has done so well, is they have turned a lonely little donut shop into a brand envy. Back in 1980, there were no signs of greatness, evidenced by this TV Ad: Functional. Just another donut shop.
Brands travel along a pathway from indifferent to like it to love it, most brands getting stuck. At the INDIFFERENT stage, it is basic needs and “it will do”. You never see a line up at Coffee Time. Tim’s has reached LOVE IT. It’s possessive, outspoken and unrelenting–willing to add 15 minutes to their morning drive.
Yes Tim’s has very good coffee and good quality in everything they do. But it’s more than that. Tim’s layers in deeply emotional connections to the community, into the lives of families and into the Canadian mystique.
Kids play in Tim Bits hockey, at lunch people go on a “Timmies Run”. The TV ad from last year featuring Sidney Crosby showing him as a Tim Bit player all the way up to current gave you goose bumps as a Canadian watching it. Wow. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44SrGGU1was]
Media buy is a gentle mix of new product ads with deeply emotional. Goosebumps, tears, exciting, all comes back to building that emotional connection. The spot in the Olympics made me proud to be Canadian. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlYfqSDJ6ig&feature=related]
They’ve continued expansion plans, across Canada and now into NYC. For you, is it the coffee, is it comfort or the Canadiana or is a bit of all three that keep you coming back? Getting to the Love It stage drives real brand value. The stock price has nearly doubled the past 5 years going up from $26 up to $48.
The Leafs are clearly the most Beloved Brand in Hockey. While there are lots of great fans of great teams, the Leafs stand alone with insane fans about a bad hockey team. The Leafs have not made the playoffs since 2004 and have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, yet it has a following like no other hockey team. Most of the other Beloved sports Teams, whether it’s the Yankees or Man U or the Montreal Canadiens all reward their fans constantly with victories. It’s not very hard to be a fan of a team that has won 25 championships. But with a few teams like the Leafs or the Chicago Cubs, it’s not easy being a fan. Constant let down and heart break. The connection to the Leafs is not a rational one, but rather an irrational choice–or as Hotspex would say “e” rational that talks to the EMOTIONAL connection.
Let’s look at how the Leafs business model works. 1. Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan. They have strong luxury box sales and a strong base of seasons tickets. Season Tickets are passed down to family members in wills. At Pfizer, we put our name on the waiting list and they said it could be up to 40 years to get tickets. If you do have tickets, you can easily scalp them for twice the value on game night. 2. Every game is on TV, with strong ratings–a usual top 20 in the ratings for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights. In fact, if CBC every lost HNIC, it’s possibly the end of the network. The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes. 3. The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 52 sponsors on it’s roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks. 4. Merchandise sales are very strong. The Leafs have just announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey. Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey. This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people. 5. Control of Costs works for the Leafs. In the 90s, as the Canadian dollar slid, players started to demand being paid in US dollars. Since that decision, the dollar has gone from 63 cents to parity and the Leafs bottom line has benefitted. In terms of Brand as a Business System, the Leafs get it. They derive all their value from their brand.
If we look at the hockey results, the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. So let’s use 2004 and 2010 as the basis for comparison on numbers. In those six years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117million to $187million. In the last year, with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!! And because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57million. That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about. The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs value go from $280million in 2004 up to $505 million in 2010–making it the #1 valued team in hockey. Seven years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.
Compare the Leafs to the Red Wings, who use the slogan “HOCKEY TOWN”. The Red Wings are clearly the best hockey team in the past decade, best win percentage, most playoff appearances, most Stanley Cups. Let’s use 2004 and 2010 again. In those six years, Detroit’s revenue has gone up from $97million to $117million, a gain of 20% while the Leafs revenue were up 60% over the same period. Ticket sales are actually down at Joe Louis arena by about 10%. While the Red Wings made back to back Stanley Cup finals, you could have actually gotten a ticket at face value the day before one of the games. The value of Red Wings team has gone from $248million up to $315million, a solid gain of 27% in value but dwarfed in comparision to the Leafs 80% gain in value over the same period.
Now, we must come to the question of why? Are Leaf fans crazy? I do remember a few years ago, on Trade Deadline day in late February, there was a quote from a fan who said “I can’t believe I took the day off from work to watch the Trade Deadline and my Leafs didn’t do anything”. That’s borderline crazy. The Leafs are the eternal underdog, where the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself. But we might not ever find out. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the Leafs WILL NOT win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime. And yet, I remain a fan. If they ever do win the cup, I’m not sure if the team’s value will go up or even down from there. Debate all you want, we may never find out.
Toronto likes to think of itself as the centre of the hockey universe. Not even close. Name me great hockey heroes from Toronto and the list is much shorter than that of Montreal. In fact, on a per capita basis, Saskatchewan is the true centre of the hockey universe. Most hockey superstars are from the remote locations like Perry Sound, Brantford or Flin Flon Manitoba. Maybe Stamkos will be the one that breaks through the top 50 all time. In the past 30 years, it sure hasn’t been the great players on the team. The Leafs have only had two players, Gilmour and Sundin, that you could call superstars, and a handful of good players like Curtis Joseph, Borje Salming, Wendell Clarke or Rick Vaive. But Toronto fans have made the most of average and have created mythical figures in Felix Potvin, Bryan McCabe or Mike Palmateer. Not sure where Reimer will be on this list, but if you talk with a Leaf fan, they think of him in the same breath as Patrick Roy.
As we are on the cusp of a new season, Leaf fans are optimistic. And ready for another Cup run. There’s only one thing I know for certain and would actually bet on it. The value of the Leafs will go up this year. YEAH!!!
Original Story, October 2011: This saturday, I visited THE BURGER’S PRIEST in Toronto.
Even before you try the burger, you hear the story first, and it’s quite crazy. That’s the way a brand should be. I have had quite a few people tell me that the Burgers Priest was clearly the best in Toronto. But then they get into the story telling of what they know. Part of the story is this idea of a secret menu, that you have to ask for. Funny enough but if you google “Priest Secret Menu”, you’ll see about 15 stories come up from various Food Critic reviews. Confirms that it’s a marketing ploy–and a great one for driving word of mouth. The second part of the story is that the owner, who most describe as crazy, even though they never likely interact with him. Apparently, one day he was looking for a really good burger and couldn’t find one. So, he decided to just get in his car and drive until he could find one. He ended up in his car for six months, travelling all through the US from New York to the South, through Texas and Out to California and back. He was intent on learning about the secrets of the best hamburgers he could find. He’s has photos, up at the Priest, of all the great burger places that inspired this burger. Once back, he took all the great ideas and build his own burger. He’s layered in the idea that this burger is a religious experience, with the priest idea. And the mission is to missio “redeem the burger one at a time”. That’s the brand story anyway.
Now with a brand story, you need to create buzz. Word of mouth on this is amazing. When I got there, just before noon on Saturday, there were already 10 people in line about 10 minutes before the place was open. I also saw the attached sign, asking people to line up to the left to avoid blocking the entrance to the Apartment. I looked for the appartment, and it’s about a good 50 feet away.
So clearly, all the story and mystique has created a word of mouth that is getting people to travel for this burger. It’s 45 min from my house, and I ran into someone I knew who lives 45 minutes the other way. Both of us just felt compelled to try it. Keep in mind, the stories he’s created help drive word of mouth and in turn demand. The line up makes things much more predictable for him, so the food is fresher/better tasting. He can manage his inventories, staff accordingly and drive down his costs by driving up his volume. Plus, I would have paid anything at this moment for the burger. Lastly, I started to tell my friend in line that about the Five Guys burger I had which was amazing and a stranger jumped into our conversation to defend his priest, saying it’s not even close. Already has brand advocates defending the brand. He’s clearly working his branded business system.
As for the burger, it was ideal. I’d say it’s a tie with Five Guys Burgers–which has a story unto itself–with celebrity endorsement like Obama and Shaquille O’Neil. Both use the same technique of keeping the burger juicy, while ensuring it’s well done on the outside. Very similar taste. (More bacon on the Five Guys, and the Fries are better) The fries at the Priest need improving to be great. Poor Licks, a Toronto icon for many years, has been losing out the last few. The only good thing about Licks now, is there’s never any wait and you can have a nice quiet meal (e.g. no one goes there)
For those of you looking for a great burger, I’d recommend it for sure. For those of you looking for unique marketing and seeing how a small business is trying to drive a BELOVED BURGER, this is a great example. Not sure if he spent six months figuring out the world’s best burger, or just six months becoming the world’s best marketer. A great brand in the making.
Top 3 Burgers in Toronto (my view)
Five Guys Burgers
Craft Burger (now the Big Smoke)
Nov 16th, 2011, Update to the Story: Burger’s Priest opening a second location in North Toronto, on Yonge Street between York Mills and Lawrence. Great location choice. Talk of further expansion into the West end of Toronto, likely High Park or Bloor West Village. Need a good income level to afford 9 dollar burgers. It will be interesting to see how many they put into Toronto, and then into the rest of Canada. One big fan of the Priest who I told was actually disappointed about the expansion plans..
Consumers have relationships with their brands, some simple and shallow while others are tremendously deep and personal. There is almost a LOVE CURVE the consumer goes on, moving from INDIFFERENT to LIKING to LOVING and then on to a BRAND FOR LIFE. At a given point, consumers stop thinking and start feeling. It can take years or just minutes. For Brand owners, what’s important is to know where your brand is on the curve and how to move it along to the next stage.
There are significant benefits to moving the brand along the Love Curve. At stage 1, consumers are INDIFFERENT, your brand is basically replaceable and you only get used because “this will do”. You’re not really anyone’s favourite. As they move to stage 2, they LIKE it and make logical, solid functional choices. But at stage 3, consumers LOVE the brand, are outspoken, possessive, unrelenting, and it becomes very personal. Along the way, people stop thinking and start feeling. And consumers enter stage 4 where it’s their BRAND FOR LIFE, where the brand is almost an extension of the consumers themselves. They would never use another brand because they’d almost feel like they are cheating.
Apple is a great example of a modern day beloved brand. They hate Microsoft as much as they love Mac. Try telling a Loyal Mac user that “Windows 7 is really good” you’re certain to start a fight. You might even lose a friend. One of the most beloved brands is Ferrari which Italians from around the world see as a statement of their Italian culture and personal identity. They wear the logo with pride, cheer for Ferrari each week in the F1 and yet they most likely have never driven a Ferrari. They spend zero dollars on Advertising, relying on consumers wearing their brand, cheering for their brand or just dreaming of it. What a place to be as a marketer where your consumers act as brand fans, and standing up for you. Another great example to show the differences is Coffee, where Tim Horton’s is the Beloved Brand.
But what goes up, can also come down and brands can move backwards on the curve. For instance Gap Clothing, Levis or even Olive Garden were all once loved and have slid back to indifferent.
The only true goal of brand building is profit and brand value. Every choice you make that moves your brand along the LOVE CURVE towards being beloved helps you drive long term value into your brand.
THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS BENEFITS TO BEING A BELOVED BRAND:
Brand is more than just positioning. Brand serves to match up the brand’s external promise with the internal culture and operations that delivers that brand promise. While most brands look for an external positioning, that’s the promise you make to the consumer. It’s equally important to focus on delivering that promise with the Brand serving as a beacon for the culture and operations and helps to steer behaviour, thinking and decisions employees make to support the brand. For many brands, the people and the culture are the “secret sauce” to that brand’s success. It’s like an iceberg where the brand promise is the tip the consumer sees, but below is the culture that needs to be aligned to deliver that promise.
It’s easier to run a branded business with a line up at the door. Longer lines means fresher product, and that means a better customer experience. A baquette in Paris tastes so much better, not because it’s in Paris, but because the pâtisserie in Paris sells 300 baquettes by 10 am, all fresh out of the oven. The poor baguette in the North American grocery store looks lonely, dry, crusty. Also, people love to follow the crowds, figuring others have already made the decision for you.
Strong Sales Growth helps The P&L Starts to Work Better: Using Porter’s Model, strong steady sales also means you can control your variable and fixed costs. a) More Buying Power over Suppliers: higher volume means you can go to suppliers with a big order and exert pressure on the costs b) Power Over Customer Channels: you can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade with retailers while demanding more in return including more control over pricing. c) Smarter More Efficient Management: manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs. d) Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs. This includes start up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs. e) Lower Cost of Capital:More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.
The Poor Competition has no chance. Most categories play the zero sum game, where one brands’ gain is the other guys’ loss. Leader brands that build an emotional connection back the competition into the rational zone–facing scrutiny, doubt and skepticism. As a marketer, the more emotional heat you can generate leaves almost nothing left for your competitor. You reach that tipping point, where your gain is their loss. When it’s all about share gain, the beloved brand has a competitive advantage.
Great Brands have a certain magic to them. Gaining that deep Emotional connection is hard work, but also takes a certain flare or an art form. Gather all the data, be ruthless in your decisions, always focus on ROI, and eliminate risk and you’ll be liked but never loved. You need to use instincts, take chances, use a certain flare and believe that execution matters. If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do. Look at the love Apple projects to it’s consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.