Tis the Season for….Returns.

“I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and customer is still satisfied.”  L.L. Bean, 1916

Research shows that nearly $50 billion in merchandise is returned to retail stores during the holiday season.  This year,  I had three items up for returns:  running shoes (wrong size), two t-shirts (wrong size) and a DVD (which didn’t work)   I had all the receipts, original bags and my story well-rehearsed to avoid any confrontation.   I figured this should be pretty easy; all three are exchanges not returns.

Store #1:  I brought in my shoes and handed the clerk the receipt.   I said “I’m looking for the same shoe in a different size”.   She grabbed the receipt and said “the best that I can do for is you give you a gift receipt”.  I said “all I want is the same shoe in a different size”.  And she snapped back, “Sorry sir, I can’t do that, since we need to be able to track all the returns”.   Two minutes later, I was walking out of the store, completely stunned and frustrated, with a plastic little gift card that I figured my wife or daughter could use on her next purchase.  They just lost $100 sale, and created a frustrated customer not to return again.

Store #2:  I brought in the DVD that failed to work.   It was only $15, but in my mind “Brian’s Song” is a rare movie I wanted to share with my son.  The clerk said “we can exchange it if you’d like”.   He looked up in his computer and said “oh we are out of it, we could order one for you, it should be here within two weeks”.   Since the store is 45 min from my house, I said “no thanks, I’ll just take the cash then”.   The store manager then murmured something to the clerk, never looking at or addressing me directly.  The clerk then said “I’m sorry sir; we can’t do a return if it’s been opened”.   I said “how can I know it didn’t work if I didn’t open it?”    After a few more back and forth, they did eventually give me my money back.  Another lost sale and frustrated customer determined to find it on I-tunes.

Store #3:  This should be easy,  I wanted the same t-shirts in a different size.   With no return desk, I went to shelf, grabbed two t-shirts and got in line at the cash.  I said “I’d just like to exchange sizes”.  She scans each of the 4 shirts in and says “that will be $2.26”, handing me a coupon for my next visit.   I said “I just want to change sizes, shouldn’t that be free?”  After a two minute conversation, the manager came over to do the classic over-ride followed by a long explanation to me of what just happened.   All I wanted was my t-shirts.  And while I was now a frustrated customer, I thought it was hilarious that the store clerk took the coupon away, since it wasn’t a sale after all.

Each store completely forgot about the consumer.   All the work the brand had done to create loyalty over the years is gone in a blink of an eye.   If your brand is loved, it can turn to Indifferent in a heart beat.  Imagine losing a life long customer over $2.26.   Most marketers think that creating a great brand is about creating awareness and demand.   But they forget the post purchase experience which includes a great returns policy.   Brands that get it include Costco, which has such an amazing returns policy it makes the membership fee worth it.  They never ask questions, sending it right back to the manufacturer.    L.L. Bean still has that same amazing returns policy fast forward to the modern day:  Customers can send any item back, at any time, with or without receipts, in any condition…and still get a refund or exchange.  Brands that get it, stand behind the sale.  

With these three brands, two out of three expected exchanges turned into full refunds.  I walked away frustrated and stunned at how bad the policies were.

And for some humour, the best clip I could find on “returns” is from the Office.   I’m sending it back!!!

A Beloved Christmas Ad that Will Bring a Tear to Your Eye….and a lift in your bonus.

At this time of year, we see so many Christmas ads on TV.   In fact, we are bombarded.   Like my local radio station that plays non-stop Christmas music, I’ve come to realize there are only 3-4 great Christmas songs and lots and lots of crap all day long.   It’s the same thing with Christmas ads.  Lots of call to action “start your shopping” crap on TV.

The best Christmas ads I’ve ever seen are from John Lewis, the department store in the UK.  They use beautiful music, a movie-like storyline that demonstrates the beauty of gift giving, stretched out over 90 seconds.    No words are needed to tell the story.  They are not loaded with so much branding that they would turn you off before inviting you in.  They tug at the heart and bring a reminder of what the season is all about:  the gift of Giving. 

Every marketer asks their ad agency “I want a big idea”, but no one really has the patience to build one.   It can take years of continually layering on the creative idea for consumers to know that it’s you.   John Lewis has been doing this same type of ads for years, helping to move the brand from indifferent to liked and to loved.

With deeply emotional ads, John Lewis is able to move the consumers from the Liked to Loved stage. Result is 10% growth in a tough economy.

Consistency in ad technique is a great device for driving brand link.   With each year of the campaign, consumers are now starting to look forward to the latest John Lewis ad.  They don’t need to load the screen with excessive branding, because they now own the idea.

For all those concerned that advertising has to drive hard against short term sales, these softer more emotional ads connect deeply, and live the idea that “if you build it, they will come”.   In fact, John Lewis sales for 2011 are up 10%, and have doubled in the past 10 years.   Contrast that to the dismal sales at other stores in the UK and around the world.  Here’s the last two years of John Lewis Ads, 2010 and 2009, and you’ll see the consistency of the idea building over time.

It’s not just about advertising with John Lewis, it’s about employee commitment.  One very interesting aspect of John Lewis is the culture of the company, which is 100% employee owned.  Every employee is a partner and can influence the business through branch forums, which discuss local issues at every store.   All employees are on a bonus plan, with cheques at the end of the year tied to results.  Happy employees work harder to drive the brand.

This is what employees look like when they make their bonus in the midst of the Great Recession of 2009.

The partnership also has numerous social activities for partners including large country estates, golf clubs, sailing clubs and two hotels that offer holiday accommodations.  They have great pension plans, insurance coverage and generous holidays.   Upon completing 25 years of service, employees are given 6 months off with pay

Happy holidays to all and here’s to a prosperous 2012 for all brands daring to strive for Beloved Status.

Confession: We murdered two Doctors in 2006

Marketing Execution 2016.019In the fall of 2006, when I was working in Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I can now safely confess that we murdered two doctors. One was a 15 year “Doctor Recommended” campaign for Benylin Cough Medicine, and the other was a 10 year “Doctor and Pharmacist recommended” campaign for Nicoderm Quit Smoking Patches. Both murders were pre-meditated. And both doctors deserved it.

Inheriting doctor spots is one big yawn. They feel very 1980s. In fact, people have made fun of doctor ads since the 1970s, which must mean that consumers have long been sick of this technique.

The first Doctor we murdered: An old Benylin cough syrup “Doctor”

Year after year from 1990 to 2005, Benylin trudged out a new doctor spot, each following the same formula. There was the pompous doctor speaking down to everyone including the consumer to establish a position of authority hoping that people would assume “wow, that Benylin must really work”. Here’s an example of the condescending advertising.


The second Doctor we murdered: An old Nicoderm “Doctor” 

On the other hand, Nicoderm was so insecure they used BOTH doctors and pharmacists, just in case you thought one was not enough. One big yawn. For most campaigns, one of the big challenges is finding ways to keep it fresh year after year. But let’s admit it, the best ads are usually in the first few years. With Benylin and Nicoderm, having such a small idea to start made it hard for the best of creatives to keep it fresh and interesting.



The ad tracking on both brands were flat and declining for years, but everyone on the team was afraid to do anything. Nicoderm was rapidly losing share while Benylin was stuck, almost unable to fight off the new comers to the category.

What’s wrong with using Doctors?

Doctor campaigns force you into a zone where it’s non-stop talk about the product. No focus at all on consumers–they don’t matter when you have such a great product. And Doctors mainly talk features, not even benefits.  It’s all about association, not about consumer insights. Doctor ads have been “done to death”, making them wall paper. Consumers who see these ads are left feeling indifferent, and can barely find a way to even “Like” the brand.

Advertising is a great tool to really connect with consumers. But Brand Leaders afraid of getting emotional feel in a safe zone with a vehicle that just talks about the product. They can tell the consumer everything they know about their brand. And they avoid getting all  emotional with consumers because that can feel scary.  But in reality, the consumer will never care about what you do, until you start showing that you care about what they want. Sales 101 or Dating 101, use the same rule: “get them talking about themselves.” How come advertising 101 says “Let’s talk about ourselves and hope they love us”? Great advertising should start with the consumer first, not the product. 

New Benylin TV Ad Without Doctors

With Benylin, it’s pretty darn obvious that when consumers get a cold, they feel like total crap and want to take a day off.

But no brand would ever say that, would they? Advil tells consumers they can do anything (go for a swim, a run, a hike or work all day) when they are sick. Benylin did the un-thinkable, the riskiest thing that a Cough Medicine could do. They said “take a day off, rest up and get better”. This put the brand on the side of the consumer. Benylin found that magic insight to move the brand from Indifferent all the way to “Love It”. The Benylin brand team took a huge risk that year, and it paid off, with strong solid share gains in a tough category to make gains and won a Cassie Award for the results. The lesson here:  going down the middle of the road is riskier than going either left or right. I followed my team’s lead on this, admiring their guts in killing doctors. I kept saying, “Can you believe we used The Clash in a Benylin spot?”

New Nicoderm TV Ad Without Doctors

On Nicoderm, the insight we used was “consumers don’t feel themselves when they try to quit smoking”. Basically, it sucks &*!$% when you quit smoking. There was a push to have a claim, like most medical marketing.  (eg Our product is better than yours,  or with us, you can quit 6x as good). But really, the only claim we saw was “quitting smoking will suck less with Nicoderm”. People on our team kept saying “quitting smoking is serious, so we need to have a serious TV ad to convey how serious it is”. That restriction put a major handcuff on the creative team and we saw some pretty boring ads. The creative team was asking to have that restriction lifted and when we did, pure magic happened. In Ipsos AdLab testing, this was the strongest ad we ever tested at J&J. This ad has generated over 1 Million hits on youtube and won the best Global Ad for J&J in 2006.  Nicoderm saw a big 20% spike in sales. The lesson here is to always eliminate creative road blocks and trust that the work gets better.


One last thing: when we killed doctors on both of these, we won over the creative teams. We showed up differently to the agency and the creative teams. Creative People wanted to work on our brands, and the work on other brands got even better. With two great campaigns in a row from our shop, everyone on our team wanted to make better work. A huge overall lesson: great people, empowered and motivated will make great work.

You get the advertising you deserve. 


Here’s an insight video, done by Jack Perone at JWT, supporting the Benylin Day idea.



To see our training workshop presentation on getting better Marketing Execution, click on this presentation:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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New Loblaws At Maple Leaf Gardens: A Love Affair with Food.

New Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens

There hasn’t been a line up at the Gardens for 10 years.  But there was today.  Maple Leaf Gardens is the heart and soul of many Torontonians and yet inside now sits a grocery store.

The launch of the new Loblaws in the heart of Toronto is clearly a stake in the ground to say “we love food”.   In fact, Loblaws screams it.   I must confess that I love grocery stores, big and small, everywhere on earth.  I’ve been known to sneak into grocery stores on my holidays just to look around—from Paris to Edinburgh, from Monaco to Auckland and from St. Petersburg to San Francisco.   And now in Toronto, I’ve seen the nicest grocery store I’ve ever seen.

From the turnaround in the 1980s, with Dave Nichol and the creation of the President’s Choice brand that enticed so many, Loblaws reached Beloved status, clearly ahead of any competitor in sight. Consumers admired Loblaws and the great things they were doing while competitors and vendors feared them.

The Beloved Loblaws brand of the 90s had fallen back to Like It, as everyone caught up. This new store is a stake in the ground that Loblaws can be loved again.

As Loblaws stumbled in the early 2000s, with mergers and internal politics, they became obsessed with beating Wal-Mart and started to look like Wal-Mart.   Before 2003, Loblaws and Westfair operated seperately.  With Wal-Mart getting stronger, the desire to be a Mass Merch was taking over.  They were no longer a grocery store and now clearly a Mass Merch store.  They launched glorious sized stores that they named “Real Canadian Super Store” which is about as generic of a name as you can get.  In fact, Wal-Mart calls theirs “Super Centre”–almost the same.   These mega sized stores are filled with cheaper versions of T-Fal pans and $15 blankets.   The Loblaws name was nowhere to be seen.  Why? Because of internal politics.    Competitors were catching up, Sobeys and Metro launched some pretty good copy cats.  Loblaws didn’t really do anything in a while.   And Loblaws was falling from Beloved back to Liked and it was now the same as the rest.  

Today, as I approached the new Loblaws store, the first thing I noticed was “Great Food” attached to the logo.  And once inside, that’s all I saw–Great Food.   I saw all the cupcakes, the cheeses and of course the Chocolate Mound where I bought some freshly carved slices of chocolate.

Chipping a piece of Chocolate from the Mound of Chocolate. Very fresh taste.

Everyone was making stuff:  freshly cooked chickens and freshly baked breads.  Rejoice in the love of food.  I kept saying “wow” at every turn.  The fresh bread, baked right before your eyes.   Most grocery stores say Fresh all the time, this one was showing it.

Loblaws took a giant step forward, a step back from liked towards beloved, helping to separate themselves from the competition.   And as I said many times in the 80s and 90s, “I can’t wait to see what Loblaws does next”.   Exciting.  

Here are some more photos of the New Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Wall of Cheese on display.
The most impressive signal of Fresh was that there must have been a hundred people in the process of making something.
First Line up at MLG since 1999.
Very beautiful lighting, feels European and Expensive
Vantage from above the fresh produce area.
Deli counter with fresh foods all around.
Old Seats from the Old Gardens. Golds were the best back then.

People around the World are so addicted to Facebook. And now it’s a Beloved Brand Worth $100 Billion.

Facebook has just announced that it expects to reach a Value of $100 Billion by next year.   That’s incredible. 

Facebook has over 800 million users, so if it were a country, it would be the third biggest country in the world just behind China and India.   Facebook has over 70 languages and 75% of users are outside the U.S.   Facebook has gained 200 million users in 2011, a growth rate of 33%.  For those of you thinking Facebook has hit their peak, forget it.

People love Facebook and can’t get enough of it.  About 50% of those users go on every day and 40% have accessed Facebook through a mobile device.   Users spend an average of 15 hours a month on Facebook, probably more time they spend at the dinner table.   Facebook is not for kids, over 75% of users are over 18, and the fastest growing segment is 55+.   Even my mom is on it, even though she won’t want me giving her age out (I’d get a phone call saying “Did you need to say how old I was).   On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded per day.  Facebook has truly utilized the addictive nature of us all, looking up statuses, linking in with friends from years ago and randomly clicking “Like” here and there.  We’re all guilty of it, in fact 800 million of us are.

20% of women would give up sex before giving up facebook.

A recent survey in Cosmopolitan Magazine says that 20% of women would give up sex before they’d give up their beloved Facebook.   Mind you, the same survey said 25% of college students would give up sex if they didn’t have to lug around text books, which supports that great pick up line of “Hi Can I carry your books”.

Facebook has turned this phenomena into a money making machine.   Facebook has revenues of $4.2 Billion in 2011, up 114% from last year.   Like most on-line sites, Facebook makes most of their revenue from advertising, all those ads you see down the side of the page.   While not the strongest click-through rates, the sheer girth of reaching 800 million users for 40 hours a month gives Facebook plenty of opportunity for sales.   Facebook has tinkered around with Facebook Points, not yet making it work.  But what Facebook points really are is a currency where you can buy things.   If Facebook will be the biggest “country” one day, it’s a natural step that they would have a currency.   Imagine how addicted we’d be when Black Friday has us all on Facebook trading “Facebook dollars” for a new Coach bag for my wife.

If you've already won Time Person of the Year Award at 27, what's next?

Mark Zuckerberg is still only 27.  He’s finally old enough for a low level manager role at a Fortune 500 company, but they’d still be cautious and put him on a low risk brand assignment.   Maybe that’s because he still looks about 19.   Yet he’s worth $17.5 Billion and he’s already been named Time Magazine Person of the Year.


The Most Beloved Celebrity Brand is Betty White!

I Love this TV ad.

In a recent poll, Betty White beat out the likes of Oprah, Kate Middleton, Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks for the most loved celebrity.

The comeback for Betty started with the 2010 Super Bowl Ad for Snickers, where she was tackled during a game of football.  In most polls, that TV ad won “Best Super Bowl Ad”.  

Grassroots Facebook page generated 500k people, and convinced NBC to make Betty the SNL host.

From there, a grassroots campaign on facebook was started to start a petition to get Betty White to Host Saturday Night Live.   With 500,000 members (myself included), NBC confirmed she would host.  The show was the highest rated SNL in the previous 3 years.  In her opening monologue, White thanked Facebook and said  “I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.”  Betty was everywhere:  Larry King, Late Night TV, and got her own TV show called “Hot in Cleveland”

Sue Anne Nivens was a great character among many on Mary Tyler Moore in the 70s.

At the age of 89, Betty was able to generate $3 Million from all the activity generated from her new claim to fame, which added to her Net Worth of $18 Million.   Unless you’ve got a darn good pension of some amazing stock swings, none of us will be earning that amount at 89!   It’s her 4th comeback in a long career that started as a model in the 40s. She was big in the early days of TV, with her first Emmy nomination in 1951.   She then played Sue Anne Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore show in the 70s, where she won three Emmy Awards then played Rose on the Golden Girls in the 80s.  It even makes her more loved to know that Bea Arthur hated her.   Heck, she won her first Lifetime Achievement award back twenty years ago.

What is it about Betty that we like?   She has that sweet demeanor,  yet she’s quick witted and sharp-tongued, which makes it come out so unexpected.   Most of us have a Grandmother like that.  She called Sarah Palin a “crazy bitch”.   When told that 500,000 people signed the Facebook petition she said “my god, that’s more people than I’ve dated”.  And of course, only she could have said “Why do people say Grow Some balls?   Balls are weak and Sensitive!  If you really wanna get tough, grow a Vagina!  Those things take a pounding”.  And “I’ve always liked older men. They’re just more attractive to me. Of course, at my age there aren’t that many left!”

For those wondering who else is on the list:

Most Beloved:

1. Betty White – 86% Favorable
2. Denzel Washington – 85%
3. Sandra Bullock – 84%
4. Clint Eastwood – 83%
5. Tom Hanks – 81%
6. Harrison Ford – 80%
7. Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) – 79%
7. Morgan Freeman – 79%
9. Will Smith – 77%
10. Johnny Depp – 76%

And those on the Mot Hated List, Paris Hilton and Charlie Sheen head up that list:

Most Unpopular

1. Paris Hilton – 60% Unfavorable
2. Charlie Sheen – 52%
3. Britney Spears – 45% (tie)
3. Kanye West – 45% (tie)
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger – 44%
6. Tiger Woods – 42%
7. Kim Kardashian – 38%
8. Mel Gibson – 33%
9. Donald Trump – 31%
10. LeBron James – 29%

Holt Renfrew: a beloved luxury brand trying to be liked by the masses

“No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded”  – Yogi Berra quote

The never-ending recession has every brand agonizing over decisions on a daily basis. The biggest decision is around Price, and the need for volume balanced off against the perceptions of Brand Equity.

This past week, I was at Holt Renfrew, Canada’s answer to Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Selfridges. I’m not a big fan of Holts. I wish I was a fan, but my Scottish blood makes me way too cheap to ever find something within a reasonable price range. Well, guess what people? Holt’s is now filled with items you can afford, and the place is packed.

At first glance, it appears as though Holt Renfrew is immune to the recession.  So I decided to join the crowd and look around.   I saw a Holt Renfrew branded travel beauty bag, which was a $100 value, but for sale at a price of only $25–and it even included a $10 bounce back coupon off my next purchase. Perfect gift for my daughter. Next, I walked past ladies winter hats, saw the perfect gift for my mom.  I flipped over the tag:  $25.  I even got the nice pink box to the put the hat in, which I think the box has even more prestige value than the money I paid.  I walked out with the nice big pink Holts bag, proudly walking along Bloor Street, knowing that everyone must have thought “wow, that guy has money”.   If only they knew, I spent 56 bucks, including GST.  It just seems wrong.

For those who want the $25 Make Up Bag, here’s the link and you better move fast: 


Did I mistakenly walk into the Bay, instead of Holts?  No, there’s no way the Bay would be dumb enough to sell a Travel Bag or a winter hat for only $25. This is like getting a Mercedes for around $15,000 or staying at the Four Seasons Hotel for $59 a night.  It gives the masses a piece of luxury, but at a cost.

The short term attempt at sales gains is off-set by the longer term sales decline when your core customer stops coming.  For Holts, they’d have to sell 100 make up bags to the masses just to make up for the revenue lost from one $2500 dress from a core consumer. And in terms of profitability, if we assume the dress has 40% margins and the make up bag only 10% margins, Holts would have to sell 400 make up bags to make up for that one dress. And it gets even worse when the masses realize they still can’t afford to buy anything beyond these cheap and cheerful items.

Famous little blue box from Birks.

But we’ve seen this story before, in Birks. Through the 1980s, Birks had grown to 225 stores, and was trying to be all things to all people.  You could walk into a Birks in Mississauga, put down $125 for some nice pearls and walk out with the little blue box, guaranteed to make any woman drool when she sees that box.  But in 1992, Birks declared bankruptcy–they went back to what made them famous and who they were. They re-trenched so that all Birks locations were in special locations.  And you needed to save up so you could afford something to go in the pretty blue box.  They figured out that it’s ok if the masses drool, but can’t afford.

Holt Renfrew Pink bag carried with pride around Toronto.

As we’re in the midst of the debate around 99% vs 1%, Holts has to realize who they are and who they cater to. Every time they dip into the 99%, they lose a consumer in the 1%.   There has to be some reverence the masses have when they walk past the windows at Holts.   They have to feel a bit scared when they look at the price tags. They have to be worried they are out of their element. If that Pink Holts bag I so proudly displayed quickly becomes a commodity, then the core audience–the one percenters–will find somewhere else to shop.

As Holt’s looks to see if they can see the end in sight to the recession, they might not realize that they are already seeing the beginning of the end in sight of their status as a Beloved Brand. The lesson: trying to be liked by everyone might mean you end up loved by no one.  

How come the “Occupy” brand never reached beloved status?

The Wall Street Occupy movement felt grass roots, authentic and natural. The rest feel contrived and confused.

Forget your political affiliations or how mad you are. I’m actually a liberal minded person. Will we remember the “Occupy” brand five years from now? If it’s the Left’s answer to the Tea Party, has it achieved the same connection and passion with their followers? A clear and confused NO!!!

In NYC, the Occupy Wall Street had some early passion and it started to make the news. People were clearly upset that during the recessions of the last few years, mad that the rich didn’t suffer, and even more mad that the evil bankers didn’t suffer.The stats around 99-1 are very interesting and highlight a problem with Capitalism if not controlled. Capitalism still has a place, but needs checks and balances.

In terms of looking at Occupy as a brand, let’s keep in mind that Brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love and then a Brand for Life. It seems that Occupy, quickly connected with a nerve among the people and moved quickly to the Like It stage, gaining very quick awareness. Polls in early October showed strong support for the movement—much stronger than the Tea Party. But then what? Occupy as a brand is really just an idea at this point, but has yet to really turn into a movement. It’s something that people want to latch onto. It’s a promise, a concept, the hope of a movement. All Brands are really just a promise—but it’s the best of brands can take that promise and clearly articulate their difference and then deliver that promise in a consistent manner. Occupy can’t right now, and is at risk of diminishing to the point where people once connected at the early days are just falling back into the Indifferent camp. The Occupy brand appears to be losing steam. More recent polls have shown a steady decline and people are ready to move on.

So where did things go so wrong, in such a short period?

  1. No consistent message: The early Occupiers refused to lay down the core message. Because it was a grass roots movement, they didn’t want to dictate to others how they should feel. They welcomed all, with all types of bitter messages. So what happens to a brand that has a vague message or too many messages? Nothing gets through to the consumer. That’s advertising 101. Even those who moved to the Like It stage were looking for direction that would take them to the Love it Stage. But there was nothing. Even the Wikipedia page on the Occupy movement can’t really articulate it in one sentence.On the other hand, The Tea Party has one defining message: Taxes are Too High and our Government is wasting our money. They’ve stuck to it, refusing to get into political debates connecting to social policies, abortion, capital punishment etc. That gives the people who are mad about taxes something to stay connected to.The Tea Party movement now looks like it has a lasting power as a brand.
  2. The Occupy brand spread too fast, too soon to where it didn’t make sense anymore. The Occupying Wall Street which is the symbolic place of evil bankers and CEO’s walking off with the money makes sense. But that message resonates less when it spreads to Occupy Toronto where that same thing didn’t happen, or Occupy Portland or Occupy Vancouver or even Occupy Kingston Ontario. While I’m sure the Occupy movement was excited to see it spread to so many places, it does feel like a retailer spreading their franchises too fast too soon.
  3. Those occupying changed dramatically and it impacts the emotional connection:   The original Occupy Wall Street projected a groundswell of “Average Americans” upset with the system. People who had been burned and were “mad as hell and not going to take it”. More recently, we’ve started to see Unions get involved—I get that they aren’t in the 1%, but they’ve shared and benefited in the same way as the bankers and CEOs.  Bail outs to Auto Giants kept Union jobs alive at $38 an hour to watch a machine put molding on the side of Buick. The entry of Unions looks bad on the original groundswell idea. And recently, there’s been a drug overdose in Vancouver and looting reported in many cities near the occupations. It now looks like a bunch of Teenagers or Hippies, not your “Average Americans”. This change makes it harder for the average person to stay emotionally connected and while people were at the Like It Stage looking to move to the Love It stage, many are now falling back to the Indifferent. Polls now show most people support “clearing out the occupiers” in their cities.
  4. The Occupy brand never got to the action stage: Classic marketing plans have a vision and mission, which is half articulated. But what about the strategies, tactics and executional plan? People are protesting that change is needed, but then no action plan is developed to make change happen?People are screaming that the gap between rich and poor in the US is real and something needs to be done. If Occupy wants to be a brand that continues, it needs an action plan. Looking at the traditional brand funnel, they’ve generated the awareness and consideration but that’s purely a rational connection for consumers.There is nothing to enable consumers to really take action. Are they using social media? Have they connected into a political movement with a leader, policies, candidates and even a few wins? Is there a bill being sent forth in the name of the Occupy movement? The Tea Party has all that and it’s what is keeping their consumers connected to their brand. The Tea Party scored points among their followers this summer by forcing Obama into a corner of cutting spending.

Unfortunately, the Occupy Brand looks like it’s a leaderless, rudderless brand in free fall. There’s nothing for consumers to hang on to. People are back to Indifferent. And sadly, it could be gone by Christmas when we begin to drive that wheel of capitalism again–one more attempt to spend our way out of the recession. 

In 9 more years, on one of those “Decade In Review” shows,  someone will mention “Occupy” as the big thing of 2011 and we’ll all smile and say “oh yeah, I remember that”. 

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Listerine PocketPaks: A case of becoming a beloved brand through execution that people love

It was 11 years ago this month, that I launched the Listerine PocketPaks brand here in Canada.  It was one of the most exciting launches I’ve been a part of–with an amazing consumer response.  Good memories.

We knew we had something different and wanted to take advantage of that difference.   As we brainstormed, we talked about how movies get such quick awareness and desire.   We wanted that–and used that as our model for the launch.

About 4 weeks before the launch, we got devastating news that the launch would be delayed three months.  All the media and sampling programs had already been set, and distribution was committed.   This could destroy our brand before it even launched.  Instead, the delay helped because with all the media and sampling programs pre-launch, it actually created such a pent up demand for the brand, that once we launched, we hit a 55% share in the first month.

The key programs for Listerine PocketPaks.

  • DRIVE TRIAL IN SOCIAL PLACES:  With a product like this, you had to try it to believe it.  We sampled all summer in events like film festivals, food events and carraces–and the theme of the sampling was Aliens from another planet, with attractive 20-somethings in tight blue silk, ready to fully engage in conversation about this product from out of no where.  We gave out full pack sizes, and we know from tracking that people shared them with an average of 13 people.   For every million samples we gave out, we were reaching 13 million people.   They spread the word for us.

    Sampling Events, with Aliens from outer space. Dropped 1 million full size packs before the product hit the shelf, creating pent up demand.
  • DRIVE AWARENESS IN SOCIAL PLACES:   With movies as our inspiration, our Advertising took a very movie feel–launching an 89 second movie ad in theatres that summer.   One other convention we broke was we didn’t say the brand name until second 46, so that we could fully engage the consumer before they knew it was an ad.  Lots of pizazz, but in reality the ad is all about the 5 step demo of using the product.   The advertising results were very strong on breakthrough, brand link was huge, made the brand seem different and persuasion were very strong.

    The way movies marketed new products was our inspiration. And made it’s way into our execution.

With all the activity through the summer, there was such pent up demand, that we hit a 55% share of the mint market in the first share period, and maintained a #1 share position throughout the first three years.    We over-delivered our forecasts by over 50%.  Stores could not keep this in stock.   We won the Product of the Year award and the Advertising won a Cassie for Best Advertising.  And on top of that we were the enviable “most stolen product in Wal-Mart”.

The ending of the story is not so pretty.   Like most confectionary products, it had a spike early on, but we weren’t able to sustain.  From a production point of view, they never figured out a way to get that damn strip in the pack for a reasonable cost.  Compared to food or confectionary, the margins were very strong at 60%.   But compared to the other healthcare margins of 75% or 85%, Pfizer could not justify the investment to keep the sales strong.   Different brands tried to use it on other healthcare products as a delivery mechanism.  But it never caught on.   Listerine PocketPaks captured the imagination of consumers in the summer of 2000, with marketing execution all designed to make it a beloved brand.

You’ll still see it around some places, but we haven’t fulfilled that one consumer’s belief that he’ll never have gum or mints again.

Article from Strategy Magazine Go to:


GAP Clothing: The fall from BELOVED all the way to INDIFFERENT

GAP Clothing was once a BELOVED Brand, back in the middle of the 1990s. It was loved by consumers, envied by marketers and revered in the retailing world.  In 1990, it celebrated it’s 1000th store opening and was the place to go for stylish trendy clothing at a reasonable price. At one point, GAP had an Inventory Rotation of “8 seasons” per year, just to keep up with the consumer’s desire to see new products as they walked through the GAP stores for the umpteenth time. Consumers couldn’t get enough of GAP.

Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005. And they’ve just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral.   Who cares about inventory turns when people aren’t even walking into the stores?

This year, GAP filed a lawsuit against GAP Adventures saying they felt having the co-existance of the two brand names “caused confusion in the marketplace”.   Considering that GAP Adventures is having a record year and is one of the most BELOVED brands in the adventure travel business, you would think GAP Clothing would think that confusion was a good thing.   For GAP Clothing to be complaining about being mixed up with GAP Adventures feels like George Castanza complaining about being mixed up with George Clooney.

Brands ride THE LOVE CURVE, going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and then it becomes a Brand For Life–at each stage gaining a more emotional consumer connection with the brand. GAP Clothing rode this curve all through the 70s and 80s and by 1995, it had achieved the enviable “Brand For Life” status, which very few brands achieve.

But GAP got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion:  the coolest people on earth…TEENAGERS of course. Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak out for their generation. It’s all about them. They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them. Imagine being 15 in the late 90s, you’re walking in your favourite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favourite clothing store. All of a sudden, you look up and your favourite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side. How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2 year old nephews or your pregnant Aunt are wearing the same clothes you’re wearing?  GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory.  Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become.  In terms of the LOVE CURVE, GAP Clothing has slid from the BELOVED status to Like It all the way down to INDIFFERENT. No teenager today likes GAP. They don’t even care. Are you kidding me? Duh.

GAP is so confused as to what to do next. So what do brands do when they are confused? Well, they should look themselves right in the mirror, challenge themselves at the executive leadership team to address the issues directly with an honest assessment and a high willingness to change. That’s the ideal. Instead GAP did what a lot of brands do:  they changed their logo. Oh god!!! The logo change only lasted one week–such uproar that they pulled it so fast, no one really saw it.  So what did they do next? They closed 200 stores. Very strategic. Bu-bye GAP. Say hello to Benneton, Wranglers and Doc Martins  when you get to the obsolete stage.