Part 3 of our series on our favourite posts of 2009″
October and November held a few more pleasant surprises for us here at Beg to Differ – from our Chicken Sandwich series to our first Slideshare cross-over hit, cure to a Seussian Twitter phenomena, viagra we continue to be surprised by the enthuisiastic response of our readers – but almosrt never in ways we expect.
The branding business: we haven’t have a lot of posts about this topic area… yet. But we felt we needed to respond to a viral video which lampooned clients for not “getting” the value of the work creative agencies do. After all, it takes two to tango – or quibble over a giant invoice.
Brand naming: When KFC launched a new chicken sandwich with a name developed by Brandvelope, we took the opportunity to toot our own horn a bit and talk about the process of naming a brand. And the results: our biggest single day tally of visitors as branders came by for a taste of what we do.
“Whole brand” thinking: This short post on the failure of a giant corporation to understand effective customer engagement in the social media era marked the first time a SlideShare deck of ours reached 2000 hits – and climbing (in response to a tip from Alison Gresik).
Social media: Funny to talk about this one as a greatest hit – because we wrote it in the middle of the current “faves” series – and it’s really still going with more than 100 RTs to date. Basically, we wondered a) what @SamEyeEm would be like on Twitter, and b) what Dr. Seuss might think about the new “ReTweet” feature on Twitter.
A few months ago, information pills this video produced by Scofield Editorial, symptoms Inc. made the rounds virally among us creative industry types. It’s well done, price and it poses a compelling question: what if customers in normal retail settings – where no one ever questions the price of things – behaved the way marketing people often treat their creative vendors? If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Then read my response from the other side of the table.
The original video:
My tribe of creatives made this a minor YouTube sensation, with 1.1 Million views and climbing. Why? Because it’s true: the work we do is often not treated with the respect it deserves, or valued as highly as it ought to be – and certainly not as highly as we think it ought to be.
Which brings us to the other side. I remember my first experiences as a client-side marketing manager dealing with a big-city, big-ticket advertising firm. And I can tell you, clients aren’t the only ones with a problem saying “the price is the price”.
My response: a script for a viral YouTube video.
(Imagine it in a YouTube frame with millions of views under it. Then imagine laughing heartily and forwarding it to all your marketing industry buddies using the link below.)
(Restaurant interior. Attractive professional couple is seen wrapping up their meal. A somewhat arrogant-looking waiter is seen hovering in the background.)
(MALE DINER waves WAITER over to table.)
WAITER:(With a heavy euro accent) Yes sir. Everything is all right.
MALE DINER:Fine, fine.
WAITER:Of course it is.
MALE DINER: We’d just like to settle up.
WAITER:You will receive your bill then, yes? Wait one moment.
(WAITER LEAVES. FEMALE DINER leans toward MALE DINER, hushed voice)
FEMALE DINER:Are you going to tip him? He was obnoxious, arrogant, and he kept pushing stuff at us that was way different from what we ordered.
MALE DINER:Well yes, but we’re done now. Let’s just pay and get out of here…
FEMALE DINER: Then he through a hissy fit when I tried to send the undercooked beef back.
MALE DINER:He’s a creative soul honey, they’re sensitive…
FEMALE DINER:Oh, and then there was the “Brainstorming session” over the wine…
MALE DINER:Honey, we were looking for a creative option… Oh, shhh! He’s coming back!
(WAITER re-appears. Hands large portfolio to MALE DINER, who unzips and scans it)
MALE DINER: Oh, that’s very nice. Full colour. See that honey? Very creative presentation…
FEMALE DINER: (looking at price) Hey! $1,159! What’s going on here?!?! We only ordered $100 dollars worth of food and wine!
MALE DINER: What?(looks again) This is wrong. We asked you to help us keep our bill under $100!
WAITER: And I did. Look. Everything is itemized. Your food and wine came to $98.50 with a few dollars for tax.
MALE DINER: But we already paid you that weird $25 retainer when we walked in…
WAITER: Yes yes, standard industry practice.
MALE DINER: Then, you asked for a $50 fee when you brought our food…
WAITER: For phase 2 deliverables. Yes yes. All in the proposal I submitted, and all standard industry practice.
MALE DINER: Right, so I’ll give you $25, and… you can keep the change.
WAITER: (icily) Hup, hup, hup. Very generous sir. But. Let’s look at the invoice shall we?
(he snatches the bill and begins pointing and gesticulating)
You have forgotten about disbursements, expenses, colour photo-copying charges for menus and your bill, the standard kitchen service fees, revision fees for re-cooking your beef madame – that is not free! Then licensing fees for brainstorming music, licensing for third party ingredients in your food, professional consulting fees for the Chef and myself….
FEMALE DINER: (grabbing the bill back) And this item: “Yum Factory”. What is that?
WAITER: (changes tone to pride) Why, of course that is our proprietary kitchen management process. Presumably that’s why you came to us in the first place….
MALE DINER: No, we came because we were hungry, and because we had a bit of money left over in this month’s budget for one special meal, and we thought we’d go high end for once…
WAITER: Well, you forget that we have costs too! An expensive downtown location; exquisite interior design; silver cutlery; the owner’s new Aston Martin; our Foosball table – hmm?!?
FEMALE DINER: But we didn’t choose to spend money on those things, You did!
WAITER: Ah, but you chose US! Perhaps next time you will consider not coming to a respected provider of high quality creative output, and instead go to some… some… street-corner taco stand!!
MALE DINER: Say, honey. That’s not a bad idea. After those tiny portions and all that creative wanking, I’m still hungry.
FEMALE DINER: You’re right, a simple taco at a fair price sounds really good right about now.
WAITER: But wait… your bill!!
(gradually losing accent) Come back! We can negotiate!
We have this great Foosball table! Maybe I can let you play….
(he sits down dejected) Ah man. How am I going to pay for my accent lessons now?
But I’ll warn you, it’s a lot of information, and you’ll have to wade through some sections knee-deep in self-congratulatory hype. So as a public service, I’ve distilled 10 aspects of the list that jump out for me (below).
(But first, a slightly bitchy side note to Interbrand: guys, if you’re going to release these three days early, please 1) skip the giant countdown clock , and 2) actually send notices to people that signed up. Okay, my chest is clear, on to…)
10 Highlights of the 2009 Best Global Brands
1) Coke is still it: Top five brands are unchanged
The top five brands on the list are exactly the same brands in the same order as last year, and although Microsoft and GE lost more value than most brands ever have, with the spread in value between the top four, those mega-brands don’t look likely to change anytime soon.
Nokia’s brand is losing steam however, while gaining ground behind it is Google (in a big way) and McDonald’s (growing, but more modestly).
2) Google is the big disruptor
The Google brand shouldered ahead of Toyota, Intel, and Disney, and now is very close to overtaking McDonalds. As a matter of fact, its brand value has almost doubled since 2007, when it was 20th in the rankings.
Think about that for a moment: “Google” has grown from geek-niche-buzzword to #7 brand in the world in just 10 years – growth rates we haven’t seen since, well, Microsoft pulled the same trick for the ten-odd years before that.
But now that Google is starting to look more and more like a big, aggressive company (because they are), can their brand sustain its quirky garage-band appeal? Already their “don’t be evil” internal mantra is attracting more cynicism than praise. And while Googlers are still innovating, and making a lot of feel-good noise with their open source projects, one wonders when critical mass and inertia kick in (see Microsoft?).
3) Other big winners this year
By dollar value gained, H&M, Ikea, and Amazon gained a solid amount of value this year.
But apart from the indominatable Google, Apple grew the most, adding an incredible $1.7 Billion in brand value. Apple is the darling of the branding industry of course and a favourite of mine (see my Steve Jobs tribute), with its creative energy and focus on human-friendly products and messaging, so it’s heartening to see that doing it right by your customers still pays off during a recession.
4) Surprise! Financial institutions are the biggest losers
Have you heard about this recession thing? Well, if you have, then it should come as no surprise that the industry hardest hit in the brand value bottom line was the same industry that imploded and begged for (and received) massive government bailouts.
American Express, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC all lost billions of dollars of brand value, while Citi and embattled Swiss giant UBS both lost half of their brand value in one year. Several others dropped right off the list, including Merryl Lynch, AIG, and ING. Could it be a coincidence that many of these losers also have meaningless nomonyms for names (see my definition here)? Probably just a coincidence, but their names certainly didn’t help them.
5) Automobile brands: losing value
Also not surprising, every automotive or motorized equipment manufacturer on the list except Ferrari lost a significant amount of brand value this year. Harley Davidson and Lexus lost the largest percentages.
But despite losses, a few brands managed to hold their own or gain ground. Apart from Ferrari, Audi managed to gain, while Ford kept its ranking – the only one of the “Big Three” American manufacturers to have a substantial corporate brand seems to have benefited from its perceived stability as well. Another star: Hyundai:
Hyundai boosted ad spending and aggressively promoted its Assurance program, which allows buyers who lose their jobs to return cars. Hyundai’s brand value slipped 5%, but it moved up three places to No. 69. – Business Week.
6) Food and clothing: the basics still sell when times are bad
The same pattern held true for clothing brands – although it must be said that the list is incredibly top-heavy with luxury brands – so Gucci, not GAP; Rolex over Timex. I suspect that this is because of a) the weighting given to “brand premium”, that is, the amount consumers are willing to spend over and above competitors, and b) the fact that lower-priced clothing brands for us mere mortals tend to be less global.
7) Adobe: New kids on the branding block
Abode finally made the list after it “recorded record revenue and double-digit growth for the sixth consecutive year. They weren’t immune to the downturn (they lost money overall), but importantly from a brand perspective, they grew strongly in the consumer preference category. And their brand awareness continues to grow through the ubiquity of their consumer-facing products Flash, and the Acrobat / PDF line.
8 ) Brand USA – still the biggest brand builder
We were watching to see if the recession would dent the US dominance in global brands. With 52 brands on the 2o08 global 100, the Yanks are the uncontested branding champs, but those of us who were hoping for a moment of guilty schadenfreude were mostly disappointed that the US claims 51 – still a majority – of the 100.
Note to the rest of the planet: keep working.
9) No new countries
The names of countries in the Global branding club stayed exactly the same this year with only 9 brands coming from outside Europe and North America (Japan 7, Korea 2). Russia, China, India, Brazil, and the rest of the world have yet to break in. But of course, it’s only a matter of time.
10) Brand Canada: maintaining numbers, but losing ground
Both of our two Canadian contender brands Thomson Reuters and Blackberry grew this year, and both made gains in the rankings with Blackberry jumping 10 spots to number 63. But they weren’t joined by any other brands, and what’s worse, we slipped a rank in number of brands-per-capita when the UK added a brand and vaulted ahead of us. On that list, we were 10th; now we’re llth.
This boot camp is for all managers and executives with marketing, PR, or communication responsibility–whether in technology, government, not-for-profit, or other industries. Basically, if you manage a brand and want to learn how to manage it for maximum connection and value (for your customers and for yourself) this boot camp is for you.
This seminar provides a great overview of three important topic areas for all Brand Managers:
What is a brand, and why is it important? You’re being branded one way or the other; we’ll help you take control.
The building blocks of brands. How to analyze, develop, and leverage the different facets of corporate strategy to ensure that your brands are making the right promises, and following through.
Brand management. How to use the brand elements and marketing tools at your disposal to manage your image in the minds of consumers. How to be a brand stickler without being seen as a “brand cop”. How to get your colleagues to live the brand.
Reason 2: afternoon workshop (only for full-day participants)
In this smaller-group setting, you’ll get a chance to apply the theory from the morning to your brand and get help from other participants and the workshop leaders. The workshop will allow you to do a point-by-point inspection all the aspects of your brand. But note that the afternoon is for active participants only; be ready to give and take constructive feedback.
Reason 3: Take-aways
All participants will receive 1) Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Workbook plus, full-day participants will also get 2)a personalized assesment of your brand strengths and challenges.
Reason 4: Beautiful setting
Nepean Sailing club is at 3259 Carling Avenue, just West of Andrew Haydon Park – only a short drive from downtown and Kanata. This venue offers stunning scenery and a relaxed atmosphere – we took the photo below from just outside the conference room. It’s the perfect place to spend a late August day gearing your brand up for the fall. Google Map here.
Reason 5: don’t take our word for it
“I thoroughly enjoyed the day and want to thank you and your colleagues for your efforts. I believe this seminar is a definite requirement in the Ottawa area and you have already put in place many of the cornerstones to build on to make this a truly awesome and interactive event for new and seasoned brand management professionals.”
Dan Chaput Director, Marketing Communications
But just as initialisms are not a good choice for the vast majority of products and companies, acronyms are very difficult to do well, and are fraught with hidden perils – as the well-meaning folks in the picture above thought when they chose their acronym – based name, or the example we commented on last month: the SciFi channel, who thought Syfy would make a spiffy (not “siffy”) name for their channel rebrand.
What is a (real) acronym?
But lets be clear what an acronym actually is. The word is used as a blanket term for all abbreviations – as in this Wikipedia post, which starts off making the distinction between acronym and initialism, but then ends up lumping them together. A true acronym has to meet three tests :
a. It must be the abbreviation of a series of words, which
b. creates an actual word that people can realistically use in everyday conversation, and
c. the new word must stick — that is it must actually be used by people as a proxy for the longer phrase.
Meeting criteria a. is really, really easy. Anyone can take a bunch of letters and throw them together into a sequence. But if the combination is “YTJNE” it’s not an acronym, it’s an initialism.
Which brings us to criteria b. This one seems easy, but is actually devilishly difficult in practice. And criteria c. is the hardest of all, since this involves actually convincing people to use the name you create – and preferably without rolling their eyes or laughing aloud.
Why it’s so hard
It’s like trying to give yourself a nickname. In my early brand-geek days (when I was 8), I tried to get my friends to call me “Tater” (don’t ask). But of course it didn’t work. Why? because it was my idea of what would be cool, not other people’s idea of what FIT me.
Because essentially that’s what an acronym is – a nickname. Think about how we call Coca-Cola “Coke”. We know the “official” version, but saying “Coke” feels more familar, more friendly. A good nickname is a proxy; a good acronym is a short, catchy version of a longer name that people are aware of, but if the right handle comes along, they’ll use it.
The secret to good acronyms
So here’s the key: a successful acronym has to be so simple, so elegant, so natural, that it feels like it was you customer’s idea all along. Essentially, it has to be a useful tool to help people notice, remember, and refer to you. Oh, wait, that’s our definition for a brand!
Successful acronyms like “laser”,”NASA”, “Benelux”, and “UNICEF” are easy to say, easy to remember, and natural to use. When this is the case, the acronym actually supercedes the full name in the customer’s mind. I was an adult before I learned that UNICEF was anything but a strong stand-alone brand name. Quick: what does “scuba” stand for? Most people don’t even realize that it’s an acronym for “self contained underwater breathing apparatus”. That’s how natural a good acronym should be.
Unsuccessful acronyms are either unwieldy (UNRWA – pronounced “un-rah”), unpleasant to say (GATT), or just too long (PUMCODOXPURSACOMLOPOLAR – Pulse Modulated Coherent Doppler-Effect X-Band Pulse-Repetition Synthetic-Array Pulse Compression Side Lobe Planar Array).
Really awful acronyms: At their worst, acronyms are so laughably bad they make news on their own – ususally because the combination of letters forms a word that is just too much of a stretch. But we’re reserving those for another post.