Dragons, edible play dough, and three-letter abbreviations – oh my!

Company makes dough on the Den while another eats it.

Beg to Differ is going to focus on a beauty and the beast story of two hometown brands that showed up on Dragon’s Den last night, order with very different results. One plucky little company made a pile of money from investors, cost while the other – a much larger organization – wasted a pile of dough. Want to find out more? Of course you do. Read on.

Den - front page with yummies

The Beauty: spreading the dough on the Dragon’s Den

Yummy Dough

Beg to Differ knows that our non-Canadian readers probably won’t be familiar with the Canadian version of this reality TV show where real life entrepreneurs compete to get funding from real-life millionaire business moguls. But it’s a great show, visit web the guest entrepreneurs range from brilliant to insane to just cheesy, and it really helps average viewers get into the entrepreneurial process.

Last night, one of the big winners was the product “Yummy Dough” pitched by Stefan Kaczmarek from Germany and Tim Kimber from Ottawa (who owes me a few pairs of new shoes because my three year old loves his other product PlasmaCar so much).

You can watch episode 5 here and the Yummy Dough product is first up.

If you’re like me, you probably hear “edible” and “modeling dough” and you first think of the PlayDoh most of us grew up with, then you think “YUCK!” Then if you have young kids like I do, you probably also think “I don’t want my kids to eat their PlayDoh!”  But this is pliable cookie dough that you can bake into cookies.

Check out the Yummy Dough site. It tells its story in a fun and compelling way (but make sure you quickly mute the annoying and slightly creepy background noises). One quick positioning note for the owners now that they have some marketing dollars: they need to steer away from the word “clay” and focus more on the “make your own cookies” aspect. It needs to seem like equal parts toy and food product – which will take some careful work.

The Beast: dumping dough on the Dragon’s Den

But another Ottawa-based “brand” is wasting money as fast as Yummy Dough is making it  – probably faster.

Take a look at the screen shot (above) from the Web site, and in particular the sponsor logos in the upper right. You’ll probably recognize the Cadillac insignia. You may be curious about the “Ivey” brand – which is the University of Western Ontario’s school of business (note to Ivey – great name, but negotiate a short tag under your logo with the words “School of Business”).

But unless you’ve directly done business with them or have a family member working for them, you probably won’t know what the letters “E.D.C.” stand for – even if you are Canadian. Yet, EDC has been pumping truckloads of money into season after season of the Dragon’s Den to build brand awareness!

So who the heck is EDC?

Some Hints:

  1. Don’t look for it to be spelled out for you anywhere on the Dragon’s Den page. It’s just EDC in the video ads, side banners, and sponsor logos.
  2. I’ll give you the “C” – it’s Canada, and yes, this organization is run by the Canadian Government.
  3. It is often confused with two other corporations that do similar things and also go by TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviations): BDC and CCC.
  4. See if you can find them on this Wikipedia “EDC May Refer to… ” page. And I’ll give you a bigger hint, it’s the 20th EDC on a list of 25 things that call themselves EDC.

Still stumped?

Well, if you’re not baffled, call your brother who works at EDC and tell him what a bang-up branding job they’re doing. If you are, you’ve helped me make a point I’ve made many times here on Beg to Differ:

An abbreviation is not a brand!

Read my July Op Ed from the Citizen with the message "NOMO" useless acronyms!

(Oh, and if you’re still wondering, it’s actually “Export Development Canada” and they do important work – as do BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) and CCC (Canadian Commercial Corporation). Shame that none of them have real brands…)

How to name a chicken sandwich: thoughts for branders (1)

Part one of a series on product naming.

So, medications after months of waiting, cialis 40mg  the baby is finally here. No, ed I don’t mean my actual baby – my wife and I are still waiting for the arrival of our third little bundle at the end of November. I’m talking about the new chicken sandwich Brandvelope named for KFC in Canada – which appeared in stores on Friday. Beg to Differ often gets asked what goes into such a process, so as a public service, here are a few insights for brand managers from the Kentucky Fried trenches.

Big Fresh

The Colonel calls

When Priszm (the company that manages the KFC brand in Canada for Yum! Brands) called Brandvelope this summer to ask for help naming the new sandwich, they already had a great product in development. The concept of the new sandwich had been pretty much nailed down after several cycles of focus group testing, refinement, and more testing.

We learned that they were launching this new product to be a “hero” – or “flagship” of their line of sandwiches. And we learned that focus group subjects loved the sandwich, but they didn’t love any of the names that had been tested.

Our job: find the right name for the new sandwich.

The sandwich concept:

  1. The chicken: fresh, skinless chicken breast fillets breaded in-store with the Colonel’s 11 herbs & spices, then fried on-demand for customers.
  2. The extras: fresh lettuce, a sesame seed bun, and peppercorn mayo.
  3. The packaging: the product is the only KFC sandwich served in a box, giving it a premium, high-value appeal.

The concept sounded like a winner to us (as a matter of fact, the early concept photos had our mouths watering). But what do you call such a thing?

There are two basic ways to approach naming.

The wrong way: creative first; strategy last.

This is the most common approach to naming. Sit in a room and brainstorm until you come up with the most creative, crazy, or compelling name you can think of, then run with it. This approach can be loads of fun, and usually leads to names that work great for the brainstormers, but not for customers.

The right way: strategy first; then get creative

This is our approach: take some time to understand the context that the new product will be launched into, the “brandscape” around it, and most importantly, what the name is supposed to do. Then and only then do you move to the creative part.

A great name is never just a name; it’s a tool to help people find, understand, and remember products, services, and yes, chicken sandwiches.

What we needed to know before we started:

  1. Intentions and strategic goals: what was the impetus behind the launch on the part of the people managing the brand?
  2. Customer expecations: what did we know about the hang-ups and desires of the target audience?
  3. The Brandscape: what competing products would the new product be compared to and how could we highlight the differences?
  4. Brand architecture – how  would the new name complement and contrast the rest of the existing portfolio of products?
  5. The unknowns: what additional information did we need, or at least, what were the areas where we’d have to make educated guesses?

The process from there:

So how did we get from these questions to the final name “Big Fresh Chicken Sandwich”?

Good question. We’ll get into more details in a series of blog posts over the next few days. But in the meantime, here are a few “take-aways” to think about.

Thoughts for branders:

  • Does your company treat product (or corporate) naming as a creative process first, or do you start with customer-facing strategy?
  • Can you answer all five of the areas we needed to adress for KFC above?
  • Are you treating your products as individual entities or  as part of a bigger system that helps customers make decisions?
  • Are you listening to people outside of your board room when you make such decisions? People who are willing to challenge you and your assumptions?

The Chicken Sandwich Series

  1. How to name a chicken sandwich: thoughts for branders (this post)

Dear Intel, you had me at “Intel Inside”. Now enough already!

An open break-up letter to the Intel brand.

Dearest Intel, cure

This is hard. We had such a good thing going once, and in a lot of ways, I still love you. But, well, things have changed. You’ve changed.

And I’m afraid you just don’t understand  why… [sniff]

…I no longer want you inside. [sound of sobbing]

Romance Pic - with words

The early days

The early days. It all seemed so simple then...

I remember the first time I saw you in that cute little “Intel Inside” logo on the side of a new laptop at Office Depot. Wow. Knock-out.

I remember how you made me feel: safe, secure, like I could be better than ever. But mostly you helped me feel smart, just because you were there. Inside.

And that made everything else so easy. And really, that’s what I loved you for. You made my choices easier because you stamped them with an extra little promise that said “I’ll be there for you”.

And while I’m confessing everything, here’s something else I never told you: I never even knew what an “Intel” was, how it worked, or why it was important! And you know what? I never wanted to. I couldn’t care less about silicone chips or dual-core doodad clock times or whatever. I vaguely knew that those things were important, but because you were there, I didn’t have to worry about it.  You cared, and that’s all I needed to know.

Where it started going tragically wrong

Trouble on the horizon
Trouble on the horizon

I think it was Pentium. That’s when I started wondering about us – when you convinced me that just having “Intel” inside wasn’t good enough. No, now it needed to be Intel and Pentium. “Just one other brand” you said. And sure I went along with it. Because I loved you, I put up with that little three-way thing. I even enjoyed it a bit.

At least, I thought, there were limits. Your friend Pentium had the decency to know its place, quiet, complementary, never intruding on your “Intel Inside” area.

But it didn’t stop there. No, then it had to be a Pentium 2, then a 3, then a 4. Always bigger, faster, with more complicated features and power.

And over the years, you found new names to stamp on all kinds of different parts of yourself: Celeron, Centrino, Core, Atom, Itanium, and on and on. Something called Xeon – honestly, was that one even from planet earth?

I couldn’t keep them all straight and I couldn’t tell the difference. But all along I thought: at least I still have my Intel Inside…

Not sure about smart being the new speed, but you sure kept me shifting...
Not sure about smart being the new speed, but you sure kept me shifting...

But now, it’s gone too far

intel-core-i7Well today I received a flyer from Dell telling me about some new laptop brand, and there, screaming from the upper left corner was one big  massive graphic with your name on it. And if I was confused before, now I’m totally baffled. Now you’re “Intel Core i7 Inside”, with four different type-styles and a litte barf-coloured mosaic-ish thing. I don’t know you any more Intel!

And after all that, you have the gall to tell me: “Look for Intel Inside” and a bunch of randomly placed stars.

Well you know what? I did it: I looked for Intel Inside, and I found… wait for it… nothing.

Sorry Intel, you may still be inside my computer, but you’re just not inside me anymore.

And you know why I’m so angry and hurt? With Intel Inside, you seduced me into caring a little bit about something I’d never wanted to care about before. And it worked. You helped me feel like a smart, informed consumer by giving me a simple tool to feel better about my purchases.

But I never wanted to care more than that. And I will never, ever care about it as much as you do.

So enough already. Get rid of all those other brands, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll THINK about coming back.

No, scratch that. You see? Just for a second you made me want you again. But this time it’s over. [door slams]

Another blogger’s take on the evolution of Intel Inside:

intel_inside evolution
Evolution of Intel inside: from www.lowendmac.com

Lethal generosity in my neighbourhood: Taste of Wellington West 2009

This Saturday, drug I had the privilege of photographing some of my favourite people from my favourite place in the world doing what they love to do. The event was the third annual Taste of Wellington West festival – when the food shops and restaurants of my neighbourhood in Ottawa give away free samples of thier food to benefit a local food bank. What could be better?

Sushi kids

From a marketing perspective, of course, the idea of giving away free food is a guaranteed hit and a very smart stratgey. But what’s better, I see this as a practical example of a term Shel Israel introduced me to a couple weeks ago – first on Twitter, and later when he visited Ottawa to promote his book Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods.

“Lethal Generosity”

Here’s Israel’s own definition of this term from his Web site:

Shel Isreal: Lethal Generosity is the business strategy of doing as much good for your customer as possible, thereby screwing your competitor who has to either follow your lead or ignore programs that serve them.

Don’t you love that idea? Now, “lethal” and “screw your competitor” are hard-edged, cut-throat words. But they get your attention don’t they? In reality this is a “bad cop” way of describing a very “good cop” phenomenon. Because actually lethal generosity only works when you do it the way we do it in Wellington West: generosity comes first; lethality follows.

So here’s how I’d (humbly) alter Israel’s definition to put the emphasis on the strategic sequence of events:

Denvan: Lethal Generosity is 1) doing something warm, human, and generous that endears you deeply to your community, which 2) also has the pleasant side effect of giving you an incredible competitive advantage, 3) forcing others to either follow your lead or look really stupid.

Taste of Wellington West

Heavy construction didn't keep the huge crowds away in 2008 (shown here) or 2009.
Heavy construction didn't keep the huge crowds away in 2008 (shown here) or 2009.

A couple years ago, I helped out with the establishment of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (BIA) – partially as a response to other local areas who had been running their own BIAs for years – particularly Westboro, Somerset Chinatown, and Preston Street.

Even though we had a blossoming arts community, many dozens of restaurants, our own outdoor farmer’s market, and the biggest cluster of owner-operated gourmet food shops this side of Montreal, other neighbourhoods were getting all the attention because they were organized, and were investing in building their brands.

What’s more, we were facing three years of heavy disruption from a massive and dirty construction project that would replace century-old sewer and water lines and make a wasteland of our street, and chase away customers.

So how do you compete with all that? Well, you build on your strengths. In our case, the incredibly warm and quirky characters who ran the shops and restaurants of our neighbourhood – who could always be counted on to give their time, money, and products to worthy local causes. But now they had a new weapon: a way to organize, mobilize, and capitalize on their native generosity to help them through a tough time.

The trick: to be more generous: 

The more you give, the more lethal you are. Absynthe gave away full sized gourmet Buffalo Burgers - resulting in longer lines.
The more you give, the more lethal you are. Absinthe gave away full sized gourmet Buffalo Burgers - resulting in longer lines.

Generosity, in the form of Taste of Wellington West, has helped us to bring thousands of new customers into our area at a time when most would rather stay away. And it allows locals a risk-free way of trying new places and meeting the humans behind those shops. I particularly love the picture of the kids trying the sushi. It really captures the spirit of the day: passionate merchants sharing their passions with people. 

But even more interesting, the merchants themselves have started to compete with each other to see who can out-generous whom. One high-end restaurant created waves by offering meal-sized Buffalo burgers, while another that had opted not to participate, had to reluctantly start giving stuff away. One of the employees told me: “everybody’s asking where the free stuff is. It’s just easier this way.”

Slideshow of some people pictures from the day:

More pictures here (Picasa Web album of 130+ photos)

What I love about these pictures:

1) The warmth: I’d call these people the salt of the earth, but “spice of the city” is closer to home. Don’t those smiles just make you want to move to my neighbourhood?
2) The energy: these are always hard-working people, but for one day they double their workload to make magic in the process.
3) The variety: from the high end restaurant to the tiny family groceteria, everyone brought something different (and yummy) to the table.
4) The food: my biggest regret is being on the wrong side of the camera again this year! I get hungry all over again looking at these.

The great brain freeze: the perils of too much ice cream… or choice

This happens to me a few times every week: I’m standing at a store or restaurant, this web getting customer service by phone, information pills or buying something online, and suddenly I’m faced with a dazzling, badly organized array of choices like this menu board at an Ottawa area Dairy Queen Brazier (no comment on that name for today). And how does it feel? Well, imagine shoving a whole Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard down your throat all at once…

The THARN Effect: for me, this DQ board was a Brain-Buster Parfait
The THARN Effect: for me, this DQ board was a Brain-Buster Parfait

Basic brain freeze

In the video below from the last Beg to Differ Brand Strategy Boot Camp, I describe what happened when I was faced with this menu board.

Basically, I had walked through the door having already made a number of choices: first I’d chosen between a dozen different food establishments in that neighbourhood; then I’d to choose to ignore my guilt about going with fast food at all; then I chose between ice cream – the product I normally associate with Dairy Queen – and hot food; and finally I had to choose whether to wait when I saw a significant lunch-rush line at the counter.

So by the time I got to the counter, after passing up several opportunities to walk away, you’d think DQ would try to make my life easier. But no, once I got inside the store, I faced a wall of giant posters with exclamation marks and starbursts all over them, and the menu board above that utterly failed to line up my choices in a clear way, filled with cleverly-named products that were all yelling, dancing, and fighting for my attention like a room-full of sugar-buzzed preschoolers whose Ritalin had run out.

Choice: the hidden “THARN”

Richard Adams, in his classic novel Watership Down, coined a great rabbit-language word that I like to use to describe the consumer’s mind-state when faced with too much choice:

THARN: (adj) the helpless, catatonic state a rabbit enters when it is caught in the headlights of a car.

Humans react the same way when you throw too many choices at them: they go “tharn”. Sounds a lot like the headache most people get when they swallow too much ice cream doesn’t it? Like ice cream, small, measured bites are a heavenly experience; too much too fast is physically painful.

But bright headlights & ice cream sundaes are good aren’t they?

Now, you may say, “but that’s just effective consumer marketing”, and perhaps the marketing sages at DQ know something I don’t about what sells sandwiches. Plus, as a 40-year old male, I suspect I’m not at the heart of their target demographic.

I also don’t want to imply that choice is bad, nor is it a bad thing to get your customers to slow down a bit and pay more attention to you while you have their attention.
But remember all the other choices they had to make to get to your “counter”: it’s a delicate balance between deepening their understanding by showing them more and overwhelming them with too much choice.

So ask yourself:

  • 1) Are you helping customers quickly scan their options by organizing clear “decision trees” of plainly labelled and named options?
  • 2) Are you making them feel confident about your brand – that is, their their end-to-end experience of it , and not just the individual sandwich they buy?
  • 3) Are your marketing tactics really deepening their understanding, or just adding to the wall of noise they already face and defeating the point of marketing (to help people decide to buy your products)?
  • 4) Are you managing your whole brand including your product portfolio, your decision-making interfaces, and your customer service to remove THARN moments or are you just turning on the high beams and shoving the ice cream down their throats?

The choice is yours. Well, actually, it’s theirs. And that’s the real point isn’t it?