Differentiation is good. Very very good. I made the point in my post about the Ottawa Shawarma scene that in a crowded, site undifferentiated marketplace, for sale finding a catchy gimmick is a great way to get people to remember you. This unfortunately is the other side of the “personal branding” coin.
Yes, cheap I noticed it. Yes, I remembered it. But no, I’m not going to buy a house from you my Scottish friend.
A good tag line should do at leat one of the following a) tell me what you do if I don’t already know, b) tell me how you do your thing better than anyone else, and / or c) make an emotional connection to show me how “sympatico” you are with me – how you think like I do about your subject area.
This one does none of those things.
5 Reasons this tag line won’t get me to hire the guy in the kilt:
1) It doesn’t tell me what you do for me. The tag line doesn’t tell me anything about your business – and mine. How well / differently do you do what you want me to hire you to do: buy or sell property? Kilt does not equal real estate excellence in my mind. Sorry.
2) It’s all about you. There are perhaps a few large egos in the Real Estate business, and this one makes me suspect you might be among them. If you’re not, show me that by not focusing your ad entirely on yourself. If you are, just save your money and commission a statue of yourself in your back yard. Maybe a little shrine.
3) I don’t want to see you in a kilt. I would be incredibly uncomfortable meeting you in person – especially if you were actually wearing a kilt. Don’t get me wrong, a kilt can be very classy at a wedding or a military Tattoo. But it’s an eccentric thing – kind of like telling people you are a closet Klingon speaker or always wear socks with fish on them. You’ll get remembered, but it doesn’t build your brand.
4) There is such a thing as bad publicity / attention / memorable-ness. While I was taking this picture, a random passer-by laughed out loud at the ad. And not in a “ha ha that’s so clever I want to by a house from him” kind of way. Enough said.
5) My wife is a MacDonald. Apparently there’s some kind of ancient blood feud. Something about your ancestors murdering a bunch of her ancestors in their sleep. Sorry. Nothing personal. But you did bring up the ethnic thing.
Coffee giant tries to get their mojo vibrating again
Once, Starbucks was just a local coffeeshop in Seattle. Then it became a mega-brand, standard-bearer for the premium coffee category worldwide. But lately, the “star” has been fading, and even the “bucks” are drying up. So now the chain will be re-launching a few of its many under-performing stores under a new name – and it ain’t “Starbucks”. Brand seppuku, brilliant extension strategy, or just a curious experiment?
Many little rocks; one Goliath target
I won’t spend a lot of time documenting all the many woes of Starbucks – from closing 1000 stores worldwide over the last few years, to endless streams of controversy , to an actual bombing this year at a Manhattan Store. The bigger story is actually thousands of small stories: how Starbucks is being beaten in the ground wars by smaller, more flexible, more community-minded local shops – like Ottawa’s fair trade coffee champs Bridgehead (of whom I’ve written at length in another post).
Starbucks’ erstwhile strength – ubiquitous presence in major markets worldwide – has almost become an Achilles Heel. Comedian Lewis Black thinks it is surely a sign of the end of the world (WARNING: contains hilarity – may not want to play this in a cubicle):
They’ve been fighting back of course, with their new “Starbucks™ Shared Planet™” brand and a pledge to apply renewed attention to three big perceived areas of weakness:
Ethical sourcing – to answer the Fair Trade movement, which, because of their size and massive bean-supply-chains, they have been slow to embrace. Notice they still don’t call it “Fair”;
Environmental Stewardship – to try to get back some of their tree-hugging mojo; and
Community Involvement – to fight the idea that they are the rapacious corporate villains strip-mining local economies and ruthlessly targeting competitors without giving much back – largely fair complaints.
In which the corporation offers to share… the planet
These three principles are embodied (and proclaimed loudly) in three new Starbuck’s branded “Green Stores” , the first of which opened July 1st at Paris Disneyland (of all places Press Release / Pictures)
At Brandvelope, of course we think all this is great. We’re sure Starbucks is sincere in their commitment to these ideals, and we applaud the incremental steps they are taking in this direction. The problem is their ability to move their Titanic-sized infrastructure to match their ocean-sized ambitions, and navigate around the great big pointy icebergs they face.
For example, Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ says “by 2015, we want to: Purchase 100% of coffee through ethical sourcing practices.” Great. But in the intervening 6 years, a goodly chunk of their coffee will come from, um, less-than-ethical sourcing practices, while local chains (like the Bridgehead where I’m sitting right now) are already at 100% and have been for years. And they’re already intensely environmental, and already deeply committed to their communities. So Starbucks: welcome to the club (let us know when you get here).
The problem with local
Which brings us to Starbucks’ latest uphill battel – its attempt to make itself more local, and more responsive to the communities in which it operates. Because, even on on its home turf in Seattle, where Starbucks still has some claim to being “local” – small coffeeshops are thriving and forcing Starbucks store closures.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise when a small army of field-tripping keeners were spotted at several Seattle area coffeeshops over the last few months, making loud observations about store design and product lines, and filing their notes in folders marked “Observations” in large letters. The results? Wait for it…
The new brand: “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea”
Branded by location: “15th Avenue”. That’s the name of the new game-changing Starbucks location on (surprise!) 15th Avenue in Seattle.
So does this mean a “15th Avenue” will be coming to a neighbourhood near you. Nope. Yours would be “Main Street Coffee & Tea” or “Broadway” or “Grosse Pointe Strip Mall” or “All-Knowing Supreme Leader Boulevard” or whatever. The idea would be to have each location branded with its location to make it seem like it grew organically in that space.
Two other stores in Starbucks’ native Seattle will follow suit, each getting its own name to make it sound more like a neighborhood hangout, less like Big Coffee, a Starbucks official told The Seattle Times on Thursday. Chicago Tribune.
Booze & guitars: The field-trippers focused on coffeeshops that serve alcohol alongside their hot drinks, as well as those that feature live events like poetry readings and guitar-jams. So nosurprise that these will be part of the cocktail mix at the new shops. The idea is 1) to prop up sales in the traditionally flat evening hours, 2) tap into lucrative alcohol profit margins, and 3) to make Perez Hilton very very happy.
No logo: all the media I’ve read are saying that no Starbucks logos will appear on the signage, the products, or anywhere else in the store. I can’t confirm this, so if any Seattle-based readers can visit and confirm, please do!).
But if this is a purely “white label” approach to branding these new locations, I’m interested to see how Starbucks is going to evolve this concept as they go forward. For now, the perceived independence of the locations is a useful way to allow the clipboard-toters at Starbucks to experiment and study the new format without dilluting the corporate brand.
Coffee industry analyst Andrew Hetzel: “It looks to me that they are testing a specialty sub-brand to see if they can capture some other segment of the market that would otherwise be disillusioned by a large corporate chain,” Hetzel said, adding that opening only one at first “gives them a live shop to test changes in menu offerings, store design and, perhaps, procedures quickly” without disrupting operating stores branded with the Starbucks name. Whole
Where to from here?
But this can’t last forever. Assuming the format works and Starbucks wants to roll it out to different markets, eventually, they’ll see the need to create visible connections (and brand equity) between locations. Because creating a series of purely local brands with no overall brand marketing synnergies across the chain would be counter-productive for a company of Starbucks size and clout. And I find it hard to believe they’d be that stupid.
AdAge article: Technomic President Ron Paul… predicts the concept will look much different if rolled out on a national stage. “I still think it’s more a of test lab than something they’re more serious about rolling out,” he said. “That’s not a national strategy.” Full article here.
So three basic brand strategy options:
1) New “family” brand:
Starbucks name would not appear in branding. Instead, the new shops would be given their own umbrella brand which would operate as a stand-alone “entity” within the broader corporate portfolio. So for example, the new branches could use a high-character name like “Mermaid Cafe” or a more neutral name like the “Your Independent Grocer” chain in Canada.
Advantage: diversifies the Starbucks portfolio without risk of brand dillution or confusion around over-extension.
Disadvantage: little transfer of brand equity – must essentially start from scratch building a new brand.
2) Premium brand extension:
This new format becomes a flavour of the existing Starbucks brand, but is given a descriptor or “soft brand” name of its own – like Starbucks Plus or Starbucks Cofeehouse.
Advantage: Leverages 30+ years of brand equity, but Disadvantage: seriously undermines the consumer’s current idea of what a Starbucks is and what they can expect when they walk through the door.
3) Endorsed brand:
The new brand has its own brand identity and branches would clearly not be “Starbucks” but everywhere the name appeared in graphics or formal text (like a Press Release), it would be “endorsed” by the Starbucks brand – as in “Courtyard by Marriot” or “Clever Cutter from K-Tel“.
Advantage: blends clear connection with separate identity. Disadvantage: requires careful management to balance the two aspects of the brand.
So which way do you think Starbucks should go? Your thoughts are welcome as always.
So you ask: “Mad at Switzerland? What could anyone possibly have against the Swiss” – those lovely Alp-ine purveyors of Rolex watches, visit this Nestle chocolate, and fastidiously discreet banking services? Sorry Switzerland. It’s not about you. It’s about you beating the pants off Canada in the global branding arena.
And to be fair, in the rant video attached you’ll note that I have equal opportunity anger issues against Sweden, Finland, and even my own ancestral homeland the Netherlands. And as you’ll see, it’s all because of their brands. Each of these countries punches far above their weight in the contest for the global brand belt. As you’ll see in the stats below, these countries even beat the heavyweight in the ring – the USA – when you take their population into account.
So why the anger?
Okay, I’m a Canadian. I’m not actually angry per se: just hurt, frustrated, envious, mildly apologetic, etc.
Actually, I want Canadian brand managers to stand up and take notice. We need to get more internationally respected / recognized brands. In this deck on SlideShare, you’ll find some supporting data (from Interbrand / Business Week) and my challenge to Canadian Brand Managers.