Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rebranding Whole Milk: Sometimes a Name Isn’t Enough

In the not too distant past, there were basically only a few milk choices: skim, 1%, 2%, and whole. All of it came from cows.

Of course, the numbers refer to the fat content of the milk. But whole milk only contains about 3.5% fat. That's not terrible. So why not call it 3.5% milk? Calling it "whole" milk conjures up jugs of fat. But for as long as anyone can remember, whole milk has either been just "milk" or "whole milk."

Since 1975, whole milk sales in the US have decreased by 61%. See this chart (source):


Somewhere along the way, milk producers decided that calling milk "whole" wasn't a good idea. They switched to calling it "Vitamin D" milk. That has a much healthier connotation. But it hasn't turned around sales. The product essentially hasn't changed in years, and re-branding it didn't do anything. Because sometimes changing the name just isn't enough.

Of course, that's due to many factors such as changing consumer preferences, the rise of alternative milks, increased awareness of lactose sensitivities, and perhaps, having called it whole milk for so many years. A new name can't change that. But at least they tried. Unlike RadioShack...

RadioShack
Yesterday, news spread that RadioShack may soon be filing for bankruptcy. There are many reasons for declining sales at RadioShack, but as I wrote last year, the brand needed a name change years ago. A name change alone likely would not have saved it, but it would have been a step in the right direction.

Or, maybe Radio Shack was doomed to go the way of whole milk even after the name change. Who knows.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Half-Words, Quick Cuts, and Blaring Music: Advertising Trend Watch

I'm noticing a new trend in commercials for electronics: many of them feature very quick cuts of people using the products while music blares in the background. A few of them also feature one word on the screen that doesn't change, while a word before or after changes with the different scenes. Here are a few very recent examples:

1. Android: "And You"
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • The word "and" stays on the screen while other words change around it.
2. Fitbit: "Find Your Fit
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • The word "fit" is on each screen while other words change around it.
Slight variation: 

3. iPad Air: "Change"
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • No words on the screen.
Example from two years ago: 

4. Chromebook: "For everyone"
  • Perhaps this was the start of the trend, as it contains all three elements.
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So is this actually a trend or just a coincidence? Did I miss other examples? Please let me know.

Of course, the real question is: do consumers of these products respond well to this type of ad? I think I'm in the target market for each of these products and while I like the ad concepts, I wish they'd slow down a bit so I can understand what's going on. But maybe I'm just getting old.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cooking Up Something New

I'm excited to announce that I have accepted a job to lead marketing at Portillo's, a restaurant chain based in Chicago. It's a bit of a homecoming for me — I worked as a cashier at the Portillo's on Rt. 59 in Naperville while on summer and winter breaks in high school and college.

Check out the two pictures here: the first is me in my Portillo's uniform when I was 17. The second is me outside the Portillo's in Buena Park, California the day before I accepted the most recent offer. If I had known in that first picture what I know now, I would've shown a little more enthusiasm.

I am honored to be the first ever marketing employee at Portillo's. Berkshire Partners recently purchased the company, and along with the existing Portillo's team, they have a great plan for the future. I'm happy to say that we can all expect to receive the same quality service and food from Portillo's going forward.

Thank You, Google
It's very difficult for me to leave Google — I love the company and still think it's the greatest on Earth. I'm so incredibly thankful to everyone at Google for all of the wonderful opportunities I've had over the past four years. On the long list of things I'll miss about working at Google, the incredibly smart and collaborative people are at the top.

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I start at Portillo's in January. So when you're in the mood for a delicious beef and cheddar croissant or a great piece of chocolate cake, let me know. Maybe I'll meet you at your local restaurant.

There's Never a Lack of Ideas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You’re Touring Hogwarts: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 2)

This is the second of two posts on the psychology of illusions. Read the first post here.

I hate waiting. I'll bet you do, too. My vision of hell involves waiting in a long line that never ends.

Smart marketers know people hate to wait, so they create illusions to trick us into thinking that we're not waiting. Theme parks have gotten really good at this.

These days, every major new ride created at a theme park includes things to see and do right in the line.

Example: Touring Hogwarts
When Universal Studios Islands of Adventure opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in 2010, my wife, sister, and I were among the first to visit. We happily waited in line for nearly two hours to ride the main attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Why were we happy to wait in line? Because it took us on an awesome tour through Hogwarts.

In each room we waited, magical things happened to us. The Sorting Hat sang us a song. Harry, Hermione, and Ron cast spells in a classroom — one of which caused snow to fall from the ceiling. Portraits on the wall talked to each other and to us. It was fantastic. We even stayed in one of the rooms longer than we had to just so we could see everything.

We were waiting in line the whole time, but it was an illusion: we were being entertained.

The "You Are Not Waiting" Illusion
This illusion is meant to distract us. Brilliant theme park employees have created lines that are sometimes just as good as the ride. They're entertaining us and it doesn't even feel like we're waiting.

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Sometimes we can't prevent our customers from having to wait. But we can entertain them in the process. We need to get creative about it. Uber shows customers exactly how far away their ride is after ordering it. And it's kind of entertaining to watch our ride navigate the streets around us as it makes its way to pick us up. If we have to wait, we might as well follow along.

Take a page from theme parks and Uber: When it comes to handling a waiting customer, distract her, entertain her, and set reasonable expectations. She just might find a little joy.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Photo: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: Me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poop in the Pool: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 1)

Illusions are everywhere in marketing.

I'm not talking about the kind of illusions David Copperfield performs nightly. I'm talking about the things organizations do to make customers think something is true when it's not.

Because my wife and I are going to see Penn and Teller perform in Las Vegas soon, I thought I'd expose some of the most popular illusions in marketing and then identify what we can learn from them. Let's go...

Example: Poop in the Pool
A friend of mine recently told me this story from his time as a lifeguard at his neighborhood pool:
Whenever someone pooped in the pool, we cleared the area and then fished it out of the water. Then, we were trained to grab an empty two liter bottle we had on hand, go into the bathroom, fill it with water, and dump it in the area in which the poop was found. We'd wait a few minutes, and then open the pool back up.
Yikes! My friend went on to say that the pool was already treated heavily with chemicals and if they if they actually dumped more into the water, it would destroy the PH balance, causing bigger problems. They were trained to pretend like they were dumping chemicals into the water because that's what people expected them to do in order to feel like the situation had been resolved (or, perhaps... dissolved?). Boom.
 
The "We're Doing Something About This Problem" Illusion 
This illusion stems from the fact that when things go wrong, we expect them to be fixed. "Somebody needs to do something about this!" We want answers and we want action. We can quickly move on from problems if we feel like there has been an adequate response. 
 
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Problems always arise. It's our response that matters most. I'm not advocating for fake responses like dumping pretend chemicals into a pool. I'm advocating for genuine responses to making things right when they go wrong.

Often times, it's our response to bad situations that define us. The best we can do is respond quickly, honestly, and in the best interest of customers. We don't need illusions to do that.
 
There's never a lack of ideas. 

PS Special thanks to Kyle Welter for inspiring this post. 

Image: Caddyshack pool scene

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When Selling Lawn Ornaments, Fill Your Lawn with Ornaments

My wife took this picture while we were in western Illinois on vacation a few weeks ago. I had to do a few u-turns to get the perfect shot. It shows the sign in front of a business that sells lawn ornaments. But where are all the lawn ornaments?!

I commend the business for having a sign that is very easy to read. That's a big part of my first marketing must-have. But in this instance, the company owners need to fill their own lawn with tons of ornaments so we can see what they sell. Fill that thing with all the gnomes, birdbaths, orbs, fake flamingos, artificial deer, and metal art they can possible cram onto their lawn. They have the perfect opportunity to display their products in the exact way they are used.

The sign is fantastic. Just go one step further.

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Review the five marketing must-haves and ensure you're doing each one as well as possible before moving on to any other marketing tactics.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What’s the ROI of Sponsoring the Name of a Sports Stadium?

This should be named the
United Airlines Center
There's no easy answer to that question. Perhaps it doesn't even matter.

While there are a few published methods for calculating the brand value of buying the naming rights to a stadium (example), I'd argue that the decision to buy these rights is based more on emotions than any sort of rational return on investment calculation. It's much more likely that a CEO or CMO simply thinks their brand closely aligns with their local sports franchise and they want to see their name atop its stadium rather than a situation in which CEO or CMO estimates how much sales will increase as a result of their sponsorship.

Some research suggests much of the value from a stadium sponsorship actually comes in the included tickets a brand receives and can use to entertain its most important clients. So maybe those CEOs and CMOs really just want to go to events at the nearby stadium and they figure if they can also bring along some clients then in makes financial sense. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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The point of all of this is isn't to knock the business of stadium sponsorships — I happen to think there are a lot of stadium sponsorships that make a lot of sense. My point is to say that some decisions are based more on emotions than rational thoughts — even big, costly decisions. At the end of the day, executives and employees at Lucas Oil probably think it's really cool to see their name atop the Indianapolis Colts' stadium. They probably enjoy their luxury box for events in the stadium, too. And to them, that's worth a few million dollars a year. If you were trying to sell Lucas Oil on a "better" way to invest their money, there's probably not a rational argument you could make to change their mind. So why try?

There's never a lack of ideas.

Footnote
I have always thought the most poorly named stadium is the United Center in Chicago. The stadium should be called the United Airlines Center, as I think many people who have never been to the stadium do not realize that the airline pays to sponsor the stadium and that it's not, in fact, named after a Kumbaya moment in which we are all united. 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons