I just finished shopping in a
typical large urban shopping mall. With over 360 stores, I was sure I could
find a simple pair of black active-wear shoes, your basic laced up runners. I
was on a mission.
The first store I saw was the very popular and trendy Steve Madden with a large “50% OFF” sign in the window. They had a couple pairs of runners that were close to what I was looking for, but they all had a white rubber band at the bottom. If it was black like the rest of the shoe, it would have been perfect. A salesperson asked if I needed help, but I politely declined the help as this was the first store I had tried. So, I left Steve Madden and I continued on.
Next was B2 Shoes, another
trend setting store. I quickly found two styles that could work. I approached
the checkout counter to find my size 11. The friendly young lady replied that
they didn’t have an 11 in either of the styles, but she had 10.5. When I said
10.5 wouldn’t work, she suggested that I go online where they had a greater
selection. I thanked her and went on my way.
I proceeded to Little Burgundy,
Skechers, and then Hudson’s Bay with no luck. I was starting to
believe this wasn’t going to be as easy as I had thought. But I was persistent.
I found the mall directory and scouted out 29 other footwear locations, then
planned my attack.
My first stop was Browns who also had “SALE” signs everywhere. I found a perfect match, and, for safety, I choose another as backup and took them both to the cash register and waited for someone to help me. Patiently I waited as someone else was being helped. I stood there waiting and waiting. Finally, someone ask if I needed help. I forced a smile on my face and asked if they had these shoes in size 11. The lady went to the computer terminal. “We only have the one pair in 10.5” she announced as if she saved the day. Again, I replied that that size wouldn’t work. A shoe that was a half a size too small wasn’t helpful unless they thought I could curly my toes to fit. As I left, she suggested that I go online where there would be more sizes available.
Dejected, I went onto ALDO shoes who had a “Two for One” sale. I didn’t want two pairs of shoes; I just wanted a simple pair of black runners. They had a fancier black leather shoe. I was becoming desperate. Once again, I stood in line to see if they had my size. As I stood there waiting for someone to help me, I started to understand why retailer store brands are doomed. “Can I help you sir,” asked the young girl with bright colored hair. Startled, I asked her if they had these in size 11. No size 11 but they had a 10.5. Really! She too suggested that I go online.
I was beginning to think that size 11 was a rarity. I now understood how Shaquille O’Neal must feel with size 22 feet. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that the worldwide average shoe size for men is between 9 and 12. According to Shoes.com, the average Canadian male shoe size is 10.5. Do retail stores only carry the average size?
I continued on my quest checking Champs,
Lacoste, Journeys, and SportsChek with no luck. Finally, I
gave-up. I had spent over an hour with nothing to show for it. I moved on to
other items on my shopping list.
As I was heading out of the mall
feeling defeated, I saw the Foot Locker. “Last chance,” I said to
myself. On display was a black Converse. I took it off the shelf and
walked to the counter to once again see if they had my size. The girl tapped
onto the screen and advised me that they did. I almost jumped up for joy, but I
just stood there feeling sad that the retail business was dying a painful death
and they were totally oblivious as to why. A young guy in a referee outfit came
over with a box and opened it to show me that the runners were the same as the
ones I took from the shelf. He put down the box as I started to take off my
shoes to try them on. Unceremoniously, he left, and I am there to fend for
myself. I thread the laces and put them on. Satisfied that they fit, I go to
the counter to pay. I explain to the lady that I will wear them out and will
not need the box. She replies that without the box I can’t return them. I agreed
to this condition and paid with my debit card. She hands me a bag to put my old
shoes in it, like I’m at a discount store.
I know all retail transactions aren’t like the one I just descripted, but this isn’t the first time I have been disappointed and totally frustrated with the line ups, lack of service, or no service at all, and limited selection and sizes. There are a number of reasons why retail store brands are doomed. Unconsciously, they are driving us to online shopping, if not telling us directly. Next time, I will start the retail journey on my laptop in the comfort of my own home.
‘Tis the season for corporate/retail brands to perpetuate the Christmas brand. No other holiday is embraced more by brands than Christmas. According to Pew Research, consumers’ least favorite part of Christmas is commercialism and materialism. Yet, every major retail brand tries to capture the hearts of consumers with the spirit of Christmas and end with a profitable year. In the UK, Christmas adverts are like the Super Bowl in the US. Every year, John Lewis, Sainsbury, Marks & Spence, Boots, Tesco, Heathrow, and others compete for the honor of the best holiday advert – every year the stakes seem to get higher. Christmas is no longer seen as just a religious holiday but as a joyous time to spend with family and friends. In fact, 80% of non-Christians will celebrate the holiday season. The Christmas brand has a lot to do with this fact.
Evolution of Christmas
In the fourth century, the Christian church declared
a winter holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The holiday was combined
with other already established solstice celebrations. It wasn’t until the 1800’s
that Christmas transformed into a family and children-centric ritual with the
introduction of jolly-old St. Nicholas.
In the 1840’s, the first Christmas-tree appeared in North America.
Alongside this tradition was the Jewish Hanukkah celebration which evolved into
the festival of lights. As the religious connotations of these holidays fade, the
celebrations have become more secular and inclusive with core values of the Christmas
brand based on peace, goodwill to others, charity, and a hope that goodness
Today, the festivities and values
are significantly emphasized through commercialization and sensory overload, driven
by the many corporate/retail brands eager to morph the Christmas brand to
theirs. Iconic Christmas songs like All I Want for Christmas Is You by
Mariah Carey and classic movies like It’s a Wonderful Life are all
geared to keep the Christmas spirit alive against the harsh distractions of
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day. The silver-lining is that all the
shopping is tied with the notion of gift-giving. It is a practice of sharing
your good fortunes, expressing your love and friendship.
The Spirit of Christmas
The 30th President of the United
States, Calvin Coolidge once said that “Christmas is not a time nor a
season, but a state of mind.” The Christmas brand is a feeling of happiness,
wonderment, togetherness, festivities, joy and love; brought out by merriment
(eating and drinking), holiday decor, lights, gifts, ritual traditions, music,
and storytelling. The ultimate goal is rekindling the nostalgic holiday magic
we cherished as children.
Hallmark is a master of capturing the holiday spirit through
stories of reunited loved ones, kindness of strangers, family-values, and holiday
love stories. Last year, Hallmark made over $600 million in advertising
associated with their 37 holiday-themed movies. Last year, Christmas movies recorded
85 million viewers.
Economics of Christmas
Today, brands use the concepts of Christmas by emotionally connecting with their customers through unique holiday commercials. They hope to transfer the Christmas brand of joy and happiness into holiday sales. A whopping $731 billion in holiday sales is predicated by the National Retail Federation.
The fact that emotional branding is the strongest way for brands to influence consumers is means that companies spent almost $4 billion on holiday advertising last year.
Deloitte predicts retailers can expect a jolly holiday shopping season. While some economic headwinds are forming, the average US household is planning to spend nearly $1,500 during the holidays.
The Recipe for a Great Holiday Commercial
I don’t think there are any
revolutionary secrets on what makes a memorable holiday commercial but here are
some key take-aways that I have gleamed from previous successful Christmas
A Great Christmas Story
A great story should quickly establish the protagonist in a situation with an obstacle or crisis that they need to overcome. At the climax of the story, the protagonist makes a discovery that changes his/her life. The ending should be both inevitable and unexpected. The audience should be left with hope and a sense that the crazy world is still a good place. This simple formula starts with a touch of sadness, a dash of surprise and delight and finishes with hope, happiness, and joy.
In 2015, Edeka, a German supermarket company, introduced Heimkommen
(Homecoming) one of the best holiday commercials in history. Since it was
launched, it has received over 65 million views. Make sure you have a tissue
handy if you plan to watch it.
Theaudio can quickly make or break the mood. All of the great commercials have memorable music. According to the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), musical commercials are 27 percent more likely to report large business effects compared to non-music campaigns. That translates into increased sales!
A number of research studies have found that music can amplify emotional responses to the story and increase ad memorability. Radiocentre has found that music can boost brand recognition. Brainsightssays that lyrics/message that support the ad storyline are best.
John Lewis, a UK department store, is notorious for their Christmas adverts. The Bear and The Hare, produced in 2013, is still garnering view. Recently, the UK Metro media declared it the top John Lewis Christmas advert ever in a readers’ poll. This commercial feature a bear and hare who are best friends. The wintery weather forces the bear into hibernation leaving the hare to face Christmas alone. The hare solves the problem by purchasing an alarm clock so that the bear wakes up in time for the festivities. This beautifully illustrated animation is enhanced by Somewhere Only We Know sung by British pop singer Lily Allen.
Simple, Authentic, and Symbiotic
Being real to the brand’s persona is vital. There is a great desire to solve the world’s problems and be a hero but most people are only looking for hope. No brand will be the hero but they can bring hope by emphasizing their brand’s values that correlate with Christmas. This year’s Walmart Canada’s “Piggy Bank” commercial is a great example of promoting their brand promise with the message of spending small and give big for the holiday season.
Another classic commercial is Hershey’s Kisses’ “We Wish You Merry Christmas.”
It only takes 15 seconds to effectively get its message across. The story goes
that John Dunn, Hershey’s Chocolate brand manager in 1989, came up with the
concept on a business trip. Ogilvy Mather produced the commercial with the
latest stop-motion animation and CG photography available at the time.
Children, Animals and People
It’s true! Add a cute baby or animal and your commercial’s appeal will increase. Super Bowl commercials with animals, babies, or children tend to score much better than those with without. In fact, ads with animals performed 21 percent better than ads with celebrities and 14 percent better than the average non-animal Super Bowl ads.
The underlining premise of the
holiday season is about bringing people (family, friends, and strangers)
together to see Christmas as a child would: joyful and wonderous. Connecting
your brand to people in the holiday spirit is a recipe for success.
The Folger’s Coffee 1986 “Peter Comes Home for Christmas”
commercial fits the bill. The only thing missing is a golden retriever running
to meet Peter at the door.
Inclusiveness – Peace on Earth
Keep your message and sentiment
universal and true to the phase “Peace on Earth”. The holiday is a time of the
year when the world stands together, quite literally in the famous Coca-Cola‘s
1971 “Hilltop” campaign with the very memorable “I’d
like to buy the world a Coke” song. The ad was later re-worked to show
a very diverse group of people at night, holding white candles and ended with
the tagline “Seasons Greetings.” It’s not a time to air a highly polarizing messages
that only appeals to one demographic segment or worse offends another.
This timeless Pampers commercial “Peace on Earth” shows different
babies sleeping peacefully as the song Silent
Night is sung by a mother’s voice. This simplistic but captivating ad
communicates vulnerability, beauty, and peace.
Memorable, Unique and Relevant
Alongside the engaging soundtrack,
the commercial must be visually stimulating with dramatic lighting and
brilliant colours. Ultimately, the commercial must be share worthy. If the commercial captures the hearts of your
audience, it will quickly be shared around the world. It will become an iconic holiday
memory that supports the brand of Christmas. Attaching your brand to the idea
of helping, sharing, and giving during the holiday season makes good business
sense. It also builds the Christmas brand that everyone wants to embrace.
The Apple commercial appropriately
titled Frankie’s Holiday is beautifully shot with rich details and
colours like the framed image of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein,
on the wall of Frankie’s home. He records a music box version of “There’s
No Place Like Home for the Holidays” on his iPhone then plays the track
in the town square as he nervously sings the song. The commercial concludes
with the message: Open your heart to everyone.
The Christmas Brand
There are many reasons why
Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. It’s become too commercialized
and is not environmentally friendly (all the plastics and packaging, food
waste, energy consumption). Bringing family together can be stressful at the
best of times. There is the pressure of shopping, the financial woes, and high expectations.
Holiday depression is very real. Are the billions of dollars of consumerism
worth it? Should we all become like Scrooge or the Grinch?
Once every year we pull-out the
holiday decorations, put on the ugly Christmas sweaters, consume too much, get
frustrated in busy malls, parking lots, roads and airports, navigate rude and
obnoxious friends and family, but there is always that one moment that makes it
all worth it. We strive to capture these
moments in our commercials.
The trick is to recognize that one moment of time when you see a child’s face light up in wonder, when a stranger stands there opening a door just for you, when someone thanks you for helping them with the simplest things, when you try something different and like it, when you invite someone new to share your holiday traditions. Not unlike the image portrayed in Christmas commercials, there are real moments that remind us of the true spirit of Christmas.
May your heart and home be filled
will all of the happiness, joy, and peace during the holiday season. May you
experience that Christmas moment of joy even if it is sparked by a Christmas commercial.
Do you remember the cool kids in school? They always made witty comments with perfect timing. They always had the right clothes and the right look. They seemed years ahead of us! We envied them and tried to be like them. We were either in or out of fashion. Likewise, some brands have it and some don’t. What is the cool factor? How does a brand get an “OMG that’s soooo cool!!!” reaction?
While coolness is an intangible and elusive concept, being a cool brand is lucrative. It means huge economic profits based on premium pricing, insatiable demand, and image enhancement beyond your control. It can also be a major barrier for any competitors. Researcher and blogger Harsh Verma says “Cool is a scarce resource capable of bringing about value transformation.” Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the Cool Brands Council, says that innovation, originality, authenticity, and desirability makes a brand cool.
Other experts say that cool brands only matter to people who tie their identity directly to that product. To make this relationship happen, a community aspect of interact with the brand is required. It’s easy to understand how high tech (Tesla, Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony) and luxury brands (Gucci, Rolex, Prada, Tiffany) become cool but how do everyday products like deodorant, underwear, shoes, food, or other mundane products become cool?
What is Cool?
Wikipedia defines cool as a word often used to express admiration or approval. The word became popular in the late 1940s by Black American jazz musicians, who were real cool cats.
Things or practices have been called cool to mean superlative, excellent, exclusive, special, original, unique, rare, exciting, and desirable. Like all things we want to know we put questions like this through a vigorous scientific evaluation. But what exactly is cool?
Alan Tapp and Sara Birdin their research paper(2008) defined cool as “the best [word] to describe that elusive, exclusive quality that makes behaviours, objects so hip, desirable and symbolic of ‘being in the know’.”
Clive Nancarrowand Julie Page defined cool in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour as a laid back, narcissistic, and hedonistic attitude and as a form of insider knowledge. In true cult-fashion, everyone wants a piece of your brand until it becomes uncool. Cool isn’t for the masses; it needs to have a distinctiveness and restricted access to keep its cool factor.
According to a Datamonitor (2005) report, the perceptions of cool vary by age. While young consumers often mimic celebrities who are to be perceived as cool, most teenagers and adults view cool as a means to express their individualism. Older customers were found to view cool as synonymous with quality.
The two studies identified ten major cool characteristics. I took the liberty of mashing the insights together and created some symmetry in their outcomes to develop a coolness brand wheel. Hit all ten characteristics and your brand will be so cool that Oprah Winfrey would need to put it on her “Favorite Things List.”
Cool Brand Wheel
In essence, the Cool Brand Wheel perfectly explains the coolness factors as behavioral, state of mind, aesthetic, social distinction and appropriately autonomous. Coolness can turn a ‘want’ into a ‘need.’
Here are the ten cool factors:
Branding legends Jack Trout and Al Ries said that consumers shop primarily by categories. People can only remember a few brands per category. The goals is to be at the top of that list. Once the category list is full–it’s full. A company can only break that full list if they develop a new, unique category.
Cool brands are either at the top of the list or in a category on their own. They are perceived as the creator of their category. For example, there is a numerous automobile brands, but the most successful ones have built their brand on a unique category (i.e., safety, luxury, speed, quality, etc.). Tesla has recently marketed itself as the electric car company; they created a brand new category. While other well-known automobile companies have electric cars, they don’t own the new category, Tesla does. Being the first in a category helps the brand be unique, distinctive, and autonomous making them cool.
Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell published a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research on how autonomy influences coolness. They concluded that “coolness was a subjective, socially constructed positive trait attributed to cultural objects (like brands) perceived to be appropriately autonomous”. Note the word ‘appropriately’. What they found was that the degree of autonomy was important. They needed to create a sufficient divergence from the norm.
Apple was initially highly autonomous due to its obscurity and association with the graphic design community. They allied themselves with strong graphic software like PageMaker, Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXPress, and Adobe. According to Columnist Charles Pillar, the famous 1984 ad help portray Apple as a symbol of counterculture: rebellious, free-thinking and creative. They became synonymous with desktop publishing, photography, creativity, and design industries.
Over time, Apple continued to redefine itself and its marketplace. While Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, the smartphone, the smart watch or the tablet, they made the best products. They also made them cool. Apple designer Jonathan Ive said, “Our goals are very simple—to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.”
Apple has clearly positioned itself as a brand that thinks differently and stands out. To emphasize being autonomous, Apple has purposely associated itself with autonomous rebels and artists such as Picasso, Einstein, Nelson Mandela, and Mark Twain.
It is hugely important that brands be authentically autonomous, otherwise they can be perceptive as conceited. This is a problem that Tesla owner Elon Musk has faced. To be authentic, a brand needs to have a unique story and reason behind their brand. The brand needs to be true to its heritage. The brand promise must be clear and delivered at every customer touch point. The brand must live the talk. To be cool, a brand needs to follow its own path, regardless of the norms, beliefs, or expectations of others.
In a world where we have a hard time concentrating, brand memorability is a challenge. Havas (2018) found that brand campaigns have a direct impact on consumer behavior only after 60 days have passed. What they discovered was that memorable campaigns had a greater chance of recall after 60 days. Nigel Hughes, managing director of Havas said “There is a significant gap between being aware of a campaign and remembering it. With so many channels broadcasting, respondents are initially aware of many campaigns, but they don’t remember the messages…” The stickiness of the message is just as important as the awareness.
There are a number of ways to make your brand memorable or sticky. If humor fits your brand personality, it can be very useful. Old Spice understood the importance of entertaining their customers. They took an old brand and “Swaggerized Their Brand” into one of the top brands in its category. Landor, a leading brand consult and design company said “Old Spice’s business has grown by double digits every year since the new positioning went to market.” For more on using humor check out this blog post.
Pulling consumers heartstrings can also attract massive views and social engagement. Every holiday season airline companies, department stores, and tech companies try to bring out the holiday spirit, hoping to transfer the warmth onto their brand. But, be careful, too much love isn’t cool.
Being offbeat and edgy can also get a brand noticed. This generally includes being rebellious, risky, and controversial. Taking this direction can quickly fortify a stronger bond between a brand and consumers but can also repel a portion of consumers. Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick’s racial injustice cause is a case in point. As their ad said “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
People have always been attracted to beautiful aesthetics and expensive things. Highly exclusive and extremely expensive brands are historically cool. Diamonds have continuously been cool. Just ask my wife.
In contrast to today’s crazy world, simple, sleek, modern designs seem to elevate the consumer’s senses. These design elements are seen in functional, sound, touch, and visual manifestations. Apple has perfected a clean and minimalistic design in of all of its products including packaging and advertising. As Dan Frommer said, “Apple products are cool because you don’t have to figure out how they work—they are natural and human.”
Paying a hefty price of entry shouldn’t create buyer’s remorse but a belonging that should continue to keep giving. Extra attention to the details and the little things makes a brand stay cool.
Brands that do good is not a new concept. But its popularity has increased among Millennials. Millennials have become socially conscious; they buy brands that demonstrate their commitment to changing the world. The extreme weather conditions and devastating consequences of climate change have created a highly-sensitive consumer base that appreciates corporate social engagement. Caring for our planet and humanity are becoming an integral part of a brand’s business strategy, as they activity engage in communities and social and environmental causes.
For example, TOMS started out as a shoe company with a one-for-one promise: for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair was donated to needy children. Today, they have expanded into one-for-one spectacles that provide ophthalmic treatment to the needy, one-for-one coffee where each cup sold provides clean water to the poor, and one-for-one bags that help save lives of birthing mothers and their newborns in developing countries. Very cool!
Patagonia scores big in this area as an environmentally and socially responsible company. Their mission statement clearly states, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
According to the Ueber-Brands concept, there is a precarious balance between longing and belonging. While the goal is to acquire as many customers as possible to maximize profits, you must be careful to balance inclusiveness with exclusivity. To be cool you always need the admirer, desirer, and dreamers to be part of your tribe. Brands that build strong communities help the brand to evolve and also fulfill peoples’ needs.
Remember the day when it was cool to wear white iPod earphones. Now, it’s the white earbuds. I’m not sure if this qualifies as being cool today. But Apple has sold over 2 billion iPhones & iPads since 2007. They continue to introduce a new model every couple of years to create exclusivity and to keep their loyal tribe happy and wanting more. And they have a very big tribe.
There is something special about being part of an exclusive club. Harley-Davidson motorcycles understood the idea of building a community by setting up the Harley Owners Group H.O.G. across North America. Chapters popped up everywhere and the company started sponsoring rallies, showcase new motorcycles. It was a win-win and the cult-like Harley Nation was created with over half a million participants. “I’m very into the Harley myth,” says Alvin LaSalle, a 63 electrical contractor from California. To prove it, he proudly displays the Harley’s trademark wings tattooed on his arm. The brand has always been associated with the Hell’s Angels, who supposedly uses the Harley owners’ manual as a bible at wedding ceremonies. Their challenge today is to make the HOG cooler for Millennials whose parents are still driving them.
Reflecting on the past and reinventing oneself in a familiar, but unconventional way accentuates coolness. Many of the world’s luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Cartier, and Tiffany perpetuate themselves by highlighting their history, and craftsmanship. It’s never bad to remind your customers what you stand for.
History legitimizes the core brand values and how they became who they are today. This doesn’t mean that the brand fails to change, but that they continue to evolve while maintaining their ultimate goal of surpassing customers’ expectations.
Classically cool individuals stay away from trends and so do trendy brands. It can be important to stay true to your roots and stay the course. Timeless brands are consistent in look and style. Coca-Cola is a great sample of a brand true to its roots with decades of steadfast positioning and looks. However, the brand isn’t entirely unchanging. The brand should be tweaked constantly overtime in a natural fashion without fanfare. Being discrete and real is also cool.
In connection with being authentic, cool brands must also be contemporary. This means reinventing itself in a progressive, natural fashion that strongly ties back to the brand’s purpose and vision. This is how Apple was able to morph from iMac to iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. What’s next? The autonomous iCar?
Old Spice is an interesting case in point. It had been around for over 70 years and was starting to become an old man’s product. It wasn’t on my shopping list, but it was on my dad’s. In 2010 that all changed when they launched one of the most successful rebrands with the “Old Spice Guy”.
They spiced up the product line and attracted a new customer-base; now their product is very cool. There is a fine line between timeless and contemporary, but Old Spice navigated the waters with skill.
Back in the 1970’s their slogan was “Mark of a Man” and targeted dads and grandfathers. Today, their focus is on young men with the slogan “The original. If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.” The nautical theme is still present, but the colonial sailing ship is now a racing sail boat. The packaging has also evolved over time. Initially, the bottle was made of clay (something you would find on a sailing ship in the 1930s), then it became a cream-colored glass bottle that mimicked pottery design, finally it evolved onto a plastic bottle.
The fundamentals of the Old Spice brand still remain the same: nautical theme, cream color bottle, and red top. What’s different is its coolness.
Cool brands march to their own drum.
Recognize these names: “Cherry Garica, Chucky Monkey, Phish Food, The Tonight Dough, and Americone Dream?”
These are Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors. Two Vermont boys, Ben Cohen and JerryGreenfield ignored conventional wisdom and built an ice cream business worth $326 million (Price sold to Unilever in 2000). Here are some of the unconventional ways they built the brand:
Instead of using venture capital to expand their business, they sold shares door-to-door shares ($126 each). They raised $750,000 for their first expansion efforts.
When Pillsbury (owners of Haagen-Dazs) was discouraging vendors from selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, they retaliated with an ad campaign “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?”
Back in 1988, their business was ahead of the times based on three missions:
make fantastic ice cream
build sustainable growth by respecting the Earth & Environment
make the world a better place.
As the franchise development manager for Ben & Jerry’s, Eric Thomas said, “You really can change the world through ice cream.” One cool scoop at a time.
Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchase making decisions take place in the subconscious mind, a place where emotions are king. Activating an emotional connection can be very beneficial, but you will not connect with everyone. You must clearly understand your customers’ needs and wants to connect at this level. If you connect, the risk will be well worth the effort. If you don’t, you’ll have egg on your face.
Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner protest commercial was a great example. Somehow, the public couldn’t buy the concept that Jenner could stop hatred and tension with a can of carbonated sugar.
A cool brand has energy and excitement. I don’t mean loud and always on. More like smart and with-it. These are brands that are current. They don’t just follow current events but make things happen. They are rebels with a cause. They think and act as if the world is their oyster.
Energetic cool brands also speak to youth. They speak their language and engage in the conversations on their terms. Participation is key to building a mutual relationship. Over the last six years, Moosylvania has surveyed Millennials to track their brand preference. Unsurprisingly, top brands always includes Apple, Amazon, Nike, Samsung, Target, Wal-Mart, Sony, Microsoft, Google, and Coca Cola. If you look deeper into the list, you will see brands that make them look, feel good, and keep them entertained.
As the iconic David Ogilvy said, “You can’t bore people into buying you product, you can only interest them into buying it.” There needs to be a level of fun and fascination to keep customers engaged with the brand.
Can you think of a cool brand that isn’t fun in one way or another? I can’t.
Another Cool Factor – Sexy
‘Sexy’ doesn’t fit easily onto the Cool Brand Wheel, but it can be a powerful branding tool. Sexy is a primal instinct. A sensual attraction, excitement, or even ecstasy. ‘Sexy’ branding can be a risky business.
Bad-boy brands like AXE, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Playboy built a tribe based on selling sex, and all of them were super cool at one point. Sexy people are notorious for making brands cool like Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Marky Mark Wahlberg, Jenna Jameson, Justin Bieber, and a number of Victoria Secret models.
While sex and sexy can attract attention and help create coolness, they aren’t a sustainable factor. Other factors of the Cool Brand Wheel must be present. Overtime sexy can also have a negative effect on a brands when people only remember the attractive bodies and not the brand.
The cool brand wheel is a great way to move a brand from functionality to coolness. A product is built on attributes. A brand is built on a narrative that people want to embrace and buy. A cool brand is built on mythology, faith, and desire. Cool brands give meaning to our lives. They make us feel happy and good. They make us proud. They make us cool.
Coolness must seem effortless not forced or manipulated. It isn’t just a clever or sexy advertising campaign. Many cool brands’ origins are associated with being non-mainstream, controversial or sub-cultural, almost cult-like. Growing into a massive brand or becoming part of a multinational enterprise can easily affect the coolness factor.
Cultural shifts and demographics shifts can have significant impact on what defines coolness. There was a day that cigarettes, especially Marlboro, were sexy and cool. Remember the Hummer vehicle? Now known as the gas guzzler. Then there was Krispy Kreme, the cult-like doughnuts. As one customer said, “Fresh Krispy Kreme is the food of the gods.” What happen to the once cool brands of Gap, MTV, Nokia, Dr. Martens, and Playboy? They failed to stay cool.
Cool brands aren’t built, they are cultivated. Customers determine if a brand is cool. A brand can continue to emulate coolness if they carefully balance the ten cool factors and stay in the lead by turning customer’s wants into needs. The benefits of being a cool brand are enormous: fame and fortunes beyond your control. Be cool.
Many successful brands have built their brand equity on the backs of animals. Figuratively speaking, no PETA protest required. It’s a known fact that cute and lovably animals can help sell brands. Real animals and anthropomorphic animals can make a brand likable and memorable – two important brand drivers.
Sixty-eight percent of American Households Have a Pet
There are three-times more dogs and cats in the USA than people in Canada – 90 million dogs and 94 million cats, respectively. In Canada, the same trend exists with approximately 8 million cats and 6 million dogs (Ipsos Reid). Does this mean cats are the preferred pet? My Facebook stream would indicate that cats rule the world. But dogs aren’t too far behind. Actually, more brands use dogs than cats in their branding efforts.
The Power of Animals
A UK research study found that fifteen percent of people care more about their pets than their significant others. There is a special bond between animals and humans. Dr. Ann Berger says this “is part of our evolution, and it’s very powerful.”
This bond can be traced back as 15,000 to 30,000 years ago to a Bonn-Oberkassel dog that was found buried with two humans.
In the early 1970s the term ‘human–animal bond’ was first used in academia. Since then, there have been a multitude of research studies indicating the positive benefits of pets such as lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress-related hormones. Lower stress has positive health effects and helps us live longer. Even an aquarium of fish can help calm a person with advanced Alzheimer’s disease (Edwards and Beck, 2002; Edwards et al., 2014).
Walt Disney understood that animals attract an audience. One of his first successes was the lovable Mickey Mouse who became synonymous with the Disney brand. Mickey Mouse brought Disney great fame and a fortune worth over $5 billion. Walt was obsessed with making his animated animal characters more realistic with human-like facial expressions, movements, and feelings. He pushed animators and technology to their limits. Charlotte Olsen in her article Disney Movies: Anthropomorphism concludes that “humans empathise [sic] with animals perhaps more so than we do with humans.” We all grew-up on a staple of Disney anthropomorphic animal characters every morning like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Mickey’s pet dog Pluto, to name a few. Then there were the endless movies.
Brands hope to transfer our love of animals to not so loveable products.
A Brand’s Best Friend
People young and old love animals. Cute and innocence sells.
Four of the biggest cereal companies built their brands on animal characters. We grew up staring at cereal boxes prominently showing Cornelius Rooster on the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Tony The Tiger on Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Toucan Sam on Froot Loops and BuzzBee on Honey Nut Cheerios.
The breakfast cereal market was worth over $37 billionUS dollars in 2016 with Kellogg’s brands and General Mills accounting for over 60% of the market. How did these anthropomorphic animals end up on millions of cereal boxes?
Cornelius seems like a natural fit as a rooster, crowing as you eat breakfast at the break of dawn. But, John Harvey Kellogg, a devote Seventh-day Adventist, was working on a number of strict vegetarian recipes that lead him to discover Corn Flakes in 1894. It was his intent as a religious man to reduce dyspepsia and masturbation with this new product. I am not sure how successful he was with his plan, but his brother formed the Kellogg Company in 1906 with Corn Flakes. Cornelius didn’t appear on the box until the early 1950s. After learning this history of Corn Flakes, a cockerel on the cereal book now has a very different connotation.
In 1952, Kellogg’s introduced Sugar Frosted Flakes of Corn. There were four different boxes with four different anthropomorphic animal characters: Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant, Newt the Gnu, and of course Tony the Tiger. It wasn’t long before Tony became synonymous with the brand by advocating its GR-R-REATness.
Another Kellogg’s brand, Froot Loops, debuted in 1963 with Sam the Toucan, a tropical bird with a long colourful beak. The original colours on the beak used to represent the three different coloured flavours in the box. When first sold, the brand was called Fruit Loops but after a legal challenge claiming that the word “fruit” was misleading they landed on “Froot.”
Honey Nut Cheerios is a variation on the very popular Cheerios brand that was introduced by the General Mills Cereal Company in 1979. The sweeter version of Cheerios became an instant success. For the first twenty years, the bee on the box just keep buzzing around without a name. In September 1999, General Mills launched the “Name the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee Contest” where 11-year-old Kristine Tong won the contest with the name “BuzzBee”.
In 2017, with declining sales, the brand launched a highly emotional campaign called “Help Bring Back the Bees” by removing Buzz the Bee off the Honey Nut Cheerios box. In their haste to save honeybees, they accidently included invasive seeds in their bee-friendly wildflower seed packets. Attention to detail is always important.
Nonetheless, the famous Leo Burnett and his agency created some of the most icon anthropomorphic animal brand characters like Tony The Tiger (Kellogg’s), Hubert the Lion (Harris Bank), Morris the Cat (9Lives), Charlie the Tuna (StarKist), and Toucan Sam (Kellogg’s).
Animals Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds Them
The benefits of using an animal to build a brand are multifaceted. Not only can you control how the animal is portrayed, you can modify it at any time. Of course, cartoon animals are the easiest to manage over time. Animals are cheaper and easier to keep on a leash than any actor or celebrity. Unless you were Grumpy Cat, who is estimated to have earned millions. Animals can also help low-involvement product brands get noticed like insulation (pink panther), toilet paper (kittens, puppies, and bears) and sugar water (polar bears).
Using real animals does possess some challenges. Animals may not follow orders and have shorter life spans, but in most cases these problems don’t stop the brand from finding a look-alike. There is never any risk that the animal character is going to embarrass the brand at a party or in public unless it’s a mascot.
One immediate benefit of animals is that they have existing cultural meanings. These characteristics can quickly be transfer onto the brand as a benefit or attribute. Animals can telegraph a specific message without using any words. For example, the eagle portraits honesty and trust, the rabbit symbolizes fertility and approachability. The owl stands for wisdom, bees imply diligence, and the lion, the king of the jungle, suggests strength and courage.
Brands Gone to the Dogs
Several studies (Spears, Mowen, Chakraborty (1996), Moyers (2001), S. M. Stone (2014)) have analyzed the types of animals use in advertising and branding. They found that dogs were the most popular animal. Karen London, PhD says, “In recent years, dogs have appeared in about a third of all television commercials.” Man’s best friend portrays a feeling of a happy, well-balance family and unconditional acceptance. Dog lovers are all about building companionship. Many brands use dogs to project fun, love and loyalty.
One of the first brands to use a dog in its brand identity was Gramophone Company. Their logo design was taken from a painting of a dog listening to a phonograph by Francis Barraud in the late 1800s. The story goes that Francis’s brother died and willed him his phonograph player, records, including voice recordings of his brother, and a fox terrier dog named Nipper. Every time he played his brother’s recorded voice the dog would run over to the phonograph and listen intently. A true Hallmark moment.
The painting was called “His Master’s Voice.” About eight years later they changed their name to HMV. Later, the Victor Talking Machine Company acquired the graphic design. In 1929, Radio Corporation of America RCA acquired Victor and made the logo their brand. For many decades Nipper and his son Clipper helped promote RCA records, RCA televisions and RCA electronics. At one point in time the RCA dog became one of the Top Ten Famous Brands.
Several memorable Super Bowl commercials can thank a fury four-legged friend for their success. Skechers, Budweiser, Amazon Alexa, Bud Light, Taco Bell, Doritos, and Volkswagen all secured their success with a dog. Rob Schutz, past VP of Growth at Bark & Co., says a social media suave dog can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per sponsored post on Instagram. “All sorts of brands want to tap into dogs,” says Schutz. Go fetch!
But the funniest animal commercial on Super Bowl XXXIV (2000) was a cat commercial called “Cat Herders” by Electronic Data Systems EDS. The following year they did another spot called “Running with Squirrels.” I’m not sure rats with long bushy-tails had the same charm.
Cat Paw-sitive Branding
There are dog people and cat people. According to a studyby Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University, people who said they are dog lovers are more outgoing, energetic, and tend to follow rules. Cat lovers are more subdued, introverted, open-minded and just more sensitive. They also score higher on intelligence. Guastello rationalize that “if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.” Cat lovers are more interested in the affection their feline’s exhibit. In a study by Budge, Spicer, Jones and St. George (1996) they concluded that “men with a cat were considered nicer, more stylish, and more active than if they had a dog.”
The most famous brand cat was Morris The Cat who built the 9Lives cat food franchise of over 50 years. Morris made his debut in 1968 after he was discovered at the Humane Society in Hinsdale, IL. The orange tabby cat had the right attitude and starred in over 50 9Lives commercials, including several Super Bowl appearances. In 1983, Time Magazine declared Morris “The Feline Burt Reynolds”. US Magazine called Morris the “Animal Star of the Year” (1982-84). He is also credited with “writing” three books on cat care. Over the years, this finicky cat food connoisseur has downplayed his negative attitude to reach the new millennial customer with a more “charmingly choosy” attitude. Not surprisingly, this cat is on all the social media channels. Morris was played by at least three different tabby cats or maybe more.
ReelSEO.com has reported that there are over two million cat videos on YouTube generating over 25 billion views. Sorry dog lovers but cats rule the social channels. For example, the keyboard cat video has garnered over 55 million views and over 87 thousand comments. CNN estimated that there is over 6.5 billion cat pictures on the internet. Cats will outsmart dogs every time!
The most famous cat of them all was Grumpy Cat (also known as Tardar Sauce) who stared in a Christmas movie called Worst Christmas Ever. This popular internet meme has also appeared on MTV Music Awards, The Playboy Morning Show, and American Idol. We all know that Grumpy isn’t really grumpy, but we have projected a human emotion onto the animal. Their passiveness allows us to put words in their mouth. What does this have to do with branding? In 2013 Grumppuccino was launched by Grenade Beverage, a California coffee company, with the Grump Cat’s face plastered on every bottle.
In 2018, Grump Cat was awarded $710,000 in damages from Grenade Beverages who breached Grunpy Cat’s copyright by adding another product Grump Cat Roasted Coffee in 2015. Grenade Beverages must be grumpier.
On May 14, 2019, Grumpy Cat passed away, but her valuable brand still lives on. Over 800 different merchandise items are still available for sale online with Grump’s face on shirts, mugs, cell phone covers, shoes, posters, etc. She has also been immortalized as a wax figure at Madame Tussauds in London, San Francisco, and Washington DC.
Grump Cat isn’t the only celebrity cat online. There is a clowder of famous cats online like Lil Bub, Nala Cat, Cooper the Photographer Cat, and Colonel Meow, to list a few. If a brand can cash in on animal marketing, the brand would be a fat cat!
The Animal Kingdom of Brands
One of the first cigarette brands launched in 1913 by R.J. Reynolds Company was Camel cigarettes with a camel front and center on the pack, a palm tree and a pyramid in the background. Not the most lovable image or animal. No. They were going after exotic. The camel emphasized “Turkish blend” and the pyramid signaled Egyptian sophistication of 6,000 years of history and culture. At that time archaeologist were busy raiding the tomes of pharaohs.
Before launching, R.J. Reynolds tried to create an alliance with the other local tobacco manufactures to control competition in the specialty cigarettes market, but the US Supreme Court ruled the agreement was illegal. When the teaser campaign “The Camels are coming!” was launched, it was considered a joke. But where there was smoke, there was fire. The camel on the cover design was called “Old Joe,” and he quickly became the brand face of the over 425 million packs sold in the first year.
In ten years, Camel cigarettes took control 45% of the US cigarettes market. In December 1952, Reader’s Digest, a best-selling international journal, published a series of articles called “Cancer by the Carton,” dealing with the health risks of smoking. The effect was immediate and cigarette sales declined for the first time in twenty years. In 1958, to help stimulate sales, R.J. Reynolds decided to revamp the Camel package design by removing the pyramid behind Old Joe. There was a strong negative backlash by Camel smokers. Where have we heard this before?
By 1970, Camel cigarettes was no longer one of the top five most popular cigarettes brands which were Winston, Pall Mall, Marlboro, Salem, and Kool.
Koolcigarettes were launched in 1933 with Willie the Kool Penguin to help market the new menthol cigarettes. The penguin suggested “cold” to promote the cool sensation of the menthol. By the early 1960s Willie was put on ice and retired from representing the Kool brand.
On the 75th anniversary of Camel cigarettes, Joe Camel, an anthropomorphic camel, was introduced to celebrate Old Joe’s birthday – “75 years and still smokin’!” Joe Camel was such a hit that he took center stage as the “smooth character.” Critics said that Joe’s exaggerated nose was a phallic symbol to suggest smoking is a virile pursuit. Actual scientific fact would differ with this suggestion.
Joe Camel gave the brand a huge lift in sales as a cooler, hipper brand, especial among younger male smokers. It also started attracting the attention of anti-smoking activists who were growing in power every day. On July 11, 1997, The New York Times ran the following headline “Joe Camel, a Giant in Tobacco Marketing, Is Dead at 23.” After only nine years Joe Camel character was proactively pulled from Camel cigarettes marketing. President Clinton was quoted as saying ”We must put tobacco ads like Joe Camel out of our children’s reach forever.” Proof that lovable animals can endear a brand and sell even butts.
A Brand Personality Starts with a Lovable Animal
Animals have successfully helped many brands standout. Planosophyblog said, “Brands are metaphors for inanimate products and intangible services. Animals are living breathing metaphors. Their marriage is one of common sense.” These brand advocates range from pets, farm animals, wild beasts, geckos, and sea life. They have enriched our lives and have become ingrained in our physic like Disney characters. There is an innate positive and hopeful feeling that animals portray with unconditional love. They touch our inner innocence and create a warm, comforting smiles that no human could emulate. They are a powerful ally, if used correctly.
Innovative is the most overused word in business. However, it is also the most important business concept. Without innovation, a business cannot survive. Last year, Inc. magazine published the top ten overused company buzzwords. Guess where “innovative” ranked? It was number one! Search the word “innovative” on Google and you get over 2 billion results.
In today’s world of disruptors, digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Everything, every brand is looking for the ultimate innovation to keep them relevant and profitable. Every CEO understands that innovation is key to their brand’s future. Yet, it is often elusive. Every day, formerly popular brands become obsolete.
A brand can either ignore reality or start looking for new opportunities outside their comfort zone. Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century says, “the most important attribute you can have is creative imagination – the ability to be the first on your block to figure out how all these enabling tools can be put together in new and exciting ways to create products, communities, opportunities, and profits.”
“Creativity isn’t necessarily innovation,” Hunter told Business News Daily. “If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, [but] there is no innovation until something gets implemented.”
Innovation is Putting Ideas into Action
Creativity is the process of developing unique and novel ideas. To find out more on this topic check out 9 Creative Ideas for Great Branding. Innovation is the process of putting new ideas into workable, physical actions that create measurable financial results and brings value to the brand and its customers.
It’s easy to generate ideas. The hard part is implementing the ideas. There will be many reasons why an idea can’t be implemented such resource limitations, timing, expertise deficiencies, process and production issues, costs, and leadership. Most big ideas cannot be implemented without many small, successful ideas.
A company’s internal culture sets the stage for their ability to create great ideas, but that is only the start. Most companies don’t know how to move an idea into reality. Physically implementing an idea requires many disciplines across many different silos. A clear system must be in place to turn new ideas into overnight innovations.
Innovation Starts with a Problem
Many new innovations are inspired by a problem such as declining sales, customer changes, shifting trends, new technologies, or competitive actions. The trick is listening to what customers are thinking and understanding the opportunities or issues. Brands need to closely watch the marketplace (locally and internationally) to understand shifts in attitudes, trends, and technology drivers.
New ideas can be easily implemented by setting up an internal start-up team that works on a concept from start to finish. Another popular way is to buy out promising innovation companies and combine them into the big brand powerhouse. David Friend, CEO of Wasabi Technologies, says “It’s hard to have a corporate culture that juxtaposes caution and process on one hand with nimbleness and innovation on the other. So, it’s a good idea to separate the two functions inside the company so that both are fostered.”
Technological companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FAANG) have figures this out from day one as they continue to innovate and introduce new brands in a timely fashion.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “Invention comes in many forms and at many scales. The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity — to pursue their dreams.” Apple’s career website says every sentence at Apple starts with ‘what if…?’: “Everyone here is an innovator, or an innovator-to-be. That’s how we create the kinds of products and experiences that few ever imagine…innovation comes from everyone in every role at Apple.” Netflix’s Culture Manifesto states: “You thrive on change” and “You challenge prevailing assumptions and suggest better approaches.” Facebook strives to make “innovation a daily habit” by encouraging its employees to constantly introduce new ideas. Google promotes a culture of innovation through its eight principles of innovation that help empower employees to innovate.
Innovation Needs to Be Fast
Jeff Bezo is focussed on swiftness; He strives to meet his customers’ every need in hours not days. Every day he asks one simple question: “Are we a Day 1 or Day 2 Company?” A Day 1 brand believes that every day is a new day; experimenting, inventing, and innovating are the norm. Day 1 brands are passionate about surpassing customers’ needs and aren’t hostages to the process. Day 1 brands stay ahead of the curve, have high-speed decision making skills, and believe that 80 percent confidence is enough. They detest bureaucracy, waste, and outdated attitudes and practices. Agility isn’t just a word but an attitude that embraces a start-up spirit regardless of history or size.
Only Innovative Brands Will Survive
Well established older brands are generally less nimble. They have well established processes, systems, policies, and governances that allows them to provide customers with a high quality, consistent, brand experience. All these controls impede innovation. Therefore, they often focus on small product innovation. Major transformations cause too much upheaval and risk.
Retooling a company for innovation is a formidable task. In 1999, Dave Whitwam, then chairman of Whirlpoolset a new culture of innovation where every job and very process would change. He anticipated that this journey would take five years! Today, five years is a life-time for some brands and a death sentence for others.
Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant defined five key innovation elements for a brand:
Upgrade Innovation Skills;
Establish Comprehensive Metrics;
Hold Leaders Accountable;
Retool Processes for Constant Innovation.
Moving a great idea into an innovation isn’t easy and many times they fail. Just ask Google about failed innovations (50 failed Google products). But, failure hasn’t stop them from launching many successes new brands in the last 12 months like the Pixel Smartphone, Google Home, Pixelbook, and Nest Hub Max.
We can all learn from the FAANG corporate culture and begin to transform an idea into an innovation quickly and efficiently. For a FAANG brand, innovation isn’t just an overused word, but a way of doing business daily.