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Brand Strategy

Maybe it was just a bad run of their label-making press. Maybe it’s my inability to discern fifty shades of pink. Maybe I just don’t grasp the concept of subtlety in packaging.

I’m having a hard time reading the label on this bottle of Aquafina Flavor Splash Sparkling Berry Loco Four Berry Blend Flavor, a product of Pepsico under its popular Aquafina bottled water brand.

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I like the beverage, but I can’t read the label easily.  It doesn’t jump off the shelf at me.

In British slang, the word “bottle” means “courage” or “mettle,” as in “He’s a skilled footballer, but he lacks bottle.”  Pepsi had the bottle to design a pink-on-pink bottle, but I don’t think it scored a goal.

Today is College Colors Day.   http://www.collegecolorsday.com/   It looks like an event cooked up to sell more NCAA-licensed merchandise.  An incremental lift in t-shirt sales on this first weekend of college football.  Group shots of people wearing the names of their schools in the workplace are scattered across social media.  Lots of “my school can beat up your school” Friday chatter.

People like to affiliate, to belong to something, to join a brand. Around the world, we cluster around professional sports teams, especially soccer clubs.  Here in America we are blessed with the bigness of collegiate sports AND our pro leagues.  And here in Middle America – the towns and states without major league franchises – big college brands fill a void.

USC Trojans v Arkansas RazorbacksSome schools own their territory.  Others, not so much.  I live in Arkansas.  And here in Arkansas, the school that calls itself “Arkansas” is not just the flagship university of our state.  It’s our state’s brand. The red Razorback is worn proudly by the masses: people who went to the University of Arkansas, people who went somewhere else, and people who never went to college at all. We have other great schools here in the Natural State:  Hendrix College, Arkansas State and Arkansas Tech, to name a few.  But nobody sports those schools’ colors unless, at some point, they really went to college there.

Affiliation with a college team is easy.  Nobody asks to see your diploma.  There’s an old saying in Texas:  “Somebody who wears a Texas A&M shirt went to A&M.  Somebody who wears a Texas Longhorns shirt went to Walmart.”  I said that was an old saying.  The recent success of A&M and the phenomenon known as Johnny Football have turned the tables in the Lone Star State.  Now being an Aggie is cool, even if you aren’t really an Aggie.

As for me, even though I walk through the valley of cardinal-clad “Hogs” fans, my colors today are purple and gold for LSU, with a touch of red and blue for SMU. Because I actually went to school at those places.  Imagine that.
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Stock photography in marketing communications: It’s pointless.  It’s awful.  It’s pointawfuless.

There’s an old saying in advertising agencies and other purveyors of promotion production:  “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two.”

Pick Any Two

Stock photography is cheap and fast.  But it’s not always good.

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I bought this package of Kroger potato chips because they were half the price of the Lay’s brand. Results: They taste good.

Note how Kroger’s logo sits atop the ho-hum tagline, “From our family to yours.”  That’s the connection to the photo of the happy, romping family of four:  the family is running joyfully through tall, green grass to get those delicious potato chips at their nearest Kroger store.  I can almost see the thin thread connecting brand to imagery to product. Almost.

A bland photo on a package doesn’t add or subtract anything.  It’s just there.  An excuse to print in four-color process.

You might luck out and find a stock photo that’s exactly what you want. In that case, save the money and go with stock.  But remember that same photo might show up in other places.  You didn’t take that picture. You don’t own it.

I’ll be looking for the potato-chip family to pop up in a life insurance ad.

Yesterday on Slate.com, writer Matthew J.X. Malady went into great detail to tell us how uncomfortable the word “moist” makes many people feel.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_good_word/2013/04/word_aversion_hate_moist_slacks_crevice_why_do_people_hate_words.single.html

In “Why Do We Hate Certain Words? The curious phenomenon of word aversion,” Malady defines word aversion as “seemingly pedestrian, inoffensive words driving some people up the wall.” He explains that it is not the meaning of the word itself but the sound and sight of the word that make us averse to a word.  Ointment, crevice, fudge and navel also give many of us the creeps.

Back to moist.  Despite its being such a slimy word, the big three cake mix makers use moist as a key brand attribute. They’ve even turned moist into a sub-brand: Super Moist, Moist Deluxe, Moist Supreme.  Are we moist enough yet?  I can still sing the jingle from an old Duncan Hines spot : “So moist, so moistfully good, they’ll always come back for more.”  Moistfully?  It may have been slimy, but it stuck to my brain.

Do you think Betty, Duncan or the Pillsbury Doughboy will break ranks and dump moist in favor of something less offensive?

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ghk-duncan-hines-yellow-cake-mix-0410-s3-mdn1001029_051500700402_A_400 pillsbury moist

 

 

 

 

 

Last December the Huffington Post suggested five alternatives to moist: the Orwellian-Newspeaky “not dry,” along with “hydrated,” “good crumb,” “spongy,” and “divine.”  I don’t think we’ve hit the mark yet.  Let’s put that cake back in the oven and keep trying.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hate-moist-word-alternatives_n_2259254.html

“Zelig” is a treasure of a movie.  Woody Allen directed and starred in this 1980 masterpiece mockumentary that told the story of Leonard Zelig, a man whose body, voice and personality would change in the presence of the people surrounding him.  Leonard Zelig was a chameleon, a  total conformist – everything to everybody with no individuality of his own.  Zelig was everything and nothing at the same time.

Zelig Fat
Companies can fall into a Zelig trap with their brand strategies.  The National Coffee Association once ran a campaign with the message “coffee lets you calm yourself down AND picks you up.”  It’s work that looks like an old “Saturday Night Live” bit:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3zpPZnCbE   

Seriously, Coffee, do you pick me up or calm me down?  Pick one. Good brand strategies don’t have an “AND” in them.

“That’s not a strategy.  That’s TWO strategies separated by the word ‘AND’.” – Don Draper, “Mad Men

A good brand is a single idea, a main message, one well-honed proposition formed by sacrificing other good-but-not-great options.  A good brand is not “a little pregnant” or a “both-and” arrangement.  It’s not a Zelig.

Zelig French

Zelig Black

After perpetually rebranding himself into every possible variation of human, Leonard Zelig finally stopped changing. He learned to be himself, to be constant, to be true. Zelig buried everything he was not and became his own brand.  And he was a much happier man.

Zelig himself

My favorite brand turns 19 today.

My favorite brand is not a car, or a beer, or a coffee or a computer company. My favorite brand is a radio station. Not some fancy subscription satellite or heuristically customizable internet station, but just a regular terrestrial radio station.

I’m talking about The Ticket. KTCK. Sportsradio 1310, Dallas. And I don’t even live in Texas. But thanks to the wonders of iHeartRadio I’m a loyal Ticket listener, a “P1” in Ticket parlance. The Ticket uses P1, the Arbitron metric of single-station listenership, as a merit badge for the dedicated follower. How brilliantly obvious and simple.

What makes The Ticket special? Why is The Ticket not like any other radio station in America? What can all brands learn from The Ticket?

–          The Ticket gives its followers a sense of belonging, of being on the inside.  P1s have their own events like Ticketstock and Fight Night and Normathon (featuring Norm Hitzges, the senior statesman of the station).  P1s have a vocabulary all their own:  “doin’ a bit,” “HSO,” “spares,” “bullsh,” “greatness,” “tired-head” and “a beating.”

–          The Ticket is not like anything else in its category.   Even the biggest sports fans can get tired-head from the typical sports-talk radio station.  Too much analysis, preview and re-view, and “call in and tell us what you think of the Giants’ latest trade” blabber. The Ticket just flows with whatever guys are thinking about that day. Sometimes it’s the latest episode of “Breaking Bad,” sometimes it’s Lee Harvey Oswald’s bathtub. The Ticket doesn’t ignore sports, it just knows there’s room for a lot more.

–          The Ticket is consistent but not stuck in a rut.  After 19 years, it’s still Sportsradio 1310.  Many of the same voices that were there in 1994 are still there.  New talent is onramped in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow.  New media are embraced.  The Ticket’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and blogs is seamlessly integrated with on-air content.

Ticket 1

Some cool stuff The Ticket sent me on my birthday a few years ago. Thanks, guys!

–          The Ticket builds relationships.  Every day the Ticket celebrates the birthdays of its P1s along with the biggest names in sports on a segment called “Why Today Doesn’t Suck.”  Everybody feels like somebody.

–          The Ticket doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Good brands aren’t stuffy.   Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Moe’s Southwest Grill.  They know how to make you laugh and still deliver a prime product with super service.   The Ticket celebrates its gaffes with an “E-Brake of the Week” segment, when listeners call in to vote on the worst on-air screw-up.

–          The Ticket takes risks.  There are no sacred cows, not even sacred Dallas Cowboys.  Regular appearances by the Fake Jerry Jones, the Fake Tiger Woods and other false idols are filled with “I can’t believe they said that” zingers.  Top-shelf sports figures from David Beckham to Phil Mickelson might be interviewed by Scoops Callahan, a Ticket character who speaks in 1920s press lingo, or by the Overcusser, a zealous locker-room reporter who clocks in at 30 bleeps a minute.

–          The Ticket has friends. It also has enemies.  You can’t please everybody.  Barry Switzer and Shaquille O’Neal love the Ticket. Lee Corso and Bob Knight? Not so much.

–          The Ticket is a thought leader.  Amidst the shtick there is substance. The guys on The Ticket are smart, especially when it comes to knowing what’s going on with the big four local teams: Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. They are the go-to experts. They just don’t act like it.

Marconi Awards, loyal advertisers, a cult-like following and nineteen years in business.  Not too shabby for a bunch of guys just sittin’ around talking.  Happy Birthday, guys.

For more of my gentle musings on The Ticket, see https://paulsagemarketing.com/2017/03/09/what-mike-rhyner-says-every-day-around-330-on-the-ticket-ktck/