Category Archives: Corporate Identity

Brands that Make You Scoff – Michelin

Why would such a respected brand stoop to such nonsense?

The white-tired Michelin man drives into the country to find his Michilen dog who comes running and jumps into the character’s arms. As they drive off the voice-over speaks of the imortance of having a “relationship” with your tires.

Have you ever thought about having a relationship with any inanimate object, much less a set of radials? This is just ridiculous. Now I know and can accept the concept of safe tires and the benefit as Michelin used to advertise with a baby snuggled in the tire’s diameter. Very cute and compelling. A great way to visualize the idea of safety for those you love.

There are just some products and product categories that might lend themselves to a relationship appeal, but radial tires just don’t fit. It’s too much a stretch. Michelin management is engaged in self-dilusion if they think their ads about relationships with tires might enhance brand loyalty.

I wonder if even a single account exec or creative on their account, or indeed anyone employed by Michelin has or will ever have a relationship with their tires? No? Then how can they expect that of us?

‘Nuf said

Martin Jelsema

Should there be different approaches between B-2-B and B-2-C branding?

I first had to come to grips with this question as I cut my teeth as an assistant account exec at BBDO while working on the DuPont advertising account in 1960.

Would the messages we created for consumer ads for Telar the Never Drain Antifreeze, resonate with the auto dealers and service stations who would be our business customers?

The answer, of course was a resounding “no”. The appeals of the product as an end user looking to save money while protecting a vehicle where very different from the appeals to the dealer who wanted profits, fast inventory turnover and no servicing problems.

DuPont ignored the dealer networks, as they had done with other products with some success, to create “demand pull” from end users. This time it didn’t work. Telar was a flop.

And later, while working as account exec and copywriter on the IBM data products account at Marstellar’s New York office, I learned another lesson.

Appealing exclusively to engineers, programmers, systems analysts, operations managers, and business execs meant that rational messages on benefit and specifications were damned important. Making emotional appeals, unless very subtle ones that were meant to assuage human fears – “no one got fired buying IBM” – were not the way to sell computer systems.

Even though engineers were “human”, when evaluating business propositions they wanted to be treated as if they were, well, engineers. Just the facts, ma’am.

So the question I raise is just this: are there approaches to branding a B-2-B that should be significantly different from a consumer-goods company?

Well, I think so.

What do you think?

Please leave your comments, pro or con, about this question.

I’ll be exploring this question in several blogs over the next month concerning those differences and approaches to branding.

Martin Jelsema

Another brand-diluting, wimpy tagline

So here I was watching TV and along came a T-Mobile commercial.

I thought about how their brand has become generic since the days of Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was a celebrity spokesperson and more. Her manner and style made her likable as well as watchable. She got our attention and represented T-Mobile well. At least that’s my opinion.

Then as this newest commercial closed, a voice over spouted their latest slogan:

Stick Together.

What was that? Stick Together?

What does that mean? How does that differentiate T-Mobile? How does “Stick Together” imply a benefit of the system? How is it relevant?

Desperate companies in desperate times sometimes panic. Is this what’s happening at T-Mobile? Has desperation caused execs there to lose perspective? What’s important about T-Mobile that would compel someone to buy? It’s not “Stick Together”, the one thing, although poorly expressed, that every mobile phone company offers. The might just as well have a slogan like “Communicate”.

And shame on the ad agency who let their T-Mobile account exec take this tepid tagline to T-Mobile for approval. It would have never gotten out of my shop.

Martin Jelsema

Positioning and unique selling proposition: two different concepts.

Back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s there was an advertising cult built around Rosser Reeves, Chairman of the ad agency named Ted Bates & Co., and his book, The Reality of Advertising.

He had invented a term that was the touchstone for the type of advertising he and his agency produced. The term: unique selling proposition, USP for short.

The unique selling proposition was (and is) a single feature or benefit of a product hammered home through ads that focused powerfully and solely on the USP. You’d have to be at least 50 to remember the ads he conceived for Anacin. There was a cartoon arm wielding a hammer to the head of a headache sufferer. Then came a clock face with the hands moving very fast and the single word, FAST, flashed on the screen four times in succession. Then the head become a smiling face signifying the headache was gone – fast.

They were most annoying and very intrusive. But they sold product.

Now Mr. Reeve’s concept of USP has carried on to this day. The idea is still sound and effective in sales as well as advertising.

However, some people have attempted to use USP and positioning synonymously. Well, they are not the same. I hear some marketing people expressing a USP as their position in the marketplace. They treat the USP as if it were a genuine differentiator when in reality it is a benefit/feature plucked from the market research indicating why people have said they buy a product from the product category.

A USP is just what it says it is: a unique selling proposition. It is an advertising campaign theme. Or the canned sales pitch. It is predicated on making a claim before s competitor can establish that benefit as its own. In other words, Anacin was no faster than Bayer, its only competitor back in the 1950’s. But Anacin used speed of relief first and loudly, making it their own.

Promoting a product’s benefit does not differentiate the product in a significant way. If a particular campaign doesn’t work or gets stale, you ask the agency to come up with another USP. The USP is a device, not a strategy.

I once heard a sale trainer in a room of some 300 entrepreneurs claim that you differentiated your product with an USP such as a coupon offer or a two-for-one sale. These may be USP,s but they are not differentiators in the sense of defining a position a brand can occupy in the collective minds of a group of loyal customers.

Al Ries, one of the creators of the term positioning and co-author of the book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, likes to say it’s the single word that comes to mind when the brand is mentioned. For Volvo it’s “safety”. For Whole Foods it’s “organic”. For Sierra Club it’s “environment”. These words come from the essence of the brand. It begins with the corporate mission and the vision for the product. It incorporates corporate values and culture. It’s the brand story, the brand platform, the brand presence. It’s the people associated with the brand at all levels of the supply chain. It’s the leadership of the company and of the brand champions within and outside the company. And it’s the word-of-mouth and status the brand enjoys.

The USP does not normally communicate a genuine product position. There needs to be more than a benefit at the root of the brand and its position.

Lets just sat that positioning is a strategic activity and developing a unique selling proposition is a sales or advertising tactic.

Martin Jelsema

If I offer a “Choice” have I differentiated my brand?

So I was watching the Broncos lose this afternoon. And here comes another commercial that dilutes, no absolutely destroys, the brands they’re advertising.

I watch commercials with half an eye. When they’re on I’m usually doing the Sunday suduku.

So I’m not really clear about what I saw today. I know it was a hotel/motel chain called “Choice”. I never did get what they’re USP was if they had one.

But the thing that really confused me and caused me to make a note to write this blog – they signed off with the names and logos of four or five different

chains. They said something like “be sure to stop at one of our facilities and then named “Clarian”, “Quality Inn” and others I couldn’t remember even though by now I was fully attentive to their ad.

I had to go to the Choice Hotel web site to identify the other players, and to find out they had another five chains in their stable that weren’t advertised. But even on the website each brand was not differentiated from the next. Each web page was almost exactly the same for each brand.

Here’s the point: advertising five different brand names in the same commercial is really confusing. Does each brand have an identity of its own? Is this a case of egos in an acquisition orgy where the old names had to be retained to enable sales to go through? Did Choice think by retaining five chain names and advertising all five together would somehow help people think of Choice?

Or were they thinking, “If Marriott can have a stable of chains, so can we, and we can retain the unique identities of each of our acquisitions by advertising five at a time.” But Marriott differentiates between their chains. And they use the unifying Marriott name with each. And I’m not sure the way Marriott is doing it is the correct approach to differentiating one from another.

There’s a whole body of work concerning brand architecture and internal brand organizations. Because I’ve mostly concerned myself with smaller businesses, I’m not an expert on brand families and the tensions occurring within companies with multiple brand managers. But it does seem to me that what Choice Hotels is doing is not aiding any of their brands, including the Choice brand.

In fact, I’d say there really isn’t a Choice brand, just as there isn’t a prominent Proctor and Gamble brand. But Choice doesn’t understand that if you have brands in your stable, each should have its own identity differentiated from its siblings. You don’t see Proctor and Gamble promoting Tide, Era, Gain, Dreft and Cheer in the same ad.

I have a hunch that Choice is in this predicament because it’s very costly to convert the diverse facilities to a single brand, and they haven’t the budgets to advertise them separately. I would hope that in the long run they’ll convert facilities to a single nameplate, that within four or five years there’ll be a single brand that’s meaningful to their market members. I hope consumers will still give them a chance when they’ve finally gotten their act together.

Martin Jelsema

Are You Kiddin’ Me?

That’s my reaction to the latest brand’s tagline I just have to bash.

I’ve heard that Dunkin’ Donuts serves a pretty good cup of coffee. But since I no longer eat sugar, I don’t frequent donut shops.

But I do drink coffee.

And now Dunkin’ Donuts is packaging and selling their brand of coffee in supermarkets. So I perked up when I saw a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. But that ground to a halt when they got to the tagline.

Are you ready for this?

“American runs on Dunkin”

Have you heard anything as pompous and as exaggerated than that?

Isn’t your first reaction to scoff?

Dunkin’ Donuts may have the very best coffee in America, but claiming that America “runs” on it? You’ve got to be kidding me. No matter how much I crave coffee, I know coffee, from any source, is not what energizes me. I may get a caffeine buzz but coffee is not nutritious, not fortified with vitamins or minerals, and is not healthy if I drink too much. 

A tagline will often make an indefensible statement. But when it challenges credibility, and doesn’t even present a product benefit or competitive differentiator, I believe it’s useless.

What is more, a newcomer to the grocery shelves attempting to take a leadership position will almost always fail to live up to that position in a mature and competitor-filled product category such as coffee.

No, this slogan is misses on all fronts. It’s vacuous, pompous, irrelevant and just plain unbelievable.

It’s unbelievable that this piece of drivel was dreamed up by a copywriter, presented by the agency, or approved by the company.

Please, Dunkin’ Donuts, tell me why I should TRY your coffee. After all, that’s all it is – coffee.

Martin Jelsema

Why taglines go astray

Why do I find so many taglines not supporting the brands they’re attached to?

Why is there a disconnect, a discord?

I have a theory.

For many companies, the tagline, or slogan, is part of an ad campaign. When campaigns change, slogans change. That’s because ad agencies, even internal marcom departments, need to demonstrate their creativity. They believe the ad message is somehow different from the brand, that uniqueness in and of itself is more important than the brand.

Now the “creatives” will certainly not express such a statement. But for them, the campaign is separate from the brand, its heritage, its promise, and its associations. And the campaign includes the “concept”, the style, the headlines, copy and visuals, and…the tagline.

Then, management becomes enamored with the fresh ad idea and approves the entire campaign, including the slogan.

So these advertisers do not actively view a tagline as a branding element. A tagline is part of an ad campaign.

Now most companies do believe and demonstrate the power of a brand-oriented tagline. Quite often it is also referred to a “positioning statement”.

In this context the tag carries a visionary promise, a method of differentiating the company/product from competition, a positive and beneficial idea stakeholders can relate to.

By making the tagline part of the brand initially, and making sure that positioning statement is as sacrosanct as the name and the logo, with as much staying power as the other branding elements, continuity, association, awareness and comprehension will help to build a unified and powerful brand.

Martin Jelsema

A Tale of Two Taglines

Seems like this is tagline month. Examples of both good and bad – in my opinion – slogans have raised my consciousness concerning taglines.

The two I’m featuring today appeared within an hour or so as part of TV commercials for their respective owners on the Food Channel. Both companies appeal to parents of pre-teens in behalf of their kid-friendly play products. Both are companies with long and unblemished reputations.

First, there’s Playskool. Never mind they teach kids to misspell “school”. Their newest tagline is: “Believe in Play”.

Second is Crayola. Their newest tagline is “The Art of Childhood”.

What a contrast!

The Playskool slogan, in my opinion, just lays there. It’s a platitude for sure.

Not only does this slogan not differentiate the company and its products, it voices an obvious and pompous expression that’s border-line offensive. It’s an admonition. It asks you, the consumer, to “mend your ways” and believe in play. Because if they didn’t remind you, you’d probably take on your old Grinch-like attitude about play.

Now let’s look at the Crayola effort. They’ve nailed it as far as I’m concerned.

With The Art of Childhood, they’ve staked out their product category and made it their own. They’ve taken a leadership position, and they’ve done it with emotion and relevance. Doesn’t every parent want their child to be creative, to learn to express themselves positively?

And Crayola also speaks to understanding children and how to delight them with “The Art of..” phrase.

I don’t know if I could have hunted the Internet all day to find two better examples of :how to” and “how not to”.

If you’ve a different opinion, or even if you agree with a little of mine, let me know. Just click on the comments link below.

Martin Jelsema