Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How Do You Define Your Brand?

Brand Branding
Your brand is the secret sauce of your business. Read on to see how defining your brand can ultimately define your business. 
Recently, a new business closed in Oklahoma City. While that happens every day all across the world, this business was unique in both what it offered and, apparently, how it defined and marketed its brand.

The business was called The Banquet Cinema Pub and, the name pretty much said everything; the place offered food, movies and alcohol. More specifically, Banquet Cinema aspired to be a locally-owned version of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; a chain of theaters where you can dine, drink, and enjoy a movie, separately or all at the same time. The problem for Banquet Cinema, however, was that they failed to define their brand to their market. And, while it's easy for me to cast aspersions and play backseat marketer, Banquet Cinema's owner basically said that very thing:
“The biggest challenge has been that the movies have done really well, but people were confused they didn’t need a ticket to come into the space,” Wheat said. “And then were those going to the movies and not knowing there was this whole dining experience up front.”
Banquet Cinema did generate some publicity when it opened, and that likely created some word-of-mouth, but it appears ownership did little more to define their brand after that. While there was a website, InstagramFacebook, and Twitter accounts, the lack of brand definition is apparent with each. Where Banquet Cinema could have clearly defined the unique qualities of their business on their website's "About" page, they gave potential customers this instead:

Get ready for a unique movie & dining experience with a giant dining area including shuffleboard tables, games and a fantastic array of food and drink, along with two charming cinema rooms.

I realize it's hard enough to run a bar, restaurant, or movie theater, so trying to market all three rolled into one is certainly a significant challenge. In their social media however, Banquet Cinema seemed to never market all three elements of the business together. Instead, rather than a coherent brand identity and unified marketing message, it appeared at various times they wanted to be a brunch spot, a live music venue, a neighborhood pub, or a sports bar. Given that, it's certainly understandable that "people were confused they didn’t need a ticket to come into the space" and that there "were those going to the movies and not knowing there was this whole dining experience up front.”

While the above statements indicate (to me at least) they could clearly see their problem with their brand identity, Banquet Cinema pulled the plug after roughly six months in business. When you're only relying on word-of-mouth advertising and social media to market your business, establishing a brand identity that will build a customer base takes time. The old Rule of 7 in advertising was that it took at least seven impressions to compel someone to act on your marketing message. In the digital age, you need at least seven impressions if not more, and your message has to be clear and precise to rise above all the other clutter. While I'm sure there were other factors, from the outside at least, Banquet Cinema's narrow marketing plan and what appeared to be a lack of coherent branding certainly didn't help the business rise above the noise.

So now, think about your business. Remember that your brand is the promise your company or products makes to your customers. Does your marketing accurately reflect that? Does every bit of advertising you do contribute to defining and shaping your brand to not only your existing patrons, but to potential new customers who may be unfamiliar with your products or services? In other words, if someone saw your website, one of your ads, or social media posts, would they be able to quickly ascertain who you are, what you do, and what you're selling?

Knowing what your business is about is one thing, but if you can't relate that to your customers, you might have a problem. Just as every movie tells a story, make sure your marketing script tells a story of your business that will continually connect with your patrons so that they can relate to what you offer.

If you need some help telling your story, defining your brand, or developing a better brand strategy, give us a call and let's talk about it over a beer, a bite, and maybe even a movie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What The Tour de France Can Teach You About Plan B

Welcome to the 2019 installment of What The Tour de France Can Teach You About Advertising. This is my annual post using the Tour de France, professional bicycling's greatest race and marketing machine, as a metaphor for improving your advertising. (You can get caught up on some of the previous entries here.)

While any  pro bike rider will say he wants to win the Tour de France, for most it's just a fantasy. The reality is perhaps only 15 or 20 riders have the ability to both time trial and climb, as well as the supporting team, needed to win the General Classification (GC). However, while GC riders who can actually win the yellow jersey are few, there are other races within the race to keep things interesting.

The polka dot King of the Mountains Jersey is, as the name implies, awarded to the rider who garners the most points though high placement in climbs spread throughout the Tour. The Green Jersey goes to the Tour de France rider who garners the most points in the sprints at the end of each day's stage (for flat stages) and for intermediate sprints along the way. There's even a White Jersey for the best under-25 rider with the lowest elapsed time. And, while it may seem odd to see a team of nine riders supporting the goal of one teammate, prize money in the Tour de France is divided equally among the team, so riders are rewarded for their work.

But, what if the rider a team is supporting lacks form, gets injured, or drops out of the race? That's when pro teams turn to Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, or even Plan E. Whether it's helping another teammate pursue some other jersey, simply going for stage wins, trying to finish ahead of a rival rider or team, or just generating exposure (and getting TV time) for their sponsors, pro cycling teams always have something to ride for in the Tour de France.

So what does all this have to do with advertising? Well, if you have a yearly ad plan and strive to get the most from your ad dollars, then that ad plan should mirror the Tour de France team strategy and have an ultimate goal in mind. That is, your ad plan should be well-rounded with an eye toward being first at the finish line, with each element supporting that goal. However, if some element of your ad plan doesn't perform as expected, make sure you have a Plan B, C, D, or E in place too.

While a Tour de France team director may have to change up his strategy several times in the course of a day's stage, monitoring your ad plan requires a lot less work. In fact checking how your plan is performing once a month will give you a pretty good idea on your return-on-investment. If you're too busy for that, be sure to at least check once a quarter. And, if you're unhappy with what you see, be prepared to switch to Plan B.

Your Ad Plan B doesn't have to be a major strategy shakeup. If you're dissatisfied with the ROI on the advertising you've purchased, consider simply reallocating. If your digital spending is getting better returns than email marketing, spend more on digital and less on email. If your broadcast spending isn't generating results, put that money into something that's performing. Just as a Tour team has to change things up on the fly to make the most of each race, adjust your ad plan as you go to insure you get the best results for your money.

When forced to go to Plan B ( or Plan C, D, E, or even F), Tour de France teams keep moving forward and work to get the best race results in the final standings. If your business needs to activate Ad Plan B, remember to change things up as needed so that you get peak performance from your advertising investment. And, no matter what changes you make, just remember to keep the marketing wheels moving, so that your ad plan always gets your business the best sales results.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The 2019 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non Poetic

Welcome to the 2019 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl LIII is history, the Patriots are once again Super Bowl champions, America is throughly sick of Tom Brady, and it's time to reveal our judging panel's (me and Office Dog) favorites from this year's crop of Super Bowl ads.

Note that, while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, our honors may stray wildly from the standard accolades for Super Bowl ads. Our goal is to recognize the Super Bowl ads that stuck, the ads that sucked, and the ads resonated with the person who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the entire show (from the viewpoint of an advertising guy who worked Super Bowl promotions in bars for 15 years). So, without further non-poetry…

The A For Execution But... Award
Olay went all in in this year's Super Bowl with a TV spot and quarter sponsorship. While a women's face cream buying into the Super Bowl was interesting to see, their spot left just a bit to be desired. Titled and hashtagged Killer Skin, the Olay spot brought us Sarah Michelle Gellar and wove in themes from her turns in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Ultimately, however, the problem was it was too busy, too loud, and too convoluted to get the brand message across.

The Office Dog Honors Award
This award honors the best use of animals (preferably monkeys) in Super Bowl ads. However, monkeys seem to be passé in Super Bowl advertising these days and, apparently, so are dogs or animals in general, though WeatherTech did feature some good dogs in their ad highlighting their PetComfort line of products. However, though he didn't do much, Budweiser's ad featuring one of their dalmatians with his ears flapping in the wind did the best job of  scoring all the warm fuzzies with a dog in a Super Bowl ad this year…

The WTF Award
In a year filled with plenty of WTF moments (looking at you TurboTax), Mint Mobile took the prize for their lame attempt at creating a Super-Bowl-wacky-buzz ad touting chunky style milk. In the process of the attempt to memorable, they kinda forgot about the purpose of spending big bucks on Super Bowl ads. You know? That whole promote your brand thing…

The Best Ad Only Hardcore Football Fans Completely Got Award
I thoroughly enjoyed the NFL's 100th Anniversary ad. It was wildly entertaining with humor, action, callbacks to some of the league's most memorable moments, and a nod to some of today's current and up-and-coming superstars (hellloooo Baker Mayfield!). The problem was, it was too much. Too many faces, too many cameos, too much action, and a superfluous appearance by a female football player crammed into two minutes and, on top of all that, the casual fan likely didn't know half the players or moments noted in the spot. It was still a great spot that will merit a few more views, but a little more restraint could have created a much better spot…

The Please, For The Love Of God, Go Away Award
In a cheap and lazy ploy, Devour tried very hard to be naughty by implying that their frozen dinners are worthy(?) of online porn-like addiction. Food porn, get it? In fact, their original version even used the word "porn," which was rejected by the network. And, in an even more crass grab for attention, the company's lets-be-naughty strategy included running the full ad (with mention of "porn") on the PornHub site. I never thought anyone would outclass GoDaddy for pointlessly sexist yet tacky Super Bowl advertising, but I'm pretty sure Devour did the job this year:

Best Pointless Use Of A Pointless Celebrity Award
An incredibly huge field of candidates in this category this year. Planters Peanuts ran a great ad that would have done just fine without the pointless appearance of Charlie Sheen and Alex Rodriguez. Colgate's unoriginal, let-try-to-be-buzzy spot featuring Owen Wilson was also celebrity endorsement money that was thrown down the drain (and Seinfeld did that bit 20-something years ago). All of Pepsi's ads with Steve Carell and others just sucked. Bubly Sparkling Water ran a fun ad featuring Michael Bublé that was actually a nice tie-in. However, like Bublé's music, it will be quickly forgotten. And, while Amazon likely got the biggest bang for their buck with their mish-mash ad featuring Harrison Ford, rather than promoting it, the ad actually highlighted all the concerns people have with virtual assistants like Alexa (the ad they should have run, featuring just Harrison Ford, ran after the game).
But those pointless celebrity appearances all paled in comparison to Burger King's ad, which featured Andy Warhol (who died in 1987!) silently opening a Whopper, pouring ketchup, and then dipping the burger in ketchup. The big payoff was the lame hashtag #EatLikeAndy. The clip they used, called "Andy Warhol Eats A Hamburger," was licensed from a documentary film called 66 Scenes From America. It actually could have been so much more, but ultimately Burger King simply wants us to eat like a man who's been dead for 32 years…

Honorable Mention
Stella Artois got lots of nostalgic buzz for their spot that brought back Sarah Jessica Parker as her Sex in the City character Carrie Bradshaw and Jeff Bridges reviving his Jeffrey The Dude Lebowski character from The Big Lebowski. In the end, however, the ad came off as a cheap, uncreative, too over-the-top hook designed solely for max Super Bowl hype. It was already forgotten by the end of the game.

The Water Cooler Winner
There was no debate on this one and it was pretty obvious from the moment it ran who our Water Cooler Award Winner would be. Floating above a sea mediocre ads that just tried too hard or missed the mark, the Bud Light/Game of Thrones ad is what everyone is going to be talking about around the office water cooler on Monday. Bud Light had already set things up with their amusing No Corn Syrup spot (though it won't matter to most beer drinkers, Bud Light did a good job hammering that message home with a couple other spots during the game), but the follow up, starting with typical Bud Light wit, took a very dark, violent, and surprising turn to segue into a fiery reminder that a new Game of Thrones season starts soon on HBO. This is what a Super Bowl ad should be. It was fun, light, unexpected, and very memorable. Nice job and, yea, I'll say it… Dilly Dilly!

So, there ya' go... my take on the Super Bowl ads for 2019. Some good, some bad, some creative, some cliché. Feel free to leave your thoughts, picks, pans, favorites and failures in the comments. And, until then, when does the 2019 football season start?