“This Is a Skyscraper,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

There’s a terrific scene in the movie “Big,” in which Paul, the rival of Tom Hanks’ Josh, shares his silver-bullet idea for the upcoming year.

In the spirit of toys that transform, it’s a robot that turns into a… building.

Matthew Fenton Chicago Brand Strategy
“This is a skyscraper!” – the incomparable John Heard

“I don’t get it,” Josh famously says.  “There’s a million robots that turn into something.  This is a building that turns into a robot.  What’s fun about playing with a building?  That’s not any fun!”

“This is a skyscraper!” Paul insists. Continue reading ““This Is a Skyscraper,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves”

Heinz Just Approved Ads From “Mad Men,” and That’s a Good Thing

Heinz Mad Men Fries Ad

In this case, advertising imitates art.

AdWeek reports that Heinz has approved ads that were originally presented on the TV series Mad Men.

In season 6 of that show, set in 1968, Don Draper pitches a series of print ads to Heinz execs.  The ads are novel in that they don’t show ketchup at all – only foods that are wanting it.  As Don tells the Heinz execs, “The greatest thing you have working for you… is the imagination of the consumer.” Continue reading “Heinz Just Approved Ads From “Mad Men,” and That’s a Good Thing”

On the Practice of Active Positivity

Positivity

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, lobbing grenades at those who have done the work and put something out there.

I’m guilty of this myself at times.  I do my best to frame the mistakes of others as lessons for the rest of us, though sometimes I can’t resist making a dig at the truly awful stuff.  It’s not like there’s a shortage of bad branding out there.

But focusing only on the negative won’t make you a better leader.  And it doesn’t work as a philosophy of life. Continue reading “On the Practice of Active Positivity”

Your Brand Is Not as Great as You Think It Is (And What to Do About That)

Brand Perceptions Cartoon

Here’s a statistic that I wouldn’t believe had I not measured it myself: 100% of my friends are excellent drivers.

I’m serious. You can ask them. Better yet, ask your friends for their assessments of their own driving skills. You’ll probably record a similar number.

I can find you a bunch of statistics like this.

In one survey of university faculty, over 90% rated themselves “above average” in terms of teaching ability. That’s right – 90% of these professors placed themselves in the top 50%. Continue reading “Your Brand Is Not as Great as You Think It Is (And What to Do About That)”

Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands

Super Bowl Ads Challenger Brands

About five million dollars. That’s the cost for one of this year’s 30-second Super Bowl ads.

For most of us who lead challenger brands, that kind of outlay simply isn’t in the realm of possibility. As underdogs, we’re used to doing more with less.

The Super Bowl – and, in particular, the hype surrounding its ads – is perhaps the greatest example in business of flawed thinking on a grand scale. Though attention is heightened during the big game, viewers are primarily looking to be entertained. (This is how we get a Bud Light ad with “caucus” jokes. Oof, you are so ribald!)

Of course, ads that entertain don’t necessarily sell. And challenger brands know that it’s all about selling.

So let’s talk about what the rest of us can learn from this year’s Super Bowl ads. Continue reading “Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands”

“The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims

to thisWhile visiting Northeastern Ohio over the holidays, I came across cans of Bud Light that were customized in Cleveland Browns colors. The cans featured the following slogan:

“The Perfect Beer for Being Dawg Pound Proud”

Bud Light loves the Browns!
Bud Light loves the Browns!

(For those that may not know, the Dawg Pound is the nickname for the bleacher seats behind the east end zone of FirstEnergy Stadium, where the most fervent Browns fans congregate.)

My first reaction to this slogan was that it couldn’t have been written by anyone familiar with the team. I’ve been a Browns fan all my life, and “proud” is not a word we’re using these days. “Justifiably outraged” is more like it; the Browns have just one winning season in the last 13, and have lost 18 of their last 21 games.

My second reaction was: Continue reading ““The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims”

Four Brand Lessons from Lululemon

On Monday, Lululemon cut its revenue and earnings guidance sharply. This sent its shares tumbling more than 15%, to a two-year low.

This is the outcome of a pretty awful 2013 for Lulu, which included a product recall and comments from founder and chairman Chip Wilson that were, shall we say, a bit insensitive. (In December, Mr. Wilson announced that he was stepping down as chairman in June of this year.)

Lulu’s struggles offer us all an opportunity to brush up on some key brand lessons. From where I sit, the four most important lessons are these:

Continue reading “Four Brand Lessons from Lululemon”