September 28, 2012

Don't mess with your brand: Goldenberg's Peanut Chew

The original packaging

Then some idiot decided to do this. Sales tanked.

Now Goldenberg's is almost back to its original.

One would think that as business professionals we learn from others mistakes, gain experience, get better, and avoid certain traps. Yet a story like the one of Goldenberg's Peanut Chews is only one in a long chain of fundamental fuck-ups in corporate America, where some moron decides to go against the fundamentals of marketing knowledge.

Remember the packaging redesign disaster around Tropicana Orange Juice? Or the GAP New Logo mess? Or the classic Coke / New Coke mess? Well, here is another one. Thank God someone at Goldberg's Peanut Chewing headquarter put an end to it, did some research and reverted back to where the brand was before, most importantly put the 'Goldenberg's' name back on the packaging that tells people that this is what they're looking for.

Lesson learned: Don't mess with your brand. If you're the CEO: don't let some self-proclaimed marketing specialist just go ahead and change the packaging. If you're the Marketing Manager: Don't let some agency honcho talk you into a need for a redesign - they are an agency and want you to give them money so they can keep designing. In a nutshell: All the people who were responsible for this almost disaster should have gotten fired. They have no business being in their business. End of story.

Read the whole story at
After Failed Identity Change, Peanut Chews Reclaims Its Goldenberg’s Roots

September 27, 2012

All-time Classic: Audi's 'Vorsprung durch Technik' Ad Slogan

This ad slogan is now more than 40 years old, and it is one of my favorites. Created in 1971 by the iconic Sir John Hegarty, it clearly belongs in the Advertising Hall of Fame of the Top 10 Car Ad Slogans of all times (along with GMC's 'We are Professional Grade'). How did it come about? Read the story by UK's The Guardian here:

Vorsprung durch Technik – ad slogan that changed how we saw Germany

September 26, 2012

Bad Product Naming: 'Fungus Among Us'

Some things are just too good to be true. Like the above brand discovered on a recent trip to the local Gristedes Grocery store chain here in New York. It's pretty clear that what they are selling are mushrooms of various sorts, but calling it 'Fungus'? Just for the sake of having a funny sounding brand name? Who calls their brand 'Fungus Among Us'? Seriously? Last thing I remember that lived in the perceived world of above mentioned brand name was my house guest's miniature spray bottle to cure some kind of 'fungal infection'. Pretty damn sure as hell that I will not touch anything named 'Fungus'. Here a picture of his cure:

August 23, 2012

Olympic Gold II: Nike Follow Up

At the corner of 34th Street & 7th Avenue.

Just yesterday I noticed this billboard in Manhattan around Penn Station. What a brilliant follow up to their already brilliant commercial. They took the best scene of the commercial, blew it up on a 50 ft high poster, and put it in one of the busiest street corners of Manhattan. Another: +5

Olympic Gold for Nike: Find your greatness

The Olympics are over, and even though Nike wasn't one of the exclusive sponsors, they truly scored themselves a gold medal with their campaign. Remember: Anyone who doesn't fork over top dollar to the IOC, is not allowed to make any references to the '2012 Olympics' whatsoever. No mention in the copy. No showing the Olympic rings. Nothing. Nada. Niente.

So what did Nike do? They set it up with a series of 'London' signs that brilliantly gets Nike a free ride on top of all of what the Olympics are all about. I honestly don't remember anything Adidas - the official sponsor - did during the Olympics. Hence, Gold medal for Nike. And Wieden + Kennedy for making it such a wonderful commercial.

My favorite scene: The last scene, when the little boy runs his hand through his hair, and then... jumps! (0:55).


Message: +1, no explanation necessary
Creative: +1, brilliant execution
Context: +1, can it get better than this?
Impact: +1, I'm pretty sure this was a home run
Intangibles: +1, because of its absolutely brilliant strategy

March 2, 2012

Banksy on Advertising

Apparently, this piece was written by Banksy:

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are ‘The Advertisers’ and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”

While often, I am quite annoyed myself with certain aspects of the industry I am working in, I have to disagree with Banksy on many levels. Most of the time, his work is brilliant, has depth, and makes people think. The argumentation in his letter however is beyond superficial, aims to grab attention in a cheap way, and is to a large extent extremely hypocritical.

I was going to write my own analysis here, but Craig Ward has already done an eloquent and coherent piece in his brilliant blog post.

Related links:
Craig Ward's blog: The Words are Pictures


February 20, 2012

Case Study: How to fuck up a brand - Aston Martin

I am making a bold prediction here: Aston Martin is going down. Not overnight, but it will die a slow and steady death. Why? Take a look at Exhibit A) and Exhibit B). Then pause for a moment and ask yourself: What is wrong with this picture? Trust me, you don't have to be an Einstein to figure this one out.


1 - Aston Martin DB5

2 - Aston Martin Vantage

3 - Aston Martin One-77

Now take a closer look at this:


1 - Aston Martin DB5

2 - Aston Martin Vantage

3 - Aston Martin Cygnet

 Notice the difference? Exhibit A is part of what I refer to as Aston Martin's "Brand Equity Portfolio (BEP)" BEFORE and Exhibit B is part of the BEP AFTER 'The Cygnet'.

Aston Martin introduced this abomination in June 2009, apparently due to some emission law guidelines bla bla bla... basically to have one car in their portfolio that is eco-friendly to help save the planet etc.p.p. Got the message. Thank you. Well, we all understand that the world needs alternative resources, renewable energy, eco friendly transportation alternatives etc.. It's pretty much a no-brainer.

What we don't understand - or I in particular - is how the people at Aston Martin could make such a horrendous mistake in mismanaging their brand portfolio. Adding a pimped up Toyota IQ to the Aston Martin family and slapping an Aston Martin badge on it, simply to satisfy law makers? Really? Couldn't think of a better solution? Couldn't take a look at history and the competition and learn from other car makers' mistakes?

Volkswagen (VW) learned the hard way when it finally had to put an end to its CEO's passion project - the VW Phaeton. Volkswagen (translated: the people's car) sold 1,433 units in 2004 and only 820 in 2005 in the U.S. What was the problem? Well, 'the people's car' had tried to enter a segment where people don't drive 'the people's car' any longer, but spend a whole lot of extra money for 'luxury cars', such as the Mercedes S-Class, the BMW 7 series or the Audi A8. Why would you spend the same amount of money for a VW if you can drive a Mercedes?

Lesson learned: know your brand's sweet spot. The zone you are successful in. The range you can rationally and emotionally justify towards your audience and consumers. How far can you successfully 'stretch' your brand?

Aston Martin has been trying to go the opposite way, by going small. Law and business decisions aside, this was a stupid move from a Brand Management perspective. Why?

By having introduced this fugly piece, Aston has forever changed its carefully built and composed Brand Equity. Just take a look at the long history of Aston Martins (Wikipedia link below). There has been such a consistent story over all these years that is almost second to none.

Many car makers do it: badge engineering - taking one platform, and use it to build multiple vehicles on top of it. Quite often they get away with it, because the brands are low profile and the cars live in the 'use' vs. 'want' category. But taking a Toyota IQ, and trying to sell it as an Aston Martin? Really? That's messed up. I have no respect for anyone who allows themselves to be fooled by it. Just look at it:

Price tag: 25,000 Euro - 30,000 Euro ($35,000 - $42,000)

As compared to: 13,000 Euro - 17,000 Euro ($18,000 - $24,000)

Now you might laugh about this, but trust me. Ask a hundred guys on the street what they associate with Aston Martin, and I bet you a hundred dollars "James Bond" will be one of the 10 attributes you will hear most often. You can safely add him to the Brand Equity Portfolio. Now do me one favor: imagine him in a Cygnet. Do I have to explain this any further?

"Cygnet" - what? What a fun exercise it would be to do a reverse associations test to see what comes to mind. Here are my attributes: cyborg / androids / terminator / computer / spy wars ... geez... what the hell were they thinking?

How does something like this come to live? Who makes these decisions? Who are the people behind these fuck-ups? I don't know. I can only guess. Here is what I think: It all comes down to either non-existing brand management, incompetent brand management, delirious brand management, or management dictating brand management (as was the case with VW's Ferdinand Piech - who's quite a brilliant business person, but he got the Phaeton completely wrong).

As was the case with Aston Martin, the brand was sold off in 2007 by Ford to a joint venture company for 479m GBP (for more see Wikipedia link). New ownership, new management, new marketing, new egos... everyone wants to leave their mark. Bang. There you have it.

Simple. Super simple. Set up an 'Aston Martin Holdings' company, which houses the 'Aston Martin' luxury sports car brand, and the newly created 'Cygnet' luxury mini cars brand. Aston Martin remains what it always has been. Its Brand Equity Portfolio remains intact. And the new Cygnet brand kicks off with the Cygnet C1, followed by the Cygnet C2, C3 etc., predominantly focusing on highly populated urban areas such as Singapore, Hong Kong, New York etc. Done. No harm. No foul. Everybody happy.

Whatever happened at Aston Martin, it will go down in Marketing textbook that haven't even been written yet as one of the major brand fuck up stories of the 21st Century. And it pains me to witness the demise of one of my favorite car brands of all times.

Related links:
Aston Martin's website
Aston Martin on Wikipedia
Volkswagen's Phaeton Story

January 22, 2012

Love: Logo Design

Some logo designs are just ... I am at a lack for words here. 'Love' seems to be the most fitting. How brilliant is that? Wouldn't you wanna eat there?

January 21, 2012

Fantastic: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser

Can't wait for the Superbowl commercials this year. After last year's somewhat mediocre creative executions, it can only get better. Volkswagen's "The Bark Side" is a fantastic appetizer. Fingers crossed.


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