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Brandishing a Logo Doesn't Make a Brand
Okay, I don't dislike Pepsi's new logo, but then again, I didn't dislike their old one. the new one is a bit looser. So, and old brand wants to look new for its target market by ditching its "Next Generation" for the Millennials. That's not an easy task, because Millenials often prefer water, an energy drink, an actual juice drink or a clear soda.  Capturing the Millennials will require a lot more effort than it did to hone in on its previous Next Gen target. 

For so much brand hype, the spot hits me as a little bland a little too simplistic. So, the logo subs for the letter "O" in a sequence of words...that certainly isn't reinventing the wheel. Neither is the fact that you actually see the name Pepsi [make that pepsi] in the last nanosecond of the commercial and you have almost total separation of the brand logo and the brand name until that point.

"Wordplay," is touted to be a feel good spot and the animated words combined with The Apples song "Energy" is upbeat, but a logo bouncing around against a color background just looks a little sterile. And the choice of solid background colors signify what?...the hues that clashed the most with a red, white and blue logo. Hey, I'm currently in a Pepsi period, so I can weigh in.
3:40 pm cst 

Our Lives Are Unbalanced and Our Favorite Leisure Activity Is Reading. Who Knew?

According to a recent [October 2008] Harris Interactive survey of 1,010 adults the median time Americans spent working was 46 hours a week and the median time spent playing was just 16 hours. It reflects the most unbalanced lives that Americans have reported since Harris starting tracking the work/leisure balance back in 1973. In that year, we worked 41 hours and played 26 hours.

One of the more interesting findings, in my opinion, was that almost one-third of those surveyed chose reading as their favorite leisure activity. I don't know if reading online counted, but studying was considered work.

Watching TV was the second most popular choice and spending time with family was the third. TV was up 6 points from 2007 and family was up 3 points from 2007. The fact that TV viewing has rocketed up 6 points either says that Americans like the fact that someone else's reality is better than theirs or worse than theirs. Or, could it be the wide screen HD TVs?

So why do I find the leading leisure activity of reading surprising? It is a quiet, solitary activity. Maybe this says Americans are becoming more introspective. Maybe it says we're on a quest to learn more; this is the information age afterall. Or, perhaps it just says reading is quieter than watching TV. And who couldn't use a little more peace and solitude?

5:48 pm cst 

How Important is Branding?

I just read an article by Al Ries in Ad Age, which really drove home the lack of brand messaging by GM. He’s absolutely right that none of the multiple General Motors brands has done a good job in this area.

He raised a questioned that asked what GM’s brands stand for and came up with the following:

Saturn is associated with "Rethink"

Chevrolet is "An American Revolution."

Pontiac is "Action."

Buick is the "beautiful" car to drive.

And Cadillac is "Life. Liberty. And the pursuit."

He contrasted GM with Gillette, a company that has multiple brands each with a strong following that has allowed the company to capture more than 70% of the wet shaving market. The interesting thing is that each of the Gillette brands stands for something different.

This is not the case with GM’s brands. Where are the distinctive differences not only as compared to other automakers but more importantly within their own family of brands? How does Chevrolet play into "An American Revolution."? Frankly, the only thing I associate with that slogan is a Chevy Truck. However, for all of their advertising dollars I cannot tell you one way in which even a Chevy truck is revolutionary.

I’ll just inject my opinion that Mazda has tons more brand equity in Zoom, Zoom, Zoom that Chevy does in An American Revolution. For one, I get this little tune in the back of my head every time I see those words in sequence. Now, there’s action.

Let’s take the term Pontiac and "action". I don’t get it. Pontiac did make a name for itself in the "muscle car" era, but how does action relate to any of their cars today. Unfortunately, I cannot even instantly recall any of the names of Pontiac cars. If action is a viable brand for them I should immediately see the Pontiac logo and be able to recall at least the Pontiac name itself and some sort of action sequence. Alas, that doesn’t happen. I get a blank screen.

Moving on to Buick being the "beautiful" car to drive. I can bring up video scenes and ads that involve elegant settings, but the thing I associate Buick with more than anything else is golf. Having done away with Oldsmobile, there are still two competing GM brands, Buick and Cadillac, which essentially market to the same luxury market targets. But, I’ll admit I can conjure up a clearer picture of a Cadillac logo than a Buick one.

Not based on any information other than the advertising that I have come in contact with I would say that GM spent a lot more money branding Cadillac and Chevy trucks than its other lines. Was this because Pontiac and Buick just didn’t matter? I’m sure I’m not the only one who realized at some point GM went through a design crisis with its Chevy cars, which is no doubt why more money was put behind selling the trucks. There was one year model of Impala that I saw more of as fleet cars or police cars than as family cars. In fact, the few I saw that didn't have a fleet brand were few and far between.

For a short time Saturn had a big push and to my mind Saturn was a young, no-nonsense brand that didn’t play games with price stickers on the showroom floor. But aside from how I might be treated by their sales personnel, I still don’t know why I should drive a Saturn although I really like the styling of the Sky and the Vue. However, I really want to stretch the Sky/Solstice designs to make them a tiny bit larger. I relate them a little too much to the micro sports cars which for big city driving against the SUVs just don’t seem safe.

But back to brand. With all of the millions of dollars spent on advertising GM brands there is an amazing lack of the ability to recall why I might one to purchase any single car or truck from their lines. Take the Solstice and the Sky. Why should I prefer one to the other? Apply that same decision factor to any of the other models that are basically just a different nameplate and you get the same lack of benefits tugging at my decision and obviously the same problems in distinguishing their brands.

I will add that despite the lack of branding glue, GM and Detroit had the problem of building huge SUVs with gas-guzzling engines at a time when anyone in the auto industry should have known better than to keep producing ways to have Americans become more dependent on foreign oil. How American is that? It could have been a Chevrolet American Revolution if they had rolled out the first line of Detroit cars that were truly better for the environment. But seems like they left that to Toyota and Honda, which have only enhanced the durability of their brands more by being relevant to the times. 

12:10 pm cst 

2009 Trends and Your Business
Thanksgiving is over and this week marks the downhill coast into the holidays and into 2009. Looking back, we can readily see that this year was the year that green, renewable, sustainable and environmentally friendly became more than just niche terms. They finally got the attention they deserve. The harsh reality though is that it took wildly escalating gasoline prices, electricity bills and a huge global warming campaign to enlarge the handwriting that's been on the wall for years.

I'm currently working with clients that have e-commerce sites selling  eco fashions and jewelry, and one that is just beginning to build some eco-information sites. I also am working on eco travel, wine and fashion articles for a magazine. The demand for all things eco is huge.

If your business thinks it is outside of the eco trend, you could be wrong. Even blatantly non-green companies are trying to appear greener. Why? Because your clients and your customers, even the not-so-green ones, will like you better and like themselves better for doing business with a green business.

From all appearances green will just get greener in 2009. Now, it is not only politically correct, but A-List correct to be green.

Will green be the anti-bling in 2009? It is really too early to tell, but we all know that with trends the pendulum swings. Just as there is already an undertow pulling away from things large and flashing to things low key and practical, we're still just seeing the arc of the swing begin.

That said, if green is a strong emotional pull for a brand, what have you done with your business and does it come across as sincere? You don't have to be a major consumer brand to have an impact on the planet or on your customers. If you're doing something good tell them. Customers like to know.

To keep your business green in 2009, talking to your customers will be important than ever. But you can't just talk about what you're doing; start a real dialog about what you're doing that will benefit them.

6:43 pm cst 

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