Archive for August, 2010

Lessons from the Summer’s Biggest Brand Stories

August 25, 2010

Warm days, blue sky and a little vacation (hopefully) lead to reflection.  So here we take a look back at lessons learned from three of the biggest brand stories of the 2010 summer.

The BP Spill

BP protestThere’s nothing like a strong dose of crisis to test a brand positioning.  After a decade-long run as an exemplar of how to develop a re-positioning strategy, BP (nee “Beyond Petroleum”) faced a tragic oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that grounded our mental flights of “beyond” and left us with just “petroleum.”

There were some quick and highly visible reactions: a fake twitter account (with 10 times as followers as BP’s official account); not one but two BP logo redesign contests; and calls for boycotts, direct protests, and defacements of BP gas stations.

BP’s stock price has wavered between about half and 2/3rds of what it was before the spill, and there have already been a few estimates of the sinking brand value of BP. Some people, including several BP gas station owners, have even suggested changing the BP name entirely in the US.

Where will this all fall out for the future of the BP brand?  Payments by the company to those affected by the catastrophe, and an eventual “crisis fatigue” in the press will almost certainly have some positive brand impact. So it is not surprising that a recent AdAge poll came out perfectly split when asking readers whether BP could salvage its brand.

If you are looking for tips on how to survive a brand crisis, we recommend a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review that applies relevant research on persuasion from Prof. Gita V. Johar (Columbia Business School), Matthias M. Birk and Sabine A. Einwiller.

The World Cup

Hyundai vuvuzelaIt’s the biggest sporting event in the world and despite some frustrations with the drone of the vuvuzelas and bad referee calls, the 2010 World Cup achieved record TV ratings in the US and many other countries. And that, of course, doesn’t include numerous additional viewers (e.g. us) watching in pubs, online and even on their phones.

One “big vuvuzela” story demonstrates the need to work with all stakeholders (not just customers) when planning your marketing activities. Hyundai, a 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsor, was banned by the Cape Town City Council from blowing the 35 meter long vuvuzela (video) it constructed over an unfinished highway overpass. It was supposed to mark the opening of all the games in the stadium, but it was so loud the Council was concerned it might cause traffic accidents. We find this a bit ironic, considering FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s culturally-sensitive decision not to ban the African plastic horns inside the stadiums.

Event sponsorship is another key brand building tool at the World Cup. But Nielsen noted that some “ambushes” from ad campaigns launched by non-sponsor brands wound up creating more online buzz than the Cups’ official sponsors. The combination of sporting fever and great creative content is very powerful, and Nike hit it big by hiring acclaimed director Alejandro Inarritu to craft a three minute commercial video. While the ad was trimmed for TV, it has now gathered over 20 million views in its full length version on YouTube.

Old Spice Guy

Old Spice manIf you read any ad-related US press in mid-July, you already heard how Wieden+Kennedy and Proctor & Gamble created an online hit by adding social media interaction to its Old Spice TV ad campaign. Within one week of its launch, there were over 35 millions views of the 186 personalized web response videos from the Old Spice Guy himself, actor Isiah Mustafa.

Even before the sales impact of the web videos could be fully assessed, both BrandWeek and AdAge had articles looking at how the overall “Old Spice Guy” campaign might be affecting sales. The AdAge article brings up a particularly salient point by noting that multiple promotional efforts were taking place simultaneously with the campaign, thus “muddying” clear attributions to sales figures. If you have the budget to afford it, there is good reason to consider a marketing mix model for analysis.

David Rogers has penned an excellent piece on the lessons mass consumer brands can learn from the campaign’s interactive success, and how it excelled at connecting and engaging its audience.


Open vs. Closed Innovation: How Much Evil Is Just Right?

August 12, 2010

I had a great time running an executive program last week for Aalto University (formerly Helsinki School of Economics).

One of our liveliest discussions was on the subject of open vs. closed models of innovation. We examined the contrasting approaches of Google vs. Apple.

Google (“don’t be evil”) represented an open innovation culture, with its flat organizational structure, employee autonomy, fairly transparent communications, iterative approach to products (“beta, beta, beta”), and embrace of open platforms like Chrome and Android.

Apple (“be a little evil, and they’ll love you for it”) represented a contrast to that Silicon Valley conventional wisdom, with its hierarchical organization, charismatic hands-on leader, radical secrecy, disavowal of customer input, and embrace of proprietary platforms like iTunes and the iPhone App Store.

While partisans often take a strong position on “open” vs. “closed,” both companies have shown the potential benefits of their own approach to innovation. Google has grown thanks to the platform of the open Web, and proven incredibly innovative with a freewheeling, iterative, and decentralized approach (including its famous “20% time” for employees to initiate their own projects). Yet, Apple has likewise thrived under Steve Jobs, proving the power of vertically integrated innovation—linking web apps, installed software, and hardware—to create a transformative product like the iPhone.

With the recent news that Android phone sales have overtaken the iPhone in the U.S., Google’s open approach may be emerging as a winner in the smartphone space. After all, the Android operating system has managed to duplicate much of the magic of the iPhone, while allowing for more customization, greater product variety, availability on every network (not just AT&T), as well as an app store that doesn’t block submissions on sometimes mystifying grounds.

Of course, “open” and “closed” are really just extremes on a spectrum. The whole success of the iPhone came when Apple shifted, in its second model, from a fully closed system to a much more open platform for independent app developers. And, as a recent post by Nik Bhattacharya indicates, Android is not as purely open source as we may assume.

In an age of tight margins and competitive markets, open approaches to innovation are being adopted not just by Silicon Valley companies, but by governments, nonprofits, and traditional corporations like Procter & Gamble. The possibilities for reduced cost and broader sourcing of ideas often outweigh the risks to competitive surprise and exclusivity. It may be that the more traditional “closed” innovation is becoming a luxury that only a high-margin market leader like Apple will be able to afford in the future.


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

Image credit: Wired magazine

[Video] The “Post-Crisis” Consumer

August 9, 2010

Part of the “Video Mondays” series

As job growth in the US is reported to have stalled, a host of commentators have weighed in recently on the prospects for the “new normal” among consumers. (BusinessWeek‘s David Leonhard had one roundup on the paradox of current consumer psychology).

As such, it seems like an apt time to look back at John Gerzema’s talk from BRITE ’10 this spring, on the subject of “The Post-Crisis Consumer.”

Drawing on a wealth of data on consumer sentiment, John looked at how attitudes towards spending, values, and brands were changing even before the market collapse of fall 2008.

Whether or not we are anywhere near being “post-crisis,” the focus Gerzema sees on social values and the enterprises that embody them may characterize customers for years to come.


If video does not appear, click here to watch it on

This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

[Video] Samsung’s Approach to Innovation and Design Management

August 2, 2010

Part of the “Video Mondays” series

There is an inherent tension in the management of innovation. The essence of innovation is a creative process–albeit one rooted in an intimate knowledge of, and focus on, the customer.

Individuals and small groups are typically great sources of ongoing innovation, when they find a process that works well for them (a painter in her studio, or roundtable of a TV comedy’s writing team).

For large businesses that need to manage and optimize innovation on a large scale, developing processes can pose a challenge. As many a management consultant has found, it’s easy to create a flowchart for a process that’s supposed to consistently produce the same result. It’s much harder to chart out a process that will produce a new, unforeseen, and valuable result each time you follow it.

Samsung has invested a lot in developing its own process for innovating consumer-focused products, with results evident in cutting-edge designs like the 2View camera.

In the video below, you can see a discussion of this innovation process, at our BRITE ’10 conference, by Yoon C. Lee, Vice President, Product Innovation Team, Samsung Electronics.

Yoon talks about:

  • keeping their process simple,
  • using data to guide innovation,
  • honing a focused value proposition to communicate to the customer, and
  • how design management must balance functional and emotional values.

If you care about innovation in your own business, this video is well worth the 11 minutes.


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

If video does not appear, click here to watch it on

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