Are Dr. Pepper’s New Ads Too Manly for Women?

2011 November 1
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by Brendan Miller

Every marketer would encourage catering your message to your target audience, but does Dr. Pepper go too far by possibly alienating women? In its latest ad campaign for a new soda called “Dr Pepper Ten” (a ten calorie drink), Dr Pepper says “it’s not for women” and calls it “10 manly calories”. The target audience for this drink is young men who drink a disproportionate less amount of diet soda’s compared to women and older men.

Furthermore, could this edgy ad campaign turn women off to the entire Dr. Pepper family of sodas or does it just miss the mark?

I think beer advertising has trampled all over this space in the past and I never hear women boycotting beer because of it. It’s just a fact that women drink less beer than men, and that probably will never change, but it is not because of the advertising is overly targeted to men…it’s just the nature of things.

I think the largest obstacle Dr. Pepper faces is that men are not the primary grocery shoppers by a margin of 2-1.  It is mainly women who are going to make that decision about the soda at the point-of-purchase and Dr. Pepper’s message does not resonate with them. They’ve completely lost the valuable women shopper.

Proctor and Gamble’s Old Spice brand realizes the importance of the women shopper while still targeting men with the “Smell like a Man, Man” campaign. Isaiah Mustafa, actor and former pro football player, who, in mock earnestness talks directly to women about the smell of their man. It uses humor to engage the user and the buyer. Old Spice realizes the key to reaching both sexes is leveraging humor that both sexes can relate too. 

In contrast, Dr Pepper misfires on this one not because it is being overly sexist, but because they’ve failed to have a conversation with the buyer-in-chief.

Death By Brand Pyramid

2011 August 25
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by Brendan Miller

I was sitting through the research done by a fairly well-known, national research firm recently, and before they went through the numbers they whipped out their brand pyramid model, reminding us that there was much work to be done to get our customers and prospects up the brand hierarchy.

It got me thinking about how consumers (and businesses for that matter) really make decisions in the real world.

A few brand pyramids that I had laying around.

Brand Pyramids seem to oversimplify the emotional and totally irrational beings that we call consumers.  I think we sometimes devalue  marketing when we try distill the consumer decision and thought process into a PowerPoint slide.  Do we really believe that if we can move a buyer up the pyramid through clever communication and brand touch points that they will be bonded with our brand  and have some type of lofty “Apple State of  Self-Actualization”?  I don’t buy it anymore.

If you’ve ever sat in a focus group, followed a consumer around on a shopping trip, or had a normal conversation with a friend about their last big screen TV purchase, you’ll know people just don’t work like those brand pyramids say they do.  But brand experts propagate them anyway.  Our job is to bring salience and understanding to the confusion and those brand pyramids are not cutting it anymore.

Ok, now what?  Brand Pyramids are dead.  What should replace them?  I don’t think we need to replace them with something else.  I’ve been re-reading David Aaker recently and I can’t help, but think how simple he makes it.  Make your product relevant, engage with your consumers, be yourself.

Aaker wrote in 2004, “Brand Management in the past focused on achieving preference the basis of differentiation, benefits, customer satisfaction, among a set of brands under consideration for a given application.  But in today’s environment, unless a brand can maintain its relevance as categories emerge, change, and fade, narrow application preference may not be sufficient.” In other words, if all you’re focused on is achieving preference and differentiation with new updates or campaigns, you may miss the major shifts in the marketplace such as AOL did in the early 2000’s.

This of course means an organization has to be more outward focused, nimble, and innovative to stay in the sweet spot of relevance…those are posts for another day.

Innovation With a Capital ‘I’

2011 August 4
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by Brendan Miller

There’s a lot of talk these days about innovation.  Companies have opportunities for what I call innovation with a lowercase “i” and innovation with an uppercase “I.”

First, let’s define each.

Lowercase “innovation” is opportunistic in nature.  The firm is reacting to some external force in the marketplace, such as new government legislation, changing consumer behaviors, and competitors.  These opportunities rely primarily on distribution channels, sales, and marketing teams to repackage products to create new sales prospects.  Product development is certainly involved, but normally isn’t altering the product roadmap or vision drastically to accommodate the opportunity.  Usually it is short-term revenue opportunity that does not drive long-term loyalty and value for the organization.

Uppercase “Innovation” comes from within and it is proactive and more long-term focused.  It’s  a ‘pull’ strategy vs. a ‘push.’  It’s purposeful, well thought-out and attempts to be transformational.  Uppercase Innovation means the firm is constantly experimenting, defining new opportunities and challenges, and has a deliberate process to sift through and test ideas.

Both approaches are useful and have their own purpose.  Too often though, companies only implement a lowercase innovation approach, and cut themselves off from real market opportunities.  Corporate America is full of these firms that grow each year, but never really redefine their marketplace or create new market categories or sub-categories.  Forbes just recently published a set of articles based on a book called the “Innovator’s DNA”  that ranks companies on innovation based on an assessment of each company’s “innovation premium.”  Innovation Premium measures the premium the stock market gives a company for anticipated or expected innovation.  Salesforce.com came out on top of the rankings for its Chatter application that takes the best of Facebook and Twitter and applies it to enterprise collaboration.

So, the question arises, ‘how do you go from just ”innovation” to “Innovation” with an uppercase “I”?’  Here are few thoughts:

1) Make failure a possible option. You can’t innovate if employees are afraid they are going to get fired if they have a failed attempt at something.  Failure should be a recognized part of the process.  Silicon valley is full of failures.  I’m not saying that it should be celebrated, but rather looked upon as a learning opportunity.  To read more about Failure take a look in the Harvard Business Review’s April 2011 issue.

2) Reward and Compensate. I’m  a firm believe that behavior follows incentives.  If you want your employees to to innovate then there needs to be an incentive program that supports that Innovation effort.

3) Create a context. Set an Innovation vision.  The CEO and top management are responsible for establishing a vision (strategy) which embraces Innovation.  Without a vision of where the company and market is going, often there can be limited success with Innovation.  Management must create the inspiration to push people to stretch, to make the current pie bigger.  At the same time it must be realistic, and it falls upon top management to create direction in which they want those innovation efforts directed.

4) Investment Sandbox. Encouraging Innovation without giving development teams budgets to experiment with is just talk.   To be a serious Innovator, budgets need to be created for Innovation.  Make the process simple and easy to access sandbox funds for experimentation.  Once the idea is developed, put it through a more rigorous business case procedure.

Those would be my top four pillars for creating an “I”nnovation strategy.  What are your additions?

The End of the Cashier

2011 May 18
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by Brendan Miller

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about  a new device that looks like a smartphone, and is perched on the handle of the shopping cart, it scans grocery items as the customer adds them to the cart.

With the system called Scan It—in use at about half of Ahold USA’s Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the Northeast—shoppers scan and bag their own groceries as they navigate the aisles, while a screen keeps a running total of their purchases. About a dozen times per shopping trip, the device lets out a “Ka-ching” as an electronic coupon appears on the screen. “Last week, right after I scanned coffee, I got a coupon for coffee creamer, which I needed,” says Patty Emery, a Caldwell, N.J., dental assistant, who estimates she shaves 20 minutes off her weekly grocery shopping trip at Stop & Shop. “It is really cool.”

Scan-as-you-go mobile devices are a logical next step after the self-checkout lanes that are now common in big food and drug chain stores. When finished selecting items, Scan It shoppers either go to a self-checkout station to upload their bill and pay, or hand the device over to a cashier.

Beyond just eliminating the cashier, this device (or its soon-to-be follower: the smart phone) poses unlimited potential for retailers and marketers.  First though, we need to move beyond coupons.  Limiting this device to an electronic  coupon dispenser would not do it justice.  Here are a couple thoughts on where I think the technology will be heading.

1) Electronic Payments – Why do I need to hand the device to a cashier?  If it had a card reader I could swipe the card myself  and be on my merry way.  The Apple Store has already done this by attaching card readers to their associates’ mobile devices, and I think more retailers will be moving to that model or a customer swipe model.

2) Store Navigation – A typical grocery store is not set up in the most customer friendly way.  Customers shop for solutions and day parts, while the grocery store is set up by category for easy restocking.  The device could act as a virtual recipe checklist. It would remind the user if they want to make certain recipe they need to get a specific item in a specific aisle.  The device could help customers find solutions instead of just products by downloading recipes.

3) Suggestions – How about the famous Amazon suggestion model applied to this device (ie. 60% of people who purchased Corn Flakes also purchased Chiquita bananas).

4) Send to Email – Not ready to buy this moment.  How about a function that scans the code and sends all the product info to your email or smart phone so you can purchase online later or learn more.

5) Send to a Friend/Facebook/Twitter- Found something new a friend would enjoy.  How about a function that allows you to share with friends to make your shopping experience more social?

Those are 5 I came up with off-the-bat.  What ideas do you have to make this device more effective for consumers?

A New Take on ‘Access’

2011 May 16
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by Brendan Miller

Money these days is becoming all about “access.”  Get to it anytime and anywhere.  Hence the growth of features like remote deposit capture, mobile bill pay, personal financial managment, and P2P payments.  Retail Banking branch transactions and visits have been consistently declining since the early 2000’s.  It seems the only people that go into the bank these days are commercial clients and…well, people my Mom and Dad’s age.  I avoid going into a bank like its my wife’s OBGYN.          

VirginAir Lounge at Gatwick Airport. Maybe the bank lounges will look like this?

Virgin Money may get me to change my ways with their new Virgin Money Lounges they are unveiling on High Streets in London, Edinburgh, Norwich, and Manchester.  According to a Virgin Money spokesman, the lounges will be open to existing customers, who will be invited to use them to relax and enjoy free coffee, wi-fi, and gadget such as iPads. The aim is to make people “want to stay” and engage with the Virgin Money brand.  Virgin Money also intends to open 70 bank branches over the next five-year period, with each following a similar informal model to the lounges.  

At first glance this seems a risky proposition to be opening this many branches when so many banks around the world are closing branches.  Though, the more I got to thinking about it, the more it starts to make sense.  Virgin is offering a higher level of “access.”  Its what I call emotional access.  Vigin gets that its not about the transaction, but an experience that goes beyond customer service that now could steal marketshare from Starbucks and others.  They are taking a declining asset and reimaging it into something that offers more utility and adding in-kind customer value.   Once a financial institution starts to go down this road, the possibilities could be endless.  They could create business centers such as a FedEx/Kinkos location, temporary office/meeting space, and why not charge cost for a latte? 

Banks are on notice, I think its time to start re-thinking the retail experience.

A Mobile Marketing Lesson from USAA

2011 May 4
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by Brendan Miller

Mobile shopper marketing is more than scanning bar codes and couponing

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately getting up to speed on consumer and commercial banking trends. As you can imagine most of the talk and discussion is about internet banking, the mobile channel, and migration to self-service. The importance of branch locations to a consumer has dwindled significantly. USAA Federal Savings Bank has known this for years, and has been a leader in deliver mobile technology to its customers (they were the first to deliver Remote Deposit Capture). Their customers are military families who move around frequently and need to take their bank with them wherever they are stationed.

Too many marketers and retailers see the mobile channels as just an opportunity to offer coupons and price discounts, and not as away to foster more loyalty. We need to re-think this strategy, and begin to push toward using the mobile channel to offer solutions and engagement instead of just coupons.
USAA learned early on that by offering mobile solutions and tools that help its customers in the car and home shopping process the customers are more likely to use USAA for a car or home loan.

Using its mobile application a customer shopping for a car can enter the details of the desired model. USAA has relationships with many auto dealers, and the app will display a pre-negotiated price, and can determine if the customer qualifies for financing through USAA. USAA customers walk into an auto showroom, show a sales representative their iPhone with the price USAA has already negotiated and ask if the dealer can do any better. The app holds a shopper’s hand through the entire auto-buying process, and gives USAA a better chance of selling a loan. By delivering loan information to a mobile device that people can take right into the salesroom, USAA can better compete for business. USAA also has an app helps homebuyers keep track of different properties they looked at and provides financing information.

The strategy of holding the customer’s hand through the buying process is a non-traditional approach for a financial institution, but it works for them because they are increasing their bond with their customers by walking them through an often times difficult process. USAA see the mobile channel as an opportunity to go to bat for their customers even when the customer decides not to use them for financing. It’s not just another web browsing screen. This alternative focus for a bank has lead to innovations that has engendered more loyalty and puts USAA at the top of the list when the customer needs financing.

I think it is past time to begin imagining ways to use the mobile channel in more inspired manner. How could a CPG food company use the mobile channel help its customers eat healthier, or plan menus for the week (even by pushing foods outside their category)? How about an app that helps do-it-yourselfers plan a project so they know what they need before walking into a home improvement store (or what aisle to find something)? I think the possibilities are endless once we stop thinking about couponing and price discounting, and begin to think about our mobile objective as a way to develop loyalty, not just to sell more stuff. What do you think?

The Wisdom of The Crowd

2011 April 25
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by Brendan Miller

Even my Mom mentioned to me this past weekend during Easter dinner that Apple is tracking my every move with my Iphone. It has been quite a sensational story to say the least. Apple will no doubt have to address this concern themselves sooner or later, but the great thing about the Apple model is that there are already developers working on an app that will fix this concern for users.

An App is in development called TISSA (Taming Information Stealing Smartphone Apps) that would allow Smartphone users to block Apps from accessing and recording their location. I’m sure there will be hundreds more to follow. Because Apple and others have given developers the key to their software and made it open source, the fix will be available probably much quicker than what they could have done on their own. The speed of development that happens now was unthinkable 10 years ago, thanks to a thing called entrepreneurship. Now every developer is an entrepreneur thinking about an app or solution to make their life easier. Apple or Android could have never thought of all the innovative apps that are out there on their own. Paypal is another company who has opened their platfrom up to over 60,000 developers. Visit their developer site www.x.com

All this just got me thinking about what other potential problems could be solved if the government, airlines, or the financial services industries opened and unlocked their proprietery systems up for entrepreneuer developers and allowed the Wisdom of the Crowd to takeover?

Coca Cola Friendship Machine

2011 April 12
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by Brendan Miller

Last week I wrote about the simple, but mysterious and hard-to-tap emotion of happiness.  Coke has defined their brand on this emotion over the last 40 years, and in a recent campaign in Latin America brought it to life as part of a way to celebrate Friendship Day.

Ogilvy Argentina developed the idea of a ‘friendship machine’ which would encourage movie-goers  to work together to get a 2 for 1 deal from a Coke vending machine.

The campaign resulted in a 1075% up-lift in vending machine sales that day. Over the nine-hour period 800 bottles of Coke were drunk from each machine.  After the event thousands of comments were recorded on blogs and social networking sites documenting the campaign.

Learning By Doing

2011 April 4
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by Brendan Miller


I never enjoyed reading directions.  I was reminded of this when we purchased a patio set this past weekend.  I tore into the box and started assembling various parts and pieces.  Luckily, my wife was there and grabbed the directions before the wind blew them away, and started giving me suggestions on where things went as I struggled to envision how it all went together.
When launching a new product or brand there typically isn’t an instruction manual.  How do you build a brand or product in an unproven market?  How do you figure out what customers need when you’re delivering something they don’t have a reference point for, and you don’t have a massive research budget?
You have to learn by doing.  You begin by conducting fast, cheap experiments that help you understand your customers (Note: Your friends and family are not real-live customers.  They will not provide objective feedback).   Large companies have been doing this forever with “test markets,” and software companies find a pool of customers to do beta testing.  Smart and nimble companies get the feedback and quickly react and refine their concept before it goes primetime.
The key is to intentionally limit your resources during this period.  Throwing too many resources for marketing and promotion such as couponing will skew your results.  By limiting your resource  it will force the product to live on its own, which forces you to develop a more inspired offering in the end.  My friends are doing this with their new natural salad dressing concept by offering their products through a local co-op where the packaging doesn’t have to be store ready or professionally designed.  It gives them credibility and insight into their offering before taking it to a natural grocery chain.
There is never a hard-fast instruction manual when launching a new product, brand, or business, but the one thing you can always take to the bank is real-world customer results.

Meaningful Moments with Brand X

2011 March 31
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by Brendan Miller

Its sad, but too often as marketers we just communicate instead of connect and inspire.  Connecting and inspiring your audience always takes a little more effort, time, and risk.

I was reminded of this in a recent article in Fast Company called the “Business of Happiness”.  The article highlighted a Stanford Marketing professor who is studying and teaching the subject of how people find happiness, keep it, manipulate it, and use it as a resource.  This may seem a little too fuzzy and touchy-feely, but there is real science behind it,  and large brands like AOL, Adobe, and Facebook are listening.  One of the key insights the research team discovered was that meaningful experiences (acquiring a new skill, volunteering, or spending time with family) often makes people happier than moments of pure pleasure.

How simple and refreshing of an insight this is, and too often as marketers we lose sight of it.  We get lost in all the advertising and product strategy gobbeldy-gook and forget to ask ourselves the simple questions like “how are we improving our customer’s lives today?”  The answer doesn’t always need to be that we added a new option, created a new feature, refined the copy in an ad.  How about we made our customers laugh, cry, snicker, or inspired them today.  That’ll do.