Sunday, December 9, 2007

Darwinian marketing - Part II

It turns out that that Facebook's new Beacon social advertising program wasn't as opt-in as originally portrayed. In fact it became an "I can't op-out" nightmare for Facebookers as they discovered that their purchases were being broadcast to their network without full permission.

My original post, based on the reports that this was opt-in, suggested this would be an example of Darwinian marketing. Great brands would be hailed peer-to-peer. Likewise, crappy brands would get equal airplay. Wrong! This wasn't opt-in at all. It was just mass marketing at its worst.

So in the end the principles of Darwin turned on Facebook itself which this week, after howls of protest from the community, apologized and announced major changes in the program.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Umami branding

Some of the world’s greatest brands are those that appeal to both head and heart, brands with real substance that are also emotionally rewarding.

Japanese chefs have a word for this: “umami.” (Pronounced “oo-MA-mee.”)

Today’s Wall Street Journal featured an article about this culinary concept first discovered by a Japanese scientist 100 years ago. Beyond the four basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour and bitter – is umami, usually defined as a meaty, savory, satisfying taste.

Umami has taken the food world by storm. Famous chefs and food companies like Frito Lay and Campbell Soup are adding umami to its recipes. Foods that are rich in glutamates – mushrooms, wine, Parmesan cheese – help make the food more savory and delicious without adding fat and sodium. It is an intangible sense of “deliciousness.”

So what does this have to do with great brands? Everything.

Applying the concept of umami to marketing would lead to more brands that balance functional value with a strong, intangible emotional appeal. Umami brands make you feel good, smart, satisfied. They don’t manipulate the senses. They are authentic. They are good for you. An umami brand fosters feelings of well-being and fulfillment.

My umami brands? Apple. Toyota. Williams-Sonoma. American Express. Budweiser. Harley-Davidson. adidas. Starbucks. Levis 501s. And most any 2000 Pauillac.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Go green

As a passionate fan of the New York Giants it pains me to write a post in praise of the Philadelphia Eagles. But I recently heard of the environmental program the Eagles' organization implemented several years ago and was impressed that a football team would have the courage to lead on a critical social issue on which most publicly traded businesses remain silent.

Go Green was put in place by Christina and Jeff Lurie, the Eagles' owners. The organization has tested carbon-neutral games (using offsets), installed photovoltaic solar panels at several of its facilities, supports re-forestation programs and recycles much of the trash fans leave behind after a game. They've been able to document the positive impact the program has had on shrinking the carbon footprint of the organization and its fans.

This is a good example of how easy it can be to do good if you have the will to do so. Most companies don't do this because the "business case" can't justify the expense. The Luries are doing it simply because it's the right thing to do.

Speaking of photovoltaic solar (how many times in life do you get to say?!), this renewable energy source may finally be poised to deliver on its long held promise. Major hitters are putting their money into the sun. Google recently announced its intention to invest hundreds of millions to help develop new renewable energy sources, particularly solar. And Applied Materials, a client of BD'M, is bringing to bear on solar the same nanomanufacturing technology it used to drive down the cost of semiconductors. If they can be successful in driving down cost, which has been the key barrier for solar, it may make it easy for all of us, consumers and businesses alike, to significantly reduce our collective footprint.