Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Starbucks got the memo

Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz is taking the right steps to get the coffee house back on track.

One simple conclusion: Howard must have read my earlier posting urging him to rediscover Starbucks' role as the Third Place. ;)

Starbucks has announced its plans to close 100 underperforming stores (do we need one on every corner?), stop selling breakfast sandwiches (when I step into Starbucks I want to smell coffee, not bacon), and on February 26 retrain all baristas nationwide on the lost art of making a good espresso (clearly Howard visited a Peet's coffee shop and tasted the difference). The chain also announced a new partnership with AT&T to offer free wi-fi to customers using a Starbucks card (as I suggested back in November).

Bravo to Howard Schultz. It's not often we see a CEO with the passion and courage to right the ship with bold, swift actions. Most rely on exhortations and firings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every underdog has his day

The Giants triumphed over the vaunted Patriots.

Barack Obama has won eight straight primary elections over the Clinton machine and now leads in delegates.

And today, a little dog named Uno became the first Beagle win Best in Show at the Westminster dog show.

This is a marketing blog. So perhaps I'm supposed to make some strained analogy to challenger brands. But I won't. I just like Beagles. (But don't mention that to my Fox Terrier. He rocks too.)

Chevy gets it right

I like the campaign Chevy is running to promote its line of eco-friendly vehicles.

Chevy is smart to bundle its full range of initiatives under one umbrella effort in order to create a stronger message. Many companies are placing their bet on a single technology (e.g., Toyota, a former client of mine, emphasizes the Hybrid technology found on its very popular Prius). Chevy is betting that no one technology will win but, like in many categories, consumers will want to choose what makes most sense for them - e.g., hybrid, electric, E85, etc.

I particularly like the branding. "Gas friendly to gas free" is a simple and clear selling proposition. The iconography is clever as well.

While Chevy has rounded up the usual marketing props -- engaging TV spots, informative website -- they surprised me by running a series of ads on the NY Times Op-Ed page in which a GM exec answers questions posed by customers on a website. (Note to Chevy: you're doing a poor job populating the microsite. Don't squander a good idea.) I applaud Chevy's candor in a recent Op-Ed ad in addressing this question posed by a reader: "Aren't you the guys who killed the electric car?" (The questioner's last name was not Gore.)

Bold strategy. Engaging and integrated campaign. Even a bit of wikibranding to foster dialog and community.

What's not to like? Well, if this turns out to be green-washing there will be a lot to dislike about this campaign. But for now I'll give Chevy credit for attempting to create more demand for fuel efficient cars in America (and, yes, enable Chevy to also sell very thirsty Silverado pick-ups).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Please vote today

This weekend I volunteered for the Obama campaign by going door-to-door to nearly 100 homes in Orange County (which might just be the number of Democrats living there) and working the phones the rest of the day.

For anybody living in a Super Tuesday state who is still undecided I encourage you to spend 10 minutes watching Obama's speech from South Carolina.

No matter which candidate you prefer, please vote. It matters.

Cramer Krasselt 1 - CareerBuilder 0

Ad Age today noted an interesting Super Bowl statistic. CareerBuilder's Super Bowl spot fared worse in this year's USA Today Ad Meter than last year's spot. Will the account go into review again?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super game. Dull ads

As a passionate Giants fan it is safe to say that I had a good time yesterday.

But as an advertising professional I felt a bit underwhelmed by the caliber of the advertising.

Many were entertaining. But few possessed that intangible Super Bowl-ness...big, pop-cultural, fun. Even fewer seemed to have anything relevant to say about the brand, such as the Planters "uni-brow" spot. I loved the Bridgestone "screaming animals" spot, but it would have been a much better spot for the Saab featured in the spot than the tires the car rode upon. As for Bud, good spots, but I've seen the dog and horse thing before. Tide's talking stain was funny, but did it have Super Bowl-ness?

My fav? The Coke "balloon float" spot. It was classic Coke (for Coke Classic). Big. Entertaining. Unexpected twist. Utterly charming. And Charlie Brown finally won something. Coke is about smiles. And that spot was just that.

The Audi spot that I wrote about last week lived up to its billing. It was extremely dramatic and signaled a new era for Audi. The R8 is gorgeous. Although I think the spot itself will work better in other programming -- e.g., Academy Awards. Super Bowl fans like to laugh.