Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Small company with big insights

I came across Pomme Bebe as part of my work with the Merage School of Business, which is focused on the art and science of strategic innovation.

I usually write about large national brands, so why post about this start up formed by two UC Irvine alumni? Because I believe marketing leaders at Fortune 500 companies could learn a thing or two from this new venture.

Pomme Bebe's positioning wonderfully simple: Fresh organic baby food. No marketing over think. No spin. It is clear, relevant and differentiating to young health-conscious mothers.

The company's founders understand their customers and have created a unique retail experience to reinforce the brand promise. At its retail location in Newport Beach Pomme Bebe offers moms and their babies a tasting bar to sample the food and decide which concoction the bundle of joy prefers. Moms can relax and socialize in the bebe lounge while enjoying a fresh squeezed drink. The store also offers a drive-up service for moms who need to pick up an order but can't get out of their car while baby is fast asleep. Indulgent? To be sure. But the brand is not trying to be all things to all people (another important lesson).

Lastly, the brand design feels joyful and optimistic and is applied consistently across the packaging, website (which offers moms the convenience of ordering online) and the in-store experience (a lesson perhaps drawn from Apple).

This is a start up with great potential to scale.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Good idea. Poorly executed


Chevron ran a spread in yesterday's Wall Street Journal announcing a game called Energyville  in which we are challenged to choose the best energy policy for our city while minimizing economic, environmental and security impact.

At first glance the game, which was developed by The Economist Group, seems like a smart way for Chevron to involve consumers in the debate and allow us reach smart and sensible conclusions on our own.  More so than yet another big oil TV commercial on Sunday Morning news programs, the engagement and interactivity of Energyville creates the potential to educate people on the opportunities and realities of alternative energy sources while also making a realistic case for the role of oil in our country's future energy policy.

The let down for me was its heavy-handedness.  About halfway through powering my city I received a lecture on the need for oil.  This singlehandedly diminished any objectivity or usefulness I had ascribed to Energyville.  

Chevron needs to assume its consumers are smart.  Let us reach our own conclusions about the need for oil as we discover through trial and error that the energy choices we made are inadequate to meet demand.  Don't hit me with the propaganda in the middle of the game.  As somebody once told me, leave some room in the mousetrap for the mouse.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Postcard from Cannes

The annual advertising award show in Cannes is meant to showcase all that is good about the advertising business.  It celebrates big ideas that build our build our clients' brands in memorable and imaginative ways.

But often I'm struck by how Cannes also has the ability to shine a harsh light on things that must change in our business.  Two articles in Adweek bring this to mind.  

The first deals with the confusion over how certain entries were categorized.  Is an integrated campaign a TV idea?  Or an online idea?  Or a promotional idea?  I'm not sure clients care.  They just want ideas.   Only agencies worry about silos and categories.  That has to change.  (That's why BD'M built its model around "no walls.")

The second article reports on WPP's Martin Sorrell questioning why Google is going straight to clients and disintermediating agencies.  Clients might rightly wonder why their agencies believe they should be immune from the same forces that marketers face.  Instead of hand wringing we need to add more value in this process.  BD'M has extremely productive meetings with Google.  We seek them out as partners (another "no walls" behavior) and bring imagination and solutions to the package they offer marketers.  It can be no other way.

And, lastly, given the currently economic environment, I can't help but wonder how clients feel seeing their agencies basking in the South of France while they are facing eroding profits and share.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Where do you want to go today?




This is the question Microsoft posed several years ago in its brand advertising.

I referenced this recently in a conversation with one of our clients and later wondered how different Microsoft's brand image might have been if they had stuck to this idea.

"Where do you want to go today?" peeled away the rational layers of Fortress Redmond and revealed the emotional raison d'etre for software, operating systems and browsers -- they unleash our potential, allowing us to go anywhere and learn anything, be part of larger social and semantic communities, and break the shackles that chain us to our office, right from our PC.  This brand campaign could have been an ever-unfolding narrative of optimism and discovery.


Because Microsoft abandoned its attempt to define an inspiring true north for the brand,  it allowed Apple to personify it as the dumpy and insecure PC dweeb.  Pity.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Text "shoptext" to learn more


I've posted several times about the untapped potential of mobile marketing to transform offline media into interactive touchpoints.

I just came across a company called ShopText that offers agencies and marketers a one-stop service to begin testing this idea.   Savvy magazine publishers such as Hearst (Cosmo, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, et al) are using ShopText in their books to demonstrate to marketers that print remains a viable medium for building brands.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Design to the rescue

Yesterday's WSJ had a good article on P&G's new packaging for Febreze. It is yet another example of how design can help solve marketing challenges.

The Febreze brand managers were facing the same challenge shared by many consumer product companies: how can we sell more products? Many marketers resort to the same solutions -- cut the price, coupon, offer 25% more for the same price, heavy-up advertising.

What I like most about this example is that it seems to have been inspired by a simple insight -- consumers are likely to use more Febreze if it is visible in the home rather than tucked away out of sight under the sink along with myriad other household cleaners.

So in comes the design team armed with that insight, along with competitive references from Method Products (a pioneer in applying brand design to everyday household products) and Kleenex tissue boxes. And out comes a piece of packaging that has the ability to transform the brand more than any repositioning campaign ever could.

Now let's hope the new brand advertising lives up to the packaging.