Brandulation

Has Tesla’s Elon Musk become a brand? — Gigaom Research

We’ve been studying “personal brand” in class recently.  It’s a very difficult subject because it requires honest personal examination, which for most is a rather uncomfortable exercise.  Studies show that if you describe yourself with five words, and then ask others to describe you, there will probably be only two words in common (i.e. a 0.4 correlation coefficient).  This is obviously quite troubling.

I began to do some research on who has a personal brand that I find interesting and seems well-cultivated.  There are many famous examples, such as ones we discussed in class: Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Elon Musk.

Musk is himself becoming his own brand, one that signifies risk taking, vision, and innovation”

Elon Musk uses his Twitter account to disclose critical information about his company, seriously blurring the distinction between personal life and professional life.  Many have said that Musk is the new eccentric genius playboy - not sure exactly who he’s replacing, but he’s not media-shy (Steve Jobs famously refused to be on earnings calls for years and years before breaking down).  He’s a fascinating character making interesting technology - how long will this style of personal branding endure?  Intertwining one’s life and business so closely poses risks, but Musk seems not to be worried, even if the SEC is a bit curious about material disclosures in 140 character messages…

Graham Crackers & Inclusivity

As Consumerist points out, graham crackers are not exactly a controversial product.  However, they ran a marketing campaign back in March that featured interracial families and same-sex couples.  Surprise - ultra-rightwing conservative groups were not happy with them condoning such relationships.  Additionally, Honey Maid of course received a number of racist, homophobic, and other various offensive tweets in response.

They’re not the first company to make an advertisement like that - Cheerios did it, other companies have done it.  But they very cleverly turned around all the hate they received and masterfully spun it into a deeper marketing campaign.  Very clever branding on their part - intolerance of all stripes continues to go further out of fashion and the savvy brand manager is ahead of the game.

Follow-up on Dove “Beauty Patch” campaign

I was reading about the backlash against the Dove campaign that gave women a “beauty patch” only to reveal later that it wasn’t in fact doing anything.  The point was to show women how much attitude and confidence can change perception of one’s physical appearance.

Though I found the ad corny, it did make me feel a bit odd to see the subjects tricked.  Turns out there was a backlash among many feminists (and others, I presume), as this parody ad displays.

The original campaign had some clever aspects to it, but at its core was deception.  From AdWeek: “Is a woman’s self-esteem really so easily influenced that a few weeks of placebo could improve the way they see themselves? Is Dove empowering women or calling them gullible?”

I don’t know if the parody and response had a material effect on Dove’s business, but it’s apparent that ads like these can backfire.  Making vast generalizations about your potential customers is risky and it can polarize your clientele towards a product that is generally used in privacy.

Luxury Brands & Hip-Hop
Back in 2006, Frédéric Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, was asked in an interview with the Economist whether an association between Cristal and the so-called “bling lifestyle” epitomized by mainstream rappers could hurt the Cristal brand.  His response: “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”
Jay-Z boycotted Cristal in response: “It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention,”’ Jay-Z said. “I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life.”
Jigga’s clubs sold a ton of Cristal and were routinely running out of it.  In addition, the popularity of rappers in general meant that kids were always hearing people talk about “poppin Cris” and it quickly became aspirational.  The racial aspect to the boycott is particularly interesting. While it’s not hard to see how this could be seen as racist, as rappers are predominately black, the main consumers of hiphop in the States are white males.  It’s clear that Mr. Rouzaud was concerned with his brand’s position in the US and among hiphop fans, whom he didn’t see as his target demographic, but was he being racist?
After Jay-Z’s boycott, Cristal’s popularity among rappers fell off a cliff.  Turn on any contemporary rap track and you’re far more likely to hear references to, as Mr. Rouzaud mentioned, Dom or Krug or Veuve than you are to hear anyone talk about poppin’ Cris.
So the question is: do we think Mr. Rouzaud was upset when Jay-Z called for the boycott?  Did he in fact get what he wanted?  Perhaps he preserved Cristal’s brand and its brand’s target demographic by effectively shedding its hiphop consumers.  Or did the dollar value he lost outweigh the brand recalibration?  Was Dom Perignon ecstatic when Jay-Z, Rick Ross and all the others flocked to its champagne or did it have the same headache that Mr. Rouzaud experienced? 
We learned that brands struggle with this: how do they effectively target certain audiences and what happens when they miss the mark.  Was Cristal wrong to not embrace rap culture, was Jay-Z wrong when he remarked that Mr. Rozaud was racist, and when a luxury brand finds its products becoming extremely popular with groups it view as dissociative, what is an appropriate response?

Luxury Brands & Hip-Hop

Back in 2006, Frédéric Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, was asked in an interview with the Economist whether an association between Cristal and the so-called “bling lifestyle” epitomized by mainstream rappers could hurt the Cristal brand.  His response: “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

Jay-Z boycotted Cristal in response: “It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention,”’ Jay-Z said. “I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life.”

Jigga’s clubs sold a ton of Cristal and were routinely running out of it.  In addition, the popularity of rappers in general meant that kids were always hearing people talk about “poppin Cris” and it quickly became aspirational.  The racial aspect to the boycott is particularly interesting. While it’s not hard to see how this could be seen as racist, as rappers are predominately black, the main consumers of hiphop in the States are white males.  It’s clear that Mr. Rouzaud was concerned with his brand’s position in the US and among hiphop fans, whom he didn’t see as his target demographic, but was he being racist?

After Jay-Z’s boycott, Cristal’s popularity among rappers fell off a cliff.  Turn on any contemporary rap track and you’re far more likely to hear references to, as Mr. Rouzaud mentioned, Dom or Krug or Veuve than you are to hear anyone talk about poppin’ Cris.

So the question is: do we think Mr. Rouzaud was upset when Jay-Z called for the boycott?  Did he in fact get what he wanted?  Perhaps he preserved Cristal’s brand and its brand’s target demographic by effectively shedding its hiphop consumers.  Or did the dollar value he lost outweigh the brand recalibration?  Was Dom Perignon ecstatic when Jay-Z, Rick Ross and all the others flocked to its champagne or did it have the same headache that Mr. Rouzaud experienced? 

We learned that brands struggle with this: how do they effectively target certain audiences and what happens when they miss the mark.  Was Cristal wrong to not embrace rap culture, was Jay-Z wrong when he remarked that Mr. Rozaud was racist, and when a luxury brand finds its products becoming extremely popular with groups it view as dissociative, what is an appropriate response?

Death of the Mall, Death of the Brand

This article is a fascinating look at the movement from rural to urban areas, which is itself old news, but it also looks at how buying patterns may changing due to these movements.

The suburbs may have caused “group think and concentrated brand interest,” which resulted in logo-centric brand interest. Why is it that dense urban areas mean less interest in logos?  Is it the preponderance of small-label, niche designers that allow individuals to express personal taste and style?  Has the Tommy or Polo logo become a touch gauche?  How can some brands endure during this movement while others will wither?

It will be interesting to see how major brands cope with this trend and whether it will be a filtering mechanism or an entirely new approach to branding and logos.

A curious feature of the Singapore Airlines experience is how they must appear consistent to some groups and highly tailored to others.  A truly challenging customer service experience that is made even more so by the fact that the airline industry is now characterized by a rush to the bottom (see budget airlines).

When I think excellent customer service, I’m reminded of the Orient Express Hotel group, which has been rebranded (good subject for another post) as Belmond.  Each hotel manager is granted extensive leeway to customize and personalize the hotel offerings.  They pride themselves on the individuality of the hotel experience and extent of the customization offered to the visitor.  But how do you maintain that level of quality?  Considering the vast array of hotel options, or in the case of Singapore Airlines, the dense competition for routes, the challenge of bringing customers back is massive.  The cost of switching airlines is quite low, and made lower by SA’s decision to join Star Alliance.  Star Alliance is a great option for customers and truly terrible for airlines.

It’s arguably much easier to let customers in a hotel know that they’re having a singular experience.  How does an airline maintain high service quality when margins are at an all time low?  My thought: they don’t.

 

Branding in the Wine Industry

How difficult it must be to require blind taste tests to establish your brand’s quality.  What fascinates me about the development of the wine industry is the frequency of blind tastings to teach professionals that new wines are high quality.  Is there another industry that relies so heavily on people not being able to identify your product in order to then establish it as a legitimate competitor?  Irony is further piled on when you consider that being able to speak competently about wine confers social status, when it has been proven time and again that most people, when blind, can’t tell the difference.

Branding in the wine/spirits industry is challenging, but it’s not deterring new entrants such as Earl Stevens.  A rapper from the Bay Area, Earl Stevens AKA E-40 AKA 40-Water, not only helped establish the hyphy sub-genre of rap music (here is an excellent introduction), but also created a winery of his own: Earl Stevens Collections.  Aside from the rebranding challenge of going from Bay Area rapper to viticulturist, we see another branding challenge for the wine industry itself.  How does it control the image and perception of a product like wine when you have nearly limitless varietals, vintages, and rappers?

"I wanted to create my own wine because I’m a huge wine connoisseur I love wine and I got a name for myself so I decided to make my own."

E-40

Does it matter what a product is called?

How much of product adoption is related to the brand name?  Remember the iPad’s introduction?  Many, myself including, derided the name, but it became quickly apparent that the name was not going to stop the iPad from incredible success.

It seems obvious that the quality of the product will be the greatest determinate of its success.  However, the name of a product is a crucial component of its perception and a tremendous amount of time and effort goes into that process.

This New Yorker article from a few years ago is a fascinating look into the process for naming a product.  Curious how Swiffer and PowerBook came to be?  I strongly recommend this piece.

Sexism in advertisements.

During class we discussed advertisements in the beer industry, and it was pointed out that women in beer ads are typically objectified.  While most of us were not surprised and have come to expect this, I was shocked at this ad from Samsung (which, in addition to being sexist, is just utterly horrible.  In fact, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t a video from the Onion and I’m still not positive).

As this piece explains, “She says that her notebook computer overheats while she does ‘chores,’ and is literally filmed sitting in her kitchen.”  In addition to the stereotypical female character, the white guy is a professional in an office, and the Asian guy loves video games.  C’mon, Samsung.  I’m surprised an ad like this gets made and specifically from a tech company whose products are used by such a wide-ranging group of people.

Sometimes I crack myself up.  I remember thinking, “Corona is played out,” because their ads ran everywhere and it seemed I couldn’t get away from them.  What did I do?  Switched to Pacifico, another light beer perfect for summer BBQs.  Of course, they’re both Modelo and I avoided one of their brands only to buy into another one.  Not only that, but the iconic and ubiquitous beach-themed Corona ad (which for me always calls to mind distant, mellow waves crashing with a few seagulls cawing in the background - so we know the ad worked for me) isn’t that far off from the beach ads for Pacifico.  Corona = relaxation and Pacifico = adventure, but in both cases it’s much more likely we’re standing outside next to a BBQ shooting the breeze.