Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sell the Sizzle: When the "Excellent Cork" is Better than the Wine...

More news by accident from Spain: I have seen the future (of wine bottles, at least) and it’s a cherry-red Excellent Cork.

Straight out of a bottle of Iberian red – see below – I took out this plug of polímero termoplástico as easy as pie. It’s produced in Alicante, Spain by the eponymous company. Its website is worth a look-see, even if you can’t read Español, because it gets its message across easily.

These guys are in the plastic stopper business and its probably a better option, cost-wise, than glass stoppers. A Spanish wine-blogger, Benito Otrero, has posted about these synthetic stoppers here.

I am sorry to tell you the wine that this Excellent Cork came out of is a bottle of Chapillon Cuvee Harmonie circa 2006 – also Spanish. And therein lies the problem: This is [a] not a terribly good-tasting blend (90% petit verdot and 10% tannat) despite its “90” score from The Wine Advocate. The estate has its own blog and since I’ve read this review on the Internet it must be true. Right.

Also [b], the bottle comes with an immediate nose that says SKUNK big time. I do not know if it is the wine or the stopper. And the plonk doesn’t really improve with breathing. So…you can pick up this wine but really, only for the terrific new corking mechanism.

The Excellent Cork you gotta see!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spanish Brandorama is How a Wine Giant Goes to Market.

You won’t find an aficionado’s discussion of Peñasol sangria on any wine blog – no devotional dissection of taste and alcoholic content. This stuff’s $5 a screw-top bottle at HEB.

Or, if you purchase the same wine from Whole Foods instead (where’s it’s one of the chain’s “365” products), you can enjoy this toothsome description:

Bursting with the sun drenched flavors of a hot Spanish summer, this Sangria is a refreshing blend of red wine, citrus fruit flavors, and a special spice extract. Add sliced peaches, apples, oranges, or other fruits for a delicious aperitif or try it with grilled meat. Serve well chilled. Sangria makes every day a special occasion.

It’s the same sweetened red wine as HEB’s and today’s lesson, about multi-branding – or versioning, as the Spanish wine-maker Félix Solís prefers it. Robin Goldstein, a great foodie blogger, covered “the biggest wine producer you’ve never heard of” back in May.

Félix Solís Avantis is humongous! Almost 53 million gallons of wine flows out of one industrial-size operation – but you can read all this on Goldstein’s Blind Taste blog. What’s important is how the giant wine-maker goes to market. From one facility and 10 wines, the company produces around 400 different brands and sells them in various parts of the world (the corner of Gessner and Kempwood, Houston, being one).

Goldstein points out: “Versioning” a product – varying it slightly and selling it under different brand names – is a well-known technique in marketing courses at business schools; among other things, it’s often a way of getting around laws that ban price discrimination.
No price discrimination here. In a market the size of America, there are so many price-points that Félix Solís Avantis can slot a wine into every category on the wine value chain and let a wide variety of customers sort out which brands thrive. When a company has so much “product” available, it’s a self-seeking, self-branding approach: What kind of wine do you want?

“Versioning” is at work in the retail gasoline market, but not where we can see it very well. For every branded gallon at Chevron, there’s a dozen or a hundred at non-chain stations…like HEB, as a matter of fact. (One bottle, Peñasol sangria = two-or-so gallons of gas).

Interbrand maintains, “Name changes of products and services are rare.” I don’t think this division of Omnicom had Félix Solís Avantis in mind when it wrote the White Paper.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

“Hi, Honey.”

What I like about the new, full-page newspaper ad for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® Touch of Honey cereal print is its attempted nostalgia. I saw it on the back page of Wednesday’s Flavor section in the Houston Chronicle. This print ad’s so new it’s not on line yet. Time to use your imagination:

Step 1. Take Kellogg’s classic 50-year-old version of “Sweetheart of the Corn” (above), complete with white gloves – I think they’re channeling Peyton Place without the lust.

Step 2. Replace the old corn flakes box with this new, Touch of Honey box (shown left). The headline is, “Our sweetheart now has something a little sweeter.” And overlay a mild golden glow on the visual. The suburban goddess visual is even labeled Circa 1958.

Unfortunately, mix these elements together and you get another bland ad.

One food blogger said back in May, the sweetening tries to makes the corn flakes “slightly less damn boring.” I don’t think the Kellogg’s advertising agency is going to change that product review very much.

According to a PR release issued by Kellogg’s: The market for honey-sweetened products is expanding among the adult population in the United States. In fact, last year the category grew by 7.5 percent. New Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with a Touch of Honey provides that subtle taste of natural honey people want.

I suggest it’s way too subtle for the category: The product is stuck between corn flakes and frosted flakes. Maybe the ad is targeted at consumers who didn’t find Kellogg’s Corn Flakes lackluster four or five decades ago.
Really, I wish Kellogg’s had tried a little harder with this one. Why launch an extension of a powerful brand with so little fanfare?

1958 ad visual courtesy of PZR Services with thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

B Verse

B is for banner.
B is for bell.
B is for Baron
Whose writing is swell.

Doggerel, you know, is venial – a sin that I do practice from time to time. I didn’t really resist when I stumbled across a set of poems from furthest New Jersey. Marci McGowan displays 25 letter poems, for her First Grade Class website at HW Mountz Elementary School in Spring Lake, NJ – “right on the Atlantic Ocean!” Her B poem reads:

B is for box.

B is for bell.
B is for bucket
In my well.

Much better. And I’m being sentimental: My own favorite early-days school teacher was Frances McGowen. The school was E Rivers Elementary in Atlanta, still there. My McGowen was a long time ago…I’ll keep why I remember her name so well to myself. Despite the coincidence, thanks to both of you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Go, Otters!

Thirty years ago, a US president was attacked by a swamp rabbit. After three decades, I can understand that this famous-at-the-time Jimmy Carter incident wouldn’t be top of mind. It did float to the top of mine, though, because of another news item making its way round the Worldwide Web right now.

“Woman says she was bitten repeated by otters” – that’s been the usual headline. Why this story, about an Austrian vacationer (Brigitte France) gnawed on by two, possibly three otters while swimming in a Wisconsin lake, is news is beyond me.

Still, I couldn’t resist Googling “Otters, advertising.” The first thing that came up was the Erie Otters. Unbelievable, really. In Houston, I suddenly remember there’s an American Hockey League team called the Aeros. Despite winning seasons, I scarcely think of it.

Now there’s this logo – this thing – staring me in the face. It’s the “primary logo” of the Erie Otters of Erie, PA, in use since 1997. This is the team (brand) mascot, Shooter.

Shooter the Otter is supposed to be wearing a “home jersey,” though the animal looks topless to me. (Really, how would I know? I can barely recall going to a Minnesota North Stars game or two when I lived in Minneapolis.) The team is now in its 13th season – it was founded in ’96 and is part of the Ontario Hockey League.

This otter’s not alone in the OHL. There’re Greyhounds (Sault Ste Marie) and Wolves (Sudbury), IceDogs (Niagara) and Bulls (Belleville). The Ontario Hockey League features 20 teams, but the Otters, Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit are the only League members based in the United States. The Otters play the IceDogs at Tullio Arena on August 29th, BTW.

Like most sports franchises today (including hockey), the Otters have a fine marketing engine – at least it looks comprehensive from this distance. Aggressive branding. Involving website that includes programs for fans of all ages, plenty of news, statistics and shopping. Facebook pages for loyal fans...and the franchise actively Twitters. Shooter’s team is wrapping its stakeholders up in a great big otter hug and, with a premium single-game ticket costing just $14.50, it’s way more affordable than big-market teams can deliver. I’m certain Shooter will be optioned by Disney soon.

Meanwhile, there’s a marketing opportunity for Shooter’s franchise: Make certain that the Austrian woman and her husband spend their next US holiday in Erie, PA, as a guest of the team. Go, Otters!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sheep Flight

Never mind the t-shirts reading, Free the Rochester 47. You passengers don’t deserve it. What are you – sheep? Forty-seven of you are kept aboard Continental Express Flight 2816 Friday night, and every one of you just sat there? Nobody popped an overwing exit hatch? Nobody stormed the fuselage doors? Baaa. Baaa.

“They wound up stuck on the 50-seat aircraft more than nine hours, three in the air and six on the tarmac outside the terminal in Rochester, Minn.” This is all over the news. All over the blogs. ExpressJet Airlines screwed up so badly, they’re probably talking about it on Venus.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that this nine-hour coal-mine trap is the price of Americans wanting cheap flights. You are consumers. You are customers. You are...stakeholders! What did you all do? Anything? Nothing.

Here’s what you do: Dial 9-1-1. “Hello, Rochester Emergency Services? We’re being held captive. It’s awful – we can’t get out. The airport. Flight 2816. We CAN’T get out. Help….(fade to gurgle).” Then call the Minnesota State Patrol. Then call WCCO-TV. Then call The New York Times.

You’ve got the most powerful weapon against corporate stupidity in existence...the cell phone. Try using it next time.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hope’s “Bores”

Today’s post comes from Philippe Holtzweiler, Principal of Hope Communications in the UK and long-time Dailogue colleague. To begin with, he refers to my own Lifeless Snoozers. Take it away, Philippe.

Dearest Richard, obviously, your biting humour is keeping its sharp edge and it was very entertaining, as usual, to read your blog on dull advertising (the one on waste was not wasted either). As you time and again extend your blog into an intercontinental chronicles, may I contribute two further examples?

I have been preparing for some time a large-scale conference on communications between France and Germany (marketing-wise and beyond) and I have collected a few nicely boring ads to underscore and entertain some peculiarities.

1. Kneipp Mineral Water. It is probably just a bedical drip bottle turned upside down, with the difference that drip liquids are seldom carbonated. It will “keep your life in balance,” says the claim. To me, this acts as a potent incentive for a very rough ride on the wild side. By the way, it’s a brand new campaign, not one from the ‘70s.
2. Mazda. This one dates back to 2005…a fascinating example of a specifically French brand of obscure dullness: The dullness that appeals to your intellect. French marketers like the idea of advertising as a self-sorting device to exclude the morons and reward the cognoscenti. So if you get the point, you are clever enough to earn the product. And if you don’t, well, stupidity will not kill you (and if it would, you are outside the target group anyway).

I suspect it gives a feeling of cleverness to the creative director, too, as a welcome side effect. So here you are. Did you get it (you need no French at all)?

It took me at least five minutes (and all my ambition not to fall into the “moron” case). That new Mazda (not shown) is sooo fast that it takes a giant board to attract within a split second the driver’s attention to the hiker’s destination. Why San Diego? I suppose the art director just wanted to go to Arizona at the client’s expense for a shooting on location and a couple of cold beers (you cannot buy a picture that bad from any image bank, so it’s the only option).

SIGNALWRITER: Are you sure you want to hammer on the Mazda “San Diego” ad, Philippe? Although it is by JWT Paris (“French marketers”), it did win a 2nd Prize at Prix Club des Directeurs Artistiques 2005 for individual print, and a Bronze Lion at Cannes in 2006 in the Cars & Automotive Services category.

HOLTZWEILER: This is an example of self-congratulation at its very best. As I have always suspected (and know from my own experience), there is a strong ‘feel good myself and be part of it’ motivation in those ads, along the line ‘look how damn clever we all are.’

Very obviously, this seems to get out of control when a jury congregates.

I insist – and I take the risk of being considered outdated – on the fact that there are some fantastically witty, clever, to-the-point ads produced by big agencies (although rather by Wieden & Kennedy or the defunct Fallon McElligott and Rice or some of the best UK agencies than by JWT)…this one, on a very objective plane, just misses the point altogether. There is only one point in advertising: To increase the target group’s urge to buy the product. That might begin with ads that are no riddles.

As Rosser Reeves – I'm well aware that nobody at JWT Paris ever even heard of him – once said (more or less), “Do you want art? Or do you want that damned sales curve to move up again?”


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Trash Future

The Waste Connections corporate slogan stared at me from the back of the big blue garbage truck: “Connect with the Future®.” It is also on the sides of the truck. The mud flaps, too.

“Connect with the Future.”

What it’s supposed to mean? Connect where? Connect how? This bland slogan is not paid off on the company website. Not in ads, what I can find of ‘em. It reminds me of the old Buckaroo Banzai offering, “Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems: Where the Future Begins Tomorrow.” What is Waste Connections promising a consumer? A facilities manager? A building landlord?

Houston-based Waste Management, on the other hand, has a slogan that ties directly to the green corporate trade dress (“Think Green®”). In just two words, it’s kept on working hard on a variety of levels – consumer, community, corporate.

I want to ask CEO Ron Mittelstaedt just what we’re supposed to connect to? I think the question’s an honest one, since we’re going to be seeing more of these big blue Waste Connections garbage barges around here.

There’s a big shake-out in trash. California-based Waste Connections is profiting these days, so it’s buying up other outfits. Several may be familiar to you. There’s Harold LeMay in Washington State. (Never heard of that.) Oregon-based Sanipac? (Nope.) Aha: Republic Services! You’ve seen those trucks…kind of a red-brown.

Last year this time, Republic Services was America’s third-largest waste hauling firm. It then bought the nation’s second-largest, Allied Waste Industries. According to the well-known “Waste Age 100” list – latest version is 2007 – Houston’s own Waste Management (green trucks, right?) was Number 1. Allied was 2, Republic was 3…and Waste Connections was Number 7.

Today (I guess) Waste Connections is America’s second biggest hauler. The future of garbage in our country is compacting. Or consolidation. Perhaps that is what Waste Connections means – connect with the firm’s future. Because this outfit’s outlook is rather rosy. America’s garbage is a real good long-term business.

Even though this is a low-interest market segment, it would be worthwhile studying which corporation has a better image, on Main Street and on Wall Street. Waste Management with its forward-thinking two-word tag? Or Waste Connections?

I’ll never prove it but there’s a case to be made for good branding – even if it’s all garbage.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Beer Summit

Like news features from a celebrity funeral that report what attendees were wearing, it’s been a fascinating week on the beer front – but not so much for advertisers (as far as I know).

The New York Times printed, “Barack Obama, the first black US president, said it was a ‘friendly, thoughtful’ conversation over beer at the White House with prominent Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, who is black, and police Sergeant James Crowley, who is white.” Is there anybody that doesn’t know about this?

The New York Post, among others, reported, “Obama sipped Bud Light served in a frosty mug, sitting in a white shirt with his jacket off. Crowley, in a dark suit and tie, drank a Blue Moon, a Colorado-brewed, Belgian-style wheat beer served with lemon. Gates, who was also in a dark suit, drank a Sam Adams Light. Biden, in a white shirt, sipped a non-alcoholic beer.”

Don’t read much into those brands – sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. Still, there’s been much chat about which beers should actually have been served – mainly opinionaters demanding American-made brewskis (and I suspect was a timing issue).

Me? I only suggest, on this summer Saturday morning, that one brewery alone should have been tapped to supply the beer for this important DC meet-up: Summit Brewing, St. Paul, MN.

Let the brand fit the occasion, I say! And maybe Minneapolis-based Rotor Design would create a nice poster (like this one) for the President’s next brew-chew. Golly – look at the clock. It’s time for a cold one. See ya!