What does Pickleball teach us about Branding?

New things come and go. Now and then, something sticks. Popularity rockets. A vortex appears in the universe and sucks up all manner of people, products and of course profits.

Pickleball is everywhere. Why? And what has that to do with Branding?

The game has been around for some fifty years but recently was reported as ‘the fastest growing sport in the US’ with some five million players spending 60 billion dollars on equipment alone. Oldies first picked it up as a fun, easy game akin to backyard badminton but now all ages are jumping in. It is important to note that the reigning female world champion is only 15.

Why so popular now?

  1. Fun, easy, simple game, anyone can learn quickly, play pretty much anywhere, and enjoy. 

(How about that for a brand statement?) 

  • An antidote to Covid and all the complex pressures we still suffer through today.
  • Caters to a wide range of personalities. Aggressive young ‘bangers’, can bang away. Heady vets can finesse, and everyone can find something to laugh about on and off the court.
  • Has grass roots, local community feel. This may slowdown as commercial entities take over but for now it is as easy as turning up at the local park, meet and play with a bunch of lay-back, easy-going individuals.
  • All sorts of enticing new equipment and entities to engage with and obsess over. 

So what lessons are there in this for building your Brand?

  1. An easy, fun lifestyle – free of hassle and conflict is extraordinarily appealing in today’s world. Everyone is looking for this. Give it to them.

Remove as many expensive, complicated barriers to your brand experience as possible. Be authentic. Of course, do not present your brand as being, easy and fun if it is not. Fakes are for scammers and baiters.

  • Shorten and amplify the first brand exposure and trial experience. We are in a world of instant gratification. Make your brand accessible and rewarding. Word travels fast and people-enjoying-people is fuel for mass acceptance.
  • If you are launching a new lifestyle brand in the product or service arena study pickleball brands. Here is a classic example of ‘first brand in the brain’ by Trout and Ries, (I believe).

Not too long ago, there were a few paddle manufacturers. The typical racquet brands like Head, Prince, Wilson jumped in.  But names like Selkirk, Engage, Gamma, Franklin with a more specific pickleball focus now lead several hundred makers. Selkirk for example took this strategic high ground of designed for pickleball and began a paddle innovation path and sport involvement that has their paddles now on back order and selling for over three hundred dollars supported with tons of internet content and pro sponsorships. Not unlike Nike of old. Worth studying these evolving brand phenomena.

  • Engage the community biome. Pickleball has found a home close to home.

As such is bringing neighbors, friends, and families together. This is a natural, enjoyable place generating lots of positive energy. Again, a perfect venue for your brand going forward. Remember it isn’t about the medium or even the message anymore. It’s about how the Internet and social media can connect your brand at the community level.

As 2023 rolls around it is a great time to reassess your brand and if needed reignite its energy and attitude. Rocket it like pickleball!

We at Rocket Branding are always happy to work with you on this and potentially throw in some free pickleball lessons. [email protected].

Extreme Branding Gone Awry

Extreme BrandScreen Shot 2019-01-20 at 3.03.59 PMing is alive and well.

Nike jumped into the deep end of civil rights with Kaepernick’s Anthem kneeling. Now Gillette has followed suit with a not so subtle attack on ‘masculine toxicity.’

I get it! Gillette, like Nike, wants to make sure their global mega brand is relevant to the younger males who appear to be more sensitive to social purpose.

Nike played on their enduring, ‘Just Do It,’ campaign. Gillette is using their long time, ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ platform.

One can look at this from a business view and say bravo. Gillette’s viral buzz is on fire; brand re-awareness is rocketing and should continue so through the hyped Super Bowl season.

Nike’s sales were reportedly up after their campaign launched and although their effort turned off some loyal users, it has apparently worked for younger audiences. Time will tell. As one young friend said, ‘At least they had the courage to use their money to help make things better.”

I asked the same young person what they thought of the new Gillette campaign and he said,“Stupid. I don’t need some shaving company lecturing me on how I should be.”

 Oops!

Of course this was just one person’s view, but it doesn’t take more than a Google minute to see that he was not alone. One report showed twice as many dislikes as likes.

Scanning through the comments, unlike Nike, which tended to be about social conscience for all, Gillette’s approach hits a more personal note.

Nike did not lecture the viewer on his or her role in civil liberty issues. They were celebrating Kaepernick’s individual right to ‘Just Do It.’ You can argue with the way he protested but at the same time you cannot argue with everyone’s rights to justice.

Gillette on the other hand may have made a bad mistake.

Did they take the right stand? Who are they talking to?

No question, the #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on sexual harassment, and yes, bullying has come to the fore today in really nasty ways including suicides and school shootings.

But, and this is a big ‘but’, not all males are bullies or sexual predators as this campaign seems to imply. These aren’t rampant diseases that every male indulges in. Maybe more was tolerated in the 50’s and 60’s as in the footage they showed, but not today.

In fact, data shows that females are just as likely to bully. Social media can be decidedly mean. A black eye is not good but it can heal. Being socially ostracized can hurt for a long time.

And BTW, on a purely personal note the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is something I have heard just as often in my life from females and mothers. And why did the producer shoot men as though they were standing against a wall like in all the thousands of firing squad movies we’ve seen?

Gillette took a #MeToo movement against those males that sexually harassed to a platform indicting every male’s behavior and their duty to the next generation of males to boot!

 Do males really need a shaving brand to lecture them on the bad behavior of a few and their supposed collective toxicity?  I think not and unfortunately their attempt at what I call Extreme Branding will backfire for some time to come.  After all switching shaving brands is not a big decision and Gillette is by no means unique. It is somewhat harder to move away from Nike products.

Hopefully they are going to evolve this campaign back to the original basis of the ‘The Best a Man’ campaign by celebrating the admirable aspects of manhood as opposed to taking on a gratuitous grandstanding attack on it.

Perhaps P&G should have taken note of Bud Light’s highly successful, ‘Dilly, Dilly!’ campaign where taking a stand ‘for the many and not the few’ actually works.

Or more so, look at their own excellent history of taking aging brands and reintroducing them to the young. I helped P&G do so in the successful re-launching both Old Spice and Head and Shoulders brands.

P&G’s Dawn Detergent’s, saving at-risk wildlife campaign is one of the more brilliant pieces of Extreme Branding I have seen. Their platform of strength and mildness was taken to an even higher level when they moved it into the ugly tragedy of oil spoils.

So what are the lessons here?

Extreme branding can certainly re-activate the presence and potential relevance of a brand to new generations but it can also backfire in profound ways.

Some tips:

1. Pick your poison carefully. It is fine for the brand to have an Extreme Branding platform but this is not about a strategy  looking for a noisy cause. It is about authentic and relevant beliefs.

2. Don’t overstate your brand’s role. A brand can certainly educate, inform and at times be very persuasive on social issues. Chances are that many more eyeballs are going to see the Gillette advertising than may read the #MeToo news. So be sure you know what the role of the brand’s message is out there and make sure you are turning a lot more on than off, or you will be hurting the very cause you are trying to help.

3. Be Smart. Extreme Branding is a long-term strategy. Treat it as such and fight the battle to win overtime. Don’t just pop your head up, yell a little and then sit back down. Where Gillette goes next can well determine their fate in my mind at least.

 What say you?

 

 

 

EXTREME BRANDING

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 10.24.56 AMCan brands compete without taking sides on toxic issues? Do brands need to have a voice in today’s highly polarized, public arena where extreme views seem to dominate?

Are cushy, corporate messages about saving everything enough to portray social sensitivities or do they need to go further?

Well, you can argue that Nike has indeed crossed that line.

 

Nike’s bold campaign, supporting the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick’s stand (mind the pun) against police actions is worth pondering in this extreme branding context.

Edgy celeb campaigns are not new for Nike. They have supported controversial sports stars. However, until now the controversy stayed within the confines of sport. Tennis’s on-court, bad-boy John McEnroe was an early figure for Nike and today’s big Nike names, like Tiger Woods, Ronaldinho, and Serena Williams are not without their public issues, but again in all these, Nike has held their involvement to within the sports context.

Kaepernick’s case is not about competing on the sports field. Nike has decided to celebrate his right to ‘believe in something.’ Fine, standing up for one’s rights is all-American and admirable but Nike has moved outside sports and into arenas with heavily divided public opinion, like racism and respecting America.

Yes, one could argue that Kaepernicks’ stand is within the realm of sports. He is a professional footballer, and the venue for his anthem kneeling protest was on the sidelines, but again his stand is not about sporting achievement.

Ok, you can also argue that the Nike brand has always been about self-motivation and individual triumph. Just Do it. Got it. But, whether Nike would agree or not, the brand is now risking turning off consumers who violently disagree with Kaepernick’s views and can act on this by burning their Nike shoes, switching to others like Reebok and Adidas and even banning Nike gear (as a Louisiana Mayor has reportedly done.).

At stake could be Nike’s respect for four American institutions … sports, the Police, the minority/social justice advocates and the National Anthem and Flag. In one action they have poked these huge hornet’s nests of emotion, angst, and outrage.  Each with its full complement of extreme views.  

According to a recent Reuters study, 72% of Americans agreed that Kaepernick’s behavior was inappropriate. NFL viewership is down.

Nike sales will plummet!

However, they have not. There was stock market resistance and videos of people burning their shoes, but sales were actually reported to increase, and even the Louisiana Mayor has apparently walked back his ban. Stocks are back up, and Wall Street pundits are using words like ‘genius’ and ‘brilliant’ to describe Nike’s bold strategy.

How could this be? Where is the sales effect of the many with strongly opposing views?

Well, herein lies the reality. Strategically Nike brand folk may have determined that they needed to grow equity and sales for their new shoes among the younger audiences who tend to favor equality and fairness and the rights of individuals. And, who unlike their older cohorts are less vested in the traditional American icons and importantly more likely to buy directly online. What marketer would not like that going forward?

My older friends may not burn their Nike shoes but do proudly announce that they will stop buying Nike. Basically, who cares because my younger friends who represent the bigger market couldn’t care less and put Nike campaign down to ‘good marketing.’ “Its Ok they are just trying to sell their stuff.”

And here is the kicker. Nike is a global brand, and like many American brands who are really global brands these days, they are less US-centric. Some 60% of Nike sales are outside the US and growing among populations, who are more likely to stand (or should I say kneel) with Kaepernick’s views.

So there it is.  At the risk of gross oversimplification, the question is should brands stay in their comfort zones of keeping everyone happy or should they risk alienating some buyers by following a more active or even extreme role in populist causes?

Great question. It’s all about building your brand and future growth. And, in today’s brand parlance it’s also all about authenticity. As they say, you are what you believe.

It is a perfect time to dig deep into this strategy for your brand and see where it takes you. We’d love to help you think it through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Branding In The New Norm

New NormSociety is changing. In some cases at tectonic levels. Brand marketers beware.

Tradition is no longer the norm, and the ‘new norm’ is still working itself out.

 Just a cursory squint at the world shows this.

 Look at two historical ‘normal predictors -human relationships and business.

We now live in an increasingly global context. Thanks in part to the Internet. The traditional norm would have us protecting cultures, borders and wealth. The new norm wants us sharing and equalizing without discrimination or cultural preference.

Deep lines are drawn today between entrenched folks on either side of this bucket of issues. Whereas this is true on the surface and in the media, many homegrown views may be softening, especially as populations continue to become more ethnically and culturally mixed. Adherence to traditions and values temper with each mixed marriage, migrating family and every new political and religious chapter.

The new norm is happening.

Take me for example. I am an Australian with Viking and British colonial roots, married to a Greek-born American with a long, proud, Hellenic heritage. Our Amercian-born children have a healthy dose of all these cultures. They will carry mixed values forward to undoubtedly more rich mixtures. 100% anything is no longer the norm, and black and white issues are more in the realm of earth tones in this new racially, hyper-sensitive, earth-loving, everyone-shares world.

And speaking of changing population mix. The poorer classes are having children while the middle and upper socio-economic couples are more likely to be having pets or alternative life partners. With each new year, decade and generation these factors will dictate everything from the food we eat to the brands we buy, the people we see and the work we do. It already has. Did you know that Mahummed, in one form or another, is one of the most popular names for new baby boys in the UK today?

What actors or ‘actor persons’ do you portray in your mainstream TV commercials? Probably not all white? Or all black, or brown or yellow? Right?

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 3.14.17 PMTake the test. Watch 15 mainstream commercials tonight and tell me what the ethnicity of the main actors are? I see a lot of standard continental-like faces with semblances of African, Hispanic and Asian features. The universal being, so to speak.

Political leadership as well is now anything but traditional and may never be again (#twitter) and unfortunately, the ‘religion’ that is getting the most attention and new members all over the world, is hell bent on murdering innocents.

And lastly on the point of the new norm for human relationships. Look how we communicate today. It is evident the monumental changes digital is having on the universe, but even beyond that, it is quite amazing to me how limited traditional free speech has become. A mere slight inference or private utterance of any of the letter words (‘n,’ ‘H,’ ‘q’) can get you fired, threatened and publicly ridiculed beyond redemption. You now have to watch your ‘ps and ‘qs literally.

So to business. Several prominent CEO’s just pulled out of Trump’s business committees on the basis of his supposed, racially insensitive comments.

CEO’s now have to have a clear and public opinion about highly charged social issues. Most American Fortune ‘bigs’ derive business worldwide. They no longer compete purely on a US basis either for revenues or talent. And, if in the past, the C-level could hide behind Annual Reports and ‘corporate spokespeople’ they are now being called upon to ariculate their company’s global ‘purpose’ and ‘shared values.’

Business can no longer hide from the new norm.

It’s a slippery slope when a brand gets it wrong. Pepsi’s widely lambasted attempt at ‘unity and peace’ in its Kendal Kardashian commercial certainly exemplifies that.

Mainstream brands could once hide from serious social issues in their consumer marketing. Corporate philanthropic activities sufficed. Not anymore. If brands do not understand how to navigate through these far-reaching and rapidly evolving new norms, then they can quickly lose relevance to new generations.

Oh and here’s a clincher. Your company name is now a brand. Whether it is the name on what you sell or not, it will be a factor in purchase and buy decisions. And no, B2B companies are not exempt from this.

Claims like Made in America and Proud Sponsor of the US Olympics etc. are examples of company/brand messages that straddle product benefit and quarzi social comment. But are they enough in this highly charged environment?

So do branders pick a side on any of the big ‘ism’ issues (like racism, elitism, terrorism, materialism, populism and so on) or just stay the heck away from these and concentrate on selling the advantages of their products and services?

Or could they win hearts and minds by owning one of the softer ‘new norm’ issues like peace, unity, literacy and of course whales?

Indeed the company, product or service you brand can dictate this. Soap makers can proffer a safer, cleaner environment. And do. Coffee makers can support indigenous farm sharing, and environmental packaging and pet product producers have no end of abused puppies to love. And, well, of course, P&G’s Dawn sure cleans oil-spill, drenched ducks.

I wonder, however, if this is going to be enough for the new norm, particularly for big mainstream players. Focused new upstarts risk far less by taking on the hard issues. Yes, Ford and GM can attempt to cater to earth-friendly fuels but here is Tesla, by all accounts a new big player in the alternate fuel auto industry.

So what to do?

  1. Hire ahead. Not Behind. Take a leaf out of Clayton Christensen’s book, Innovator’s Dilemma. Just as he recommended not relying on your current people to innovate the next new products, don’t rely on your traditionalists to build your company’s role or at least position it in the ‘new norm’ world.
  2. Play Long Ball. There is no quick fix here. Plan for the long-term with the same amount of careful rigor as you would with financial and ops planning.
  3. Listen and Learn. Don’t rely on the media to inform on the new norm. They quite frankly do not have a clue what is going on today. Many have still not internalized that a new POTUS was voted in. This, mostly because they are looking at everything through traditional lenses. Big mistake. Go to the source … the people. And listen. They may not give you the answers, but they can certainly help you frame the questions.

No, this is not going away, and it isn’t finished. The new norm is here and evolving. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

Brand on Life Support

Congress blogThere is a brand, an important brand, that has approval ratings way down in the teens (even lower than cockroaches and traffic jams according to a US World study) … and maybe beyond hope.

Most Americans, sadly agree that the US Congress is floundering. And more so today. Dysfunctional, petty and seemingly incapable of achieving much of anything. There is a reason that ‘drain the swamp’ was a particularly popular campaign message in the recent Presidential election.

Even the victorious party that just swept into power cannot get a new health-care plan agreed … and after supposedly working on it for over seven years. Little hope for tax reform or the other so called campaign promises.

Certainly, ‘Congress’ is not a brand in the conventional sense. Tough to buy off the shelf or from a car dealership. But anytime you ask people for their support and more so their funds then you are judged no differently. Would you rather give your money to your senator or buy a new TV, or more to the point, pay your bills?

But what is most alarming is that young Americans who want careers where they ‘can make a difference in the world’ are not choosing politics. Even political science students, according to studies conducted by Rutgers and Harvard, favored ‘community service’ two-to-one over ‘politics’ as the means to achieve their goals. Similar sentiments were found among high school students also researched.

When smart, young folk are looking at career choices and see that what was once an honorable, admired profession is now more about finger-pointing than policy making, they look to other ways to help the world. Interestingly entrepreneurship, which would in the past be seen as the antithesis of political action, is to many seen as a better way to help.

Some polls do show favorability scores for one’s own elected Congress person, but even that is falling. Many see that when their successful candidate goes off to Washington they are caught up in a broken system where no one seems to be able to move the ball forward.

So what to do?

We all know that money is at play. The cost to compete and win as a Member of Congress is out of reach of many. ‘Influence’ money pops up all over Washington. Privacy is also a problem. Few want to face the brutal scrutiny of the Internet and media if all they end up with is a bad book deal.

Yes, you don’t have to be a Senator or Representative to play ‘inside the beltway’ game, but the smelly bad stuff trickles down hill. It has a way of collecting at all levels and gunking up everyone’s good intentions.

 So again what to do?

To be brutally honest I am not sure. It will obviously have to be a bipartisan coming together of some kind. Some incentive to work across the aisle. And it probably has a lot to do with finding and nurturing a new crop of capable leaders.

This is comprehensive ‘system’ reform, and we all know how long anything tied to the word ‘reform’ can take!

Is there something in our brand bag of tricks? Well, let’s see.

Thinking of Congress as a brand you could begin to offer up a new face, literally.

We will always give smart, young people a chance. Let’s identify and begin publicly rewarding and supporting the new faces of Congress who are making a positive and not just ‘politically driven’ difference. This is not and should not be partisan. This is all about strong, determined Senators, Congress men and women working for real change and not party or special interest favor.

So what about the money, I keep talking about?

Well, those rewarded should be funded by the growing class of wealthy private donors who pledge to give based on demonstrated honest, authentic change and not ideological mania.

Call it the Gabebufzuk Project (for Gates, Bezos, Buffet, and Zuckerberg). The wealthiest Americans will, by law set aside each year ten million dollars for the one person or team in Congress that makes the most difference for the American people and have it ratified by an online, national vote.

Overly simplistic. Pollyannaish maybe but at least it is a public attempt to right an arguably swamp-stuck ship. At this rate, if the perceptions and processes of Congress do not change it will become a brand of even older, more tired folk with less support and consequence. What then?

What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

How Brands Survive Bricks to Clicks

bricks blog shotThere is nothing sadder, I think than seeing an empty space in a shopping center, once filled by a vibrant, bustling retailer.

E-commerce is no longer a new growth segment. It is now shaping the future of retailing. Aided and abetted of course by savvy consumers who shop the retail options they want, without moving more than their finger.

Yes, we get it. This is not news. And ‘brick’ retailers are already finding ways to marry ‘bricks with clicks’… personalized offers, store pick-up/return, etc.

But now Amazon is reported to be acquiring premier food retailer Whole Foods. Bricks and clicks galore!

 There are all sorts of predictions and scenarios on what this will mean to traditional brick retailers. Especially as it relates to the future of large format retailers? Do we really need to battle our way to and through the local Costco, Target or Wal-Mart? Why can’t we buy online and have them battle their way to us? Uber of everything?

And more to the point (as it always is) why do we, consumers, have to pay for that large space (as we always will). Give us what we want in an affordable, convenient way, and we’ll take it every time. And that probably means that we won’t be paying for the real estate taxes, utilities, and wages that the local, debt-ridden municipalities will seek from your ‘big box’ facilities.

 What does this all mean to traditional brand retailers?

 So you are a brand that has spent years, if not decades, building its reputation and support through the shopping experience.

You may be like a local hardware store that thrived for years near me with its jam-packed shelves and friendly staff. Customers walked in with some piece from a broken old faucet and walked out with the right part and emboldened with the knowledge of how to fix it. You survived a Home Depot opening near by and a move to a bigger space. But you couldn’t compete on price and still pay the costs to keep your doors open. You are now a large empty space in a strip mall.

What do you need to do to survive this rather miserable scenario?

Hey, brighten up. You own the one thing that no new brand or new online store can ever have. You have been successful in brick and mortar shopping for a long time. Chances are you have built a familiar and trusted brand relationship with your local community. There is absolutely no reason why your brand reputation will not transfer to the digital world and be even more successful.

It is really as simple as understanding your brand story.

 Take that hardware store above. I cannot get anywhere near the same help or solutions from Home Depot or any website as I once did from that store. Even if I had somehow I wouldn’t feel as confident or supported.

So set up a ‘knowledge’ site with video integration where I can connect, show you my broken faucet. You’ll help. If I need a part you’ll deliver it from a supply warehouse (maybe have a local charity deliver and be part of your Millennial’s ‘cause related, purpose-driven community’) or you’ll send a plumber with a new faucet, etc. Whatever. The idea is that you transfer your knowledge brand story to an online retail opportunity. Site costs are still a lot cheaper than the mounting store costs.

Knowledge is the new ‘secret sauce’ in digital retailing. It is also the great equalizer. With more and changing options for every shopping item in the world, knowledge is invaluable, profitable and competitively sustainable.

 Yes, I know there is a ‘depends’ comment here. How can you replicate the smell of fresh bakery online or new car leather or ogle a paper thin TV or try on the new fashion, etc.? All good issues but also creatively solvable with technology and understanding your brand message.

We believe that with rare exception ‘brick’ retail brands can survive and indeed thrive in the new digital age. It’s all about brand story, not bricks.

 We at Rocket Branding love this stuff. Call us, and we’ll help find your online brand story and profitable future.

 

 

 

 

Hope or Fear. Where Brands Thrive or Die.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 2.45.22 PMWall Street believes ‘greed’ and ‘fear’ drive financial markets. These two emotional states have also driven brand growth for decades. But something is changing, and one could argue that ‘greed’ is now best stated as ‘hope’, at least for branding purposes. Disregard this change at your peril.

Let’s break it down.

‘Fear’ is easy to understand. Consider brands for insurance, medicine, and security. Not the kind of products we think of first thing in the morning, or at all, if we can help it. We buy them when we fear the consequences of not doing so.

Insurance brands like Geico, Progressive, and Aflac, try to break through this lethargy with entertaining characters – lizards, ducks (and of course the omnipresent Flo) with ‘no-fuss-less-money’ approaches. They try to overcome disinterest without the heavy hand of fear. Then there is Allstate’s Mayhem campaign that hits you over the head with it. Literally.

Drug and medical brands also depend on the ‘fear and consequence’ mindset. Let’s not delve into irritable bowel syndrome and such, but you see how playing on fear works to drive these brands.

‘Greed’ on the other hand is all about the things we want. A whole lot more engaging. Luxury, shiny, creamy, gooey, exotic travel, exquisite perfumes. The list goes on. Stuff that excites, pleasures and feeds our self-indulgences and social image.

Qantas Airlines enjoys one of the best safety records in the world but rarely promotes it. Comfort, service, and destination are all better selling points than the scary safety notions. Car brands are notorious purveyors of greed. Sleek, sexy, fast. Volvo played the family safety card. Even though successful over the years, it has been difficult for them to also sell the performance and image of that owners seek.

If you understand where your brand competes in the ‘greed and fear’ contexts, you will know how to position, message and market it.

But as mentioned at the beginning, for the first time in maybe five decades, this I believe is changing and quite profoundly so.

Fear is still fear but greed is in many ways is much less in vogue. At one time it was quite aspirational to be wealthy and successful. Big car, big home, big career. You were to be congratulated, envied and even admired.

No so much today. Perspectives have changed. The rich are still rich and even richer. But the poor populations, the environment, and nature are all at higher risks and the stigma of power mongering and corruption among ‘elites’ the world over is now at a flash point. New terms like ‘clean the swamp’, ‘populist view’ and ‘purpose-driven’ marketing are emblematic of this.

I remember at one time being on the team to sell the new American Express Green Card campaign, ‘Membership has its privileges globally. It was very successful in the North America but not so internationally. To many cultures, only the ruling classes enjoyed privileges. I believe that North America has caught up with this now and again the idea of greed or excess so to speak is no longer PC.

So what do we do? Clearly, consumers still want their luxuries and pleasures and will buy brands in this context. But be careful.

If your brand is supported by those over 50, I’d say be as hedonistic as you want. But if your consumer base is under 40 and Millennial then I would rethink your Greed platform.

Folks under 40 have a greater sensitivity to the notion of greed partly because of the basic inequality or injustice issues, but also importantly because of uncertainty of the future and more so their future. Clearly fear has crept into greed. Some of this is real of course in terms of the health and safety of the world, but some of it is also from the daily flood of negative news. Between the 24/7 broadcast news and social digital media, we not only get all the negative world headlines (bad news sells) but we get on the spot, real time videos with the more scandalous zooming around the Internet at warp speed. So we not only hear the official news but also the supposedly ‘real’ backstory often from someones’ cell phone.

We hear and see way too much of the bad stuff, and it plays major havoc with our sensitivities and sense of well-being.

So here is my simple answer.

Let’s rethink ‘greed’ as ‘hope’ and if our brand needs to live in the ‘I want more’ space (formerly known as ‘greed’) be very careful how we moderate our message and present our brand. It’s not just about being better but being human. It’s not about isolated individuals but social fun and engagement. More authenticity. Less BS.

Bottom line. If you are building a brand in a ‘fear’ context, go at it full blast but if you favor the ‘greed’ context then at least think long a hard about moving into a ‘hope’ context where humanity and authenticity thrive.

We love this stuff at Rocket Branding.

What say you?

 

It’s Caddyshack Time.

caddy-shotIs Trump Al Czervik, the bawdy, politically incorrect businessman that takes on Judge Smails and his elite, country club establishment? Or at least he might hope so.

Before the barrage of sexual misconduct stories, you could say that the presidential race was still within the confines of the grimy politics of the House of Cards series. Now it,s full-out pop tabloid warfare. Policies forgotten, the media is having their best time ever with Bill Clinton’s dalliances, Hillary’s endless e-mail gaffes and of course Trump’s ‘p**sy grabbing, locker room banter.’ Why even the Kardashians are envious.

Can the Trump brand channel Rodney Dangerfield’s lovable, ‘I get no respect,’ ‘for-the-little-people’ character and save the day? Or is the brand beyond even the perennial box office draw of the underdog champion?

Do enough American female voters look beyond Trump’s foibles or are the endless polls and pundits right in predicting Hillary’s inevitable victory with a few weeks to go?

I guess we’ll find out, but in time left, brand experts what would you do to ensure victory for either brand?

Some thoughts:

Hillary’s brand is shaky but OK. Her ‘career politician’ label is still a double-edged sword. Supports her experience but turns off the growing numbers who feel ‘Washington’ has failed them. If all the pollsters are right then it’s her’s to lose at this stage. So probably best to stay the course. Push policy and ‘Presidential tone’ and keep goading Trump. Yes, it’s possible that more damaging emails will surface. It would have to be pretty bad to change the game. She has already been exposed for probable lies, possible Clinton Foundation issues and her unfortunate views of voters … deplorable etc. But it is probably all ‘baked in’ at this stage. And as long as she stands up in public, her health issues if any will not be a factor.

Now to Donald. Well, as mentioned earlier, a tough path to victory. Again if you believe the experts, Trump’s poor numbers among women will be hard to reverse especially with the prospect of the first female POTUS let alone more ‘sexual predator’ stories. This on top of reports that his ground game is no match for the Democratic Machine in the supposed ‘swing’ States.

But we are brand experts and love a challenge, right?

This may well be impossible, but Trump should try to take the spotlight off him and put it back on the American voter. Like Al for the little people, not for him.

His supporters are reportedly still with him. If he spends the time left fighting his accusers, then he will do little to woo new voters … women or ‘undedicededs.’ His ground and media support are not favorable. He needs to muster all his media genius and focus on one message. It’s not about me. It has never been about me. It is about YOU and WINNING. The bigger the Government. The bigger the loss for YOU. Let US fix the problems and get us back to jobs, peace, and prosperity. If you believe that the likes of Hillary, Obama, Pelosi and so on will lead us out of the mess, we are in, then vote for them. If you want change. If you want to be able to support your family and have some control over your life then vote for my party and together we’ll make American Great Again. Vote For us, for our children and the world.

Further, with this as an opening, he needs to get personal so that voters can see themselves in what he is saying. Something like. Today you pay X% of your income in Government costs. That was Y% before Obama and Hillary took over. Vote for her and bigger govt. and you will pay 2X% in four years, and your children will each have $X million dollars in debt on their head every day. If you make less than $50K with the current regime, you are more likely to be closer to the poverty line than in no other time in history. Quality education and health services will be out of your reach, and shared housing and living will become your new norm. Yes, dark picture but it is America’s reality unless we do something about it.

Now I have no idea if any of this is possible or even true, but quite frankly the Hillary brand will prevail unless the Trump brand can go back to their original premise and make it real. Just like Al in Caddyshack if Trump can be the peoples’ force against the ‘establishment’ then his message may resonate with voters as they go into the booth. Hey, it might coalesce his party and even bring in a few Bernie Sanders voters who are still skeptical of a Hillary Government? Win-win for all.

What say you?

We love this stuff at Rocketbranding.com. Let us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BREXIT … A Stand for Sovereignty

Brexit BlogI was in Athens, this time last year, and witnessed ‘Grexit,’ the Greek’s agonizing vote to leave the European Union. They voted to stay in the EU.

And, last week, I was in London, in the midst of Brexit, UK’s similar battle. They voted to leave the EU.

Different outcomes but largely driven by the same basic issue … protecting sovereignty i.e. not having others dictate their future and culture. The Greek’s poor economy trumped their ability to rid themselves of EU rule but the Brits are financially able to stand-alone. They can regain independence from EU leadership and more pointedly control the open in-flow of unskilled migrants. They lower the wages, soak up the social benefits, fuel the fear of terrorism, and in time, change the culture.

These are emotionally charged decisions and run deep and wide across the populations. It would be somewhat akin to a California or Texas deciding to become independent of the US. It strikes at the heart of the livelihoods and security of each individual. Over the next year we’ll watch the same story play out for many other European countries who will also be assessing their sovereignty and independence in light of a possible ‘exit’ from the EU.

So what is really happening here and, importantly as ‘master branders’ what should we take from all this?

Well actually it is fairly simple.

As generations march forward things change and some times that change is quite pivotal. In each case, Grexit and Brexit, the older generations voted overwhelming for ‘exit’. They wanted to keep their cultures and traditions and resented deeply the changes they saw around them with foreign migrants taking over their neighborhoods, jobs and social benefits, terrorism etc.

The younger generations (under 35) certainly understand the loss of tradition but they are in a completely different place. They voted to stay. They are underemployed. They want jobs and see the opportunity to freely travel throughout the larger European market as an enormous benefit. This is certainly the case with Greece with very high unemployment for under 30’s but also in the UK where again the chance to easily work in other countries is tremendously beneficial.

The younger generations are also very different in some very important ways. They are more globally oriented and connected. They are less trusting of politicians, moderately ‘sovereignty-centric’ and generally much more sensitive to the overall global condition … environment, resources, hope for everyone. Yes, they do understand and respect tradition but “it’s really tough when you are still living at home”. “And it would be really great if they could find a better way to live on earth”.

This is not just European. Younger voters, the world-over is similar. In the US they jumped on the Sander’s ‘share the wealth’ and the Trump ‘anti-establishment’ platforms in droves in the current election season. These aren’t ‘stay the traditional course’ and rigid sovereignty sentiments.

All this I believe triggers quite a sea change.

We really need to take a pause and have a serious look at the next 5-10 years or so and see what this all means to these new generations of consumers, leaders and influencers. Brands that do not do this are at great peril of falling way off the radar of this new group. A mere whiff of personal irrelevance will be whisked away with a click, swipe or touch. Brands that get it will thrive big time. Brands that don’t will die quickly. And the sad thing is that they may not know it until it is too late.

We at Rocket Branding have a grand global view and understand how this relates to each individual across the age and need spectrums. Let us help you plot the future of your brand. www.rocketbranding.com. 312 316 5290.

 

 

 

 

The America Party Brand?

Americ

 

Are the two preeminent political parties losing enough relevance that now a new party could actually emerge?

Unlikely is this cycle but what about the next?

History is full of new brands emerging out of the growing irrelevance of the incumbents … Fed Ex, Lexus/Kia/Hyundai, Home Depot, Visio, Starbucks and, of course, Apple (over IBM and Dell), to name a few.

 When leading brands, even icons, lose relevance the stage is set for a new one to rocket.

Is this possible in this political arena?

The ‘voter’ market is certainly not happy with their parties.

Voters have overwhelmingly lost confidence in either party ‘regulars’ to solve economic or national security problems. Words like ‘Washington’ and ‘Establishment Politician’ have about as much brand cache now as ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Fund Managers’. Accordingly, the newer so-called millennial voters appear less politically engaged with the parties. Getting a job, paying off loans is the daily reality and petty, mud-slinging politicians with their party cronies and self interests are just not on their radar.

It’s easy to see why the political outsiders, Trump, and Sanders have energized voters. They speak to a simplified, less corrupt and more action-orientated view of government. A view, which again is not entirely aligned with the party planks. This has attracted new interest and record voter turn out. Voters are not stupid, and if they realize that the party delegates and super delegates can easily subvert their votes, then their anger and frustration with their party will only intensify.

On the larger scale, our culture is also changing in subtle ways that will challenge the traditional party foundations and relevance going forward.

New voters are often less religious and to a degree less nationalistic. Global connectivity and the increasingly mixed races are creating much more sensitivity towards the world at large and a deep ‘dislike of the ‘isms’ … racism, classism, extremism, elitism and anything that smells of subversism.

And relevance is a problem for both parties.

The Republican Party has been lost for a decade. The Tea Party set the table for Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Election but he didn’t. Now he and his establishment conservatives are spearheading an anti-Trump movement and splitting the party. Whether Trump represents a compelling new Republican voice or voters are just regaling against the seemingly ineffectual ‘establishment’ Republicans, is an interesting debate. Either way, it’s a hard to see how the Republican Party can stop their relevance from continuing to erode across the broad spectrum of voters.

The Democrats aren’t in much better shape. President Obama offered a positive, unifying leadership, which many believe has, after two terms, achieved little beyond his attempts at legacy building. Of their two candidates for President, one is a proud socialist and probably unelectable and the other with FBI investigations and single digit honesty ratings is in many ways the poster child for what angers many about today’s politicians.

Further, it’s, at least, clear to me that as both parties have become such adversaries any opportunities for compromise and moderate outcomes are zero. The extremes seem to be the norm. But how many voters are not hard-liners? Many Republicans I speak to are fiscally conservative and defense-concerned but socially moderate even quite liberal on some topics. Likewise, many Democrats are strong on equality and progressive issues but are also becoming increasingly worried about the fiscal, national security fears and yes big government debt concerns.

Is it possible for a new party, say The America Party, to emerge from the ashes of the incumbents and represent the best of both … not the worst of both?

 Yes, I know parties like the Libertarians have made some impact but they have not succeeded to the main stage to date. Mostly I believe because they stand as a contrast to the others with fairly narrow platforms. And there is always a well of independents who just maybe waiting for The America Party.

If The America Party brand can represent a new and positive voice that appeals to the best of both parties, then why not? No one wants to fight against something. Always better to fight for something. Let us fight for America and without all the infighting, pettiness and old machine corruption and, of course, the ‘isms’.

 Yes, I know more parties create more problems. Look at Europe. And yes a one party system won’t work but we are just talking here, and maybe The America Party could be a remake or evolution of either party. ‘New and Improved’ so to speak.

Overly simplistic you say? Well maybe but in history the biggest ideas have typically come from the simplest of notions.

Whatever the solution, this writer believes that if these parties do not look up and out a bit, their brand will remain as irrelevant and uninspiring as they certainly have become today.

What say you brand wizards?