David Mitchel, Norton Mitchel Marketing

The matchup for Super Bowl XLVI has now been set. In less than two weeks, about 100 Million people will be watching the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in a rematch from Super Bowl XLII four years ago.

Around Super Bowl time in 2010 and 2011, I wrote about Super Bowl ads in this space. This year, I’m taking a look at the history of Super Bowl logos.

Logos are an integral part of the marketing mix. There are certainly more integral components, but a logo goes a long way. It is how the famous adage of a picture saying 1,000 words is applied in marketing. A lot of brands have obtained an advantage through their logos. Apple, Nike, McDonald’s and BMW are examples of the importance of the logo.

With Super Bowl logos, I evaluated them based on the following components:

  1. A meaningful connection to professional football. After all, the logo of the Super Bowl is an important part of how the NFL brands itself. Professional sports is a multibillion dollar business.
  2. A reflection of the host city of the game. Hosting a Super Bowl helps put a city on the map, makes an economic impact for a region and can help attract trade shows, conventions and even tourists to an area.
  3. How visually appealing it is
  4. How it stands the test of time

My grading scale was simple. I used A,B,C,D,F, and no pluses/minuses because my undergrad alma mater used that scale.

And speaking of higher education, there is not a trace of grade inflation here. Super Bowl logos earned a cumulative GPA of 2.65.

Special thanks to sportslogos.net. Without that website, this article would have been far more difficult.
Continue Reading

In many contexts of our life experience, "fine" sadly seems to have drifted toward embodying mediocrity.

Consider this all too common dialogue: "How are you?" "Oh, I’m fine."  Or, perhaps, "Just fine."

Translation: "O.K.," "average," "acceptable," "passable," "satisfactory," "I can’t complain," "I’ve been better," or maybe "could be much better" . . . .

After all, how interested or excited does someone sound with their "fine by me" response to your generous invitation or suggestion? Especially when accompanied by emoticons or real-life eye-rolling body language?

Whatever happened to the leading dictionary meanings of this orally over-used four-letter-word?:

"Of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade: fine wine."

"Choice, excellent, or admirable: a fine painting."

Outside the context of wine, art, food, china, jewelry, dining, and perhaps blogging, extolling fineness does nothing to draw me in.

Perhaps this recognition is consistent with why the term appears in less than 1,500 live marks on the USPTO database. In fact, there are more dead marks including this term than live ones. In addition, it appears less frequently in the USPTO database than other laudatory terms like "best" or "choice" — by considerable margins. And many of the live marks that do exist lead the adjective with another one (i.e., SuperFine Bakery, Veryfine Juice, or Damn Fine Tea) — futher evidence the f-word seems emotionally weak standing on its own.

I’m left wondering whether the term’s meaning decline began with Toni Basil’s "one hit wonder" from 1982 entitled "Mickey," with the ad nauseam lyrics: "Oh, Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey." Just a thought.

Having said all that, I’ll have to admit, I’m still definitely a sucker for quaint red neon signs appearing in frost-paned country windows reading "Fine Dining," even when the exterior of the establishment might speak otherwise or even beg to differ. My family certainly can attest that these dining adventures have led to mixed reviews over the years.

In the distant world of comic book grading, a "fine" grade is only a 6.0 on a 10.0 scale, according to CGC. Worse yet, a "fine" designation using the Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading yields a meager 12 out of a possible 70 score.

I’d love to hear from our expert naming friends on the question of how and why the word "fine" has lost its "superior" meaning, at least in so much of our day-to-day common English usage.

Now, when it comes to the context of lawyering, "fine" can mean something much more negative than mediocre: As in, you better read the "fine print" in the contract!

References to "the fine print" also can have negative or controversial connotations in the world of advertising and marketing, as in the context of deceptive or misleading advertising.

So, in my humble effort to rejuvenate the "superior," "excellent," "highest grade," and "admirable" meanings behind the four-letter-word "fine," below the jump you’ll find twelve of my favorite and mighty fine guest posts from a diverse collection of our fine guest bloggers during 2011.


Continue Reading

   

We’ve spent some time here discussing the world-famous Coca-Cola brand. Most recently, David Mitchell wrote about the incredible consistency of the Coca-Cola brand over the past 125 years. A while back Dave Taylor wrote a nice Ode to the Brand of Brands, the King of Cola: Coke.

And, let’s not forget my humble suggestion that a roadside sign promoting Coca-Cola at a drive-in restaurant that actually sells Pepsi instead of Coke, might be a good example of an appropriate application of the initial interest confusion test.

But, what about Coca-Cola’s frequent reference to "taste infringement" — some cleverly novel and suggestive legalese apparently coined by the Coca-Cola brand a few years back with its launch of Coke Zero?

Putting aside Brent’s fair question of whether the ads are a good idea, some of my favorite ads have been the Coke Zero viral ads, where a variety of lawyers are punk’d on hidden cameras, led to believe they are being interviewed by Coca-Cola representatives to take legal action for "taste infringement" — against the Coca-Cola team down the hall, the rival team of co-workers behind the Coke Zero launch. This one is my favorite, with lines such as these:

"Are you aware that Coke Zero tastes a lot like Coca-Cola?"

"There might be some taste infringement issues."

"I think it’s basic taste infringement, I’d like to stick with that phrase."

"Basically, a patent/copyright, a little too closely."

The ads are silly and I suspect most viewers appreciate the ridiculousness of Coca-Cola suing itself, but I’m not so sure people understand "taste infringement" to be a ridiculous or faux-legal claim — especially in this environment of increased focus and attention on the expansiveness of intellectual property rights. So, perhaps you heard it here first, there is no such legal claim.

In The Great Chocolate War, as reported by Jason Voiovich, the legal claim that Hershey’s — owner of the coveted Reese’s brand — brought against Dove’s competing peanut butter and chocolate candy, was based on trade dress. Notably, there was no asserted claim of "taste infringement". No one owns the combined taste of peanut butter and chocolate, thank goodness.

That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t intellectual property rights impacting the human sense of taste. For example, with respect to trademarks, we’ve written before about the possibility of taste being the subject of a non-traditional trademark, but to the best of my knowledge, none has been acknowledged or even identified to date. If you have information to the contrary, please share your insights here.

Of course, there is a reason for the lack of or scarcity of taste trademarks. Any product intended for human consumption is unlikely a candidate for taste trademark protection given the functionality doctrine. So, Coca-Cola can’t stop another from selling a beverage that has the same taste as Coca-Cola, just because it tastes the same, unless of course, the maker of the competitive beverage hired away key Coke employees who unlawfully revealed the closely guarded secret formula. That is how trade secret litigation happens, not "taste infringement" litigation.


Continue Reading

—David Mitchel, Norton Mitchel Marketing

Coca-Cola is celebrating its 125th birthday this month. A 125 year history as a brand is quite remarkable. Very few brands last that long. In its 125 history, Coca-Cola has become an iconic brand globally.

Coca-Cola is a great case in showing the importance of the various elements of

—David Mitchel, Chief Marketing Officer at Norton Mitchel Marketing

It has been about a week since Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl ads are always a big story. This year was no exception. FOX charged brands nearly $3 million per 30 seconds of ad space. Without further ado, here are the 5 most relevant questions about Super Bowl advertising this year.

1. Can buzz from a Super Bowl ad build sales?

Volkswagen would like to believe so, after building a lot of buzz from the ad entitled “The Force”. In the ad, a young boy dressed as Darth Vader tries to use the force to create magical outcomes. He fails to do so, but goes outside to greet his dad who drives up in the all new 2012 Volkswagen Passat. The boy stands in front of the car and it starts, from the remote control that the father uses inside the house. The boy is impressed with his power, and the father is impressed with the car’s remote start feature.

The ad got a lot of people to talk and was generally well liked. However, the kid and the Darth Vader costume were the stars of the commercial, not the Volkswagen Passat. This ad reminds of the Terry Tate Office Linebacker ad from Reebok in the early 2000s. It built a lot of buzz but didn’t generate incremental sales. The failure of the Terry Tate ad campaign did cause an MBA level professor to write a marketing case study though.

The new Passat isn’t scheduled to hit the market until later this year, and the buzz from the commercial will have simmered by then. Of course, it probably won’t matter much because like the Terry Tate ads, the commercials didn’t connect meaningfully to the product advertised, nor did the commercial advertise a particularly unique feature.


Continue Reading

David Mitchel, Norton Mitchel Marketing

In 1981, MTV’s first music video was The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. The title of that song could be adapted to ask a more modern question. Is the DVR killing television advertising? Also, can brands successfully use television advertising in the era of the DVR?

I strongly believe that the DVR is not the death knell for TV advertising. Some studies have shown minimal impact. Nevertheless, that is not an excuse to pretend we are living in 1981. Those using television to advertise must take technological advances into consideration when devising plans for using video to promote their brands.

The DVR is not an entirely new paradigm. Rather, it is the evolution of pre-existing concepts. People who want to avoid television commercials will avoid them with or without DVRs. Without a DVR, a person that avoids commercials can mute a program, go to the bathroom during commercial breaks, change the channel to another channel not in commercial, or prepare a meal or snack. Additionally, people have had the ability to record TV shows and watch them at their convenience since circa the late 1970s. A 2001 episode of “That 70s Show” pokes fun at the early TV recording technology. Minutes 4:29-5:38, 8:52-9:45, 16:15-17:35 contain dialogues about early TV recording. However, programming a VCR to record live TV was far more difficult for most people than the DVR. This has made the DVR a bigger force to be reckoned with.


Continue Reading

—David Mitchel, Norton Mitchel Marketing

Budweiser, the self-proclaimed King of Beers, announced a marketing initiative this week to broaden its appeal to drinkers ages 21-30. Although Budweiser is an immensely popular global brand, it has had difficulty in the United States market in recent years. In the US, Budweiser sales volume was down 9% in 2009 and it appears the brand is on track to lose about 9% again in 2010. As a means of comparison, the whole US beer market fell 2% in 2009. In 1988, Budweiser had a 26% share of the beer market in the USA. Today, Budweiser only has a 9.3% share. In particular, Budweiser is most concerned about its lack of popularity amongst young drinkers. According to its own data, 4 out of 10 drinkers in their mid 20s have never tried the beer. These factors make now a quality time for the Budweiser brand to revitalize. However, based on the plans that Budweiser has divulged, I do not believe that they will be effective in changing the perception of the brand amongst young adults and generating greater market share.

Budweiser’s marketing initiative will begin in earnest with “Budweiser National Happy Hour” on Wednesday, September 29. Free samples of Budweiser will be available at various bars across the nation. The logistics of this plan already have been criticized in the mass media. While criticism of logistics is certainly valid from a brand management perspective, it does not take into consideration the larger strategic flaws in the plan. Free sampling can be a way to build brand awareness and develop positive brand beliefs. However, marketing is a mix of elements and all elements of the mix must work harmoniously together for success. In the case of Budweiser, this will not occur.

Besides the National Happy Hour event, Budweiser plans to promote the brand through their Facebook presence and video advertising, much of it on television. They are taking a multi channel promotional approach, which is positive. Budweiser will use its Facebook page to give free beers to those celebrating a birthday (22nd birthday and up) and display photo albums of those celebrating with Budweiser on their birthday. A quick visit to Budweiser’s Facebook page shows that Budweiser isn’t likely to impress most of the young audience. Their primary profile picture displays 2 Budweiser bottles on ice and the slogan of this campaign “Grab Some Buds”. The imagery is nothing new, which is disappointing because a key component to revitalizing a brand is repositioning. Using imagery that places Budweiser in a new context would be a welcome change. Also, the slogan for this campaign is “Grab Some Buds”. There is nothing memorable about this slogan. It is about as boring as it gets. Meanwhile, the first video ad is available both on Budweiser’s home page and the Facebook page. This video ad is likely to be perceived as rather stale by young adults because it uses undifferentiated imagery. It will not break through the clutter, which is the goal of all advertising.


Continue Reading

—David Mitchel, Vice President of Norton Mitchel Marketing

The Nielsen Company released new research this past week indicating that the Baby Boomer generation is being neglected by brand marketers, particularly consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. This is not radical new insight, but it does highlight how this notion is becoming more mainstream. Those who follow demographic trends have known for a long time that the United States’ population would skew older as the Baby Boomers aged. In 2011, approximately 30 percent of the United States’ population will be over 50 years old. With an aging population, it is important for brands to learn how to market to those 50+, an uncommon practice in recent decades for most brands. Nielsen’s conclusion that the Baby Boomers are neglected by brand advertising and shouldn’t be is a correct conclusion. However, their basic analysis posted on the website failed to mention a key driver of their conclusion. Brands that are able to connect to this group meaningfully in the years to come should reap rewards from a revenue and profitability standpoint.

Nielsen was quite accurate in their conclusion that Boomers have tremendous spending power. The standard definition of the Baby Boom Generation is those born between 1946 and 1964. Today, Boomers are between the ages of 45/46 and 64. At this stage in life, many of the older Boomers are nearing retirement age and the younger Boomers are in a mature stage of their careers. This means that Boomers have more disposable income than their younger generational counterparts. The Boomers are expected to outspend their younger peers by over $1 trillion in 2011. It is noted that Boomers account for 38% of CPG purchases, yet major CPG brands are only currently spending 5% of their advertising budgets on this group. Two major conclusions can be drawn from this information. First, CPG brands are getting a tremendous return on investment by spending advertising dollars on Boomers. Next, those brands that recognize this trend and further look to capitalize on the Baby Boomers will demonstrate revenue growth in the years to come. In this depressed economic era, finding a source of growth and exploiting it represents a major competitive advantage.

The current economic downturn should be a major force examined by market research and considered by brands when charting a course of action. In an economic downturn, the vast majority of people suffer. Those who suffer the least emerge as winners. With regard to Baby Boomers, they have suffered less than other generational cohorts. The generational cohort that been disproportionally affected by this downturn is Generation Y (often considered birth years 1980-1994). Generation Y is currently between the ages of 16 and 30. Marketers have always paid a lot of attention to the 18-30 age group in the hopes of building brand loyalty amongst the youth. In this era, that is the wrong strategic approach. Generation Y has little spending power as compared to 18-30 year olds in the past. This is because youth unemployment is extraordinarily high. This is a social crisis brewing and has been underreported by major media outlets save for the exception of BusinessWeek in October 2009, but that is not the focus of this analysis. This is relevant knowledge to brand marketers when considering the Boomers. Boomers have been far more likely to keep their employment, thus producing income that can generate demand for products. The insights from this paragraph represent the key bits of information that Nielsen didn’t share in their basic analysis of marketing why Boomers have spending power and why brands should focus on them.


Continue Reading