Articles of Interest

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


And Why the Country Should Think Bigger and Change Its Name
February 20, 2006
By Al Ries
Recently, the country of Guatemala hired a global branding consultancy to develop a new tourist strategy.
Photo: AP
Guatemala, which was once a capital of Mayan civilization, is littered with ruins such as this pyramid at Tikal.

Focus groups
According to the consultants, “Extensive focus groups were carried out to understand the perspective of a broad range of Guatemalans, including the business, artistic, literary, hospitality and indigenous communities.”

“Working from the values of Mysticism, Intimacy, Diversity, Evolution, and Authenticity,” states the consultancy, “we defined a distinctive and credible brand essence.”

Guatemala’s new brand essence: “Soul of the Earth.”

Is Soul of the Earth a good idea? Are there any objective criteria to determine if a new position is going to be effective?

If you’re sitting in a boardroom listening to an agency present the concept for your new advertising campaign, how do you respond? Do you go with your gut? Or do you have another way to figure out whether the proposed idea is going to work?

Reverse strategy test
One test we use all the time is this one: just reverse the strategy and ask if the reversed strategy applies to the competition.

Take “Think small,” the Volkswagen program selected by Advertising Age as the best advertising campaign of the 20th century.

Reverse the strategy and you have “Think big.” Did other automotive brands think big? They sure did. Not only that, their advertisements at the time boasted about how big and long and low their automobiles were.

Prospects don’t think in a vacuum. They accept or reject a new idea not just on its merits, but also on whether the new idea fits in the mind with all the other ideas they have accumulated over the years about the category.
Photo: AP
A hieroglyphic expert and archeology student Ana Torres clean a newly excavated altar stone from a Guatemalan Mayan site. The country continues to discover new ruins that shed further light on Mayan culture, which was North America's most advanced prior to the arrival of Europeans.

A new cola brand, for example, has to fit in with everything the cola drinker thinks about Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and the other brands in the category. If there’s no match, there’s no acceptance of the new idea.

Avis example
Take the Avis program, selected by Advertising Age as the 10th best advertising campaign of the 20th century. “Avis is No. 2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try harder.”

Reverse the strategy and you have “Hertz is No. 1 in rent-a-cars, so they don’t have to try as hard.” Sounds reasonable to car-rental prospects, so they buy into the Avis position.

Most advertising strategies fail miserably on the reversal test and the reason is clear. They sell the category rather than the brand. Take American Airlines, “We know why you fly,” and reverse it. Other airlines don’t know why you fly?

Come on, American. Every airline knows why you fly, but what they need to figure out is why you should fly American. Or Delta. Or United.

Very few advertising strategies pass the reversal test and I think I know why. Having participated in many agency brainstorming sessions, I find that most creative people zero in on the essence of the category rather than the essence of the brand. The strategy then becomes “pre-empt the category with advertising messages that capture consumers’ minds through their sheer creativity.”

The Nike exception
Sometimes this strategy will work, especially if the competition is weak and the client has enough money to spend. Nike’s “Just do it” is a good example. Through brilliant advertising and massive amounts of money, the idea has become associated with the Nike brand.

Most clients don’t have the money or the patience to make a category campaign successful. Having visited Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Central America, many times, I can assure you that the country doesn’t have the resources to take a category idea and make it successful.

Soul of the Earth? Reverse the idea and what do you get? Soul of the Sky? Most reversals of category ideas don’t make any sense and it’s certainly so for Guatemala’s new brand essence.

What should Guatemala’s new strategy be? Actually, Guatemala is a country rich in heritage. It was the cultural center of the Mayas, the most advanced civilization in all of North and South America before the arrival of the Spanish. Even today, 43 percent of Guatemala’s population of 14 million people are of Maya descent. Many still speak dialects of the Maya language.

Spectacular ruins
With mountain ranges as high as 10,000 feet and a culture seemingly unchanged for 500 years, Guatemala is a tourist paradise. Scattered throughout Guatemala are hundreds of spectacular Maya ruins. Cities, temples, houses, playing fields. The relics of a glorious past. More spectacular than the Pyramids of Egypt or the Taj Mahal of India, and built for the living rather than the dead.

Guatemala: “Center of Maya civilization.”

Reverse the strategy and what do you have? “Other countries might have some Maya ruins, but they weren’t the center of Maya civilization.” The reversal sounds reasonable.

There’s one problem, however. Even though Guatemala was the center of Maya civilization, there are Maya ruins scattered over Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras and southern Mexico. (Even worse, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula a marketing group has formed to promote the “Riviera Maya.”)

Besides the Maya confusion, there’s also the country confusion. In addition to Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras, there are three other countries in Central America: Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It’s going to be hard for the average consumer to associate “Maya” with just one of these seven countries.

Change the country's name
How do you solve the country confusion problem? You change the name of the country from Guatemala to Guatemaya.

Guatemaya would solve both problems. Guatemaya pre-empts the Maya position and it serves as a memory device to link the Mayas to the county which contains the most spectacular Maya artifacts. (It also solves a third problem. “Mala” is Spanish slang for “bad woman.”)

Soul of the Earth or Center of Maya Civilization? The two approaches to developing an advertising strategy.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Throwing All Cultures Into the Marketing Pot

February 21, 2006
Throwing All Cultures Into the Marketing Pot
MARKETERS are embracing America's mishmash of cultures as the influence of immigrants is felt in areas like cuisine, music, holidays and clothing.

"You don't see it creeping up," said Luke Visconti, co-founder and partner in DiversityInc Media, which measures diversity management at large companies and publishes a magazine on the subject. "You don't see the changes unless you go back and think of it."

These days, contemporary men seek advice from old-world marriage brokers; home sellers consult feng shui practitioners before an open house; shops selling Asian-style bubble tea (made with tapioca) are opening in central business districts. And the results of earlier waves of cultural immigration, like Brazilian-inspired bathing suits and Caribbean cocktails, have given way to Cossack-inspired fur coats and sparkly Indian slippers. Many dishware manufacturers seem to offer square Asian-inspired dishes.

Some insurance covers acupuncture. Japanese anime comic books are becoming more popular. The Japanese pop music group Puffy AmiYumi performed during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Broadway has had at least two Latino-influenced plays — "Forever Tango" and "Latinologues." Companies like Pepsi-Cola and Ford Motor are tapping into reggaetón, which mixes Spanish-language hip-hop with the rhythms of Caribbean music.

Marketers seeking innovations may need only to commandeer ideas from home, tweak a flavor, change packaging or borrow from an old-country holiday. "The Chinese New Year in a generation or two could be what St. Patrick's Day became a long time ago," said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University. "Hunan and Sichuan food is served in school cafeterias, and you've got sweet and sour sauce with your McNuggets."

Immigration may have had its greatest impact on the palate. Before the 1980's, a city's ethnic offerings may have started and stopped at chop suey and pizza; today, it could include Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Ethiopian or some fusion of two or more cuisines. Shoppers and diners have their choice of Greek yogurt, ready-to-drink mojito mixes, short-rib flautas, tortilla chips with tamari seasoning, sushi and Mediterranean olive bars. Asian ingredients like lemon grass and bok choy increasingly show up in recipes.

So, too, do peppers like chipotle and jalapeño and fruits like mangoes and guavas. "These weren't mainstream until the Hispanic population grew," said Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior research analyst for Mintel International.

According to the Census Bureau, by 2020 the Hispanic population will account for 18 percent of the total population, up from 6 percent in 1980. But the trend has moved well beyond Spanish-speaking Americans to include Indians, Chinese, Russians and other ethnicities. While immigrant influence remains greatest in major metropolitan areas, these enclaves have expanded to smaller cities.

Children's television reflects that diversity. Disney now shows "American Dragon: Jake Long," featuring a pint-size superhero who is half-Asian and half-Caucasian, hangs out with blacks and whites and consults a wizened Asian elder.

Other crossover shows include Nickelodeon's "Dora the Explorer," a 7-year-old Latina cartoon heroine who has several merchandise deals, including Campbell's soup. Last year, she spun off "Go, Diego, Go" that features her equally bilingual cousin.

Some marketers are inching forward. Bank of America sponsored a Manhattan family music festival — promoted in English and Spanish — with a Chinese music ensemble and a gospel choir from Soweto. McDonald's spun off the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain this year and still owns a big stake.

Last year, Schieffelin & Company rolled out Navan, a vanilla cognac intended to play off the spice's appeal to Hispanics but also to blacks and Asians. Diageo last year introduced the high-end Brazilian rum Orinoco.

Procter & Gamble is trying to expand sales for its Ariel laundry detergent, which is popular in Mexico, into Wal-Mart in the United States, said one Procter & Gamble marketer who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

He said a mainstream marketing campaign for Pantene shampoo, likely to begin before July, will be based in part on market research that showed Latina women prefer long, straight hair.

At the same time that Asian chains like 99 Ranch Market have grown more popular with non-Asian customers, Wal-Mart and other supermarkets have expanded their ethnic food aisles, said Saul S. Gitlin, executive vice president for strategic services at Kang & Lee, part of WPP Group's Young & Rubicam Brands.

In introducing the Ford Fusion four-door midsize sedan in 2005, Ford's general market advertising campaign borrowed from its Asian campaign's soap operas, said David Rodriguez, multicultural marketing manager for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

He said the Ford Fusion Mixer, a Web-based music mix that includes genres like R&B, salsa, reggaetón, Asian, hip-hop, rock and alternative music, was developed for but now runs on all company sites.

"In many cases, we will very much acknowledge that what is multicultural today very much will be general market tomorrow," Mr. Rodriguez said.

Pepsi-Cola North America is bringing Manzanita Sol, a popular apple-flavored soft drink in Mexico, to Southern California, Texas, Arizona, New York City and Miami. It is aimed primarily at Latinos but is also tied to the American affinity for apple juice.

Lara Montilla, senior marketing manager for multicultural marketing at Pepsi, says the drink is selling well, in part because of nonethnic consumers.

"The U.S. consumer is exploring different flavors more now than before," Ms. Montilla said. "We definitely will see a lot of crossing paths when it comes to innovation — innovation that is targeted to ethnic consumers but crosses over to the general market."

She said only a handful of companies had figured out how to achieve that crossover and that Pepsi-Cola North America had learned from its sibling, Frito-Lay. The snack company introduced Doritos Guacamole for Latinos but expanded it to the general market. She said aguas frescas, a drink with fruit pulp, sugar and water that is popular in Latin countries, was an area of interest and that Pepsi was considering how to make the category more prevalent here.

Expanding a product from a specific ethnic group to the general market makes good business sense.

"A lot of major companies have tried developing merchandise just for specific ethnic groups and may not have gotten the volume," said Peter Krivkovich, president and chief executive of the Chicago-based advertising agency Cramer-Krasselt, whose clients include Barton Beer, which imports Corona, and H. J. Heinz. "For large companies, small brands are just not worth it."

The tactic, however, could also alienate a brand's core clientele, said Tom Pirko, president of the beverage consultancy Bevmark. "A lot of people, if you give them something other than what they want or expect, will reject your product, boycott it," Mr. Pirko said.

Mr. Rodriguez of Ford said the automaker would accelerate ethnic efforts this year, taking into account how many immigrants were big adopters of technology and were more accepting of the Internet, broadband, text messaging and mobile marketing.

"As fluency levels increase," Mr. Rodriguez said, "you are going to see more opportunity via different media mixes to reach out and connect with these people in more creative and innovative ways."

Monday, February 13, 2006


Creativity Has Never Been More Important
February 13, 2006
By Randall Rothenberg
The World Economic Forum was not the only event to attract VIPs to Europe’s snow country in recent weeks. Hubert Burda Media, one of Germany’s largest and most influential media companies, convened its second annual Digital Lifestyle Day in Munich late in January. And while Davos’ attendees (prime ministers, presidents
Digital Lifestyle Day in Munich brought together game designers, historians, techies and professors from around the world.

and CEOs) gingerly grappled with the state of the world, DLD’s participants (game designers, VCs, historians, techies and professors) were more outspoken about where the media and marketing worlds are heading. I walked away with six conclusions:

1. Because the native costs of crafting and distributing creative product are trending toward zero, anyone can be a creative. Those who’ve been obsessing over the blogging phenomenon have missed the point; blogs are merely the most visible manifestation of an explosion in creativity. “Tools are now so inexpensive, anyone can be a publisher,” said Dan Gillmor, founder of the Center for Citizen Media. Examples touted included podcasts produced by the U.S. military and myriad examples of “nanopublishing,” Jeff Jarvis’ term for the finely targeted, ad-supported blogs cropping up on the Web.

2. Individuals control their media. Forget about the mantra “consumers are in control,” because consumers, producers, experimenters, receivers, perceivers and the merely-want-to-be-amused are all in this big stew together, creating micro-markets on the fly. “Hi, my name is Anina, and I’m a model and a blogger,” said one fashionable speaker early in DLD. “I started a models blog because I was tired of the way the media was portraying my profession.”

3. Whatever creativity is, its essence is more important in marketing and media now than ever. Do the math: A billion channels equal a billion creators and an awful lot of crap. Market mechanisms -- basically, the engagement of peoples’ attention and their encouragement to subsequent action -- will determine winners and losers. BBDO Worldwide President-CEO Andrew Robertson noted that the Meow Mix Co. now makes $1.2 million per year selling cellphone ring tones. He told the crowd, “My dream is that that’s how we’ll get paid.”

4. Mobile social networking is the next big thing. The most excitement at DLD surrounded communities-on-the-hoof. Ignore Myspace and Friendster. Keep your eye out for Area/code, Kevin Slavin’s New York startup that’s using mobile networking to facilitate large-scale, real-world multiplayer games, and for, which uses GPS and Wi-Fi triangulation to enable the pasting of virtual “sticky notes” on physical places.

5. The “long tail” is making vast new forms of business possible. EBay allows a lone Nebraska quilt-maker to find a national market; Netflix can make indie straight-to-DVD films a profit; and Google enables them to advertise successfully. “People can quit their day jobs to become publishers, thanks to AdSense,” Marissa Mayer, Google’s president for search products and user experience, noted -- accurately -- about her company’s ad-relevancy mechanism.

6. The physical world still matters -- especially as a validator. Mainstream media still count, even to the digi crowd. The number of major marketers at DLD engaging in cross-platform programs that start with incumbent media and leap to the Web to prompt customization, data collection and actions was striking, including BMWs Mini division, which showcased a youth promotion involving Burda’s own print and digital properties.

“Over the next three years, I foresee new business models for advertising,” Hubert Burda himself exulted. At 65 years of age, he is leading the way from Germany.