Has Wieden got the idea for the Nokia N8 right?

May 8, 2011

Wieden and Kennedy’s launch ad for the Nokia N8 features blind photographer Gary Waite taking pictures with the new Nokia phone. Has Wieden come up with a winning idea for the struggling mobile phone manufacturer? I’d have to say no I don’t think so.

The reasons?

The ad, while conceptually strong, doesn’t address key perceptions or misperceptions about the brand. Nokia is largely seen as a has-ben (at least as far as smart phones are concerned). Its technology is both indistinctive and of questionable relevance and value to consumers today. This is a key issue that the advertising hasn’t addressed and needs to urgently if it’s to take the brand some place other than the mortuary.

What Nokia needs to be doing, whether through the N8 or a separate brand initiative, is giving its prospective buyers confidence. Confidence comes from providing people with a vision, one they can relate to and want to be part off. Nokia has not provided this through advertising or any other form of communication to its audience. Until it does so, it is unlikely to dislodge its competitors as a brand of choice in the competitive smart phone category.

The ad is also strategically weak. It is based on a tenuous platform – better pictures. If people are interested in high quality pictures, they’d be using a proper camera – not a phone that doubles up as one.

The credibility for their camera feature is weak too.

It’s based on an award from ‘what digital camera’ – how many know the brand or see it as a credible source of endorsement I ask?

True, Wieden would have had its challenges doing this ad, the biggest among them being a product with nothing much to talk about but its camera feature. Still, it remains, the agency hasn’t cracked one of its trademark game-changing ideas the way it has for Old Spice, Nike or even most recently the Chrysler 300 (show where you’re going, without forgetting where you’re from).

Wieden, like Nokia, need to figure out what their brand story is, its relevance to consumers lives and why they should believe or buy it.


How well do you know your customers?

May 7, 2011

One of the first questions I ask clients is ‘do you know who your customers are?’ 9 out of ten will invariably admit they don’t.

Knowing one’s customer is fundamental to the development of any effective marketing strategy. Yet, it’s an area of intelligence that is often overlooked or ignored.

If you want to know who your customers are, so your marketing can reach out to them more effectively, there are ways to find out.

1. You can look at data you already have

Many organisations have a rich repository of data that marketing departments simply don’t tap into. During the sign up or sales process for many services, basic but key information like date of birth, gender, address, type of purchase and date of purchase are provided. By simply looking at this data, important extrapolations can be made on the type of customer who is more likely to buy your products and who you should be targeting as a result.

If you need to go a step further, a simple variable like a customer’s postcode can help. If linked to geocoding services provided by external vendors such as Singapore Post, what they can do is help you build a richer picture of your customers – not just in terms of demographics but also psychographics, tastes and lifestyles, allowing you to better understand the way you should be marketing to them.

2. You can look at sources of media intelligence

Media agencies are a rich source of business and marketing intelligence. Most have access to key research databases like AC Nielsen’s Media Index for example – which can guide your understanding of who you should be targeting.

Based on interviews with thousands of Singaporeans, these databases use indexing to tell you which consumer sets are more likely to buy your brand and also those of your competitors. They have lifestyle-based questions that help you understand their mindset and attitude.

In a recent project for a soft drink manufacturer, we looked at such a database to understand which customer sets were more likely to prefer the product category we were working on and also what their mindsets were. We zeroed in on females 15 – 21 ultimately – a group the entire strategy thereafter was based.

3. You can enhance data by adding variables to it

Often a company has key variables in its data that are missing. Sometimes these can be obtained through external companies that trade in intelligence.

In a project I worked on for a firm that operated in the b2b space for example, we used SIC (standard industrial classification) codes to understand who the company’s key customers were and also how we could be targeting more of them in the future. What SIC codes helped us do was drill down to 3 key verticals that made up more than 80% of the company’s revenues as well as the 6 key sub-verticals under each of them. The result was a crystal clear image, based on actual sales data that showed who the companies customers were – and who they should be targeting in the future as a result as well.

4. You can conduct formal research into the matter

Few customers will grudge an effort from a company to get to know them better. When I worked on the AUSTAR Pay TV business in Australia, we sent out a survey to the company’s entire base of 350,000 customers. 15% responded! What was interesting about this survey was that it was not digitally activated. It was an A4 sheet of 15 questions that had to be filled in and mailed back to us. What we gained from the survey was pure gold in terms of knowledge and understanding of our customers, their life-stage, mindset, perception of the brand, consideration of competitors and intention to take up further products.

The knowledge helped drive a long term customer management strategy with clear KPI’s also being formulated for multiple divisions across the company from marketing, sales, customer service, billing and product development.

Do you know your customers?

If you don’t, there are 4 easy ways to find out. Ways that can help you reach out to them through marketing in a more relevant and effective manner.

An idea is what it’s all about

May 4, 2011

Martin Puris, of Ammirati Puris once said that ’80% of all advertising fails because it is not based on a strong idea.’

Martin knows a thing or two about ideas. He’s come up with quite a few in his lifetime. Including BMW, ‘the ultimate driving machine’ and Club Med -‘the antidote to civilization.’

What these ideas were successful in doing was position the brands that held them successfully against their competitors carving a unique niche for themselves in the process.

Other brands that also developed clear ideas for themselves were POSB – ‘neighbours first, banker’s second.’ Absolutely brilliant. Hasbro – ‘the family is together again.’ Disney – ‘magical experiences.’ Chrysler 300 – ‘show where you’re going, without forgetting where you’re from.’

What makes each of these ideas special? Again, they vocalize a belief or point of view that competitive brands don’t and create a unique and resonant position for themselves.

Why is defining an idea so important for a brand? It gives it focus, and in doing so keeps communication and also products, people and investments on track.

The trouble with brands today?

Not enough time is spent defining the core idea on which they will be based. The result is logic that’s fuzzy, and advertising and customer perception that invariably is too.

What does the process of developing an idea for one’s brand entail?

Usually, a study of the category in which the brand operates, a study of the brand itself and the consumers it serves. Usually, I’ve found, an opportunity will reveal itself once the 3 key areas (category, consumer and brand) are put underneath the microscope.

From this point on, a creative leap is required to turn an opportunity into a genuinely strong and resonant idea.  It’s a lot of work to do this, but the result – a much sharper focus for your brand – is well worth the trouble and effort.

The Planning Agency has a number of tools to help clients define the core idea their brand stands for. To find out more, call us on 9386 8678 or e-mail patrick@theplanningagency.com.sg 

Telstra finally ‘connects’ Australia

October 28, 2010

Telstra’s brand idea has always been about ‘Connecting Australia’. The idea is a great one and can be traced back to the brand’s original purpose – which, as the national carrier was to ensure every Australian home was connected by phone.

These days, the idea has taken on a new slant of course. ‘Connecting Australia’ is no longer about putting a phone in the homes of Australians but ensuring that in an era where competitive edge is determined by the uptake of technology, Australia and Australians in general are not left behind.

For a long time Telstra sought to bring its idea of ‘Connecting Australia’ to life only emotively through ads. It did so beautifully, a few years ago it must be admitted, when it released its ‘what brings us together is what sets us apart’ ad set to the Bruce Woodley song ‘we are Australian’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuKpJv0PlSE).

What the brand failed to do consistently however was deliver on its idea of ‘Connecting Australia’ in a more real and physical sense. It seems to have finally started to do that with the Telstra T-Pad. A product that I think is truly classic and redefining for TELCO’s who have until now seen their role to be carriers of voice and data rather than developers of life enhancing hardware and software products.

At $299 for the device, is Telstra finally starting to ‘connect’ Australia? I would definitely say so.

Positioning – POSB Gets It Right

October 25, 2010

One bank that has an interesting campaign in the market right now is POSB. Their idea, ‘neighbours first, bankers second’ is extremely powerful and well suited to the brand given its history as the ‘people’s bank’ of Singapore.

The challenge for the brand is always going to be living its position however and ensuring it drives every single one of its activities and operations.

This is easier said than done.

The reason – when you make a claim people tend to hold you to it.

What POSB is saying to the market through the idea of ‘neighbours first, bankers second’ is that they are not a typical bank but a bank more likely to be supportive in situations where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be.

It’s a good position – provided the brand can deliver on it – through product, service and the way they interact with customers on a daily basis.

The challenges for ‘neighbourly’ behaviour of course will come not when the chips are up but when they’re down. It’s when mortgage payments get reneged on and when people default on credit lines that the bank will face its first real challenges to its position.

If it responds in a truly ‘neighbourly’ fashion (a manner that’s patient and sympathetic), its position will be strengthened, reinforced and the brand will become attractive to an even larger contingent of customers.

If it responds in a way inconsistent with the expectations the idea has created, then the positioning will be diluted and ultimately lost.

Like most brands, whether POSB can hold on to its position depends on whether it can live it on a daily basis in its business.

BP/the Gulf of Mexico – who consumers hold responsible

September 9, 2010

The BP brand may have taken a battering in the world but people in Singapore at least will continue to buy its products it appears.

This is the initial finding of a dipstick research study that I’ve been doing on the brand over the last few months since the start of the Gulf of Mexico crisis.

It’s not like people don’t hold BP responsible or that sentiment towards the brand has not been damaged. It certainly has. However, despite 50% of people surveyed stating that their perception of the brand has been negatively impacted as a result of the crisis, only 13% say they would not continue to buy its products.

A staggering 45% said they would continue to buy BP products given an option, while a further 40% were undecided and said maybe.

Why is sentiment to the BP brand not as negative as it should be?

I think it’s because people don’t hold just the brand responsible for what happened in the Gulf of Mexico but also Government and themselves.

In another question in the same survey, I asked consumers to indicate which parties they thought should be held responsible for the Gulf event.

While 100% of people said BP, 68% of people also said regulatory authorities (due to the inadequacy of legislation put in place) while a further 27% implicated consumers in the mess as well – the reason – the realization that our relentless demand for cheap oil may be what is encouraging companies like BP to drill deeper and engage in exploration techniques of a questionable nature.

In the Gulf of Mexico crisis, clearly multiple parties are to blame – BP, Government legislative bodies and consumers themselves. What is interesting to note however is the increasing responsibility consumers are taking on when it comes to the environment and the pressure they are putting on Government as well in matters of this regard.

So did the Australian Labour party win or lose?

September 7, 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote an article indicating that the Australian Labour Party had lost the election. Today they were given the mandate to form the government given the support they received from two independents.

The key question is – did they win or lose? From a brand perspective, the answer can be found in the results of this poll run by the Sydney Morning Herald today. the question – did the Independents make the right decision? Yes – 36%. No – 64%.

In my mind the issue has never been more clear. Labour lost, and they did because of the way they treated their colleagues. In a way that was inconsistent and that went against the grain of their audience in every way conceivable.

To reference the previous article on this topic please see my post titled ‘why labour lost’ – below.

Apple’s big issue with the iPhone

September 4, 2010

It isn’t antennagate, but the popularity or  ‘mass adoption’ that the brand has enjoyed over the last few years combined with a growing perception that the experience it provides is not as unique it once was.

Today it isn’t very hard for anyone to get an Apple iPhone. In Singapore, You could even get the 3G model for $0 on a plan.

Therein lies a key problem with the brand. It’s become so mass, so popular – so easy to access – it is starting to lose appeal and desirability.

In Singapore, I see a lot of people not going for Apple but opting for less popular brands such as HTC, Motorola or even some of the more innovative Samsung brands like Beam or Galaxy.

Bored with the iPhone experience, their motivation for doing so seems to be the desire to have a ‘less common’ phone – a phone that not everybody has.’

Brands are riding on this.

In the US, for example, sales of the Motorola Droid are robust. A look at first 74 day sales (a key metric to assess the success of a phone), shows that the Motorola Droid has actually done better than the original iPhone selling 1.05 million units versus 1 million units.(http://blog.flurry.com/bid/31410/Day-74-Sales-Apple-iPhone-vs-Google-Nexus-One-vs-Motorola-Droid)

But Apple’s problems don’t stop here. They have been exacerbated by the increasing importance the OS (operating system) is perceived to play in the performance of a phone.

Symbian from Nokia is still the most widely used OS according to data released by Gartner in August 2010, but Android is clearly the new kid on the block – surpassing Apple this year with a share of 17.2% v/s Apple’s 14.2%.

Apple is under attack and is starting to look less desirable than it once did. Key reasons are the easy access an ever widening range of customers have to its products combined with the fact that the experience it once provided is  no longer perceived to be unique given the rise of competitive platforms like Android that are seen to be equally good.

To continue to be successful the brand must address the issues it faces in both areas moving forward.

Why Labour lost (or what happens when your actions are inconsistent with the expectations of your audiences)

August 22, 2010

Though the 2010 Australian election has been uncertain, its result, in many ways, has not been. The labour party, it’s safe to say, has lost. 18 seats poorer, and with three quarter of counting done, it is scheduled to end up with 72 seats behind the Liberal party’s 73 giving them the moral right they need to form the next Government.

A few weeks ago, I predicted such an election result while discussing the matter with my wife. The basis of my prediction – the way Gillard seized power and the way the party deposed previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

In Australian culture there are some things you just don’t do – and that’s ‘turn on your mates.’ Gillard and her colleagues (deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and power brokers like John Faulkner) did just that. In the process they behaved in a way that went against the grain of their audience and that was inconsistent with their expectations. The price they paid in the end was a heavy one.

The learning for brands
Customers have expectations of you. Behave in a manner that is consistent with these expectations and success is likely to be yours. Fail to understand these expectations, or even worse, disregard them and customers will depose you the way they did the Labour party in Australia.

Why Google isn’t succeeding the way it once was

August 12, 2010

Ten years ago Google was a brand that could do no wrong. How quickly, things change.

Earlier this year, the brand launched the Nexus One – only to withdraw it from the market 6 months later. Performance of its social media tools (Buzz and Orkut) has been lacklustre compared to competitors. Blogger.com has failed to excite and last week saw Google pull the plug on yet another product – Wave.

Why is Google not succeeding the way it once was?

I think it’s because the brand has lost a bit of its once legendary direction and focus.

Let me explain.

Google was once all about search – not any more
At one time, all Google was into was search. So over time it got to be pretty good at it.

Google today is not just into search – it’s into email, video, desktop applications, mobile applications, blogging tools, social media and much much more.

According to Wikipedia, Google now operates in 15 different areas turning out more than 100 products for the market.

The only problem with this – not all of the brands new products are related to its core competence – or what it’s always been about – “search.”

Where Google has leveraged off its competence in “search” it has done well. Google Maps for example is a leader in mapping technology. It has become the leader in this area because of its strong fit with the brands core competence (search).

Youtube is another product area where Google has done well. Again it’s because of fit with competence. Search is key to the experience of both Youtube audiences – users and advertisers. Users can find relevant content more easily, while advertisers can use it to target ads better.

The end benefit for the brand is leadership – and in a way that’s unmitigated.

Google’s problems arise in areas where it’s competence in search is either unnecessary or less relevant
Take social media for example. Here, what makes a brand successful is not “search” but the quality of the user experience combined with the take up of a platform and its ability to ensure the integrity of its users’ personal details.

Google was a late arrival to the party and it didn’t bring as much as a bottle of wine to it either. google offered an experience that simply wasn’t as good as Facebook and take up has been less than encouraging as a result except in Brazil where the platform seems to have made an impact.

Google didn’t understand the critical importance of privacy

In social media, privacy and a platforms ability to protect it is key. google, coming from a search background, made big mistakes in this area. Wen it launched Buzz, it unwittingly compromised the details of thousands of G-mail subscribers. The brand, through that action proved it didn’t understand the social media space as well as it ought to and remained a poor cousin to Facebook and other platforms as a result.

Nexus One – another case of the brand misreading the market

Google’s biggest failure this year was its foray into hardware with the Nexus One.

Again the reason for failure – no link between the product and what the brand is really good at – “search.”

The hardware market for phones is very different to the one Google is used to. In this game, as analyst Alexander Vaughn says on Appadvice.com – “week 1 sales can make or break a device.”

Google had shipped 20,000 phones at this time – 19,000 were to media and staff.

What Google didn’t understand was that in this game, ‘marketing’ was key to success. It didn’t explain how the phone was superior or what it could achieve compared to its competitors. The result was an early demise as the brand pulled the plug on the phone less than a year into launch.

Why did Google fail with its new endeavours?
The answer seems clear to me. The brand moved away from core competence. It entered territories it simply did not know enough about. It was unable to do them justice and paid failed as a result.

The trouble when brands move away from competence
Brands not only tend to have a high failure rate, they also get distracted from their core purpose and competence.

They can quite easily lose focus, dissipate investment and effort and in the process leave the door ajar for competitors (Bing are you listening?) to walk in steal an advantage.

Should Google and brands in general experiment with new products and ideas?
Of course they should. They just need to ensure they are within what I call the ‘width’ of the brand – that zone, that band where they continue to leverage their competence and in a credible way with their audiences.