Coupons, Groupon and Cocaine

These days marketers are going in exactly the wrong direction. The recession has caused a lots of companies to panic. And when companies panic, they print coupons and throw up sale signs. Look in your mailbox, your email inbox or your newspaper and you will see what I mean. Everybody is having a sale.But does this coupon-sale-discount strategy work? Coupons and discounts do one thing every well. They teach consumers that your regular prices are too high. A lesson consumers learn very quickly. Once they think your regular prices are too high, they won’t buy from you until given a discount. And desperate companies are too quick to oblige.

Gap’s Fall into the Mushy Middle

They used to sing “Fall into the Gap.” And consumers did. Since the Woodstock era, the Gap has outfitted millions of consumers with its lines of basic clothing. But over the past few years, it is the Gap brand that is doing the “falling.”

Non-Profit Rebrand: On the House 2010

The Challenge: Help the Atlanta Union Mission, a 72-year-old brand founded during the Great Depression update its image, clarify its mission and focus its message.

High Fructose Corn Syrup, not so sweet.

Would a sugar taste as sweet by another name? I say absolutely. Even sweeter. High fructose corn syrup has become public enemy number one in the fight against obesity. Having successfully attacked trans-fat the food police have turned to high fructose corn syrup with great vim and vigor. And great success. Sales of high fructose corn syrup are in rapid decline. But what is “real” and what is not? Hard to say. But when you give your product a name like “high fructose corn syrup,” it doesn’t sound very real at all. In fact, the name sounds dangerous.

Non-Profit Marketing: Lessons from Kate’s Club

Too many non-profit leaders think it is either shallow or useless to spend either time or money on branding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Branding is the key to success no matter if you are selling sneakers or helping the homeless. Read how Kate's Club has built it's powerful non-profit brand.

High Five to FiveFingers

If your brand doesn’t have a visual difference it is going to be very difficult to create excitement. Shock and surprise is what generates excitement. And excitement is what build's a brand. You need to stop consumers in their tracks to say “What is that?!” Sometimes a visual difference is a natural part of the product; at other times you need to exaggerate or create a difference. With Vibram FiveFingers, the difference is shocking and easy to see. It's the toes.

McDonald’s Goes Above & Beyond

McDonald’s moved at lightning speed and initiated a voluntary recall of its popular Shrek glasses that contained trace amounts of a toxic metal. While the spread of the tainted-glassware story certainly posed a problem for McDonald’s, the glassware itself wasn’t all that dangerous. Many companies would have used this evidence to counter-attack critics. Many companies would have also shifted the blame to a supplier. McDonald’s did neither. In its response, McDonald’s went above and beyond.

BP has a Brand Problem

BP talked the talk but never walked the walk. Like many companies in unpopular industries, BP launched a massive advertising campaign to put a little lipstick on the oil pig. Advertising is not very good at changing strongly-held perceptions, but in BP’s case it actually worked. However, the “holier than thou” tone of BP’s advertising placed the company on a perilously high green pedestal it was sure to fall from.

What should Goldman Do?

What does Goldman Sachs need to do to save its brand? In a word, nothing. A powerful, leading brand is practically bullet-proof. It’s not what you do wrong that determines if your brand will survive a scandal. It’s how strong your brand is in the mind that determines if your brand will survive. Strong brands survive even the worst catastrophes, while weak ones can easily be destroyed by minor ones.

Experience the Focus Effect

What works in the beauty business? The same thing that works in all businesses. Own a word in the mind. Typically, a beauty brand will start out by owning a word and then get line-extended like crazy. Still the brand might remain powerful because consumers remember the past. It wasn’t the line-extensions that created a powerful brand like Dove, it was the original focus of the brand that did that job. Dove started out as “one-fourth moisturizing lotion” and is still the No.1 bar soap.

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