I call this the end of an era rather than the beginning of a new one, as this transition has been going on for at least 10 years, if not more. I would like to give credit for this to millennials who are coming of age as adult consumers, but frankly Gen X should probably get the credit. I will talk about that more later, but for now, let's examine the above example of a major brand making a radical transformation of their brand packaging and the implications thereof for all brands.
Bud Light is the largest beer brand in the world. So for that brand to make such a revolutionary change to their trade dress is striking. It either represents great hubris of a CMO, as was the case with Pepsico's ill-fated transformation of the Tropicana brand a few years ago, or it is a reflection of a brand who recognizes the world around them has changed for good and that they must change with it before they become irrelevant. I believe it is the latter.
What is driving this change? At its core, I believe that it is a universal mistrust of all things corporate. The more savvy and perhaps cynical Gen X and Millennial consumers have no trust or loyalty to the traditional corporations for whom their parents dedicated their lives and loyalty to, only to be betrayed as a consequence of soul-less economics. That's why they are attracted to founder-led, maker, and often local brands that impute the purpose and values of a human being in a way that can be evaluated straight up. Some have argued that this group cares more about what you stand for than what you make. I don't disagree with this, however, I believe it is deeper than this. It is about authenticity.
Authenticity is a difficult concept for large corporations to grasp, particularly those who offer large portfolios of multiple brands that have been created and positioned to appeal to the desires of a particular segment of the market. The notion of positioning is somewhat in-authentic to begin with. Politicians position themselves to appeal to the largest number of voters and we all know the motivations of politicians! Brands do the same thing. They are willing to "be" whatever will appeal to the largest number of buyers!
So what is the poor corporation supposed to do? In my way of thinking they need to begin thinking about brands not as the identity of a specified group of products in their portfolio, but rather think of brands as entities that exist to achieve a mission that shares values with a large number of people. They need to structure their organizations around that mission, filling them with employees who are passionate about that mission (rather than employees who are mercenaries to earn a living). Why? Because without purpose, a thin veneer of authenticity that only covers up inauthenticity is most damning of all for today's consumers.
When we look at Bud Light's new packaging, we easily see their attempt to convey a deeper sense of who they are as a brand, as one with history, honor and pride of a true maker of beer. Notice how the new packaging walks away from the communication of functional attributes of smooth and refreshing and replaces that with values based imagery.
This is a good start. The question now will be one of integrity to build a mission-driven brand organization behind this new identity. If they have the courage to do this, then they will have transitioned to brand authenticity.
Where does your brand stand today?
#brands, #brandstrategy, #budlight
Early this morning I was visited by an old friend in my dreams who reminded me of his revolutionary design thinking. I had the great privilege to have worked with the late Morison Cousins in the early 90's at Tupperware. Morison was the "rock star" which was appropriate since he had already accomplished significant milestones in his industrial design career. I like to think, however, that he and I were collaborators, and I am sure that he would agree. Morison was the artist. I was the commercializing Director of Innovation & Marketing. Form and function.
The image above is of the On The Dot Kitchen Timer, which is part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. This product was created as part of our initiative to expand Tupperware's presence from plastic cups & bowls to the entire kitchen with "extraordinary design for everyday living." This little kitchen timer was significant, perhaps even transformative, to Tupperware in many ways. It was the Company's first foray into kitchen gadgets. It was the Company's first "mechanical" device. It was the first product to be sold by Tupperware that would be manufactured by another company in Italy. It was the first product that would be sold with a "guarantee of satisfaction" rather than the Company's well-know lifetime guarantee. After all, it was not reasonable to expect that this device could withstand the rigors of a lifetime of use.
The product was and is a perfect representation of Morison's design philosophy. Simple. Clean. Pure. Geometric. Functional, yes, but the form transcended to create an emotional connection with its user. There was a sense of beauty and artistry to this simple functional device that made it exceptional enough to have become part of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's permanent collection. There was also a sense of whimsical personality that I wanted to capture with the name, so I coined the product as the On The Dot Kitchen Timer. It made me smile. It still does. The small spherical dot on the side of its perfectly conical shape was a functional adaptation to keep the timer from rolling off the countertop!
Form and function, yes. Beyond this classic paradigm, however, was, what I believe to be the larger concept of #emotional innovation. There is a sense of magic that happens when a functional item touches our hearts with a sense of beauty and whimsy that simply makes us smile. This idea says that form does not follow function, but rather form is function.
P.S. The On The Dot Kitchen Timer was never sold to consumers. I believe that there is one remaining working prototype at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and one more in my kitchen, where it has made me smile now for over 25 years. The product was deemed as "too dangerous" by a corporate lawyer, who judged the point of the conical shape to be a potential safety hazard. Rather than modify the design with a blunt and clunky point, we decided that this product would remain as part of our memories and in the museum as a pure expression of #emotionalinnovation. #cooperhewitt. #smithsonian.
There are three foundational insights that guide what we do and how we think about brand strategy at Launchforce Strategy, which together, represent what I like to call the "Brand Motivation Triangle." The three insights are as follows:
The second insight is where motivation meets brands. This is the idea that consumers are naturally and magnetically attracted to brands (and people) that appear to express the fulfillment of the motivations that we are particularly oriented to. So the implications for brand managers are obvious: make your brands speak the language of motivation! Of course, this is where we come in. Our Blink Apperception Research method is designed to identify the motivations that brands uniquely express to consumers. The method is a sophisticated version of a projective interview that uses over 100 images to discern prompt projective stories. If you want to learn more about this method, then check out our website, or better yet, give us a call.
The third insight, for me is the most exciting. Again, that insight is that brands can increase their appeal and loyalty by focusing their branding and innovation through the lens of an ownable motivation. We have developed a guide for this called the Resonant Insights Model, but I will save this for another blog post. Real motivational power is available to brand who are willing venture into the Brand Motivation Triangle.
We see adaptations everywhere! Simply defined, an adaptation, from an innovation point of view, is any behavior or device that seeks to accomplish a task or a goal in an apparently easier or better way. For example, if this toddler is wearing a diaper or pull-up, what is the adaptation?
Exploring adaptations is useful in that it can often lead to an insight about how we can create innovations to help make living easier or better. So have at it. This picture is full of them!
It wasn't that long ago that brands made the claim of no preservatives, no artificial flavors, no artificial colors was a point of differentiation. I remember when Tropicana effectively disrupted the orange juice category with its not from concentrate, nothing added, nothing taken away claim. Today, however, I opened this can of Chef Boyardee and noticed that it included what I believe to be new claims on the can of all of the above. Maybe they've always been that way, but this is the first time I've seen it called out. Good for them. But...I don't think this is going to disrupt anything. Today, this is table-stakes, price of entry stuff. Purely defensive I suppose. Consumers have moved on. Even my hair stylist mentioned this today (I don't remember why?).
So, what can a brand do to drive relevance and differentiation in this world of un-differentiation? The answer, I believe, is to connect your brand to human motivations. How do you do that? Well we do this by helping brands understand the motivations that their brands implicitly express to consumers and how that might be different than their competition. With that insight, we can then show them how to focus their voice through this lens and build not only their differentiation but also their authenticity. The formula is something like this:
We stand for MOTIVATION that is why we TANGIBLE CLAIM.
For example, Chef Boyardee might choose to focus on a motivation of FAMILY (the desire to have, nurture, and please your family). Thus, it would give the NO, NO's a deeper meaning than table-stakes. Instead, they become proof of the brand's character.
We have no problem understanding that, as human beings, we have motivations that guide our behaviors, both consciously and unconsciously. Have you ever considered, however, that brands can express motivations and that these kinds of expressions are especially powerful attractants to human beings?
While we do all kinds of qualitative research, we developed and often use a methodology we call Blink Apperception Research (BAR) to dig into how brands express motivations and how these brands can build their resonance with consumers by telling their brand story through the lens of their distinct motivational profile. The fascinating thing about BAR is that we consistently discern substantial differences between brands in a tight competitive set that ordinary brand image tracking research fails to detect. In fact, often the reason companies hire us is that they believe that their brand is relatively un-differentiated versus its competition and they would like to find a way to change this.
The BAR method is based on the methods psychologists have used for years, called Thematic Apperception Tests or Projective Research, to elicit stories from patients that could be psychologically revealing. Of course, BAR is specifically designed to elicit stories about brands from consumers. Which brings us back to our initial question... do brands express motivations? The answer is yes they do.
As an example of how this works, consider a well-established brand that competes in a well-established category with other well-established brands. It is no surprise that these brands are all seen as trusted/reliable in image studies. When we explore the motivations these brands are expressing, we see a much different picture. One brand, that is trusted/reliable strongly expresses the motivation of HONOR (or the desire to follow parental values to do the right thing), while another more strongly expresses the motivation of STATUS ( or the desire to be seen as having a higher social standing). Both are "trusted/reliable" but their inherent stories are completely different. By understanding your specific brand motivation, you can begin to focus your communications, branding, and innovation through the lens of your ownable motivation, thereby increasing brand differentiation. Without this insight, you could be trying to tell a story about your brand that just doesn't seem to stick, and the reason is that it is out of sync with the brand's implicit motivational profile.
We would be happy to share more about this topic with you and how it might be able to help you increase the differentiating resonance of your brand.
If you haven't seen this little gem, then you are definitely missing an important trend that is in full swing with Millennials, not to mention a very tasty addition to your food repertoire. No this is not the latest Ron Popeil invention, although I wouldn't doubt that he made something like this at some point in time. It is called The Spiralizer by Paderno, and it is starting to show up in Millennials' kitchens everywhere. So what's so important about the "Spiralizer?"
The importance of this gadget is that it is a clear manifestation of a powerful trend called "clean eating." As a recent article in the NY Daily News expressed, "clean eating is suddenly everywhere." It is like the proverbial perfect storm of several trends converging into one. Organic, locavore, fitness, weight loss, low carb and foody all "spiraling" together into a coalescence that could do some real damage if you are on the wrong side of this bad boy. Ok, enough of the metaphors, you get the picture.
What you are seeing in the picture above is a device that allows you to make noodles from vegetables like zucchini, in order to replace carbohydrate rich pastas. And, by the way, this tastes really good with some homemade marinara sauce. And is very low in simple carbs and fat.
So you have to ask yourself, what are the implications for my business of this trend that is taking full root with Millennials? Are my products and brands on the right side of history? We can help you hear and see how millennials are changing landscape of consumer products, and how you can be on the right side of this "perfect storm."
Whilst working on a recent innovation project for a new beverage, a colleague of mine made an innocent, yet profound comment about the product pictured here. "Dry blood!" she exclaimed in a disgusted, and disbelieving tone of voice.
Yes, that would be disgusting. Yet, here it is. DRY BLOOD ORANGE SODA. I hope this packaging was not done by a reputable design firm. I am pretty sure that DRY BLOOD is not what they were hoping to communicate. What exactly is DRY BLOOD ORANGE SODA? I wonder if a real human being (consumer) was ever involved in this process? Probably not. Oh, by the way, the soda doesn't taste half bad. But, I don't think many mere mortals will ever try it. Vampires?
For years, people have been predicting the death of focus groups. I may have even penned such an article. The truth, however, is more like Mark Twain's quote, "news of my death has been greatly exaggerated." Focus groups are still the go-to qualitative methodology of choice for marketers and researchers.
But, then along comes technology and the world changes. Mobile ethnography is one of those changes. The ownership levels and capabilities of today's smart phones has presented us with a powerful tool called mobile ethnography. I started doing consumer-generated ethnographies almost ten years ago. We would send research participants small digital video cameras, together with a project workbook that provided instructions about how and what we wanted them to capture. The core advantage of this methodology was that we see what the consumers sees and simultaneously hear what they are thinking. It was this "presence" that turned out to be the key advantage of this approach versus in-person ethnographies and focus groups. We are still using this methodology, but now, we are using smart phone apps as the tool.
The great thing about smart phones is the consumer interface. They are pretty easy and intuitive for consumers to use thanks to Apple's philosophy being applied to this appliance. With our app, we can send out activities for consumers to do, calling for photos, videos, notes and tags. This combination of capabilities provides a robust, flexible pallet to design our research to address a plethora of learning objectives, some of which are just not feasible with focus groups due to their "time and place" constraints.
The biggest advantage I have experienced, however, is the ability to have an ongoing dialogue with the consumer. When the consumer posts a submission, say like the one shown above, I can follow-up with a comment or question to build on my understanding, adding a creative, spontaneous opportunity to generate insights. Here again, this is a big advantage versus focus groups, where my ability to follow up and probe is, at best, constrained. You know how it goes, pass a note to the moderator, they ask the question and you are done. And, of course, you end up asking the question to the whole room.
So, to answer my own question of whether mobile ethnography will replace focus groups, the answer is that there is a time and a place for both, but I am finding that, given the value and flexibility of mobile ethnographies, the time and place for focus groups is becoming less frequent. What are your thoughts?
Whenever you are following a "trend" you can be absolutely certain that a "counter-trend" trend also exists. What's more important is that often these "counter-trends" are the most profitable places to play for marketers. Trend/Counter-Trend is one of the principles of our Insightful Thinking methodology that has been one of most useful and insight producing exercises we teach our clients.
The reason this approach is so effective and profitable is that everybody sees the same trend reports, and in the rush to stay relevant, marketers are quick to adopt these trends as strategies for their innovation and brand positioning. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Trying to steer your business to where the "ball is going" is worthy advice. So why don't we see more brands following the "counter-trends" on purpose?
Well it takes some guts and it takes a higher level of curiosity to look at the "trend" and say to yourself that their might be another point of view that could be interesting to my business. That's why it is so interesting when we see an example of a brand following this approach, as discussed in the article from Fusion.net authored by Rob Wile _.
Rob reports on the success that Hungry Man frozen meals is having with an approach that is decidedly "counter-trend" with higher calorie, more hunger satiating comfort foods. The real story here is that Pinnacle Foods, the owner of the Hungry Man brand has committed itself to understanding and delivering on the needs of a definable and large segment of consumers who are looking for a convenient way to satisfy their hunger at the end of long day of hard work. They (Pinnacle Foods) were not blinded by the trend for healthier eating. Can you imagine if Hungry Man tried to market themselves as healthier? It's kind of ridiculous isn't it?
But, of course, that is precisely what some brands have tried to do. Can you say McDonald's? No guts, no glory!
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, President of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.