Archives For brand as business

brand as story


Shuffling the NO SUGAR cards at Coca-Cola

So Coca-Cola is set to remove Coke Zero from Australian shops with the launch of Coca-Cola No Sugar. This is the third sugar-free product the brand has launched, with Diet Coke launching in 1983 and then Coke Zero in 2006.

I helped Coca-Cola reposition Coke Zero shortly after it launched. When Coca-Cola launched Coke Zero they targeted young guys, assuming that girls looking for a no sugar option would choose Diet Coke. This isn’t in fact what happened. 25+ female drinkers stuck to Diet Coke since it was a taste they had acquired and now preferred. Young female drinkers chose Coke Zero because it tasted most like Coca-Cola, the taste they were used to and the taste they preferred.

So we went for a more gender neutral positioning: “Real (Coca-Cola) Taste. Zero Sugar.” This was the promise – you get the great taste of Coca-Cola, just without the sugar. But it seems Coca-Cola have now come up with something even better, declaring that Coca-Cola No Sugar is “the best-tasting no sugar cola yet”.

Oh, and here I am thinking that, that was Coke Zero. “Coca-Cola Zero is already a great tasting drink, but we think with this new recipe,” the press release says, “we’ve been able to get even closer to the taste of Coca-Cola Classic/Original Taste.”

OK, well lets have a look at the recipes of Coke Zero and Coca-Cola No Sugar (the list of ingredients anyway). Both contain caffeine, phenylalanine, and the exact same sweeteners (950 and 951). In fact both contain exactly the same ingredients except that Coke Zero has 28mg Sodium, whereas Coca-Cola No Sugar only has 10.5mg Sodium. I find this curious, since Coca-Cola (the original taste) has 25mg Sodium, more in line with Coke Zero. But then Coca-Cola No Sugar also has a thing called “Flavour”, which Coke Zero doesn’t have. This must be the “magic” ingredient that makes Coca-Cola No Sugar taste more like Coca-Cola that Coke Zero does.

Or is it all just brand and marketing hype? Same stuff with pretty much the same ingredients, just a different spin and use of the words NO SUGAR in a world that is turning away from sugar. Because just saying Coke Zero apparently isn’t enough, since too many drinkers didn’t know (apparently) that Coke Zero has NO SUGAR in it. So Coca-Cola needed to really spell it out for a world that has the attention span of a gnat.

On top of this Coca-Cola have changed their global tagline from “Open happiness” to “Taste the feeling”, with a very Instagram-looking type of photographic style and art direction. Personally I way prefer “Open happiness” – or “Happiness in a bottle” as an overall brand positioning and promise. “You can’t beat the feeling” was their global tagline in the 80s/90s, and so their new tagline takes me back to a time when Coca-Cola pretty much lost its way as a brand.

As for the people who now prefer the taste of Coke Zero … tough shit. This is business after all, and if there’s one thing Coca-Cola know how do really well it’s keeping and growing their “share of mouth”.

brand as business


Does anyone give a shit?

So today my Global Brand Guru ranking moved from #12 to #3. And I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

But here’s the question. Does it matter? Is it a big deal? Does anyone give a shit?

On the one hand … no, it’s not a big deal. It’s just a ranking done by a research organisation called Global Gurus. Importantly though, they make their revenue from advertisers on their sites, which means you can’t “buy” your ranking or have it influenced by money. And their criteria for judging the TOP 30 is categorically marked on the basis of the following factors:

  • Public opinion – 30%
  • Originality of ideas – 30%
  • Impact of original ideas – 10%
  • Practicality of ideas – 10%
  • Presentation style (boring gurus get lower points) – 10%
  • Number of publications and writings – 5%
  • Other considerations – 5%

On the other hand, it is a big deal for a guy who calls himself The Brand Guy, who has no big company brand name behind him, who works out of a small office in Surry Hills, and who needs clients to trust him when it comes to branding their business and organisation. After all, just about everyone is some sort of brand expert, right? Like, how hard can it be to write a decent Vision, Mission, and Value Proposition? And is it really worth the $50,000 or so dollars he’s charging us? Can’t we just find a guy online in Poland to do it for $2,000?

Needles to say I take pride in my work. And while my output seems (and is) clean, clear, and simple – it’s something people and organisations CAN get their head around and actually implement and act upon – great branding is not simple.

Great branding is a unique combination of left and right brain, working together into a whole that makes sense AND makes hearts race with excitement and anticipation. Great branding is the art of reduction – taking thousands of ideas, opinions, pages of research, and hours of conversations and reducing it all to a Brand Essence; a simple statement or phrase or idea that drives everything your people and your organisation says and does. Great branding tells YOUR story, by using language that starts at the top (CEO/MD), is original, that engages your people, and is true.

At the end of the day the success of your business is not going to be determined by quality or professionalism. It’s about faith, belief, conviction, courage, meaning, and reputation. And that’s exactly what a great brand is.

So thanks to Global Gurus for endorsing my brand.

brand as business


the-pwc-seal-on-the-card-are-the-initials-of-pricewaterhousecoopers-the-accounting-company-that-tallies-the-votesHow to fuck up your brand in an instant

PwC is one of the biggest auditors around the world, and is a brand that has built its reputation on accuracy.

And so they have been trusted to handle the Oscar tabulation process for 83 years – the technically challenging task of counting the votes, writing the name of the winner on a card, and then handing the right card to the right person giving out the right award.

This week they fucked up royally. The two PwC accountants who were supposed to be taking care of the envelopes were instead backstage taking pics of celebrities and posting them on Twitter.

It led to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway telling millions of viewers that La La Land had won best picture – the top award of the night – rather than the actual winner Moonlight.

Instead of springing into action, the accountants froze backstage when things went wrong. And so the producers of La La Land got as far as giving their acceptance speeches before proceedings were corrected, and the cast and crew of Moonlight were invited to collect their Oscar.

It took a further three hours before PwC admitted their error, and took responsibility. No doubt they were trying to find a way to wrangle out of the mess. Five days later PwC are “still investigating” what went wrong and “how this could have happened”. And they have said nothing on their website to explain themselves either … yet.

The debacle is seen as the Academy’s worst blunder in its 89 year history. The two PwC accountants responsible have been banned from attending future ceremonies. And the Academy’s relationship with PwC is under review.

Brands go to extraordinary lengths to protect their image and reputation and to be seen as good corporate citizens. History is littered by examples when a hard-won reputation nosedives — from sporting legends Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong to business giants like BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and Volkswagen after its emissions cheating scandal.

In his remarks before the show, one of the PwC accountants had said PwC’s relationship with the Academy Awards is testament to the firm’s reputation in the market for being “a firm of integrity, of accuracy and confidentiality”.

When billions of dollars worth of financial auditing and legal-advisory services flow through your offices each year, it’s important to reassure clients that your firm is diligent, detail-oriented and accurate. So when a representative from PwC couldn’t keep a couple of envelopes straight at the Academy Awards, it’s way more than an embarrassing flub. It’s a symbolic hit to what the firm’s brand stands for.





Input versus Output. A modern workplace dilemma.

It’s been a long Tuesday morning at the office, and you’re hanging for lunch. Time has dragged, and it’s just one of those days when you’re feeling “meh”. You don’t have any meetings in the afternoon, you’ve spent the morning mooching around and not achieving much, and you keep thinking how you’d love to take the afternoon off and go see that new movie everyone is raving about.

Sadly your employment contract forbids this – you know, the bit on page 8 that says “office hours are 8.30 am to 5.30 pm with a one hour break for lunch”. Not that you are literally required to ‘clock-in’ and ‘clock-out’ of work like a factory worker – unless you are a factory worker. These days the 8.30-5.30pm rule is more self-policed, and should you have the audacity to take off at 4.45pm you’ll get incredulous looks from your co-workers as you make your way to the elevator with your bag over your shoulder. Plus a few “bring your sandwiches and make a full day of it tomorrow” comments.

My point is that the whole emphasis in workplaces is on input, quantity, and the number of hours worked. I get that in an industrial workplace that’s kind of important. People who work in a factory doing the same task over and over will get more done if they work 8 hours than if they work 4 hours. But what about thinkers? What about designers? What about creators? What about a person who’s output is in no way related to the number of hours they work? But they are still working in a place that has industrial rules, and that is both misplaced and restrictive.

Let’s focus for a moment on output. Output has nothing to do with time whatsoever because the goalposts have shifted. I don’t care how or where the people who work for me spend their time. I just care about their output. If their output is awesome, and it took them less time, then good on them. And if seeing a movie on a Tuesday afternoon gets your creative juices flowing a little more, and improve your output, then go see a movie.

The immediate problem that arises here is that of timesheets. Most service providers, especially companies who work in the advertising and marketing sector, charge their clients by the hour. That’s how they make money. And that’s the BIG problem. Clients need to pay thinkers and creators for the value of their ideas, not for their time – for their output, not their input.

The “Just Do It” campaign allowed Nike to increase its share of the North American domestic sport-shoe business from 18% to 43% from 1988 to 1998. In dollar terms their business grew from $877 million to $9.2 billion in worldwide sales. Now I don’t know who came up with the tagline, “Just Do It”, and I don’t know how long it took them either. But I bet Wieden+Kennedy didn’t charge Nike by the hour.