Archives For brand as business

brand as purpose


More than a brand, Tesla is on a mission

On Sunday afternoon, as I was walking through the Sydney CBD past Armani and Gucci stores, I suddenly stumbled upon the Tesla car dealership – right in the middle of the high street shopping precinct. “That’s a first”, I thought, and so I strolled on in.

The Model X and Model S were on show, and they sure are beautiful looking cars, outside and inside. A young girl came over with an iPad to take down my details. She asked me about my interest, and I asked her about the price. The Model X starts from $150,000, and the Model S from $120,000. But there is a “cheaper more mass market” model” she told me, that will soon be available – the Model 3, starting around $60,000.

Since I’m not really than keen on dropping more than $100,000 on a car, I expressed some interest in the Model S. “Okay. May I suggest you put your name on the order list then. We will require a $1,500 deposit, and you can expect delivery of the car in 2020.”

In 2020! That’s a three-year waiting list for a $60,000 car. Incredible. All the more incredible if you consider how Tesla almost died as a brand and a business not that long ago.

After four rounds of finance, The Truth About Cars launched a “Tesla Death Watch” in May 2008, as Tesla needed a further round of financing to survive. In October 2008 Elon Musk became CEO, laid off 25% of Tesla’s workforce, and added another US$40 million in order to avoid bankruptcy. By January 2009, Tesla had raised US$187 million and delivered 147 cars. Elon Musk had contributed US$70 million of his own money to the company. A pretty precarious position for any company.

And what a turnaround it’s been since then. Tesla’s production plan is set to increase to a rate of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. Tesla is the top ranking car brand with respect to customer satisfaction, and the top American car brand (SOURCE: Consumer Reports).

But I reckon Tesla isn’t just a car, or even a brand in the sense that nearly every other for-profit company is a brand. Tesla is actually the ultimate mission — the mother of all missions — and that is, to wean our planet off its addiction to fossil fuels, helping to create a long-term sustainable society; one that our grandchildren can enjoy and be proud of.

No automaker that chooses to concurrently produce internal combustion engine vehicles, can ever be authenticated as having a ‘mission’ that is as purposeful and meaningful as Tesla’s is. This mission — in combination with a brilliant product — is the reason everyone wants to own a Tesla and the reason everyone wants to work for Tesla. And the reason I have to wait three years to buy one.

(Although I did get a sales call on Tuesday offering me a Tesla test drive experience – which I will be sure to take them up on).

brand as business


Freedom comes at too high a price

Millennials (Gen Y, born 1980-2000, aged 17-37) aren’t driving motorcycles. And that’s really hurting Harley-Davidson.

Investment management and research firm Alliance Bernstein downgraded Harley-Davidson’s rating from ‘outperform’ to plain ‘market perform’ in a note it sent to investors last week.

Alliance Bernstein analyst David Beckel said in the report that data showed Millennials just weren’t developing a passion for motorcycle riding the way previous generations have done.

Harley-Davidson bike sales in 2016 were down 1.6 per cent overall, compared to its 2015 figures, while the company’s US sales fell 3.9 per cent, according to Business Insider. This is a pretty significant drop, since Harley sales represent about half of the American big bike market.

So what’s happened? What’s happened to the love of “Easy Rider” freedom as expressed and felt on the long, open road?

Well it seems that Millenials were heavily impacted by the 2008 recession period they grew up in, and so are behaving more responsibly than previous generations.

Describing that recession period as a ‘very significant psychological scar’ that ‘severely negatively impacted’ one out of five US households at the time, Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger told Business Insider that, ‘If you think about the children in that house and how the length and depth of that recession really impacted people, I think you have an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits.’

Wow! An entire generation with permanently changed spending habits. So I’m guessing the “A completely irresponsible thing to do” Harley-Davidson ad campaign that ran in the 90s isn’t going to cut it with today’s battle-scarred Millennials.

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.