Archives For brand power

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 culture


Employees work at Digital Risk LLC headquarters in Maitland last spring (April 2011). Digital Risk is a fast-growing player in the mortgage risk technology industry, Thursday, April 21, 2011. Sales have jumped more than tenfold in recent years and the company has hired hundreds locally and opened offices in New York, Dallas, Denver and Jacksonville. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) Newsgate ID: B581217060Z.1 to go with richard burnett CFB story

The things that money can’t buy

You can buy a person’s time.

You can buy a person’s physical presence at a given place.

You can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour per day.

But you cannot buy enthusiasm.

You can’t buy initiative.

You cannot buy loyalty.

You cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds and souls.

You have to earn these things. And that’s just what great branding does.

brand power


How positive brand affinity drives our choices

Cigarette advertising has come a long way. As has cigarette packaging. I ran a small agency called Neon Pigeon in the mid 1990s, and we developed the ad campaign that launched the new health warnings on cigarette packs (SMOKING KILLS). At that time it was a health warning label stuck onto the fully branded cigarette pack.

In December 2012 plain packaging was introduced, with even a not a hint of branding – no logo, no typeface, no colours, no design elements. Cigarette packs are all a single colour – ‘Pantone 448 C opaque couché’ (apparently the world’s ugliest colour) – the brand names are written in a standard font, size and location, and the health warnings cover 60% of the pack.

And so the million dollar question is, “Has this worked? Are people less attracted to smoking simply because the packs are devoid of any and all branding?”

It seems the proof is in the packaging. New figures, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), show that there was a general decrease in the smoking rate following the introduction of the plain packaging laws. The results from the survey demonstrate a drop from 15.1 per cent in 2010 to 12.8 per cent in 2013. Tobacco sales are at their lowest in history at $3.405 billion.

Of course the steep rises in tobacco taxes have contributed to the marked drop in the smoking rate. But it appears that the drop in smoking popularity is heavily attributed to a loss of brand identity and positive brand affinity.

When I took up smoking in the South African Defence Force at the age of 19 (2 years compulsory National Service), my brand of choice was Camel. Looking back I guess I must have identified pretty strongly with the “Camel man”.


brand power


How Samsung’s brand reputation plummeted from 7 to 49

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone has become notorious for spontaneously exploding. The owner of the Jeep in the pic above had a Note 7 charging on the dashboard when it exploded and set his vehicle on fire.

Events such as this has led to the Note 7 being banned from carriage on many airlines, and eventually triggered a worldwide recall of the model in November 2016 that cost Samsung $5 billion.

Having your smartphone catch fire seemingly at random does not instil confidence in consumers. And so the Samsung brand has plummeted from 7th to 49th in the most recent brand reputation survey, the US Reputation Quotient Ratings, released by Harris Poll, after coming an impressive 3rd in 2015. Ratings agency Fitch Thursday said that the potential long-term brand damage from Samsung’s move to scrap the Galaxy Note 7 was a greater threat to the Korean smartphone maker’s A+ or stable credit profile, rather than a direct financial impact.

Brand intangibles such as customer loyalty, prestige and positive brand recognition are Samsung’s most valuable asset, and clawing back a damaged corporate reputation can be a long, painful and expensive business. Just ask German carmaker VW, which is still trying to restore its good name following last year’s emissions scandal, when it was revealed to have used software to lower how much pollution its diesel engines released under test conditions.

Samsung are now in the throes of launching the Galaxy S8, and their biggest battle is convincing the public that the phone won’t explode in their pocket. Well I guess that’s half the battle – the other half is actually making sure it doesn’t.

Needless to say there is a lot riding on this phone, not only as it is their flagship product, but Samsung will also be looking to make up lost earnings from the explosive Note 7.

Samsung’s mission statement is “Inspire the world, create the future”. I hope they get it right this time round.