Hello, I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype

As you would expect, all the Apple Fanboys are hating on the new “I’m a PC” campaign from Microsoft.  In particular, bloggers are pouncing on the fact that the ad was likely created using a Mac.  In my opinion, this is just another example of Alan Wolk’s NASCAR Blindness where the left leaning, Mac loving writers of the online world completely miss the point because they have their blinders on.

The fact is, this new campaign is pretty clever for Middle America

Let me start by making some assumptions based on my experiences in the Mac vs PC debate.

  1. Apple’s most passionate Brand Advocates seem to be concentrated on the East and West Coast, especially in cities like New York and San Francisco.
  2. These Apple Fan Boys (and Girls) are more likely to be in a creative line of work (like advertising)
  3. They are reading media in places like the New York Times, where Apple has gotten so much praise for their “I’m a Mac” rich media buys.
  4. Apple celebrates their “trendiness” and the fact they are “cooler” than PC users.

So given these facts, I think the “I’m a PC” campaign is a brilliant move by Microsoft to shore up Middle America.  Put yourself in the shoes of a Microsoft Brand Manager.  You recognize the above assumptions but realize that the do not describe the majority of America.  Just as important, you realize that a lot of people might find Apple and their smarky spokesman Justin Long just a little too smug.  And finally you recognize that in this time of political division and economic uncertainty, people might appreciate advertising that does not play up stereotypes.

The new Microsoft ads work because they focus on what brings us together instead of what sets us apart. They work because they call out that most of us “are not what you call hip”… nor do we want to be.  They work because they show that PC users are not about stereotypes and looking down on others.  And they work because they are funny with things like “I turn #2 into energy” or “I’m a PC and I sell fish.”

My girlfriend Cindy summed it up best when she saw the ad during NFL football on Sunday.  She said, “now that’s an ad for someone that thinks its stupid to spend $3,000 on a Mac just because its cool.”  Enough said.

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The Art of (Brand Messaging) Storytelling in the Blogosphere

Guest post by Jory Des Jardins (jory@blogher.com) of BlogHer.

Earlier this year, my company started discussions with a client who was contemplating working with us on a word-of-mouth campaign around a new, launching product involving blogger reviews. In the background meeting we learned that the product had once been recalled. The client initially thought that this information should be suppressed but eventually came to agree with our approach to disclose this information.

I could understand the client’s initial rationale: For many marketers a “win” consists of seeing their message adopted by a media outlet, and ultimately by the customer– if not word for word, then at least positively. By providing bloggers with any negative information that would invariably be mentioned, the message is at risk.

And with social media there are many ways that a message can be misinterpreted; for instance, a blogger may overemphasize the product recall and not mention the new version’s value at all. Multiply this by the many formats currently available to customers, and you could see your misinterpreted message show up as a scathing blog post, unappealing photo, snarky poll item, dismissive tweet or overly simplified text message. [Read more...]

This One Time at BrandCamp

Just about every Brand Manager I know at P&G is a regular reader of Tom FishburneLike Dilbert to engineers, Fishburne is to marketers worldwide.  His sarcastic and witty cartoons bring to life what day to day life is really like for a Brand Manager.  Probably once a week I see a PowerPoint using one of his cartoons to poke fun at how we act in our jobs.

Ironically, despite the fact I have been reading his cartoons for over 5 years, I never took the time to learn about who the man is behind the pen.  Turns out he has been a marketer at General Mills and Nestle, now working at Method Products as their Senior Marketing Director of Europe. 

The Church of the Customer Blog recently posed 10 Questions to Fishburne in promotion for his new book “This One Time at BrandCamp.”  I loved this part of the interview, which just got a spot above my desk as well:

When I was at General Mills and Nestle I tacked this quote over my desk from Doug Hall: “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Corporations have an amazing array of checks, balances, and safety nets to prevent you from hitting the wall at ninety miles an hour. Be bold and brash. Develop a reputation for it.”

If you haven’t read Fishburne before, check out these 4 favorites of mine:

Al Ries and I don’t see eye-to-eye on Megabrands

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries is one of my favorite branding books out there.  In fact, it was one of the first books I read when I started full-time at P&G.  But though I generally have a ton of respect for Ries, I don’t see eye-to-eye with him in his latest AdAge article entitled “The Pitfalls of Megabranding.”

The reason is that Ries has the wrong definition of a “Megabrand”

Now let’s be clear; I agree with the basic premise of the article in that sku proliferation is a major problem in Consumer Packaged Goods.  Ries argues that brands are introducing too many flavor variations, such as the “11 flavors of Wheat Thins.”  These are more choices than a person needs, since they often just want the original flavor.  But that is a discussion for another post entirely.

What I want to point out is how Ries, one of the leading branding experts in the world, gets the concept of Megabrand wrong.  Here are the definitions that Ries uses for a Megabrand throughout the article, including how a “Megabrand” comes to be:

  • An innovative new product gets turned into a megabrand in a series of stages that can take decades.  
    • Stage 1: A company introduces a new brand that pioneers a new category. The brand stands for something specific and becomes red hot. 
    • Stage 2: No category can keep expanding forever. At some point, sales level off, so companies figure they need to do something to accelerate their growth, so they introduce line extensions.
    • Stage 3:After awhile, the numerous line extensions have undermined what the brand stands for. So the company decides to turn the extensions into brands and the brand into a “megabrand.”
  • “The whole idea of a megabrand is to strip the brand name of any actual meaning and turn it into a Paris Hilton. Famous for being famous.”

So the argument Ries makes is that a megabrand is a series of line extensions, including new flavors or skus within the core category, and that these extensions are done to provide “more choice.”  He even points out how P&G made a megabrand out of Olay and is doing it with Gillette at the moment. 

But I think Ries missed the mark on megabranding for two core reasons:

  1. Megabrands are not about new flavors, sizes or variants within the same category:  Ries is right about Goldfish, Wheat Thins and Gatorade having too many flavors.  But the fact these brands have multiple flavors and sizes within the same category is not a “pitfall of megabranding.”  A megabrand has nothing to do with having lots of sku’s….that is just about being a big brand with lots of sizes
  2. A megabrand is not about stripping the brand name of actual meaning…in fact it is just the opposite:   A Brand Manager can’t just wake up one day and say they are going to turn their brand into a megabrand.  It is a long process where you first have to create a distinctive equity and then you need to see what categories that equity would translate to.  Take Dove for instance, which proved the New York Times wrong when it emerged as a megabrand.  For years their bar soap stood for moisturizing.  They were able to extend that distinctive equity into deodorants, skin care and hair care because consumers gave them permission and believed in their equity.  And that is why Ries was right that Special K, Olay and Gillette are megabrands.  They have distinctive and ownable equites that can give them an unique position in categories they expand to.

Ries is generally dead-on with almost everything he writes about branding, positioning and marketing.  And he brings up a great debate when he says brands are bringing out new varieties just for the sake of new varieties.  But when it comes to saying that a meganbrand is just new flavors and line extensions without meaning, he is just plain wrong.

How to close the Brand Gap between strategy and creativity

Check out this great presentation on how to bridge the gap between Strategic Thinkers and Creative Thinkers.  Created by the folks at Neutron LLC, this is one of the better presentations out there on the subject of Brand Building.  Even better, Neutron’s website invites you to “Steal this Idea” with free downloads the cover other brand building basics.

Thanks to Anthony from Driven Leaders for passing this along