Thursday, May 31, 2012

Katie Couric Show Logo Revealed...Hail to the 'C?'

A second logo before your product even launches!?

Why not? Mother always said first impressions were everything.

And when you’re talking about launching a brand, the logo is a huge part of that impression. To ensure take-off, it has to capture the very essence of the product.

Making the proper rounds, Katie Couric joins ABC...

Shortly after leaving CBS in May of last year, Katie announced a deal with ABC to develop and host a day-time talk show starting in the fall of 2012. Now, that’s a lot of lead time.

To provide the media with something tangible to chew on, the network developed this creative:

Although never considered the final representation for the new deal, it served the simple utility of attaching to various press releases while capturing Ms. Couric’s aura perfectly.

Fast-forward a year, and it’s time to get real. The show’s Executive Producer announced earlier this week that the official premier of Katie will be Monday, September 10th.  Gone was the placeholder creative of soft purple, cursive writing and the smiling Couric herself.  

In its place, the show’s official logo:
Yea, this feels awkward to me. The first thing I thought of was ‘feminine hygiene.’ The color palate and circular movement feels a little too “Summer’s Eve” for me…
...Anyone else?
And was the oval-esq frame intended to be a “C” for “Couric,” or is that just a coincidence?

If I can force the thoughts of feminine care from my mind, it still feels a bit out of date – at best, early 2000s; at worst, late 80s jazzercise video.

Wait, is the logo meant to represent Katie, or ‘Katie?’

Maybe that’s our issue – we’re thinking about it the wrong way. While the first creative sample was designed to reign in Katie the person and all she may bring to the network in style and flavor, the second is tasked with representing the show itself – capturing its unique tone and intended (broader) position.

While we have no doubt the similarities between both the person and show will be many, it is important we try to separate the two in our minds – especially if Katie intends to host/guest interview on a variety of other ABC broadcasts.

Still, if the show’s logo is an accurate indication of what will inevitably manifest on-air, I don’t think the concept will take wing. America can love Katie but hate the box she’s put in. I guess we’ll find out come September…

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can Guinness Bring the QR Code Back to Life?

Depends; is your glass half-empty or –full?  

Earlier this year the creative minds of BBDO New York developed a quick response (QR) code campaign for Guinness that’s truly first of its kind – activated by the product itself!

That’s right, just when you thought QR codes had served their (proved devoid of) purpose, comes a new way to interact with the technology.

When empty or filled with a competing, amber-colored brewsky, the QR code is nothing more than an illegible, nonsensical spread of white squares. Only the dark, rich, signature black of a Guinness completes the code, turning the glass (and drink itself) into interactive and dynamic social media content.

But a QR code is only as good as where it takes you…

Like opening an elaborately wrapped Christmas gift only to find a single pair of white socks; the Guinness cup is cute, but for the most part, fails to impress.

Once scanned, the QR code acts as a conduit to all your social media personas. It can tweet about your Guinness pint, check you in on foursquare, update your status on Facebook – it even invites friends to join you out and provides you with coupons and other discount offers.

Then what?

No, seriously? It’s cool in that it’s unique and new. But after the novelty wears off (approximately 25 seconds), what is the user left with? I guess the subtle reminder that the rich, bold color and flavor of Guinness is unique in the marketplace? But just because it can activate a code doesn’t mean it is ideal for my palate.

Every brand thinks they need to use QR codes right now; that it will make them appear "hip" and "cool."

Creative teams – in-house and agencies alike – have got to learn to how to say, "No. QR codes are useless."

We don’t know what we expect QR codes to do exactly, but we’ll know it when we see it (and this isn’t it).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who is Mid-Calorie Soda For?

Coca-Cola announced this week that they’ll be testing mid-calorie versions of both their Sprite and Fanta brands this summer. Released in only four markets, Sprite and Fanta Select will boast half the calories of their regular counterparts and be comprised of a blend of both sugar and other artificial sweeteners, including Truvia.

Select comes on the heels of rival Pepsi’s introduction of NEXT earlier this year.
History Repeating

Both companies have been down the low-sugar/calorie road before – (Coke with C2 back in ‘01 and Pepsi with Edge in ’04). Each was pulled after disappointing sales.

‘Disappointing’ perhaps because no one identifies with middle-of-the-road cola!  

Who are these sodas for, exactly?

I recently had a lively discussion with a friend in the ‘biz. We agreed that over the natural course of time and by boasting two distinct tastes, regular and diet sodas are directed at two mutually-exclusive consumers.

Somewhere along the line, researchers must have concluded that “Diet” was perceived by some as feminine, leaving a segment of the soda market under-served.

Yes, men not quite comfortable enough with their sexuality to roam the office halls with a can of Diet were taking their hydration elsewhere.

And so, the decision was made to split the category by gender and the “masculinizing” of diet soda began.

Today, men can stay (comparatively) healthy with Pepsi One and Coke Zero – both seeming to boast “regular cola” taste.

Even Dr. Pepper jumped on the bandwagon last year. With Dr. Pepper 10, the aptly named 10-calorie alternate boasting traditional Dr. Pepper flavor, the company took a hardline approach to attracting men by denouncing women. 

They say variety is the spice of life

And so from time to time we get new flavors– cherry, vanilla, cherry vanilla, lemon, lime – all small attempts to infuse variety into otherwise routine cola purchases. And while these limited runs cannibalize classic flavor sales more than they produce net-new, with more selection comes the chance of increasing frequency and total brand consumption.

So, to recap: we’ve got regular, diet, men’s diet, and novel flavors from time to time (diet and regular).

Which brings me back to my first question:
Who is this new mid-caloric tier of cola designed for?

No clear target. No sizable hole to fill in the total cola marketplace. Is this a long-shot hope that with less sugar, cola might be welcomed back into schools? Is there a glimmer of hope that the new combination might one day replace the sugar-heavy recipe of original cola; even start to dominate in share of total sales?

This blogger remains unconvinced. I (still) see no way around a short life and quick demise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yankee Candle Mans Up?

The Yankee Candle Company (YCC) unveiled a new line of fragrances this week and their target couldn’t be more blatant.

Introducing, Man Candles!

That’s right, YCC must have tired of trying to devise new monikers for all the retooled floral and beach fragrances they typically launch this time of year.

But with Riding Mower, First Down, Man Town and 2x4 (all trademarked), what is the candle maker hoping to gain?

Men don’t buy candles

Let’s face it; home fragrancing is a woman’s priority. It just is.

I feel confident in saying this, as I managed a candle store back in college and could count on one hand the number of men that entered my store on a given day of their own volition. Most were either:
·              Lost (and looking for any other store but ours)
·              Buying a gift (because, well, girls/wives/moms dig candles)

And don’t get me wrong, the new fragrances are all welcomed editions to the line.

I tweeted not two months ago that Yankee needed to get in bed with Home Depot and devise a way to bottle the rich aroma of a lumber yard (as a matter of fact, I think I promised that I’d purchase several).

But can the smell of fresh saw wood only be appreciated through the nostril of a male?

In saying these four new editions are “MAN Candles” is Yankee Candle saying all others (some quite masculine in their own right) are engineered exclusively for our female counterparts?

If 30k Feet was on the job...

...we’d steer clear of any promotion mounted on the back of rigid, traditional gender roles.

Just because you've identified 'men' as a new target demo, doesn’t mean all promotional efforts need to approach it in explicit, almost stereotypical terms. It comes across disingenuous and cheap.

I mean, ‘Man Town' is the name you give the fragrance you suggest be lit in one's 'man cave?' Could there be anything less inspired or original? Can it get more cliché?

And if you're going to devise a separate line, invest!

Time, money, and care.

When Dove recently launched their men’s line, the advertising and packaging came across radically different. They knew their core brand skewed feminine and so they made an effort to really differentiate and woo male buyers.
Can't you just feel the 'woo?'
With YCC, it's obvious no one on the team belongs to or even researched the would-be buyer of 'Man Candles.'

'Beer-themed accessories' for one to decorate their jar with?! Has there ever been a collection of words more juxtaposed?! And the photo is styled the same as any other YCC image in recent years.
"Gee, Phil - your beer stein jar cling is SO macho!"
If candles aren’t on the average (straight) guys’ radar, and the few that do make home fragrance a priority aren’t making a special trip when one from Target will suffice (we should mention YCC has a line at Target, so bases covered there), would it have been so wrong to push the new agenda without alienating the base?

Something like:
"We've got floral, fruits, and the seashore covered. This summer, Yankee is bottling a few new seasonal scents that are sure to excite the whole family" (Image of nuclear family, father featured prominently, and grinning ear to ear as his wife offers him a nose-full of “First Down”).

If you want to make a harder case for men and these candles, veil it with a 'just in time for Father's Day' promo and target women.  They’re (still) your buyer - (even when it comes to fragrancing the man cave).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

JBS only wants 'REAL' men in their underwear (whatever that means)...

I was exploring Tumblr the other day when I came across a unique take on advertising male underwear:
A promotion crafted for JBS Group – premier manufacturer of men’s underwear and other furnishings out of Denmark since 1939, the ad breaks the mold held by traditional men’s underwear advertisements which more often than not opt to feature scantily clad and sculpted male models. Instead, it fuses ultra-slim, sexy female models into traditional male activities.  

When I went to peruse the company’s website for more information, I was a bit caught off guard at what greeted me on the homepage:
"JUST FOR," eh?

Presumably intended to fend off a JBS-defined sub-species of men; perhaps those prone to more feminine mannerisms, proud metrosexuals, and (if you dare go so far as to even consider them part of the male archetype) homosexuals?

Now, I’m not here to assume whether JBS is either for or against gay rights. Regardless of any specific issue, my notion of family run organizations is that they often lack introspection and an adequate pool of naysayers within PR.

Let’s assume JBS meant no harm or legit exclusion and that they’ll take anyone’s money; straight, bi or gay.

Does the ad even work on “real” men?

We doubt it.

For one thing, “real” men, (we’re asking you to pull out your deepest held stereotypes here) machismo overflowing, don’t give a crap (no pun intended) whether their undies are clean, let alone CK versus Hanes. They put little to no credence on advertisements when making their selections.

Who buys Mr. Man’s undies? His wife. Do you think ads that play up perfect-bodied alternates bode well with her? Do they foster brand loyalty or erode self-esteem?

Men Don't Want to Look at Naked Men?


The fact of the matter is all men, (gay and straight alike), have a predisposition towards comparison. 

The traditional ads work at selling underwear because, on a sub-conscious (non-sexual) level, buyers see idealistic versions of themselves in the ads. In that sense, and on a very rudimentary level, the purchase can become as much aspirational as it is functional.

Bottom line – keep the male models. “Real” men have other outlets from which they can score soft-core porn. They aren’t looking for it when they’re buying underpants.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hop off the subway and buy your groceries -- before ever coming up for air...

As we discussed last month in a separate review, online grocery shopping and home delivery services are still in their infancy. But regional leader Peapod is stepping up their promotional efforts with the installation of a massive, visually stunning campaign right here in the heart of Chicago.

Located inside the heavily traversed passageways of the CTA Lake St. Station – a Red Line subway stop serving the upper right quadrant of the Loop – the interactive promotion is both equal parts brand-building and revenue-seeking.

While Chicago is Peapod’s largest market, the online grocer first tested the virtual store campaign in Philadelphia train stations last month.

A Real Game-Changer for Advertising in Public Spaces

The nearly 60-foot tunnel was transformed into a virtual supermarket aisle overnight.

By more closely resembling traditional store aisle/shelf layout, the campaign does little to put would-be customers at ease with the very different buying experience presented to them on the web.

It does however articulate the hip/fresh energy of the brand itself.

Ad copy encourages smartphone users to scan and buy from an assortment of Peapod’s best sellers.
Two bonus incentives are designed to:
          a. attract new customers - $20 off first orders 
          b. earn their repeat patronage – Free shipping for first 60 days

But let’s face it; is anyone really going to buy from the ad?

It’s estimated that some 17,000+ passengers trudge through the Lake St. Station every day. Would you come to a screeching halt and start pointing your phone at a sticker; all the while immersed in a sea of fast-moving commuters and starry-eyed tourists?

So, no –a few may buy, but not many. But that’s not the point.

Although fundamentally both brand awareness and retailing, we don’t think anyone at Peapod is looking for the campaign to become a legitimate channel of distribution.

The installation is really all about generating buzz and encouraging online trial.

During the campaign’s 12 week run, it will coyly tease CTA train-riders; many no doubt over-worked and stretched for time.

Day in, day out – in its own omnipresent way – the promo will challenge city dwellers to re-envision their grocery-getting routine. With Peapod, you’ll no longer need to find the time or energy. You won’t have to brave inclement weather or lug heavy packs of soda and awkward shaped sacks of dog food.

Simply download the app or login online, build, save, and send grocery lists, and be dressed when the delivery guy comes a knockin’!

"Transfers Available via Peapod 'Virtual Store'"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

W-W-Who Wore it Best?

Ok, we realize this story is nearly a year old – but it has been a bit of a “new logo dry spell” as of late and we can barely stand it.

You’re probably not as logo-obsessed as us, so allow me to bring you up to speed on what we’re calling –  a Tale of Two (Three?) ‘Ws.’

So Walgreens filed a lawsuit with Wegmans, alleging that family-owned, NY-based grocer’s newly unveiled logo infringed upon the drugstore’s unique identity, establishing the likelihood of unfair competition through dilution and ultimately, brand confusion. 
Here’s the two brand marks, stacked:

There’s only so many ways to draw a “W”

Walgreens had reason to be upset, but Wegmans’ proposed change in image wasn’t new – looking back over the brand’s rich history, one could easily see the brand used a similar type-face in the 30s – adding merit to the notion the change was as likely a tribute to the brand’s heritage as it was a conspiracy to erode any part of Walgreens business.

Faced with empirical evidence of the logo’s past, Walgreens narrowed their case. The national drugstore chain focused more specifically on the likelihood of confusion between shorthand versions of each that simply feature scripted “Ws” – a look Walgreen’s has trademarked for their Pharmacy and pharmaceutical products.
Both companies have a tendency to opt for the space-saving versions of their brand on private label items and most interactive/social media promotions.

So, what did they settle on?

Wegmans must discontinue its use of the “W” logo by June 30th of this year. It was determined that by that time, much of the stock already produced with the scripted “W” would have been depleted, and that Wegmans would have been able to revise packaging without a undue amount of monetary stress.

The supermarket retains the right, however, to continue using the full “Wegmans” name in script.

Someone Needs to Take [Walgreens] Out to the Ballgame…

We agree Walgreens pursuit of Wegmans was not without merit, but what about the Washington Nationals?
They’ve used their scripted “W” for nearly fifty years (without registration) and it’s nearly IDENTICAL to Walgreens’ mark! And yet, Walgreens has brought no action.

What does it prove?

While brand is huge, the scuffle between Walgreens and Wegmans demonstrates how increasingly delicate the situation can become when one narrows their view down to like industry. High stakes are raised even higher when business are vying for the same pool consumer dollars.

Should the Nationals begin using their “W” on household items, we may face quite a different future.

You have to own your position and guard it with your life.

It can stretch far beyond logos and taglines as well – in-store and online, Target would never use blue and Walmart wouldn’t dare use red.

Brand. Is. Everything.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gap Jumps on the Gay-vertising Bandwagon... signature GAP style – a few years too late.

Original Source: Towleroad
As a gay man, I know I should be overjoyed to see more and more corporate brands placing ads that show their support for gay rights. And this one, even with its simple subtlety, shouts it from the rooftop!

I’ve known that I was gay since I was 15, but I’ve known I was a cynic longer. And as a cynic, I can’t shake the feeling that pro-gay ads walk a fine line between support and pandering of the highest order.

Pro-Gay or Pro-Green?

We touched on it a bit back in March where we discussed Abercrombie’s seemingly pro-gay ad (although not yet deployed in any meaningful way).

You have to question the authenticity of brands just now making it a point to promote alternative lifestyles within their advertisements – especially fashion retailers who, if I may be real for just a minute, have already been associated with the lifestyle for years!

There’s no denying Gap has had a lethargic go at it this millennium.

The brand has become a watered-down version of its former self – unable to connect with consumers.
With their “BE ONE” campaign, the mall staple is trying to recapture the sense of cool they owned in the 90s.

But there’s still something about it that seems disingenuous.

I mean, real pro-gay supporters were shouting it from the rooftops before it was cool!

Gap’s endorsement feels lukewarm – like parents who took a lot of time to warm up to the idea of their kid being gay, and even still today, would prefer them not tell the neighbors.

Gay or Straight, what do you think?

Will you be falling (back) into the Gap anytime soon?