Posts filed under ‘Advertising’

Top 6 Marketing Mistakes Companies Will Make in 2010

By Mike Kolbrener

1.     Not Narrowing your Focus: Find your target audience and gear your marketing efforts to that audience. Trying to appeal to everyone typically does not work.

2.    Inconsistency in your Marketing Efforts: You need to have the same look and feel across all of your ads, promotions, and overall marketing efforts. This is a critical part of creating a consistent brand.

A thorough marketing report
will guide you throughout the year.

3.     No Clear Marketing Message: Marketing messages that are complicated, contrived, too subtle or too long can easily miss the target market entirely. Your efforts are wasted if no one understands what you’re selling.

4.     Tactics with No Strategy: Sending marketing messages into the world without an overlying “big picture” strategy will waste your company’s time and money.

5.     Confusing Marketing with Sales: Marketing and sales are two different disciplines that must compliment each other. Marketing defines the audience, builds awareness and generates the interest. Sales should hunt down those who show interest and bring new customers in the door. Connecting your sales process with your marketing process is critical.

6.     Extraneous Activity: Attending networking events, sending out marketing materials, writing blog posts, etc. are all necessary, but if they are compromising your company’s sales activity, you are probably putting your company at risk.


December 1, 2009 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

AT&T vs. Verizon

By Kirk Littell
A heavyweight ad battle continues to rage during commercial breaks across America. It’s a somewhat equitable battle in terms of dollars spent but my scorecard shows AT&T getting drubbed by Verizon in terms of creativity.

AT&T continues to advertise in “damage control mode” after Verizon’s recent onslaught of ads, with a new spot featuring actor Luke Wilson. If you watched any TV over the weekend you invariably saw him standing in the middle of the US map where he tosses postcards to all of the locations covered in AT&Ts 3G network. This spot is very tedious as he slowly reads city names one by one and adds odd “fun facts” as he throws the cards. The initial ad gains some momentum when you see a second commercial where he continues to throw cards until the map is bursting with them. Kudos on that media buy, but this pair seems like a big “so what”.

All of this was of course brought on by Verizon’s choice to deride AT&T’s coverage areas in multiple ads that coincided with the release of it’s new 3G phone, The Droid. They turned the iPhone’s “There’s an app for that” line into “There’s a map for that” and started attacking the largest US phone company with said maps. This ad (seen in the photo above) uses a classic holiday special to compare the networks. But as entertaining as these commercials are, comparing the maps side-by-side isn’t exactly fair. Or at least that what AT&T argues in their lawsuit against Verizon, saying that they do have 2G coverage in the areas that are not 3G-ready. (Verizon’s map for AT&T only depicts the 3G areas and nothing more; they’ve omitted the 2G and 2.5G coverage areas.) reports: “U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten said that while the ads, which use maps to compare the companies’ third-generation networks, might be “sneaky” or “clever,” they are “literally true.” AT&T will have another chance to ask the court to prohibit the ads in a Dec. 16 hearing. Batten said AT&T is unlikely to prevail.”

Stay tuned, and if you read this blog with your 3G device just stay out of Death Valley, I don’t think either wireless carrier covers it – yet.

November 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm Leave a comment

Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pathway to the Promise

By Kirk Littell

This is a TV spot AXIS recently created for the Pittsuburgh Public Schools to help promote the “Pathway to the Promise” to ensure that every student is “Promise-Ready”, meaning that they are academically eligible to receive up to $5,000 per year towards their post-secondary education (college, vocational school, etc.) This is one part of a larger branding strategy that AXIS developed for PPS around promoting this program to the community. It is their commitment to build a culture of expectations, promote aspirations for higher education, and ensure that students are on course to be eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships.

November 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

Whatever Happened to Parental Responsibility?

By Mike Kolbrener

The week’s Advertising Age reports that even after Big Food, 11 major food marketers including Kellogg, Kraft Foods, General Mills and Unilever, voluntarily shifted or eliminated $1 billion in kid-targeted junk-food marketing, critics, watchdogs and regulators such as Federal Trade Commission’s Jon Leibowitz are now pressing for more restrictions on more marketers including media companies. They are going after Viacom, Time Warner, the TV Networks as well as ConAgra, Chuck E. Cheese and Burger King.

The FTC is preparing subpoenas for 44 food and fast-food companies to examine how they are marketing products to kids. What does this mean? Coca-Cola and Hershey’s won’t aim advertisements at kids younger than 12. Mars/Masterfoods won’t advertise any of its candies to kids. PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Kellogg, General Mills, McDonald’s, Unilever and Campbell Soup will limit all their marketing of food to children younger than 12 to more healthy foods. No more Cap’n Crunch. No more “Silly Rabbit” (Trix). No more Count Chocula. Possibly, no more Happy Meals. These developments make me take pause and ask whatever happened to parental responsibility? I don’t see kids younger than 12 checking-out at the grocery store. I’ve never witnessed an 8-year-old placing their order at McDonald’s or Burger King.

Does Congress really need to mandate a study of how products are advertised to kids? Rather than following in the footsteps of “No Child Left Behind”, another federal initiative that has removed parental accountability in the education of our nation’s children, maybe Congress should look at the state of parenting in America. When I was 8 years old in 1980, there were advertisements for Cap’n Crunch during Speed Racer, Big League Chewing Gum during GI Joe, and Hershey bars during the Justice League.

I could have probably sung the Big Mac song, word for word. This didn’t mean I ate Cap’n Crunch for breakfast every morning, chewed gum and devoured Hershey bars all day and ate at McDonald’s every night. Why? My parents. My parents dictated my diet. My parents were involved in my education. My parents . . . well, they were freakin parents. Today, I see too many parents shifting the blame and not taking on the responsibility they should. It’s not my fault or Billy’s fault he’s failing, it’s the teacher, the school, or the school district. It’s not my fault Cindy isn’t healthy.

“It’s all the marketing for the junk-food. I’m compelled to buy it for her.” Really?! I do applaud Big Food for the steps they have taken, but I am equally dismayed as to why they need to.

October 6, 2009 at 4:40 pm 2 comments

All-Bran: Take a load off

All-Bran cereal has a new commercial, which really speaks to the brand’s promise.

By Mike Kolbrener

The construction worker in the commercial had problems staying regular until he tried All-Bran. The advertisement never comes out and says what ‘staying regular‘ is or how All-Bran will help, but their metaphors are pretty hard to miss (especially 16 seconds into the commercial).

Makes a pretty cool viral video too. Via Ad Rants.

October 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Branding from the Inside Out

By Mike Kolbrener

Back in October of 2007, John Quelch of WPP and professor since 1979 at the Harvard Business School, shared his insight with Laura Mazur and Louella Miles regarding the power of “branding an ingredient” as a key to better marketing a larger or more complex product or service. “When is the provider of the final product or service willing to compromise its own brand-building to add the ingredient brand on the package as well as in advertising? There are four conditions:

  1. The ingredient is highly differentiated, usually supported by patent protection, and so adds an aura of quality to the overall product. Think Gore-Tex for water resistant rainwear.
  2. The ingredient is central to the functional performance of the final product. Think Shimano gear systems on performance bicycles or Monsanto’s Nutrasweet, added to Equal sweetener.
  3. The final products are not well-branded themselves, either because the category is relatively new, because customers buy infrequently or because there is low perceived differentiation among the options. Think about all of Dupont’s ingredient brands for clothing, from Rayon through Lycra.
  4. The final products are complex, assembled from components supplied by multiple firms who may sell the “ingredients” separately in an aftermarket. Think cars with Michelin tires, Dolby stereo systems and Champion spark plugs. “

October 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

Independent Hotel Branding (Is the best surprise no surprise?)

By Mike Kolbrener

Back in the 1970s, Holiday Inn revolutionized the hotel industry with their concept of homogenizing the hospitality experience for America. Increasingly, travelers wanted to know exactly where they were going to stay when they got weary. Thus was born the branded hotel as we know it today, the same here as it is there as it is everywhere. Holiday Inn created an expected level of value and experience that was solidified in their new 1975 tagline, “The Best Surprise is No Surprise”. Theirs was a promise of low prices, consistent quality, and convenient locations to a generation of Americans heading out for the highway for business and pleasure.

Jumping ahead 35 years we can see the relative benefits and challenges that a branded world of hospitality has brought to the world. Hyatt, Hilton, Westin, Doubletree, W and Holiday Inn have all cemented their own brands and extensions of those brands so that everyone knows exactly what they will get when they walk into the lobby anywhere in the world. There is truly no more surprise for millions of travelers who have come to expect, and demand, the attributes that these brands deliver on a consistent basis.

One might conclude that this branded hotel evolution would have resulted in the absolute destruction the independent hotel market. Not so. In fact over the last 15 years, the growth in supply for independent segment has trailed the branded segment by only 4 to 5%. Also, what independent hotels might lose to branded hotels in total occupancy, they typically make up for in average daily rate (ADR).

So what is the real challenge for the independent hotel in a world dominated by brands? It is imperative that the independent hotel owner takes branding as seriously as their branded competitors. That means developing a brand strategy plan way in advance of hiring the architect, the interior designers, the food and beverage experts, the ad agency and the hotel staff. The independent hotel must nail down exactly whom they are going to serve. They must define that audience (persona) from both a demographic and psychographic perspective. It’s critical, because that’s exactly what the branded hotels do.

When you check into a Westin, you know exactly what type of guest is going to be there. What you want as an independent may a very different guest, one who is looking for a unique hospitality experience, one that they can not get at a branded hotel. This is the great opportunity, to provide this new expectation of value and experience that is unique to your offering. Going this any other way will create a hospitality property that is undefined and adrift.  Marketing becomes an enormously expensive and ineffective when you don’t really know exactly who you are marketing to.  Once both transient and group targets are defined, you can build a brand strategy around them.

One independent boutique hotel that has done a tremendous job of creating a unique experience unmatched by any branded hotel is The Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Well-defined guest personas are articulated in all branding, marketing, food and beverage as well as in room amenities. Hard to get it right, and they’ve done it right.

Once you’ve built a brand strategy, you can call back the architects, designers and f&b folks. Now you have a brand, now you can build, now you can fill the rooms with the confidence that you’ve done your homework and can provide something that the branded hotels can not, because sometimes the best surprise is a well thought out and unique surprise.

October 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment


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