You've Got Questions. We've Got Questions.
For retailers, product portfolios are the brand. We used to have two RadioShacks within three blocks of our office. We would go in looking for batteries, braced up for a high-pressure pitch to buy a new wireless plan. Now, no more RadioShacks in the neighborhood. Too bad, the battery selection was great.
RadioShack makes half of its profits, and a quarter of its revenues, selling cell phones and wireless plans. But what is the cost? The market for wireless is mutton-mature, the competition is chilling and telcos themselves have better brand platforms for selling their own services.
We have been worried about you RadioShack!
The old standby wants to become "more of a leader than a follower" according to VP Andy Berman by helping inventors who need help with funding, manufacturing and distribution. The plan is part of the company's new Business Innovation Team and was supported by a recent summit with electronics developers.
We’d love to see this work. The idea here is fantastic. More companies need to consider taking a “bottom up” approach to re-inventing their brands (rather than spending millions promoting meaningless fictions). But if this is going to work, it’s going to require more than some partnership announcements. We have many associations with the RadioShack brand, none have anything to do with innovation. We buy the batteries somewhere else now, and we need some reason to come back.
A pet peeve: advertising that has nothing to do with the realities of a company’s brand. You see it all the time, as creative teams out-think themselves and their clients. Possibly the most egregious example is Citi’s “Live Richly” campaign. For those not unfortunate enough to live in one of the 6 cities subjected to the campaign, imagine Lou Dobbs dressed up as a Tibetan monk and you have some idea of the concept.
We had basically gotten to the point where we could just ignore the campaign, but while our local branch yesterday, the discrepancy between the actual Citi brand experience and the conceit of the campaign was too much to bear. Just venting.
Our local furniture store is closing. For a week now there has been a guy with a sandwich board at the corner of the street advertising "Everything Must Go!". It is, perhaps, the only consistency in the store's marketing to date.
The major retailer, whose name will go unmentioned for the sake of not kicking a man when he is down, promised hand-crafted, solidly-built furniture. Promised. The reality was a little different: wobbly tables and chairs that, after less than a year, kept coming unglued. When we took the chairs back to see about a refund or replacement we were told "oh, those chairs, yeah, we've always had trouble with them! You can write the company headquarters to complain but no one is going to listen." Maybe no one wanted to listen but no one wanted to buy either. Ah, the dangers of a promise come unglued.
Capabilities Presentations from Hell
Why, oh why do so many companies have capabilities presentations from hell? You know the ones. They start with a slide that says "Who We Are" and then proceeds into a series of case studies. Maybe, if you're "lucky", there's a Methodology Diagram in between. Hell ends with another slide of bullet points that says "Why You Should Do Business With Us." Easy to create when you're inside a company and are overwhelmed with the wonderful things the firm does. Painful to sit through if you're a prospect wondering whether anyone is going to listen to what you need. We advise: be distinctive, tell a story, have a point of view. You don't really need a prospect if all you want to do is talk about yourself.
Let the games begin. Again.
So Apple iTunes is now available for the ninety-some percent of computer users on Windows. The 99cent/song business model has been a rapid success for Apple. The brilliant 1-2 punch combination with the runaway iPod was largely credited for this week's impressive earnings announcement.
After having been effectively shutdown by the recording industry, Napster has struggled to reinvent itself, leveraging an overnight brand powerhouse while moving away from its greymarket P2P roots. Seems however, that the move to respectability was made with a little too much verve. The new Napster will only be supporting Microsoft’s WMA format as a way of better controlling digital rights. Problem being that most hardware that is out there (including the pacesetting iPod) do not play WMA.
A fascinating premise for a market battle and one which we will watch closely.
Funny, silly banks
So the other day we were doing a little tour of banks in the neighborhood. Stopped by HSBC to ask about their small business accounts and started chatting with the service rep. Always a good idea.
"So what does HSBC stand for, anyway?" we asked somewhat disingenuously. (Okay, very disingenuously.)
Nothing could have prepared us for her response.
“Happy Satisfied Banking Customers.”
Is that the official line? Apparently.
Now, admittedly, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation might be a little too exotic for the average American banking customer, but there has to be a better answer than ridiculous dross about happy customers.
How does this clown keep his job?
What is the purpose of Ronald McDonald? How is it that he still has a job? McDonalds spends a couple of billion a year on advertising. Don't you think that someone would advise them to get rid of the clown?
So, we're obsessed
We admit it. We’re obsessed with cell phone companies. We revile them. We rely on them. We watch them like a dog watching his master eat ice cream. We just can’t stop.
The ads are a big part of it. No other industry spends as much on advertising that says as little. We’ll see what happens next month, when (God willing) the FCC puts through number portability. The volume will almost certainly go up.
So the other day, we got a glimpse of ATT Wireless’ new ad spots. They have gone back to reference the reach out and touch someone campaign which first launched in 1979 and we have to say that they have done a pretty fine job with these spots. Finally a wireless ad that does not focus on technology frivols (a phone that takes pictures!) or pricing.
And let’s hope that we don’t have to hear anymore about mLife.
We are just blown away by what HP has been able to do with its marketing. Prime example is the finesse with which their printer group has created a sensible, clear and attractive product portfolio. They are dwarfing competitors like Epson and Brother in this regard.
Now does Carly F really care about selling printer paper and ink? Probably not, but every time a customer goes into Staples or Office Depot, there is that product set: telling a great story and supporting the brand.