Posts in "Brand Building" category

A Tortoise, A Hare and Your Business

As the fable goes, the hare and the tortoise race. The hare takes off leaving the turtle in the dust only to get a little complacent, a little tired and takes a nap. He wakes up and to his great surprise the tortoise is ahead of him and slowly and steadily crosses the finish line before the furry speedster.

I’ve almost always heard this fable connected to personal character issues of not resting on talent alone. Or within business, to move methodically and steadily to your goals without distraction.

But I recently thought of this fable when reading about Schlitz beer.


It’ll make sense in a second…

I picked up, David Aaker‘s latest book, Aaker On Branding. Aaker is a statesman within the brand building community, and you can’t go wrong with anything he writes. Anyway, it’s not long into the book before he shares the story of Schlitz beer’s fall from grace in the mid-1970’s.

“…Schlitz, the “Gusto” beer, was a close number two behind Budweiser when the firm decided to cut costs by using a yeast-centered brewing process, which cut the processing time from twelve to four days, and by replacing the barley malt with corn syrup. Blind taste tests showed that the taste did not change. However, competitors were only too glad to talk about Schlitzes’ efforts to reduce costs. Their suggestion that Schlitz had compromised quality became very real when it turned out that the beer, after sitting on the shelf, would turn cloudy and lose carbonation. Schlitz returned to its old production method and ran blind taste tests during the Super Bowl to prove the quality was back, but customers had lost confidence in the brand and the thought of finding ‘gusto’ by drinking Schlitz became a joke. The brand damage led to its virtual disappearance from the market and caused the business to lose more than one billion dollars in value.” pp. 16-17

It’s easy to armchair quarterback and pick on the executive team that allowed this to happen, but put yourself in their shoes. As an executive, one of your biggest responsibilities, not to mention a primary way to advance your career, is to increase profit and return value to shareholders. Someone comes to you with a “brilliant” idea for how to introduce significant savings into the supply chain AND not sacrifice taste, sounds like a win-win.

If you were one of the decision makers, why would you say “no” to this? What would provide some level of guidance to suggest that you NOT say “yes”?


The slow and steady, long-term strategy of the brand—the values and attributes that made Schlitz… Schlitz.

If you as a Schlitz executive, didn’t have a clear picture of that guiding conscience for the brand, you would be just as beholden to the fast buck, “brilliant” idea as those 1970’s executives.

Allow me to demonstrate with one other example. Starbucks. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the famous Howard Schultz memo, castigating the then current Starbucks leadership on losing the slow and steady, soul of the company. It was the events surrounding that memo that eventually led Howard to step back in and retake the reins of the Seattle Siren.

Here are a couple key quotes from that 2007 memo titled The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience.

“When we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play… Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale… [but] one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past… I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement, and now it’s proving to be a reality… Let’s get back to the core.” (Onward, pp 24-25)

Every business faces the lure of trying to grow and increase profits quickly. Here’s the challenge. What may look like a great business decision, with immediate short-term benefits, could be shortening your organization’s lifespan.

It’s been my experience that few large companies have their brand values or attributes (called different things by different people) clearly defined. And if they are, they are stuck in the marketing department and not used by all leaders as a filter for business decisions. This is a huge mistake.

But I have found that it’s even more rare to see a small to mid-size business have these attributes defined and leveraged effectively.

If you’re a business leader or an entrepreneur just starting out, do you know what your “core” is? Do you know what your brand’s values and attributes are? Would you know how to avoid the quick buck trap and stay the course, with a slow and steady brand strategy?

If not, I can help.

The “Best” Super Bowl ad?

The year was 2000. A Chimpanzee runs into a garage, turns on a stereo, climbs on a bucket wearing an e-trade t-shirt and starts to dance to La Cucaracha Cha as 2 awkward gentleman clap in off-timed support. I remember thinking, “this is hilarious, but a stupid commercial!”

Then the punch line, “We just wasted $2,000,000. What are you doing with your money?”. That was the moment that I started caring more about the commercials during the SuperBowl than the game itself.

Today the SuperBowl chatter and memes centered around 2 things: Pete Carroll’s terrible play call and, which commercial was the “best”.

More than previous years, the commentary on who ‘won’ the BrandBowl felt strangely off. What wasn’t sitting well with me was how the word “won” was being defined. Typically that means it generated more buzz in social media, and viewers liked it the most. In other words, a popularity contest. It’s like asking consumers a rudimentary, grade school crush question, “do you like me? Yes / No / Maybe”.

In this analysis, winning, is not necessarily about strategic brand building.

For instance, according to the USA Today Ad tracking report, Budweiser’s ‘Lost Dog’, performed the best of any commercial yesterday. I disagree.

Everyone loves the commercial, including me, but I don’t think it builds the Budweiser brand.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was bad for Budweiser. Budweiser is a staple of SuperBowl commercials, so I think there’s value in it, even if it’s just reminding consumers that they still exist, and someone out there must like to drink it.

My real point is that in a week, no one will care that the horses saved their ‘best bud’ from the ravenous wolves. I don’t think the commercial will have inspired greater brand loyalty among current Budweiser customers. And perhaps most important, I doubt it will have done anything to convince non-Budweiser drinkers to head out and buy a case of the American icon.

Compare that to something else Budweiser is doing that I think is building their brand.

Sponsoring UFC fighter, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

Donald CerroneI’m willing to bet Budweiser gets more strategic bang for its buck, through their sponsorship of this gritty, tough, brash, rural, gutsy, no-nonsense, American rebel.

“Like the Budweiser brand he sponsors, Cowboy is simply down for whatever.” – for Bleacher Report

Cowboy’s attitude and the Budweiser brand essence are a hand in glove fit. Not only that, but Cerrone also connects with a strategically valuable demographic for Budweiser’s sales more than warm fuzzies and puppies ever will. It’s hard to imagine, Budweiser winning over the growing population of craft beer drinkers—those beer drinkers that see themselves as connoisseurs, not customers.

That’s why Budweiser’s other less talked about ad, was in my opinion, stronger for their brand and more in line with why I think the Cerrone sponsorship is smart. The other ad, drew a line in the sand between Budweiser and “fussy” craft beer drinkers.

Strong brands tend to not only tell you what they stand for, but also what they stand against (think Mac vs. PC or Dove vs. negative views of female beauty).

Budweiser, the brand for the no nonsense, American rebel that’s looking to have a good time, without the fuss. This message creates pride in those who see themselves as anti-craft beer and anti-hipster. A critical distinction for Budweiser in combating their loss of market share to craft beer.

So, while I get and enjoy the whole debate of who wins the BrandBowl, I think it has very little to do with which business wins, in the long run.