Wednesday, March 7, 2007

McDonald's trys to rebuild it's brand

Okay so I finally buy some Starbucks stock after years of living in the Pacific Northwest and along comes Mickey D's and delivers the knockout punch. Thanks Ronald.

McDonald’s beats Starbucks in coffee smackdown

By David Colker, Times Staff Writer
11:37 AM PST, February 2, 2007

In the ultimate coffee smackdown, it was yuppie Starbucks vs. Ronald McDonald.

And the clown won.

Consumer Reports magazine said today that in a test conducted at two locations of each emporium, its tasters found McDonald's coffee to be "decent and moderately strong" with "no flaws." On the other hand, the Starbucks brew "was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open."

The March issue of the magazine, due out Monday, thus advises, "Try McDonald's, which was cheapest and best."

Actually, not all that much cheaper. McDonald's now charges $1.35 for what the magazine considers a "medium" sized cup of Joe. Starbucks gets $1.55 for about the same size cup. But of course, McDonald's has yet to offer half-cap lattes and it's hard to imagine Ronald in basic barista black.

Other fast-food coffees in the test included those from Burger King ("tasted more like hot water") and Dunkin' Donuts ("inoffensive").

No matter how much McDonald's revels in its win of the taste test, the company might be hard-pressed to use it in promotions. Consumer Reports, which takes no advertising, strictly prohibits companies from using its findings in ads.

Friday, February 9, 2007

If Everything is Premium...

The back to basics trend is coming.

We are being bombarded by an onslaught of premiumness. And it's begining to get so overblown that consumers are questioning this shouting match that trys to tell us that everything is now made from the finest ingredients and is the highest quality to be found.

These so-called premium brands are now exploiting themselves by becoming the staples of every new strip mall. They position themselves to be the category leader but then grow to be so common that their exclusivety is now lost in a sea of premium brand overkill.

Premium brands used to have an exclusive or unique quality that was supported by the old school theory of being "hand-crafted" in small batches in order to create a product that is not "mass". The current trend seems to destroy the premium positioning if everyone can access the brand and it is found in supermarkets, airports, drugstores and shopping malls.

If everything is exclusive, then nothing is exclusive.

The consumer can see through this overblown excess and will be looking for brands that are honest and humble in their presentation and origin. Look for a very Earth-friendly aspect to this trend as companies are also looking to exploit the less-processed and less impact to the environment trend. It's unfortunate because there will be a lot of good products out there that are truly striving to create a unique position in the market but get overshadowed by the big monster brands who will jump on this trend and oversaturate it.

Even the little guys who are putting an honest product on the market will get bought up and masss produced and thus watered down in an effort by the big brands to hop on this band wagon. It will be so wide spread that everybody will be driving a hybrid vehicle while drinking a Starbucks soy latte as they pull up to the GAP store to get a pair of hemp jeans.

-Ross Patrick

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Branding with Attitude

Have you ever considered that the impression you get from going to Starbucks or In-n-Out Burger is better because the people that work there are nice to you?

The customer experience is such a huge part of the brand that these retail operations give their employees extensive training and look for candidates that have a "good attitude".

CiCi's Pizza, a Dallas based pizza buffet trains their managers to create a fun and friendly experience for their customers. Energetic employees yell "Hi, welcome to CiCi's" when someone enters the restaurant. They empower their employees to go the extra distance to make the dining experience enjoyable.

With 'Brand Experience' becoming a major component of how customers evaluate a brand, don't be surprised to see this trend taking off. Consumers have less and less time in their busy lives so the few minutes of interaction that they have with a sales person or drive thru window person are critical.

Brands that seem to be suffering are the large retail chains like Circuit City where uninterested red shirted staffers ignore shoppers and seem truly "bored" with what they are doing. McDonald's is probably the best example of the "Worst Brand Experience" on the planet.

In Southern California you would be lucky to encounter a McDonald's counter person or drive-thru operator that speaks english and has any enthusiasm for what they are doing. These companies need to wake up and realize that this is the front line and consumers are going to rebel against this lackluster customer service.

Watch for Experiential Branding to be a buzz word in the next few years.

— Ross Patrick

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Branding 101

Many clients confuse advertising with the term "branding". I've also seen many cases where designers and clients get caught up with focusing merely on the logo as the main brand attribute. When a product category begins to get crowded, the components of a brand become more sacred. These components, or brand attributes make up the sum total of a brand's personality. They define every aspect of how that product or service is interpreted by the consumer.

Brand Attributes
The 5 pillars of branding:

1) The Logo
- for some companies, the logo is definately the rallying point. It is recognizable and stands for all of the things that the company does and more. It can have an emotional impact far beyond mere products and services.

2) Color - Choosing a color that represents a company is important. It can set the tone for how a business acts and how it is perceived. Blue seems very corporate. Red, very serious. Green, environmentally conscious? Orange, happy!

3) Visuals - the biggest problem in this every shifting brandscape is the lack of commitment to a "look". Many companies are schizophrenic when it comes to the "images" it presents to the public.

4) Voice - often overlooked as one of the most important assests a brand can utilize. The tone of voice is the key to revealing the personality of a brand. Is it funny? Authoratative? Sensual? Does it have swagger?

5) Shape - some brands have managed use the shape of their product as a branding device: the Coke bottle, the Volkswagon Beetle, the Eiffel Tower(Paris).

Essentially, these are the key equities of a brand and they need to work in unison with one another in order to tell the full story of a product or service.