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December 2008
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January 2009

What Is A Brand? Whatever You THINK It Should Be!!!

According to an article in the Toronto Star, students in Japan buy Kit Kat bars because they're supposed to deliver good luck at exam time. In Japanese, Kit Kat is pronounced "kitto katto" which is very close to a phrase that means "Win without fail."

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Back here in Canada, the Kit Kat brand is often associated with the "3 o'clock" break - a time when the sugar levels run low and you're looking for that extra burst of energy to get you through to 5 o'clock. Kit Kat has won a place in my mind as the "snackin' brand", a connection that Nestle was able to make through years of ad campaigns laced with images of overworked office workers looking for the next fix to get them through the day.

To me, the mental association that I have with the Kit Kat brand centers around its ability to get me back on track at a low point in my day. The fact that I can snap off the wafers is also practical and differentiates Kit Kat from other chocolate bars. I THINK it can get me through the rest of the day - and it always does.

Successful brands have the ability to cut through the clutter by earning a place in our minds and hearts that their competitors aren't able to reach. Companies who nurture these brands are able to influence my decision at each stage in the buying process. They're able to key in on the real reasons I consider in buying a brand, and by appealing to my rational and emotional mind make it easy for me to choose their brand over someone else's.

To market a successful brand, make it easy for your customers to choose you. Take the time to find out the real reasons they choose your brand.What or how do they want to feel when they use your brand? Do they think it will make them feel/look smarter, stronger, healthier - or wealthier? What's the key emotion they want to get back by using your brand? Do they want to feel...like a kid again...comforted...well fed...energized...adventurous...social?

What brands can you think of that stand for something you want to be part of? Do you buy products based on how they make you (or others) feel? How does how you feel or what you experienced affect what you buy?


Unilever Uses "Spielberg Variables" To Boost ROI On Ad Campaigns

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In a 2005 article published in the Harvard Business Review, John Kastenholz (then Vice-President of Consumer Insights at Unilever) describes how the company followed storytelling principles used in motion pictures to maximize ROI on ad campaigns.

Back then, Unilever spent around $3.3 billion globally to advertise their brands. Research showed that only 30 out of every 100 television ads tested in the consumer products area would come out ranking as "superior" ads, while 40 out of 100 ads would come out as "average."

To increase the ranking of the ads to the "superior" range, Unilever enlisted the help of New Mexico-based Ameritest/CY Research to design a testing system for their ads. In addition to the usual questions asked in branding campaigns ("Are they well branded? Do they motivate consumers to act?"), Unilever took the process one step further to try to determine whether the flaws that diminished the effectiveness of the ads occurred at the concept stage - or at the executional stage.

To do this, they put the "Spielberg Variables" to work to ensure that each of the ads used the same style and storytelling techniques as those used in feature films. Good movies engage viewers - and are able to move the audience forward emotionally through effective storytelling. Unilever realized that the same principles used in the editing of feature films could be used to edit ad campaigns.

Each ad was deconstructed into frames that indicated some sort of change in direction or action. By analyzing each frame, consumers were able to provide feedback to determine which frames they remembered - and which ones they didn't. They would then describe how they felt emotionally about each frame, and would finally discuss the values (convenience, nutrition, etc.) that each frame conveyed. The process was similar to that used in Hollywood, as flaws were identified at each ad's narrative inflection point (similar to what is done in the process known as a "Director's Cut")

The feedback was then plotted on a "flow of attention" or "flow of emotion" graph to find out where things went wrong. If an ad didn't hook viewers right away, then action could be taken to shift the response from a weak feeling to a very positive one. If the values identified at the test stage didn't match those the brand was trying to portray, then the images could be identified and corrected.

Out of the 60 ads approved for airing, 25 which started out as "average" performers tested in the "superior" range after using the Spielberg variables technique.

By using this technique, Unilever has been able to identify and quantify some of the intangible aspects normally associated with the design of ad campaigns. How people feel about a product is key to whether or not they buy your brand - or someone else's.

Can you think of examples of ad campaigns where the storytelling approach is similar to that used in Hollywood? Why aren't more companies using this approach to increase the value of their advertising dollars?