Archive for category Sports, Entertainment and Media

VW gears up underserved segment

Every now and then I come across some really great advertising and when I do I try to make a point of calling it out. Though usually just post it on Facebook, occasionally I may also blog about it. This is one of those times.

Volkswagen has over the last several months put out a handful of really good commercials, a couple in particular that I would say are great. That said, before I make my case, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

OK – so here’s why I think these stand out in particular…

VW tells a compelling story in under a minute. And it’s a story that resonates with a generation of parents across the nation. StarWars, yeah we get that. Heck, that particular commercial could have been filmed in my house, it was so close to home (minus the VW in the driveway). And the parental fear of a kid sneaking off with the car… again, we get that. But they told it without the tired father-son speech about someday this car will be his, blah blah blah.

Besides a great story, and perhaps more importantly, VW demonstrates a clear understanding of their target segment and show cases the brand in a context meaningful to that segment. Affluent suburbanites, Gen-Xers with kids, above average tech savvy, who want functionality as well as aesthetics.

VW doesn’t try to go after BMW here or any other “performance” brand. I mean, it is German engineered and no one would have been surprised nor faulted them if they had. But the car never even leaves the driveway!!! Much less fly around some curvy hillside with the disclaimer of “professional driver, closed course”. Instead, there was a clear focus on NOT being BMW. VW is “your” car… you, the hard working, white collar, family-values parent that clearly has a desire for something above average, but without being extravagant or superfluous.

I love what VW has done. Some might perceive this as a risky route. They’re not talking performance (BMW), they’re not talking safety (Volvo), they’re certainly not competing at the entry level value segment (Hyundai). And yet, I’d argue they’ve captured a valuable segment, one that has long been overlooked.

Well done, VW. Das marketing.

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Personal Branding gets Impersonal

By now the world knows about “The Decision“… On a personal note I love seeing all the folks jumping on the LeBron Hater bandwagon. I have been there for some time. That said, there’s an incredibly valuable marketing case study here… Here are the top 5 LeBron screw-ups on managing his brand.

1) Letting one of his bumbling entourage take the reigns of a “marketing” firm (and I use marketing loosely) to manage his career. Some might recall how James fired his agent a while ago and decided he could manage his career better than anyone with a little help from his friends. And it showed… He was clearly not his own man in his decision to publicly humiliate his hometown. I’ll give James this much – he was definitely loyal in standing by Maverick Carter as he flushed LeBron’s legacy down the toilet.

2) He showed the world his true colors via a bachelor style rejection. Without any thought or consideration for Cleveland, the Cavaliers or Dan Gilbert, he dumped them on national television.

3) He made this about LeBron. Not about the game of basketball, not about the teams that supported him. This isn’t rocket science – you proposed an hour special about nothing other than yourself, veiled under the guise of charity.

4) He sold out his legacy. Picking Miami was the easy way out with another superstar there to pick up the slack, along with another all-star who’s no slouch himself. Maybe he doesn’t want the pressure of being the go-to-guy, but then why all the hullaballoo?

5) He’s made it clear to everyone that he’s just an unlikeable ass who’s only real concern is his insatiable appetite for attention and adoration. All I can do is laugh… the inevitable implosion of Camp LeBron all due to his massive ego.

The begging and pleading by fans across the nation is exactly what he wanted.

The courting, the jockeying, all for his amusement.

…And now those fans and those teams have nothing to show for.

He made last night into his personal draft day. But at least in the real draft, every team has the chance to come out ahead. Last night there were only losers, with LeBron being the biggest of them all. Don’t get me wrong, if he had walked away from Cleveland with some class, without all the glitz and glamour, people would have forgiven him (over time), his legacy intact.

But his talents demanded more. Too bad. So Sad.

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CEOs and Brand Identity

Ford, Chrysler, GM… besides all being in sweltering financial distress, all three at some point in the last several years have put their CEO’s on a TV ad campaign. Most recently GM has put their newest CEO, Whitacre, behind the camera .

Let’s just say it didn’t work out for Dr. Z or Bill Ford, both of whom handed over the reigns shortly there after. I’m not suggesting this is a curse in the magnitude of the EA sports cover spot, but potentially a trend.

These companies struggled to identify a message and voice to the consumer so they put their CEOs behind the camera…but what has that really done? I dont know the answer to that question and I don’t know the analytics behind these campaigns, but I do know this:

A CEO has NOTHING to do with a consumer’s experience and relationship with her car.

OK…obviously, the CEO should play a role in setting the tone and strategic direction of the organization but to your average consumer, the CEO is likely of little significance. Take a look at the video spots below from each of the big 3 and tell me if the CEO contributed to the compellingness of the brand and/or value proposition?

Starting with the last one, I don’t think that Ed Whitacre was believable or genuine in the slightest. He’s not an actor or an icon. He’s a guy in a suit and he acted like on. There was not an ounce of me that believed he cared about my driving experience. Not an ounce of me believed he knew what American’s value when it comes to an automobile. And that’s in part because I don’t know what GM stands for, a midst all their brands, whats the value proposition of the GM umbrella? And where does Mr. Whitacre communication fit into that?

Bill Ford at least carries the name, so on some level I believe he’s passionate about cars, particularly the mustang featured in the spot. Still, it didn’t do a whole lot to secure his job. Worse still, his replacement lasted only 4 months. And we all know what happened to Chysler. I will say from an entertainment standpoint, I liked the dr. Z spots…but I think again Chrysler struggled with an identity problem…no one really bought the whole German inspired nonsense. I mean, has anyone SEEN the PT cruiser? I think its safe to say that nothing about that car says “German engineering”.

So at the end of the day, I don’t think making your CEO the public face to the consumer is ever a wise move unless they are truly iconic. And even then, I don’t see the value add. Afterall, we don’t see Jobs pitching for Apple, Gates for Microsoft or Laffley for P&G. The CEO should be behind the seens, developing their organizations…not pitching me their products over mass media.*

*Note the exception in the B2B space, where the CEO can be iconic by virtue of her position, where she is respected by other key business decision makers/influencers.

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LeBron's Brand part II

Below is a response I posted to another blogger on Brand LeBron. Thought I may as well share it here as well.

I should say that since I first criticized LeBron’s behavior, he has since come forward and apologized. The NBA also fined him $25,000 for his actions (a pittance in LeBron currency though sizable to us normal people). Nonetheless credit him and the NBA for making the right decision.

I think LeBron has surrounded himself with some of the brightest minds in marketing. He also has the benefit of two predecessors, Michael Jordan, who really didn’t fully capitalize on his marketability until the second half of his career and Kobe Bryant, who we all know lost out on millions in endorsement money by making poor life decisions.

That said, at 24 years old, LeBron is still just a child who I think tries to take on too much. Yes he’s an “adult”, but that doesn’t equate to maturity, especially when your formative years are spent being celebrated like his. As such he made a poor choice after Cleveland’s elimination. Forget talking to the press, I’m referring to not shaking the hands of his opponents. Some players have said it wasn’t a big deal but I think that’s the brotherhood sticking up for one another. At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t shake my hand (win or lose) I question their love of the game and I question their values. Where does fair play and integrity place on their priorities?

LeBron has never shied away from the spotlight, making clear his intentions to be the first “Billion” dollar athlete… well there’s a catch. To succeed in that measure the public really needs to embrace you. But the very notion that greed is his ultimate motivator, coupled with his lack of sportsmanship is bristling and in my eyes makes it that much harder to embrace him as an American icon.

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LeBron's personal brand

He’s a multi-multi-multi-million dollar athlete. Perhaps someday he’ll be worth more than a billion. Brands like Nike, Coca Cola, and State Farm pay him ridiculous sums to endorse their product and history has shown great athletes deliver huge dividends for the companies that endorse them (think Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan). But today I think LeBron James is completely overpaid as an endorsed professional athlete. Not because his on the court performance doesn’t warrant it. Watching him play is often times breath taking. It’s what he does off the court that makes me question his million dollar worthiness.

After the Cleveland Caveliers were ousted in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Orlando Magic,  the media reported that Lebron James left the arena without speaking to the press or so much as shaking hands with his opponent.

Exhibit 1:

“It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them,” he said. “I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a competitor. That’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.”

In an environment where integrity and goodwill are key factors in managing a company’s reputation, one has to wonder if this is the sort of behavior you want your spokesman exhibiting. OK, I get it – no body likes losing. But even the greatest competitors recognize their opponents for a great effort and team play. I’m not going to commentate on  the play of the two teams but I’m thoroughly disgusted as a sports fan at LeBron’s juvenile response to losing. His actions (or lack thereof) were disrespectful to his teammates, his opponents, the league and its fans (who incidently are the ones make his endorsement deals possible).

And as for the marketer in me, while its unlikely any of his sponsors will drop him over this or any of his other childish actions, one must wonder what Lebron was thinking in terms of managing his personal brand. The man “owns” his own marketing firm, and refuses to employ an outside agent. For a man who supposedly knows how to manage his own image and all its marketability, it sounds to me like he could use some coaching on personal branding.

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Nike Ad is "Unstoppable"

So I love the Lakers and I love playoff basketball. I also love a good funny ad. So when I saw this commercial air lastnight, I felt like a kid at Christmas. My natural biases aside… Nike really strikes big with this campaign because it dos a great job of fanning the flames in the Kobe v Lebron debate while ALSO reminding us that they both endorse Nike.

Well done Nike.

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