Who’s Painting Your Brand’s Portrait?


Corporate branding has been around as long as corporations have.  From McDonald’s “doing it all for us” to BASF’s “making the things we use better,” the names behind the name brands have put their images out for the world to see. The difference today is, if they don’t, someone else can and will.

Major corporations like P&G, Google and Johnson & Johnson are seeing the graffiti on the wall. They’re coming out with brand portraits that illustrate their histories, philosophies and dedications to global goodness that stand apart from selling the brands that make them profitable. P&G is “dedicated to moms.” Microsoft isn’t just about Windows and SharePoint servers, it’s about “Your potential” and “their passion.”

They want consumers and investors to view them with not just positivity, but ardent affection. Basically, the generic line for any corporation could be, “We don’t want your money. We want to improve your life. (And we love your children and your pets, too!)”

Big bucks had best be flowing, because the infinite capillaries of the Internet are gushing with comment threads, tweets and forum trollz telling their own versions of a corporation’s story.

Take Monsanto. They desperately want a corporate brand portraying their agricultural miracles riding beams of heavenly light through ranks of cherubs (and who wouldn’t?) Legions of detractors marauding through social media, with their spray cans and chalks, are painting a more lurid picture in cancerous blacks and bloody reds. It’s Michelangelo vs. Banksy. Who will win?

This is a growing challenge to corporate brands, as consumers take more and more control of the paintbrush.

Corporate branding can’t be a sketch on a napkin. It needs to be a masterpiece that every player in the business, from the CEO to the cashier, appears in. And a lot of that picture better hang at eye level with social media users, as well as in prestige spots on TV, in magazines and outdoor. It’s a huge commitment of thought, action and dollars that has to be sustained to gain street cred. That’s a lot of paint and gilt framework in an economy of Crayons and No.2 Pencils.

John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

What can Kim Jong-un Teach us about Marketing?


North Korea, that faceless little brand that enjoyed brief popularity in the 1950s, is remaking itself, and we should pay attention.

Part of the “Axis of Evil” family of brands, North Korea has been viewed negatively by most international markets. It has traditionally been a non-producing Mao and Pop shop with limited offerings of hot propaganda and cold peasants, and slight penetration into the Chinese market.

That began to change when CEO Kim Jong-Il took over and put his genius to work. After doing a SWOT analysis and brand immersion, he identified his brand’s essence and it was—to nobody’s surprise—Evil. While Evil can be seen as a negative, Kim gained marketing momentum from it by brand extending into the Crazy category. Throughout the 2000s, shelf space in the media filled with North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy. Consumers found an appetite for it and began eating it up.

With the death of Kim Senior two years ago, the brand fell into crisis. Consumers began to think North Korea could no longer deliver the Evil they had grown to love. Their misgivings weren’t helped when new CEO, Kim Junior, came onto the scene with the eminence of a Teletubby and no insane rhetoric to boost confidence in the brand’s Evilness.

But, within a few months:

“We’re no longer content to compete alongside existing brands,” Kim Junior boasted. “We’re going to blow away the competition.”

We outsiders have only gotten a peek at what his campaign consists of, and what we’ve seen are some mighty impressive pieces with explosive potential.

Thanks to Kim Jong-un’s gutsy new push—and the added credibility of brand celebrity Dennis Rodman—North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy (Now with extra Crazy) has boosted its awareness among consumers 1000%. If the rest of the brand effort is on target, we smug major marketers must ask ourselves if North Korea brand will replace more venerable brands in the Evil category.

My answer is, NO. While a brilliant campaign to raise awareness, Kim Jong-un’s much anticipated “launch” will fizzle, the world will forget and North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy will give shelf space back to the major brands from Asia, The Middle East and points west.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Invasion of the Facebook Robots


BusinessInsider.com recently ran a story entitled, “How Facebook is Replacing Ad Agencies with Robots.” While the ever-innovative Facebook has created a golden goose with their side bar ads, my Scoff-o-Meter pegs out at the thought of their destroying agency jobs.

For one, Facebook is social media, not the entire spectrum of media.

For two, these killer robot ads are new and never were the domain of ad agencies, ergo nobody’s losing a job over them. Teach a couple of monkeys the Facebook interface, feed them content and you have yourself a robot ad staff.

For three, the ads living in the Facebook ecosystem are very limited, direct-response ads without even the branding layer a print circular can deliver.

And, speaking of branding, I’ve yet to meet a robot that knew a thing about it. We’ve seen in study after study that with the proliferation of media and competition for consumer attention, branding is more important than ever. Good branding rarely jumps out of the brain of an in-house staffer. It comes from the informed brains of marketing specialists who’ve been down the road with a variety of businesses and have a deep understanding of markets and how the consumer interacts with them. Those specialists are called ad agencies.

Even the interactive phenomenon the Dos Equis brand created came from the mind of brand thinkers. It is still living large on Facebook, and I’m betting some talented agency people had more than a little to do with it.

New media does and will continue to challenge agencies, and we all know the rules redefine themselves daily. If you’re selling a commodity product where price is the distinguishing feature, call Facebook. If you have a service or product people need to care about before buying, call an agency.

Robots, as everyone knows, are best left to destroying planetary colonies in outer space.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions