Friday, September 28, 2007

Wanna "Hulu?"

I haven't yet decided if the name itself is catchy or just plain silly. But I do know the explanation of the new brandname of Hulu falls short.

"Why Hulu?" writes CEO Jason Kilar, "Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building." The idea is to create competition for YouTube. Not out until October (and then only in beta), all we have to go by is press and the home page. From the looks of it, will feature content from television programs, perhaps more so than user-generated content. This seems to place it apart from YouTube slightly.

Keep an eye on it. Silly name or not, online video is a big media trend that must be followed.

Read a letter from CEO Kilar here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We’d like you to meet our four new friends!

You may already be familiar with our website but we wanted to make sure you were aware of the site’s new look and new friends. Now the Stinson Family is comprised of four websites! What’s more, all of them are setup not only to assist you with your branding needs, but to be destination sites for your daily needs as well. You can get your news, weather, directions, and learn about great books or music.

Here’s some detail on each of the sites and the features they provide:
Stinson Brand Innovation: this is our main site, there to connect all of our branding work. The site features local Chicago weather through a link with The Weather Channel, pharmaceutical business news headlines through Pharmaceutical Executive’s online magazine, and a link to our book pick for the month through Amazon. Inside the site, you can see who we are working with, sample some of our portfolio of work, and take a look at some of the awards we have won.
StinsonGEM: this site is home to our Groups, Events, and Media division headquartered in beautiful Boise, Idaho. The site features a panoramic view of downtown Boise, local Boise weather through a link with The Weather Channel, media news headlines through Media Week’s online magazine, and Medical Meeting news headlines through MeetingsNet. Inside the site, you can see how we handle groups, events, and media and sample some of the work we have done.
StinsonLab: visit this site to experience some of the newest media technologies to apply to your branding needs. The site features a fun satellite mapping program through a link with Virtual Earth, a link to Mark Stinson’s view of the branding environment through his blog on Blogger (, tech sector news headlines through Wired’s online magazine, and a link to our music pick for the month through iTunes. Inside the site, you can take a look at what we can do to feature, project, inform, educate, survey, and display your brand.
StinsonGlobal: this site is the umbrella for our global branding network and features links to our other Stinson Family sites as well as to Rekmar, our partner in Instanbul.

Whether you are an old friend who hasn’t checked in for a while or someone who is looking for some help with your brand, stop on by one of our sites and take a look. While you are at it, make our site your home page – it will keep you in the loop with things that are going on in your world!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fast Food followup

Those of you who read the September 11 entry will be glad to know that I found out what the top 50 fast food chains actually are. I have a problem with a couple of these being called “fast food”, but here they are:

1. McDonald’s
2. Burger King
3. Wendy’s
4. Subway
5. Taco Bell
6. Starbucks
7. KFC
8. Pizza Hut
9. Dunkin’ Donuts
10. Sonic
11. Domino’s Pizza
12. Arby’s
13. Dairy Queen
14. Chick-fil-a
15. Jack in the Box
16. Papa John’s Pizza
17. Panera Bread
18. Hardee’s
19. Quiznos Sub
20. Popeyes
21. Carl’s Jr.
22. Whataburger
23. Panda Express
24. Buffalo Wild Wings
25. Chipotle
26. Little Caesar’s Pizza
27. Church’s Chicken
28. Long John Silver’s
29. Steak ‘n Shake
30. Boston Market
31. Checkers Drive-In/Rally’s
32. Baskin-Robbins
33. CiCi’s Pizza
34. White Castle
35. Del Taco
36. Culver’s
37. El Pollo Loco
38. Captain D’s
39. Bojangles’
40. Sbarro
41. Cold Stone Creamery
42. Krystal
43. Papa Murphy’s Pizza
44. Einstein Bros./Noah’s Bagels
45. In-N-Out Burger
46. Jason’s Deli
47. Jamba Juice
48. Fuddruckers
49. Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
50. Blimpie Subs

Read more here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BK Apple Fries

Advertising to kids is a tricky game. They are perceived as easy to manipulate, and they are subjects to protection by parents and society in general. So watch out if your product is or can be perceived to be unhealthy.

Joe Camel has already been taken down, even the old favorite Ronald McDonald has cowed to pressures. Now the latest victim of the push for defending our children from harmful products is the King.

Beginning in late 2008, Burger King will be offering new kids meals, to include specially cut unsweetened apples that look like french fries. Also of change will be the beverage option – 1% chocolate milk will be offered – and the selection of flame-broiled chicken nuggets as opposed to fried.

This all comes from the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, who is trying to make fast food healthier for kids. But I think this noble goal is missing the main point – fast food is not healthy, and whether kids are getting nutritious options or not (which is a dubious claim to begin with) they are still establishing unhealthy eating habits.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How to move your brand Forward - Fast

This paper is based on a presentation given to my staff by Katie Pendlay and Matt Yazici in July, 2007.

Stinson Brand Innovation applies numerous proprietary tools to help our clients maximize their brand potential. One of these very valuable tools, especially useful when defining a new brand, evaluating a brand in a time of change, reviewing a portfolio of brands, or repairing a brand that has been damaged, is called Forward. Fast.®.

Harnessing Brand Power
What is a brand? One of the reasons it is so difficult to pin down an answer on this subject is that a brand skirts the line between art and science. A brand is a customer’s feelings about a product, service, or organization. It is also at its best when its elements harmonize to display a level of deceptive simplicity. This play between design and feelings creates a complex mechanism of visual, verbal, emotional, and experiential elements.

Powerful brands are extremely valuable to a company. They allow that company to charge a premium price, because someone loyal to a brand will expect to pay more for the product or service. Powerful brands lead to brand loyalty, and with that comes increased market share, higher stock prices, and increased future earnings as loyal customers evangelize the brand to others.

Forward. Fast.® is a marketing tool that diagrams, defines, and evaluates a brand. It is a framework that we apply to a brand, and it allows us to look closely at key aspects of said brand. The idea is to learn what a logo really stands for and the attitude it projects, then to understand what positive brand associations can be created. By going through this process, we can make the shift from brand memorability to brand loyalty.

The framework of Forward. Fast.® is composed of two parts, the “Play” side, which explores what the current situation is, and the “Fast Forward” side, which explores the possibilities of your brand. Each part is composed of three elements.

Taking a memorable brand…
The “Play” side consists of Likeability, Logo, and Quality Offering.
► Likeability is described by industry reputation and general awareness of the brand. It is measured by analyzing internal and external customer listening by interviewing account managers and customers alike.
► The Logo is a type treatment and/or brand mark and also encompasses parent company representation. We measure this by reviewing the creative rationale for the current logo lock-up including color, font, and placement of each element.
► Quality Offering is represented by product offerings and quality claims. To measure this we evaluate the value proposition of the brand and key points of difference to competitors using substantive, quantifiable data.

…and turning it into brand loyalty

The “Fast Forward” side consists of Associations, Attitude, and Quality Experience.
► Associations are memorable links to other things. This can be characters, non-profit programs, or any other variety of connection. We develop these connections to programs and images that we can associate with the brand, and identify potential partner companies and other brands within the group that can lend credibility to the targeted brand.
► Attitude is the “personality” of the brand, and could be represented by a coined word or phrase. The best way to create a unique personality is to develop visual and verbal campaign hallmarks.
► Quality Experience is the subjective evaluation of interaction with the product and/or brand. It is usually described qualitatively rather than quantitatively. We perform an external customer listening to evaluate whether customers feel supported and if they feel the brand is reliable.

Though each case is specific, a general application of our Forward. Fast.® tool would run approximately 6 weeks. The first two weeks are a review and assessment period. During this time, we will examine current promotional materials, journal advertising, trade associations, and competitive analysis. The next week will be two-fold. We will conduct customers listening via conference calls with account managers and phone interviews with customers. These first three weeks represent the initial analysis and will fill in the blanks on the “Play” side of the diagram.

During the next two weeks, we will begin creating the Fast Forward side. We will establish two or three concepts for a visual and verbal framework, including a core visual, tagline and key messages, as well as a sample brand vocabulary. The next week is spent validating our findings with account managers and customers, to ensure that the models we’ve created are effective.

By applying the Forward. Fast.® framework to a brand, we can dial down and get to the heart of what the brand means both internally and externally. Once we know where we are, we can develop strategies to get the brand where it needs to be. Anyone can have brand memorability. But why not move your brand Forward. Fast.® and acquire brand loyalty.

We can help.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just because your products are pervasive doesn’t mean you can ignore your brand

Dow Chemical has figured that out, and their stock values have responded well to the added corporate identity attention.

Sure, Dow products are everywhere, but chemical companies are still feared. So Dow has decided to create a very elegant corporate branding push that highlights the “human element” in their work.

In addition to spending $25 million on this one campaign (this is in addition to the $5 million Dow is already spending on advertising), Dow is getting involved in projects such as the Blue Planet Run Foundation’s world-wide relay race. This campaign emphasizes the need for clean water.

It seems that the greatest human element at play here is Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. His buy-in to this campaign is a large part of why it is successful.

Check out one of Dow's human element ads in all its poetic glory.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sometimes the words of others make the most impact

When I read Jeffrey Gitomer’s column in the August 27 Idaho Business Review, I found enough pieces that I wanted to share them directly. Below are some excerpts I found interesting.

The Biggest fear of Salespeople is NOT. . . fear itself!

Salespeople have two major fears: #1 is rejection and #2 is price or fee.

Most salespeople (not you, of course) are hesitant when it comes to talking price or fee. The reason is, in their own mind, they think their prices are too high.

When it comes to price, the first thing you have to have, as a professional salesperson, is a deep-rooted belief that the value of what you're offering far exceeds the price or fee that you're asking. If you don't believe this, the highest level you will rise in your sales career is to the level of mediocre. And worse, your prospective customer will sense that your belief system is not deep enough by your language.

Here are the telltale signs that you don't believe deep enough:
1. You try to justify your price.
2. You apologize for your price.
3. You rationalize your price.
4. You have to go back into your presentation to clarify your price.
4.5 You try to ignore the signs that are evident hoping that they will go away.

And worse than that, you go back to your boss and say, "We lost one on price." Let me share with you - you did NOT lose on price, you lost on perceived value and you lost on perceived difference. If the customer doesn't perceive the value of your offering, if the customer doesn't perceive a difference between you and the competition, then all that's left is price.

Too much emphasis in any sales environment is placed on price. Salespeople moan that their product or service, whatever it is, is becoming a commodity. Commodity is your word, not theirs.
If you spent as much time concentrating on value and differentiation as you do moaning about price, the issue would disappear. There's one more key. Your customers are better at justifying and extolling the virtues of your price than you are. If I were you, I would have a few one-minute videos on my laptop of existing customers who believe in you, who have gladly paid your price, and who are proud to do business with you.

Those customers will help you gain new customers, faster and better than your sales presentation. BUT they do not replace the sales presentation. They enhance the sales presentation.

Also, check out Gitomer’s website...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What the heck is a plectrum?

Ben Sherman is releasing a new logo that they hope will have as much identity as the Nike swoosh. They chose the symbol of the plectrum, which they feel will connect with the edgy Britrock crowd. Makes sense to me.

Now if I could only figure out what the heck a plectrum is!

In January, the primary logo will be the plectrum symbol. Personally, I am seeing a shield, but that is not what a plectrum is. So here’s some things that don’t make sense about this logo change:
1. Ben Sherman is not eliminating its other logos – the plectrum will be the
primary logo, but they will still use their signature, Union Jack, check
pattern, crest, and target logos. Can you say brand confusion?
2. The resemblance to things that are not plectrums is understood by Ben
Sherman. It looks like a shield. It looks like a coat of arms. It looks like
a soccer patch. It does not (really) look like a plectrum. How is this an
identifiable symbol?
3. Ben Sherman marketing execs want this new logo to tap into the edgy Britrock
crowd and give their products a more sophisticated look. Edgy and
sophisticated? What?

So what is a plectrum? You in the American audience might be more familiar with the term “guitar pick”.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The first successful consumer robot is getting an upgrade – generated directly from customer evangelists

It was five years ago. A great innovation of something that had once been a tedious chore. Vacuuming would never be the same again, or so I thought when I purchased a first generation Roomba.

The designers, iRobot Corp., found out early that these cute little robots were becoming more than an appliance to the owners. Roombas were treated like family pets, given custom paint jobs and other modifications.

So the company ran with it. They introduced the iRobot Create – a stripped down version of the Roomba that had its programmatic interface opened to developers – and a website that shows off customer inventions.

That is the power of customer evangelists!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gap is feeling quite bullish…

How does knowledge running a drug store chain translate to running Gap? Maybe not so well.

New chief executive Glenn Murphy, former head of Shoppers Drug Mart (Canada's largest drug-store chain), is trying to create a “leaner, more responsive, and swifter” company.

Gap has been in trouble all year, closing down stores, cutting jobs, and watching their sales numbers slip. All evidence shows that the company is in a downward spiral.

But Murphy is optimistic, thinking his brand of retail treatment, which uses a customer-up focus, is the key to the company’s success.

Wall Street seems to somewhat support Murphy’s optimism – Gap’s shares rose 15 cents following his appointment.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Bloggies take a view of out of the box marketing tools

It is a tough game out there, and being on the front line of getting products noticed requires the use of tried and true strategies along with other, more creative tool. Here’s my take of some of the new uses of media, in the form of my Bloggies rating scale.

Advergaming ◄◄
(too distracting and not closely associated with the product)

Direct Mail ►
(good, solid tool)

Guerilla Marketing ►
(sometimes you have to pound the pavement)

Mobile Phones ►►
(innovative use of a pervasive technology)

Outdoor Advertising ►
(another tried and true one)

Viral Marketing ►►
(good, but by definition impossible to control, which is its strength and its weakness)

Podcasts ►►
(another good use of pervasive tech)

Social Networking ►
(potential, but I have not seen a real innovative use yet)

Health Club Ads ►
(talk about targeted marketing)

User-Generated Content ►
(again, difficult to control)

Word of Mouth ►►
(always good to leverage WOM)

► Represents a good idea (Play)

►► Represents a great idea, a real innovation (Fast Forward)

◄◄ Represents a bad idea, something that moves things in the wrong direction (Rewind)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Halo 3 treading on movie release territory

With the enhancements of video games over the past 5 years, it is no doubt we have gotten to this point. Video games place the audience into the action themselves, and with enhanced graphics and controllers that provide sensory feedback to the user, the experience is just getting more and more real.

Halo has been one of the most popular games around, and now with the release of the third installment of the game imminent, Microsoft (the game’s designer) has taken out all the marketing stops. Now they are tapping a source of publicity that has been reserved for movies – co-branding with fast food on drink and french fry packaging.

Now you can have Master Chief stare you in the face while you drink your Pepsi from your Burger King cup.

Though video games did a third of the business that movies did last year, the home entertainment market is gaining fast – 14% growth compared to movies’ 3%.

Technology is only improving the experience. Soon we may have affordable emersion virtual reality environments, able to be installed in our homes. Who knows how this will affect entertainment?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What does your brand sound like?

Branding is about a lot of things. Storytelling, connection, memorability, experience. Our business focuses on making some pretty basic connections, but one that often takes the back seat to visuals is sound.

DMI Music and Media Solutions has been thinking about sounds for 10 years. Their philosophy is simple – the best way to create loyalty is through emotion; and the best way to create emotion is through music.

My idea stretches from that. We do creative brainstorming sessions all the time. But how would an audio brainstorming session work? You could bring in 20 sounds that reflect the business and see how they resonate. You could think about the product and figure out what sounds come to mind first.

Lots of companies have used sounds to great effect. Sprint was so clear you could hear a pin drop. And who can forget the signature sound of Intel Inside.

This becomes especially useful in the modern landscape. With the advent of cell phone ringtones, you can provide your brand sound for free download.

Sound is everywhere. Let’s not forget to tap into its possibilities!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fast food restaurant numbers – a thought exercise…

There are 128,942 fast food outlets in the U.S. if you count only the top 50 chains. That’s about one outlet for every 892 U.S. households or one for every 2,334 people.

If you are wondering how that matters, here’s where I’m going – I’d like to analyze this with my A2U® tool (see previous posts for details on this communication tool).

Can you even name 50 fast-food chains? I get stuck around 10 or 15.

How do these numbers make you feel? Do they seem high? Low?

How many times a week do these 2,334 people have to eat at these fast-food chains to keep them in business?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

How one employee is changing the perception of an entire airline

Every individual in a company acts as a representative for that company when they are dealing with the public. It can be a huge burden to carry the weight of a mega corporation on one’s shoulders, especially if the company does not train, support, or otherwise acknowledge the fact.

Think about the last time you got bad customer service. You likely blamed the bad interaction not on the individual but on the company. Countless other factors are at work, from economic conditions to the kind of day the employee is having, but you rightly point the finger at the group that should be mitigating all of the circumstances and making you the most important problem the company has to deal with.

Can one United Airlines employee make the difference in how a plane load of people perceive that airline? Ask Captain Denny Flanagan, the subject of a front page article in the Aug 28 WSJ.

Captain Flanagan goes above and beyond to make the flight experience a good one. On his plane, the buck stops with him. He understands the customers are hungry for just a little bit of old fashioned customer service. They don’t want the red carpet rolled out for them. They don’t need complimentary slippers or warm cookies. They just want to be treated as human beings rather than cattle.

Here’s a rundown of Captain Flanagan’s special features:
• Takes pictures with his cell phone of pets in the cargo area so he can show
the owners that the animals are on board
• Raffles 10% off discount coupons and unopened wine bottles while in flight
• Thanks first class and elite passengers with personal notes
• If the flight is diverted or delayed, he buys hamburgers from an airport
McDonald’s for all the passengers
• Personally calls parents of unaccompanied minors with reassuring updates

United apparently supports Captain Flanagan’s actions, saying that he does a great job for the customers, but why not go farther than this? Why not empower all captains, all employees, to have these kinds of interactions? Are they afraid the system will break down?

Make the experience one of quality, and you will create economic stability. Make your customers feel like they are number one, that their problems are bigger than your problems. Because their problems are your problems, whether you like it or not.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If a picture says a thousand words, how many does a moving picture say?

The breakout success of Craigslist has generated other attempts at classified sites, but none quite reach the bar of Craigslist. In cities where CL is active, it is a wonderful place to buy, sell, get a job, or market your own skills. A true online community that succeeds not only despite of its lack of sophistication, but probably because of it.

This new breed of sites, though, has potential of being the next generation. The difference is that the new sites allow video additions to the ad. Sometimes this is done in place of where pictures might have sufficed. Generally the video quality is poor. But this is a natural outgrowth of the YouTube phenomenon and the Internet’s newfound capacity for video.

Check out these three sites:

Know of any others? Send them in.

Video is in.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And now for a GOOD IDEA from the airline industry…

Alaska Airlines has made a bold move. But it is born out of sound business decisions. Their Anchorage International Airport features only one small traditional ticket counter.

The new experiment in self service proves that airline passengers are not just mindless travelers wandering the hallways, lost but for the guidance of the “oh-so-helpful” and cheerful ticket counter attendants. It has also doubled the concourse’s capacity, halved its staffing needs and cut costs, and reduced the amount of time travelers take to move through the building and on to waiting for their flight.

And have no fear, this innovation (which I liken to sliced bread for the airline industry) is moving south. Alaska Air is going to setup the same design at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The service industry is starting to get it – folks want to be able to help themselves. From grocery stores to hardware stores to book stores, self-service is here. Although the self check-in kiosk has been present in airports, it has not been made a key feature as it is with this plan.

I’m glad to see the airline industry is finally advancing this trend and making a self-service system that actually works.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Chicago Transit Authority is in dire straights. Again.

Look up “CTA funding problems” on Google and you get a string of articles going back into time. It is the same story each time – the CTA needs more money because ridership is down.

I propose an alternate strategy: improve the CTA riding experience and value!

The problem with the CTA is complex, but I argue that it is more about management than it is about funding. The experience of a ride is dreadful. The busses and trains are filthy to the point that not even the customers have any respect for them anymore. And the most basic feature of customer service is a turkey shoot – some CTA employees are delightful. But others are so bad they make an already bad experience horrible.

One way or another, equilibrium will be found. If more people like me get fed up with the rate increases and lousy experience, the system will ultimately collapse under its own mismanagement. Or, if the riding experience improved, if the value of each ride increased, more people would ride. If more people would ride, more people would be paying. And the system would improve.

You can read more about the history of the CTA crisis at