Thursday, June 24, 2010

The brand I recommend during the World Cup

Yep. Two hours sleep last night sandwiched between the England v. Slovenia and Australia v. Serbia games. As I work through my third cup of tea in three hours under the umbrella of my Quiet Please. World Cup Recovery in Progress sign posted to my office door, I find myself turning to that most reliable of brands, Poly Tears.

These are the eye drops that I will rely on to remove my canary look until I can retreat to an appropriate evening of recovery.

Congrats to the Poms for qualifying and to Australia for scoring the best two goals from a team just failing to qualify. Sorry to the teams playing tonight. I won't be watching. But then again...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out of step as I consider trading the VeeDub

The recently released Roy Morgan Single Source survey of automotive brand loyalty in Australia questions my sanity - but belies the claim of VW's advertising, which is about being different.

You see, VW enjoys the second-highest level of brand loyalty among car owners (measured by intention to purchase again) in Australia - the numero uno in the survey being Subaru which, incidentally, just ain't me. So I am clearly swimming against the tide as I shop Audi dealerships, even though my ever-reliable VeeDub Passat is only two years old.

At an Audi dealership last weekend, even the salesman was saying what a good looking car I had. I could see he was perplexed as to why I'd consider trading it at a changeover cost of 30-plus big ones.

So what is it with me? They should have severed the dysfunctional wiring loom in my head instead of the umbilical cord when I was born. There's nothing wrong with the VeeDub. In fact, I had it serviced only last Friday - NOTHING WRONG WITH IT!  But unfortunately, it is a victim of Honda syndrome. Yep. I had a Honda Accord several vehicles ago. Boring, but....NOTHING WRONG WITH IT!

You see, plain functional vehicles that do everything right are boring to car enthusiasts. I owned a Saab. Broke down several hundred kilometres from home at a family funeral. Believe it or not, the crank pulley came off - something minor, a once in a lifetime event. Despite being tempted to bury it in an adjoining plot at the time, I duly had it repaired at the local dealer after negotiating a two month warranty extension.

Last car was an Audi. Totally pissed off when the Bosch ABS control unit failed after eight years, I discovered that this was a known issue on the car and that VW had issued an international recall, but subsidiary brand, Audi, had not. Presumably, Audi owners were considered wealthy enough to cover the cost of the $2,000 repair.

In the case of both the Saab and the Audi, I traded them shortly after or, in the latter case,  with the problem. But you see, the point is that these issues gave these cars character. I've remembered every critical moment with those cars and am now blogging about their virtues.

Where the 'cars are just for getting from A to B' type owners regard these characteristics as an impediment to their motoring experience, Europhile owners just love the character - their brand's point of difference. We've heard all the stories - Jaguar, Porsche, Maserati, Alfa Romeo - the road is littered with the oil and debris of shattering electro-mechanical failings.

But herein lies the VeeDub's problem. It's sandwiched in the loyalty stakes between Subaru and Toyota which, given its well documented recent issues, should really have copped a drubbing (white goods are easily replaced fortunately).

Being the meat in this sandwich impacts hard on one's psychology. But more particularly, it explains why brands with character appeal to people like me. You'll never find Audi sandwiched between Subaru and Toyota in the loyalty stakes. Much better to be off the chart and unique. It's character building.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Give SBS the Australian tourism gig

If you've been following the World Cup, you may have noticed that, in the breaks between the cacophonic blart of the vuvuzela, SBS has been running a thematic ad with faces from around the world singing 'Let's go play some football.'

It's a simple proposition and exudes passion, happiness, engagement and all those other good things that brands like to associate with. Even my 12-year-old daughter, who's so far into techno music that she thinks Eric Clapton played a silicon chip, thinks the SBS theme is fantastic. Every time it comes on, she starts singing it. 'Catchy' is the word.

Compare this with the Tourism Australia promotion of 'Brand Australia' over recent years and you can see what's been missing. It's cliched, no one gets it, here or overseas and, what's more, none of the campaigns since Paul Hogan's 'Throw a Shrimp on the Barby' are memorable.

If we want someone to get tourists singing Australia's praises, we could do worse than hire the SBS marketing team for the next campaign.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The magic of the World Cup and relationships

Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, appeared on this morning's Sunrise program charged by the ubiquitous Kochie and Mel with casting some sort of spell to cure Harry Kewell's groin injury ahead of the Socceroo's first World Cup game against Germany on Sunday (Euro time). Much easier than inviting Fortescue's Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrester into a super mining tax lovefest - or is it mining super tax, or a mining tax for super? Never mind.

As an avid Liverpool supporter, I can assure all that restoring the health of Harry Kewell's groin has eluded some of the best sports medics in the world. So if Kevin747 can resolve this issue, it will go a long way to kick starting his own move back up the political premiership ladder. We await the outcome, but no doubt Kevin747 will be relieved that the nation's focus will, for a few days at least, turn to the Socceroos' first match against football powerhouse, Germany.

And talking about invitations and the World Cup, I should actually be in South Africa rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi of the global business community. You see, one enterprising conference organiser sent me an invitation about a year ago to attend a conference in Cape Town. It starts just after the World Cup and I found myself thinking back to the glory days of the 1980s when corporate boon doggles were the norm and major events were geared around the CEO's or the Chairman's overseas holiday plans.

I admit being extremely tempted to leverage the World Cup to the benefit of my employer. I mean what's $15,000 to attend a conference when you can schmooze and talk about football all night in local bars with people you're never likely to do business with?

I perused the list of registered corporate luminaries. Unusually for the invitations I normally receive, I noted it was not littered with US thought leaders touting their latest business tome. Instead, it had glitterati from European firms, like VW, Mercedes, Siemens... you get the picture (not many Greek luminaries I hasten to add). All there to promote their brands during the World Cup before opting for the conference add-on with its commercial imperatives of African wildlife safaris.

Luckily, as brand thought leaders, we all know brands are built on relationships. And there's no better place to reinforce those relationships than running up some executive expenses during the World Cup. Did I hear you say: 'But it should be around customer relationships.' ?

Don't worry it is. All these execs will want to be your mate when they return with their new suntans and they have to work out ways of chatting with you about the price increase on your next European car. The customer relationship is simple. You've just gotta love that car.

Whether your watching at home, or schmoozing in Cape Town, best of luck to you and your team. Keep an eye on Harry Kewell. If his groin suddenly goes up in flames, so might our Prime Minister.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Microsoft and Google collude to murder the corporate font

Last week I was chatting to my mate Nige, a guy who appreciates a good font, especially if its full of red wine. We were talking about branding and a project I am imminently to be involved in. We came to the somewhat belated conclusion that the nerds had finally engineered the death of the corporate font.

So this blog entry is my official announcement of the font's demise in my future branding strategies. When everything was delivered in print or in tightly controlled, rasterised audiovisual media, fonts were part of corporate identity.

But today, we are constructing channel strategies in which consistent visual image is less important than useability by Microsoft-conditioned office workers and, even more importantly, less important than comprehension by the bots that scour the net on behalf of search engines.

Don't be misled. I'm not celebrating the demise of the font, merely acknowledging that in many applications, passionately policing the corporate brand guidelines is poor business strategy and definitely not career-enhancing. Anything Google is blind too is brand poison these days.

And, in turn, the Google generations have been rendered blind to the role of careful typography in corporate presentations. For instance, I reviewed a presentation the other day for one young colleague. I confess - it was a Powerpoint presentation (50 lashes stretched over a template!). I've almost given up trying to police the use of the 'brand guidelines' font in the headings. But I did have to remark on 'inconsistent' font usage.

When challenged as to what I meant, I pointed out that it was nothing to do with using the 'proper' font, but about at least using the same font on every screen! 'I never noticed,' was the response. I rest my case.

Corporate visual guidelines are fighting a rear guard action against the overwhelming force of convenience (i.e. corporate fonts being loaded and available on on every Microsoft-compromised machine in the office) and the search engine gods. Optimal speed, delivery and effectiveness is triumphing over optimal  presentation.

The hair on graphic designers is noticeably shorter and more geek-like these days. But they still swear a lot. These days it's about having to work with HTML and bloody clients wanting to be on Google's first page. They rant against a world that believes it is far more effective to be ugly and out there than pretty and invisible.

So I'm going to strike a compromise in my next brand phase - I'll let you employ any Microsoft font as long as it's not Times Roman. After all, I am a man of principle! Furthermore, I hereby authorise an invasion of Microsoft's R&D facilitites to search for hidden WVDs - Weapons of Visual Destruction - that have yet to be unleashed.