Thursday, December 8, 2011

A brand new Vision - a triumph for branding

As some may know, I have been involved in a brand project that brings together two long-established superannuation funds in Australia - Equipsuper and Vision Super. Naturally, the question on everyone's lips was what will the new fund be called? What will the logo look like?

As people involved in brands already know, the name and logo is merely the end of the brand journey, with a whole bunch of other stuff preceding it - qualitative and quantitative research, identification of shared values and culture, SWOT analysis and the list goes on. I prefaced the first Brand & Communications Group meeting by saying I did not want to see any crayons or sketch pads in the room until the real work was done.

It's now common knowledge that the merged fund will be called Vision, dropping the 'Super' name from the original fund name. This was the best decision on a number of metrics, but how we got there is what convinced me that it was so.

When the funds announced the merger about 18 months ago, the guidelines provided to the B&C Group was that the new fund should have a new name, in other words should not adopt either of the previous names. There were a number of factors driving this, which are largely irrelevant, except to say the instruction preceded any evaluation of brand metrics or objectives. 

So the B&C Group's brief was to come up with a new brand name and the process was established accordingly. However, as a precaution, we did drop questions about current names into the stakeholder research conducted for us by CoreData.

Elmwood Australia was commissioned to undertake the brand development work based on the research findings and other investigations. And that's where the rubber hit the road with the naming challenge. We invited staff to submit names, Elmwood came up with some and I found myself sitting in front of several screens on weekends creating and evaluating names and their availability. Elmwood mobile devices regularly sprang to life at 5 a.m. with 'what about this?' questions.

As directed, we spent a few sessions with the usual butcher's paper sheets of names stuck around the wall looking for new names. Vision was up there as an option, but was struck out early, for all the wrong reasons.

But over several weeks, it became clear that nothing we had come up with was superior to Vision, which captured a number of the core brand and cultural values established by the research. Most of all, none of the new names retained any sort of connection with the 80-year heritage of the two existing funds. In particular, the research had established there was greater attachment to the Vision name than the Equipsuper name across existing stakeholder groups, including staff.

Of course, a new name would have clearly signalled a change both internally and externally and the recommendation and approval of the Vision name has created its own unique challenges - in particular that of ensuring that the current Vision staff recognise that the name, the visual treatment of it and the brand narrative surrounding represents a fresh beginning. Our internal communications campaign is therefore headlined 'A brand new Vision'

Despite this challenge, Vision is absolutely the right name and I am delighted to say that, a key derivative from the brand project has been the articulation of a clear vision for the brand and a guiding 'Big Idea' to which the new organisation will subscribe.

I also am pleased that the executive and boards of the existing entities had the courage to put aside the initial directive and to hear and approve the brand recommendation on the basis of a thorough investigation of key metrics, a recognition of the value of heritage and the adoption of a challenging guiding  idea for the future.

To hear more about this and see the new visual identity, I'm sorry you'll have to wait until mid-next year when the merger is completed and the 'brand new Vision' comes to life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How wrong can you be?

After reading an report last week that Coke's idea of putting names on cans was one of its most successful campaigns ever, I have to swallow my pride and admit I never thought it would be a goer.

But you cannot underestimate the power of personalisation. The trouble some have gone to to find a can with their name on it is unbelievable. Serial tweeter and Deloitte Digital CEO in Australia, Pete Williams, tweeted last week that he'd finally found a can with his name on it. "Straight to the poolroom," he tweeted (the Aussie version of the trophy cabinet).

So congratulations to the people at Coke for their much greater appreciation of consumer behavior than yours truly.I have one challenge though - could you please set up a digital can printer in retail outlets so we don't have to freeze our hands searching frosted for a can pre-printed with our names? Now that would be fun because we could progress to nicknames and other terms of endearment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The career-limiting Christmas wine list

Right outside our office window over the past year, we've witnessed construction workers walking along a crane gantry in quite high winds - a high-risk occupation by any measure. But I was tempted to swap places last week when by far the most daunting task of the year hit my office desk - selection of the Christmas party wine list.

This is an extremely career-limiting task. Roughly 50 palettes head down to a Southbank restaurant for the annual bonhomie that is the feature of the end of year Christmas party. And because we're in the process of merging, I've suddenly inherited a few additional palettes - with opinions! 

So the pressure is on - balancing the lolly water palettes of the Sauvignon Blanc set, with the 'sophisticated' tastes of the Pinot group and the raw Aussie bluster of the big bold Shiraz bloc. Add to this a 'salary cap' of $50 a bottle in a place where the cheapest drop is $45 a bottle and you are in very challenging territory.

These days, the task is not made easier by the proliferation of wine labels. I don't know what it is with the wine industry, but new 'brands' seem to pop up like daisies during the year. Gone are the days when the choice was basically Ben Ean Moselle or Asti Spumante for the more discerning (sorry, that was university days).

So why does this task fall to me? Yes, I'm responsible for brand in our organisation, but that doesn't mean to say I should be across every new label appearing in Dan Murphy's or Vintage Cellars. No. There is something far more fundamental.

You see, I'm relatively old, perceived as in the twilight of career by everyone except the Federal Government who believe I should work until they carry me out feet first to save the drain on the public purse. The logic is, therefore, that if I stuff up the Christmas wine selection, I have least to lose - less career years lost, diminishing prospects of promotion not too severely impaired.

There's also the view that caginess born of long experience will ensure I read the Gold medals on the bottles properly to ensure that the accumulated awards are from the Adelaide or Sydney wine shows, rather than the Bullamakanka Ladies Local Produce Awards. 

I have picked five wines for this year's luncheon, of which I will have to consume a reasonable quantity as I anxiously scan the dials of colleagues partaking of the first drops for signs of approval or disdain. 

For the record, I've picked the following varieties: a Prosecco (because the boss likes it), a WA Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (I had to add something to the SB to manage reputational risk), Pinot Gris (NZ) for the Pinot set, a Pinot Noir (the Pinot group is influential) and a McLaren Vale Shiraz (my favourite region for this variety because I bloody deserve it).

The Christmas wine list - not a job for the faint hearted!

Just another bum on a seat

Tonight I'm doing something that, as a football tragic, I'd normally never do unless Liverpool were visiting - attending one of those pointless 'friendlies' between a half-decent overseas club team and a local team struggling to score.

Yep. I'm about to watch LA Galaxy play Melbourne Victory. More correctly, I'm expecting to watch David Beckham play Harry Kewell. With due respect to others in those teams, that is how my teenage daughter describes the event.

She finds football boring, preferring the local free scoring goal fest that is AFL. But the Becks brand (not the beer, you idiot!) has worked its magic and we're going to experience 'His Presence' rather than attending with any hope of seeing an exciting contest.

Reports are that over 35,000 tickets have been sold for this event, I estimate about 25,000 more than if LA Galaxy were playing Melbourne Victory. Oh hang on! That's what we're going to see. Almost forgot.

So at $60 a throw, the Becks brand has added about 25,000 bums on seats and $1 million big ones to the gate. And wait a minute - it's live on Foxtel. Bit of an overstatement. 'Live' is not how I'd describe my expectations for the game. So Uncle Rupert and Telstra have also subscribed to the Becks phenomenon to boost the coffers of Football Federation Australia.

Of course, this is all small potatoes to Becks. At 36, he's made hundreds of times more than tonight's gate takings and this is probably his last game for LA Galaxy before he heads to Europe to convince some aspiring team that he can still flog more merchandise by merely appearing on the subs bench.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not slating Becks. I'm just jealous that brand BrooksieG is trailing somewhat in the financial rewards stakes. I played football years ago, but usually bent the ball out of play or wide of the goal rather than bending it like Beckham. There are few enterprises other than the trainers of Golden Retrievers who'll sponsor that sort of talent.

What's probably more concerning about the Becks phenomenon is, for my daughter. the allure is more about pecs like Becks rather than football skill. It's a worrying time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Great news! I'm now drinking in the national interest!

I'm not a great beer drinker - the absence of grapes in the mix deters me. Nonetheless, when I do partake of the amber, my favourite brew is Coopers. And now, thanks to offloading Fosters to South African brewer, SABMiller, yesterday for a cool $10 billion, when I drink Coopers, I'm drinking in the national interest - crusading to keep the last great Aussie beer brand in local hands.

As I jump in my chariot of choice and drive over to Dan Murphy's to collect a carton, I know the crusade will be a long one. Coopers only has 4% share of the national beer market. So it will be guerilla warfare, with a few diehard defenders of Aussie brands sniping with their credit cards at the overseas behemoths.

The great thing going for Coopers is you can consume more of it, because you don't need to eat with it. All the food's contained in the bottle, with that familiar sediment churning through it to nourish you as you drink. Someone told me that you can never get a hangover from drinking Coopers because it's naturally top fermented - no added chemicals to give you the headache. Even though I heard this about 30 years ago, I find it hard to read the ingredients information with the bottle in my mouth, so cannot verify the veracity of this claim.

Yes, it's a comforting thought knowing that the internationals haven't really developed a beer that you can eat chilled. Chilling is mainly confined to what the Europeans would call lager. Beer they drink warm. Any pom will tell you that Aussies are not beer drinkers. We're all lager drinkers. So we've sold the South Africans a dud - they've bought a lager company when they thought they were buying a beer brewer. Aussies have never been good at disclosure.

Are we sad that another icon Aussie brand is heading overseas to live? Has Fosters gone the way of the Speedo? Will beer in stubbies go the way of men in Stubbies. Remember Stubbies? Those shorty cotton shorts that gave everyone a peek-a-boo at some of Australia's greatest nut crops on building sites? Let's hope we exported the roadshow as well as the brand!

Seriously though, it seems we're good at creating brands, but not good at hanging onto them. Doing that is a bloody hard exercise when your domestic market would fit in a schooner and you've failed to really make decent inroads internationally.

A Fosters spin-off, Treasury Wines, is now attacking the Chinese market and called for Aussie winemakers to resist the temptation to pour cheap crap into China and to build the market based on quality and, therefore, sustainable margins. With some of the brands, like Penfolds, in the Treasury Wines cellar, it's no surprise they're encouraging this approach.

In any event, I now have a job to do. Christmas-New Year beer will be there to be eaten, not drunk. Coopers is it and my 2012 Coopers Crusade will begin. Let's drink to save a great Aussie brand.