Archives For May 2013

Oreo is a great example of an iconic brand that has evolved and kept up with the times. The “Oreo Biscuit” was first developed and produced by the National Biscuit Company (today known as Nabisco) in 1912 at its Chelsea Factory in New York City. Oreo has grown to become the bestselling cookie brand in the world generating $1.5 billion in global annual revenues.

Oreo stands out in people’s minds for the rituals associated with eating it (twisting the wafers apart and licking the cream, dunking in milk) and the warm feelings and memories of sharing those experiences with family and friends. Growing up, Oreo was my favorite cookie brand.

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The Oreo Brand has also established itself as a leader in social media. The brand is best known for its perfectly timed tweet during the Super Bowl power outage that set a benchmark for breakthrough marketing on one of the most visible stages. The brand which ran a regular commercial during the first quarter of the game had copywriters and artists available to react to any opportunity. 

The Oreo Brand has become a social media powerhouse. The brand has over 33 million followers on Facebook and 95,000 followers on Twitter. The brand has learned the importance of “being social”.

In addition to the opportunistic Super Bowl Campaign, Oreo has a well crafted social media strategy that has kept the brand front and center with its fan base. Oreo has had several noteworthy social media campaigns. Their Daily Twist campaign ran from June 25, 2012 to October 2, 2012. Each day Oreo released a whimsical image of the cookie redesigned to commemorate something that had happened on that day.

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Oreo has embraced social media to remain relevant. There are some great lessons to be learned from Oreo’s social media efforts. It is important to post frequently, be timely, topical, consistent and to have fun and show a sense of humor.

What is your favorite cookie brand?

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This past winter and spring, I was critical of the New York Yankees for not aggressively improving their team following a disappointing end to the 2012 season. I wondered why Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Brothers were not upgrading an aging roster that had significant flaws. I questioned their commitment to spending the money necessary to build the Yankee Brand long-term. I thought the Steinbrenners were planning to sell the team. In the late winter and early spring the Yankees lost four of their best players, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter to serious injuries that would sideline them a minimum of two months. It’s possible that Arod, Tex and Derek could miss the entire season. Since the season started Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, Ivan Nova and Joba Chamberlain have all suffered injuries forcing them to go on the disabled list for extended periods time. The Yankees have a high-priced All-Star Team on the disabled list.

Chris Stewart, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells

Management did not panic like many Yankees fans including me. Prior to the season starting, they acquired several veteran players including Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. All three players had sub par 2012 seasons and it appeared that their best years were a thing of the past. The Yankees also signed Brennan Boesch who was released by the Detroit Tigers and Chris Nelson who was cut by the Colorado Rockies. This seemed like a recipe for disaster. After a 1-4 start, it appeared that 2013 would be a long season in the Bronx. The Yankees seemed destined for last place in the competitive American League East. These late spring moves turned out to be a stroke of genius for GM Brian Cashman.

On May 12th, the Yankees have a 23-13 record, 10 games above 500, lead the American League East by a game and are tied for the second best record in baseball. The Yankees are a very entertaining baseball team that seems to find a way to win even with a depleted lineup. The Bronx has helped revitalize the careers of Wells, Overbay and Hafner who have all had excellent starts and delivered clutch hits, something that was missing last year. The starting pitching has been excellent. Mariano Rivera is 15 for 15 in save opportunities and leads a strong bullpen. Joe Girardi has done a masterful job piecing together a lineup with the players available to him.

Baseball is a hard sport to predict. Over a 162 game season your flaws tend to catch up with you. However, through 36 games, this team has been fun to watch and a pleasant surprise for a die-hard Yankee fan.

Do you think the Yankees will win the AL East this season?

Kmart was founded in 1962 by the SS Kresge Corporation in Michigan. Kmart became known for its “Blue Light Specials.” They occurred at surprise moments when a store worker would light up a mobile police light and offer a discount in a specific department of the store. At the height of Kmart’s popularity, the phrase “attention Kmart shoppers” also entered into the American pop psyche, appearing in films and other media such as Troop Beverly Hills, Six Days Seven Nights, Rain Man and Beetle Juice.

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In a world where rivals can match or exceed its price promise, Kmart’s Brand meaning has lost its relevance. Today, it seems impossible to believe that Sam Walton, once had Kmart envy. Walton used to tour Kmart stores and hold them up as an example of how to do everything right. For a time Kmart was the “King of the Hill” in retail.

The mighty have fallen. Today the creator of the Blue Light Special is closing stores and fighting for its life in the chain-discount category that it helped to create. K-mart has struggled because they have failed to upgrade their stores and a lack of a clear brand positioning in consumer’s minds. They face difficult competition in a market dominated by Target and Wal-Mart. 

Until recently, nobody was talking about Kmart. In April, Kmart launched a new ad “Ship My Pants” online. The funny, edgy commercial promotes their  online “Ship to Home Service”, which Kmart launched a year ago, offering customers free delivery on any item they can’t find in stores. The ad quickly went viral has generated over 16 million views on You Tube.  The ad has brought much-needed attention to Kmart, but it also seems to point out that customers have been frustrated by the in-store experience. Kmart has under-invested in their stores for years. 

In my opinion, it is going to take Kmart more than a clever ad to become competitive. They need to identify a clear target segment, build a relevant positioning and improve the in-store experience. I question whether Kmart has a viable sustainable brand position.  

What do you think of Kmart’s long-term prospects?

Sambazon is the global market leader in Acai (AH-SIGH-EE) – a delicious and powerfully nutritious purple berry that grows on palm trees in the Amazon Rainforest. Sambazon was founded in 2000 by two brothers from California, Ryan and Jeremy Black and their childhood friend Edmund Nichols. During a visit to Brazil in 1999, their Brazilian friends persuaded them to try bowls of acai topped with granola and bananas as typically served by snack shacks along the beach. They fell in love with the berry.

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Quickly, they developed an idea to be the first to bring the Acai Berry to the United States. In 2000, with no real business experience, they launched Sambazon with the goal of marketing Acai and some other Amazon superfoods including acerola cherry which has 10 times the vitamin C of orange juice. Sambazon is available in fresh juices, smoothies and frozen products like smoothie-packs and sorbet. Sambazon products are available in Costco stores.

Sambazon stands for saving and managing the Brazilian Amazon. From the beginning, Sambazon has been based on a philosophy called the Triple Bottom Line, which not only measures success economically but also socially and environmentally. When a Triple Bottom Line Business makes a profit, everyone wins. from the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest which provides amazing fruits that are sustainably harvested, to the farmers who work the land, to Sambazon employees to consumers who use Acai to further their health. Sambazon is making a positive impact on the communities and forests of the Brazilian Amazon. Since its inception, Sambazon has forged close working relationships with the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund in its efforts to preserve the Amazonian rainforest and improve social and environmental standards in Brazil.

Sambazon has received numerous accolades from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the U.S. Secretary of States Award for Corporate Excellence. Sambazon takes great pride in being able to help the people of the Amazon while bringing health and nutrition to customers around the world without causing damage to the rain forest, all while turning a profit for stakeholders.

Through Sambazon’s efforts, Acai’s health benefits are now becoming accepted thanks to analyses and clinical studies showing it contains a potent mix of natural elements. Acai fruits are high in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids. However, they do not cause you to lose weight as has been marketed by some weight loss con artists.

I think Sambazon is an exciting brand with a progressive philosophy and business model that makes money while benefiting all stakeholders. I hope they continue to be successful.

Have you tried any of Sambazon’s Acai products?

Former CEO Ron Johnson faced a monumental task in trying to revitalize the JC Penney Brand when he took the helm late in 2011. He failed to turn-around JC Penney and in fact the situation deteriorated during his 17 month tenure as evidenced by a 25% comp store decrease in 2012. In early 2012, Johnson unveiled an aggressive vision for a “new” JCP that included new brands, in-store shops and a new pricing strategy. For years, JC Penney had been losing relevance with the American public. However, the chain still had a loyal core group of shoppers who responded to aggressive sales.

Michael Graves Design at jcp1 - photo credit Chris Rupert

One of Johnson’s biggest mistakes was failing to test and refine his new ideas before rolling them out. In the first quarter of 2012, when the new strategies were announced, JC Penney was not yet in a dire situation. It was merely a dowdy, third-rate department store that needed to appeal to younger shoppers while maintaining its core customer base. The full-bore, across the nation re-branding and remodeling was way more aggressive than what was needed. He made big changes, extremely rapidly, without testing them like retailers and direct marketers usually do. Johnson has been quoted as saying, “we didn’t test at Apple.”

In a January 2013 post, I advocated that JC Penney needed to start to take a lean startup approach and rapidly test and refine new product, marketing and merchandising concepts. With over 1,100 stores, they missed a huge opportunity to market test new ideas and learn from customer response before making a big expensive bet rolling out big changes. Market Testing is a critical tool that should be used whenever possible to refine and improve ideas. Johnson mis-read the pace that JC Penney’s core customers were willing to change and the appeal of his ideas to new customers.

I believe that Johnson had some great ideas to re-make JC Penney’s. However, by failing to properly test and refine those ideas before they were rolled out nationally with great hype, we will never know if they would have worked in the long-term. Personally, I wanted his ideas to work. The future of JC Penney’s is very much in doubt. A return to the short-term sales promotional tactics of the past may stabilize sales for a while but is not a long-term strategy for success.

What do you think of JC Penney’s long term chances?

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, won 10 National Championships. The legacy that John Wooden left was more important than wins and losses. He taught boys to become men on and off the court. Wooden is remembered not simply as a coach who got his teams to win but also one who taught his players lessons that would last a lifetime.

Coach John Wooden

John Wooden is famous for insightful and inspiring quotes. I will share a couple of quotes to get you thinking on this sunny day in the Northeast.

“We need to apply ourselves each day to becoming a little better. By applying ourselves to the task of becoming  

a little better each day we will become a lot better over time.”

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“Don’t give up on your dreams or your dreams will give up on you.”

“Be prepared and be honest.”

I met John Wooden for a minute in 1996 at Los Angeles International Airport. We were both waiting on a flight to San Francisco that was delayed for four hours. I walked over and introduced myself to Coach Wooden, a legend, who was humble, interested, friendly and generous with his time.

What is your favorite John Wooden quote?

Fat Tire Amber Ale is one of my favorite micro beers. I decided to do some research on Fat Tire to find out what the company and brand was all about. What I found was a company that has a great story, a collaborative culture, a genuine interest in the welfare of associates and a commitment to sustainable business practices. This approach has enabled the company to be very successful.

Fat Tire is brewed by the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is the seventh largest brewery in the United States. The brewery was founded in 1991 by husband and wife team (now divorced) Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan who began brewing beer in their basement. Kim is now the CEO. She is one of the few female CEO’s of a major brewery.

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The Fat Tire recipe originates from Jeff’s bicycle trip through Belgium where he traveled from brewery to brewery. Sounds like a fun trip. The bike on the label symbolizes his trip as well a commitment to run a sustainable business. Their mission statement is to:

“Operate a profitable company which is socially, ethically and environmentally responsible, that produces high quality beer true to the Belgian brewing styles.”

The company is a leader in sustainable manufacturing. The culture is guided by strong values, a sense of purpose and leadership that recognizes employee contributions. Year after year, New Belgium is voted one of the best places to work in the United States. New Belgium believes that their dedication to a high involvement culture and a loving, high performing workforce sets them apart. It also donates a lot of money to charity and recently announced that it is 100% employee owned. New Belgium’s purpose reads as follows:

“Operate a Profitable Brewery which makes our love and talent manifest.”

New Belgium is very successful and continues to grow. New Belgium is building a brewery in Asheville, N.C., that will enable the company to expand its distribution to the East Coast.

New Belgium is another example of a successful company which balances profits with doing the right thing.

Have you tried Fat Tire Amber Ale?