.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Call center inside?

As a Dell computer owner, I’ve enjoyed David Pogue's articles in Circuits about the ineptitude of Dell’s outsourced customer service. The stories are hilarious. They are 100 percent true, even if they are made up. And therein lies a competitive advantage for someone. As I see it (and I bet I’m not the only one to see it this way) all of those great strategic reasons for going offshore have left a customer service void in this country. So some company needs to step up to the plate and fill it. What I’m talking about is housing a call center on American soil with well-trained people who speak English as their first language—and make it part the brand promise. Like Intel Inside. Only this time it could be “Call Center in the USA.” What’s lost in operating costs should be offset by a sharp increase in brand value. Of course, you’ll need a great logo to pull this off. Any takers?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Clear blocked sinus passages and fight methamphetamine at the same time

This post isn’t about methamphetamine or crystal meth, although we all know how devastating and lethal that drug is. This is about the makers of Sine-Off, who have launched a campaign against meth and are using it to reposition their products.

Here’s the deal: pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, is derived from inexpensive cold medications, like Sine-Off. Only not anymore. Because Sine-Off is the first and only brand of cold, cough, flu and sinus medicine to completely remove pseudoephedrine from all of its products.

There’s a
broadcast spot to go along with that. The basic premise is that using Sine-Off doesn’t contribute to meth production, so it helps rid your community of crime and makes your streets safer—all while unstopping your nose. I’m not sure if the spot is supposed to serious or humorous. It reminds me of the parody spots on Saturday Night Live long ago.

Let’s see who jumps on the no-pseudoephedrine bandwagon next.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Why settle for a Mercedes when you can drive a tractor?

Do you know the difference between an Alessi tea kettle and a Revere tea kettle? Aside from about $80, the difference is mainly in design. Good or bad, design is an integral part of every brand. Design changes the context in which we perceive brands and can either enhance the user experience or detract from it.

What’s true for tea kettles is also true for tractors. Take the new high-horsepower Fendt 936 Vario tractor, recent winner of the prestigious
Red Dot Product Award. Hosted by Germany’s Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, the Red Dot is awarded to the highest tier of international product design.

According to
BusinessWeek Online, the Red Dot is “so important that Asian companies like Korean consumer electronics makers Samsung and LG pay their head designers an annual bonus based on how many products bag a Red Dot.”

Okay, back to the tractor. In the Red Dot’s transports category, alongside Porsche, Lamborghini and Maserati, you’ll find the Fendt 936 Vario tractor. It combines luxury, power and sleek design—making it a real head-turner. I’d take the Fendt 936 Vario tractor over a Deere any day. I’d also take it over a Hummer.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Say it ain't so, Jack

According to the New York Times, if Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman and CEO of SBC and now AT&T, has his way, he will dump Jack, the Cingular Wireless brand’s orange spokeslogo after SBC’s takeover of BellSouth is complete. This is bigger than the sock monkey.

I worked at BBDO Atlanta (Cingular’s ad agency) in 2001, the year Jack was born. (Actually, he was conceived at VSA Partners.) I liked Jack for two reasons: 1) He was orange at a time when nobody was orange, and 2) He was blob-like and didn’t have a swoosh. To me, he was the brand identity wave of the future. And except for the blob part, I was right. Now everything cool is orange and swooshes have gone the way of Malcolm X caps.

Cingular focused on branding in its broadcast spots, leaving print media for retail ads. According to my friends at BBDO Atlanta, the launch campaign, with its tag line—“What Do You Have to Say?”—made Cingular a household name within two years, raising the brand awareness level to an incredible 80%. Cingular’s ubiquitous orange icon became one of the fastest growing and most recognizable symbols in the country.

Okay, brand awareness is not the same as brand equity. But is that a good reason to throw Jack out? I couldn’t find a $ estimate for Cingular’s brand value, but certainly, it has to be worth something. If I were a shareholder, I would question the wisdom of dumping such an important asset. At the very least, sell him.

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