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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Great moments in sensory branding. Or does your air conditioner dream in color?

In his book, Brand Sense, Martin Lindstrom wrote about building powerful brands through all five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. I think the folks at York Air Conditioners must have bought a copy. They've just launched their new Affinity™ series of air conditioners -- the first air conditioner that gives homeowners a choice of seven designer colors.

Actually, it took more than Lindstrom's book to make that happen. According to York's Web site, they engaged Fitch:Worldwide, a leading branding and design firm, to help them through the process. They did plenty of market research and focus groups to get the colors and style right. Plus they invested nearly $20 million in new tooling and facilities--all so you could say "I'll take Bermuda green."

There are seven Affinity colors in all: champagne, terra cotta, gunmetal blue, chocolate, Bermuda green, stone, and jet black. There's a fun
Flash demo for Affinity that lets you compare the seven air conditioner colors with six colors of siding and two colors each of brick, stucco and stone. In addition to color, you can also have the housing decorated with your college logo. The image above shows Nebraska.

Another company that makes color a large part of its brand is KitchenAid
®. For decades, their workhorse mixers came only in white. Then, in a blinding flash moment, they realized that people use their kitchens for more than just cooking. They use their kitchens (and everything in them) to define who they are, to help create their own personal brand. So now, the KitchenAid Artisan® Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer comes in 19 different colors, from empire red to mango.

I hope York's new color line is successful. To me, it's an important step in product and industrial design. I think the thing that works in its favor is that it's unexpected. Until York came along, we had no expectations of ever having a gunmetal blue air conditioner. Now we do. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tag Line of the Month (Hopefully this will become a regular feature)

What can you say about tag lines? Some are good. Some are bad. And some make no sense at all. The tag line featured this month, however, makes a lot of sense. It works from the outside in, connecting brand to customer in a clear, concise way. It not only delivers a strong brand promise; it defines who that promise is for. Who are we talking about here? None other than Safe Auto Insurance Company. Their tag line:

"We keep you legal for less."

When it comes to insurance, the Safe Auto folks are the mavens of minimum coverage. Their target customer is not interested in getting the best deal on auto insurance the way Geico's or Progressive's customers are. Safe Auto's customers see things differently. They aren't buying auto insurance as such; they are buying proof of auto insurance--a little wallet-size card that lets them meet state motor vehicle requirements.

Safe Auto's tag line captures the essence of the brand completely. It leaves no room for misinterpretation. It offers a safe harbor to those who can't afford broader coverage or who don't care who they run into on the road. So while I admire the tag line, I still wince every time I hear it on TV and hope one of their minimum coverage drivers doesn't run into

Monday, April 03, 2006

How much is that brand in the window?

Corporate brands are down. “Market facing” brands are up. As reported in Brand Republic.com, a new research study by Millward Brown Optimor interviewed 650,000 consumers globally to provide measures of brand equity for more than 30,000 brands. The result is a new BRANDZ™ Top 100 ranking—unique because it is the first ranking to combine consumer research with public financial data to measure the contributions brands make to the bottom line. It is also the only ranking to quantify consumer sentiment about a brand’s momentum and future prospects, and the first to focus on “market facing” brands as opposed to corporate brands.

So who’s number one? Microsoft is the world's most valuable brand at $62bn, followed by GE at $55.8bn and Coca-Cola at $41.4bn. I guess you could say brand management is taking on a whole new set of values.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Chew this up and spit it out

Yet another American icon is attempting an international comeback: Bazooka brand bubble gum. The gum, manufactured by The Topps Company, has been a staple in kids’ mouths since 1947. The brand is best known for the “Bazooka Joe” comic strip that comes wrapped around every piece.

To get its brand ready to duke it out with Wrigley, Hubba Bubba, Double Bubble, Bubblicious and others in the marketplace, Topps decided is was time for Bazooka Joe to be joined by a new, more diverse gang of comic strip characters. So now there’s a tomboy, an environmentalist, an Asian DJ, an African-American “awkward guy,” and a German exchange student. When I was a kid, I never once thought about the characters’ personalities or what the characters stood for; they stood for nothing. I guess things have changed.

As reported in
Brand Republic, Paul Cherrie, managing director of The Topps Company, said: "Bazooka is an American icon, a world icon for that matter. We've improved the product and are introducing new Bazooka bubblegum products and packaging in the coming months -- a whole comprehensive marketing program -- and putting a concerted effort behind its revival."

Bazooka itself is now available in a wide variety of flavors and forms, including Original, Grape flavors, as well as Sugarless Bazooka. Bazooka Blasts, with "Super Flavor Crystals," provides longer lasting, more intense flavor.

I don’t know about you, but I could never learn to blow a proper bubble. I just chew until the sugar and flavor are gone, then spit the wad out.

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