Tag Archives: business

Welcome to Anytown, America! [Your Ad Here]

As reported by Mark J. Miller on brandchannel and the New York Times, many American cities are getting creative to earn more cash. 

How can you drum it up when everybody is also paying extra close attention to where a wallet’s contents are disappearing to? Cities are no different. Government services are hurting for cash and there are only so many ways to generate more dough.

Baltimore is currently trying to sell space on its fire engines to raise some extra pennies. And why not? The city’s current budget has made the elimination of three city fire companies necessary this summer.

Philadelphia is selling ad space on its subway fare cards and one of the city’s main train stops is now named for AT&T. Chicago is selling naming rights to its eleven “L” subway stations. As for the Times’ hometown, the naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue subway station at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn were sold in 2009, and the MTA implemented the Barclays name change in May.

The NYT report adds that corporate brands can cause confusion to the good citizens navigating them: “Cleveland recently named its new Bus Rapid Transit system the HealthLine after it received $6.25 million over 25 years from the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. (‘The HealthLine is not a number to call for free medical advice, any more than Quicken Loans Arena is where you go to take out a loan,’ its website notes.)”

The paper notes that KFC was one of the leaders in this form of advertising. The company “temporarily plastered its logo on manhole covers and fire hydrants in several cities in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee after paying to fill potholes and replace hydrants.” Sounds like not the worst tradeoff, right?

“As I’ve looked at budgets, they get bigger with less support from the federal and state governments,” Baltimore City Council member William Welch said. “And we can’t tax people out of existence. We’re trying, our mayor’s trying, to bring 10,000 more people back to Baltimore city. And if you have an increasing fee or tax structure, you’re not going to be able to do that. So you have to create alternatives.”

The Times notes that while selling naming rights raises money, it can also raise some thorny issues as well. The town of Tyngsborough, Mass., was considering selling ad space in order to raise money for new police cars, but it ended up deciding to not go there just yet. “Because of what we do, we like to be neutral,” said Chief William F. Mulligan, according to the Times. “Say there were two shopping plazas, and one advertised and one didn’t. Would that company feel like we weren’t treating them fairly?”

UK vs. US: British and American Chefs Go Head-to-Head

As reported by BBC Worldwide, British and American chefs go head-to-head in a race from LA to NYC to win $100,000 with Jamie Oliver as Executive Producer of Chef Race: UK vs. U.S.

The new original unscripted series (10 x 60) follows sixteen chefs, eight Brits versus eight Americans, as they race across the United States from Los Angeles to New York City in hopes of winning the $100,000 prize.

Throughout the journey the chefs are accompanied by Michelin-starred London Restaurateur Richard Corrigan (Masterchef), who serves as a mentor and judge, and host Claire Robinson (5 Ingredient Fix). With no money and minimal resources, the chefs must rely on more than their cooking skills. Resourcefulness, ingenuity, leadership and finesse will be just an important on their 3,000 mile adventure.

Jamie Oliver, Executive Producer, Fresh One says: “The restaurant business is one of the toughest in the world and to be successful in it these days takes so much more than just being able to cook. You’ve got to have a good business sense, vision, leadership and so much more. This series is the first time that anyone has really dug deep into what it takes to be successful and it’s going to take an incredible individual to win it.”

Perry Simon, General Manager, Channels, BBC Worldwide America adds: “Chef Race: UK vs U.S. celebrates great chefs from both sides of the pond, bringing their best cooking and entrepreneurial skills to bear in a creative format that showcases the diversity of America. The show is a great fit with our BBC America brand and our slate of new original series.”

Chef Race: UK vs U.S. is a BBC AMERICA original series and will be produced by Jamie Oliver’s Fresh One Productions, with Jamie Oliver (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution), Amy Chacon (The Amazing Race), Stef Wagstaffe (Undercover Boss), Roy Ackerman (Reagan, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution), Sebastian Grant (Lilly Allen and Friends) and Jo Ralling (Jamie’s American Road Trip) serving as executive producers.

Chef Race: UK vs U.S. is the latest commission to join BBC AMERICA’s stable of all-new original programming, along with scripted drama Copper debuting on Sunday, August 19.

Letter from America: Bonuses, Bungs and Brand

What common factor do Barclays, WPP, BP, RBS, NewsCorp and Costa Crosiere share?  As in my Market Leader magazine article (June 2012), they’re all under the spotlight by US shareholders for brand damage as a result of misjudged bonuses, ethics or operational bungles which has lost them the trust they invested so heavily to earn.  Read the full article here below…

Two leading British banks, Barclays and RBS, each awarded significant payouts to their executives despite calls not to by American institutional investors.  Both Bob Diamond at Barclays and Fred Goodwin, formerly of RBS Citizens, had significant US operations under their purview yet seemed deaf to the costs to their brands in one of the world’s largest financial services markets.  The Occupy Wall Street movement, which triggered copycat sit-ins in London and other leading financial centres, should have sent signals that this new form of grass roots consumer activism is not just temporary grit in the oyster but a more permanent reflection of the assertion by American consumers of their right to choose listening brands.

American owners of WPP stock are now less enamoured with the business’s remuneration committee proposal that Sir Martin Sorrell enjoy a 500% of salary maximum bonus payout from only 300% in times of austerity for its American clients and consumers.

Others with European operations affecting their American operation is News Corporation, whose leaders Rupert and James Murdoch have appeared before Parliament and a Government-backed enquiry.  During this time, NewsCorp’s headquarters offices in New York City has enjoyed 24/7 protesters in front of its doors while the company aims to explain to American institutional investors and customers its ethical standards and allegations of phone hacking and police bribery in Britain.

Then of course there’s the Costa Concordia cruise disaster whose European executives infrequently explained the vessel’s sinking off the Italian coast, owned by the world’s largest cruise line, American brand Carnival (ironically named given the circus surrounding its media management).

And we all know the story of Mr. Hayward wanting his life back 2 years ago while Gulf coast shrimpers wondered when their livelihoods would return too.

What all share is the significant loss of trust from its American investors and customers as a result of not understanding the context, culture and communications needed to save their sinking reputations.  According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2012, an annual study from this PR firm examining levels of trust in companies and industries by geographic market, there’s a lot of ground to make up by these European companies there.  When asked “how much do you trust business to do what is right?” only 50% of the American respondents gave their trust.

So what are the implications on Europe-based Messrs. Murdoch, Diamond, Sorrell, Hester, Hayward and Foschi to regain trust from US consumers and shareholders?

— communicate the “how” – have your leaders volunteer information about how decisions are made, the rationales which incorporate the views and values of those constituencies, assuming you’ve tested those rationales first to find the connections (if there aren’t any, you’d better find some);

— identify the “who” – fielding top executives to rebuild trust is a must for customers, staff, investors, media and all the other stakeholders.  First though, make sure these leaders have the agility and cultural awareness to deliver their messages the American way (we want emotion, hand-wringing, even tears rather than stoic Anglo-Saxon methods);

— show us the “what” – demonstrate action which plays to Americans’ preference for “ready/fire/aim” approaches rather than fence-sitting deliberation.  Show your plan for regaining their trust, what contingency plans you’ve put in place, how you’ll implement the plan, how you will engage them;

— be clear about the “where” – decide which online and offline media you will use to keep these US publics informed about and aligned with your plan of activities.  Which of your ecosystem partners are included in your communication? Which have credibility in the US that add to your message, and which detract?

While American trust is no different that British, Italian, French or Japanese trust, how you go about rebuilding it does depend on understanding the place.  Doing your homework on what works well there does pay huge dividends as many international brands in the US have learned the hard way.

Bad Taste for MAC Name Choices in Collaboration with Rodarte

Abe Sauer from Brand Channel provides an interesting example of brands looking to be on the bleeding edge of cool who otherwise become completely untethered from reality.

Creative pitch sessions go off the rails and devolve into a feedback loop of hip, where relativist style means there is no longer any such thing as good or bad taste. Only later, in the daylight and the fallout, does the insanity of the concept become clear. That is about the time a brand finds itself muttering, “We never intended…”
MAC Cosmetics has found itself in just such a place with its latest collaboration.
“We never intended to make light of this serious issue and we are truly sorry,” went the crisis management statement from fashion brand Rodarte, the National Design Award-winning clothing line, after announcing a line of cosmetics inspired by the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez.

The problem was the product names in the line, such as “Factory” and “Ghost Town.” Ciudad Juárez is considered the most violent municipality in Mexico, the site of widespread drug violence, and the epicenter of hundreds of murdered women in the last few years.

Fashion brand Rodarte has little to worry about, as its brand operates at the highest levels of fashion, where poor taste is often meaningless. MAC, however, is a different story. As an Estee Lauder-owned brand targeting a wide swatch of consumers (and women), a positive public perception that promotes women is of huge importance. More on this story on Brand Channel.

7 tips for 2012: Retail Rescue Recipe for Recession

Andrew Climance, Retail & Leisure International Editor, posed the question “Can internationalism in a recession be done?” and my below response was published in the March 2012 issue.

Despite one of the worst global recessions on record in developed economies, retailers in these countries are still planning for growth by expanding into international markets, which might at first seem a counter-intuitive strategy.

In fact, it’s one of the smartest things they can do in order to spread their risk across a number of markets of varying volatility. Tracking many trans-Atlantic retail moves, I have noted many top US and UK brands looking to further expand their reach across the water, some of which include Crate & Barrel, J Crew, Reiss, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie Kids, Orla Kiely, Coach, L K Bennett, Tory Burch and Patagonia.

While many others are sure to follow, they will all need to avoid being on the long list of trans-Atlantic retail casualties by taking a professional approach which includes adapting cleverly to the cultures and shoppers in their new geographies.

Over the many years helping retailers successfully transplant and translate their brands into US and EU markets – something I call BrandTravel™ – I’ve concluded that one of the most critical capabilities is developing and executing an intentional and methodical approach to internationalisation. With so many examples of retailers and leisure brands who have paid a high reputational price when getting it wrong, those who do approach expansion professionally do earn huge rewards.

So here are 7 tips for 2012 to help ensure your retail brand is fit for purpose in the international arena:

1. Manage “local” and “global” – managing this dilemma well separates the winners from the mediocre. It is possible to obtain scale economies while delivering local services and ranges as global food and drink brands have learned so well. Zara is amongst the very few in the fashion world who have created ranges specifically for their southern hemisphere markets rather than just selling them past season’s wares from its northern stores.

2. Transfer knowledge – opening stores in another market is not enough without also transferring what’s been learned from the culture, consumer behaviours and preferences in each market to ensure innovation and profits follow. Tesco’s Fresh & Easy small store US format had some costly merchandising hiccups at the start as a result of not applying the localisation lessons gathered from its expansions into Asian markets.

3. Be resilient – Being able to change processes, designs and manage costs in turbulent climates is a skill to be implemented by operations teams and the retail business leaders. Some setbacks are to be expected as part of the process of aligning the business to local cultures and tastes.

4. Assume difference – Checking assumptions about the target culture is a must, as BestBuy, Starbucks, Disneyland Paris and many others have learned at great cost. Starbucks recently attempted to market its Trenta size (30 oz) drink in the UK, larger than a full bottle of wine, which was seen as an overly-indulgent American “supersized” product not fit for European tastes. However, Coach only brought its US leather goods ranges to its recently-opened Bond Street store that it knows would appeal, leaving behind the “wristlet” (a small zip wallet with a carrying strap for the wrist) that is so successful in its home market.

5. Innovate through insight – Involve consumers and supply chain partners to identify which new technologies, materials, designs, services and mistakes can change the business model. Crowdsourcing not only lowers the R&D costs but engages your target markets with the knock-on benefits as they use social media to boast about your foresight and engagement.

6. Build the brand – Most consumers don’t know many of the soon-to-land-here trans-Atlantic brands… yet. Seize the opportunity to (re)position the retailer in a new geography, as Abercrombie & Fitch so successfully has in the UK. Without preconceived ideas of the company, that blank canvas gives permission to seize a space you might not seize in your domestic market. Victoria’s Secret, the mass market lingerie brand, will soon be launching in the UK with the chance to position itself with new customer segments.

7. Assume success – Approach new markets intentionally – not just by licensing or franchising but having it as part of the long-term strategy. Too often, expanding businesses treat their international growth as a “project” rather than as a core part of their long-term evolution, choking the initiative of critically-important capital and leadership resources. Knowing the international foray will pay off, based of course on research evidence which supports it, means such activities are properly funded and given the management attention they deserve.

Instead of the constant stream of headlines about brands that have not succeeded overseas, let’s replace those with some success stories about the companies that have done it right, that have been methodical, that have adapted and made great profits.

Internationalisation in a recession obviously can be done – it just takes some planning and will.

Murdochs cause waves on both sides of the Atlantic

Rupert Murdoch (C) walks from a hotel to his flat with his son James Murdoch (L)Last night I was asked on BBC’s Newsnight, its influential current affairs television program, what Rupert Murdoch should do wearing his corporate diplomat hat given he’s now being pursued by a high-profile range of interested parties — UK Parliament’s Culture/Media/Sport select committee, London’s Metropolitan Police and the FBI who all are very interested in the extent of his company’s phone hacking and police bribery practices.  Is Rupert Murdoch’s defiance going to be seen as a Tony Hayward moment, the former BP executive wanting his life back? Clearly his newspaper brands in the US and UK have a lot more defending to do, with the mere whiff of wrongdoing taking the shine off both News International’s share price and the levels of trust in its brands.  The UK impact of this drama hopefully will result in not only a change in the privacy laws and regulation of the media, but will shine a bright light on the nature of British news media ownership and the dysfunctions that imbalances of market power bring.  Stay tuned!

Two Countries United by a Commoner

This article was just published in the Summer 2011 issue of Market Leader magazine (the house mag of the Marketing Society), showing the power of the “Will & Kate” brand and how well it travels across cultures, even before they were married… their effectiveness in opening the doors for British business around the world will be impressive if this is what brands have done before their marriage… (click here to read the full article)

“Who’d have thought a former British colony of 320 million people which declared UDI in recent history (well, recent by British standards) would so keenly want to rediscover their Britishness, embracing the idea of Royal weddings, calamari hats and pageantry with such gusto, such preoccupation, such envy, such marketing opportunities?

A number of Americans and their local brands celebrated the British milestone marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in various ways – some tasteful,
some not:

  • Diet aid Slim-Fast launched a tweet campaign to capitalise on the excitement of the event by spending $120,000 to tweet anyone interested in William and Kate.  The Royal Wedding enthusiasts found the #royalwedding delivering tweets from Slim-Fast
    with the message “look good for your own wedding with the Slim-Fast diet and check out our Facebook page.”  At the start of the actual ceremony, 11% of all tweets on Twitter contained the #royalwedding hashtag.  A very successful strategy for the brand, as from the day before the wedding until early-May, its followers increased from 930 to 1,356 while their Facebook page fans jumped from 16,000 to 21,400 by 2 May.  Not a bad ROI from the investment despite this untargeted tactic.
  • Sign the giant Royal Wedding congratulations card in LA at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, where you can write your personal best wishes to Will and Kate.  The oversized greeting card “… (read more)