Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fluent in Finance

Here's a great advert that was produced in Britain (as so many of the good ones are). It's about a new tax that they want to impose on banks, dubbed the "Robin Hood" tax, as it takes from the rich (banks) and gives to the poor (the money will be spent on foreign aid, infrastructure and the like). Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty

Who has the best branding (maybe of all time)? Animal welfare charities. On TV, they parade pictures of malnourished or otherwise abused, and ask for a small monthly donation. The fact of the matter is, most of us don't like to see these animals, so we send in money.

Oh, and it works. To the tune of about $5B last year alone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Save Money. Live Better.

Interbrand produces a list of the most valuable brands each year. This sub-list, for the most valuable retail brands in the U.S., shows the top ten for 2010.

What's interesting to note here is the presence of a Wal-Mart brand twice on the list. It speaks volumes when a company, who sees weekly traffic of 100 million in the U.S., appears twice on this list. Even more so when the two most valuable retail brands in one of the largest markets in the world are discount chains. Maybe this list will shuffle once America's economy gets itself back in order? Or, perhaps consumers are just whores for inexpensive products and being able to shop for their clothing, electronics and groceries in the same building. Either way, Wal-Mart seems to have it all covered.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Think Different.

Yesterday was the first day that pre-ordering was available for the iPad. Thanks in large part to the genius of Apple branding and previous technology, tens of thousands of people lined up yesterday to be the first to pre-order. Apple announced that, in the first six hours of the day, 91,000 iPads were pre-ordered. Say what you want about the iPad, 91,000 is a lot of anything sold within a six hour period. Analysts say that Apple is on track to sell 5 million iPads this year alone. And why? For most people, it has no value other than the Apple logo on the back. That's great brand equity kids - maybe one of the greatest of all time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Have It Your Way

I was waiting in line at Starbucks the other day, and there was a rather large line. The people in front of me were getting angrier as their wait (and everyone else in the line) increased. When they finally got to the barista, they began to yell. Has this ever happened to you?

When did we become such a 'me' society, and how have we let it get this far? While the barista was getting berated, I felt bad for the employee, but more importantly I felt awkward. This customer, who had to wait for a shorter amount of time than I did, summarily decided that it was their job to scold the employees publicly, belittling them in the process. Yet, no one else in the line felt it was important enough to warrant what equated to a screaming match from a two year old.

Afterwords, the manager came over, and gave the customer some free drink coupons and the customer walked away happy. I was left thinking two things: great job to Starbucks for containing this issue, and silencing the belligerent customer; but more importantly, why did the manager reward the customer for their petulance? We set out to stop it in children at an early age, but when it comes to adults, we practice a system of appeasement to make a buck.

I wish that companies today would just grow some balls and tell the customers who act like children and throw temper tantrums that there are other coffee shops. In fact, I believe that if enough companies did this, and maybe rewarded the good customers, they could effectively change consumer behaviour for the better. After all, there is a high turnover with these service jobs because there is little pay, and bitchy customers to deal with. So why not change customer behaviour? In the long run, it makes more business sense, no?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Drive One

At the risk of sounding repetitive, and perhaps to add the final chapter to my previous novel, I was just reading The Globe, and one of the comments left about today's Toyota hearings was "Want a real story? Remember what kind of show Ford and Firestone made to escape consequences of flip overs because of faulty tires and poor vehicle design? That was a real stuff and it didn't attract 10th of attention Toyota attracts now."

Ford and Firestone screwed up in the early 90s. Toyota majorly screwed up right now. So what has changed over the last two decades? Social media and the ability for consumers to become spokespeople for a brand. If these had been commonplace during Ford's bad days, they would have been in the same hot water as Toyota is now. Toyota is getting 10x more attention today than Ford ever did because consumers have real emotions.

And anger is one of the strongest.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moving Forward

Toyota, oh Toyota. Where once you were the manufacturer to emulate, now you are the butt of lawsuits, jokes and senate inquiries alike. How the mighty have fallen.

It's a long video, but the key elements are at 3:50, 4:34 and 4:48. Ultimately, it is a news story about the issues that Toyota cars are facing. It goes on to explain that Toyota, in the early days of this problem, argued that the acceleration problems were attributed to one of two things: faulty floor mats that were incompatible with the car, or installed incorrectly; and driver error.

At the 3:50 mark, there is a video that was put on the Toyota website from Bob Daly, a Toyota executive, where he states "It is important to know that no defect exists in which the driver's side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured". With one of the first fatal crashes involving sudden acceleration, Toyota blamed driver error, saying that the driver likely mistakenly pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake. The driver's wife died.

In another, non-fatal, incident (at 4:34), two Toyota faithfuls contacted Toyota and warned them that they had been involved in an accident, because their car accelerated by itself. Toyota said it was likely bad brakes. Then in July of 2009, a California State Patrolman and his family died when their Lexus accelerated through a red light and collied with another vehicle in the intersection. This prompted the James' to start a YouTube campaign detailing stories of Toyotas accelerating out of control. In the video, the James' state "Toyota ignored us", and because of the death of the Patrolman and his family, they were prompted to start this campaign.

The Associated Press recently released documents from a Toyota meeting in July 2009 (the same month the Patrolman and his family died), outlining the $100 M+ that Toyota saved by successfully lobbying to have a limited recall of its Camry and ES350 models regarding their floor mats. The documents released came with the title, "Wins for Toyota - Safety Group".

Backstory now complete, what is the overall ramification for Toyota? Their brand has been democratized - it is no longer within their control. That, accompanied with the fact that they are being pummeled by media and governments alike, translates into very likely tough times ahead for the world's largest automaker. The real question is can Toyota retain its position in consumer's minds? Ford went through a similar fiasco with its tires in the early 1990's, and they've only now gotten back to the average mark.

So, congratulations Toyota, you win again. Your safety record is now on par with Pinto and Geely. You are Moving Forward... suddenly, uncontrollably and unable to stop.