John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
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April, 2006

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April 28, 2006
Here’s part one of what looks to be a great roundtable discussion about the internet and branding, from Netimperative (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

A lot of the comments might fall into the category of stating the obvious, but in the rapidly changing world of online marketing, not many people are prepared to take what they see at face value. For instance, the concept that not every product is a good fit with online media, or that older companies are tied to traditional media more out of proven ability than fear of the new.

Download the PDF of the discussion presentation. I respectfully disagree with the slide showing the online branding process (brand awareness > message association > brand favorability > purchase consideration > purchase).

I don’t think people look to the internet for brands. They look for specific solutions to problems, or product or service categories. Unless the brand is already well-established (i.e.: Apple’s iPod), then the first point of contact with the consumer will most likely be made at the product level, not the branding level. From there, the consumer sifts through a series of binary sale/no-sale doorways based on product features, their own needs, third-party reviews, and, yes, brand reputation. However, brands can be built quickly these days, for reasons I went into on March 13.

I think we’re seeing old-model thinking applied to a new media in a much-changed advertising ecosystem (to dredge up the model of marketing communications I created as a student back in 1983). And I still maintain that it’s possible to build a brand with online only: look at eBay (which started advertising offline only recently), Craigslist, or Google to see that this is so.
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April 27, 2006
Ah, the challenge of state tourism branding. Utah, for instance, recently discovered, to its collective chagrin, that it doesn’t even own mindshare in its own iconic state landmarks. Here’s the article, from the Associated Press via the Casper Star Tribune (Casper, WY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Lately, I’ve seen state branding done well (Indiana, April 19) and not-so-well (Washington, March 16). This article shows what a tough job state tourism agencies have to do.

Most survey respondents, for instance, placed the towering white and gold spires of the big Mormon Temple in Colorado instead of Salt Lake City. Arizona stole credit for the rock arch that’s on Utah’s license plate, as well as many other red rock formations. New Mexico got credit for the Golden Spike site commemorating the joining of the first transcontinental railroad. The list goes on.

I think this is funny, in a pathetic sort of way, but it also shows how difficult it is to brand a place in a geographically impaired nation such as ours. I guess the thing is, there were no controls in that research. For instance, I wonder how many people would accurately place Old Faithful in Wyoming, or Mt. Rushmore in North Dakota, or Monticello in Virginia?

Or even how many people would pick up the mistake in the last sentence?
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April 26, 2006
Coming soon to your iPod: advertising! Yes, the inevitable monetization of a vast and loyal network is happening. Here’s the story, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

This will be good for Apple, which has long positioned itself as a media company rather than a hardware company. And bad for current media networks, particularly as Apple’s library of original video programming expands.

Will customers care? I suspect not, outside the hardcore purists. After all, people are accustomed to advertising, and already filter most of it out. Maybe the real question is, will customers even notice? And, if they don’t notice, then is it really a worthwhile spend of media dollars?

I still think the most-effective advertising opportunity in downloadable media is to create the programming itself, rather than glom onto existing programming using a traditional ad media model.
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April 25, 2006
How do media agencies establish their own brands? Here’s an interesting look at the challenge, from MediaWeek (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

There’s a lot of great stuff here, directly applicable to branding any service.

I’m not in the least surprised that one media agency found its inspiration in a customer comment. Brands, after all, are created by customers, not companies.

The “Tips” section at the bottom of the article should be printed out and posted on ad and branding agency walls worldwide. It’s good stuff.
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April 24, 2006
Billboard your sheep! A hotel reservations company in the Netherlands is paying to put branded blankets over 144 sheep roaming around high-traffic areas. At least one town has levied fines, saying the adsheep violate local laws prohibiting roadside advertising. Here’s the story, from The International Herald Tribune via The New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think this is cool and funny, as a one-off stunt. If livestock media goes mainstream, though, then the scenery becomes just another ad. Unfortunately, that’s what seems to be planned. The media company aims to have 25,000 adsheep in the Netherlands alone, with plans to expand to horses, cows, France, and Britain. This may be a boon to the farmers, who get a cut of the profits, and of course the innovators who developed the media concept. But, what a loss to everyone else.
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April 23, 2006
Some light Sunday reading about the 90-year-old Sun-Maid raisin girl’s makeover, from the San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think this is an awful makeover. She went from looking wholesome and natural, to looking hard and artificial. It would have been better to stylize her into a graphic element, then try to gussy her up into some computer-generated character holding a bunch of grapes like she’s holding a ten-pound rat by the tail. Her expression is clown-scary, the lighting defies even the conventions of virtual reality, and what are those dark forms in the background, leftover tanks and missiles from some twisted version of GTA Fresno?

There was a golden opportunity here to bring the brand iconography into the 21st century, but it looks like it was put in the hands of technicians instead of visionaries.
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April 22, 2006
Just a Saturday quickie with an article relevant to Friday’s entry, again from BBC News, and this one about French automaker Peugeot’s banking on shifting manufacturing to Eastern Europe:
Advertising copywriter blog link

European companies can shift manufacturing to the places like Slovakia, pick up a motivated, inexpensive skilled labor force and still have access to established distribution channels and existing markets. Here in the U.S., we’re a giant island. Yeah, we can shift north to Canada, or south to Mexico. But then what?
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April 21, 2006
Continuing the globalization thread from yesterday while picking up the Ford thread from April 17th, here’s an article from BBC News about the increasing pressures on Ford (both the man and the company):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Ford is smaller than GM, and can ill afford too many quarters of having its North American operations lose $2.9 billion even if $1.7 billion was a one-time charge taken for restructuring. On the plus side, perhaps Ford is less susceptible to the whims of small stockholders and can execute a long-term plan without too much interference.

I don’t know how things will turn out; it depends on so many factors outside of advertising and marketing. But, I do understand that the brand is taking hits daily and market share is declining. Foreign competition is heating up, but the weak dollar gives an economic edge to U.S. products both here and abroad. But, what does Ford export? Most of its European operations are based in Europe, which is having currency and labor problems of its own. What a mess.

That said, I wouldn’t bet against the guy who seems to have a clear vision of where to go and how to get there.
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April 20, 2006
Is Foster’s “Australian for beer” even when it’s not brewed or bottled Down Under? Here’s a BBC News article looking at the issue of beer provenance, and whether or not it really matters to the brand:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s an interesting topic, and one bound to get increasingly muddied by globalization. Take automobiles, for instance. Already in America, we have many Toyota cars that are more domestic by content and employment, than some Chevrolet models. Likewise, the very British Jaguar and Aston Martin marques are owned by an American company, Ford, and Rolls-Royce by German BMW. As consumers we accept that. (Okay, I’m a likely consumer for neither a Rolls-Royce nor an Aston Martin, but that’s beside the point.)

I see this as an area in which branding and quality control go hand-in-hand. As long as a product delivers the expected emotional resonance, it will continue to support the brand no matter where it’s made. If it falls short, then a misfire could be very costly. Yes, with beer, the image is supported largely by advertising. But, to be successful, it has to go deeper. Advertising is a channel. Branding is an experience.
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April 19, 2006
Lest you think that I think all state tourism slogans are lame, here’s one I think is pretty good. It’s for Indiana, and the story comes from the Indianapolis Star (IN):
Advertising copywriter blog link

“Restart your engines” leverages an existing perception about Indiana to open a discussion of desired perception. It moves from affirmation to aspiration. So, it works, which is more than you can say about most state travel slogans.

It’s also unique, in that only a few places (like Daytona, for instance, but that’s a city not a state) could use the same slogan for the same reasons. So, two for two.

Which leaves a third element up for grabs: is it memorable? If it’s promoted with enough reach and frequency, it will be; slogan memorability is largely a numbers game. Too bad that here in San Diego, I’m unlikely to be in the primary target market. I’d like to see how this campaign plays out.
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April 18, 2006
Amazon is going into the grocery business. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Imagine, say, Barnes & Noble selling oatmeal, or Borders selling frozen filet mignon. Then take a step back to appreciate how far the Amazon brand has come. No one is saying, “gee, this is off-strategy for the brand,” as many did when Amazon first veered from books into other consumer products. Now, people are saying, “gee, this is a proven threat to established grocers and food retailers.”

That, folks, is the power of the brand.

The question is, does this overextend the brand? Or does it increase the brand’s portal value? I think it’s the latter.

By the rules of the old retail marketing model, the move into groceries might seem like an overextension. Just as selling electric shavers, pots and pans, and wristwatches were. (Oops.)

But, really, the one-stop shop has been around forever. Think Sears Roebuck in the early 20th century, for example, which used catalog sales via mail (the model upon which e-commerce was based) to extend its reach far beyond the cities to capture huge amounts of sales volume and market share.

The problem lately has been that no one has executed the one-stop shop well enough to capture a big enough chunk of an increasingly fragmented consumer market. And that’s what I think Amazon can do.
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April 17, 2006
Ford Motor Company’s corporate advertising has featured CEO and namesake Bill Ford for a while now. Here’s a look at the latest campaign, and how it measures up, from USA Today:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is Lee Iacocca done one step better, because Bill Ford has the name and the family connection. He comes across as a youthful visionary; that’s a good thing, keeping people looking ahead, because there sure isn’t a lot of nice scenery right now in the U.S. auto industry.

Propping up the Ford brand is a smart play, and using a Ford to do it is the right way. The key question is: will it be enough? Rising pension and healthcare costs and increased competition from overseas are delivering a powerful double-whammy to all American manufacturers. And Ford’s relatively lackluster product design of late has not helped.
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April 14, 2006
The reason for the somewhat sparse entries this week, is that I’m enjoying a week in Sedona, Arizona with my family. This place is a feast for the eyes. Still, the ad world goes on. Here’s a story about diversity in ad agency staffs, from my now-local business paper, The Business Journal of Phoenix (AZ):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I see a fair proportion of diversity in San Diego ad agencies, and I think the issue is more a matter of who’s entering the field of advertising rather than who’s getting hired or not, particularly on the creative side. Work is either good or not; it’s not male or female or young or old or black or white.

Speaking of which, I can’t get away from advertising even on vacation. Our tour guide yesterday at Meteor Crater, Eduardo Rubio, was a wonderful speaker with an entertaining spiel. He also had a degree in theater, spoke at least two languages, and was a former ad agency copywriter! No, I didn’t ask which agency. In the moment, I just didn’t want to know, although now I’m sort of curious. I bet he was good.
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April 12, 2006
Lenovo, the Chinese computer giant that bought IBM’s personal computer division, has moved swiftly to replace the IBM brand with its own. Here’s the story, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think they are right to move quickly. As I said back on July 21 2005, the key asset wasn’t the IBM name. IBM already hadn’t been a player in the consumer/business personal computer market. The key asset was the distribution channel, the market share, and the ThinkPad name (which Lenovo is so far careful to keep).

So far, Lenovo is right on track with my prediction, on October 2 2005, that it would knock out HP to challenge Dell in the U.S. market in 18 months. There are just 12 months left, and so far the Chinese management is confounding U.S. marketing experts (self included) by doing everything right.
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April 10, 2006
Re-branding takes many forms, but the lowest common denominator has to be the slogan launch. Here’s an article about a South African bank’s latest empty slogan, from the Financial Mail (SA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Okay, the bank replaced “Simpler, Better, Faster” with “Inspired, Motivated, Involved.” Oh, that’s a big change in the mission statement.

The marketing director, though, has the right idea: “successful bank advertising is now measured by how well the delivery promise is executed.” Okay, if the key factor is one of field execution, why change the message? Just start living up to the original promise.

Oh, wait. Maybe that’s not the big right idea after all. Maybe the big right idea, is that now the marketing director has complete deniability when market share doesn’t increase. See, it wasn’t the slogan or the millions spent on re-branding, it was the fault of the front line troops who failed to execute well. Hardly marketing generalship.

However, if you read between the lines, it’s clear that the slogan was aimed primarily at the internal market. That makes sense: consumers probably would prefer simpler, better, and faster services to inspired, motivated, and involved staff. Internally, I’m sure staff would prefer softer performance metrics.
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April 7, 2006
The embattled Swedish Prime Minister was lampooned in a recent ad for low-cost airline Ryanair. His response? File a lawsuit for unauthorized use of his image. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here in the U.S., it’s doubtful that a public figure would have much grounds for such a suit, although more frivolous things have happened. And, of course, the resulting brouhaha is just what the advertiser wanted to create.
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April 6, 2006
Consumer-created content cuts both ways, and the advertiser who fails to understand that can do themselves more harm than good. Here’s the story about Chevrolet’s latest attempt to be hip, from The New York Times via the E-Commerce Times (Encino, CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here’s the key missing link. Chevrolet may be something approaching a lifestyle brand, and in some quarters it is one. But the Tahoe isn’t. And therein lies the rub. Consumer-generated content, like branding, works best when it’s based on validating a core belief instead of aspiring to one.

So, for Nike, Apple, and Firefox, consumer-generated content works. It tends to work better for underdogs than overdogs, which is why Nike has to be careful in ways that Firefox, for instance, does not.

And the Chevrolet Tahoe? Nice idea, but the Suburban and Corvette are closer to being lifestyle brands than the Tahoe. The level of emotional involvement with the product just isn’t up to the tactic.
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April 5, 2006
Live theater patrons will now be treated – or subjected – to a three-minute advertisement performed live before the show, courtesy of Visit London. Here’s the story, from The Independent (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve always said that advertising is the ultimate performance art. So, I think this is a cool idea. Whether it adds to or detracts from the theater-going experience will hinge entirely on the creative execution.

Localizing the script is smart, as is using locally famous celebrities in starring roles. However, the expected standard of entertainment is very high. If the performance engages the audience (as did, for example, BMW’s short films), then it could be a great success and a wonderful appetizer before the main course. If there are any false notes, there may be no audience more unforgiving and no medium more devoid of places to hide.
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April 4, 2006
Childhood development experts are finally coming around to the point of view I held decades ago, even before I had kids of my own: that Sesame Street is a brand, the products are ads, and Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Workshop, a telling re-branding) is a media company. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via MSN News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve ranted on this kids-and-TV topic many times before: January 20 2006, November 22 2005, October 20 2005, April 27 2005, June 7 2004, November 21 2003, May 6 2003, and probably a dozen other entries. It’s my hobby horse.

The trigger for this “expert” reassessment? The release of Sesame Beginnings, a new series of videos aimed at children under two years old. Oh, and parents. After all, the parents are the ones with the money.

Here’s what Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (Boston) says in the article:

“‘Sesame Beginnings’ will encourage babies’ devotion to TV characters that have been licensed to promote hundreds of other products.”

Uh, yeah. That’s the point. It was the point all along. The company simply found a way to do it that palliated the scholarly objections of one set of experts.

To heck with the experts. This is about parenting. (And the advice to stop blaming the parents is just self-serving.) Want healthy parent-child interactions? Why not actually interact with them? Hey, get down on the floor and read them a book. Play with them. Hide-the-ball is good for more hours of laughs than any adult can stand. (“Look, it’s gone! Where did it go? There it is!” Giggles, squeals. Repeat ad nauseum.)

Zero-to-two is a wonderful age range – there will never be another time when you can be such an Amazing Magic Brilliant Person to your kid. Why waste that time watching television? Don’t show the wonder, be the wonder. Otherwise, you train them for a lifetime of passive entertainment, passive learning, and diminished expectations of the people in their lives. Yes, diminished expectations: all you are is the giant person who knows how to turn on the television. That’s a trick any kid will master by age three; then what’ve you got to offer?

Look; the time will come when all I am to my kids is a wallet and a set of car keys. Okay, that’s fine. I went through the same stuff as a teenager; we all did. But, in the way-back recesses of their still-developing brains, there may be a dim, flickering sense that I was the guy who once made a ball disappear! Just like that! And then it reappeared under my hand! I’m counting on the cumulative weight of those shared moments to draw my kids back to me as they emerge from the Dark Ages of adolescence. That’s too important to leave to television, or the experts.
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April 3, 2006
In advertising, the monkey business is a highly profitable niche. Here’s the story, from Forbes:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The trend toward using chimps and other animals in advertising, combined with the cost of training an animal up to an acting job, has created something of a talent squeeze. Look for more costs to go up for non-human trainers, handlers, wranglers, health care, and retirement benefits. Yes, retirement. According to the article, the typical chimp has an eight-year career, followed by 50+ years of retirement. For the typical advertising copywriter, you can pretty much flip those numbers around. So, who’s the monkey now?
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April 2, 2006
Talk about a local ad story! Financial services giant Fidelity is using a classic track from local heavy metal band Iron Butterfly in its commercials. Here’s the story, from Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The song, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, was a stoner’s anthem, and the 1968 album by the same name was, according to the article, the world’s first platinum album. Okay, so when it comes to tapping into the popular culture of an age group, the song nails it. But does the match?

I’m outside the target market here (my music was the punk of the late 70s and the new wave of the early 80s). So my emotional response to the song is negative: not hip but has-been, not edgy but old. That makes it hard to overcome the irrelevance of the music to the service being offered here. But, again, I’m outside the bulls-eye for this particular spot. When Fidelity wants me and my ilk, they’ll get us with, I don’t know, a Dead Kennedys track.

But will it be relevant? Depends on the track: I can think of a few that could work and several that would not. And relevance is critically important, otherwise you’re just doing a 30-second music video. That, to continue from what I was saying on March 24, is entertainment, not advertising. And, while advertising can entertain, entertainment is a tool, not a goal.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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