I have shared this story in the past and so I apologize if you have read it before.
BUT… I have to share it again because the grand MBA-laden leadership of a good number of brands are caught in like situations.
Here’s the story…
I was facilitating a formal focus group. One of those with the one-way mirror that the clients sit behind. It was a focus group for a bank and one that assess how various market groups perceived its service mix offering.
The participants were women age 50+ that were actual bank customers The discussion at the moment was centered around interest-bearing checking accounts.
As the participants were describing how interest-bearing checking accounts worked, the EVP of Branch Operations behind the one-way mirror began banking on the mirror and yelling out obscenities.
I apologized to the participants for the outburst, excused myself and went into the viewing room. Upon entry, the EVP went off rattling about how stupid the customers were and how incorrect their perceptions were of how the accounts actually worked.
I informed him that how consumers perceived a product or service was reality and how he believed they should perceive it was not reality.
He was also informed that his outburst cost him and his employer $7,500 because the focus group participants could not further have free discussion.
Why do I share the story?
Because there a whole new generation of management now paying millions to re-educate the public that they are just flat out wrong in their perceptions of the brand and its offering.
Example #1 – Arby’s
Arby’s carved out a unique brand niche when it entered the fast-food marketplace in 1964. It was not offering a burger, fried chicken, fried fish nor pizza. It was also not a sub sandwich shop. It offered hot roast beef sandwiches.
As the third largest fast food chain, Arby’s parent company spends close to $120 million a year on advertising and marketing the Arby's brand. In 2018, Arby's has more than $3 billion of invested brand equity.
Starting about 3-4 years ago, Arby’s elected to expand its product offering across a wide range of products spanning the lot from burgers to chicken to fish to gyro sandwiches.
The great leadership gurus at Arby’s Atlanta corporate headquarters chucked its old brand equity and replaced it with “We Have The Meats.”
The writing was on the wall when the replacement brand campaign broke... it would quickly destroy the past brand equity Arby's owned.
Well, a new ad campaign broke about two weeks ago.
The campaign is all about Arby’s no longer being just a roast beef restaurant and anyone out there that thinks so is just dead wrong. The spots even sport an accusation tone… how could you, the consumer, be so out-of-date?
By damn, that corporate marketing team is going to correct the marketplace!
Example #2 – Overstock.com
This one is a BGO – blinding glimpse of the obvious.
Home goods and furniture website starts up founded on a platform of great price deals.
The techie entrepreneurs believed that shoppers would jump on the opportunity to go online to secure better deals than they could get in-person at physical retail locations.
The assumption and in turn, the brand name, were right on target… Overstock.com.
Only problem, the idea of was not unique. Enter competition. Other house & home retail websites like Wayfair and Houzz. Enter web side-kicks from retailers like Rooms-to-Go and Ballard Designs.
Now enter the new ad campaign.
“Sometimes names can be confusing. Some folks think that at Overstock.com sells overstock goods, but instead we sell everything right here.”
So let me get this logic right.
If I name my brand offering something like “Fresh Brewed Coffee” and people think it’s actually coffee served freshly brewed, that because they go over to Starbucks instead, I should correct the consumer thinking set.
By damn, ignore the fact that our name is Overstock.com, we do not sell overstock inventory!
Example #3 – Chevy
What started out as a rip off of a focus group moderator has now evolved into a dictatorial preacher of the facts that the ignorant consumers cannot figure out on their own.
I guess the comparative illustration of this with this blog post lead-in story is the bank EVP getting up, leaving the room with the one-way mirror and entering into the focus group discussion to write the mechanics of an interest-bearing checking account on a chalk board.
Chevy is not the only brand right that is running advertising campaigns to educate the ignorant consumers. Financial planners and healthcare providers must be members of the same 501c non-profit "educate the ignorant consumers" organization as Chevy.
By damn, that corporate marketing team is going to make sure that those facts about Chevy are known!
Brands that do this type of advertising… Arby’s, Overstock.com and Chevy are only illuminating the fact that sales are not doing well and corporate management screwed up.
In neon lettering.
When was the last time that you saw an instructional ad for Apple? Or BMW? Or a common, mass brand like Pilsbury?
When was the last time you saw a corrective ad for Red Bull? Or American Express? Or even Nike who recently kicked-off a brand campaign that generated controversy.
AJ, the past CEO of Kmart, who we worked with in assessing which stores should be closed and which stores were worth investment is now CEO of Pier 1 Imports. Kelly Cook also moved with AJ from Kmart to Pier 1.
Kelly is a true marketing maven. She is passionate about what she does.
A year ago, Pier 1 was sitting in a very precarious position. It had lost its brand personality and core product value. It would have been easy to attempt to re-educate the marketplace that Pier 1 was Pier 1 and how could anyone have lost an understanding of its brand offering!
In the last couple of weeks, Pier 1 has launched a new campaign that introduces its new tagline, “This is Me.”
Here is a link to that campaign… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwbnxymlRXM
The brand culture is smack on target. These ads are not educational lectures, but rather mirrors.
When I see work like this, it makes me smile.