Have you ever noticed that Amazon sells lots of cheap stuff with weird brand names?
These goods are shipped from China to you (sometimes direct) without any help from American marketing experts.
Look at the backpacks that were featured in the top eight results from a search on Amazon for “packable backpack”:
- Venture Pal
Only one of those brands would even get close to appealing to an American: Venture Pal. But even the word “pal” is not part of American English anymore. None of those outdoor equipment brands are as attractive to American consumers as:
- North Face
Admittedly, several of those known brands have a lot of equity – years of making quality products. But they evoke the untamed destinations, rugged adventure, or at least a feeling of quality.
And the Chinese brands are often very good value for the money. They may even be made in the same factories as the big brands. But those companies are cutting themselves out of a lot of profit that could be realized if they had better branding.
My recommendation to companies that produce products like Hikpro (“hick-pro”) and Neekfox (what?!) – simply hire a group of American teenagers. They can come up with a better unique name within 20 minutes of brainstorming than five hours spent by a team of Chinese nationals sitting in a room in Shenzhen.
Lincoln bought the emperor’s new clothes.
This ad appeared in the February 2017 Fast Company magazine (in a very high-priced spot – the inside front cover). Lincoln paid a massive amount of money for the ad series, shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Agency Hudson Rouge made out like a bandit.
But Lincoln did not think about their real audience. Showing a 20-something person behind the wheel of a $60,000-ish luxury car, newly-minted from a marque typically bought by people above 60, will not make 20-something people want to buy one. Nor will it make 60-year olds who want to be 20-something want to buy one.
No matter how much the critics like the car.
Yes, it would have been appropriate for Lincoln to push the envelope in their marketing – but not so far.
Maybe they should have put kids under 10 behind the wheel – that audience will need to buy cars, eventually.
Many of us are still trying to figure out how Mr. Trump won. Whether or not you like him and what he represents – or the Democratic party and what they represent – one thing is certain – we do not know what tomorrow brings.
Alfa Romeo is trying to make inroads onto our roads. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is a beautiful high-performance four-door sedan. Car critics are praising it from their rooftops.
But American has largely abandoned the four-door sedan. As you know, crossovers (suburbia-biased SUVs) have taken over.
Conventional wisdom from car manufacturers dictates introducing a flagship top-of-the-line vehicle to generate excitement in America about other vehicles they have to offer.
I would like to respectfully disagree with that wisdom.
They should have launched an affordable but exciting small crossover. They will sell a crossover – the Stelvio. But it is priced in a similar range as the Quadrifoglio (more than $70,000) – out of the range of most Americans.
Start at the bottom and work your way up. It worked for Mr. Trump.
Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo UK – and used without permission. (If you live in the UK, go out and buy a Quadrifoglio now, and they will be happy.)
“Love covers a multitude of sins…”*
When you love a company, you’ll forgive their little mistakes.
I love IKEA:
- I love their relatively inexpensive stuff.
- I love how they suggest doing more things with less space.
- I love the photo of the old Fiat 500 with a living room being transported on its roof.
- I love the fresh, healthy and sometimes tasty food options in their cafeterias.
- I love the style of much of what they sell.
- I love the exotic-ness of the weird Swedish names for their stuff.
Because of my love for IKEA, I’m willing to put up with the things I don’t like:
- I hate how they spell their name in all caps.
- Some of their stuff is poor quality.
- Since their goods are so inexpensive, workers in other parts of the world are not making enough in their factories.
- The maze can be annoying, even though I know the shortcuts.
A very illusive goal for any company is to make it onto someone’s loved companies list. And it’s easy to get off that list. (Hello Chipotle and VW.)
Homework for my marketing friends out there: brainstorm with your team ways your company can get on your customers’ loved companies list.
* 1 Peter 4:8b.
Marketing these days seems to be in a rut. I am amazed at the ideas some companies use to represent their goods and services.
Lexus, for example, has a new crossover vehicle that they are trying to sell with the slogan, “Go Beyond Utility.”
The closing line of their ad says, “”Once you go beyond utility, there’s no going back.”
What does that even mean?
Lest you think I am saying that I’m a creative genius, I don’t have a quick and easy suggestion for a better campaign to sell the new Lexus NX crossover. And I understand that true creativity is an art more than a science. Great ideas don’t come always quickly to even the most creative person.
- The Emperor’s New Clothes is a wonderful story from 1837 that illustrates how the ruler of a large land is swindled into believing nothing is the best something ever.
- The sparks photo is courtesy of Graham on Flikr, and is used through a Creative Commons license.
- The new NX is a repackaged Toyota RAV. Car and Driver magazine gives it 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe that’s why the creatives had a hard time coming up with a good idea to sell the car.
Free is something that sometimes motivates me. Who doesn’t want to get something without paying for it, as long as it’s not stolen?
But few things are really free.
I subscribed to the snack service Graze for free. The snacks were OK, but were priced far more than the tastier (and less healthy) snacks I buy at the grocery store. Also, more than one-fourth were not tasty. So I unsubscribed before the trial period ended.
An ad for Nature Box on This American Life*motivated me to visit their site. I concluded that it was too similar to Graze to make me want to hassle with unsubscribing later.
If you are a frequent reader of Shiny Bits of Life, you know that I love cars. And since car manufacturers have deep pockets, they throw the occasional free promotion at people like me. One of my favorite free things was a test drive of the latest 3-series, when BMW was doing a national promotional tour. No sales person sat next to me while I pushed the car to its limits. A free cap was waiting at the end of the ride.
* This American Life is a podcast and radio show on National Public Radio, for people outside of the USA.