3522 Ashford Dunwoody Road #172
Atlanta, Georgia 30319

Drawing on exclusive, in-depth interviews with managers of some of the world's most iconic brands, Tim Halloran shares an arsenal of classic and emerging tools
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Ask Tim your branding questions -

Dear Tim,

I saw where Pepsi said that after changing the Tropicana orange juice graphics that they are going back to the original ones. How could they have gotten something so wrong?  Jeff, Phoenix, AZ

The lesson here is that consumers are the ultimate owners of a brand and have a certain power in a brand’s direction. In Tropicana’s case, consumers passionately reacted to the new graphics, which they felt looked “generic” and did not fit what they associated with the brand. Their “Tropicana” had been changed and they did not like it. As a result, Tropicana smartly decided to return to the original graphics vs. face considerable consumer backlash.

So, how did something that was disliked by so many consumers pass through a research screen? Not being a part of the research for this change, I can only hypothesize that a) research was not done, b) research was done, but the wrong questions were asked or the wrong people were asked, or c) research was done, but PepsiCo decided to ignore the results. Regardless, it is an embarrassment to the firm (not to mention a significant cost). It is not dissimilar to Coke’s New Coke debacle in the mid 1980s. In that case, Coke asked consumers the wrong questions in their research. They did not tell consumers that their Coke was going to be replaced by new Coke.

Lesson here – consumers still have the ultimate say in a brand’s direction. Make sure you listen to them upfront to avoid disasters like what Tropicana just experienced.

Dear Tim,
What is the deal with Gatorade changing their name to “G”? Why would a brand change their name? 
Susan, Staunton, VA

I’m not sure that Gatorade has officially changed their name to G. According to internal company sources and advertising partners, the goal behind “G” is to broaden the Gatorade franchise and make a drink for “every athlete”. Gatorade was seeing significant declines in volume from “enhanced waters” such as vitaminwater and as the sports drink category leader, felt the need to expand both the user base and the occasions for sports drinks. Thus, you get the new advertising campaign featuring everyday people drinking the product in everyday occasions. I think “G” is a way to make Gatorade more relevant and “cool” with a younger generation. My opinion, however, is that they are on a very slippery slope. Gatorade’s brand essence has been to be a serious sports drink for serious athletes. Broadening your core message is always a challenge because you risk watering down what your brand stands for. Gatorade is going to have to balance making the consumer perception of making their brand more accessible without alienating their hard core athlete – very difficult to do.

What do you think the steroid scandal has done to the brand of Major League Baseball brand?  Bill, Alpharetta, GA

It certainly hasn’t helped it. But Major League Baseball’s brand problems go way beyond steroids. Steroids have just added to a brand that has been woefully mismanaged by the current commissioner. Baseball’s crown jewel, the World Series, has become an afterthought. Compare the importance (or lack thereof) of the World Series vs. the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl has become an unofficial national holiday. The World Series has become a regional contest watched only by the cities which have the teams represented. Why? First of all, every game of the World Series begins at 8:30 at night (or later) on the east coast. My six year old son goes to bed at 8 on school nights. Therefore, most kids will not watch one inning of baseball’s championship. That is unacceptable. The reason given is that ratings will be down because the West Coast won’t be home from work and baseball won’t get as much ad revenue. That is sacrificing your brand’s future for a short term bump in revenue – a cardinal sin for any brand. If no kids are watching baseball’s championship and adults will only watch 5 innings (again there is more ads sold between innings of the World Series, creating longer games) before going to bed then what happens 5, 10 , 20 years from now? There will be little interest in the sport. Combine this with the strike that cancelled the playoffs and World Series 15 years ago (which MLB has yet to recover from), the All Star game that ended in a tie, the disastrous World Baseball Classic, and of course the steroid scandal, and you have a brand that needs a complete overhaul. Getting rid of Bud Selig as commissioner would be a great start.

Dear Tim,

What is the deal with the new Microsoft ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld? I just don’t get it.

I don’t get them either. And given the fact that Microsoft has scrapped the campaign after only a month into it – and after only 2 spots – indicates that the ads weren’t working. When you look at them, they suffer from a classic brand problem. The agency goes out and creates a storyline in which the brand takes a backseat. How does the Microsoft brand link in to any of those spots? What are they ads trying to communicate about the brand that will convince consumers that it is special? What is the message here? How is the story relevant to the potential Microsoft consumer? The ads fail against all these filters, and as a result, didn’t work.

Watch for yourself


Dear Tim,

What do you think of political attack ads? Why don’t we see this with products?

Oh, but we do see them with products! The Pepsi Challenge was the ultimate attack ad – it attacked Coke’s taste and was the ultimate cause of the New Coke fiasco. Do you think that the Mac vs. PC ads aren’t attack ads? Of course they are! Mac portrays PC (and PC users) as out of touch, nerdy dorks! Duncan Donuts is going after Starbuck’s coffee taste. So, attack ads have always been around and they often work! Any brand message (be it for a personal or political brand) that can deposition your competitor in a way that is advantageous for your brand, can help your brand’s consumer perception.

I am a brand manager for a candy company. Halloween has just passed, which is always a good time of the year for us, but it continues to make it clear how dependent we are on the major holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, and Easter). How do we get ourselves out of being so seasonal?

Oh, but we do see them with products! The Pepsi Challenge was the ultimate attack ad – it attacked Coke’s taste and was the ultimate cause of the New Coke fiasco. Do you think that the Mac vs. PC ads aren’t attack ads? Of course they are! Mac portrays PC (and PC users) as out of touch, nerdy dorks! Duncan Donuts is going after Starbuck’s coffee taste. So, attack ads have always been around and they often work! Any brand message (be it for a personal or political brand) that can deposition your competitor in a way that is advantageous for your brand, can help your brand’s consumer perception.

Dear Tim,

After 6 months of consumer segmentation, competitor analysis, and brainstorming sessions, we’ve arrived at a brand positioning that I believe is truly unique and powerful. The problem that I have is that I just saw some exciting promotional ideas, but ones that you can argue don’t fit 100% with the brand’s positioning. However, the entire organization is excited about these ideas and I think I can make it fit within our brand’s positioning if we tweak it a little bit. I am convinced these promotional ideas will drive significant sales for our brand.  T.S., Minneapolis, MN

Dear TS,
Let me get this straight. You’ve just invested 6 months of time and significant amounts of money in research to finally arrive at brand positioning that you feel truly differentiates you in the marketplace and now you want to change it simply because an agency brought in some sexy promotion ideas? You have got to me kidding me. Your job as the brand champion must be to keep everyone focused on the brand’s core proposition. There is no modifying it simply because an agency can follow a brief. (Or was the brief not clearly written?) To be a successful brand champion, you must have discipline and you must have focus – you will always have others trying to throw you off message. Great brands are consistent. Great brands never veer off message. If you have a positioning that research has confirmed works – tell the agency to go back and follow the brief and provide you promotional ideas that are on strategy.  Don’t settle!

Dear Tim,

In your opinion, what celebrities manage their brands effectively? D.H. Palatka, FL

Celebrity branding is certainly a “buzzword” in Hollywood these days. However, most people using the buzzword and practicing “branding’ aren’t going through the traditional branding process. They are confusing “branding” with “image” – two very different things. Image tends to be more of a flavor of the month type of strategy while branding takes into account building a longer term growth strategy. Off the top of my head, celebrities who have taken the time to effectively build a strong relationship with their target consumer over many years include Madonna, Simon Cowell (American Idol), and Oprah in the entertainment industry and  Shaq,  John Smoltz, and Peyton Manning in athletics. Each of these individuals, in different ways, has crafted a unique positioning and a unique product offering that is appealing to a specific target group.  Of course, you as an individual can follow the same branding practices we use in developing brands for your own life. Look for a comprehensive Brand Illumination “Develop Brand Me” branding tool shortly.

Dear Tim,

Politics aside, which presidential candidate do you believe had a stronger branding strategy? B.D. Staunton, VA

Well certainly not Hillary - she lost. Hillary’s problem was that her core brand proposition “Ready to lead” was an inherently flawed proposition. “Ready to lead” (which evolved into “Ready on Day One”) implied that Hillary was the same old Washington insider that many in the electorate (especially the Democrat target market) felt needed to go away. Combined with Barrack Obama’s “Change” messaging, Hillary was doomed from the start. It was a poor brand positioning strategy. Hillary could have put her stake in the ground on other, more compelling messages, but she neglected to understand her target, the staunch Democratic voter, and lost out to a competitor who, on paper, had significantly less “political experience”. Yet, Mr. Obama turned this potential weakness into a strength and communicated the right message at the right time. Although, he got off track a few times, his stronger messaging made up for any perceived weaknesses and ultimately drove him toward the Democratic nomination. It will be interesting to see how this message will fare against a mature, experienced John McCain brand. We shall keep a close eye on how each candidate’s message evolves and how their brand develops over the next few months.

Dear Tim,

I have 6 years of brand management experience and have just accepted a job in new product development/innovation at a consumer packaged goods company. What should I expect? J.B. Alpharetta, GA

First congratulations! I love new product development and have worked on teams both on the corporate and consulting side to launch a number of successful new products. I have also worked on a few duds, but we won’t talk about those! New product development can be exciting, challenging, and frustrating all at the same time. You will be exposed to many ideas and it is important not to fall in love with them, because most of the time, they will not see the light of day. The most important thing to have in place is a process that will be able to understand consumer needs, develop ideas to meet those needs, narrow down the most compelling ideas, and develop a realistic business plan for each idea. Which ideas do you think have the potential to become a brand that can create a relationship with a consumer?  We can help – our new product development processes have resulted in brands that have sold in the billions of dollars. The ultimate reward for you will be the first time you walk into the store and see that product that you nursed from being just a concept and seeing it “all grown up” in its new packaging on shelf. It is powerful stuff. Good luck!

Dear Tim – I manage a leading brand in a category that has been affected deeply by the nation’s obesity crisis. Our category is filled with sugar, calories, fat…you name it, and as a result we are seeing consumers leaving in droves and others cutting back on their consumption. What suggestions do you have to plug the drain?
Tastes Great…..Full of Fat

Dear Tastes Great – Obviously your relationship with your consumers is being affected by a trend that is somewhat out of your control. Your brand/category in and of itself didn’t cause the obesity crisis, but it is being lumped in with a large group of products that are rightly or wrongly being cited as the reason that so many Americans are overweight. As a result, your relationship with your consumer is in trouble. You need to reconnect with your consumer and be able to be seen as something that is not just “full of fat” and bad for them. What benefits can you offer to them? What is important to them? It’s time to take a big step back and really understand what brought your consumers to you in the first place and it is still relevant. If your consumer has evolved to a point beyond where he/she is no longer interested in continuing a relationship, you have three choices – 1) you can evolve to grow the relationship, 2) you can find a new consumer to have a relationship with, or 3) you can fold it in and give up (not exactly good for your career – after all you are the brand manager). Regardless, your brand needs to get some therapy right away…




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