Powerful Emotional Branding Really Melted My Butter


We all know that insurance companies regularly employ emotional messages in their advertising, e.g. fear, love, etc., but a recent long form (3:01) television commercial for Thai Life Insurance Company here in Bangkok does so with true mastery. The net takeaway, in my view, is do something for others that makes YOU feel good … and it will BE good and make a difference for everyone.

The commercial’s only company ID is at the very end, using a simple title slate. Of course, their name is pretty easy for a Thai to remember. Obviously, many other considerations go into one’s considered purchase of life insurance, but a primary determinant is how one feels about the company underwriting it. I believe anyone that watches this commercial feels better, more hopeful about themselves, and in that emotional context pretty good about the company that brought it to them.

Go ahead, watch it again. Aside from selling insurance, there’s something in there we can all use.

Is that actor “live” or is he Memorex?

“Philip Seymour Hoffman may be digitally replicated for unfinished ‘Hunger Games’ scenes.”  This headline from today’s Washington Times, following on the prolific actor’s death, caught my eye. Not so much because of the use of digital technology, but because it cued up a talent branding idea I (and I’m sure others more technically advanced than I) have been thinking about for a while.


But first, a little background. Hoffman was found dead a few days ago, apparently  from a self-induced drug overdose (autopsy results still pending) . The star actor had been scheduled to finish filming some of the scenes his character, Plutarch Heavensbee, was part of in a still-in-production sequel episode, “Mockingjay – Part 2″ of the widely acclaimed “The Hunger Games” series.

Well, obviously, a live Hoffman was not going to be available, so the Hollywood tech meisters were called in to help out. Evidently Hoffman was not that prominently featured visibly in the still-to-be-filmed scenes, so by adjusting camera angles and with some distancing, they could make him appear present, but without significant details. Add a couple sound-alike voice overs and, voila! Resurrection.

Not to wax too congenially over a man’s death and subsequent return to the film production set, but I have long thought about (in fact, shortly after watching Keanu Reeves in the  special effects-laden 1999 “Matrix” movie ) what some day might be possible with all the BIG NAME stars, living and dead. What if the stars themselves, or even their rights-holding estates, could license digital characters of themselves for any movie. Make them Digital Brands, so to speak. Obviously, it’s already been done in a cartoonish way for certain animation projects, but I’m talking about an apparently “real life” reproduction that walks and talks in an actual movie … and never grows old.

What about a whole new series of John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart movies, featuring them in their cinematic primes ( “Casablanca 2,” anyone?). Maybe Richard Dreyfuss could take us along for the sequel to his 1977 “Close Encounters” trip. There’s no limit and, ultimately, production costs and headaches ( talent contracts, stars misbehaving, shooting days, etc.) would drop, while profit margins should skyrocket.

Hollywood, if you haven’t thought about this….give me a call. If you have, get on the stick and let’s have your production and software teams move it forward. I’d sure like to see DiNero and Bogart as a cop team chasing the bad guys.

Oh, and here’s some background for those needing it on this post’s headline, Is that actor “live” or is he Memorex?

It’s from a Memorex TV advertising slogan from the 70’s. It was a cassette tape commercial featuring noted jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, in which it compared the sound quality of her voice taped on a Memorex cassette with the “real thing” – in this case, her singing “live” in studio. Both her live singing and the recorded version broke a wine glass featured prominently on camera. Both were so real sounding that people (and the commercial) had to ask, “Is it live or is it Memorex?”

True Visions/ASN Amateur Hour in Thailand Super Bowl Telecast

20090610124436!TrueVisions_2009LogoThailand’s leading cable satellite television operator, True Visions, carrying the ASN Super Bowl  telecast, really came off as almost amateurish today.

ASN_logoThe ASN side of actually PRODUCING and BROADCASTING the game itself was almost flawless. However, while the True Visions PRESENTING of the game content over their cable system was good, the commercial TRAFFICKING throughout was bizarre and extremely distracting (and followed a pattern True Visions/ASN have                                                      used in all of the telecasts of the U.S. professional football                                                    games this year).

You see, True Vision and, apparently ASN at least in SE Asia, have been co-opted by the “greenie” advocacy group,  Asia-Pacific Media Alliance for Social Awareness Ltd  and convinced to help spread their “green” and “sustainable” gospel far and wide.

Ok, I get it…an effort truly worthy of Al Gore. I’ll throw my trash in approved containers.

HOWEVER, the way  True Vision/ASN chose to support their partnership was by trafficking some “REDRAWTHELINE.ORG” commercials throughout their approximately three hour game telecast. Excuse me, did I say “some”? No, make that 22 :30 commercials, and I ran for the exits with two minutes left to play.

Now maybe if the green advocates had more than one commercial to run this wouldn’t have been so stultifying, but they evidently don’t, so over and over and over again I saw their warning message about “climate change” (a supposed phenomenon that, contrary to Leftist media and politicians around the world, does not command a scientific consensus).

Wow! Fourteen times in the game’s first half, and yes….there were several for Paribas and one for Ford, but that was small relief from the warning of climate threat coming to end all our lives.

But don’t worry. In case I forgot the warning message and was willing to drive too fast (wasting petrol) or not use the right kind of light bulbs (just generally wasting energy) or engage in any other contra-sustainable behaviors, the boys and girls at Asia-Pacific Media Alliance for Social Awareness Ltd were ready for me in the second half with True Visions and ASN help. At least eight more commercials were coming in the last 30 minutes of the game, getting us to a total of 22 before the 2:00 warning (remember, I surrendered and accepted defeat without watching the last 120 seconds). MAKE IT STOP, LORD!

However, you slice it…while the actual Super Bowl was at least OK in this fan’s eyes, the one-sided commercial tsunami was truly amateur hour and in some small way distracted from what is supposed to be a global media event. Oh well, maybe next year there will be “real” advertisers in the Thailand telecast of the BIG GAME, running a manageable number and/or mix of commercials.

Is there a problem developing in “Apple Brand-Land”?



Apple’s latest quarterly results were good, but disappointed investors. And the company’s forward guidance suggested some weakened “profit” performance down the road.  Sure, the latest iPhone 5 sold 51 million units, BUT… the Street was expecting 55 ! This shortfall, coupled with the admitted softening profit picture, means even the vaunted “Apple” brand power might not be enough in the face of the seemingly unending blitzkrieg of mobile devices running on the Android O/S.

I wrote about the iPhone 5′s launch and some early suggestions of its results here on October 17, along with some potential “problems” that seemed to be hovering over it. Well, maybe those problems are real and/or maybe there’s something even more serious at play. We’ll have to stay tuned.




Is Colorado’s Brand Becoming the “Stoner State”?


And, if so, is that a bad thing?

Colorado has completely legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults. Although Washington state has  done the same thing, Colorado seems to be getting all the national media attention. Coverage , on balance, looks to be positioning the state as the pathfinder  for what many believe will ultimately be marijuana legalization in almost all 50 states (nationally, 55% of US adults are said to favor legalization).

We’ll  see.

One of the attendant issues, and I believe one of the more interesting ones, is will Colorado’s action significantly alter perceptions of the “state brand” in the near and long term (or at least until a greater number of other states legalize). Said another way, what will be the effect on perceptions  by two distinct groups: 1)current state residents and officials and  2)those outside the state who may at some point relocate into it or interact with it in some way (e.g. governmental, law enforcement, financial, etc.). CONSIDERATION OF LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES GOES HERE.

First off, people who already live in Colorado, let’s call them the “Internals”, probably split relatively evenly between those for and against.Those FOR it probably see legalization as evidence of a favorable and progressive development, while those AGAINST see it as having a number of potential downsides, with some seeing it as just the first step to perdition. My sense of it is that this divide will pretty much wash out over time … so no harm, no foul.

The more perplexing state brand audience are those I’ll call “Externals”. These are people who might have (or can in the future have) varying connections to Colorado for business, recreation, relocation, etc., but they don’t live there. This audience will to a degree rely on their perceptions and what they’ve heard about the state, rather than a large base of empiric learning or research. These folk have recently been bombarded by media newscasts, late night comedian riffs, internet blogs, even advertising promotions for airlinesrestaurants, who knows what. My view is that national awareness of Colorado’s legalization action, while probably not over 30-35%, is surprisingly high (no intentional play on that word; forgive me).

Although myriad things can go into a state’s brand perception, Colorado’s has probably historically had one including, fresh air, mountains, ski resorts, and western independence.  Now, a new plank has been added to the platform upon which the Colorado brand rests….and that is something we could label the “the Liberal/Progressive choom gang”.

Once again, advocates for legalization may see this development as being what they think is representative of the state getting even better and leading the way in social progressivism.  On the other side will be those that see legalization as a huge step downward and one that makes the it less attractive to their company, its employees, their families and children.

Where the balance point comes out will not be known for a number of years, but it will be interesting, that’s for sure. Would love to do some baseline Awareness & Attitude research on this and then follow up three to four years later; but I’m not so we’ll just have to wait and ultimately … deduce…

Today, I’m Entering the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge



OK,maybe not such big news, but I’m entering the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge. My personal goal here is to publish 30 posts in the 30 day period January 2-31. Don’t expect to win anything from HS, but hope the overwhelming majority of my posts are interesting to you dear readers and more importantly ….the exercise generates some learned behavior that gets me in the habit of posting more frequently. That’s one of my goals for 2014; at least 2-3 blog posts a week. What better way to start than cranking out 30 in 30 days!

It’s not too late. If you want to participate, click here.

“Split” TV Commercial — Great for Van Damme, Maybe Not So Much for Volvo

Volvo2Before we start with my take on this admittedly “epic” television commercial (more than eight million views on YouTube in little more than a week), let’s take a refresher look at it .

Now no one can argue it’s not attention-getting. I think it’s absolutely riveting. Executionally, it grabs the viewer quickly, and with a subtle hint of mystery, “what’s going on here? “

Van Damme himself is compelling. Like him or not (and there are large numbers of folks on both sides of that proposition), he projects a powerful stage presence that holds the viewer and drags him deeper into the commercial. Even if you have no idea who the guy is, you sense this unknown individual is trying to communicate something important, and apparently thinks he is aptly suited to do so.

And so, we get to the camera reveal and see he is straddling two large trucks as they back up and separate to a wider and wider distance, hence the “Split.”

And you say, “Wow!” At least I did, and I’ve seen my share of epic commercials.

However, the big question is does it sell big trucks, specifically VOLVO big trucks?


Mediapost.com advertising columnist Barbara Lippert certainly thinks so. “This is completely unique. It’s an incredible human way to show the equilibrium of the steering of the truck,” she says, adding that “anyone who knows anyone who drives a truck or owns a truck will mention it to them. People love this stuff.”


Toby Southgate, CEO Americas at branding agency Brand Union says, “It only helps the advertiser if people make the connection between the content and the brand. Otherwise, the viewer may recall the actors, the music or the stunts in isolation.”


I guess I’m in the “dissenter” camp, regarding this commercial’s effectiveness in actually selling trucks (but you already knew that given the headline on this post). I have watched and re-watched it, and thrilled to the execution’s raw power as an  electronic communication.

That said, aside from “some” rise in brand awareness of “Volvo,” as a maker of big trucks, I can’t honestly say there would be much registration in viwers’ minds of the rational attributes that might induce them to consider Volvo. Just reciting copy points voiceover, doesn’t mean they’re heard.

On the other, “emotional” side (the other critical half of effective branding I write about here often), I think Van Damme’s personality in the commercial (whether viewers know him or not), just soaks all that energy up to him personally and interrupts any chance the Volvo brand gains from the potential transference the commercial creators were hoping for.

Said another way, Van Damme’s indisputably the STAR of this commercial and basically sucks all the marketing oxygen out of it. Don’t know if Volvo’s truck sales will rise, but can almost bet that at the age of 53, Jean Claude Van Damme’s waning career will definitely register an upturn. Get ready for a few more movies, at a minimum.

Is Apple’s iPhone brand losing its freshness? Part II

I posted here on September 18, expressing some disappointment, innovation-wise, with the Apple launch of its 5S and 5C phones.  Just didn’t seem to be the “usual” degree of Apple creativity and forward thinking (as in colored skins on the 5C…duh! how positively Samsung-like).

Well lo and behold, as reported in PC Magazine seems the boys (and girls) in Cupertino are significantly reducing 4th Quarter order quantities for the iPhone 5C (that’s the rainbow option cheapie option). And, yes, the upscale, 5S is still going strong with orders unchanged, but don’t you think that Apple may have stepped too far out on the high dive, with the 5C low-innovation play?

We’ll have to watch and learn as the next 12 months unfold, but I’ll stick with my earlier conjecture that leading edge innovation and user emotional love is what the Apple brand is all about. It’s not about a bargain basement “entry level” priced device that comes in colors and actually serves in what might be called a “line flanker”.

Maybe, at least as far as the phones go, the Apple brand is starting to lose its freshness.

Top 100 Most Loved Brands …Why Are They “Loved”?



APCO Insight, the global opinion research consultancy at APCO Worldwide, has published its list of the 100 Most Loved Companies. The Walt Disney Company topped the list followed by Yahoo!, Google and Sony respectively. Technology companies were the largest industry represented in the top 10 with Apple coming in at ninth on the list.

The rankings are the result of a decade-long research project including a global survey of more than 600 of the world’s largest corporate brands among more than 70,000 individuals in 15 key markets around the world.

The survey evaluated brands by measuring consumers’ emotional attachment on eight dimensions: Understanding, Approachability, Relevance, Admiration, Curiosity, Identification, Empowerment and Pride. And from that Bryan Dumont, President, APCO Insight, drew the (excuse me) obvious insight, “The best brands are those that build a strong, enduring emotional attachment with consumers.”

And, so there you have it folks. The most powerful, successful brands ALL have strong EMOTIONAL connections to their customers. Not the lowest prices, not the longest list of features or services, not the highest marketing spend, not ….well, you get the idea.

All successful brands establish and maintain an emotional connection to their customers. It’s true for both B2C and B2B brands, and large and small companies.

Sadly, many, if not most SME’s and especially those in the B2B space neglect this. That’s why they’re constantly swimming in that nameless, undifferentiated sea of brands that are paddling as hard as they can, but unfortunately, not really going anywhere.

Listen up marketers! Get yourselves an emotional component for your brand and use and build it. Things will be easier. I can help you. Contact me.



Starbucks CEO Pulls a Smart One On Guns — Please, “No”, But If You Do, It’s “OK”

The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, pulled a pretty clever maneuver last week. He instituted a policy saying that legally permitted guns would be allowed in his outlets, but they really weren’t welcome. Here’s a pretty good piece on his Open Letter and comments from the Wall Street Journal.

Starbucks would rather you didn't bring your guns, but if you do it's OK.

Now this is why this is so clever as a marketing maneuver: Starbucks clientele is overwhelmingly Liberal in their political persuasion, regardless of their postal code. I would peg it at over 70% self-identifying that way, and accordingly supporting strong restrictions, if not outright ownership bans.

However , that leaves, maybe 30% who, even if they don’t own a gun, are more likely Conservatives in their political philosophy and feel pretty strongly that ownership and right-to-carry is protected somewhere in the U.S Constitution’s 2nd Amendment.And, the inconvenient truth is that open-carry of handguns is permitted in 44 or the 50 United States.

Soooo, there’s a bit of a problem for Howard.

Does Starbucks try to prohibit guns being carried openly in their outlets by a not inconsequential number of their regular customers (not to mention at the same time putting Starbucks unarmed baristas in the frontline position of enforcing something seen as legal by gun-toting, latte-seeking individuals standing at the counter with their .44 magnums)?

Or do they more or less cave to their dominant customer audience, the same crew who, in the main, believe global warming is the most horrific threat facing mankind, that marijuana should be legal and that all cars should only run on wind or solar. (OK, I kinda jumped the shark on that last description, but you get the picture.)

Well, that’s why Starbucks took the Wisdom of Solomon route. In Schultz’s words, the policy effectively “give(s) responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request,”but doesn’t ban or prohibit them.

So there you have it! Starbucks is on the record as not encouraging “gunslingers” to bring weapons into their stores, BUT … firmly, well, sorta firmly as recognizing the Constitutionally-protected customers’ right to do so.

Let the butterscotch lattes and cinnamon cappuccinos roll!