Victoria’s Secret catalog goes online only. Adolescent males in mourning.

OK, now they’ve really done it! It was bad enough when Playboy magazine swore off running NUDE photos in their publication, but now Victoria’s Secret is discontinuing mailing out its iconic catalog, and will only direct market its compelling lingerie merchandise online . Oh sure, even though the company’s sales are good, the maneuver is touted as an expense saving tactic, and one that aligns more closely with today’s shopping behaviors.Elsa-Hosk-Victorias-Secret-Swim-2016-Cover-Catalog

Maybe that’s true for the great majority of their older, sorta “adult” customers who actually buy this stuff, but what about the young pubescent adolescents only beginning to form their own  brand recognition, and appreciation of the female form and lingerie draping of it?

No Cisco, I realize that 350 million hard copy catalogs and postage for 22 mailings a year can get a little pricey, BUT ….aside from what might be a negative impact on the Victoria’s Secret brand among their actual paying/shopping customers (see below):

In a research note entitled, “Every Guy’s Worst Nightmare,” Citi retail analysts estimated the company would save about $100 million by eliminating the catalogs, but worried the move would hurt sales “as the brand may be less top of mind with male and female customers long-term.”

What about the the little teenage and below boys that use the hard copy piece (excuse the unintentional play on words) for relief and practice behind closed doors in their rooms or bathrooms? You all know what I’m referring to.

imagesEveryone learns how to ride a bike somewhere, and sometimes it’s good to have training wheels.

Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, “Portnoy’s Complaint”, pulled the metaphorical shower curtain back on what little boys were doing in the bathroom or elsewhere with mom’s Sears catalog or dad’s stash of True Detective magazines or National Geographic’s latest coverage of topless Borneo natives. I’ll never forget the perfectly descriptive “bent over my flying fist” imagery from the book.

Well, with the arrival on the scene of Victoria’s Secret catalog in the 90’s, the “bent over” operation was ratcheted up several levels. Now, young males had breathtakingly beautiful women attired in stunning and dramatic costumes, posed in alluring (to say the least) poses. What was not to like?

The short answer was/is nothing. Nothing not to like. And something to mentally (and physically) “use.” But that’s all gone now. A mobile phone or tablet device is just not the same, and cannot be comfortably held on one’s lap while other procedures are being performed.

So I’m predicting that very young males love affair with Victoria’s Secret is going to suffer a bit. And, ultimately, along with less active connection to their lingerie offering, brand interest and connection may lessen.

So I hope VS’s management put that into their long term brand allegiance model. Yes, the world is going digital and mobile, but some things for some audiences were perhaps better served by nice glossy printed pages. We’ll see.neuman


Another venerable gasoline brand bites the dust…but its toy trucks keep rolling.

A few days ago, a friend called the news below to my attention. Kinda made my eyes water, as I thought about the old “Seven Sisters” and the many gasoline brands (Gulf, Marathon, Texaco, Conoco Phillips, etc.) they used to market (not including Hess, as it wasn’t one of world’s seven largest oil companies).

hessstationHess Corporation announced it was divesting itself of its retail gasoline stores. The move will affect 1,350 gas stations—many owned by Hess itself—that operate in 18 states on the Eastern Seaboard. The gas stations serve as many as 1.3 million customers a day.”

Hess was never a large NATIONAL gasoline retailer in the United States, but in the 50’s it probably had nearly 5,000 stations in New England and Eastern Seaboard states. This at a time, when the nation’s largest nationwide retailer, Texaco, had 15,000 stations in what were then 48 states. Although marketing in a smaller geography, Hess as a regional marketer, had a sizable brand franchise, especially when one considers the population then was skewed in many ways to the North East and Middle Atlantic.

Well, anyway…that was then…this is now and Hess stations will be no more. OK, so you won’t be able to buy “Hess” gasoline anymore, but you can still get the brand’s toy trucks for the holidays.





The “little toy trucks” for Hess and other gasoline retailers live on as collectibles and brand mementos. Texaco may have originated this particular marketing tactic sometime in the 50’s or earlier, but many of the gasoline players adopted it. I never bought one; maybe I was just not into “toy” vehicles, preferring instead to burn ants with my magnifying glass, or later throw firecrackers at the minnows we attracted to our chumming with crackers at Winter’s Pond.

OK, so I was a strange lad, but if you want a Hess toy truck, aside from the obvious eBay or Amazon, there’s actually a Hess Toy Store where you can shop online .

Not sure they sell magnifying glasses, though.



GAP Gets It….Burger King Doesn’t

Image: GapBurger King Announces Safety Move in Play Areas






Couple of interesting pieces of “brand” news yesterday caught my eye. One was for the GAP retailer and reported not so much a change in branding, but actually a testament to brand continuity (although with continual appropriate contemporary updating). The other was about fast-fooder Burger King, changing to a new advertising slogan, one that is intended to make “a connection with a person’s greater lifestyle”. Here’s my take on both.

GAP stays close to its iconic history.

GAP understands it’s always had a connection with its customers. Since 1969, the brand has rallied around fun, joyfulness, optimism and inclusivity. And now the nearly 50 year old brand has set its sights on keeping itself relevant to its original franchise customers who are obviously much older now, as well as the continually new prospects teen age and younger.

But while working hard to build on its iconic history with younger customers, using very modern tactics like social media and emotion-generating music, GAP didn’t find a need to dramatically reinvent the brand.

Your long-term purpose and the tone of your brand and your belief system should never change, but the way you express it can change time and time again,” says GAP Chief Marketing Officer, Seth Farbman.

Burger King shifts dramatically to “lifestyle.

After 40-years of the advertising slogan “Have It Your Way,” Burger King is scrapping it in favor of the more personal “Be Your Way.” The company says the new slogan is intended to remind people that “they can and should live how they want anytime. It’s ok to not be perfect … Self-expression is most important and it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.”

Whoa, whoa whoa Trigger! Now I’m as much into keeping things fresh, updated and relevant to the branding environment one markets within, but let’s not forget….we’re selling burgers here, not dispensing or enabling pop self-psychiatric therapy.

It just keeps getting better. Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president of global brand management (who just joined the company in March), noted in an interview that “Have It Your Way” focuses on only the transaction — the ability to customize a burger. By contrast, he said “Be Your Way” is about making a connection with a person’s greater lifestyle. Hmmmm. “We want to evolve from just being the functional side of things to having a much stronger emotional appeal,” Machado said.,

Well, we’ll see about that Fernando. Seems to this observer (who has certainly downed triple digit numbers of BK burgers) that it’s all about my food purchase choices and the taste, quantity and consuming environment. Together they should generate some sort of emotional end-benefit, sure; but  connecting with my “greater lifestyle” ? Like I said: we’ll see.








My favorite coffee shop (and coffee shop brand) in Bangkok…Mascotte The Coffee Corner

I don’t hang out in Starbucks or any other Bangkok cooffee shops, as I really don’t think their coffee and general “branding ambience”  is worth the high altitude prices they ask for their cups.

Mascotte The Coffee Corner

Mascotte The Coffee Corner

There is one (and, yes, there is only ONE at this time) that can get me to part with my hard earned baht for a latte or cappuccino, and that is Mascotte The Coffee Corner. The owner, a Dutchman named Martien Vlemmix, has truly created a unique little oasis of Dutch “coffeeness” with a retro jazz theme right here in Southeast Asia on Charoennakorn Road Soi 15/1 . Throw in an electic menu of breakfast through dinner Dutch and Thai specialties, background jazz music and vocals from the 30’s up to Dave Brubeck in the 60’s all reinforced with floor to ceiling photos of jazz greats  and you have a truly unique “branding ambience.” And that makes me for one, willing to stop, order and savor in a place that has gone over and above making itself different and special. My-Dutch-Grandmother CHOCOh, and did I mention my most favorite thing about the “Corner” aside from the creativeness and effort that has gone into making it more than just a “coffee shop?” It’s their My Dutch Grandmother’s brand hot chocolate, prepared according to what Martien swears is his grandmother’s original recipe that he enjoyed as a boy growing up in Holland. He says it’s legit, but that doesn’t matter to me. It’s delicious, so when I’ve maxed out on his lattes, I can shift easily to a hot chocolate and enjoy the sounds, the faces on the walls, great food if I’m hungry and feel that I’m having a special experience….not just a Starbucks corporate moment. It’s different. It’s special. You should try it….Mascotte The Coffee Corner.

What the hell is a “Brand Essence” and why do I need one?

NOTE: This is the second in a series of four posts, outlining my view as to what is involved in developing powerful, branded marketing communications. Post #1(October 17) below provided an overview. This Post #2 will explain the “what” and the “why” of the Brand Essence. It will be followed by two subsequent posts, presenting the Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) and Individual Sales Messages.

Sometimes when I talk to SME marketers and mention “Brand Essence,” they get a strange look on their faces. I can tell they don’t know what I’m talking about, but usually, out of politeness or, not wanting to seem ill-informed, they play along.

Oh, they may have heard of or know (think they do) something about a “U.S.P.” Other marketing communication terms that many times comes flying in from left field are “Positioning,” “Mindmap” and “Brandscape.” And recently in a meeting, an SME marketer sprung “U.B.A.” on me. I had never heard of it, nor had Google or Bing. Seems it’s an acronym for “Unique Buyer Acquisition,” or something along those lines. Of course, as we talked about it, it came out that it really is pretty close to “U.S.P.”, but in this person’s mind it was very different and “U.S.P.” was “old school.” I’ll explain a bit more about “U.S.P.” in a subsequent post, but right now let’s leave it that there is a lot of free-floating terminology out there in Branding World. No wonder some SME marketers are confused.

That’s why I’m going to explain “Brand Essence,” perhaps for the 10,000th time … that’s part of my expertise and my knowledge equity. I like to doing it and it should help some SME marketers reading this blog.


A “Brand Essence,” many times overlooked, is the required foundation for consistent, long term marketing communications with a competitive advantage. It must fully recognize the target audiences’ emotional underpinnings and how those emotional chords are tied to and interact with their more rational perspectives. Too many SME’s neglect doing this required emotional homework and go right to “making ads,”  focusing on their rational offers and rushing right behind that to visuals and type size.


But even before starting actual development a “Brand Essence,”  there needs be rigorous defining of the target audience. Who are these people? What drives their potential connection to our brand? How is it different from that connection to our competitors’ brands?

Once you’ve done your Target Audience work, it’s time for the “Brand Essence.” Remember, it is the foundation of all that will follow an amalgam of the brand’s rational and emotional components. From it will be drawn via the required “U.S.P.”, the selling messages and communication tactics ranging from TV commercials to Facebook pages to customer sales presentation and other materials.


I think the process for generating the “Brand Essence,” is relatively simple, but not easy. Some significant mind-work should be involved, combined with a decent measure of creativity and open minded willingness.

.And this is the point where I and my consultancy, SME Brand Leverage, come in. The process we use draws on my more than 40 years of building brands. We conduct a session that is both collaborative (the clients and I TOGETHER, no sitting on the sidelines, please) and dynamic (we share and interact for anywhere from a half to a full day …yes, there are bathroom breaks). Remember that after all, it is your brand…you have to help build it.

In this session we interrogate the brand, disassembling all its pieces from its rational  features (“28 flavors”, “guaranteed 24 hour delivery”) through how that benefits a customer (“wide variety of choices”, “last minute timing”)  to how that makes them feel (puts me in control,” “less worries about last minute order”). Then we re-assemble them all up into one “Brand Essence”, balancing them as appropriate. It is here that you can either decide ON JUDGMENT which one works best OR should market research be used to evaluate alternatives.

Of course, you still need a U.S.P. and sales messages. Preparing those will be covered in future posts, and will have to wait till next week.

Next week’s post: “The U.S.P. A most powerful business-building tool.”