Coke or GM?

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Coke is Coke because of its strong, concentrated, unique taste.  It’s refreshing on a hot day, energizing when one needs a jolt, and a drink that almost reflexively makes you smile. Coca-Cola, the company, suffers from a lack of this same “concentration.”

 

The Coca-Cola Company (stock symbol KO) is looking into buying Cadbury Schweppes PLCs Motts and Snapple brands and probably will do so soon, as a way to grow sales in the hot non-carbonated drink areas and maintain shareholder value. 

 

In my opinion, Coke’s growth has been retarded by the broadening of its portfolio over the years.  Juices, waters, teas, and other non-carbonated drinks are the enemy of Coke, not its sisters.  For years Coke has attempted to fend off these competing drink categories by marketing Minute Maid, Nestea, Dasani, etc.  But these separate brands in the Company portfolio are diluting Coke’s manpower, womanpower, fiscal resources and strategic focus. 

 

Coke needs to get Sergio Zyman back…and listen to him.  Now before you say “this doofus  doesn’t know Coke or the beverage category,” know this, I predicted Mary Minnick’s failure, without having ever stepped foot inside the Coke building. 

 

Coke should focus its portfolio on carbonated drinks – albeit healthier drinks – and put its best people on the task.  Right now, Coke is more like General Motors than Coke.

 

Coke or GM?

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Coke is Coke because of its strong, concentrated, unique taste. It’s refreshing on a hot day, energizing when one needs a jolt, and a drink that almost reflexively makes you smile. Coca-Cola, the company, suffers from a lack of this same “concentration.”
 
The Coca-Cola Company (stock symbol KO) is looking into buying Cadbury Schweppes PLCs Motts and Snapple brands and probably will do so soon, as a way to grow sales in the hot non-carbonated drink areas and maintain shareholder value. 
 
In my book, Coke’s growth has been retarded by the broadening of its portfolio over the years.  Juices, waters, teas, and other non-carbonated drinks are the enemy of Coke, not its sisters. For years Coke has attempted to fend off these competing drink categories by marketing Minute Maid, Nestea, Dasani, etc. But these separate brands in the Company portfolio are diluting Coke’s manpower, womanpower, fiscal resources and strategic focus. 
 
Coke needs to get Sergio Zyman back…and listen to him. Now before you say “this doofus doesn’t know Coke or the beverage category,” know this, I predicted Mary Minnick’s failure, without having ever stepped foot inside the Coke building. 
 
Coke should focus its portfolio down to carbonated drinks – albeit healthier drink – and put its best people on the task. Right now, Coke is more like General Motors than Coke.

The world’s most expensive dye job.

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A few summers ago the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza emerged from the dugout one day with brilliant blond hair.  With one bottle of dye, the normally dark haired Piazza created an opportunity to double the size of the hair color business. And what a business that is. I understand a coloring job can cost anywhere from $35-$140. Before tips (and I don’t mean gratuities.)
 
Had a smart hair products company, e.g., Clairol, L’Oreal, Garnier, recognized that changing men’s hair color was more about style than vanity, and had they targeted kids and twenty somethings – an age from which most trends emerge – I would probably sporting some serious blond hair right now rather than this grey along the equator “do.”
 
Because Mike Piazza had the huevos and style sense to do it (he really did look cool), it gave the rest of us permission to do it. (That’s product placement, celebrity endorsement, and image marketing all rolled into one.)
 
Changing a culture’s accepted behavior is not easy, but it can be. Changing markets is not easy, but it can be. Good account planners and good marketers keep their eyes and ears open.    

The Summer of Love.

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In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece today, geezer rock guitarist Ted Nugent puts on a three-piece suit and utterly disses the summer of love as the summer of drugs. Many of his points related to drug abuse and premature death are valid, but I think Mr. Nugent is missing the point.  The drugs, the free love, the mind altering intentions were the jewelry, the adornments, of the time. The summer of love was a cultural phenomenon. It was an expression of freedom. Kids attempting to change the course of their future. A way to delay turning into their parents.  Rebellion with a lower case “r.” 
 
Yes, it went too far eventually. Acid and acid rock were found to be debilitating. American music quickly morphed from acid rock to a mellower countrified, acoustic sound, right around the tipping point time of Altamont.
 
“Tune in, turn on and drop out” was Timothy Leary’s call to arms for the summer of love. At my college, our tribal mantra was “Get as loose as you can without falling apart.” Kids will always need to be free, to stretch their wings. Drugs, alcohol and various lawbreaking devices will always be expressions of freedom. The adornments will change (read piercing and tattoos), but the need to express freedom will not.
 
The summer of love culture was one of acceptance, inclusion, freedom and getting along. Some were free to make poor choices and they did. Jimi, Janis, Jim and Pig Pen may not have lived long enough to write an Op-Ed piece, but I’m betting their expressions of freedom, their art, outlast those of Mr. Nugent.  
 

Love or infatuation?

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There is a little peeing contest going on between Apple and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group. In the midst of a power play, Universal is talking about removing all of its catalogs from iTunes which will hurt Apple to the tune (sorry) of 1/3 of all new digital songs sold. On the other hand, iTunes (and others) account for 15% of Universal’s music revenue, so that will really ding them. Who will blink first?
 
As you may have heard me say before, I think the record companies are hurting sales by selling one-off digital songs. It hurt sales by diminishing band loyalty. When I listen to only one “Taking Back Sunday” song (an example only) and a few stanzas of lyrics, I get a shallow understanding of the group – a hard way to build the love. Single song sales build infatuation not love.
 
This power play by Universal, might just be what the doctor ordered. If they remove their artists from iTunes, it will force more CD sales, which will build greater loyalty for their musicians. Down the road they should see a big positive blip in sales. By then, however, the power play will be over, Universal will have extracted higher margins, and be back on iTunes, and our dirty little secret will be safe. The business will still be in the shitter.   
 

Summer Sale.

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The Luxottica Group is buying Oakley Inc, solidifying it as the strongest eyewear manufacturer in the world. “Oakleys,” as they are called on the sand and snow, are design-forward sunglasses that have risen to the top of the sports segment and will help Luxottica enormously. Whether worn backwards by baseball players (Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose, JO-SAY, JO-SAY), straight up by sun-bleached surfers, or as goggles by skiers, boarders and moto-riders, Oakley will help Luxottica gain some serious share. If the Italian Luxottica, adds its sense of style to the American “sports” marketing machine http://oakley.com/innovation/history there should be no holding Oakley back. Watch out Smith! This would be a stock Warren Buffett would buy. Everybody needs sunglasses.
 
Happy summer. And don’t forget your sunglasses.
 

Who Yahoo!?

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Here’s what Yahoo should do. It needs to become the biggest portal on the Internet. Oh that’s right, it already is. Yahoo has lost its lead in search and it has lost its lead as a communications platform. It’s second, third or fourth in a number of other competitive areas: IM, picture sharing, start pages, video, advertising, etc. As social computing grows and all large competitors move towards the center (toward each other), there is still room for a portal. AOL used to own the portal but it’s up for grabs now. Yahoo can and should strengthen its hold here.
 
How? First Yahoo must start to find, display, and link to the most exciting things on the Web. That will take brilliant content editors. The Elizabeth Spiers of the world. It must bring into the fold, some exciting original content: first run movies, concerts, comedy acts and Broadway shows. It must become not only a television station on the Internet, but a library, a concert hall, a movie theater, magazine, blog and newspaper. It should start buying up the best blogs on the net and paying the writers and creators dearly: the Robert Scobles, PostSecrets, the BoingBoings.  
 
The web is, and always will be, about the content. User generated stuff is wonderful(ish), but who is culling it for the really great art? Rather than trying to out-Goggle Google, or out-MySpace MySpace, Yahoo should try to out-Yahoo Yahoo. It should become the Web’s biggest and best online content provider.   
 

Awards ads are the worst.

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I may have lost jobs because of awards ads. They are confounding. Clients love to win awards because it gives them validation. They immediately ask their agencies to do awards ads and invariably, because the are “me” ads not “you” ads, the ads suck and are hard to get approved. A “me” ad, by the way, is an ad about me the advertiser. A “you” ad is about you the consumer.
 
Good agencies try to write strategies focused on what the award means to the consumer, but it often comes back to something like “the consumer gets to buy a higher quality product.” Or, in the case of the SAB Miller Brewing house ad for Lite Beer, the consumer gets a tastier beer. (Except the Miller Lite ad was about Miller employees raising banners in the brewery.) This whole award ad business, I’m guessing, was one of the reasons Crispin was under duress with Miller, and why they resigned the business (Good Call.)
 
Awards ads can be done well, but it takes finesse, a client with vision, and a lot of hard work. There is an example of one in today’s New York Times from Hackensack University Medical Center. The headline reads “When it comes to cardiac health, we’re right up there with diet and exercise.” The ad references a Healthgrades ranking in the copy and that’s it. Della Femina Rothschild Jeary and Partners continues to create great healthcare advertising.

 

To pig or not to pig?

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Here’s an idea: associate “men on the prowl” who don’t carry condoms with pigs. This is the notion in Church & Dwight’s new Trojan condom ad campaign and it’s simple and brilliant.  It speaks loudly to both men and women and is an idea with ballast.  I’ve only read about the TV campaign, so I won’t pass judgment, but it’s supposed to be funny. In that it comes from Kaplan Thaler Group in NY I wonder, but we’ll see. 
 
A man with a condom is prepared. He is smart. He is thoughtful.  And though perhaps a bit presumptive, he is clearly someone who understands the sanctity of the deed. Today, a man of any sexual persuasion who is prepared with a condom doesn’t come off as a player — if the wrapper is faded, he probably isn’t — but he does come off as a man.  Not a kid.  Or metaphorically, a pig.
 
Men may act like pigs sometimes, but deep down they don’t want to be seen as pigs. It’s a great idea. Bravo to the Kaplan Thaler planner!
 
Pop quiz: Which U.S. ad agency produced the first ever condom ad for TV. 
 

The Times vs. the Journal

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Have you ever read a story in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and come away with two completely different appreciations? I have, and it’s pretty amazing. For me The New York Times is the world’s greatest newspaper. I crave it when it’s not at hand, but I have to give props to the Journal when it comes to business reporting. It’s business reporting is just better.
 
Here’s an example from articles today about Interpublic Group’s (IPG) troubles with the S.E.C. (IPG is and ad agency holding company.) The Times headline is “Settlement Sought With Interpublic.” It suggests that IPG will be hit by fines.  It reads, the S.E.C. “signals that its staff is likely to recommend civil action regarding possible S.E.C. violations.” Because I own some IPG stock, this article doesn’t make me feel too good.
 
The headline in the Journal is “Probe of IPG May Be Near End.” This article suggests the S.E.C. “intends to recommend a civil action against the recipient. That allows Interpublic to present its side of the allegations, an opportunity to ward off both charges and penalties from the S.E.C.” This one makes me feel good. The Journal article, is longer, includes more detail and nuance, and as is often the case, has a more complete story when it comes to business.  It specializes in business. Still, I love the Times, but the two together make an unbeatable combination.