That’s okay for the Super Bowl, but what about the rest of the year? Do you tune out commercials on the telly to get your Tweet on? Here’s some data in sweet eye candy, infographic form for marketers wanting to be in the know. Hashtag Awesome.
Never heard of ソフトバンク株式会社? How about SoftBank? It’s a Japanese telecommunications, internet, finance, media, and marketing zaibatsu now looking to reach across the Pacific pond to snatch a controlling share of #3 U.S. wireless company Sprint Nextel.
Shaking up the mobile market
The deal could see Softbank take a 70 percent stake in Sprint worth more than 1 trillion yen ($12.8 billion). It would allow the combined company to then take a controlling stake in the Sprint minority-owned, and LTE spectrum heavy, Clearwire. They could then use their new global muscle to grab T-Mobile or MetroPCS—and even leverage better terms from hardware manufacturers like iPhone-maker Apple. In fact, the chart below shows how the new company ranks on the global stage.
Business value aside, I’m looking forward to the consumer value of importing the quirky Softbank advertising campaign that features the very non-conventional Shirato family. The mother and sister are Japanese, the brother is black, and the father is a cute white dog. Otosan, meaning Father, is the fluffy, canine patriarch of an otherwise normal human family—and the four-legged star of one of Japan’s most successful advertising campaigns.
The dog days of mobile marketing
Since the first “Shirato Family” commercial in 2007, the long running campaign has produced over 130 episodes. The campaign was created by Creative director Hiroshi Sasaki, TV planner Yoshimitsu Sawamoto, and SoftBank president, Masayoshi Son. The well-loved campaign is seen as a critical part of SoftBank’s climb from obscurity in the mobile market to rivaling Japan’s largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo.
I welcome the Shirato family to the United States. Other than the beautifully branded T-Mobile girl (recently spared from marketing oblivion when the AT&T deal fell through), other US mobile carriers offer bland, boring, uninspired, and undistinguished marketing. Like so many other areas—manga and anime to video games and pop culture in general—Japan is a leading purveyor of not just technology, but a unique Japanese brand.
That brand may originate in the land of the Rising Sun, but it’s a new, global, post-national culture that Dr. Koichi Iwabuchi has called “mukokuseki” (むこくせき). The word, originally used to describe anime, has been extended across other cultural frontiers. Mukokuseki can be translated as “odorless,” but in this context it means a person who is “stateless” or “without country of origin.” It refers to the way Japanese cultural products can be seen to erase national history and identity in an attempt to more fully integrate with a global audience.
The next big global telcom brand
If there is a CEO who could bring to bare both the business and branding skills needed to build a new global telecom brand, it’s Masayoshi Son. He’s known as a lover of all things American. Son moved to California at age 16, going to high school in San Francisco, and attended the University of California in Berkeley. He was infected by the Silicon Valley virus, and exhibited a rash of entrepreneurial ideas that’s made him the second richest man in Japan.
One of the big advantages of Softbank is its exclusive Japanese iPhone marketing deal—helped along by a friendship with Steve Jobs. Like Jobs, Son’s success, in part, came from a sense of being an outsider striving for greatness, fueled in part from being a Korean child raised in largely homogeneous Japan. His particular mukokuseki could be advantageous in taking a combined Softbank + Sprint + T-Mobile to a dominant position that ties together global consumers with a post-national brand that’s a perfect fit for this Pacific-dominated century.
If Son has his way, it’s only a matter of time before we see the English versions of these Softbank commercials:
Doc: “He’s recovering so fast, its hard to believe he’s human.”
Nurse: “Yeah Doc, I can’t believe he’s human”
Daughter: “Dad’s a genuine human, isn’t that right?”
Dog: “I’m starving”
Hey, life moves pretty fast—if you don’t stop and..um, drive around…you could mss it. Honda’s commercial for the 2012 CR-V features famed Ferris actor Matthew Broderick in a Super Bowl spot that’s packed with homages to the beloved 80′s classic. ”How can I handle work on a day like today?”
My suggestion for the next movie featured in a Honda CR-V ad: Office Space.
While normally against the death penalty, the brand and product managers responsible for this sugary hybrid of alien technology, marshmallows, and sprinkles should be lined up against the wall and shot. First they brought us Green Lantern “Glo Balls” and Flash “Flashcakes.” Now comes “Snoballimus” Optimus Prime Sno Balls and “Chocwave Shockwave” cupcakes.
Actually, hold the firing squad. Just make anyone involved in this unnatural, and definitely unhealthy, brand interbreeding should simply be forced to eat their offspring for 30 days—Morgan Spurlock style.
If you’re like the majority of people, QR codes look like an alien language—unless you’re an iPhone-wielding Manhattanite in Manolo Blahniks. Studies show 68 percent of QR codes are scanned on the ubiquitous Apple smartphone, New York has the highest penetration, and women are nearly twice as likely to use them.
That makes sense because the technology finally allows marketers to add a hyperlink to a outdoor product advertising in a very pedestrian-friendly market. From 2010 to 2011, QR codes have increased 4,589 percent, the leading uses are for product info, coupons, social media, and in real estate. But mobile payments and paperless ticketing are quickly catching on.
Designer, Jörn Beyer aka Jørn, based in Düsseldorf, Germany has revamped the packaging of major spirit brands, to see if people’s product decisions would be affected by replacing their signature glass bottles with Tetra Paks. The resulting series called ‘Ecohols’ displays the labels of Jack Daniels, Absolut Vodka and Jägermeister on ordinary beverage cartons. What remains of the brand, is it just about the name, its contents, or the total package?
AT&T announced it will buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG in a $39 billion cash-and-stock deal that would make it the largest cellphone company in the U.S.
There are already outcries against the deal over concerns of an AT&T/Verizon duopoly and how that negatively affects consumer choice in the wireless marketplace. Twitter is atwitter with mocking comments such as @MattBinder‘s “Nothing says ‘we love our customers’ like airing commercials about how AT&T blows & then selling the company to them.”
Speaking of commercials, the biggest loss will be the end of Carly Foulkes as the T-mobile girl. Carly Foulkes, a Ralph Lauren model, stepped in to the role once held by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Of course having a beautiful model as a spokesperson is rarely a bad thing. But she’s also beautifully branded in T-Mobile magenta dresses—providing instant brand recognition.
As pointed out by @MattBinder and others, the T-Mobile ads consistently make fun of AT&T for it’s widely panned quality, dropped calls, and lack of 4G service. The commercials are witty, and effectively convey the message that T-Mobile has superior service at lower prices.
Without T-Mobile in the wireless ad rotation, we’re left with largely weak and bland ads from AT&T, Verizion, and Sprint. It might be a while until we must say that final goodbye to Carly Foulkes, the beautifully branded T-Mobile girl, but I’m already in mourning—and I’m considering wearing a PMS 214 dress to the funeral.
Branding is not a modern invention. Its origins can be traced back 40 centuries to the Harappa civilization in the Indus river valley in modern Pakistan and Northeast India. The Harappans were great traders who branded their high quality products with ‘Indus seals’—small square tags made of terra-cotta, brass or copper that signified the product came from the Indus valley.
The reason back then was same as it today: to differentiate commodities with added value external to the features of the product. Perhaps goods from the Indus river valley had a money back guarantee that made buying them a safer bet for the consumer. Whatever it was, it was the beginning of something big in human history.
The modern marketing definition of ‘branding’ can be traced to early American distillers, who burned their marks on the barrels they shipped. By the 19th century, American consumers who had previously purchased goods like sugar, soap, rice, and molasses from large bulk containers had been introduced to branded packaging.
Before this, consumers just bought what the shopkeeper had in stock. But once the branding genie had been let out, consumer demands wouldn’t allow it back in the bottle.
Soapmakers were early advertisers of packaged and branded products. Brands such as Ivory, Pears and Colgate date from around 1880. Just after the turn of the century, Americans began to be aware of brands such as Bon Ami, Wrigley, and Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola can thank the Harappans for inventing brand identity, but modern corporations have taken the concept to an incredible new level. When a Harappan ship pulled into a foreign port, their branded pottery, jewelry and agricultural products were perceived as high quality. But nobody assigned a value to the seal itself. That too has changed.
In the modern economy, more than a trillion dollars in corporate wealth is allocated to swooshes, globes, golden arches, mouse ears and hundreds of other brands.
In 2001, Coca-Cola’s market capitalization was about $110 billion with 61% of that value coming from its number one ranked brand. Xerox’s brand accounted for an astonishing 93% of the company’s value. 82% of Kodak and 76% of Polo Ralph Lauren’s corporate value was derived from the strength of brand identity.
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, suggests “the astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multinational corporations can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid-1980’s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, not products.”
Brands have a powerful impact on our world. They affect individuals in a profound and often emotional way. They help channel the flow of trillions of dollars. They are a huge component in the success of massive multinational corporations. And entire industries have blossomed to help inject these brands into our collective thoughts.
Say hello again to the twin-tailed mermaid reversed out of a brown medallion. It takes you back to 1971 and the beginning of Starbucks in Seattle.
“It’s a good time to celebrate our heritage,” says Starbucks spokesperson Bridget Baker. For sure, Bridget, it’s good to remind people of the “good old days”—especially when Starbucks, like all of us, is weathering a sluggish economy. Unemployment is up, gas prices are high, utilities are as costly as ever, and even commodities like rice and corn have risen high enough to cause food riots around the world. When times are tough it gets harder to justify a $3.73 venti wet cappuccino.
King of the hill (of beans)
As Starbucks has gobbled-up coffee competitors Seattle’s Best Coffee and Diedrich Coffee it has become the undisputed king of the coffee world. Success and acceptance has moved Starbucks from a niche, luxury purveyor to a ubiquitous, near-mainstream retailer with over 15,000 Starbucks-branded stores worldwide—over 70 percent of which are in the U.S.
One Dunkin Donuts ad really sums up the problem many people have with Starbucks. The 30-second TV spot features befuddled customers staring at the menu and trying to figure out how to order a beverage. Oh yeah, they’re all singing: “My mouth can’t form these words. My mind can’t find these words. Is it French or is it Italian? Perhaps Fritalian.”
One ad exec from Dunkin’ Donuts’ agency explains: “It’s a thinly veiled swipe at a certain competitor.” (Thinly veiled? What were they covering up?)
But Starbucks responded with a new milder blend of the Pike Place coffee and the new heritage logo on their cups. There’s even a new microsite,starbuckscoffeeathome.com. It offers a virtual barista to help demystify the many Starbucks blends. “The online experience…mimic[s] the experience [consumers] would have in the store, if they went to the barista and said, ‘I want to try Starbucks, but I don’t know where to start,’” said Wendy Pinero, VP-global consumer products group at the coffee chain.
And, in response to the “Fritalian” attacks from Dunkin Donuts, a billboard reassuring coffee drinkers they can simply “ask for it by name.”