Category Archives: Brand Strategy

Burger Brand Battle

Context: In Finland is a burger fast food duopoly between McDonalds (American) and Hesburger (Finnish). In May Burger King announced it would re-enter the market (their first attempt years ago failed) through a local chain called Restel.

Big news when Restel announced to bring Burger King back to the Finnish fast food market! Of course, McDonald’s quickly pointed out that the fast-food market in Finland is tight. Indeed, after Hesburger bought Carrols in 2012 the common believe might have been that the Finnish market is to small to go beyond a duopoly. Nothing could be further from the truth: with the arrival of Burger King the burger brand battle is about to start!

So, what might happen?

For the current players in the market, McDonalds and Hesburger I can only see trouble at the horizon. In general brands are strongest when they mean one thing and one thing only, like Heinz = Ketchup. This is the power of focus. Both Hesburger and McDonalds are currently not very focussed brands. Let me ask you, how would you describe McDonalds or Hesburger to your friends in a couple of words without using any marketing talk? It is quite difficult, isn’t ? I have heard some: McDonalds is the original or American, Hesburger is Finnish, there is a difference in mayonnaise etc. These are all right, but they do not help McDonalds or Hesburger to position itself clearly in the market.

Burger King on the other hand can capitalise on a very strong position: Burger King = Fire-grilled beef. So, if you want a fire-grilled beef burger you go to Burger King. When it comes to brand clarity Burger King is currently the winner!

What could McDonalds do?
McDonalds could focus on being the really FAST, fast, food restaurant. After all, a fire-grilled beef burger does imply slowness to it. Another alternative is to (re)focus around family: McDonalds, the family fast food restaurant.
What McDonalds should not do is to further increase the number of products. For example, the current MyBurger campaign does not help to increase clarity of what McDonalds is. It is merely a nice marketing activity but it is not helping to build the brand.

What could Hesburger do?
Hesburger will be in an interesting position. Being a Finnish chain in the middle of the two American giants they should play the Finnish card. This could be done through ensuring everything they sell is produced in Finland. If this means reducing items on the menu, then go for it! For example, a Fish burger made of fish from Finland. Of course, on the box you can read which Finnish fish is used in the burger. Another alternative is to play on the Finnish taste buts. Hesburger will be perceived to know the Finns best!

Now, is the Finnish burger market really so tight that there is only space for three chains?
I don’t think so! Could you imagine a chain that only and only focuses on organic burgers? I can! Or what about a chain like the In-n-Out burger in the USA that has only three top notch quality burgers on the menu? Could that work? Of course it can!

I claim that in Finland there is space for at least five burger chains… let the burger brand battle begin!

This post appeared in Markkinointi & Mainonta

Netflix buys DVD.com, what’s next in the branding saga?

Netflix, once known as one of the most successful dot-com startups is going through a rough time with some serious branding mistakes. Today I read on engadget.com that Netflix bought DVD.com… why would they do that?

Seven years ago the world looked great for Netflix. In 2005 it was shipping 1 Million DVDs per day to its subscribers. Wow! Netflix had an amazing position: it simply was #1 in the DVD rental. Netflix was nicely riding on the DVD player sales. There was one problem though… the DVD player was eventually going to be replaced by digital distribution.

The Netflix folks saw that coming and in 2007 they introduced streaming under the same Netflix brand. The service became successful but times changed and in Q3 2011 Netflix lost 800.000 subscribers.

The Netflix folks saw that one coming too and decided that the strong brand Netflix should live on in the streaming business, making place for a new brand called Qwikster for the DVD rental business. A couple of months later the idea was buried.

Or… was it? Netflix has now bought DVD.com. I am sure one of the ideas of the folks at Netflix is to use that for the rental business, moving Netflix over to the streaming business forever.

Now… what is going on here? Is this really the smartest move? No it is not!

Firstly, Netflix should have retained the Netflix brand for the DVD rental business only. The brand was the number one in the category. Even though the category is dying (and with that the brand) it would have been the best thing.

Secondly, for the streaming business a second brand would have been appropriate. It is a substantial new business / category in which the company could have been number one again. This brand should have been positioned as the streaming service.

Thirdly, buying a generic domain “DVD.com” is really a waste of money. Consumers are not thinking “I’d like to rent a DVD so I go to DVD.com”,  they think “I’d like to rent a DVD so I go to Netflix.com”. The DVD.com “brand” is a waste of money.

 

Amazon.com, the online retailer where we used to shop

The other day when visiting Amazon.com I got a surprise: a new home page!  I guess Amazon is testing and therefore spreading the new home page in the wild with some customers.

The new home page shows the new direction of Amazon. In fact it is a long departure from the Amazon that we all know so well. You know,  the company that sells physical goods, “Earth’s Biggest Retailer“ and has a well earned number one position.

Not so any more. Today Amazon reinvents themselves as a digital retailer. What a really bad idea.  I wrote earlier about Amazon and their line extension move to digital. There were clear signs that Amazon might fall for the line extension trap.

Let take a look at the new home page:

Now take a close look at the categories:

  • Instant video
  • MP3 store
  • Cloud Player
  • Kindle
  • Cloud Drive
  • Appstore for Android
  • Game & Software Downloads
  • Audible Audiobooks

Hang on a minute? Where are:

  • Books
  • Film, Music, Games
  • Electronics
  • Computers & Office
  • Home, Garden, Pets
  • Toys, Children & Baby
  • Clothes, Shoes & Watches
  • Hobbies, Sports & Leisure
  • Grocery, Health & Beauty
  • DIY, Tools & Car

Clearly, in the “new” Amazon these are not as important anymore. It is now all about digital.

Let’s get somethings straight:

  • Amazon is currently in traffic #5 in the USA and #15 globally (via Alexa.com Sep 25)
  • Amazon is the undisputable #1 online retailer “Earth’s Biggest” both in numbers and in consumers mind
  • Some of Amazon product categories are challenged by more focussed brands like Diapers.com, Drugstore.com, Bookrepository.com and many more, but Amazon has still competitive advantage over many of the challengers by offering Amazon Prime (‘free’ shipping for 79USD per year) across all the product ranges.

Now, Amazon wants to “expand” the business and moving into digital. In other words moving from a category in which it is number one to a category it will need to compete really hard against established brands like  iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Skydrive and many more…

The big question for me is: what are the guys at Amazon HQ’s thinking? Why dilute the meaning of the Amazon brand by entering in the digital space? You did it right with Kindle (you did not call it the Amazon reader) and MyHabit  (you did not call it Amazon Fashion Goldbox) and you should have done exactly the same with digital.

Keep your brand where it is established, especially when it is number one in a category and create a new brand for digital, that is what Amazon should have done.

Amazon.com: what happened to the promise of Earth’s Biggest?

Back in the days the promise of Amazon was “Earth’s biggest bookstore”. How easy to believe! Millions of books at a good price with a brand named after another earth’s biggest.

Remember?

Then Amazon moved on from just books to CDs/DVDs/Games. In my view all still very logic and Amazon executed the right strategy to stay “Earth’s Biggest” in these categories. How? By being The Biggest.

It did not stop there, Amazon expanded further, according to their website “today, Amazon offers everything from books and electronics to tennis rackets and diamond jewelry.” Still, this enormous expansion works. When living in New York City we “amazoned” pretty much everything. Amazon became “Earth’s Biggest Retailer“. This positioning was supported with help of “Amazon Prime”: free 2 day shipping for a yearly fixed fee that tremendously helped taking away the two headaches of internet shopping: delivery fees and delivery time.

At the moment Amazon has expanded even further. This time however the expansion goes beyond the Retail category. This expansion is where future problems for Amazon will come in.

 

The Amazon.com shopping experience is now split in “Digital” and “Physical”. In other words: the line extension split is made very explicit to consumers. Why will this not work in the long run?

Firstly, Amazon has expanded the brand from retail to digital media consumption. As we know expanding brands in new categories include a risk: consumers can get confused with your current position. Why risk it? Fast forward a couple of years and think about what consumers would answer to the question “What is Amazon in one word?”: is it web shopping, cloud storage, a sort of Netflix or still the best place to buy products online?

Secondly, this move endangers Amazons current positioning of Earths Biggest in physical goods, a position they should simply not give up!  There is plenty of competition that has a very reduced scope and focus, such as The Book Depository. Book Depository sells well… books (and only books) but differentiates with free worldwide shipping. Since we live in Finland it has become my number one go to book site. So Amazon will  need to improve in all the sub categories of the products they are selling to stay Earths Biggest.

Thirdly, in “Digital” goods Amazon is far from being Earths Biggest, and even if Amazon would be in terms of numbers they are not in consumer’s mind. In this space there is lots of existing and established competition.

The option I would have recommended to Amazon is to strongly consider launching a new brand, let’s say Everest. Amazon did it right with Kindle. Calling the current Kindle product the “Amazon reader” would have been a disaster. Think about it… would a consumer go to a shop to buy an Amazon? No, they wouldn’t, but they do go to the shop for a Kindle. And it pretty successful: Kindle is now synonymous with e-books/ digital reading.

Everest would on one hand be an part of Amazon, just like how Kindle and the Kindle Store are today. On the other hand on Everest.com would attract new customers who not necessarily would go to Amazon.com for digital media consumption. The “only” thing Amazon would need to make sure is that Everest.com would create a consumer need based on something new, not serving consumers the same or very similar stuff they can get with the established players.

How Philips can differentiate from Braun in the shavers market

I am raised in a Braun shaver family. My father has a Braun, my grandfather had a Braun and I ended up with a Braun as well. Similar experiences I see with my friends: some have Braun, others have Philips. The market is split.

Recently we were visiting my parents in law and I had forgotten my shaver. As we had something special that weekend I ended up borrowing the shaver of my father in law. It turned out to be a Philips. A couple of minutes in the job I changed my mind about Philips shavers… in fact, I liked it so much better than my Braun that I will be switching brands soon.

Why? The simple answer is that Philips created a product that works with my face: it does not assume there are straight lines!

Below the shaving head of a Braun. As you can see this is a straight line. Whatever new technologies Braun is inventing (the latest is Pulsonic technology with 10.000 micro vibrations that help to capture more hair) the dilemma of a straight line vs a curved face will not be solved.

Below the head of a Philips shaver. Philips explains on its website “three independently flexing heads in a shaving unit that swivels with full range of motion. This unique combination ensures optimum skin contact in curved areas to catch even the most problematic neck hair.”…. aka lots of text to say that the shaving head works with your face.

To capture the market Philips should make itself a clear opposite of Braun by focussing on its unique differentiator. Philips shavers are made to work with your face. A face does not have straight lines, neither do Philips shavers.  Or to say it differently: your face does not have straight lines, why expect something different from your shaver?

Currently Philips is unfortunately not spelling out this unique differentiator. Take a look at the latest Senso Touch 3D commercial:

From the commercial: “every curve, every contour, every hair”. This could be as well a Braun commercial, no differentiation.

To really make the point and remind people why to buy Philips it should all be about the differentiator. This would my simple story board and script for the commercial:

Let me know your thoughts!