(COLONEL SANDERS OF KFC)
Harland Sanders, better known as
Colonel Sanders, traveled the
country in a white suit and black
string tie promoting his secret fried-
chicken recipe of 11 herbs and
spices. The name change to KFC
was presumably made to walk away
from the perception of unhealthy
“fried” food, but a better strategy
might have been to call the chain
“Colonel Sanders Chicken,” forever
locking the name of the brand with
its unique visual hammer.
(WELLS FARGO STAGECOACH)
Consumers want stability and
longevity, among other things,
from a bank. The Wells Fargo
name and stagecoach visual
hammer provide both. Too many
marketing people think “old” is
bad and “new” is good. But “old”
can sometimes be the foundation
on which to build an up-to-date
brand. Of the four largest banks
over the past 10 years, the bank
with the stagecoach visual
hammer was the most profitable.
might relate to a visual would be a
BMW, for example, owns “driving,” an
achievement that turned the brand into
the world’s best-selling luxury vehicle.
The visual hammers that etched
“driving” into the minds of BMW fans
were its distinctive TV commercials
showing happy owners maneuvering
BMWs over winding roads.
In 2009, BMW switched its focus to
“joy”—a verbal concept that broadens the
appeal of the BMW brand. But how do you
visualize it? Like many other high-level
abstract words (happiness, enthusiasm,
customer satisfaction, quality) joy cannot
be visualized in any meaningful way.
Is it a coincidence that for nine years in
a row, from 2001 to 2009, BMW led
archrival Mercedes-Benz in the U.S.
market and then, in 2010, after launching
the joy campaign, fell behind Mercedes?
Luckily, this year BMW ditched joy to go
back to its driving nail.
Of course, advertising is loaded with
visuals, but most of them never become
hammers. They might be funny, but if
they’re not also functional they do little
for the brand.
A good example is the frogs from the
famed 1995 Budweiser Super Bowl spot,
often listed as one of the best
commercials in history. The ad shows a
swamp at nighttime with three frogs
rhythmically croaking “Bud”… “Weis”…
“Er.” But where’s the verbal nail?
Laura Ries is president of Ries & Ries
consulting. Her iBook, “Visual Hammer,”
is available at Apple’s iBookstore
Advertising Age | March 12, 2012
can be gleaned from
Journalism has long favored the quick.
Today, however, the proliferation of
digital technologies has spurred a
different need for speed. Specifically,
the Fourth Estate is feeling increased
pressure to become immediately
ubiquitous on every mobile and social
platform that captures our attention.
Sound familiar? It should. Other
businesses face the same demands to
innovate. Yet the media seem to be able
to do it all, while at times other
corporations get bogged down in
With this in mind, I again ventured off
into the media world in search of
answers to several key questions: How
do media innovators weigh the various
social, mobile and other technologies in
terms of their potential for storytelling,
audience engagement and revenue?
How do they separate hype from
reality? And how much pressure are
they feeling from the executive suite to
innovate on new platforms, vs. from
their audience or simply from within?
Not surprisingly, I discovered that a
full-speed-ahead, early-adopter ethos
pervades the editorial ranks. Conversely,
suite are taking a
seemingly able to
ignore the noise.
tension seems to spur rapid innovation.
Three common themes emerged in
my conversations with the press. You
should consider them.
First, the media are focusing on the
largest, most established platforms and
making sure that they innovate and
excel on them. They then develop a
playbook that others in the organization
can follow. Sometimes they do this at
the expense of missing out on the
industry’s latest infatuation.
That is the prevailing wisdom at CBS
Local Digital Media, which operates the
social, mobile and web platforms for
dozens of CBS TV and radio stations.
President Ezra Kucharz said that the
Tiffany Network looks for ways to
“Advertisers now want to be part of
new things,” Mr. Kucharz said. These
signals aid their decision making.
CBS Local’s Spot Dash is an example
of this approach. It enables viewers and
listeners to complete nearby treks in
exchange for rewards from local
advertisers. This is CBS’s way of
doubling down on both location-based
marketing and mobile in one move—all
with an immediate revenue opportunity.
Another theme that emerged is to let
the platforms find you. That’s what
Scripps Networks Interactive did last
September when it evaluated two of the
newest and hottest social networks,
Google+ and Pinterest.
Blogging might seem downright slow and quaint in
the age of Twitter. But some media organizations
have taken a renewed interestin live-blogging
breaking-news events are seeing an uptick in
audience engagement as a result.
Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony
Derosa said Scribble Live, a real-time
blogging platform, allows editors and
reporters to take a “hover-and- dive”
approach as news warrants. “Audiences
have been glued to the live-blog format,”
Mr. Derosa told me. Reuters is now using
Scribble Live to curate questions from
Twitter and redefine how the wire
service covers breaking-news events,
such as elections.
Talking Points Memo, meanwhile, is
putting resources into aggregated data.
Boring? Perhaps. But Deputy Publisher
Callie Schweitzer told me that the
decision to invest in the Poll Tracker
visualization tool has increased TPM’s
social and public-relations footprint
because data is “the most unbiased
form of reporting.”
Those are just a few of the many
examples of how the media approach
innovation. And it does seem that
mixing some logic with a dose of
enthusiasm works well and can be
replicated by marketers.
Steve Rubel is exec VP-global strategy
and insights for Edelman.
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