Superman struggles to stay relevant for younger audiences.
Richard Swain
Senior Strategist,
based in Landor Sydney

Once only comic book rivals, Marvel and DC Entertainment now compete on a global movie stage, along with their respective studio partners, Disney and Warner Bros. In Australia, the last few weeks have been fueled by speculation about a face-off between DC and Marvel when Marvel’s third installment of its Captain America franchise and DC’s Batman vs. Supermanare both released on 6 May 2016.1 In light of this contest and the new stage on which superheroes now compete, we thought it would be interesting to compare the strength and stature of superhero brands in Australia.

We spoke to Australians between the ages of 18 and 54, asking specific questions about superhero brands’ relevance, differentiation, knowledge, and esteem. Probably the most compelling finding is that while Batman and Superman (both DC brands) share the top spot among 35- to 54-year-olds, Superman drops to fifth for 18- to 34-year-olds, while Batman falls only one place to second. It seems that while Batman has continued to reinvent himself to stay relevant for new audiences—through the recent Dark Knight movies—Superman has struggled to keep up with the glory of his illustrious past.

The data reveals that Superman’s brand strength remains strong among 35- to 54-year-olds, particularly on knowledge and esteem, the pillars that determine a brand’s stature. Strength in these areas is often associated with large, successful heritage brands such as Qantas or Holden. However, Batman is ahead of Superman on relevance and differentiation, the pillars of brand strength normally associated with newer brands or brands that consistently reinvent themselves for new audiences, such as Apple or Sony. 

Relevance and differentiation are where Superman falters dramatically among 18- to 34-year-olds, falling to fourth in differentiation and sixth in relevance, behind Marvel’s Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, and even Captain America. This lack of relevance is clearly recognized by DC, who when rebooting all its titles in 2012, did away with Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane to pave the way for a new romance with Wonder Woman. It will be interesting to see what impact these developments may have on the brand health of these superheroes once they filter through to the big screen.

As for Marvel heroes, Wolverine is most popular among 18- to 34-year-olds, which is not surprising since Australian favorite Hugh Jackman has played the character in seven movies in the last 14 years. Iron Man tops the overall rankings on relevance alone, indicating a broad affinity among all audiences. Given the wide success and broad appeal of the Iron Man movies, and of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of playboy millionaire Tony Stark, this popularity is not entirely unexpected.

It’s worth noting that while Wonder Woman failed to place in the top five for 18- to 34-year-olds, 35- to 54-year-olds, or overall, she does retain some residual brand stature. She came in third among 35- to 54-year-olds for esteem. In a corporate world she would share a similar position on a brand map with Kodak—not extinct, but with a long road back to health.

 

Methodology

  • The Landor Superhero Brand Health Study 2014 was conducted online between 21 December and 23 December 2013.
  • 204 adults were surveyed, aged 18 to 54, all residing in Australia.
  • Respondents were asked a number of questions about their views on 10 superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, Wolverine, Captain America, and the Incredible Hulk.
  • Respondents were asked questions relating to each superhero’s relevance (interest to them), differentiation (how much they stand out), knowledge (how much they know about them), and esteem  (how much they respect them).
  • The samples for this survey were selected from among those who agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Because the sample is based on those who were invited to participate in the online research, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. 

 

1 Scott Mendelson, “Batman/Superman Will ‘Lose’ Showdown with Captain America 3,” Forbes.com  (14 March 2014). 

2 Lara Spencer, “Superman Ditches Lois Lane for Wonder Woman?” ABC News (22 August 2012).

 

 

Category: Research & insights

Mad Men brand wish list

April 16, 2014
Which brands would you like to see Don Draper transform?
Elyse Kazarinoff
Creative Director, Verbal Branding,
based in Landor New York

MadMenS7

Spoiler alert: The following article contains details about the Mad Men Season 7 premiere episode, “Time Zones.”

I’m not psychic. I’m just a branding professional. But I also happen to be a rabid Mad Men fan. After watching the season premiere that opened with Freddy Rumsen’s ghost-written pitch for Accutron, I started wondering what other brands might be introduced this season.

On those credentials, and some digging into what was hot in 1969, here are my picks of the brands I’d like to see make an appearance in Mad Men this year.

California, here we come

Now that Ted’s heading up the satellite office of SC&P in LA to service Sunkist, there may be more opportunity there for the firm. Matthew Weiner has said that one of the themes this season is the shift of the power base from the East to the West coast. And we’ve already heard that Pete just signed a California-based retailer as a new client.

With more new business possibly on the horizon, the Gap would be an interesting choice. Launched in San Francisco in 1969, this now iconic brand started with one store that symbolized the blue jeans ethos of the late ’60s. It would be compelling to see the fledgling branch of a big New York agency handle a small, niche client like the Gap. This would be a great brand for Stan, the rebel, to work on if he joins Ted out West.

In the ’60s, the surfing culture became a phenomenon that spread across the country and the globe. From a small surf shop in Southern California, Hobie expanded beyond selling boards in the late ’60s to specially designed play boats based on the Polynesian twin-hulled catamaran. For many in 1969, this brand represented the freewheeling surfer lifestyle. Having Hobie as an SC&P client would give the writers an intriguing way to contrast East and West coast values.

But I think Disney would be the Big Kahuna California client of them all for SC&P. Disneyland seems to be a recurring metaphor in the series. In Season 4, Don proposed to Megan during a trip there. In this week’s episode, the young widow seated next to Don on his flight home from LA tells him she deposited her husband’s ashes on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. I’d like to see Ted and Pete team up to work with Disney as a client, particularly since Pete already seems to be an LA convert. Better yet, I’d love to see SC&P try to pitch to Disney without Don Draper’s creative genius. After Don’s meltdown during the Hershey pitch in last season’s finale, I’m sure the agency wouldn’t let him anywhere near the family-friendly Disney brand, if he comes back to the agency and Disney comes calling.

More for Chevy

The Chevy storyline is still in full swing. When the New York creative team meets with the new creative director, Lou Avery, to go over status updates about the Chevy XP-887, they tell him the work is about to be launched, but there is still no name for the car. We know that the XP becomes the Vega, and because my specialty is naming, I’m hoping we get to see the SC&P team do some brainstorming to create the new name. Hilarity could ensue if that session is led by Lou, who appears to be both boring and pompous.

There may be even more opportunity for growing the Chevy account this season. In 1969 Chevrolet’s Estate Wagon featured a walk-in, walk-out feature with a built-in bumper step that made it easy for people to get in and out of the backdoor. That same year, the Chevrolet Sports/Recreation Department introduced the Chevy Blazer as “the only car/truck combination of its kind.” I hope that at least one of these late ’60s innovations make it into this season. Peggy would be a great choice for the copywriter for the station wagon. It would give her a chance to bring the woman’s perspective to the automotive category, where she had always been shut out before. And, just for fun, I’d like to see Ginsberg take on the Blazer and come up with another totally unexpected, winning insight—as he did with Jaguar.

Shoot for the moon

Undoubtedly, one of the historic high points of 1969 was the moon landing. The nation was filled with pride over this amazing accomplishment, and it gave advertisers a way to promote their brands and congratulate the lunar astronauts at the same time. One animated Coke ad back then superimposed the Coca-Cola logo on the face of the moon for a humorous effect.

Almost any client or brand of SC&P might want to take advantage of this historic event in its advertising. For giggles, I’d like to see SC&P create ad campaigns for MoonPie and Tang inspired by the lunar landing. But it would make the most sense for SC&P to pitch this approach to brands known for their advanced products. We saw this trend introduced last Sunday night with Accutron, considered to be the first “electronic watch” powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator circuit. Brands like General Electric’s appliances or Texas Instruments’ consumer electronics were also known for their innovative and high-tech products in 1969. I’d like to see what kind of ads SC&P would come up with for them. Space-age technology and push-button convenience were buzzwords of the period that could easily make their way into their campaigns.

Whatever happens this season, you can count on me to be watching Mad Men in real time every Sunday night. I’ll be tuning in for the great writing and the fine acting, but I’ll also be curious to see if any of my so-called predictions come true. That would be an added thrill (although I’m pretty sure that none of them will ever make it to the screen). But in case any of them do, remember that you heard it here first.

 

Image courtesy of Michael Yarish/AMC. 
Category: Brand strategy & positioning
The most important parts of branding happen below the surface.
Allen Adamson
Managing Director,
based in Landor New York

DonDraper

The final season of Mad Men begins on April 13. For those of us in the business, it’s been fascinating watching the evolution of advertising played out against the changing moods and social mores of the United States in the 1960s. For those not in the advertising business, it’s been just as fascinating, what with the profligate smoking, three-martini lunches, and not-so-clandestine office romances. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of plotlines this season, but I am sure that anything relative to brand building will have little resemblance to what’s happening in marketing today. The shift from “on” to “inside” over the past few decades has been seismic. Revolution, not evolution, may be a better word to use to describe our business in today’s post–Mad Men era. Let me explain. 

It used to be that when you talked about branding, you talked about what you putonyour package, your delivery truck, your airplane, your signage, or your communications materials. From an evolutionary perspective, the word “brand” comes from the Old Norse word brandr, which means “to burn.” The Vikings branded their animals to identify them. In ancient China, Greece, and Rome, artisans marked their wares to signal identity and help villagers establish preferences. Fast forward (way forward): As competition increased, brand names became even more critical as a way to enhance a product’s perceived value. Companies realized how powerful, and even magical, the right brand name on the package could be in terms of influencing consumers’ purchase decisions.

The reality is that what attracts customers is no longer a matter ofon, butin. More and more often, a hot brand is not the result of external manifestations, even if the product or service meets basic expectations for quality. That’s mere table stakes. It’s the internal manifestation of the brand promise—the experience of the brand—that determines its success. In this day and age, when consumers have more choices and can see and readily share their interactions, smart companies live by the maxim “A brand is as a brand does.” It has never been more apparent that in a transparent, skeptical, show-me-don’t-tell-me marketplace, if a brand doesn’t deliver the goods, nothing else will matter.

Take Amazon Fire TV, which lets consumers watch Amazon’s extensive video collection and tap into other sources of entertainment. Whether or not this new device is successful will have nothing to do with Amazon’s smile logo or even its iconic name. It’s whether or not the content will prove to be better than that of any other company seeking to capture the lion’s share of couch potato attention.

Or, consider the Apple iPhone. Huge hit. The design was incomparable and the name on the packaging as iconic as it gets. But, it’s what’s inside—the function, the apps—that will keep this device (or any device) at the top of the list. And it’s not just electronics. Whether it’s smartphones or yogurt, airlines or retailers, consumers are warier, more discerning, and more vocal. The brand with the best inside will win.

But wait. Because consumers are warier, more discerning, and more vocal, the brand with the best inside may win, but it may win just that round. We’ve all seen how quickly in can become out. Success is not just a matter of keeping your brand experience relevant but ensuring that it’s consistent day in and day out, from touchpoint to touchpoint. Consumers today are quick to judge, and more often than not, will judge you on how good the last experience was. 

If my last experience with an airline was great, that’s great. If it was lousy, my perception of that brand falls apart. Every point of touch, every single experience, is an opportunity to make good on the brand promise. Or as a former chairman of SAS put it, “Our company has a chance to make the brand—or break the brand—100 times during every flight.” One of the best ways for a brand to tell its story is through its actions. Another way is to have customers tell the story. It’s how the brand gets talked about in social media that will likely determine its social standing at any given instant. 

Like many of my colleagues, I’ll be watching the last season of Mad Men. It’s sure to be fun, as guilty a pleasure as every other season. More than that, for those of us in marketing, it will be a look back at what was, not is, in terms of how brands get built. Branding is no longer about the surface, but about what’s inside. The experience of a brand says more to consumers about what the brand stands for than anything else. In is in.

 

Post first published on Forbes.com.
Image courtesy of Jaimie Trueblood/amc. 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning
An M&A challenge illustrates the importance of strategy in branding.
Dominic Twyford
Client Director,
based in Landor Kuala Lumpur

Branding can be misunderstood; too much emphasis on its visual aspects has led many to confuse it with graphic design. Although a brand’s logo, signage, and packaging are very important, it is worth remembering the words of Landor’s founder Walter Landor: “Products are made in the factory, but brands are made in the mind.” These words were spoken many years ago, but they remain true today. 

Walter’s reference to the mind hints at a deep emotional connection between people and brands. No marketer would disagree with his statement—it is not an earth-shattering insight today—but many skip branding strategy and fast-forward to design. If you jump to design too quickly, the key steps of auditing, positioning, and brand definition are lost. Speeding through branding misses the point, making it harder to create those all-important emotional connections.

While rebranding often includes a visual change, design is just the tip of the iceberg. The real mass of work is out of view and below the waterline.

Iceberg

Design is just the tip of the iceberg in a rebranding project.  

Compelling reasons to rebrand

Corporate brands should think about rebranding only when there is good reason; tinkering with an established brand on a whim is dangerous. A corporation needs to ask itself some key questions: “Why are we making a change?” “What do we want to achieve?” Before moving forward, these questions should be met with compelling answers from across the organization—not just from within the marketing department.

Troubled businesses should consider reviewing their brand and communications activity. Perhaps the brand is disconnected from its target consumer, maybe market share has slipped, or competitors have become more relevant. In these cases the brand clearly needs treatment. In such instances, a brand consultancy like Landorbecomes the doctor. We help diagnose the problem and prescribe the remedy. And as all good doctors (and their patients) know, treatment without diagnosis is malpractice.

A business acquisition would also naturally trigger a brand review or rebrand. One of the key elements of an acquisition is convincing employees it’s a good idea; retaining the best talent is of the utmost importance. Bringing two organizations together to create something new must galvanize the workforce and set a vision for the future that energizes and relieves any potential anxiety. 

UEM Sunrise: A case study 

Landor client UEM Land faced an M&A challenge when it acquired Sunrise in 2012. Although operational synergies between the two companies were obvious, each had a very different culture.

From a creative perspective, the new name, UEM Sunrise, and its new identity were almost incidental. They were natural outputs of sound strategic judgment and decision making. An accurate diagnosis led us to the appropriate conclusion: We were able to treat the brand (using design) once we had made our assessment (through a strategic process).

Landor’s influence was brought to bear during the initial immersion and prototyping stages. These pre-design stages involved absorbing as much information as we could about UEM Land and Sunrise, understanding the concerns of the management team and the wider market opportunity, and setting the direction for the new brand to succeed.

We initially focused on shaping internal perceptions and creating a new company mission to drive change from within. The aim was to help employees recognize that they were integral to the success of the new merged company. Prototyping provided us with the means to rapidly illustrate brand platforms and positioning statements for the management team, making strategy tangible to internal stakeholders. 

Although we developed a new identity, architecture system, and brand guidelines, we also achieved something more fundamental. Partnering with our sister company Ogilvy Impact, we were able to bring about a big shift in attitude within the new organization through a series of internal communications activities. 

In 2012, staff members were asked to evaluate UEM Sunrises’ employee engagement efforts and its vision, mission, and business ambitions. At that time, only 57 percent of staff agreed with the statement “I feel positive about the combined entity and its business plans.” A year later, after an internal brand engagement program, 86 percent of staff strongly agreed with the same statement.

This success story supports Walter Landor’s words. Merging two organizations together can, at the very least, create a new entity. Alternatively, by involving employees and making them part of the process, hearts are won and minds are aligned. They no longer work for a company; instead they work for and withintheirbrand.

 

First published in the BrandLaureate Business World Review

Image courtesy of Flickr user McKay Savage

 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning

How matters for Chobani

March 24, 2014
Chobani succeeded because of sharp execution and a more emotionally resonant brand idea.
Allen Adamson
Managing Director,
based in Landor New York

Chobani 3.5oz -8pck _Blended _Family

“The sleeping giants woke up, and the sleeping giants were very angry.”

No, it’s not a line from a fairy tale but rather a quote from Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani, who was speaking at The Big Rethink 2014 US, a marketing conference hosted by the Economist. The line, a reference to Tora! Tora! Tora!, got quite a few laughs from the audience. It is, however, no laughing matter to the yogurt brands that have been mightily surpassed in market share by this new category leader over the last five or six years. Any way you measure it, “zero to over one billion dollars in five years,” or “52 percent market share in eight years,” it sounds more like the tech category, not Greek yogurt. In fact, I read that a venture capitalist remarked of Chobani, “If you examined its fiscal returns and blocked out its name, you’d think it was a software company.”

So how does this level of brand success happen? The answer is embedded in the preceding question: “how.” As I heard McGuinness recount the tale of Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s founder and CEO, who married his passion for the Turkish yogurt of his boyhood with the serendipitous availability of an old yogurt factory in upstate New York, what struck me was that it was nothing extraordinarily creative or exciting that prompted the brand’s rise from last to first so quickly. Ulukaya was, in fact, just following the rules of Branding 101. They were not, however, the rules from the year 2000 but from the year 2014. 

What I mean is that for a brand to be successful, it needs to offer something relevantly different by way of a product or service. And, yes, the brand has to ensure that it meets, if not exceeds, expected standards of quality for whatever the brand is. But more than this, the rules of 2014 dictate that for a brand to get and keep an edge, it has to focus on a story that is deeper than just “what” it does. Smart brands recognize that consumers are increasingly connecting with “how” companies behave and “why” they do the things they do. In a marketplace where everything is transparent, it’s become imperative for companies to not just say the right thing but to do the right thing. In other words, companies have to live their values and imbue their products and services with these values.

Now, lest you think I’m onto some epiphany here, I’m not. Many marketers, and those who write about marketing, have come to grasp the importance of “how” in building a powerful brand. Dov Seidman, for example, founder and CEO of LRN, a company that helps other companies “do the right thing,” is the author of the best-selling book How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything. In an interview I did with Seidman a year or so ago, he told me, “Business, any business, is about winning by gaining advantage, doing proprietary things. Just like my family can’t copy your family, my culture can’t copy your culture. We want to make culture a strategy for winning.”

In other words, it’s no longer enough to compete on table stakes, be it building a better mousetrap, or be it yogurt. Rather, to win in today’s market, with today’s savvy consumers, you have to build your differentiation on trust and values. And that’s exactly what Chobani did. From day one, it understood that when those sleeping giants wake up (and they did, Danone and General Mills among them), what with their giant scale and bank accounts, Chobani’s winning edge would have to come from something else. And it did: Chobani’s mission and operating principle: How matters.

“You can’t operate on How matters if you can’t back it up,” McGuinness said during his presentation. “Lots of brands jump on the ‘we care’ platform, but people know if it’s sincere or not. You can spend 100 million dollars on advertising, but if your point of view isn’t authentic, it doesn’t matter. Your point of view needs to be supported by your actions. How we do things is a real articulation of what we’ve always been about.”

From my side of the spoon, as a marketer and a consumer, Chobani does practice what it preaches, whether it’s the fresh milk from the humanely treated cows, the company’s relationships with the farmers who tend the cows and the fruit trees, or the consumers—Olympic athletes included—who count on the naturally sourced ingredients to keep them fit. Equally important, when mold was discovered in a small number of packages last year, the company owned up to the issue honestly, quickly, and proactively, using “how” as a branding guideline for good, and less than good, times.

As I said earlier, Chobani’s incredible rise was not based on anything magical or even overly creative, for that matter. It was a sharper execution and delivery against a deeper, more emotionally resonant brand idea. It has linked itself to consumers in a more meaningful, more comprehensive way than just a product feature. Chobani conveys the right message for a market that has become increasingly aware of ingredients and health, certainly, but also of the culture of the companies behind the products they buy.

Chobani tastes good. Chobani is good for you. But the brand story goes deeper than that. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the planet. As McGuinness explained, “It’s a way of doing things, of treating people, not just making things. You don’t have to choose between caring and being ambitious.” At 52 percent market share and growing, I’d say “how” Chobani continues to build its brand should keep all giants up at night.

 

Post first published on Forbes.com. 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning
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