Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Brand Archetype Assessor

The concept of brand archetype is well established as a managerial tool. It is a productive way of placing brand personalities and brand communication in a cultural context.

There are many alternative models of archetype structures that help brand planners think about alternative archetypes.

However, what is needed is a productive means of assessing brand archetypes and placing them in a competitive context.

Here is my Brand Archetype Assessor. It will help you accomplish that goal.

You see that the cardinal dimensions are rational versus emotional and active versus passive. There is a vast amount of scholarly literature supporting these as key dimensions.

Then, within the cardinal directions, you will notice the sub-dimensions of productive versus creative and mindful versus playful.

I've illustrated these major dimensions with brand exemplars. Let me know if you have questions, and I am also available to make presentations on this and other topics.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brand Personality and Success

Advertising statesman Emerson Foote said, "No one would ever use advertising if they could meet all their customers face to face."

His insight points to the fact that people look first to their personal information sources, rather than media sources.

Theory Basis

Not only do people look first to personal information sources, as social beings we draw upon our person perception skills to give meaning to the entire world around us. Dark skies are threatening, sunshine is friendly. The babbling brook bespeaks a happy attitude.

We call this phenomenon "anthropomorphism," the attribution of human characteristics, traits, and motives to entities and forces in the world around us.

Of course, brands, products, services, and organizations are commonly seen this way. Indeed, a brand without a personality is not very interesting.

Lessons from the Classics

King Arthur Flour is the oldest continuously operating company in the United States. Although founded in 1790, the company did not choose King Arthur as its brand name until 1890 when an owner attended a performance of the musical King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Although a seemingly implausible means of selecting a brand name, with no apparent connection to flour, the kingly imagery of the Arthur legend presumably lends to the brand a sense of leadership, integrity and good times in days of old. Today, the highly informative King Arthur Flour website begins with this logo prominently positioned so as to welcome your visit.

Underwood Deviled Ham is actually the oldest continuously marketed trade marked food brand in the United States. When it comes to food preparation, deviling means seasonings play a major role giving the food a spicy taste. So, for this brand we see a clear connection between the devilish imagery and the sought after taste experience of the brand.

Indeed, this classic print ad from 1911 demonstrates some devilishly good copywriting. The visual is wonderfully in tune with the personality of the brand. Were the brand to begin reinvesting in advertising, this print ad gives productive direction concerning content and personality.

Turning to brand personality in contemporary advertising, MetLife stands out as one of the strongest brand personalities. In the early 1980's the company began searching for a new creative direction to replace the traditional problem-solution case studies that typify insurance company advertising. At Y&R in New York, senior copywriter George Watts proposed a campaign based on the Peanuts cartoon characters. Snoopy was to play the leading role, of course.

The customer insight is all about brand personality. No one wants to talk to an insurance agent. So, with Snoopy as the spokesperson the brand immediately became a friend. Snoopy is possibly the most highly effective door opener. But going beyond personality, the scenarios and cast of characters allow for charming narratives to explain otherwise complicated and boring insurance products and procedures.

This customer insight leads directly to my typology for evaluating and managing brand personality.

Eighmey's Brand Personality Success Grid

Human behavior comes down to the concepts of thinking, feeling, and doing. What we choose to do is supported by what we think and feel.

These elemental concepts provide the framework for a model or typology for evaluating the performance of brand personalities as they directly compete in the marketplace. Importantly, this allows us to evaluate brand personalities in their competitive frames.

Turning to the Brand Personality Success Grid, you can see how MetLife's brand personality relationship with customers is based on high levels of feeling and more extensive narrative content about the brand. In contrast, Geico's stance is to ask customers to concentrate on a simple fact about speed of transaction.

Now, all four of these brands are mounting successful advertising campaigns. The point is to recognize the basis of the continuing relationships with their customers when it comes to thinking and feeling. My typology suggests that to support long run relationships more of both is better.

What does my Brand Personality Success Grid look like for the brands in your product category?

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Candor As Advertising Message Strategy

Candor is an illuminating word. From Latin, it communicates brilliancy and purity. We are said to be candid, or speaking with candor, when acting in a forthcoming and honest matter to say what we believe.

Indeed, the highest levels of candor introduce self-criticism, even to the extent of self-depreciation, so as to lay all considerations on a question or argument open for review and scrutiny.

Candor is rarely seen in advertising. A brand generally concentrates on its unique selling proposition, clearly setting forth a relative advantage over its competitors. Successful communication of a single-minded message in mass communication is thought to be challenging enough without the added burden of introducing complexities and conditions.

Consumer research tells us this makes sense when communicating with people who already buy into an idea or message. Single-minded messages do help promote loyalty.

But, when it comes to converting people to a new idea, or inviting them to switch brands, candor may have an important role to play. Interestingly, this finding about the effectiveness of "two-sided" message arguments is one of the oldest empirically documented outcomes in the modern era of scientific research on persuasive communication. This comes from the classic Yale Attitude Change Studies of the 1940s and 50s.

The widely admired VW campaign of the 1960s and 70s was based on this customer insight. Faced with the daunting task of competing with well-entrenched Detroit brands, VW employed a message of self-depreciating humor to convert consumers to the brand.


This 1971 Karmann Ghia commercial is a particularly effective vehicle to appreciate the fundamental customer insight underlying the entire VW campaign. While competitors focused on the excitement of an annual race involving styling, size, and horsepower, VW concentrated on smaller cars and admitted certain shortcomings.

Candor, as shown here in the form of a "two-sided" message strategy, remains an effective approach, particularly when the audience is discerning and the goal is converting them to a new viewpoint.

Beyond truth, when it comes to advertising message strategy, it is candor that counts.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kmart Wins 2015 Valentine's Day Advertising Sweepstakes

Brands aspiring to be leaders in their product categories would do well to employ storytelling to portray how they help customers lead fuller, happier, more productive lives.

Valentine's Day is near. Thoughts and tokens of love are everywhere.

Indeed, Valentine's Day is one of the most opportune times for brand storytelling.


This commercial is a wonderful example of how brands can position themselves as playing important roles in the contemporary context of everyday life in America. Here, the brand is acting as far more than a store where you can buy a seasonal item. The brand becomes your partner helping you achieve things that really matter to you.

The commercial is well conceived and produced. It is full of nuanced detail, a true example of a "rich media" experience with layers of meaning giving rise to strong emotional responses.

Without a doubt, Kmart has won the 2015 Valentine's Day Advertising Sweepstakes and taught every retail brand a powerful lesson about how to communicate as a leader.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Your Key To Successful Customer Insights

Everyone talks about needing customer insights, but how many can really define the concept? How many can find or recognize an insight? How many can tell a better insight from a lesser one?

There are many sources one might consult. Google search returns 747,000 items for "consumer insight" and 589,000 for the more recently popular term "customer insight."

Google Ngram search gives a bit of historical perspective on the usage of these terms. Ngram lets us find the frequencies of words or short phrases in the English language books since 1800 that have been scanned by Google Books.

Searching for the broad topic "consumer research" gives us a view of the ascent of the modern marketing era. The inset graph expands to view to show the consumer insight came into use in the 1970s with customer insight following a similar pattern a decade later.

Throughout these sources, it seems these two terms are often used casually, with the assumption everyone knows what the term means.

With extensive professional experience in marketing communication and in leading consumer and advertising research roles, I offer this precise definition of the term customer insight.

A customer insight is a factual observation about customer thoughts, feelings or actions that reveals a clear and material basis for communication.

Better customer insights are more factual, clear and material.

Indeed, you can help yourself avoid expensive mistakes by evaluating possible customer insights in with my typology that I have named the Customer Insight Success Grid.

The Customer Insight Success Grid calls attention to two essential criteria for success: The extent of the array of factual information sources in support of the insight, and the importance of the insight to the development of effective communication.

Too often supposed insights pop up out of nowhere with vague factual support. While individual expert insight and qualitative methods can surface speculative insights, truth follows from a triangulation process drawing upon a range of qualitative and quantitative resources. A supposed customer insight is only speculative observation (blue sky thinking) unless there is an array of appropriate supporting sources.

Insights become productive when there is both an array of supporting sources and the insight points to a perspective on the role of the life of the customer that is material to more effective communication.

So, when thinking about customer insights, remember my Customer Insight Success Grid. A potential insight may be located anywhere on the grid. You want to seek those most productive insights on the high ground of the upper right quadrant.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl Advertising Wearing Out?

The 2015 Super Bowl ended with a surprise, that's for sure. But, when it came to the advertising ideas there were few surprises.

The USA Today Ad Meter provides analytical perspective.  The chart below contrasts the scores of the top ten rated commercials this year (the blue line) with those of 2014 (brown), 2013 (green), and 2005 (the top purple line).

Budweiser won the 2015 ratings race with a heart warming story about a lost puppy. That there was a full one point spread over the second place spot for Always (8.1 versus 7.1) offers a clue that the pre-release of the lost puppy commercial may have garnered the spot a boost from pre-game conversation. Certainly, it would appear pre-release caused no disadvantage.

What is also interesting is that the 2015 ratings for the top ten commercials averaged only 6.8 on the Ad Meter 10-point scale of favorability.  The top ten average was 7 in 2014; 7.1 in 2013 and 7.9 ten years ago in 2005. While there have been methodology changes for this survey from year to year, the mid-scale directionality for 2015 alone suggests less enthusiasm than one might expect.

Perhaps this is a signal from the Super Bowl audience that it is time for new advertising ideas.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mexican Avocados Lead 2015 Super Bowl Advertising Sweepstakes

The Aztecs are said to have whipped up the first batch of guacamole. Now, it is the super food of the Super Bowl.

Indeed, annual avocado sales in the United States now total over $3 billion. 

And, since Mexican avocados have a 60 percent share of the USA avocado market, clearly their marketing group can afford $4.5 million for a Super Bowl commercial.


This story of the first ever professional football draft appears to take place in a stadium on an ancient Aztec beach.

Following the obvious and sensible draft pick by Australia, we are left to wonder about each of the picks that follow. The choices and pacing are admirable. We are drawn into this extended joke and invited to think.

This gives Mexico the perfect set-up to explain the virtues of the the avocado from Mexico. We learn rich volcanic soil and a perfect climate make their avocados the ideal year-round snack.

There are no cheap, childish jokes to distract from the brand message. The slap-stick is clever, setting up the brand message. 

This commercial is both strategically and creatively smart. Let's see if another spot comes along this Sunday, for now this is the one to beat.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.