Posts Tagged 'brand journalism'

2014 Marketing Hall of Fame — A Turning Point In Marketing

On Wednesday night, 5/28, we will be inducting 3 people in the 2014 Marketing Hall of Fame.

MHoF_Col

This marks a major turning point in marketing. The Age of Narrative Marketing is now ready for prime time.

It was 10 years ago that Ad Age mocked the very idea of narrative as a strategic framework, metaphors as the keys to compelling communications  and storytelling as the single most effective way to integrate digital and traditional media. The catalyst? A major talk by the CMO of McDonald’s revealing the secret for the company’s revitalization and leap in relevance, market share and stock prices — a new model for marketing, Brand Journalism, spearheaded by Larry Light.  Among the detractors were Al & Laura Ries were among the loudest detractors, “The notion that McDonald’s should abandon the positioning philosophy and instead adopt a brand journalism approach is lunacy.

  • Around the same time the ARF (advertising research foundation) was conducting a major industry study on the power of story being more effective than the traditional rational “proof point” or “reason-why”.
  • Gerald Zaltman was publishing widely on his research into the universal power of metaphor.
  • And 10 years ago I introduced the Narrative Branding model of marketing.
  • Douglas Holt of Harvard was demonstrating a model of “iconic” brands in which cultural storytelling was more important than the standard “positioning” or “USP” models.

Lunacy, heresy, whatever you want to call it, the reality is that narrative models of marketing are far more effective than traditional positioning. How far has marketing gone in the direction of narrative marketing?  When Liquid & Linked was revealed at Cannes it was received with awards.  More importantly, it is helping the company to achieve it’s aggressive marketing goals. And that is what is most important.

So join us on Wednesday as we are celebrating the brilliance of Beth Comstock of GE, Joe Tripodi of The Coca-Cola Company and Philip Kotler of Kellogg School of Marketing.  Each one of them has broken with the old traditional model of marketing.

  • The Coca-Cola Company’s model of Liquid & Linked is a prime example.
  • Beth Comstock has elevated the role of marketing within GE to create new markets.
  • And Philip Kotler is always at the forefront of where marketing is going, and particularly how marketing can promote positive social changes.

Another sign of the new age is that several years ago JWT, our host for Wednesday night, embraced Brand Journalism, created videos around their version of the approach, held panels at SxSW and did much to promote the new model.  The Commodore would be proud!

So come on Wednesday. Celebrate the Age of Narrative Marketing! Celebrate brilliance in marketing!  Marketinghalloffame.org

 

Zeitgeist and McDonald’s

Some words are just fun to say. Zeitgeist is one of them. It is also a wonderful word to use when talking about the mood of a particular time.  You buy your first MacBook and suddenly you notice all of these other people are carrying them around too.  There is something in the air. There was something magical about that place and time when several people in different places had the same idea.  It was uncanny.  It was the Zeitgeist!

Looking back to when Michael Thibodeau and I developed Narrative Branding, I can trace a couple of other people who were independently developing their own similar ideas about branding at that very same moment in time.  It was uncanny.  It was the Zeitgeist!

So I imagine that by now you are saying to yourself, what the heck does this have to do with McDonald’s?  

At the beginning of this decade McDonald’s was in very sorry shape.  Their business was falling apart and their brand was sliding down the slippery slope to irrelevance.  A few years later a remarkable turnaround had taken place.  Suddenly McDonald’s was a vigorous and profitable company with a strong brand.

We didn’t take much notice of it while it was happening.  Looking back I realize that about eight months after we publicly launched our Narrative Branding method to marketing, McDonald’s was making headlines by publicly launching their bold new approach to marketing which they called Brand Journalism.  It was uncanny.  It was the Zeitgeist!

Larry Light, who was the CMO of McDonald’s at the time, was the first chief marketing officer of a major corporation to publicly renounce the brand positioning approach to marketing. In the words of Larry Light and Joan Kiddon:

The “positionistas,” as I like to call them, are glued to the glory of an immutable, narrow, unidimensional view of a brand.  They believe that brands are simple, single-word ideas.  And once this idea is established, they believe that you cannot change people’s minds. This is wrong.  Brands are complex, multidimensional ideas, and you can change people’s minds.  McDonald’s is a good example.

This quote is taken from the new book that Light and Kiddon have written, “Six Rules for Brand Revitalization”.  It has just been published by Wharton School Publishing. It is essentially a book length case study of the McDonald’s story from the inside. And it is also persuasive evidence that companies can abandon brand positioning and actually perform much better.

Of course, it doesn’t take much detective work to see that Light and Kiddon are tweaking Trout and Ries by labeling them positionistas.  All I can say is that I wish I had come up with that word!

So there you have it.  Zeitgeist and McDonald’s.

The resilience of McDonald’s

McDonald’s is one of the few stocks that actually increased in value during 2008 — a year in which 95% of stocks fell.  Not only that, but sales have continued to grow.  The strength of McDonald’s is amazing! 

Is this simply because a lower cost restaurant will do better in a recession?  If we look at the last recession, the stock price of McDonald’s actually fell rather dramatically.  So it cannot be only the greater economy that is driving McDonald’s performance.

If we look back, we can see that McDonald’s actually began this decade in rather tarnished shape both as a business and a brand.  As a brand it had lost relevance and trust.  In the last recession McDonald’s was weak and in this one it is strong.  In fact, today McDonald’s is one of the strongest businesses and brands in the world.  Remarkable!

How did this happen?  

The changes began at the top, with new leadership.  One of the most important hires, and most counter-intuitive, was bringing Larry Light on as the Chief Marketing Officer.  Larry Light had a storied history working at the advertising agencies BBDO and Ted Bates.  Bringing in someone with that background was unconventional for McDonald’s.

To turn around the McDonald’s brand, Light jettisoned traditional brand positioning.  He was prescient in seeing the traditional brand marketing model as being broken.  In his own words, “We reject the outmoded view of the positionistas… declaring an end to the out-of-date, simplistic concept of brand positioning…”

Light’s great insight was that brand positioning was too limiting for the McDonald’s brand.  It narrowed the potential audience for the brand down to a single market segment.  For the brand to grow, it needed to appeal to many segments of the market, not just one.

He needed a new model for brand marketing.

Always resourceful, Light developed a narrative method for brand marketing.  He called it “Brand Journalism”  It was custom made for McDonald’s.  It was far, far more than just an advertising campaign.  It was the basis for rebuilding the internal culture of McDonald’s, for shaping the company’s business strategy, for changing menus and for redirecting their overall marketing efforts.  Because it was a new model, it also required developing new market research tools and metrics.  Existing market research was designed to assess the key elements of brand positioning.  It was not appropriate for assessing a brand based on the principles of  brand journalism.

“McD’s Abandoning of Positioning is ‘Lunacy'” screamed the headlines in AdAge.

Less than a year later the magazine changed their mind.  AdAge awarded McDonald’s “marketer of the year.”  A turn around indeed! 

Brand Journalism is, at its heart, a narrative method for creating and managing a brand.  The full story of it and McDonald’s turn around remains to be written.

This narrative method is part of the reason why McDonald’s continues to be so resilient today as both a brand and a business.


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