Getting people to be involved with the brand means getting them to build it into their lives. One way is to encourage them to see the brand as fun, and to play around with the product—which is why car dealers allow customers to take test drives. Salespeople call this the puppy dog close: once you’ve cuddled the puppy, it’s hard to give it back!
Household appliances are a product category where the advertising has traditionally been pretty bland, with most ads appealing to consumers’ rational, functional motives. Television commercials generally would show the capacity of a refrigerator, explain how a washer or dryer works, or tout their reliability; while print ads would feature a shot of the appliance and give a detailed description of how it functions. For example, among the most memorable appliance ads are those from the campaign featuring the Maytag repairman who would wait in vain for a repair call. The campaign was created more than 30 years ago, and the lonely Maytag repairman is still waiting for the phone to ring.
In recent years appliance companies have been focusing on form as well as function and have been touting the design of their products as much as their functionality in their ads. However, one company that has taken a very unique approach to its advertising is Whirlpool, whose “Just Imagine” campaign features Household Goddesses—five ethereal female figures who use water, fire, or air to take control of their environments while promoting various Whirlpool appliances. The campaign is designed to connect with the modern-day “supermoms, ” working women between the ages of 25 and 54 with children. These women’s homes are very important to them; the women are challenged, yet capable of handling a very demanding and busy lifestyle, and they want control of their lives and acknowledgment for all they do and for being very capable. They set new standards and appreciate beauty in their environments. They do not give appliances a great deal of thought until there is a moment of need, such as a broken appliance or a home renovation. Innovation, style, and time saving are all important factors to these women.
The idea for the “Just Imagine” campaign originated in the late 90s in Europe,where Whirlpool was eager to build its brand name and capture a larger share of the appliance market, having acquired the appliance division of the Dutch firm Philips Electronics. The campaign connected well with women in Europe, so in 1999 Whirlpool and its French agency Publicis decided to adapt it to women in the U.S. market. However, before bringing the campaign to the States, Whirlpool conducted more than 20 focus groups with women throughout the country to test their reaction to the goddesses.
According to Whirlpool’s manager of brand communication, the ads with the goddesses celebrate the growing power of women in the 21st century. They are aimed at striking an emotional cord with modern-day women, showing them as strong females in control of their environments who can be made even stronger through the latest Whirlpool technology. The mythical figures in the ads include a blue-skinned ice diva who represents the Whirlpool Conquest refrigerator, a silkenrobed water nymph who appears in commercials for the Catalyst washer, a heat maiden in cascading red robes who promotes the Senson and Duet dryers, a firebreathing goddess who helps sell the Speed Cook range, and a flying blonde clean-air angel who extols the virtues of Whirlpool’s dehumidifiers and airconditioners. The goddesses promote many of the innovative features found on Whirlpool appliances, such as a dryer that gently dries clothes in the time it takes to wash them, a washing machine that does not require pretreating because concentrated water and detergent spray through clothes before they are washed, and a refrigerator with more space inside.
The goal of the “Just Imagine” campaign is to use the stylish and dramatic commercials to get consumers to take notice of Whirlpool appliances and make them feel the brand is in tune with their changing needs and values and thus has something more to offer than competing brands. In addition to being in the television commercials, the goddesses appear in print ads, on the Whirlpool website, on company brochures, on billboards on the side of the company’s trucks, and in point-of-purchase displays for local retailers. The campaign is the biggest in the appliance maker’s history. To many women, using a washing machine or dryer means nothing more than cleaning clothes. However, Whirlpool hopes this campaign will help them feel they are taking control of their lives when they use its appliances.
Sources: “Whirlpool’s Worship-Worthy Goddess,” Brand Marketing, June 2000,p.33; Katheryn Dranhold,“Whirlpool Conjures Up Appliance Divas,” The Wall Street Journal,Apr.27,2000
ONE OF BRAND STRATEGY PART “FIRST POSITIONING: THE FIRST BRAND THAT”
There is an easier way to create a first. (Creativity is required but not genius.) Find an existing product or category and carve out an extension or subset of the category that is new or “first” in some way. What you are doing is creating a new category that diverges from the main category in an important way. And, most important as a brander, you give your new category a name that your product is first in.
This type of first can be a game changer, too. On a business trip to Thailand in 1982, Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz discovered a local drink called Krating Daeng that miraculously cured his jet lag With his Thai partner, Mateschitz decided to introduce the drink in the West with one important modification—he added carbonation. He named the drink Red Bull, which is a close translation of its Thai name (Daeng means “red” and Krating means “water buffalo” in Thai).
Mateschitz’s real branding genius was in positioning the brand. He didn’t position Red Bull as refreshing or energizing (attribute positioning) or for young men (target market positioning) or as a Thai beverage (heritage positioning). Mateschitz took the “first” route. He didn’t simply introduce a new beverage brand—he invented a new category he called “energy drinks.”
Mateschitz hired an Austrian ad agency, which came up with fifty different designs for Red Bull before he found breakthrough branding he liked: the distinctive tall, slim, eight-ounce blue-and-silver can with the logo of two muscular bulls smashing heads in front of a yellow sun. The can is smaller than a typical soda can so people immediately got the idea that this energy drink was strong stuff!
When Mateschitz first tested the Red Bull name and the concept, people didn’t like the taste, the logo, or the name. Based on the research, it didn’t look like a breakthrough brand but a broken brand. But he ignored the research and went ahead with his energy drink and branding anyway, launching first in Austria and then expanding globally. Today Mateschitz has a net worth in the billions.
The interesting thing about the firsts that are subsets is that new ones are being created every day. You just have to see the need for something new in an existing category that you carve out and own as the first, like Procter & Gamble did when it introduced the Swiffer, creating the quick-surface-clean category.
Another entrepreneur who saw a fresh way of looking at a well-established category is London-based Natalie Massenet. When she approached investors, Massenet was told that women wouldn’t buy high-end fashion online. Massenet proved them wrong, launching Net-a-Porter, the first ultra-high-end online fashion business, which has changed the way women shop for high fashion.
And there’s Sara Blakely, who reinvented women’s foundations. Her invention came about in 1998, when she chopped the feet off a pair of control-top pantyhose and created a new category of foundation garments—shapewear.
Blakely just wanted to look svelte with no telltale seams or stockings protruding from her pants legs. A part-time fax machine saleswoman and a part-time stand-up comic, Blakely called her first invention “Footless pantyhose” and launched her business, Spanx, in 2000 with $5,000 in savings. Since then she’s sold more than nine million pairs and spawned the industry of bodyshaper foundations.
Cyber branding is the low-cost way to brand your product or service—to brand yourself—and to connect with your customers and prospects in a genuine way. People want honesty and authenticity, not hype and gloss, and the online world is the place to present your business and yourself as you are, without resorting to “commercials.” The fresher your ideas and the better your product or service, the more receptive the digital world will be.
Cyber branding doesn’t favor the rich and powerful.
It favors the new and the nimble.
It favors the human and the real.
It favors those who share.
Unlike traditional media, cyber branding doesn’t reward the important, the famous, and the rich as much as the engaging, the interesting, and the helpful. Sharing is the essential ingredient of digi world. Cybe branding rewards those who understand how people use the Internet today to find out about companies and brands and to be a part of those communities.
People and companies that are opaque will have difficulty in the digital age of branding. People and companies that are comfortable in their own skin will succeed. Those who share their personal stories and their business narratives and provide valuable, real, and truthful messages will thrive. Digi world rewards those who innovate and who make good stuff or offer better services.
Cyberbranding enables you to customize and personalize messages like never before. People want to know your story, so share it with them—the grittier or more truthful, the better. The more you open the curtains to reveal what is going on behind the scenes, the closer and more connected your customers will feel to you. As an example of what I mean, lets look at the story of blogger Heather Armstrong and Dooce.
Armstrong began a blog called Dooce in 2001, while she was employed as a web designer and graphic artist in Salt Lake City, Utah. In it, she spoke honestly and graphically about her frustrations at home and at work—and she soon found herself out of a job. Whether or not her firing was a direct result of what she wrote in her blog, the term “dooced” has come to mean being fired for one’s online activities (something to keep in mind when developing your own web presence!).
No matter—Armstrong chose to see her dismissal as an opportunity. Her loyal readers continued to follow her story through the birth of her two kids, her struggle with depression, her appliance breakdowns, and every detail of her life as a liberal ex-Mormon living in Utah. Her audience grew until, on a typical day, more than 100,000 people visited her site.
Here’s the good part. The business part. In 2004, Armstrong began accepting text advertisements on her site, and in 2005, she began accepting graphic ads. She had turned her online “hobby” into a moneymaking proposition, in the process becoming the first personal blogger to derive substantial income from advertising. In 2009, Armstrong was named by Forbes magazine as one of the thirty most influential women in media—right alongside Oprah, Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters. Estimates of the revenue from ads on her website range from over $300,000 to $1,000,000 a year, and that doesn’t include her speaking and endorsement fees and book royalties.
Sources: Break Through Branding, Magazine: Brand Board