Finding the Golden Ticket

For nearly 50 years, children and adults alike have enjoyed the wondrous and whimsical tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Chocolate is one special type of product with which many consumers have a true lifelong relationship. For most, trying a new chocolate isn’t a huge risk. Consumers are generally open to eating a piece of chocolate offered to them without much brand consideration.

However, sales results prove that consumer purchase behaviors are driven by brand loyalties to just a handful of makers. Available data supports the notion that loyalties for other types of consumer products are quite strong. Take household cleaning products, for example; consumers choose one product from one brand and stick with it, often for life. There is not much deviation or experimentation from these brands. But are consumption behaviors the same for chocolate lovers?  Is there much variation in how the products stack up, or is it the brand name, rather than the chocolate itself, driving the decision? We set out to decide how much influence branding has over a presently thriving chocolate industry.

We opted to conduct a taste test to further understand how brand preference can shape a palate. Our team tasted milk chocolate composed of between 11% and 41% cacao from six brands spanning a wide variety of price points. We included brands with a varying degree of presence in the marketplace such as Hershey’s, an unlabeled block from small Venezuelan producer El Rey, Dove, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black’s.

The double-blind test had some interesting results. Half of our tasters chose Mars’ Dove bar as their favorite for taste and texture. Surprisingly, both Hershey’s (the lowest price point) and El Rey (the highest price point) were the other winning products selected. The overall scores of the products fell within a relatively narrow range, with the highest overall score averaging just 20% better than the lowest.

The experiment proved that the products available to consumers are largely equivalent in quality. In fact, for many consumers, there may not be such a thing as a ‘bad’ milk chocolate on the market today. In the end, reaching for that familiar sweet treat at the checkout counter remains a powerful experience. It seems that brand equity, including visibility, packaging, and price point, may be driving consumer purchase decisions, but the quest for the real ‘golden ticket’ goes on.

Do you have an idea for a product test that test brand experiences and consumer behaviors under the microscope? Leave a comment or email josh@junction-creative.com with your suggestions.

A Trip to Boston to Talk Financial Marketing Futures

Junction headed to Boston on Thursday, August 16 for a gathering of more than 100 senior marketers from the world’s top financial brands at the Gramercy’ Institute’s Journal of Financial Advertising and Marketing (JFAM): FORUM.

Featured speakers throughout the half-day conference addressed prominent issues relevant to branding and reputation, measurement and optimization, social media, mobile marketing, and audience targeting. Brands represented on the five panel discussions included Bankrate Inc., Brown Brothers Harriman, John Hancock, Bank of America, The Hartford, Fidelity Investments, Liberty Mutual, Thomson Reuters, State Street Global Advisors, and Linkedin, among several others.

The financial industry has been in a mode of ‘protect and preserve’ through the economic downturn, protestations on Wall Street, and recent public scrutiny over missteps such as those made by J.P. Morgan Chase. Financial brands must be able to effectively communicate the value of products and services in a way that resonates with consumer audiences. Junction has previously addressed how business can achieve this type of brand affinity by simplify messaging and injecting the ‘human’ element, turning mindshare into brandshare.

The themes discussed at JFAM:FORUM in Boston aligned with Junction’s own evaluation of the current market; with a plethora of new technologies at their disposal, marketers are looking for agile resources who can adapt quickly. With great segmentation occurring in marketing, there is a need to partner with agencies who are staying on top of trends. Junction is a member of Brave New Financial, a best-practices consortium designated by JFAM serving as a trusted resource for these financial marketers.

“Bill Wreaks (CEO, Gramercy Institute) has once again put together a star panel of experts who shared insights on the goals and objectives that will guide financial marketing initiatives in 2013,” said Julie Gareleck. “This summit of the industry’s top marketing minds shed light on how the financial services market can approach messaging and regain the trust of the consumer. At the beginning of the strategic planning phase for the upcoming year, there is certainly much to consider. “

A Real ‘Light Bulb Moment’

Brand is defined as a “distinguishing symbol, mark, logo, word, sentence or a combination of these items that companies use to distinguish their product from others in the marketplace.” The definition is simple enough to understand and is vastly understood by marketers and successful companies attempting to establish their products in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Generally represented through a graphic mark or logo, brand identity, when properly and creatively designed, can speak volumes about a company, its culture, mission, products, and services. Like the song that you heard at a special time or place in your youth, hearing it many years later as an adult can illicit vivid emotions and memories of the events of a former life.

Successful businesses invest wisely and generously in their brands in an effort to make them memorable and easily recognizable, and to create a sense of quality and reliability. A well designed, displayed, and maintained logo will produce a value premium for a company by creating a certain level of product loyalty in consumers. It is part of what makes Coca-Cola more desirable to consumers than its generic equivalent.

But just as a smart, clean, and buttoned up logo can create equity for a business, a poorly presented public image can quickly become a liability when the brand is improperly maintained or positioned, particularly when it is placed in an environment where consumers can easily draw comparisons to the competition.

A recent trip through a well-traveled commercial area, via the expressway, provided a clear example of a brand asset becoming a brand liability. Approaching the exit, travelers came upon the familiar large signs designed to inform drivers of gas and food options available at the upcoming exit. These signs are very effective in getting hungry travelers to pull over and “fuel up” at a favorite eatery.

This particular sign displayed the brand logos of six nationally recognized fast food competitors. Five of the logos were bright, clean, and well maintained, but one major national fast food franchise’s signage was faded, with a cracked surface – barely legible at all. Driving past the business, situated among its attractive, well lit competitors, the restaurant featured a half-lit sign, a tarnished facade, and at least a half dozen burned out decorative light bulbs. Suddenly, the decision of where not to eat became an easy one. Checking back months later, the business still featured the same derelict appearance.

Well-formed marketing, brand identity, creative advertising, and promotional programs are essential to success in any industry, and touching all of these points are crucial to any business looking to rise above the crowd in a competitive environment. However, even the best designed and beloved brand can be instantly damaged by the neglect of the simplest of details.  Remember success in the details, and in this case, the light bulbs.

Attention All Shoppers

Over the course of the past decade, the retail industry has arguably undergone more change than it had in the previous century. Entrepreneurs like Rowland Macy and Richard Sears probably never could have envisioned their modest businesses blossoming into a more than $4 trillion industry in the US in less than 100 years. The rise of a predominant consumer culture has been well-documented, and is responsible for much of the increased demand for consumer and trade goods, but the immense transformation of retail into an institution embedded in the American lifestyle has truly been fueled by growth in available technology.

The boom in tech has created a great amount of competition in the mobile space for retailers. By the end of 2011, 39% of brick-and-mortar retailers with top-500 e-commerce websites by revenue also had mobile websites, and nearly 26% had mobile apps. Still, online sales currently represent only 9% of all retail sales – so what is driving shoppers through the doors?


Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and a drastic increase in average consumer time spent online, marketing for retail has, in essence, evolved from targeted engagement on a single channel to capturing an audience across touchpoints on multiple platforms, devices, and locations. Attracting customers is no longer as simple as offering better pricing or amenities; customers make purchase decisions based on experiences. Just this year, JC Penney reported a severe drop in business when they ceased offering sales and coupons (a hallmark of their brand) in favor of an ‘everyday low price’ pricing structure. It’s not a simple formula; considering how many different items are now listed on the modern retail marketer’s agenda, uniformity of message across each andevery channel becomes more crucial than ever.

The best way to achieve this consistency is to build connected experiences that carry the brand between different times and places of interaction. Consumers have been empowered to research, price, and purchase nearly any product or service within minutes and have it delivered directly to their doorstep. Amidst all the options, delivering the right message at the right moment is the strongest way to influence a purchase. Placing as much information in the hands of consumers in order to make their decision is important, but no amount of messaging is useful without timing and targeting. The challenge is to make the transition across platforms as seamlessly as possible; nail the experience even just once and create invaluable loyalty.

Keeping the Sizzle in the Agency/Client Relationship

The advertising industry is often imagined as being encapsulated by a scene from the popular TV show Mad Men. Agencies are thought to be an exclusive club of talented, like-minded individuals who have an innate ability to transform creative to sell products and services for the most notable brands. But is this what clients are really expecting?

With the market experiencing a huge shift in focus as organizations evolve, corporate clients are now looking to agencies to solve not just marketing problems, but business problems. In turn, the agency model must dynamically adapt to maintain relevance. The CMO Council reported in a recent study that only 9% of senior level marketers say ad agencies are managing to evolve and extending capabilities in the “digital ocean.” Furthermore, other surveys have shown that the same senior marketers are not as confident dealing with the complexities of this new marketing economy looking ahead to the next 5 years.

These volatile changes are undoubtedly affecting the traditional relationship between agencies and clients. Now, both are faced with increased expectations of measured effectiveness and delivered results. How do we keep the flame burning amidst the uncertainty? A successful agency/client relationship is one with:

Clarity: The client must set expectations for the desired outcome of a project or campaign. Agencies must also be clear upfront as to what can be expected with a specific marketing solution.

Communications: Consistency in communication is critical to the relationship. Both the client and the agency must engage in the conversation, speaking with each other rather than at each other.

Manners: Advertising is a high stakes game. When money or reputations are on the line, it’s easy to forget manners when dealing with a client or an agency.

As agencies move forward, hand-in-hand with clients, qualities of trust, value, accountability, and responsibility are being elevated over the Don Draper prototype in importance.

The secret to keeping the sizzle in this relationship is simple: Be transparent. Deliver results.

Solavei: The Network Where Social Meets Commerce in a Big Way

Solavei™, the first social commerce network for mobile services distribution, is grabbing headlines in anticipation of its September 21st launch.

Solavei™ is a new social commerce company offering an affordable, contract-free mobile service that actually pays back consumers for adding new members. The Solavei Mobile Service is a comprehensive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G network. As a member of the network, consumers sign up for a $49 per month unlimited voice, text and data plan, and earn income by engaging friends and family to purchase the mobile service through Solavei’s integrated social networking platform.
“We are going to make a difference in people’s lives by shifting billions of dollars from traditional mass-media advertising into the greatest advertising vehicle today – people,” said Ryan Wuerch, founder and CEO of Solavei. “Solavei is the first company to create an economic linkage between mobile service, social commerce and social-networking technology. We give people the opportunity to earn income by using and promoting the services they are already consuming each and every day.”

The first half of 2012 has brought quite a bit of excitement across the marketing and media industries. Facebook stole the headlines with the unprecedented valuation and their May 17 IPO that is now considered one of the worst performing of 2012. Twitter experienced its longest service disruption since an hour long outage in October 2011, causing an internet freak-out. Just now, as Q3 begins, Microsoft and NBC complete a web divorce that has industries speculating what the future holds for NBCnews.com. The appointment of Marissa Mayer, 37, to run the global media giant Yahoo! as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 continues the trend. While it’s hard to predict what is to come, it’s safe to say that Solavei is attempting to do what no other company has tried.

“As a purveyor of all things social and mobile, Solavei is positioned to completely revolutionize the market place,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner of Junction Creative Solutions. “As founding members, we have the access to test the platform before its official launch into the marketplace. As an agency, it’s a great experience to be involved with such an amazing group of leaders who will make a significant impact on consumer behavior, social networks, and commerce.”

Gareleck is sharing a few spots for other industry leaders interested in testing this new network before its debut on September 21st. Contact Gareleck at julie@junction-creative.com for an invitation.

ABOUT SOLAVEI

Solavei is a social networking and commerce platform that enables users to connect, share and capitalize on the power of social networks. Solavei’s mission is to make commerce less expensive by empowering individuals to earn income on the products and services they enjoy and use every day. Solavei’s initial product offering is affordable, no contract, unlimited text, voice and data services throughout the United States. It operates as a MVNO through a strategic partnership with T-Mobile USA. Solavei is led by former Fortune 100 telecom and retail executives and advisors. For more information, visit www.solavei.com. For the brand’s latest news and updates, find Solavei on social media at facebook.com/solavei and twitter.com/solavei.

O’ Say, You Can See

With the London Olympic Games in full swing, the attention of media audiences in the United States is intently focused on watching the athletes representing our nation compete at the pinnacle of their respective sports. The US has historically been extremely successful at both the Summer and Winter Games, winning more than twice as many total medals as the next winningest nation, the former Soviet Union.

This Olympiad will likely be no different. Many American individual and team competitors are expected to find themselves on the podium when the dust settles. The American Olympic team holds a certain rarified air of dominance, honor, and character, and it is always on display during the two weeks of the games. With all the medals they will be collecting, it is obvious why advertisers and sponsors want to be associated with the US Olympic athletes.

It is a well known fact that successful athletes are magnets for positive attention. Olympians are athletes competing at the highest level, and incidentally, they bring advertisers an ever higher level of value. Brands vying for association with the US Olympic Teams are attempting to capitalize on some of the most positively regarded and emotionally charged personalities in the world. It is no secret that the biggest brands desire this kind of brand association; think of how endorsements by the star of the 2008 Beijing Games, Michael Phelps, fared as he soared to fame as the most dominant Olympian of all time.

Brands like The Home Depot, P&G, and Visa, which has a dedicated “global sports sponsorship portfolio” spend billions of dollars on the quadrennial event. These companies will dominate commercial breaks and integrated ads across television and digital. Social media will be alight with conversation during the Games, and big marketing budget dollars will energize the platforms that carry the discussion. McDonald’s will open its largest store in the world for the Games, right in the Olympic Village. Yes, even fast food brands, often criticized for reasons that place them on the opposite end of the lifestyle spectrum from Olympic athletes, want in on this prime opportunity.

As the Olympic spectacle grows (this Games will involve a global audience of as many as 4 billion watching more than 5,300 broadcast hours), so does the opportunity for brands riding the coattails of the Games’ most recognizable competitors. How the games unfold will surprise, captivate, and inspire us, and the sponsors are counting on it.

Did You See THAT?

Spectators at fashion shows, particularly during the high profile ‘Fashion Weeks’ around the world, are often witnesses to some very unusual showcases. Coinciding with Miami’s July 2012 fashion week, the new Twelv Magazine debuted, featuring a visually stunning colorful dress on the cover. Upon close inspection, it became evident that the 220 pound piece was made entirely of gummy bears.

Creating fashion out of food is a trend that has gained momentum over the course of the past few years. Fashioning edible couture out of things like spaghetti and meatballs, citrus fruits, or other materials commonly reserved for the dinner plate certainly makes a big statement. The works are painstakingly made to last just a few fleeting moments in the public eye, but leave a lasting impact on audiences. It is a great way for a designer or a brand to be noticed and remembered among the thousands of ‘looks’ vying for consumers’ attention.

In a crowded marketplace, marketers are always striving to accomplish what designers like the famous (or infamous) Yeonju Sung manage to do with just a few supplies from the grocery store. Marketing seeks to cut through the noise and grasp attention, even if only for a few seconds, and make an impression that lasts much longer.

It is not to say that businesses should desperately seek to create some sort of stunt to momentarily capture an audience; constancy is pivotal to successful brand marketing. ‘Putting all the eggs in one basket’ is clearly a risk. The lesson that should be culled from the zany fashion scene is that designing solutions that pack punch can leave audiences thinking about a brand even after the messaging stops. Your customers are already advocates for your brand; create something bold to keep them talking.

Checking In or Checking Out: Geo-Regulation

Over the course of the past year, we have frequently touched on how location-based services, specifically geolocation technologies, have facilitated the growth of mobile marketing, discussing topics such as the latest SoLoMo trends and the influential experience of contextual advertising. Now, the government is in the process of moderating a complicated discussion about the future regulation of these powerful technologies.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have joined forces to open a dialogue about high level privacy and security issues related to this data, playing mediator between telecommunications carriers, tech companies, consumer advocacy groups, and academics. A first official bill has recently been introduced to Congress, and it is now intensifying the debate.

Some groups have voiced their support for new comprehensive privacy legislation that would establish baseline privacy rights and requirements applicable to user information such as the data collected by geolocation technologies. On the other hand, a host of entities poised to benefit from the collection of this user data, have vehemently opposed additional regulation or legislation, arguing that businesses have marketplace incentives to be careful about user privacy. This side has argued that given the relative youth of the geolocation industry, the government likely lacks the information needed to create requirements that would meaningfully protect user privacy without stifling innovation and growth.

In the current regulatory environment, location based services do benefit both consumers and businesses. “Self-regulation” has so far been successful; consumers must opt-in to have their location data tracked. Although there have been instances of companies violating or working around this stipulation, there is yet to be a case stemming from the collection of this data. At the very least, consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the associated risks in privacy as the technologies become more commonplace.

What role will geolocation services play in mobile marketing in 2, 5, or 10 years? The future role of this technology will likely depend on a combination of consumer sentiments and some level of government supervision. Until then, consumers’ wants, needs, and expectation continue to drive the geolocation marketplace.

Hee Haw, Hee Haw

We have all seen or heard stories about controversial ad campaigns on television, radio, and the internet. Some are quickly pulled from public view in reactionary fashion; others are purposefully left to survive in defiance. Universally, very few of these campaigns are easily forgotten. Controversy can work in a positive light, going viral and spreading a brand message over a wide audience, but can also heavily damage a brand’s reputation as a result of poor public perception.

Not all controversial campaigns involve graphic themes, shocking imagery, or ideas conceived in bad taste; something as simple as a single poorly chosen word can be equally unpleasant. Hip retailer Urban Outfitters recently held a sale event the company chose to name the ‘Big Ass Sale.’ While on the surface, the name of the sale might seem to fit with the brand’s young and edgy identity and appeal to its target demographic, it is simultaneously off-putting to others.

The problem goes far beyond ‘the word’ itself; the company’s website featured images of a large tattooed man cannonballing shirtless into a swimming pool – hardly the best means of connote trendy clothing and accessories (he’s not wearing any). Whether someone seeing these ads is offended is only part of the issue. The overall campaign seems dreadfully conceived, and Urban Outfitters is unwittingly alienating potential new customers.

There is a big difference between a deliberately controversial or guerilla campaign and this type of promotion that is intended to push the brand forward by any means necessary. The company surely means no harm, and probably see themselves as ‘playing it on the edge’ to appeal to their customers, but intent doesn’t make a controversial campaign a smart idea. In this age, every brand is heavily scrutinized; it is crucial that marketing messages first filter through an organization’s values before going public and risking harm to the brand.

In this case, Urban Outfitters has come off as the donkey.