Brands shouldn’t tinker with success

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

Too often, I see brands “tinker” too much. There are many reasons. Here are a few:
• A newly minted MBA is given the marketing keys and decides to “make their mark” even though the brand has it right currently
• Executives get tired of the marketing position loooong before their customers do
• They put their brands in hands of people who are under experienced in marketing

These are just a few reasons why brands tinker. Sometimes it is called for, but most of the time it isn’t, especially when a brand has found a position that truly connects with their customers. I’ve experienced this in my career. Most recently, a newly minted MBA was given the marketing keys and decides to put the account into review even though I’ve been advising the executive level over the last two years on business strategy and given advice freely (During this time, they’ve seen larger growth, bigger, better clients, and more opportunity than they’ve had before.). The new “marketing director” admitted to me that she doesn’t even know what to look for in an agency because she’s never done this before, but she’s going to look around and see what’s out there. We had the opportunity to pitch, but I felt it odd that we even had to since they knew us, we knew them, and they were taking our advice and ideas and being successful. To me, it was “marketing sense” to have us as their agency. But unfortunately for us, the “marketing manager” found someone that fit her taste, not necessarily because they were the best choice.

I bring this example up, not to vent, but it illustrated the point of this entry. Too often brands tinker at the expense of “marketing sense”. And often than not, it is for one of the above reasons. Here is another example that I’ve came across by Al Ries, that further illustrates this point. Little Caesars was the #2 pizza chain in 1994. Just behind Pizza Hut. Their marketing pitch was “Pizza. Pizza.” It was memorable, conveyed the value proposition, and was executed in a way that was infectious. Then the tinkering began in 1995. They entered home delivery to take on Domino’s head-to-head. They came out with a second slogan, “Delivery. Delivery.” It made common sense, but not marketing sense. Marketing people will tell you that having one great slogan is gold. Having two slogans, you’re messing with the magic. Now you are confusing the market and are watering down the original slogan’s effectiveness. Marketing wants to eliminate anything that is not essential to the essence of the market position. Now in 2010, Little Caesars is 4th among U.S. pizza chains. They fell behind Papa Johns and Domino’s. Papa John’s have ridden their marketing campaign of “Better ingredients. Better pizza. Papa John’s.” to #2. In fact, they have the highest annual per-unit sales of any chain in the pizza category. Here are the numbers that back up the tale of the pizza wars with only Papa John’s staying consistent with their marketing message. Papa John’s who have hammered their slogan for 15 years and Little Caesars who took something good and tinkered:

• Papa John’s up 365%
• Domino’s up 57%
• Pizza Hut down 7%
• Little Caesars down 42%

Common sense says you must change with the times. Marketing sense says the way to build a brand that wins at the cash register is with a consistent message over an extended period of time. So, instead of trying to tinker, change slogans, change ad agencies, and even changing your marketing directors, find what works, step on the gas and don’t let up. Keep success rolling. It’s time to forget common sense and follow marketing sense.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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