Brandathon - Brands That Endure and Outrun Competitors. A Marketing Insights Blog by Dongkwan 'DK' Kim - Part 2

The Death of Brands and Celebrities

In this morning’s paper, a Korean singer & actor celebrity named Jin-Young Choi committed suicide. He was the younger brother of his sister, Jin-Sil Choi, probably one of Korea’s most famous actresses who committed suicide just a couple of years ago. This marks yet another trend of celebrity suicide in Korea, what is seemingly becoming a chain reaction of such saddening events.

From a psychological point of view, such events are understandable. Given the highly competitive industry for celebrity professionals in Korea, under pressure from young rising stars, yet in a cluttered society with an extremely high population density, Korean celebrities cannot even step out of their doorstep without being confronted by a total stranger who would begin gossiping about the sighting of a celebrity. In a country where even the top celebrities live in an apartment complex amongst laypersons, it is highly likely that they have no freedom for privacy. I mean, think about it, most Korean celebrities date in their underground parking lot inside their cars. That’s something ain’t it?

As such trends continue, I fear that there will be more to come. But my point it, in this competitive world, the same goes for the top brands out there. One second, they are at the top of their market. The next second, through digital and viral marketing and a new sense of taste of its customers, brands will lose their share in a split second. This could mean the death of brands, or the survival of the fittest. Perhaps a smarter move towards survival in this competitive world is to ensure that:

1. The brands stays on top of every micro-level moment, making sure that every move, every little thing that relates to the brand does not reflect a negative PR in even the most unexpected situations

2. Make sure to go beyond a market that is cluttered, dense, and fully mature. Whether its horizontal, vertical, or cross integration (expansion), brands must ensure that they do more than simply meeting the needs of its 100+ year old audience.

Today’s consumers are no longer the same. They are no longer loyal to a single brand. They switch from brand to brand, and just because their next purchase is your brand does not ensure that they’ll do the same again. It is more important than ever before to ensure that brands look from a bigger perspective, but in smaller steps.


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My Answer to “Why Should I Hire You?”

Well, this is more like an answer to, “why should I hire an international candidate?”

As an international person educated, living, and working in America, there are some downsides. One is, despite the fact that I have a legal work Visa (H1B), and despite the fact that it can be transferred quite easily, companies are not willing to hire me because doing so requires much paperwork, and costs for such paperwork are somewhat burdening now and beyond. As someone who’s looking to eagerly transfer to a company where I can develop into a marketing expert, I cannot state how difficult and frustrating this is. Give me just one chance, and I’ll show you what I’m capable of…. Well, I doubt anyone would buy that.

I wrote this down in my journal years ago based on the assumption that a hiring manager may ask, “why should I hire you over U.S. citizens who basically have similar backgrounds and skills?”

My answer to this is “opportunity.” By this, I’m referring to the fact that I’m seeking the opportunity to grow, to develop, and to provide more to the company.

First, here’s an interesting insight. Foreigners who have never even visited this country have more knowledge of America than Americans. It’s a generalization that probably isn’t true down to earth, but in all truthfulness, I’ve met many foreigners (outside of America) who know more idioms than Americans. Fascinating, isn’t it? They know more vocabularies, know more about the English grammar, and can recite every line on “Friends” and follow along every lyric on the Billboard Hot 50. That’s the whole point. They look at America from a totally different angle – as if it was a subject of study. Naturally, they are better experts at some things of being ‘American.’ As an international person myself, this is what I can bring – a whole new perspective, and both a subjective and objective look into the American culture. This is something that can’t be found with American candidates.

Second, because I wasn’t born and raised in America, I know for a fact that Americans have a better advantage over me in terms of success or adjusting with corporate America. Well, here’s the insight: if your best buddy just purchased a million dollar home, wouldn’t you want something bigger than that? If she just pulled out the newest S-class, wouldn’t you want to show off your Bentley the next time you meet her? It’s a psychologically engaging outcome, that you’d want something more and better than your fellow peers. And that’s just what I’m after. Because I’m not American, because I do not hold ground, I will try my best to be better, to be of more value. It’s a competition where I’m already way behind, and I need to catch up by developing, learning, and engaging with the best techniques possible.

So in the end, it’s all about grabbing that opportunity. It’s about learning to be American, to win the competition where others clearly have a head start. And then there’s the ‘Plus Alpha’ variable in the equation, but I won’t mention that here. (please contact me at to have a chat with me)

So, give me just one opportunity, so that I can take that opportunity and transform it into more value.

Just one chance….

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Bally Fitness: Are Free MP3’s An Incentive?

Bally Fitness' Website

Bally Fitness' Promotional Page for Free MP3s

Bally Fitness decided to offer a new way to attract new customers: offer them 20 free MP3 songs. Well, since most people listen to music on their earphones while using fitness machines, what a great way to attract new fitness club members.

Well, the insight was there: people listen to music when working out. But on a strategic level, my question is, will this work? Or, are free MP3’s relevant to subscribing to a gym?

The Problems I Found

1. The Relevancy

The importance of downloading MP3s (or paying for it) vs. the importance of committing to go to a fitness club is a totally different story.

Since Bally is using this campaign to attract new customers, perhaps the first insightful question should be: Are these non-members ready to commit to challenge themselves to invest in a valuable workout? Well, if not, then they will not pay a monthly fee to use that service that they know they won’t end up using at all. When deciding to join a gym, it’s a matter of commitment: do I have the time? Do I have the physical ability? How many times will I go in a week? Is that worth the monthly payments? I can exercise for free outdoors can’t I?

To make such a decision, one goes through a lot – about his/her life. If he’s working every day from 8AM – 8PM, I doubt he’ll have the time to join the gym. I mean, he’s got kids to take care of, have dinner, etc. If she’s traveling for work every week, she can use the hotel’s gym on her stay at a remote location. Why pay for this?

So after an evaluation of one’s lives, seeing “20 FREE MP3’s” won’t matter at all. It’s trivial compared to the commitment and effort they must put into deciding whether they should join or not.

2. The Burden

Well, to get the free 20 MP3 songs, the campaign tells one to join the gym online. Then, the user must go onto the Universal Music’s website (since Bally’s is partnering with Universal Music (and paying a hefty fee) for this promotion) and look for their choice of songs. Now, the user should just wait…. for, I don’t know, 10 days? Bally will send a redemption code, together with a link, and then there are further instructions. It doesn’t seem like much a process since the music’s basically free. But when the importance of MP3 downloads are trivial to the decision-making point, having a complex process doesn’t help at all. It’s just too much.

Well Then, What’s the Solution?

First, I would not have done this campaign. Or at least, this campaign should have been targeted at return-customers, or their most loyal customers to extend their subscriptions.

Second, if downloads were to be offered, it should be offered within the website – make the downloading part of the Bally’s Fitness Website experience, not of a totally different entity.

Third, I would suggest, dig deeper into the touchpoints – After What Process Will That Person Click The “Join the Club” Button? Many strategies will follow from here.

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Seth Godin Hits The Chocolate Sweet Spots

A photo of Madecasse, chocolates from Madagascar in Africa

Would you know these chocolates are African?

Seth Godin, the marketing guru and author, wrote a unique post on his blog, titled “The brand, the package, the story and the worldview.” It’s about Madecasse (forgive me, I used the photo on Seth’s blog), and apparently, they’re a jewel in the U.S. confectionary market because it’s produced and manufactured straight from Madagascar, the biggest island in Africa.

Seth hits quite a lot of insights – that the packaging doesn’t differentiate itself from others. He says that a new packaging must tell this African story, and connect with the consumers who are into understanding and appreciating it. So, from an account / brand planning point of view, Seth Godin brings up a few insights. To quote some of these ideas he said:

Perhaps you believe, “All that matters is how it tastes, and great chocolate looks a certain way,”
or perhaps, “I care about the origin of what I buy,”
or perhaps, “I want something out of the ordinary, unlike anything I’ve had before,”
or perhaps, “Chocolate is like wine. I am interested in vintages and varietals,”
or maybe, “Chocolate should be fun. Enough with the seriousness.”

And he’s right.

But before Madecasse takes Seth’s word on redesigning, making it look African, making it tell the African legend to customers who say “yeah, give me an inspiring African story, because that will make me buy this chocolate,” perhaps one should consider, “is being African what people would try and buy?”

What about Africa? We think it’s a great continent, it’s got full of stories. Of course. Movies have shown the wilderness, children chasing documentary reporters’ SUVs, mothers brining water from the local wells, and fathers hunting wild animals using traditional tools. But, would an average, or let’s say, even a small population, willing to purchase something made in Africa?

I can agree on Seth how Africa can connect with people in that Africa is thought of as a treasured, unrefined, natural, and beautiful place. And people say these consciously. But in the subconscious mind, people are not that fond of it. (Just think of it, how many people travel to Africa vs. Europe?) So, somehow in the subconscious mind, an African themed packaging might give people the following thoughts:

– “Ah, this is probably not made in Africa, but they probably just used cocoa beans from Africa. ”

– “This is probably made by enslaving people to work 18 hours a day”

– “I wonder if people even used milk in this product”

– “I wonder if people who made this actually used clean hands”

– “Why with the $4 price for something made in Africa?”

So, to add a little more insight to Seth’s, I would say that Madecasse must make sure to test the redesign (if they are reading this, or at least Seth’s post), and make sure that telling the African story doesn’t divert people away from the product on a subconscious level.

People are not as daring as they seem on the outside. People stick to what they’re comfortable with, especially when it comes to consuming it down their sacred, sacred bodies.

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Best Super Bowl Commercials 2010: The Runner-Ups

OK. Here’s my list of favorite commercials during the Super Bowl 2010.
I already picked my favorite – the Denny’s campaign. Well, just because it clicked, it was entertaining, and foremost, it made the brand name stick to my mind. And because it was a campaign of 3, it was all the more fun – somehow, unconsciously, I was waiting for those chickens to reappear.

Well, but some fared pretty well, while some were quite disappointing. Here were some of my other favorites, that could easily also have been the best Super Bowl commercial.

It’s a mobile TV that’s available on your mobile network for a small fee. The ad was really funny, and the insight – was perfect. Yes, I’ve definitely been in that situation. Haven’t you?

Dodge Charger

Definitely one of the best. This one’s been in a lot of controversy, simply because Chrysler’s using tax-payer money to save the company. But, the ad was a killer. So many things a man’s gotta go through… So we at least deserve a great, manly car. In a way, the insight is quite similar to Flo TV’s. Great job, Wieden & Kennedy in Portland!

Believe it or not, the NFL did really well on their own NFL game. It was created by Grey New York, and with this slo-mo movement, captured really the essence, and the glorific moments of football. Truly inspiring.

No doubt, this was unexpected. Everything was done in-house at Google, and kudos to the creative director for putting together a wonderful piece using only Google’s search. The scenario is simple, yet for some reason, seemed to resonate with many commercials at this year’s Super Bowl. A guy meets a girl, falls in love, decides long-distance, but decides to fly up, then gets married, then, has a baby. Now that’s pulling a lot of emotional strings – all with only text (and some sound effects). The only problem was that when I watched it live during the break, I missed what happened in the beginning – the text transitioned too fast and I got lost track trying to remember what was shown first, that in the end, all I knew was that it had something to do with Paris, France. Second time up (via YouTube), it became one of my favorite ads ever.

AnheuserBusch: BudLight
I was quite disappointed with AnheuserBusch overall, except this one. It really gave that AnheuserBusch moment, reminding me of the “wazuppppp” commercial years back.

This one had me confused in the beginning, and giving me the “aha” moment when a snickers bar will make a man a man again. Yeah, on my next soccer game, I’ll be sure to give Snickers a try.

Honorable Mentions
Doritos: I would include Doritos’ campaign, especially the dog collar and the locker room commercials. Well, I’ve watched both of them before the game, so it really didn’t give a kick out of me, but my roommate certainly was laughing hard.

Audi: It was new. It created a real moment of “what on earth is going on?” It was all about how important being environmentally Green is. And in the end, it was about Audi’s TDI – that it’s so green it will pass even strictest of standards in a world where everything had to be environmentally friendly.

Dove: Dove did it again, yet this time, with a jingle about how a man becomes, well, a man – and deserves to use the Dove Men + Care bodywash. Well, since I already use this product, it clicked with me (I’m using that product!). On the downside, I’ve seen this somewhere…. somewhere…. Oh, perhaps the intertwined with Dodge Charger with a pinch of Google’s commercials?

Vizio: Lastly, but not least, I liked this spot because it featured all of the best social networking/online stars we could find, and a machine stuffed it up into the new Vizio HDTV. I loved how some YouTube stars were picked up by this machine, and simply was an entertainment in itself.

And Coca-Cola: Yes, I loved the “just got out of bed and need a refreshment” concept… But in my culture, drinking Coke waking out of bed is taboo – really bad for an empty, early morning stomach.

P.S. Oh, and a last, Honda, while it’s commercial using Squirrels were mediocre… It did a great post-game job – It brought the Squirrel to YouTube’s landing page. Now that’s really smart. (I had a snapshot of it, but I lost it while writing this post. Sorry!)

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Super Bowl 2010 XLIV: Denny’s Is The Winner

It was a great game. But to me, the true game was a fight between the world’s best brands.

While many were anticipated, my pick of today’s winning brand had to be Denny’s.

(Doritos, you were runner-up)

What made it great was that the chickens had a meaning. They clicked with the product (Free Grand Slams).

They made sense. We could totally remember Chicken = Free Grand Slam day. And with the three versions of this campaign, they evolved – the first involved an introduction by a person dining at Denny’s, the second involved only chickens, and the third, came about unexpectedly.

Kudos to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for a wonderful, humorous campaign that will be remembered. (And I won’t forget this Tuesday 6AM – 2PM for the Grand Slam).

First of the campaign:

Second of the campaign:

The Third:

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A Genius Idea For The Digital World

Pranav Mistry, an MIT PhD candidate came up with this brilliant idea: Integrate Digital with the Physical World. (keep your patience, the fun starts a little later in the film)

It started with using the computer mouse, and cost him $2. And now, it is a genius invention that will be something to look out for in the near future.

What’s the lesson?

Every idea starts with a simple idea. And all it needs is a little evolving.

Oh, and great ethics (open source) at a great event (TED) that has a great marketing platform (sharing) is definitely a good way to market your idea.

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Nielsen 2010 Global Consumer Outlook | Nielsen Wire

What are the trends for 2010?

Well, Nielsen gives you a great 17-minute overview on what the new trends will be

via Nielsen 2010 Global Consumer Outlook | Nielsen Wire.

One of the most amazing things is that the TV, Internet, and Mobile Phones will be the BIG THING this year.

With the roll out of the iPad, new Android devices, and an upgraded iPhone, this year will be a battle of wireless technology.

Yeah, cell phones have been around for so long, but why with all the hype now? Amazon already has the Kindle, so does Sony et al., but what’s the hype with the iPad?

Well, I think trend-setting can be really defined as something that actually sparks a new market, as opposed to something simply new.

Apple’s iPhone brought about a whole new applications market. Android is doing the same, but it’s Google’s. Kindle sort of did, but the iPad is creating a much more creative and larger market.

So if you’re looking to do something big in 2010 and beyond, don’t look into following what’s being done – look into creating a new market that can be followed by others.

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BooneOakley: A Creative, Creative Ad Agency

If you’re into going all creative with your new ad agency, check out BooneOakley’s website.

Well, it doesn’t have a website. Should you type, it’ll redirect you into its YouTube video. Never have I seen a YouTube video act as a sole platform for a company’s website.

But it’s rather creative. Perhaps a new way to catch attention amidst the thousands of creative shops out there.

But will it continue to work forever?

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Where’s Your Superman?

Superman standing next to regular people

Where's Your Superman?

Sometime in the mid 20th century.

The sky is grey, and the terror of tanks and heavy machines roar the earth.

I’m standing in fear, of Nazi infantry and armored vehicles that are bombarding every town as far I can see atop the roof of a mediterranean-style mansion. All I can see are roof after roof, civilians that have evacuated to roam free of German invasion.

Just as the enemy comes near, I hear a loud bang, and the building next to me is split in half. All the town’s people are stranded, and together with the building they begin to fall, one by one, hundreds by hundreds.

The moment comes. I suddenly gain a remarkable power – a super power. I know in that instant, that I’m Superman. I can fly. I can run. I am invincible.

I’ve had many dreams like this. I forced myself to become more than who I am in the greatest moment of danger. But this time, I decide not to flee. Instead, I return to my neighbors hanging on the falling building. I use my superpowers to help raise building after building, to save the town, to save the people, to save humanity.

It’s only a dream, but this is my vision. I believe in doing a great for the people, I believe in doing a great for an organization that I am part of.

Whether you are a corporate marketer, an advertising professional, or anyone who is part of any great organization, are you ready to use your superpowers for your company? Are you ready to sacrifice yourself for your customers and clients? The powers at those moments are immense, beyond imagination, and in that moment, you can save the world with a true Super Power.

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