19 Oct 2011

Spekko ups their game

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I recently visited the Good Food and Wine Show in Joburg, and I realized there that a brand can spend enormous amount of money on communication to, admittedly, obtain a high SOV (share of voice), but the impact of the message remains extraneous to the public. The Tastic stand at the show had minimal participation from the audience and the communication was more passive rather than interactive.  The Spekko stand, on the other hand, was booming with people were invited to participate and interact with a famous chef on their cooking show. What was interesting was that the Tastic stand was rather stayed and staged while the Spekko stand which is the challenger brand to category leader Tastic, was more interactive and fun.

Spekko, up until recently has been quiet, and more of a price fighting lower LSM brand. They may have had a positioning, but consumers might not have been aware of it. It seems that they have now identified this affordable quality positioning as something they can own, and doing it with vengeance.  Spekko showcased at the Good Food and Wine show, a relatively premium event, and in my opinion owned it better than the category leader.  Their stand had more of an impact on me, and I definitely took note of their new ‘world’ range which seems to be a focus.  Spekko is upping it’s game both in communication and product offering, and positioning itself up against Tastic while maintaining their value proposition.

It will be interesting to see how far Spekko takes it, and how consumers react to this.  Does Tastic have an unbreakable brand equity, a guaranteed habitual purchase?  Or can Spekko eat (excuse the pun) away at this?

Thobeka Sibiya, OIL Intern

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Posted at 11:53 AM in Brand strategy | Case studies
17 Oct 2011

Human touch and the art of branding

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Consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages daily, yet it still seems as if many marketers neglect a basic common denominator in every human being irrespective of any colour, age, nationality and gender: the human touch.

One brand that does seem to understand this, however, is SAB’s Castle Lite. This brand has proved its worth by tapping into something which many consumers want: a cold beer. Castle Lite marketers knew that competing on packaging or taste alone against the likes of Heineken, Windhoek or Amstel, would be optimistic. Instead, they opted for the human sensory elements of see, touch and taste to validate their positioning of coldness in the marketplace. After all, most consumers always respond to their thirst for beer as a “need for a cold one”, an insight that Castle Lite understood and explored by introducing a thermo chromatic icon onto its packaging.  It is in the shape of a nifty little snow castle, which is synonymous with the Castle brand, that turns blue when the beer is at the perfect drinking temperature letting the consumer know that the beer is ready to be enjoyed. It’s a gimmick, yes, but gimmicks are fun… and clearly they work! Today the brand is achieving exemplary results with an annual growth of over 25%, making it the largest growing premium brand in South Africa. In the words of Mr Norman Adami, MD of SAB, he articulated that, “we will not sacrifice volumes for brand equity. We don’t just make a brand more available, stack it high and discount it. We are not chasing volume or going head to head with Heineken, we are playing to our strengths, not theirs”.

The era of pushing brands to consumers has long passed its sell by date. The question marketers should be asking is, “What is in it for the consumer?”, because consumers are certainly not asking “What does this piece of communication tell me about the brand?”

In the words of Leo Burnett, “The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability. Nothing is more believable than the product itself”. This is a profound truth that, in my opinion, Castle Lite has incorporated through understanding the human touch.

Thabiso Ramolefe, OIL intern

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Posted at 11:40 AM in Brand strategy | Case studies
14 Oct 2011

Black(Sem)Berry Woes

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This week saw millions of Blackberry users across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Brazil and India go into virtual “darkness” when Blackberry’s messaging and browsing services experienced an outage from Monday to late Wednesday for some.  Blackberry, the very brand that pioneered 24/7 mobile connectedness  – had not only left users without access to email, messenger and social networks but virtually in the dark with regards to the cause of the problem, current efforts to address the issue and expected resolution.

Obviously a system failure on such a worldwide scale would result in considerable embarrassment for Research In Motion (Blackberry’s parent company) but serious damage has been done to the Blackberry brand and it will take a very concerted effort by RIM to gain back credibility.

Other brands are loving the opportunity to create tactical ads at Blackberry’s expense.  Take Medal Paints, for example, which released a radio ad today comparing one conversation to another, with the one that fails being in ‘Berry Black’.  It talks directly to the Medal pay-off-line “The right colour matters”, they spotted the opportunity, and jumped at it!

 Blackberry’s critical error was the delay in the issuing of communication (as of Thursday morning RIM’s South African office still had not granted any interviews or official comment). The silence was stark and seemed to spark panic (any Blackberry or RIM search on Twitter will reveal the levels of exasperation felt by hundreds) and has literally left users re-evaluating its reliability. The outage could not have come at a worse time – Blackberry is facing mounting pressure in North America where Android and iPhone are taking direct share (incidentally this week sees the launch of Apple’s iPhone S4). Locally Blackberry leads the smartphone market however it is likely that more Blackberry users will be open to competitors when the time comes for a contract upgrade – the likes of HTC, Apple and Samsung will no doubt take advantage of Blackberry’s compromised integrity.
This episode need not be a death blow, particularly in RIM’s emerging markets, but Blackberry would do well to go back to basics – firstly apologise and give current and potential consumers a real reason to believe in the product again. 

Zaki Mtshali, OIL Intern

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Posted at 10:28 AM in Branding | Case studies
27 Jun 2011

‘The Bieb’ decoded: Lessons from Justin Bieber

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I’m no Justin Bieber fan but I must admit he’s a hard one to ignore.  Take one glance at him and you naturally want to pass him off as just another new age teen sensation. That would be an easy solution but that’s not fitting for the biggest teen sensation on the face of the earth.

On closer inspection you’ll realize that there’s a lot to be learnt from the Justin Bieber brand by marketers, especially for those who are launching new brands/products in cluttered categories.

1. Fish where the fish are.

Justin Bieber’s entry into the music industry wasn’t a Cinderella story. As much as we’ve been led to believe that he was an overnight sensation – he wasn’t.  Bieber was at first unable to secure any interest from major record labels and radio stations. The economic downturn and the inability to categorise his music were some of the hurdles he came across. This didn’t stop Bieber. He took to playing anywhere & everywhere that teen girls could be found. He performed at water parks, high school gymnasiums and malls. His dedicated mother would upload his videos onto Youtube. This is where Bieber would be discovered and where his loyal fan base was built. Giving up is not the answer, let your fans/customers give you the legs you need to enter the market. Persevere! Believe in your offering & don’t give up. It takes hard work & time to get to the top.

2.Harness the power of social media

The Justin Bieber brand was launched on Youtube and has relied on other social media platforms to further catapult his brand. Bieber relies on social media platforms to build a transparent relationship with his fans. His thousands of fans know they can rely on Twitter or Facebook to share a joke with Justin or to hear of his latest teen dilemma. Bieber will make appearances on traditional media (talk shows etc.), but his strength lies in his ability to remain directly connected to his fans 24/7.

3.You’re as strong as your team

Justin Bieber‘s team has ensured that they have consistently cultivated a winning brand. He has entrusted people with the right amount of passion and expertise to see him to the top – his dedicated mom (first manager), Usher (a seasoned industry veteran) and Scooter Braun (an influential young dedicated manager). Appoint the right people and you’ll stay winning.

4. Great hair helps!

Image is everything. Justin Bieber’s image has been closely monitored. From the clothes he wears, to who he’s seen with, the platforms he appears on and his mannerisms. He’s far from perfect – ok maybe his hair is!  He’s cultivated a ‘boy next door’ image by associating with ‘Successful, influential  and hard working’ Hollywood names. Usher, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian and Ludacris are a few that come into mind. Always remember that the company you keep speaks volumes about you.

We don’t know what the future holds for Bieber but he’s played his cards well up until now.

Nokulunga Ncube,




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Posted at 11:12 AM in Brand strategy | Case studies | Tips
16 Mar 2011

Surviving in brand land

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In marketing and communications, we often talk about understanding the consumer, being ahead of the competition and knowing what is around the curve in order to stay in the lead or even the game. It can be argued that these are the fundamental brand building principles for survival. There is only one place for brands who fail to do the above. And that is the cemetery of brands

In this month’s blog we are going to be looking at brand survival 101 in brand land

Today we will look at and learn from brands that failed to keep up. Here are a few examples of brands that lost their edge. Let us see what we can learn:


Last month at the mobile world congress in Barcelona, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, announced the merger between Nokia and Microsoft. The intent behind this move is for the companies to try and have foot in the ever so competitive smart-phone market which is currently dominated by Apple, Android and Blackberry. The struggle they faced to stay in the lead can be surmised in this quote from the open letter the CEO wrote to staff:

“We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind,”

Sony Walkman

Once upon the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous and the device to have for music lovers. Then the category changed and along with it the consumer, but Sony did not shift with them and today everyone talks MP3 and they all want Ipods. Sony lost their handle on a category they once dominated and now face the same dilemma across their product segments

Microsoft Encarta

In 2009 Microsoft had to bury its dying brand, Encarta, the digital encyclopedia. This came about from a long time battle ending up with Wikipedia out playing Encarta. Wikipedia had a few gambits in its arsenal that gave it the upper hand. For starters Wikipedia is free whilst Encarta was not. Wikipedia is expandable whilst Encarta was limited and pre planned and finally Wikipedia is open for all whilst Encarta was guarded by few.

So considering the above examples (we had many more we could refer to but this is a blog) there are some great lessons that we can we learn from these brands:

  1. It’s important to keep the rate and pace of innovation at a high because that allows you to have the foresight to respond and create change in the market
  2. Know your category. Know your consumer so you can always be relevant even if means redefining yourself as a brand
  3. First doesn’t always stay best. The key is to stay alert, to stay awake and stay on top of the game in order to win in the brand war

Stay tuned in for next weeks discussion on brands that sell out

Lesego and Naz

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Posted at 11:26 AM in Advertising | Branding | Case studies | Fresh insight
9 Feb 2011

Guess who’s on Facebook?!

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So Barbie and Ken called it quits in 2004 and now Ken has taken to Facebook to win her back. It’s 7 years later…better late the never, hey Ken?


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Posted at 8:46 AM in Advertising | Brand strategy | Case studies | View from the man in the street
2 Dec 2010

Celebs Commit “Digital Death” For AIDS Awareness

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While it’s not unusual for celebrities to use Twitter to further their causes, this latest one is a bit unique. For World AIDS Day, which is today, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake, among others are declaring themselves “digitally dead.”

Digital Death

On December 1st, Hollywood died a digital death. The world’s top celebrity tweeters are sacrificing their digital lives to give real life to millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. Watch their full last tweet and testaments and buy their digital lives back at buylife.org .

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Posted at 15:57 PM in Case studies | Global perspective | Old thinking vs new thinking | What's new
15 Oct 2010

The Art of Listening Brands

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I’m reading an interesting book entitled Persuasion by James Borg, which explores the art of influencing people. As I got more and more into the content it struck me as to how brands seek to influence and persuade people (consumers) every day. The fundamental objective of all brand communication or innovation is to persuade people to buy, love and stay with them.

In order to persuade people James Borg explores Aristotle’s art of persuasion formula. This includes a delicate balance of Ethos (character credibility and reputation), Pathos (emotional appeal and EQ) and Logos (logical reasoning).
Ethos is the passport factor. Without credibility, people simply won’t see you as a credible representation of the argument. Logos is the logical reasoning people will use to post-rationalize their decision to agree with your argument. But the most important element of this formula is Pathos- emotional appeal and EQ. Simply expressed this is empathy. And empathy is the ability to understand a person’s feelings, ideas and situation.

Only once empathy is established can you truly and sincerely communicate with someone. If a person feels that you display sincere empathy towards them- there is not much you couldn’t persuade them of. Sounds easy enough right? That’s why we hold millions of focus groups- to understand our consumers’ feelings, ideas and situation.

Well there is one more secret ingredient that unlocks the sincerity of your empathy. And that is listening. See, the problem with us humans is that we are rather self-centered. And that means we hear what we want to and conclude – usually too early – what is the most compelling manner in which to communicate with others.
This behaviour is very apparent in brand management.

If brands are to become highly persuasive – then they need to learn how to sincerely listen to their consumers. Listen so well, that they even hear what she/he is not saying.

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Posted at 10:01 AM in Brand strategy | Case studies | View from the man in the street
4 Aug 2010

Woolies Searches for Good Food

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I just love the Woolies brand. They always execute campaigns with focus, class and integrity.
Over the last couple years they’ve taken their mantra ‘The Difference’ to heart by tackling issues and trends in a way that not only made for a differentiated shopping experience but also created social programs that enabled us as South Africans to make a difference too.

The result has been a consistent, real, trustworthy and stylish brand that we love to interact with.

Their latest promotional campaign Search for Real Food is another beautiful case in point.

With the current popular culture focus on organic food and sustainable farming, Woolies – in their usual smart brand style- has gone straight to the heart of the issue and brought it to life through a promotional Campaign: ‘Search for Good Food’

The promotion gives us- the consumer- a beautiful blend of outdoor adventure, 2 hunky chefs, good food, learning about sustainable farming and a chance to win great prizes.

Woolies once again demonstrated their strong shopper behavioral understanding with a heavy focus on social media platforms. Through Twitter, Facebook and You Tube we could follow and enjoy the Search for Good Food adventures, learn loads of interesting things and take inspiration back into our homes.

But as much as Woolies understand their consumer’s interactive habits- so do they understand the power of partnerships and collaboration.
The star chefs Justin and Bill plus Land Rover all made for an interesting, aspirational and fun team to follow with Woolies playing an enabling role connecting us to the adventure.


However, one could ask- at the end of the day how did this campaign increase store footfall and basket size?
Through completing the circle I would argue.
The consumer experience started in-store with attractive promotional materials. Once engaged we enjoyed a cyberspace journey that brought us straight back to store via a treasure hunt encouraging us to find the Land Rover at a selected store and an opportunity to win great prizes.

All in all a beautiful brand experience that reassured us of Woolies commitment to good food and sustainable farming, inspired us and rewarded us for partaking.

A job well done!
– Claire du Plessis

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Posted at 13:42 PM in Brand strategy | Case studies