Monday, September 7, 2009

Turning Over a Bright Leaf

A couple of weeks ago, Marlboro launched Bright Leaf, a new mid-priced cigarette brand that for now is only available in the UK. Bright Leaf is 8% cheaper than Marlboro's other brands (that's a saving of about 70 cents on a pack of 20), and offers a different blend of tobacco "which has been specifically designed to address the taste dimensions of the British adult smoker" according to Zoe Smith, Marlboro's UK marketing manager.

Launching a new cigarette brand in the UK is exceptionally tough. British law requires 40% of all cigarette packaging to be taken up by health warnings, and has also eliminated all forms of cigarette advertising. The last straw will come in 2011, when retailers will no longer be able to display cigarettes and will have to keep them hidden under the counter.

With so many other marketing vehicles unavailable to them, it's not surprising that Marlboro has turned to packaging to generate buzz for Bright Leaf. The new packs will have a "tactile finish" and are side-hinged to open like a Zippo lighter unlike the standard flip-top design. According to Marketing Week magazine, "by introducing the new variant in unusual packs, Marlboro will harness the power of word of mouth marketing and the brand will sell itself."

So put on your branding hats and put aside your ethical concerns. Are cool packaging and lower prices sufficient to ensure the success of Marlboro Bright Leaf? What would you do differently if you were the brand manager? Do you think Bright Leaf has a future in the US market? If so, how would you ensure a successful launch?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Abercrombie: World's Worst Recession Brand?

TIME just selected Abercrombie & Fitch as the "world's worst recession brand," reporting that Abercrombie has suffered double-digit same-store-sales declines for the past 10 months.

We all know retail is hurting, but this isn't a category-wide problem. Compare Abercrombie's dismal performance with teen retailer AĆ©ropostale, who saw second quarter profits rise by 83% as Abercrombie fell by 134%. TIME blames the decline of Abercrombie on the brand's unwillingness to cut prices and offer promotions, but they also report that the brand is no longer as fashionable as it used to be.

So is it time for Abercrombie to slash prices, introduce BOGOF promotions and shed its preppy, aspirational image? Or should they protect their positioning as a high-end apparel brand and focus on creating "funkier fashions." What would you do if you were brand manager for Abercrombie?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The new Porsche Panamera – Four-Door Fiasco?

Last week, Porsche unveiled the new 2010 Panamera, the German carmaker's first four-door luxury sedan. The new sedan, due to hit US showrooms in October, comes at the same time Porsche is being taken over by Volkswagen, joining a portfolio of brands that includes Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini. With a price of $90,000 for the S model, rising to $132,600 for the Turbo, Porsche says the Panamera is designed to appeal to "customers who, over and above the exclusive comfort and spaciousness of a luxury saloon, also expect the consistent sporting performance so typical of a Porsche." But analysts, writers, and Porsche purists are giving the Panamera the same chilly reception that the Cayenne, Porsche's first SUV, received in 2003. As Peter Delorenzo writes in his AutoExtremist blog, the Panamera "marks the end of the historical legacy that once forged the reputation of Porsche, it’s a blatant repudiation of everything that its founder once stood for." So what would you do if you were responsible for the Porsche brand? How would you ensure a successful launch of the Panamera? And what steps would you take to reassure people that this does not mark the beginning of the end for the Porsche brand?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Life. My Card. My Reduced Marketing Budget.

According to a recent story on Bloomberg, American Express slashed its marketing and promotion spend by $311 million in the second quarter of this year. That's a 47% reduction compared with the same period in 2008. A company spokeswoman, Joanne Lambert, said these cuts “were appropriate given the economic environment.” And she may be right - Amex's shares are up by 69% so far this year. But some analysts, including Macquarie Capital USA, warn that Amex "runs the risk of becoming a run-of-the-mill type credit-card lender" if it doesn't keep the brand fresh and top-of-mind. So what would you do if American Express were your brand? What story should you be telling in Q3 and Q4 given that you've been mostly silent so far this year? Please share your thoughts...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whole Lotta Junk Foods?

In an interview in this week's Wall Street Journal, the CEO of Whole Foods admitted that "we sell a bunch of junk". I think it's fair to say that CEO John Mackay intended this as a rallying cry to help reclaim the brand's position as a healthy food retailer. But some commenters saw this as a blunder that could harm Whole Foods as it fights it out with other food retailers. In the UK, Marketing Week compared Mackay's speech to Gerald Ratner, who saw his company's value plunge by £500 million after admitting that the jewelry sold by his firm was "total crap". Whole Foods has just experienced its third consecutive quarter of declining sales at stores open at least a year, as the company continues to lose ground to brands like Trader Joes and Costco. So what would you do to turn things around at Whole Foods? Is the company on the right path by focusing on a return to healthy eating? Or are there other approaches that they should be considering. What would you do if Whole Foods were your brand?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

KB Toys: definitely not child's play

Later this week, the intellectual property of KB Toys, which filed for Chapter 11 last December, comes up for auction. Up for grabs are the KB Toys brand name, 14 other KB Toys-related trademarks and more than 65 URLs and house brands. According to Streambank, the intellectual property consulting firm, the KB Toys brand "offers a wealth of opportunities." If you found yourself the new owner of KB Toys, what would you do to revitalize and relaunch the brand? Post your comments below and let us know.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pulling Gatorade out of a slump

PepsiCo's Gatorade brand has seen its share of the sports drink category fall to 75% from nearly 80% one year ago. This comes after a major brand revamp and an estimated $150 million ad push. What would you do to reverse Gatorade's declining fortunes, if it were your brand? Post your comments below and let us know.