Monday, December 27, 2010

How to brand your diphenhydramine

Challenge: Okay brand strategists, you've got a proven pharmaceutical compound – diphenhydramine – and you want to cut in on Benadryl's market share.
What do you call your discount version?
Answer: Everyone has a little twist of their own.

1 CVS doesn’t get cute. It uses its own CVS brand and labels its diphenhydramine with a big “ALLERGY” in italics and capital letters, just like the Benadryl package.

2 The most familiar brand is Benadryl – here fending off discounters with 12 free tablets. Benedryl is more expensive, and unlike the Walgreens house version, contains a long list of inactive ingredients: candelilla wax, crospovidone, dibasic calcium phosphate dihydrate, D&C red dye no. 27, aluminum lake, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethelene glycol, polysorbate 80, pregelatinized starch, stearic acid, and titanium dioxide. No wonder this is the high-priced brand.

Walgreens has a shameless chameleon called “Wal-dryl” – a clumsy but effective combo of its name with Benedryl's. It has the check-marks next to symptoms, but note: Like a school-kid disguising plagiarism, the checked symptoms are in a different order. Runny nose first, sneezing third. Also, “Wal-dryl” has fewer ingredients – which is turned into a benefit: “DYE-FREE”

4 Wegmans has an interesting approach. It offers this “Top Care” brand – which is used by non-Wegmans stores as well. The Top Care package – with its brand slung up along the left side – looks like a cheap, value brand – which is the point.

5 For its diphenhydramine, Walmart uses its own sub-brand called “equate” (equate, get it?) Symptoms with check marks are on the box – and in the Benadryl order! The package has nauseating circles and wavy lines – probably giving customers a reason to buy something for their stomachs.

6 Rite-Aid’s diphenhydramine has the discount look down pat. When they designed this package, Rite-Aid must have hired the same guys who pick their in-store music: “Just stack all the words down the middle, paint the thing hospital-wall pink, and call it a day.”

What's the point? I don't care what they call it, as long as diphenhydramine is handy when those damned yellow jackets attack me again.


Monday, December 20, 2010

North Korea as brand – Sex, violence, collective will

We've spoken here of sovereign brands – the widely accepted promise and personality of nations. At worst, a nation's brand image is a crude stereotype – "Man, those French are rude." At best, it projects a distinctive feature of a nation's role in the global economy – "The resourcefulness of today's India and the paradoxical adaptability of its ancient culture."

North Korea as brand
North Korea appears as stunning caricature. It is the world's consummate "rogue state" – acting beyond all behavioral norms. As a brand, North Korea is endlessly fascinating: It is so well focused, so "brand aligned" in every eccentric act and utterance.

North Korea is a model of brand discipline. Its "brand ambassadors" are perfectly unified. Its "brand experience" is admirably consistent. Its communications "cut through the clutter."

Brand personality
What captivates our attention? The brand personality: A continual threat of violence, the shocking display of collective will, and the unmistakable, riveting undertone of sex.

North Korean brand? Sex, violence, collective will.
Think: blockbuster TV show.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Winter a brand?

Winter has a temper, but most of the time winter does not rage. Most of the time winter is deliberate and under control. It settles in around you – and holds your world in an iron grip.

People who live in bitterly cold places – like Norway or Vermont – have to be organized. Winter doesn’t allow extra time for flipping through a magazine or looking for your flip-flops. You better have the wood stacked nearby. You must be ready.

Alaskans know that you don’t fool around with winter – oh no. Charge outside into the magically dancing flakes – and after a time you might be looking for two or three toes.

Winter grips and squeezes you. If winter is a brand, it offers the promise of a strong handshake. Its brand personality is confidence and purpose. Its essence is bite.

And winter’s brand experience? Well, that’s up to you. Some people fight winter. Others meet its heavy hand by going to sleep.

But no matter who you are... or what you do... no one escapes the feeling that winter is in charge, not you.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brand voice of a brand new business school

Marketing an institution of higher education is a dreary business. The brand messages tend to run together into one platitudinous blob. "Find yourself at our university..." "Free yourself..." "Be yourself..." "Transform yourself..." People who produce this stuff for a living have my sympathy. I'm sure they crave the opportunity, once in a while, to sell a good vegetable chopper. At least a chopper has an edge and does unquestionable good.

Universities themselves can be dreary places – which is behind the marketer's malaise. Institutions of higher education are expensive, slow to change, and filled with tenured professionals. Tenure itself is an odd anachronism. Just sit there untouched no matter how you perform? Like an earl or duke in the Middle Ages? "Unfortunately, we don't have capital punishment," a professor once told me with a sigh. We were discussing one of his particularly out-of-control (and tenured) colleagues.

A few days ago I ran across this ad for a business school. It made me think. What is this place? How is it different? I looked it up. A nearly brand new business school at Johns Hopkins, founded in 2007 – devoted to teaching business "with humanity in mind." Sounds visionary? Idealistic? Something intriguing about "repurposing the traditional business school toolkit to reflect our principles of humanity, compassion, innovation, and opportunity."

The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School is only a couple of years old. Let's set aside our skepticism – and wish these guys well. There is a wise, understated tone in their brand – yet the words are high-minded. Hats off to their marketing team. In a time of bluster and brag, people who photograph a few seeds and promise to help you plant them deserve our respect.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Those wacky elephants

When I saw Accenture's surfing elephant – suggesting that big companies can be nimble – I was reminded of an ad by the law firm Bingham McCutchen – suggesting that creativity leads to solutions. Then other wacky elephant images came to mind...

So what's my point? I don't know, really. An elephant olympics? My point...? Something about the iconic attributes of elephants. It was... actually, I can't... remember.