Friday, December 4, 2015

Head over Heart at the Copenhagen Zoo: the killing of Marius the Giraffe

Copenhagen Zoo made international headlines and condemnation after they killed and made a public autopsy of an 18 month healthy giraffe in February 2014.  The giraffe was euthanized (shot in the head) because it had undesirable traits ("too common traits") for breeding (Guardian).  In other words, the giraffe did not contribute to the diversity of the giraffe gene pool (CNN).  The park’s visitors, including children, were invited to watch the autopsy and the zoo lions being fed with the remains. 

By Camilla RĂ¼diger

Zoos are part of an increasingly controversial debate.  On one hand, zoos provide science education to visitors and create awe-inspiring entertainment ("ooooo isn't that bear funny") for visitors. On the other hand, is it ethically right to lock up animals  in "tiny cells" thousands of miles from their natural habitat? This post does not dive into the ethics of the zoo debate but rather looks at how the Copenhagen Zoo decided on function (the brain) over emotion (the heart) when its youthful giraffe, Marius was killed.

Copenhagen Zoo states its mission: to act as a “recreational, informative and scientific institution, increasing the interest and understanding of nature and its diversity through experiences based on a relevant, activating and entertaining communication” (Copenhagen Zoo). The breeding program, public autopsy and feeding of the lions with the remains of the giraffe seem to be aligned with activating education/ science part of the Zoo’s mission. In addition, the Copenhagen Zoo, which is part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) received support from the organization for the killing of Marius.

On one hand, the the killing of the giraffe Marius has be accepted as a legitimate behaviour by the scientists because of the breeding program, there was an intense international outcry.  There are several reasons why this resistance was so strong (27,000 people signed a "save Marius" petition).First, the Copenhagen Zoo had given it personality characteristics to the giraffe by naming it Marius. If you think about it, we know the names of our friends and our pets- which drives an instant connection with "the named one".  Second, Marius was still a baby. Giraffes in the wild live around 25 years, and in captivity even longer .) Marius' life was cut dramatically short. Third, Marius' life ended via gun-shot to the skull. That's not exactly a dignified death. It wouldn't be pleasant for a Marius fan to see lions chowing down either. Forth, the Copenhagen Zoo did not do a great job of sharing its "science" side of the story- that diversity of the gene pool is required to avoid in-breeding diseases. Finally, the zoo did not do a great job of explaining why alternative options like relocating Marius wouldn't work, especially when social media ignited in outrage.

In the end, Copenhagen Zoo sided on the part of science and far from the emotional, warm feelings that some zoo visitor have towards animals. And, in doing so, the Copenhagen Zoo has made strong statement about how it views its business and its brand mission.

Monday, November 2, 2015

More than Just a Piece of Gum: Extra life, Extra love.

By Melissa White

Meet Sarah and Juan, a pair of high school sweethearts who share their life of ups and downs with us over a short two minute video. At the time of this posting, the two characters of Wrigley’s Extra Gum’s newest commercial have raked in over 11 million views. By any standard, that’s not bad for a gum video!

There is a real question of how a story of life events can resonate so much with the public. When you think about it, the answer is pretty simple. A portion of Sarah and Juan lies in all of us. Sarah and Juan’s experiences are universal. It's hard to forget “the love connection” that comes from the first engaging glance, that first special date, or the special invitation to the prom. For a young person (teens/young adults - the main target for chewing gum), it is also exciting to think about a high school sweetheart that you could end up sharing your life with... including having children! Whatever the case may be, love is a universal theme and we all have that one person who we will never forget. In the video, as the story of Sarah and Juan progresses, the viewer is reminded of his/her own romantic relationship - from the first argument and making up -  to a love-of-a-lifetime proposal. But why would so many people be interested in a video that is a replication of our own lives? From the way I see it, we relate to the characters and their emotions. There is also an extra piece of idealism in their world that we all long for. Through all of those ups and downs, it is Sarah and Juan’s fairy-tale ending that we’re all searching for. 

When watching the communication, I couldn't help but think of how much a little thing- like a piece of gum (Extra gum) can play in making life so much better. In the case of Sarah and Juan, a stick of (Extra) gum was the first "flirt offering" (sharing a stick), made the first kiss that much better (fresh breath!), provided the peace offering after an argument, and was the catalyst for a happily ever after proposal. Not bad for a piece of gum.

Wishing all you gum chewers that extra squeeze in life and love that comes from a stick of gum.

IKEA- "The other letter"

Every once in a while you come across a truly spectacular communications piece.

Although it is too early for Christmas (most Halloween decorations are still up)- check out
the "territory of the mind" that IKEA carves out here to the warmth of the family home, the home of love that can not be replaced by things. "Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings, and desire my love and empty things..." (Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls).   I can forgive the early Christmas release of this ad because furniture is a big ticket item and requires a little extra time and budgeting for a family.

So here's the ad.  Enjoy.  Oh, and here is a box of Christmas Kleenex that you might want to have while watching it.
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Measuring the short-term spillover impact of a product recall on a brand ecosystem

I've put some research into the publication pipeline lately.

Here's the abstract from the forthcoming Journal of Brand Management. It's an article I worked on with my co-author Jean-Francois Belisle.  You can check out the full article here or contact me and I am happy to chat about it.

Measuring the short-term spillover impact of a product recall on a brand ecosystem

This research examines the short-term impact of a product recall on a brand ecosystm by investigating the following questions: How do product recall spillover effects spread to (i) the recalled brand's related product categories, (ii) competing brands, and (iii) private label brands?  Studying the Land O' Lakes butter recall case using a difference-in-differences model, our research shows that negative spillovers occur within the same brand family, carry over to private label brands and then quickly dissipate, but do not carry over to competitor brands.  Managerial implications and directions for future research are provided.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why I love TD

Years ago I was asked to be in a focus group on banking.  One of the major banks wanted the 20-somethings perspectives on banks, the various bank brands, and banking services.  This is before the time when I was a brand guy. But I remember very vividly the responses that came from the room. Not a lot were positive.  Canadian banks, at the time were, in the news for having record profits, providing record bonuses to the top execs, while being less than generous to their staff.  I remember my comment quite vividly:

"I don't like any of the major banks.  They open up after I go to work. They close before I finish my work.  And while they have record profits, their pens are always out of ink and chained to the desk. The environment is impersonal and so transactional."

This focus group, of course, was in the pre-internet banking era.

But still today, brands from the banking industry rank among the lowest of all industries.  The average Canadian banking brand according to 5 years of data I have collected on fares only slightly better than tobacco and energy brands- and about the same as telecom brands.

This is a shame.  Banks should not anywhere close to brands that kill and pollute.  

Most major banks in Canada don't get it.  I'm pretty sure most people are not richer than they think (Scotia Bank).  I'm also pretty sure that the little fellow in a banker's hat does not evoke the warm the fuzzy feelings that I suspect the agency is trying to deliver with the Royal Bank character.

The banks that have a significantly higher rankings according to my research is the TD- and some Credit Unions in Western Canada.  They do something differently.

What makes the TD a cut above, at least from my personal experience is that the bankers their understand that banking is not about finance.  Banking (and bankers) is what enables a person to follow and reach his dreams.  The bank helps an individual finance his degree not for education's sake, but for him to achieve his dream job. The bank is  the institution that doesn't finance a house, but it enables a nest for a mom, a safe home for junior, and a feeling of provision by dad and mom. The bank is company that helps family support long-term care for a loved one so that the loved one receives the best possible care possible. And finally, the bank is also the place to deposit the first monies of a bank account for a baby- not just a secure depository, but a jumpstart in life for the dreams that parents, Godparents, friends and family want for the blank-slate life.  In short, the bank ought be an emotional safe haven.  The trust of a bank is not just the security of "not losing my money" , but of  having a trusted banker guide you on ever step of your major life's journey's and dreams.  In this context, bankers should be as as much people people as finance people. Most major banks don't get this. But my local TD branch sure does. 

A few weeks ago, I popped in to my local TD branch to open up a bank account for our new baby. It only took a few minutes to open the account- but the staff greeted my wife and I with open arms and a gift-wrapped parcel.  "Here's a little something for your little daughter!" The staff had pooled together some donations, bought a baby-gift-pack and wanted to share in the excitement of our new milestone.  It was so touching. It still moves me thinking about it. I love my bankers. 

My TD branch understands me.  They get my family because they are, in a way, part of my family.  I'm not richer than I think. I don't want some dude in a bowler hat.  I want them around me to help me build my mortgage to build my home for my family and jumpstart a great life for our little one. I want my bank to be with me and my family on our journey through life.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Some of my Favorite B-school cases

It's summer time and a lot of folks think that profs and university instructors are resting in the sun. Well, that might be partly true, but we're also out there thinking about ideas and our upcoming courses we teach. A couple of days ago, one of my counterparts in Europe asked me what my go-to marketing cases are.  So, for the enjoyment of my educator colleagues, for my students who will likely be seeing some of these cases next term, and for my readers... here are some of my favorites (classics and new!)

#6  Apple Inc in 2015 (2015). Apple is mind-blowingly successful, we all know that.  This spanking brand new case provides a nice historical context on the brand but looks at the new realities for the brand.  What should the strategic new product plays be? There is a healthy debate to be had over where Tim Cook (and his different skills than Jobs) should take the brand.

#5  Land Rover North America, Inc. (1995). I've always liked Susan Fournier's work.  If you are a brand fan, then you'll probably know her work on brand relationships.  Here she writes an interesting case (with a lot of consumer behavior data) on Land Rover Discovery. There are super discussions to be had here on brand personality and managing brand equity across borders.

#4  Coca-Cola's New Vending Machine: Pricing to Capture Value or Not? (2000) Here's another oldie but a goodie. This 9 pager brings issues related to value, public relations and pricing through Coke's drink machine that changes price based on the temperature. You don't see many of these drink machines around- and this case lays out simple communication and pricing issues in an easy-to-digest format.

#3 Lufa Farms. (2013)  Lufa is a very interesting company founded by its CEO Mohammed Hage.
The company develops farms on commercial rooftops.  The case tackles how to scale and a capital intensive entrepreneurial company with a superior (fruit and vegetable) offering. I'm a little biased to this one too for a few reasons. 1) Lufa Farms is a Canadian company.  2) The CEO is a great guy (the team is nice too!).  3) Check the authors and you'll figure out bias #3.

#2  Disrupting the Meat Industry: Tissue Culture Beef. (2015) The subject matter of this case- meat grown in a lab- seems right out of a futuristic movie. But, readers of the case learn just how close the Sergey Brin backed company is making cultured beef a reality. I like this case so much because it gets such visceral reactions from so many case discussants.  The implications of the cultured beef are potentially majorly disruptive from  farming to supply chain to consumer but, the benefits  are numerous- from more environmentally friendly production to animal welfare. In addition to having great marketing debates, there are lots of "what does the future hold" discussions that also launch.   And how can you not love a case that starts off with this quote from Brin? "Some people think tissue culture meat is science fiction... I actually think that's a good thing. If what you're doing is not seen by some people as science fiction, then it's probably note transformative enough."

#1. Heineken NV: Global Branding and Advertising. (1995) This 13 page case (5 pages of actual case write up) by John Quelch is brilliant.  Although the case description is this:
"Heineken managers are evaluating the results of the research projects designed to identify the values of the Heineken brand and to translate these into effective advertising messages",
what I really like about the case is that it cuts to the heart of brand values- and what constitutes a "global brand", if there really is such a thing. The case being from 1995 isn't such a bad thing either.  Students can track the "values" via advertising in international markets over the last 20 years.