Getting behind Big Red

Getting behind Big Red


The parallels between Vodafone and Ferrari are pretty obvious, both technologically advanced, leaders in their fields, fast, powerful, aspirational and of course red; so when in 2001 the then Vodafone Chief Executive Chris Gent announced a sponsorship it seems a good fit.

“This is an exceptionally good deal for us, and will give us greatly enhanced brand exposure throughout the world.”

Vodafone had a customer base of 83 million people world-wide, which spanned five continents and 29 countries. It had big plans to become one of the world’s top brands. Formula One offered Vodafone high profile exposure in a sport that commanded a world-wide television audience of 360 million people for each race.

christopher-gent“We are the world’s leading mobile telecoms company and it is our objective for Vodafone to be recognised as one of the leading global brands.” said Sir Chris Gent. “I am confident that the sponsorship of Ferrari, with the immensely valuable media coverage that Formula One attracts, will help us towards achieving this ambition.”

All of which was undoubtedly true but was only half the story; there was another reason why the Ferrari deal was so right for Vodafone.

At the end of the 20th Century Vodafone was indeed present in a number of countries but not always branded as Vodafone. Its stamp collection of brands included Telecel in Portugal, Europolitan in Sweden, Libertel in Netherlands, Panafon in Greece, Click in Egypt, Eircell in Ireland and most importantly in trems of scale were  Omnitel in Italy and D2 in Germany; the last of these having been acquired in an audacious £178 billion ($212 billion) takeover.

Following an extensive project Sir Chris Gent had announced in 2000 that all these brands would transition to the Vodafone brand.

omnitel-1Two of the biggest internal stumbling blocks to the initial plan were Omnitel and D2. Omnitel had been a fantastically successful brand in Italy and indeed was as strong, if not stronger, there than Vodafone was in the UK at the time. Omnitel was however closely linked with the colour green, which featured in its logo. The management at D2 were still a bit amazed and reluctant to admit that their successful German company had been taken over by this British upstart and were proving resistant to the proposed change.

Behind the scenes, new flagship initiatives were being discussed that would help cement the brand migrations and soothe the agitated subsidiaries’ management teams; a major global sponsorship was suggested.

Suddenly the proverbial light-bulb went off and Terry Barwick, the then Corporate Affairs Director was send on a mission – get Ferrari at all costs. Luckily he had a combined brand budget and a blank cheque!

Why Ferrari? – yes, they were successful, leaders, global, technologically advanced all the things Sir Chris gent talked about publically but just as importantly they were Red and Italian.  It was perfect reason to help persuade the Italian team at Omnitel to see red. What’s more Ferrari’s lead driver at the time was none other than world champion Michael Schumacher who was, of course, German and more than acceptable for D2.

Terry Barwick did the deal, the sponsorship was duly announced and warmly received in the UK, in Italy and in Germany.

The moral is that brand migrations need to take not just customers but employees with them on the journey. If you are planning a brand migration keep asking yourself ‘what’s in it for them?’ both for your customers but also for your employees

Life’s a bowl of apples

Life’s a bowl of apples


Since it opened its doors in Chicago in 1935, the advertising agency Leo Burnett has created a whole range of memorable communication equities for its clients including Charlie the Tuna for Starkist Tuna, Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (or Frosties as they are known in the UK), The Marlboro Man, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Keebler Elves, Morris the Cat for 9-Lives cat food and the Jolly Green Giant.
The last of these was created for one of the company’s first clients, the Minnesota Canning Company however the icon proved so successful that the company renamed itself Green Giant.
However one of its most enduring icons wasn’t created even created for one of its clients, it was created for the agency itself and on the very first day that Leo Burnett Inc. opened its doors for business; August 5, 1935.
leo-burnett-2As Leo Burnett later explained in Stephen R. Fox’s ‘The Mirror Makers’ “My associates and I saw the opportunity to offer a creative service badly needed in the Middle West. I sold my house, hocked all my insurance, and took a dive off the end of a springboard.”
And the icon that was created that day was Leo Burnett’s legendary bowl of apples.
To brighten up the place and provide a warm welcome for any and all visitors, their first receptionist (whose name perhaps disappointingly seems to have been lost to time) set out a bowl of apples. Given that this was the middle of the depression it was bold, optimist and friendly statement.
Word quickly got around Chicago that Leo Burnett was serving apples to his visitors and one cynical newspaper columnist cracked, “It won’t be long ’til Leo Burnett is selling apples on the street cornet instead of giving them away.”
To be fair, the columnist was only saying many people in the media industry were thinking; namely that it was the height of folly to start an advertising agency not only in the midst of the Depression, but in Chicago and not on Madison Avenue in New York where all the other leading agencies were based.
However the apples were very much on brand. They fitted exactly with the philosophy that Leo Burnett espoused. This is the man who said “When you’re on your economic bottom, then the only way to go is up.” And whose agency motto is “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
leo-burnett-singaporeToday and every day if you visit a Leo Burnett agency you will still see in reception, sitting in pride of place, a welcoming bowl of apples.
It has been estimated that in the last ten years, the Chicago headquarters has given away more than two million apples to employees, clients and visitors – now that’s food for thought.

Soccer teams rather than bellboys – NH Hotels’ secrets of success

Soccer teams rather than bellboys – NH Hotels’ secrets of success


In his excellent book, MARTketing – the heart and the brain of branding, Javier Sánchez Lamelas, the former Group VP Marketing of the Coca Cola Company, tells of an encounter over drinks in which he learnt all about the power of building your brand experience around your particular brand and not just the market generic customer expectations.
It was the 1980s and Javier was studying for his MBA in Barcelona. One of his friends was interning at NH Hotels, the fast expanding Spanish hotel chain led at the time by Antonio Catalán. Javier arranged to have a drink with his friend but when he arrived, Javier found Catalán was there as well.
Over the course of a couple of drinks, Javier asked, “So, how is it that your hotel business is growing so rapidly while others stagnate?”
catalanThe immediate reply wasn’t quite what he expected. “I am not in the hotel business. That’s why I’m growing so fast.”
Javier pressed on. “Then what business are you in?” he asked.
“In the business of giving rest to executives. That’s my business” came the reply.

Catalán went on to explain his thinking…
nh-buffet-breakfast“Our breakfasts are better, tastier, and start earlier in the day than in traditional hotels. Business meetings start early and executives do not have lunch until late in the afternoon. Soccer teams and artists stay for free or at very low rates. Then business guests see them in the bar or the lobby and brag about it when they’re back at the office. We do not have bellboys: executives do not need help toting their carry-on luggage and they know very well that room 215 is on the second floor. Laundry is returned in less than 5 hours, ready for wearing the next day. And in case somebody wants it earlier, the service is also available. We all know how embarrassing it is to attend a meeting in a messy shirt…”
As Javier sums it up, “It was a great lesson over drinks”.

Walking the ‘dogs’: How Jo Malone thought, not bought her way to success

Walking the ‘dogs’: How Jo Malone thought, not bought her way to success

jo-walking-the-dog“We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think” is a famous quote ascribed to Sir Ernest Rutherford, the New Zealand born physicist who laid the groundwork for the development of nuclear physics.
More recently and in a marketing context, it should perhaps be re-ascribed to Jo Malone who recalled the clever and extremely cheap stunt she used when launching her brand in the USA saying, “When you are an entrepreneur and you have no money you have to think and you have to turn on a sixpence.”
Following the success of her first store in the Walton Street, an early fan Dawn Mello, president of luxe Manhattan retailer Bergdorf Goodman, offered a deal to open a concession in the Fifth Avenue store in 1998.
Speaking to an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival she explained she had arrived with only “1,000 bags and product” and real no marketing budget. “I sat there in a hotel room thinking: ‘I am going to fail, what am I going to do?”
It was time to start thinking.
Luckily, she and husband, Gary Wilcox, came up with an ingenious idea about how to create some noise without actually spending any money on advertising. “We called it walking the dogs.”
Malone contacted 50 people she knew through friends and asked them to take one of her bags for a “walk” every time they left their homes and went out and around the fashionable districts with her bags every time.
A simple strategy that paid off.
“These bags started to be recognised in really savvy parts of New York City, so when we opened the store people thought there was already a store somewhere. There wasn’t. There were empty bags wandering around New York City.”
A year later, Estée Lauder bought the brand. Malone stayed on as creative director until 2006, when she stepped down after recovering from breast cancer.
She launched her second perfume business, Jo Loves, in 2011 but didn’t need to rely on an empty bas stunt to gain publicity.

And the moral is if you can’t out-spend your competition, out-think them

At last

At last


Delighted to be able to announce that my new book of brand stories – “How Coca-Cola took over the world … and 100 more amazing stories about the world’s greatest brands” will be published by LID Publishing next year.

As with “The Prisoner and The Penguin”, each story will have its own moral, but this time, thanks to Guy Chalkley, each story will have its own little cartoon. It will contain tales about brand origins, naming and identity, communication, revitalization, marketing society and of course branding.

I’ll post more details nearer publication date.

From wallpaper to world famous – a story of reinvention

From wallpaper to world famous – a story of reinvention

Just occasionally, a product can be given a whole new lease of life, a new target audience and a new use. It is not so much revitalised as reinvented. Kotex started life as absorbent bandages during WWI and went on to become one of the pioneers of sanitary towels. Viagra was destined to become a high-blood pressure relieving drug until an unexpected alternative use was discovered.
This tale begins in the late 1920s, when Cleo McVicker, just 21 years old, was given the task of winding down Kutol, a Cincinnati based soap company, selling off its assets before closing the company. However, Cleo managed to do such a good job that he was able to keep the company afloat – just.
kutol-cleanerCleo knew the company needed a new revenue stream and hired his brother, Noah to help him set about trying to find one.

In 1933, at a meeting with Kroger Grocery, they spotted their opportunity. Kroger were on the look-out for a wallpaper cleaner. At the time, coal was the leading way to heat one’s home. It was more efficient and cheaper than wood but tended to leave a layer of soot everywhere. This was especially difficult to clean off wallpaper as you couldn’t get it wet. Vinyl wallpaper wasn’t readily available.
Cleo promised them that Kutol could make and supply them with a wallpaper cleaner – even though at the time he didn’t know if they could deliver. Kroger ordered 15,000 cases but insisted on a $5,000 penalty (about $90,000 today) if Kutol didn’t deliver on time. This penalty was more than Kutol would have been able to pay so, in effect, Cleo was gambling with the company’s ability to fulfil the order. Luckily for the brothers and the company, Noah worked out how they could manufacture a pliable, putty-like substance that worked well as a wallpaper cleaner.

The new cleaner sold well and the company looked forward to a bright future – which it enjoyed for the next fifteen or so years.

But then their fortunes started to change.

Cleo McVicker had died in a plane crash in 1949 and Joe McVicker, Noah McVicker’s nephew had been hired to replace him. He was to face a new challenge.

After WWII, sales had begun to fall. Not only were vinyl wallpapers coming onto the market, but homes were switching from coal stoves to oil and natural gas that burned cleaner.
Kutol was in danger of becoming obsolete.

However, family came to the rescue in the form of Kay Zufall, Joe McVicker’s sister-in-law.
Kay was running a nursery school and had been looking for cheap materials that she could use with the class to make Christmas decorations. She read in a magazine that wallpaper cleaner could be used in this way, so she went out and bought some Kutol’s wallpaper cleaner to try it out.

The kids loved it and it worked a treat.

Knowing the problems that Kutol had, she called Joe and suggested that they stopped making the cleaner and started making a toy instead.

joe-mcvickersJoe knew a good idea when he heard one and got to work on a slight modification to the product’s formulation. He removed the detergent from the putty and added some almond scent and some colouring to the originally white dough.

Joe decided the new product needed a new name and was considering calling it “Kutol’s Rainbow Modeling Compound”. On hearing it, Kay told him it was awful and that she and her husband would come up with a better one.
A few days later, they came back with their suggestion – “Play-Doh”. Joe, to his credit, could see it was a better name and they went with it.

To date, 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have sold, and some 500 million cans are still sold yearly in 80 countries. The brand is in the National Toy Hall of Fame and has made Time magazine’s list of the greatest toys of all time.

Happy 125th Birthday Fazer – Kiss Kiss

Happy 125th Birthday Fazer – Kiss Kiss

Many countries have their own distinctive chocolate brand. In the UK, it’s Cadbury’s, in the US it’s Hershey’s but in Finland it is Fazer.

Founded by Karl Fazer, who had gone against his father’s wishes to train as a confectioner. He studied baking in Berlin, Paris and Saint Petersburg before opening a French-Russian confectionery café at Kluuvikatu 3 in Helsinki on 17 September 1891.

So this week is Fazer’s 125th anniversary and I thought I would mark it with a short story about the birth of their first product brand – Kiss Kiss and its slightly surprising brand icons.


Kiss Kiss dates back to 1897 and, although it wasn’t registered until 1901, it is still Finland’s oldest trademark. Kiss Kiss have light, crispy shells filled with delicious chewy toffee.



However, despite the name, the imagery associated with the brand has nothing to do with the pressing of lips. In those less liberal first days of the 20th century, nothing as racy as a man and woman actually kissing could be considered, and so the advertising and packaging featured women playing with kittens, or two kittens playing.

global-finland-kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss-postimerkkiThese soft, cuddly, cute, caramel kittens established themselves as the core brand icon and became extremely well known, so much so that in 1991 the little “Karamellikääreen” (caramel wrapper) cats appeared on a stamp celebrating the centennial of Finland’s confectionery industry, and no doubt on countless love letters.

What was Dali’s biggest contribution to popular culture?

What was Dali’s biggest contribution to popular culture?


Famous for his surrealism, La Persistencia de la Memoria (The Persistence of Memory), melting clocks and his trademark moustache, Salvador Dali also made a major contribution to confectionary branding.

He was the designer who created the iconic daisy-shaped logo for the best-selling Chupa Chups lollipops.

enricbernatChupa Chups were the idea of Enric Bernat, an entrepreneur from Catalan, who, on hearing an irate mother cursing her child for taking a sweet in and out of their mouth, “saw sweets didn’t suit their main consumers, children. They got their hands sticky and ran into trouble with their parents. So I stuck a sweet on a stick.”
A simple but brilliant solution to an often messy problem.

Unfortunately, his first choice of name didn’t go down as well. He wanted to call his lollipop “GOL”, imagining the spherical sweet was a bit like a football, and the child’s open mouth was a bit like a football net.
Realising his mistake he approached an advertising agency to come up with an alternative. They suggested ‘Chups’ a friendly variation on the Spanish verb “chupar”, meaning “to suck.”
However when the agency went on to create the first ads, they were to inspire a further change. The slogan was “Suck [a] Chups” or in Spanish “chupa Chups”, and as it became more famous, people started to use it as the brand name.

The company followed suit.

Fast forward to 1969, and while the brand is doing reasonably well, Bernat still feels more could be done with the branding and especially the design. He mentions this to a friend over coffee one day – that friend happens to be none other than Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech or more commonly Salvador Dalí.



cc-logoAccording to some sources, the painter went to work immediately, working on newspapers lying around in the café. Others don’t mention how and when he started working but all seem to agree that it took him only about an hour to come up with the daisy shape containing the wordmark. He also strongly recommended that, rather than follow conventional wisdom and have the logo on the side of the product, his new design should be placed on top of the lolly, so that it could always be viewed in its entirety.

And why did Dali take on the project?

That again is a matter of some debate, friendship or finances. Given that surrealist poet, André Breton, nicknamed the artist “Avida Dollars”—an anagram of Dalí’s name meaning “eager for dollars” it may have been the latter.

Whatever the reason, Dali’s work was extremely valuable as the identity he created has remained broadly the same since its introduction and has helped deliver over 4 billion sales!


Dali’s other contributions to the world of marketing included a humorous television advertisement for Lanvin chocolates. Filmed in 1968, he is seen biting into a piece of chocolate and exclaiming “Je suis fou du chocolat Lanvin!” (“I’m crazy about Lanvin chocolate!”). The chocolate turns him cross-eyed and his moustache swivels upwards.
In 1969, he helped to design the advertising campaign for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest and created a large on-stage metal sculpture that stood at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

Cauliflowers for tourists – a fair exchange?

Cauliflowers for tourists – a fair exchange?


They say fair exchange is no robbery, and trading tons of cauliflowers for thousands of tourists seems to be a perfect example of the idiom. It was an exchange inspired by a visionary Breton, Alexis Gourvennec.

Gourvennec was a Breton pig farmer who became an economic and social leader and would play a major role in the regeneration of Brittany after World War II.

He led a group of Bretons who pressed for five key demands on the French administration in the late 1960s. These included establishing a modern road network between the region and Paris and the construction of a deep-water port at Roscoff

In October 1968, the French government agreed to these demands.Gourvennec

However Gourvennec wasn’t finished and when Britain announced that it was to join the (then) E.E.C. he saw the opportunity to open up a whole new export market for local cauliflowers, artichokes and other produce. Recognising that the quickest route to this new market would be across the western Channel to Plymouth, he contacted several large shipping companies to see if they would be interested in operating the route only to be met with general scepticism.

He and his group of Breton farmers didn’t give up on their dream and decided, if the established companies wouldn’t establish a service, they would launch their own. They founded what was originally called Armement Bretagne-Angleterre-Irelande, or B.A.I. for short and bought their own freighter, renaming it ‘Kerisnel’, after a small Breton village famous for its cauliflowers.

KerisnelThe facilities were pretty basic on board with two portable cabins lashed to the deck, one with bunkbeds for the drivers and a kitchen to provide meals in the other one.

On New Year’s Day in 1973, the day of the UK’s official entry into the Common Market, 3000 locals with French, British and Breton flags flying and a choir singing carols saw ‘Kerisnel’ off on its 8 hour journey to Plymouth.

One of the drivers on that original crossing was Tim Deesdale who, forty years later, recalled that, “the actual crossing was rough, [however] the crew were very pleasant. It was all very exciting. The food was actually quite good. I honestly believe that sometimes the chef would be dangling string over the side with a hook on it. We had fresh fish – he was catching it!”

That first year Brittany Ferries carried 6000 lorries but had to quickly adapt to an unexpected demand for passenger crossings – the British “export”.12145_galleryticker_full

In 1974, Kerisnel was replaced by Penn-Ar-Bed, which was made to carry both passengers and vehicles. The ongoing success and growing demand for the Plymouth-Roscoff service encouraged the company to order a larger ship, the Cornouailles. It entered service in 1977.

New routes were added and nowadays Brittany ferries represents a major transport network linking 10 ports in the UK, France, Spain and Ireland carrying nearly 2.5 million passengers, 800,000 cars and 195,000 trucks each year, some of which undoubtedly still carry cauliflowers.

And the moral is, when it comes to building brands, if you can see what others can’t then you don’t have to rely on partners, do it yourself.

Footnote: There is still a strong commitment to providing great food and outstanding service, though the chefs no longer go fishing during the crossings.

The brand named after a tattoo

The brand named after a tattoo


The sources of inspiration for a brand name are many and varied. The most obvious is to use the founders’ name and examples include Woolworths, Kellogg and Birds Eye. A slight variation is to use the name of the founders’ son or daughter, as is the case with Mercedes.

Other brands are also based on names of people, but fictional ones like Betty Crocker, Mr. Kipling and Ann Summers

Many names are description of the product or a product feature – Cadbury’s Crunchie is crunchy and British Airways is an airline brand from Britain.

Some names are more associative. The marque’s original founder, Sir William Lyons, chose jaguar because it evoked grace, speed, power and beauty.

However, until recently I had never heard of a brand named after a tattoo.

The founder of the brand was Henry Chidley Reynolds. He was born on 26th May 1849 in Cornwall, but emigrated to New Zealand in 1868.  The story of his brand however really starts in 1880s and while I could tell it, during my research I came across a wonderful rendition of the tale from the 1936 ‘The NZ Co-Operative Dairy Co Ltd Jubilee Souvenir booklet – The Empire’s Dairy Farm’

It begins…

“Times were hard in 1880s. Beef, mutton and dairy produce all alike were difficult to dispose of at anything like remunerative prices. But there came to farm near Hamilton a Mr [David] Gemmell from California and he started making butter as carried out   in the United States on a somewhat improved system from that of the ordinary farmer.

Henry reynoldsOne day he invited Mr Henry Reynolds to take a pound of his butter and keep it in his cupboard for two months and at the end of that time he said it would be found ‘perfectly sweet and good’.

Mr Reynolds did so.

The boast was proved correct.

’Shortly afterwards,’ stated Mr Reynolds, “Mr Gemmell told me he had decided to sell his farm and return to Los Angeles. It struck me that if butter of such quality could be turned out on a large scale and exported, there should be something in it.

This resulted in my asking Mr Gemmell if, after selling his farm, he would remain in the country for six months at a moderate remuneration and show us how to turn the article out on the factory system. To this he agreed and I erected [the] small factory at Pukekura and this was the commencement of making butter on the factory system in the Waikato.”

The story continues…

“Henry Reynolds was up betimes on November 3, 1886. After an early meal and with the blessing of his wife who, valiant pioneer that she was, helped him so much in those days, he hastened from his home to the simple little factory erected a mile or so away. There he busied himself in preparation for the arrival of his neighbouring farmers with their morning’s milk.

For this was the day when butter was to be made for the first time in New Zealand on the factory system.

waitakoWith typical Cornish thoroughness … he had already had a trial run on the separator the previous evening with milk sledged from his father’s farm by a lad named Hicks. The trial had been satisfactory so Mr Reynolds waited with equanimity for the dawn of the factory era.

Whatever his thoughts, and great as was his belief in dairying we can be sure of this: that neither he nor those with him that day foresaw the change – the miracle – that half a century would bring through the activity he was then to start by churning, in that little one-floored factory at Pukekura, the first small total of less than 100lbs of butter.”

The brand and its name, if you haven’t already guessed it, is ‘Anchor’, and the reason for its choice; “When considering a name for his butter Henry Reynolds noticed that one of his employees had an anchor tattooed on his arm and said, we will call our butter ‘Anchor’.”

early anchorIt was a name that must have seemed an unusual and even incongruous choice at first, but was to become more and more appropriate as the brand was increasingly shipped around the world, firstly to Australia, then China and Hong Kong before finally making its way to the UK in the early 1890s.

By 1894, Reynolds and Company owned a number of butter factories and creameries in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, producing a total of 300 tons of Anchor butter a year.

Nowadays Anchor is still one of the top global brands with a wide range of dairy products sold in 70 countries.