Author Archives: Alex Woodruff


Losing its fascination

So … not new

This year’s thumbs-down for a trend that perplexes me goes to the slogan writers.

Losing its fascination

Losing its fascination

Some time ago another Brit pointed out to me that if you’re stuck and uninspired and can’t think of a catchy slogan in German, the simplest solution is to take the product or benefit and slap “Faszination” in front of it. Cars: Faszination Auto. Pets: Faszination Hund. Walking: Faszination Freiheit. Fascination flipping anything! The sad thing is, this cheap and quick fix still hasn’t disappeared. You frequently see it in brochures or supermarket flyers. Not got much space left on the page to pull customers to the meat counter? Easy, write Faszination Salami (yes, I’m being facetious).

Now I fear a new trend is emerging, and this has all the potential to replace fascination. This one is “So…”

German “So” at the beginning of a sentence means something like “Thus” or “That’s the way”. For example, “So trink ich mein Bier” means “That’s how I drink my beer”. So… let’s look at the three slogans that jumped out at me this year, which are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Source: meinprospekt.de screenshot

Source: meinprospekt.de screenshot

The first is for Saturn, who featured on this blog only back in August. Their slogan is “So muss Technik”. I can only translate this as something like “That’s how technology should be”. I’ve kind of got used to this slogan, it gets pushed a lot on TV and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it on the radio too. But then I realised the same trick has already been used by a bank for some time.

“So geht Bank heute” is the slogan of Targo Bank. It looks like they’re telling us “This is how banking goes these days”. Er, how? What “so” do they mean? Dunno. Just like the “so” in Saturn’s “So geht Technik”, it’s up to us how we interpret it.

I’ll admit this banking slogan has been around for a couple of years. The reason I first noticed it? If you weren’t listening properly to the first TV ad, the voiceover made it sound like “So geht bankrott” (that’s how bankrupt goes). This was not long after the financial crisis and everytime I heard the slogan I honestly just thought about bankrupt Targo Bank.

YouTube screenshot

YouTube screenshot

But Targo is sticking to its guns. Thankfully the elocution of their voiceover is better now, too. So let me turn to the third high-profile brand that is now using the so… slogan. This time it’s “So geht Genuss” (“That’s what indulgence is like”). It’s being used by Kinder (of the egg fame) for their Pinguin bar in Germany. Basically, they’re telling us it’s yummy.

So that’s it then, cheap slogan trick of the year, 2015. Let’s apply it now to some markets. Grab a key benefit (hopefully you know this from market research), a USP, or a something nice and generic:

  • A holiday. : “So geht Entspannung”.
  • How about a car? “So fährt man”.
  • Shoes: “So läuft man heute”.
  • Smartphones and the internet: “So geht modernes Leben”.
  • Advertising? “So wirkt man langsam langweilig…”

  • Outta this world

    Egg-laying woolly dairy pig

    The Germans have an expression for something that tries to do everything, ‘eierlegende Wollmilchsau’, which I have loosely translated in the title of this post. Many brands fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a kind of ‘throw in the kitchen sink and toilet as well’ philosophy to make sure every possible benefit is covered off. If you miss out a benefit, a competitor might come along and steal the show, so try to occupy the middle ground on everything.

    Doing this this this this this this this this this and this. Source: website screenshot

    Doing this this this this this this this this this and this. Source: website screenshot

    I’m used to seeing this approach with mainstream supermarket products like dishwasher tablets. Take Somat, the German brand from Henkel. They have long tick lists on their packs underscoring the many things they can do. I knew they’d hit the magic number of 7 already (some marketing people believe you can’t get more than 7 messages to stick with customers – if that!), but having checked, I now find they’ve been up at 10 benefits for a while. Where will they stop? How many benefits can you cram into one product? Do you eventually have to step back and focus again on your proper USP? Or do you have no single benefit that comes before the others?

    Outta this world

    Outta this world

    On a summer visit to Munich I noticed a sign (pictured on the right) above a market stall publicising demeter, a brand that is well known to organic food lovers. And what do I find?

    Now things aren’t just organic (German ‘bio), not even cosmodynamic (this is an anthroposophical approach I wasn’t aware of, based on Steiner principles), but now we have the Demeter brand linked to ‘cosmobiodynamic’ claims. What is this? Judging by the symbol of the human being floating under a Christian cross, hovering over the world, with four wings left and right: this food is spiritually spacey, religiously adjusted, organic and dynamically humane. What next?

    Let me have a stab: food only grown within walking distance of the store, zero emissions, doing away with fuel-burning transport. I’ll call it microloco-zero-em-cosmobiodynamic.

    What’s the message of this blog post, or the lesson we can all learn from these examples? If you have a brand or product, ask yourself a simple question: how would you explain the key benefit(s) in a simple sentence – or even a couple of adjectives – to someone like your grandmother? If you can nail it in a short and succinct set of words, you have clear benefits. And don’t try to do too many things at the same time.


    Driving bathroom business?

    Cars and shampoo

    How to grab a prime on-shelf position in one of Germany’s leading drugstores. First, find someone to produce generic toiletry items for kids, maybe an own label producer for supermarkets or a foreign factory looking for some ideas to use up production capacity. Second, find a kids’ brand that’s well-known and will look just right on Continue reading


    With or without him? Get with it.

    Dreaming of different things

    With or without him? Get with it.

    With or without him? Get with it.

    During my summer holidays this year I met a number of interesting campaigns again and this first one on the right didn’t fall into the ‘good’ category. We have two young grown-ups sharing a fantasy, as young adults do. So what is the object of their imagination? You’ll be disappointed when you find out. Salami sticks (full ad here.)

    Maybe I’ll never understand some markets. Their clothes are trendy, he has the right beard to be ‘in’ at the moment. The background is appalling, the imagery reflects nothing of the pure Black Forest ingredients. But we get a clear message: share this with a loved one, or be selfish and enjoy it by yourself.

    I discovered this next ad purely by chance in a Bavarian backwater, while searching for a men’s toilet, at the back of an obscure petrol station, in a backroom where they sold beer. Ok, a well placed ad near the beer brands, but so difficult to see that it was easy to miss. I did spot it though and was impressed by it in a strange way.

    Unique – but lost

    Unique – but lost

    They’ve done what all marketing specialists should do: find a USP. This is a very small practically unknown brand on the German beer market (I’ve not met anyone who knows it yet), but somebody at the company worked out they have something special to talk about. Shame it gets lost and will sadly be forgotten one day, but good thinking.

    (In case you’re not fluent in German, their USP is that they are the only brewery in Bavaria that – like in the good old days – makes all its ingredients itself)


    Not hot

    Not hot

    Each generation finds new ways to say something is amazing – far out, cool, phat, hot or these days among young people awesome. Everything in the US and now in the UK seems to be: awesome (best pronounced with a slight nasal twang and a long awwwwwwwesome). In Germany everything seems to be geil. Geil actually means Continue reading


    Way of confusing people

    Way off the mark

    Way off the mark

    Getting increasingly irritated by the Suzuki slogan ‘Way of Life’, I decided to look into what could surely only be some German translation or misguided attempt to sound cool. When I did, I was amazed to discover that this terrible slogan is actually not a mishap from an agency here in Germany, but their international slogan.

    What do they mean ‘Way of Life’? I thought at first some German managers had decided to do a play on words to imply the car and motorbike brand is A way of life, a life style, something like that, and at the same time a ‘way’ as in a road or the way your vehicle drives.

    Wrong, I’ll admit I jumped to conclusions, probably because I’ve worked with so many agencies in Germany that try to sound English but get it wrong.

    Way of Life doesn’t work for me, so maybe a non-native speakers gets it? We don’t say ‘way of life’, we talk about ‘A way of life’, or even use constructions with ‘living’. Oh dear.


    Not for split personalities

    WO72 winners

    ‘You’ll never eat alone’ was the tagline used by the winners of the latest case study. They took on Pringles and came out conquerors, beating the other three groups with a concept that married the idea of sharing crisps in 2-in-1 split(ting) packs with a sideways jab at Pringles: “Pringles is for singles” was the just one of the many statements that clinched it for me.

    So we had benefits that were emotional and functional, with a range of catchy ideas from ‘click and share’ to personalized packs, a logo that plays to the hairy-face trend of the young target group and a name that merges ‘chips’ (American English for ‘crisps’ – I chose to ignore my personal agendas) with ‘hipster’. Nice!


    An app parents approve of?

    Helping screenagers

    An app parents approve of?

    An app parents approve of?

    A golden rule in marketing is KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. In some markets, especially B2B, this can be difficult as a number of decision-makers may be involved. In consumer markets it’s usually easier, but not necessarily obvious…

    One thing parents struggle with is which products the children may decide to buy, which ones to buy together, or which ones to buy on behalf of the children. Often this depends on who is providing the money, but as kids get more affluent, parents gradually lose control.

    I’m having problems getting my mind round this recent app idea from Lidl. It’s a duvet cover with QR codes on it. The ad suggests it’s “the good-night app”. Who for?

    Please Lidl, are you seriously suggesting parents will get their already addicted netgen digital native children a product that will keep them plugged to the screen even when they are supposed to be sleeping?!


    Source: company website screenshot

    An e-problem in e-commerce

    A company slogan should say everything it can about the positioning of the brand, ideally even something about the USP. What makes you different? What quick yet memorable statement would you like to make in a catchy way that summarises what you stand for, who you are, or why to buy you?

    Source: company website screenshot

    Source: company website screenshot

    So when the time to go online came for Baur, the traditional German catalogue company (part of the Otto group since 1997), the marketing department and advertising agency are likely to have got all excited about this opportunity to get across a strong message to a wider and more modern audience…

    Sadly, however, something else became more important. They will have soon realised that the name Baur, which is pronounced exactly the same way as the common German name (and brand) Bauer, is a problem on the internet. People will search for ‘Bauer’.

    So what’s Baur’s slogan? It’s been on the radio a lot in Germany, repeatedly, repetitively telling us

    Baur schreibt man ohne E

    Baur is written without an E. What a shame that this statement, so bereft of imagery, so uninspiring, has to be the big thing that gets plugged so heavily. It’s the last thing people hear before the next ad. But it’s memorable.

    The solution? Maybe next time put more money into other media so people can SEE your name? Have they not worked out that this problem may be self-caused? By choosing a non-visual medium for their campaign – the radio – they’re using valuable advertising budgets to highlight a problem rather than actively promote something positive about the brand. Sure, I remember now that you’re Baur not Bauer, but that’s all I remember.


    Swiss time to go first

    Green Coke

    Swiss time to go first

    Swiss time to go first

    Well it’s been around for a while in some countries (all right, months), so I was wondering when it would hit the shelves in Germany. But despite articles in trade magazines and speculation about the advent of Coke Life here, nothing doing. Not seen nuffin. Until it popped up in Switzerland. Continue reading


    Listerine-replacement.png

    WO71 winners

    The case study this time involved attacking Listerine with a new product concept. The winners’ concept was called Dent 4’s, pronounced like ‘dentforce’ with German phonetics.

    Taking on all competitors

    Taking on all competitors

    The idea was to remove the toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash from the bathroom cabinet and replace these with a single 4-in-1 solution. Available as tablets, Dent 4’s were not just designed to be useful as a space saver, they offer convenience as you no longer have to go through four separate dental hygiene regimes – or so the concept. The study group didn’t make a video, but if they had, the memorable and campaignable ‘advertising property’, or unique advertising proposition (UAP), was all the competitors’ products being swept to one side with an almighty crash to make way for Dent 4’s.

    The challenge with these tablets probably lies in the fact that they went beyond the original target competitor Listerene to take an aggressive strategic swipe at three other market segments. So I can imagine this could start a spat on an almighty scale as each product segment fights back from every angle, but that is the danger when you target the middle position of a market. Indeed in terms of key customers, it was also targeted at young and old consumers in the bathroom – the whole family!

    Congratulations to Group C for their concept, which interestingly was the only case study idea NOT to target people very similar (in actual or desired lifestyle) to the students.