Author Archives: Alex Woodruff


Simple packs

Not a bit of better butter

Not a bit of better butter

Nothing like calling a spade a spade (ie, just saying what something is). And this is not the first time I’ve written about a company doing something like this. My problem with this one, however, is the strategy. It seems the Muh brand belongs to Arla, a rapidly growing Danish conglomerate that has been expanding a lot through mergers and acquisitions. So if this sub-brand is selling Gute Butter (good butter), what comes next, good milk, good cheese, good whatever…? And if it doesn’t grow into parallel product categories within the same sector, will it extend the butter line instead? So can we expect to see Durchschnittliche Butter (mediocre butter) or Super Butter?

I guess the company is still working that one out (Muh only joined Arla after board approval in 2012). My guess is, they’re just using it as a commodity brand to occupy the lower price segment – a common strategy in segments that are about habitual buying and need to be nothing more than a ‘good product for a good price’.


Time-warp marketing

Cool summer

Not my cuppa tea

My prize for the most exaggerated marketing trick of the year goes to two companies who are stretching consumers’ patience and stretching the time continuum. Every year, companies put Christmas items on sale earlier and earlier. This year was the furthest I’ve seen anyone pull Christmas forward. I found this example of winter fruit teas in a German supermarket in AUGUST. I wish I was joking, but I’m not.

At the other end of the scale, I was still finding this summer yogurt (below) on the shelves in December. Summer variants in December? Do me a f(l)avour.

So why does this happen? The answer on one level is simple: because customers still buy the products out of season. It’s a proven fact (and the sales data confirms) that some people will cave in to temptation and nibble Christmas gingerbread in the autumn (or maybe now earlier). Similarly, what’s wrong with a bit of variety in the cold months rather than more winter flavours – when you can escape with the taste buds?

SummerYogThe other reason for this trend – which is incidentally not new, just being pushed to the extreme – is that shifting consumers to different seasons can flatten the peaks and troughs of seasonal sales. Why not make a bit of money before Christmas rather than cram all your sales into the most hectic four weeks of the year? And why not entice customers who are simply not turned on by yet more winter flavours and sell them some summer stuff?

Finally, there is a non-marketing motivation behind all this. The producers of Christmas products have major logistical problems coordinating intense manufacturing peaks, shoving stock into supermarkets and managing their warehouses. If they leave everything to the ‘real’ Christmas period, they would simply have too many items clogging up the factory and the logistics chain would crack under the strain. So supermarkets help producers and let them shift products early, almost like a downstream warehouse. At the same time they make some early Christmas sales – to a minority of customers, but an increasingly significant and willing minority.

I guess I’d better get used to summer Christmasses and yuletide summers.


India hits Germany via England

Will it pale into insignificance?

Will it pale into insignificance?

I sense I may have stumbled across an example of fridges being sold to eskimos. In the land that can practically be considered the cradle of beer brewing, they are starting to make and market pale ale beers and Indian pale ales (IPAs). From the brewery of Riedenburg near Regensburg to Schönbuch near Stuttgart, Germany is adopting a beer from, of all places, England. Though actually in some cases this is beer from England, made for the Indian market, reimported back to England, and now invading the very homeland of beer-making.

Why the English made IPA in the first place? Because the beer they started exporting to the war-makers in the colonies didn’t ship well. With added hops and a higher alcohol level, it not only survived the journey through the seven seas, it also sold better – at home and abroad.

I shall update you on whether this new trend gains a foothold in Germany. It’s a sweet, fruity and well rounded beer and maybe not a taste familiar to a Germany palate that prefers sharper Pils and rich Weizen, but let’s see.


A bizarre endorsement

A strange marketing case

A strange marketing case

Like testimonials, product endorsements are a powerful way to convince undecided customers that they can indeed move beyond attention, interest and desire in the AIDA process and get to action – ie, buy. To work, you normally choose an endorser with positive values, somebody of authority perhaps, an expert, someone with a emotional image that you trust.

When I saw this example of a product endorsement in Italy – for Samsonite, a particularly strong international brand in image terms – I couldn’t see the link to a bucket-shop, discount brand like Ryanair. Ryanair has been described by a consumer watchdog as “the worst offender” in the airline industry for its fee models and pricing tactics.

Is this a partnership Samsonite feels comfortable with?

Or was the association with an airline that is mega-strict with its cabin luggage rule more important?

I tell my students that marketing is a matching process. So what is the more important match for Samsonite with this one – the match relating to the functional benefit (of getting this case into lockers), or the match on the emotional image level?

I know which one would be more important if it were my decision…


A simple tease

A vineyard in Switzerland was the last place I expected to come across a QR code. I’ve been negative about their overuse in the past and the unrealistic expectations advertisers have regarding response rates, so, before most marketing execs give up on QRs forever, maybe it’s time for me to praise a good example.

The grapes on the vine were tempting … I was just thinking that it would be so interesting to know more about the wine that’s grown here, and then the code invited me to find out. Perfect timing, perfect positioning. And a good example of a call to action, the last part of AIDA.


Tourist attraction

Two examples from this summer, one from the Black Forest and one from the German speaking area of Switzerland, but both of classic tools used in advertising to grab attention or raise interest.

Source: Facebook M Sonneborn

Source: Facebook M Sonneborn

The first falls into the ‘sex sells’ category with an attempt to compare hills, crevasses and vegetation to, well, a woman’s body. Is this an attempt to make hiking more sexy? To pull in more young men to explore the countryside rather than drink Sangria in Mallorca? I find the link tenuous and unless I’m missing something, I can’t see how it would pull people in to discover more. It just grabs attention. But isn’t that all that sex in advertising does anyway?

It certainly got people talking though, the question is whether it also got more people to the Action part of AIDA and attracted more visitors to the Black Forest.

SharksThe second example also falls into the humour category with a shocking statement aimed at tourists hoping to enjoy a refreshing dip in the Swiss parts of the River Rhine: “No sharks in the Rhine”. The shark disclaimer works instantly and makes you more curious, before leading the eye to the real message about the dangers of bathing – important information that probably gets ignored every year on riverside signs. It certainly was along other rivers I visited this summer. But not with this campaign. Not only is it effective at grabbing interest and using humour to make you read more, it has a positive impact on the overall image of the Swiss. The campaign also features on the Swiss police website (from where the screenshot comes), with a statement that there are no sharks to worry about, but safety rules to think about.

Both campaigns have viral potential, but the shark idea is quite unique and instantly generates ‘Action’. .


A hole in the strategy

Don't I know you?

Don’t I know you from somewhere??

When I stumbled across this chocolate, I had to buy it. I know Aero well from the UK. But what, this says Trumpf on it?! How could this not be Nestle? It seems this German company got there first. They had the name already, they had a product in the chocolate sector (important, as when you register a brand you have to define which markets and product segments you want to reserve the name for).

I know which one I prefer

I know which one I prefer

This is a problem for Nestle if they want to expand their non-German Aero brand into this country. For the moment, it remains a B-league product with not the best distribution from what I can see. Also, in my opinion the taste, consistency and mouth-feel are TERRIBLE compared to the UK version.

I guess if Nestle does try to move into Germany, Trumpf could block them for trademark infringement. Unlike what happened with Löwenbräu here, where the market position of two brands was established many years ago in parallel.

Bad luck, not just for me then. And it looks like the big international has been out-trumped on this one.


WO70 winners

It’s not often we have two winners of the case study, but it’s also not often I show the target group the results of the work. After a small focus group of kids aged 5 to 8, we had two favourites. Qualitative feedback from customers is not statistically representative, so of course we can only assume a larger sample would have brought the same results. But the kids explained why they liked the concepts and justified their choices, so the winners are…

“I’m a …”. This was favoured by boys. They wanted the choc that played to the new global trend: nasty monsters that kids secretly like, vampires, almost the occult. There was a clever twist in the ad that also went down well: “NOT FOR…”. The reverse positioning works well with kids as you should never make it too obvious in kids’ ads that they are being talked at. They spot that a mile off.

The other winner was Choco Loops, particularly among girls. They seemed intrigued by these adults behaving like kids, the frustration of the mum trying to keep the pestering children happy, and the sensible commentator with his caring support. Schoko Loops was a strangely mature choice considering this was aimed at kids, and although the focus group complained about not being shown the product properly in the ad, this somehow made them more curious. So it looks like this was a teaser campaign (though I wouldn’t recommend NOT showing food in a food ad). Once shown the product shot (loops of chocolate around a stick, like a lolly with removable rings), this concept got more votes.

Go with me

Transporting the wrong message

Go with me

Go with me

I’m used to seeing companies putting their foot in it with a brand name that translates badly into another language or with a coincidental bad meaning (see posts on Doggy Style or Boring) but this is usually in an international context.

When I spotted this unfortunate example on a lorry last year, it immediately struck me as an example of a faux pas WITHIN Germany, a major one at that. Do the owners of this company not know what young people mean when they talk about a GV-Partner?! Let me give them a clue, it has Verkehr (transport) in it.


A good match with customers

Selective partner coupling

Selective coupling

The latest case study winners came up with an alternative for Unilever’s teenage fantasy deodorant Axe (Lynx in the UK). It’s difficult to say if they won because of the positioning versus ‘The Axe/Lynx effect’ or the packaging.

The positioning was already clever: while Axe/Lynx plays to a desperate dream of young men that using the product will make complete strangers and sexy babes do anything to get their hands on your body, this Match concept simply zoomed in on the right one. Why keep looking, when the right one is there now. Indeed this is a product your dream woman buys for you. From women for men.

This ‘you’ve found the right one’ brand promise was reflected by the packaging design. The M of match showed the two partners together. And to differentiate from Axe/Lynx with its distinctive black packs, Match is smooth Apple white. Minimal content. Modern. A good match with the concept and the target group.


Watching the Swabians

Years ago, RIM – who developed the Blackberry and changed the world of mobile phones and email – carried out observational research on its core users. By just watching what Blackberry junkies did, they worked out that it was more than just a nifty way to keep in touch while out and about.

This redefined the role played by Blackberry. Its benefits shifted from being a device for telephony and emails to become a ‘gap filler’. When a businessman was in a queue, he’d use the dead time to do emails. When waiting at the airport, he’d do emails. Blackberry was a time-efficiency tool and downtime eradication device, not a mere mobile.

An experience, not a snack

An experience, not a snack

In recent months I’ve observed Swabians and their pretzels (yes, this is what expats resort to after so many years in Germany). I’ve come to realise from my own informal research that pretzels the way the locals make them – smothered in salt – are not just a food. As people talk and stir their drink, they toy with the salt, pick bits off, make small piles out of excess salt, line it up, or nibble at it.

I’ve always hated this excess salt and worried about its effect on my health – there’s too much of it. But when I found myself picking away at it like many others here, I realised its role is not nutritional.

Salt is part of the ‘pretzel eating experience’. At least that’s my observation.