24 January 2015

Wanted: Entire profession seeks incontinence strategist

I saw this ad on employment website Seek this morning, under the job title "Content Strategist". I think they'd do better hiring an "Incontinence Strategist", because this is among the worst examples of uncontrolled business-related verbal diarrhoea I've seen.

The writing is absolutely awful, using nothing but weasel words, obscuring meaning and using terminology in ways it shouldn't be used. Not to mention the grammatical errors.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing for me is that I have worked with clients who think it's acceptable - in fact, preferable and laudable - to talk and write in exactly this way. Seriously, is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks marketers are complete wankers when they produce crap like this?

As I've noted here before, I also have serious objections to the use of the words "content" and "strategy" in the same department / document / context, let alone the same sentence or job title. Content is not, and can never be, strategy; no-one ever says "Our strategy is to create content." However you define it (and I've seen some ridiculous definitions over the last few years), content is always a response to strategy. Content is tactical, planned and created to communicate and support a chosen strategic positioning.

If recruitment consultants wrote an ad like this for my company, I would sack them straight away. But then I very much doubt I'd ever have chosen a recruiter who writes ads like this.

Worse still, if a Head of Marketing wrote or approved a position description like this for a role in my organisation, I'd sack him or her too. Then again, I wouldn't have employed a Head of Marketing who writes - or thinks - this way in the first place.

23 January 2015

Why Nespresso's marketing leaves a bad taste

I confess. I have a Nespresso machine and I quite like the coffee it makes. But I'm no fan of the Nespresso marketing system, especially in Australia, and I think Nestlé has got it very wrong. Let me explain...

I like to drink decent coffee, but for a long time I lived in a house where I was the only coffee drinker. I've had variable and mostly poor experiences over the years with several home-type loose grind espresso machines; too much or too little coffee, packed too tight or too loose, portafilter leaking, etc. I tried most of the alternatives - drip filters, French presses and moka pots - but found them time-consuming and messy.

So I was an early and eager adopter of the domestic Nespresso machine, having seen and used the hospitality and catering version of Nespresso in hotels and conference centres for some time. But, given the reality of the product and developments in the market, the sheer pomposity and irrelevance of Nespresso's advertising, merchandising and retailing is astounding.

In the home or small office, the main benefit coffee capsule users are seeking is a reasonable cup of coffee, quickly, easily with minimal mess at an acceptable cost, so Nespresso's key competitors are:

  • home espresso machines which produce higher quality coffee (using fresher coffee) as long as the consumer can drive the machine optimally, but are messier and less convenient, requiring more maintenance and clean-up
  • mid-range outsourced take-away coffee, which is costlier, less convenient and time-consuming, but probably of similar quality
  • plunger or filter coffee, which is messier, more preparation and clean-up time, not very practical or cost-effective for single serves
  • "premium" instant coffee (a contradiction in terms).

Yet, instead of focusing its positioning and promotion on cost and convenience, Nestlé continues to go on about its "grand crus" and coffee accessories ("Les Collections") and offers a far-too-complex product matrix (see the picture below), with frequently cringeworthy descriptions: Its powerful personality reveals intense roasted notes together with hints of bitter cocoa powder and toasted cereals that express themselves in a silky and velvety texture.

Of course, this is patently ridiculous. No matter how remarkable or distinctive the coffee is when picked and roasted, Nestlé then grinds the beans in industrial quantities in Switzerland and packs it on a huge production line into pods that spend months and perhaps even years in storage, shipping, distribution and retail before the consumer finally places them in a machine to use them. And Nestlé, world famous for its Nescafé instant coffee, simply does not have premium coffee brand credentials. 

If I want a great single-origin coffee that comes with tasting notes, I'll head to one of Melbourne's many superior coffee houses and roasters like Proud Mary, Seven Seeds, St Ali, 65 Degrees, etc... At any one of these, I know the proprietor/roaster/barista has a strong personal interest in how the coffee is sourced, roasted, ground and extracted to achieve a specific result and customer experience.

By spouting nonsense and failing to focus on the real benefits consumers are seeking, Nespresso is leaving itself increasingly vulnerable to direct competition. The people behind alternative coffee pod system Caffitaly clearly recognise most potential Nespresso users aren't interested in the wankery of customer clubs and membership cards, Alessi accessories and George Clooney on the Mediterranean. In Australia, official Caffitaly capsules are available from the very middle-of-the-road, mass market brands MAP Coffee, Woolworths and Gloria Jeans.

Even those like me with Nespresso machines are flocking to Nespresso-compatible offers from quality mass-market coffee brands like Piazza D'Oro and Vittoria. Moreover, their coffee is locally roasted and they keep their ranges relatively simple.

So, Nestlé, it's time to cut the crap. They're just coffee pods. Concentrate on what makes your system superior. And sorry George, but that doesn't mean you.

21 January 2015

Pulled pork jumps the shark

Did you know you can now get a pulled pork burger at The Coffee Club at Fountain Gate? That's a chain coffee shop in a shopping mall on Melbourne's outer southeastern suburban fringe, notorious for being the stomping ground of TV uber-bogans Kath and Kim (albeit slightly disguised as "Fountain Lakes"). I wonder if they're sourcing the pork from Kel Knight, purveyor of fine meats?

Anyway, I think we can say the whole hip-inner-city-diner-pulled-meat thing has definitely jumped the shark, don't you?

20 January 2015

New chapter in a Mitey strange tale of trade marks

Social media has been buzzing today with the news that Pizza Hut is launching a "Vegemite and cheese" stuffed-crust pizza variety especially for Australia Day.

I know what you're thinking: "What a great and fitting tribute to our national day." As if our hearts weren't already swollen to bursting with national pride from the absolutely awful Richie Benaud lamb barbecue ad for Meat and Livestock Australia.

Anyway, putting aside my cynicism, it's interesting to note that the online ad for this Pizza Hut taste sensation doesn't actually use the word Vegemite or any Vegemite trade marks. Rather, it's called "MITEY Stuffed Crust" and refers only to "Australia's favourite spread".

Those who are paying attention may recall that there was talk of a potential trade mark dispute when a panicked Kraft re-launched its bizarrely named and disastrous iSnack 2.0 as "Cheesybite" in 2009. Coincidentally, it was Pizza Hut who already owned a trade mark for "Cheesy Bites".

It's not clear what, if any, discussions, correspondence or agreements were entered into between Kraft and Pizza Hut at the time, but today's launch of MITEY Stuffed Crust does make me wonder why there's no explicit reference to Vegemite.

19 January 2015

This brand name left me unmoved

I saw a moving van over the weekend bearing the name ACCURATE REMOVALSIt seemed like an odd sort of brand name, and it prompted me to wonder what happens when you use a less accurate removal company. So here are the Top 5 things that came to my mind...

  • Your furniture is beautifully packed and handled, but delivered to the wrong address.
  • On average, 17.3% of items miss the front door entirely and end up in the garden due to inaccuracy.
  • "Melbourne, Australia? Oh wow, we shipped your stuff to Melbourne, Florida!"
  • "Your refrigerator must have expanded in the heat, because we measured this doorway and it was definitely three-and-a-bit handspans."
  • "Sorry your stuff's all wet. We misjudged the height of that railway bridge by - I dunno - 20 or 30 centimetres and tore the top off the truck."
Realistically, is being an accurate removalist a serious basis for differentiation?

16 January 2015

It's time to re-think and re-brand our "national day"

It's mid-January, the lamb barbecue ads are back on TV and the stores are filling with tacky green-and-gold merchandise once again. But from a brand authenticity perspective, celebrating something called "Australia Day" on the 26th of January is ever more irrelevant and insulting with each passing year.

That date marks the proclamation in 1788 of a British penal settlement on Port Jackson in the area known as New South Wales... and the dispossession of its indigenous owners. Australia was NOT "established in 1788" as the T-shirts assert. In fact, the name "Australia" wasn't even officially adopted for the continent until it was suggested by explorer Matthew Flinders and approved by the British Admiralty in 1824. And the nation we know as "Australia" didn't come into being until Federation on 1 January 1901, when it also gained independence from Britain after decades of political lobbying by early national statesmen like Henry Parkes and Alfred Deakin.

The bottom line is that the 26th of January is completely unrelated to the history of our modern nation - it commemorates only cruelty, injustice, colonialism and dispossession. It has nothing to do with nationhood.

It should be consigned to history, along with rum rations and the lash.

06 January 2015

Bad copywriting. Kills credibility by up to 99.9%

I've written here before about how incongruous it is that therapeutic product claims directed at trained health professionals are subject to a rigorous code endorsed by the ACCC while general consumers - who are much less equipped and able to evaluate such claims - are not afforded the same degree of protection.

Here's an example of a therapeutic claim - on a bottle of Colgate Plax mouthwash - that not only goes unexplained and unreferenced, but is also written in such a way as to render it nonsensical.

Just take a moment to consider that top line: KILLS GERMS by up to 99.9%. What does that actually mean?

Usually, if I see the phrase "Kills germs by...", I expect the rest of the sentence to be about the mechanism of action, for example "Kills germs by inhibiting enzymes involved in protein biosynthesis" or "Kills germs by disrupting cell membrane structure".

Alternatively, it could be read as claiming that each individual germ is rendered "up to 99.9%" killed. So germs are left at death's door, but not completely dispatched.

OK, so I think we know what they were trying to say - presumably Kills up to 99.9% of germs - but that's an inherently dodgy claim from which Colgate could easily walk away: "Hey, we only said 'up to 99.9% of germs', so if even 10% or 20% of germs survive, we're still OK".

Hey, Colgate... if you're going to make a health claim, for Pete's sake find someone who knows how to write one.