29 October 2010

Have you allowed raisinets in your brand's portfolio?

I hate raisinets. You should, too.

This post isn’t really about Raisinets-with-a-capital-R, the candy. It’s about products that distract from the portfolio management of your brand.

What’s a raisinet?

I had a senior client who praised one of his top managers for “eliminating all the raisinets that consumed his time and attention.” The raisinets were newer SKUs, launched in the preceding couple of years to much fanfare and advertising investment, ultimately contributing only a small percentage of the brand’s total sales.

Everyone has tried a raisinet

We’ve all launched, inherited, managed or seen a raisinet. They are products somewhere beyond a line extension, restage or flanker, but not quite a new innovation. Numerous brands have launched SKUs that were consistent with brand equity but were virtually the same thing offered to the consumer by an existing product in the portfolio. Some are way overboard, like P&G’s Febreze Scent Stories, the hybrid CD player and home fragancer. Some stories have happier endings; Nabisco wisely turned down amaretto-flavored Oreos. You can acquire raisinets, as Crocs did when they bought high-end fashion footwear lines.

Don’t open a box of raisinets

In fairness many of the raisinets in your job are much harder to identify. They always seem like a good idea at the time. Large retailers get excited about new products that could drive store traffic. Management likes the sales volume the new item could bring. Marketing wants to launch something and it’s gonna be HUGE!!!

Raisinets go stale quickly

Sometimes they are huge right when they launch, but they go stale quickly because they aren’t very strategic. The retailer, the boss and the marketer all move on to something else. I’m watching one of these situations right now. A company invested in the launch of a product, then ignored it this year, and sales are declining every week.

Portfolio management

Good stewards of a brand’s portfolio don’t fall for the raisinets, and if they do, act quickly to eliminate them. I’m not referring to streamlining for the sake of efficiency. Portfolio management means knowing your consumer, identifying the segments as she sees them, and picking the products that most contribute to sales, share and brand equity.

Some call it marketing

These sound like basic principles any marketer can endorse, but in reality they take disciplined analysis and focused effort. If you make this effort, you will develop a firm sense of priorities nearly impervious to raisinets.

13 October 2010

Gigantic Venn Diagram and the Rube Goldberg Machine

This past week I had lunch with a client for whom we are handling a multi-channel project including advertising, digital and retail, plus a collaboration with their public relations agency. We talked about the complexity of projects that juggle many strategies and much execution.

Gigantic Venn Diagram

We’ve mentioned the Gigantic Venn Diagram before (here, here and here) so it’s worth defining the term.

The Gigantic Venn Diagram is the complete range of channels available to marketers today. Every conceivable broadcast medium, digital application, retail program, PR initiative – it’s impossible to even list everything because new channels emerge every week.

Moreover, the Gigantic Venn Diagram is dynamic. Not only are new channels emerging, they are converging and moving in relationship to one another. Like any Venn diagram, the circles overlap, but in different combinations each time.

The overlap, in fact, is different from brand to brand, from project to project, depending on the strategy demanded by the business objective. You should never have the same diagram twice.

Making sense of the Gigantic Venn Diagram is the key challenge of any marketer today. It’s also known as channel planning, or in some places “comms planning”. You must have a well-defined business objective, a clear consumer insight, and a channel-neutral mindset.

Rube Goldberg Machine

Let’s say you’ve succeeded at writing a modern channel plan. Your Gigantic Venn Diagram will be the blueprint for a Rube Goldberg Machine. If you didn’t know, Rube Goldberg was an inventor who built contraptions of impossible complexity. Real-life examples include a popular Honda commercial and the children’s game “Mouse Trap”. My real-life examples are marketing programs that attempt to drive awareness, entice with sampling, engage online, and a host of other things that will sell more products.

All Rube Goldberg machines are tricky. Making the parts work together is a complex task of turning many strategies into much execution. It’s hard to draw Gigantic Venn Diagrams and build Rube Goldberg Machines, and not many teams succeed at both. The most spectacular failure in recent memory was the short-lived Enfatico, a one-stop agency consisting of different WPP resources created especially for Dell. A new example is Travelocity hiring the Publicis combo of Razorfish, Zenith and Leo Burnett. Also new and intriguing is Ruth, the new integrated services boutique of PR giant Edelman.

Can One Agency Really Do It All?

We addressed this question in a recent post (“Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?”) and also started a few LinkedIn and Twitter discussions to gain wider input. There seemed to be two camps: optimists and pessimists. Count me among the optimists, mainly because I’ve seen the magic of channel-neutral planning.

Still, it depends on what you mean by “all”. If we mean one agency handles channel planning or comms planning, yes, there are several agencies that can do that. If we mean one agency draws the Gigantic Venn Diagram and builds the Rube Goldberg Machine – well, then the field narrows considerably.