McDonald’s new unbranded campaigns are actually very distinctive

McDonald’s recently released a series of advertisements which are completely stripped of any branding, yet the brand is still instantly recognisable. The ads show a close up of the food but have no text, logo, or mention of McDonald’s.

Mc donalds

mc donalds

Mc Donalds

McDonald’s is known to focus on food in its advertisements which, over time, has built strong mental connections between the food and the brand. This means that it can be recognised by its food alone.

This is similar to what Nike has done with the iconic Swoosh. Nike consistently used the Swoosh in every piece of brand communications over a long period of time, making it strongly associated with the brand. Now Nike can be recognised by the swoosh alone.

The best way to build distinctive brand assets is to create something that is unique and use it in all communications for as long as possible. Over time it will become strongly associated with your brand and act as a mental cue in a purchase occasion.

It is however risky to leave other brand assets out of your communications because over time they may deteriorate in peoples memories.

To find out more read: Would you like fries with your branding?

2015 Super Bowl ad review: PART 2

As I wrote two weeks ago, unbranded ads are a waste of time and money. TSN just released the results from its analysis of the 2015 Super Bowl ad campaigns, which highlighted that the unbranded ads added no value to the brand.

The research found that Budweiser’s ‘Lost Puppy’ ad had a 26% share of ad mentions online, however, “it achieved a poor score on personal relevance, thus failing to translate into memory – and ultimately value – for the brand”. 

The article mentions that the product only features at the end of the ad and is barely noticeable.

Budweiser wasted their media budget and missed out on an opportunity to build brand salience.

Budweiser should have:

  1. Introduced the brand as soon as possible
  2. Included the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensured the brand was big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. Used a branded hashtag

IBM Watson API: Artificial intelligence as a Service

In the past supercomputing was only accessible to large corporations who could afford to fork out tens of millions of dollars to set them up. However, with the rapid advancement of technology, computing has become much more affordable and accessible. Nowadays you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to access some of the world’s most powerful computer systems. In fact IBM is offering some of their Watson services to developers for free during the beta period.

Watson is an artificially intelligent system designed by IBM to process information in a more natural and human like manner. Watson continues to get smarter by tracking user feedback.

IBM is now offering developers the ability to use Watson via their cloud platform, BlueMix.

The current Watson services IBM are offering for public use are:

  • Concept Expansion: Maps euphemisms or colloquial terms to more commonly understood phrases
  • Concept Insights: Explore the concepts behind the input, identifying associations
  • Language Identification: Identifies the language in which text is written
  • Machine Translation: Globalise on the fly. Translate text from one language to another
  • Message Resonance: Communicate with people with a style and words that suits them
  • Question and Answer: Direct responses to users inquiries fuelled by primary document sources
  • Relationship Extraction: Intelligently finds relationships between sentences components (nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, etc.)
  • Speech To Text: This service provides highly accurate, low latency speech recognition capabilities.
  • Tradeoff Analytics: Helps make better choices under multiple conflicting goals. Combines smart visualisation and recommendations for tradeoff exploration
  • User Modeling: Improved understanding of people’s preferences to help engage users on their own terms
  • Visual Recognition: Analyses the visual content of images and videos to understand their content without requiring a textual description

This is a big deal for businesses around the world because this access and these capabilities were previously only available to large corporations and researchers. This means anyone has access to the forefront of technology. Now developers can use these services to easily build applications that do very advanced things for minimal initial investment.

For example the Visual Recognition service could form the basis of a digital asset management system which could automatically tag and categorise uploaded images and videos. User feedback could be fed back into the system to progressively improve the quality of the tagging and categorisation.

The Message Resonance service could be used to help improve the effectiveness of EDM campaigns. You could input social media feeds of customers and then have it analyse a draft EDM to see if the word choice fits the audience.

By making it easy for developers to interface with Watson, they are providing the AI with a firehose of learning material. It is likely that the capability, accuracy, and raw power of this and similar services will grow ever more rapidly in the coming months and years.

The service is still in beta, and while the live demos are hit and miss, they provide a glimpse of what is possible.


Facebook’s new call-to-action button

Facebook has just released a new call-to-action button for company pages.

The call to action button sits on the right hand side of a page’s cover photo and will take users directly to your app or website.


The button can read either Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up or Watch Video. This means it will be beneficial to all types of businesses, for example a retailer could have a Shop Now button, a bank could have a Use App button, and a hotel could have a Book Now button.


You can also choose a different destination for iOS and Android devices. For example a travel agency that only has an iOS App now has the ability to send iOS users to the App store and Android users to their website.


This is a great example of how Facebook is becoming a hub that links together your whole online presence.

2015 Super Bowl Ad Review. #WasteOfMoney

The NFL Super Bowl is the world’s most sought after advertising space, however, is it really worth the money?

In 2015 over 114 million people watched the Super Bowl making it the most viewed program on television in America. A 30 second ad spot during the Super Bowl costs around $4M or roughly $35 per thousand impressions.

There are no surprises that advertising during the Super Bowl is comparatively expensive, but is it really worth it?

The 2015 Super Bowl saw the likes of Budweiser, Nationwide, Microsoft, Mophie, Dove, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz flaunt their most impressive creativity. Unfortunately for these brands it was not worth the $4M, they wasted it on poorly branded advertisements.

If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck at the Super Bowl (or in any ad) it’s essential that you:

  1. Introduce your brand as soon as possible
  2. Include the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensure the brand is big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. If you use a Hashtag make sure it’s directly linked to your brand

The bulk of the ads shown during the 2015 Super Bowl lacked clear branding. If you look at the videos below you will notice how the brand is not mentioned or seen until the last few seconds. If your brand is not blatantly obvious don’t expect consumers to remember you. People do not pay full attention to advertising, roughly 1/3 will actively avoid TV ads by doing things such as switching channels or leaving the room, 1/3 will passively avoid by doing things such as playing on their phones or chatting to friends, and 1/3 will actually watch the ads. This makes it vitally important to be highly branded so even people not paying full attention will still recognise your brand. No matter how funny, sad, or beautiful the ad is, people will forget what is being promoted unless it’s well branded.

Secondly NONE of the hashtags in the examples below are branded either. Look at the list of Hashtags and see if you can guess what brand they belong to from the ones mentioned above:

#TeamHare #TeamTortoise #ItsThatEasy #RealStrength #StayPowerful #BestBuds #MakeSafeHappen #HelloFuture #Empowering

Everyday over 500 million tweets are sent on Twitter making it increasingly important for brands to standout amongst the clutter. Your brand must be easily identifiable from your hashtag, otherwise you are wasting your time and money with an unownable, unmemorable, and unbranded communications.

The Loctite ad was a great example of clear branding. They managed to mention their brand 8 times in a 30 second ad, introduce the brand in the first few seconds, and create a catchy and distinctive jingle (see below), however, they also used an unbranded hashtag #WinAtGlue.

In every ad make your brand the focus of any communication, reach as many people as you can, and make your brand famous.

Dove Men + Care: #RealStrength no branding till the last 10 seconds

Mercedes-Benz: #TeamHare #TeamTortoise not seen in the first 30 seconds

Mophie: #StayPowerful not mentioned till the last 3 seconds of a 1 minute ad

Budweiser: #BestBuds no branding till the last 4 seconds

Nationwide: No branding till the last 7 seconds

BMW: #HelloFuture

Microsoft: #empowering No branding till the last 3 seconds


Three things we can learn from Apple’s $US18 billion net profit

Apple recently reported a record profit for the past financial quarter. The $US18 billion net profit is the largest quarterly profit to be posted by any company ever. Apple has gone from strength to strength, so what can we learn from one of the most successful companies in the world?

We can learn three important things from Apple to ensure success, prosperity, and growth for brands around the world.

The three keys to brand growth are:

1) Good product

Apple is a market leader when it comes to product innovation, improvements, and updates. They are not known for being the first in market, but they are known for having better products than everyone else. For example they have not yet released the Apple Watch, they have waited to learn from other similar products so they can improve and innovate their offering. Apple always thinks of the end user when developing their products which is evident in their sleek UX which focuses on minimising options to reduce complexity. This design philosophy is derived from Hicks Law which states that decision time increases as the number of alternatives increase. When you have a good product, people are happy to buy it. It’s simple, people won’t buy bad products. There is a reason why Apple sold over 74 million iPhone 6s in 90 days (this equates to 9 every second).

2) Well remembered

It’s highly likely that when you think about mobile phones you think of the Apple iPhone first. Your brand should strive to be the first brand thought of in your category, if people don’t know your brand, they won’t buy it. Apple spent over $US1 billion on advertising in 2013 just to let everyone know they exist. This may sound extravagant, but it only equates to roughly 6% of their profits. Apple has a very distinctive clean and minimalist style of advertising where the product is always the hero, which means when you see an Apple ad, you know it’s for Apple. Apple has built such strong distinctive brand assets over time such as their white head phones, sleek rounded product design, the “i” prefix in their product names, and the Apple logo. They are clearly recognisable in all of their product categories thanks to their distinctive look and consistent, wide reach advertising.

3) Well distributed

Apple stores are hugely successful, they generate the most revenue per square foot than any other retailer in the US. However, only a portion of their products are sold in Apple stores with significant revenues coming from retail partners such as Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, Verizon, and numerous online stores. Apple takes a high reach approach to distribution, their products are always in a nearby store, or a click away. If your product is not readily accessible or available to consumers, they will seek alternatives. Make sure your product is everywhere that potential consumers may be.

Why your brand should be as famous as Kim Kardashian’s bum.

Everyone knows who Kim Kardashian is, unless of course you have been living under a very very large rock. Kim Kardashian is…. well famous for being famous.

Most brands have far more value than Kim Kardashian, so why is she more famous? Every brand should strive towards being famous, and it’s possible, but we might have to take a few lessons from Kim.

How do I make my brand famous?…

Kim Kardashian is famous because she has very distinctive and memorable brand assets that she promotes incessantly. Kim Kardashian is defined by her consistent pout, overt cleavage, the alliteration in her name, the sound of her voice, her pop star husband, and of course her most prominent ASSet, that “broke the internet” a few weeks ago.

Along with being distinctive, Kim has a high reach fan base – her focus isn’t on an existing fan base, but on GROWING it. Like every brand, she loses people every day, but like the best brands, she acquires them in even greater numbers by spreading her fame to new people and new markets. A very effective acquisition strategy that every brand should emulate.

She’s currently on ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, has a diary full of public appearances, a plethora of product endorsements, has her own fashion and fragrance collections, a mobile game for iPhone and Android, she is always in the news, on the front of gossip magazines, penetrating your Facebook feed, and even at a mall near you. She’s everywhere, you just can’t avoid her, and this is what your brand should strive towards. Even if you don’t know about her nor care about her, you probably recognise and remember her.

This is like ANY brand. Consumers generally don’t care and don’t share brand stories. People have enough trouble building relationships with family and friends let alone brands – hence why brands have to be hugely distinctive and seek fame in order to be successful. Don’t rely on fan bases. Don’t assume strong levels of passion or knowledge. Just have that same vain desperation for your brand to be famous that Kim has for herself.

Kim Kardashian’s success is thanks to her multiple distinctive assets that are seen everywhere. This is exactly what your brand should strive towards.

  1. Your brand should be distinctive. Create assets that are ownable and unique. Like the McDonald’s Golden Arches and Coca-Colas “Dynamic Ribbon” typeface.
  2. Be everywhere, show everyone your assets. Reach as many people as possible with your marketing message and make yourself famous

Everything is in a constant battle for attention and memory. Every brand competes with Kim Kardashian. Make sure your brand is distinctive and famous in order to succeed.

Take Bart’s advice – Don’t sell your soul… to the discount devil

In the mid 90’s Bart Simpson sold his soul to Millhouse for a mere $5. After a series of calamities he realised that life isn’t the same without a soul.

Fast forward twenty years and it appears that brands haven’t learnt a thing from the world’s favourite animated bad boy.

Walk into any supermarket and you’ll be slapped across the face with an array of specials, markdowns and 2 for 1 deals, but does selling your brand’s soul to make a quick buck really pay off?

As a shopper who can resist a bargain? As a brand, however, does it actually increase the sales of a product?

The simple answer is no. By discounting your product you are cannibalising your future sales, training customers to only buy on sale and devaluing your brand.

How does this work? When a product goes on sale, people will purchase it at that discounted price, not full price. You’re giving away discounted product to people who probably would have bought it anyway, therefore eroding revenues.

If a brand of toothpaste goes on sale, for example a two-for-one special, people will buy more than one tube meaning they won’t need toothpaste for a longer period of time. No matter how cheap the toothpaste is, people are not going to clean their teeth more often. Discounting gives away product that would have been purchased in the future, it doesn’t increase overall sales.

Discounts also impact the way customers perceive your brand. Slashing prices gives them the perception that your brand has lower value, it also turns the conversation away from product benefits and providing need solutions and solely to price. This trains your customers to expect discounts and to only buy from you when you are on sale.

Three things build brands and increase sales:
Have a good product: if it’s a bad product people won’t buy it.
Be well remembered: with memorable advertising and communications, extract intangible value and tell people what makes your product great.
Well distributed: make sure your product is available for sale absolutely everywhere.

Price promotions don’t work.

Location based gaming – is this the next game changer?

Location based games, such as Geocaching, are gaining worldwide popularity.

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that’s becoming a huge craze all over the world.

Geocaching is an app which uses a phones GPS to direct players to the specific co-ordinates of a hidden geocache (a container filled with a logbook and items to trade). There are over 2.5 million active geocaches worldwide and 6 million people loving every find.

How could this work in marketing?

Location based games could open up a whole new way of engaging with consumers. Creating your own branded location based game could help to draw consumers into your stores.

For example, a coffee shop chain could create a location based game in which users find virtual rewards in store to redeem for a free coffee. The users could compete on a live leaderboard for titles such as most coffee shops visited, most distance covered, and even most coffees drunk.

Providing potential customers with an entertaining, engaging, and memorable platform like a location based game, will embed your brand into their consideration set for life.

Find out more about Geocaching here.

Other location based game: Ingress

PENSO has launched with coverage in The Australian

After out-learning, out-working and out-delivering for our clients for some time now, I’ve officially launched my new venture, PENSO, with this piece in The Australian.

Michael Bodey, the Australian’s Media and Entertainment Writer, has outlined the big issue in advertising that we have solved: “Not every business problem has its solution in the creative department”.

PENSO grows businesses. We extract an intimate understanding of our clients at a corporate, business, operational and executional level, and solve their problems by changing behaviour with memorable creative across channels. In essence, we do strategy, creative and digital, all underpinned by marketing science.

Read more here: Agency with a simple philosophy | The Australian.