Friday, March 21, 2008

Bridgestone - Branding Evolution

Bridgestone Leverages Brand Through Sports Sponsorships

The Nashville Business Journal reported on March 14th that Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC recently received approval from the NHL to become one of their official sponsors. In recent years, Bridgestone has increased its presence in the sports arena, as well as its product offering for certain sports, life golf.

The Bridgestone brand has improved in many ways by (1) countering the premium-brand position of Michelin, and (2) producing sports products that challenge the definition of quality and excellence. When Bridgestone first launched their golf ball line, many golfers, including myself, equated the product to the sub-par Dunlop (another tire manufacturer) golf ball. In the end, the Bridgestone ball sits among the industry’s best balls. In fact, once-considered premium brands, like Slazenger, have shifted their market position to a younger crowd, interested in a power game – a transition from their previous performance game target.

It’s a natural progression for any established company to begin expanding their product offering, and transitioning their identity from a product company to a concept company. When you think of Sony, Apple, or even Coca-Cola, you more than likely no longer think about the specific product that made them famous, but you relate the name more to the concept of quality, with respect to electronics, personal computing, or even beverages. In this same respect, Bridgestone, in my opinion, is making the attempt to become known for making premium products with some derivative of rubber in them. It possibly may not be as clear as the previous three examples, but I don’t think the attempt will hurt their plans for growth and diversification of revenue sources.

This topic serves as an example to small businesses on how a brand develops. Too often, business owners offer a wide array of products or services to either not miss a buck or to support their main product that doesn’t truly “pay the bills”. In either case, chasing every possible buck often consumes more resources than it generates useful revenue, and supplementing a failing product/service with more profitable products/services often means the failing product/service eventually needs to be revamped or eliminated. Please note the word, “often”, because many people will say that the failing product/service has some necessary need that is exempt for ROI justification. For this argument, I have no retort.

Anyway, please keep Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC on your radar for more significant branding moves in the market. They are a Nashville-based company, with a commitment to many local community initiatives, including education and diversity.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Starbucks News - The Response to Stagnation

Today, Starbucks announced their response to the recent decline in retail sales. They are taking several steps to improve sales and enhance the customer experience. Aside from the new espresso machine, the coffee giant is venturing into the social medial realm by launching My Starbucks Idea – attempting to form a virtual community in the world of coffee.

Brand Autopsy, a well-known marketing blog, has a wonderful assessment of the recent moves by Starbucks. John Moore, a marketing guru with experience creating ideas for Whole Foods and Starbucks, has spent some considerable time analyzing the issues related to Starbucks’ sales challenges. In his most recent blog entry, Moore breaks down the key moves from this new initiative, and provides some insight to the likely outcomes for this fast-growing company. Before you visit either of the links above, please read the article presented on MSNBC’s website.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

As I said before, I will begin focusing the content for this blog on things related to the Nashville and Tennessee area. There are some any things to discuss when it comes to marketing and branding in this area - some good and some bad. Honestly, I don't know where to begin. I've set up Google Alerts to receive mail related to this topic, and not much has come up so far. So, I will take it on my own to begin talking about a brand that has always amazed me in many ways.

In the city of Nashville, there's a restaurant called, Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, which serves up some of the best spicy chicken in town, and more importantly the country. Nowhere in the world can you find this taste, which has an appeal to almost anyone in the world. In fact before I began writing this entry, I Googled the restaurant, and received several results that were extremely positive. However, there is one amazing thing about this restaurant that breaks all the rules of the traditional brand, yet satisfies the core foundation of what a brand is all about.

To be brief, Prince's Hot Chicken operates on a stove that can manage two to three cast-iron skillets. On top of that, the main phone is a pay phone inside the store. I don't need to go into more detail for you to understand how this impact customer service and supply chain management. In summary, there's no question why everyone is in line - the chicken.

Anyway, over the years I've complained about how they would never survive on this business practice, and as you can see I'm extremely wrong about their business model. With their success, I've learned truly about the meaning of a brand. A brand is all about sticking to your guns, and keeping the lights on - whether it be neon or 60-watt bulb. In all these years, not much has changed about Prince's Chicken Shack, and because of this consistency the demand remains in constant growth. The moral to the story is that good branding and growth are not necessarily synonymous.

Here's to Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, and their example of good branding.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Decisiveness of a Decision

This past Tuesday, Nissan unveiled the 2009 Infiniti FX, both in the Geneva Motor Show and in the basement parking garage of their temporary headquarters. If you don’t know by now, I’m a huge fan of the Infiniti product. After owning two of them, I grew a serious affection for their unique customer service as well as the performance of the vehicle. It seems like just yesterday when there was a buzz around town about these three Japanese luxury lines. During those times, the commercial was about all the differentiation you could get among the three. But now, the commercials in a lot of ways are somewhat irrelevant.

All three brands have settled in to their chosen positions. In many ways, it’s a wonderful case on brand evolution. For Nissan, and its Infiniti brand, their ultimate appeal is power and performance – luxury obviously being the common component of all three brands. Take for instance the new FX, it can be equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine with 390 horsepower. For the ego-driven person, this appeals to needs of power and impact. For the average person reading the business section of any major paper, it brings up thoughts of $100 plus barrels of oil.

Does this mean Nissan, and its Infiniti brand, are heading in the wrong direction? Who’s to say? For me, it shows a commitment to a decision to emphasize power and performance. The rest will be settled in the cost controls and supply-demand mix. In the end, you have to stick to your guns. Otherwise, people won’t know who the hell you are, much less what you want from them.

Although I would like to see the Infiniti product begin to address alternative fuels and lead the way for energy efficiency, apparently that’s not on their immediate radar. I guess its like pulling a u-turn in a 79 Deville in a tight alley, very little will be happening, but a whole lot will be hurting.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


A Blog About Local Relevance and Realism

It dawned on me the other day, while contemplating a potential overseas project, that I’m truly not ready to play the global game – mainly because I’ve yet to master the local game. After reading the article about Sheryl Sandberg’s transition to FaceBook from Google, I thought to myself, “how do you get your arms around something as complex as social networking on a grand scale?” And it dawned on me, in many ways the industry superstars simply the big picture compared to the thoughts the average professional, but in many ways they see the simple things in much more detail.

As of now, or for a little while at least, I will shift the focus of this blog to a more local concentration – to establish more relevancy and realism to a region that needs to improve the way they go about the business of business. It looks as if I will be here for a few more years, so I’ll make the best of this by analyzing and interpreting the marketing strategies of companies and institutions known across the globe or across town that operate out of Tennessee.

I look forward to your responses and comments as I begin to make entries about the state of Tennessee, and how it goes about the business of marketing. I invite everyone to send me questions and suggestions regarding this in-depth observation of a truly unique marketplace.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


A Reality For Some. A Threat For Many.

If you haven’t read today’s headlines, Sheryl Sandberg, a 38 year-old business superstar has left her VP position at Google to join forces with Facebook. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not really sure how this news will impact the GDP or even the World Wide Web. But, it does create an interesting point about social networking.

I don’t have an overall message to this entry – only to encourage everyone to read the article by Ari Levy of Bloomberg. As a business leader, or even a marketing professional, if you are having trouble fully understanding your e-mail or Office 2007, it’s only going to get worse for you. You must be able to think both physically and virtually, with respect to your target market. This thing is far beyond IT.