A strong brand, and a dry crack, go a long way in today's market

Posted on Tue Dec 1 2009


Yesterday, I interviewed Danica Patrick. Today, I got a note from the "Ray Croc of Crack." These things happen when you write about marketing. His name is Bob Kodner, and he runs a franchise of concrete-repair specialists called The Crack Team. Kodner writes: "Anyhoo, I wanted to bring you up to speed on what's happening here in Crackville. When the world spun off its axis last year, I knew our franchise growth would be stunted, as tightened credit and uncertainty has thrown franchising into a depression that still lingers." But Bob didn't write to bellyache. The Crack Team, he said, began marketing its "magic fillers and goo" products directly to homeowners, and the demand for his products has increased "while people continue to sit on their wallets but need to repair their homes." Kodner adds that he's also still selling a lot of Mr. Happy Crack underwear, with slogans like "A dry crack is a happy crack" and "Show us your crack." Now, I really don't know how well The Crack Team is doing, but I have to give Kodner credit for not only creating a brand identity for something as mundane as concrete repair, but for being able to expand the business in a down economy. It says a lot about the power of branding, as well as the appeal of second-grade humor.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Delta counts on Sesame Street song to pitch one-touch faucet

Posted on Thu Jul 23 2009

First we had Elmo teaching people how to wash their hands to avoid H1N1 flu. Now, a new spot for Delta’s Pilar Pull-Down touch-activated kitchen faucet features none other than Sesame Street’s the Count voicing the many things we can do with our hands if they weren’t so, er, grimy. For instance, “your hands can brush your teeth or comb your hair. Throw a ball into the air.” The Count, who never actually appears, sings in his usually, catchy Sesame Street style. Equally distracting, however, is the rapidly moving footage, which shows all the obstacles that prohibit our hands from doing great work: flour, paint, a frog (?!), melting ice cream, and a cracked open egg. Of course, the solution to all this is Delta’s one-touch on-off spout activation technology. Now, we’d like to see the Count count how many times this thing actually turns on and off. One hundred and one, one hundred and two...

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Lowe's takes page from 'SNL' script in latest its price message

Posted on Mon May 4 2009

Lowe's is at it again. This time, to prove how low its prices are, it has co-opted Seth Meyers' "Really?" sketch from Saturday Night Live. "Really?" says the couple shopping for floor tiles when they see the prices at Lowe's. Relying on humor, albeit someone else's, is far better than claiming to have the lowest prices—lower than anyone, anywhere, which had been the previous tack. Having a little fun with the pricing jibes with the joyousness of the spring season, when many people are happily looking to fix thing around the house, get organized and get a little dirty landscaping. Still, in these tight times, Lowe's might have to compete with consumers who might simply borrow tools from a neighbor—sort of like Lowe's borrowed the SNL skit. (This is becoming something of a trend. Pepsi crashed the MacGruber skit and aired it during the Super Bowl.) I wonder if Lowe's has to pay Lorne Michaels' writing team royalties? At the very least, each writer should get a $25 gift card so they can buy some mulch.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Lowe's backtracks, stops telling everyone how cheap they are

Posted on Tue Apr 7 2009


Perhaps the marketing folks at Lowe's are avid BrandFreak readers. Either that or they came to their senses on their own. The home-improvement retailer appears to have scrapped the remodeling plans it had for its ad campaign. Earlier this year, the chain cleverly tacked at "t" at the end of its name and boldly proclaimed it had "the lowest prices." While adding the "t" was a nifty trick from a Scrabble point of view, it was a losing game for a chain that has an air of quality compared to its main rival, Home Depot. To abandon that hard-earned cachet in a race to become the cheapest store in the country would have been a disaster of Saks Fifth Avenue proportions. So, instead, Lowe's has returned to its less definitive, Gene-Hackman-voiced "Everyday low prices" message. This is smart. In the end, Lowe's could never own the reputation as being the cheapest. Wal-Mart has already secured that territory. 

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Lowe's hammers out a new plan to do the limbo with its margins

Posted on Thu Mar 5 2009

Lowes copy

The ripple effects of the collapsed housing market are being felt everywhere—real estate companies, contractors, building supply companies. As a result, chains like Home Depot (aka contractor central) and Lowe's have been suffering. And in the battle between the two biggest warehouse providers of hardware, home goods and building materials, it appears Lowe's has blinked first.
  The chain, which had a built-in quality message thanks to its cleaner stores, solid customer service and distinct lack of blinding blaze orange, has decided to play the price game. Its new ads, voiced as usual by Gene Hackman, do not highlight the reasons why people like Lowe's. Rather, they boldly claim that Lowe's has the lowest prices, guaranteed. To drive home the point, it's slapped the letter "t" at the end of its name to form the word "Lowest." While that's a cute, Sesame Street-like exercise in how to form new words by adding letters, it is also a potentially crippling exercise in short-term thinking. Lowe's has now committed itself to Wal-Mart territory. No longer is it about quality and helpfulness; it's about being cheap. And while "Everyday low prices" has always been a part of Wal-Mart's brand messaging, that is a much different promise than "The lowest prices guaranteed." If I were Gene Hackman, I'd be concerned that the chain soon won't be able to afford my voiceover work.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein



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