25 May 2007

Cadbury's purple passage.

Cadbury Schweppes is enjoying a purple passage after the Australian Federal Court this week handed it a win over some allegedly deceptive pratices by competitor Darrell Lea (see DIFFUSIONblog:Cadbury appeal short of a glass and a half 20/7/06).

Cadbury accused Darrell Lea of misleading and deceptive conduct by using a shade of purple which it claims bears "a striking and obvious" resemblance to its own "Cadbury Purple". All very strange because when DIFFUSION walked past the store on Thursday it seemed decidedly blue in colour.

In the original April 2006 hearing, a Federal Court judge dismissed Cadbury's claim, probably because it was more reliant on Cadbury’s claim of ownership of Pantone 2685C and Pantones that are very close to it.

In the disputed hearing the court ruled Cadbury did not “own” the colour purple and that Darrell Lea's use was not likely to convey to a” reasonable consumer” that it was associated with its rival.

However, three Federal Court justices disagreed with the previous finding and allowed Cadbury's appeal, ordering a new trial at the same court to be set (see: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCAFC/2007/70.html)

The Court ruled that in dismissing expert evidence from three witnesses presented by Cadbury, the trial judge had erred.

Interestingly the three experts, Brian Gibbs, an Associate Professor of Marketing and Behavioural Science in the Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne, Constantino Stavros, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing of RMIT University, Melbourne; and Timothy Riches, the managing director of FutureBrand were all called by Cadbury and presented with photo evidence it had accumulated on it's competitor's activites (let's also note that Cadbury operates no retail stores in Australia, while Darrel Lea has done so since 1927 with more than 1000 stores).

In particular, weight was attached to Gibbs’ evidence which drew attention to such factors as brand concept and brand equity, the nature and storage of brand associations in memory, the role of packaging in marketing communication and the importance and impact of colour in brand.

"It cannot be said that the disputed evidence is of so little weight that it could not influence the result of a new trial, so as to produce a different result," they said in their judgment.

Cadbury claims that since 1995 it has achieved a substantial, exclusive and valuable reputation and goodwill throughout Australia through the colour purple.

It alleges that since 2001, Darrell Lea has consistently used a colour bearing a "striking and obvious" likeness to Cadbury's purple in its signage, badging, wrapping, store fit-out and point of sale facilities.

Cadbury also claimed that Darrell Lea’s conduct constitutes passing off of its chocolate confectionary business and products as a business or products of, or connected or associated with, Cadbury.

DIFFUSION believes Cadbury has taken the route of attempting to prove passing off and by dint of this assume ownership of colour Pantone 2685C, something which it has up to now failed to do.

10 May 2007

IPTV, is it "better TV" or just "more TV"?

TV is dead, long live TV.

Certainly, that's the view of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, when he delivered the keynote address to Microsoft's yearly gathering of its advertising partners from around the world at the company's eighth annual Strategic Account Summit, early this month.

And strangely Gates might be right.

According to Nielsen Media Research what is called prime-time "viewership" for the four biggest broadcast US networks, fell from 40.3 million to 37.6 million people.

What this means is that people seem no longer beholden to network television to determine both the time, programs and place of viewing. Soon it will also be about the the media they use to view TV.

And Gates, who's been catching up on his more visionary outpourings ever since he missed the initial internet bubble, sees a new media landscape dominated by internet protocol TV (IPTV), where people will own single, high-performance wireless devices, download high definition television from anywhere in the world (but using Microsoft middleware) and viewing becomes more social and personalized.

The sorts of macro changes he predicts includes portable computing devices (we're thinking something not unlike Apple's iPhone with huge amounts of storable memory pluggable into home networks), which work anywhere and in any environment on any platform.

"We need to make things more user-centric", said Gates.

He thinks too much of digital media is designed on a per-device basis and he sees that changing, both in terms of the development of single devices that DIFFUSION believes can be used in all environments - home, office, play - as well as in all contexts while running on seamless various Web-based communication platforms.

Gates is obviously an avatar for IPTV, which Microsoft has made significant investments in. Microsoft is working with 16 customers in 15 countries on four continents around the world with nine of those customers commercially deploying IPTV services including AT&T U-verse, BT Vision, T-Home from Deutsche Telecom and Bluewin TV from SwissCom

"There's no way broadcast infrastructure over these next five years will not be viewed as competitive. The end-user experience, and the creativity, the new content that will emerge using the capabilities of this environment will be so much dramatically better, that broadcast TV will not be competitive, " he said.

"In this environment, the ads will be targeted, not just targeted to the neighborhood level, but targeted to the viewer. And more and more as the viewer is coming to a TV set, either through just choosing off a menu, or recognizing voice, or some video type thing, it will actually not just know the household that that viewing is taking place in, but will actually know who the viewers of that show are."

Microsoft demonstrated how IPTV worked at the presentation, including its capacity for virtual tuning, instantaneous recording of up to four programs from a digital EPG, true video on demand, high definition display and recording. They wrapped it in the moniker of "better TV".

Gates made similar bold predictions for the future of gaming, which is already seeing the Xbox combine with a set top box to enable new forms of social gaming.

So what will happen? When will we really see what Gates calls "better TV"?

Most people, in Australia and the rest of the world, still receive traditional broadcast TV. IPTV and on-demand video won’t change typical viewing behavior for some time (only because we're never going to get it real soon) but TV is changing and will continue to change, because the Internet is forcing it to. However, we're more likely to see a more cumulative change, as is being reported by Neilsen, rather than massive, dramatic change.

Certainly Australia hasn't been very exposed to the joy of TiVo and Foxtel's IQ is limited to subscribers and companies like ICTV has struggled, but programming, the product and carefully synced ad placement is something the networks in Australia have already started toying with.

However, three strands of broadcasting will emerge - traditional network broadcasting, subscription TV and narrowcasting using IPTV, the last we believe will become the most dominant. Companies like YouTube and Google Video will embrace IPTV and start to mimic traditional network programming in much the way Pay TV channels do but with more user centric programming. In addition, new companies like Vquence will provide the kinds of advertising solutions which allow narrowcasters to integrate real clickable advertising into programming.

Gates is right when he says that convergence is a key area driver for future television. IPTV will be broadcast across all types of devices but via a single platform (something he's hoping that XBox is a harbinger of). But it's also going to be influenced by digital rights management and the whole IP debate around content ownership. And that's a very fluid area right now, particularly on the heels of YouTube's capitulation to US content owners (the networks and studios). While we're not likely to see a repeat of Napster, we are likely to see IPTV circumventing the four/five channel monopolies in this country.

While there certainly is demand for IPTV services in Australia. In 2005 Australia, the second biggest group of TV downloaders in the world, was responsible for 15.6 per cent of illegal downloads of mainly US content.

But we're not likely to see a commercial IPTV platform in Australia until the kind of broadband networks with fibre to the node and in the home is a reality. And that seems to be what some of the argument between Telstra, the G9, the Australian Government and the ACCC is really about. The reality is we need to be able to get speeds up to 26 megabits per second, when most home systems run at 256 kilobits and therefore unable to support three high definition channels, VOD, VOIP and full internet access.

For the time being we're going to see viewers struggle along with video over the internet (JumpTV or iTunes, for example) and more makeshift offerings from Telstra and Foxtel, who initially promised IPTV in 2005. In the meantime, the traditional networks, both in the US and Australia, will continue to see the kinds of change Neilsen has begun to report.

07 May 2007

Prada at Kmart: luxury brands and status abandonment.

It's only a small thing. But as we all know small things can lead to big things.

But the release of a new Prada fragrance, Tendre (selling for $79.00) in the Sydney Mother's Day catalogue for Kmart Australia, certainly signals to DIFFUSION that Prada seems to be heading down the same road of luxury brand dilution that destroyed the once great Pierre Cardin, nearly brought down the house of Calvin Klein and which threatens so many brands in this market.

Sure you might argue that it's only perfume and for this brand a cheaply priced one at that, but the democratization of luxury brands seems to be destroying those aspects of a luxury brand (exclusivity, price, access, aeesthetic) that denote these brands.

It's fact we noted in our blog The Defining Essence 20 October 2005 and one that seems to have escaped Prada's owners as they take the brand into the mass luxury market.

Perhaps the Prada licensees haven't read the definition of luxury that in 2000 the European Commission used to review Prada's role in the market as part of a ruling on it and LVMH's acquisition of Fendi. What's important about this ruling is that it is one of the few non-academic reviews of the operation of luxury goods.

The Commission described "luxury products" as "high quality articles with a relatively high price, marketed under a prestige trademark". As such luxury goods were considered to operate in a single product market because of two factors "substitutability from the demand side: the idea of acquiring a luxury good is linked to prestige rather than consumption of a precise item" and "substitutability from the supply side" or where most of the producers of luxury goods manufacture a broad range of products such as ready to wear, leather goods, fashion or, in this case, perfume.

This definition fits in comfortably with our understanding of both the pricing and accessibility attributes of luxury brands. More importantly, the definition attaches the generally accepted idea that prestige is also linked to acquisition and not the actual consumption of the item. Which is probably to say that a lot of women will see the Kmart catalogue and think "I have to have this Prada perfume because it is a such a luxe brand".

What's also interesting from this ruling is the Commission also connects both the transactive distance of luxury brands and the aesthetic of their environmental setting to their definition, noting that Prada itself indicated that "the common denominator is the importance of qualitative requirements designed to maintain the image of prestige, exclusivity and the high quality of the brand (e.g. location, the nature of the external appearance of neighbouring shops, decoration and fittings of the outlet which should reflect the prestige of the brand)."

This hardly sits well with my knowledge of my local Kmart located in a suburban shopping mall which hosts a Baker's' Delight, Go-lo and a Wendys and where Prada perfume is likely to sit alongside the latest offering from Paris Hilton in aisle six.

So, by their own definition Prada not only seem to be falling out of the luxury goods market in their attempts to market mass luxury but also are defying some of the basic principles of luxury brand management. These are:

1. creating distance, a no-mix area or barriers to entry for those who are not invited and by necessity of protecting clients from non-clients;

2. selective pricing and and exclusive distribution as well as the aesthetic dimension of the products; and,

3. the recognition and acknowledgement of its luxury status by all.

By all three counts Prada is failing. First, by not maintaining and enforcing these barriers to entry and allowing their licensee to flout it. Second, by using a selective pricing model more recognisable as that of a democratic, basic brand model (other brands of perfume can sell at Kmart at similar prices) and finally, there appears to be both an acknowledgement of its luxury status by very inclusion on the front page of the catalogue, and also an argument for a case of status abandonment by Prada's Australian licensee and, I suspect, its international license holders, for this latest distribution deal. I'm sure it won't be first such breach.

03 May 2007

Ford and Rip Curl go beyond the wave.

Is Ford’s Ripcurl XR8 Ute Australia’s first co-branded car? It could be. Already a co-sponsor of a major Australian surfing title, the US manufacturer is doing some serious stretching in Australia alongside surfboard and clothing company Rip Curl.

While car manufacturers can piggyback on a large, loyal and extremely well profiled audience (think Ford vs General Motors Holden), it might also work if only to a niche market.

Hitching up with an existing youth brand seems like a good idea, especially if it’s an iconic Australian surf sport brand, like Rip Curl. And co-branding is useful as it helps reinforce the lifestyle image of the cars (how Australian is a ute after all, unless it's a panel van?) by linking in to an existing group of customers with similar tastes, lifestyle, or age. So it must be something that Ford has been missing out on as it seeks to bolster sales in a flagging demographic with the tie-in.

But it’s not Ford’s first foray into co-branding arrangements with clothing companies. Ford USA already produces SUV’s with lifestyle and clothing retailer Eddie Bauer (there’s a range of two and 4WDs in the 2007 series) and Subaru has teamed up with US outdoor clothing catalogue company L.L. Bean to produce the Subaru Gear range of outdoor apparel.

And there’s similar examples of between sports shoe and sports vehicle think Porsche and Puma, Adidas and Porsche, Ducati and Adidas, but mostly it’s been one way co-branding.

The most important thing for Ford is to make sure that the brand association works both ways, so that the target market segments don’t start to see it a just another multinational muscling in on a cool brand. Beyond the Rip Curl extras, what really makes this is a true Ford brand experience? What preserves brand attributes?

Importantly for Rip Curl, they should be wary that there is no diminution of their own brand by the target segment (as seen in the current Australian television advertising) but also by future target segments and this will require some strong brand management.

Australian wine is a glass half full.

Australia’s wine industry recognises it's glass is half full and now wants to reposition Australian wine at the premium end of the market.

This week the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation and the Winemakers Federation of Australia unveiled their Wine Australia: Directions to 2025. The Directions paper, which in a rare case of both industry cooperation and speed of report writing, was commissioned in 2006 and recommends 46 directions to be adopted by winemakers and marketers in coming months.

According to the report, Australia’s wine industry must” focus on strengthening sector structures, directly influencing domestic and export markets and gearing up for sustainable success.”

“The Australian wine sector needs to re-evaluate its current approach towards export markets. It needs to identify new and sustainable market opportunities through detailed market intelligence, and turn consumer interest into aspiration through segmented marketing strategies. In particular, this only can be achieved by raising awareness and expectation of an Australian wine story founded on an international reputation for regionally distinct and fine wine production. Further, it also needs to refocus its expectations in the domestic Australian market and introduce new strategies to encourage more Australians to drink better wine more frequently while still observing sensible and moderate consumption patterns.”

In developing the strategic responses (tactics) for the report, Wine Australia identified three megatrends and eight inter-related sub-trends, which it believes will influence consumer buying behaviours.

They followed this with a brand segementation strategy based around four levels or “personalities” for Australian wine. The four personalities - Brand Champions, Regional Heroes, Generation Next and Landmark Australia – equate to four value creations respectively: accessibility, interest, innovation and aspiration.

The segmentation strategy is followed by a number of strategic responses, some of which require further elaboration and some of which DIFFUSION believes are unlikely to change perception in overseas markets.

These include the development of a Wine Australia Trust Mark , a global communication plan and changes to to the exiting Wine Australia web site to better target user groups as well a brand health check to continually research and measurement of consumer perceptions of brand/country (Wine Australia) in key markets.

While the responses only address one of the directions in the paper and in themselves are unable to achieve both the desired repositioning and opening up of new markets for “fine” or premium Australian wine. What’s refreshing is that Wine Australia at least understands and acknowledges the importance of global brand propositions and positioning, something similar Australian government strategy papers have failed to understand (think Wool Australia or anything in ICT).

On the ground and particularly in lucrative US market, fine Australian wine lacks any great penetration.

The US market tends to operate as a multiple market. Step into any liquor store in New York and try and find a premium Australian wine. Sure you get Casella and a host of renamed Australian wines but it’s rare to find anything outside of the specialist wine stores. It’s a similar case in the UK, where Australian wine’s dominate the market but not at the premium end.

Firstly, the brand check should come first. Any one who understands the importance of brand will acknowledge this as should brand tracking and real research be a constant part of any good brand strategy. So many organisations and business shy away from real tracking or put this in the hands of their ad agencies.

Any communications strategy then should focus on making sure that the tactical responses (and they are tactical) are going to achieve the desired targets and are not something that came through an ideation workshop run by an agency.

So a Wine Australia trust mark is an interesting concept but it needs to get around the diminution of Australian wines by companies like South Corp, Beringer Bass and Fosters. Australian wines, regardless of what part of the market they have been developed for, already enjoy high trust status ..it’s just that there is no real brand recognition for labels called “Two Sheds”.

Similarly, redeveloping the Wine Australia website has to also go hand in hand with some real ecommerce initiatives mainly around tracking wine brands and enabling greater accessibility and visibility to the small regional labels and the landmark wines the paper identifies as part of the strategy.

What’s important about the Wine Australia directions paper is that it is so forward looking about the idea of strategic brand marketing. It's good news for marketers and brand agencies and that in itself is a rare drop.

Commbank takes its brand offshore.

In a move not reminiscent of the Coles Group (see DIFFUSIONblog 4 September 06: Is McCann set to give Coles a Walmart?) Australia's Commonwealth Bank has abandoned the creative work of its traditional Australian agencies and moved to US west coast agency, Goody Silverstein.

The move, reported this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, is certain to raise the hackles of incumbents STW and probably most other agencies in Australia.

More interestingly was the Herald columnists' assertion that "Australian companies (spell A_D_V_E_R_T_I_S_I_N_G) have for so long lacked any imagination or will to back interesting and engaging advertising and the ability of the communications sector to propose anything marginally outside of the predictable is remote."

Certainly that's been DIFFUSION's recent experience of adland as it seeks to perpetuate a mythic status as marginal thinkers and strategists. In fact, what we have seen is that most agencies seem content to rest on poor stale concepts and ideas and will not look for people outside the industry to change this. So, who can blame Commbank?

Just ask Optus, Singtel's Australian telecomms arm. There about to do the same thing to their Australian agencies for much the same reason. M and C Saatchi is likely to get the shove, and not without reason. Optus' "animals" were being used when I worked for Cable and Wireless in London, which dates from the time when Optus was owned by the former global carrier. So perhaps they need to be looking further afield or agencies in Australia need to work a lot harder?

The SMH doesn't let matters rest there. They put the boot in, describing senior marketing staff in Australia as "creatively retarded marketing managers". There's something in that as the dearth of great creative and well thought out brand strategy in this country is much the fault of clients as it is of agencies. Have a good look around at how they recruit senior marketing appointments. It's all through, in most cases, headhunters who work to set formulas and like their clients, rarely go outside the "predictable".

You reap what you sew.