brand inspiration

On Eve of World Cup and AGM, McDonald's Taps Consumers for Input

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 21, 2014 02:20 PM

Coming off another disappointing quarter of sales, the "McScary" mascot launch and on the eve of its always feisty annual general meeting, McDonald's is turning up the volume on consumer engagement in order to tune in to what fans want from the world's biggest quick serve restaurant brand. 

Building on the user-generated content trend that's been tapped by Coca-Cola for its "Ahh Effect" campaign, as well as Airbnb, Canon and other brands, McDonald's UK is asking the public to weigh in on its newest burger. Mixing and matching 80 different possible ingredients, consumers can design the burger of their dreams on the MyBurger website and then vote on others' submissions. The top 12 will be judged and the winning combos will be sold for a limited time in 1,200 restaurants across the UK.

"Customization and digital engagement are becoming an integral part of how consumers interact with companies and we want to continue to innovate as a brand," Alistair Macrow, SVP and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s UK, told Marketing Magazine.Continue reading...


Could Drexler and Yanai Make J.Crew the Middle Man in Fast Retailing's Empire?

Posted by Dale Buss on March 4, 2014 10:42 AM

Hoping to capitalize on the chain's success even as competing retailers falter, Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing is reportedly in talks to buy preppy clothier J.Crew. Could J.Crew become the missing jewel in Fast Retailing's bid to become the globe's biggest retailer?

Just last week there were rumors that J.Crew was planning its second IPO as a way to gain access to funds for expansion. CEO Mickey Drexler and creative head Jenna Lyons have turned the brand around over the last decade, making the mid-priced brand extremely attractive to Fast Retailing, which hopes to take advantage of J.Crew's accomplishments and build on them even as some iconic competitors, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, struggle with the finicky retailing scene.

But just because the retailer has managed some success doesn't mean it came easy. The inveterate micro-manager has admitted that J.Crew recently has "strayed too far" from the brand's core styling motif and that the company's recent opening in the UK was "tricky."Continue reading...

chew on this

McDonald's Global Challenge: Fight Sluggishness at Home, Build Relevance Abroad

Posted by Dale Buss on February 11, 2014 03:51 PM

It's not easy being a global brand, even if you're McDonald's, as you still have to succeed locally. It's possible that its continuing domestic US sales woes are mostly due to treacherous winter weather and a bad new product bet or two. But it's also possible that the chain and the brand are reaching the end of once-outsized relevance to the American consumer as it continues to face food health and labor critics.

Until it becomes evident which scenario is true, McDonald's CEO Don Thompson is relying on improved performance in key international markets to offset the brand's frustrations in the United States. He will rely on incoming US CMO Deborah Wahl to help him tackle the larger issue of McDonald's actual place in its home market. The auto industry marketing veteran is still transitioning into her new role, which she formally assumes on March 3.

The chain reported that US same-restaurant sales fell by more than 3 percent in the first quarter, or about double the percentage decline expected by analysts. Thompson blamed the snow and cold but analysts cited the continued sluggishness of the US economy. But of course, it could be the third factor: American consumers have gotten used to bypassing McDonald's more and more.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Sony Throws in the Towel on PC Business as It Turns Focus to Gaming, Mobile

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 7, 2014 01:39 PM

It's been a rough decade for Sony, and it doesn't look to be getting much better. The international electronics brand announced recently that it expects to lose $1.1 billion in the current fiscal year on continued losses from its PC and TV businesses. 

As a result of slowing PC sales as consumer move to tablets and smartphones, Sony said it will sell its VAIO PC brand to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners. Its television-manufacturing unit, which has lost $7.8 billion over the last decade, will be spun off into a “separate, wholly owned subsidiary,” according to the New York Times. The last time Sony's TV unit turned a profit was in March 2004, while global PC sales fell by 10 percent last year.

In addition to the restructuring of its business units, Sony will lay off 5,000 employees, most of whom will likely come from outside its Japan homebase.Continue reading...

tech in the spotlight

30 Years After Mac, Apple Cranks Up Innovation for Eager Consumer Market

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 24, 2014 05:02 PM

While today marks the 30th anniversary of Apple's iconic and game-changing Macintosh computer, the Best Global Brand isn't spending much time on nostalgia. Instead, it's pressing forward into new product realms and perfecting the ones it currently rules after a period of static development, to the dismay of competitors like Samsung.

With new ventures in wearable technology on the horizon, expansion of its iPhone line to suit bigger tastes, and budding partnerships in TV and autos, Apple has never been better. As for the competition, well, they've seen better days. 

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker and Apple arch rival saw its growth "slow sharply" in the fourth quarter—the first time the company has recorded a decrease between quarters since 2011. While prospects for the first-half of 2014 are weak for Samsung, Apple can expect a marked boost now that it has officially sealed a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest carrier, as well as one with Japan's largest carrier, according to the New York Times.Continue reading...

brand vs. brand

KitKat Presses On Abroad Despite Continued Legal Troubles

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 21, 2014 04:58 PM

Kit Kat and Cadbury have had their fair share of squabbles. Most recently, Nestle's KitKat blocked Mondelez-owned Cadbury from trademarking its signature purple hue that it has used for years, but now Cadbury has struck back.

The UK's biggest chocolate maker has been trying to block KitKat from trademarking the shape of its candy bars—which has been in use since about 1935—in the UK. The case is now being reviewed by the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Nestle already holds the trademark for the bar in the rest of Europe. 

But the legal wrangling hasn't kept KitKat from furthering its brand.Continue reading...

brand and bottle

$16 Billion Beam Inc. Acquisition Will See Greater Distribution of Whiskey Brands

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 13, 2014 05:22 PM

Liquor giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard can start looking over their shoulders. Japan’s Suntory Holdings, which produces some of Japan’s oldest whiskeys, has just agreed to pay $16 billion for Beam Inc., the American producer of Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Sauza, and Gilbey’s, Ad Age reports. The deal makes Suntory the third-largest liquor company in the world. 

As a result of the deal, Suntory, which also bottles Pepsi in Japan and owns the Orangina brand, will have greater distribution in the US and Beam, whose portfolio includes the lucrative Skinnygirl line, will have much stronger exposure in the Asian marketplace. That’s a pretty good deal for Suntory, which currently sources 90 percent of its business from Japan. 

“Suntory has virtually no U.S. presence,” Mark Swartzberg, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., said in a research note today, according to Bloomberg. “This will take their share from less than 1 percent to 11 percent. Meanwhile, Beam stockholders will head to the bank with $83.50 for each share owned instead of the $66.97 share price that it last closed at." The two companies previously had a distribution deal in which Suntory distributed Beam products in Japan, and Beam distributed Suntory products in Singapore and greater Asia.Continue reading...

Ford Hopes New Fiesta Makes Japan Auto Market a Little Less Inscrutable

Posted by Dale Buss on January 10, 2014 06:27 PM

Ford is looking to make a huge impression at the Detroit auto show on Monday with the anticipated unveiling of a new version of its F-150 pickup truck, America's best-selling vehicle and the anchor of one of the largest lines of vehicles in the US market.

But meanwhile in Japan, Ford is trying to chip away at decades of frustrations in that market by fielding a tiny new vehicle that it believes gives the brand the best chance yet to crack what has always been a nearly impenetrable place.

The new car is a Fiesta tailored for global drivers, complete with advanced anticollision technology, a fuel-saving engine and its lowest price tag yet for a car it will sell in Japan—2.29 million yen, or $21,800, according to the New York Times.Continue reading...

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