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Monday, 30 March 2015

Big Bands & Branding – What lies ahead for One Direction?

From left to right: Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik & Harry Styles (Source: Sugarscape)

In news that had teenagers all over the world gasping for air, Zayn Malik announced his departure from One Direction after spending five years as part of the chart-topping British boy band. As a low-key fan of the group (and dedicated marketer), what I was most concerned about was the impact Zayn’s departure would have on the One Direction brand going forward - especially considering it was up until now one of the most lucrative musical acts to have ever existed.

In 2013 Business Insider estimated the worth of One Direction as close to US$1 billion, with earning sources ranging from concert ticket to record sales, movie tickets, DVD sales, and a wide range of memorabilia and merchandise (including an official fragrance). Forbes also estimated that the group earned $75 million in 2014, and listed them as the 7th most powerful celebrities on social media, 17th in terms of earnings, and 44th in terms of overall press coverage.

So given all these stats, I was left wondering how the departure of one member of this group would impact the overall longevity of ‘One Direction’. If history were any indication, I would predict that like many other bands before it (Spice Girls, Take That, Boyzone etc.), One Direction are headed towards an eventual disbanding, perhaps with one last album and tour under their belts.

Part of the charm of a boy (or girl) band is the togetherness and chemistry between the members, and so to loose a vital player leaves an unforgettable void, and one that will always be referred to with scrutiny and comparison. They’ll never be just One Direction anymore – it’ll always be One Direction before/after Zayn – and this is perhaps the crux of the problem, as although the band isn’t just one person, the balance in personalities is what lies behind their success, and so it’ll be incredibly difficult to fill this void and to carry on without fans feeling like something (or someone in this case) is missing.

Aside from the overall branding concerns, the process of removing one band member from the picture may prove to be an extremely costly exercise – and one that the band may not want to repeat if another member leaves. Not only will all official merchandise need to be updated without Zayn’s signature or face on it, so will the external licensing deals that have proved to be cash cow’s for the band, and will now need to either be renewed, or changed to account for Zayn’s departure.

I would compare this whole situation to someone losing an arm or leg (as graphic as that comparison is), because at the end of the day you can still function to some degree, but your movements will always be limited, and that’s something One Direction will no doubt experience in the years (or months) to come.
Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 27 March 2015

Something’s Wrong with this Picture…

I commute to work every day, and I’ve noticed a bunch of interesting advertisements placed in the bus stand media window. First, it was for the old computer game known as “The Sims”, where you build a little life and a house for your virtual character. It was super fun, but even more fun when you figured out the cheat code to make yourself more money and build a bigger house! It was cool to see this company trying to make a comeback for the game. But then, I saw the below ad:

(Photo by Christine Drpich - Waterloo)

Please excuse the sideways and poorly taken photo, however, I think the point is still captured. There are definitely professional athletic Australian women on TV and featured on sports channels! At first glance, I thought the ad and promotion was only featuring men's sports, which would be even worse. But after reading the small print at the bottom, I’ve come to realise it’s actually for multiple sports channels, which go unlisted, but I’m still assuming they highlight women’s sports as well. So why aren’t women featured on the ad?

Your first thought might be, well women’s sports may not have as many followers, and therefore not evoke the kind of revenue that allows them to be televised or afford that publicity. But if they aren’t on TV, then they’ll definitely never be able to achieve a widespread following like the men’s sports. It’s kind of like the question, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you need to be publicised to create the following, or do you need the following to earn you the publicity? Regardless, women work just as hard as men, and often at the same exact sports that the men play. Why aren’t they featured here?

Another thought may be, well, there aren’t as many professional women’s teams, or there aren’t as many games played to be televised. Again, another faulty logic. If that’s the case, all of the teams, individuals, games, matches, etc. that there are, should be extremely well highlighted. Out of all the countries in the world, Australia is one of the most progressive in gender equality, so the least they could have done was highlight some of their female professional athletes who are just as lean and mean as the male rugby players here. I tried to reason through the ad with my little knowledge of Australian sports, and wondered if maybe every male featured on this ad was truly from a different sport. I counted: NRL rugby team member, Union rugby team member, Formula One racer, two soccer players, an AFL footy team member, and then another two rugby duplicates. Those spots easily could have been given to women in those respective sports. Or even women in different fields such as tennis. Australia has incredible tennis players, and tennis is probably featured on at least one out of the billion sports channels you get in this Foxtel package.

It’s kind of sad to see yet another ad missing the women’s perspective. I wonder if this ad was created by a male? To be honest, I didn’t really look for or even acknowledge these small inequalities in ads or publicity, until I attended the International Women’s Day Breakfast as a guest of the Business School about two weeks ago. I was typically of the belief that acknowledging these little inequalities was petty, and only further perpetuated the inequality and the thought there of. However, I would like to see Foxtel redo the ad and incorporate some of Australia’s professional athletic women. They work just as hard, compete just as much, and love their sport and their fans, just as much.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Snickers Cashes in on Clarkson Controversy

The controversial television presenter Jeremy Clarkson has once again created a storm within the senior management of the BBC. Last week the popular yet polarising presenter was suspended after a ‘fracas’ with the highly successful show's producer. The alleged incident occurred after a long day spent filming an upcoming episode which has since been put on hold. The angry presenter launched a tirade of abuse at the producer after catering were only able to provide him with a cold meal for his dinner. The news sent shockwaves through the media in the UK as they began speculating if fists where raised as well as tempers. 

In a clever publicity stunt, the Snickers Brand, owned by Mars, Inc, tweeted a picture of a box of its chocolate bars addressed to the BBC Top Gear studios. The tagline for the brand, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry”, was posted on the box with the following message: "@JeremyClarkson you may want to have some of these on set next time you are #hungry…" As of writing this has been retweeted more than 5,000 times on Twitter and gained exposure in several main stream media outlets.

Source: Twitter

The challenge for Mars was that people simply weren't thinking about buying Snickers when out and about. So they needed to remind people why, and most importantly when, they could enjoy a Snickers bar. Their TV advertising campaigns were centered on the celebrity diva Joan Collins, who is notoriously highly strung. After enjoying a Snickers bar she transforms into a level headed footballer who has cured her hunger cravings. You're not you when you're hungry moments happen when people were in the vicinity of a chocolate bar and needed the instant fix of a Snickers. Over the 12 weeks of the launch campaign, Mars saw an increase of 705,000 units of Snickers bars sold in the UK.  

The narrative of Clarkson’s latest blunder fit perfectly with the provocative branding used by Snickers. They were able to successfully piggy back off the topical story and gain positive publicity with their core audience of followers. Many companies would not have wanted to associate themselves with the presenter who has previously been in hot water after a string of misdemeanours and allegations of racism. In cheeky fashion, Snickers took the initiative and made the most of the free social media marketing. The hilarious tweet was well received by the media and public, although whether or not Jeremy Clarkson saw the funny side of the publicity stunt remains to be seen. 

Robert Brunning
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 23 March 2015

Dolce & Gabbana and The PR Disaster

The last week in the fashion industry has definitely been an interesting one, but what topped the conversation was an interview given by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (obviously of Dolce & Gabbana), where they questioned non-traditional family sets, and were quoted saying the following: "I call children of chemistry ‘synthetic children.’"

Although this article fell fairly under the radar at first, it wasn’t until it came into Elton John’s notice that their words began to be picked apart, especially by John himself who posted a very passionate response to the interview on Instagram, defending both his children (who were born of IVF) and family values.

What I wanted to really focus on in this post was how D&G responded to John’s call for people to #boycottdolcegabbana, and whether it was the smartest move given the size and mass-market awareness of the Dolce & Gabbana brand. I personally would have thought the designer duo would have kept quiet, and then issued one statement in which they laid the issue to rest (similar to what Beyonce’s PR team did following elevator gate last year). Instead, what they’ve done is essentially add fuel to the fire by reposting messages of support, or the thoughts and conversation of those who have been marred by their words, on their personal social media accounts ( counted almost 50 instagram posts addressing the topic on their respective pages).

Although I’m no PR expert, from a branding perspective taking a very defensive approach, and drawing out the issue seems very counterproductive. Once the damage was done, they should have just reached out to John and apologised for the misunderstanding (they later regretted their choice words, and clarified their acceptance of all family sets). What they’ve instead done is made people question the values of their brand, and potentially alienated key customer sets who are from or support non-traditional families, or have had children via IVF.

It’ll be interesting to see how this whole debacle affects D&G sales over the next 6 months, but D&G definitely have their work cut out for them in resolving the dissent their words have caused, and re-building positive associations surrounding their brand.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Uber: Breaking through both cities and generations

I was surprised to hear last week some interesting reviews from my friend's parents about how much they loved Uber X. To be honest, I was kind of surprised - could our parents really understand and utilise an app and service that works so fast I almost can’t even keep up? Well of course they can! They’re competent, and intelligent, and most of all, still young at heart - and that’s why I think they really love Uber X.

Uber, the alternative and customised taxi-like car service, has tailored a unique car-pooling service to young college students or part-time available car owners. These car owners can work a few hours a day, with their own personal car (model has to be newer than 2006) and make some money picking up fellow stranded city-goers. Not only does this create jobs that are flexible to people with pre-scheduled activities, but it opens up safer transportation to people who would potentially not have enough money to pay for an official taxi service, or who would drive their own car otherwise and not necessarily be capable of doing so safely.


Speaking of affordability, above you can see the base rates and continuing rates for Uber X. In this case, you’re meeting a potential new friend and saving some money! No wonder all of the parents love it. It’s quick, cheap, and has many “on demand” options to fit their needs best. Additionally, our parents have been our long time supporters and budgeters, so they definitely know how to pick a deal when they see one. After all, having an app that stores your credit card information securely, removes the hassle of payment at the end of your ride, customises your ride to your needs, and can pick you up at your exact pin point location, hasn’t really forgotten anything.

Following the type of company Uber runs and the services they provide, you begin to wonder how they even create all of these masterfully solved city “puzzles.” Well, check out their company culture throughout this video.

Company culture is not only an aspect of crucial internal marketing, but it is also the fundamental core of doing business and being adaptable. Companies like Uber that have now gone multi-national, have truly mastered an understanding of people, functionality, and even law in the cities/countries in which they are involved. Additionally, capturing the business and consumer market needs and wants is only half of the business. Again, you have to remember they’ve already solved two core problems in the market that has helped bring to life new jobs: making travel cheaper, and making it more accessible. Some taxi companies may fight the disruptive tactics being utilised by Uber, however, disruption just makes for more creative solutions in the future, so I suggest we sit back and relax.

So maybe I should get back on my Uber X game, as I have only ever utilised Uber Taxi. Additionally, I would encourage my car-owning counterparts at uni to get in on this flexible and accommodating job. You may end up with our Uber X-loving parents in your car, but we kind of owe them some driving around after the many years they’ve done it for us.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Whole Truth – Personal Brand Building 101

As of the last week, social media has been abuzz following claims that Belle Gibson, founder of The Whole Pantry health and well-being app, may have lied about suffering from a terminal cancer. The context of these allegations is that she’s essentially built a brand out of her personal health journey, and documenting her battle with this illness.

I don’t want to focus on the validity of these claims – that’s Belle’s story to tell, and it’s not productive to speculate on what is essentially a rumour at this point in time. I do however want to draw upon the undeniable power of personal story telling, and how it can both build and completely ruin a brand.

Perhaps the best example of this scenario is that of Lance Armstrong – a cancer survivor and seven time Tour De France title holder who was found out to have been using performance engaging drugs during the span of his cycling career. Lance’s battle with cancer and eventual comeback was a heroic tale of sheer determination and a fight against all odds. This story became the backbone of his brand, and later formed the basis of his sponsorship deals with Nike, Michelob, Trek Bicycles, Easton-Bell Giro Helmets, Honey Stinger and Lance Armstrong branded 24-Hour Fitness gyms. These brands bought into the athleticism of Lance Armstrong, so when it emerged that drugs may have aided his success, his brand story fell through and so did his various sponsorship deals.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong (Source: Esquire)

Where Armstrong’s situation differs from a fellow sportsman such as Tiger Woods (who faced a highly publicised cheating scandal back in 2009), is that Wood’s sportsmanship never came into question – he may have cheated on his wife, but he didn’t cheat in the game, which is why key sponsors such as Nike stood by him throughout the scandal.

So when it comes to personal branding, the key takeaway from these situations is that your brand story (and values) are essentially what consumers/followers/admirers are buying into. When any part of this story starts to fall through, so does the trust people instil in your brand; so always tell the whole truth!
Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 13 March 2015

Virtual Social Media

(Source: Next Galaxy Corp)

The confluence of technology, innovation and ideas is producing the most rapid expansion of human capital possibilities the world has ever known. Freed of regionalism, and the tyranny of traditional workplaces, our minds are freer to explore potentials in new environments than ever before.

Social media enables connection, intimate and transient, to occur over an infinite distance of both time and space. Records persist, and our desires for immortality captured in digital data manifest in streams of tweets, blogs and posts. Content is prodigiously produced, with no chance to chronologise or qualify beyond the immediacy of peers’ recognition through likes, retweets and amplification. Perhaps one day looking back upon the sum total of our earthly achievements, these metrics will be a reassuring reminder of a life well spent. But the shallowness of these quantifications may leave our minds wanting for the richness of the moment. If only we'd taken seconds to record deeper experiences, perhaps through literature, art or music. These heavily time invested modalities of recording cultural memory already feel relegated to the annals of a slower, more considered time. Yet the lustfulness of their vitality persists.

Capturing digital media currently exists within a limited dimensional spectrum. We record on smartphones the still and moving images of our lives, complemented by aural landscapes sufficient to jog memory. With super computers in our pockets and narcissistic intentions in our hearts, we diligently capture and share every moment with willing and unwilling audiences, seeking public recognition of our feats. But the momentary richness is lacking when we replay these moments, recalling bits and replaying bites.

Virtual reality technology, the domain of Lawnmower Man dreams, failed to deliver collective 90s fiction. Until now, a human’s ability to suspend visual disbelief has not been fooled by technology. But as the virtual reality regains momentum and approaches the critical point of consumer products, the platform seems ripe for media consumption of a massive scale.

Our willingness to record, replay and retweet our every moment is well established. The technology to relive these experiences in a virtual, immersive environment is not far off. The final component will be the ability for consumers to capture their experiences immersively, through three dimensions of space, as well as that of time, to replay and share at their hearts’ content.

When these elements combine, we’ll see the emergence of a new social phenomenon - one that will further polarise the cultural, social, environmental and economic landscape, while at the same time mending contemporary points of dissonance. When people can capture their experiences using 3D technologies and share these through established channels of social media, to be consumed anywhere in the world immersively through virtual reality, we will see the rise of Virtual Social Media.

Imagine a mother sharing virtual reality photographs of their newborn son with their grandparents half way around the world. Or an orthopaedic surgeon able to advise a local general practitioner on the best way to set a bone cast in Africa. Or a conference call between an American biotechnology company streamed live via 3D cameras mounted on a drone to a potential customer in Germany.

These confluences of recording technology, media consumption and the rise of social media will drive a paradigm shift in how we record, share and consume our personal media. It will lead to more restrained rationalisation for travel and subsequent decreases in environmental degradation. It will bring us cognitively closer together while physically keeping us apart. It will privilege those with access to technology, while alienating and impoverishing those left behind.

As we move into a world of Virtual Social Media, the directors of this change must be the custodians of our collective heritage, where a society is judged on the treatment of its most impoverished citizen. As we write this new future, recording the achievements of everyman, everyman must be included, and no one left behind.

Duncan Bell
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

THE Dress & Leveraging Viral News Stories

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about ‘the dress’, because from now onwards any talk about the colour combinations ‘black and blue’ and ‘white and gold’ will always whittle back to this one item of clothing. To catch you up, a picture of a seemingly plain dress went viral last week after sparking heated debate on Tumblr (not a hard feat to achieve) about its colour. A range of scientists, celebrities and ordinary people have weighed in, and it seems that there is still a significant divide between the people who see it as a white and gold dress, as opposed to those who see it as clearly black and blue.

Now we won’t get into the scientific details of this dilemma, but instead I wanted to focus on how brands have bought into the hype of this debate. Although most brands have taken the tongue in cheek approach of questioning the colour of their products (L’Oreal put their gold and blue eye shadows head to head), only one has really used this debate to spark a much greater one about domestic abuse. Playing off the connotations of ‘black and blue’, the South African arm of The Salvation Army (TSA) put out a campaign featuring the dress in question (see below), and instantaneously had us questioning our willingness to talk about something so trivial, in lieu of discussing real social issues.

TSA Campaign Image One (Source: SMH)

TSA Campaign Image Two (Source: SMH)

I think there will always be a camp of people that will find brands leveraging off viral news stories as a fickle way to gain engagement, and although it is, I do believe that the means justify the ends in this case. TSA has created a really compelling message out of this previously trivial issue, and although the imagery is confronting, it probably needed to be to really get the message across. The dress in this instance becomes the prop to the overall campaign, and in doing so it became less about the dress, and more about the issue and it’s relevance to society (they quoted that 1 in 6 women are victims of domestic abuse).

This isn’t the first campaign of its kind, but it was a welcome one amidst all the tired jokes and internet-memes surrounding ‘the dress.’ Hopefully other brands will take a page from TSA’s books and leverage viral stories in a more socially responsible manner – there will always be an opportunity to talk about your products, but to impart an important social message leaves a much more lasting impression.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 9 March 2015

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green…

So where were you this past Saturday night? Somewhere over the rainbow by any chance? Well, if not, you should have been!

Introducing some of this year's main contenders for best brand campaign at Sydney's Mardi Gras: "Out since '99" by Frucor and "Disco Infono" by Telstra. Specifically, Frucor highlighted its primary brand, V, an energy drink, and Telstra highlighted it's phone and wifi services. The purposes of these campaigns were not only to show support for being a judgement-free company, but also to help create a connection between their products and an event in which their product can hopefully create value for consumers.

First, V developed a limited edition rainbow can followed by an advertisement playing on its original release date in 1999. The ad explained the brand's contribution to the sponsorship of the event as well as support for the people which the Mardi Gras was celebrating. Being a part of the festivities helped personify the sensitivity and understanding of the brand and its company's non-judgmental culture. This is an important part of creating value for consumers and potential new customers because it builds trust, and informs users of the company's awareness of current events and sentiments. Additionally, since the ads displayed a play of words on their own history, people actually had to spend time understanding the ad and learned a little bit more about the brand!

(Source: mUmbrella)

However, creating awareness, funny little jokes, and value, didn't necessarily work for everyone. Large companies that attempt to make a connection through small services offered at large scale events can sometimes successfully redefine consumers perceptions of their business culture. Telstra was attempting to do just that, in my opinion. The disco phone booths are a great throwback in combination with a fancy new way of getting connected, especially with their free wifi hotspots. Although this yet again displays their support for the community, it doesn’t necessarily elicit a change in consumer behaviour. Chances are it didn’t cost Telstra that much to produce, and I’m sure people loved their free internet. But, the question remains, does it really make the user more confident in Telstra’s ability to provide an affordable and reliable phone or wifi service? Telstra may now appear to have connected with the community, recognised their identities, and built a more human connection, but now that Mardi Gras is over, will we still get our free wifi? Will it be a good connection? And, most importantly, will more people trust their services and their mission?

(Source: mUmbrella)

Mardi Gras was officially supported by a combination of a hundred or so companies or organisations. Both “V” and Telstra were official supporters and suppliers. They were successful in creating their brand awareness, but only the future will tell about any potential changes in user behaviour. You can find out more about the type of Mardi Gras partners here.

Another interesting application of Mardi Gras brand analysis comes from our Marketing Communications course. We learned a critical analysis technique known as S.C.O.R.E, which stands for Simplicity, Creativity, Originality, Relevance and Ethicality. This analysis helps define whether or not the ad or campaign really helps create value for the consumer and change for the brand. In this instance, V would probably SCORE higher because their ad contains one clear, simple and easily determinable idea - It is impactful and you will notice the change in the can design and purpose; can design change has been done before according to themed events, but it’s the words on the ad that have not been used in the same way; the ad and can are both relevant to the event and the sentiment of the community; and finally, the context of the word “out” is used responsibly and considerably, and the can is decorated in coordination with the event and the sponsors' agreements. All in all, this is a very exciting way to look at advertisements and activations, and where better to create such displays than at Mardi Gras Sydney!

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 6 March 2015

Welcome to all

Last Thursday, the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School was proud to welcome close to 30 new students to our community. Dr. Pennie Frow offered orientation sessions prior to the induction ceremony, at which Salil Kumar and I had the pleasure to meet a bunch of new students. Honorary Associate Professor Terry Beed once again executed a phenomenal evening for the program.

We all were also able to welcome guest speakers and industry professionals, Wayne Kingston, Ineke Williams, and Master of Marketing alumnus, Olivia Holtz. All of the speakers told interesting stories about their experiences, but more importantly, projected important forecasts onto the next generation of marketers sitting in the room.

(Photo by Salil Kumar)

The most exciting parts of the guest speaker's information was in regard to the importance of digital technology and the advancement of it. Both Wayne and Ineke felt very strongly about the integration technology and digital services will have with both life and business in general.

Over all, the new students seemed to enjoy the night and we are looking forward to connecting everyone with their new buddies - that way they can get accommodated and introduced more to the program and start connecting with all of their new group and cohort members.

Salil and I also had some time to reflect on the journey we’ve taken since one year ago when we arrived as new students to the program. Now having completed our consulting projects, the road ahead seems more open than ever. We have truly been a part of excellence and learned a lot from our peers, and now, look forward to seeing our friends continue on in the program and the new students thrive as well.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

How Jamie Oliver can teach us more than how to just cook Carbonara

A chef. A restaurateur. A business man. An author. A TV personality. A campaigner.  A publisher. A brand.

Yep, there’s no denying it. Jamie Oliver is one busy lad.

However, if you peer beyond the flannel button-ups, cheeky grin and cockney accent, do not be fooled, as this “boy next door” is definitely no accidental global sensation.

British Chef, Jamie Oliver – More of a brand than a chef, Source: Daily Mail UK

Unlike many of his British counterparts such as Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal, Jamie’s journey as a chef hasn’t been trickled with Michelin Stars or public tales of Kitchen Wars. Indeed, it could be assumed that if an almighty cook-off were to take place, Gordon and Heston would probably win through food tales of foams, confit and multisensory cooking techniques. However, if we were to compare the size of each chef’s global empire, the significant advantage old Jamie has stems from a marketing and branding strategy that is characterised by rigid discipline.

“Jamie Oliver” the brand follows a classic character archetype of being an “everyday guy - who just happens to be a passionate everyday chef.” Creatively, this identity has been executed both visually and consistently across every brand touch point around which his friends, fans and future customers interact. 

His marketing team have leveraged the concept of content marketing to an entire new level by focusing on traditional story telling techniques that enable the reach of his brand to go beyond cultures, geographic locations and personalities. Furthermore, by implementing a personalised communication strategy that plays throughout his business, brand, social media, books, press and even clothing attire, it enables customers not only to recognise what his brand is about, but most importantly, recall it during a decision making process. Like any strong relationship, the value proposition that is fundamental to Jamie’s overall success is that his fans feel as if they are learning from a “friend they know well and can trust”.

Indeed it is clear, Jamie Oliver is man with a very clear mission. Yet there are some pertinent facts that all of us as marketers could take away from the branding successes that this original “Naked Chef” has had. Yes, we all know attention to detail and creativity within a kitchen is key, but when assessing a brand’s overall marketing and communications strategy, there maybe one or two points we could take from their books.

Food for thought … Marketing 101 from a chef’s perspective:

Chef Rule 1: Freshness of Ingredients
Using stale produce, ingredients or vegetables in a dish are as detrimental to a chef's or a brand's reputation as having a stale online presence, imagery or collateral.

Chef Rule 2: Availability of Produce
Utilising limited / exclusive produce for a dish raises the overall value of the final meal. Similarly, strategically limiting the overall exposure of the brand within the appropriate target audiences increases the overall value of the produce / brand.

Chef Rule 3: Price

Using cheap or discounted produce or ingredients devalues the overall value of the final dish that a chef serves. In the same way, if the pricing strategy of a menu or product doesn’t correlate with the brands positioning strategy, this once again will devalue brand from the customer’s perspective.

Chef Rule 4: Customers
A dish is always created with a specific customer in mind. The chef would assess how the meal would integrate with the values, lifestyle and attitude of their customer base. Similarly, a brand’s website / digital presence has to be created with the intention to build and develop a consistent online community - a community of not only fans of the brand, but eventually also friends of the business.

Chef Rule 5: Partners
For any chef, the produce suppliers they work with and the partnerships they forge with them are key to the overall success of their restaurant and business. Similarly, the success of any branding strategy is dependent on selecting marketing partners (photographers, graphic designers, strategists, creatives, etc) who share similar values and goals. At the end of the day, your final dish is only as good as the suppliers that are used.

Natasha Menon
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 2 March 2015

Google Targets the Collaborative Economy

The term ‘collaborative economy’ has been floating around a lot in the past few years, with companies such as Airbnb & Uber transforming their respective industries by providing services as you need them, and through much more efficient (and usually cheaper) means. For those of you unaware of this term, it basically refers to an economic model within which people obtain goods and services from their peers – ranging from food, money, accommodation, transport and basically any (reasonable) good or service they may require.

Although Airbnb, Uber and oDesk have been at the forefront of the collaborative economy, it seems that Google is now gearing up to join them and will play a major role in this market going forward. Not only is the technology giant literally joining them (Google initially invested $258 million in Uber and is partnered with Airbnb), it’s also developing it’s own offerings to rival these businesses, and to provide solutions to other consumer problems that are better met within a collaborative market.

The most intriguing venture that Google has taken on is the ‘Google Self-Driving Car’ project, which as the name suggests, involves developing autonomous cars. Where this really hits home from a marketing perspective is how it’ll change consumer purchase behaviour within practically every industry imaginable. The automotive market is perhaps the first, with there most likely being a turnaround in car ownership as people begin to share or rent cars when they need them, as opposed to owning them outright. Other industries that may also see a complete turnaround are the fast-food, clothing, and grocery industries, with people becoming even less inclined to actually go and shop in person, and instead order and have good and services delivered to their homes.

The Google Self-Driving Car Prototype (Source: BBC UK)

It’ll probably be another 5-10 years before the Google Self-Driving Car and other technologies in this market really come into play, but it’s eye-opening how many industries are likely to be overhauled by the collaborative economy. What this does suggest is that in many cases, we as people are better able to meet each others needs by sharing and collaborating, instead of relying solely on third party sources. Although the collaborative economy won’t be the answer to all our problems, it does seem to address some, and is doing a pretty good job of it too.  

To read more about Google’s recent investments in the Collaborative Economy, visit the Web-Strategist blog.

By Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Virtual Reality hits New York Fashion Week

It’s that time of the year again when the fashion pack jet off for a month of Fall/Winter shows across the world’s most fashionable cities. With the first stop being New York Fashion Week, I was hoping to have some innovative branding efforts to report on, and was not disappointed when I came across the news that designer Rebecca Minkoff had filmed her Fall 2015 collection in preparation for releasing it later using virtual reality technology.

For those of you who may be unaware of term Virtual Reality (or VR as it’s slowly becoming to be known), it’s probably worth reading this post published by The Verge on this topic. But to give you a brief overview, it pretty much involves the use of ‘goggle’ like devices, which when you put them on, immerses you into a 360-degree, 3D experience. It’s being touted to revolutionise the gaming industry in particular, but also bring about greater efficiencies in other industries including real estate (gone are the days that you need to trudge between one property to the next), education, tourism and pornography (but lets not go there).

Virtual Reality Oculus Rift Device (Source: Inition UK)

Getting back to the topic of VR entering the fashion world, as much as it sounds like a completely new concept, the fashion world has always been ahead of the curve in broadcasting shows and experiences on digital platforms. Burberry was notably one of the first brands to live stream their fashion shows on their website and within their flagship stores around the world. VR therefore seems like a natural extension to these existing efforts, instead allowing fans and customers of the brand to take an actual (well virtual) seat on the front row, and experience the show first hand within their living rooms.

It was only halfway through writing this post did I realise that this wasn’t actually the first time that the fashion world had engaged with VR technology. It turns out that this time last year, high street retailer, Topshop, engaged production company, Inition, to create a VR experience for customers at their flagship store on Oxford Street. The result was a VR booth that allowed customers to virtually attend the Topshop Unique show at London Fashion Week, in between shopping at the retailer’s store.

No only did the venture win Inition the ‘BT Retail Project of the Year 2014’, it also created a lot of press for the brand, and engaged Topshop consumers in a way that had never been done before.

Now that it seems that VR will become a commonplace experience within the fashion industry, I’m excited to see how many brands will embrace this new technology, and whether it will lead to greater change within the industry. After all, if you can attend a show from virtually anywhere, what’s the point of inviting hundreds of members of the press, and holding a show in the first place? Although it’s probably not something we need to concern ourselves with for the time being, it’s still worth noting the power of this new technology, and the opportunities it may present brands in the years to come.

To read more about Topshop’s VR project, visit Inition’s Case Study.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Oscars 2015 – The Superbowl of Product Placement

There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about the goodie bags that this year’s Oscar nominees are taking away. The estimated worth of each individual bag has ranged at around US$125,000, and allegedly include a range of absurdly expensive luxury personal products, accessories, pre-paid holidays and even a year’s worth of Audi car rental.

Although the bags are not officially endorsed by the Academy, they have remained a part of the annual awards function for many years, and seem to continuously be growing in value. The main reason I wanted to bring them up was that it seems that the Oscars has become as much of a marketing event as the Superbowl. Whereas marketers around the world anticipate viewing the highly publicised ad breaks, it seems that a similar situation is arising within the Oscars, but instead the focus is on product placement within the actual show it self.

The Infamous Oscar’s Selfie taken with a Samsung Galaxy Phone (Source: Tech First Post)

Last year’s function is perhaps the best example of this, with Samsung negotiating the use of it’s Galaxy phones within the actual broadcast of the show, in addition to buying out several ad spots. Perhaps the most memorable moment for the brand (and everyone else who was watching that year) was when host Ellen DeGeneres whipped out the Samsung Galaxy for a seemingly impromptu group ‘selfie’. She then tweeted the picture, which quickly became the most retweeted Tweet of all time, and within 12 hours had amassed around 32.8 million impressions, was seen by 8.1 million people, and was retweeted 2.4 million times (and a year later it currently stands at 3.36 million).

Although it’s unlikely for such a moment to repeat itself within this year’s broadcast, it does leave room for thought as to how brands can continue to make their presence known within one of Hollywood’s most talked about award nights. Many brands do participate on the side-lines by sharing Oscar related commentary on their social media platforms, yet it’s probably quite difficult to actually demand a physical presence at the function without sponsoring the use of their products by celebrity attendees, or like many have done already, offering up freebies to feature in the nominee goodie bags.

As always, my focus will probably remain on the red carpet side of the awards show, but I do look forward to seeing the marketing buzz around the event, and spotting this year’s most visible product placements.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 20 February 2015

Time for new students!

Congratulations and a warm welcome to all of our 2015 commencing students in the Master of Marketing program. We are so excited to have you, and have a lot in store for you. With a whirlwind of a year-long course a head of you, we suggest that you take in all the social events and networking now, because pretty soon you’ll have to get down to business.

First, Program Coordinator, Pennie Frow, sets up an incredibly informational and strategic learning opportunity called a marketing simulation game. The purpose of this game is to not only introduce new students to each other, but to give them a taste of the type of thinking they can begin to expect to be doing throughout the program. This type of thinking is lateral thinking - and in order to solve some of the marketing problems faced within the simulation game, you’ll have to make decisions and project future movements based on market analytics from your previous decisions.

Next, new students will be invited to an evening induction event. This event will serve as a meeting place for past, present and future students, as well as current faculty and important industry representatives. This time last year, induction included the addition of the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) accreditation to the program. The networking opportunities are endless to say the least.

Finally, new students will be linked up with a current student buddy. These buddies are meant to help us acclimate the new students, especially international students, to the University of Sydney student life and the program specifics. Typically, your buddy becomes your networking partner and is able to introduce you to all of the professors of the program. Buddies are also extremely useful gauging course work and work schedule balances.

So hopefully all of our new students are able to join us for induction, and we look forward to watching you grow into successful professional marketers. Watching the whole process start over is so bitter sweet. As it has now been one year since I was at induction, I can’t even begin to picture where the time went! But trust me, it’s the experience of a lifetime. Come hang out with us!

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Fifty Shades of …. From Hallmark holiday to the Hallmark of something slightly more naughty

Often ridiculed yet adored as the classic Hallmark holiday, Valentine's Day has long had a spotlight shone upon it as the commercial entity of “what true love stands for”.


However, with red helium balloons, tacky-themed restaurant menus and copious bouquets of roses having always led the way, 2015 has seen this marketing- induced essence of romance take a slight shift in direction…

(Source: One of 8 “Fifty Shades” posts from my personal Facebook account that I noticed following Valentine’s Day)

And yes, before you ask, the above mystery Facebook-ee is completely aware their essence of “shock” has been used for the vital purposes of this Marketing blog-ism.

Having not actually gone to see this film, it would not be fair of me to place forward an educated statement regarding the irony of the highly awaited, yet somewhat scathed adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, that premiered globally on cupid’s own day. However, I feel it is safe to say that the kind of relationship portrayed in the film bares nothing in common with the kind of romance that Hallmark envisioned through its first form of Valentines Day’s cards in 1910.

Based on a book that sold 100 million copies worldwide, this trilogy, now turned global blockbuster, earned over $240 million alone during its premier last weekend. Consequently, regardless of critics' opinions and despite targeting what some might say is a very distinct niche, sales figures such as this have only made producers smirk with pleasure, and have also made “50 Shades” a mainstream phenomenon by default - and effectively a brand in its own right.

As per my own friend's shock on Facebook, the “Fifty Shades” brand recalls an essence of shock and intrigue. Clearly both the publishers and producers have very cleverly leveraged digital marketing to further gain an associated interest with the “Fifty Shades” brand. However, it is clear their position was to never blatantly warn, but rather to cause impact - resulting in a somewhat cult following that has stemmed from a word-of-mouth cultivation through social media.

It’s not a surprise that it was only a matter of time before the “Fifty Shades” concept spread, resulting in marketers being marketers and numerous companies aiming to draw associations and coattails from this saucy brand’s glory. Despite brand associations generally positioned as the extent to which a particular brand calls to mind the attributes of a general product category, it is clear the elements of intrigue, shock and associated raunchiness led to a whole variety of unexpected brands jumping on the Fifty Shades bandwagon.

On that note, here is a few of the most random, yet somewhat humorous ones I’ve come across so far:

Fifty Shades of Kale

(Ref: Amazon)

Complete with tongue and cheek introductions, 50 SHADES OF KALE by Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh is described as a colorful, delicious and fun cookbook with 50 decadent recipes using every born hipster’s number one superfood.

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company


Despite having provided a wide variety of cuddly bears for decades, this year the Vermont Teddy Bear Company took a somewhat saucy spin on the traditional Valentine’s Day gift. Introducing the “Fifty Shades of Grey Bear,” dressed in a business suit and other additional props.

OPI 50 Shade’s of Nail Colour Pack


The set includes six mini nail lacquers including tones such as “My Silk Tie” and “Dark Side of the Mood”.

Flirty Shades of Surf

(Ref: Surf Com.)

I mean seriously??! No additional comment required.

Fifty Shades of Bacon

Who knew there was more than fifty different recipes for cooking bacon? Clearly targeting a consumer market with a unique foodie fetish.

Natasha Menon
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

An Intern goes to Manly

So who are marketing interns and what do they do? We’ve all been in that place before; having to find an internship to “gain experience” and so on. Sometimes we have the right experience and skills for the job, and sometimes we want to learn more. The following is the story of one such marketing intern, and their perspective of what it means to become a marketer:

“I must preface this blog by stating that I have absolutely no experience in the marketing world. Coming from (and about to complete) a science degree at the University of Sydney, the world of marketing was foreign to me. I chose to explore my options and to see whats out there. As such, when I was given the opportunity to intern with a large FMCG company (which shall remain nameless), I jumped at it to hopefully see how we are influenced, coached and (sometimes) conned into buying what we buy or behaving the way we do. Two weeks into this strange world, one thing I have very quickly come to realise is that there is WAY more to this than I ever imagined.

As you may have been aware, or you will know if you were anywhere near Manly over the past two weeks, the Hurley Australian Open Surfing was taking place. A brand awareness dream; thousands of surfers, skaters, wanna-be-surfers/skaters and your inevitable tourists mixed in to the scene. One thing a novice marketeer would realise is that Manly, and its Corso, is set up just like the ideal shop layout. Your prime market, tourists, inevitably have their point of entry into the stunning Manly Wharf. The customer knows exactly what to expect; they are brought into this idea of the stunning golden beach with the sapphire blue waters, and the self perception of attaining the bronzed god or goddess like body that is abundant in the imagery around them.


Before Manly-goers can even make it to the surfing event, one can’t help but get taken up by the building anticipation of where they can go next. Slowly but surely, the merchandise in the stores scream the “SALE 20%”, “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE”, that adorns every surf shop window, and thus lulls the consumer into this beach living appearance. Finally, you are immersed in surf living and the Hurley Open is then taking over. In this case, the marketing scheme isn’t just the discounts; it's the way of life that those brands represent, coupled with the actual personification of the lifestyle - with the athletes and their sponsors all present. The perfect cohesion of marketing and advertising hits bystanders like a ton of bricks, and by now, they’ve probably already picked up a cold beverage of ours of some sort.”


It’s so interesting to see from a novice marketers perspective the immediate change in perspective the second you are given insight into the skills a marketer needs to have in order to analyse situations and bring value to consumers. And to think our Master of Marketing program helps us perfect the way of thinking that allows us to make ethical and calculated business decisions in a world driven by insights. Although I can't release this intern’s name and company, the point is that their story is where we all started out, and it also helps explain the difference between marketing and advertising, as they often get confused.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 13 February 2015

Breaking the Internet with Kim Kardashian West

Kim Kardashian West – GQ Women of the Year 2014 (Source: Huffington Post)

This post has been a long time coming, and I could have chosen to write it back when Kim Kardashian West first ‘broke the Internet’ with her now infamous Paper magazine cover, but I wanted to wait until some of the stats rolled in, and to collect my thoughts on what I dub the era of ‘Kardashian Kulture’.

Kimberley Noel Kardashian West, or Kim Kardashian as she’s come to be known, has been metaphorically breaking the Internet since her debut in mainstream pop culture back in 2007. Given this is a university blog, I won’t go into the exact source of her rise to fame (Google it), but ever since then she’s been working her way to becoming one of the most marketable celebrity brands in the world.

A business model that essentially began from collecting fees for club appearances and product plugs, has now grown to encompass a beauty empire, clothing and handbag line, multiple fragrance deals, high fashion campaign features, and nine seasons of the hit reality TV series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians (and that’s not counting the multiple spin offs). Say whatever you want about Kardashian West, but its undisputable that she understands how to sell her brand, and has a penchant for keeping herself relevant (whether you agree with her methods or not).

Now before we go any further, let’s contextualize Kim’s social media reach and consider that she’s the most followed celebrity on Instagram with 25.8 million followers, has 26.8 million followers on Twitter, and 25.3 million likes on Facebook. She still holds the title of the most liked photo on Instagram (a picture from her wedding to rapper Kanye West in May 2014), was the second most searched person on Google last year, and launched one of the most commercially successful mobile video games of 2014 (Kim Kardashian: Hollywood netted $74.3 million in revenue for the game’s developer Glu Mobile).

So given these credentials, and ignoring the argument that she’s ‘famous for nothing’, I can clearly see why some of the world’s most coveted brands want to work with her. Anna Wintour (Editor in Chief of American Vogue), for example, had allegedly banned Kardashian West from attending the annual Vogue hosted Met Ball until 2013, when she not only attended with then fiancé Kanye West, but later went on to score a cover of American Vogue, and now a solo cover of the Australian edition. Kim’s American Vogue issue went on to sell 250,000 copies (20% more than the previous month’s Rihanna fronted issue), and paved the way for further high fashion jobs including an ad campaign for luxury fashion house Balmain, the controversial Paper magazine cover (which resulted in 5 million unique hits to the magazine’s website in just one day), and further covers of CR Fashion Book (run by former French Vogue Editor in Chief, Carine Roitfeld), and Love Magazine (which is rolling out as I write this article).

I had originally intended to focus this post on the ‘re-branding’ of Kim Kardashian West, but after much thought I couldn’t commit to discussing the strategy behind a brand that continues to shift, shock and polarize the public (well, perhaps that’s the strategy after all). What I can say is that her brand is deeply embedded in popular culture; anything she does - ranging from cropping her daughter out of a photo, to cutting her hair - gets reported by every news outlet, and this insane level of conversation is what brands are buying into.

Sign Kim Kardashian West, and she’ll break the Internet for you.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A New Type of Kiss


Have you ever had a Hershey’s kiss? They may be hard to find in Australia, but if one company or brand has ever mastered the art of sending x’s and o’s (hugs and kisses of course), it’s the Hershey Company. These kisses have journeyed through a long line of marketing schemes and campaigns to give you the very best Valentine’s day kiss.

In case you’re not aware, a kiss is a small droplet-shaped chocolate wrapped in a bit of foil, with a cute little tag out the top, often displaying it’s flavour. Originally, and traditionally, kisses were simply milk chocolate. But if there were kisses, there had to be hugs! Hugs were invented as a mixture or a combination of white and milk chocolate - an embrace. Together, they spread the love without anyone having to say anything, and made the perfect little gifts and treats around the holidays. Kisses come in many flavours, the ones below are just a few examples of the well-coordinated wrappers, tags and specialised flavours.

Source: Google Images

Just imagine if every Australia Day we had a small little snack that came right out of the fridge or cooler box that tasted like pavlova? White chocolate mixed with passion fruit or kiwi fruit flavoured chocolate? Why not make that small tasty splurge and share some with everyone? It’s quite amazing what a big influence a little party snack can provide.

Now, these delicious morsels could come as a massive disruption to say a brand like Tim Tam. They already do all the holiday flavoured and themed dessert snacks. Additionally, Australians are very loyal shoppers and followers, and don’t often like change from their favourite buys. These little kisses however, are calculated to provide the exact right mouthful size of chocolate and sweetness. They are meant not to overpower your taste buds, but to keep you coming back for more. Additionally, they are sold in large packs meant for sharing. This is an important part of their marketing because they can make economies of scale and there will never be that last odd biscuit left that everyone feels to guilty to eat, or even reach for.

So, the next time you’re thinking of ordering a flower arrangement online, see if you can find some kisses, and do something different this Valentine’s day.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 9 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey - A Valentine’s Day Cash Cow

(Source: 50 Shades of Grey YouTube Channel)

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the 50 Shades of Grey (5SOG) series, read it yourself, or at least observed the thousands of commuters that were unashamedly reading it on public transport back in 2012. I for one have read but a page of one of the books (out of sheer curiosity), and don’t intend to read any more pages, or see the movie. But in an effort to remain completely transparent in writing this post, I will say that I personally don’t see the appeal of this series, and perhaps that may be due to the fact that I’m not the intended audience. Whatever it is, I can’t deny that it is a commercial success (book sales reached 100 million units this time last year), and that come Valentines Day 2015, the movie will no doubt dominate box offices around the world.

Now from a marketing perspective (because that’s what we’re here to talk about), what I find interesting about the movie’s release is the advertising opportunity it provides to certain industries (namely condom manufacturers, speciality sex shops and the lingerie market). Ordinarily these industries would target adult only events (club nights, festivals or trade shows) or more boutique gatherings, but nothing comes close to the scale of operation that the 5SOG film brings to the table. Putting aside the obvious restrictions that brands in this domain have in promoting their product to the public, there’s nothing really stopping them from cashing in on the hype (but not obviously the IP) surrounding the release of the film on February 12.

Just before Valentines Day, February 12 provides the perfect contextual background for the release, as well as official (and non-official) branding tie-ins. Already several condom manufacturers have keyed in with parodies of the 5SOG series; an E.L. James (author of the book) approved adult toy line is available for purchase; cinemas around the world are curating special viewing experiences; and a slew of hotels have also checked in with 5SOG themed packages.

Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, it’s sure to be at the front of all media and advertising agendas this Valentines Day, and so as the old adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them (but don’t expect to see me at a cinema near you).

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 6 February 2015

Why You Gotta be so Mean?

Some of the famous song lyrics by Taylor Swift in her song “Mean” really help us step back and ask the hard questions of those around us. Why do you have to be so mean? Especially to someone who works so hard at her career, acts appropriately, gives back to her community, and is a role model for young people everywhere. The misconduct is coming from all of the cheeky people who got Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” disqualified from the Hottest 100.

As an American, I had never heard of the Triple J Hottest 100 until I spent my first full summer in Australia in the beginning of 2014. That and, when I did learn of it, it genuinely seemed like a real way for people to vote for their favourite song and have a happy Australia Day. It’s not fair that social media sites like BuzzFeed then get to insert themselves into people's lives uninvited thinking they can “troll the poll.” It’s not like Taylor Swift was paying them to get her song on the list - she’d be there anyways. Not only has the international pop culture community watched her personal brand grow from quiet and shy country musician into strong and dedicated young woman, but it has also watched her lyrics and stories shine through people’s poor behaviours. Taylor is the face of resilience, and she will overcome this obstacle as well.

(Source: KFC Facebook Page)

So I bet you want to more about what really happened? Well, it seems like with the image above, KFC decided to publicise their vote for the Hottest 100. This raises advertising and ethical questions, similar to topics we worked through in our Ethics and Regulatory Environment unit. What right does KFC own to this image? Does Taylor Swift’s Public Relations representatives even know her face and reputation is being used in this fashion? Does Taylor even approve of the message being used as her words? These are all common marketing problems facing not only Taylor’s personal brand, but also her business affiliations and reputation. Funnily enough, I would actually compare this advertising practice to political campaigning in the USA. Kind of putting words in people’s mouths and claiming that one or another certain person approves of the message. Additionally, while it may be a good idea to sometimes use celebrities as brand ambassadors, I wonder if Taylor Swift would ever even consider eating KFC food? I think this brand overstepped their advertising boundaries here.

Next, Triple J claimed that Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” would have only made 12th place on the list, but chances are people didn’t vote for it who would have when they found out it was disqualified the day before Australia Day. Additionally, rumour has it that at least one of the songs in the top 10 of the Hottest 100 had never even been played on the station’s airwaves. Isn’t that saying something? People may like a certain song, and have voted for it, yet that song didn’t get requested, nor played by the company the whole past year? Credit should be given where it’s due, especially if Taylor didn’t promote, or probably even know, about what was going on and how people were using her name and image.

Copyrighting and Trademarking are so important in the marketing world, and although no official lawsuits have happened in this instance, they could have. It is important as marketers that we know the limitation of our brands and advertising power. Someone is probably getting fired over at KFC right now, when they could have done a little bit of research to find out about how their customers would have liked to see them display their support for the big day.

(Source: BuzzFeed)

So note for BuzzFeed…. hire some real and ethical marketers to make sure you’re not ruining people’s brands, reputations or businesses. Even Triple J looks bad because you thought you had the authority to tell them and their listeners what they wanted to hear or vote for. The sun may not have been shining this Australia Day, but I was still rocking out to Tay Tay and I’m sure she’s going to shake you off because the haters gunna hate, hate, hate, hate.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

#CLEANEATING, but hold the McNuggets: McDonald’s answer to Australia’s Hipster Dining Movement

"We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it."
Ray Kroc, Founder, McDonalds

I'm sorry Mr Kroc, but it seems in today's day and age, the glisten of the Golden Arches have begun to fade, with the Australian public beginning to call bluff on this once made statement.

Despite feeding 1.7 million Aussies a day within its 930 restaurants speckled across the country, the global cheeseburger giant has developed what seems to be image problems of its own, with year-on-year domestic sales decreasing. 

Over the past decade, the brand has aimed to reposition itself from associations with greasy-processed burgers  and characters such as "The Cheeseburglar" and "Mayor McCheese"; to being a more nutritional, fresh and socially-aware "restaurant".

However despite this attempt, McDonalds, like many other fast-food franchises in Australia, is now beginning to tackle a different type of epidemic. One that is not only a hot-topic for a number of global-brands, but is also vital in ensuring the overall future sustainability of these businesses.


The Millennial Hipster Starter Pack (Source: The Guardian)

In an age where everyone who wants a voice can have one, Millennial's are a key target for brands that play within the restaurant group and fast/casual food franchise bubble. Born between the 1980's and early 2000’s, this cashed-up market not only have purchasing power, but also a core essence of entitlement (i.e. "me deserve this - me want now!"), due to being more educated and socially aware than any generation before them.

Accordingly, from a restaurant's perspective, they have the immediate and innate ability to empower and influence the direction of what their brand does….

Peer a bit deeper and it comes as no surprise that hipsters were the first and most visible sub-culture to peak out from this generation. Outlaw Consulting, a leading expert on understanding trendsetting youth for companies like Diageo and Nike, sums up these "progressive – creative – witty – stereotyped – bearded 'individuals'" perfectly by featuring this quote on their web site’s home page:

"Everyone wants to be a hipster, which makes being a hipster tricky and nearly obsolete."

Taking this into consideration, the "a-hah!" moment for McDonalds was recognising that the millennial hipster valued "authenticity" in every aspect of their lifestyle – including when deciding where they were to eat. They realised they are hungry to purchase "undiscovered" brands that related to their own values rather mainstream and established brands. Over and above that, they craved "experiences" when dining, rather than the tangible aspects of their meal. By increasing the size and scope of the McDonalds brand and force-feeding the ever-famous Golden Arches into the faces of this market, would purely be a plan of action to ensure the brand self-destructs. After all, the Hipster Mantra involves taking a lot of effort to make it look like you have taken no effort all.

So that's precisely what McDonalds did.

‘The Corner’ by McDonalds Australia (Source: The Guardian)

Looking beyond green-juice-in-mason-jars, five-grain rye breads and brown rice and lentils, McDonalds has opened "The Corner", your classic, cliché hipster led café within Sydney’s inner west suburb and growing hub of gentrification, Camperdown. From face value, it is unassuming from the outside with its branding carrying through solid tones of yellow, black and industrial touches of exposed metals.

Other than a small McCafe logo printed on packaging - the hipster tones include tiled walls, a herb garden, wooden sandwich boards, copious amounts of barista-made coffee, and of course free, WIFI. 

Cheeseburgers and fries have been replaced with a number of fresh salads featuring Moroccan roast chicken breast and chipotle pulled pork, brown rice and pumpkin.

Menu items being tested at ‘The Corner’ (Source: Broadsheet)

Despite being positioned as a trial test kitchen for new products within the McDonald's family, it definitely draws question as to whether the future of the multinational brand will be shifting in line with the changes of the broader market's appetite.

With customers now dining to experience and discover restaurants that have a genuine and consistent identity and distinct brand voice; it suggests an essence of success in McDonald's unique-approach in targeting the millennial hipster market.

Although I can't imagine Ronald McDonald swapping his yellow onesie for some skinny jeans and leather jacket just yet, this form customer-centric branding has given Mr Kroc's original statement a new life within this market…  

"We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it."

Truly a reinvention of one of the world’s most iconic brands, however, I guess time will tell with how on point this new venture is and where the future of the McHappy meal heads.

Natasha Menon
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 2 February 2015

When Rihanna Met Puma – The New Age of Celebrity Collaborations

(Source: BBC UK)

In what is now old news, Rihanna has signed on as Creative Director for the womenswear line at Puma. I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while now, and not just for an excuse to feature the polarising singer herself, but to look at the implications of giving creative control of a brand to a celebrity. In what seems to be an on-going trend these days, celebrity endorsements have given way to celebrity collaborations, and with this Puma deal, celebrities are now taking on leadership roles within organisations.

Perhaps where we should start is to look at the difference between being an ambassador of a brand (wearing the clothes), and taking on a role as creative director (designing the clothes). The problem with the distinction between these two roles is that one has a greater degree of corporate accountability than the other – you can no doubt change who represents the brand overnight, but removing the association of a creative director is much more difficult as they are essentially an employee. Furthermore, the role of a creative director (in a branding context) is to lead the brand’s vision, whereas an ambassador is solely a reflection of this vision.

Now having dealt with some of the technicalities regarding these positions, I personally feel that Puma has made a really smart decision to sign on Rihanna as a Creative Director. The chart-topping singer has proven her design skills in previous collaborations with brands such as River Island and MAC Cosmetics, as well as her ability to sell whatever she puts her name to (the Riri Woo lipstick for MAC Cosmetics sold out within three hours of going on sale). She also has a stamp of approval from fashion figurehead Anna Wintour, who last year acknowledged her contribution to the industry, and awarded her the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Style Icon Award.

So although there may have been speculation at the time that Puma could have instead hired a trained designer to fill this role, what they get with Rihanna is a minted tastemaker, and one with a phenomenal fan following (90 million likes on Facebook, 40 million Twitter followers, and 14.6 million followers on Instagram) and credibility within the fashion circle. It’s probably too early to say whether Puma have a potential hit on their hands, but considering Rihanna’s background, making hits is no new feat, and so I’m looking forward to seeing her impact on this brand in the months to come.

To read more about Rihanna’s new role, visit Puma’s press page.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 30 January 2015

SuperBowl Ads and Going Back to the Future

As SuperBowl XLIX is fast approaching, the world’s most expensive and creative ads start coming to light as well. As outsiders to advertising, you’d just think they keep getting more and more creative every year, and if not creative, at least more and more crazy and attention grabbing. But a little blast from the past by BMW can really help everyone enjoy a time when we didn’t exactly understand all of our newest technologies in order to help explain their new automotive concept. And of course, there’s no better time of year to put a brand new idea out there than during the SuperBowl, when the most viewers from around the world tune in to watch American Football players create a piece of history of their own.

The video below is a quick look at how confused we really were by a new technology. How no one understood it, yet, today, we couldn’t live without it. This technique is known as creating familiarity. It's one step in a long line of things put in place to help create and display value in products for consumers. It is masterfully brilliant, comparing unfamiliarity with the internet in 1994 to unfamiliarity to renewable energy in cars in 2015.

By reminding everyone how it felt to be confused by something new, BMW created the gateway into encouraging consumers to try and understand their newest all-electric car. Some users are opposed to change, yet change still happens over time and is something we adapt to without realising which direction or stance we even came from in the first place. That’s exactly what BMW is portraying here. It may seem confusing now, but in 21 years, it will be something we can’t live without…and hey, it will be much better and safer for our environment, cities and health.

Another interesting concept that the ad more subtly displays is the amount of change both Katie Couric and Bryant Gymbel have gone through. Their vocabulary didn’t even include the word for the “@“ sign in 1994, and by the end of the future portion of the ad, Bryant asks Katie if she can twerk. Additionally, Katie went from asking her assistant Alison, off-stage, to look something up for her, to calling her on her cell phone from the car. These transformations really help viewers from any part of the USA and other parts of the world come together on and relate to our modernisations.

Well done BMW; SupwerBowl viewers will really enjoy the ad, because it won’t be like all the overplayed and repetitive ones. People will never get tired of being reminded of humanities’ accomplishments.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School