How Tim’s Can Be More Than a Global Bit Player

[Cache #190]

By Andris Pone

President, Coin Branding


“There is no reason that the rest of the world shouldn’t be able to experience what Canadians get to experience at Tim Hortons every day.”
Daniel Schwartz
CEO
Restaurant Brands International
Tim Hortons’ Brazilian owner

Tim Hortons wants to be a household name not just from BC to Bonavista, but now, from Buenos Aires to Beijing.  But does the rest of the world really want watery coffee, so-so sandwiches and diabetes-inducing doughnuts?

This is a different question than asking whether what we recognize as the Tim Hortons brand can thrive abroad, because the emotional elements of the Tim’s brand as we know it – steeped in the Canadian experience and slathered with hockey – are too alien to resonate on foreign shores.  They have shown limited evidence of resonating even with our American cousins, many of whom share our passion for hockey and the winter experience, but in whose country Tim’s is running just 800 stores, concentrated relatively close to the Canadian border.

Absent the emotional elements of the brand, Tim’s is left with these brand elements:  products, customer experience and pricing.  How does each fare?

At risk of my passport being revoked, I offer that the products are just not that good.  The coffee has little in the way of taste, although it is very hot, an accomplishment that reminds of the line from the comedic mock-umentary Spinal Tap, in which the legendary heavy metal band of that name is revered as “one of England’s loudest bands.”

Tims did introduce a Bold blend of coffee to great fanfare last year, which may have been not just a reaction to the stronger coffee on offer at Starbucks and a variety of independent coffee houses, but also a trial balloon toward making the Bold blend its pillar abroad.  Self-respecting Europeans and Latin Americans, for example, would be unlikely to embrace Tim’s traditional coffee, which they would regard as an amusing attempt at lightly flavoured water.

The sandwiches and other non-doughnut food offerings are functional.  They get the job done.  They fill a hole.  (Insert Timbit pun here)

The doughnuts, on the other hand, are great.  They are in essence a dessert offering, and I have no clue whether Berliners or Bengalis have any affinity with them.

The customer experience is also best classified as functional.  There are always smiling staff in the TV ads, but sightings are rare at the actual stores.  The job could be equally well-performed by robots, but then again I live in Toronto, and that level of warmth is pretty much the GTA standard; it could well be that Tim Hortons’ staff in Halifax or Calgary are able to force a grin.

And after all, doesn’t it all come down to price?

The one truly amazing thing about Tim Hortons is that you go to the counter, you order some stuff, and they charge you almost nothing for it.  That is the real remark-ability piece.

Strip away the Canadiana, therefore, and what you are left with are the matters of product and price – value, in other words.  As much as the media and people like me carry on about the distinctly Canadian elements of the Tim Hortons brand, not nearly enough credit is given to the fact that they’ve nailed just the right value proposition of food, drink and price.

Assuming that people love a good deal no matter where they live, Tim’s best shot at global relevance is to stick with this very sweet spot.


Read Hollie Shaw’s story on Tim’s global plans here, in the National Post.

Dear Reader:
Why leave a comment on the blog?  I greatly appreciate the emails I get each week from people who’ve enjoyed the blog.  Yet most people do not actually leave a comment on the website, at the end of each blog.  I’d like to encourage you to use the comment field instead of sending me an email, because:
-It is fun and enlightening to get a conversation going with other commenters, as Cache readers are an extremely smart and good-looking bunch.
-I respond to every comment you leave.
-If you have a website, your comment helps your website rank higher on Google (because there is a space for you to leave your web address).
-Even if you do not have a website, your comments definitely help build the Coin brand as a provider of thought leadership related to branding.

OR, you can just continue to send me your emails, which I love to receive and respond to.

With thanks -
Andris.

Posted in brand differentiation, brand experience, customer service, positioning, rebranding, remark-able | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Target Comment in the National Post

I had a very nice conversation with Hollie Shaw, business reporter at the National Post, yesterday.  The article is here or by clicking on the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 11.12.25 AM

Posted in andris pone media comment, positioning | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Price You Don’t Have to Pay

[Cache #189]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding


“Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product.”
Jeff Bezos
CEO
Amazon

Clients and others often tell me, with a measure of pride in their voices, that most of their business comes from word-of-mouth.  In other words, they don’t spend much if any money on advertising.

On the surface, in today’s world this is an impressive accomplishment.  Each and every day, our company and personal brands are competing with the biggest ad spenders in the world for the most precious asset in the branding universe, brainspace.  Regardless of whether you run a billion-dollar-organization, an entrepreneurial startup or just yourself, you are locked in competition with titans like Apple and Google, who, together with their cohorts on Fortune’s list of the world’s most valuable brands in 2014, spent a combined $24-billion on advertising.

Hopelessly outspent, the most promising strategy for the 99-plus-percent of us is to be remark-able – worthy of word-of-mouth.  Among its virtues, word-of-mouth is close to free, and compared to advertising, people more readily believe it.

But in this regard there are two key caveats.  First:  just because you get most or all of your business from word-of-mouth, or just because you don’t spend money on advertising, decidedly does not mean you are remark-able.  In fact your brand could be quite unremark-able and still survive for some time, as demonstrated so impressively by companies like Canadian Tire and Hudson’s Bay, which are understood to be lacking on multiple levels – yet somehow still draw us in.

The second caveat:  remark-ability is not just for the 99-plus-percent of us.  In fact, it is for everyone.  Even among the world’s most valuable brands, there is a clear, if not straight-line, inverse relationship between brand value and advertising spend.  Apple, 2014′s most valuable brand at $124-billion, spent just 0.89% of that figure on advertising.  Louis Vuitton, which had the lowest brand value on the top 10 list, was the biggest ad spender, at $4.7-billion – almost 16% of its entire value.

Apple could therefore be considered – and this will probably surprise no one – as the world’s most remark-able brand.

How, then, to be remark-able?  Start by focusing on these three factors:

1.  Be different from everyone else.  But, because it is very likely that your business is actually not much different from others, the difference that does exist will be difficult to express.  Hire someone to help you do it.

2.  Find your “why,” because people don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.  When you talk about what you do, or even how you do it, you are often just expressing table stakes.  Watch Simon Sinek’s 18-minute TED talk as a starting point.

3.  Deliver great experiences.  Even in industries that are not commoditized, there are far fewer than 50 shades of grey between one brand and another.  Delivering a great experience is your secret weapon, one that the other guys are probably too lazy to try.

Because ask yourself:  do you really want to be the Canadian Tire or Hudson’s Bay of your industry?

DEAR READER:
Why leave a comment on the blog?  I greatly appreciate the emails I get each week from people who’ve enjoyed the blog.  Yet most people do not actually leave a comment on the website, at the end of each blog.  I’d like to encourage you to use the comment field instead of sending me an email, because:
-It is fun and enlightening to get a conversation going with other commenters, as Cache readers are an extremely smart and good-looking bunch.
-I respond to every comment you leave.
-If you have a website, your comment helps your website rank higher on Google (because there is a space for you to leave your web address).
-Even if you do not have a website, your comments definitely help build the Coin brand as a provider of thought leadership related to branding.

OR, you can just continue to send me your emails, which I love to receive and respond to.

With thanks -
Andris.

Posted in brand advertising, brand differentiation, brand equity, brand experience, hypermessaging, key messaging, personal branding, positioning, remark-able | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Proof of Remark-ability, from Apple

apple remark-ability spends less on advertising

 

 

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Your Very Own Super Bowl

[Cache #188]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

Imagine that your career is on the one-yard line.  Not merely a touchdown, but your entire livelihood and legacy depends on what you say next. Your opponent’s strength is legendary and the clock is ticking.  Eighty thousand screaming fans are watching in person, hundreds of millions more are watching around the globe, and the media universe is waiting, fingers poised, to write the narrative that will follow you around for the rest of your life.

What, exactly, are you going to say?  Surely, surely, you are not going to throw…away this opportunity by blurting out something ill-advised or ill-prepared.

There is an easy play, if only you will call it.

But first you must understand, deeply, the unique value you offer.  And that’s not something you can figure out on the fly.  Then you must be able to express it forcefully but simply – for in the words of Einstein (who is clueless as anyone about Sunday), “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So:  what is the unique value you offer?  And then:  how will you express it with power but simplicity?

Because remember:  the clock is ticking.

 

A NOTE TO READERS
Dear Reader,
Why leave a comment on the blog?  I greatly appreciate the emails I get each week from people who’ve enjoyed the blog.  Yet most people do not actually leave a comment on the website, at the end of each blog.  I’d like to encourage you to use the comment field instead of sending me an email, because:

-It is fun and enlightening to get a conversation going with other commenters, as Cache readers are an extremely smart and good-looking bunch.
-I respond to every comment you leave.
-If you have a website, your comment helps your website rank higher on Google (because there is a space for you to leave your web address).
-Even if you do not have a website, your comments definitely help build the Coin brand as a provider of thought leadership related to branding.

OR, you can just continue to send me your emails, which I love to receive and respond to.

With thanks -
Andris.

Posted in brand differentiation, confidence, key messaging, personal branding, positioning, remark-able, self-actualization | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You Better Believe It

[Cache #187]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding


Each of us believes we are different from everyone else.  It would be deflating like a New England football to believe otherwise – that there is essentially nothing that makes us unique, or that we have no one-of-a-kind contribution to make in this life.

Why, then, do we overwhelmingly use the same language as everyone else to describe ourselves in our bio, resume, or LinkedIn profile?

LinkedIn last week confirmed our predilection with its release of the “most overused” words on its site in 2014.  As Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn’s Director of Corporate Communications put it:

“If you’re motivated about your career, passionate about doing your best work, and are highly creative, then I’ve got news for you: so is everyone else.  We’ve just announced our annual list of the words that make you go ‘meh’ – the most overused, underwhelming buzzwords and phrases in LinkedIn profiles of 2014 across the world.”

Here are the Top 10:
1. Motivated
2. Passionate
3. Creative
4. Driven
5. Extensive experience
6. Responsible
7. Strategic
8. Track record
9. Organizational
10. Expert

“Meh” is right.  Words like these not only mask your unique qualities, they ensure that none of the people whose attention you are trying to grab will begin to care about you in the slightest.  What can, on the other hand, seize attention and spark caring is your explanation of why you have the listed qualities.  As Simon Sinek famously put it in his TED talk, brain science supports the fact that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

And so the question becomes, “What’s your why?”

A quick glance at the very first line of Catherine Fisher’s LinkedIn profile reveals that she is using precisely this approach:  ”I learned early on in my career that what motivates me is promoting brands that I truly love.”

Then she literally asks the “why” question:  ”I work for LinkedIn and I love the brand.  Why?  Because I can share my professional accomplishments, stay in touch with former colleagues, celebrate the brands I love, and constantly learn.”

Compare that with the opening lines of pretty much any other LinkedIn profile, bio or resume out there, and what you’ll find is that you “get” Catherine, and even feel a connection with her, instantly.

You’re different from other people, right?  You believe that you have a unique contribution to make in this world, correct?  Then say it like you believe it.

New comment in Globe and Mail:  Standing out from the business school crowd
Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter

Posted in brand authenticity, brand differentiation, brand foundation, core purpose, key messaging, personal branding, positioning, remark-able, self-actualization | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Je Suis Birdman

[Cache #186]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

Michael Keaton is floating in his underpants.  Not that they are loose.  He is levitating, in mid-air, cross-legged.  It is the very first shot of his latest movie, Birdman, which is tied for the lead with nine Oscar nominations, and it immediately establishes one of the film’s key themes:  freedom.

Or enslavement, depending on how you look at it.  Keaton’s character is the somewhat-past-his-prime star of the Birdman series of films, in which he starred as the titular, superpower-endowed character.  But now, in a small Broadway theatre, he is desperately and at times ineptly trying to do the opposite of what other people expect of him, the masses hoping for a brainless Birdman 4.  Surely not the play about love that he is producing, and is frantically trying to hold together long enough to get through opening night.

My movie date was curious about why this film resonated so deeply with me.  I replied that I am deeply attached to the idea of people doing whatever they want in terms of livelihood (hence the Coin vision and mission).  Of people throwing off the way they are “supposed” to be or what others expect them to do.  Without giving too much of the movie away, my debatable interpretation is that Keaton’s character successfully broke free of others’ expectations, and that his accomplishment was a beautiful thing.

“But wait,” said my date.  ”You say that ‘a brand is what people think of you.’  For someone who loves the idea of not doing what other people think you should do, doesn’t that definition place too much importance on what other people think?”

Hmmm.

Touché.

I will have to get back to you on that.

Five days have passed, and I have realized that my answer is first, yes:  I place too much importance on what other people think, both in my personal and work life.  And second, that it has become more clear to me, thanks to my date’s query, that the most important person in the definition ”a brand is what people think of you” is you.

I spend a certain amount of my time pointing out (what I consider to be) the shortcomings of others’ brands – their undifferentiated positioning, their bland vision statement, their war criminal headshot – and asking some variation of the question:  ”On the basis of a brand that looks incapable, aren’t you concerned about what other people will think of your ability, or the ability of your company, to do decent work?”

But let’s forget about other people for awhile, and instead ask:  ”What do you think of you?  Have you set your brand free?  And if not, what will it take?”

New comment in Globe and Mail:  Standing out from the business school crowd
Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter.

Posted in brand authenticity, brand differentiation, positioning, self-actualization, what is a brand?, what is branding? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Target Missed

[Cache #185]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

The Target debacle has been so spectacular, it has endowed the following maxim with new meaning:

“The only thing harder than building a brand is changing one.”

In the context of Target, one would expect that these words, listed among Ted’s Maxims at the end of Brand: It Ain’t the Logo, mean that a bad first impression – a stumble out of the gate – is something from which you may never recover.  Or to invoke another adage:  you only get one chance to make a first impression.

On the surface, this seems to be the essence of Target’s Canadian story (which is now, with 18,000 people out of work, a tragedy):  from the moment they opened, consumers thought the prices were too high and the shelves were too empty.  That was the brand that Target established in Canada, and they found out that to change it would be to climb a mountain of losses too high.

But look deeper, and an unexpected new meaning to the maxim emerges:  that once you have established your brand as a very strong and clear one, attempt to change that position at your peril.  Target U.S. had created in Canadian minds such an amazingly clear position – low prices and super-wide, cheap-chic selection – that they should have known their pricing in particular would create deafening dissonance in this market.

Yes, doing business in Canada is more expensive.  Canadian shoppers, unfairly to be sure, did not care.  They expected an American Target experience and they did not get it.

Is it impossible, then, for big American retailers, those with widespread brand awareness north of the border, to successfully transplant their operations in foreign soil?  Walmart did it 20 years ago, and compared to Target, their offering is at least as tied to low prices.  Nordstrom is the highest-profile U.S retailer about to attempt it, and in contrast to Walmart and Target, their brand is all about superlative service – and the lower vulnerability to margins that presumably comes with it.

If Nordstrom suppresses any Yankee hubris, and hires a whack of very senior Canadian retail executives, and then listens to them – and if their Canadian customers do not die of heart attacks upon being greeted by someone who cares in this cold service culture – they should do fine.

If.

New comment in Globe and Mail:  Standing out from the business school crowd
Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter

Posted in brand culture, brand differentiation, brand equity, brand experience, Brand It Ain't the Logo, customer service, positioning | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Word Will You Own in 2015?

[Cache #184]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

The Charlie Hebdo massacre has confirmed once again the inestimable power of words and ideas.  They clearly have the power to anger and inflame, and if one looks at the cartoonists’ work, there can be little doubt of its intent.  The cartoonists did not deserve to be killed for it, of course, just one point made by the Onion in this eloquent piece of satire.

Words and ideas just as obviously have the power to inspire, and if one listens to the spectacular-sounding French of US Secretary of State John Kerry, as he was offering his condolences and solidarity – or if one contemplates the meaning of the Je Suis Charlie mantra – it is difficult not to be touched.

_80198533_cafc55ca-47c5-4442-acb5-0bff2eb01a94

And yet, too many of us give too little thought to the quality of our communication and what its deficiencies say about us as professionals and ultimately as human beings – about our brand, in other words.  I am referring to the fact that in the realm of writing, illiteracy looks like the new normal.

Visit the online properties of the Globe and Mail or the National Post, for example, institutions that view themselves as the bar-setters for the quality of our national conversation.  The copy of their reporters and columnists is rife with typos (even a legend like Jeffrey Simpson has horrible typos in his work) – many so egregious as to make sentences or paragraphs, or even the entire story, incomprehensible.

Look at the emails you send and receive – for spelling, grammatical, punctuation and capitalization errors that, in sum, are making the tone of this media increasingly abrupt and non-human.  This is not to say that brevity and directness in email is undesirable, or that it’s not OK to communicate with different levels of formality with different audiences.

However, in the realm of business communication, we should write as if we actually care about the recipient.

Mistakes that convey a lack of caring are not just the domain of people who are not naturally good writers.  I will start off 2015 with an admission that, because I can be smug about the quality of my writing, I have typically sent out Cache without having it proofread.  The result in a recent post was the biggest typo in 182 issues.

As the guy who claims word mastery as a brand position, Cache has to be perfect every time.  So it is the highly literate Arwen Long who has proofed this post, as she will every post from now on, even though any errors will always be my fault alone.

Your standard probably doesn’t have to be word mastery, but in 2015, you can still let words work powerfully in your favour instead of against it.

Al Ries, legendary author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding and other classics, defines a brand as “a singular idea or concept you own inside the mind of the prospect.”  At its most refined, therefore, a single word.

What word will you own in 2015?  Keeping in mind that ”sloppy” or “uncaring” simply will not do.

–UPDATE–

I was just reading a December 20 piece from the Globe and Mail.  How unfortunate that on such a serious topic, in a column written by Naomi Klein no less, the Globe refers – in a headline – to missing and murdered “indigeneous” women.

2015-01-12 18.57.46

 

Posted in brand copywriting, consistency, personal branding, positioning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tim Hortons: Brazilian as a Bikini Line

[Cache #183]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

The quintessential Canadian brand is not really Canadian, and has not really been Canadian for substantial stretches of the past 20 years.

Tim Hortons remains, in the Canuck mindset, as Canadian as snowfall in June.  Despite the fact that Tim’s is majority owned by foreign companies, making it at least as accurate to say Tim’s is as American as apple pie, and as Brazilian as a bikini line.

tim hortons logo

So why do we Canadians persist in thinking of Tim Hortons as Canadian?

Because we need them to be.

It is the same reason that Canadians think the NHL is a Canadian league, when almost 80% of its teams are American and its headquarters are in New York.  It is the same reason that Canadians buy the CFL’s tagline – “This is Our League” – when 70% of its starting players are American, there is a quota that the remaining 30% of starters must be Canadian (otherwise many of them would not start) and the official league rules cannot bear to call the American players “American” so instead run a fake by calling them ”internationals.”

It is the same reason that Canadians think of Molson-CoorsLabatt and Sleeman as Canadian, each of which has foreign ownership ranging from approximately 50% (Molson-Coors) to 100% (Labatt and Sleeman).  Yet each of which persists in patronizing Canadians with brand positioning that leans heavily on their (bygone) Canadian heritage, as opposed to telling American, Belgian and Japanese stories, respectively.

We need them to be Canadian because our profoundly deep attachment to this country vastly outweighs our ability to protect and nurture national icons.  Because we are a small country, even if we don’t feel that way.

What do your customers fundamentally need to believe?  Your employees, your strategic partners?  And how can you give it to them in a way that, rather than stretching the truth, celebrates it?

New comment in Globe and Mail:  Standing out from the business school crowd
Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Posted in brand authenticity, brand differentiation, brand stories, positioning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments