» Archive for October, 2007

Extreme Road Warrior

Friday, October 26th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

I’m writing this from Hamburg, at least I think that’s where I am.  Sometimes trips can be just plain boring.  This one was most decidedly not.  In a 16 day whirlwind tour I would stay in seven hotels and would span 8 cities to cover, however briefly: Munich, Vienna, Munich (again), Hamburg, Brugge, Düsseldorf, Bremen, and Bremerhaven.  Countries: Germany, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

Normally my trips last four to five days.  With meetings and events spread out across half a month, this trip would be more than three times as long.  And just to make things a bit more interesting, the weather forecast was rather fickle.  Every time I looked, it had changed.  Would it rain, snow (yes, snow in mid-October), drizzle, or perhaps even be sunny?  The answer was all of the above and therefore I had to pack for all contingencies.

The beginning of the trip was timed so that I could attend the grand opening of BMW’s new “experience and delivery center,” the BMW Welt (for more information, see my article in Business Traveler magazine). For the following week, BMW had invited me to be the first customer to take delivery of a new car at the Welt (this is covered in the blog as well).

BMW was super organized, managing the arrival of hundreds of invited guests who were coming by plane, train, and yes, automobile.  Dozens of 5er and 7er BMWs in the VIP Fleet were busy ferrying guests to hotels, to a celebratory dinner Monday evening, and to the opening itself.

The opening was incredible.  I arrived early for a breakfast at the Welt and (as you will see if you refer to the photos in the blog), the morning light gave the new landmark a particularly striking appearance.  The weather that day: sunny and 21°C.

The next day, off to a client for meetings and thereafter, dinner.  Friday, meetings in the morning, lunch and an excursion to the country in the afternoon.

Saturday, off to Vienna, but first I wanted to attend (however briefly) BMW’s Publikumstag (public day) and see how the public would receive the building (they loved it, from all accounts).

My Monday morning meeting in Vienna was cancelled so I drove back to Munich.  Tuesday was the big day.  I would be the first customer to take delivery of a new car at the BMW Welt.  Once again, shortly after 7.00 in the morning, I was being driven to the Welt.  The weather was nowhere as nice; it was drizzling and much cooler.  But that didn’t matter.  As I walked through the door, each person I encountered proudly told me I was the first customer to arrive.

Next week, Extreme Road Warrior Part II.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


Friday, October 19th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Our recent look (as well as Part II here)  at messaging and slogans prompted an unusually high number of e-mails from Basex:TechWatch subscribers.  Here are a few we thought you might want to see.

Hi Jonathan,
I read your commentary every week.
As a professional with a social science background working in the technology arm of a biotech firm.. your weekly summaries are extremely valuable in keeping me up to date.
When I read your piece on slogans and then the request to submit ones that I find memorable.. I couldn’t help but jump at the change to share Genentech’s slogan  “In Business for Life”.

One of my enduring favorites is Alka Seltzer:  “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.  Oh what a relief it is.”
I think you may have mentioned it before, but I keep using Timex’s slogan half a century later: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

I enjoy reading your weekly commentary.  I have a memorable experience with a slogan.  I used to work for a bank in the 1980′s called Ameritrust.  Once we had a meeting and were shown two commercials for our new ad campaign:
“Ameritrust – The Shortest Distance.”  The concept was that Ameritrust could help you achieve your financial goals in the shortest time.  One of the commercials showed someone playing a trumpet.  I remember the look of bewilderment on everyone’s face after the commercials played.  They just didn’t seem to be about banking.  We were handed t-shirts with the new ad campaign slogan and the meeting was over.
The bewilderment must have been contagious, because the TV ad campaign ran less than a week, then disappeared.  And it was never mentioned again, like it never happened.  I decided to call it : “Ameritrust – The Shortest Ad Campaign.”
I still have the t-shirt.

Here are a few slogans that I think are pretty good:

  • “Be all you can be.” (The Army)
  • “The few, the brave, the Marines.” (The Marines)
  • “Quality is Job 1.” (Ford)

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


Friday, October 12th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

THINK was one of the phrases and principles frequently used by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Sr.  Others included LEARN, STUDY, and THINK IN BIG FIGURES.  THINK appeared in IBM offices, plants, and company publications (it was the name of the IBM employee publication for many years) starting in the 1920s.  By the 1930s, THINK had begun to take precedence over other slogans at IBM.  It gained new popularity in the 1990s when, according to company legend, a researcher took a notepad with the word THINK written on it from his pocket and came up with the idea of a small, portable tool with which one could read, write, work, and think.  The rest is history.

This week we continue our look at Getting the Message Out.  IBM’s THINK is rare.  Most messages fall flat and miss the mark.  One that comes to mind is United Airlines’ “Rising.”  Do other airlines fail to rise?  Some messages come ever so close, but then ultimately fail.  A good example of that is Miller Beer’s “It’s Miller Time” campaign.  When it was launched, it required a bit of adjustment as people were going into pubs and saying “It’s Miller time, give me a Bud.”

Sometimes companies come really close.  American Airlines’ “We know why you fly” would have been perfect had they only used “We know why you fly American.”  Otherwise, it’s a rhetorical question that many may answer “to get from point A to point B.”

What does the IT industry have?  Apple Computer countered THINK with  “Think Different,” which suited Apple’s iconoclastic image quite well, even if it brought out the grammar police out in droves.  “The Document Company” certainly matched Xerox.

But a quick look at most IT industry messages tells a different story, one that is mediocre at best.  To wit,

  • Verizon – “We never stop working for you.”
  • Microsoft – “Where do you want to go today” or “Your potential, our power.”
  • Siemens – “Be Inspired.”
  • SAP – “The best run businesses run SAP.”
  • Cisco – “The power of the human network.”

What do any of these tell us about the company?  Frankly, not very much.  And why is Intel going away from “Intel Inside” to “Leap Ahead.”?  If “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” was good enough for the makers of M&M’s for over 50 years, why not “Intel Inside”?  A classic message need not be changed for the sake of change.

While we’re at it, please tell me about slogans you find memorable or abominable.  E-mail me at messages@basex.com.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one that requires some more thought: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Getting the Message Across

Friday, October 5th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Once in a great while – and it’s rare – companies come up with great messages and slogans.

These messages and slogans share one or more characteristics, but generally they change how we think about a particular product or company and they are memorable.  Volkswagen’s “Think Small” (Doyle Dane Bernbach, 1959) and Avis’ “We Try Harder” (DDB again, 1963), numbers one and ten on the list respectively, are among Advertising Age’s top 100 campaigns.  Equally memorable and at the same time category-creating are McDonald’s “You deserve a break today” (Needham, Harper & Steers, 1971) and DeBeers’ “A diamond is forever” (N.W. Ayer & Son, 1948), numbers five and six on the list.

Good messages endure.  Who doesn’t know M&Ms’ “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (Ted Bates & Co., 1954) or AT&T’s “Reach out and touch someone” (N.W. Ayer, 1979) or, from  Motel 6, “We’ll leave a light on for you” (Richards Group, 1988), numbers 39, 80, and 91 on the list.  And let’s not forget number 30, Campbell Soup’s “Mmm mm good” (BBDO, 1930s).

I have a few personal favorites on the list:
12.)    Apple Computer, “1984″, Chiat/Day, 1984 (coming at a critical juncture for Apple, few commercials have ever been more influential).
49.)    Cadillac, “The penalty of leadership”, MacManus, John & Adams, 1915.  (An advert that ran only once and didn’t even mention automobiles or even the brand being advertised.  Rather, it expressed the dilemma of the pioneer who breaks with tradition and is subject to the “fierce denial and detraction” of his competition.)
51.)    Charmin, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin”, Benton & Bowles, 1964 (does anyone not think of Mr. Whipple when entering a supermarket?)
84.)    BMW, “The ultimate driving machine”, Ammirati & Puris, 1975 (40 years ago, BMW invented the concept of the sports sedan).
87.)    Xerox, “It’s a miracle”, Needham, Harper & Steers, 1975 (who can forget the monks in the monastery?)
93.)    IBM, Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein, 1982.

…as well as a few that aren’t (yet) on the list:

  • “Can you hear me now?” Verizon Wireless
  • “Let your fingers do the walking” – Yellow Pages (Geers Gross, 1964)
  • “We’re the dot in .com” Sun Microsystems

Why did these work where hundreds of thousands of slogans and campaigns failed miserably?  The true test for a message is two-fold:
1.) whether the company actually messages out what it intended to say, and
2.) whether the recipient actually understands it as the company intended

This is, as evidenced by the information highway, which is littered with failed messages, much more difficult than it would appear.

Next week we’ll look at the IT industry and why, by and large, the message just isn’t getting through.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.