international advertising


Premium shopping experience may be on the slow with cutbacks at Starbucks, but there is no sign of slowing in the high-end bakery business. Whether this is because bread is truly a staple good in economic reasoning, always in high demand regardless the price, or whether loyal consumers have come to rely on the same flavoursome, high quality wares at every outlet, premium service at the respectively rounded-up prices, sampling galore and generally happy smiles from the Barista-equivalent Cobbers, remains to be seen.

So far 50 franchises have risen across 3 provinces (most notably in BC where the erstwhile Australian brand was launched in 2003) with a vision to add another 35 baker’s dozens to the map. In the US, where there is currently a single store in WA, the goal is to launch 5000 bakeries – which is an average of 100 per state, or roughly one Cobs to two Starbucks.

That’s a big vision, especially considering that the coffee giant is closing ten times the number of stores that currently even carry the Cobs logo in North America. Now that could be a deal in the making: Starbucks premises sold to Cobs, along with comfy seating and an onsite espresso machine. They clearly already share a target group, why not a common cause? 
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Whoops, there goes another American brand… as the Belgian owners of Stella Artois snatch up Budweiser. Perhaps it’s not such a bad match, as beer critics suggest one brand is pretty much as bland as the other, which would explain why each relies so heavily on big advertising spend to differentiate and create an image of ‘cool’ or ‘premium’ or ‘traditional’ horse-heritage or whatever the current strategy calls for.

 

Joining those other non-US brands like IBM’s PCs (China) and 7-Eleven (Japan), the latest brand to change hands will have to focus on local market share erosion as national pride is likely to dig in its heels. The point is to reassure and sustain mass interest, as there is nothing more powerful than the backlash from alienated loyal consumers.

 

With Starbucks’ marketers coming out in force with traditional media campaigns (radio and press ice-cube ads), online loyalty programs (sign-up and get free stuff) and more sampling than ever, plus a PR campaign that boosted the share price upon the announcement that 600 stores were closing (weird that), you might wonder who is stalking the Mermaid’s lair.

 

One thing is clear, any company tightening its marketing purse-strings in an economic downturn needs to fire its accountancy department. Now, more than ever, is the time to use horse sense with your marketing budget and consistently remind your target audience that you are still out there.

Did you hear the one about the Bob who stood at the pearly gates and admitted he hadn’t called before he dug? Bob also hits a fine ball on the green and knows the easy way to buy office stationary. Bob’s an expert eco-friendly investor, an authority on long-distance calls, and works part-time as an accountant. Busy guy, our palindrome friend. Or is he an acronym?  

As busy as the copywriter behind all of these radio commercials? Or are you telling me there’s some sort of secret Bob contract that ALL copywriters in every Canadian ad shop have to sign up to? Whatever their intention, by blending the name of every character in every ad, from insurance choices to the right sports brand, into a patchwork Bob, they are distracting from the product or service they are supposed to be promoting. Our Bob brand may have started as a bit of a bet around the coffee pot (highest Bob score in any given commercial break wins), but it appears the tables are turning. A few cases of inverse distraction to pay homage to your regular Bob on the street and what happens? Clients start insisting on hiring the infamous Bob to star in their 30” radio spots. 

Inevitably all the bobbing around is leaving the paying brands high and dry. Whatever will they do next to not make their marque stand out from the crowd?

Grouse Mountain, our local ski slope on the North Shore, has opened for business, so it’s officially time to get with the white. How appropriate for the heavens to open on the same weekend and sugar-sprinkle our lawns so that we can quickly try out the Snow Elephant – it  can be done, with plenty of Frappuccinos to get you in the size. 

How charming to see the iced peaks outlining Vancouver when the clouds roll aside. I am assured the view will soon be even better. Half a century on, Vancouver’s last giant rooftop billboard is finally heading south. Erected long before skyline restrictions were in place, the 4-decade old battle to de-clutter our resplendent view has reached a costly closure: deconstruction costs are set to cleanly wipe out all advertising revenue in one fell swoop. Never mind that building heights have continually inched up, and the city’s Skyline Study informs us that Vancouver’s flat (no British pun intended) skyline would benefit from a splash of buildings to exceed current height limits and provide a more contemporary vista. All the while augmenting those protected corridors of view of our natural North Shore beauties.

Cool. Or should I say sweet?

The new season of red products at Starbucks no longer portray both US and Canadian $ prices. Smart move, that. Here’s another move: 

When I saw – for the first time – outdoor advertising for Starbucks last year (seasonal beverages in Vancouver), I was surprised that the marketers at the green mermaid had shifted their mix to pedestrian advertising. At the time I guessed it was a local, cultural thing, and parked it for future reference. Now, however, a blitz of seasonal TV ads is about to hit national screens, initially in the US. Wieden & Kennedy, the agency that transported those other west coast Americana brands Nike and Microsoft around the world, is tasked with developing a global brand message for the red cup parade. As quoted in today’s Advertising Age, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz feels the whole advertising thing is a natural evolution to gain increased leverage. Oh well then. Certainly as the brand reaches maturity, markets saturate, share prices fall and competitors step in to cross the chasm, Starbucks feels the heat to reinvent itself, its offering, or its target audience. Does this herald a mermaid branded burger? 

Personally I feel that Starbucks would be well advised to offer free wifi in its stores. This may not induce users to double up on their caffeine intake, but it would certainly fill the seats and send out the signal to open another Starbucks just over the road.