Category Archives: Brand

brands, rebranding, brand value

Red Bull Mobile Network Australia

Red Bull Mobile AustraliaRed Bull has been busy extending their brand into the GSM mobile space globally. The next step on the path to world domination is Australia.

Technically they are mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) just like Virgin Mobile, which means they sell access to an existing network with their own branding and price structure.

Virgin Mobile would be the only other similar brand in that space in Australia. I think it’s a move worth making. The costs of becoming a MVNO are relatively low for a global brand but they get instant brand recognition in the new market. This is a great brand extension policy.

Red Bull have added to that by using social media to get the word out. I’ve got  a free SIM card from Red Bull Australia because I am an account at Klout. If you are quick and in Australia you can also get a free Red Bull Australia Mobile SIM.

The customer acquisition cost of this strategy has got to be ridiculously cheap. Compare what it would cost You&Me Inc to attract young brand aware consumers to a new mobile phone network.

If that link worked for you, and you got a free SIM, please comment below, and a like, +1 or other thanks would be appreciated.

Update 20 Aug 2011 @13:00:

A third party, Aggregato, will provide retail sales and distribution management and customer service support for Red Bull MOBILE.

Aggregato owns GRL Mobile who are rebranding as Red Bull MOBILE from 7 September according to this news announcement.

That reinforces my point about customer acquisition costs. GRLmobile’s total customer acquisition spend will rise under this deal, but their cost per customer acquisition will go down. Customers don’t have to overcome the “who are they?” question

Red Bull may only be taking a licensing fee for all I know, but given Red Bull Mobile’s international rollout,  it seems like they’ve put some resources behind establishing their brand in the mobile space.

Trademark, Copyright and Intellectual Property

People get confused between copyright and trademarks. The area of law is called Intellectual Property (IP).

Copyright protects the expression of an idea. This includes spoken, written and audio-visual expressions. Hence books, movies, documentaries, photos, recordings, paintings, articles, drawings, poems, songs and music are all covered by copyright (subject to the creators jurisdiction).

Trademarks (and service marks) are a distinctive sign, logo, word,  phrase or indicator used to indicate a good or service comes from a specific individual, company or group as opposed to some other source. It is designed to give consumers confidence in the quality and reputation of a good or service.

Many people say “Monster cable” is copyrighted when they actually mean it’s trademarked.

Trademarks were invented to prevent unscrupulous merchants passing off an inferior tradesman’s work for a more reputable work. So master tradesmen would make their mark on the item they’d made indicating they had approved it’s quality and finish, much like a master painter signs his work.

Really good and expensive work attracts counterfeits. Wanna purchase a watch?

Trademarks don’t have to be registered, but it’s a good idea. Then other similar trademark holders can object and everyone does the intellectual property dance.

It is supposed to be nearly impossible to trademark something generic such as the word “Elite”, but large IP practices seem to get them registered. Often a registration is canceled  on appeal for being too generic or if found to be in broad use by many people.

If the name is a range identifier as opposed to the main brand, and it is not attempting to pass itself off as another brand, then trademark registration is either not worth defending or too generic. So Kogan is releasing the Elite range and Panasonic also has an Elite range. Nobody is going to think they come from the same company.

My preference  is brands, ranges and models be uniquely named as it makes searching for them so much easier.

Culture of Secrecy

How can companies still think what they do is top secret. Note I’m not talking about intelligence, research or military organizations here. I mean general competitive businesses in a competitive marketplace.

How many of the projects we’ve been sworn to keep secret really needed or benefited from that? How many top secret projects failed to launch? Again I’m not talking about early gestation with limited resources, there’s a time and place for keeping something under wraps until it’s time – however even then most people keep it too secret for too long.

Enthusiasm is the hardest attribute to sustain in any endeavor.

I’ve found many companies with a Culture of Secrecy are really staffed by people avoiding scrutiny or responsibility. If they don’t say what they are going to achieve, they can’t be held accountable when they miss.

Everybody misses from time to time. Me included. Looking at what went wrong often more valuable than succeeding by a fluke.

Fear is the other great cause of the secrecy cult. Every manager worthy of the title has had an employee leave to work for a competitor. Weak managers of weak businesses respond by limiting the flow of ideas and information to the team that drives the business. They hope a defection cannot harm them again, without reviewing  if that harm was more than a bruised ego. This is overprotective thinking. When you fell over as a baby while learning to walk, you tried again until you mastered it. If a business is only as good as its secrets it has no better competitive advantage in the marketplace. Are there low barriers to entry for competitors?

Find your competitive advantange. That may be worth keeping close to the chest, but I doubt it. Your success flows from knowing what you do better than anyone else – what others cannot take from you.

Think of great global brands and great businesses like Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, Toyota, McDonald’s. While some part of their operations are necessarily private they don’t have a culture of secrecy. Where do you want your company to be in 20 years?

For another perspective check out what Robin wrote a while ago at Snarkmarket on iPhone, Secrecy and Excellence

NBL and Singapore Slingers need Import Rule Change

I was talking to someone with long connections in the NBL – Australia’s National Basketball League.

The Singapore Slingers are based in Singapore, but I’ve heard if they put a Singaporean on the floor he must take one of the two import slots that NBL teams are allowed. Normally those spots are for players who have to produce every game in the role they are hired for.

This may be a limitation of the FIBA license granted to the NBL and international politics of basketball. I’m investigating,  but if this is true it seems like a sports marketing mistake.

Do not to put obstacles between your customers and your product. In this case the Slingers need decent home crowds, and that means putting local talent on the floor – developing it if you must.

More to come as I gather information.

A&R Scandal: Tower Books’ Michael Rakusin Replies

Michael Rakusin, Director of Tower Books replied to Charlie Rimmer‘s letter. I’ve emailed a request to reproduce Michael’s email here, but in the meantime you can read it at Susan Wyndham’s Undercover blog. That way the conversation can allow trackbacks around the blogosphere.

I look forward to watching the fall-out in the industry over this. When a major market player decides to flex their muscle, they should make sure they are a big enough player. I suspect that at a claimed 18% of the Australian book retail market Angus & Robertson will find it is not enough to succeed.

Bunnings on the other hand does have enough market share. But more on that later.

Update Michael Rakusin has granted permission to reproduce his letter below Continue reading A&R Scandal: Tower Books’ Michael Rakusin Replies

Angus & Robertson Scandal: Demands cash from 40% of suppliers

Angus & Robertson letter to unprofitable suppliersAngus & Robertson sent a letter to 40% of their suppliers demanding cash payments and rebates as a condition of continued business. The scandal broke at Susan Wyndham‘s Undercover blog over at the Sydney Morning Herald, firstly in Bookshop chain puts bite on small publishers and then in more detail today A&R Dumps Books.

A friend describes it as “Bookselling, The MBA way”. This is bound to be one of the case studies I’ll use in my MBA.

Here is the text of the letter for the screen readers and the blind:

 

Angus & Robertson

30th July 2007

Michael Rakusin
TOWER BOOKS
Unit 2 / 17 Rodborough Road
Frenches Forrest
NSW 2086

Dear Michael

I am writing to inform you of some of the changes to the way we manage our business.

We have recently completed a piece of work to rank our suppliers in terms of the net profit they generate for our business. We have concluded that we have far too many suppliers, and over 40% of our supplier agreements fall below our requirements in terms of profit earned. At a time when the cost of doing business continues to rise, I’m sure you can understand that this is an unpalatable set of circumstances for us, and as such we have no option but to act quickly to remedy the situation.

Accordingly, we will be rationalising our supplier numbers and setting a minimum earnigs ration of income to trade purchases that we expect to achieve from our suppliers.

I am writing to you because TOWER BOOKS falls into this category of unacceptable profitability.

As a consequence we would invite you to pay the attached invoice by Aug 17th 2007. The payment represents the gap fro your your business, and moves it from an unacceptable level of profitability, to above our minimum threshold.

If we fail to receive your payment by this time we will have no option but to remove you from our list of authorised suppliers, and you will be unable to complete any further transactions with us until such time as the payment is made.

I have also attached a proforma for you to complete wand return to me, with your proposed terms of trade for our financial year commencing Sept 1st 2007. We have the following expectations:

  • All agreements contain a standard rebate, a growth rebate and a minimum co-op commitment to enable participation in our marketing activity.

  • Growth rebates activate as soon as our purchases with you increase by $1 on the previous year.

  • All rebates are paid quarterly for the previous quarter’s performance, you must make sure that your remittance, with calculations, is received by us by the 7th of the month following the preceding quarter. Any remittances not received by this date will attract a daily 5% interest charge.

I am also including a copy of our ratecard, and our marketing calendar, to enable you to begin planning your promotional participation now.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more detail, I am delighted to confirm an appointment with you at 1.00pm on Friday 17th August for 10 minutes at my offices at 379 Collins St, Melbourne.

Best Regards

[signed]

Charlie Rimmer
ARW Group Commercial Manager

Enc: A&R Ratecard
A&R Marketing calendar
Trading Terms Proforma
Invoice

Disney offers free ABC TV

ABC network logoThe threat of internet TV downloads is met head on by Disney the owner of ABC network and Pixar. ABC will be offering their prime-time TV shows like Lost and Desparate Housewives for download via their MyABC portal at http://abc.com launching in May.

The Wall Street Journal has the story on the front page today.

DISNEY PLANS to make much of its most popular programming on ABC and other channels available free anytime on the Web. The move could speed changes in TV viewing and help revive the ad business.

The big news s they’re allowing these downloads for free. They will contain advertising and the ability to fast forward and rewind. The shows are already available for video iPod via iTunes, but ABC understands advertising business models, so they’re playing with their advertising to make an event of the launch. Should be interesting.

Great move, they’ve siezed the day and decided to grab the market before someone else eats their lunch.

It looks like Steve Jobs may be teaching them to unclench their grip.

Web Candy, add to Google button

You may have noticed some buttons appearing in the sidebars. Yes I’ve finally joined the web candy crowd.

They’re for voting for WealthEsteem on various blog toplists. I’m experimenting with directory listings and raising the profile of the blogs I write for or manage. Unless you’re reading this on a RSS aggregator or reader, in which case you haven’t noticed anything. That’s ok I don’t mind how you access Wealth Esteem. But for those of you who want to use either the Google Reader or your Google homepage, here is a button just for you.

Add to Google

I’ll add more links later. I just found Chicklet Creator.

Update Oops! the code didn’t validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional so I’ve pulled it. I’ll use the code as the basis of a validating list. I think I shouldn’t have selected every available reader.

Update: 11 May 2006 It is very important for an online business website to validate as compliant with the standard. As each website specifies what W3 standard it complies with, failing to meet that standard places unnecessary obstacles between my viewers and my website.

When the Team IS the Brand

New York Red Bulls Logo

Red Bull bought the (USA) Major League Soccer‘s New York MetroStars and renamed them New York Red Bulls. Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion calls the renaming risky in When the Team is the Brand.

I think it’s a gutsy move from a company revolutionizing the beverage business. Red Bull didn’t get where they are now by being timid. Let’s review the risks.

The team could lose… regularly. New Yorkers hate losers. The brand becomes associated with a pack of losers. But this is a World Cup year, soccer’s profile is huge. The Red Bulls could finish with the wooden spoon and the market impact would still be positive. Soccer is the most played team sport in America due to the number of kids playing it. The move shows long term commitment to the sport in one of the biggest media markets in the world. FIFA wants to grow the code’s popularity in the States and is going to spend money there.

The players could get involved in scandal. This isn’t the NBA, NRL or any of the European or South American leagues. The MLS is still not the big show in US sports. As such the stars are not treated as gods with the egos and behaviour to go with it. No individual players will consitently risk their future careers in Europe behaving like prima donnas on the road. Owning the team actually reduces the risk associated of individual player endorsements.

Pre- and post-season camps and road trips are a risk, especially with the sexual assault scandals rocking professional sports on all continents. Team owners in every sport are addressing these risks, team-wide scandals are not good for anybody’s business or career.

By owning the team rather than sponsoring it, Red Bull can’t use morals clauses to weasel out of sponsorship deals. No doubt all the players have morals clauses to limit the team risk. So if the deal goes bad Red Bull has to step in an fix it. The up side is the deal is all up side for Red Bull: they get a sporting brand to go with their existing extreme games sponsorships. As they build the brand they build their equity value for about the cost of a sponsorship deal.

There is the possibility that soccer in the States will remain a marginal sport. So the risk is MLS fails financially as a league. I don’t think Red Bull or FIFA are expecting it to knock the NBA, NFL or MLB of their pedestals anytime soon. It is a niche play to capitalise on the penetration of the sport. Plus as a European company, Austrian Red Bull would love to see soccer conquer the US market. Just like they imagine the day when they are the world’s #1 non-alcoholic beverage.

Great business.

Update I also forgot to mention the subliminal association of “New York Red Bulls” with “Chicago Bulls” who play in red and are one of the most recognised NBA franchises outside North America. English Premier League also has the Red Devils (a.k.a Manchester United) now owned by an American. Branding buzz all round.

Rebranding Mandrake Linux

I’m not sure which is company is dumber, Mandrive Linux or King Features Syndicate. From wikipedia’s Mandrake Linux entry:

In February 2004 MandrakeSoft lost a court case against Hearst Corporation, owners of King Features Syndicate. Hearst contends that MandrakeSoft is infringing upon King Features’ trademarked character Mandrake the Magician. The word Mandrake is not unique to the King Features character, and MandrakeSoft is appealing the decision. As a precaution, MandrakeSoft has renamed its products by removing the space between the brand name and the product name and changing the first letter of the product name to lower case, thus creating one word. Starting from version 10.0, Mandrake Linux became known as Mandrakelinux, and its logo changed accordingly. Similarly, MandrakeMove became Mandrakemove.

King Features upsets thousands of smart geeks by this. But what is their downside? Nothing. Nobody will organise a boycott or campaign against them. And even if the smart geeks to get organised they don’t represent King Features Syndicate stakeholders. In what way could they influence those stakeholders to make KFS take notice?

MandrakeSoft were dumb for getting to release 10.0 or so without securing their intellectual property. The cost of defending the action in financial and management resources is inexcusable.

I haven’t read the court decision, but it also amazes me that King Features can lock up the word Mandrake (which is a plant) in areas beyond their trademark class. Of course they may have trademark protection in the software class.

The point is now moot as

in April 2005 Mandrakesoft annouced that after the corporate merger of Mandrakesoft and Conectiva, and the legal dispute with Hearst Corporation, the new company name would be Mandriva, and that Mandriva Linux would be the new name covering products.

Chalk one up for the deep pockets of an old media company.