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Tips, musings and interesting tidbits...


Outback Steakhouse campaign – confusing brand strategy?


OK, first things first.  Full disclosure.  I had Vegemite for breakfast this morning.  And when friends from Australia come over to visit and ask what they can bring me, the answer is always Vegemite.  So there’s still some Aussie in me despite having no accent what so all anymore and living in the US for longer than I care to admit to.  And as someone born and raised in Australia I’ve always been annoyed by The Outback Steakhouse shtick.  There’s no Bloomin’ Onions in Australia.  And some of the other menu names are truly cringe-worthy.

Eat at Outback and the troups benefit.  This connects to their brand how?

But I can get past that. I get it, it’s a theme restaurant.  With these things come caricatures and schmaltz. But as a brand strategist, rather than offended Aussie, I don’t get their campaign: Thanks For Giving.  If you order off their Red, White, and Bloomin’ menu before April 5th, they’ll donate money to Operation Homefront, a non- profit providing assistance to US service members and wounded warriors.  They’re promoting it everywhere. You can share your hero story and they will feature it on their website and Facebook page.  When I first saw the ad on TV my reaction was, huh?  It was a complete disconnect for me. Please don’t misunderstand, it’s admirable and commendable to want to support US service men and women, but it’s a confusing brand strategy. (more…)


Brand 101: Standing Out In The Crowd

Today I attended the Top Chef tryouts and had a great time chatting with some of the chefs who were auditioning for Season 9 of Bravo TV’s hot reality show. I’ll be guest blogging about it for Table Talk Radio and will post a link when it’s up.

Even though a lot of the chefs described some delicious and mouth-watering dishes, the descriptions of seared tuna dishes are all a bit of a blur. (Tuna was a popular choice for the culinary interpretation of the color blue.) It was a great reminder about the need to create ways to stand out from the crowd.

Bravo is conducting auditions in 9 cities across the country. Clearly, it’s a given that there will be many extremely talented chefs applying. So I was surprised that when I asked ‘what makes you stand out’ that many of them answered in what I would call ‘ante-in’ terms: ‘I’m passionate about culinary arts’ or ‘I have great cooking skills’ or ‘I’m creative.’ Really? That might be what gets your foot in the door but it’s not what will make you stand out. (more…)


Brand humor done right. Hint: we’re not talking Groupon

Kulula Flying 101Last week Groupon pulled the plug on its controversial and now infamous Super Bowl ad that made light of Tibet’s human rights issues by promoting a discount offer on Groupon to a Tibetan restaurant. Groupon claimed that they were making fun of themselves, highlighting “the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues.” Much has been written about the tastelessness and inapproriateness of the ad.  From Ad Week to the Huffington Post to NPR response to it was almost universally negative. (more…)