Don and Rob discuss brand authenticity in companies like McDonalds, Ben and Jerry’s, and Zappos.
Rob Broadfoot 0:20
You know, Rob, I think my favorite part of the opening song is the subtle little keyboard in there. You know? It’s just kind of hanging out in the background. Like doing a little thing. I love that part. That’s my favorite part of the theme song.
Well, we’ve heard it 60 times. You pick up little nuances every time you hear it.
Don Mock 0:40
That’s a great way to say, we are back with episode 60. Your face says it all.
Rob Broadfoot 0:44
Back like a bad habit.
Don Mock 0:45
Yeah, absolutely. Episode 60. We’re back. What are we gonna talk about today, Rob?
Rob Broadfoot 0:49
Today we are going to talk about the idea of authenticity, as it relates to brands. A lot of times, you know, when we, when we talk to clients around here, we stress the importance of being authentic.
Don Mock 1:05
Yes, true to oneself.
Rob Broadfoot 1:06
True to oneself. Being authentic and not trying to be something you’re not, not trying to be everything to everybody. All those good things. So we’ll start with a question. I will ask you, what does authenticity from a brand standpoint mean to you?
Don Mock 1:24
Man. That’s a tough question. You’re putting me on the hot seat here. Repeat the question again?
Rob Broadfoot 1:29
Brand authenticity. How do you define that? What does that mean to you? How would you describe that?
Don Mock 1:37
I already said being true to yourself. So if we think about that, from a corporation perspective, is… What’s your unique selling proposition? What makes you different from everybody else? Then, how do you hold true to that and not necessarily chase the shiny object of opportunity if it’s outside your guardrails of what you do? If you think about building a brand and position and whatnot, as a series of concentric circles, right. What do you do really well, and who do you do that for? What is your brand promise? That’s kind of in the middle, or towards the middle. However, you want to draw your little Venn diagrams and whatnot. The further out you go, the less resonance you’re going to have, and the less truthfulness you’ll have to whatever your brand purpose is. So I guess that’s how I would sort of somewhat describe it. I think about an example potentially, of McDonald’s, right off the bat, McDonald’s. Love them, hate them, whatever. There’s a place in the world for McDonald’s, for fast food. It’s fast and there’s a certain level of quality there, that has come to be accepted. Good, bad, or indifferent. That’s accepted. When I go to McDonald’s in San Francisco versus when I go to McDonald’s and Sarasota.
Rob Broadfoot 2:53
That cheeseburger’s, always delicious. You know what you’re getting every time. Consistency.
Don Mock 2:58
So, I don’t know what the brand promise of McDonald’s is. I don’t know exactly what the position is. We’re all familiar with the “I’m loving it,” you know, but-up-up-up, the whole deal. But if we think about the McSalad shaker as a as a limited-time offer that they tried many, many moons ago, and kind of always try to position a healthier alternative… well, we don’t go to McDonald’s for salads. It’s not what we do.
Rob Broadfoot 3:23
Don Mock 3:25
There’s a reason why there aren’t salads on the menu anymore. So I think, maybe that’s a bad example of authenticity.
Rob Broadfoot 3:32
Don Mock 3:33
But I understand there’s trends, there’s health concerns, there’s a lot of layers to this conversation. I’m very, very much simplifying this existence. But we don’t go to McDonald’s for healthy food, and we all know that. So the further they get away from what they actually do best, and the reason why we go there, the less authentic, it’s going to feel. Even if I order a salad at McDonald’s, do I really think that salad is going to be healthy? You know what I mean?
Rob Broadfoot 3:57
Now, if we’re talking about food and specifically fast food, as it relates to authenticity of product, you have to you have to think that… of a few of the top five, certainly, it feels like over time McDonald’s was- I don’t wanna say rudderless, it’s not that extreme- but drove outside of their lane the most. Whereas I think somebody like Burger King knew right away, we’re leaning into the Whopper. We are going Whopper and King and Whopper. I don’t care what iteration, whether it’s Crispin Porter work or whether it’s the work they’re doing now. Whopper we’re going 70s type. We’re going all nostalgia. You come here for the best flame grilled burger. That’s it.
Don Mock 4:47
Absolutely, our breakfast sandwiches 3000 calories, whatever. Who cares?
Rob Broadfoot 4:52
Let’s look at Taco Bell, too. Taco Bell tried to expand their breakfast offering. And created all these crazy, wacky things. So now they’re running the campaign with Pete Davidson, where we got a little out of our britches and now we just need crunchy sausage and cheese and the basics.
Don Mock 5:14
But to keep that trend rollin, I don’t mean to interrupt but like, Subway, right? You think about salads at Subway. It kind of makes sense.
Rob Broadfoot 5:21
Don Mock 5:23
Hey, it’s a submarine sandwich. I mean, that the whole thing is a six inch or a footlong. I mean, that’s their whole thing. But they were positioned a little bit more on the healthier side, whether they are healthy or not. I don’t know what the calorie intake is of footlong sweet onion, chicken teriyaki, which is a delicious sandwich, by the way. But salads, to me, that feels more authentic to Subway, like, oh, I can order a salad. That makes sense. Versus McDonald’s, for example.
Rob Broadfoot 5:49
Don Mock 5:50
How do you feel about the question of authenticity? What does that mean for you?
Rob Broadfoot 5:54
I think part of it is the product or service that a company is offering, and not trying to be too much. Although, as I was thinking about that, I was thinking about, Oh, you can’t be everything to everybody. And Amazon popped in my head, and the idea thatm well, we started as an online bookstore. And now we are literally everything to everybody, like today.
Don Mock 6:17
However, with their logo on the A to Z, it does make sense.
Rob Broadfoot 6:21
It set them up for success.
Don Mock 6:22
Yeah, they evolved into that position, which I think is interesting. There are always exceptions to the rule.
Rob Broadfoot 6:28
Always, always. So there’s that, there’s the product and service offering. But if you think about the brand and the communications from a brand standpoint, you think about look and feel and how is it articulated to people? How is it- assuming you stay in your lane- how do you convey that to people? Tone of voice and appropriate- all of these things. I think about examples where companies a lot of times they lose their way from a brand standpoint. Not from a product or service standpoint. We’re going to pick on the GAP. Okay, well, GAP has always had GAP clothes. I need a flannel shirt, or I need a pair of khaki pants. I’m going to the gap. Well, we can say the loss that way with Ye. Recently.
Don Mock 6:34
Rob Broadfoot 6:38
As a business decision. But prior to that, before that whole debacle. We’re gonna redo our logo. And arguably, the logo that they’ve always had was a very, simple by design logo mark.
Don Mock 7:37
Yeah, it’s only three letters.
Rob Broadfoot 7:38
We got three letters and a blue box. But it was it was conservative. It was clean. It was iconic. Then they decided somewhere along the way, somebody came in and had to piss on the fire hydrant, and change the logo. I think they left it for a week. Then immediately changed it back. In that instance, they didn’t, it’s not like they added too much to it. They just changed the entire feel of it, for me. So that’s an example of a brand losing their authenticity.
Don Mock 8:19
What’s interesting is that none of the products changed. It wasn’t like on Friday night, we shut it down, we turn the lights off. Then Monday morning, we open up and we have a totally different logo and our product set is totally different. Like oh, we have a new position. No, it was just the visual identity that represents the product. Suddenly, there was a huge disconnect between that.
Rob Broadfoot 8:40
Another example that I think of, of that same sort of idea and sort of misstep. I love New York. One of the greatest, most iconic-
Don Mock 8:52
Rob Broadfoot 8:52
-Logo marks and just campaigns. Just communication, pieces in general, from from a brand standpoint, to brand a city. You think about “I love New York” and “Virginia is for lovers,” but there’s only a few that are really, really iconic. That one being the most iconic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about inclusivity and diversity and all of that, and promoting New York as that true melting pot of a place, where you do celebrate all these cultures and diversity and everything. But to change that to “we love New York City”? and change everything about it.
Don Mock 9:28
Yeah, the heart is different. Everything is different.
Rob Broadfoot 9:30
The typeface is different. The heart is different. The letters are different, everything is different. Again while the the idea behind it is- we can all get behind and support- that’s a misstep.
Don Mock 9:45
I would agree. I haven’t really been following that one super closely. I did read a couple articles when it launched and I remember we had some conversation in the office about like, Don’t fuss with the crust here. The perfection is the perfection. Why are we doing this?
Rob Broadfoot 9:59
I don’t know why… you can still do “I love New York,” but do a campaign where you include everybody. All the different people and why they love New York and what’s so great about it. So that was a misstep for me. And also too, it was designed by
Don Mock 10:13
Rob Broadfoot 10:14
Yeah. Who’s iconic.
Don Mock 10:16
- Back there with Paul Rand.
Yeah, like a rock star.
Yeah, absolutely. The Masimo, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, all those guys just crushing. What we see as sort of classic American design. It’s interesting that both of your observations are kind of on the design front, on the brand identity front, which is interesting. So I mean, you think about authenticity for brand from a visual perspective. Which is cool. One of the exceptions to the rule that I had thought about, outside of visualization… This is why it’s a murky waters. We always joke like, hey, if advertising was a sure thing, there’d be no stock market, right? Because if everything was flawless, and perfect, then well-
Rob Broadfoot 11:02
I can spend 10 and get 100. It’s pretty easy math.
Don Mock 11:06
Right. So there is some subjectivity in there. and so because of that, there is always an exception to the rule. One of the big, sort of luxury brands, that I always thought was interesting, that really weathered this change in perception and focus really well was Mercedes Benz. Mercedes was always tip top, it’s up there with BMW. They’re expensive cars. Well, when they sort of launched the- at least domestically, what’s interesting is you go over to Europe…
Rob Broadfoot 11:31
Totally different ballgame.
Don Mock 11:32
Totally different ballgame. I’m speaking just domestically. You go over to Europe, all the taxis are Mercedes. They’re all diesel Mercedes stick shifts, and you’re like, What is going on here? But domestically, Mercedes was always positioned as a luxury automobile. So when they expanded to the C class, to the discount, the lesser expense, “oh, my God, I can get a Mercedes Benz for $30,000.” I mean, this was years ago. It was “Whoa,” like, “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” Does that? Does that water the brand. There’s a reason why Apple never has a sale ever. You know, they do a college discount, but they never have a sale on products. So it’s like, Oh, my God, Mercedes is luxury brand. Now, all of a sudden, we’re making a discount version of a Mercedes that’s more acceptable or more affordable. It’s not like, there’s Tiffany’s and then there’s Tiffany’s lite, you know what I mean? You go into jewelry store and there’s a different approach to that it was. I do think Mercedes handled that really well. They didn’t change the tonality of their advertising. It was just, hey, here’s a new line of cars. Still the Mercedes quality, just we’re a little bit more affordable for the masses, which I thought was interesting. So it’s still authentic, but it’s definitely a pivot for that brand.
Rob Broadfoot 12:51
Well, and BMW has a parallel path. When they came down to affordability, well, it’s still affordable, but it’s still the ultimate driving machine. Within that particular class or budget. But then you think about car examples. Okay. Well, for me a big misstep was Hummer. Remember when the Hummer comes out? It’s like, “Oh, look like a tank driving down the road.” I mean, it is an army vehicle that has been repurposed for the road.
Don Mock 13:17
Yeah. and you’re talking about the Hummer one, the very first one.
Rob Broadfoot 13:20
I’m talking about the original, very first Hummer.
Don Mock 13:21
Do you remember who got the very first one? Who got the very first, non military Hummer that was available for purchase?
Rob Broadfoot 13:29
Don Mock 13:30
Rob Broadfoot 13:31
Well, of course, of course.
Don Mock 13:33
It makes perfect sense, right?
Rob Broadfoot 13:34
Well, I’m sure they sent it to him. Okay, here you go!
Don Mock 13:36
Well, I mean, it’s crazy or whatever. But yeah, the very first one very tank-like, not very-
Rob Broadfoot 13:42
They were badass.
Don Mock 13:43
Yeah, it wasn’t a domesticated car.
Rob Broadfoot 13:44
No, it didn’t look like a car. It looked like a military vehicle driving down the road. That was what was so cool about it.
Don Mock 13:49
Yeah, of course.
Rob Broadfoot 13:50
And they were exclusive. They didn’t sell a ton of them. But when you saw one, you were like “whoa!” I mean, I think they were really expensive and whatever else. Well over the years…
Don Mock 13:58
And also, not a lot of bells and whistles. I mean, it’s not meant to be a luxury car. It’s like a military vehicle.
Rob Broadfoot 14:03
Right, and then over the years you have the Hum…
Don Mock 14:13
It’s awful-looking on the outside and then has like Cadillac Escalade interior. Like, what is happening here?
Rob Broadfoot 14:19
You saw the soccer mom driving the Hummer down the road. It was like, “oh, no, that’s not gonna work.” You just kind of knew it wasn’t gonna work.
Don Mock 14:26
Well, there’s definitely a lot of flack around one of the cars we have. We have one of the Ford Mustang Mach E’s, which is the electric Mustang. It’s a hatchback. There is a tremendous amount of Ford aficionados and Mustang aficionados that are like, what? Soccer moms drive that. That should not be a Mustang. That is not a Mustang. Mustangs are not electric SUVs.
Rob Broadfoot 14:51
I would say the same is true with the Bronco. People who love old Broncos. I mean Bronco typically was a-
Don Mock 14:58
Yeah, well, Bronco’s one where they split it. Now we have the Bronco sport, which is a little bit more, that’s your SUV or driving on the highway. And then we do have the newer re-released Bronco or whatever, which is a little tougher, a little bit more rugged and whatnot. Right. You know, cars. It’s kind of an interesting, copycat industry.
Rob Broadfoot 15:18
Unlike a Ford of a Mercedes- back to the Hummer for a second- they only had one vehicle. And they took that one vehicle and then, it’s not like they splintered off into several different divisions and classes, budget. They just went with one and it didn’t work.
Don Mock 15:39
Well, they probably got more sales. But I think from a brand positioning and authenticity perspective, it’s now just a name. it’s not the brand that it originally represents.
Rob Broadfoot 15:48
And I have no idea how they’re doing now. But I sure as heck don’t see very many driving around, I can tell you that.
Don Mock 15:49
I’m sure it is. Yeah, so and they’ve only got Just like everything with a chip shortage and the whatever. There’s only so many out there and they keep flipping them on bring a trailer and things like that. So any other interesting brands for authenticity? I got one more. All of mine are food brands.
Rob Broadfoot 16:03
Don Mock 16:06
Ben and Jerry’s?
Rob Broadfoot 16:13
Don Mock 16:21
I mean, that’s been around forever. I mean, I shouldn’t say forever. But it’s been around a long, long time. Obviously, they sold to Unilever. They’re no longer running their own ship. But when they sold, they had all the caveats of hey, we’re still going to be activists, we’re still going to talk about Mother Earth. They’re going to have that position of where they were, 10-15 years ago. So I thought that was interesting, that even being absorbed by a giant packaged goods company, I still feel like they haven’t been taken over. They still are-
Rob Broadfoot 16:57
Quirky and delicious.
Don Mock 16:58
Yeah. Authentic to that initial vibe. The Cherry Garcia vibe that we all grew up with.
Rob Broadfoot 17:05
We got funky flavors. We got Ben and Jerry. and you’ve got Oh, we are environmentally… we are very…
Don Mock 17:12
Mother Earth. Yeah, yeah. But even when they brought in celebs, like Americone Dream.
Rob Broadfoot 17:18
Americone Dream delicicious. It’s so good.
Don Mock 17:20
Oh, it’s so good. Yeah. Yeah. We did have a little tasting in the office. Remember that? Years ago, we had an American Dream versus the, the Tonight Dough?
Rob Broadfoot 17:27
There’s the Tonight Dough.
Don Mock 17:29
Yeah, and I Don’t was there a third? I don’t remember. I’m an American dream guy.
Rob Broadfoot 17:33
I’m an Americone Dream. I love that waffle cone.
Don Mock 17:35
Yeah, it’s so good. The I feel like that Tonight Dough was too chocolate. It was chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. It was a chocolate ice cream with a chocolate fudge and a brownie in there. It was too much though.
Rob Broadfoot 17:46
What’s your what’s your favorite? Is that your top?
Don Mock 17:49
No, it’s a knockdown drag-out fight between Fish Food and Half Baked.
Rob Broadfoot 17:57
Don Mock 17:57
Those are those are the two. Now if you have to pull my leg and give me one of those core ones all go the Caramelsutra.
Rob Broadfoot 18:05
You get a chunk of that caramel. Oh, my word.
Don Mock 18:10
Ot’s so good. So good.
Rob Broadfoot 18:11
All right. You get one flavor for the rest of time. What is it? Are you going Fish Food.
Don Mock 18:16
So I have to pick one Ben and Jerry’s?
Rob Broadfoot 18:18
Don Mock 18:21
I don’t think I’m gonna go Fish Food. I think I’ll go Half Baked.
Rob Broadfoot 18:24
Don Mock 18:25
Yeah… If I had to go one. I’m trapped on a desert island for the rest of my life. Every month they fly overhead and drop off the package of… Yeah, yeah, I’m going Half Baked.
Rob Broadfoot 18:35
All right, they used to have a flavor- they discontinued it- but years ago, they had a flavor called From Russia with Buzz.
Don Mock 18:41
Yeah. What was in, it do you remember?
Rob Broadfoot 18:43
It was like coffee and it had espresso chocolate chips. Oh, it was so good.
Don Mock 19:05
That sounds delicious.
Rob Broadfoot 19:05
They discontinued it, though.
Don Mock 19:05
Of course they did.
Americone Dream’s a good one. We even have someone in the house who loves their Strawnerry Cheesecake. And I’m not a strawberry ice cream fan at all.
Rob Broadfoot 19:05
Yeah that’s an oddball.
Don Mock 19:05
I’m out. But, delicious.
So what’s your desert island them?
Rob Broadfoot 19:09
I mean, I think if I’m desert island, I probably go Fish Food. It just stands the test of time.
It’s so good.
Stands the test of time. It’s just got everything you need in it.
Don Mock 19:18
Yeah. Well, Ben and Jerry’s, very authentic and very delicious. Run out and get yourself some Ben and Jerry’s. Any other thoughts on authentic brands?
Rob Broadfoot 19:27
Speaking of that idea that a company that had a lot of personality was swallowed up by another company, and what happened. I just read a book about Zappos and Tony Haish, who was the controversial figure who founded Zappos and built it and then ultimately tragically fied in a fire a few years back. But that’s an interesting case study. Zappos was acquired by Amazon.
Don Mock 19:27
Okay, I was thinking that’s who they were bought by.
Rob Broadfoot 19:32
They were acquired by Amazon because Tony Haish-
Don Mock 19:44
And for those that Don’t know is that opposes an online shoe retailer, correct?
Rob Broadfoot 20:02
Yeah, they became the world’s largest online shoe retailer. They were swallowed up by Amazon because Bezos and Haish got to become really good…. I don’t know that they were good pals. But they were acquaintances, Bezos really admired Tony Haish, because he was all about this culture of happiness and building this culture of happiness.
Don Mock 20:19
Rob Broadfoot 20:21
It’s really interesting. It’s an interesting read. But they couldn’t. When first were brought on, they were allowed to be completely autonomous. And they kept their core sort of quirky. They were the ones who came in, for example, I’m going down a tangent.
Don Mock 20:37
That’s Okay. Let’s do it.
Rob Broadfoot 20:38
Zappos were the first ones that came in and said, free returns. Because the challenge was well, wait a minute-
Don Mock 20:44
These shoes don’t fit quite right.
Rob Broadfoot 20:45
Everyone has to try on shoes. No one’s gonna buy them online. You have to try them on. So they were the very first ones to say, no, no, we’ll do free returns. For like 60 days or 90 days or whatever it was.
Don Mock 20:55
Rob Broadfoot 20:57
It totally worked. That was Bezos, and that got him thinking about Prime. This is prior to prime. He took that, spun it out, and was like Prime, I can do that and returns and all the things. So he was inspired by Zappos to do that. But then ultimately, I think Amazon got a little bit heavy handed, started meddling in their business a little bit. and it kind of… although Zappos is still around and doing well, as far as I know, but they’re not the-
Don Mock 21:29
They’re not the brand that they were.
Rob Broadfoot 21:30
They’re not the brand that they were before. There are a lot of factors to that.
Don Mock 21:35
That’s not uncommon at all, with mergers.
Rob Broadfoot 21:38
Happens all the time.
Don Mock 21:39
I’ll be very curious to see what happens with HBO. Because HBO now has been bought and sold so many times and is now folded under Discovery. Discovery, TLC, that whole thing. There’s been a lot of chatter about HBO Max. It was HBO, then it was HBO GO, then it became HBO Max. Now we’re dropping HBO.
Rob Broadfoot 21:59
Wasnt HBO GO wasn’t that just the app?
Don Mock 22:02
HBO Go was the first time you could purchase HBO independent of your cable provider. It’s always been an add on to your cable package. But as we started getting cord cutting and whatnot, you could buy the app on its own as HBO Go. You didn’t need to have Comcast or whomever else. That was the first time. Then as all the networks got into streaming, or you got direct TV on the go, which later became AT&T TV. Now we’ve got Hulu and all these things like that. HBO GO turned into HBO Max, which was a obviously all the HBO properties, but then a lot of the other Time Warner properties. You got all the DC things and the cartoons and adult swim.
Rob Broadfoot 22:45
Now it’s completely gonna go away.
Don Mock 22:46
Now as part of the new thing, at the end of this month, they are dumping HBO from the name and it is just going to be called Max. And the Discovery Plus app, I believe, is going away and being folded in. So now you’ll have one app, which is just called Max, which has TLC, Discovery. Not Nat Geo, because that’s on Disney, but it’s got all of the Discovery properties. Then it’s got all of the Time Warner HBO. I don’t know how I feel about it. The power of the HBO brand is tremendous. To minimize that, on the same Even Steven level as a TLC, for example. I’m not knocking TLC, but they are totally different brands and totally different target audience.
Rob Broadfoot 23:31
Well just programming. I mean, their programming couldn’t be more opposite.
Don Mock 23:36
So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with that, you know,
Rob Broadfoot 23:39
If I were in that meeting, I would say that’s a terrible idea. Thatd be my gut feeling. Prediction. We’ll see what happens.
Don Mock 23:46
The Internet does not disagree with you. But evidently, the guy that is in charge came from the Discovery side. He’s getting killed by this writer’s strike, because his compensation-
Rob Broadfoot 23:57
That just started what last night? Midnight.
Don Mock 24:00
Yeah. So there’s been a lot of very questionable decisions surrounding HBO and they and the HBO properties. We’ll see what happens with that as it relates to brand authenticity. Does it still hold true? You know what I mean?
Rob Broadfoot 24:13
I’ve still never fully accepted XFINITY,
Don Mock 24:18
You’re still Comcast.
Rob Broadfoot 24:20
Now I’m an old, middle aged guy who grew up on Comcast.
Don Mock 24:25
What freaks me out is seeing XFINITY trucks driving around and they’re multicolored, because Comcast was black and red. We worked- full transparency- we worked on Comcast for a number of years. So it’s weird when I see an XFINITY truck and it’s blue like AT&T. Or it’s green. I’m like, what is happening here? Like, no, no, no, Comcast is red, AT&T is blue.
Rob Broadfoot 24:47
Everybody will always be Comcast to me.
Don Mock 24:49
Yeah. Sprint is yellow, T-mobile’s pink. Everybody’s got their their brand colors.
Rob Broadfoot 24:54
The world’s a crazy place.
Don Mock 24:56
We’ll wrap it up for today.
Rob Broadfoot 24:58
The takeaway is yes, you always should be authentic. Try not to misstep. Be careful in your decisions. Be mindful, be thoughtful. Be strategic in what you do and how you how you do it. All right, that’ll wrap us up for today. You can find us always, of course, on the interwebs at mocktheagency.com or on all the socials @mocktheagency. Drop us a note. Give us some ideas.
Don Mock 25:24
All right. We’ll chat with you next time.
Rob Broadfoot 25:26
Talk next time.