Sunday, May 06, 2007

3 Year Old Gets It: Brands Belong to You

When I was a teen-ager, they opened a new dining establishment out in the southern part of Overland Park, Kan. (an upscale suburb of Kansas City). I believe it was on Metcalf Ave. The novel part of this restaurant involved combining a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Taco Bell, and a Pizza Hut in a single building.
We called it Ken-taco-hut.
This novelty lured me there exactly once.
This is somewhat amazing because my full-time high school occupation was driving. As my grades could attest, I didn't do much studying. If I was awake and not either in school or at my parents' advertising agency, I was driving.
My father was kind enough to supply me with a series of nice vehicles and a gas card (my mother probably thought it unwise). So we drove.
And we drove in the neighborhood of the Ken-taco-hut fairly often. But we didn't stop. Why? Well, then as now, the combination of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC is just not that cool.
As teens, we didn't eat much Pizza Hut or KFC (unless the parents bought it), and if we wanted Taco Bell, there were more convenient ones at which to stop.
Thus, the take-home point is that we were loyal to Taco Bell. That was our brand.
It seemed kind of cool to stick one in a building with two other restaurants (this was years before they started sticking Subways in gas stations), but not cool enough to deal with the extra people.
We were the consumers. We decided what brands were important to us. The brand belonged to us. That's what makes it a brand and not just a stupid logo.
Yum! Brands still does not understand this. Still.
I was watching the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, which is not surprisingly located in Kentucky. Yum! Brands also is located in Kentucky. As I see it, the Derby, KFC, and bluegrass pretty much exhaust the state's potential (I forgot Ashley Judd. My bad). So, not surprisingly, Yum! Brands was a major sponsor. The logos were everywhere.
"Idiots," I thought.
Almost a year ago, I decried Yum! Brands for wasting $2.7 million in Kentucky Derby publicity by using their obscure logo instead of one of their flagship brands.
Free advice. And they ignored me.
Shortly after Street Smart won the race, NBC went to commercial, and Yum! had a montage of their three major brands. About that time, my three-year-old daughter walked in the room.
"Taco Bell," she said. "Mommy, I saw Taco Bell."
She gets it. She cannot read yet. But she recognizes Taco Bell instantly.
Allow me to try to impress upon you how amazing this really is.
We have lived in Lubbock, Texas, for just over 10 months. We have eaten at Taco Bell exactly once in that 10 months. Once! You see, Lubbock also has Taco Bueno and Taco Villa. So there are not too many Taco Bells. There are so few Taco Bells that Texas Tech doctoral student Wendy Maxian threatened not to come here unless we actually had a Taco Bell.
We do not drive by a Taco Bell on the way to my daughter's preschool, and we do not drive by one on the way to my work. We do not see it that often.
And the next-to-last time my daughter ate at Taco Bell, she was barely two and a half years old.
But she had instant recognition for the brand in a video montage.
Imagine the impression that could have been made with a well-thought-out advertisement for one of the brands.
Yum! Brands' logo means nothing to her. Or me. Or you. We just do not fall in love with conglomerates.
I love Ben & Jerry's ... not Unilever.
I love Tide ... not Procter & Gamble.
You get the point. My 3 year old gets the point. Kevin Roberts gets the point. Sadly for stockholders, a bunch of Yum! Brands marketing executives completely miss the point.
This means that I will probably be writing this same post next year at this time.

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