Allan Benton can Teach you Business

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Allan Benton makes some pretty outrageous ham. A god amongst chefs and foodies, Allan’s hams are adored by the likes of Thomas Keller, David Chang, and Sean Brock. And he has an important lesson about business:

After about four or five years, I told my dad one day, “Dad, I’m gonna have to quick-cure these hams. Like everyone else. I’m trying to age these things out a year and they’re selling them cheaper than I can even think about making a ham.”

And Dad looked at me and said, “Son, if you play the other guy’s game, you always lose. Stay with what you know, and sooner or later quality will sustain you in this business.”

I’ve seen so many companies that refuse to learn this lesson, they’re in a tight race to be just like their competition. Companies that have unique qualities, instead of trumpeting them, work to shed them. They’re trying to “win” the same way their competition did. What a terrible mistake.

About a year ago I went to a seminar and I got into a bit of a debate with the host. She felt that the quality of the brand was determined solely by the quality of the experience. For example, she felt that Ryan Air was a bad example of branding because they offer a notoriously bad experience.

I, on the other hand, feel that branding is more nuanced than that. I think that the remarkableness of the brand story is what determines how great a brand is. The brand story that Benton’s Country Hams tells is absolutely perfect for them. They’re presenting themselves as a small, back-woods, artisanal smoker. They have a website that is absolutely terrible, but it fits their story perfectly. A nicer website wouldn’t fit with their brand-story. And look at some stills from the video of their facility:

I can’t imagine being more in love with this brand.

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Brand Impressions from a Five Year Old

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I’m a couple of years away from being able to use my daughter as a focus group on my work. I wonder how her thoughts would shape my work, and I wonder how my work would shape her thoughts. Video by Ladd-design.com.

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What Happened to Lego?

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Lego has undergone quite a change. Legos used to be simple he says in the video. Now Lego is anything but simple. Instead Lego has chosen to focus on cross-branded sets, like Harry Potter and Star Wars. The kits that used to allow for – and encourage – creativity, imagination, and experimentation now build one thing only. What’s on the box.

Unfortunately no one seems to have told Lego’s marketing department about the dramatic shift in the product design. Ads that are passed around the internet lately contrast strongly with the actual product. It’s hard to find a better example of disingenuous advertising.

As someone who grew up adoring Lego, this change really saddens me. As a parent whose child is nearing Lego age, I’m nervous about buying Lego for her.


A 1981 ad that captures the Lego spirit.

A recent sampling from the Imagine campaign.

Some more recent examples of Lego selling imagination. (Simpsons, South Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Examples of the current product. How does the product compare to the ads?

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Is it Time for Fedex to Overhaul their Brand?

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When one of your senior executives has to quickly produce an apology video, your brand is in real danger.

Along with many of you, we’ve seen the video showing one of our couriers carelessly and improperly delivering a package the other day. As the leader of our pickup and delivery operations across America, I want you to know that I was upset, embarrassed, and very sorry for our customer’s poor experience. This goes directly against everything we have always taught our people and expect of them. It was just very disappointing.

As an aside, if your name includes “III” or “the third”, you may come across a little pretentious when you speak to the masses.

This video, which appeared shortly before Christmas, is Fedex’s response to this video, which shows a Fedex driver throwing a box over a short fence, apparently while the recipient was home.


But that last video has nothing on this video of another misbehaving Fedex driver:

It’s probably time for Fedex to give some serious thought about how they can start delivering a better customer experience. A brand that doesn’t really¬†understand how important it is to deliver that experience is a doomed one, especially with the voice that today’s consumers have.

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Four Great Ads from Spike Jonze

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He’s best known for his work on such films as “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” But Spike Jonze has also created some of the most engaging TV commercials. Notice that the ads are all at least 60 seconds long, he takes time to tell a story, instead of just hitting you with the feature-benefit-advantage combo.

IKEA – Lamp

Nike – Y2K

Gap – Pardon Our Dust

Levi’s – Doctors

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ASICS Run with Ryan

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How fun is this? ASICS built a huge display in a New York subway station that challenges you to keep pace with a marathon runner for just 60′. I love how engaging this idea is.

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Byturen Beer Goggles

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I spent a good portion of my 20’s as a bouncer/doorman at various bars. I’ve seen a lot, and I really like how this video shows the difference between how we think things are happening, and the reality. It takes a while to load, but it’s worth the wait.

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Creativity Takes Time

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While I absolutely agree with the point this video makes, I’m posting it here because of the clever, and fun way that the agency makes the argument to have a little more time.

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Endangered Species

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I have to take a minute just to recognize this long spot for Forza Motorsport 4. The Gran Turismo franchise is the recognized leader of racing video games, so Forza has a bit of an uphill battle with its latest release.

But they’ve done a lot right. They hired Jeremy Clarkson, one of the most recognizable voices amongst auto enthusiasts to do the voice over. The copywriter also did a great job with the script, a long editorial about the struggle of being an fan of powerful cars. Overall, it’s very easy to watch this 2’40” spot and feel passionate about driving expensive cars fast and irresponsibly.

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The Mother of All Hot Wheels Tracks

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Here’s how you make a viral video. One thing I’ve noticed about viral videos, is that they’re earnest. They’re not overproduced. And they rarely give you the sense that the creators really thought that they should make this in order to go viral.

I also really liked the last 45 seconds or so. After watching the video, they make a plea for a small donation to their favourite charity. Having watched the video, don’t you feel like you owe them?

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