Something has put a spark back into Taco Bell’s sales, and it isn’t the hot sauce!

Yum Brand Inc owns Taco Bell as well as KFC and Pizza Hut have announced a 6% growth in the Taco Bell sales for this quarter. Up from a 2% sales decline in the last quarter.

Yum’s CFO Rick Carucci predicts the next quarter’s growth to be in the low double digits.

The company attributes the sudden rise in sales to the introduction of the Doritos Locos Taco that was added to the menu March 8th, 2011.

The Doritos Locos Taco is a traditional Taco Bell taco, except the outside shell is actually made of Nacho Cheese Doritos. The product is a huge hit and is slowly gaining a cult following, similar to the McDonald’s McRib.

Rick Carucci says the full impact of the product will reflect in the current quarter.

The company also plans to introduce more Doritos flavored options such as Cool Ranch flavor as well as expanding its new breakfast items to more Taco Bell franchises.

There are also plans to make a luxury option of Taco Bell called Cantina Bell crafted by chef Lorena Garcia. The menu features fresh ingredients and a lower price point than Chipotle.

Taco Bell’s innovation with the Doritos Locos Taco and its strong marketing aimed at teenagers is paying off beautifully. The company is taking risks and reinventing itself, tossing the stigmas of the past that it had tarnishing its image.

Developing new ideas that turn into sales are a focal point of our operation at 347 Design. Our creative teams objective with every client is to think outside the box of traditional marketing techniques and develop new ideas.



What is Pinterest? And why can’t I stop using it!


Facebook has us intoxicated by knowing what everyone is doing at all times, Twitter has made tweet-a-holics, now will Pinterest have us wildly pinning everything in sight?

Pinterest is the new kid on the block in the social media circuit. Pinterest currently has the title of fastest growing website on the internet ever, with over 17 million visitors every month. In February Pinterest generated more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Youtube combined. A few venture capitalists have already invested $27 million, valuing the company at around $200 million. Impressive for a website launched out of an apartment just two years ago.

Ben Silbermann 29, is the mastermind behind Pinterest, a long time collector of all things interesting, he took his habit and turned it into Silicon Valley’s hottest start-up. The idea behind Pinterest was to organize anything a person ever liked on the internet. Almost like how teenagers would cut out pictures from a magazine and put them in their lockers.

The website allows accepted users, yes you have to be accepted, to pin all the beautiful images and products on the internet and organize them into custom “boards”. There are also labels to search like “recipes”, “interior design”, and beautiful vacation spots”, pined images can redirect users to a website where they can find out more information.

Pinterest can inspire you to redesign your house, or to go skiing in Colorado this winter. It is all about finding new things that a user may not have found otherwise.

I just started “pining” last week and I have already caught the bug. I go on for about an hour a day and pin images of photography and sports (my interests), then proceed to go around and look through other pins and get taken away to another world.

Marketers and big corporations are looking into Pinterest as a new way to drive sales. Pinterest is a new tool to see subscribers interests, hobbies, and products that the love. The company is very young but the possibility to monetize is great, and every big company is going to want a piece of the pie soon.

Now Pinterest needs to focus on keeping the service fresh and cool, they have a great product but it is not gold just yet. As long as Pinterest keeps differentiating itself from competitors the future seems promising.


Why Did John Carter Flop?


Last week Walt Disney Co. released the major motion picture “John Carter”, a film they hoped to be the studios next big franchise.

Unfortunately the film is not making headlines for breaking any box office records but is going down as one of the worst flops in movie history.

CEO Robert Iger’s dream of having “John Carter” be the box office success that spawns sequels, merchandise, and theme park rides has turned out to be a nightmare.

The movie has cost Disney an approximate $350 million to produce has so far brought in a measly $30 million in the US box office in 3,749 screens. The projections for Disney to break even set the minimum they had to bring in the first week was double that. Disney’s analysts have already forecasted a $170 million loss for the movie.

What caused this flop? It seemed like the movie had all the components of a guaranteed huge box office hit, world famous director, big budget action, and a story created by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Disney missed a major component to a successful movie, good marketing. Disney appointed MT Carney as Marketing Chief; meanwhile Carney has never worked in a studio, and Carney resigned in early January being replaced by Ricky Strauss.

It is a crushing blow when a films marketing team changes just as the advertisements for the movie are about to kick into high gear. The focus of the movies marketing was in billboard and TV commercial, both, which had very poor imagery and didn’t highlight the films great action sequences.

Disney also fell flat on delivering a great ad during the Super Bowl, the commercial seemed to focus on people already knowing who the character John Carter of Mars is. Although the story of John Carter has been around for a very long time the character is not as well known as other’s like Batman and Sherlock Holmes, whose ads don’t have to explain background because of their worldwide fame.

A former Disney distribution executive is quoted, “You only get one shot at making a first impression … and that first trailer, it never jumped off, never did anything to catch that wave of anticipation that all new movies crave. That’s what so critical for a movie like this.”

It is reported that the director Andrew Stanton demanded creative control of the movies trailers and advertisement, virtually disconnecting the marketing team from doing any work.

Maybe that explains all those posters around New York City of some shirtless character and the letters “JC”, and the trailer that explained absolutely nothing of plot of the movie.

The marketing of “John Carter” was awful and will serve Walt Disney as a lesson; pouring money into a motion picture will not always bring huge returns. Like any product, no steps can be skipped and good marketing will always be a crucial step that cannot be bypassed.


Brand Watch: SXSW 2012


From its humble roots in 1992 as a regional festival for musicians in Austin Texas, South by South West, now twenty years old, has emerged as a mixed platform for independent directors and musicians by embracing emerging media and developing culture. In that way, the brand of South by South West, SXSW, as it is widely known has matriculated into something more than just music festival, it is a breeding ground of thought, a taste maker’s test market for trendsetting, culture reforming ideas and products.

SXSW is where smart, young products meet smart, young consumers.

Hanson, John Mayer and James Blunt are the musical often touted stories of SXSW, by finding eventual fame from pre-conference obscurity. From a branding perspective, these are the pillars of why SXSW remains musically relevant. The conference breaks good musicians by giving them a stage, good movies by giving them responsive audiences.

What most people do not know are the tech stories.  In 2006, SXSW featured a keynote panel of Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. In 2007, Twitter notably gained a good deal of early traction and buzz and SXSW Interactive.  In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg participated in a keynote interview with tech journalist Sarah Lacy.  SXSW has even precipitated the launch of Foursquare.

SXSBW has done more for the tech industry than most tech niche specific conventions.

The brand of SXSW has grown tremendously. It has been said that attendance alone has strained network providers such as AT&T due to heavy iPhone usage. In 2009, The Hurt Locker held its US premier at the conference. Conan O’Brien even stops in to promote his new concepts.

Currently, SXSW is more than music or tech or film. It is a promise of emerging artists, revolutionary products and genius-level ideas. That promise permeates the conference at every level.

In 20 years, SXSW has broke records, birthed spin-offs and grew million dollar companies.

That’s brand power.

– Deeon

The Ultimate Bad Boy is Back in the Spotlight

DirecTV and Fiat are cashing in on TV bad-boy Charlie Sheen. This past week two new ads have debuted starring the former “Two and a Half Men” star, now infamous for his drug fueled hotel room meltdown that led to his departure from the popular series.

Some companies might be weary of using Sheen as the face of their brand, but I see this as a prime opportunity to work with the former highest paid actor on TV as he is coming back into the limelight.

Sheen has already landed a new starring role in the show “Anger Management” debuting June 28th on FX, and its been recently reported that the star is completely sober.

Charlie Sheen has always made headlines for his antics but always manages to rebuff them and rise to the top, and last I check every brand wants to be in the headlines.

The new DirecTV ad continues with the “Bad things that will happen if you don’t switch from cable” theme and features Sheen reenacting his starting role in the film “Platoon”.

The ad pokes fun at Sheen’s bad decision making and was created by Grey New York.

Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat is also using Sheens bad boy image in marketing the new Fiat Abarth. The micro-car features edgy design in Fiat’s push to draw in more male customers.

The hilarious ad created by The Doner Agency features Sheen driving the Abarth inside a luxurious mansion as a bevy of models cheer him on. The ad even zooms into Sheen’s ankle monitor as he says, “I love being on house arrest

Fiat and DirecTv both had the right idea to work with Sheen and take advantage of his reputation, both brands want to make their products seem out-of-control and rebellious to the consumers, all characteristics of the actor.


Does Facebook Brand Timeline “Like” Your Small Business?


Facebook brand timelines went live last week and some of the examples of use are pretty impressive, including early advertisements, corporate memos, photos and founding name changes. But what does that mean for the small business grappling with the strain of keeping up with the ever-changing tides of social media.

Mostly well-received, this Facebook launch differed in response entirely from personal timeline. The rallied criticism for the personal timeline has been that it’s a tool for a corporate or governmental invasion of privacy. While in contrast, the brand timeline has been looked at as something more aligned to a corporate museum.

Small business finds itself somewhere in the gray when it comes to its response of the brand timeline. Often too new to have the depth of brand history as a company like Pepsi, small businesses find their timeline short and not filled with the same levels of cool trivia.

The hope would be that over time, if Facebook is sustainable as a media tool, timelines would grow from the present and move forward.

Brands such as ESPN, Subway, Ford, Burberry, Starbucks have all laid out some of their company’s most interesting factoids using Facebook and given the public glimpses into their brand’s histories.

These are brands for which telling a story with historical details is part of their brand experience, but they are very few.
It’s actually far more common for brands to reinvent themselves because it has no relevance to their future goals. Meaning, with smart calculation and growth of utility of the timeline, small businesses may be able to map out brand strategy by looking at how the “majors” have navigated their brand’s growth.  In theory, that is.

Big brands with big budgets should experiment with the function.

Every opportunity for global exposure is always a worthwhile risk.  I imagine Facebook Timeline may frustrate majority of small businesses and nonprofits on FB who do not have the time, money or staff to reinvent marketing from scratch every few months. Like all things, tools, apps, and companies will be made to address such issues.

So in closing, some small Businesses are certainly not happy with the launch of Timeline, while others wait patiently to see its impact on marketing. The process to fine tune the voice of a brand becomes harder when the platforms you are using are constantly changing and small business is on the forefront of this battle.

It will be interesting to see if small business owners will embrace timeline for commercial use when they do not trust it for personal use.

Social Media Week: Whos Got Kred?

This week 347 Design headed to the New York headquarters of Social Media Week. Owned and operated by Crowdcentric Media, a New York based strategy firm, Social Media Week brought together almost 75,000 attendees in its twelve-city span and almost 500,000 viewers through online and mobile connections through the SMW Live Stream Page. With Global Partners Nokia, Oglivy and Constant Contact, the activity and panel based platform brought together some of the brightest and best in social media, marketing and education.

The Rogues Gallery was impressive. Paul Adams, the Global Brand Experience Manager of Facebook, Guihem Fouetillou, Fabio Coelho, the lest went on and on. Our team was standing on the shoulders of Giants. The most interesting of them, however, wasn’t a person, but a social media scoring system, Kred.

Kred, the latest product from start PeopleBrowser was in full use during the week.  Non-aggressive in its presence, the scoring system highlighted, in real-time, the influencers present in a room. Our introduction to the product came via an actual Influencers panel discussion, where we presented with two types of engagers, those who both influence and outreach.

Taking into account elements such as how often your tweets are retweeted and how many replies you generate, it gives a numerical score to your ability to inspire others.

Brand Managers- you can keep track of those who you influence by keeping them in communities to track.

Kred will not only be a competitor or sister program to Klout, but something much more, in our opinion.

It may answer that tricky question of social media ROI.


Because if you can track how you influence the influencers, you track how you influence the world.


The Dead Speak…for Brands We Love

With the death of a celebrity, ultimately comes the question of how that brand would be handled in the future.  The world, now recovering from the shock of Whitney Houston’s death should expect in a few years to hear her songs promoting everyday products. That, some may argue, is the measure of life’s brand- the ability to garner revenue after death by utilizing the media created in life. So close to a death, a la Heath Ledger, using a deceased celebrity for marketing may seem irresponsible. However, the fact remains, that deceased celebrity name rights can be more profitable and secure than living celebrities. Ask the holders to the rights of Bob Marley.

In today´s dead celebrity market, the Bob Marley brand finds itself in good company. Audrey Hepburn, Kurt Cobain, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon  all have had their likenesses attached to advertising deals and merchandise for huge profits after death.


Mostly, because the brand equity associated with long deceased celebrities will likely never see the same level of loss due to scandal as living celebrities.

Thanks Social Media!

In fact, with a smart approach to the deceased star’s influence a brand can utilize nostalgia to increase its market share potential.

So, to the future brand managers and watchers, look which celebrities are capitalizing on their fame now, and then watch their beloved brand sky rocket post mortem.


Brand Watch: Target

Brand Watch: Target.  Target Corp., the Minneapolis-based retailer, has parted ways with Wieden+Kennedy as its advertising agency  according Ad Age, a long running accredited advertising publication.

Almost simultaneously, Wieden+Kennedy and Target confirmed the separation after being together for six years. In 2009, Target named W+K (the abbreviation for the famed agency) its lead agency after having collaborated with several big names including the Gods of Foot Apparel, Nike. (Sidenote: I spent a few years working over at adidas, so take the deity reference at face value.)

Both sides issued statements, with Tom Blessington, a W+K partner, telling Ad Age, “It is never easy to part ways with a client. We are proud of our six-year history with Target and wish them the best.”

Shawn Gensch, VP-marketing and head of partner management at Target, said, “Target is proud of what we accomplished with the Wieden+Kennedy team during our six-year partnership.”

The Ad Age story noted that former Target marketer Michael Francis, was the person responsible for naming W+K Target’s lead agency. Francis now works for JC Penney Co. having left Target in October.