Move Over McDonald’s

Subway the deli sandwich restaurant isn’t just popular here in the states. Hard to believe because of McDonald’s sheer size and overall iconic brand legacy,  but as of August 2013 Subway has passed up McDonald’s in terms of number of restaurant outlets.  Latest count available for Subway locations from August 2013 was 40,000! How does a deli that was founded in 1965 and funded by a $1000 loan from a friend grow into a restaurant giant ? Through marketing campaigns and international expansion strategies and as the director of development for the chain, Don Fertman put it, “The secrets to our success are probably not secrets. I think they’re really obvious and it has to do with the fact that people want something that tastes good, that’s a good value”.


In that same interview with Mr.  Don Fertman, he expands on those growth strategies and reasons for Subway’s success. In order to grow, Subway has been able to adapt to local cultures and tastes yet still maintain their original concept, a strategy that they learned from their entrance into the Japanese market.

Originally, when Subway went to Japan, a customer from North America who entered the store would be relatively unfamiliar with the overall product offerings. He added “It was still sandwiches, but the sandwiches were very much changed from what we had originally intended. They have since come to understood that what made Subway great was those six-inch, foot-long sandwiches and basic menu structure.” Subway does a great job of listening to customer demands, and varying their menus based on regional preference, but are still able to keep tight control over the overall Subway brand image.

The chain and its management do a phenomenal job of always thinking globally. Currently Subway has a presence in 102 countries, and that number is growing rapidly.  Below is Subway’s original Top 10 High-Growth Potential Territories:

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Subway has never limited themselves in moving abroad. Their original model was, if someone’s interested in franchising in a location, they would go there. More recently, as growth opportunities have skyrocketed Fertman explains, “we’ve started determining which markets would be appropriate for entry by looking at a number of factors: the GDP, the cost of doing business, fast-food development, and such.” It’s strategies like these that have grown Subway into a company valued at 5 billion dollars.

What’s in a name?

A brand message should always resonate with its intended audience. But what happens when your brand name, product or tagline translates to something obscene or offensive in another language.  For example, we’re all familiar with Nokia’s popular phone the “Lumia” in Spanish unfortunately  translates to prostitute, which does not go over well in trying to sell your newly minted product to the Spanish speaking market.

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With just some simple background research Nokia could’ve avoided this disaster.  Yet, it’s easy to see how language and overall cultural differences may give a brand name, logo, or tagline a different meaning than otherwise intended.  However, it’s not until a company expand its reach outside of domestic markets that they realize the true impact and effect of their brand name or tagline. Yet another example, Americans hear the word “Gerber” and associate it automatically with the iconic baby food brand.  However, if you mention the word “gerber” to a French person, they’ll have a vastly different reaction.  In French, the term translates roughly as “to vomit”.  Luckily, Gerber does not sell it’s products in France, for good reason!

Here are some other examples of product names that are less than enticingbarfdetergent

Barf detergent is a brand sold in Iran, where barf actually translate to “snow”, but outside the country the meaning can be construed a bit differently.

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The Polish Candy bar translates to “lucky bar“, but provides some obvious giggles to English speakers worldwide.

Selecting a name or slogan to represent your brand can thus be extremely limiting, especially if companies operate internationally or plan to expand in the future.  It’s important to select product names, brand names and slogans carefully as to not fall victim to translation woes like these firms. Companies looking to broaden their market overseas need to strategically plan and consult with experts before  making that branding leap.  Thus, understanding cultural nuances and local preferences is essential in choosing a successful and effective name for your target audience.

From Catchphrase to Commonplace: “Got Milk?”


The California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” ad campaign turns 20 this year. How did two simple words “Got Milk” turn into an insanely recognizable and iconic movement adapting further down the line to “Toma Leche?”? Jeff Goodby, one of the men behind the campaign highlighted his struggle with promoting such an inherently boring product.  In a focus group in the early 90’s a participant shouted to him, “The only time I even think about milk is when I run out of it.” and eventually, “Got Milk?” was born. Below is the first televised ad, that I’m sure most of us remember well…

In an effort to boost sluggish Milk sales, Goodby and team stressed Milk’s beneficial heath effects and effectively made milk hip with its advertisements featuring celebrities, musicians, athletes, you name it – they’ve been in a “Got Milk?” ad.  I challenge you to search “Got Milk?” in Google images and name every spokesperson on the first page of results, I know I couldn’t (Miley Cyrus sure looks different).  One amazing aspect of the campaigns success, is that it’s not brand specific and doesn’t focus primarily on one manufacturer.  It’s become one of the most successful commodity brand campaigns ever made. Back in 1993, 11 milk processors in California came together and decided to allocate three cents of every gallon sold to promote milk consumption through marketing, ad promotion and public relations.  It’s safe to say “Got Milk?” has been a success.

The initial success of the ads spawned opportunity for co-branding and branding worldwide- milk, as a commodity product, provided Goodby with a potentially large target market. By teaming up with well known brands such as Trix and Oreo, marketers were able to expand their reach.  In 2006 however, the “Got Milk?” campaign extended itself culturally and internationally.  “Toma Leche?” became the adaption for Spanish speakers and has become a successful advertisement seen around the globe.


With a culturally diverse presence, the “Got Milk?” tagline was adapted to an extensive list of products and concepts.  Anywhere you looked, people were utilizing the ever popular slogan and tailoring it to their needs.  From religion to sports teams, we’ve seen it all.


After twenty years the slogan has become somewhat engrained in our everyday life, as though it’s always been there.  It’s now common to see the adaption of the “Got Milk?” font, style and coloring on bumper stickers or t shirts.  So common it’s often overlooked, a commendable job done by Goodby and his team.



Milka Encourages It’s Customers to Reach Out


Milka, the chocolate bar manufacturer has been using creative marketing campaigns lately to both engage and challenge it’s customers worldwide.

In Argentina for instance, a local ad agency, David, took to the streets to bring people together.  In a world where the majority of our waking hours are spent immersed in technology, Milka wants people to reconnect, not with our various devices, but with strangers on the street.  Below is a video from Milka Argentina illustrating their marketing strategy.

The iconic purple Milka cow is placed a few yards from a candy dispenser.  In order to get free chocolate people had to hold hands to connect the cow with the candy machine, most instances requiring the interaction and assistance of strangers.  Played over a million times on YouTube, Milka’s ad encourages us to leave out technology behind even if just for a second, and help out a stranger who wants some chocolate!

Across the globe in France, Milka’s employing a similar strategy, in a totally different way.  If you buy a Milka chocolate bar in France you’ll be surprised to find one of its squaresmissing from the package.


The campaign titled “Dare to be Tender” lets customers either have the last square sent to themselves, or  sent to a friend or loved one in the mail along with a note from the sender. Both strategies have been successful in their  respective regions in reaching out and touching (both figuratively and literally) someone, and as a reward, what better than some Milka chocolate.

So, the moral of the story is, next time a stranger asks you for help, or your Milka chocolate bar is missing a square, it may not be a bad thing, you could be getting free chocolate!




Hello Kitty… EVERYWHERE!


Ever think you’d live to see the day Hello Kitty, the most popular Japanese cartoon character from the Sanrio brand, grace a can of beer? Look no further, the cat who’s been virtually plastered all over world is now the face of a set of fruity Taiwanese beers.

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Courtesy of Tsang Tsang Beer Co

How about a Hello Kitty themed plane?  You’re in luck. Eva Air has a fleet of planes decked out in Sanrio style.  The planes make stops throughout Asia, and every once and a while you’ll be able to see them flying in and out of LAX.  No surface of the plane has been left unbranded (even the toilet paper bears her face!).

Courtesy of Eva Air
Courtesy of Eva Air

What makes this simple character so popular, and after nearly 40 years still so relevant? Hello Kitty and the Sanrio brand ability to constantly adapt to changing consumer preferences globally.  With minimal carton background or any type of story line attached, Hello Kitty can be relatable to virtually anyone at any age.  The ability to successfully span generations and cultures all over the world is a testament to its iconic brand power. As its once young customers transition into adulthood, drinking a Hello Kitty beer or flying on a Hello Kitty plane become more age appropriate and exciting ways for Sanrio to maintain its far-reaching customer base.  For companies using the Hello Kitty and Sanrio characters, the licensing fees may be steep, but the use of a wildly popular figure such as Hello Kitty can always expect to garner a large profit.