Mountain Dew: From hillbillies to hip-hop

Here’s a fascinating read from Business Week about Mountain Dew.

PepsiCo understandably wants to create a thirst for its Mountain Dew brand in a greater market. The sugary drink has roots in the hillbilly culture of the Southeast and moonshine liquor, which was nicknamed Mountain Dew. Now, PepsiCo has enlisted hip-hop artist Lil Wayne and street skateboarder Paul Rodriguez to entice potential customers age 18 to 24 to pop the top on their product.

I won’t go into the whole story here, since you can read it on Business Week’s site, but this is a smart move for several reasons. Why not try to broaden your product’s appeal? The target age audience is increasingly diverse and is often located in urban areas outside the Southeast. Coca-Cola’s Sprite and Fanta have gained market share in that age bracket.

I love Mountain Dew and Sprite both, but in a nod to PepsiCo’s brilliant marketing move, I’ll choose a Mountain Dew the next time I need a refreshing drink, and I’ll think of hillbillies and hip-hop while I do so.


Olive Garden: Cheap eats aren’t always enough

Olive Garden has conceded it needs to make changes to address lackluster sales figures for five quarters in a row.

Although the chain offers “affordable Italian food,” which should be a plus in this economy, it has been suffering from competition from fast-casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Motley Fool reports.

One person says Olive Garden plays Dean Martin music and expects that to provide an Italian atmosphere, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Company officials have acknowledged the need to make changes, and plan to introduce healthier, low-cost meals, Yahoo Finance reports. Other changes will include remodeled restaurants and a new ad campaign.

I agree with what one person posted in comment boards on Yahoo Finance: Olive Garden needs to focus on the food. Americans are demanding more healthy, fresh food, not frozen. If you have good food at a reasonable price, you have most of the components in place (along with good marketing to tout these changes). I recently dined at Carrabba’s with my wife, and the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was pleasant.

Oh, and I would ditch Dean Martin for authentic Italian music. Sorry Dean, but the Rat Pack needs a vacation.

Starfish-style challenges

What do you do when you’ve always charged for delivering a service or product and some Web site comes along and offers something much like it for free?

That’s been the question plaguing the music recording, news and software companies for some time.

I recently came across a book published in 2006 that takes a fascinating look at this phenomenon: “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The authors take a look at movements/organizations that defy the traditional leadership model of “Who’s in charge?” Sometimes, no one is in charge. The Aztecs had Montezuma and a capital city, and were easily wiped out by the Spanish who killed the leader. The Apache had no centralized leader and no capital, and thus were better equipped to fight off attacks by armies from developed nations who looked for traditional targets to strike. But the book’s authors say that also describes the recording music industry’s attempts to fight off Napster: They effectively killed that one Web site, but their efforts antagonized people and spawned lots of imitators.

The authors write that Craigslist provided an unexpected challenge to the newspaper industry. Why pay for a newspaper classified when you can advertise a product for free all over the world? Likewise, why subscribe to a newspaper when you can read it for free online?

Newspapers learned to combine ad sales for print and online editions, as well as partnering with sites like CareerBuilder. After many newspapers dropped their attempts to subscriptions for stories, some organizations are taking a second look. My newspaper, The Daily Post-Athenian, already has returned to the online subscription model.

Platforms like the Kindle and the iPad hold out some hope of helping newspapers get digital media users accustomed to paying for content (the Wall Street Journal costs only $14.99 a month on the Kindle, and slightly more on the iPad).

Stand out through branding

Branding may be only one of many factors you must make when launching a business, but it’s a crucial decision. It identifies you, your products/services and your philosophy to customers, hopefully making you stand out from the competition. And it protects your ideas from copycats.

You may build your entire business around a handful of ideas. For example, three men recently launched an independent restaurant in Athens, TN. Their restaurant, Tracks, is located in a former Central Park restaurant (for those not familiar with Central Park, this regional chain uses small, drive-through buildings with no internal seating). Tracks is owned by Shane Smith, a banker and Athens politician; Randy Dunlop, a successful Domino’s pizza franchise owner; and Eric Walker, a former high school assistant football coach.

Tracks serves hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and milk shakes. Tracks’ owners said they came up with the name after a lengthy brainstorming session. Eric said the use of a railroad track logo is easily recognizable. The hot dog and hamburger toppings are referred to as “cargo.” The owners are thinking of pain

ting railroad tracks on the driveway, and are thinking of using a person dressed as a train engineer to wave at passing traffic.

Before opening Tracks, these business partners made a decision to create a theme around the restaurant’s name. That’s a great way to stand out from competitors.

The owners have also made an effort to stand out in other ways. Randy said since the restaurant could not compete with a cheap menu, he and his partners decided to compete on quality: The hotdogs are all-beef, Black Angus, and milk shakes use real milk from a regional diary that’s based in Athens. And the owners decided to give hiring preference to people who had been laid off, putting back to work more than a dozen people who had been laid off in an area that has a higher-than-average unemployment rate.

So, branding includes more than a name and words: It can bring in what products you offer and how you reach out to the community.

Photo by Anthony Dake

Tracks menu, photo by Anthony Dake

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