We created an experiential branding event production for Sun Life Financial—to kick off their new business park. Guests experienced the thrill of espionage at a spy-themed launch event for the massive 2.3 –million-square-foot Côte-de-Liesse Business Park. To round out the event, we delivered a package that included a new brand identity, invitations, signage, brochures, actors and a computer-animated movie of the site pre-loaded into a USB-Spy Pen as a promotional tool. The event’s success paved the way for us to create signage for the business park and to devise the tenant signage program.
Consideration of brand in the purchase decision increased 20 percentage points since 2005—despite global economic turmoil... while some assets decreased in value, brand clearly wasn't one of them... check BrandZ's 2010 Report here...
In fact, according to the report, brand value of Top 100 brands has grown by a "massive" 40 percent.
Moving Brands made this video about brands, social media and a changing world. I found the statement imaginative, interesting, and capturing the essence of what is changing brands, and well, why they are moving. Whether you like Moving Brands' client work or not, the fact is, brands must ironically become kinetic in order to stay true to their unwavering values—and thrive.
Is your brand moving or stuck?
Recently, someone asked me to step up to the plate and predict 2010 brand trends. Well, here are 10 stunningly accurate 2010 predictions from the branding crystal ball... enjoy!
(1) Marketing metrics will flourish in 2010. In 2011, marketers will begin to realize that the metrics alone will not salvage their failing brands. As quarterly upticks on marketing dashboards become real time, marketing damage control teams will trip over themselves scrambling to be accountable for sales by the millisecond. Brands that survive the melee will have learned to lead by example and purpose rather than just cater to analytic trends of the moment... And/ or a deeper understanding of what those numbers imply. Not just living in the moment, but brands' future reasons for being. Nearly every demographic today is more concerned with their future than ever before in modern history.
(2) More financial & banking institutions, large & small, will fail—driven by (a) a consumer backlash against 29.9% credit card interest rates and other forms of legalized usury; (b) general job losses that force a new wave of foreclosures on traditionally secure demographics. Newer, more relevant bank brands emerge.
(3) Credit Cards as we know them will begin to disappear, replaced increasingly by prepaid debit cards. We'll get new names and brands for these.
(4) Accountability will kill many well-known and major brands—from automobiles to kids' toys. These brands must deliver on promise or become irrelevant, dying the slow death of commodity brands. Or the quick death of brands that misrepresent who they are. The divide between relevant brands and irrelevant brands will come to an apex in 2010. New players in a given brand space will be more authentic, more relevant, deliver in practice on all touchpoints, and gain market share—overwhelming the status quo brands, or absorbed by status quo brands trying to salvage themselves.
(5) Major US automobile companies will fail in the absence of further government bailouts. Governments will begin to examine buying back rights of way for trains and other alternative transportation modes. More relevant upstart auto/ transportation brands will get the attention they deserve.
See Brand Integrity Blog article, "Brand Demotorization" from January 2009:
(6) Death of the barking 30-second commercial. Rise in brand advertising. Any medium. As audiences reach the boiling point in an over-saturated world of media, and the fact that only 6% of audiences believe an ad is telling the truth anyway—ad dollars will be pulled out of trad 30-second TV spots (or the ones reformatted for online) faster than you can say "buy it now". Experiential branding—virtual and real—will fill the void, along with branded efforts that offer real value (on physical, intangible, or emotional levels) in product, message, and experience.
(7) Facebook finally gets smarter about digital music/video distribution, aggregation, and streaming—doing a better job integrating artists, publishers, and fans. MySpace will never get this fast enough, despite building a brand around the music scene. MySpace continues to lose market share to Facebook. Once Facebook gets onboard with serious music & video integration, MySpace is left in the dust.
(8) Internet Video/ Broadcast makes Broadcast Television a novelty... in the same way that newspapers and magazines are folding due to content explosion on the Internet, so will the TV as we know it. See #6 above as one of several smoking guns.
(9) Store brands (house brands), like Trader Joe's (although not necessarily Trader Joe's store brands), sales will soar in 2010 throughout traditional commodities like food, energy, and other lower tier priced supplies. Manufacturer brands in these categories will need to offer a more than just a cute jingle to justify their existence in today's market.
(10) Branding will become increasingly important in 2010 from positioning, building, and management standpoints, as companies begin to realize the only way to sustainability is through holistic and kinetic brand integration. Brands will be in motion more, but increasingly so in order to stay true to their brands and relevant to audiences.
from a recent LinkedIn conversation with Mikkel Pilemand, Regional Marketing Director, Carlsberg Group...
Beer market decline? What are the reasons for this and how reverse trend? Many beer markets are seeing very slow growth or even decline. Has accelerated over recent years. In a market like Denmark consumers consume more wine... [Any] learnings on reasons for this trend and what activities companies can undertake in order to get beer market back to growth?
In Denmark and other countries, the trend is beer pubs gradually disappear. Even in beer-renowned haunts like Ireland, wine bars quietly pop up in their place.
However, smaller beer producers seem to be staying ahead of the curve, despite the decreasing demand for beer overall. The boutique beers account for increasing market share. Relative to a volume beer producer declines, smaller brands are overtaking the market.
The beer market demographic changed so gradually over the past 5 years, that it took the beer industry off guard. During the same period, the wine industry has exploded. Including an economic downturn, wine markets actually increased by 20% in the US between 2005 and 2009.
Clearly, beer's fall from grace is a matter of perception, positioning, and branding:
Savvy wine producers will position and execute wine brands brilliantly—labeling, shelf differentiation, flavor profile—highly relevant to today's audiences. Beer brands, with few exceptions, rely on the same tired old ad techniques in hopes of salvaging brand declines.
Wine brands connect with audiences on both sensory and cognitive touchpoints. Beer brands are firing random darts in the form of ads that depict genders or society in a narrow light. Funny beer commercials, maybe... but "funny" does not necessarily equal sales.
Generally speaking, wine brands appeal to heritage aspects, tradition, understated elegance, storytelling, and/ or flavor profiles; Beer brands appeal to irrelevant and overdone social stereotypes—and/ or have lost the essence of their heritage qualities in story, messaging, and label. Large producer beer labeling & marks have become outdated and need an astutely planned rebrand.
What is a common theme here between both successful wine & successful boutique beer brands? Producers surgically place products (brand, market, shelf, visual, story, flavor profile) to appeal to a specific audience demographic, as audiences increasingly reject the feeling of "bulk" or "mass produced" or "generic", or "volume"... perceived or real. Wine & boutique beer brand differentiation usually exists with definitive brand space throughout extensions.
Many other beer brands also fail to differentiate, or else differentiate into dangerous territory. Differentiation through beer brand extensions sometimes downgrade and/ or cannibalize overlapping channels. Light beer is one easy cannibalization example. Miller, Bud, Michelob and other beer brands continue to experience light beer extensions eating away their premiere brands' market share. Overall association with the light beers in such close proximity on the shelf may also cause deterioration in overall brand perception. I'd like to see a focus group study on the perception aspect. Properly executed, the results should be very telling.
Compared to beer, wine sales and markets remained relatively stable for over the past 10 years. One reason for wine stability is that, despite competition between brands, regional wine alliances continually strive for collective benefit in terms of strategies and execution in order to help support a sustainable wine industry as a whole; Large & small producers participate, and allocate capital to grow the industry. By contrast, brewery alliances seem scattered, and unsupported by larger producers.
Finally, here's further reading... a good article (below) with a measure of truth.
How does a brand or business tell an authentic story that really matters—one that people relate to; find compelling? What is essential—yet missing—from many communications? Brand strategist Russell Volckmann interviews strategic story developer Colin Goedecke—Ten Owls Limited + Volckmann (& friends)—on shaping meaningful stories for both leading and emerging businesses.
”Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better” is something we often hear or read in the Sunday papers. Few people actually follow that advice. Can we get more people to take the stairs over the escalator by making it fun to do? See the results here.
The creators of this fun little experiment changed people's behavior and made connections that people enjoy. And come to think of it, more people connect with brands that get involved in making customers lives better, easier, 'funner'. Is your brand fun?
Greenpeace Paints ‘Hazardous Products’ on Hewlett-Packard's Roof
Not sure what to make of this rather unlikely mix of co-brands. Greenpeace wants HP to reduce or eliminate PVC use. Captain Kirk signals distress calls to HP mothership via primitive land lines. Read the original article here at SF Business Times.
Some Water to Go with That Salad?
An $11.5 billion industry, it turns out, most bottled water is only tap water sealed in a petroleum-based plastic container. Still think these brands are interested in our health? Some disquieting facts in this video about brands we thought we loved.
Famed Choreographer Merce Cunningham
"Great dancers are not great because of their technique. They are great because of their passion."
~ Merce Cunningham (RIP).
And isn't it that passion that makes people great in any action/ profession they pursue? We just lost this gentleman last week. Read the entry on Cunningham's life here at Wikipedia.
Research published in the Journal of the Association of Psychological Science concluded that consumers subconsciously consider difficult-to-pronounce names to be risky or dangerous to their health. Chemicals, drugs, complex substances, and artificial food additives are typically long and difficult to pronounce. So it's no wonder companies opt for brand names like Motrin, as opposed to any chemical name derivatives such as iso-butyl-propanoic-phenolic acid.
However, difficult-to-pronounce items offer positive aspects too. Yes, the mind interprets these names as risky. But both undesirable and desirable types of risk are associated with such names.
Desirable risk associations include ideas of adventure and excitement. These names also make people pay closer attention to warnings and instructions. This indicates that difficult-to-pronounce naming could be used to leverage the attention of thrill seekers, type A personalities, extreme sport aficionados, adventure travel, and more.
Let's take Volkswagen's propensity for naming its new car models with pronunciation-challenging names—but names which also have been wildly successful. The Routan (the repackaged Chrysler minivan), for example. Pronounced how? Roo-tan, Roo-tahn, Routing as in Rowting, or Rooting? The Tiguan or Touareg SUVs? And remember the Fahrvergnügen tagline? Fine if you're German, but even Americans latched onto the word meaning "driving pleasure" with enthusiastic abandon. But then, the Volkswagen parent brand has been part of the American vernacular for generations.
So what if you were to go the challenging route for an entirely new brand name today with no equity built into a parent brand?
Take for example, the yet-to-be launched wine bar Sostevinobile, which wants to specialize in West Coast wines from sustainably grown harvests. Do you like it? Can you pronounce it? Would you recognize the name again if you saw it or heard it pronounced? You might, especially if I sang the name to you in its original musical cadence (mp3) along the line of the famous opera, La Donna è Mobile.
The name Sostevinobile literally has a sustainable hook, despite its somewhat lengthy prose. But what if a new name—long, difficult-to-pronounce—had neither the equity from a famous connection (such as a famous opera), nor a famous parent brand (such as Volkswagen)?
The fact is, most people will initially reject the name, if the name is initially strange and unfamiliar.
According to Operative Words' naming expert Anthony Shore—the irony is that people don't like new, different, unfamiliar names if you ask them. That is, until they think the brand name has already fully launched and validated with professional ID system, environment, packaging and so on. Presented prior to launching (like say, focus groups, testing, crowdsourcing, et al), and people will shun new/ different names because the name has no context (logo, supporting imagery, messaging, environment, etc). The new name is just another word on a page. If the name is launched, suddenly people think there must be a really great reason for it. Their perception changes 180°.
A whole slew of young, new, up-market fashion labels recently arrived with nearly unpronounceable names. The upcoming labels challenge brand naming conventions, yet are still on the verge of becoming fashion notoriety:
It may be awkward to say Demeulemeester bag or Meadham Kirchhoff jacket, but these unconventional and difficult-to-pronounce names are beginning to catch on. They're distinctive brands, breaking the norms, separating from the pack. They engage, catch you off guard, make you think, and therefore enable better attention and recognition. Engagement causes you to lean forward, ask twice, pursue more information, and start a conversation.
Ask anyone in a focus group whether they would 'like' or 'remember' these names before they launched, and be sure to expect a resounding 'no'. Ask them again after the product has launched with a professional visual identity, all the media attention, plus the trust garnered from a successful product.
Risky names? Sure. But after all, don't we all crave a little risk and excitement in our lives—even if it is the fantasy risk associated with an exotic-sounding car model or new fashion safari?
Russell Volckmann is an award-winning designer, producer, creative director, ad & brand & marketing strategist. For 17 years helping global agencies and companies tell their stories and make meaningful connections. Contact Russell at VÖLCKMANN (& friends) for more ways to connect.
I make a lot of noise about several industries in dire need of sweeping rebrands from inside out, especially the airline industry. Here's still another touchpoint that demonstrates that need:
Musician Dave Carroll & band (Sons of Maxwell) sit on a United Airlines flight waiting for takeoff, as a fellow passenger looks out the window and exclaims, “My God, they’re throwing guitars out there.” Just then, fellow musician Mike looks out and sees his bass recklessly heaved on the tarmac, and Carroll’s $3500 Taylor guitar is DOA at the flight's destination.
Nine months of buck passing later, United Airlines ultimately refuses to pay the $1200 repair bill. Dave Carroll then vows to write three songs, and post them on YouTube to memorialize the United experience. Read Dave's entire saga here. Dave Carroll's first song is below.
As a fellow musician (albeit part-time) & traveler I can identify with this kind of pain. Dave Carroll eventually comes to the conclusion: "The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it."
This just in from Ad Age...
In his keynote address at last week's Interactive Advertising Bureau's Social Media Conference, Forrester Research's Josh Bernoff explained how Del Monte Foods created a new pet food product in just six weeks—with the help of a little crowd-sourcing.
Seems so simple, yes? Just ask customers what they want?
Crowdsourcing is a neutral proposition that always needs to be checked against other resources. I'll bet Del Monte did a bit of homework beyond the social networking scenario, but the SN was clearly a valuable integral resource.
What do you think?
Analog television is finally over, and digital TV officially debuts in the US as of today. So what?
I'm not going to write any sappy nostalgic stories about how great things were in the "old days" when we had three network TV stations plus PBS. Plenty of folks have written about this already, and will no doubt continue to do so for some time to come.
Instead, I'd like for you to think about something. Does modern television make your life better? Do you feel a connection with the thousands of products that bombard you with thousands of barking ads each and every day? Do you like the idea of paying for the cable or satellite TV that pipe in all the unnecessary, mindless, and often untrue messages into your living room? Over the course of 10 hours, American viewers will see approximately 3 hours of advertisements, twice what they would have seen in the sixties. Feels like more.
I've been working in media-related businesses for the past 17 years, and my earlier job in ad creative & strategy was to communicate advertiser messages in order to compel you—the consumer—to buy, buy, buy. Early in my career, it was fun. Very soon I realized what a hollow proposition advertising generally is. Yes, some ads are actually informative, relevant, and helpful—but these are clearly in the minority.
In 1965, 34 percent could name a brand advertised on a TV show. Thirty years after, only 8 percent could do so. Consumers decreasingly find ads useful, informative, relevant, or differentiating brands. Did you know that only 6 percent of people believe an ad is generally telling the truth? With numbers like these, it is no wonder even established brands are failing.
Fed up with advertising over 12 years ago, I migrated toward branding & identity as a way to make meaningful connections between companies and customers—for products and services that people can feel good about. My branding agency chooses to strategize, position and represent products and services that make a positive impact on the world in some way—socially responsible companies. Products that live up to their expectations.
In addition, we now create branded experiences and branded events instead of advertising—because people enjoy experiences so much more than barking ads. As an example or a branded experience, a client of ours (anonymous for now) sponsored a river rafting event, and a climbing event with Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to scale Mt. Everest. These kinds of events involve people's lives and true interests on a meaningful level. They connect.
Contrast these kinds of experiences with "buy more burgers, blah, blah, blah" and nonsense like "this new car is actually great for the environment and is a total chick magnet." I don't know about you, but I don't need another reason to feel hungry. And not only is that car relying on pretty much the same internal combustion technology used for the past 100 years—but when you read the fine print, you'll find that the gas mileage is only marginally better that it was on the same model 30 years ago.
Six months ago we cut the tv cable at our home and went back to rabbit ears. We had enough of subsidizing irrelevant ads that try to create aspirations based on utter nonsense. And save for a few shows we found entertaining or informative, TV's programming generally lacks quality, most actors are simply bad, and the same tired old movies are rerun constantly. So now what?
Now that analog is gone, and we have a choice of (a) buying a set-top box, or (b) a new TV, or (c) getting back on cable—I think we're going for option (d) none of the above. While this may not be the end of advertising, it is the end of advertising in our living room.
Russell Volckmann is an award-winning designer, producer, creative director, branding & marketing strategist. For 17 years helping global agencies and companies tell their stories and make meaningful connections. Contact Russell at VÖLCKMANN (& friends) for more ways to connect.
The Orígami Wine Book below describes how the agency's rebrand of Gélinas Winery resulted in selling out the entire annual wine production in only 24 days—and completely pre-sold production for the following year.
See also: other wine label brand strategy, positioning and creative—plus a small sample of experimental design work.
(A click on the 2nd-from-the-right icon will go full screen.)
Have a branding success you want to share? Let us know!
By the way, I am now working with Montréal's Orígami to help spearhead the San Francisco office. I am overjoyed to be working with a great team of very creative strategic thinkers.
Seriously miss this gentleman....
Although this video is more than 30 years old—the tenets and values, the tack, the energy, the goals, and love of branding that we share—still remain.
a conversation about why we need silence
with stephen chinlund
CG: Why do we need silence?
SC: We need it for our well-being; for slowing down, for understanding what life is about, for being happy in the world as we encounter it; to tune in to what’s happening inside our own bodies – which we hardly pay attention to; for savoring and being thankful for the people in our lives…and much else.
CG: So part of silence involves pausing.
SC: Yes. Silence is an antidote for our speeding.
CG: A remedy, for our state of overdrive or perpetual motion, which is an occupational hazard for many of us; especially in 24/7 cities like New York. How or when can silence be most meaningful, Steve?
SC: Wanting it is the thing. If you truly want it, you’ll find it and make regular places for it. If you haven’t experienced silence before, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. Because you have to allow time for it first, in order to discover and appreciate how incredibly meaningful it is.
Being afraid of or bored by silence prevents a lot of people from trying it. They actively avoid it. And getting past this anxiety – which is often a fear of having uncomfortable thoughts or memories rush into that “empty” space – or getting past the expectation of boredom, can seem like a big step to take, sometimes too big.
CG: Hence the tendency to fill up the silences with activities, busy-ness, or the sound of our own voices. Which doesn’t allow room for other, very important experiences to enter.
SC: Yes, because when you’re truly silent, and taking the time to be quiet, whether it’s for a half-hour or a whole morning…or even a whole day, vital new things come. They don’t always come in the first five minutes. It takes time for them to arrive, and unfold. But they come.
Whole libraries have been written about silence, including books by the German philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart, the mystic-poet Angelus Silesius (The Cherubinic Wanderer), Francois Fenelon, the main advocate of “quietism” in the late 1600s, Thomas Merton and others.
CG: I’m sure we’d all be wise to develop our “third ears,” to hear what’s being said not just in the lines of conversations but also in the silent spaces between them, where there’s a great deal happening; where what’s unsaid is equally important to understand. I’d extend this to marketers, who could better relate to the people who buy their products and services by adding or using a well-tuned third ear.
SC: The Quakers listened in the silences, and to what was underneath what was being said. They were also a canny bunch of businessmen, and even used the power of silence in the boardroom, when they were running companies; especially when things got contentious. It worked well for them, their disciplines of silence and consensus.
There’s also a new book out by the novelist Anne LeClaire called Listening Below the Noise: a Meditation on the Practice of Silence. It’s about the promise she made herself to be completely silent all day, every other Monday. Out of this commitment, she discovered many new and wonderful things about her life and potential.
CG: Let’s come back to this key issue of commitment, to not just wanting silence but also dedicating ourselves to it, for however long or short a period of time we choose.
SC: If we’re really committed to being inside it, we’re able to drift into less active and non-verbal ways of thinking, feeling and being. To let go of all the stuff floating around in our heads. Then it becomes very exciting.
This happens for me when I paint: magic happens, once I move past all the “frontal” thinking and enter into whatever I’m painting; enter into a noiseless flow. When I engage the silence this way is when I create the most satisfying things. It’s an experience second only to sex. Blissful.
CG: How would you describe a clear state of silence as a room or landscape? What would it be like?
SC: A place full of life, of sunny and dark places, flowers and caves, pleasant and unpleasant aromas; things beautiful and strange; a place that’s endlessly rich. An intimate place you enter into; merge with.
CG: How do we set the stage for this?
SC: I’d encourage each person to do it their own way. You might go to a Quaker meeting, which has a special kind of power. Or into a church – a cathedral of silence. You might draw or paint, and make a commitment to be silent when doing this. Give yourself the luxury to sit somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, and promise yourself you won’t say anything for an hour or two, and see what happens. Go wherever it’s quiet and congenial for you.
And if you find yourself wavering, don’t get sidetracked or give up too quickly from exploring silence.
CG: Slowness and silence for all of us, and time for these, aren’t luxuries, but necessities; enriching and revitalizing.
SC: All kinds of people in this wonderful town [New York] that I adore feel if they had two or three times as many hours of the day it wouldn’t be enough to keep up with all that’s happening personally and professionally. This isn’t the answer.
CG: If we don’t incorporate silence into our lives, as a way to connect with our interior landscape, do we risk living incompletely, too much on the outside of things, outside of ourselves? A theme Robert Sardello focuses on in his book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, and a fount of healing for Carl Jung.
SC: The fact we spend so little time in silence, inside the quiet of our beings, and don’t even expect to spend any time, is a terrible deprivation. It’s like being malnourished or unloved.
There are cultures, especially in Asia and Muslim countries, that are far more comfortable with silence than our American one. Even in Europe you sit back after a long lunch not having to talk, and you quietly savor the experience.
Zen Buddhists are great models, partly because they’ve carried the thinking about it to an almost baroque level: Zen and the art of archery, of painting, tennis, even motorcycle repair. The root is silence.
CG: It’s also fundamental to achieving mastery, creative silence; and going back to what you said at the start, to achieving a deep state of well-being. Most of us might be surprised to find out just how deeply we can go, what do you think?
SC: Definitely. I guarantee that if you promise yourself to be silent for just five minutes each day, each week, and honor that quiet time – silence without distraction – you’ll have a deepening experience. It yields all kinds of welcome surprises, from peacefulness to creativity.
Silence is also necessary for reflection, and for pondering important questions and issues.
CG: In our virtual and digital and social networking age, where it’s about action, interaction and transactions, how is silence let alone meaningful silence possible?
SC: A good question. When two people are together physically having a conversation, there can be a shared silence, whereas in virtual conversations people feel insulted, confused, upset if there’s silence.
I think noise and speed and chatter and twittering are substitutes for vital interior explorations, internal explorations we need to engage in.
I have a character in one of my plays who says when I was a kid summer lasted forever, then I started to grow up, got married and had kids, now suddenly I’m an old man. Part of this speech reflects the absolute pell mell character of many lives, that are lacking in deeply quiet introspective time.
CG: What’s the most important aspect of silence we should be contemplating right now?
SC: That there are treasures inside us, wonderful treasures, that no other person can tell us about; that we can only discover in and through silence.
If we can get ourselves past any anxiety or boredom, and just let the silence be there; let ourselves be in it, then that remarkable hidden room, that rich hidden landscape each one of us has within will be revealed to us.
CG: Steve, thank you.
Colin Goedecke is a senior marketing writer, messaging strategist and interviewer, with a 23-year history helping leading and emerging companies worldwide platform and tell their stories. The Importance of Silence is the 17th in a series of thought pieces, to help us think, act and communicate in wiser ways. Others can be found at www.tenowls.blogspot.com
Stephen Chinlund is a painter, playwright, minister (and Harvard man, class of ‘55). He’s a former Executive Director of Episcopal Social Services, Rector of Southport Connecticut’s Trinity Parish, and Chairman of the NY State Department of Correction, among other dedicated positions in his abundant and still unfolding 40-year career. www.chinlund.com
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Laura L. Monica is Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and External Affairs at American Water. In the video below, Laura describes the significant increase in value for her company as result of the recent new rebrand and visual identity.
VALUE OF THE BRAND:
(1) American Water, Rebranding, Repositioning, And Relaunching American Water © 2009
Russell Volckmann is an award-winning designer, producer, creative director, ad & brand & marketing strategist. For 17 years helping global agencies and companies tell their stories and make meaningful connections. Contact Russell at VÖLCKMANN (& friends) for more ways to connect.
Throughout the organization, from CEO to janitor, Berkshire Hathaway encourages living the brand with integrity.
In the video below, MidAmerican Energy Chairman David Sokol describes ethics, management, and style as part of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway.
Do you encourage your company (or your clients) to live a solid vision for long term brand equity? How? Any examples?
Arnell's Pepsi "Breathtaking" Rebrand got you throwing split conniptions?
Mexico market's Pepsi Retro got you on the run?
(better call it "retro" so everyone will know it's retro!)
Wait! There's more!
Are you ready for Pepsi Throwback?!
Apparently Boise, Idaho is the national test market where this ad has just appeared for a new "limited edition" 70's disco version of Pepsi with (get this) natural sugar. Oh boy.
Once again we see Pepsi somehow out of step, askew, off time, with misplaced forgone 70s retro trend cliché, and worse—simultaneously spinning multiple versions of its brand messages and marks. Pepsi's brand feels like 10,000 ping pong balls ricocheting wildly out of control. Perhaps Pepsi longs for the 70's era of brief market share gain?
Pepsi reminds me of watching a man falling down a deep dark ravine, wild-eyed and clawing for any branch in desperate vain attempt to save himself—knowing all the while there is no escape from the inevitable.
Coca Cola issued several past limited editions successfully in association with prominent fine artists and fashion designers. More on that later.
Banner ads don't help build brands, and they decreasingly generate revenue—no news there. However, video site banner performance is even worse, because people ignore banners completely when they watch videos. People prefer experiences over barking ads.
Forrester's Charlene Li researches strategies for brand campaign and advertising models for online video. She points to one successful Diet Coke/ Mentos co-branded viral video campaign published by Revver—as an example. Standalone branded video-based entertainment or contests reach audiences and invite participation. That's good for brands.
Short slices of videos like Revver's are sometimes added to the end of a video clip (post roll) or interrupting the clip (interstitial). Charlene thinks by turning standalone experiences into ads, online video site business models (like YouTube) will inevitably become advertiser based.
I say that's crazy talk. When turning a brand experience into an ad... the magic is gone, and it's still an ad. People will stop watching YouTube's user-generated content peppered with ads—the same way people flip channels or simply turn off their TV sets—and sending these tactics into the basement along with banners.
Brand 2 points. Ads 0.
VOLCKMANN & friends is now working with a Canadian company to deliver branded/ experiential video contests such as this one for Jim Beam (sorry kids, you need to be over 21)—called The Girlfriend/ The Bourbon. Let me know what you think :)
After Tropicana line's sales plunged 20% following Omincom's Arnell Group rebrand according to AdAge, Peter Arnell explains how difficult it seems for audiences to "grasp" how good their rebrand really was. Best we can determine, the formula probably looked something like this:
π(pi) x (Orange(z3y) + Squeeze) = Emotional Power (logx10).
Good design is not a personal opinion. What?
Wait a second here. Everyone has a personal opinion about design, right?
Sure as rain, each of us will perceive works of art, or sculptures, or even color palettes in at least slightly different ways. Personal opinions will vary invariably over whether a design is pleasing to the eye. However just because one, some, or all people in any given room decide something is aesthetically good does not necessarily mean it is a good design. Whether any creation is a good design is another matter altogether. Here's why.
Does this design meet the criteria for being "good"?
First we need to define objectives before assuming a design tack. Ask, what are the objectives for this (or any) endeavor? Whether creating a new product, an office building, a chair, a new brand, or brand loyalty initiative that will evolve and grow in perpetuity—those objectives need to define everything we do on every level from engineering, to customer engagement, to the building architecture in which a company inhabits, to the design of product packaging, or the product design itself, and more. Those objectives need to permeate every possible aspect of an endeavor and every possible touchpoint to be successful.
If we have a solid understanding of what we want to accomplish, then we can create equally solid design objectives that meet the desired accomplishment objectives—and an equally good design to follow. Below are examples of a few accomplishment objectives:
That's right—form (design) must follow function (objectives). Sometimes that objective happens to be an aesthetically pleasing design on some level. But in the end, a good design is that which fulfills the desired objectives. No more, and no less.
If something does not need to be in a design, it likely should not be. Less is usually best. Can you justify adding something other than gasoline to your gas tank? So repeat, "form follows function"! But what does it mean when we talk about aesthetics as an objective?
What about design aesthetics?
You might ask, if the objective is a design that is aesthetically pleasing, then aesthetically pleasing to whom? Interestingly just because a certain design is perceived as "ugly" aesthetically today, does not prevent that design from being perceived as beautiful or pleasing in some way next week.
Take the Volkswagen Beetle. During the 1960s official en masse introduction to the US driver market, the initial outcry over the car's ugliness became iconic. It was a goofy little machine introduced to drivers accustomed to large or "sleek" or "beautiful" luxury cars. Hot rods, sedans, roadsters, American and Italian cars captured Americans' imaginations and pocketbooks. And so, in a stroke of marketing genius, Volkswagen proffered its wares as the ultimate anti-brand, actually highlighting the perceived faults—including the "ugliness" aspect—as well as that the car was reliable and economical. Sales skyrocketed.
Since the 1960s, the Beetle has become so pervasive a car in its various incarnations, that perceptions have changed toward essentially the same basic design. A cursory inspection on the Internet testifies to a large number of people who now think the Beetle is not ugly. Times change, yet the Beetle is one of the longest lasting car designs on the planet. That's not just a good design, that's a great design.
Is good design a popularity contest?
Is good design a popularity contest? No is is not. Why? Because the measure of a good design is not whether it is popular—initially or ever—aesthetically or otherwise. Instead, the measures of a good design are whether it (1) distinguishes and intrigues; (2) is relevant to the environment in which it lives; and (3) is true to its function. No more, and no less.
The day a design succumbs to a popularity contest, is the day the design becomes driven by a lowest common denominator consensus, and fails to succeed. Such a design will never lead or inspire, and will instead become vulnerable to daily trends and fads, current-day thinking, and ultimately fading into a sea of other similar/ forgotten/ challenger designs.
Know this and live by it: Most enduring designs of our time did not make sense when they first appeared. Apple? Nike? Volkswagen? Velcro? Impressionist painters of the 1800s like Monet, Matisse or Morisot?
In great design, or even good design, personal opinions do not matter. Period.
Whether someone has the talent, genius, knowledge and expertise to create a good design—that's a topic for a future article.
Russell Volckmann is an award-winning designer, producer, creative director, ad & brand & marketing strategist. For 17 years helping global agencies and companies tell their stories and make meaningful connections. Contact Russell at VÖLCKMANN & FRIENDS for more ways to connect.
How about this lovely out-of-home brand experience from Carnival Cruises?
image credit: afagen
Cruising up to various major cities around the country... Say hello to a great new way of beautifying the sea of vacant storefronts in urban areas. A motion-responsive virtual marine life extravaganza that splashes colorful interactive swimming fish at people (s)trolling by :).
First dial a toll-free number on your phone, then create a fish by making funny noises. Make your very own (virtual) fish swim. Feed them. Love them. Talk about immersive branding! Carnival has people bathing in their brand values right there in the street.
For more of Arnold Worldwide/ Monster Media's seafaring safari, watch AdAge's overview:
... It's the level of creativity. A Creative Crunch.
The UK's Marketing Magazine recently posted an article aptly titled, Creative crunch not credit crunch threatens luxury brands.
Some luxury brands, like Chanel (video below, Chanel Spring Summer 08 Fashion Show) are thriving. Chanel remains creative. Most brands are not.
And in fact, the same can be said for most brands these days, luxury or not. Companies and products currently run around in circles trying to copy another company's perceived successes like dogs chasing their own tails.
The proof is not only in copycat products and services, but also the way companies portray themselves in image, message, tone, and customer engagement. The result is that the uniformity and sameness further commodatizes brands. Even previously unique & valuable brands recently fall into the same trap of sameness, no longer breaking away from the pack.
In order to succeed, companies need unique and creative ways of leading, not following each other.
Following a success is a dangerous move that can unexpectedly turn sour. Copycat companies find themselves scrambling again to distance themselves from brands they were previously mimicking. Instead of one problem, these companies now have two: Scrambling away from negative connections, and scrambling for another success to mimick.
Unfortunately, neither will solve their intrinsic problem. The only way to survive and prosper is begin cultivating the missing creativity. Only then will these companies recover a real connection with customers.
Companies should not fool themselves into perceived creativity based on a committee of uninformed non-designers, accountants, and marketers that emulate others—badly. Not everyone is qualified to make a creative decision. A committee of personal opinions will usually choose blue or a logo with a swish.
Instead, a real creative solution that delivers can only be made by design-aware/ educated, or strategic design & brand professionals. Face it. And as creative professionals, it is our duty to educate.
The creative deficiency problem goes well beyond merely superficial brand design aspects. It is also design of customer engagement, design of brand architecture, or design of business positioning.
As brand & design agency Ziba puts it, good design is not a personal opinion...
... but what does that really mean?
... that's a topic for a future article.
Russell Volckmann is an award-winning designer, producer, creative director, ad & brand & marketing strategist. For 17 years helping global agencies and companies tell their stories and make meaningful connections. Contact Russell at VÖLCKMANN STUDIOS for more ways to connect.
Three of the top Rebrand.com 2009 Award Winners. As you will see, some make more sense than others.
(1) Client: Love 146
Agency: Brains on Fire
A rebrand with a story; huge improvement in naming + visual + differentiation. The strategy was based on a story of a young girl in Thailand (child #146) who maintained a shining brightness, despite all hardships she had been through: a story that continues to inspire the organization.
(2) Client: International Center for Journalists
The before & after here is striking, with the end result of a great new visual ID: natural, earthy tones + an intertwined human type treatment to reflect multiculturalism.
(3) Client: Cisco/ Webex
Agency: Cisco (internal)
Following last year's (2008) Cisco ID makeover, Cisco self-re-designed (no outside agency) its own ID for Cisco's Webex. Honestly not sure how they garnered an award for this, and an outside agency would have been a much better idea.
Dave Hoffer, Associate Creative Director at frog design posted this video entitled Disruptive Realism.
Thinking beyond the art for art's sake, or social statement intentions—How about applying disruptive events, social engagements, customer engagements toward branded extensions?
More than advertising, let's connect with customers on meaningful and memorable levels—in ways that benefit, enlighten, excite, and inspire. More than just street sampling. More than just actors posing. Get to know your clients' customers, then dream up ideas to make them fall in love with the clients' brands.
A new sports drink? A new aspirational or challenger coffee brand? Create a portable café (like a bboxx) and take it around the country to sporting events, or other lifestyle event like a farmer's market. Give out free samples. Hire a musical trio for more ambiance. Video-document the experience; hand the camera to customers. The possibilities are endless. And it's organic and disruptive in positive ways that benefit brands, customers, and community.
Any positive, disruptive, brand experiences that resonated with you?
Today, I found this little Scholz & Friends (Germany) animated gem via the blog of Frog Design VP Marketing Tim Leberecht.
"Companies, marketers and advertising agencies are facing a dramatic shift in marketing reality—and are increasingly failing to connect with consumers. The big challenge in times of exchangeable products, the rise of social media and mature and rather brand skeptic consumers: To find new ways how to get people engaged again in products, advertising and in brands."
The cuteness is only trumped by the stark reality of brand disconnect between all stakeholders: customers, organizations, vendors, partners. As the world becomes more connected, and the brand becomes still more familiar, the irony is that brands are becoming increasingly disconnected. Put another way: The more customers get to know a brand, the less they actually like that brand. And the trend is likely to continue until companies begin to realize that the loyalty they have enjoyed for years is long overdue for servicing & upgrades.
How authentic is the company’s story?
Because the world is different. There’s sky-high demand for businesses that say and do genuinely meaningful things…and low-to-no tolerance for those that pay little more than lip service.
Being true to the core, and to clients, customers, stakeholders and others is fundamental to the success of companies and their brands. Which makes authenticity a powerful engine, anchor, and beacon.
Inauthentic stories and messages are simply risky business. Pretending to be authentic is just as perilous. People sense what’s sincere; are sick and tired of spin; and have the power to ruin or revitalize even the largest reputation.
How to communicate authentically? It means marketing and selling from a true-blue place, a place of top-to-bottom integrity:
Creating a perception based on an actual—not a virtual—reality. Audiences should be able to see and feel what makes the company tick, its ethic, outlook, intrinsic qualities.
Showing the genuine value the business is bringing to its marketplace. Qualify and quantify wherever possible the most relevant and competitive benefits.
Being open-handed. Candor is king: transparency is a prized currency, so companies need to be as up front as possible in every communication.
Speaking to audiences’ vital concerns. Help them see and believe the company is on the exact same page, and pro-actively on top of their big issues.
Not claiming authenticity but proving it; reflecting it. Let it resonate and be revealed through the company’s actions and activities. Illuminate it with good, real-world examples.
With so much opportunity and risk riding on the faithfulness of your story, make sure you bring all the right thinking and skill to telling it.
Colin Goedecke is a senior marketing writer and messaging strategist, with a 23-year history helping leading and emerging companies worldwide tell their stories. Authenticity Matters is the fifth in a series of short thought pieces, to help creative groups and their clients communicate more wisely. Others can be found at www.tenowls.blogspot.com
It is easy to point at where the Big Three automakers went wrong in terms of disconnect with customers, and the collectively many flaws in their respective brands. We can include lax ecology & conservation practices, environmental damage as result, too much reliance on dwindling resources, disrespect for workers (both domestic and foreign)—and other direct customer needs such as size, performance, quality, and economy.
Apart from a fading romance that many people have with the good old days of clean, wide open highways, big engines, hot rods, innovative style, large luxury and gas-guzzling power—a growing population in the US are starting to realize that the fun is over. These kinds of cars are now irrelevant, times have changed, and the liabilities of such vehicles far outweigh any lingering enjoyment we may have had from them in the past. Younger people are already there, and the numbers are growing who say owning a car is simply not worth the trouble (insurance, gas, accidents, parking, tickets, taxes, and so on). Japan's young folks are falling out of love with cars—or demotorizing completely. The level of young Americans demotorizing is sure to follow suit.
What is not so easy is realizing that no matter how much money we give Detroit automakers, no bailout will salvage the thoroughly disconnected relationship Ford, GM, and Chrysler have to the new world customers—without personal attachment to a personal vehicle, let alone attachment to the brands that failed to deliver solutions relevant for the current economic and mobility realities.
Even though automobile brands trump price in the hearts of consumers(1)—and is one of the few product categories to make such a claim in today's commoditized brand environment—new innovators who want to deliver modern and relevant automobiles could spell the end of Detroit's and even Japan's auto business, barring a radically different trajectory. Check out the amazing new creative mobility solutions in Eight alternatives to Detroit’s ‘Big Three’.
The problem with automakers beyond the direct disconnect with consumers? A huge lack in creativity at a time when there is also a loss of trust in the brand connection; the convergence of a very unsavory mix of brand flavors. Not only is there a lack of creativity in product & business model, but automakers are still using the same, tired, ineffective advertising tactics they have used for the past 20 years. But that is a topic for another story.
The solutions? To start with: Less reliance on overzealous market analysts (who are crunching numbers to base questionable brand, product & ad decisions on)—and less reliance on the same way of doing things. More open and meaningful dialog with customers. Creative approaches to a new set of challenges. If automakers and other kinds of companies begin to move in these directions, then they will be on a new road of engagement that will lead to success, prosperity, sustainability and increasing customer loyalty.
(1) "Save America's Dying Brands", Kevin J. Clancy, Marketing Management, Sept./ Oct. 2001, Vol. 10, Issue 3.
1952 GM Firebird I Turbine Concept Car
1950s Amphicar: a dismal failure, but an innovative creation that captured consumer's dreams.
Harvesting the best Creative juices apparently requires a carefully placed southwestern exposure, according to the South West Creative Growers Association. Since the time of the Neolithic period, in fact, Creativity has become a strong and proud heritage in Britain's Southwest.
Forward ’09: Brandology is about the science of branding. Its anthropology. Its very DNA.
The days of the billion-dollar ad budgets are gone. We’re in a world now where people use brands to construct their personal, professional and social identities – where the meaning of a brand is based on the connections between people that transcend charts and graphs. It’s all about cultural relevance and emotions, not hype.
We’re not talking about a revolution. We’re echoing the call for systematic evolution- where the key to delivering value and the future growth of every brand depend on accessing a network of resources to create unique experiences with consumers…one at a time.
Forward ’09: Brandology is more than a conference. It’s a powerful community where networking and collaboration provide a launching pad for lasting relationships.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) Oregon is seeking motivated speakers who are ready to move beyond the podium and directly engage with attendees, providing actionable perspectives, strategies, tools and techniques on how to keep brands relevant (and consumers passionate) in an ever-changing media universe.
Think you can move the crowd? Download applications materials at http://tinyurl.com/5hvsxe and tell us how.
The naming component of branding & identity appears to be reaching crisis proportions in light of needing corresponding ".com" domain names to represent company names, movie titles, products, and more. Adding a different domain suffix (such as ".net", ".biz", etc.) does not help, because it typically dilutes an existing stake in an existing brand—not to mention the legal ramifications in terms of brand confusion.
How will new products & new companies find new names in the future?
Further compounding the crisis is the inherent globalization in brand, due in part to the speed of the Internet, and needing to consider names that work well when localizing or globalizing a brand.
In working with both domestic and global companies, I am constantly involved in addressing naming challenges as a fundamental part of brand. But the job is not getting easier.
What solutions do you propose for a dwindling supply of finite names that can be used as part of a total brand strategy?
Naseem Javed is CEO of the ABC Namebank, and brings up some of the challenges facing companies trying to develop the name aspect of a brand in today's naming climate. Check out the video below.
Like many of you, I have followed brand trends and ideas on a daily basis for years, and have witnessed the growing consensus among brand managers, strategists, internal company stakeholders, large agencies, and the very chic boutique branding agencies. They all sing in chorus:
Although we are seeing a shift in terms of brand awareness, I believe the successful brands still need to embrace solid traditional tenets. To an increasing extent, companies are beginning to shape their own brand by selectively listening to individuals and tribes of consumers who have a stake in those brands. But is that the same as consumer ownership of a brand?
Does Everyone Own The Brand?
Let's play devil's advocate for a moment, and say we tend to disagree that everyone "owns" the brand. What about psychopaths, the socially outcast, or people with just generally bad ideas you don't want to associate with your company's brand ? Do they own the brand and shape it too? Or do competitors own your brand in their fashion? If they do, then the company's brand is in for some real trouble. Instead, I believe the brand needs to become a model of best-in-class product, behavior, and communication.
Yes, we are seeing the successful companies truly engage their customers. We are seeing companies become more aware everyday that in order to be successful, they need to live up to their brand expectations—whether derived from internal values or external values, or some combination thereof. As Patrick Newbery (Method, San Francisco) pointed out, companies need to deliver value, listen to consumers & partners better, understand problems, and diligently work to fix things that are not working. In that sense, the company necessarily needs to OWN (or take the ownership of) those brand values. It's what I like to call integrity.
Brand integrity. For most companies, it may no longer be sustainable to continue the ivory tower approach. Call it "cleaning up your act" as Sara Batterby (WORD Messaging Strategy, San Francisco) declared. In fact Sara hit the nail on the head—the method, tone, and approach to communicating brand values, and engaging customers needs to become more communal, engaging, and participatory.
What Inspires Brand Engagement?
However, the brand still needs to stand tall in front of it's audiences, stick to the core values that work, discard the values that do not work, and embrace positive stakeholder (customers, partners) values that inspire engagement.
After all, people will always look for something greater than themselves to believe in. And what better way to convince consumers there is a reason to believe, than the company brand walking the walk?
What do you think?
"rtve", the Spanish national TV & radio company, has been rebranded by Summa (Conrad Llorens)... And this is good news!
The entry above was written by Cristián Saracco ...
The Scenario: Your account manager has just set you up with your new client contract. To the client, you have presented an outline of your agency process: scope of work, milestone schedule, definition of processes, preliminary timeline, discovery process outline, the creative direction process, asset delivery, project assessment and ultimately implementation and celebration (usually).
The Agency: Wants to deliver a successful brand experience that is adaptable, scalable, attentive, creative, elegant, professional, personable, represents solid company tenets in some meaningful and deliberate way--and can stand the test of time. A brand that speaks of integrity, assurance and quality.
The Client: Wants to build a brand, thinking all they need is a logo.
You've all been here before. You have a professional team ready to roll and do the painstaking groundwork to make sure no stone is left unturned for the sake of your client. You want to ensure the company's enduring success in part by establishing an iron-clad brand, and subsequent Visual Identity.
Suddenly you find yourself in front of the client's team consisting of CEO, COO, VP Marketing, attorneys, and even engineers and administrative are sitting around the boardroom table looking at you with a blank expression on their faces, telling you, "that's nice" but "when do we get to see some logos?"
The client doesn't get it. And yet you have assumed you are doing everything right. After all, the account manager achieved the contract, right? Not so fast...
Design Before Strategy.
To paraphrase one CEO's recent comments, "I want design mock-ups almost immediately. I want action. I want to see a lot of logos. Show my company all kinds of options. Then bring in EVERYONE from the company organization (janitor, etc.) into the process. Let the entire group choose the creative that they like. Save some time and print out a hundred logos from the web. This would only take the branding & ID company two minutes." The client wants design before strategy... We'll just call this person "Action CEO".
First and foremost, the hundreds of visual examples in the world of company graphical identities will be likely 100% irrelevant to the specific client company brand needs. The client needs a unique brand--both in visual identity and in practice--that breaks away from the pack of the other thousand companies that are in a similar business. The client needs may even go deeper. In the short-term the client company may need to rethink the way they communicate and engage customers, vendors, and employees. That's an important enough step in beginning to create brand success, and the fruition of a strong visual identity to match. It's also doable within a reasonable timeline.
In the long-term, the company may even need to overhaul its product line, services, or core business offerings--in order to maintain or improve brand awareness and brand loyalty. That may be Phase II or even Phase III in a hopefully long relationship with this client. How do we communicate these values to the Action CEO? We engage his/her objections with key questions designed to clarify the client needs, and provide relevant data and marketing justification for brand decisions.
What do you think of this as it applies to engaging a client with your brand recommendations?
Second, 20 different stakeholders with potentially conflicting interests is a potential recipe for failure. By running the gamut of 20 people with different positions, interests, tastes, color preferences, likes, dislikes, plus various levels of business/market/brand connect or disconnect--will create a situation where 20 different decision-makers ultimately will never agree, or will agree to have the agency create a combination of the 20 things that everyone likes. The end visual result, according to the aggregation of all client stakeholders, would be a sort of round-square stitched-together thing that is a mish-mash of red, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray and shows a horse's body with a bunny's head--and using 40 different fonts in the wordmark. Or worse. Throw brand integrity out the window. Forget the marketing data and the competitive analysis. Forget any possibility of a solid brand architecture that can transcend and survive new product and packaging or company growth and expansion. In other words, a Frankenstein brand that will please no one, especially the agency which is on the verge of firing their client at this point. AND, let alone the idea of organically connecting the dots between client and audience.
In a client environment such as the Action CEO example, I try to assure the client that we deliberately want take the time to discover the unique company tenets & values, markets & competition, business climate & trends, experiences & aspirations---so we can create THE perfect brand that delivers enduring success for the company--as opposed to delivering random graphical imagery without any thought about the often very deep business reasons for a particular creative direction.
On the other hand, when we are talking about a brand launch or launch of a new business, there is often a tearing hurry within the organization. Everyone is looking at numbers, the impending targets for the years. The internal stakeholders want to see that logo, the packaging, the advert designs. There is little patience within the organizations. What makes it doubly complex is that we might not end up with CEOs who are from brand or marketing backgrounds.
According to Satya Upadhya, Asst. Vice President, Brand Communications at INX News, "A successful strategy in such a scenario is to have a well chalked out plan well in advance where you have done many consumer researches (trust me there is nothing more convincing for the board members than 'market research findings'!). And then make an identity presentation which has linkages to the business, how it will positively impact the topline and bottomline and keep the identity story relevant to the business realities."
Again, engage the client with relevant motivation for your recommendations, all the while engaging the client objections.
So there actually is hope for the "Action CEO" company if we do our homework deliberately and fairly quickly; And, if we handle client objections with a true engagement. After all, brand engagement what we do isn't it? What we are doing is selling the client on brand choices (our "tribe's brand" of brand), so that our clients can sell their company products and services with integrity in their own brand.