Posts Tagged 'brand personality'



the symbiosis of brand and sales

short-term vs long-term

Over on his adliterate blog, Richard Huntington shares some great thoughts on the perceived dichotomy of short-term and long-term objectives.

It might be an idea to read the post first in order to get some context for what follows below.

In light of some recent discussions on this theme, it appears that the issue of sales vs. brand is actually getting more complex, even though we’re allocating more resource to addressing it.

In his post, Richard raises an important concern about ‘digital segregation':

“Online brand activity seems far more segregated into ‘like the brand’ and ‘buy from the brand’ than offline, into apps and experiences on the one hand and cheap and cheerful direct response advertising on the other. Fine if these are just tools to compliment other marketing activity, but not much of a future as a stand-alone industry.”

One of the things that attracts marketers to digital communications is the fact that they allow us to perform straightforward cause-and-effect analyses. It’s easy to prove whether specific activities drive sales, and that’s very useful. However, we seem to have become caught up in the reporting, and we’re increasingly focusing on the activities that are easiest to measure. We obsess about measurement, rather than on the outcomes the measurements should assess in the first place.

However, by not measuring the more complex, brand half of the equation, we risk returning to a commoditised approach. We’re placing greater value on linear returns, and as a consequence, each interaction is in danger of becoming a one-off transaction.

Perhaps this imbalance stems from a disproportionate emphasis on short-term results. Our focus on the present quarter means we’re losing sight of longer-term planning and the continued growth and success of the brand. There’s no denying that each quarter’s sales are critical, but to the same point, so are next quarter’s sales, and those 5 years from now.

But this is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees: we don’t need to choose one over the other.

Building brands and driving sales are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they should exist in symbiosis. They’re the yin and yang of brand success; we need to balance both in order to survive.

In that respect, any activity that prioritises one over the other is a sub-optimal compromise.

Some brands have already proven that we can achieve this balance. Ben & Jerry’s have shown that free sampling can be used to build a strong, durable brand at the same time as driving quarterly sales. Their success lies in the fact that everything they do engages people on an emotional level, rather than merely enticing them with free or cheaper product.

Of course, this strategic model requires more up-front thinking, consistency of purpose, and patience, but nothing worthwhile ever came without effort.

Critically, any brand can achieve that same balance.

I recognise that theory will not prove this point effectively, so I’d be more than happy to respond to any specific queries on how it can work for any (your) brand.

Share your challenge via the comments section below, or via twitter: @eskimon.

Many thanks to Richard for his inspiring post.

the evolution of species

eskimon's coffee cups

The Consumerist reports that Starbucks is

“…testing several new stores in which there will be no
Starbucks branding at all. Instead, the coffee shops will
be branded with ‘community names,’ like ’15th Avenue
Coffee and Tea'”

The article goes on to report that these new-concept cafés may serve alcoholic drinks and feature live music.

They may even adopt different names for different locations.

A far cry indeed from the cookie-cutter approach that made Starbucks famous (infamous?) the world over.

So why the radical shift in strategy?

An article in the Seattle Times suggests that the changes are designed to reintroduce an absent “community personality” that characterises traditional, local coffeehouses.

Critically, the article discusses the need for a “compelling consumer experience” that “tells a story“.

It is in these three critical words – ‘tell a story’ – that Starbucks may have lost its way.

As the chain expanded around the world, a considerable element of its appeal lay in the fact that it offered something new: a fresh take on the coffee experience.

Indeed, it wasn’t just a café; it was ‘The Third Place‘.

To many, Starbucks told a new kind of story.

But as time went on, and the brand stuck rigidly to its formulaic approach wherever it went, those same people came to know that story a little too well.

And while few would question the consistency of the Starbucks product and experience, that consistency might cause its very downfall.

Because while Starbucks almost always meets its customers’ expectations, there is precious little opportunity for the brand to exceed them.

And that means that Starbucks is still telling us exactly the same story it was telling us 10 years ago.

But, as Darwin stressed, even the strongest of species must evolve in order to survive.

And if brands are all about the stories they tell, they must evolve their stories if they are to survive.

So, while this new approach from Starbucks may sound like a brave move, in reality, it may be the only strategy that can save the brand from extinction.

Read more in these Consumerist and Seattle Times articles.

thinking space

economist thinking space spotify profile

Those wonderful people over at The Economist have released a new project called Thinking Place.

It’s amazing.

The first thing I noticed was the site itself: it has a beautiful interface, and is a great thing to explore.

But as you explore, you discover that the content is fascinating too (cue comparison with reading The Economist).

The site is like a cross between a blog, a Facebook page, and a Linkedin profile for Economist readers, all hosted by the newspaper itself.

There are fascinating insights into the working spaces of great creative minds, including:

Daniel Ek, co-founder of music sight Spotify;
Elisabeth Chavelet, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Paris Match magazine;
Andrea Llosa, fashion designer.

Each of these ‘profiles’ is based on a photograph of the person’s ‘thinking space’, and contains links to detailed stories behind some of the more important items within that space:

economist thinking space table

Inevitably, one of these ‘important’ items is always a copy of The Economist, but that inclusion is always relevant: each person explains how The Economist helps fuel their creative process.

As Andrea comments,

“I’m always surprised to find articles on movies, books and
arts towards the back of the magazine. It gives me fresh ideas
on alternative media to get the information that I am
interested on.”

economist thinking space magazine ref

Another exciting feature is the option to upload your own thinking space profile – I’m really looking forward to seeing what people submit.

This social element is very clever: it allows readers to benefit from an affiliation with the Economist brand, deepening their relationship with its proposition, but it also allows the Economist to better understand its most engaged audience.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the site gives non-readers a reason to try the brand for the first time; I found the site’s focus on great creative thinkers particularly interesting.

Thinking Place is a great example of strategic communications: it conveys a strong brand personality, and establishes a clear linkage between the Economist brand and ‘inspiration‘.

I’m inspired.

Go explore for yourself.

*UPDATE: Thinking Spaces was created by AMV BBDO in Europe – the agency responsible for the Economist’s classic White out of Red campaign (more on that in this post). In the agency’s own words,

“The campaign message is ‘The Economist is read by, and inspires, interesting people’ and, therefore, has universal appeal. For its readers, The Economist satisfies their appetite for intelligent, independent, global analysis in a world of ever-more commoditised news.”

Thanks again to oneplusinfinity (another great place for creative inspiration!)

fngrz of fury

fngrz of fury

UK telco Orange have teamed up with Poke for some more digital madness.

Fngrz of Fury is a fun game that builds the brand’s personality and capitalises on Orange’s long-standing association with film.

Head over here to play.

Seen at notcot

tweet and make up

coke twitter

pepsi twitter

This really tickled me – a great idea from Iain at Amnesia.

He’s managed to get Coke and Pepsi talking to each other on twitter.

The idea works on so many levels, but above all, it demonstrates marketing maturity from both brands.

Holding out a hand to your rival is a great way to demonstrate a strong brand personality and a responsible social attitude.

And it’s doing wonders for PR and conversations too…

Who’s next?

unexpected benefits

hyatt random surprises

We saw a couple of weeks ago that satisfaction is a function of expectations.

As we interact more frequently with a brand, we come to expect certain things of it, and over time, we can start to take some aspects of the experience for granted.

These aspects become part of the brand’s promise, and not receiving them negatively impacts our level of satisfaction.

However, this premise works the other way too; if you only expect average service, and instead experience a more pleasurable interaction, you’ll probably come away feeling more satisfied.

We tend to tell others about these experiences too, and this ‘word of mouth’ effect amplifies the impact.

If managed correctly, brands can harness the delivery of these unexpected ‘nice surprises’ to foster deeper consumer loyalty.

Hotel brand Hyatt appears to be applying this potential in a new initiative called ‘Random Surprises’, which featured in Springwise recently.

By providing unexpected, yet individually meaningful surprises, Hyatt give themselves more opportunities to delight the people that interact with their brand on a regular basis.

In other words, Hyatt have created more opportunities to satisfy their most valuable guests.

Such an approach can work for any brand, and it doesn’t need to involve costly extras either.

The trick is to incorporate the potential for nice surprises, while ensuring that the specific benefits they deliver don’t become an expected part of the brand experience.

Moreover, for those who are willing to venture beyond the conventional, the approach can work equally well for advertising too.

By incorporating subtle differences in execution across the same campaign (or even the same channel), you can ‘surprise’ your audience and increase your opportunities to engage them.

Picture from here; more on the Hyatt’s Random Surprises in this Springwise article, and on the brand’s blog

goo on the loose

A few days ago, Mashable shared details of an interesting new campaign from Cadbury for their Creme Egg Twisted bars:

As the Mashable article notes:

…the more interesting aspect is a second, quasi-secret contest Cadbury is running called Super Agents. This is something that even the official website doesn’t mention (save for the Terms and Conditions). But from what we’ve learned, ten Super Agents are supposed to take photos, record YouTube videos, tweet, and travel across the UK to solve their own set of clues. Cadbury has issued them Flip camcorders and packets to help them.

This reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure concept – an engaging and participative way of telling a story.

While the actual activities may involve only a few people, they inspire conversations amongst many more.

Another great example is Red Bull’s Flugtag:

Very few people actually make flying machines and jump into the Serpentine, but most of the target audience knows about it, because it’s a great conversation piece.

Get more sticky details on the Cadbury Secret Agents campaign in the original Mashable post here

mix it up

Differentiation is central to effective marketing.

Expressing the differences between your offer and alternatives is the first step in persuading people to choose you.

You can use any aspect of your brand experience to highlight this differentiation, as this video from Southwest Airlines demonstrates:

Now that’s an idea that might just take off.

With thanks to Leo Burnett Cultural Fuel

for people who don’t like water

It’s completely daft, but it sets up a distinctive brand personality:

Seen at the Creative Review

photo opp

This clip from McDonald’s shows people interacting with images on its e-billboard in London’s Piccadilly Circus:

The idea’s not particularly innovative, but it harnesses an astute observation:  people enjoy constructing ‘clever’ photos and videos.

The images on the billboard offer passersby the opportunity to create some amusing things to share with their friends through things like Flickr, Facebook, or YouTube.

It’s a very simple communications proposition, but one that the brand clearly believes in; McDonald’s restaurants have employed the mechanic for years with their Ronald McDonald benches:

But what does the approach offer McDonald’s?

At the most basic level, it demonstrates a brand personality.

In the Piccadilly Circus example, it seems the objective is to demonstrate a lighthearted and ‘fun’ persona.

Many brands are doing something similar:

The cynic’s response to this is invariably, “but does it sell more product?

The approach certainly doesn’t employ the Pavlovian response model; instead, its appeal is much more subtle.

The purpose is to establish an emotional bond with the audience that makes them feel a stronger sense of affinity towards the ‘brand’, which in this case is probably the overall experience of visiting a McDonald’s, rather than a specific product in its menu.

If someone feels a greater affinity towards McDonald’s, there’s a better chance they’ll choose the brand over competitors.

It’s not rocket science, but in a world where scientific, linear proof is increasingly required to justify any comms investment, it’s worth pointing out that our emotions often override rational logic.

Thanks to Hee-Haw Marketing for sharing the video | Ronald McDonald image from here



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