Posts Tagged 'branding'



shared happiness

Tiago has been sharing so much great stuff recently, I’m in danger of duplicating his Cultural Fuel stream here, but this clip was too good to miss.

It’s such a simple concept: take the brand benefit, exaggerate it, and bring that exaggeration to life.

The reach of the activity itself probably wasn’t huge, but the video has achieved over 400,000 views on YouTube in its first week.

Perhaps it’s true: reality is more engaging.

I wonder if the same concept would have achieved as many views if it had been produced as a traditional TVC.

Lovely stuff from the guys at W+K.

rethinking success

Happy New Year!

Did you start 2010 with a fresh set of objectives?

Grow profits; drive revenues; increase the margin.

Do you have any objectives that aren’t about making more money than you made in 2009?

Defining success

When it comes to measuring success, we often make comparisons to the past.

Companies look at how profits changed relative to previous periods.

Individuals might compare their earnings to previous roles.

Even charities look at the changes in donations received.

By most definitions, we haven’t succeeded unless we’ve grown, and in business, this invariably relates to financial growth.

Indeed, financial growth is often a business’s primary objective, to the extent that any gains are reinvested to generate yet more growth in the next period.

But why are we so obsessed with growth?

Growth vs. greed

In nature, the drive to grow is instinctive: we need to reach a certain size to survive and procreate.

However, unrestrained growth brings dangerous consequences: excess leads to obesity, slowing us down and compromising our health.

In the good times, this doesn’t matter too much, because there’s enough to go round.

But, eventually, excess becomes unsustainable: over-consumption results in scarcity of resources and intense competition.

When this happens, the obese are most at risk: their size makes it harder for them to secure food and escape predators.

They face a stark choice: redress the balance, or die.

Survival of the fittest

This pattern is obvious in nature, but we often miss the parallel in business.

However, just like animals, brands can’t continue to grow indefinitely: eventually, they either reach a healthy equilibrium, or they exhaust all the available resources and die.

Faced with that choice, the decision seems simple.

Sometimes, though, scarcity occurs quite suddenly.

Just a few years ago, newspapers were enjoying those ‘good times’.

Then, out of nowhere, a fitter species appeared and gobbled up all their resources.

Sadly, the newspapers were too obese – too complacent, too cumbersome, too bloated – to react in time.

Now they’re starving, on the brink of extinction.

Their demise holds a lesson for us all.

Fit for purpose

The trick to avoiding newspapers’ fate is stay fit and healthy.

One way to do this is to avoid excessive growth.

So, if your objectives for year ahead are based purely on growth, challenge them.

What’s all that growth for?

And what will you do when you achieve it?

All too often, the euphoria of achieving a growth goal quickly gives way to a desire to outdo yourself again.

It becomes a never-ending cycle; increasing the number becomes the only thing that matters.

But there’s got to be more to life than numbers.

We need to remember the real benefits that growth was supposed to bring.

What would success look like if you couldn’t grow anymore?

Better, not bigger

Most New Year’s resolutions relate to health and fitness.

Perhaps it’s time we set similar business resolutions too.

I’d like to start the year with a challenge:

Why not set one objective for 2010 that has nothing to do with financial growth?

How about play rises instead of pay rises? More time to do the things that feed your souls, not just your bank balances (think Google’s 20%).

Perhaps you could initiate pro bono work for issues you really care about? Rather than waiting for someone to ask you, just get on and do it.

Or, why not take on an intern and actually help them to learn useful skills? With a bit of guidance, enthusiastic graduates can do much more than just make coffee and photocopies, and you’ll feel rewarded too.

Whatever you decide, one thing will make achieving your goal easier:

Stop measuring your success by comparing yourself to others.

Innovate, don’t imitate.

It’s much easier to succeed when you write your own rules.

Good luck, and best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2010!

comparing apples with apples

A few weeks back, Seth shared this interesting anecdote on his blog:

“At the farmer’s market the other day, three perfect strangers
asked me what sort of apple to buy…

People are now afraid of apples: afraid of buying the wrong kind;
of making a purchasing mistake or some sort of pie mistake.”

From a certain perspective, I understand what he’s saying: it’s widely accepted that too much choice can actually lead to ‘decision-making paralysis’.

However, there’s an alternative interpretation of Seth’s apple episode that’s equally intriguing:

Maybe the questions weren’t asked in fear.

Perhaps those three strangers struck up conversation because they were excited about this abundance of choice.

In recent years, the apples available in Western supermarkets have become commoditised: the same few varieties, in the same standard sizes, with the same bland taste.

But people who visit farmers markets tend to care deeply about their food: they’re passionate about taste, colour, texture, perfume, and about the gastronomic experience in general.

So, when they’re presented with an exciting array of new apple varieties, it seems natural that they’d want to share their excitement.

Here are some alternative reasons why people might have asked Seth a question:

Questions quickly establish rapport by engaging people in active conversation. They give the respondent a chance to share their own excitement without feeling challenged or inferior, fostering a freer exchange of information and opinions.

Each farmers’ market offers different foods and different varieties, but a good proportion of visitors tend to be regulars. Faced with a wide variety of unknown apples at a new farmers’ market, I’d seek the opinion of those around me too, because foodies love to share their passion and recommend favourites to others. Indeed, this sharing and conversation is a central part of the market experience.

The broader appeal

There’s a more general truth here that offers marketers a fascinating opportunity.

When people are passionate about something, their passion often spills over: they like to share their excitement with other people, and their own enthusiasm often extends into adjacent areas of interest.

For example, a love of wine can easily extend into passion for Scotch and Cognac.

And while it’s unlikely that we’ll ever succeed in arousing everyone’s passion for our category, those who do get passionately involved are worth a lot more.

This is because people love to indulge their passions: wine enthusiasts tend to spend a lot more on wine than ‘average’ drinkers, and they often buy a range of expensive accessories too.

Putting it in context

The trick is to understand where your brand sits in people’s world, and how it relates to their passions.

Part of this involves understanding that people can get passionate about things that we’d never expect, and as a result, even seemingly mundane brands can become highly relevant to their lives.

For example, I know many people who are passionate about their homes, and who spend hours researching new ways to make their home cleaner and fresher.

Although these people are unlikely to get excited about bleach as a category, a household cleaning brand that extends its relevance beyond simple product attributes to offer advice and solutions for the houseproud is much more likely to engage them.

As we’ve seen before, the task isn’t necessarily to become their favourite brand ever; rather, it’s about demonstrating how good your brand is in relation to everything else it competes with.

This is more about two-way engagement rather than advertising: finding more immesrsive ways to share things with them, and more importantly, helping them to share things with us and their peers.

UPDATE: Just noticed this wonderful post by Spike over at Brains on Fire – some very wise words that add an important focus to the words above:

“…many [people] are still treating people’s passion as something a company can find and then own. Find? Yes. Own? Never. Passion is not a sales transaction.

Passion is sacred. Passion is a part of a person’s life. Their soul. To find it, you have to clear away everything else. You won’t find it in a focus group that is created to talk about you and your product. You won’t find it when you do all the talking. And you won’t find it wd a tree until it falls for it.

Passion is not a commodity. It is a gift. Treat it like one.”

Go read the rest here.


multisourcing

Crowdsourcing continues to be one of the hottest topics in marketing today, but it receives its fair share of skepticism too.

That skepticism may have merit: to some, crowdsourcing seems like a simple case of repackaged logic.

After all, the marketing concept asserts that the best way to build a successful business is to offer people what they really want; because crowd-sourcing helps us understand what people actually want, it seems like a key ingredient of any successful business.

However, there’s a key difference between crowdsourcing and our previous, research-based approach: collaborative engagement.

The more we involve people in every aspect of developing our products, the greater their subsequent level of engagement, and the deeper their relationship with our brand.

This physical contribution and emotional engagement means people have a vested interest in your brand’s success.

In their minds, it becomes their brand too.

The death of brands?

So if people could always join forces to solve their problems, would brands still exist?

In its ideal form, crowdsourcing would mean we would never need to choose between different brands again, because our co-developed solutions would always satisfy our specific needs.

That Utopian vision seems appealing on many fronts.

There’s just one problem.

Democratic stagnation

The main challenge with crowdsourcing is that it rarely delivers radical innovation.

Indeed, two things lead me to believe that crowdsourcing could actually slow our rate of progress.

Firstly, everyday people tend to imagine the future in relation to their present.

Henry Ford summed this up beautifully:

“If I had asked people what they wanted,
they would have said faster horses.”

Secondly, the democratic process tends to dilute innovations down to a lowest common denominator.

Most people are fearful of change, and reject things that are far removed from their current sphere of familiarity.

As a result, involving too many people in the process risks death by democracy.

Right tool, right job

So, rather than using crowdsourcing to solve all our business problems, we might be better to use it for a more specific purpose.

Here’s my theory.

When we know what people want, we’re better placed to offer it to them in the most effective and efficient ways.

However, if we’re to succeed in adding value, rather than merely delivering it, we need to go one step further.

We need to show people what they could have; not just a better version of what they already know.

As a consequence, I think crowdsourcing’s real potential lies in helping us to identify the core benefits that people seek.

In other words, we need to get people to explain their ideal end, rather than asking them to design a shinier version of the means they currently use to get there.

It’s then our job to create truly innovative solutions that deliver those benefits better than anyone else.

Thanks to Neil for the inspiration.

ahead of the game

The ‘life’s a game’ concept is nothing new, but it seems to be particularly resonant at the moment.

Russell describes what I’m feeling beautifully in this great excerpt from his epic playful post*:

“Just like when I walk through the crowds on Oxford Street a tiny part of me is pretending I’m an assassin slipping steely-eyed through the crowds in order to shake the agents on my tail. And I bet it’s not just me. I’m not saying I’m massively deluded, just that, very often, some bit of us is always trying to play those games, to make mundane things more exciting.”

It’s one of those lovely insights that could translate really well into brand activity.

And this Nike spot hits that sweet spot beautifully:

It works because it’s engaging – even if it’s only in your own imagination.

* Yes, I know I’ve linked to it about 10 times already. But there’s a reason for that: it’s wonderful. If you haven’t read it already, I thoroughly recommend taking a look now. Thanks to Neil at Welcome to Optimism for sharing the Nike clip.

cut out and keep

Hypebeast and Today and Tomorrow have already featured this fantastic partnership between Lego and Muji, but it deserves more than a quick twitter link.

The concept is so simple that I’m sure children all over the world already have their own version.

However, there’s nothing wrong with brands celebrating existing behaviour.

The reason this partnership works so well is that it builds on the essences of both brands: Lego’s boundless creativity, and Muji’s delightful simplicity.

Here are some more images borrowed from the original Yoshikage Kajiwara post (in Japanese):

On a related note, take a look at this glorious anthropological study of Lego ‘nomenclature’, and this inspiring post from Russell Davies on the importance of imagination in play, communications, and the world in general.

Many thanks to PSFK for alerting me to the Muji partnership and nomenclature posts.
UPDATE: John seems to like this too… what is it about planners and Lego?

planning for the future (5): less talk, more action

less talk more action

We all know that actions speak louder than words.

But many brands still focus the majority of their marketing spend on talking.

It’s time to redress the balance.

Rationale

Advertising does a good job of telling people things.

That’s fine if we want to raise a bit of awareness.

However, advertising frequently behaves like the pseudo-tailors in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘.

This clip sums up the reality of far too much marketing:

But in today’s hyperconnected communities, this ‘massive hyperbole’ approach no longer works.

No amount of advertising will make a bad product good.

It’s just too easy for people to spot a ‘naked’ brand, and to tell everyone else about it too.

More often than not, advertising isn’t the answer.

People want proof; not just claims.

So how can planning help?

We need to broaden our perspective.

We need to help brands understand what people really want, and then to identify the most profitable ways of delivering it to them.

We need to add value, from end to end: from informing R&D to inspiring customer service.

Key Benefit

If we give people what they really want, we won’t need to persuade them of anything; they’ll experience it for themselves.

Key Action

Allocate a minimum of 90% of your brand’s resource to identifying what people really want, and creating a solution that delivers it.

Use the remainder to demonstrate your brand experience to the people who are most passionate about its benefit.

If you’ve done the first bit right, they’ll do the rest for you.

Shaping the Future

Throughout this series on planning for the future, there’s been a recurring theme: how we can add real value.

If planning is to remain relevant, its role must evolve from promoting brands to actually delivering their benefits.

The new planning manifesto is simple:

less talk more action 2

The Rest of the ‘Planning for the Future’ Series

Introduction: a new planning manifesto

Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value

It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad

Add CSR to everything you do: how contributing to the greater good can help your brand too

Blend the mix: towards more strategic distribution

Want to know more about planning for the future? Get in touch here.

planning for the future (3): add CSR to everything you do

add csr to everything

Monday’s introduction to planning for the future highlighted an exciting shift in advertising’s role:

“Rather than simply interrupting [people's] escapism, we now have greater scope to make [their] lives better.”

Today’s suggestion – to incorporate an element of CSR into everything you do – continues this logic:

If brands are to become a meaningful part of people’s lives, they need to enrich those people’s lives too.

Rationale

Give, and you shall receive

This applies equally well to brands as it does to people; indeed, many of the world’s great brands were born on the principle of cooperation.

Lever Brothers built the foundations of today’s Unilever on the principle of ‘doing well by doing good’.

Similarly, Cadbury created an entire social eco-system for its workforce around the company’s factory in Bournville – an approach rooted in the Quaker ideal of mutual benefit.

For some reason, this ‘considerate’ approach to business went out of fashion for many years, reaching a low point in the corporate greed of the 1980s.

However, a renewed focus on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility‘ (CSR) became popular in the 90s, and brands today cannot justify a lack of broader conscientiousness.

But CSR isn’t just a ploy to enrich the company’s annual report.

Indeed, simply throwing money at a charity can often seem more like an acknowledgment of guilt than genuine concern.

For CSR to be effective, brands must demonstrate a real commitment to driving change and helping people.

This is most effective when the area of CSR focus relates to the brand’s core purpose and expertise, and integrates with the brand’s overall marketing.

For example, while I’d applaud a petroleum brand that donated 10% of its profits to feeding the poor, I’d admire and celebrate that brand much more if they invested the same amount of money in developing ecologically balanced sources of energy that ensured a brighter future for everyone, not just their shareholders.

However, it’s often difficult to justify that kind of longer-term CSR to shareholders, who invariably demand results today (and not 30 years down the line).

The good news is that CSR is a powerful and effective way to build a successful brand – a financial benefit that even myopic shareholders can relate to.

This is because CSR has the ability to create much deeper connection and engagement than broadcast advertising ever could; by helping communities and society at large, brands can demonstrate that they’re on the side of the people, and that helps to establish a more powerful bond.

So how can brands make best use of CSR opportunities?

Let’s return to the Run London example from yesterday’s post.

Nike incorporates a significant ‘community’ element in each iteration of this event (and indeed in much of its broader marketing).

For starters, all participants are encouraged to raise money for charity through sponsorship.

Other initiatives, such as Nike’s ReUse-A-Shoe Program, take the concept of CSR even further:

Benefit

Feeling good about a brand makes it much easier for people to justify choosing it over alternatives.

Furthermore, genuine CSR inspires people to talk about the brand, driving word of mouth and amplifying ROI.

Action

Identify as many relevant opportunities as you can for your brand to give something back to its communities, and assign a meaningful portion of your brand’s resource – money and effort – to delivering these contributions.

Previous posts in the ‘planning for the futureseries

Introduction: a new planning manifesto

Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value

It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad

planning for the future (2): use communications to deliver value

add value to everything

In yesterday’s introduction to planning for the future, we saw that planning is evolving into:

The process of identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

The first step in this evolution involves a fundamental shift in how we view brand communications.

Rather than merely promoting other forms of value delivery like products, brand communications can become a viable means to deliver benefits of their own.

Rationale

People don’t actually buy products or brands; they buy things that enable them to achieve specific aims.

As a consequence, brands that help people to achieve their aims more comprehensively are more attractive, and therefore more valuable.

Planning can help add to this value by enabling brands to create more opportunities to satisfy.

Our challenge is to turn every single interaction – including communications – into an opportunity to help people achieve their aims.

Nike already champions this approach.

It understands that people don’t buy ‘sportswear’; they buy things that enable them to participate in sporting activities.

So the brand focuses on creating more opportunities for people to enjoy those activities.

Run London is a great example, creating deeper engagement not just with the brand, but also with running:

Run London doesn’t just build engagement either: over 30,000 participants pay to take part, and the event generates more than £1million in revenue.

Given this, it’s easy to understand why Nike employs the same approach in football with Joga3, and in fitness with the Rockstar Workout.

Benefit

When everything a brand does helps people to satisfy their wants, needs, and desires, it becomes a much more valuable part of their lives.

Action

Identify the core benefit that your brand offers, and then identify ways to deliver it through every interaction – including communications.

planning for the future

hearts and minds

Planning is the process of identifying the most efficient and effective ways for brands to share the things they want with the people that matter to them most.

Until recently, that has translated into identifying the most compelling ‘big brand ideas’, and then broadcasting them to apparently homogeneous audiences through conventional mass-media.

However, this approach no longer delivers the results we need.

Contrary to the laments of the media industry, this is not because attention has become more scarce; indeed, people actually have more free time now than they used to.

The real issue is that people have more opportunities to participate in a wider variety of activities, and unsurprisingly, they are choosing to focus their attention on those activities which offer them the greatest rewards.

In place of some of the time they used to spend ‘fire gazing’ – escaping the boredom and drudgery of everyday life – people are increasingly harnessing their cognitive surplus to learn and grow.

This more varied behaviour means that ‘audiences’ are increasingly dispersed: fewer people are doing the same thing at the same time, and mass-media are increasingly less ‘mass’ as a result.

However, this actually presents more opportunities than it does problems.

Rather than simply interrupting people’s escapism, we now have greater scope to get involved and make their lives better.

But, in order to achieve this, we need to rethink our approach to brand communications.

We need to move away from planning that centres on people’s ‘media habits’, and focus instead on the things that people are trying to achieve through those habits.

In other words, we need to ask why people do what they do, not just what they do.

Once we understand people’s motivations, we’ll find it much easier to find more relevant roles for our brands:

If people want passive entertainment, how can we help with that?

If they want to learn something new, what role can we play?

If they have a challenge, how can we help them solve it?

Brand communications can evolve into a means to deliver actual value, rather than simply a means to promote other forms of value delivery.

The benefit offered can be as simple as passive entertainment, but interactive experiences, education, and even corporate social responsibility (CSR) hold even greater potential.

In line with this evolving quest for people’s hearts and minds, planning’s role needs to evolve too, becoming

The process of identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

Over the next few days, I’ll share some ideas that can help make that future a reality.



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