As I reach the top of the triumphal arch of the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels and look down at people on the ground, my knees become slightly weak. I am not a big fan of heights, but this time, my fear is mixed with excitement. The view on the city is breathtaking, and finally, the fear firmly gives way to fun. “The way you feel now is part of The Cube experience,” says Neil Gannon, Director of Marketing Expertise at Electrolux, smiling. He’s also the brain, and the heart, of The Cube, an astounding architectural and culinary space which has its temporary home on top of the arch, before it travels to another city to showcase the brand values of Electrolux. I am here to find out how The Cube is set to create deeper emotional connections with the brand's customers.
Olga Slavkina: Neil, what is your personal brand within Electrolux? How do people refer to you within the organization?
Neil Gannon: I am the creative guy. Creativity is one of my strongest points, and it combines nicely with my business mind.
Olga Slavkina: When did you join Electrolux and how did you make use of your creative talents?
Neil Gannon: I started working at Electrolux in 2008. One could say that at this time, the market of home appliances could not be called very funky. People viewed appliances purely from the point of view of functionality. And yet, I felt that Electrolux had tremendous potential for becoming a more emotionally engaging and authentic, and not only functional, brand.
The Cube is an important step towards bringing Electrolux into a more exciting brand space. I’ve also handled Electrolux’s sponsorship of the Cannes festival. Both projects have required a lot of creativity and knowledge of brand and marketing strategy.
Olga Slavkina: Electrolux’s involvement in the Cannes festival comes across as a smart sponsorship but also a good co-branding move, because the brand image of Cannes is very glamorous and fun, an interesting association for Electrolux to have. Coming back to The Cube, what makes it a powerful step in the brand strategy of Electrolux?
Neil Gannon: The most valuable feature of The Cube is the exhilarating experience that it provides. Looking at your city from the height of the 40 meter tall arch, a place you would have never been to if not for The Cube, dining in the company of 18 people, savoring the fine food prepared by two top Michelin chefs -- this is surely a one-of-a-kind experience.
What makes it an Electrolux experience is a combination of pure, Scandinavian design, fine food prepared with the help of our appliances, and the sense of connection among people. The latter is highlighted by one big table seating 18 people, instead of several small tables, the usual feature of a typical restaurant. As nowadays connections between people increasingly take the form of interactions through social media, we wanted to reverse this trend, at least temporarily, and let our guests experience the beauty of human connections in a completely different and real way. Of course, the fact that The Cube is placed on top of a tall building for a limited amount of time has an element of surprise, fun and exclusivity, and these are important things for Electrolux to communicate. It’s really not very conventional for a restaurant to just appear on roof tops like this, and people seem to like this out-of-the-ordinary appearance.
Olga Slavkina: How much time did it take from the moment the idea of The Cube was born, till it opened its doors to the first guests?
Neil Gannon: About 15 months. The actual work of putting the pre-fabricated glass panels into a complete construction took 3 weeks.
Olga Slavkina: Brussels is the first city which hosts The Cube. Is your idea to bring The Cube to other places?
Neil Gannon: Yes, indeed. The Cube came to Brussels at the beginning of April 2011, and it will later on travel to the roof tops of various tall buildings in London, Stockholm, Zurich and Moscow. We initially planned to have each restaurant stay in the city for 3 months, but the success of The Cube in Brussels has been so big, that we’re considering to keep it here for a little longer. The demand is simply too big to stop the project now.
Olga Slavkina: How long in advance does one need to book, and how much does it cost to have a meal at The Cube?
Neil Gannon: The waiting list for lunches and dinners is quite long. It sounds unbelievable, but I have to this day even myself not been able to sit down at the table for a meal with other guests. Although, luckily, I did manage to try some of the food made here. I guess that such a big demand is due to all the publicity The Cube has received, not only in Belgium, but throughout the world. This is an astonishing result, especially since we haven’t actually promoted it very much, apart from organizing some press events. But word of mouth has done its work, and there’s continuous demand even though lunches here cost 150 euros per person, and dinners 200. The price is commensurate with the fine cuisine delivered by two Michelin star chefs, Bart de Pooter and Sang-Hoon Degeimbre.
Olga Slavkina: It seems to me that The Cube is a very innovative step as far as brand building goes. What do you think about the link between brand strategy and innovation? On the one hand, the purpose of branding is consistency, while innovation is all about being novel. Do you think it’s possible to reconcile the two?
Neil Gannon: I think that any smart brand strategy holds enough space for innovation, without any need to compromise established brand values. Yes, The Cube is something off the beaten track as far as brand and marketing initiatives go, and yet, it’s a perfect shrine to the brand values of Electrolux. After all, there are so many different ways of looking at the same brand values, combining, communicating them -- one just needs to fuel one’s creativity and keep an open mind to find space for innovation.
Olga Slavkina: How do you fuel your own creativity?
Neil Gannon: I read a lot, I love learning about other companies’ branding initiatives, it feeds my imagination. I live in London, and work in Brussels, so inevitably I spend a lot of time on the train. The train is also good for creativity, so many ideas come then.
Olga Slavkina: The scale of The Cube project comes across as a significant investment. I see that often companies hesitate to invest so heavily in their brands, especially because brand building is seen as such a long-term procedure. How can you justify such a brand investment? Is it easy to see the ROI?
Neil Gannon: The importance of investing in brands is tremendous. Initiatives such as The Cube are good because they establish valuable relationships with a wide variety of people who might care about your brand. For instance, a very important benefit of The Cube has been the shared culture of pride within Electrolux. Our employees were very happy to be part of this very challenging, but very rewarding project. I remember the feeling I had during the opening speech to inaugurate The Cube. I felt the strong team spirit in the audience of Electrolux employees, and this is a very important development for the brand overall. Also, the worldwide coverage of The Cube project brought millions of euros in PR value. Overall, one can say that The Cube has been a tremendous boost to the brand health of Electrolux.
Olga Slavkina: Thank you, Neil, and I wish you a lot of success with The Cube and other funky branding initiatives at Electrolux.
© 2011 SCHMOOZY FOX. Funky Brand Interviews is a trademark of SCHMOOZY FOX. All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. If you would like to syndicate the full text of this article, please contact Olga Slavkina at olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com