Brand Reviews

Astonishing spatial design & funky brands

To follow up on my blog post Astonishing product design & funky brands, here are some of my thoughts about the role of spatial design in branding.  

I've already touched upon the role of space in brand management. To summarize my articles on the subject (Funky brands need funky spaces, Innovative advertising spaces, and Funky ambient ads), space is extremely important for idea generation, creativity and brand-building. For instance, think about Googleplex that I talked about here -- its main role is to reinforce Google's company culture of innovation and sharing, trigger creativity and solidify Google's brand vis-a-vis its employees, aka any company's biggest brand ambassadors. All of this achieved by means of design.

 

If  you place your product or service into an astonishingly designed space, this will greatly reinforce the rest of your brand building activities. One of the main reasons for this is how the human brain perceives reality.

 

The majority of people are the so called visual learners -- they constitute roughly 65% of the global population.  This is why a good business model, combined with clear positioning and superb customer service, also needs to look good. A good example of the role that design plays in brand building is nhow hotel in Berlin, previously featured in my series of Funky Brand Interviews. Needless to say, if you stay in such a hotel, you will most probably want to come back to experience the unusual, eye-catching design again. Which means, this hotel is likely to score pretty high on customer loyalty, an essential element of any good brand.

 

Another recent example of using design to create an extraordinary space is the work by Craig Redman and Karl Maier, known as Craig & Karl. What strikes me most here is a rather trivial starting point of the project -- a car park.

 

"When it comes to interiors, nothing is as traditionally drab and cold as a parking garage. There’s a reason why it’s the default setting for film directors looking to convey foreboding: garages are where people get grabbed, shot at, or straight-out whacked." (Source: fastcodesign.com)

 

I got in touch with Craig & Karl, asking them to share with my funky readers some of the background to their project, as well as the stunning images of the designed car park.

 

This is what Craig wrote me,

 

"The objective of the project was to breathe new life into the space which, having been rendered in concrete with little inlet of natural light, felt quite dark and heavy. Working closely with the owners, who possess a keen design sensibility, it was decided that the mural would cover all surfaces in a blanket of bright colour. There was also a request that the larger wall surfaces be left blank with an eye towards potentially introducing additional, individually commissioned works at a future date. Nevertheless it was vital that the installation feel and function as a complete work in its own right. The resulting design is a dynamic mix of overlapping geometric forms that mirror and respond to the angularity of the architecture. The whole piece is tied together by a winding, ribbon-style device which, acting as a central axis, leads in from the driveway, through the space and out to the garden beyond."

 

Kudos to Craig & Karl, as well as the design-conscious owners of the car park. They should certainly build upon the publicity this funky project has received to date, and think how to capture this value in the longer term.

 

 

About Craig & Karl Craig Redman and Karl Maier live on opposite sides of the world but collaborate daily to create bold work that is thoughtful and often humorous. They specialise in illustration, installation, typography, as well as character, editorial and pattern design. Craig & Karl have exhibited across the world, most notably at the Musée de la Publicité, Louvre. They have worked on projects for clients like LVMH, Nike, Apple, Vogue, Microsoft, Converse, MTV and The New York Times. www.craigandkarl.com

Photography credit: Katherine Lu (www.katherinelu.com)

Social media with a human touch

Have you recently become a Facebook fan of a company? Or started following a brand on Twitter? If yes, chances are, you have no idea who's tweeting on behalf of these companies.  

There are a few exceptions to this rule. DKNY has recently revealed the real person behind its Twitter name. And it's done it by producing very personable, and sticky web content. Watch this video about Aliza Licht, the PR director of DKNY:

That's a pretty good way not only to gather more Twitter followers, but also to showcase, and build, your brand. Kudos to DKNY for this smart brand building activity.

 

I also recommend this article about real people behind companies' Twitter names, published by The Read Write Web, and this LinkedIn discussion.

 

My question is, why be dry and boring when you can be a little more personal and funky? 

 

Most companies, even the ones making funky products, often adopt a corporate tone of voice as soon as they start tweeting or facebooking. Only to have their fans hide them in their news feed.

 

But some brands, like DKNY, are beginning to understand that what we, fans, want to know, is something much more personal than product-related corporate speak and self-congratulatory retweets of brand mentions. Social media is, well, s o c i a l, and our expectations for something social and authentic are simply natural. That's why I expect to see more and more companies reveal the real people who tweet on behalf of their brands.

 

IKEA's brand in one image

I've seen this image shared by many of my Facebook friends last week. This is a very sticky image which generates a lot of comments and likes, and immediately draws your attention. Great content for making it really big on the web, I'd say.

Unfortunately, nobody on Facebook bothered to give some credit to the author of the image, which is a pity. And this was exactly my first question -- who's able to summarize the whole brand of IKEA in a single image, in such a fun, and believable way?

 

Surprisingly, it's a cartoonist based in my backyard. Canary Pete is a Belgian cartoonist living in Antwerp. Most of his cartoons are in Dutch, but you get his ideas anyway. Great understanding of IKEA's brand essence, Canary Pete!

 

 

French singer Zazie endorses Belgian brand Mais il est où le soleil

I’ve already mentioned upmarket Belgian fashion brand Mais il est où le soleil in my recent article How “Made in” labels influence purchasing decisions. With its brand name which describes the Belgian grey and cloudy weather pretty well (“Mais il est où le soleil” translates as “But where is the sun..”), the company makes colorful, vibrant and sunny clothes.

You must have noticed that brand partnerships are one of my big interests, so today here’s another example I want to share with you. Mais il est  le soleil has chosen French singer Zazie as its brand ambassador.

 

Cooperation between Zazie and Mais il est ou le soleil can indeed be called a true partnership, as the choice has been made bilaterally, in a most serendipitous way. I talked to Val Pollet, art director of the brand. Here are some insights into this partnership that Ms Pollet has shared with me.

 

“It was actually a matter of chance,” says Val Pollet. “Zazie passed by our shop in Paris (Odeon), and really liked our skirts. In the evening of the same day, Zazie was performing in Brussels, dressed entirely in Mais il est où le soleil. Our partnership was onto a good start, without even having been formally concluded.”

 

 

After the concert, brand's representatives got in touch with Zazie, and as a result, a mutual decision to co-operate was made.

 

However, it wasn’t all due to chance that the Belgian brand decided to approach Zazie. “She’s certainly a character,” says Val Pollet, “and I like to create collections for women with a lot of character. These are women for whom it’s natural to have their distinctive style. One day, a woman like this can be a princess, the next day she’s a mother, and then on the third day, she’s a working girl. Always feminine, she stays true to her personality. For me, Zazie is the embodiment of exactly this kind of woman, the woman who’s got a lot to say for herself, and who wants to succeed in life. This is why this partnership makes perfect sense.”

 

The partnership, which is initially set to last through to the Summer 2012, has only just begun, but the brand can already see some good results. “We’ve already heard from many of the multi-brand shops which carry our items,” says Val Pollet, “that Zazie had validated Mais il est où le soleil as a very creative brand with a strong identity. The singer -- a woman of values, adored by her fans -- a woman with a strong personal brand -- is helping us to get into a whole new category of brands. Established and famous brands.”

 

Ms Pollet has also shared with me that the money that Zazie had received from this collaboration, was given to a charity organization.

 

 

Funky city brands: Berlin

 

I’ve just read a good article about Berlin by Martin Bryant on The Next Web. To be more precise, the article is about the beautiful apps that are made by Berlin-based web and tech start-ups.

 

Even if you are not into web and tech startups, but into building brands in general, I’d still recommend to read the article. It gives good reasons why Berlin has evolved into a funky city brand.  Scroll down to “Why do apps from Berlin look so good?” to see a good description of Berlin’s artistic spirit.

 

But let’s go back to the apps for a moment. The author’s main point is that if your startup is in the business of making web and mobile apps, then you’d need to be ready to compete on the global level right from the start.

 

According to Bryant, apart from launching something that has a solid business model and good technology, you need to think what your apps actually look like. In order to stand out from the crowd, they have to be not simply okay looking. They have to be stunningly beautiful. So beautiful, that, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, you’d “wanna lick them” (( See Steve Jobs’ quote on http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs ))

 

No wonder then that good looking web and mobile apps would come from places where design and art have become important elements of local lifestyle. Such as, London, for example.

 

Berlin -- one of my favorite cities in Europe -- is becoming another such creative hub. If you’ve had a chance to explore Berlin, you’d know what I am talking about.  Endless galleries full of stunning art, funky fashion shops, artsy shopping guides to help discover them, The Red Dot award (which I mentioned in my interview with Senz umbrellas), affordable top-quality theater performances (if you speak German, of course :) ) -- all of this makes Berlin a truly funky city.

 

Beyond just being artistic, Berlin has been gradually turning into a technology hub as well, as the article points out. Interestingly, some of the tech startups from Berlin have realized the positive associations that the city brand of Berlin can give to their products. If you scroll down to thevery bottom of the home page of Wunderlist, an online task manager (which I am tempted to try out), you’ll see this:

 

Move it up, guys, to make it more visible -- it’s good to be from Berlin.

 

Another startup mention in the article, Readmill, prefers the “Made in Europe” label. Read my previous blog post about the role of “Made in” labels in shaping your brand image. “Europe” sounds great, but I’d certainly go for “Berin” if I was Readmill.

 

It’s certainly a far more funky way to brand.

Kipling customizes its brand mascot

I've written extensively about brand mascots which can play an important role in making your brand funky and remarkable. I've also interviewed Kipling in my Funky Brand Interview series. Today, I will show you how Kipling keeps us all engaged in its brand by allowing artistic and creative people (like myself :) ) customize its brand mascot -- the Kipling Monkey. In the UK, Kipling has organized a Mashed Up Monkey contest in collaboration with the Dazed and Confused magazine. If you want to create a unique Kipling Mascot, then submit it for review on the Mashed Up Monkey site, and maybe you will be the lucky winner. The winner will receive worth of £ 500 Kipling goodies, have his or her design displayed in the window of Kipling's London shop, and get featured in Dazed and Confused. I've customized a monkey, and the result is a very foxy orange monkey that you can see here. Unfortunately, I can't submit it for the competition as I am not a UK citizen, and don't qualify.

 

As I wrote in the Funky Brand interview with Kipling, innovation through collaboration with artists lies at the core of Kipling's brand strategy. Allowing artists and creative people to customize its brand mascot is yet another step which supports this strategy.

In France, Kipling has collaborated with 10 designers and stylists who have customized the Kipling Monkey.  All of the customized designs will be displayed at the Galerie de la Tour in Paris from June 1st till June 26th. The proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to Red Cross in Japan.

 

How Google keeps its Doodle funky

You might have noticed that Google displays different images on its homepage, depending on the zeitgeist. Sometimes it’s just a plain Google logo, but often it comes accompanied by the so called Doodles — images that express the holiday spirit, or important events. I wrote about it in one of my previous articles about brand mascots. In its recent initiative to promote young designers and inventors of tomorrow, Google has organized a competition for high school students asking them to submit their own Doodle designs. The winner is a 7-year old Matteo Lopez from San Francisco.

 

 

Ikea is chosen as the Advertiser of the Year

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will present Ikea with its Advertiser of the Year Award on June 25. What makes IKEA's ads stand out? IKEA's creativity is said to be attributed primarily to the company's decentralized approach to marketing, and the fact that it has relationships with a vast network of agencies throughout the world.

Philip Thomas, the chief executive of Cannes Lions, said: "Ikea's approach to its marketing and communications, with its decentralised structure and strong relationships with many different kinds of agencies, has been hugely successful over many years.

"The company’s superb track record at Cannes reveals a clarity of vision and an enviable willingness to allow its agencies to truly flex their creative muscles. We congratulate both Ikea and its many agencies across many countries on this well-deserved honour." (Source: BrandRepublic news)

See examples of IKEA's campaigns here.

Another example of co-branding: Veuve Clicquot and DKNY

I've written extensively on co-branding and brand partnerships already, and am always on the lookout of interesting examples in this area. Today, I'd like to share a recent example of a brand partnership between a Champagne brand Veuve Clicquot and a fashion brand DKNY: co-branded boots.

dkny-veuve-clicquot-rubber-boots

The funky product concept and design play an important role in spicing up both brands, and create good publicity in fashion magazines and online.

Note that both Veuve Clicquot and DKNY are part of the LVMH group. It's a smart move on the part of LVMH as it's promoting both of its brands at the same time.  Initiated within such multi-brand groups as LVHM, such co-branding initiatives can be used to revitalize tired brands by creating partnerships with more successful brands from the same portfolio.

Best of SCHMOOZY FOX 2010

With this post, I want to bring to your attention the best posts that were published on this blog in 2010. They 've attracted most of the traffic because I think they give some of the most useful tips to anyone who wants to build a Funky Brand™. If you want to brush up on your knowledge of branding, here's your chance! BRAND STRATEGY

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

ONLINE BRAND STRATEGY

FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS

Photo collage

  • Theo loves you: an interview with Wim Somers, founder of a very stylish brand from Antwerp.
  • Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of a Danish upscale brand of bicycles, Biomega.
  • From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes.
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch.
  • Interview with Isabelle Cheron, Creative Director of Kipling bags.
  • Interview with Nathalie Colin, Creative Director of Swarovski.

PERSONAL BRANDING

RE-BRANDING AND BRAND REPOSITIONING

BRAND NAMING

CREATIVITY AND BRANDING

taarten van abel

Funky brands need funky spaces

Where do good ideas come from? Is it possible to create the right environment that triggers creativity? In what kinds of spaces do we need to be in order to think creatively? These are the questions that Stephen Johnson, a writer and speaker, raised in his presentation Where good ideas come from, published on TED:

These are also the kinds of questions that went through my head this morning, when I detached myself from the computer and decided to go jogging in the park.  Just 15 minutes into my brisk jogging, I had a couple of fantastic ideas.  After 30 minutes, I felt like a creativity machine in action.

Funky Brands are often born from a combination of business strategy and creativity.  To ensure the first, you ought to have the right education, experience and skills. To address the latter, you can seek environments that can boost your creativity.

In this video, Stephen Johnson gives an example of a coffee house as an environment that sparks ideas. It's an informal space where people can connect. For me it's both schmoozing at a coffee house and running in the park that unlock my creative potential.

For you, these spaces and environments may be totally different. The key is to understand what works best for you, and explore different environments and activities that allow you to think creately.

Google is famous for encouraging its employees to spend 20% of their time exploring new ideas within its Innovation Time Off approach, and creating informal office spaces at Googleplex that boost new ideas.

If you want to build a Funky Brand, it's crucial that you explore and embrace all those funky spaces that fuel creativity.

Zumba sells branded merchandise

I first wrote about Zumba, a funky Latin workout, almost a year ago.  In that post, I talked about the challenges that any services organization can encounter in its attempt to build a funky brand. The main challenge for Zumba, I said, was to ensure that its main customer touch points (places and ways in which people experience the brand) remain consistent. Which seems like a big task given millions of Zumba-like, or Zumba-inspired, courses currently offered around the world by external fitness instructors. Since then, I've taken several Zumba classes myself -- and not only out of my desire to do non-stop funky brand research! :)  I also wanted to ditch the workout, and join the party. ((Zumba's brand slogan)). My personal observation is that many of these classes had very little Latin about them, featuring non-Latin music, and non-Latin dance moves.

In other words, my own Zumba experiences have been patchy, and differed from one place and instructor to another.

Perhaps Zumba management (to learn more about the company, see an article about Zumba's founder Alberto Perlman published by Sprouter)  decided that keeping the brand consistent throughout its customer touch points was a difficult task to carry out.  Perhaps they thought that it would be a good idea to build the brand by selling Zumba merchandise not only online, but also in real life.

IMAG0462In any case, I am not familiar with Zumba's selected strategy, but here are a couple of observations.

I came across Zumba-branded merchandise on the shelves of Di a couple of days ago.  Di is a Belgian chain of shops that sell inexpensive cosmetics and home cleaning products. Di has also been expanding its health and wellness section by adding vitamins, food supplements, and slimming shape-wear.  This section is where I spotted sizable Zumba-branded boxes, sold at retail price of Euro 69.95 per piece (pictured above). They were placed on a shelf underneath a TV screen that featured a demonstration of a Zumba workout, with the message "as seen on TEK TV " ((a Belgian TV store)) running across the screen.

Each box contained 4 Zumba workout DVDs, as well as a set of small weights.  The packaging displayed a TEK TV logo.

What are the implications of this on Zumba's brand?

First of all, the importance of selecting appropriate distribution channels is crucial for building a strong brand.  Even though the idea of selling Zumba-branded merchandise seems  attractive  ((at least on the local market, it could be a way of tapping into existing awareness about the brand name that has been created through workout courses, whether "real" or not))  per se, where it is sold, is of even major importance!

What strikes me as quite inconsistent with what could be a very funky brand, is the association of Zumba with a TV shop.  I don't personally know very many funky brands that have been built through this not-so-funky distribution channel (but if you know, please submit a comment!)

I would question whether TV shops can reach the kinds of customers Zumba needs to be reaching.   I saw lots of professional women "ditching the workout, and joining the party" after office hours. Which means that they probably don't have the time to watch TV shop sales sessions during the day.  I suspect that an additional endorsement of a product by a TV shop means little to them.

Selling Zumba merchandise at a rather unexciting Di (think of it as an equivalent of the UK Boots, but with a somewhat duller product selection) would not be my top choice either.

To conclude, Zumba would be much better off building a funky brand through better selected and more exciting distribution channels.

NOTES

And the winner is....

The Funky Startup Contest has come to an end. Thanks to all of those funky startups that have responded and participated!

Why we organized the Funky Startup Contest

What was the reason for this contest?  SCHMOOZY FOX launched the Funky Brand Interview series in the summer of 2009. Since then, I've been meeting talented and passionate people -- CEOs, founders and top managers -- whose enthusiasm, love of fun and understanding of brand strategy translated into building successful funky brands.  After a year of great encounters,  I wanted to give a chance to less known, funky-to-be startups, to feature in interviews, and benefit from valuable brand strategy advice by SCHMOOZY FOX. Hence the Funky Startup Contest!

Semi-finalists

Three companies -- Crashpadder (online bookings of short stays from the UK), The Smart Hanger (eco-friendly paper hangers from Canada) and Zigfreda (luxuriously funky clothes founded by a Brazilian-Dutch couple) were selected, and interviewed for the SCHMOOZY FOX blog about funky brands.

The winner

Hans and Katia - founders of Zigfreda

And the winner is.... Zigfreda! After Hans and Katia from Zigfreda are done launching their Spring-Summer 2011 collection in Milan and Paris, they will receive a promised day of brand coaching from SCHMOOZY FOX, the funky way!

When Hans Blankenburgh from Zigfreda learned about the victory, he said,

"SCHMOOZY FOX is a great point of reference for innovative, cool, upcoming trends, technology, brand strategy and funky brands. We are already impressed with Olga's knowledge and passion for brand strategy, and we're happy to be the winner!

Stay tuned for the updates about the funky brand strategy day at Zigfreda!

And I wish Crashpadder and The Smart Hanger a lot of success in building their funky brands!

Coach finally comes to Europe

Snapshot of the Coach web site

Coach and Affordable Luxury brand strategy

Coach -- a brand of hand bags from the US -- has frequently featured in class discussions during my marketing courses.  One could argue that its phenomenal brand success story can be attributed to a carefully orchestrated strategy of affordable luxury -- selling high quality bags at high prices, and at high volumes. In fact, its success has been so big that it has posted sales of $ 3.5 billion in the United States in the last financial year.

I knew about Coach not only from my nerdy MBA books.  I visited a Coach shop for the first time during my first visit to the US, back in 1994.  I went to a Coach shop again in 2000, when I was studying in Boston.

Both times, I was almost mesmerized by the almost magical effect that this brand seemed to have on those who visited its stores.  American women looked happy and proud to leave with a new status symbol in their hands.

But to the Europeans, spoiled by  a massive choice of high quality brands of hand bags, Coach has been literally unknown. With the competition so fierce, no wonder Coach waited for so long before entering Europe.

Coach in Europe -- lessons for other American brands

And finally, here it is. It chose to open its first European shop-in-shop in Paris -- a logical choice of the iconic capital of European fashion and style. The grand opening took place at Printemps on August 31st.

The distribution strategy that Coach will adopt will play an extremely important role for the degree of its brand success in Europe.  Provided it is able to compete with many European brands in the same product category, it will establish a good pathway for other American affordable luxury brands in Europe.

A specific US brand with a successful affordable luxury positioning is Victoria's Secret.  A sure winner on the US market, Victoria's Secret is likely to face a challenge of many established lingerie brands on the European market. It should closely watch Coach and learn lessons from its brand strategy in Europe.

POLL: Vote for the funkiest startup brand

The summer is over, and our summer funky startup contest has come to an end. SCHMOOZY FOX has selected, and interviewed three exciting startups:

1) Crashpadder, an online community that helps find cheap short-term accommodation 2) The Smart Hanger, eco-friendly paper hangers from Toronto 3) Zigfreda, a colorful luxury wear brand

We think that all of them are on the path of building funky brands.

Which one do YOU think should benefit from our free brand coaching?

Click on the links above, read the interviews and M A K E  Y O U R  C H O I C E for the FUNKIEST STARTUP BRAND! Select your choice form the list below, and hit the VOTE button. The voting will be closed on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10 pm Brussels time (GMT +1). And please keep this in mind: there will be only ONE vote allowed per IP address.

The voting is closed, and results will be announced shortly.

Madonna to launch Material Girl on August 3rd

Snapshot of Macy's site

Hello, fans of funky brands! As you've noticed, SCHMOOZY FOX has been a bit silent over the past couple of weeks. We've been taking a break from computers to enjoy the summer, give ourselves a boost of creativity, and, of course, schmooze!

We're back with awesome news from the US. Tomorrow, Madonna and her daughter Lourdes will be launching a new junior fashion brand, Material Girl.

This brand launch is simply packed with many branding concepts and marketing tools previously discussed on this blog.

First, it's an example of how a personal brand of Madonna has served as a basis for a new product brand.

Second, this a nice example of a smart celebrity endorsement by a 17-year old US teen star Taylor Momsen, whose own edgy and funky style and personality pinpoint the values of Material Girl.

Third, there's an important element for any brand launch -- distribution channel, in this case Macy's -- that has been selected to strengthen Material Girl's positioning as affordable and democratic clothes.

Material Girl has a lot of potential to become a funky brand. We'll be curious to watch its progress after its official launch tomorrow.

Funky brands from around the world: Italy

Time has come for yet another country-specific list of funky brands. This time around, let's look at what's going on in terms of innovative, desirable and funky brands in Italy. Italians are famous for their sense of style, and innovating through design. ((Roberto Verganti, Innovating Through Design, Harvard Business Review, Dec 01, 2006)) This is why almost all of the brands you'll see here have incorporated superior design as core of their brand strategies.

As in the case of two previous blog posts related to country-specific brands, Spain and Germany, the Italian list is far from being exhaustive.  It's just a beginning, and if you have some more funky brands to add to the Italian list, feel free to do so.

To get a better idea for what criteria to look for, check out what makes a brand funky, and based on that, continue adding more brands in your comments on this blog or SCHMOOZY FOX's Facebook page. Have fun discovering funky brands from Italy!

1) ALESSI

Alessi

I've already written a post about this funky brand, Keeping brands alive through product innovation: Alessi. Alessi specializes in design objects for home interiors.

2) KARTELL

kartell

This brand makes and sells contemporary furniture made of plastic.

3) GAGGIA

gaggiared

Also featured previously on this blog, Gaggia is a brand of espresso coffee machines. Read more about it on Funky brand pick of the week: Gaggia coffee machines.

4) SMEG

smeg

Here comes the brand of kitchen appliances, especially funky retro-looking iconic fridges.

Vespa

5) Vespa a totally funky brand of scooters  manufactured by Piaggio.

A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous entrepreneurs

Jimmy Wales WikipediaHere is a photo of a magazine back page that I took this morning. It made me think of a new trend that is emerging in the area of celebrity endorsements: business celebrities as brand ambassadors. Even if you are not familiar with the term, you've most probably come across brand celebrity endorsements on many occasions.  These are short or long-term partnerships between a brand and a real person, usually a celebrity from the world of music, sports or movies. If you've seen ads with Hollywood stars next to cars, perfume or other products, then you've seen a celebrity endorsement in action.

In such brand partnerships, celebrities serve as the so called meta-brands: overarching, superior concepts that add  positive associations to other brands wanting to relate to them. For celebrities, it's also important to choose the right brands to work with, because at the end of the day, they have to pinpoint these people's personal brands.

My observation that I want to share with you today is this: most brands, especially luxury products, like to work with celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports.

However, it seems like there's a whole new trend emerging out there: celebrities from the non-entertainment world. They are not as widely known as entertainment stars, but they nevertheless have a lot of qualities that brands can tap into and benefit from. This trend is not yet very well explored by brands, it seems.

A concrete example that I want to share with you today is the recent brand campaign by a Swiss watch brand Maurice Lacroix. In particular, its brand partnership with Jimmy Wales, an American Internet entrepreneur and co -founder of Wikipedia.

The two other brand ambassadors that Maurice Lacroix chose -- Bob Geldoff and Justin Rose -- come from the worlds of music and sports, respectively. But Jimmy Wales is a businessman whose name is known to a lesser extent.

What's known much better is his non-profit foundation: Wikipedia.

What did Maurice Lacroix want to communicate by selecting Bob Geldoff, Justin Rose and Jimmy Wales as its brand ambassadors? I guess, the most important qualities that seems to unite them all are continuity, staying on course, and staying true to themselves. And of course, achieving results.

As brands look for authenticity and natural, not-too-commercial, ways of connecting with their consumers, we're likely to see more entrepreneurs, journalists, and other people outside of the entertainment world with strong personal brands, endorse products and services.

Tufts University appreciates funky personal brands

I was very happy to hear that my Alma Mater, Tufts University in Boston (I went to the Fletcher School at Tufts back in 2001), has been exploring the power of social media in order to identify best applicants for its top-ranked undergraduate education. As part of their application package (which includes academic test results, essays and other quite elaborate  things that require a lot of effort and preparation), Tufts candidates are now encouraged to submit videos that shed light on their personalities.  Since a decision was made to allow YouTube video submissions as part of the application package, Tufts has received 1000 videos. Interestingly, 60% were female, and two thirds of the applicants submitting videos were seeking financial aid. As already mentioned in my previous blog post, Digital Anthropology, women are most active users of social media, and the Tufts University applicant videos suggest the same.

When I was a student at Tufts back in 1999-2001, I was frequently amazed at a large number of very strong and individual personalities there. My feeling is that this will improve even further! Equipped with the encouragement of the Tufts Admissions team, bright candidates will be given an additional incentive to demonstrate their unique skills, interests and passions. In the SCHMOOZY FOX language, these students will have a great opportunity to make their personal brand stand out from the crowd. And by the way, it's not only unique and original products and services that can be funky brands, it's also people!

Funky benefits of Benefit Cosmetics

LaughterLately, I've been busy interviewing founders of funky brands, sharing tips with you on various subjects of brand and marketing strategy, and hey, doing work for my clients. So,  I haven't as a result written a plain vanilla funky brand review in a while. Time to correct this bad gal's behavior!

Although, wait a minute, the brand in question is actually a perfect fit for any bad gal'. They even have a product called Bad Gal Mascara.

The brand in question is called Benefit Cosmetics, and its place of birth is San Francisco, which happens to be one of my favorite cities.

I guess it was the mention of San Francisco (written somewhere on the product display in a shopping mall) that caught my attention right from the start. To give this phenomenon a proper name, let's say that San Francisco was my first brand entry point for the Benefit brand.

In other words, it generated enough curiosity in order for me to continue exploring Benefit products.

And what did I find out?

Well, first of all, very funky product design. It was a true eye-catcher. A bit of a retro look combined with vibrant colors looked candy-like.  The shape of packaging also somehow felt right. I picked up a small bottle of perfume and just enjoyed holding it in my hands.

Second of all, there're funky product names. Check it out: "smokin' eyes", "some kind-a gorgeous", "my place or yours".

BadGalBenefitMascaraProduct quality? It seemed fine, although I can't be an authority on this subject -- I was in a hurry and thought I'd experience first instead of buying right away. So, I simply don't have an opinion on how long-lasting these products are, if their texture and scent are pleasant, etc. But I have a feeling that this stuff is nice.

Benefit Cosmetics was founded by twin sisters, Jean and Jane Ford, formerly models in NYC. After earning enough cash during their modeling career, Jean and Jane decided to invest it into something they knew very well -- make-up. And so Benefit was born.

Right now both sisters own a minority stake in Benefit, having sold the controlling stake to LVMH back in 1999.

As you can imagine, the business of cosmetics and make-up is extremely competitive. Dominated by huge powerhouses such as L'Oréal and the like (and this is just one market segment!), cosmetics brands have to struggle very hard in order to break through a huge level of competition. Therefore, it's important to stand out from the crowd.

Benefit for sure did it quite well through its packaging, product names (and the brand name itself which is pretty successful!) and its ability to tap into the city brand of San Francisco.

And, importantly, it is highly profitable, one of the important characteristics of all funky brands.

Does this mean that there's no need for any brand strategy and positioning work any more for Benefit to do?

Not at all. Benefit's consumers and their interests are evolving. New creative and funky-to-be competitors are coming to the market. There are indeed a lot of things to take care of if one's funky brand is to stay funky!