Schmoozing

Building Russian brands

Last week I participated -- as a panel speaker and attendee - in the Global Russia Meeting hosted by the government of Luxembourg. Organized by Horasis, an independent think tank based in Zurich, and dubbed as a “world economic forum for emerging markets” , the event brought together many prominent business and political leaders from Russia, Europe and the United States.  

Addressed through different panels, discussions about Russia focused on such topics as entrepreneurship, business growth overseas, innovating the Silicon-valley way, and of course, branding. Selected as one of the panelists for the discussion entitled Building Russian Brands, I shared my views on what would make Russian companies successful internationally.

 

RUSSIAN BRANDS GLOBALLY

According to one of the panel speakers, Tony Cowling from TNS, several agencies, including his own, frequently publish lists of brands which can be considered global. Most of the times, Russian brands are present there in a tiny minority.

Whereas a few Russian brand names, such as Lukoil , Standard Vodka and the girls pop group Tatu, (( which gained mainstream recognition with their release of “All the Things She Said” several years ago)) who may be known internationally, many others rarely make it to the brandscape of international consumers, unless they target a specific niche.  In order to get an idea of what of Russian brands my own non-Russian friends were familiar with, I posted a quick informal survey on my Facebook profile prior to the event.

What often comes to the mind of the Western European consumer in terms of Russian brands, within the limits of my very informal survey, is not always names of commercialized brands. Instead, it’s often a series of symbols and associations, related to the image of Russia. Think matryoshkas and even the Bear, with the latter playing the role of the unofficial “brand mascot” of Russia (Read more about brand mascots here).

But as soon as you begin to explore more niche brands, you might discover that more Russian brands get on the international brand horizon. Among them are, for example, Digital October, a startup incubator in Moscow, known by the international web and tech startup community. Or Garage, a contemporary art center in Moscow that many art lovers around the world have surely heard about.

BRAND STRATEGY IS THE ANSWER

But do Russian brands need to strive for international recognition? And if yes, what benefits can it give them? First of all, the more quality Russian products appear on international markets, the better it will benefit the overall image of Russia long term. Secondly, there’s a strong link between having a successful brand and a sizable market share, as mentioned by another panel speaker, Givi Topchishvili, CEO of New York based Global Advertising Strategies.  Third, the scarcity of Russian brands on the international brandscape presents a rare opportunity for them. By learning to think strategically in terms of their brand development, Russian brands would make the first important step towards market success.  Placed in the framework of a coherent strategy, which begins from a clear definition of value proposition, and ends with knowing how to capture the hearts and minds of the target consumer, Russian brands will begin to position themselves as competitive players on international markets.

And what about the necessary ingredients Russian brands would need to use in order to make their brand strategies successful? In this respect, two important elements come to mind: design (both product design and visual identity as a whole, including web design) as well as better use of the web. With Russian being my mother tongue, I often visit sites of Russian companies, only to find old-fashioned design and complex user interfaces. Better looking and better functioning products and web sites are the required ingredients of successful brands.

Some Russian brands have understood this, and involved international brand and marketing experts early on in their brand strategy development. Such was the case of Standard Vodka, which relied on international brand, marketing and advertising agencies to shape its identity, launch the product, and set a long-term brand strategy framework. Outstanding design was not an after-thought, but an important element of Standard’s brand strategy.

IMPORTANCE OF SUCCESS LOCALLY

Although very few Russian brands are enjoying international fame, there are a few success stories if we look at the local market. In fact, the measure of brand success of Russian companies may be related to how fast, and for how much money, they are acquired by large international corporations. And such cases abide. Think of Unilever acquiring Concern Kalina, a Russian producer of cosmetics. Or PepsiCo buying Wim-Bill-Dann, a Russian juice and dairy group. PepsiCo is now launching its Quaker cereals under the name Chudo (“Miracle”)- one of the existing successful brand names in Wim-Bill-Dann’s portfolio, and there are even some speculations that the multinational intends to sell some of the products in its Russian portfolio abroad. Maybe such a roundabout way -- first becoming strong locally, then hitting overseas markets under the umbrella of PepsiCo, Danone or Unilever -- is a way for Russian brands to expand abroad?

 

 

To summarize, success of Russian brands will depend on how quickly they realize that brand strategy cannot be an afterthought, but key to overall business development.

 

Only by shaping and implementing a smart brand strategy framework will Russian brands set themselves on the path of market success internationally.

Schmoozy Fox in De Standaard Magazine

 

A weekly Belgian publication, De Standaard Magazine, published an extensive review of my Personal Branding workshop that I gave in Brussels back in February.

The article, Maak van uzelf een sterk merk (Create yourself a strong brand) is a detailed account written by journalist An Olaerts who was one of the workshop participants.

For Dutch-speakers, the article will provide a great insight into the dynamics of my Personal Branding workshops, as well as explain the benefits of building your personal brand. The full text of the article is available online.

De Standaard Magazine is a weekly lifestyle publication, and is part of De Standaard, a leading newspaper in Belgium.

Schmoozy Fox to present at the 3rd Annual Global Russia Business Meeting in Luxembourg

I will be joining the panel of experts on international business and marketing at the 3rd Annual Global Russia Business Meeting in Luxembourg from April 21 through 23.  I will address how existing and emerging Russian brands could become more competitive abroad by applying brand strategy principles to their business development. The agenda of the conference includes presentations on the current investment climate in Russia, its challenges and opportunities,  case studies in the post-crisis economic environment, as well as discussions about the startup environment in Russia.

Tufts Magazine publishes my article about personal branding

Tufts Magazine, the alumni publication of my US Alma Mater, Tufts University, has recently published my article Your Personal Brand: Succeed by Marketing the Real You.  In this article, I talk about using principles of product branding and marketing to build people's personal brands.  

Surely, products don't have the kinds of intrinsic qualities that people do, but sometimes, the kind of thinking we, brand and marketing professionals, use to create and promote product (and services) brands, can come in handy in relation to people's personal brands.

 

The print version of Tufts Magazine is published 4 times a year, and reaches 93 000 Tufts alumni worldwide. Amongst the Tufts famous alumni in business are Pierre Omidyar (founder of Ebay), Seth Godin (founder of Squidoo and author of several bestsellers about marketing), Peter Roth (CEO of Warner Brothers Television) and many others.

Save the date: 2 February 2012 Personal Branding workshop

After the success of my first Personal Branding Masterclass that I gave in cooperation with IE Business School back in March, I am happy to announce that another one is on its way.

 

Together with Jump Academy, I will run a half-a-day seminar on how to build your personal brand. It will be a high value event, full of interesting cases about the women who have built successful personal brands, and practical exercises that will help you make a big jump towards your desired professional goals.

 

The workshop will take place on February 2, 2012 in Brussels (hosted by the Belgian luxury bags and accessories brand, Delvaux), from 1.30 pm till 5.15 pm.

 

Sign up on the site of Jump Academy, and, using the lyrics of Katy Perry, "Come on, show 'em what you're worth".

 

 

Generous schmoozing

Every year around the time of Thanksgiving in the US I feel a bit nostalgic. I spent only 3 years of my life in the US (Boston, Massachusetts), but I still have this funny feeling that Thanksgiving is also my holiday.  

One of many reasons why I have very good memories about my formative years in the US is that I was constantly blown away by people's generosity.  I often felt that Americans had their homes, and hearts, open for me.  It often happened to me that, after just having met people once, I was invited to their house for dinner. It's not so common in Latvia, where I come from. Neither it is in Belgium, where I am living now.

 

There were generous professors who invested extra time of their work into me. In fact, I owe the fact that I can write in English relatively well (for a non-native English speaker) to Professor Patricia Cumming, who encouraged me to follow her creative writing course at Wheaton College back in 1995. I am thankful to her for this. People invited me to their homes during holidays and allowed me to stay there for weeks in a row. They fed me. And heck, people even gave me money I needed for my studies.

 

Schmoozing is also something that became part of my DNA during my time in the US. I did some very advanced, very authentic, and very warm-hearted schmoozing with some great people at the awesome Fletcher School, where I was Fulbright student in 2001.  That's where I learned the word "schmooze" and understood its real meaning. And look at this -- now it's even part of my own brand identity.

 

Schmoozing and generosity combined work very well in the business context, and Americans has taken this combination to perfection. When these two qualities come together, the effects can be bombastic. I've just come across a great article about generous schmoozing by James Altucher, American investor, author and entrepreneur. What James is talking about is the kind of schmoozing I find meaningful -- it's networking for the sake of connecting people, without expecting anything in return. Here's a nice quote for you from his article, "Connecting people who can benefit each other is the most useful skill you can have on the entrepreneurial ladder of skills. When you help others make money by connecting them together, the world forces itself into the Möbius strip of success that brings the money right back to you times ten."

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @schmoozyfox.

6 things startups should consider when partnering with brands

Last week I attended the iStrategy conference in Amsterdam -- a digital marketing event which attracted about 300 senior executives, marketing VPs and entrepreneurs to discuss business opportunities on the web.  

From keynote speeches by Randi Zuckerberg and Jimmy Wales, to workshops on topics such as social advertising and social media in the offline world, to name a few, for me iStrategy was a great opportunity to get some good insights into the web dynamics of brand building.

 

It would be a challenge to review the entire conference (if you want to get a feel for what was discussed, check #istrategy on Twitter, or read the istrategy blog), so I am going to mention only a small -- but extremely interesting -- part of iStrategy, the panel discussion How brands can work with startups.

 

Moderated by CMO of an online French retailer Vente Privee,  Julien Zakoian, the panel consisted of Thom Cummings from Soundclowd, Chris Maples from Spotify and Anders Sjoman from Voddler.

 

The discussion focused on partnerships between startups and established brands such as joint marketing campaigns and advertisement deals.

 

Chris Maples from Spotify gave an example of a brand partnership between Volkswagen and Spotify, which started off as an ad hoc collaboration, and ended up as a show on MTV. Involved in the ideation stage of this joint project, Spotify helped VW create a social media campaign whereby VW fans with profiles on Spotify contributed to the list of Driving Track Confessions -- songs they would be embarrassed to admit they sang while driving.

Here's more scoop on this campaign:

The panel on brands and startups was extremely interesting for me mainly because 1) I often work with startups helping them create and implement brand strategies for growth and profits early on, and 2) because brand partnerships is such a hot topic in branding and marketing in general. You might have noticed this from my previous posts.

 

Is it important for startups to think strategically about their partnerships with brands?

 

My short answer is YES. Whereas from my experience I can say that most startups don’t think in terms of medium or long-term brand strategy, and often tend to go after opportunities which will bring cash fast, thinking strategically can help them create long-term brand value.  Having a brand strategy is not a luxury, it's an extremely useful and necessary framework for startups which enables them to decide upon each new partnership and select those which will enhance, not diminish, startup brands.

 

This is one of the main reasons I’ve intentionally changed the word order in the topic of this blog post. Whereas the discussion panel at iStrategy was called how brands can work with startups, I found it more logical to talk about how startups can work with brands. Big brands are in a good position to choose their partners, but as a startup, you also need to be perceived as an equal partner, and do what works for you in the long-term.

 

Here are some of my tips for startups which will help them consider brand partnerships that will work in their favor:

 

1) Keep in mind that each brand partnership with an established brand will signal something about your own brand and create brand associations for your consumers. To put it simply, their reputation will become part of yours.

 

2) Make a list of criteria for brands to partner with -- they should fall nicely into your overall brand strategy (and please don’t tell me you don’t have one! :) )

 

3) Don’t concentrate only on the big and powerful brands with lots of cash. Someone on the panel said that every startup brand would probably like to partner with brands such as Coke, but this is really not the only approach you should concentrate on. Focus on the brand power, not only cash, that your partner can deliver to you.

 

4) Explore the unexplored -- seek partnerships based on contrasts, not similarities.

 

5) Seek brand partners with different target audience than yours.

 

6) Finally, partner with authentic brands, leaders within their product categories. This is often easier said than done (the truth is, big brands like to partner with... other big brands, and in order for them to explore startups, the latter need to convince them of benefits), but you should set your goals high.

 

For more details on the last 3 points, check out my previous article 3 co-branding rules for bigger profits.

 

For more on co-branding, see my previous blog post 8 examples of co-branding and brand partnerships.

 

istrategy conference in Amsterdam, 25-26 October 2011

Just a quick blog post to say that I'm on my way to Amsterdam to attend the iStrategy conference. The main focus of the event will be digital strategy, and I am looking forward to seeing Randi Zuckerberg again (I already had a chance to listen to her keynote during the Creativity Forum in Antwerp last year, see my account of that event here), and meeting Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, about whom I blogged here.  Overall, the conference program looks extremely interesting.  

You can follow my live tweets sent from @schmoozyfox, and watch this space for my blog post about the event later this week.

Belgian business magazines Trends and Trends Tendances write about Funky Brands™

Today, the Belgian business magazines Trends Tendances (in French) and Trends (in Dutch) published a story about my Funky Brands™ philosophy.  In this story, I define Funky Brands as remarkable products which stand out from the crowd due to their astonishing design and smart brand strategy. I talk about not-too-funky companies which compete solely on cost, discuss what kinds of products have the potential of becoming funky, and mention examples of existing Funky Brands -- Ice Watch, Theo, Vespa, NewTree and Mini. Below you can see an article in French which was written by editor of Trends Tendances, Camille van Vyve. The photo in the article is by Michael Chia, a Brussels-based photographer whom I interviewed before.

Tribal marketing for Generation Y

A couple of months ago, I attended a book launch event dedicated to the recent publication of How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van den Bergh from Insites Consulting and Mattias Behrer from MTV Europe. ((How Cool Brands Stay Hot, Kogan Page, 2011))  The book gives an insight into Generation Y, or Millennials: teenagers and young adults born between 1980 and 1996 .  Web savvy, wary of marketing “tricks” and highly authentic, they are “on a mission to become special and unique.” ((ibid., p. 3)) Besides, these youngsters are just beginning to shape their relationships with brands, and provided that you get your brand on their radar screen, and make it appealing and “cool”, chances are, they will like it for quite some time to come. This is why it is so important for any company that wants to market to Generation Y, to know what it takes to become a truly cool brand.

The authors have structured the results of their detailed 5-year long research, that I finished reading a couple of days ago, around the so called CRUSH model.  It is an acronym of Coolness, Realness, Uniqueness, Self-identification with the brand and Happiness, which are the main requirements for any brand that aspires to be considered “cool” by youngsters. Whereas the book is packed with useful marketing advice (did you know, for instance, that teens actually do trust their parents more than one could ever imagine, and that they don’t like to buy "ethical" and "green" products because they are fed up with marketers telling them what’s ethical and green?) from beginning to end, I’d like to share with you the main findings about the part on teen self-identity (The S in the Crush model). It resonated with me particularly in view of my recent talk on Personal Branding.

 

How big is the role brands (especially clothes, accessories and gadgets) play in constructing self-identity and personal brands? To answer this question, it's important to point out that identity is always connected to the body, “Identity is always about the body, the bodily states and desires of being, becoming, belonging and behaving.” ((ibid., p. 148)) That’s why fashion, and tatoos play such an important role in self-expression. What your customer wears or carries often becomes part of his or her personal brand.  And because personal brands are shaped and influenced by the external social environment (which forms the so called social identity), it’s extremely important for marketers to understand the dynamics of self-identity formation.

 

Perhaps one of the most profound lessons for anyone who wants to understand consumer dynamics of Generation Y, is to step away from traditional psychographic segmentation which is a "method to simplify reality by assigning individuals to groups of homogenous persons who share the same characteristics. In reality, the members of segments are not connected to each other and take no collective action." ((ibid., p. 157))

 

Instead, it’s important to explore the teens’ search for a lifestyle that enables them to become part of a “tribe”, express their self-identity and construct their personal brands.

 

The concept of tribal market segmentation becomes easy to grasp if we take into account the following main elements of identity formation:

 

-The personal identity: the identity a person believes he/she has

-The social self: the identity he/she has in the eyes of others and that can be discovered only through social interactions. Given that there may be several social groups each person interacts with, that person can, in fact, has several social identities.

-The aspired self: the ideal identity a person would like to have

-Non-identity: the non-wanted self  ((ibid., p. 150))

 

Tribal marketing explores relationships that teens have within networks of heterogeneous people linked by a shared passion or emotion. For a very detailed, and very useful example of tribal mapping within Gen Y, have a look at the image below.

 

The table summarizes results of joint work between Insites Consulting and MTV Networks. The horizontal dimension of the image represents “me”-centered tribes on the right, and “we”-centered tribes on the left. The vertical dimension groups extroverts above and introverts below.

 

As a result, each of the quadrants in the model groups youngsters whose identities have a lot in common. For instance, the upper left quadrant groups people who like to react to the world around them through their own creativity. Indie kids, rockers and new ravers are part of this group, for instance.

 

What kinds of insights does the tribal marketing approach give to brand builders?

 

First of all, it’s important to understand that it’s rarely possible to appeal to the entire Gen Y with a single brand. If may be, however, possible to have several brands at your disposal within the same company.  Nike Inc. has understood it well by using two different brands — Nike and Converse — to appeal to different tribes within Generation Y. The Nike brand, which focuses on athletes, appeals to the upper-right quadrant (status-seeking youngsters). This tribe will find Nike’s notions of excellence, importance of fashion highly appealing. Converse’s fans — mostly in the upper left quadrant — will appreciate the simplicity, creativity and art: values that fuel the Converse brand.

 

Another interesting example described in the book illustrates how to create appeal across H&M's Generation Y customers. ((ibid., see p. 168))

 

Second, do not structure your brand communications around the tribes that are most located on the outskirts of the tribal model. This means that whereas the “mainstream” tribes (located close to the center of the model) are relatively “safe” to portray in your communications, the outskirt tribes, such as gothics, may be a stretch, because they are often perceived as non-identities to many tribes, especially diagonally opposite. So, if you consider running an ad in which a pair of gothic youths drive your new funky car brand, think twice and consider a pair of fashionistas instead.

 

Third, explore a close fit between online and real life identity formation. Notice what different tribes like to do online, and you should not be surprised to find out that fashionistas like to watch glam YouTube videos, whereas introverts are big time into games.

 

Funky personal branding

 

Yesterday I conducted a Personal Branding Masterclass in Brussels. The event was organized in co-operation with IE Business School, my Alma Mater where I completed International MBA in 2007.

My goal was to show how my approach towards building product and services brands can be applied to building personal brands.

But what is a personal brand, anyway? In my presentation, I defined it like this:

 

Personal branding is a framework of associations, values, images and actions through which people perceive The Unique You.

In other words, it's your unique value proposition, something that makes you stand out from the crowd, and something by which others can remember you.

In my presentation, I mostly focused on the advantages of good personal branding in professional life, and demonstrated several important steps that one would need to go through in order to craft a strong personal brand.

I spoke about how personal brand audit, brand positioning and brand promotions -- some of the steps that I use in product brand strategy -- could be used in the area of personal branding. To give an example, your LinkedIn professional headline is a very good place simply made for a personal brand positioning statement. Most people do not use it to their advantage, listing their job title, rather than their Unique Value Proposition, in their professional headline on LinkedIn. Look at my own example of my personal brand positioning statement:

 

As you can see, my job title is listed under "Current", whereas my professional headline is all about my unique value proposition. In 120 characters (that's how much LinkedIn allows!), I said a lot of things that summarize a lot of important facts about myself:

  • Passionate = I am definitely passionate about my profession!
  • European = this shows both where I live and the geographical scope of projects that I work on
  • Funky branding diva: this one catches a lot of attention on LinkedIn! The "funky branding" part refers to my Funky Brands™ philosophy, as well as my blog about Funky Brands. And, yes, diva! I don't need to explain this one, do I? :)
  • The next phrase (Offering creative, web-enabled strategies to position and build your brand) also contains a lot of useful information about my personal value proposition. It shows that creativity is my strong point, that I know the web, and am strategic. And of course, I know how to position, build and nurture brands!

I gave several examples of people with strong personal brands, among which was Jean-Pierre Lutgen, with whom I had published a Funky Brand Interview about Ice Watch.

For more information about this event, search #MyFunkyBrands on Twitter, and visit my Facebook fan page. You can also read my article Several degrees in one personal brand published by The Personal Branding Blog.

Register for my Personal Branding Masterclass on March 17

In collaboration with IE Business School, I'll be giving a Personal Branding Masterclass in Brussels on March 17, 2011. To register, visit this link: http://www.ie.edu/alumniweb/alumniagenda/DetalleEvento.aspx?id=12007

It's the first in the series of more exciting workshops on different aspects of branding that I plan to teach in the future. Come and discover how to build a powerful brand You!

Brands at the Oscars 2011

Since the Academy Award, or the Oscar, was established in 1929, it has become a strong brand (see my previous article Events as brands: Paris Fashion Week). Its brand image is the one of glitz, glamour and red carpets.  That's why this event has been so much liked by luxury brands that are all about glamour and exclusivity.

This year, however, along with Gucci and Prada, it seems like the Oscars is becoming a bit more funky and relaxed.

First, it  will attract an unusual participant from the world of brands -- Omega 3 snack mixes Planter, a Kraft Foods brand.  With its Nutmobile specially made for this and other promotional events, Planter will make a statement about its support for the green and eco-friendly way of life.

The Nutmobile  by Planters

View image source here.

Second, many brands that are tapping into the huge advertising potential of the Oscars, will be exploring social media on a much larger scale that they've done so far. The Academy Award itself has been actively engaged in generating buzz about the event with a series of videos that feature young and hip hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

The word "schmoozing" spotted in French

Finally, I don't have to explain to my French-speaking friends what the word "schmoozing" means! :) Well, at least I can from now on refer them to an article that appeared in this week's edition of Références, a Belgian weekly for employment seekers and career-focused individuals.

Schmoozing: mode d'emploi(s)

The article focuses on the kind of "schmoozing" (particularly, its online variety) one does to find a job. For me personally, and of course, for SCHMOOZY FOX as a company, this word has a broader meaning.

Ladies and gentlemen, schmoozing is HIGH POWER NETWORKING.  The kind that involves co-operating, building relationships and closing win-win deals.

All of this with the objective of enhancing the client's product or service brand.

In my brand strategy work, schmoozing capabilities come in very handy when assessing my clients' potential and spotting opportunities for brand partnerships, brand endorsements and co-branding.

So, from now on, vive le schmoozing!

schmoozing definition

Source: Schmoozing: mode d"emploi(s) by Rafal Naczyk in Références, 19.02.11

Follow @schmoozyfox and #funkybrands on Twitter

The @schmoozyfox account on Twitter has been out there for quite a while, but since I mostly tweet from my personal account, @FunkyBizBabe, I have to say, I haven't been using @schmoozyfox much. However, for all those who want to keep up to date on all kinds of funky branding issues, it's worth following @schmoozyfox. If you want to see which brands I consider funky, you can also follow our Funky Brands list, http://twitter.com/schmoozyfox/funkybrands. Finally, since I also sometimes tweet about branding from my personal account, search the hash tag #funkybrands and  you'll get a scoop of creativity in marketing and branding on Twitter.

SCHMOOZY FOX in the news

The concept of Funky Brands™ is becoming more and more known, and we've been quoted by major international online publications recently. Entrepreneur.com has published a great article How to Name -- or Re-name -- Your Business, and I am quoted there.

JUMP, a European online portal for advancing women in the workplace, has published a story about me and SCHMOOZY FOX in their Inspiring Women category.

Help spread this news, and stay tuned on more great stories dedicated to Funky Brands™!

Schmoozing for success

Image by WebWizzard on Flickr I've already written about "schmoozing" in my post Some Lessons On Schmoozing.

Schmoozing is a term that is commonly used in the US, and today I want to bring to your attention a recent article How to Schmooze Your Way to Business Success published by BNET, a popular US business portal.

As the article states, many still underestimate good schmoozing, and the big role it plays in building and cementing business relationships. The best schmoozing is done when you  don't only meet people who can be helpful to you, but also simply help others connect to like-minded people. Even if you won't benefit directly from this kind of "business matchmaking", you'll build a good reputation as a resourceful person.

What's important about good schmoozing is that it's a great tool to create a powerful network. As the BNET article rightly states, the power of your network is not in the numbers of your Twitter followers or Facebook fans. It's in the strength of your relationships with maybe 5 or 10 people with whom you have built good business relationships and whom you can trust.

Being myself a very schmoozy person (hence the name SCHMOOZY FOX), I've made the art of schmoozing a key characteristic of how I do business. When working on branding projects for clients, I can tap into my valuable network and put together ad hoc teams of top-notch industry experts, business economists, design gurus and web guys -- all able to contribute to building your Funky Brand.

How Funky Brands can be creative: 7 insights from the Creativity Forum in Antwerp

A cake by Taarten Van Abel, a creative company mentioned during the conference. I thought it would be a good symbol for female creativity

A cake by Taarten Van Abel

On Thursday, I attended an event dedicated to creativity. The conference took place in Antwerp and was organized by an organization called Flanders District of Creativity. This year, Flanders DC gave the stage to creative and inspirational women.

Creativity fuels Funky Brands — innovative, edgy, contemporary products and services that stand out from the crowd. Funky Brands are worth experiencing over and over again, and importantly, bring positive functional and emotional benefits to those who use them.

For examples of Funky Brands, visit the Funky Brand Interviews section.

Here is my summary of 7 insights from the event that can be applied to Funky Brands:

Image by pumpkincat210 on Flickr

1) MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE CREATIVE, PASSIONATE AND KNOWLEDGEABLE WOMEN IN YOUR BUSINESS TEAM

Women’s signature style of doing business can be referred to as lifestyle entrepreneurship. This means that often, women’s main motivation behind starting a business is not just cash, but first and foremost, creating value for their customers.

If you are a team of men, invite at least one talented woman who will surely bring a different perspective to your business.

2) BE AUTHENTIC IN YOUR BRAND PROMOTIONS

Randi Zuckerberg, who’s in charge of the Creative Marketing department of Facebook, gave examples of authentic ways in which Facebook has communicated with its members.

In a short case study, Randi demonstrated a difference in reaction from Facebook fans to two photos of celebrity Eva Longoria. One photo of Eva was pure glam, whereas in another shot she looked more like someone you’d meet on the street rather than red carpet. Interestingly, the simple photo raised a massive wave of “likes” on Facebook. This taught Facebook itself to use friendly, amateur-like images of its employees in the company’s communications campaigns.

Don’t exclude glamorous and stylish visual expressions of your brand, but it’s worth exploring more authentic ways of connecting to real people, at least once in a while.

Here’s an image that captures the main points of Randi’s presentation:

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

3) IF YOU WANT ENGAGED CUSTOMERS, MAKE THEM PLAY A GAME WITH YOUR BRAND

Jane McGonigal, a game designer from the Institute for the Future, spoke about solving world problems by encouraging people to play more games. Jane defined games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to overcome.

If we take the example of golf, what’s the fascination behind trying to hit the ball with a stick and make it fall into the hole, instead of just picking it up by hand and placing it there? But even if the final purpose is to make that ball fall into the hole, nobody would ever be interested in having no obstacle to overcome, and no thrill to experience.

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

The truth is, people like the excitementenergy and thrill of playing a game. In similar terms, nobody wants a dull and unmemorable experience of learning about your product, buying it in an unexciting environment, and experiencing its dull features.

Engage your customers in a thrilling game, and enhance the funky brand experience!

4) DEFINE YOUR BRAND NOT IN LINE WITH PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY, BUT WITH WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT

Diane Nijs, a professor of imagineering1 , gave an example of the Dutch bakery Taarten Van Abel.

The bakery owner built a funky brand by redefining his product from simply a cake, to the expression of festive spirit. As Diane pointed out, people rarely buy cakes to eat them. They buy them as symbols of celebrationfeast, and enjoyment. Taarten Van Abel has grasped this and began to create cakes that are works of art. The brand of Taarten Van Abel has become so well-received by people that the company has decided to launch a TV channel for kids, in which its symbolic cakes have given ground to stories and fairy tales.

5) UNLOCK THE MEMETIC POTENTIAL OF YOUR IDEA

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, which was originated by Richard Dawkins in the 1976 book The Selfish Gene.   Meme is a unit of human cultural transmission analogous to the gene, and psychologist Susan Blackmore talked about ways of how this sort of replication happens in culture.

Memetics would be worth checking especially for those who are fans of viral marketing. Why do some ideas fly and replicate themselves, and others just sit on the shelf unnoticed? Maybe memetics is a field that you should look into in order to understand why some brands just fly and become funky, and others never get noticed.

6) IN ORDER TO STAY CREATIVE, BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE

According to Baroness Susan Greenfield, a UK neuroscientist, the essence of creativity is daring to be who you are, your individuality.

eccentric dude

Some of you might know that it’s not always easy to stand out from the crowd and be different. Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is to conform and have an easy life. That’s why there are so many dull and unexciting brands out there!

But sticking to who you really are, daring to be, can also come across as magnetically charismatic if you manage to find creative ways of getting your value across. Your Funky Brand might not be liked by everyone, but those who’ll notice you, might fall in love, and isn’t it a huge reward?

7) BRING STRUCTURE TO CREATIVE PROCESS

Christie Hefner, Playboy’s former CEO, talked about structured creativity. Creativity is often associated with wild out-of-the box thinking, and structure is probably the last word that comes to mind in this respect. And yet a rigorous approach to the creative process is always beneficial to building a successful brand.

This is a very valid point in relation to Funky Brands.

When you build a Funky Brand, combine teams of creative people with experts in brand strategy. This can be especially powerful when you want to build a strong brand through online channels. A lot of brands nowadays want to splash out all the creativity they have, and expose it through social media, without having a rigorous brand strategy in place. Don’t fall into the trap of unstructured creativity, be funky and be smart!

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr