Branding concepts

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.

The brands we love and what we call them

heartsLast night I decided to glance through one of the books on my branding bookshelf where I keep my favorite sources of marketing, brand strategy and social media. It's a usual “exercise” I do once in a while to refresh my knowledge of some important branding concepts, and a way of getting inspiration for this blog, for example. Nerdy kind of stuff.

The first book I pulled out from the shelf was The Lovemarks Effect by Kevin Roberts. I've already referred to the concept of lovemarks in some of the previous posts. This time, the book made me wonder how we, the marketers and brand strategy geeks, refer to those superb brands which have managed to capture the precious attention of their respective consumers. I did some search of relevant branding terminology which in one way or another refers to such great brands, and here is what I found:

  • So, lovemarks. This term was coined and made known by the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts. The book on my shelf describes the ways in which consumers build emotional attachments to some brands, and why that happens. Definitely something to learn for anyone who is interested in building superb brands.

  • Another reference I found is CoolBrands. CoolBrands UK is an annual survey of the brands most appreciated by the UK consumer. It is an initiative of a branding agency Superbrands. A panel of independent brand judges – marketers, creatives, chiefs of advertising and communications agencies – assess a pool of preselected 1,500 leading brands on the UK market. They then come up with a shortlist of what they call CoolBrands: stylish, innovative, original, authentic, desirable and unique names which have captures minds and hearts of consumers.

  • The Schmoozy Fox blog is dedicated to funky brands – high quality products or services that are innovative, original, zesty and have the potential to delight their customers (in case of start-ups) or have already become widely accepted and appreciated by the market (in case of more established brands).

Are there any other ways of referring to the brands we love? Post a comment!

Brand names and what’s behind them

I’ve recently noticed that a couple of my American girlfriends with whom I keep in touch via Facebook have been posting status updates related to their craving of cupcakes. One was craving them, and another one became their fan. There is a Send Cupcakes application on Facebook which had 7, 391 active users on March 30, 2008. Familiar with these cupcake cravings of my American girlfriends, I couldn’t left unnoticed an article related to cupcakes published on http://www.springwise.com/ (a site dedicated to new business ideas spotted around the world). In fact, the featured business, called Cupcake (http://www.cupcakemum.com/), doesn’t sell these pastries, and is in fact a child-friendly hangout place and a health club for pregnant women and new mothers that will soon open in London. It’s a fitness club, a spa and an organic café with a crèche where mums and dads can drop off their offspring and enjoy the club’s facilities. As Springwise suggests, the owner of Cupcake plans to open more of similar establishments in affluent areas across London in the nearest future.

A mother myself, I find the business idea of Cupcake clubs quite appealing. As someone who’s into branding, I wonder though if the name Cupcake really pinpoints the real identity of the club, and communicates everything it needs to communicate. According to Springwise, the owner of the business is an American, maybe this explains her attraction to cupcakes, just like in the case of my American Facebook friends? I tried to find some information about the cultural connotations that cupcakes have for Americans, but all I could find was that these small muffin-like cakes, often covered with sweet frosting, are usually served at children’s parties. Is it just something festive, or something to indulge into once in a while, or something else?

I didn’t grow up eating cupcakes (an equivalent in my case would probably be Russian-style “pryaniki”), and, just like many of my international friends living in London would probably have no idea what a “cupcake” stood for if I hadn’t lived in the US for a couple of years.

Without going much deeper into the cultural connotations of cupcakes for Americans, I am wondering whether the name selected for the business will trigger similar feelings among all of potential club customers. Many new mothers are concerned about their post-pregnancy figure and want to get back into shape quickly – this is probably why they would go to a health club in the first place. “Cupcakes”, however, suggest extra calories and, in my mind, are not a particularly gourmet kind of dessert. Will the affluent new mothers (the target market of the Cupcake clubs) want extra calories from not-so-gourmet desserts? And what’s the connection between sweet cupcakes and the organic food café that is part of the club?

Still, I find the idea of this child-friendly club very appealing to new mothers. Would I not go to the club just because of its “calory-rich” name? Not at all, I’d still check it out. My point has been to illustrate that choosing a name for your new business can be a very tricky and difficult path. Even if you think that you’ve come across a “bingo!” name, others might not find it clear, especially if the name is full of cultural connotations not known to everyone. What’s the suggestion then? If you don’t have the cash to hire a naming agency, brainstorm with your friends and try to choose a name that would communicate a similar concept to a lot of people. For instance, I would probably not call a new health club “Sladky pryanik”, you know what I mean!

Sex and the City demographic: does it exist?

The iconic TV show Sex and the City ran from 1998 until 2004. The main characters were women with their changing attitudes towards sex, dating, and being single. Supporters of the show say that it correctly portrays lifestyles of many urban Americans, especially those who are still single in their thirties and fourties.[1] Although the show has focused on many growing trends in the urban America, as well as abroad (e.g. in London)[2], I was surprised to find very little influence of the show on any serious demographic research. Although I could easily imagine lots of people, especially women, leading lifestyles resembling those of Samantha, Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda, I desperately searched for what could be called the "Sex and the City demographic." At the same time, facts speak for themselves: Ø More middle-aged people than ever before are single. For instance, in 2004 in the US, 32.2% of males aged 30-34 and 23.7% of women of the same age group had never been married, 23.4% of males between 35-39, and 14.6% of women, and 17.6% of men between 40-44, and 12.2% women had never been married.[3]

Ø Many middle-aged professionals prefer to move to cities such as NYC and London because these cities can give them greater career opportunities, a better social life and more “buzz”, translating to more opportunities for meeting people

Ø Women´s participation in the labor force has risen significantly since 1979; nonetheless some data suggest that career-oriented women place more value on “sex” (i.e. relationships and having a family) than on the “city” (i.e. a career in an urban setting) and give high importance to meeting men.[4]

Ø There has been a significant rise in divorce rates. US Census figures show that the percentage of Americans divorced between 40 and 54 in 1995 made up nearly 14 percent of the population, up from 11 percent in the eighties.[5]

Ø Young women outnumber young men in urban areas throughout Western Europe. This occurs because cities offer more opportunities for highly paid jobs to males, and as a result, attract women (both skilled and unskilled) interested in finding a professionally successful male partner.[6]

Ø Many urbanites spend considerable amounts of time in searching for potential mates. “The demographic heterogeneity and density of the city also allow for diverse sexual lifestyles and the possibility of mixing with socially distant others, both alternatives that are largely unavailable to many rural populations.”[7]

Ø Thus, cities present environments where search activities are heightened and “potential opportunities (for meeting mates) are stunningly diverse.”[8]

With this in mind, I decided to research "The Sex and the City demographic" as I have a stunning business idea that will fit these people´s needs just right! ;)

[1] Sex and the City, CBC News Viewpoint , March 25, 2004, http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_binks/20040325.html [2] See paper on the Sex and the City effects in London, UK: Sex and Not the City? The Aspirations of Thirty-something Working Woman, Joanna Brewis, Urban Studies, Vol. 41, Nr. 9, 1821-1838, August 2004 [3] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0763219.html [4] Ibid. [5] Suddenly Single in the Suburbs, and in Middle Age, Nancy Rubin, The New York Times, December 28, 1997 [6] Sex and the City, Lena Edlund, Columbia University, Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 107 (1), 25-44, 2005, http://www.columbia.edu/~le93/sexinc.pdf [7] Laumann, Edward O., Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, and Anthony Paik, editors The Sexual Organization of the City. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/470318chap2.html, [8] Ibid.