Coach

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.

Zigfreda -- pressing the Refresh button

Zigfreda-Teaser-Katia&Hans

Zigfreda is a colorful luxury wear brand that was started by a Brazilian designer Katia Wille together with a Dutch businessman Hans Blankenburgh back in 2004. This makes Zigfreda and its sub-brand for kids, BabyZig, far from being a startup, one might say. However, Zigfreda had to re-invent all of its key business elements almost entirely, when the founders decided to relocate the company from Rio de Janeiro to Amsterdam two years ago. This is why I can refer to it as a “re-startup”, and I am happy to host it as the third, and final, runner up in our funky startup contest.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s the story behind the brand name Zigfreda?

Hans: We came up with this name while sitting at a cozy cafe in Amsterdam several years ago. Back then, we knew that we wanted to create an exclusive brand for women, so we wanted the name to sound feminine. We don't talk about Zigfreda as belonging to a specific country, Brazil, The Netherlands, Italy, you name it. We believe that neither design nor the name have to be linked to any particular geography!

Zigfreda-Teaser-SS11B-1

SCHMOOZY FOX: Tell me about Zigfreda’s beginnings in Brazil. Was it a smooth start?

Katia: After Hans and I met, we spent several years in Europe, and then decided to move to Rio and start our new brand there.

I come from a family of couturiers, both of my grandmothers were making bridal clothes, and I was drawing from a very early age. After studies at a design school I worked for Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and O’Neill. While I was on holiday in Rio, I met my old aunt and she showed me her vintage collection from the fifties, sixties and seventies. She wasn't using any of these clothes anymore, and she gave them to me, simply because I liked these pieces so much. When I saw them, I suddenly had a creative urge to do something different with this collection!

DSC07273_1A friend of mine, who was an owner of a popular fashion boutique in Rio, encouraged me to alter the vintage pieces, and then organize a vernissage at her shop. I transformed the entire collection by mixing prints, making skirts out of dresses, and so on. As a result, I created 30 unique pieces out of the original clothes. The vernissage had a phenomenal success in the press, and all of the collection was sold out. I sold it under the name of Zigfreda, and our brand story was born.

In 2002 I also received a job offer to work for one of the prominent fashion houses in Rio, so Zigfreda did not materialize right away.

In 2004 we started to sell in luxury boutiques and department stores in Brazil. This led to an invitation for Fashion Rio (The Fashion Week of Rio de Janeiro) followed by Sao Paulo Fashion Week. We grew organically, and in 2008 Zigreda clothes were sold in Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Hong-Kong and Singapore, to name a few.

SCHMOOZY FOX: With a business running smoothly, why did you decide to put everything on hold and make a totally new start in Europe?

Hans: Though Brazil is a great country with major opportunities in luxury market space, often better profit margins can be reached from more international strategies that allow higher quality and lower cost of fabrics, machinery and production. We decided to change our strategy to Europe & Asia to allow more scale for sales, PR and production.

Img2538

There were many advantages for us to make Zigfreda a truly international brand by operating out of Europe.

This decision coincided with the market downturn, and we had to reinvent our business almost from scratch. True, we had developed a lot of knowhow and expertise in many areas during our time in Brazil, but such important elements as team, production process, and sales channels, had to be launched from zero!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Did you have to put your collections on hold during this business re-start?

IMG_0144---Version-2Katia: Yes, we skipped three collections. With our Spring-Summer 2011 collection we want to bring a new beginning to Zigfreda, now located in Europe with production facility in Italy, Portugal and Asia.

BabyZig, a new brand for kids from 3 months to 8 years of age, is a very new brand, for instance. We did test it in Brazil, but the real launch took place this past summer in Milan during the Pitti-Bimbo trade fair. The Zigfreda Spring-Summer 2011 sales season will be launched in Milan (White fair) 24th -26th September and our showroom in Paris (TENT Showroom, Rue Charlot 33, 1st – 5th October).

SCHMOOZY FOX: How could you summarize the brand essence of Zigfreda?

Hans: Zigfreda as well as BabyZig are international brands that don’t know any geographic boundaries. Although both are certainly upmarket brands (the average price of Zigfreda is Euro 350 and BabyZig Euro 160), they are also very democratic.  This is especially true as regards the way I myself talk about them.

We are very open about sharing knowledge. I share my business life through social media, help and coach other business owners and also receive a lot back from them. The outdated notion that sharing might be counterproductive is simply not valid, in my view. You share, you learn, and you grow. We also want to find and create an environment in which people could find ways to explore their connections with Zigreda.

IMG_0089---Version-2Katia: Zigfreda is almost like a favorite painting -- it can be a matter of personal taste, and perhaps not for everyone. But once chosen, it lightens up your day, every day! I want my clothes to trigger the emotions of empowerment, femininity and happiness in women. Femininity is really key to Zigfreda. I’ve heard many people refer to Zigfreda as a “Southern” brand, probably due to the exuberance of colors, but my color palette is beyond North or South, it’s just my vision of true happiness that I translate into fabric prints and designs. I think it’s this happy emotional outburst that people like so much.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What are your plans for the future?

Hans: Our main objective is to establish brand awareness in Europe, select the right sales channels, and also introduce a line for teenagers (bridging the gap between BabyZig and Zigfreda) -- of course all in due course!

Katia: the main plan for me is to remain in the mindset of a startup! I believe that it’s never a good idea for a brand to become comfortable with the status quo. I want to be able to have enough challenges to overcome so that the brand grows ever stronger! I want to press the Refresh button over and over again!

ZigfredaLogo

Funky Brand Interviews are one year old!

Photo by Theresa Thompson on Flickr Today, SCHMOOZY FOX's  Funky Brand Interviews are turning one!

Since last June, we've interviewed founders and top managers of some of the funkiest brands out there. In each of these interviews SCHMOOZY FOX has tried to uncover personalities and interests of real people behind brands, as well as learn insights into these innovative companies from a personal perspective of people who work there.

From the Dutch lingerie queen, to a talented photographer who helps people build funky personal brands, to a funky T-shirt brand and a top luxury fashion designer -- all of our interviewees could identify with SCHMOOZY FOX's concept of funky brands. And this is definitely something to celebrate!

Below is the list of all SCHMOOZY FOX's Funky Brand Interviews to date, and there will be more funky ones coming soon!

And don't forget, we'll continue to celebrate throughout the summer! If you are a funky (or funky-to-be) startup, you can learn how you can benefit from some top-notch brand strategy coaching that we've arranged for you FREE of charge! Learn more here.

OUR FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS TO DATE

Interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines

Interview with Marlies Dekkers, the Dutch "lingerie queen"

Interview with artist Thaneeya McArdle

Interview with Kyan Foroughi, CEO of Boticca,com, an online jewellery market place

Interview with James Payne from Baileys Irish Cream

Interview with Tekin Tatar from BeFunky.com

Interview with Wim Somers from Theo

Interview with founders of Lotty Dotty

Interview with Michael Chia, a photographer who helps build funky personal brands

Interview with Martin Bachmann, CEO of Maurice Lacroix watches

Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of Biomega bikes

Interview with fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen

Celebrating one year of Funky Brand Interviews

Photo collage

Today I have some important news for you!

At the end of June, SCHMOOZY FOX will be celebrating one year of its Funky Brand Interviews.  And in this respect, we have some great gifts to offer to those who want to build a funky brand!

Last June, an interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines, a UK-based online wine retailer, marked the start of the new category on our blog, Funky Brand Interviews. Since then, SCHMOOZY FOX has published interviews with founders and top managers from such famous brands as Marlies Dekkers, Baileys, Tim Van Steenbergen, Theo , Biomega and others.
Today, we’re announcing a call for up-and-coming funky brands!

If you know talented and passionate entrepreneurs setting up an innovative brand, please spread the news to them!

Rules of the game

Very simple! All that we require is:

That you are a start-up, either just launched, or seeking market entry That you want to build a very successful brand to fall in love with

That your main industry is Consumer Goods or Services, particularly in the "affordable luxury" segment

Our prize

SCHMOOZY FOX will identify three semi-finalists, all of whom will be interviewed for our blog. Out of the three interviewees, we will select 1 finalist, who will also receive a:

FULL DAY OF BRAND AND MARKETING COACHING by SCHMOOZY FOX

It’s a great way to start building your brand awareness online through SCHMOOZY FOX's social media channels.  It's also a fantastic opportunity for ideas-rich and cash-poor start-ups to get smart advice on how to get on the right brand & marketing track right from the start!

How to apply?

Please write an email to olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com with the subject “Funky Brands”, or publish a post on our Facebook page, and tell us why your company is, or has the potential to become, a funky brand. For funky brand criteria, visit our blog.

Timeline

Submissions will be accepted until July 17th, and winners will be announced in August.

Please note that SCHMOOZY FOX’s past and present clients, as well as interviewees, are not eligible for participation! :)

Please spread the news, and happy schmoozing!

Dinosaur brands

Photo by Mykl Roventine on Flickr I'd like to bring your attention to a recent post by Chad Levitt published on the Personal Branding blog (where I have also previously featured with this guest post). In his article, Chad focuses on companies that still think that they are in full control of their corporate brands. Eloquently, he calls them dinosaurs.

But what's wrong about controlling your brand, you may ask?  Is it really so bad to have a clear idea of what you want your corporate brand to represent? Once defined, your employees will be asked to support your corporate brand vision, as simple as that.

The truth is, things simply do not work like that any more. Your employees, just like your customers, are not there simply to restate the bullet points your corporate marketing department has put together to define your brand. Just like your customers, your employees shape your brand. They are your brand. And they are for sure the ones who own your brand. This loss of control is pretty sad news for dinosaurs!

Photo by .faramarz on Flickr

Although you might think that dinosaur brands have to be old-fashioned, old and big corporations, it's not always so. In fact, even a freshly baked start-up can fall into the trap of becoming a dinosaur brand. I don't think that anybody would pro-actively wish to become a dinosaur brand, but sometimes all it takes is to get disconnected from your customers and their passions. Ignore personal lives of your employees. Imagine that you are in full control of your brand and know better what your customers and employees need.

But brands can be coached away from the dinosaur mentality!

After all, a bit of more free thinking, and allowing your employees to access their Facebook accounts during the day gives you a good chance to fall into a very attractive, and by the way also lucrative category, funky brands.

How funky brands can be profitable

D&Gperfume In one of my previous entries, called Funky Brands Defined, I published a list of attributes shared by most Funky Brands™.

An important one is the fact that they are not driven by innovative and creative ideas alone, but are or have the potential to be profitable. This, of course, requires a good deal of  business development and brand building work done.

In today's post, I want to talk about how your brand can benefit and become profitable from mass luxury brand positioning.

Mass luxury (often referred to as affordable luxury or new luxury) brand management essentially combines characteristics of building brands that have the luxury and exclusivity appeal, with techniques that can lead to relatively high sales volumes.

My marketing professor at ESSEC (a Paris-based business school famous for its luxury marketing program) was a former Armani guy. He certainly knew a lot about sustaining those "old luxury" brands like Chanel and Gucci (and Armani, of course). But he was nevertheless fascinated how some innovative companies managed to combine classical Kotler marketing with  the know-how of luxury brand management by building extremely funky brands in the mass luxury segment.

Some of these brands were created completely from scratch (for example, Coach and Victoria's Secret in the US, Agent Provocateur in the UK, and a Dutch brand Marlies Dekkers whose founder spoke in an interview on this blog), and others were born under the umbrella of already existing "true luxury" brands (for instance, Armani Exchange as a modest brother of the brand Giorgio Armani).  Over the past decade or so, many brands were launched to satisfy a desire for a better lifestyle expressed by wealthier middle class eager to splash out on previously unaccessible items.

So, what can you learn from mass luxury brands in order to make your brand profitable? You'll be surprised how many potentially funky start-ups fail just because they are disconnected from their potential customers. So, the most important rule of thumb is that you gotta get to know your consumers, their lifestyles and their desires as much as you can.

Stop for a moment doing this tedious market segmentation based on geographical location, age and gender. This stuff tells you nothing about your consumer's deep emotional needs and desires. Unless you've understood what emotional connections they can make with the products you sell, you'll be wasting your time.

Besides that, keep in mind the following factors which, in my view, may trigger consumers' interest in purchasing your funky mass luxury goods or services:

  • The lifestyle factor: Whereas splashing out on a single Gucci outfit is an extremely rare occasion for most people, and buying a Lamborghini is simply out of the question, a sizable market out there still wants to have a luxurious lifestyle. "Luxurious" can mean different things for different customers, and the trick is to find your loyal segment for whom your product will be a luxury. The right combination of such items as furniture, consumer electronics, food and drink, beauty products and fashion can do wonders and make our lifestyles luxurious and enjoyable. Not every item in your customer's home has to be of super funky design and great quality, but make sure your brand can end up on your customers shelves!
  • The self-worth factor: people appreciate goods and services that can contribute to their enjoyment of life (e.g. high quality perfumed candles, a meal at a gastronomic restaurant, or a visit to a spa) and feeling of self-worth. Do you know what contributes to the feeling of self-worth within your customer segment? If not, the first step towards making profits is to find that out fast and act on it.
  • The funky factor: people like standing out from the crowd, and making a statement about who they are. They often express themselves through the clothes they wear, or items they use (computers, phones, cars).  If your customers have created emotional connections with the products you sell, and even made them part of their personal brand, you've for sure kept the funky factor in mind successfully! Again, if you know how the attributes of your brand can enhance the funky factor of your customers, you've certainly moved forward towards a beefed up bottom line.

Mass luxury is the most profitable segment of many markets because attractive margins can be combined with sales volume. But the challenge is, mass luxury brands do not sell themselves . They are driven by hard-to-define factors like fashion, word-of-mouth, and constantly evolving preferences of your customers. If you've managed to apply a rigorous framework to identify these factors, and closely monitor them, you'll certainly be on the path towards making sizable profits and building funky brands.

Finally, a good article on the subject that I can recommend is "Luxury for the Masses" by Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, published in Harvard Business Review in April 2003. Have fun learning the tricks of the funky brand trade!

A one-man wine show: Gary Vaynerchuk and Wine Library TV

Gary Vay-ner-chuk: a true personal brand and a successful business, developed through accessibility of social media. This article is about Gary's views on branding.