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Gaga boosts Google's brand

First, it was Katy Perry visiting Facebook. Then, SnoopDogg came over to Twitter's offices to say hi to its employees. And just earlier this week, Lady Gaga gave an hour-long talk to Google's employees in an interview session conducted by Google's head of consumer products, engineer chick Marissa Mayer.

  Silicon valley companies are trying to boost their internal company culture by inviting celebrities to schmooze with employees. The Silicon Valley battle for talent is on the increase, and companies there try to funk up their brands by inviting cool celebs over.

 

In fact, each of these stunts act as one-off co-branding stunts, with Facebook associating itself with Katy Perry's brand image, and Twitter with that of SnoopDogg's.

 

But in this battle of co-branding between tech and entertainment, Google has certainly outperformed its competitors. In fact, it's also outperformed itself by managing this stunt in a very professional, and also very funky way. Google prepared well for Gaga's visit (look at the awesome video about Gaga at the beginning of the YouTube interview above), and made sure that its employees got a chance to interact with her during the Q&As session. The interview was recorded and posted on YouTube for everyone to get a glance at Google's internal company culture.

Google's choice of Lady Gaga is very smart from the point of you of branding. Not only is she a celebrity and a talented performer, she's also someone with a personality.  While Google is making an effort to retain its current employees and attract new talent, Lady Gaga's powerful personality that she managed to project so well during the interview, supports Google's important brand value -- respect for talent and uniqueness.

 

By inviting a female artist to its HQ, as well as by appointing a top woman exec as the interviewer, Google also sends this message: women are an important part of the company. Well done!

And finally, the content of Google+Gaga's video will satisfy both web addicts and  entertainment lovers alike, and is likely to get lots of hits on YouTube.

 

My favorite quotes by Gaga in this video are:

 

"The most important thing about your creativity is that you H O N O R  your creativity."

 

"If you don't cast any shadows, you are not standing in the light"

 

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.

Philippe Starck gives a boost to photo booths

Probably everyone has at some point of his or her life had to get a passport photo taken at a photo booth. I bet,  the experience was nothing spectacular, and most certainly far from funky. You sit down, try to look the best you can, and then follow the instructions of a metallic voice that directs you not to smile, take off your glasses, and click OK if you like what you see.

All of this in a rather dull environment.

In France, the chain of photo booths Photomaton has recently decided to move away from boredom, and provide a nice ambiance to its customers. For this purpose, Photomaton has hired the famous Philippe Starck who, a strong brand himself, has a golden touch as far as giving a boost to tired brands goes.

To address the requirements of its young customers (young people are the ones who change their passports and other documents most frequently), Photomaton has integrated touch screen technology and a possibility to upload the freshly taken photos on Picasa and Facebook.

Getting an object designed by Philippe Starck can give a huge boost to any brand. In this sense, I would not just call the Photomaton-Starck co-operation a deal between a brand and a designer. It goes much farther than this. It's essentially a brand endorsement, in which the personal brand of Philippe Starck serves as a powerful meta-brand which boosts the brand image of Photomaton.

A snapshot of Starck from an article in Management

Original source (in French): Photomaton s'offre un nouveau look avec Starck, by Olivier Marbot, in Management, February 2011

Brand mascots in action: Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Image courtesy of Travelocity Over the past couple of months, I've published a series of articles about brand mascots, beginning with the basics in my post Brand Mascots, some more details in Beastly Branding, and finishing with a concrete example of a mascot in Why meerkats help markets, and a story about Online brand mascots.

With my recently discovered interest in brand mascots, I decided to interview Joel Frey, PR Manager of Travelocity, about this company's brand mascot -- Travelocity Roaming Gnome. Joel has been with Travelocity since 2003 and has had the chance to take the Gnome to many fun places including New York, London, Memphis, TN, Orlando and Chicago, to name a few.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When did the Gnome become Travelocity's brand mascot?

Joel Frey: The Roaming Gnome became Travelocity’s brand mascot in January 2004. The first television ad appeared during the annual Rose Bowl college football game. During the holiday season of 2003, we ran some teaser ads showing images of the Roaming Gnome, but not tying him to Travelocity in an effort to create some pre-campaign buzz.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who had the idea about the Travelocity Gnome, and why was it important for Travelocity to make him part of its brand?

Joel Frey: The concept of the Roaming Gnome was pitched to us by ad agency McKinney in 2003. At the time, we felt an icon like Roaming Gnome would help us differentiate our brand from our competitors and it has. We also wanted to provide travelers a lens into some adventures they could take on their own via Travelocity. The Roaming Gnome has been a powerful vehicle for us in that regard.

SCHMOOZY FOX:  Could you tell me about your communications strategy tied to the Gnome? Is it the main way for Travelocity to communicate with its customers and if not, what other ways do you use to build the brand?

Joel Frey: Because the Roaming Gnome has become so synonymous with our brand, he has definitely become a broader part of our communications strategy, especially on the Travelocity Facebook page . He also has his own Twitter profile though we have a separate Twitter page that we use to communicate with customers. Beyond social media and traditional advertising, we communicate with customers in a variety of forums including our Window Seat blog. It is made up of an expert team of writers who post daily on a variety of subjects including tips, deals and hot destinations.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Does the Gnome visit only places in the US, or does he like travel internationally as well?

Joel Frey: He travels everywhere!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Why do you think Travelocity's customers like the gnome?

Joel Frey: He’s funny, whimsical, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Any exciting future plans of the Gnome that you could share with us?

Joel Frey: Rumor has it that there’s a trip to the Southern hemisphere in his future….

Image courtesy of Travelocity

The power of personal branding

Build your personal brand and show it off on the red carpet! Image by Fascinating Girl on Flickr In my blog post The Zuckerberg Brand I talked about the recent positive buzz that has surrounded Mark Zuckerberg, and how it has boosted the brand of the company he had founded, Facebook.

Paraphrasing myself, Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook’s business model relies on people to trust it with their data. If they trust the CEO, they are much more likely to trust the platform.

The blog post about Zuckerberg resulted in some friends’ comments posted directly on my Facebook profile.  To summarize, there was general hesitation towards powerful CEO brands. One of my Facebook friends argued that the "CEO star syndrome would eventually hurt the company in question".

Sure, there are, of course, certain risks involved when you embark upon a thrilling mission of building your personal brand. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur. You might doubt if it's the right strategy to be known for being yourself first, and only then for being a company founder and CEO. All kinds of concerns might be running through your head...

What happens if I build a lot of personal brand equity and then decide to leave my company? What if this will leave customers dissatisfied? And what if the business loses its appeal and its brand image changes and becomes worse?

There may be many what if's one could come up with. And here's my advice to you: dump the what if’s. Build your personal brand, and invest in it as much as you can.  The Funky Brands philosophy applies also to your personal brand: it's better to stand out from the crowd than be like everyone else.

Image source: http://blog.careergoddess.com

And hey, if you are a cool and famous person, it’s just so much better than the opposite, right? It will also help your business, too.

A couple of Funky Personal Brands of successful entrepreneurs that come to mind are Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Oprah herself (www.twitter.com/oprah) has almost 5 million followers on Twitter! Her businesses, such as Oprah magazine and Oprah radio, have significantly fewer followers. However, Oprah might also tweet about her businesses from her personal account, so the cross-promotional opportunities between herself and her businesses are enormous.

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee on Twitter) is a personal branding phenomenon. Gary grew his dad’s liquor store in New Jersey into a multi-million dollar online wine retailer by understanding the essence of social media. I think his secret is dedicated engagement with his customers and fans throughout social media channels, and an edgy personality that he’s not afraid to broadcast on the web.

He’s genuine, and it shows. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his honest and direct style is impossible to copy. It’s key to his funky personal brand. Read Gary's tips on building your personal brand here.

So, dear entrepreneurs, understand who you are and what drives you. Get into your full personal power. But don’t set the goal of being liked by everybody -- this is not going to happen.

Simply be yourself, and express your passions. And then think of the best ways to get your personal brand known to others.  You’ll have fun, and meet like-minded individuals.

And you know what? Your business brand may get an incredible boost from your funky self-expression. Have fun!

Golden Globes strengthens Facebook's brand

Just a couple of days ago I blogged about Mark Zuckerberg, and showed how a serious of recent events (with the release of The Social Network movie among them) have positively contributed to his personal brand. And here you go, The Social Network movie was one of the big winners during last Sunday's Golden Globe awards.  As Mashable writes, "Mark Zuckerberg might take issue with how the film portrayed the early years of FacebookFacebook, but in truth, the film and its critical and commercial success has only reinforced Facebook’s place in the cultural zeitgeist."

Brands are not build overnight. It takes time for them to evolve. A series of recent events, such as the release of The Social Network movie, and others (read my previous blog post to get a scoop) have boosted both the personal brand of Mark Zuckerberg and that of Facebook. What would Zuckerberg need to do next in order to tap into all this good publicity and continue building his brand?

The Zuckerberg brand

zuckerbergDo entrepreneurs have to manage their personal brands separately from the brands of products they launch? This is the debate that I've seen happening recently, and answers to this question differ in each individual case. What does seem clear is that whether they want it or not, CEOs of big companies have their personal brands under scrutiny 24/7, and they should take this fact seriously.

A concrete example I want to talk about today is Mark Zuckerberg's personal brand.

Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook's business model relies on people to trust it with their data. And now, here's something important to remember: if they trust the CEO, they're much more likely to trust the platform.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, has been enjoying a lot of media attention lately, most of which has boosted his personal brand tremendously. At the end of 2010, Time Magazine named him Person of the Year.

This is a positive development for Zuckerberg, especially since some predicted a painful PR disaster for him after release of The Social Network movie.

In reality, the movie has had a completely opposite effect on Zuckerberg’s personal brand. Instead of being positioned as a thief of business ideas and a sexist jerk, Zuckerberg has come out as a talented entrepreneur and a young prodigy.

This personal brand positioning is extremely valuable for someone who runs such a sizable company as Facebook. Moreover, as Lesley Stahl has pointed out in her recent interview with Zuckerberg, half a billion people who give their information to Facebook, do feel that they have a right to know more about him.

The 60 Minutes interview on CBS did exactly this: it allowed Zuckerberg to communicate who he, Mark, not just Facebook’s founder and CEO, really is. And he did it in a way that benefitted the Facebook brand, too.

Here is a recap of what has helped Zuckerberg’s personal brand positioning as a successful young entrepreneur:

1) The Social Network movie

As mentioned above, the movie has had a positive effect both for Facebook as a company, and for Mark Zuckerberg personally. By the time the movie was released, it had a hugely responsive audience at its disposal -- the audience that was already brand aware. Speaking in branding terms, all those Facebook users who went to see the movie became brand loyal even more.

2) Friendliness to the press

If you haven’t yet watched the CBS 60 minutes videos, you should, as they can give a good lesson on how to handle journalists’ questions. Mark Zuckerberg was relaxed, joked about the movie (“they got the T-shirts and sandals right!”) and managed to avoid answering difficult questions (“How could you rate yourself as a CEO?” asks Leslie Stahl, to which Zuckerbergh responds, “You can never win by answering this question” and then proceeds to giving an example of how he decided not to sell Facebook to Yahoo for 1 billion dollars).

3) Philantrophy

Zuckerberg has joined the Giving Pledge set up by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and has agreed to give away half of his wealth to good causes.

These days, it’s not Nokia that’s connecting people, it’s Facebook. Somehow, 500 million active users can’t be wrong -- Facebook has become an important part in our daily lives. And trusting it with our personal information gets a bit easier if we trust the guy who's created the platform.

Online brand mascots

Recently, I've published several posts about brand mascots, cartoon-like characters that can infuse your brand with personality. In my first posts about brand mascots, I defined what they are. Further on, triggered by a reader's comment, I wrote an article Beastly branding, in which I concluded that most of brand mascots take shapes of people, animals, birds and insects.

Today, I want to talk about brand mascots that have evolved online.

Many online brands (and I've already written about the Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl) infuse some of that real-life personality by using brand mascots in their brand communications.

A good list of online brand mascots has been published in this article on Mashable. Here are the 8 mascots described there, apart from the already-mentioned Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl:

1) The Twitter Fail Whale

fail-whale

2) The Foursquare boy

foursquareThe name of the company is derived from a playground game with the same name, Four Square. My take on it is that Foursquare wants us all to "join in, and play the game", hence the mascot of a playing boy. The playground ball game Four Square, however, is probably mostly known in the US, where one would detect a subtle link between the ball game Four Square, and Foursquare's invitation to "play the game". I suspect this association might not be so apparent in other parts of the world, however.

In one of my previous articles, Learn to speak the language of your brand, I talked about brand naming for companies that want to expand internationally. The bottom line is that brand names (along with all the desired brand associations that they result in) should be understood in all countries where the brand in question wants to reach. Foursquare should have kept this in mind when naming its brand with potential to grow outside of the US.

3) Google "Doodles"

This one is very special. Probably everyone has 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 am not entirely sure whether Doodles are strictly speaking brand mascots, but this doesn't really matter. The point is, they add a bit of a zest to the brand, and entertain us all.

4) The Travelocity Gnome

travelocity gnomeI've mentioned the Gnome in the article on brand mascots, here he is, along with his Facebook fan page.

The remaining four brand mascots that have evolved online are the Firefox's fox, the Facebook "head" (used by Facebook in its early days), Myspace's people with headphones, and Reddit's Alien.

Desigual spreads happiness online

When a brand decides to do something with social media, it usually gets trying to find original ways of engaging audiences on Twitter and/or Facebook. A Spanish fashion label Desigual did something a bit more different, and decided to go into blogs and comments. Even the best blogs, according to Desigual, sometimes get few comments. With this sad fact :(  as a starting point, Desigual decided to help spread a bit more happiness on the web.

How?

Desigual set up a site www.desigualhappyhunters.com. You can sign up as a Happy Hunter, select a fashion item of your choice, and start leaving comments on the blogs Desigual suggests to you. If a blogger responds to your happy comments, the Desigual fashion item is yours.

It's a pretty simple idea, nicely executed. Let's wait for the results of the Happy Hunters initiative and see how it boosts the brand of Desigual!

Source: A Source of Inspiration

Co-branding: Martini and D&G

Today I want to talk about an interesting example of a product launch video that I've spotted through the Facebook feed of Jean-Gabriel from FreshUp.TV. For branding addicts, its main attraction lies in the fact that it has included several impressively powerful branding techniques in one go: co-branding (or brand partnership), celebrity endorsement and even country branding.

Brand partnership

The product in question is Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana that has been co-branded by two iconic Italian brands. Here's an ad that accompanied the product launch:

As I've already written in my article Brand partnerships,

A brand partnership is usually a short or medium-term collaboration between two or more brands in order to enhance each other’s positioning vis-a-vis the target market.

In the case of Martini and Dolce & Gabbana, the co-operation between the two brands has been long-lasting and included such initiative as opening Martini bars within Dolce & Gabbana boutiques in Milan and Shanghai, and even a line of suits by D&G called Martini. The launch of Martini Gold is yet another step that strengthens both brands co-operation even further.

Celebrity endorsement

Italian actress Monica Belucci has starred in the Martini Gold ad acting as a brand ambassador.  In addition to that, the ad has been directed by a famous film and music video director Jonas Åkerlund who himself has a celebrity status.

Country branding

One of the main aims of this video is to evoke the origins, culture and lifestyle of Italy.  Italy is also highlighted by the La Dolce Vita style of the ad, and a mix of Italian style and fashion icons. Monica Belucci embodies Italian cinema, and both Martini and D&G represent refined Italian style. The scenes of Rome highlight the Italian cultural background of the product even further.

For many brands, especially those with a lot of heritage and strong cultural roots, associations with their home countries can enhance the overall brand image and give it a special zing.  Look at how Dolce and Gabbana stress the importance of Martini Gold being a truly Italian brand:

Brand mascots

Photo by Bludgeoner86 on Flickr

You’ve ordered yourself a great logo. You’ve built an attractive web site. You’ve sorted out the look and feel of your distribution channels. And you even have a brand slogan that goes well with your funky brand name.

Provided that your business idea actually makes economic sense and that you’ve positioned yourself well against competition, chances are that you’ve built a good basis for your brand strategy that will lead to satisfied customers, and big profits.

And yet, you feel that there should be something else that will give your brand a personality.

Have you noticed that when you buy your funky Kipling bag, there’s a very cool little toy monkey that comes with it?

Or, when you buy your Michelin guide, it always has the Michelin man on its front page?

These cartoon-like characters are called brand mascots, and they are there to infuse your brand with that precious valuable personality.

Rather than part of your visual identity, brand mascots are essentially a marketing communications tool that gives your brand a more memorable and emotional character. Even if your brand mascot is actually an animal, chances are, it will give your brand a human touch.

Though brand mascots are becoming increasingly common, especially with the rise of social media (check out the Travelocity Roaming Gnome on Facebook), really good and effective ones are still rare.

kipling monkeyHere are some tips that will help you create a great brand mascot:

1) Think of your target audience -- will it be prepared to listen to your brand stories told by a cute mascot? If your company offers specialized software to accountants, don’t start pushing cartoon-like characters onto them to promote your stuff. The funky factor of your brand mascot needs to be consistent with the profile of your customers.

2) Don’t get obsessed with making your mascot look like your logo.

In fact, the role of the mascot is not to enhance your visual identity, but make your brand alive. Some companies change the appearance of their mascots, adapting it to the situation. For instance, different Kipling bags will have different monkey mascots, depending on the style of the bag.

Similarly, the Twitter bird often takes different shapes and forms, somehow still managing to look Twitter-like!

Twitter birds

3) Make your brand mascot connect to your customers emotionally. The main question you need to ask yourself is this, “What do I want my customers to feel when they interact with my brand mascot?” There should be something in your customers that resonates with the character of the mascot.

4) Consider a brand mascot only if your business makes economic sense.

This is a tough one! I’ve seen many startups invest tons of money into a lot of activity around their brand mascots -- only to realize that these cartoon characters alone neither  drove sales, nor built the brand. If you have nothing valuable to offer to your customers, they will be annoyed rather than delighted by your brand mascot.

5) Finally, make people remember your brand, not your brand mascot.

A brand mascot is only one element of your brand communications, but it doesn’t replace your whole brand strategy.  When people think of your brand, it’s okay if they first recall a funny cartoon-like brand mascot. What’s more important, however, is that they know what exactly this mascot exactly stands for! Remembering a cute furry animal, and not having a clue about what you actually sell, is not what you want from your consumers. Brand mascots enhance your brand, but they are not your brand.

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

6 resources for naming your brand

Photo by Natalie Maynor on Flickr Giving a name to your new company or product should be an important element of your overall brand strategy. Brand naming gets especially tricky when your strategy is to go into several markets at the same time.  Then you'd need to make sure that your new company name sounds equally good in China and Brazil, if you plan to go there, of course. I've addressed the complexity of such cases in my blog post Learn to Speak the Language of Your Brand.

Today, I want to share with you some of the resources that can come in handy while you are busy brainstorming a new brand name. Before you start, remember: don't book any URLs, twitter and facebook accounts before you've actually understood what your new brand will stand for. But if you feel you have sorted out the details of your brand strategy, then these resources can come in handy. Here's a collection of 6 online resources that can help you, and if you know more, please post a comment:

1) Guy Kawasaki's article The Name Game

2) An article published by OnStartups.com: 17 Mutable Suggestions for Naming a Startup

3) http://namechk.com/ This site allows you to see if your name is taken throughout social media. The list of social media outlets is pretty vast, and many that are mentioned here are not even used any more, so I wouldn't worry if your name is already taken in some of them.

4) http://www.namechecklist.com/ is a similar service, though it also allows you to see what domain names you can still register with your name.

5) http://www.bustaname.com/ This site allows you to check if your desired brand name is available. You can also play around with various name combinations: a good way to brainstorm the name and get some ideas you maybe didn't think of at the beginning.

6) http://www.dotcomroulette.com/ allows you to enter keywords, and based on them, it proposes a name for you. I've experimented and received quite obscure results, but perhaps you'll have some luck using this site.

Again, all of these should play a role when you are well into your brand strategy, and know a great deal about your product, competitors and customers. Hope this helps, and good luck naming your new brand!

Why sweet Cheerios went sour on YouTube

ClickZ has recently published a post about Cheerios and its branded content on YouTube that I'd like to comment on. To make a long story short, Cheerios (a brand of cereal produced by General Mills) has uploaded several videos on its YouTube channel, and they resulted in a number of negative comments.

The videos don't actually make any references to the brand. They feature a tennis player who's healthy and full of energy (because she eats Cheerios, but this we can only guess) and a woman who likes to be healthy, enjoys watering plans and being outside (all thanks to Cheerios, I suppose!).

The videos resulted in a number of negative comments, and, even worse, an article on ClickZ (and yes, this blog post as well). Ouch! Even though Cheerios has only 31 subscribers on its YouTube channel, this is not very cheerful news for the brand.

What are some of the implications of this for Funky Brands?

  • Don't jump into social media just because everybody does it

It's very fashionable to be all over social media, whether it has anything to do with your overall brand strategy or not. I spoke about this at several events, and you can learn more about it in my post Is your brand ready to go online?

The bottom line is, social media is a very advanced and very sensitive media outlet to grasp and master, and you simply can't take it for granted. The problem is, many brands that want to explore social media go talk to social media, new media, or digital agencies or consultants, who, of course, will ensure the brand's presence throughout the web.

I'd suggest a totally different approach. First, figure out your brand strategy basics, and only then implement them through social media. Believe me, thinking and implementing works much better than just implementing!

Cheerios, for example, would have needed to do much better home work regarding its positioning before producing branded content and putting it online. The connection between their product and the fact that it prevents heart disease seems rather weak.  Even if we assume that Cheerios has some nutritional value that benefits health, this brand entry point is rather weak and may not be immediately understood by consumers. Hence all those sarcastic comments on YouTube mocking the connection between Cheerios and health.  This suggests to me that Cheerios would benefit from some smart repositioning to remain authentic and strike a cord with its real fans.

  • When not too sure about your overall brand strategy, use social media to tweak and explore it

At first, this tip might seem somewhat contradictory to the one above. However, the similarity is that you absolutely have to have a solid brand strategy in place, before you jump into social media.  However, often you will have assumptions that would need to be tested, and this is especially true for small companies that don't have lots of cash to spare on traditional market research. Then by using the social media slowly and carefully, they can get very good insights into their consumers and market trends. These insights can be then used to improve and tweak the existing brand strategy.

  • Think twice about branded content

Let me be clear: I am not a big fan of branded content in general.  Branded content is any kind of entertainment content sponsored by brands. Unlike ads which have explicit mentions of the advertiser, branded content usually has little or no mention of the sponsor at all. As a consumer, I'm more likely to watch an ad and know who's behind it rather than be fooled and even manipulated by carefully hidden messages. The problem is, people don't like ads, period. And if they discover that they are watching an ad, whereas they first thought it was simply an entertaining video, they won't be happy.  So, don't monopolize their time and pretend you are not there.

  • Don't forget that the power of social media is NOT all about numbers

The YouTube channel of Cheerios has only 31 subscribers, and yet look at all the fuss.  I feel that the concept of "numbers" in social media is becoming more and more blurry.  On Twitter, everybody seemed to be obsessed by the number of followers (the more, the better) until Klout concluded that one's influence does not solely depend on the number of followers. On Facebook, most people will keep your brand as a friend, to keep the numbers high and appear social, whilst hiding it to keep annoying updates at bay. Don't be seduced by high numbers, and if the numbers are low, don't take this as a guarantee that your brand is safe from bad publicity.

DJ Tiësto interacts with fans during #tiëstotuesday

#tiëstotuesday DJ Tiësto, a world-famous musician and record producer of electronic dance music, spent the whole day yesterday (October 5) directly interacting with his Twitter followers. He sent out about 450 tweets answering questions to his fans. Most of the questions were about Tiësto's personal life (whether he's single, has children,) and, or course, his music. His answers were very short, getting shorter and shorter towards the end of the busy day. He rarely retweeted anyone.

Tiësto's Facebook page

Tiesto facebook pageTiësto is a big celebrity in the world of music, and has a lot of fans.  Just check his Facebook page. Today, it has 4,609,719 members!

His (and, I guess, his management team's) posts generate thousands of comments each day.

Facebook was used to announce the #tiëstotuesday on Twitter, where numbers of his followers are more modest. Even after the #tiëstotuesday stunt, he has "only" 217, 368 followers.

Twitter and Tiësto's personal brand

However, it's not all about the numbers. As some say, “Facebook is for people you know while Twitter is for people you don’t know”. Which means that Facebook users are more receptive to status updates by their real friends.  Twitter users, on the contrary, are more alert to the tweets of those they follow, whether they know them personally or not.

In this respect,Twitter can indeed provide a better platform for Tiësto (and other celebrities) as a direct fan outreach tool, and a platform for strengthening his funky personal brand. The fact that he personally, and not his management, was the real guy behind his tweets, reinforces his popularity vis-a-vis the fans.

The only downside is that such one-to-one conversations are extremely time consuming. If Tiësto is thinking about other #tiëstotuesdays in the future, I'd suggest to do this no more than once every two months or so.

We just want you to make more great music, Tiësto! :)

Tiestoo tweet

Creativity forum in Flanders -- celebrating the female power

Funky Brands are fueled by c r e a t i v i t y. After all, it takes a great deal of imagination and thinking out of the box if you want to get noticed, stand out from the crowd and create a truly Funky Brand.

Creativity is the reason why I plan to attend the Flanders Creativity Forum on October 21st in Antwerp. Organized by the Flanders District of Creativity, an organization that promotes creativity in entrepreneurship, this year, this annual event will be dedicated to women, and their ways of being creative.

Flanders Creativity ForumSome of the speakers who'll present at the Forum will be Randi Zuckerberg (who happens to be the sister of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook), Cristie Hefner, the former CEO of Playboy and daughter of Hugh Hefner, and Jane McGonigal, a game designer and Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future (I love the name!) in California.

This year, the event is called Creative Minds Leaving an Impact. It's inspired by "cleverness, intuition, originality and other female qualities".

I am looking forward to getting inspired, and doing some  funky schmoozing with talented people.  After the event, I plan to blog about "lessons learned", applied to Funky Brands.

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!

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.