Google

How Google keeps its Doodle funky

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

 

 

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"

 

The dangers of Groupon for your brand - and its own

Last November, Google was trying to buy Groupon for $5.3 billion, in what would have been its largest acquisition yet. To everybody’s surprise, Groupon said No.

The deal-of-the-day site, which offers one deal per day in each of the markets it serves, was launched in 2008. By the time of Google’s attempts to buy it, it was operational in 150 markets in North America, and 100 markets in Europe. Its popularity and quick growth was mainly due to supposedly big rewards for the site users, who could get access to various services (such as massage, yoga courses, meals) and products at heavily discounted prices.  It was said to be the result of “buyer power” but obviously had more to do with sales promotions for the brands in question.

I also tried out Groupon on two occasions.

Once, I bought a coupon for a massage at what was presented as a Brussels-based beauty salon. The price I paid was 19 Euros, “instead of the usual price of 70 Euros” charged by the said salon.

When I arrived, I found out that the beauty salon was anything but beautiful itself... Just by looking at the shabby interior, I thought that I would have never been tempted to step in, let alone pay 70 Euros for an hour of massage, which is considered a price above the market in Belgium. But given the context, I was curious.

During the massage, the masseuse spent a lot of time telling me how much work she had to do after her service had been promoted on Groupon.

“And I earn nothing for working non-stop,” she kept exclaiming (the chat itself distracted somewhat from the experience).

An immigrant from Congo, she has 4 children to feed, and is prepared for a lot of work, “as long as there is work.”

The massage was okay. That is, okay for the price of 19 Euros. Unfortunately it also fixed in my mind that the reference price was 70 Euros - so I’ve never been back and the investment that the beauty salon made in sales promotions through Groupon must have delivered minimal, if any, results.

My second (and perhaps last) experience with Groupon took place this very morning, when I tried (and failed) to use a coupon that I had bought during the Christmas rush last December.

Priced only at 8 Euros, it would give me a possibility of printing an attractive looking photo album for the value of 26 Euros with a service called www.albumdigital.com.

In fact, I did want to make an album of my family’s photos and have it ready as a Christmas present.

But when I tried to use my 8-Euro Groupon coupon last December, I had to abandon this idea right away, mainly because it turned out that www.albumdigital.com only made its service available to Windows users. Being a Mac and Linux user myself, I found this slightly annoying, especially since my coupon said nothing about that.

I do have Windows on one of my computers, but oh boy, do I do everything possible to avoid using it.

So I did. Until this morning. Just because I noted down in my agenda that my lovely coupon was expiring today.

In fact, it was not even clear whether it would expire today, or on March 3rd. Look at these different dates that are totally confusing (the coupon is in French):

groupon coupon_expiry_dates

The first date (underlined in red) says that the coupon is valid until 03.03.2011. Whereas the second mention of validity refers to February 28th. In any case, I thought, it should work, because today IS February 28th.

Well, it didn’t.

After a rather excruciating experience of downloading the required software using my Windows computer and waiting, waiting, waiting while different windows kept popping up.

Finally, the software seemed ready to receive the photos of my kids. Although the software promised to organize them by date, this did not happen. I also had to click and click away to see which of my selected albums corresponded to which price, as this info was not organized properly.

albumdigital_prices

And yes, this painful process took a long time. Which means, that the value of the voucher was negative, at least for me, as I LOST a whole lot of time.

albumdigital_long_upload

And finally, after having uploaded everything, filling out a tedious form with my personal information for www.albumdigital.com, AND submitting my promotional code, I saw THIS:

groupon_code_not_valid1

I’ve written emails to both Albumdigital and Groupon, but the point is: even if I am ever reimbursed the rather minuscule price of 8 Euros that I paid to Groupon, it’s highly unlikely anyone will reimburse the value of the time I spent fighting with this technology.

Although Groupon has skimmed a market opportunity with commercial aplomb, its longer-term future is, as far as I am concerned, anything but certain:

  • Those small-scale services and product providers who promote themselves through Groupon generally have very little understanding about brand-building themselves. They don’t understand why offering their often high-value services at low prices through Groupon positions them as “cheap” vis-a-vis their potential customers. Would I go back to the beauty salon and pay them 70 Euros for what cost me 19 Euros and was portrayed as a “fair price” (rather than a sales promotion gimmick)? Nope. And I can hardly imagine anyone doing it. At best I might move on to the next Groupon deep discounter. There might, of course, be some exceptions, such as discovering an amazing restaurant where a meal cost you next to nothing, and wanting to experience it again. But for services of average quality, repeat purchases with that provider are unlikely.
  • Associating itself with low-quality service providers, such as www.albumdigital.com, does nothing good to Groupon’s brand either. In my mind, I lost a lot of precious time on www.albumdigital.com which I discovered with Groupon’s help, and in my consumer mind, the brand of www.albumdigital.com is .... well, Groupon’s brand. Whether Groupon wants it or not.
  • What’s happening here in brand strategy terms is that Groupon constantly co-brands itself with each and every service provider that features in its daily deals. So, the aggregate consumer satisfaction with, and brand loyalty towards Groupon will be a sum of all experiences its customers have while they receive their massages and buy photo albums. Every real-world discounter which plans to stay in business over the long term, however, still offers some sort of quality guarantee - think Aldi in Germany and Colruyt in Belgium.

One of the reasons why Groupon has achieved such rapid market penetration is because the small businesses which promote themselves through it have very little knowledge of business development and brand strategy - especially online. Motivated by large-scale and quick exposure to potential customers, they sell their service often at a loss - remember that Groupon makes money by keeping half of the price advertised in daily deals. So, my masseuse actually sold her services at 8.5 Euros per hour!

They also position their fragile and often unknown brands in the consumer’s mind as worth much less than the price they usually charge - and possibly little more than a ripoff. Meanwhile Groupon is generating cash by cannibalizing its own brand - hardly a recipe for long-term value creation.

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.

Funky brands need funky spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter stockings and YouTube socks

This week the stream of my friends' posts on Facebook has included several photos of hosiery -- socks and stockings -- displaying logos and messages related to popular social networking sites, YouTube and Twitter. This made me remember another similar trend that I noticed several months ago during my trip to Rome: posters advertising presence of small Italian shops on Facebook.  Both hosiery and posters are examples of  "traditional" marketing used to promote brands on the web (shops on Facebook) or online brands (YouTube and Twitter) in real life.

Here are the YouTube socks:

Source: googlestore.com

My favorites are the Follow Me Stockings made popular by a Tweet of Alyssa Milano, an American actress who is also an avid Twitter user. Yesterday's article on Mashable added to their popularity, and they are already out of stock on Etsy.

What a pity, because these funky, schmoozy and foxy stockings would be awesome for SCHMOOZY FOX!

Follow Me Stockings

All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. SCHMOOZY FOX  is a trademark of Creative Generation Lifestyle Services Ltd, a company incorporated in the UK. © 2009 CGLS Ltd. All rights reserved.

Artists and brands

As a follow-up to the article "Is Branding Important for Artists?", this is an interview with Florida-based young artist Thaneeya McArdle. In this funky brand interview, Thaneeya talks about her passion for art, developing human connections with the help of the Internet, living life to the fullest and about her funky artist brand.

Flirting with your customers: funky, cool and seductive brands on Twitter

agentprovocateur

Do your flirt with your customers on Twitter? If not, maybe it's time to give it a thought. Twitter is growing like crazy, and brands are beginning to embrace its simple yet powerful capacity to enable dialog with us, real people (aka consumers). Well, at least the online geeky addict kind!  Some of these brands join just because it's a trendy thing to do, and once there, don't really know what to do with it. Others get a bit more creative, attract many followers and use the Twitter medium for their own benefit.

For already quite some time I have intended to take a closer look at Twitter to determine the presence of funky brands there. Funky in the sense of zesty, innovative, and modern. AND, importantly, VERY customer-oriented.

Let’s face it, such great brands, often referred to as lovemarks, are quite hard to find on the web and in real life. My hope was that Twitter, which is known for creating close connections between brands and consumers would attract some of the funkiest brands like a magnet. Or, maybe just being on Twitter makes a brand more funky by definition?

As a point of departure, I considered the UK list of coolest brands and checked if any of them were on Twitter. Also, I added some of my own hand-picked brands.

Some cool brands that I checked, didn't appear to have official profiles on Twitter, but instead, boasted numerous fan accounts, or at least, accounts which contained references to the  brand in question. This reminded me of an article I once saw. It was warning brands about the so called “brand-jacking” on Twitter, but I don't think this is such a bad thing, actually. On the contrary, if your brand already seems to be present on Twitter in the form of your fans' accounts, it can definitely suggest only this: you are a true funky brand.

Here is a selection of some funky brands on Twitter that I have hand-picked for the Schmoozy Fox readers, in no particular order. Follow them and see how their funk-appeal evolves in the Twitter-sphere.

Funky fashion

Agent Provocateur (@msprovocateur), : a famous lingerie brand. Apparently, the brand created a Twitter profile in December 2008 to prepare for Valentine's day, but I see that their enthusiasm for Twitter didn't last long – the last post went out on February 26th. Was it just a short-lived campaign? Come on, @msprovocateur, you should give it another try!

Nike: some strange stuff goes on here. There are several Nike-like accounts, and one of them is called @notofficialnike, supposedly written by the “official” Nike's social media guy. Kind of confusing!

Funky Technology

iPhone: this one has been definitely “brand-jacked” on Twitter as there are many iPhone-related profiles there. Conclusion: great for iPhone, this only suggests its strength.

Apple: same story here, lots and lots of “Apples” on Twitter!

Bang & Olufsen (@Bang_Olufsen) This ueber-cool Danish company which manufactures high end audio products, TVs and phones opened its Twitter account on March 23rd. Only 10 followers by now, but I am sure the numbers will grow pretty quickly.

Funky vehicles

Vespa, an Italian line of scooters produced by Piaggio. It must be a true lovemark, I don't think it has an official Twitter account, but look at the amount of Vespa fan profiles!

Funky personal brands

For me, number one funky person on Twitter is Gary Vay-ner-chuck from Wine Library TV: @garyvee (I already wrote about him on my blog). His Tweets are sometimes very personal, sometimes informative, and often fun. Obviously, lots of stuff about wine. I have no idea how the guy manages to run all these sites, businesses, give numerous speeches, launch TV channels and send messages on Twitter. @garyvee, do you have time to eat and sleep?

Also, Google's founders Sergey Brin (@SergeyBrin) and Larry Page (@LarryPage) are on Twitter. Many people follow them, but they follow only each other. Not too many tweets from them though.

Truly yours is on Twitter as well, feel free to connect with @FunkyBizBabe!

Do you know more funky brands on Twitter? Post a comment!