Mini

MINI: an exciting drive

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Mini_funky_brand_interviews_Schmoozy_Fox

A small car with distinctive design, and a rich brand history -- that’s MINI. MINI, a brand owned by the BMW Group, has been on my funky brand radar screen for a while -- I mentioned it on my blog back in 2009, in my post On cute little brands and MINI.

MINI fits my Schmoozy Fox’s description of Funky Brands very well, as it owes its market success to a combination of outstanding design and smart brand strategies. An important part of MINI’s brand vision throughout the years since its launch in the 1950s has been careful nurturing of the fun and excitement factors, which are inherent to MINI’s brand DNA. Today, I am happy to bring to you an in-depth story about MINI, told by my interviewee Philipp Thomssen, Head of Advertising and Community marketing at MINI. Take a glimpse at what MINI’s brand managers have done in order to reinforce the car’s emotional appeal to its customers around the world.

Olga: The brand of MINI celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009. How does a brand with such a long history manage to stay contemporary?

Philipp: Launched in 1959, revived and reinvented in 2001, MINI has quickly evolved from a one-model niche player into a premium car brand with a diverse portfolio. In 2001 it was important to refresh the potential of the classical MINI, to make it a modern product and to build a strong brand by focusing on its emotional appeal. In the worldwide perspective it was necessary to position MINI in a coherent way as an independent brand, whose core was about excitement. The market introduction´s basics endure till today.

The premise was to link an outstanding product with a modern design which still takes up the old iconic character of a MINI. Our product is characterized by its emotional design, outstanding product substance and progressive technology, and agile driving behavior as well as his almost unlimited options in customizing the car. A further significant point is maintaining the right balance of continuity of a brand now going back 50 years and its innovative potential. It was a challenge to position MINI as the first premium brand in the small car market. This was achieved by a consequent brand management and highly motivated team.

Olga: How could you summarize the main characteristics of the MINI brand?


Philipp: A MINI is more than a car. It is like a friend! It is pure “Excitement”.
 MINI is positioned worldwide as a unique and fully independent brand in its own – a brand revolving around the concept of enthusiasm and thrilling lifestyle. Our communication allows us to position MINI in a coherent way – worldwide. The marketing and communication strategy is characterized by the alignment as a premium brand with an international positioning and a clear orientation towards the demands of our existing customers and extended target groups.

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MINI_funky_brand_interview_schmoozy_fox

Olga: What is a profile of a typical consumer of MINI cars?

Philipp: MINI aims to take over new target groups in modern milieus. Those tend to be well-funded, very demanding based on a very individual lifestyle and their part of the population is growing.

The consumers are mostly 25 to 45 years old and work in a creative environment. They are open towards new trends and are spontaneous. Aesthetics and design looms large for them – in purchases decisions as well as in their daily life.

A MINI is not a status symbol, but an expression of personality.  It´s not about the size, it is about the substance and individuality. MINI is a car build for an urban area, no matter what country they live in.

 Olga: Does MINI have a “nationality”? Is it positioned as a German car with British heritage, or is the origin irrelevant in MINI’s brand positioning?


Philipp: Today’s MINI is not imaginable without its British origin and heritage. MINI has always been a British car and still today there are cars produced in the so called MINI Production Triangle (Plant Hams Hall, Oxford and Swindon). Of course MINI as a brand is managed in Germany. But beside these facts we understand and steer MINI as an international brand.

 Olga: What are the countries in which MINI is especially popular?

Philipp: In 2012 the U.S. of America has been the biggest market for MINI with 19.911(+6.0% compared to 2011) sold units till April. In Europe the UK (13.169 units) and Germany (12.385 units) registered the biggest sales. A plus of 25% in sales made China an exceptional market with already 6.911 sold MINIs.

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MINI_convertible_funky_brand_interviews_schmoozy_fox

Olga: What are the factors that explain phenomenal success of MINI around the world?

Philipp: On the one hand, it might be explained by the fact that the audience is very similar all over the world. Hence this international identity offered a chance to position MINI worldwide in a very coherent way.

On the other hand, the success of MINI can be explained by its emotional attraction and the nuanced product line-up. In the long term we aim to offer up to ten different versions of MINI, in doing so we want to grow at a steady and sustainable rate.

Olga: What MINI models exist now, and are there any plans to launch new models, or limited editions?

Philipp: There are six MINI models right now (Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupé, Roadster). The seventh family member, the MINI Paceman will debut in Fall 2012.

Our sub-brand John Cooper Works, which has its roots in racing, currently offers five models: The MINI John Cooper Works, the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible, the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman, the MINI John Cooper Works Coupé and the MINI John Cooper Works Roadster. Later this year, the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman and the MINI John Cooper Works GP will be introduced.

As MINI is committed to the environment and sustainability we launched the  MINI E global test-fleet back in 2008. Test-user all over the world have helped us to improve our first MINI powered only by electricity.

Olga: Could you share some of the marketing activities in 2012-2013 that you plan to carry out to sustain and grow the brand of MINI worldwide?

Philipp: There are more exciting brand activities to come. MINI will surprise with creative launch campaigns in those communication channels that we consider to be more and more important. In this context we will focus on online communications and social media, without ignoring the classic communication channels, such as advertising, commercials, sponsoring and cooperation, guerilla-marketing and others.

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MINI_family_funky_brand_interviews_schmoozy_fox

All photos in this article have been provided courtesy of MINI.© 2012 SCHMOOZY FOX. Funky Brand Interviews™  is a trademark of SCHMOOZY FOX. All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. If you would like to syndicate the full text of this article, please contact Olga Slavkina at olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com

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

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

Design thinking & funky brands

I've recently come across an article by Dominic Basulto, Can design thinking save the economic dinosaurs? The main points that Basulto talks about reminded me of what I've said in my two previous blog posts, Astonishing product design and funky brands as well as Dinosaur brands.

Basulto discusses the concept of Design Thinking in relation to "dinosaurs" -- industries such as the car industry, newspapers and magazines, healthcare providers, utilities, and the cable TV industry. Dinosaurs frequently inject a dose of funk into their brand through design.  Often, we see revamped sites, contemporary offices and funky stationery.  In fact, dinosaurs like design -- it allows them to express a certain degree of creativity without changing their business as usual too much.

 

However, most dinosaurs have an enormous need for change, and often they are unwilling to admit this to themselves. That's why they forget the "thinking" part.

 

Take the newspaper industry, for example. Instead of radically re-thinking what it means to be a content provider in the digital age, it is far easier to focus on "making things look pretty." (Quote from this blog post)

 

Dinosaurs don't just need to change their logos, they need to think in terms of an overall brand strategy. For more on this, see my post Need rebranding? Don't just change your logo, think brand strategy.

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.

Polish Żubrówka becomes Żu in the US

Here's a nice read that can appeal to all those who like to dig into intricate issues of international branding. The cult Polish alcoholic drink, Żubrówka, has finally made its way to the US market, the Wall Street Journal reports. This is big news for the Polish brand which will be able to market its product on the potentially lucrative US market.  However, the Żubrówka you might know -- the kind that comes with a thin leaf of mysterious bison grass in it -- which gives the drink that strong particular taste (the Żubrówka taste) -- will have a different version in the US. So different, that the question is -- can it still be referred to as Żubrówka?

zubrowkaŻubrówka has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration for many years due to the presence in it of a toxic chemical, coumarin. Apparently, the source of coumarin is the bison grass. Polish scientists struggled for years to get the grass-less  Żubrówka to taste like the real stuff, and they've finally made a new concoction work for them.

From a branding perspective, Żubrówka's entry in the US was complicated. The US authorities referred to Żubrówka as a generic drink, which led to many fake Żubrówka look-alikes appear on the market.  So, the challenge was to find another name as a trade mark.  This was viewed as an opportunity as the new name -- Żu -- is also potentially easier for Americans to pronounce. It also contains a bison-inspired reference to the animal world, as Żu is supposed to signal "zoo".  I am not sure if bisons are typical zoo residents, and I am not convinced that those who try the drink for the first time, would ever pick up this link between zoos, wild Polish forests and bisons. But the name choice is made, and the drink has entered the US market.

What are the implications of launching a brand that is well-known in one geography, in another, under a different name? Is the new brand name a good choice to support the launch of grass-less drink? Do the Żu marketers need to promote the Żubrówka heritage in Żu brand communications?

Swarovski: enchanting the world

GINSENG_BangleToday SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to publish an interview with yet another Funky Brand -- Swarovski.

The origins of this Austrian company go back to 1895, when its founder Daniel Swarovski invented a machine for cutting and polishing crystal jewellery stones. Today, the Swarovski group, still family-owned and run by 4th and 5th generation family members, has a global reach with some 24,800 employees, a presence in over 120 countries and a turnover in 2009 of 2.25 billion Euros.

Swarovski comprises two major businesses: one produces and sells loose elements to the industry, whilst the other one manufactures and sells design-driven finished products. And it’s surely the latter that makes the Swarovski brand known to most of us. It’s particularly interesting to feature Swarovski on this blog, due to its positioning as a contemporary luxury brand -- after all, SCHMOOZY FOX’s area of particular expertise is what we call Affordable Luxury (join our Affordable Luxury group on LinkedIn).

NOBLY_Keyring Aqua

I am happy to talk to Nathalie Colin, Swarovski’s Creative Director of consumer goods, who’ll give us some insights into the company’s brand strategy.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Nathalie, Swarovski has a very long history of technological innovations and quality. How does a company with such a heritage manage to innovate and stay contemporary?

Nathalie Colin: On the one side, we have a heritage and values that we need to protect and maintain. On the other side, it is our responsibility to balance the heritage with the need for change, in a careful and respectful way.

We pay a lot of respect to the heritage of Swarovski, and to the initial visionary approach of Daniel Swarovski who founded the company. At that time, it required a visionary strategy and out of the box thinking to found this company in the middle of Tyrol. Daniel Swarovski knew early on that innovation was key, and that networking and collaborating with artists and designers (Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli) was crucial to bring fresh ideas into the business.

From its very beginning back in 1895, Swarovski has been continuously exploring the extraordinary possibilities of crystal. And even now every step in our design process focuses on the same ambition: to push the boundaries of crystal.

Working with crystal is a given and I work with this in mind. I am particularly interested in various creative techniques with crystal: crystal mesh, pavé, stone set in stone, floating stone, exclusive faceted cut crystal stone, beading, embroideries, and Pointiage® -- a real craft couture technique where all stones are applied one by one by hand.

All these techniques open doors to endless creativity, especially when one can mix them together.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What about Swarovski’s co-operation with famous designers? I suppose this must be one of the important drivers that help create a contemporary brand image?

Nathalie Colin: It surely does! To give you an example, I am very pleased with our choice of inviting Harumi Klossowska de Rola as a guest designer the Spring-Summer 2011 season. One could say that Harumi is a Swarovski woman: modern, feminine, international, trendy, artistic, with an interesting personality.

She is also a muse, who has inspired photographers like Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Althur Elgort. Elegance and mystery have become her signature.

Swarovski Nymphe zip coin purse, SS 2011

Harumi is the daughter of internationally renowned painter Balthus and Japanese countess Setsuko. She has an intimate connection with the world of painting, and she herself also paints. Our iconic motive of the season, the butterfly, is also one of her favorite animals (she has a butterfly-shaped tatoo). She was very enthusiastic to design a butterfly-inspired theme for Swarovski. The delicacy of the jewelry theme she has designed is really stunning.  On a personal level, I do appreciate the international spirit of Harumi, her sensitivity, her taste for cultural diversity… and her great sense of humor!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What does the brand of Swarovski stand for?

Nathalie Colin: Creation, perfection and innovation are Swarovski’s key values.

Our approach to design combines femininity and emotion with the rigour of innovation, and attention to details. Some of the technics we have developed (like the

Swarovski Nature brooch SS 2011

handmade Pointiage™ technic) have helped us create a distinctive signature style, and yet allow every accessory look unique.

In terms of brand positioning, we call Swarovski a contemporary luxury brand (SCHMOOZY FOX calls this “new luxury” or “affordable luxury” -- O.S.)

This positioning reflects our offering of desirable products which are accessible and have a broad appeal.

It also allows us to to combine our expertise in jewelry and crystal established since 1895 with creativity, quality and innovation to enchant our consumers.

This concept embraces the idea that luxury is no longer about acquiring for status. Instead, it has become a life enhancing experience that is linked to emotional enrichment and enchantment. Contemporary luxury is not elitist, it belongs to everybody. Swarovski is all about experiential value: enchanting the world, inspiring new perspectives, enhancing lives.

DOLLL_MPAContemporary luxury is provided by a brand that represents credibility, emotion, accessibility and is open to your heart. And this is why people come in our stores.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Could you tell me about the job of a Creative Director for Swarovski? Do you come up with all the new product ideas?

Nathalie Colin: I was appointed by Swarovski as Creative Director in 2006.  It is a great feeling to know that the work done by our creative studio will be known by large audiences.

Due to the scale of the company, I have a wonderful work environment as well as support with a large team of in-house experts one could dream of when it comes to product innovation, quality, plating, etc.

Finally, I very much relate personally to the brand’s ambition to enchant the world. This is such a positive vision! This concept embraces the idea that luxury is no longer a material acquisition for status but instead has become a life enhancing experience that is linked to emotional enrichment and enchantment. Swarovski is all about this experiential value: enchanting the world, inspiring new perspectives, enhancing lives.

And I really feel connected with what the brand stands for: credibility, emotion, accessibility and openness to your heart. And this is why I love being Swarovski’s Creative Director and why people come in our stores!

MILADY_BagSCHMOOZY FOX: Tell me a little bit about how you work, is there some pattern that you follow to launch new collections?

Nathalie Colin: Yes, there’s definitely a pattern that I follow. For example, I always start by researching the overall mood of the coming season: what is our state of mind ? Will there be a season of ornamentation? A season of exuberance? Are we going back to the roots? Is it more about vintage revival or rather a modernistic approach?

Once key trends have been identified, mood boards are designed to show possible sources of inspiration and key design concepts.  These boards stress the key colour mood and focus on the key colour palette. Important details such as the design of unique stone cuts focus on specific techniques. Decisions of whether to mix crystal with other materials are worked through in the next design steps.

The design of exclusive crystal stones takes place early on, inasmuch as the development of special colour coatings. This requires support from the innovation & product development team. Other teams that support our design process are product development, marketing, quality, production and supply chain.

To give you an idea of my collection planning schedule, in September 2010 I already started working on the Spring - Summer 2012 collection and began to inspire related teams throughout the company. The design phase started in October/November. And the samples will be fully approved and completed by June 2011.

SCHMOOZY FOX: I like Swarovski’s characters -- Erika and Eliot. Is there a story about them?

ELIOT URBAN BEAT_Keyring

Nathalie Colin: Yes, there’s a beautiful story about them! Eliot and Erika were born from a single crystal egg, and at birth the fairies gave them the power to bring instant joy and poetry wherever they go. Originally named Elvis, our young hero returns as a budding artist and graffiti tagger under the pseudonym Eliot. Easily recognizable and exemplifying Swarovski’s unique creativity and know-how, Eliot and Erika re-appear every six months with brand new looks and accessories. Originally launched in the form of pendants, today Eliot and Erika appear on a whole range of Swarovski leather goods such as coin purses, clutches and even handbag charms. Since their debut in Spring/Summer 2008, the pair has become a great success, eagerly awaited each season by fans across the globe. Many other adventures are already planned for Eliot and Erika in the coming seasons.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What are the main highlights of Swarovski’s brand strategy? How does it plan to stay a very innovative, exciting and funky brand in the future?

ERIKA URBAN BEAT_KeyringNathalie Colin: Our key brand strategy objectives are work on the architecture concept, celebrity marketing initiatives and work on new market segments.

We plan to expand a new retail concept to the new and already existing retail network. Today, Swarovski is an international player with strong retail business of 1800  branded boutiques and other points of sale in all major fashion capitals around the world.

It is in the luxurious and world famous Ginza district in Tokyo that Swarovski showcased the utmost creative expression of the ‘Crystal Forest’ concept with the opening of its first Flagship Store at the end of March 2008. And in December 2009 we opened a new boutique on 146, avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

Speaking about the new retail concept, it has been designed by Tokujin Yoshioka as a multi-sensory experience, giving visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the seductive brilliance and infinite depths of crystal. We wanted the new retail architecture to surround the brand with a true crystal experience focused on pleasing the senses. We plan more than 150 openings this year and do have similar plans for the years to come.

Regarding celebrity marketing, since 1999, Swarovski has been deeply involved in the Cannes Film Festival, and since 2000 in the Academy Awards (the Oscars) and more recently as an official sponsor of the Toronto International Film Festival.

With a strong presence at major star-studded events such as the Grammy Awards, Golden Globes and Césars, internationally renowned celebrities such as Madonna, Sharon Stone, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Aishwarya Rai, Zhang Ziyi and Jennifer Aniston select Swarovski for their red carpet appearances, and this of course helps enhance the brand of Swarovski even further.

All images in this article are courtesy of Swarovski.

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.

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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

From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes

Miquel Fluxa from Camper Camper shoes was one of the first funky brands featured on this blog back in 2008.  When Camper opened its shop in Brussels, I thought that a Funky Brand Interview would be spot on for SCHMOOZY FOX’s blog.

And here it is! I had a chance to talk to Miquel Fluxà from Camper.  A son of Lorenzo Fluxà who founded Camper in 1975, he is responsible for business development and brand extensions at Camper. Educated at ESADE and Stern Business School in New York, where he studied business administration, Miquel thinks that one of his professional strengths is the ability to understand and work with creative people such as designers.

The Mamba shoe

“I am not sure if I can call myself creative, at least in the sense of expressing myself through visual arts. But creativity is a very important element at Camper, and I very much enjoy working with highly creative designers who develop shoe designs, as well as those who have collaborated with us on our Casa Camper hotel chain project.

Casa Camper Berlin

SCHMOOZY FOX welcomes Miquel Fluxà to the blog about funky brands! All images in this interview were provided to SCHMOOZY FOX courtesy of Camper.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Miquel, first of all, what makes Camper shoes a funky brand?

Miquel Fluxà: Camper is without any doubt a FUNKY BRAND according to SCHMOOZY FOX’s definition!

Camper together with Bernhard Willhelm AW2010s

We are constantly working on delivering new ideas to the market and we do it with passion and creativity. We think differently and we want to be seen different, although not in a loud, showy way, but with austerity and discretion.

We are serious about what we do, but do not take ourselves too seriously, so we like to add a twist of understated imagination and irony to everything we do. We have a strong core belief that we try to transmit to consumers through product, retail and communication so that they can feel the Camper experience.

Camper together with Romain Kremer AW2010s

SCHMOOZY FOX: And now, could you characterize the Camper brand by only 3 words? What would they be?

Miquel Fluxà: Authentic, thoughtful and imaginative. We are authentic because we have been shoe-makers for over 130 years and we are committed to the long term.

Camper on Madison Avenue in NYC

Quality and craftsmanship remain at the heart of what we do and what we are. We are thoughtful and caring with the people, culture and environment where we work. Camper means “peasant” in Catalan and we have always been connected to the Mediterranean rural world.

And imagination and creativity have always been in the core of the company, applied into every process from the pre-production phase until the recycling, always trying to do things in a different way.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Could one say that these are also the reasons why customers like Camper?

Camper store in London

Miquel Fluxà: Yes, we think so!

We believe that our consumers know Camper values and share them. Our products reflect what we are: our know-how and creativity have always been the common thread of our collections, and we have now taken this to an upper level: Extraordinary Crafts, Creative Quality and Quality Execution, under which we combine our passion and experience with new ideas to create shoes that are useful, innovative and full of personality.

We think that this is something that our consumers take deeply into consideration when they decide to purchase a pair of Camper shoes.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Camper was founded by your father. What made you decide to join forces with your father and continue building Camper as a family business?

Miquel Fluxà: Although Camper as a brand was founded by my father in 1975, the origins of the company go back to 1877, when my great-grandfather founded the first shoe factory in Spain and later  my grandfather continued with the factory. That makes us the fourth generation.

Although there was nothing planned and we had no obligation to continue building Camper, there is an important sentiment of responsibility of continuing the family business.

It also a great luck to work in company like Camper, which is an international company with fantastic people working all over the world, an interesting company with great projects, and based in a fantastic place like Mallorca!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Camper has a worldwide presence. What do you think are the countries where Camper is loved most?

Miquel Fluxà: Considering that the Spanish and European and some Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan consolidations took place in the 80s and 90s respectively, the presence of Camper in these mature markets is broader than in the new ones. However, the last decade has represented the introduction and development of the brand in the United States, Asia, Australia and more recently Russia.

We are confident that Camper lovers can be everywhere in the world. New technologies such as the social media have allowed us to collect information about unexplored markets and we are surprised of the quantity of fans that Camper has in countries where we do not even have a selling structure.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What are the main distribution channels Camper uses?

Miquel Fluxà: Camper is distributed through its own stores that we operate directly, and through multi-brand stores and department stores. The wholesale activity is currently the most important one.

The company was born in 1975 and during the first years the products were marketed only through multi-brand stores. However, we realized that the best way to create a whole Camper experience for our customers was by setting spaces that would allow them to interact with the shoes and the brand.

As a consequence of this reflection, in 1981 we opened our first store in Barcelona, and in 1992 we opened our first store outside Spain in Saint Germain in Paris.

SCHMOOZY FOX: As regards your online shop, what are the challenges and advantages for the consumer to buy a pair of shoes online ? What do you do in order to bring the in-store buying experience to the online world?

Miquel Fluxà: Probably the biggest challenge for us is to enhance consumers’ online purchase experience when they decide to buy shoes through our online shop and, therefore, we focus on three different factors.

First, we provide customers with as much information as possible about the shoes: detailed description, high quality pictures from different angles, quick search menu. Then, we seek excellence in our pre-sale and after sale customer service. Finally, we want the online purchase to be a total Camper experience as it would be to buy in a physical store.

Madrid Fuencarral Storesmall

For us the online store is another Camper store, only with a different format and approach to the customer, and we consecrate our efforts to ensure that the customers feel that they are at a Camper store, providing them with the same quality, service and warranties.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Finally, how does Camper plan to continue being a funky brand in the future?

Miquel Fluxà: We will keep on trying to make creative shoes, executed with quality and comfort and maintaining our commitment to sustainability. We will continue increasing our creative network with consolidated and future talents. But above all, we will remain faithful to our origins and values!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thanks for this interview, and I wish you a lot of success with Camper!

Building personal brands through photography

Michael Chia

The importance of building one's personal brand in social media cannot be underestimated. What you say about yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other channels, and how you appear there, can either enhance or diminish your personal message.

The first thing people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile, or Twitter account, is your photo. That's why you should not underestimate the role of the "right" photo which ideally has to communicate not only your appearance but also your personal value proposition.

I have recently participated in a very fun photo shoot during which Michael Chia, a Singapore-born, Brussels-based photographer, spent about two hours shooting images of me. I liked the results, some of which you can see in this blog post, and so I decided to chat with Michael about his work.

In this interview Michael talks about his profession, which is  essentially capturing people's personalities through photo portraits.

Schmoozy fox: What is, in your opinion, a successful photo portrait?

201002_Olga_117

Michael Chia: A successful photo shoot for me means projecting a personality of my client through the use of images.  In this, I aim to ooze out  and exaggerate that personality during the shoot.  I use the word 'exaggerate' because it is an important element.  That personality could be a hidden trait that others do not get to see.

Sometimes that can be difficult for people who are more camera shy, and in this case, I chat them up and make up some personalities along the way.  The final image should be built based on the interaction between my client and myself.  Similar to finding a mix of chemistry with the ingredients we have to get that right shot.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How important is it to have a professional quality photo, that shows one's personality, as part of one's profile on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example?

Michael Chia: Many people underestimate the power of photography in their profiles.  They spend infinite time and resources creating websites to market the services they offer.  When it comes to photography, they stick to a snapshot of themselves!

Remember -  a picture paints a thousand words. That photo you use is your personality, a valuable visual business card. It tells your potential clients who and what you are.  In this era of the Internet, 90% of the time your potential client's first contact with you is the website.  You want to have that single image to reach out to that potential client with the correct message.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When business people come to you to order a portrait, what do they usually want? Do they want to look serious and professional or appear more personable and authentic?

Michael Chia: Most of the corporate clients have a preference for the more serious and professional appearance.  And in certain cases, it is hard to break away from the normal convention due to the nature of their business and their clients' fixed perception of what image should be related to that business.

Coat_throwing

Nonetheless, my role as a photographer also includes me acting as a consultant and injecting ideas into the process.  At times, I am able to convince my clients to move away from conventional photography. Alternatively, I'll shoot according to the brief while still aiming to avoid the dry, boring and static shots. What I look for is dynamism in the shots.

On the other hand, many small or new business enterprises miss the perfect opportunity.  Instead of crafting out something unique through the effective use of personal portraits, they try to project themselves as a big company with the serious, static and boring shots.

Photo by Michael Chia: Funky Olga!

Let's face the facts.  Nobody likes to work!  Given a choice we'd rather be on permanent vacation.  The truth is that we all have to work.  If we have to work, the preference is to work with people who can be personable, fun and approachable (not forgetting competent). Here photography can play a deciding factor.  The smaller the team is, the more important images are in projecting your visual business card.

And when I have clients who need shots for non-business use, moving away from the static and standard shoots is a big must.  Why should they stand or sit on chair, facing me at 45 degrees angle smiling into the camera?

No. No. No.  This is the perfect time to have funky portraits.  Move. Jump.  Dance.  Scream.  Pout. Be yourself or be who you want to be and capture that moment!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Your own style of photography is very personable and funky. Could you reveal some elements of our own photo session and how you managed to pinpoint my personality that you wanted to show through photos?

Michael Chia: I make it a point to meet all potential clients before I take on an assignment, that's why I asked you to meet before the photo session.   To me, that first meeting gives me an idea of the client's expectations, exchange ideas and finding a 'style' for the shoot.

Both the client and me have to find that chemistry to work together.  As you mentioned, I pinpointed your personality.  What I actually did was this: I found your style, cooked up a chemistry, exaggerated that funky and foxy personality in you and made us both work together to achieve that. 'Work' is a bad word ;-)

Photo by Michael Chia: "Foxy & Funky"

Let's replace that with playing funky music and me chatting you up with nonsensical, hypothetical questions.  When your guard is down, you are more relaxed, open to ideas and everyone has fun.

Having fun is a key ingredient in my funky photography shoot!

Lotty Dotty: an up-and-coming funky brand discovered during Paris Fashion Week

LottyDotty founders showing their products. Photo by SchmoozyFox As mentioned in the article Events as Brands: Paris Fashion Week , I promised to shed more light on some of the brands I discovered during my recent visit to Paris. Lotty Dotty, a Paris-based start-up that manufactures funky T-shirts, is one of them. Having heard about Lotty Dotty prior to visiting Paris, I noted down the address of its showroom near the Pompidou center in Paris, and got in touch with Lotty Dotty's co-founder, a Paris-based US born fashion designer Shevanne Helmer.

Shevanne and her business partner Maya Persaud greeted me in a showroom full of colorful T-shirts featuring Lotty Dotty dolls dressed up in fashionable outfits. What's so special about this new funky-to-be brand and how does it intend to stand out from the crowd? While Lotty Dotty's founders are working on its brand new web site, here is already a preview of the concept.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What's the main concept of Lotty Dotty?

Shevanne Helmer: Lotty Dotty has developed a new T-shirt concept that allows one to change the look of one’s t-shirt by using detachable parts. The basis of our t-shirt is the screen printed doll with a sewn on Velcro bathing suit.

EachT-shirt will be sold with detachable mini outfits. This will give our customers the flexiblity to change the doll's clothes – undress and dress her. Our mini clothing collections are designed by unknown and up-coming designers.

This concept is so new and original that we have acquired a design patent.

LottyDotty mini dresses

SCHMOOZY FOX: How did you come up with this name, and what brand values does Lotty Dotty communicate?

Shevanne Helmer: Maya came up with the name Lotty Dotty. It is a name that invokes souvenirs of our childhood, and it is all about being playful!

We wanted to offer several T-shirts in one. This coincides with our will to do as much as we can to preserve our environment. Our T-shirts are made of organic cotton and bamboo and we try to use recycled materials whenever possible. Our ideals represent an increasingly growing trend for responsible consumerism.

LottyDottyTshirts

SCHMOOZY FOX: What is your business model?  Will you sell through Lotty Dotty branded boutiques or will you rely on distributors? Are you thinking of going into e-commerce?

Shevanne Helmer: As of today we begin by marketing 2 products: the first is our T-shirts for women and girls and the second is our “mini-clothing” collection. We are also thinking of introducing boys' and men's collections in due course.

We aim to sell our tee shirts in specialty and upscale department stores. We will also sell on our web site and are considering possibilities for mass-customization.

Shevanne & Maya, LottyDotty's co-founders

SCHMOOZY FOX: in my previous blog post about Paris Fashion Week I talked about the importance of meta-brands, overarching, superior concepts that add usually positive associations to other brands that want to relate to them. Paris Fashion Week is certainly such a meta-brand. Even though you did not present your new collection in a catwalk show, what benefits did you have from presenting Lotty Dotty in this showroom during the Paris Fashion Week?

Shevanne Helmer: Participating in Paris Fashion Week is very important because it gives a certain legitimacy to one’s company. It announces to the world that they have joined the “elite” corps. A certain glamour seems to rub off on your brand or line. I certainly felt compelled to launch our line at this event because it signaled, “Lotty Dotty is here!”

Aside from this, many buyers and press people from around the world are present in one place for a week. I met buyers almost everyday – they were just walking around the neighbourghood.  In this respect, we found it important to choose a strategic location for our showroom. I was able to lure some of them in and present them our tee shirts.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, what's the brand vision that you have for Lotty Dotty? Why do you think customers will like it?

Shevanne Helmer: Lotty Dotty is truly a new concept. There is nothing like it! During the 6 months Maya and myself spent trying to figure out how to “dress and undress” the doll, we searched everywhere to find examples of something like this and we did not find anything. As already mentioned, we also patented this concept.

We hope that our customers will also find Lotty Dotty fresh, new and colorful. We also see  the potential   to develop our dolls, add more dolls,  as well as discover new designers!

In this economic climate, where everyone has to downsize, spend less, the idea of having several tee shirts in one can be very appealing.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thanks, and the best of luck to Lotty Dotty!

A sleevless T-shirt by LottyDotty

Is your brand ready to go online?

Last week, I attended a business development conference in Brussels. Although not exclusively, the majority of the conferences and mini-talks were about e-marketing and online channels in general. The main focus was on tips and tricks of using online tools in order to achieve results. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE BEFORE GOING ONLINE

What results? This, of course, depends on each individual company, but you'd be amazed to know that only very few companies know what they want to achieve before establishing online presence. Often, they gotta be online just for the sake of it, because it's en vogue, or because hey, all of their competitors are already jumping on the bandwagon of all things web.

FIRST, THINK BUSINESS STRATEGY

Indeed, tapping into social media for brand-building purposes should be for sure on any brand's radar screen these days. But it's how you use it, and how you link it to your overall business strategy, that's important. If you haven't figured out your brand's DNA yet, and have a vague idea of what your customers love (or hate!) your brand for, it's not yet time to engage in high-intensity Twittering! Read my article Why sweet Cheerios went sour on YouTube to learn what can go wrong if you jump into social media too fast.

On many occasions at the afore-mentioned event, several people came to me asking how to use Twitter or Facebook, and were not able to explain why they wanted to do that. One guy gave me a fancy answer, "To show that we know how to do that".  Show to whom? He wasn't so sure.

DEFINITION OF BRAND STRATEGY

Unfortunately, a holistic strategy approach towards online brand building -- the kind that involves thinking through the basics of one's overall business strategy before starting a Facebook fan page -- is still very rare.  In this sense, a smart brand strategy, which is essentially your company's business strategy that focuses on building a strong brand on all levels of your company, from logistics to customer service to web design, can definitely be the way to go.

SOME TIPS BEFORE YOU GO ONLINE

To give you some tips on what should be kept in mind before launching your brand's presence on the web, here is a short presentation that I had prepared for last week's business development conference.   These slides are pretty general, but if applied in the right way to YOUR company, they can create amazing results.

"When it is ordinary, it is not funky": Founder of BeFunky.com talks to SCHMOOZY FOX

Portrait of Tekin Tatar with the "inkify" effect applied Since SCHMOOZY FOX helps companies with business development and brand building projects aimed at helping them create funky brands, no wonder the site called befunky.com attracted my attention when I was surfing the web.

Befunky.com is a web application that allows create great effects for your photos – in a funky way. Today, SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to publish the first interview of the new year with the founder of befunky.com from Istanbul Tekin Tatar and learn about his plans for this project.

SCHMOOZYFOX: Tekin, in a couple of sentences, what's befunky.com all about?

Tekin Tatar: BeFunky is an easy-to-use web application that allows anyone to create amazingly rich, professional-quality artwork from digital photos with a single click.

SCHMOOZYFOX: There are other photo editing sites out there, how does befunky.com differ from them?

Tekin Tatar: First of all, we look at photo editing from a different perspective. Our perspective is “One-Click Creative Photo Edting.” At BeFunky.com, anyone can create great-looking artwork from photos simply by uploading images, clicking on the desired photo effect and letting BeFunky take care of the rest. On the other side, traditional photo editing sites or software take a lot of time to achieve the same result and you need photo editing experience/talent to complete all those steps.

Second, some photo effects like cartoonizer, impressionist, oil painting use very sophisticated state-of-the-art image processing and computer vision engine techniques developed entirely by BeFunky. It is nearly impossible to reproduce these effects on other photo editing sites. We are certainly ahead  of them in terms of quality.

SCHMOOZYFOX: Do you earn money based on subscriptions? The free option of your site is nice, but it's accompanied by banner ads. Do you have to pay to get rid of them?

A befunky.com screenshot

Tekin Tatar: It’s been only 3 months since we started to charge for premium features. We call this service BeFunky Plus. BeFunky Plus service makes it easy for individuals and businesses to benefit from high-end, professional looking photo creativity with minimal impact on their bottom line. The service includes features like higher resolution editing, commercial rights usage, outputs without watermarks, and yes, an ad-free experience.

Yes, we are making money. We are not cash flow positive yet but we know we can be.

SCHMOOZYFOX: And what's your personal funky story? What prompted you to create this business?

Tekin Tatar: I previously spent 3 years at McCann Relationship Marketing as a business development  director at Istanbul office.

We first started with the idea of drawing people’s cartoons manually and selling them through a website. Think about a street corner artist opening a web based shop. The artist was Mehmet Ozkanoglu - although he was not actually working in the street :) ! He is one of our co-founders and Creative Director of BeFunky.

An image from the befunky.com site edited using the "old photo" effect

We received positive feedback to this idea and then decided to build this business in a totally automated version. The challenge was, “How can we give the power of the talented person to an ordinary person?” We met with Tolga Birdal, who is our other co-founder and Chief Engineer of BeFunky. Tolga’s engineering talent, Mehmet’s creative vision and my business mind came together to form BeFunky.

BeFunky has achieved tremendous growth very quickly. To date, nearly 100 million digital artwork pieces have been created using the instant online service at BeFunky.com. We attract more than 1 million unique visitors a month.

SCHMOOZYFOX: As someone with passion for funky brands, I want to know what makes your brand funky, apart from its name?

Tekin Tatar: There are a lot of facts but the most important part is this: people love BeFunky, because they feel creative with their photos and have fun with their experience. This in a way goes against conventional wisdom telling us that an individual can’t be creative unless he/she has the talent and experience!

BeFunky shows that this is not true. We are changing the way people perceive photo editing.  We are empowering people to be funky and feel funky – that’s what it means! SCHMOOZYFOX: Finally, what would be your advice to all entrepreneurs thinking of building funky brands?

Tekin Tatar: Find good people who will be your soul-mates through the journey. Every founder and employee should be passionate about the product. If there is no passion it becomes ordinary. When it is ordinary it is not funky.

Don’t underestimate details. People love details. Every funky brand is obsessively designed to be perfect in detail.

Marketing is not all about spending money on PR or creating campaigns. Marketing starts from the very beginning. Spend time on your logo, colors, mantra etc. Make sure that it sounds fun and/or makes people happy.

SCHMOOZY FOX: thanks for sharing your passions with SCHMOOZY FOX, and I wish you a lot of success with your funky venture in 2010!

Photo of yours truly with befunky.com effects applied

Brands are getting naked

Having already spoken about a company called Naked Wines, as well as  Naked Chef, I am now going to speak about naked... vodka. Getting "naked" for brands is a demonstration of authenticity, openness and being perceived for what you are rather than what you look.

The "naked" tendency is becoming the sign of the zeitgeist.

Have a look at this "naked" bottle of vodka. It has no logo, and no name. Do you recognize it?

Image source: http://lovelypackage.com

Even if you are not very much into drinking vodka, you must have guessed: it's Absolut.

The brand that has dressed up its famous Swedish bottle, designed back in 1979, into so many "outfits", is recognizable even "nude".  This is a smart move, Absolut's response to the spirit of times, but something that only a VERY well-known brand could do. If your would-be-funky brand cannot boast any significant brand awareness yet, you gotta dress it up nicely first.

“For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea, that no matter what’s on the outside, it’s the inside that really matters. The bottle visually manifests our belief in diversity and our standpoint when it comes to sexual identities. Of course it is also a wonderful piece of delicate and minimalist design, a true collectors item” says Kristina Hagbard, Global PR Manager at The Absolut Company (See original source).

In the past, Absolut has already made some associations with nakedness. Here is an image  from my marketing assignment paper prepared together with my MBA team at IE Business school:

AbsolutHunk

And here is a little analysis snapshot from the same paper we wrote:

AbsolutIEpaper

You can see that one of the main product attributes is the "medical level purity". The naked bottle does a good job communicating this important feature of the Absolut brand.

Marlies Dekkers talks about her lingerie revolution

Second in the SCHMOOZY FOX funky brand interview series, this article reveals the personality of the Dutch fashion designer and entrepreneur Marlies Dekkers, creator of the successful lingerie brand marlies|dekkers. In this interview, Marlies Dekkers shares her enthusiasm, drive and passion for the fashion empire she has created from scratch and turned it into a successful business and lingerie brand of choice among many celebrities. It's an inspirational story for all women entrepreneurs who dare to be.

On cute little brands and Mini

Red Mini CooperIn my previous post I discussed the "smallness" in brands and listed some of the possible reasons for our liking of small objects. A comment posted in response to that article gave a reference to an interesting article in NY Times, The Cute Factor, that the readers of this blog might want to check out to get a scoop of more possible reasons of why we like small cute things. Sean, thanks for posting a nice link! :)

By the way, did you know that Mini Cooper which I mentioned in the previous post as an example of "little" brands, is turning 50 this year? Launched by in 1959 by British Motor Corp., it was taken over by BMW in 1994. Actually, the correct name of the car is simply Mini, not Mini Cooper any more.

The car is now sold in 62 countries, at an average price of 20, 000 USD. Interestingly, Mini's sales in the US are about 25% of its total global sales -- which is a curious fact given the all-pervasive opinion that people in the US like big cars.

The cute and small factor works well, it seems!

Got something to say about cute little brands? Post a comment!

3 reasons why some good brands come in small packages

Image source: http://goldenagegardens.blogspot.com/ I read an interesting article Small is Beautiful for Brands in yesterday's issue of Branding Strategy Insider. It highlights the recent trend of selling things like shampoo, drinks, and other items in small packages. Smaller than what we're used to. And somehow it seems that items in smaller packages are very much liked by consumers. Is this trend particular of the spirit of our times? And if yes, what are the reasons?

Here are some:

1. Maybe, we want more variety. Looking at 10 different SMALL perfume bottles on you drawer might be more satisfying than one or two big ones.

2. We also travel more. Rather than pouring your favorite shampoo into a small container, it's much easier to pack your already small sized bottle directly into the suitcase.

3. Often, we think that small size means lower prices. It is actually rarely the case, as costs of producing small packages are high.  But perhaps small is simply perceived as cheaper and more affordable.

According to Branding Strategy Insider, ‘The best value per ml is still in the 100ml, but the absolute price point in the 30ml size is much lower. We are selling more of the 30ml,' said William Lauder, Estée Lauder's outgoing chief executive, at last week's Luxury Summit in New York. ‘The consumer doesn't have as much money, so she'd rather spend a little bit now."

Here are examples of some brands in favor of small packages:

  • Mini Cooper. The entire DNA of this brand is build around, well, being small;

Watch the Mini Cooper Big Dog commercial:

See more about Mini in my following article.

Got more reasons why small is successful? Post a comment!

Let's speak Busuu or Foreign Language Learning 2.0

Busuu.com is an online language-learning community set up by two guys from IE Business School. It is also a potentially funky brand, that's why it is featured on Schmoozy Fox!

Chocolate and Online Branding – Sweet Dreams or Bitter Reality?

I couldn’t resist an impulse purchase of two tiny boxes of Pierre Marcolini chocolates on Place du Grand Sablon in Brussels this morning; even though I had to pay 16 Euros for the pleasure! I wandered around the stylish shop, carefully examining nicely wrapped chocolate goodies displayed on its two floors and wondering about the relevance of brand building in the chocolate business.

If buying chocolate has mostly an impromptu character, isn’t it just enough to care about having attractive shop windows that are enough of a catch to lure customers in, or do chocolate producers need to care about building longer-term relations with their customers? While the latter option seems obvious to me, Belgium is full of small shops with a very local reputation that sell superior quality chocolate, but who have probably never considered setting aside a chunk of their budget to try to build a brand – or wouldn't know where to start.

Some “chocolatiers”, like Pierre Marcolini, and some others, have embarked on the path of trying to make their names known across Belgium and abroad. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, at least on the local Belgian scene, Marcolini has succeeded in making its name known to chocolate-loving connoisseurs. The major achievement of Marcolini in this respect has, in my view, been an attempt to give its shops an ultramodern look that immediately set them aside from smaller old-fashioned competitors. But if Pierre Marcolini cares about its further growth and international recognition – after all, it has opened stores in the US, Kuwait, Japan, UK, Luxembourg and France –it might consider giving a bit more thought to improving its online presence and making it part of its wider brand-building strategy. In order to do so, it would first of all need to take a fresh look at its web site.

Let’s look at the Belgian site of the chocolate producer -- www.marcolini.be (why not include the name “Pierre” in the domain name?) -- from the usability point of view;

The main page brings us to a flyer for the recently published book “Eclats” that is said (in tiny text that I could read only by moving my face very close to the computer screen) to be available in a range of shops. There are no details about the contents of the book (I suppose it has to do with chocolate) and reasons why anyone would want to buy it.

The main page then gives you some further options for surfing: three language options (French, Dutch and English), as well as “Site Map”. A click on the English version leads to the story about Pierre Marcolini himself, and “Company” provides a snapshot of the main achievements of the brand in chronological order. The tab “Collections” is empty for the moment, and “Events” hasn’t been updated for a while. The page “Contact” briefly mentions a possibility of buying corporate gifts, but the link where further information about them is supposed to be displayed, is “In the construction.”

As I am very used to the fact that on web pages in Belgium content information often differs depending on the language, I attempt to reach the Pierre Marcolini page in both French and Dutch. But it’s not an easy task! I can’t access the language options by clicking on “Home”, so I need to shorten the now expanded domain name address to www.marcolini.be again, in order to reach the main page with the info about “Eclats”. Voila! The French version of the page contains a new tab unavailable in English, “Solutions enterprise” or “Company gifts”. It contains a small collage of chocolate boxes with text below them mentioning that these, indeed, are company gifts. However, no further information is provided on how to order these gifts! Same thing on the page in Dutch – no further info on the subject.

Given its international presence, I was hoping to come across a corporate site of Pierre Marcolini, but what I´ve found was a number or local, country-specific sites. For instance, the US site www.marcolinichocolatier.com gives some facts about the business, but looks quite incomplete. The tab ¨online shop¨ redirects you yet to another site, www.pierremarcolini-na.com. The latter, in its turn, does not seem to be fully functional as some of the goods described just don´t want to go into the shopping cart!

Apart from the imperfections of the mentioned sites, someone at the company must have nevertheless thought about the consistency of visual identity – the shop design, packaging and some elements of the web sites follow more or less the same color and style pattern.

What strikes me in particular, is the discrepancy between Marcolini´s grandiose shop in a stylish location, and its quite undeveloped web sites, mediocre both from the conceptual and technical points of view. Even if strengthening its brand through a variety of online initiatives might not be Marcolini´s strategic priority at the moment, the company should at least boost the look and feel of its web sites, as well as think of using the brand name consistently throughout the country-specific sites. This seems especially important since the chocolate maker is pursuing the path of e-commerce. Imagine how important it would be to help foreign visitors to Brussels relive their pleasant chocolate shopping experience online! Then, thousands miles away from the gorgeous flagship store, they would continue being fans of the brand. And aren´t most brands dreaming of such a ¨lovemarks¨ effect?1

1. Described by Kevin Roberts in “The Lovemarks Effect”, PowerHouseBooks, NY, 2006