brand ambassadors

Kipling customizes its brand mascot

I've written extensively about brand mascots which can play an important role in making your brand funky and remarkable. I've also interviewed Kipling in my Funky Brand Interview series. Today, I will show you how Kipling keeps us all engaged in its brand by allowing artistic and creative people (like myself :) ) customize its brand mascot -- the Kipling Monkey. In the UK, Kipling has organized a Mashed Up Monkey contest in collaboration with the Dazed and Confused magazine. If you want to create a unique Kipling Mascot, then submit it for review on the Mashed Up Monkey site, and maybe you will be the lucky winner. The winner will receive worth of £ 500 Kipling goodies, have his or her design displayed in the window of Kipling's London shop, and get featured in Dazed and Confused. I've customized a monkey, and the result is a very foxy orange monkey that you can see here. Unfortunately, I can't submit it for the competition as I am not a UK citizen, and don't qualify.

 

As I wrote in the Funky Brand interview with Kipling, innovation through collaboration with artists lies at the core of Kipling's brand strategy. Allowing artists and creative people to customize its brand mascot is yet another step which supports this strategy.

In France, Kipling has collaborated with 10 designers and stylists who have customized the Kipling Monkey.  All of the customized designs will be displayed at the Galerie de la Tour in Paris from June 1st till June 26th. The proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to Red Cross in Japan.

 

Philippe Starck gives a boost to photo booths

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

All of this in a rather dull environment.

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

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

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

A snapshot of Starck from an article in Management

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

A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous bloggers

I've written about brand celebrity endorsements in the past. In one of my articles, A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous entrepreneurs, I talked about the growing tendency among brands to form partnerships with famous people other than actors and musicians. A whole new kind of brand ambassadors is emerging. In this article, I talked about a Swiss watch brand Maurice Lacroix choosing Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales as its brand ambassador.

And here’s another interesting example. H&M, a Swedish fashion brand whose strategy revolves around frequent brand partnerships (usually, with famous designers and performers), has launched a fashion collection co-branded with a fashion blogger Elin Kling.

It seems that brands are moving away from associating themselves with famous and glamorous people towards working with those who have a lot of personality.

As we've seen in the story of Ice Watch, its founder  went a step further, hiring an unknown girl from a Dutch village as the face of the brand.  There's surely a tendency emerging in the world of marketing and branding, where companies want to connect to their customers in more genuine ways, moving away from celebrity status towards something more real, and yet convincing and glamorous.

Brand mascots in action: Travelocity Roaming Gnome

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Travelocity

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Travelocity

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

Joel Frey: He travels everywhere!

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Travelocity

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.

Why meerkats help markets

orlovTwo of my recent articles, Brand mascots and Beastly branding, focused on using fictional characters (most often animals) as brand ambassadors. To summarize, some brands have been successful using fictional human or animal characters as their brand mascots with the latter helping create powerful emotional links between brands and consumers.

One of the popular recent campaigns involving beastly brand mascots has been unraveling in the UK where www.comparethemarket.com (an  insurance comparison site) has launched a brand promotional ad campaign built around a figure of a Russian-speaking meerkat Alexandr Orlov. ((I have discovered the story about Orlov in an article about Antropomorphic marketing by Stephen Brown in Marketing Review, Fall 2010, Vol. 10, issue 3, pp. 209-224 ))

Somewhat cheesy and absurd, the supposedly Russian meerkat Orlov (by the way, his accent does NOT sound Russian) has nonetheless managed to attract a huge amount of attention across the UK.  As a result of the meerkat campaign, which included the launch of the site www.comparethemeerkat.com, as well as TV ads, sales on comparethemarket.com have skyrocketed.

As part of the meerkat-campaign, www.comparethemarket.com has also published a fictional autobiography of Orlov, The Simples Life, which has already sold more than 130 000 copies!

Maurice Lacroix watches: authenticity, achievement and square wheels

A Maurice Lacroix watch with a square wheel Have you ever thought that wheels can take different shapes than just a circle? According to Wikipedia, a wheel is “a circular device that is capable of rotating on an axle through its centre, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load (mass), or performing labour in machines.”

Well, here’s the big news: a Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix has recently revealed a new watch model, Masterpiece Regulateur Roue Carre, which contains a S Q U A R E  W H E E L to display the hours!

Being somewhat of a geek, I found this engineering and design innovation funky enough to trigger my interest in finding out more about the brand. In addition, having already written about Maurice Lacroix’s recent brand endorsement campaign featuring Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, I strongly felt that yet another Funky Brand Interview was about to materialize. And here you are, today I am happy to publish my interview with Martin Bachmann, CEO of Maurice Lacroix.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Martin, how would you characterize the brand of Maurice Lacroix in a couple of sentences?

Martin Bachmann: Maurice Lacroix stands for contemporary watchmaking, manufacture excellence and is oriented to authentic consumers with modern lifestyle. SCHMOOZY FOX: And what do you mean by “authentic”?

Martin Bachmann: Authenticity is staying true to one’s values, not being afraid of standing out from the crowd, sometimes following a bit of a different direction from everybody else’s. It’s also about achievement and success.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And is authenticity something that unites the three brand ambassadors who have recently endorsed Maurice Lacroix -- Jimmy Wales, Bob Geldof and Justin Rose?

Martin Bachmann: Yes, authenticity along with achievement and success are the qualities that unite these brand ambassadors who, as you point out, have recently participated in our brand endorsement campaign. We were happy to identify them because they pinpoint the qualities that are also inherent to the brand of Maurice Lacroix and, we are convinced, our consumers.

3 brand ambassadors of Maurice Lacroix

 

SCHMOOZY FOX: Were there any specific profiles of people you were looking for? Did they have to belong to a specific field of knowledge, or profession?

Martin Bachmann: The most important factor for us was to identify strong personalities, people with charisma and a track of achievement throughout their lives. As far as backgrounds go, we looked for achievers in science, business, sport or entertainment. An important criterion was to identify unique personalities. Even in entertainment, we considered some individuals, but the originality of character was more important to us than the mainstream celebrity status. In this sense, Bob Geldof, who has had an amazing career as a musician, and who is a speaker on various issues from politics to entertainment, sought by corporations, fit the bill very well!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Besides brand endorsements, you also talk about partnerships on your website? What are they all about?

Martin Bachmann: You must have seen a series of interviews published in cooperation with Monocle magazine. For instance, we have interviewed Leo Liu, a wine-grower from China. We’ve also collaborated with various designers outside of the company who have brought in a fresh perspective on contemporary design and created some very successful watches for Maurice Lacroix. In this sense, Maurice Lacroix is always on the lookout for fresh ideas, and co-operation with inspirational people. All of them are unique in the sense that they have chosen to follow a very original path in their lives, for example, Leo Liu.

SCHMOOZY FOX: In this respect, this willingness for co-operation, partnerships and openness for fresh ideas is an important element of all funky brands!

Martin Bachmann: Yes, indeed! We also believe that this openness is a way to keep our company innovative. It also builds our team spirit immensely!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Is Maurice Lacroix all about men’s watches? I have  seen a couple of beautiful models for women, but the majority of your watches are for men. Is this why your brand endorsement campaign focusing primarily on male brand ambassadors?

Martin Bachmann: Indeed, men’s watches are our core product, although eventually we plan to have about 25% of our turnover come from women’s watches. This explains why currently we seek mainly male brand ambassadors. But I surely don’t exclude an opportunity to have a female brand ambassador in due time!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Finally, Maurice Lacroix is all about tradition and excellence of watch-making. Besides, your company also communicates about being contemporary. How do you manage to combine the two -- tradition and the spirit of modern times?

Martin Bachmann: Our watches are about tradition in the sense that they are all hand made according to industry standards in craftsmanship, some of which have not changed in centuries. But the design is where we want to show contemporary trends! Here we are far from the traditional. For instance, instead of  producing only traditional yellow and white gold watches, we often create watch cases with more modern materials, for instance titanium or steel that is treated with a ceramic coating or apply innovative decorations and color codes on our movements, like e.g. black gold.

PT Chronographe Rectangulaire Full Black_B

SCHMOOZY FOX: Many thanks, Martin, for sharing the brand spirit of Maurice Lacroix on the SCHMOOZY FOX blog, and I wish you the best of success further on!

Martin Bachmann: Thank you!

A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous entrepreneurs

Jimmy Wales WikipediaHere is a photo of a magazine back page that I took this morning. It made me think of a new trend that is emerging in the area of celebrity endorsements: business celebrities as brand ambassadors. Even if you are not familiar with the term, you've most probably come across brand celebrity endorsements on many occasions.  These are short or long-term partnerships between a brand and a real person, usually a celebrity from the world of music, sports or movies. If you've seen ads with Hollywood stars next to cars, perfume or other products, then you've seen a celebrity endorsement in action.

In such brand partnerships, celebrities serve as the so called meta-brands: overarching, superior concepts that add  positive associations to other brands wanting to relate to them. For celebrities, it's also important to choose the right brands to work with, because at the end of the day, they have to pinpoint these people's personal brands.

My observation that I want to share with you today is this: most brands, especially luxury products, like to work with celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports.

However, it seems like there's a whole new trend emerging out there: celebrities from the non-entertainment world. They are not as widely known as entertainment stars, but they nevertheless have a lot of qualities that brands can tap into and benefit from. This trend is not yet very well explored by brands, it seems.

A concrete example that I want to share with you today is the recent brand campaign by a Swiss watch brand Maurice Lacroix. In particular, its brand partnership with Jimmy Wales, an American Internet entrepreneur and co -founder of Wikipedia.

The two other brand ambassadors that Maurice Lacroix chose -- Bob Geldoff and Justin Rose -- come from the worlds of music and sports, respectively. But Jimmy Wales is a businessman whose name is known to a lesser extent.

What's known much better is his non-profit foundation: Wikipedia.

What did Maurice Lacroix want to communicate by selecting Bob Geldoff, Justin Rose and Jimmy Wales as its brand ambassadors? I guess, the most important qualities that seems to unite them all are continuity, staying on course, and staying true to themselves. And of course, achieving results.

As brands look for authenticity and natural, not-too-commercial, ways of connecting with their consumers, we're likely to see more entrepreneurs, journalists, and other people outside of the entertainment world with strong personal brands, endorse products and services.