cool brands

Tribal marketing for Generation Y

A couple of months ago, I attended a book launch event dedicated to the recent publication of How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van den Bergh from Insites Consulting and Mattias Behrer from MTV Europe. ((How Cool Brands Stay Hot, Kogan Page, 2011))  The book gives an insight into Generation Y, or Millennials: teenagers and young adults born between 1980 and 1996 .  Web savvy, wary of marketing “tricks” and highly authentic, they are “on a mission to become special and unique.” ((ibid., p. 3)) Besides, these youngsters are just beginning to shape their relationships with brands, and provided that you get your brand on their radar screen, and make it appealing and “cool”, chances are, they will like it for quite some time to come. This is why it is so important for any company that wants to market to Generation Y, to know what it takes to become a truly cool brand.

The authors have structured the results of their detailed 5-year long research, that I finished reading a couple of days ago, around the so called CRUSH model.  It is an acronym of Coolness, Realness, Uniqueness, Self-identification with the brand and Happiness, which are the main requirements for any brand that aspires to be considered “cool” by youngsters. Whereas the book is packed with useful marketing advice (did you know, for instance, that teens actually do trust their parents more than one could ever imagine, and that they don’t like to buy "ethical" and "green" products because they are fed up with marketers telling them what’s ethical and green?) from beginning to end, I’d like to share with you the main findings about the part on teen self-identity (The S in the Crush model). It resonated with me particularly in view of my recent talk on Personal Branding.

 

How big is the role brands (especially clothes, accessories and gadgets) play in constructing self-identity and personal brands? To answer this question, it's important to point out that identity is always connected to the body, “Identity is always about the body, the bodily states and desires of being, becoming, belonging and behaving.” ((ibid., p. 148)) That’s why fashion, and tatoos play such an important role in self-expression. What your customer wears or carries often becomes part of his or her personal brand.  And because personal brands are shaped and influenced by the external social environment (which forms the so called social identity), it’s extremely important for marketers to understand the dynamics of self-identity formation.

 

Perhaps one of the most profound lessons for anyone who wants to understand consumer dynamics of Generation Y, is to step away from traditional psychographic segmentation which is a "method to simplify reality by assigning individuals to groups of homogenous persons who share the same characteristics. In reality, the members of segments are not connected to each other and take no collective action." ((ibid., p. 157))

 

Instead, it’s important to explore the teens’ search for a lifestyle that enables them to become part of a “tribe”, express their self-identity and construct their personal brands.

 

The concept of tribal market segmentation becomes easy to grasp if we take into account the following main elements of identity formation:

 

-The personal identity: the identity a person believes he/she has

-The social self: the identity he/she has in the eyes of others and that can be discovered only through social interactions. Given that there may be several social groups each person interacts with, that person can, in fact, has several social identities.

-The aspired self: the ideal identity a person would like to have

-Non-identity: the non-wanted self  ((ibid., p. 150))

 

Tribal marketing explores relationships that teens have within networks of heterogeneous people linked by a shared passion or emotion. For a very detailed, and very useful example of tribal mapping within Gen Y, have a look at the image below.

 

The table summarizes results of joint work between Insites Consulting and MTV Networks. The horizontal dimension of the image represents “me”-centered tribes on the right, and “we”-centered tribes on the left. The vertical dimension groups extroverts above and introverts below.

 

As a result, each of the quadrants in the model groups youngsters whose identities have a lot in common. For instance, the upper left quadrant groups people who like to react to the world around them through their own creativity. Indie kids, rockers and new ravers are part of this group, for instance.

 

What kinds of insights does the tribal marketing approach give to brand builders?

 

First of all, it’s important to understand that it’s rarely possible to appeal to the entire Gen Y with a single brand. If may be, however, possible to have several brands at your disposal within the same company.  Nike Inc. has understood it well by using two different brands — Nike and Converse — to appeal to different tribes within Generation Y. The Nike brand, which focuses on athletes, appeals to the upper-right quadrant (status-seeking youngsters). This tribe will find Nike’s notions of excellence, importance of fashion highly appealing. Converse’s fans — mostly in the upper left quadrant — will appreciate the simplicity, creativity and art: values that fuel the Converse brand.

 

Another interesting example described in the book illustrates how to create appeal across H&M's Generation Y customers. ((ibid., see p. 168))

 

Second, do not structure your brand communications around the tribes that are most located on the outskirts of the tribal model. This means that whereas the “mainstream” tribes (located close to the center of the model) are relatively “safe” to portray in your communications, the outskirt tribes, such as gothics, may be a stretch, because they are often perceived as non-identities to many tribes, especially diagonally opposite. So, if you consider running an ad in which a pair of gothic youths drive your new funky car brand, think twice and consider a pair of fashionistas instead.

 

Third, explore a close fit between online and real life identity formation. Notice what different tribes like to do online, and you should not be surprised to find out that fashionistas like to watch glam YouTube videos, whereas introverts are big time into games.

 

5 lists of best 2010 brands

Image source: www.businessweek.com As the year draws to an end, more and more lists of "best" or "top" brands start appearing in the press.

Who combines these lists? Usually, it's the press itself, or various marketing, branding and advertising agencies. Although there's certainly some bias regarding which brand is the "best", I nevertheless find these lists rather informative. Combined with reasons explaining why the brand in question can be considered "best", these lists and rankings can be viewed as useful lessons learned for up-and-coming Funky Brands that are looking for inspiration.

However, most of these lists include only very big, dull and not-so-funky brands (McDonald's, Cisco and especially Marlboro are far from extraordinary, in my opinion), so it's hard to get inspired if you want to build a truly Funky Brand. Only the Cool Brands 2010 list contains a couple of more or less original brands.

Here's my 2010 List of Brand Lists, a compilation of best brand 2010 rankings created by various publications and agencies:

1) Interbrand's list of Best Global Brands 2010

2) BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands 2010

3) Cool Brands 2010 (a list of the coolest UK brands)

4) Asia's top 1000 brands 2010

5) BNET's top ten brand winners 2010

Business Week also combines annual lists of 100 best global brands, but the 2010 compilation has not been published yet.

Abercrombie & Fitch store in London: analyzing brand touch points

abercrombielondon Last week, I went to London to take an executive education course in customer focused marketing at London Business School. After we've had a series of very inspirational sessions, the program director Professor Nader Tavassoli sent our group on a shopping journey around London in order to analyze the so called brand touch points of different shops.

As Tavassoli explained, brand touch points are essentially the ways in which we discover, experience and eventually buy products or services of a certain brand. Brand touch points are usually experienced during the following three phases:

Rational: this is the consideration phase during which we decide that we need, new clothes, for example. Emotional: this is the phase during which we pre-select those clothes shops we will be going to based on deep emotional associations that we have about our brands of choice.

Experiential: this is how we consume products and services. And this phase was the one we were analyzing during our London shopping trip.

One of our destinations was the European flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch, a popular US fashion label.

Even before arriving to the Abercrombie store in London, my work group spotted what at first seemed like a large  group of teenagers moving in the direction of the shop. They looked like they were on an organized school trip, or at least so they appeared, all dressed in Abercrombie sweatshirts. It later occurred to me that it was exactly this Abercrombie relaxed sporty look that made them look similar, but in fact these were all separate groups of teenagers.

Finally, we reached the store and were greeted by a young man sporting his muscular shirtless body. He was gladly accepting customers' requests for a photo. Anyone could pose next to him and have a Polaroid photo taken, which was carefully put in an Abercrombie envelope to dry. I've got one of those, too. Certainly a very tangible brand touch point.

The whole shop looks like a night club. It's dark inside, the music is loud, young and gorgeous shop assistants are dancing. As a matter of fact, clothes displayed on dimly lit shelves appear secondary to the whole experience of simply being in the shop. Youth, beauty, party atmosphere, great music were certainly more important reasons for being in the shop. But in any case, the lines to fitting rooms were quite long, on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

I guess now I know what's so special about the brand which seems to be a must in my young daughter's local school in Brussels. A couple of abercrombieschoolweeks before doing the marketing course at LBS, I'd gone to a kids' party at her school, and noticed the name Abercrombie proudly displayed on paper figures made by the school children. No other brand names were spotted. Luckily, my daughter is only 3, and is not yet asking me to get the school "uniform" -- Abercrombie clothes.

Abercrombie is the brand that gets the power of brand touch points. I certainly had fun doing my homework at its London flagship store!

The brands we love and what we call them

heartsLast night I decided to glance through one of the books on my branding bookshelf where I keep my favorite sources of marketing, brand strategy and social media. It's a usual “exercise” I do once in a while to refresh my knowledge of some important branding concepts, and a way of getting inspiration for this blog, for example. Nerdy kind of stuff.

The first book I pulled out from the shelf was The Lovemarks Effect by Kevin Roberts. I've already referred to the concept of lovemarks in some of the previous posts. This time, the book made me wonder how we, the marketers and brand strategy geeks, refer to those superb brands which have managed to capture the precious attention of their respective consumers. I did some search of relevant branding terminology which in one way or another refers to such great brands, and here is what I found:

  • So, lovemarks. This term was coined and made known by the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts. The book on my shelf describes the ways in which consumers build emotional attachments to some brands, and why that happens. Definitely something to learn for anyone who is interested in building superb brands.

  • Another reference I found is CoolBrands. CoolBrands UK is an annual survey of the brands most appreciated by the UK consumer. It is an initiative of a branding agency Superbrands. A panel of independent brand judges – marketers, creatives, chiefs of advertising and communications agencies – assess a pool of preselected 1,500 leading brands on the UK market. They then come up with a shortlist of what they call CoolBrands: stylish, innovative, original, authentic, desirable and unique names which have captures minds and hearts of consumers.

  • The Schmoozy Fox blog is dedicated to funky brands – high quality products or services that are innovative, original, zesty and have the potential to delight their customers (in case of start-ups) or have already become widely accepted and appreciated by the market (in case of more established brands).

Are there any other ways of referring to the brands we love? Post a comment!

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

agentprovocateur

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funky fashion

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

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

Funky Technology

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

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

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

Funky vehicles

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

Funky personal brands

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

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

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

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

Celebrating European Entrepreneurship: Funky Brands at Plugg 2009

plugg-logoYesterday, I had a lucky chance to attend the Plugg 2009 conference in Brussels. For those who are not familiar with this annual event, it’s a conference that brings together European Web 2.0 start-ups and gives them a chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. It’s also an annual celebration of entrepreneurship in Europe. The event was organized by Robin Wauters, a well-known Belgian blogger and serial entrepreneur active on the Web 2.0 scene. The atmosphere of the venue was quite futuristic and incredibly geeky, with most of the attendees photographing the event with their iPhones, their MACs on their laps, with TweetDecks visible on the screens. It was simply cool to be there. Many in the audience attempted to engage in Q&A sessions with presenters via Twitter – that’s how geeky this stuff is! However, Mike Butcher, the UK TechCrunch editor, made sure the interaction within the audience was free-flowing, uninterrupted by Twitter-mediation.

I was there mainly to spot potentially funky online brands amongst the 20 presenting start-ups. Although fascinated by the technology behind some of the presented business ideas, I wanted to see which of the entrepreneurs would be capable of transforming their high-tech ideas into concepts understood by final consumers.

mendeley

And guess what? Although the majority of the 20 semi-finalists dwelled on technological superiority of their business models, the 3 finalists (Jinni, Myngle and Mendeley) were those whose business models:

1) Concentrated on the final customer and clearly explained their value proposition; 2) Didn’t make technology the driving force of their businesses, but simply an element required for strategy implementation; 3) Were either already profitable, or at least had a more or less clear idea about HOW to make money.

jinniFor the rest, it was surprising to see how much irrelevant stuff presenters put into their pitches – techie language, “we’re the best” messages with no supporting arguments. And almost NOBODY ever addressed this: how is my business going to bring value to my customers, and why would anybody care to pay for it? This basic stuff seems amazingly straightforward, but it didn’t come up in many presentations.

And now, the final word about the finalists. Myngle is an online language learning community (I could draw a lot of similarities between Myngle and busuu.com, which I covered in one of the previous posts), Jinni is a recommendation site dedicated to movies and other entertainment, and Mendeley (the winner of Plugg 09), launched by a bunch of PhDs is the platform which can be used for search and exchange of academic papers within the global academic community of researchers and scientists.myngle

Many thanks to Robin Wauters and Veronique Pochet for organizing this inspirational event. What I find most refreshing about the event is this: even in this chilly economic climate, there is still a bunch of enthusiastic individuals in Europe, who care about creating value and changing the world. And this is great news.

Funky shoes for funky people: Camper


Girls love shoes. In my case, this is an understatement of the century. I sometimes even dream about shoes. And, as any other girl, I have to have lots and lots of them to make sure they match every possible outfit I can think of. But I am not the kind of woman who's crazy about sky-high heels. Well, I've got several pairs like that of course, for special occasions, but I am more into shoes which make me feel connection to the Earth, enable me to actually walk, and contribute to my sexy and trendy look.

In fact, it's not that easy to find such shoes. Think about it – finding a pair that is funky, has heels (sometimes) and enables you to walk at a normal human pace rather than move at a speed of a snail seems a bit of a challenge. But last weekend a Spanish friend of mine walked through my front door wearing a pair of blue-heeled funky shoes. When I looked at them, I recognized the brand immediately: Camper, a cool and edgy shoe producer from Mallorca.

How could I have forgotten about Camper? It is one of the few brands that can tick all the boxes of my shoe requirements. Three years ago, a very fashion-conscious friend of mine who lives in Berlin took me on a shopping tour spree in the city. Our first destination was a Camper store, and it almost turned out to be our last destination as well, since we just couldn't leave it for a long time. And it wasn't just for the cool shoes. The store itself was a great place in which the Mediterranean spirit of Camper's Mallorcan origins mixed well with the unique creative spirit of Berin. I left empty-handed though, just because my size of the shoes I liked was sold out.

Later on, during my MBA studies in Madrid, Camper was occasionally mentioned in my marketing and strategy classes although we have unfortunately never discussed the company in detail. It was mostly Zara that was brought to our attention again and again, as an illustration of a successful Spanish brand, but somehow, Camper was left out.

And that's a pity. Because Camper, launched in 1975 in Mallorca, has managed to create a very distinctive brand identity based on fun, creativity and spontaneity. It would have made a great MBA case on how to create and manage a successful brand. Camper is modern, trendy and just....lovable. No wonder it has so many fans on Facebook, and rightly so!

First, there is superb quality. My friend, the owner of the blue heels, says she's had her Campers for 7 years with not too much change to the original shape and color. Second, there's funky design. Third, Camper shoes have managed to communicate well its dreamy and exotic Mallorcan origin. It is, let's agree, quite refreshing, especially for the inhabitants of grey and cold parts of Europe. Finally, Campers are worn by fashionable, funky and REAL people. These people are busy individuals, like you and me, but yet they are able to slow down, take it easy and enjoy the moment. After all, the company's great motto, “Walk, don't run” rightly pinpoints the necessity of slowing down in our often frenetic and busy lives.

Freedom, being down-to-Earth, creativity, surprise and spontaneity are the main brand values of Camper shoes. Pleasantly surprising its customers is one of Camper's values that draws numerous fans into its stores (and online) back and again. Often, this is demonstrated through spontaneous partnerships with artists and designers -- check out, for example, Camper's Together initiative at http://www.camper.com/together/en/ which focuses on collaboration among various designers in order to create unique shoes.

Camper is a funky company that has embraced the importance of brand positioning. Recently, it has invested into e-commerce which has allowed it to take better control of the brand evolution in the online world. Lucky are those people who are confident enough to buy shoes online without trying them first. As to myself, although I love shopping online, I usually stay away from buying shoes. I guess I'll just wait for Camper to open up a shop in Brussels some time soon!

The Funky Business Club

Yes, I finally have a blog! I´ve been reflecting upon the necessity to have one, and I am glad I have finally made this step. I have no choice, really: having a blog is simply a requirement for the course entitled Television, movil y lo que viene. I am taking this class (among many others) at Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid where I am finishing up an International MBA program.

I´ve called this blog The Funky Business Club. The reason is simple: I am founder and president of The Funky Business Club at Instituto de Empresa, dedicated to talent and creativity in marketing-focused organizations. I have created this club in order to combine my two big professional interests:

-Marketing
-Helping people develop their talents.

Under the auspices of the club, I have organized a range of funky events, one of them being a speech by a prominent brand strategist from London, Wally Olins, who came to speak at school last summer. You can read a news brief about Wally´s visit here.