distribution channels

Belgium: no government, but great shirts

 

When Belgian actor Charlie Dupont went to a party together with his friend Nicolas Borenstein, he was struck by the dull parade of sweatshirts worn there.

“Why is it that even here in Belgium, all these guys wear sweatshirts with Harvard University and I love NYC slogans?” Charlie asked Nicolas. “Let’s make inexpensive T-shirts with the names of small Belgian towns written on them, and sell them in tourist shops.”

At the party, Nicolas only chuckled at the idea. But when he woke up the next morning, he recalled the discussion. He liked Charlie’s inspiration, but he had a different vision: to create a brand of superior quality premium T-shirts and sweatshirts that would communicate all things Belgian, not only names of towns. Just 3 years later, BShirt is a successful Belgian premium fashion brand, sold in almost 70 distribution outlets across Belgium and planning to grow internationally.

I met Nicolas Borenstein in his stylish and funky office in downtown Brussels to discuss BShirt and to get to know the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that drives the brand.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Was BShirt your first entrepreneurial project?

Nicolas Borenstein: No, it wasn’t my first idea. When I had this idea, I was already running a graphic design studio in Brussels. One could say that I am a 100% entrepreneur, since I’ve never worked for anyone apart for myself.

SCHMOOZY FOX: After that conversation with your friend Charlie, how long did it take you to have the concept of your brand ready, and then launch it?

Nicolas Borenstein: The concept itself came together very fast. I think that Charlie triggered something in me, with his idea of putting names of Belgian towns on T-shirts. But I definitely wanted to dig deeper, and create a product that was artistic, funky and high quality. I also thought that Belgium has a lot of quirky local concepts that are worth talking about – its own brand if you like – and yet nobody has tried to apply this to a fashion brand. There was definitely something unique in there. I am a graphic designer by training, so it was easy for me to come up with ideas for each T-shirt and turn them into visual forms. That took some time and a lot of brain-storming with myself as Charlie was busy and I ended up doing this project on my own.

I think an important decision that I made was to use old-fashioned loom weaving technology to produce BShirt garments. The reason why I wanted it was because the quality and feel of the T-shirts is much better as a result, although the downside is that production cannot be scaled up in the same way as more modern technology allows. Finding an appropriate factory that could create top-quality cotton garments took a while, and finally I signed a contract with a manufacturer in Portugal.

Then I spent the whole year working on prototypes, and in 2008, I was ready to order the first batch of 1000 BShirts and show them to shops.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Getting your distribution channels right is crucial if one wants to build a good brand. What were your criteria in selecting the desired shops?

Nicolas Borenstein: I wanted to choose the kind of shops that would sell premium trendy and quirky garments. Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of interest in the fashion industry in general, not least because my family had a fashion business. So, by the time that I had to introduce the first BShirts to stores, I had a clear idea where to go, and which stores would be in line with the brand image I wanted to create.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And what was the reaction of the stores?

Nicolas Borenstein: To my surprise, the reaction was very positive. Out of 15 stores that I visited, 10 decided to order BShirt garments! So, my first 1000 shirts were sold out in no time. But there was a little problem -- I needed to deliver another batch fast!

SCHMOOZY FOX: But you had a manufacturing facility in place, so it shouldn’t have been a problem?

Nicolas Borenstein: Indeed, except the factory turned out not to be a very agile entreprise, to say the least. It took them forever to produce the next batch, while the shops were waiting impatiently. On top of that, the buzz around BShirt was already spreading into the press and I could already boast a good number of positive reviews that appeared in fashion magazines.

SCHMOOZY FOX: That’s quite an achievement! All of that just after selling the first batch?

Nicolas Borenstein: Yes, pretty much so. Right before the launch, I asked a friend of mine to recommend me the best fashion PR agency in Belgium, and he said, “Go talk to UPR. They are the best, but they have to like you, they turn many clients down.”

But UPR liked BShirt, and I was happy that they helped me generate the buzz so quickly. (O.S.: This reminds me of another brand that I interviewed, Ice Watch, which also relied on PR early on).

SCHMOOZY FOX: Positive buzz is great, and it can certainly trigger demand for products. But you need to be able to deliver to support this demand. Did your factory score well in this respect?

Nicolas Borenstein: In fact the factory continued to be unreliable. There were further problems with timely delivery, and in the end I had to skip a whole season. This kind of thing can be deadly for a fashion brand -- especially if there’s clear demand for your items, and you just can’t meet it! It was frustrating not to be able to do anything!

SCHMOOZY FOX: How did you solve this? Did you find a better factory?

Nicolas Borenstein: Yes, now I work with another factory. While searching for a better factory, I also realized that I needed a partner who could help me by bringing investment and business know how into the company.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And you found such a person?

 

Nicolas Borenstein: Luckily, yes. I brought him some shirts, and a big stack of press clippings, and I said, do you want to work with me? He agreed.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How big is your company now?

Nicolas Borenstein: We have 10 people working at BShirt. Our products are now sold in almost 70 stores in Belgium, and there is certainly potential to sell it in many more. And it’s just the beginning. In due course, I hope that funky BShirts will also be in New York, Paris and other cosmopolitan places around the world.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How would you describe BShirt?

Nicolas Borenstein: I actually like your term, Funky Brands. BShirt is exactly that -- funky, with a lot of character. It’s certainly different -- as I’ve said, nobody has yet made a fashion brand based on Belgium. BShirt is a mood-booster, it brings a smile to the faces of those who wear it. In some press reviews, it was called a “funny brand”, but I think that this is not right. A “funky brand” is certainly much more correct.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Why do you think people like to wear BShirt?

Nicolas Borenstein: They probably feel that it’s just the right thing. Somehow, I think that everything falls into place when you put on a BShirt -- the texture, smell, color... It’s all about that feeling of old-fashioned, high quality cotton on your skin, in combination with the novel Belgian fashion concept.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What do you do in order to stay creative, and full of energy to run your company? Where do you get your inspiration?

Nicolas Borenstein: I think I owe my creativity to the fact that, deep down, I am still a bit of a kid. I also work very fast, which helps a lot. I can do a day's work in 3 hours. Yesterday, i worked for 11 hours, and I accomplished my tasks for the whole week. So, now I can concentrate on other things, and even go to my Qi Gong course (smiling). And this, in its turn, might trigger a new wave of creativity and inspiration.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Could you tell me about BShirt’s future plans?

Nicolas Borenstein: We’ll soon be opening a flagship store in Brussels. And we also plan to launch four collections per year instead of the current two. In fact, these will be two big and two smaller collections. And of course, we’ll continue creating new collections to sustain and build the funky brand of BShirt!

 

Brand mascots

Photo by Bludgeoner86 on Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter birds

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

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

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

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

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

Need rebranding? Don't just change your logo, think brand strategy

Old Apple logoI am often asked to explain what brand strategy stands for. In my experience, many people still associate branding, and brand strategy, with graphic design -- logos, web sites and other elements of visual identity. Whereas visual identity is absolutely essential in branding (and SCHMOOZY FOX works with a great team of designers to take care of it!), it's just one step in a broader activity which is brand strategy.

Brand strategy is your overall business strategy that has an objective of building a  S T R O N G  B R A N D.

This may sound rather simple, but in reality, a good brand strategy is a very complex exercise.  A good brand strategy can determine your success, and no brand strategy is often a recipe for a failure (see my previous blog post Brands do not take care of themselves).

Rebranding is a good chance to sort out your overall brand strategy. Often, companies feel like getting away from a tired image, and creating something more consistent with market needs.  This "something" is often, in their view, a change of look and feel. Often, their rebranding efforts are only about changing a logo.

But the reality is, even after improving their logos, many companies don't sort out their bad customer service, or improve product functionality. It's astonishing that many companies simply do not think that these strategic elements have anything to do with their brand!

Today, I want to share with you a story  published on Inc.com, How to rebrand your business successfully. It summarizes a rebranding project that was done by Seattle's Coffee Company (part of the Starbucks group). See how the company measured the size of their market, did competitor research, re-thought their customer base, and improved distribution channels.

All of these activities are characteristic of brand strategy and should be considered within any rebranding project.

Ice Watch -- putting it all together

Jean-Pierre Lutgen CEO of Ice WatchThe sleek business card of Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch, displays the addresses of his two offices: one located in Bastogne, a Belgian town near the border with Luxembourg, and another one in Hong Kong. From Europe to Asia, this funky brand has become true arm candy for millions of fans. Although the company was founded only 3 years ago, it’s difficult to refer to it as a startup, as the high brand recognition of Ice Watch internationally puts this company already in the league of well-established funky brands. Today, Jean-Pierre Lutgen, the creative and entrepreneurial founder and CEO of this funky brand, talks about his passion for Asia, plastic, marketing and putting pieces of the puzzle together.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s the concept behind the brand of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Ice Watch is based on two main elements: people’s desire to seize and express change, and a strong identity. To address the former, we have put together 10 different watch collections. Collections change twice per year, just like in the world of fashion. Their affordable price (staring at Euro 59 per watch) allows people to buy several watches at a time, so that they could match their different outfits, and different moods. We know that many of our customers like to collect different models of Ice Watch. Because they like change! Even our brand slogan is, “Change. You Can.”

The strong identity is seen not only in the funky and refreshing design of the watch itself, but also in its packaging, which has become an inseparable part of the product, and of the brand as a whole.

ice_watch packaging

SCHMOOZY FOX: To prepare for this interview, I’ve watched several videos about Ice Watch in which you talk about the company. But you rarely talk about yourself. What is your background, and how did you make Ice Watch happen?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I studied at the university in Louvain-La-Neuve, and then I spent 10 years running a small corporate gifts company in Bastogne. I was quite different from my university friends, who all went on to work at established companies, and followed structured career tracks. My corporate gifts company had many ups and downs throughout the years, but I overall I enjoyed this highly entrepreneurial experience.

SCHMOOZY FOX: But besides studies and work, there must be other personal interests and skills that made Ice Watch possible?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen (smiling): You know, I think that success in life does not suddenly appear out of nowhere. Same with me, I can now see that a lot of my interests, passions and experience have developed over time. They were like pieces of the puzzle, lying around scattered on the floor. And finally, I put the puzzle together! For instance, as a small boy, I liked playing with pieces of plastic. I’ve always loved Asia. And I’ve appreciated the power of smart marketing. In addition to that, during my experience at the corporate gifts company, I made precious contacts in China, who later on became my very trustworthy manufacturers of Ice Watch. So, in the end, many of my passions, interests and skills fell into one place.

colorful ice watch

SCHMOOZY FOX: Often startups think that their brand will take care of itself. How did you approach the brand strategy of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: My impression is that most startups apply brand thinking in the best case only to the product. This is not a recipe for success. For me, a strong brand concept was the starting point of the whole business. The raw idea was mine, but I bounced it off many knowledgeable people, and invested the necessary time into refining the concept over and over again. Afterwards, I made sure that each element of my business strategy supported the brand concept.

I did think through the brand strategy early on, indeed. I also knew that expansion of the brand, and the growing demand for the watches had to match our ability to scale up production very quickly. And this is when I could rely on the already established network of reliable business contacts in Asia. A combination of brand thinking and dedicated production facilities was really powerful.

SCHMOOZY FOX: It’s hard to believe the amount of press coverage internationally that Ice Watch has received since its launch. Can you attribute this success to a single event or a series of activities?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I worked with PR firms in each of the countries where we were launching Ice Watch. But instead of fully outsourcing press relations, I myself was fully involved in organizing events and press conferences for journalists. I guess, as a complete outsider, I just thought out of the box all the time and spotted unexplored ways of connecting with journalists. For instance, instead of inviting them to the Ice Watch launch events by email, I insisted that we send them empty Ice Watch packaging boxes. When they received attractive boxes, of course they were curious to see what was inside. And when they opened them, they saw a custom-made invite which replaced the actual watch. They were intrigued, liked the packaging, and wanted to discover the product as well!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who is the blond lady who features on almost all ads of Ice Watch? Is she a celebrity?

Melissa Ice Watch ad

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: She certainly has the looks of a celebrity! Her name is Melissa, and she is very far from the world of fashion and modeling. She works in her mother’s restaurant in the Netherlands. I had a very clear idea of what kind of woman could be our brand ambassador. I explained what I was looking for to a well-known fashion and art photographer from Antwerp, Marc Lagrange, and he found Melissa. The photos, as well as the rights to use them, cost me 10 000 Euros, which was a ton of money for a startup! But in reality, it’s very affordable compared to what I would have paid for a well-known celebrity!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s behind the name “Ice Watch”?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Brand naming was an important aspect of the overall strategy for us. Initially, we wanted to make transparent watches, and “Ice” was a good match. But even though we extended the concept to a variety of materials, not only transparent, Ice Watch was still our top choice. “Ice” represents purity. Nowadays, when humanity has to deal with the problems of rising temperatures and climate change, ice has become a luxury! In other words, Ice Watch is pure, democratic, transparent in the way it communicates and connects to people, and luxurious at the same time!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Where do you get so much energy to develop your funky brand?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: From working with people! I travel all the time, and I don’t sleep very much, but once I start working with passionate people around me, I find the energy back.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, why is Ice Watch a funky brand?

Olga Slavkina & Jean-Pierre LutgenJean-Pierre Lutgen: The watch industry is rather traditional and somewhat conservative even. Ice Watch has stormed this product category by a refreshing concept, and its democratic values. “Funky” also signals “affordable” to me, and Ice Watch has become a true affordable luxury, able to brighten up the mood of many people around the world.

Zumba sells branded merchandise

I first wrote about Zumba, a funky Latin workout, almost a year ago.  In that post, I talked about the challenges that any services organization can encounter in its attempt to build a funky brand. The main challenge for Zumba, I said, was to ensure that its main customer touch points (places and ways in which people experience the brand) remain consistent. Which seems like a big task given millions of Zumba-like, or Zumba-inspired, courses currently offered around the world by external fitness instructors. Since then, I've taken several Zumba classes myself -- and not only out of my desire to do non-stop funky brand research! :)  I also wanted to ditch the workout, and join the party. ((Zumba's brand slogan)). My personal observation is that many of these classes had very little Latin about them, featuring non-Latin music, and non-Latin dance moves.

In other words, my own Zumba experiences have been patchy, and differed from one place and instructor to another.

Perhaps Zumba management (to learn more about the company, see an article about Zumba's founder Alberto Perlman published by Sprouter)  decided that keeping the brand consistent throughout its customer touch points was a difficult task to carry out.  Perhaps they thought that it would be a good idea to build the brand by selling Zumba merchandise not only online, but also in real life.

IMAG0462In any case, I am not familiar with Zumba's selected strategy, but here are a couple of observations.

I came across Zumba-branded merchandise on the shelves of Di a couple of days ago.  Di is a Belgian chain of shops that sell inexpensive cosmetics and home cleaning products. Di has also been expanding its health and wellness section by adding vitamins, food supplements, and slimming shape-wear.  This section is where I spotted sizable Zumba-branded boxes, sold at retail price of Euro 69.95 per piece (pictured above). They were placed on a shelf underneath a TV screen that featured a demonstration of a Zumba workout, with the message "as seen on TEK TV " ((a Belgian TV store)) running across the screen.

Each box contained 4 Zumba workout DVDs, as well as a set of small weights.  The packaging displayed a TEK TV logo.

What are the implications of this on Zumba's brand?

First of all, the importance of selecting appropriate distribution channels is crucial for building a strong brand.  Even though the idea of selling Zumba-branded merchandise seems  attractive  ((at least on the local market, it could be a way of tapping into existing awareness about the brand name that has been created through workout courses, whether "real" or not))  per se, where it is sold, is of even major importance!

What strikes me as quite inconsistent with what could be a very funky brand, is the association of Zumba with a TV shop.  I don't personally know very many funky brands that have been built through this not-so-funky distribution channel (but if you know, please submit a comment!)

I would question whether TV shops can reach the kinds of customers Zumba needs to be reaching.   I saw lots of professional women "ditching the workout, and joining the party" after office hours. Which means that they probably don't have the time to watch TV shop sales sessions during the day.  I suspect that an additional endorsement of a product by a TV shop means little to them.

Selling Zumba merchandise at a rather unexciting Di (think of it as an equivalent of the UK Boots, but with a somewhat duller product selection) would not be my top choice either.

To conclude, Zumba would be much better off building a funky brand through better selected and more exciting distribution channels.

NOTES

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!

Zumba fitness

Zumba Image source: http://www.zumba.com

I've recently caught a glimpse of Zumba on TV, and the funky Latin workout caught my attention. And not only because I myself like to move to the steamy Latin tunes. I've heard about Zumba from some friends here and there, so I was curious to dig a bit more into the concept, and analyze the brand.

So, what's Zumba really?  Is it something you do to get fit, lose weight, or just have fun? To get a better idea what it looks like, have a look at this video I found on YouTube:

It's a bit of a mix of various Latin dance styles – there's some salsa, merengue, samba and something else I can't quite determine. It also looks like fun. But is Zumba just a kind of fitness program you can follow at your local gym, or is it also a profitable business? Importantly, does its business model support the brand and its values? Here are some branding clues SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to share with you.

What exactly is the product?

The core “product” of Zumba is its fitness workout. It is actually a “service” rather than something tangible you buy at a shop. You go to your local gym, move around, dance and sweat for an hour to funky Latin tunes. What you get as a customer is an experience, fun and positive emotions. Most probably, you'll burn some calories along the way. In terms of tangible products, there is some Zumba-branded merchandise available on the site, such as DVDs, music, umbrellas, T-shirts etc. Not too exciting, but not too bad either.

What's the business model?

Well, that's a good question. I did some googling around to find out more, but all I can do is simply assume that Zumba sells licences to designated fitness instructors around the world. Or maybe, cash flows come simply from the fees instructors pay to Zumba for the obligatory qualification courses. Whatever the current business model, SCHMOOZY FOX could come up with at least several more ways of how to create and capture more value for Zumba!

As far as instructor training, it's not clear from the site if an instructor has to follow all of the offered 8 levels or only one. For instance, in Belgium, there are several basic level workshops available for the price of 325$ per two days, and no previous Zumba experience is needed. I wonder if you actually have to be a dance or fitness teacher to start with, or can I also take that 2-day course and start teaching Zumba next week? I suggest that Zumba.com sheds some more light on this point, in order to make things more clear for potential instructors.

Who are Zumba's customers?

There are two main kinds of customers in this case: those who will take classes, and those who'll teach them. As regards course participants, I wouldn't be dwelling only on such criteria commonly used in marketing as age and gender, and where they live. SCHMOOZY FOX would also focus on the deep emotions that trigger potential customers' decision to sign up for a Zum'ba course. Is it a desire to lose some weight? Become more sexy? Meet a potential date? Have fun? Build self-confidence? These are some of the questions Zumba should keep in mind to get a better idea about its customers. For now, its targeting seems a bit more fuzzy rather than funky.

In order to reach instructors, Zumba should be doing a different kind of analysis. After all, instructors' reasons for teaching Zumba are totally different. Here, emotions play a certain role, but incentives and rewards are equally important. Zumba should build a community around the instructors, and preferably give them access to some perks: use your imagination here, there are plenty of great opportunities available!

Importantly, customer touch points (I explained what they are in my article about Abercrombie and Fitch) should be thought through in relation to both groups of customers. The funky web site alone (actually, it's only the home pages that looks good, whereas national sites are pretty weak) will not do the job of maintaining the brand, and the biggest challenge for Zumba is to ensure that the quality of courses, instructors and spaces where courses are held, is consistent.

Orchestrating so many elements around the world (Zumba courses are offered on a global level) certainly requires a lot of dedication and consistency, but if this huge effort pays off, a true funky brand is born! Consistency of services is by the way one of the biggest challenges for any service brands, and only few get it right, on very rare occasions!

How is Zumba being promoted?

The most obvious channels that drive the buzz around the Zumba brand are its  web site, and coverage in the world's leading health, beauty and fitness magazines. I would imagine that a lot of the marketing is also word-of-mouth driven.  In addition to these channels, Zumba has partnered with The Kellogg Company to participate in a joint health and fitness initiative targeted to the US Hispanic market at some point, but this was an initiative undertaken only in the US. The name of this initiative was Zumbando con Kellogg's.

Something that Zumba could consider to build a brand would be celebrity endorsement by a Latin star – a dancer, fitness instructor, actress – plenty of opportunities here. Remember how strongly aerobics is associated with Jane Fonda? That's definitely something to consider in the Zumba case.

Apart from that, just like any respectable service brand (I am being a bit sarcastic here, as there aren't that many of those around!), Zumba should keep in mind that “point of sale promotions” (the actual fitness rooms where classes take place) as well as  instructors themselves shouldlive the brand, breathe the brand, and promote it. Just look at a very large selection of amateur Zumba videos on YouTube: each of them has a totally different look and feel with the only common factor being Latin music! More consistency is required!

From would-be-funky to truly funky

Building brands for services companies is surely one of the most challenging activities to engage in, as this requires so many elements to be in harmony at all times.  But if you manage to get it right, you can reach unbelievably good results. If Zumba wants to move from being would-be-funky to a truly funky brand, there are so many things it should still work on! In addition to the suggestions above, it should also know its competitors, position itself very differently from them, and get those brand core values sorted out in a more of a … Zumba way.

To learn about further developments of the brand, please read Zumba sells branded merchandise.

Can chewing gum be stylish?

The short answer is yes. Or at least this is how the brand managers of Wrigley's “5 gum” want to position it: a stylish premium product for the stylish wrigley5cobalt_wallpaper consumer.

I am not easily convinced to make impulse purchases. Displays of chocolate and chewing gum next to check-outs in supermarkets usually leave me pretty indifferent. Which doesn't prevent me from making mental notes about any new products appearing amongst the usual KitKats and Juicy Fruit. I have to say, for a long time I haven't seen anything strikingly new in these rather predictable displays. Now I hear that this may change soon as Wrigley is about to launch in the UK a new range of PREMIUM chewing gum called 5 gum. It is already sold in the United States. I suppose, five is a reference to the number of flavours in which the product is available:

Lush -- “crisp tropical”

Elixir -- “new mouthwatering berry sensation”

Cobalt -- “cooling peppermint”

Flare -- “warming cinnamon”

Rain -- “tingling spearmint”

The numer 5 is also a reference to the five human senses.

What's so premium about this new brand? First of all, the packaging is indeed very stylish, complete with “embossed black gloss packaging and sharp eye catching bursts of colour”. And apparently, this is Wrigley's response to the increasing demand of stylish consumers for a wider range of available flavors, or “taste sensations” as Toby Baker, marketing director at Wrigley, puts it.

How “premium” will the retail price of 5 gum be in the UK? And will Wrigley sell its 5 gum at any “stylish” distribution channels? Post a comment!

Right moment, right message, right place: how to build luxury brands using social media

Is it time for luxury brands to get engaged in more pro-active marketing in social media, or does the concept go against their brand values? This blog posts addresses these issues and gives a couple of examples to illustrate them.