e-commerce

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

Learn to speak the language of your brand

Photo by eperales on Flickr When you start a new business, one of the first things on your very long to-do list will be choosing a good brand name for your product or service. Deciding on a brand name often ends up being a very painful process. It's almost as hard as choosing the right name for your newborn, but in some cases, even more complicated than that!

This is especially true if you plan to build your brand internationally.

But first, what is, anyway, a good brand name?

The basic rule of thumb is that your consumers, not just yourself, have to find it pleasant (or, shocking, surprising, attention catching) to the ear and as a result, m-e-m-o-r-a-b-l-e. But  what if your present or future consumers are in France, Australia and Japan? Which ears will the name have to appeal to?  And how to make sure that a brand launched on the French and Japanese markets doesn't have any hidden “surprises” in either of them?

A good rule of thumb is to invest some time and rigor into the choice of your international brand name right from the start. Often, simply being aware of potential differences between how your brand name might be perceived in different countries is a good start. If you keep this in mind, you are likely to avoid a situation of finding out that your brand name has undesirable associations in a language different from your own.

For instance, a German brand of home accessories called Koziol sounds quite remarkable in Russian! Although a direct meaning of “koziol” is “goat”, in familiar Russian this word is often used to refer to someone who is a bit of a … loser. I already mentioned this example in my previous article on brand names, Baboushka Branding or a bit of Russianness in Marketing.

Here are some considerations that might help you navigate through complicated issues of international brand building:

  • First, choose a temporary brand name that sounds good to you. It's easier to think through your business strategy when you have at least some sort of name in place! Don't order any logos or buy URLs associated with this name before you have more clarity about your overall business strategy. I often deal with situations when a company that makes great products with a lot of potential, comes to me for brand strategy advice after already having selected a dubious name, and done all the graphic work around it.
  • Prepare a business plan:  A business plan is an excellent framework that allows you to think through many aspects of your business, including overall business strategy, marketing, financial forecasts, risk scenarios, as well as your company values. Once you have the values clear, they might trigger further ideas for a good name!
  • Think internationally: It's good to have an idea about the international scope of your business from the start. This is especially important to remember for a company that originates in a relatively small market. For European companies which often trade across borders, the question of choosing a brand name that is easily understood across the whole of Europe is essential. The same goes to any e-commerce business that plans to sell goods across many geographies.
  • Build a multilingual team: Once you've established the geographical scope of your main markets, get some help from people who can speak the corresponding languages. You can use the Questions and Answers in LinkedIn, or even experiment with language teaching sites such as busuu.com or myngle.com in order to identify such people and ask their opinions. The aim is simply to get some flavor of how your brand name will sound in the language of your customers across the world!
  • Develop cultural awareness: A somewhat more challenging  task that should nevertheless be on your radar screen is thinking through the cultural associations that your brand name might have in your target markets. Even if you try to introduce your US brand in the UK or Australia, check whether the existing name will be perceived the way you initially intended, even if the language spoken across these countries is the same. Hire good people who have highly developed cultural sensitivity skills -- this investment will be extremely important in your international business development.

This list is not exhaustive, and selecting a good name for your international brand that would sound equally successful in different geographies is a very complex issue. If you want to navigate through this complexity gracefully, don't hesitate to contact SCHMOOZY FOX for advice, and make sure you implement that new year's resolution to learn a new language soon enough!

Boticca.com: selling unique jewellery online

Boticca.com is a new online marketplace that sells hand-crafted unique jewellery and accessories made by independent designers. Shortly after Boticca's launch, SCHMOOZY FOX has talked to the company's CEO about Boticca's brand values.

Small businesses in Rome do their marketing on Facebook

I've just come back from a trip to Rome. During the four days of my visit, I managed to see an overwhelming number of amazing historical sites, museums, and charming piazzas. Apart from that, I couldn't help doing my usual "screening" of brands and their marketing behaviour.A jewellery boutique in Rome

My most surprising discovery was this: lots of small Roman shops and restaurants advertise their presence on Facebook. I have come across a number of artisanal jewellery shops, "trattorias" and "gelaterias" proudly displaying Facebook logo in the most visible parts of their establishments, usually right next to the entrance. In most cases, it was a small poster containing a Facebook logo, name of the shop, and an invitation (only in Italian) to join a respective group on Facebook.

It is of course an interesting trend -- after all, even tiny businesses begin to realize the power of cost-effective marketing through social media. What many of them probably don't realize yet, is that they have to get down to business basics before employing any funky social media channels to promote their businesses.

Most of the Roman shops with Facebook posters that I saw were located in tourist zones. Unless a small business is into e-commerce and can ship goods overseas (which is hardly a case for a local ice-cream shop!), why would a Japanese or Ukrainian tourist find it interesting to join its Facebook group? If there are any incentives for tourists to do so, besides perhaps a mere fact of demonstrating nostalgia for all things Roman to their Facebook friends, maybe it would make more sense to explain these incentives in English?

restaurant

If you have come across similar trends in other cities, post a comment on Schmoozy Fox!

A one-man wine show: Gary Vaynerchuk and Wine Library TV

Gary Vay-ner-chuk: a true personal brand and a successful business, developed through accessibility of social media. This article is about Gary's views on branding.

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!

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