logos

Design thinking & funky brands

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.

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!

Twitter stockings and YouTube socks

This week the stream of my friends' posts on Facebook has included several photos of hosiery -- socks and stockings -- displaying logos and messages related to popular social networking sites, YouTube and Twitter. This made me remember another similar trend that I noticed several months ago during my trip to Rome: posters advertising presence of small Italian shops on Facebook.  Both hosiery and posters are examples of  "traditional" marketing used to promote brands on the web (shops on Facebook) or online brands (YouTube and Twitter) in real life.

Here are the YouTube socks:

Source: googlestore.com

My favorites are the Follow Me Stockings made popular by a Tweet of Alyssa Milano, an American actress who is also an avid Twitter user. Yesterday's article on Mashable added to their popularity, and they are already out of stock on Etsy.

What a pity, because these funky, schmoozy and foxy stockings would be awesome for SCHMOOZY FOX!

Follow Me Stockings

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Recession and luxury brands: the end of fun?

This post is a reaction to an article by Martin Lindstrom about luxury brands in a recession. It addresses the main question: does it make any sense for luxury goods and services to ensure ongoing sales by lowering retail prices?