My last Funky Brand Interview with the founder of the Belgian brand BShirt was an example of what I would call country branding in action. Associations, concepts and even stereotypes that are consistently attributed to a country can form a country's brand. Country branding initiatives are becoming increasingly popular around the world, with governments spending sizable budgets on shaping and promoting a desirable country's image to the external world.
Sometimes, brands tap into brand associations of countries where they originate, and use them to their advantage. BShirt has based its concept on the brand of Belgium. Many Italian fashion and accessories brands use a "Made in Italy" statement as a proof of artisanal quality and sense of style. French perfume brands almost always remind us that they are, in fact, truly French creations. In product branding which uses countries' images to support its positioning, a country brand becomes a meta brand -- an overarching, superior concept that adds usually positive associations to other brands that want to relate to it.
Speaking again about Belgium and its brand, let's take a step further away from the repetitive beer and chocolate (though I must say, it's all great stuff brought to perfection). For me personally, Belgium is all about design. I am glad that this brand quality of this country was stressed during a recent design week in Milan, during which a team of Belgian designers presented their work under the slogan Belgium Is Design.
Probably everyone has at some point of his or her life had to get a passport photo taken at a photo booth. I bet, the experience was nothing spectacular, and most certainly far from funky.
You sit down, try to look the best you can, and then follow the instructions of a metallic voice that directs you not to smile, take off your glasses, and click OK if you like what you see.
All of this in a rather dull environment.
In France, the chain of photo booths Photomaton has recently decided to move away from boredom, and provide a nice ambiance to its customers. For this purpose, Photomaton has hired the famous Philippe Starck who, a strong brand himself, has a golden touch as far as giving a boost to tired brands goes.
To address the requirements of its young customers (young people are the ones who change their passports and other documents most frequently), Photomaton has integrated touch screen technology and a possibility to upload the freshly taken photos on Picasa and Facebook.
Getting an object designed by Philippe Starck can give a huge boost to any brand. In this sense, I would not just call the Photomaton-Starck co-operation a deal between a brand and a designer. It goes much farther than this. It's essentially a brand endorsement, in which the personal brand of Philippe Starck serves as a powerful meta-brand which boosts the brand image of Photomaton.
Original source (in French): Photomaton s'offre un nouveau look avec Starck, by Olivier Marbot, in Management, February 2011
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.
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.
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.
SCHMOOZY FOX: in my previous blog post about Paris Fashion WeekI 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!
Here is a photo of a magazine back page that I took this morning. It made me think of a new trend that is emerging in the area of celebrity endorsements: business celebrities as brand ambassadors.
Even if you are not familiar with the term, you've most probably come across brand celebrity endorsements on many occasions. These are short or long-term partnerships between a brand and a real person, usually a celebrity from the world of music, sports or movies. If you've seen ads with Hollywood stars next to cars, perfume or other products, then you've seen a celebrity endorsement in action.
In such brand partnerships, celebrities serve as the so called meta-brands: overarching, superior concepts that add positive associations to other brands wanting to relate to them. For celebrities, it's also important to choose the right brands to work with, because at the end of the day, they have to pinpoint these people's personal brands.
My observation that I want to share with you today is this: most brands, especially luxury products, like to work with celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports.
However, it seems like there's a whole new trend emerging out there: celebrities from the non-entertainment world. They are not as widely known as entertainment stars, but they nevertheless have a lot of qualities that brands can tap into and benefit from. This trend is not yet very well explored by brands, it seems.
The two other brand ambassadors that Maurice Lacroix chose -- Bob Geldoff and Justin Rose -- come from the worlds of music and sports, respectively. But Jimmy Wales is a businessman whose name is known to a lesser extent.
What's known much better is his non-profit foundation: Wikipedia.
What did Maurice Lacroix want to communicate by selecting Bob Geldoff, Justin Rose and Jimmy Wales as its brand ambassadors? I guess, the most important qualities that seems to unite them all are continuity, staying on course, and staying true to themselves. And of course, achieving results.
As brands look for authenticity and natural, not-too-commercial, ways of connecting with their consumers, we're likely to see more entrepreneurs, journalists, and other people outside of the entertainment world with strong personal brands, endorse products and services.
I just came back from Paris, where I attended the show of a talented Belgian designer Tim Van Steenbergen and discovered some up-and-coming funky fashion brands.
While experiencing the Paris Fashion Week first-hand, I thought of the importance of such an event which has a very distinctive brand. It is in fact what one could call a meta-brand. In other words, it' s an overarching, superior concept that adds usually positive associations to other brands that want to relate to it.
Think of the Oscars. Taking part in the Oscar ceremony, being nominated for the main prize, and of course, winning the Oscar gives huge credibility to those movie industry participants who are lucky to be part of this event. The Oscars nomination ceremony is a meta brand for all those that can and want to benefit from it.
In a similar way, Paris Fashion Week is another such meta brand that helps participating brands propel to the fame and greater brand awareness. Paris Fashion Week is the fourth in a series of other major semiannual fashion weeks. The "big four" take place in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Fashion collections are shown several seasons in advance so that fashion buyers have a chance to prepare their stock in a timely manner. For instance, right now in Paris designers are already presenting their Autumn-Winter collection for 2011.
After catwalks are over, designers and their teams quickly prepare show rooms that are visited by fashion buyers from the world's leading boutiques and luxury department stores. Some successful fashion brands manage to ensure their annual turnover just in a matter of a few days, with all of their stock being ordered by a handful of leading fashion boutiques.
In this sense, there are many immediate and tangible benefits from taking part in fashion weeks, as they are a great way to ensure sales for participating brands.
It's only the world's leading fashion houses that present their collections during Paris Fashion Week. But curiously, the spill-over effects of this meta brand can also be beneficial for some much smaller brands and fashion start-ups. It seems that many rent small show rooms and promote this fact within the framework of Paris Fashion Week, even without being able to afford higher level participation in catwalk shows. In this sense, even without a guarantee of large-scale sales, such small brands can benefit from intangible spill-over effects on their brand awareness from the Paris Fashion Week meta brand.