music

Product placement on TV

I've already blogged about product placement in movies and novels, as well as songs. According to the International Journal of Advertising  ((International Journal of Advertising, 2008, 27 (4), pp. 495-509)), “Although brand appearances in popular culture may be motivated by creative considerations, such as the desire to lend verisimilitude to a drama or a novel, when such references result from commercial considerations (i.e. brand owners are charged for brand’s appearance) the practice is considered brand placement.”

As far as TV goes, brand placement has been a more rare occasion there. After all, TV has always had an opportunity of interrupting any program by a series of ads.  However, ad spend has decreased over the years, with advertisers increasingly aware of the fact that TV viewers simply "switch off" during ad breaks, which essentially means money wasted on ad production and placement.

Product placement in TV shows and soaps is a more gentle, and yet at the same time more invasive form of brand promotions. It's gentle because it doesn't interrupt anything -- you can go on watching your soap. And yet, it's more invasive because it's much more difficult for a viewer to change channels simply because someone is flashing a can of Coke on the screen. So, you just go on watching, and getting your brain stuffed with program content, along with brand names that go along with it.  In the UK, for example, TV channels have had to make a big effort to avoid featuring branded goods up till now.

"In dramas a canned drink is always held in such a way that the logo is obscured by the actor's hand; products appearing in shot during "reality" shows often have their labels obscured in post-production by patches of blur, " says Tim Hayward on Guardian's Word of Mouth blog.

At the end of February this year, Hayward writes, it will be possible  to place branded goods on UK's TV and radio channels. Will this help TV to generate enough cash to improve the quality of programs? And if yes, will it be done in a way that will not annoy TV consumers too much?

A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous bloggers

I've written about brand celebrity endorsements in the past. In one of my articles, A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous entrepreneurs, I talked about the growing tendency among brands to form partnerships with famous people other than actors and musicians. A whole new kind of brand ambassadors is emerging. In this article, I talked about a Swiss watch brand Maurice Lacroix choosing Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales as its brand ambassador.

And here’s another interesting example. H&M, a Swedish fashion brand whose strategy revolves around frequent brand partnerships (usually, with famous designers and performers), has launched a fashion collection co-branded with a fashion blogger Elin Kling.

It seems that brands are moving away from associating themselves with famous and glamorous people towards working with those who have a lot of personality.

As we've seen in the story of Ice Watch, its founder  went a step further, hiring an unknown girl from a Dutch village as the face of the brand.  There's surely a tendency emerging in the world of marketing and branding, where companies want to connect to their customers in more genuine ways, moving away from celebrity status towards something more real, and yet convincing and glamorous.

Brands in songs

I've written about product placement in movies and novels, and today I am going to touch upon another interesting medium -- songs. Two marketing professors from US universities, Federico de Gregorio and Yongjun Sung, analyzed almost 4 000 songs that appeared in top 10 music charts from 1955 to 2002. (( Giving a shout out to Seagram's Gin: extent of and attitudes towards brands in popular songs. F. de Gregorio and Y. Sung, Journal of Brand Management (2009) 17, 218–235 ))

Photo by Cameron Cassan on Flickr

Their empirical study has concluded the following:

  • there has been a significant growth in brand mentions in songs over decades
  • a particularly big spike in brand mentions began around 1995
  • alcohol, automotive and fashion brands are most common in songs
  • consumers perceive brand mentions in songs less favorably than in movies, yet they are not overall very negative
  • the most appropriate genres of music for brand placement are hip-hop and rap.

Brand mentions are not a totally  new phenomenon. Listen to this song, Budweiser's a friend of mine, that came out back in 1905:

Most of brand mentions in songs happen organically, with nobody paying for their appearance. However, there are some agencies that specialize in brand placement in songs, targeting almost exclusively hip hop and rap artists.

It's clear that brands are becoming part of popular culture, and their increasing appearance in songs is a good proof of this interesting phenomenon.

What songs with brand mentions do you know?

Mad Mimi: funky email marketing

mad mimi Anyone who has ever launched a new business, must have at some point experimented with email marketing.

Has any entrepreneur ever looked for an extremely funky kind of email marketing when looking for such a service? I can only speak for myself, and say that I wasn’t. Frankly, I didn’t expect anything as functional as sending out an email to be enjoyable and fun. Until I discovered Mad Mimi.

First of all, it was the name. I thought that a company that dared to call itself by such a name, would be something special.

Then there was the funky design of their web site that triggered my interest even more.

To cut a long story short, sending my first email with Mad Mimi was simply fun. Email exchange with its support team that welcomed me to MadMimi was refreshingly different. I simply could not resist contacting Mad Mimi’s CEO Gary Levitt and getting to know the man behind this funky brand. I greatly enjoyed my talk with Gary, who shared some useful tips on the importance of staying optimistic, and hiring only the best and most talented. Have fun reading my interview with Gary, and learning about Mad Mimi.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Gary, most of my Funky Brand interviewees have represented product brands – such as fashion, accessories, food and drink. I am very happy to interview you about Mad Mimi because I want to show to my readers that Funky Brands can also exist in a business-to-business context. Could you tell me when and how you had the idea of launching Mad Mimi?

Gary Levitt, CEO of Mad Mimi

Gary Levitt: I studied music at Berkeley College in Boston, and after graduation, played jazz in New York, worked as a bus boy in restaurants and eventually worked in commercial music production. One day I had an idea of building an online platform for musicians that would allow them to upload images and send out press kits. Although I received funding to develop this product, and hired coders, I never ended up launching it.

I guess the main reason for that was that I lacked deep understanding of how to build a product, and expected the coders I hired to do the creative thinking and architecture for me. The coders were into ... coding, as opposed to designing the product and making it work on the market. Plus, I myself lacked the experience to know how to manage the development of a product.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How did you make the switch from the press kit product for musicians towards Mad Mimi, which is an email marketing service for a much wider audience?

Gary Levitt: Mad Mimi simply seemed like a logical step in a direction that I thought had more potential for commercial success than a niche product for musicians. The interface we had created for musicians was good enough for everybody to use -- and so Mad Mimi was born.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Mad Mimi is quite an original name, did you come up with it?

Gary Levitt: Yes. I originally planned to call the company simply Mimi, but then had the idea of adding “Mad” to it when I was renting space next to another company called Madstone productions.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Good design -- be it product design or brand visual identity -- is an important element of Funky Brands. To me, Mad Mimi looks pretty eye-catching! Even the colors of your site look quite different from what one would, I suppose, associate with email marketing!

Gary Levitt: I wanted Mad Mimi to stand out from the crowd not least by giving it amad mimi email marketing fun, eye-catching visual identity that would make it memorable. I was once leafing through an issue of Creativity Magazine where I saw a list of award-winning designers. It seemed like a great idea to work with the best and most talented, so I contacted one (David Bamundo) who designed Mad Mimi’s logo.

This is pretty much how I’ve thought at every crucial step of building the company. For instance, when I looked for software developers, I sent out my brief to about 80 meticulously selected top programmers. I was lucky to end up working with really talented people who helped me build Mad Mimi the way it is now -- and are in fact continuing product development.

The same philosophy of hiring the best and most talented applies to selecting customer service reps for Mad Mimi. We receive 1, 500 emails of customer inquiries per day, and have a dedicated force of 16 customer service reps around the world.

I have generally focused not on resumes (I’ve never actually used a resume to influence a decision to hire someone) but on energy instead. We typically don’t take a cost cutting or outsourced approach to staffing our front lines with low paid employees. We’ve instead focused on creating top-down culture where every lead developer and C-level executive does customer service along side dedicated customer service staff. The customer service infrastructure isn’t “designed” as such, but has rather flowed naturally from the ownership out to other members of the team. We feel that our profitability and growth is in a large part due to this approach, and it’s a crucial part of our brand.

SCHMOOZY FOX: I experienced Mad Mimi’s customer service first hand.  Actually, I must say, I assumed that the first email I received from Mad Mimi was an automated response.  And yet, something told me there was a real person interacting with me at the other end.  It felt different and nice.

Gary Levitt: (Laughing). Indeed, we don’t do automated customer service! There are real people who are there 24/7 to help you. We say that we like to hire friendly geeks for this kind of job, but really, anyone cool, friendly and passionate is great to be in customer service.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, Gary, how would you describe the essence of Mad Mimi’s funky brand?

Gary Levitt: It’s simplicity, warmth and loveliness. Yummy loveliness! :)

Mashable gives a positive review to Mad Mimi

Co-branding: Martini and D&G

Today I want to talk about an interesting example of a product launch video that I've spotted through the Facebook feed of Jean-Gabriel from FreshUp.TV. For branding addicts, its main attraction lies in the fact that it has included several impressively powerful branding techniques in one go: co-branding (or brand partnership), celebrity endorsement and even country branding.

Brand partnership

The product in question is Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana that has been co-branded by two iconic Italian brands. Here's an ad that accompanied the product launch:

As I've already written in my article Brand partnerships,

A brand partnership is usually a short or medium-term collaboration between two or more brands in order to enhance each other’s positioning vis-a-vis the target market.

In the case of Martini and Dolce & Gabbana, the co-operation between the two brands has been long-lasting and included such initiative as opening Martini bars within Dolce & Gabbana boutiques in Milan and Shanghai, and even a line of suits by D&G called Martini. The launch of Martini Gold is yet another step that strengthens both brands co-operation even further.

Celebrity endorsement

Italian actress Monica Belucci has starred in the Martini Gold ad acting as a brand ambassador.  In addition to that, the ad has been directed by a famous film and music video director Jonas Åkerlund who himself has a celebrity status.

Country branding

One of the main aims of this video is to evoke the origins, culture and lifestyle of Italy.  Italy is also highlighted by the La Dolce Vita style of the ad, and a mix of Italian style and fashion icons. Monica Belucci embodies Italian cinema, and both Martini and D&G represent refined Italian style. The scenes of Rome highlight the Italian cultural background of the product even further.

For many brands, especially those with a lot of heritage and strong cultural roots, associations with their home countries can enhance the overall brand image and give it a special zing.  Look at how Dolce and Gabbana stress the importance of Martini Gold being a truly Italian brand:

DJ Tiësto interacts with fans during #tiëstotuesday

#tiëstotuesday DJ Tiësto, a world-famous musician and record producer of electronic dance music, spent the whole day yesterday (October 5) directly interacting with his Twitter followers. He sent out about 450 tweets answering questions to his fans. Most of the questions were about Tiësto's personal life (whether he's single, has children,) and, or course, his music. His answers were very short, getting shorter and shorter towards the end of the busy day. He rarely retweeted anyone.

Tiësto's Facebook page

Tiesto facebook pageTiësto is a big celebrity in the world of music, and has a lot of fans.  Just check his Facebook page. Today, it has 4,609,719 members!

His (and, I guess, his management team's) posts generate thousands of comments each day.

Facebook was used to announce the #tiëstotuesday on Twitter, where numbers of his followers are more modest. Even after the #tiëstotuesday stunt, he has "only" 217, 368 followers.

Twitter and Tiësto's personal brand

However, it's not all about the numbers. As some say, “Facebook is for people you know while Twitter is for people you don’t know”. Which means that Facebook users are more receptive to status updates by their real friends.  Twitter users, on the contrary, are more alert to the tweets of those they follow, whether they know them personally or not.

In this respect,Twitter can indeed provide a better platform for Tiësto (and other celebrities) as a direct fan outreach tool, and a platform for strengthening his funky personal brand. The fact that he personally, and not his management, was the real guy behind his tweets, reinforces his popularity vis-a-vis the fans.

The only downside is that such one-to-one conversations are extremely time consuming. If Tiësto is thinking about other #tiëstotuesdays in the future, I'd suggest to do this no more than once every two months or so.

We just want you to make more great music, Tiësto! :)

Tiestoo tweet

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

Maurice Lacroix watches: authenticity, achievement and square wheels

A Maurice Lacroix watch with a square wheel Have you ever thought that wheels can take different shapes than just a circle? According to Wikipedia, a wheel is “a circular device that is capable of rotating on an axle through its centre, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load (mass), or performing labour in machines.”

Well, here’s the big news: a Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix has recently revealed a new watch model, Masterpiece Regulateur Roue Carre, which contains a S Q U A R E  W H E E L to display the hours!

Being somewhat of a geek, I found this engineering and design innovation funky enough to trigger my interest in finding out more about the brand. In addition, having already written about Maurice Lacroix’s recent brand endorsement campaign featuring Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, I strongly felt that yet another Funky Brand Interview was about to materialize. And here you are, today I am happy to publish my interview with Martin Bachmann, CEO of Maurice Lacroix.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Martin, how would you characterize the brand of Maurice Lacroix in a couple of sentences?

Martin Bachmann: Maurice Lacroix stands for contemporary watchmaking, manufacture excellence and is oriented to authentic consumers with modern lifestyle. SCHMOOZY FOX: And what do you mean by “authentic”?

Martin Bachmann: Authenticity is staying true to one’s values, not being afraid of standing out from the crowd, sometimes following a bit of a different direction from everybody else’s. It’s also about achievement and success.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And is authenticity something that unites the three brand ambassadors who have recently endorsed Maurice Lacroix -- Jimmy Wales, Bob Geldof and Justin Rose?

Martin Bachmann: Yes, authenticity along with achievement and success are the qualities that unite these brand ambassadors who, as you point out, have recently participated in our brand endorsement campaign. We were happy to identify them because they pinpoint the qualities that are also inherent to the brand of Maurice Lacroix and, we are convinced, our consumers.

3 brand ambassadors of Maurice Lacroix

 

SCHMOOZY FOX: Were there any specific profiles of people you were looking for? Did they have to belong to a specific field of knowledge, or profession?

Martin Bachmann: The most important factor for us was to identify strong personalities, people with charisma and a track of achievement throughout their lives. As far as backgrounds go, we looked for achievers in science, business, sport or entertainment. An important criterion was to identify unique personalities. Even in entertainment, we considered some individuals, but the originality of character was more important to us than the mainstream celebrity status. In this sense, Bob Geldof, who has had an amazing career as a musician, and who is a speaker on various issues from politics to entertainment, sought by corporations, fit the bill very well!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Besides brand endorsements, you also talk about partnerships on your website? What are they all about?

Martin Bachmann: You must have seen a series of interviews published in cooperation with Monocle magazine. For instance, we have interviewed Leo Liu, a wine-grower from China. We’ve also collaborated with various designers outside of the company who have brought in a fresh perspective on contemporary design and created some very successful watches for Maurice Lacroix. In this sense, Maurice Lacroix is always on the lookout for fresh ideas, and co-operation with inspirational people. All of them are unique in the sense that they have chosen to follow a very original path in their lives, for example, Leo Liu.

SCHMOOZY FOX: In this respect, this willingness for co-operation, partnerships and openness for fresh ideas is an important element of all funky brands!

Martin Bachmann: Yes, indeed! We also believe that this openness is a way to keep our company innovative. It also builds our team spirit immensely!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Is Maurice Lacroix all about men’s watches? I have  seen a couple of beautiful models for women, but the majority of your watches are for men. Is this why your brand endorsement campaign focusing primarily on male brand ambassadors?

Martin Bachmann: Indeed, men’s watches are our core product, although eventually we plan to have about 25% of our turnover come from women’s watches. This explains why currently we seek mainly male brand ambassadors. But I surely don’t exclude an opportunity to have a female brand ambassador in due time!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Finally, Maurice Lacroix is all about tradition and excellence of watch-making. Besides, your company also communicates about being contemporary. How do you manage to combine the two -- tradition and the spirit of modern times?

Martin Bachmann: Our watches are about tradition in the sense that they are all hand made according to industry standards in craftsmanship, some of which have not changed in centuries. But the design is where we want to show contemporary trends! Here we are far from the traditional. For instance, instead of  producing only traditional yellow and white gold watches, we often create watch cases with more modern materials, for instance titanium or steel that is treated with a ceramic coating or apply innovative decorations and color codes on our movements, like e.g. black gold.

PT Chronographe Rectangulaire Full Black_B

SCHMOOZY FOX: Many thanks, Martin, for sharing the brand spirit of Maurice Lacroix on the SCHMOOZY FOX blog, and I wish you the best of success further on!

Martin Bachmann: Thank you!

Building personal brands through photography

Michael Chia

The importance of building one's personal brand in social media cannot be underestimated. What you say about yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other channels, and how you appear there, can either enhance or diminish your personal message.

The first thing people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile, or Twitter account, is your photo. That's why you should not underestimate the role of the "right" photo which ideally has to communicate not only your appearance but also your personal value proposition.

I have recently participated in a very fun photo shoot during which Michael Chia, a Singapore-born, Brussels-based photographer, spent about two hours shooting images of me. I liked the results, some of which you can see in this blog post, and so I decided to chat with Michael about his work.

In this interview Michael talks about his profession, which is  essentially capturing people's personalities through photo portraits.

Schmoozy fox: What is, in your opinion, a successful photo portrait?

201002_Olga_117

Michael Chia: A successful photo shoot for me means projecting a personality of my client through the use of images.  In this, I aim to ooze out  and exaggerate that personality during the shoot.  I use the word 'exaggerate' because it is an important element.  That personality could be a hidden trait that others do not get to see.

Sometimes that can be difficult for people who are more camera shy, and in this case, I chat them up and make up some personalities along the way.  The final image should be built based on the interaction between my client and myself.  Similar to finding a mix of chemistry with the ingredients we have to get that right shot.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How important is it to have a professional quality photo, that shows one's personality, as part of one's profile on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example?

Michael Chia: Many people underestimate the power of photography in their profiles.  They spend infinite time and resources creating websites to market the services they offer.  When it comes to photography, they stick to a snapshot of themselves!

Remember -  a picture paints a thousand words. That photo you use is your personality, a valuable visual business card. It tells your potential clients who and what you are.  In this era of the Internet, 90% of the time your potential client's first contact with you is the website.  You want to have that single image to reach out to that potential client with the correct message.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When business people come to you to order a portrait, what do they usually want? Do they want to look serious and professional or appear more personable and authentic?

Michael Chia: Most of the corporate clients have a preference for the more serious and professional appearance.  And in certain cases, it is hard to break away from the normal convention due to the nature of their business and their clients' fixed perception of what image should be related to that business.

Coat_throwing

Nonetheless, my role as a photographer also includes me acting as a consultant and injecting ideas into the process.  At times, I am able to convince my clients to move away from conventional photography. Alternatively, I'll shoot according to the brief while still aiming to avoid the dry, boring and static shots. What I look for is dynamism in the shots.

On the other hand, many small or new business enterprises miss the perfect opportunity.  Instead of crafting out something unique through the effective use of personal portraits, they try to project themselves as a big company with the serious, static and boring shots.

Photo by Michael Chia: Funky Olga!

Let's face the facts.  Nobody likes to work!  Given a choice we'd rather be on permanent vacation.  The truth is that we all have to work.  If we have to work, the preference is to work with people who can be personable, fun and approachable (not forgetting competent). Here photography can play a deciding factor.  The smaller the team is, the more important images are in projecting your visual business card.

And when I have clients who need shots for non-business use, moving away from the static and standard shoots is a big must.  Why should they stand or sit on chair, facing me at 45 degrees angle smiling into the camera?

No. No. No.  This is the perfect time to have funky portraits.  Move. Jump.  Dance.  Scream.  Pout. Be yourself or be who you want to be and capture that moment!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Your own style of photography is very personable and funky. Could you reveal some elements of our own photo session and how you managed to pinpoint my personality that you wanted to show through photos?

Michael Chia: I make it a point to meet all potential clients before I take on an assignment, that's why I asked you to meet before the photo session.   To me, that first meeting gives me an idea of the client's expectations, exchange ideas and finding a 'style' for the shoot.

Both the client and me have to find that chemistry to work together.  As you mentioned, I pinpointed your personality.  What I actually did was this: I found your style, cooked up a chemistry, exaggerated that funky and foxy personality in you and made us both work together to achieve that. 'Work' is a bad word ;-)

Photo by Michael Chia: "Foxy & Funky"

Let's replace that with playing funky music and me chatting you up with nonsensical, hypothetical questions.  When your guard is down, you are more relaxed, open to ideas and everyone has fun.

Having fun is a key ingredient in my funky photography shoot!

A new kind of brand ambassadors: famous entrepreneurs

Jimmy Wales WikipediaHere 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.

A concrete example that I want to share with you today is the recent brand campaign by a Swiss watch brand Maurice Lacroix. In particular, its brand partnership with Jimmy Wales, an American Internet entrepreneur and co -founder of Wikipedia.

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.

SCHMOOZY FOX changes its look

schmoozyfoxsitesnapshotSome of you have already noticed that www.schmoozyfox.com has changed its look! I am happy to be running the site of SCHMOOZY FOX brand and marketing strategy consulting, www.schmoozyfox.com as well as the blog about funky brands, on this new WP theme! Many thanks to  Cristian Eslava, a WordPress wizard from Seville, for helping me to set up this theme and make sure that everything is up and running correctly! Also thanks to my friend Ellie Zachariadou (who's by the way the author of the cool fox logo) for her tweaks and advice about graphic layout.

Working with Cristian motivated me to re-activate my  Spanish: it was a lot of fun exchanging emails about widgets, plug-ins and cascading style sheets en español! It's been also coincidentally fun to realize that Cristian's last name, Eslava, which means "Slavic" in Spanish, somehow resembles my own last name, Slavkina.

For his great help, I want to give my link love to Cristian!

Cristian's site, http://justtellmewhy.com (the Spanish version is available on http://pqpq.es/) is a mix between a blog and a discussion forum. One could call it a Web 2.0 platform for debates.

One of its interesting features is that visitors of the site can post questions to which they cannot find answers in “real life”, and wait for crowdsourced solutions. The good news is that one does not need to register in order to ask an answer or leave a comment. The anonymous character of debates can encourage wider participation.

To show you how the site works, here is an example of what I posted on justtellmewhy. Check it out and submit your opinions. Let's get the debate going! You can also use it for starting opinion polls and sharing them with your friends through various online channels.

Another important feature of the new look is a photo of truly yours on the page About Olga. This is just one image from a whole range of absolutely beautiful images that were taken by a talented Brussels-based photographer Michael Chia. Michael's main talent is that he is able to reveal his clients' personal brands through photography.

My photo session was a mix of cool music and Michael climbing the ladder with his camera, meanwhile "chatting me up" to make me feel comfortable.  I am very happy about the result, and you will soon be able to read an interview with Michael to learn how he helps build personal brands through photography.

And meanwhile, enjoy the new look of SCHMOOZY FOX.

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.

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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!