personal brand

Tribal marketing for Generation Y

A couple of months ago, I attended a book launch event dedicated to the recent publication of How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van den Bergh from Insites Consulting and Mattias Behrer from MTV Europe. ((How Cool Brands Stay Hot, Kogan Page, 2011))  The book gives an insight into Generation Y, or Millennials: teenagers and young adults born between 1980 and 1996 .  Web savvy, wary of marketing “tricks” and highly authentic, they are “on a mission to become special and unique.” ((ibid., p. 3)) Besides, these youngsters are just beginning to shape their relationships with brands, and provided that you get your brand on their radar screen, and make it appealing and “cool”, chances are, they will like it for quite some time to come. This is why it is so important for any company that wants to market to Generation Y, to know what it takes to become a truly cool brand.

The authors have structured the results of their detailed 5-year long research, that I finished reading a couple of days ago, around the so called CRUSH model.  It is an acronym of Coolness, Realness, Uniqueness, Self-identification with the brand and Happiness, which are the main requirements for any brand that aspires to be considered “cool” by youngsters. Whereas the book is packed with useful marketing advice (did you know, for instance, that teens actually do trust their parents more than one could ever imagine, and that they don’t like to buy "ethical" and "green" products because they are fed up with marketers telling them what’s ethical and green?) from beginning to end, I’d like to share with you the main findings about the part on teen self-identity (The S in the Crush model). It resonated with me particularly in view of my recent talk on Personal Branding.

 

How big is the role brands (especially clothes, accessories and gadgets) play in constructing self-identity and personal brands? To answer this question, it's important to point out that identity is always connected to the body, “Identity is always about the body, the bodily states and desires of being, becoming, belonging and behaving.” ((ibid., p. 148)) That’s why fashion, and tatoos play such an important role in self-expression. What your customer wears or carries often becomes part of his or her personal brand.  And because personal brands are shaped and influenced by the external social environment (which forms the so called social identity), it’s extremely important for marketers to understand the dynamics of self-identity formation.

 

Perhaps one of the most profound lessons for anyone who wants to understand consumer dynamics of Generation Y, is to step away from traditional psychographic segmentation which is a "method to simplify reality by assigning individuals to groups of homogenous persons who share the same characteristics. In reality, the members of segments are not connected to each other and take no collective action." ((ibid., p. 157))

 

Instead, it’s important to explore the teens’ search for a lifestyle that enables them to become part of a “tribe”, express their self-identity and construct their personal brands.

 

The concept of tribal market segmentation becomes easy to grasp if we take into account the following main elements of identity formation:

 

-The personal identity: the identity a person believes he/she has

-The social self: the identity he/she has in the eyes of others and that can be discovered only through social interactions. Given that there may be several social groups each person interacts with, that person can, in fact, has several social identities.

-The aspired self: the ideal identity a person would like to have

-Non-identity: the non-wanted self  ((ibid., p. 150))

 

Tribal marketing explores relationships that teens have within networks of heterogeneous people linked by a shared passion or emotion. For a very detailed, and very useful example of tribal mapping within Gen Y, have a look at the image below.

 

The table summarizes results of joint work between Insites Consulting and MTV Networks. The horizontal dimension of the image represents “me”-centered tribes on the right, and “we”-centered tribes on the left. The vertical dimension groups extroverts above and introverts below.

 

As a result, each of the quadrants in the model groups youngsters whose identities have a lot in common. For instance, the upper left quadrant groups people who like to react to the world around them through their own creativity. Indie kids, rockers and new ravers are part of this group, for instance.

 

What kinds of insights does the tribal marketing approach give to brand builders?

 

First of all, it’s important to understand that it’s rarely possible to appeal to the entire Gen Y with a single brand. If may be, however, possible to have several brands at your disposal within the same company.  Nike Inc. has understood it well by using two different brands — Nike and Converse — to appeal to different tribes within Generation Y. The Nike brand, which focuses on athletes, appeals to the upper-right quadrant (status-seeking youngsters). This tribe will find Nike’s notions of excellence, importance of fashion highly appealing. Converse’s fans — mostly in the upper left quadrant — will appreciate the simplicity, creativity and art: values that fuel the Converse brand.

 

Another interesting example described in the book illustrates how to create appeal across H&M's Generation Y customers. ((ibid., see p. 168))

 

Second, do not structure your brand communications around the tribes that are most located on the outskirts of the tribal model. This means that whereas the “mainstream” tribes (located close to the center of the model) are relatively “safe” to portray in your communications, the outskirt tribes, such as gothics, may be a stretch, because they are often perceived as non-identities to many tribes, especially diagonally opposite. So, if you consider running an ad in which a pair of gothic youths drive your new funky car brand, think twice and consider a pair of fashionistas instead.

 

Third, explore a close fit between online and real life identity formation. Notice what different tribes like to do online, and you should not be surprised to find out that fashionistas like to watch glam YouTube videos, whereas introverts are big time into games.

 

Funky personal branding

 

Yesterday I conducted a Personal Branding Masterclass in Brussels. The event was organized in co-operation with IE Business School, my Alma Mater where I completed International MBA in 2007.

My goal was to show how my approach towards building product and services brands can be applied to building personal brands.

But what is a personal brand, anyway? In my presentation, I defined it like this:

 

Personal branding is a framework of associations, values, images and actions through which people perceive The Unique You.

In other words, it's your unique value proposition, something that makes you stand out from the crowd, and something by which others can remember you.

In my presentation, I mostly focused on the advantages of good personal branding in professional life, and demonstrated several important steps that one would need to go through in order to craft a strong personal brand.

I spoke about how personal brand audit, brand positioning and brand promotions -- some of the steps that I use in product brand strategy -- could be used in the area of personal branding. To give an example, your LinkedIn professional headline is a very good place simply made for a personal brand positioning statement. Most people do not use it to their advantage, listing their job title, rather than their Unique Value Proposition, in their professional headline on LinkedIn. Look at my own example of my personal brand positioning statement:

 

As you can see, my job title is listed under "Current", whereas my professional headline is all about my unique value proposition. In 120 characters (that's how much LinkedIn allows!), I said a lot of things that summarize a lot of important facts about myself:

  • Passionate = I am definitely passionate about my profession!
  • European = this shows both where I live and the geographical scope of projects that I work on
  • Funky branding diva: this one catches a lot of attention on LinkedIn! The "funky branding" part refers to my Funky Brands™ philosophy, as well as my blog about Funky Brands. And, yes, diva! I don't need to explain this one, do I? :)
  • The next phrase (Offering creative, web-enabled strategies to position and build your brand) also contains a lot of useful information about my personal value proposition. It shows that creativity is my strong point, that I know the web, and am strategic. And of course, I know how to position, build and nurture brands!

I gave several examples of people with strong personal brands, among which was Jean-Pierre Lutgen, with whom I had published a Funky Brand Interview about Ice Watch.

For more information about this event, search #MyFunkyBrands on Twitter, and visit my Facebook fan page. You can also read my article Several degrees in one personal brand published by The Personal Branding Blog.

Register for my Personal Branding Masterclass on March 17

In collaboration with IE Business School, I'll be giving a Personal Branding Masterclass in Brussels on March 17, 2011. To register, visit this link: http://www.ie.edu/alumniweb/alumniagenda/DetalleEvento.aspx?id=12007

It's the first in the series of more exciting workshops on different aspects of branding that I plan to teach in the future. Come and discover how to build a powerful brand You!

Philippe Starck gives a boost to photo booths

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.

A snapshot of Starck from an article in Management

Original source (in French): Photomaton s'offre un nouveau look avec Starck, by Olivier Marbot, in Management, February 2011

The power of personal branding

Build your personal brand and show it off on the red carpet! Image by Fascinating Girl on Flickr In my blog post The Zuckerberg Brand I talked about the recent positive buzz that has surrounded Mark Zuckerberg, and how it has boosted the brand of the company he had founded, Facebook.

Paraphrasing myself, Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook’s business model relies on people to trust it with their data. If they trust the CEO, they are much more likely to trust the platform.

The blog post about Zuckerberg resulted in some friends’ comments posted directly on my Facebook profile.  To summarize, there was general hesitation towards powerful CEO brands. One of my Facebook friends argued that the "CEO star syndrome would eventually hurt the company in question".

Sure, there are, of course, certain risks involved when you embark upon a thrilling mission of building your personal brand. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur. You might doubt if it's the right strategy to be known for being yourself first, and only then for being a company founder and CEO. All kinds of concerns might be running through your head...

What happens if I build a lot of personal brand equity and then decide to leave my company? What if this will leave customers dissatisfied? And what if the business loses its appeal and its brand image changes and becomes worse?

There may be many what if's one could come up with. And here's my advice to you: dump the what if’s. Build your personal brand, and invest in it as much as you can.  The Funky Brands philosophy applies also to your personal brand: it's better to stand out from the crowd than be like everyone else.

Image source: http://blog.careergoddess.com

And hey, if you are a cool and famous person, it’s just so much better than the opposite, right? It will also help your business, too.

A couple of Funky Personal Brands of successful entrepreneurs that come to mind are Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Oprah herself (www.twitter.com/oprah) has almost 5 million followers on Twitter! Her businesses, such as Oprah magazine and Oprah radio, have significantly fewer followers. However, Oprah might also tweet about her businesses from her personal account, so the cross-promotional opportunities between herself and her businesses are enormous.

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee on Twitter) is a personal branding phenomenon. Gary grew his dad’s liquor store in New Jersey into a multi-million dollar online wine retailer by understanding the essence of social media. I think his secret is dedicated engagement with his customers and fans throughout social media channels, and an edgy personality that he’s not afraid to broadcast on the web.

He’s genuine, and it shows. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his honest and direct style is impossible to copy. It’s key to his funky personal brand. Read Gary's tips on building your personal brand here.

So, dear entrepreneurs, understand who you are and what drives you. Get into your full personal power. But don’t set the goal of being liked by everybody -- this is not going to happen.

Simply be yourself, and express your passions. And then think of the best ways to get your personal brand known to others.  You’ll have fun, and meet like-minded individuals.

And you know what? Your business brand may get an incredible boost from your funky self-expression. Have fun!

Golden Globes strengthens Facebook's brand

Just a couple of days ago I blogged about Mark Zuckerberg, and showed how a serious of recent events (with the release of The Social Network movie among them) have positively contributed to his personal brand. And here you go, The Social Network movie was one of the big winners during last Sunday's Golden Globe awards.  As Mashable writes, "Mark Zuckerberg might take issue with how the film portrayed the early years of FacebookFacebook, but in truth, the film and its critical and commercial success has only reinforced Facebook’s place in the cultural zeitgeist."

Brands are not build overnight. It takes time for them to evolve. A series of recent events, such as the release of The Social Network movie, and others (read my previous blog post to get a scoop) have boosted both the personal brand of Mark Zuckerberg and that of Facebook. What would Zuckerberg need to do next in order to tap into all this good publicity and continue building his brand?

The Zuckerberg brand

zuckerbergDo entrepreneurs have to manage their personal brands separately from the brands of products they launch? This is the debate that I've seen happening recently, and answers to this question differ in each individual case. What does seem clear is that whether they want it or not, CEOs of big companies have their personal brands under scrutiny 24/7, and they should take this fact seriously.

A concrete example I want to talk about today is Mark Zuckerberg's personal brand.

Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook's business model relies on people to trust it with their data. And now, here's something important to remember: if they trust the CEO, they're much more likely to trust the platform.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, has been enjoying a lot of media attention lately, most of which has boosted his personal brand tremendously. At the end of 2010, Time Magazine named him Person of the Year.

This is a positive development for Zuckerberg, especially since some predicted a painful PR disaster for him after release of The Social Network movie.

In reality, the movie has had a completely opposite effect on Zuckerberg’s personal brand. Instead of being positioned as a thief of business ideas and a sexist jerk, Zuckerberg has come out as a talented entrepreneur and a young prodigy.

This personal brand positioning is extremely valuable for someone who runs such a sizable company as Facebook. Moreover, as Lesley Stahl has pointed out in her recent interview with Zuckerberg, half a billion people who give their information to Facebook, do feel that they have a right to know more about him.

The 60 Minutes interview on CBS did exactly this: it allowed Zuckerberg to communicate who he, Mark, not just Facebook’s founder and CEO, really is. And he did it in a way that benefitted the Facebook brand, too.

Here is a recap of what has helped Zuckerberg’s personal brand positioning as a successful young entrepreneur:

1) The Social Network movie

As mentioned above, the movie has had a positive effect both for Facebook as a company, and for Mark Zuckerberg personally. By the time the movie was released, it had a hugely responsive audience at its disposal -- the audience that was already brand aware. Speaking in branding terms, all those Facebook users who went to see the movie became brand loyal even more.

2) Friendliness to the press

If you haven’t yet watched the CBS 60 minutes videos, you should, as they can give a good lesson on how to handle journalists’ questions. Mark Zuckerberg was relaxed, joked about the movie (“they got the T-shirts and sandals right!”) and managed to avoid answering difficult questions (“How could you rate yourself as a CEO?” asks Leslie Stahl, to which Zuckerbergh responds, “You can never win by answering this question” and then proceeds to giving an example of how he decided not to sell Facebook to Yahoo for 1 billion dollars).

3) Philantrophy

Zuckerberg has joined the Giving Pledge set up by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and has agreed to give away half of his wealth to good causes.

These days, it’s not Nokia that’s connecting people, it’s Facebook. Somehow, 500 million active users can’t be wrong -- Facebook has become an important part in our daily lives. And trusting it with our personal information gets a bit easier if we trust the guy who's created the platform.

Best of SCHMOOZY FOX 2010

With this post, I want to bring to your attention the best posts that were published on this blog in 2010. They 've attracted most of the traffic because I think they give some of the most useful tips to anyone who wants to build a Funky Brand™. If you want to brush up on your knowledge of branding, here's your chance! BRAND STRATEGY

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

ONLINE BRAND STRATEGY

FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS

Photo collage

  • Theo loves you: an interview with Wim Somers, founder of a very stylish brand from Antwerp.
  • Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of a Danish upscale brand of bicycles, Biomega.
  • From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes.
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch.
  • Interview with Isabelle Cheron, Creative Director of Kipling bags.
  • Interview with Nathalie Colin, Creative Director of Swarovski.

PERSONAL BRANDING

RE-BRANDING AND BRAND REPOSITIONING

BRAND NAMING

CREATIVITY AND BRANDING

taarten van abel

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

Madonna to launch Material Girl on August 3rd

Snapshot of Macy's site

Hello, fans of funky brands! As you've noticed, SCHMOOZY FOX has been a bit silent over the past couple of weeks. We've been taking a break from computers to enjoy the summer, give ourselves a boost of creativity, and, of course, schmooze!

We're back with awesome news from the US. Tomorrow, Madonna and her daughter Lourdes will be launching a new junior fashion brand, Material Girl.

This brand launch is simply packed with many branding concepts and marketing tools previously discussed on this blog.

First, it's an example of how a personal brand of Madonna has served as a basis for a new product brand.

Second, this a nice example of a smart celebrity endorsement by a 17-year old US teen star Taylor Momsen, whose own edgy and funky style and personality pinpoint the values of Material Girl.

Third, there's an important element for any brand launch -- distribution channel, in this case Macy's -- that has been selected to strengthen Material Girl's positioning as affordable and democratic clothes.

Material Girl has a lot of potential to become a funky brand. We'll be curious to watch its progress after its official launch tomorrow.

Funky Brand Interviews are one year old!

Photo by Theresa Thompson on Flickr Today, SCHMOOZY FOX's  Funky Brand Interviews are turning one!

Since last June, we've interviewed founders and top managers of some of the funkiest brands out there. In each of these interviews SCHMOOZY FOX has tried to uncover personalities and interests of real people behind brands, as well as learn insights into these innovative companies from a personal perspective of people who work there.

From the Dutch lingerie queen, to a talented photographer who helps people build funky personal brands, to a funky T-shirt brand and a top luxury fashion designer -- all of our interviewees could identify with SCHMOOZY FOX's concept of funky brands. And this is definitely something to celebrate!

Below is the list of all SCHMOOZY FOX's Funky Brand Interviews to date, and there will be more funky ones coming soon!

And don't forget, we'll continue to celebrate throughout the summer! If you are a funky (or funky-to-be) startup, you can learn how you can benefit from some top-notch brand strategy coaching that we've arranged for you FREE of charge! Learn more here.

OUR FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS TO DATE

Interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines

Interview with Marlies Dekkers, the Dutch "lingerie queen"

Interview with artist Thaneeya McArdle

Interview with Kyan Foroughi, CEO of Boticca,com, an online jewellery market place

Interview with James Payne from Baileys Irish Cream

Interview with Tekin Tatar from BeFunky.com

Interview with Wim Somers from Theo

Interview with founders of Lotty Dotty

Interview with Michael Chia, a photographer who helps build funky personal brands

Interview with Martin Bachmann, CEO of Maurice Lacroix watches

Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of Biomega bikes

Interview with fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen

Interview with Belgian fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen

Tim Van Steenbergen I love Antwerp. It’s a city of great fashion, outstanding design and funky shops. My discovery of funky brands from Antwerp began with an interview with Wim Somers, founder of Theo. It was at the very end of that interview that Wim mentioned Theo’s collaboration with a talented young Antwerp designer, Tim Van Steenbergen, who worked on Theo’s sunglasses collection.

I noted down Tim’s name with the intention of finding out more details about him later. While I was waiting for my train to Brussels at the Antwerp Central Station, I was browsing through magazines at a press kiosk, and the first article I randomly opened was... an interview with Tim Van Steenbergen!

I don’t quite remember which magazine it was, but here’s my very own interview with Tim.

Tim’s professional credentials are outstanding -- the prêt-a-porter collection that bears his name is on the radar screen of many Hollywood celebrities, he’s Creative Director of the successful upmarket fashion label Chine, and he creates costumes for performances at La Scala. Given the wide range of projects Tim Van Steenbergen is involved in, I thought that an interesting topic to talk about would be his personal brand.

Olga from SCHMOOZY FOX and Tim. Image courtesy of Tim Van Steenbergen

SCHMOOZY FOX: Tim, how do you present yourself to someone who has not heard about you and your work?

Tim Van Steenbergen: (smiling) It’s actually a difficult question since I do so many different things! A good way to present myself is to say that I create a universe of style, a way of dressing, based on classic traditions of craftsmanship. Fabrics and their texture play a very important role in this universe. Sometimes I feel that I use fabrics in the same way as a sculptor would use marble, clay or metal to create something from scratch. I remember being fascinated by fabrics when I was only 4 years old!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What makes you passionate about your work?

Tim Van Steenbergen: Emotions! I love the fact that my designs are able to provoke very strong emotions in people who wear them. And it actually doesn’t matter if these emotions are negative or positive -- it’s often the controversy that matters. When my designs shake people up, bring exuberance in their lives, and don’t leave them indifferent, I feel like I’ve achieved something very important.

Rihanna in Tim Van Steenbergen. Image courtesy of Tim Van Steenbergen

I also like to get to know the people who will end up wearing the clothes I make. In this sense, working with the actors at La Scala has been very satisfying as I was making each costume for a particular person. In the theatre environment, I want to understand actors as people, making costumes that fit their personalities, and the roles they play.

Costumes by Tim Van Steenbergen for La Scala

SCHMOOZY FOX: I can see that this can work well in the theater, but in fashion?

Tim Van Steenbergen: In fashion, it is of course rarely possible to create prêt-a-porter collections with every individual customer in mind. I often come across my clothes worn by people on the streets worldwide. It’s rather easy to spot them on celebrities, but what’s more exciting is when “ordinary” people wear them. It makes me want to know more about these people, and their feelings when they wear my designs.

Jennifer Lopez, Misha Barton and Princess Claire of Belgium alike have been spotted wearing Tim Van Steenbergen

SCHMOOZY FOX: I guess that all of the above refers to your label, Tim Van Steenbergen. How does the work at Chine fit into your overall personal brand?

Tim Van Steenbergen: I think it benefits my personal brand. I think it’s important for any designer to demonstrate that he or she can come into another company, with its specific corporate culture and ways of doing things, jump in and deliver good results. This shows that I can successfully collaborate and inspire another brand, and it’s a valuable skill for any designer. The designs I create for Chine are different from the ones I create for my own label. The style of my clothes is architectural, structural, if you will. Chine’s style is fluid, poetic, inspired by the 19th century.

Fluidity of Chine and geometry of Tim Van Steenbergen, created by the same designer

SCHMOOZY FOX: It sounds like you appreciate getting into different roles -- maybe that’s why you like your project at La Scala? Perhaps you have the talent for acting too?

Tim Van Steenbergen: (laughing) I’ve never thought of it this way, but yes, I guess you are right! I like having all these different roles and exploring them.

SCHMOOZY FOX: By the way, how do you manage to stay creative when you do so many different things?

Tim Van Steenbergen: I think I am creative BECAUSE I do so much. I manage to separate all the different projects I am working on. Each of them requires different approaches and results in different “end products” . I am pretty good at organizing myself: whenever I need to tap into my creativity and work for Chine, I can do it, and when I am building a new collection for my own label -- I can jump into it easily as well!

What breeds my creativity is also doing sports and reading novels. The latter is like entering another universe, and exploring it can be a very special journey that inspires my work.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Could you tell our readers about your plans for the near future? What professional universe would you like to explore?

Tim Van Steenbergen: As already mentioned, I would like to find ways of creating clothes with concrete people in mind. All of my collections are sold through high-end boutiques worldwide. I am thinking of offering them very exclusive limited collections in due course. Boutiques know their clients very well, and there’s certainly scope to make limited collections tailored to these customers, their personalities and lifestyles. And this is certainly a very funky and exciting universe to explore!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thank you Tim, enjoy this funky journey of creativity!

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.

Tufts University appreciates funky personal brands

I was very happy to hear that my Alma Mater, Tufts University in Boston (I went to the Fletcher School at Tufts back in 2001), has been exploring the power of social media in order to identify best applicants for its top-ranked undergraduate education. As part of their application package (which includes academic test results, essays and other quite elaborate  things that require a lot of effort and preparation), Tufts candidates are now encouraged to submit videos that shed light on their personalities.  Since a decision was made to allow YouTube video submissions as part of the application package, Tufts has received 1000 videos. Interestingly, 60% were female, and two thirds of the applicants submitting videos were seeking financial aid. As already mentioned in my previous blog post, Digital Anthropology, women are most active users of social media, and the Tufts University applicant videos suggest the same.

When I was a student at Tufts back in 1999-2001, I was frequently amazed at a large number of very strong and individual personalities there. My feeling is that this will improve even further! Equipped with the encouragement of the Tufts Admissions team, bright candidates will be given an additional incentive to demonstrate their unique skills, interests and passions. In the SCHMOOZY FOX language, these students will have a great opportunity to make their personal brand stand out from the crowd. And by the way, it's not only unique and original products and services that can be funky brands, it's also people!

Dinosaur brands

Photo by Mykl Roventine on Flickr I'd like to bring your attention to a recent post by Chad Levitt published on the Personal Branding blog (where I have also previously featured with this guest post). In his article, Chad focuses on companies that still think that they are in full control of their corporate brands. Eloquently, he calls them dinosaurs.

But what's wrong about controlling your brand, you may ask?  Is it really so bad to have a clear idea of what you want your corporate brand to represent? Once defined, your employees will be asked to support your corporate brand vision, as simple as that.

The truth is, things simply do not work like that any more. Your employees, just like your customers, are not there simply to restate the bullet points your corporate marketing department has put together to define your brand. Just like your customers, your employees shape your brand. They are your brand. And they are for sure the ones who own your brand. This loss of control is pretty sad news for dinosaurs!

Photo by .faramarz on Flickr

Although you might think that dinosaur brands have to be old-fashioned, old and big corporations, it's not always so. In fact, even a freshly baked start-up can fall into the trap of becoming a dinosaur brand. I don't think that anybody would pro-actively wish to become a dinosaur brand, but sometimes all it takes is to get disconnected from your customers and their passions. Ignore personal lives of your employees. Imagine that you are in full control of your brand and know better what your customers and employees need.

But brands can be coached away from the dinosaur mentality!

After all, a bit of more free thinking, and allowing your employees to access their Facebook accounts during the day gives you a good chance to fall into a very attractive, and by the way also lucrative category, funky brands.

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.

How funky brands can be profitable

D&Gperfume In one of my previous entries, called Funky Brands Defined, I published a list of attributes shared by most Funky Brands™.

An important one is the fact that they are not driven by innovative and creative ideas alone, but are or have the potential to be profitable. This, of course, requires a good deal of  business development and brand building work done.

In today's post, I want to talk about how your brand can benefit and become profitable from mass luxury brand positioning.

Mass luxury (often referred to as affordable luxury or new luxury) brand management essentially combines characteristics of building brands that have the luxury and exclusivity appeal, with techniques that can lead to relatively high sales volumes.

My marketing professor at ESSEC (a Paris-based business school famous for its luxury marketing program) was a former Armani guy. He certainly knew a lot about sustaining those "old luxury" brands like Chanel and Gucci (and Armani, of course). But he was nevertheless fascinated how some innovative companies managed to combine classical Kotler marketing with  the know-how of luxury brand management by building extremely funky brands in the mass luxury segment.

Some of these brands were created completely from scratch (for example, Coach and Victoria's Secret in the US, Agent Provocateur in the UK, and a Dutch brand Marlies Dekkers whose founder spoke in an interview on this blog), and others were born under the umbrella of already existing "true luxury" brands (for instance, Armani Exchange as a modest brother of the brand Giorgio Armani).  Over the past decade or so, many brands were launched to satisfy a desire for a better lifestyle expressed by wealthier middle class eager to splash out on previously unaccessible items.

So, what can you learn from mass luxury brands in order to make your brand profitable? You'll be surprised how many potentially funky start-ups fail just because they are disconnected from their potential customers. So, the most important rule of thumb is that you gotta get to know your consumers, their lifestyles and their desires as much as you can.

Stop for a moment doing this tedious market segmentation based on geographical location, age and gender. This stuff tells you nothing about your consumer's deep emotional needs and desires. Unless you've understood what emotional connections they can make with the products you sell, you'll be wasting your time.

Besides that, keep in mind the following factors which, in my view, may trigger consumers' interest in purchasing your funky mass luxury goods or services:

  • The lifestyle factor: Whereas splashing out on a single Gucci outfit is an extremely rare occasion for most people, and buying a Lamborghini is simply out of the question, a sizable market out there still wants to have a luxurious lifestyle. "Luxurious" can mean different things for different customers, and the trick is to find your loyal segment for whom your product will be a luxury. The right combination of such items as furniture, consumer electronics, food and drink, beauty products and fashion can do wonders and make our lifestyles luxurious and enjoyable. Not every item in your customer's home has to be of super funky design and great quality, but make sure your brand can end up on your customers shelves!
  • The self-worth factor: people appreciate goods and services that can contribute to their enjoyment of life (e.g. high quality perfumed candles, a meal at a gastronomic restaurant, or a visit to a spa) and feeling of self-worth. Do you know what contributes to the feeling of self-worth within your customer segment? If not, the first step towards making profits is to find that out fast and act on it.
  • The funky factor: people like standing out from the crowd, and making a statement about who they are. They often express themselves through the clothes they wear, or items they use (computers, phones, cars).  If your customers have created emotional connections with the products you sell, and even made them part of their personal brand, you've for sure kept the funky factor in mind successfully! Again, if you know how the attributes of your brand can enhance the funky factor of your customers, you've certainly moved forward towards a beefed up bottom line.

Mass luxury is the most profitable segment of many markets because attractive margins can be combined with sales volume. But the challenge is, mass luxury brands do not sell themselves . They are driven by hard-to-define factors like fashion, word-of-mouth, and constantly evolving preferences of your customers. If you've managed to apply a rigorous framework to identify these factors, and closely monitor them, you'll certainly be on the path towards making sizable profits and building funky brands.

Finally, a good article on the subject that I can recommend is "Luxury for the Masses" by Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, published in Harvard Business Review in April 2003. Have fun learning the tricks of the funky brand trade!

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.

Artists and brands

As a follow-up to the article "Is Branding Important for Artists?", this is an interview with Florida-based young artist Thaneeya McArdle. In this funky brand interview, Thaneeya talks about her passion for art, developing human connections with the help of the Internet, living life to the fullest and about her funky artist brand.