references

Perils of lifestyle brand positioning

Lifestyle and self-expression Have you noticed that more and more brands position themselves as lifestyle these days? You wander into a store thinking you’ll be checking out home decoration items, and instead, you end up browsing seemingly unrelated goods -- books, clothing, food -- at a lifestyle boutique, or lifestyle concept store. It reminds me of my my recent visit to Merci Merci, a concept store in Paris. There, you can even sit down and have a cup of coffee whilst looking at flowery aprons and dresses displayed in the shop. Another one, Cook and Book in Brussels, offers a possibility to express your artsy lifestyle by having lunch while surrounded by art and style books, which one can also buy.

 

Ways of expressing one’s lifestyle have become abundant. As far as selecting products goes, consumers are presented with endless flavors, designs and scents to choose from, mix and assemble into unique combinations which express their unique lifestyles. In fact, so many brands offer mass customization, that ways of self-expression have become all-pervasive. When so many brands are trying to tap into people’s needs for self-expression and strive for lifestyle positioning, maybe it’s time to find other ways to make your brand stand out from the crowd?

Lifestyle brands expose themselves to cross-category competition

A study published this month in Journal of Marketing (( Competing for Consumer Identity: Limits to Self-Expression and the Perils of Lifestyle Branding, Alexander Chernev, Ryan Hamilton, & David Gal, Journal of Marketing, May 2011)) concludes that by positioning their brands as lifestyle, companies “expose themselves to much broader, cross-category competition for a share of a consumer’s identity.” ((ibid.)) This goes against the widely accepted belief that lifestyle brand positioning is less likely to bring products and services into direct confrontation with competing brands.

 

At first sight, the logic of the latter seems clear. Let’s say, you are launching a soft drink in a very competitive market. How would you position it? Even if it has an amazing taste, the tendency nowadays is to avoid simply positioning it as a tasty drink. That’s just too plain vanilla. Instead, you might want to tap into the lifestyles of your consumers, trying to understand how your drink will allow them to express themselves. By positioning a drink not just as a tasty drink, but something else -- let’s say, a way to express one’s energy, creativity, sportiness, sense of achievement, etc. -- your company wants to signal that it has a great product to offer.  It also wants to avoid somebody else coming to the market with a tastier drink.

 

However, by positioning your drink as a lifestyle product, you enter into competition with other products as well -- branded and non-branded -- that compete with each other as means of facilitating consumers’ self-expression. In fact, your drink may very well be competing with a car, a mobile phone and a local trendy restaurant, all at once.

 

Competition across product categories

In the not-so-remote past, the common approach amongst marketers was to take for granted the fact that “consumers’ brand preferences are not likely to be affected by their actions in unrelated product categories and/or domains.” (( ibid. )) Drinks were positioned against competitor drinks, and cars were positioned in ways that made them differ from competing cars. In contrast to this approach, the study shows that this is no longer the case.

According to its authors, "Consumer brand preferences are a function of the activities they were involved in prior to evaluating a given brand—more specifically, the degree to which these prior activities afforded the opportunity to express their identities. ((Ibid., p 67))

In other words, consumer’s choice of a certain brand of mobile phone with lifestyle positioning can be influenced by his or her self-expression activities undertaken prior to making that choice. For instance, writing a blog article, creating a painting or sharing news with friends on Facebook could have already addressed your potential consumers’ needs for self-expression before your marketing message has reached them. In other words, self-expression is finite and can be satiated by very many different things, not only branded products.

 

What should brand managers do?

First of all, it’s simply helpful to be aware of the dynamics of self-expression among your consumers. By realizing that your consumers’ self-expression is finite, and that your brand competes with other brands, concepts and activities far from your product category, you will be well prepared to create smart brand strategies.

 

Second, rethink the lifestyle positioning of your product. Does it really make you stand out from the crowd and be truly funky? If everybody is doing it, maybe it’s time for another big thing. Like launching a really tasty soft drink.

 

 

Another example of branded wine

I've already written a short post about branding wine.  I continue to see numerous attempts to create wine brands -- at least in terms of creating attractive visual identities. Check, for instance,  the Lovely Package blog to get an idea of how much creativity goes on in the wine business.  

Today, I stumbled upon yet another good-looking wine bottle, designed and marketed in Australia. Check it out:

 

 

Purely from the packaging design perspective, I like the bottle, though not so much the box that goes with it. What seems even more obscure, is the idea that so much effort went into creating such a striking bottle and packaging for a 2006 single vintage.

 

But seriously, wine branding comes across as an extremely complex and challenging subject.  Many companies do try to launch strong wine brands, but they often stumble and fall. Why does this happen? Is this due to the volatile nature of the product, consumer preferences (hey, maybe we just don't like branded wine, full stop?) or something else?

 

 

The word "schmoozing" spotted in French

Finally, I don't have to explain to my French-speaking friends what the word "schmoozing" means! :) Well, at least I can from now on refer them to an article that appeared in this week's edition of Références, a Belgian weekly for employment seekers and career-focused individuals.

Schmoozing: mode d'emploi(s)

The article focuses on the kind of "schmoozing" (particularly, its online variety) one does to find a job. For me personally, and of course, for SCHMOOZY FOX as a company, this word has a broader meaning.

Ladies and gentlemen, schmoozing is HIGH POWER NETWORKING.  The kind that involves co-operating, building relationships and closing win-win deals.

All of this with the objective of enhancing the client's product or service brand.

In my brand strategy work, schmoozing capabilities come in very handy when assessing my clients' potential and spotting opportunities for brand partnerships, brand endorsements and co-branding.

So, from now on, vive le schmoozing!

schmoozing definition

Source: Schmoozing: mode d"emploi(s) by Rafal Naczyk in Références, 19.02.11

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?

Why sweet Cheerios went sour on YouTube

ClickZ has recently published a post about Cheerios and its branded content on YouTube that I'd like to comment on. To make a long story short, Cheerios (a brand of cereal produced by General Mills) has uploaded several videos on its YouTube channel, and they resulted in a number of negative comments.

The videos don't actually make any references to the brand. They feature a tennis player who's healthy and full of energy (because she eats Cheerios, but this we can only guess) and a woman who likes to be healthy, enjoys watering plans and being outside (all thanks to Cheerios, I suppose!).

The videos resulted in a number of negative comments, and, even worse, an article on ClickZ (and yes, this blog post as well). Ouch! Even though Cheerios has only 31 subscribers on its YouTube channel, this is not very cheerful news for the brand.

What are some of the implications of this for Funky Brands?

  • Don't jump into social media just because everybody does it

It's very fashionable to be all over social media, whether it has anything to do with your overall brand strategy or not. I spoke about this at several events, and you can learn more about it in my post Is your brand ready to go online?

The bottom line is, social media is a very advanced and very sensitive media outlet to grasp and master, and you simply can't take it for granted. The problem is, many brands that want to explore social media go talk to social media, new media, or digital agencies or consultants, who, of course, will ensure the brand's presence throughout the web.

I'd suggest a totally different approach. First, figure out your brand strategy basics, and only then implement them through social media. Believe me, thinking and implementing works much better than just implementing!

Cheerios, for example, would have needed to do much better home work regarding its positioning before producing branded content and putting it online. The connection between their product and the fact that it prevents heart disease seems rather weak.  Even if we assume that Cheerios has some nutritional value that benefits health, this brand entry point is rather weak and may not be immediately understood by consumers. Hence all those sarcastic comments on YouTube mocking the connection between Cheerios and health.  This suggests to me that Cheerios would benefit from some smart repositioning to remain authentic and strike a cord with its real fans.

  • When not too sure about your overall brand strategy, use social media to tweak and explore it

At first, this tip might seem somewhat contradictory to the one above. However, the similarity is that you absolutely have to have a solid brand strategy in place, before you jump into social media.  However, often you will have assumptions that would need to be tested, and this is especially true for small companies that don't have lots of cash to spare on traditional market research. Then by using the social media slowly and carefully, they can get very good insights into their consumers and market trends. These insights can be then used to improve and tweak the existing brand strategy.

  • Think twice about branded content

Let me be clear: I am not a big fan of branded content in general.  Branded content is any kind of entertainment content sponsored by brands. Unlike ads which have explicit mentions of the advertiser, branded content usually has little or no mention of the sponsor at all. As a consumer, I'm more likely to watch an ad and know who's behind it rather than be fooled and even manipulated by carefully hidden messages. The problem is, people don't like ads, period. And if they discover that they are watching an ad, whereas they first thought it was simply an entertaining video, they won't be happy.  So, don't monopolize their time and pretend you are not there.

  • Don't forget that the power of social media is NOT all about numbers

The YouTube channel of Cheerios has only 31 subscribers, and yet look at all the fuss.  I feel that the concept of "numbers" in social media is becoming more and more blurry.  On Twitter, everybody seemed to be obsessed by the number of followers (the more, the better) until Klout concluded that one's influence does not solely depend on the number of followers. On Facebook, most people will keep your brand as a friend, to keep the numbers high and appear social, whilst hiding it to keep annoying updates at bay. Don't be seduced by high numbers, and if the numbers are low, don't take this as a guarantee that your brand is safe from bad publicity.

Diffusion brands vs parent brands

A significant advantage that successful luxury brands have, is that they have a good chance to launch diffision brands. Diffusion brands are a form of a line extension, discussed before.  They are “step-down line extensions of existing  luxury brands, normally less expensive than the  main-line merchandise.” ((How Young Adult Consumers Evaluate Diffusion Brands: Effects of Brand Loyalty and Status Consumption, Ian Phau Edith Cheong , Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 21:109–123, 2009))  They are often called second lines, subbrands and endorsed brands. Think of them as “children” of their more established “parent brands”.

Armani dot com screenshot

Examples of diffusion brands abound in the fashion world, for instance. Armani launched  Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein introduced CK, and Prada started a diffusion brand with a whole new name: Miu Miu. In all of these cases, the important condition for introducing diffusion brands was very high brand loyalty and brand recognition of parent brands. In other words, unless the brand equity of your parent brand is high, it might not be even a good idea to start considering diffusion brand launches.

There are several observations that I want to make in relations to diffusion brands:

  1. By launching a diffusion brand, a parent luxury brand de facto enters a whole new world of new luxury (also referred to as mass luxury and affordable luxury). I wrote on this subject before. New luxury is where many funky or funky-to-be brands develop.  If done properly, the new luxury positioning can bring enormous benefits to both: a child brand and the parent.
  2. Diffusion brands are a good way to target consumers who are usually much younger than the main target market of parent brands. They can tap well into the trend of status consumption, “The motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their status through the conspicuous consumption of consumer products that confer and symbolize status both for the individual and surrounding significant others.” ((Status consumption in consumer behavior: scale development and validation, Eastman, J. K., Goldsmith, R. E., and Flynn, L. R.  Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. Summer 1999, 41–52.))
  3. Empirical research demonstrates ((Phau, Cheung, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 21:109–123, 2009)) that diffusion brands have the same quality and status perception among younger target market as parent brands. This is a great way to appeal to a younger audience, and chances are that it will later on develop preferences for the parent brand as well.
  4. Importantly, the success of diffusion brands is often determined by a brand naming strategy. To put it simply, if a child brand bears the name of the parent (like Armani Exchange has a name of the parent brand, Armani), the benefits reaped from the existing status of a parent brand are almost immediate. If, however, a child brand is given a totally new name (Miu Miu vs Prada), such benefits are much less apparent. ((ibid.))

Armani Exchange screenshot

Diffusion brands are not a phenomenon characteristic exclusively for luxury products and services. On the contrary, they frequently occur in a very vast and complex area of brand architecture.

What's your brand's slogan?

CokeToday I'll talk about brand slogans, or tag lines and the role they can play for building your brand. First of all, what is a tag line?

About.com gives us this definition, "A slogan or phrase that visually conveys the most important product attribute or benefit that the advertiser wishes to convey. Generally, a theme to a campaign."

But in fact, tag lines are not only short-lived advertising phrases that are associated with promotional campaigns. Some of the most successful examples can show you that tag lines can be inherent to your brand, and play a key role in building it. For that matter, let's call them brand tag lines.

Some of the most successful brand tag lines have extremely strong associations with corresponding brand names. If I ask  you, whose tag line is Just Do It, most of you will know that it's Nike's.

Other popular ones are:

  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands (M&Ms)
  • Think different (Apple computer)

For more examples, check out this article.

I am not suggesting that you absolutely need a brand tag line! Or, at least, not immediately after you've launched your company. A tag line can evolve as your business evolves. The best moment to start putting a brand tag line underneath your logo is when you've understood what brand values are inherent to your funky business. This is when a good tag line can work wonders and reinforce your brand.

If you feel that you'd like to give your brand a little boost with a tag line, where do you start? Well, first of all, you don't even need to think in terms of the products you sell because even this might change in the future. I mean, don't put a tag line, "We sell shoes" next to your shoe brand logo. Apart from being simply boring, it will lock you in the shoe business, and you won't be able to get your brand extended into bags and umbrellas a couple of years down the road.

A brand called Innocent (they produce smoothies and juices) has come up with a tag line, Little tasty drinks. It's a bit more interesting than simply saying, "We're into drinks", but it still locks them in, well, drinks. But okay, not every brand thinks in terms of those possible brand extensions, right?

Little tasty drinks: Innocent's tag line

So, what are some general principles you should keep in mind to give your brand that extra sparkle with a nice tag line?

  • Keep it short. Please! I've seen whole phrases that took up half of page -- this usually looks simply ridiculous
  • Base it on your company's brand values, not  necessarily products you sell
  • However, it's okay to give some clues about what your business is about
  • Think twice before throwing in too many cultural references to the tag line -- they might work well in one geography, but won't serve you right if your company grows and becomes international. Stick to universal values instead!
  • Share your passion in a tag line, it will be likely to get noticed

For more info, check out an article on Entrepreneur.com and the Hall of Fame of the site AdSlogans.

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!

Flirting with your customers: funky, cool and seductive brands on Twitter

agentprovocateur

Do your flirt with your customers on Twitter? If not, maybe it's time to give it a thought. Twitter is growing like crazy, and brands are beginning to embrace its simple yet powerful capacity to enable dialog with us, real people (aka consumers). Well, at least the online geeky addict kind!  Some of these brands join just because it's a trendy thing to do, and once there, don't really know what to do with it. Others get a bit more creative, attract many followers and use the Twitter medium for their own benefit.

For already quite some time I have intended to take a closer look at Twitter to determine the presence of funky brands there. Funky in the sense of zesty, innovative, and modern. AND, importantly, VERY customer-oriented.

Let’s face it, such great brands, often referred to as lovemarks, are quite hard to find on the web and in real life. My hope was that Twitter, which is known for creating close connections between brands and consumers would attract some of the funkiest brands like a magnet. Or, maybe just being on Twitter makes a brand more funky by definition?

As a point of departure, I considered the UK list of coolest brands and checked if any of them were on Twitter. Also, I added some of my own hand-picked brands.

Some cool brands that I checked, didn't appear to have official profiles on Twitter, but instead, boasted numerous fan accounts, or at least, accounts which contained references to the  brand in question. This reminded me of an article I once saw. It was warning brands about the so called “brand-jacking” on Twitter, but I don't think this is such a bad thing, actually. On the contrary, if your brand already seems to be present on Twitter in the form of your fans' accounts, it can definitely suggest only this: you are a true funky brand.

Here is a selection of some funky brands on Twitter that I have hand-picked for the Schmoozy Fox readers, in no particular order. Follow them and see how their funk-appeal evolves in the Twitter-sphere.

Funky fashion

Agent Provocateur (@msprovocateur), : a famous lingerie brand. Apparently, the brand created a Twitter profile in December 2008 to prepare for Valentine's day, but I see that their enthusiasm for Twitter didn't last long – the last post went out on February 26th. Was it just a short-lived campaign? Come on, @msprovocateur, you should give it another try!

Nike: some strange stuff goes on here. There are several Nike-like accounts, and one of them is called @notofficialnike, supposedly written by the “official” Nike's social media guy. Kind of confusing!

Funky Technology

iPhone: this one has been definitely “brand-jacked” on Twitter as there are many iPhone-related profiles there. Conclusion: great for iPhone, this only suggests its strength.

Apple: same story here, lots and lots of “Apples” on Twitter!

Bang & Olufsen (@Bang_Olufsen) This ueber-cool Danish company which manufactures high end audio products, TVs and phones opened its Twitter account on March 23rd. Only 10 followers by now, but I am sure the numbers will grow pretty quickly.

Funky vehicles

Vespa, an Italian line of scooters produced by Piaggio. It must be a true lovemark, I don't think it has an official Twitter account, but look at the amount of Vespa fan profiles!

Funky personal brands

For me, number one funky person on Twitter is Gary Vay-ner-chuck from Wine Library TV: @garyvee (I already wrote about him on my blog). His Tweets are sometimes very personal, sometimes informative, and often fun. Obviously, lots of stuff about wine. I have no idea how the guy manages to run all these sites, businesses, give numerous speeches, launch TV channels and send messages on Twitter. @garyvee, do you have time to eat and sleep?

Also, Google's founders Sergey Brin (@SergeyBrin) and Larry Page (@LarryPage) are on Twitter. Many people follow them, but they follow only each other. Not too many tweets from them though.

Truly yours is on Twitter as well, feel free to connect with @FunkyBizBabe!

Do you know more funky brands on Twitter? Post a comment!

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

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