schmoozing

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

Funky ambient ads

Image source: print screen of Inc.com

I’ve already written on the importance of finding and exploring your own space to trigger creativity which is so important while building Funky Brands. I’ve also written about some of the creative spaces used by Funky Brands to express themselves and connect to people.
The notion of creative space is very important for the concept of Funky Brands, and in this short post I would like to share with you a very good slide show that was published by Inc.com.
Enjoy it and get inspired for giving your brand the right medium for funky self-expression!

I’ve already written on the importance of finding and exploring your own space to trigger creativity which is so important while building Funky Brands. I’ve also written about some of the creative spaces used by Funky Brands to express themselves and connect to people.

The notion of creative space is very important for the concept of Funky Brands, and in this short post I would like to share with you a very good slide show that was published by Inc.com.

Enjoy it and get inspired for giving your brand the right medium for funky self-expression!

Image source: print screen of Inc.com

Schmoozing for success

Image by WebWizzard on Flickr I've already written about "schmoozing" in my post Some Lessons On Schmoozing.

Schmoozing is a term that is commonly used in the US, and today I want to bring to your attention a recent article How to Schmooze Your Way to Business Success published by BNET, a popular US business portal.

As the article states, many still underestimate good schmoozing, and the big role it plays in building and cementing business relationships. The best schmoozing is done when you  don't only meet people who can be helpful to you, but also simply help others connect to like-minded people. Even if you won't benefit directly from this kind of "business matchmaking", you'll build a good reputation as a resourceful person.

What's important about good schmoozing is that it's a great tool to create a powerful network. As the BNET article rightly states, the power of your network is not in the numbers of your Twitter followers or Facebook fans. It's in the strength of your relationships with maybe 5 or 10 people with whom you have built good business relationships and whom you can trust.

Being myself a very schmoozy person (hence the name SCHMOOZY FOX), I've made the art of schmoozing a key characteristic of how I do business. When working on branding projects for clients, I can tap into my valuable network and put together ad hoc teams of top-notch industry experts, business economists, design gurus and web guys -- all able to contribute to building your Funky Brand.

Funky brands need funky spaces

Where do good ideas come from? Is it possible to create the right environment that triggers creativity? In what kinds of spaces do we need to be in order to think creatively? These are the questions that Stephen Johnson, a writer and speaker, raised in his presentation Where good ideas come from, published on TED:

These are also the kinds of questions that went through my head this morning, when I detached myself from the computer and decided to go jogging in the park.  Just 15 minutes into my brisk jogging, I had a couple of fantastic ideas.  After 30 minutes, I felt like a creativity machine in action.

Funky Brands are often born from a combination of business strategy and creativity.  To ensure the first, you ought to have the right education, experience and skills. To address the latter, you can seek environments that can boost your creativity.

In this video, Stephen Johnson gives an example of a coffee house as an environment that sparks ideas. It's an informal space where people can connect. For me it's both schmoozing at a coffee house and running in the park that unlock my creative potential.

For you, these spaces and environments may be totally different. The key is to understand what works best for you, and explore different environments and activities that allow you to think creately.

Google is famous for encouraging its employees to spend 20% of their time exploring new ideas within its Innovation Time Off approach, and creating informal office spaces at Googleplex that boost new ideas.

If you want to build a Funky Brand, it's crucial that you explore and embrace all those funky spaces that fuel creativity.

Creativity forum in Flanders -- celebrating the female power

Funky Brands are fueled by c r e a t i v i t y. After all, it takes a great deal of imagination and thinking out of the box if you want to get noticed, stand out from the crowd and create a truly Funky Brand.

Creativity is the reason why I plan to attend the Flanders Creativity Forum on October 21st in Antwerp. Organized by the Flanders District of Creativity, an organization that promotes creativity in entrepreneurship, this year, this annual event will be dedicated to women, and their ways of being creative.

Flanders Creativity ForumSome of the speakers who'll present at the Forum will be Randi Zuckerberg (who happens to be the sister of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook), Cristie Hefner, the former CEO of Playboy and daughter of Hugh Hefner, and Jane McGonigal, a game designer and Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future (I love the name!) in California.

This year, the event is called Creative Minds Leaving an Impact. It's inspired by "cleverness, intuition, originality and other female qualities".

I am looking forward to getting inspired, and doing some  funky schmoozing with talented people.  After the event, I plan to blog about "lessons learned", applied to Funky Brands.

Invitation to join two new LinkedIn groups

funky  brands by SFToday I want to draw your attention to the two new groups on LinkedIn recently created by SCHMOOZY FOX. First, there's a group called FUNKY BRANDS.

Here is a direct link to this new LinkedIn group and I invite you to join it!

Another LinkedIn group recently created by SCHMOOZY FOX  is called Affordable Luxury.  It is also very relevant to all those who are in the business of building innovative, striking (aka "funky") brands. Here is the direct link to this LinkedIn Group.

In one of my previous articles called How Funky Brands Can Be Profitable, I discussed how a consumer product or service could succeed if positioned in the affordable luxury segment.  This segment can also referred to as mass luxury or new luxury.

From SCHMOOZY FOX's perspective, there's a close link between two groups.

In fact:

The Affordable Luxury group falls nicely with the concept of funky brands.

There are several ways of looking at it.

In fact, most of SCHMOOZY FOX's clients are consumer goods or services seeking to craft a brand strategy that will aim at their positioning as affordable luxury brands. And in our experience, most funky brands are exactly affordable luxury products or services!

Just have a look at our Funky Brand Interviews with all those brilliant businesses that have been built based around such elements as creativity, design, affordable luxury and fun!

SCHMOOZY FOX invites you to become members of one of both groups on LinkedIn!

Schmoozing and fun are guaranteed! :)

Celebrating one year of Funky Brand Interviews

Photo collage

Today I have some important news for you!

At the end of June, SCHMOOZY FOX will be celebrating one year of its Funky Brand Interviews.  And in this respect, we have some great gifts to offer to those who want to build a funky brand!

Last June, an interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines, a UK-based online wine retailer, marked the start of the new category on our blog, Funky Brand Interviews. Since then, SCHMOOZY FOX has published interviews with founders and top managers from such famous brands as Marlies Dekkers, Baileys, Tim Van Steenbergen, Theo , Biomega and others.
Today, we’re announcing a call for up-and-coming funky brands!

If you know talented and passionate entrepreneurs setting up an innovative brand, please spread the news to them!

Rules of the game

Very simple! All that we require is:

That you are a start-up, either just launched, or seeking market entry That you want to build a very successful brand to fall in love with

That your main industry is Consumer Goods or Services, particularly in the "affordable luxury" segment

Our prize

SCHMOOZY FOX will identify three semi-finalists, all of whom will be interviewed for our blog. Out of the three interviewees, we will select 1 finalist, who will also receive a:

FULL DAY OF BRAND AND MARKETING COACHING by SCHMOOZY FOX

It’s a great way to start building your brand awareness online through SCHMOOZY FOX's social media channels.  It's also a fantastic opportunity for ideas-rich and cash-poor start-ups to get smart advice on how to get on the right brand & marketing track right from the start!

How to apply?

Please write an email to olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com with the subject “Funky Brands”, or publish a post on our Facebook page, and tell us why your company is, or has the potential to become, a funky brand. For funky brand criteria, visit our blog.

Timeline

Submissions will be accepted until July 17th, and winners will be announced in August.

Please note that SCHMOOZY FOX’s past and present clients, as well as interviewees, are not eligible for participation! :)

Please spread the news, and happy schmoozing!

Brands do not take care of themselves

After a couple of weeks of silence due to my exciting vacation in Morocco, I am back with this short post in the category of Funky Schmoozing. Right before taking off on holidays, I presented SCHMOOZY FOX and its approach towards building funky brands to an audience of web start-ups at Beta Group in Brussels (to find out more about Beta Group, see this post).

My main message to the audience was this,

"Brands do not take care of themselves."

In practical terms, it means the following:

  • many start-ups, both in the online world or otherwise, may have a brilliant technology and a great business idea to kick off.
  • however, they rarely think about their business development in terms of B R A N D
  • which is a pity, because intuitively, pretty much everybody knows that a strong brand means more customers, repeat visits to your web site, and importantly, a profitable business.

Great brands do not happen due to pure magic and serendipity.  Although it may sound paradoxical, funky brands are not only all about fun and creativity -- there's a lot of nerdy, I may say, and rigorous framework that supports their success.

Funky brands do not happen by themselves, they get the nerdy stuff such as a solid brand strategy, sorted out, and then follow the set course with dedication.

This is quite a simple message, but you'd be surprised to find out that only few companies actually think in these terms.

Here's a video interview with me that was filmed by Freshup.tv after my talk. Enjoy!

Brand partnerships

Photo by Nelson Cheen on Flickr

Funky brands evolve, they are not static.  In spite of being able to stay true to its authentic values and brand vision, a funky brand is nevertheless able to keep its finger on the pulse of consumers, experiment and surprise them.

BRAND RE-VITALISATION TECHNIQUES

I have already discussed several techniques that brands use in order to stay contemporary and fun.

Line extensions occur when a company “introduces additional items in a given product category under the same brand name, such as new flavours, forms, colours, ingredients or package sizes.” 1.

Example is Starbucks introducing a line of instant coffee, Starbucks Via.

Brand extensions are more radical ways of either capitalizing on the success of your already popular brand, or bringing some fresh air into the otherwise old and tired brand image. A brand extension is “using a successful brand name to launch a new or modified product in a new category.”2

Example: a brand of bananas Chiquita and its new line of fruit juice bars.

BRAND PARTNERSHIPS, OR CO-BRANDING

True to its "schmoozy spirit" (schmoozing is the term I discussed before), SCHMOOZY FOX is fond of brand partnerships.

They can be particularly interesting for you if your brand does not yet plan to launch a whole new product line, or extend into a totally unexplored area.  Then perhaps a brand partnership is something to keep in mind while you are searching for a strategic direction. Brand partnerships are also referred to as co-branding.

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.

FASHION AND HOME ACCESSORIES

A recent trend that I've been noticing in the mass luxury (also called new luxury) market is this: fashion brands partner with artists and designers to create home accessories.

Here is a recent example of this trend that I came across in a Dutch magazine (forgot its name :( )

Diesel lamp

This is a lamp that is a result of a brand partnership between Diesel, Foscarini and Moroso.

Another example is a recent partnership between Levis and fashion designer Veronique Branquinho. The suprising result of this partnership is not actually related to fashion at all.   It's .... wall paint that is sold under a slogan Fashion for Walls.

levis_ambiance_1

Watch this space for more examples of brand partnerships.

1) Principles of Marketing, P. Kotler, 2002, p. 478

2) Kotler, Principles of Marketing, 2002, p. 479

Beta group meeting in Brussels: Ladies on Stage

Screenshot of Dell's web page I have just attended the European conference on web entrepreneurship, Plugg 2010, and here is another post in my Funky schmoozing category on the same topic.

The Beta group in Brussels was set up a year and a half ago, and its mission is to provide networking opportunities for Belgium-based entrepreneurs passionate about the web. An important part of each Beta group meeting is a series of short company pitches that web start-ups present to a usually sizeable audience of investors, geeks and other web folk.

And imagine this: over the past 18 months, 68 web start-ups have presented their projects on stage, and only two of them were represented by ladies! To address the situation, Jean Derely, the group's founder, came up with the brilliant idea of dedicating one of his Beta meetings exclusively to women entrepreneurs.

It will be on March 30th, and SCHMOOZY FOX is scheduled to be on stage too, with a presentation about specifics of branding for web start-ups. Register for the Ladies on Stage event on March 30th in Brussels here and see you soon!

Plugg 2010 conference in Brussels: March 11, 2010

Plugg2010

Last year, I attended the Plugg conference in Brussels for the first time, and I am happy I'll be going again this year. I found Plugg to be a great way to discover some promising web start-ups from around the world, and listen to venture capitalists and technology gurus talk about business opportunities on the web.

Given SCHMOOZY FOX'S brand and marketing strategy work for web start-ups, an event like Plugg is great chance to check out the fresh web talent out there. I guess this time around, Plugg will be a showcase of advanced technology and web apps. Will the participating start-ups be able to convince us of their commercial and marketing know-how as well? We'll find that out next week.

For those who are not familiar with this annual event, Plugg is a conference that brings together European web and technology start-ups and gives them a chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. It’s also an annual celebration of web entrepreneurship in Europe.

Check out the list of all the participating start-ups by visiting the Plugg site.

In order to get a sneak peak at this year's Plugg, I asked Robin Wauters (Plugg organizer, TechCrunch editor, serial

Robin Wauters, organizer of Plugg 2010

entrepreneur and simply an avid user of the web), to talk about the event.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Robin, is it still possible to register for Plugg 2010?

Robin Wauters: Yes, you can register until the day before the event, even. Readers of your blog can register with a 25% discount using the code plugg-25percent here: http://mijnevent.be/en/event/101/plugg-2010.

SCHMOOZY FOX:  How will Plugg 2010 differ from Plugg 2009? Obviously, there will be new start-ups and new speakers, but how else are you going to surprise us this year?

Robin Wauters: To be honest, it will be much of the same as last year. We think the formula works well, and we're really excited about the line-up of speakers and startups for this year. But always happy to receive suggestions from anyone who attends to see how we can improve the conference for next years.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thanks for organizing this high-level event again this year, and I am looking forward to some schmoozing!

Robin Wauters: Likewise ;)

Some lessons on schmoozing

This morning, a friend sent me a link to a blog post by Guy Kawasaki, The Art of Schmoozing, written in February 2006. That was the year when truly yours was involved in a schmoozing project on a large scale, as I was doing my MBA, putting an infinite amount of case studies and business principles in my head, and, importantly, making contacts with intelligent and fun people. MBA programs are famous for their schmoozing opportunities. And here you go, even though I didn't read The Art of Schmoozing back in 2006, somehow its main points managed to reach me magically, to the extent that the name of this blog, and respectively, my brand strategy consulting, is called SCHMOOZY FOX.

It's not a pure coincidence. When I came up with the name SCHMOOZY FOX, I of course fully realized the fact that I was good at schmoozing, and that I could share some of my talents by helping companies build businesses and brands in a schmoozy (=co-operating, building relationships, looking for win-win deals) way.

"Schmoozing" is a word you'd hear most if you live in the US, so perhaps that article by Guy Kawasaki will help my non-American readers understand this term if they are not familiar with it, and importantly, use the following principles listed in the original article to enhance their business (and personal) lives:

  • understand the goal
  • get out
  • ask good questions, then shut up
  • unveil your passions
  • read voraciously
  • follow up
  • make it easy to get in touch
  • give favors
  • ask for the return of favors

Also, this short video will give you a good perspective on schmoozing:

If you think that these principles are good only for individuals, you're mistaken. They are equally applicable to brands and businesses, especially those of the funky kind. It's only by being open to opportunities (“get out”), reaching out to your customers in an intelligent way (“ask good questions, then shut up”), loving the business you are building (“unveil your passions”) and respecting your suppliers and other business partners (“give favors” and “ask for the return of favors”) that you maximize your chances to build a funky brand!

Happy schmoozing!