schmoozy fox funky brands

Co-branding: Martini and D&G

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

Brand partnership

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

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

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

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

Celebrity endorsement

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

Country branding

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

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

Need rebranding? Don't just change your logo, think brand strategy

Old Apple logoI am often asked to explain what brand strategy stands for. In my experience, many people still associate branding, and brand strategy, with graphic design -- logos, web sites and other elements of visual identity. Whereas visual identity is absolutely essential in branding (and SCHMOOZY FOX works with a great team of designers to take care of it!), it's just one step in a broader activity which is brand strategy.

Brand strategy is your overall business strategy that has an objective of building a  S T R O N G  B R A N D.

This may sound rather simple, but in reality, a good brand strategy is a very complex exercise.  A good brand strategy can determine your success, and no brand strategy is often a recipe for a failure (see my previous blog post Brands do not take care of themselves).

Rebranding is a good chance to sort out your overall brand strategy. Often, companies feel like getting away from a tired image, and creating something more consistent with market needs.  This "something" is often, in their view, a change of look and feel. Often, their rebranding efforts are only about changing a logo.

But the reality is, even after improving their logos, many companies don't sort out their bad customer service, or improve product functionality. It's astonishing that many companies simply do not think that these strategic elements have anything to do with their brand!

Today, I want to share with you a story  published on Inc.com, How to rebrand your business successfully. It summarizes a rebranding project that was done by Seattle's Coffee Company (part of the Starbucks group). See how the company measured the size of their market, did competitor research, re-thought their customer base, and improved distribution channels.

All of these activities are characteristic of brand strategy and should be considered within any rebranding project.

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.

Brand discourse

We probably all know that successful brands often structure their communications around stories, or narratives.  But have you noticed that people who like these brands are even better at referring to them in the context of broader, coherent stories? This is not surprising, as brands are becoming important elements of the contemporary consumer culture, and we simply can't separate them any more from our everyday lives. An interesting read in this respect is an academic paper (I read a lot of those -- funky branding is often quite a nerdy activity!) Towards a Narratology of Brands? ((Towards a Narratology of Brands? Marius K. Luedicke, University of Ititisbruck, Austria Markus Giesler, York University, Canada, published in European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, 2008)). The most interesting observations, in my opinion, are:

  • People cognitively process and communicate their lives as narratives
  • They also organize their brand-related experiences in the forms of narratives. The resulting "consumer brand narratives" are "influential threads in people's life stories that explicitly involve brands" (( ibid. )). This is why those funky brands that are able to change and/or improve our lifestyles have a better chance of becoming part of these narratives.
  • Finally, consumers not only refer to brands in the context of narratives, but they also evaluate and share their brand-related experiences as stories.

To illustrate the final point, here's an example of brand discourse related to Microsoft and Apple. Watch the PC and MAC dudes dancing and tell me if you're a right clicka or an iPod flicka.

Maurice Lacroix watches: authenticity, achievement and square wheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 brand ambassadors of Maurice Lacroix

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PT Chronographe Rectangulaire Full Black_B

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

Martin Bachmann: Thank you!

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

Is your brand ready to go online?

Last week, I attended a business development conference in Brussels. Although not exclusively, the majority of the conferences and mini-talks were about e-marketing and online channels in general. The main focus was on tips and tricks of using online tools in order to achieve results. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE BEFORE GOING ONLINE

What results? This, of course, depends on each individual company, but you'd be amazed to know that only very few companies know what they want to achieve before establishing online presence. Often, they gotta be online just for the sake of it, because it's en vogue, or because hey, all of their competitors are already jumping on the bandwagon of all things web.

FIRST, THINK BUSINESS STRATEGY

Indeed, tapping into social media for brand-building purposes should be for sure on any brand's radar screen these days. But it's how you use it, and how you link it to your overall business strategy, that's important. If you haven't figured out your brand's DNA yet, and have a vague idea of what your customers love (or hate!) your brand for, it's not yet time to engage in high-intensity Twittering! Read my article Why sweet Cheerios went sour on YouTube to learn what can go wrong if you jump into social media too fast.

On many occasions at the afore-mentioned event, several people came to me asking how to use Twitter or Facebook, and were not able to explain why they wanted to do that. One guy gave me a fancy answer, "To show that we know how to do that".  Show to whom? He wasn't so sure.

DEFINITION OF BRAND STRATEGY

Unfortunately, a holistic strategy approach towards online brand building -- the kind that involves thinking through the basics of one's overall business strategy before starting a Facebook fan page -- is still very rare.  In this sense, a smart brand strategy, which is essentially your company's business strategy that focuses on building a strong brand on all levels of your company, from logistics to customer service to web design, can definitely be the way to go.

SOME TIPS BEFORE YOU GO ONLINE

To give you some tips on what should be kept in mind before launching your brand's presence on the web, here is a short presentation that I had prepared for last week's business development conference.   These slides are pretty general, but if applied in the right way to YOUR company, they can create amazing results.