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And the winner is....

The Funky Startup Contest has come to an end. Thanks to all of those funky startups that have responded and participated!

Why we organized the Funky Startup Contest

What was the reason for this contest?  SCHMOOZY FOX launched the Funky Brand Interview series in the summer of 2009. Since then, I've been meeting talented and passionate people -- CEOs, founders and top managers -- whose enthusiasm, love of fun and understanding of brand strategy translated into building successful funky brands.  After a year of great encounters,  I wanted to give a chance to less known, funky-to-be startups, to feature in interviews, and benefit from valuable brand strategy advice by SCHMOOZY FOX. Hence the Funky Startup Contest!

Semi-finalists

Three companies -- Crashpadder (online bookings of short stays from the UK), The Smart Hanger (eco-friendly paper hangers from Canada) and Zigfreda (luxuriously funky clothes founded by a Brazilian-Dutch couple) were selected, and interviewed for the SCHMOOZY FOX blog about funky brands.

The winner

Hans and Katia - founders of Zigfreda

And the winner is.... Zigfreda! After Hans and Katia from Zigfreda are done launching their Spring-Summer 2011 collection in Milan and Paris, they will receive a promised day of brand coaching from SCHMOOZY FOX, the funky way!

When Hans Blankenburgh from Zigfreda learned about the victory, he said,

"SCHMOOZY FOX is a great point of reference for innovative, cool, upcoming trends, technology, brand strategy and funky brands. We are already impressed with Olga's knowledge and passion for brand strategy, and we're happy to be the winner!

Stay tuned for the updates about the funky brand strategy day at Zigfreda!

And I wish Crashpadder and The Smart Hanger a lot of success in building their funky brands!

POLL: Vote for the funkiest startup brand

The summer is over, and our summer funky startup contest has come to an end. SCHMOOZY FOX has selected, and interviewed three exciting startups:

1) Crashpadder, an online community that helps find cheap short-term accommodation 2) The Smart Hanger, eco-friendly paper hangers from Toronto 3) Zigfreda, a colorful luxury wear brand

We think that all of them are on the path of building funky brands.

Which one do YOU think should benefit from our free brand coaching?

Click on the links above, read the interviews and M A K E  Y O U R  C H O I C E for the FUNKIEST STARTUP BRAND! Select your choice form the list below, and hit the VOTE button. The voting will be closed on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10 pm Brussels time (GMT +1). And please keep this in mind: there will be only ONE vote allowed per IP address.

The voting is closed, and results will be announced shortly.

True luxury: inclusivity vs exclusivity

I've just come across a series of thought-provoking posts on springwise. Their common theme is brands trying to build loyalty with online tools. Whereas some of them do it in a democratic and "inclusive" way, others opt for "exclusivity". Let's see how this might result in their brand positioning. One article describes a hotel in NYC which has set up an online forum for its guests. The Pod Hotel offers budget accommodation for young travelers, and the forum is a brilliant solution to help them connect to each other in real life, and have fun together in NYC. It clearly addresses the pain particularly of those who travel alone and don't know anybody in New York City.

Snapshot of Pod's online forum for registered guests

This is a brilliant idea, and The Pod Hotel is surely on the good track of creating some valuable loyalty with this simple online solution.  My advice is that it should definitely do a bit more to make this feature known on its website. As it stands now, the site fails to communicate it. I don't know if it's a planned move or not. If yes, I suppose that the reason might be that the hotel works at capacity most of the time, in which case the forum is only there to trigger repeat visits rather than recruit first-time customers.

Another idea featured on the same site is an online social network launched by the airline KLM. The online network is not targeted at all KLM's customers, but only frequent flyers.

For the moment, KLM has set up two online communities -- one for China, and another one for Africa. Essentially, the main target is entrepreneurs who all share the same challenges working in emerging markets.  They can discuss issues of common interest and network online, which triggers encounters offline.

KLM even organizes offline networking events for the online community members both in China and throughout Africa.  KLM says that its online social community is "exclusive" and by invitation only.  My guess is that this exclusivity is tied to KLM's reward program which actually makes sense.

Think of it: the more you fly, the more chances you get to meet like-minded entrepreneurs. And the better you should get rewarded by an airline company for your loyalty.  So, this kind of "exclusivity" achieves both goals -- it rewards frequent flyers whilst giving them a possibility to socialize.

A snapshot of KLM's online community for frequent flyers

I also want to address another kind of "exclusivity" which rarely does anything good if a brand seeks positioning in the luxury or affordable luxury segments.

I've come across many brands, especially various online shops, which try to create an aura of exclusivity out of .... well, pretty much nothing.  I find it amusing when some freshly launched site writes  me to become their member "by invitation only"and start shopping there.

In this respect, the example mentioned on springwise is Claseo, a recently launched "luxury" label. Unfortunately, it's not possible to have any idea about how luxurious its designs are because you can't enter their site. The reason is that the site is "exclusive" and by invitation only.

Snapshot of the invitation-only site of Claseo

I think it's counterproductive to seek positioning as a luxury brand through such self-limiting "exclusivity".  Whereas this might be feasible in instances when brand equity is already at its peak, this move is rarely a good solution for a start-up.  This is particularly true for web start-ups.  Building a user base is of ultimate importance for them, and certainly a key to creating a strong brand.  I have written and spoken about this on several occasions.

Looking at three examples above, the "inclusivity" of the budget hotel in New York in fact makes it truly exclusive. By solving the real need of its customers -- a simple human desire to socialize -- the hotel succeeds in occupying a very lucrative segment of affordable luxury.  The same refers to KLM's online social network for frequent flyers, which helps entrepreneurs connect and socialize in real life.

Funky brands are smart because they understand what true luxury is, and although it may sound counter-intuitive, in many cases being inclusive and democratic, rather than "exclusive", is what really helps build a great brand!

Happy holidays from SCHMOOZY FOX!

FoxXmashatDear fans of SCHMOOZY FOX, funky branding and funky businesses! With this short post, let me wish you a wonderful holiday season and lots of success in your professional and personal projects in 2010! SHMOOZY FOX is off to one of the funkiest cities in Europe -- Berlin!

I'll be back in January with more tips on how to build exciting and funky businesses, and I feel there is a nice blog post on city branding coming up! :)

Have a funky New Year!