shopping

Brand names for innovative products

pampersIf you are about to launch an innovative product, the kind that has never existed before, you'd better give it a great name -- memorable, snappy and easy to pronounce. But what if your product becomes so popular, that it gives rise to a whole new product category? So popular, that people begin referring to this new category by your product name.

"I am going to get more pampers for my baby."

"Give me a kleenex, I have a cold."

"Let's take a thermos on our trip."

"Let's make some jell-o for dessert."

Pampers, Kleenex, Thermos and Jello-O all used to be innovative products that essentially established totally new product categories. Nowadays, people go shopping for "pampers" even if they will end up buying a box of Huggies.

This phenomenon is called genericide, or a "threat of the brand name being used as a generic term." (( Taylor ,  C .  and  Walsh ,  M . G .  ( 2002 )  Legal strategies for protecting brands from genericide: Recent trends in evidence weighted in court cases .  Journal of Public Policy and Marketing  21 (1) :  160 – 167 .))

Is genericide good or bad for your brand?

On the one hand, one could argue that it is good.  After all, it demonstrates very high awareness about your brand. However, this brand awareness may not necessarily lead to purchases of your brand, since its popularity will prompt other copycat brands to appear. And it may lead to customers buying them, whilst referring to them by the name of your brand.

Whereas there's probably little you can do to prevent competitors from launching similar products, you might want to make sure that genericide does not have negative consequences on the brand of  your innovative product.

Professor Judith Lynne   Zaichkowsky from Copenhagen Business School suggests the following methods that brand managers can use to protect their brands from genericide: (( J.L. Zaichkowsky, Strategies for distinctive brands, Journal of Brand Management (2010)  17, 548 – 560))

  • use the trademark as a descriptive adjective, such as Rollerblade ® in-line skates or I-POD ® MP3 player.
  • use the trademark notice in advertising and labelling, for example, BLACKBERRY ®
  • display the brand name with special typographical treatment -- font matters!
  • extend the brand name to other related product categories
the threat of the brand name being used as
a generic term

In other words, successful protection of a brand name involves much more than attention to the name itself -- it a brand strategy that affects a whole company.

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!

Funky benefits of Benefit Cosmetics

LaughterLately, I've been busy interviewing founders of funky brands, sharing tips with you on various subjects of brand and marketing strategy, and hey, doing work for my clients. So,  I haven't as a result written a plain vanilla funky brand review in a while. Time to correct this bad gal's behavior!

Although, wait a minute, the brand in question is actually a perfect fit for any bad gal'. They even have a product called Bad Gal Mascara.

The brand in question is called Benefit Cosmetics, and its place of birth is San Francisco, which happens to be one of my favorite cities.

I guess it was the mention of San Francisco (written somewhere on the product display in a shopping mall) that caught my attention right from the start. To give this phenomenon a proper name, let's say that San Francisco was my first brand entry point for the Benefit brand.

In other words, it generated enough curiosity in order for me to continue exploring Benefit products.

And what did I find out?

Well, first of all, very funky product design. It was a true eye-catcher. A bit of a retro look combined with vibrant colors looked candy-like.  The shape of packaging also somehow felt right. I picked up a small bottle of perfume and just enjoyed holding it in my hands.

Second of all, there're funky product names. Check it out: "smokin' eyes", "some kind-a gorgeous", "my place or yours".

BadGalBenefitMascaraProduct quality? It seemed fine, although I can't be an authority on this subject -- I was in a hurry and thought I'd experience first instead of buying right away. So, I simply don't have an opinion on how long-lasting these products are, if their texture and scent are pleasant, etc. But I have a feeling that this stuff is nice.

Benefit Cosmetics was founded by twin sisters, Jean and Jane Ford, formerly models in NYC. After earning enough cash during their modeling career, Jean and Jane decided to invest it into something they knew very well -- make-up. And so Benefit was born.

Right now both sisters own a minority stake in Benefit, having sold the controlling stake to LVMH back in 1999.

As you can imagine, the business of cosmetics and make-up is extremely competitive. Dominated by huge powerhouses such as L'Oréal and the like (and this is just one market segment!), cosmetics brands have to struggle very hard in order to break through a huge level of competition. Therefore, it's important to stand out from the crowd.

Benefit for sure did it quite well through its packaging, product names (and the brand name itself which is pretty successful!) and its ability to tap into the city brand of San Francisco.

And, importantly, it is highly profitable, one of the important characteristics of all funky brands.

Does this mean that there's no need for any brand strategy and positioning work any more for Benefit to do?

Not at all. Benefit's consumers and their interests are evolving. New creative and funky-to-be competitors are coming to the market. There are indeed a lot of things to take care of if one's funky brand is to stay funky!

Abercrombie & Fitch store in London: analyzing brand touch points

abercrombielondon Last week, I went to London to take an executive education course in customer focused marketing at London Business School. After we've had a series of very inspirational sessions, the program director Professor Nader Tavassoli sent our group on a shopping journey around London in order to analyze the so called brand touch points of different shops.

As Tavassoli explained, brand touch points are essentially the ways in which we discover, experience and eventually buy products or services of a certain brand. Brand touch points are usually experienced during the following three phases:

Rational: this is the consideration phase during which we decide that we need, new clothes, for example. Emotional: this is the phase during which we pre-select those clothes shops we will be going to based on deep emotional associations that we have about our brands of choice.

Experiential: this is how we consume products and services. And this phase was the one we were analyzing during our London shopping trip.

One of our destinations was the European flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch, a popular US fashion label.

Even before arriving to the Abercrombie store in London, my work group spotted what at first seemed like a large  group of teenagers moving in the direction of the shop. They looked like they were on an organized school trip, or at least so they appeared, all dressed in Abercrombie sweatshirts. It later occurred to me that it was exactly this Abercrombie relaxed sporty look that made them look similar, but in fact these were all separate groups of teenagers.

Finally, we reached the store and were greeted by a young man sporting his muscular shirtless body. He was gladly accepting customers' requests for a photo. Anyone could pose next to him and have a Polaroid photo taken, which was carefully put in an Abercrombie envelope to dry. I've got one of those, too. Certainly a very tangible brand touch point.

The whole shop looks like a night club. It's dark inside, the music is loud, young and gorgeous shop assistants are dancing. As a matter of fact, clothes displayed on dimly lit shelves appear secondary to the whole experience of simply being in the shop. Youth, beauty, party atmosphere, great music were certainly more important reasons for being in the shop. But in any case, the lines to fitting rooms were quite long, on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

I guess now I know what's so special about the brand which seems to be a must in my young daughter's local school in Brussels. A couple of abercrombieschoolweeks before doing the marketing course at LBS, I'd gone to a kids' party at her school, and noticed the name Abercrombie proudly displayed on paper figures made by the school children. No other brand names were spotted. Luckily, my daughter is only 3, and is not yet asking me to get the school "uniform" -- Abercrombie clothes.

Abercrombie is the brand that gets the power of brand touch points. I certainly had fun doing my homework at its London flagship store!

Shopping in Istanbul: Italian fashion for Russian tourists

In the last blog post I briefly mentioned about my travel to Istanbul and talked about one potentially funky brand I (kind of) discovered.You can read a more detailed story about my family's travel to Istanbul here. Among others, it also describes our experiences of doing shopping there.

Apart from the Grand Bazaar and Arasta Bazaar, where you can find souvenirs, carpets, spices and other typical stuff (which I bought very little of due to lots of hassling from the sellers and simply because there are many similar items on sale in Turkish districts of Brussels -- at more normal prices), there was one quarter of Istanbul, which left me somewhat puzzled.

img_3859This district is situated to the South of Ordu Caddesi near the Istanbul University, and consists of shops and hotels that accommodate mostly Russian tourists, or so it seemed. Interestingly, most shops had at least one employee able to speak Russian. I was amused that I was always addressed by these people in Russian immediately upon entering shops -- my Slavic features must give away my Rusianness right away!

Here are some of the things I found worth mentioning on my blog:

  • Most of the stores did not sell single items. They looked like regular stores though, there was rarely any close resemblance to warehouses, apart from some exceptions. Some of them had "wholesale" and "optom" (in Russian) written near the entrance, but the majority were unmarked, and we found out that we couldn't buy single items only upon entering the store. Who buys there? Russian shoppers who come to get some stuff for their boutiques?
  • Many shops had Italian-sounding names. "Italiano", "Moda italiana" and similar names were very frequent. It was actually a contrast to my shopping experience in Thailand a couple of years ago, where every shop was openly labelled as being an "Armani", or, more rarely, "Versace". In Istanbul, reference to the Italian style was more subtle.  Some of these stores sold very funky-looking items with "D&G" and "Versace" labels, at very attractive prices. Other items were simply "Italian-looking", with no fake labels attached to them. In most of the cases, shop assistants simply explained that all of the clothes were produced locally, following "Italian fashion principles." Knowing how much Russians have always been fascinated by Italian fashion in particular, I believe these shops cater exactly to the Russians.
  • Although the overall quality was so-so, I found one shop where the stuff looked simply fantastic. Whereas most of the "Italian" stores did not bear the names of the existing Italian brands, this one was actually called Roccobarocco. I know this brand quite well, and love their designs. I also visited a Roccobarocco store on my recent trip to Rome, and was curious to check one out in Istanbul. I was, however, not sure it was real stuff. I have to say that the Istanbul store was designed in the similar way as the Rome one, the logo looked authentic, all of the items seemed to be of great quality, and were definitely Roccobarocco-looking. Prices were not as low as everywhere else in the district, but they were definitely lower than those in Rome. All of the staff in the shop were Russians and Ukrainians. I confessed that I knew the brand very well, and tried to ask what was the story behind the Turkish Roccobarocco shop. If the brand was real, how could they explain the low prices? They told me they had a license to produce these items in Turkey, and were "almost" a Turkish subsidiary of Roccobarocco.

What's authentic and what's not? How to unravel the mystery of Istanbul's "Russian" shopping district? Post a comment!

Turkish fashion in a tiny box

A couple of weeks ago I came back from my trip to Istanbul. I spent a week of great vacation there, exploring this wonderful city and its historical tbox1monuments. Apart from that, I (of course!) had to check the local brands, preferably funky and innovative ones. Prior to going to Turkey, I'd asked my friends, as well as posted questions on various social networks (notably asmallworld and LinkedIn), asking to suggest some funky Turkish brands for me to check out. Believe it or not, pretty much all answers had to do with something called T-box.

Having learned that T-box's main point of differentiation is packaging, or, rather, its size (you can buy your T-shirt wrapped in a tiny bag size of a matchbox), and having the impression that I'd certainly bump into a T-box shop somewhere in the city, I didn't even bother to note down any exact addresses. It turned out though that it wasn't easily findable, and it took me about 4 days before I bumped into it on the main shopping street of Istanbul. Unfortunately, the shop was closed -- on a Tuesday afternoon -- because at that time it served as a venue for some PR event of sorts. So, i didn't get to have a close look at those tiny packages.

And it's a pity. Because T-box, launched in 2003 in Turkey, has quickly expanded abroad, and currently has about 5000 stores on 4 continents. The whole concept is based on squeezing normal size clothes into abnormally tiny boxes, cone-shaped packages and purses. Apparently, it's the only Turkish brand which never has to lower its prices during sales seasons.

Do you know any other business idea based almost entirely on innovative packaging? Post a comment!

Baboushka Branding, or a bit of "Russianness" in marketing

This article illustrates use of Russian-sounding names in product marketing in Western Europe. It also identifies the gap of Russian brands outside of Russia's borders.

Right moment, right message, right place: how to build luxury brands using social media

Is it time for luxury brands to get engaged in more pro-active marketing in social media, or does the concept go against their brand values? This blog posts addresses these issues and gives a couple of examples to illustrate them.

Funky shoes for funky people: Camper


Girls love shoes. In my case, this is an understatement of the century. I sometimes even dream about shoes. And, as any other girl, I have to have lots and lots of them to make sure they match every possible outfit I can think of. But I am not the kind of woman who's crazy about sky-high heels. Well, I've got several pairs like that of course, for special occasions, but I am more into shoes which make me feel connection to the Earth, enable me to actually walk, and contribute to my sexy and trendy look.

In fact, it's not that easy to find such shoes. Think about it – finding a pair that is funky, has heels (sometimes) and enables you to walk at a normal human pace rather than move at a speed of a snail seems a bit of a challenge. But last weekend a Spanish friend of mine walked through my front door wearing a pair of blue-heeled funky shoes. When I looked at them, I recognized the brand immediately: Camper, a cool and edgy shoe producer from Mallorca.

How could I have forgotten about Camper? It is one of the few brands that can tick all the boxes of my shoe requirements. Three years ago, a very fashion-conscious friend of mine who lives in Berlin took me on a shopping tour spree in the city. Our first destination was a Camper store, and it almost turned out to be our last destination as well, since we just couldn't leave it for a long time. And it wasn't just for the cool shoes. The store itself was a great place in which the Mediterranean spirit of Camper's Mallorcan origins mixed well with the unique creative spirit of Berin. I left empty-handed though, just because my size of the shoes I liked was sold out.

Later on, during my MBA studies in Madrid, Camper was occasionally mentioned in my marketing and strategy classes although we have unfortunately never discussed the company in detail. It was mostly Zara that was brought to our attention again and again, as an illustration of a successful Spanish brand, but somehow, Camper was left out.

And that's a pity. Because Camper, launched in 1975 in Mallorca, has managed to create a very distinctive brand identity based on fun, creativity and spontaneity. It would have made a great MBA case on how to create and manage a successful brand. Camper is modern, trendy and just....lovable. No wonder it has so many fans on Facebook, and rightly so!

First, there is superb quality. My friend, the owner of the blue heels, says she's had her Campers for 7 years with not too much change to the original shape and color. Second, there's funky design. Third, Camper shoes have managed to communicate well its dreamy and exotic Mallorcan origin. It is, let's agree, quite refreshing, especially for the inhabitants of grey and cold parts of Europe. Finally, Campers are worn by fashionable, funky and REAL people. These people are busy individuals, like you and me, but yet they are able to slow down, take it easy and enjoy the moment. After all, the company's great motto, “Walk, don't run” rightly pinpoints the necessity of slowing down in our often frenetic and busy lives.

Freedom, being down-to-Earth, creativity, surprise and spontaneity are the main brand values of Camper shoes. Pleasantly surprising its customers is one of Camper's values that draws numerous fans into its stores (and online) back and again. Often, this is demonstrated through spontaneous partnerships with artists and designers -- check out, for example, Camper's Together initiative at http://www.camper.com/together/en/ which focuses on collaboration among various designers in order to create unique shoes.

Camper is a funky company that has embraced the importance of brand positioning. Recently, it has invested into e-commerce which has allowed it to take better control of the brand evolution in the online world. Lucky are those people who are confident enough to buy shoes online without trying them first. As to myself, although I love shopping online, I usually stay away from buying shoes. I guess I'll just wait for Camper to open up a shop in Brussels some time soon!

Chocolate and Online Branding – Sweet Dreams or Bitter Reality?

I couldn’t resist an impulse purchase of two tiny boxes of Pierre Marcolini chocolates on Place du Grand Sablon in Brussels this morning; even though I had to pay 16 Euros for the pleasure! I wandered around the stylish shop, carefully examining nicely wrapped chocolate goodies displayed on its two floors and wondering about the relevance of brand building in the chocolate business.

If buying chocolate has mostly an impromptu character, isn’t it just enough to care about having attractive shop windows that are enough of a catch to lure customers in, or do chocolate producers need to care about building longer-term relations with their customers? While the latter option seems obvious to me, Belgium is full of small shops with a very local reputation that sell superior quality chocolate, but who have probably never considered setting aside a chunk of their budget to try to build a brand – or wouldn't know where to start.

Some “chocolatiers”, like Pierre Marcolini, and some others, have embarked on the path of trying to make their names known across Belgium and abroad. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, at least on the local Belgian scene, Marcolini has succeeded in making its name known to chocolate-loving connoisseurs. The major achievement of Marcolini in this respect has, in my view, been an attempt to give its shops an ultramodern look that immediately set them aside from smaller old-fashioned competitors. But if Pierre Marcolini cares about its further growth and international recognition – after all, it has opened stores in the US, Kuwait, Japan, UK, Luxembourg and France –it might consider giving a bit more thought to improving its online presence and making it part of its wider brand-building strategy. In order to do so, it would first of all need to take a fresh look at its web site.

Let’s look at the Belgian site of the chocolate producer -- www.marcolini.be (why not include the name “Pierre” in the domain name?) -- from the usability point of view;

The main page brings us to a flyer for the recently published book “Eclats” that is said (in tiny text that I could read only by moving my face very close to the computer screen) to be available in a range of shops. There are no details about the contents of the book (I suppose it has to do with chocolate) and reasons why anyone would want to buy it.

The main page then gives you some further options for surfing: three language options (French, Dutch and English), as well as “Site Map”. A click on the English version leads to the story about Pierre Marcolini himself, and “Company” provides a snapshot of the main achievements of the brand in chronological order. The tab “Collections” is empty for the moment, and “Events” hasn’t been updated for a while. The page “Contact” briefly mentions a possibility of buying corporate gifts, but the link where further information about them is supposed to be displayed, is “In the construction.”

As I am very used to the fact that on web pages in Belgium content information often differs depending on the language, I attempt to reach the Pierre Marcolini page in both French and Dutch. But it’s not an easy task! I can’t access the language options by clicking on “Home”, so I need to shorten the now expanded domain name address to www.marcolini.be again, in order to reach the main page with the info about “Eclats”. Voila! The French version of the page contains a new tab unavailable in English, “Solutions enterprise” or “Company gifts”. It contains a small collage of chocolate boxes with text below them mentioning that these, indeed, are company gifts. However, no further information is provided on how to order these gifts! Same thing on the page in Dutch – no further info on the subject.

Given its international presence, I was hoping to come across a corporate site of Pierre Marcolini, but what I´ve found was a number or local, country-specific sites. For instance, the US site www.marcolinichocolatier.com gives some facts about the business, but looks quite incomplete. The tab ¨online shop¨ redirects you yet to another site, www.pierremarcolini-na.com. The latter, in its turn, does not seem to be fully functional as some of the goods described just don´t want to go into the shopping cart!

Apart from the imperfections of the mentioned sites, someone at the company must have nevertheless thought about the consistency of visual identity – the shop design, packaging and some elements of the web sites follow more or less the same color and style pattern.

What strikes me in particular, is the discrepancy between Marcolini´s grandiose shop in a stylish location, and its quite undeveloped web sites, mediocre both from the conceptual and technical points of view. Even if strengthening its brand through a variety of online initiatives might not be Marcolini´s strategic priority at the moment, the company should at least boost the look and feel of its web sites, as well as think of using the brand name consistently throughout the country-specific sites. This seems especially important since the chocolate maker is pursuing the path of e-commerce. Imagine how important it would be to help foreign visitors to Brussels relive their pleasant chocolate shopping experience online! Then, thousands miles away from the gorgeous flagship store, they would continue being fans of the brand. And aren´t most brands dreaming of such a ¨lovemarks¨ effect?1

1. Described by Kevin Roberts in “The Lovemarks Effect”, PowerHouseBooks, NY, 2006