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Gaga boosts Google's brand

First, it was Katy Perry visiting Facebook. Then, SnoopDogg came over to Twitter's offices to say hi to its employees. And just earlier this week, Lady Gaga gave an hour-long talk to Google's employees in an interview session conducted by Google's head of consumer products, engineer chick Marissa Mayer.

  Silicon valley companies are trying to boost their internal company culture by inviting celebrities to schmooze with employees. The Silicon Valley battle for talent is on the increase, and companies there try to funk up their brands by inviting cool celebs over.

 

In fact, each of these stunts act as one-off co-branding stunts, with Facebook associating itself with Katy Perry's brand image, and Twitter with that of SnoopDogg's.

 

But in this battle of co-branding between tech and entertainment, Google has certainly outperformed its competitors. In fact, it's also outperformed itself by managing this stunt in a very professional, and also very funky way. Google prepared well for Gaga's visit (look at the awesome video about Gaga at the beginning of the YouTube interview above), and made sure that its employees got a chance to interact with her during the Q&As session. The interview was recorded and posted on YouTube for everyone to get a glance at Google's internal company culture.

Google's choice of Lady Gaga is very smart from the point of you of branding. Not only is she a celebrity and a talented performer, she's also someone with a personality.  While Google is making an effort to retain its current employees and attract new talent, Lady Gaga's powerful personality that she managed to project so well during the interview, supports Google's important brand value -- respect for talent and uniqueness.

 

By inviting a female artist to its HQ, as well as by appointing a top woman exec as the interviewer, Google also sends this message: women are an important part of the company. Well done!

And finally, the content of Google+Gaga's video will satisfy both web addicts and  entertainment lovers alike, and is likely to get lots of hits on YouTube.

 

My favorite quotes by Gaga in this video are:

 

"The most important thing about your creativity is that you H O N O R  your creativity."

 

"If you don't cast any shadows, you are not standing in the light"

 

Funky personal branding

 

Yesterday I conducted a Personal Branding Masterclass in Brussels. The event was organized in co-operation with IE Business School, my Alma Mater where I completed International MBA in 2007.

My goal was to show how my approach towards building product and services brands can be applied to building personal brands.

But what is a personal brand, anyway? In my presentation, I defined it like this:

 

Personal branding is a framework of associations, values, images and actions through which people perceive The Unique You.

In other words, it's your unique value proposition, something that makes you stand out from the crowd, and something by which others can remember you.

In my presentation, I mostly focused on the advantages of good personal branding in professional life, and demonstrated several important steps that one would need to go through in order to craft a strong personal brand.

I spoke about how personal brand audit, brand positioning and brand promotions -- some of the steps that I use in product brand strategy -- could be used in the area of personal branding. To give an example, your LinkedIn professional headline is a very good place simply made for a personal brand positioning statement. Most people do not use it to their advantage, listing their job title, rather than their Unique Value Proposition, in their professional headline on LinkedIn. Look at my own example of my personal brand positioning statement:

 

As you can see, my job title is listed under "Current", whereas my professional headline is all about my unique value proposition. In 120 characters (that's how much LinkedIn allows!), I said a lot of things that summarize a lot of important facts about myself:

  • Passionate = I am definitely passionate about my profession!
  • European = this shows both where I live and the geographical scope of projects that I work on
  • Funky branding diva: this one catches a lot of attention on LinkedIn! The "funky branding" part refers to my Funky Brands™ philosophy, as well as my blog about Funky Brands. And, yes, diva! I don't need to explain this one, do I? :)
  • The next phrase (Offering creative, web-enabled strategies to position and build your brand) also contains a lot of useful information about my personal value proposition. It shows that creativity is my strong point, that I know the web, and am strategic. And of course, I know how to position, build and nurture brands!

I gave several examples of people with strong personal brands, among which was Jean-Pierre Lutgen, with whom I had published a Funky Brand Interview about Ice Watch.

For more information about this event, search #MyFunkyBrands on Twitter, and visit my Facebook fan page. You can also read my article Several degrees in one personal brand published by The Personal Branding Blog.

Follow @schmoozyfox and #funkybrands on Twitter

The @schmoozyfox account on Twitter has been out there for quite a while, but since I mostly tweet from my personal account, @FunkyBizBabe, I have to say, I haven't been using @schmoozyfox much. However, for all those who want to keep up to date on all kinds of funky branding issues, it's worth following @schmoozyfox. If you want to see which brands I consider funky, you can also follow our Funky Brands list, http://twitter.com/schmoozyfox/funkybrands. Finally, since I also sometimes tweet about branding from my personal account, search the hash tag #funkybrands and  you'll get a scoop of creativity in marketing and branding on Twitter.

Brand mascots in action: Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Image courtesy of Travelocity Over the past couple of months, I've published a series of articles about brand mascots, beginning with the basics in my post Brand Mascots, some more details in Beastly Branding, and finishing with a concrete example of a mascot in Why meerkats help markets, and a story about Online brand mascots.

With my recently discovered interest in brand mascots, I decided to interview Joel Frey, PR Manager of Travelocity, about this company's brand mascot -- Travelocity Roaming Gnome. Joel has been with Travelocity since 2003 and has had the chance to take the Gnome to many fun places including New York, London, Memphis, TN, Orlando and Chicago, to name a few.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When did the Gnome become Travelocity's brand mascot?

Joel Frey: The Roaming Gnome became Travelocity’s brand mascot in January 2004. The first television ad appeared during the annual Rose Bowl college football game. During the holiday season of 2003, we ran some teaser ads showing images of the Roaming Gnome, but not tying him to Travelocity in an effort to create some pre-campaign buzz.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who had the idea about the Travelocity Gnome, and why was it important for Travelocity to make him part of its brand?

Joel Frey: The concept of the Roaming Gnome was pitched to us by ad agency McKinney in 2003. At the time, we felt an icon like Roaming Gnome would help us differentiate our brand from our competitors and it has. We also wanted to provide travelers a lens into some adventures they could take on their own via Travelocity. The Roaming Gnome has been a powerful vehicle for us in that regard.

SCHMOOZY FOX:  Could you tell me about your communications strategy tied to the Gnome? Is it the main way for Travelocity to communicate with its customers and if not, what other ways do you use to build the brand?

Joel Frey: Because the Roaming Gnome has become so synonymous with our brand, he has definitely become a broader part of our communications strategy, especially on the Travelocity Facebook page . He also has his own Twitter profile though we have a separate Twitter page that we use to communicate with customers. Beyond social media and traditional advertising, we communicate with customers in a variety of forums including our Window Seat blog. It is made up of an expert team of writers who post daily on a variety of subjects including tips, deals and hot destinations.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Does the Gnome visit only places in the US, or does he like travel internationally as well?

Joel Frey: He travels everywhere!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Why do you think Travelocity's customers like the gnome?

Joel Frey: He’s funny, whimsical, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Any exciting future plans of the Gnome that you could share with us?

Joel Frey: Rumor has it that there’s a trip to the Southern hemisphere in his future….

Image courtesy of Travelocity

The power of personal branding

Build your personal brand and show it off on the red carpet! Image by Fascinating Girl on Flickr In my blog post The Zuckerberg Brand I talked about the recent positive buzz that has surrounded Mark Zuckerberg, and how it has boosted the brand of the company he had founded, Facebook.

Paraphrasing myself, Facebook is known pretty much by everyone on planet Earth. Facebook’s business model relies on people to trust it with their data. If they trust the CEO, they are much more likely to trust the platform.

The blog post about Zuckerberg resulted in some friends’ comments posted directly on my Facebook profile.  To summarize, there was general hesitation towards powerful CEO brands. One of my Facebook friends argued that the "CEO star syndrome would eventually hurt the company in question".

Sure, there are, of course, certain risks involved when you embark upon a thrilling mission of building your personal brand. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur. You might doubt if it's the right strategy to be known for being yourself first, and only then for being a company founder and CEO. All kinds of concerns might be running through your head...

What happens if I build a lot of personal brand equity and then decide to leave my company? What if this will leave customers dissatisfied? And what if the business loses its appeal and its brand image changes and becomes worse?

There may be many what if's one could come up with. And here's my advice to you: dump the what if’s. Build your personal brand, and invest in it as much as you can.  The Funky Brands philosophy applies also to your personal brand: it's better to stand out from the crowd than be like everyone else.

Image source: http://blog.careergoddess.com

And hey, if you are a cool and famous person, it’s just so much better than the opposite, right? It will also help your business, too.

A couple of Funky Personal Brands of successful entrepreneurs that come to mind are Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Oprah herself (www.twitter.com/oprah) has almost 5 million followers on Twitter! Her businesses, such as Oprah magazine and Oprah radio, have significantly fewer followers. However, Oprah might also tweet about her businesses from her personal account, so the cross-promotional opportunities between herself and her businesses are enormous.

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee on Twitter) is a personal branding phenomenon. Gary grew his dad’s liquor store in New Jersey into a multi-million dollar online wine retailer by understanding the essence of social media. I think his secret is dedicated engagement with his customers and fans throughout social media channels, and an edgy personality that he’s not afraid to broadcast on the web.

He’s genuine, and it shows. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his honest and direct style is impossible to copy. It’s key to his funky personal brand. Read Gary's tips on building your personal brand here.

So, dear entrepreneurs, understand who you are and what drives you. Get into your full personal power. But don’t set the goal of being liked by everybody -- this is not going to happen.

Simply be yourself, and express your passions. And then think of the best ways to get your personal brand known to others.  You’ll have fun, and meet like-minded individuals.

And you know what? Your business brand may get an incredible boost from your funky self-expression. Have fun!

Online brand mascots

Recently, I've published several posts about brand mascots, cartoon-like characters that can infuse your brand with personality. In my first posts about brand mascots, I defined what they are. Further on, triggered by a reader's comment, I wrote an article Beastly branding, in which I concluded that most of brand mascots take shapes of people, animals, birds and insects.

Today, I want to talk about brand mascots that have evolved online.

Many online brands (and I've already written about the Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl) infuse some of that real-life personality by using brand mascots in their brand communications.

A good list of online brand mascots has been published in this article on Mashable. Here are the 8 mascots described there, apart from the already-mentioned Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl:

1) The Twitter Fail Whale

fail-whale

2) The Foursquare boy

foursquareThe name of the company is derived from a playground game with the same name, Four Square. My take on it is that Foursquare wants us all to "join in, and play the game", hence the mascot of a playing boy. The playground ball game Four Square, however, is probably mostly known in the US, where one would detect a subtle link between the ball game Four Square, and Foursquare's invitation to "play the game". I suspect this association might not be so apparent in other parts of the world, however.

In one of my previous articles, Learn to speak the language of your brand, I talked about brand naming for companies that want to expand internationally. The bottom line is that brand names (along with all the desired brand associations that they result in) should be understood in all countries where the brand in question wants to reach. Foursquare should have kept this in mind when naming its brand with potential to grow outside of the US.

3) Google "Doodles"

This one is very special. Probably everyone has noticed that Google displays different images on its homepage, depending on the zeitgeist. Sometimes it's just a plain Google logo, but often it comes accompanied by the so called "Doodles" -- images that express the holiday spirit, or important events.

I am not entirely sure whether Doodles are strictly speaking brand mascots, but this doesn't really matter. The point is, they add a bit of a zest to the brand, and entertain us all.

4) The Travelocity Gnome

travelocity gnomeI've mentioned the Gnome in the article on brand mascots, here he is, along with his Facebook fan page.

The remaining four brand mascots that have evolved online are the Firefox's fox, the Facebook "head" (used by Facebook in its early days), Myspace's people with headphones, and Reddit's Alien.

Desigual spreads happiness online

When a brand decides to do something with social media, it usually gets trying to find original ways of engaging audiences on Twitter and/or Facebook. A Spanish fashion label Desigual did something a bit more different, and decided to go into blogs and comments. Even the best blogs, according to Desigual, sometimes get few comments. With this sad fact :(  as a starting point, Desigual decided to help spread a bit more happiness on the web.

How?

Desigual set up a site www.desigualhappyhunters.com. You can sign up as a Happy Hunter, select a fashion item of your choice, and start leaving comments on the blogs Desigual suggests to you. If a blogger responds to your happy comments, the Desigual fashion item is yours.

It's a pretty simple idea, nicely executed. Let's wait for the results of the Happy Hunters initiative and see how it boosts the brand of Desigual!

Source: A Source of Inspiration

Brand mascots

Photo by Bludgeoner86 on Flickr

You’ve ordered yourself a great logo. You’ve built an attractive web site. You’ve sorted out the look and feel of your distribution channels. And you even have a brand slogan that goes well with your funky brand name.

Provided that your business idea actually makes economic sense and that you’ve positioned yourself well against competition, chances are that you’ve built a good basis for your brand strategy that will lead to satisfied customers, and big profits.

And yet, you feel that there should be something else that will give your brand a personality.

Have you noticed that when you buy your funky Kipling bag, there’s a very cool little toy monkey that comes with it?

Or, when you buy your Michelin guide, it always has the Michelin man on its front page?

These cartoon-like characters are called brand mascots, and they are there to infuse your brand with that precious valuable personality.

Rather than part of your visual identity, brand mascots are essentially a marketing communications tool that gives your brand a more memorable and emotional character. Even if your brand mascot is actually an animal, chances are, it will give your brand a human touch.

Though brand mascots are becoming increasingly common, especially with the rise of social media (check out the Travelocity Roaming Gnome on Facebook), really good and effective ones are still rare.

kipling monkeyHere are some tips that will help you create a great brand mascot:

1) Think of your target audience -- will it be prepared to listen to your brand stories told by a cute mascot? If your company offers specialized software to accountants, don’t start pushing cartoon-like characters onto them to promote your stuff. The funky factor of your brand mascot needs to be consistent with the profile of your customers.

2) Don’t get obsessed with making your mascot look like your logo.

In fact, the role of the mascot is not to enhance your visual identity, but make your brand alive. Some companies change the appearance of their mascots, adapting it to the situation. For instance, different Kipling bags will have different monkey mascots, depending on the style of the bag.

Similarly, the Twitter bird often takes different shapes and forms, somehow still managing to look Twitter-like!

Twitter birds

3) Make your brand mascot connect to your customers emotionally. The main question you need to ask yourself is this, “What do I want my customers to feel when they interact with my brand mascot?” There should be something in your customers that resonates with the character of the mascot.

4) Consider a brand mascot only if your business makes economic sense.

This is a tough one! I’ve seen many startups invest tons of money into a lot of activity around their brand mascots -- only to realize that these cartoon characters alone neither  drove sales, nor built the brand. If you have nothing valuable to offer to your customers, they will be annoyed rather than delighted by your brand mascot.

5) Finally, make people remember your brand, not your brand mascot.

A brand mascot is only one element of your brand communications, but it doesn’t replace your whole brand strategy.  When people think of your brand, it’s okay if they first recall a funny cartoon-like brand mascot. What’s more important, however, is that they know what exactly this mascot exactly stands for! Remembering a cute furry animal, and not having a clue about what you actually sell, is not what you want from your consumers. Brand mascots enhance your brand, but they are not your brand.

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.

6 resources for naming your brand

Photo by Natalie Maynor on Flickr Giving a name to your new company or product should be an important element of your overall brand strategy. Brand naming gets especially tricky when your strategy is to go into several markets at the same time.  Then you'd need to make sure that your new company name sounds equally good in China and Brazil, if you plan to go there, of course. I've addressed the complexity of such cases in my blog post Learn to Speak the Language of Your Brand.

Today, I want to share with you some of the resources that can come in handy while you are busy brainstorming a new brand name. Before you start, remember: don't book any URLs, twitter and facebook accounts before you've actually understood what your new brand will stand for. But if you feel you have sorted out the details of your brand strategy, then these resources can come in handy. Here's a collection of 6 online resources that can help you, and if you know more, please post a comment:

1) Guy Kawasaki's article The Name Game

2) An article published by OnStartups.com: 17 Mutable Suggestions for Naming a Startup

3) http://namechk.com/ This site allows you to see if your name is taken throughout social media. The list of social media outlets is pretty vast, and many that are mentioned here are not even used any more, so I wouldn't worry if your name is already taken in some of them.

4) http://www.namechecklist.com/ is a similar service, though it also allows you to see what domain names you can still register with your name.

5) http://www.bustaname.com/ This site allows you to check if your desired brand name is available. You can also play around with various name combinations: a good way to brainstorm the name and get some ideas you maybe didn't think of at the beginning.

6) http://www.dotcomroulette.com/ allows you to enter keywords, and based on them, it proposes a name for you. I've experimented and received quite obscure results, but perhaps you'll have some luck using this site.

Again, all of these should play a role when you are well into your brand strategy, and know a great deal about your product, competitors and customers. Hope this helps, and good luck naming your new brand!

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.

DJ Tiësto interacts with fans during #tiëstotuesday

#tiëstotuesday DJ Tiësto, a world-famous musician and record producer of electronic dance music, spent the whole day yesterday (October 5) directly interacting with his Twitter followers. He sent out about 450 tweets answering questions to his fans. Most of the questions were about Tiësto's personal life (whether he's single, has children,) and, or course, his music. His answers were very short, getting shorter and shorter towards the end of the busy day. He rarely retweeted anyone.

Tiësto's Facebook page

Tiesto facebook pageTiësto is a big celebrity in the world of music, and has a lot of fans.  Just check his Facebook page. Today, it has 4,609,719 members!

His (and, I guess, his management team's) posts generate thousands of comments each day.

Facebook was used to announce the #tiëstotuesday on Twitter, where numbers of his followers are more modest. Even after the #tiëstotuesday stunt, he has "only" 217, 368 followers.

Twitter and Tiësto's personal brand

However, it's not all about the numbers. As some say, “Facebook is for people you know while Twitter is for people you don’t know”. Which means that Facebook users are more receptive to status updates by their real friends.  Twitter users, on the contrary, are more alert to the tweets of those they follow, whether they know them personally or not.

In this respect,Twitter can indeed provide a better platform for Tiësto (and other celebrities) as a direct fan outreach tool, and a platform for strengthening his funky personal brand. The fact that he personally, and not his management, was the real guy behind his tweets, reinforces his popularity vis-a-vis the fans.

The only downside is that such one-to-one conversations are extremely time consuming. If Tiësto is thinking about other #tiëstotuesdays in the future, I'd suggest to do this no more than once every two months or so.

We just want you to make more great music, Tiësto! :)

Tiestoo tweet

Building personal brands through photography

Michael Chia

The importance of building one's personal brand in social media cannot be underestimated. What you say about yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other channels, and how you appear there, can either enhance or diminish your personal message.

The first thing people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile, or Twitter account, is your photo. That's why you should not underestimate the role of the "right" photo which ideally has to communicate not only your appearance but also your personal value proposition.

I have recently participated in a very fun photo shoot during which Michael Chia, a Singapore-born, Brussels-based photographer, spent about two hours shooting images of me. I liked the results, some of which you can see in this blog post, and so I decided to chat with Michael about his work.

In this interview Michael talks about his profession, which is  essentially capturing people's personalities through photo portraits.

Schmoozy fox: What is, in your opinion, a successful photo portrait?

201002_Olga_117

Michael Chia: A successful photo shoot for me means projecting a personality of my client through the use of images.  In this, I aim to ooze out  and exaggerate that personality during the shoot.  I use the word 'exaggerate' because it is an important element.  That personality could be a hidden trait that others do not get to see.

Sometimes that can be difficult for people who are more camera shy, and in this case, I chat them up and make up some personalities along the way.  The final image should be built based on the interaction between my client and myself.  Similar to finding a mix of chemistry with the ingredients we have to get that right shot.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How important is it to have a professional quality photo, that shows one's personality, as part of one's profile on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example?

Michael Chia: Many people underestimate the power of photography in their profiles.  They spend infinite time and resources creating websites to market the services they offer.  When it comes to photography, they stick to a snapshot of themselves!

Remember -  a picture paints a thousand words. That photo you use is your personality, a valuable visual business card. It tells your potential clients who and what you are.  In this era of the Internet, 90% of the time your potential client's first contact with you is the website.  You want to have that single image to reach out to that potential client with the correct message.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When business people come to you to order a portrait, what do they usually want? Do they want to look serious and professional or appear more personable and authentic?

Michael Chia: Most of the corporate clients have a preference for the more serious and professional appearance.  And in certain cases, it is hard to break away from the normal convention due to the nature of their business and their clients' fixed perception of what image should be related to that business.

Coat_throwing

Nonetheless, my role as a photographer also includes me acting as a consultant and injecting ideas into the process.  At times, I am able to convince my clients to move away from conventional photography. Alternatively, I'll shoot according to the brief while still aiming to avoid the dry, boring and static shots. What I look for is dynamism in the shots.

On the other hand, many small or new business enterprises miss the perfect opportunity.  Instead of crafting out something unique through the effective use of personal portraits, they try to project themselves as a big company with the serious, static and boring shots.

Photo by Michael Chia: Funky Olga!

Let's face the facts.  Nobody likes to work!  Given a choice we'd rather be on permanent vacation.  The truth is that we all have to work.  If we have to work, the preference is to work with people who can be personable, fun and approachable (not forgetting competent). Here photography can play a deciding factor.  The smaller the team is, the more important images are in projecting your visual business card.

And when I have clients who need shots for non-business use, moving away from the static and standard shoots is a big must.  Why should they stand or sit on chair, facing me at 45 degrees angle smiling into the camera?

No. No. No.  This is the perfect time to have funky portraits.  Move. Jump.  Dance.  Scream.  Pout. Be yourself or be who you want to be and capture that moment!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Your own style of photography is very personable and funky. Could you reveal some elements of our own photo session and how you managed to pinpoint my personality that you wanted to show through photos?

Michael Chia: I make it a point to meet all potential clients before I take on an assignment, that's why I asked you to meet before the photo session.   To me, that first meeting gives me an idea of the client's expectations, exchange ideas and finding a 'style' for the shoot.

Both the client and me have to find that chemistry to work together.  As you mentioned, I pinpointed your personality.  What I actually did was this: I found your style, cooked up a chemistry, exaggerated that funky and foxy personality in you and made us both work together to achieve that. 'Work' is a bad word ;-)

Photo by Michael Chia: "Foxy & Funky"

Let's replace that with playing funky music and me chatting you up with nonsensical, hypothetical questions.  When your guard is down, you are more relaxed, open to ideas and everyone has fun.

Having fun is a key ingredient in my funky photography shoot!

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.

Luxury brands are embracing social media, finally

Chanel has a Facebook fan page In December 2008 I published a post called Right moment, right message, right place: how to build luxury brands using social media. It seems that only a year ago most luxury brands were so hesitant to embrace the power of social media and the Internet in general!

Back then, I personally had a bit of a challenge to spot the funkiest first-movers in social media among luxury brands. There was a good debate on some LinkedIn groups related to my search for such pioneers, but the overall opinion of those I asked to share their examples was this, "Luxury brands won't embrace social media because they fear to lose their exclusivity appeal."

And look what's happening in December 2009!

Stefano Gabbana, a co-creator of the Dolce&Gabbana brand, is on Twitter (@stefanogabbana).

Chanel and Alexander McQueen have Facebook fan pages.

It looks like luxury houses have taken note of the fact that even people with the biggest purchasing power -- their potential customers -- hang out on various social media platforms.

"(The web) is very important by the sheer fact people are spending more time online, on Facebook, Twittering," said Emanuel Ungaro's chief executive, Mounir Moufarrige, quoted on brandchannel.com.

As I mentioned in that article a year ago, even if resistant, luxury brands would eventually explore social media, because their customers would digitalize their brands for them. It looks like SCHMOOZY FOX's predictions are coming true to life! ;)

Is this democratization of luxury? Let's watch this trend and see what shape it takes next December.

Twitter stockings and YouTube socks

This week the stream of my friends' posts on Facebook has included several photos of hosiery -- socks and stockings -- displaying logos and messages related to popular social networking sites, YouTube and Twitter. This made me remember another similar trend that I noticed several months ago during my trip to Rome: posters advertising presence of small Italian shops on Facebook.  Both hosiery and posters are examples of  "traditional" marketing used to promote brands on the web (shops on Facebook) or online brands (YouTube and Twitter) in real life.

Here are the YouTube socks:

Source: googlestore.com

My favorites are the Follow Me Stockings made popular by a Tweet of Alyssa Milano, an American actress who is also an avid Twitter user. Yesterday's article on Mashable added to their popularity, and they are already out of stock on Etsy.

What a pity, because these funky, schmoozy and foxy stockings would be awesome for SCHMOOZY FOX!

Follow Me Stockings

All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. SCHMOOZY FOX  is a trademark of Creative Generation Lifestyle Services Ltd, a company incorporated in the UK. © 2009 CGLS Ltd. All rights reserved.

Funky brands from around the world: Spain

Here is the "crowdsourced" list of funky Spanish brands that was compiled by contributors to the Facebook fan page of SCHMOOZY FOX, as well as Twitter followers of @FunkyBizBabe and @schmoozyfox

YouTube make-up star Lauren Luke launches her own beauty line

Wow. This is a great example of how to create a storm with the help of social media, acquire millions of fans and followers on YouTube, Twitter and other online channels, then tap into this massive following by launching a new product. Lauren Luke, a 27-year old single mother from the UK, started her amateur make-up tutorials on YouTube a couple of years ago. Shooting all videos at home, she showed millions of women from around the world how to look like Angelina Jolie or Rihanna. Or Samantha in Sex in the City. Like this:

And here you go. The new beauty collection called By Lauren Luke has been recently launched. It features 5 make-up kits accompanied by videos explaining how to use them and create certain looks using each of them.

Many celebrities launch fashion and cosmetics brands tied to their names and celebrity status. But becoming a celebrity on YouTube is a whole different story.  Congrats, Lauren, you are authentic, and it's one of the strongest winning factors of the best brands

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!

Celebrating European Entrepreneurship: Funky Brands at Plugg 2009

plugg-logoYesterday, I had a lucky chance to attend the Plugg 2009 conference in Brussels. For those who are not familiar with this annual event, it’s a conference that brings together European Web 2.0 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 entrepreneurship in Europe. The event was organized by Robin Wauters, a well-known Belgian blogger and serial entrepreneur active on the Web 2.0 scene. The atmosphere of the venue was quite futuristic and incredibly geeky, with most of the attendees photographing the event with their iPhones, their MACs on their laps, with TweetDecks visible on the screens. It was simply cool to be there. Many in the audience attempted to engage in Q&A sessions with presenters via Twitter – that’s how geeky this stuff is! However, Mike Butcher, the UK TechCrunch editor, made sure the interaction within the audience was free-flowing, uninterrupted by Twitter-mediation.

I was there mainly to spot potentially funky online brands amongst the 20 presenting start-ups. Although fascinated by the technology behind some of the presented business ideas, I wanted to see which of the entrepreneurs would be capable of transforming their high-tech ideas into concepts understood by final consumers.

mendeley

And guess what? Although the majority of the 20 semi-finalists dwelled on technological superiority of their business models, the 3 finalists (Jinni, Myngle and Mendeley) were those whose business models:

1) Concentrated on the final customer and clearly explained their value proposition; 2) Didn’t make technology the driving force of their businesses, but simply an element required for strategy implementation; 3) Were either already profitable, or at least had a more or less clear idea about HOW to make money.

jinniFor the rest, it was surprising to see how much irrelevant stuff presenters put into their pitches – techie language, “we’re the best” messages with no supporting arguments. And almost NOBODY ever addressed this: how is my business going to bring value to my customers, and why would anybody care to pay for it? This basic stuff seems amazingly straightforward, but it didn’t come up in many presentations.

And now, the final word about the finalists. Myngle is an online language learning community (I could draw a lot of similarities between Myngle and busuu.com, which I covered in one of the previous posts), Jinni is a recommendation site dedicated to movies and other entertainment, and Mendeley (the winner of Plugg 09), launched by a bunch of PhDs is the platform which can be used for search and exchange of academic papers within the global academic community of researchers and scientists.myngle

Many thanks to Robin Wauters and Veronique Pochet for organizing this inspirational event. What I find most refreshing about the event is this: even in this chilly economic climate, there is still a bunch of enthusiastic individuals in Europe, who care about creating value and changing the world. And this is great news.