Brand Reviews

SCHMOOZY FOX changes its look

schmoozyfoxsitesnapshotSome of you have already noticed that www.schmoozyfox.com has changed its look! I am happy to be running the site of SCHMOOZY FOX brand and marketing strategy consulting, www.schmoozyfox.com as well as the blog about funky brands, on this new WP theme! Many thanks to  Cristian Eslava, a WordPress wizard from Seville, for helping me to set up this theme and make sure that everything is up and running correctly! Also thanks to my friend Ellie Zachariadou (who's by the way the author of the cool fox logo) for her tweaks and advice about graphic layout.

Working with Cristian motivated me to re-activate my  Spanish: it was a lot of fun exchanging emails about widgets, plug-ins and cascading style sheets en español! It's been also coincidentally fun to realize that Cristian's last name, Eslava, which means "Slavic" in Spanish, somehow resembles my own last name, Slavkina.

For his great help, I want to give my link love to Cristian!

Cristian's site, http://justtellmewhy.com (the Spanish version is available on http://pqpq.es/) is a mix between a blog and a discussion forum. One could call it a Web 2.0 platform for debates.

One of its interesting features is that visitors of the site can post questions to which they cannot find answers in “real life”, and wait for crowdsourced solutions. The good news is that one does not need to register in order to ask an answer or leave a comment. The anonymous character of debates can encourage wider participation.

To show you how the site works, here is an example of what I posted on justtellmewhy. Check it out and submit your opinions. Let's get the debate going! You can also use it for starting opinion polls and sharing them with your friends through various online channels.

Another important feature of the new look is a photo of truly yours on the page About Olga. This is just one image from a whole range of absolutely beautiful images that were taken by a talented Brussels-based photographer Michael Chia. Michael's main talent is that he is able to reveal his clients' personal brands through photography.

My photo session was a mix of cool music and Michael climbing the ladder with his camera, meanwhile "chatting me up" to make me feel comfortable.  I am very happy about the result, and you will soon be able to read an interview with Michael to learn how he helps build personal brands through photography.

And meanwhile, enjoy the new look of SCHMOOZY FOX.

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!

A funky yarn brand: Rellana hair

Source: www.trendhunter.com This photo of yarn packaging made me smile this morning.

Rellana, a German yarn and knitting supplies producer, wanted to target knitting fans who look for something special during this Christmas season.

The packaging clearly communicates that this kind of yarn is good for making hats and scarves.

The packaging of Rellana Hair is way more advanced than the style and design of Rellana's corporate site, for example, so I guess they still have a lot of stuff to do to build a strong brand.

But this packaging is a very good start towards making this yarn brand more funky.

Brands are getting naked

Having already spoken about a company called Naked Wines, as well as  Naked Chef, I am now going to speak about naked... vodka. Getting "naked" for brands is a demonstration of authenticity, openness and being perceived for what you are rather than what you look.

The "naked" tendency is becoming the sign of the zeitgeist.

Have a look at this "naked" bottle of vodka. It has no logo, and no name. Do you recognize it?

Image source: http://lovelypackage.com

Even if you are not very much into drinking vodka, you must have guessed: it's Absolut.

The brand that has dressed up its famous Swedish bottle, designed back in 1979, into so many "outfits", is recognizable even "nude".  This is a smart move, Absolut's response to the spirit of times, but something that only a VERY well-known brand could do. If your would-be-funky brand cannot boast any significant brand awareness yet, you gotta dress it up nicely first.

“For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea, that no matter what’s on the outside, it’s the inside that really matters. The bottle visually manifests our belief in diversity and our standpoint when it comes to sexual identities. Of course it is also a wonderful piece of delicate and minimalist design, a true collectors item” says Kristina Hagbard, Global PR Manager at The Absolut Company (See original source).

In the past, Absolut has already made some associations with nakedness. Here is an image  from my marketing assignment paper prepared together with my MBA team at IE Business school:

AbsolutHunk

And here is a little analysis snapshot from the same paper we wrote:

AbsolutIEpaper

You can see that one of the main product attributes is the "medical level purity". The naked bottle does a good job communicating this important feature of the Absolut brand.

Zumba fitness

Zumba Image source: http://www.zumba.com

I've recently caught a glimpse of Zumba on TV, and the funky Latin workout caught my attention. And not only because I myself like to move to the steamy Latin tunes. I've heard about Zumba from some friends here and there, so I was curious to dig a bit more into the concept, and analyze the brand.

So, what's Zumba really?  Is it something you do to get fit, lose weight, or just have fun? To get a better idea what it looks like, have a look at this video I found on YouTube:

It's a bit of a mix of various Latin dance styles – there's some salsa, merengue, samba and something else I can't quite determine. It also looks like fun. But is Zumba just a kind of fitness program you can follow at your local gym, or is it also a profitable business? Importantly, does its business model support the brand and its values? Here are some branding clues SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to share with you.

What exactly is the product?

The core “product” of Zumba is its fitness workout. It is actually a “service” rather than something tangible you buy at a shop. You go to your local gym, move around, dance and sweat for an hour to funky Latin tunes. What you get as a customer is an experience, fun and positive emotions. Most probably, you'll burn some calories along the way. In terms of tangible products, there is some Zumba-branded merchandise available on the site, such as DVDs, music, umbrellas, T-shirts etc. Not too exciting, but not too bad either.

What's the business model?

Well, that's a good question. I did some googling around to find out more, but all I can do is simply assume that Zumba sells licences to designated fitness instructors around the world. Or maybe, cash flows come simply from the fees instructors pay to Zumba for the obligatory qualification courses. Whatever the current business model, SCHMOOZY FOX could come up with at least several more ways of how to create and capture more value for Zumba!

As far as instructor training, it's not clear from the site if an instructor has to follow all of the offered 8 levels or only one. For instance, in Belgium, there are several basic level workshops available for the price of 325$ per two days, and no previous Zumba experience is needed. I wonder if you actually have to be a dance or fitness teacher to start with, or can I also take that 2-day course and start teaching Zumba next week? I suggest that Zumba.com sheds some more light on this point, in order to make things more clear for potential instructors.

Who are Zumba's customers?

There are two main kinds of customers in this case: those who will take classes, and those who'll teach them. As regards course participants, I wouldn't be dwelling only on such criteria commonly used in marketing as age and gender, and where they live. SCHMOOZY FOX would also focus on the deep emotions that trigger potential customers' decision to sign up for a Zum'ba course. Is it a desire to lose some weight? Become more sexy? Meet a potential date? Have fun? Build self-confidence? These are some of the questions Zumba should keep in mind to get a better idea about its customers. For now, its targeting seems a bit more fuzzy rather than funky.

In order to reach instructors, Zumba should be doing a different kind of analysis. After all, instructors' reasons for teaching Zumba are totally different. Here, emotions play a certain role, but incentives and rewards are equally important. Zumba should build a community around the instructors, and preferably give them access to some perks: use your imagination here, there are plenty of great opportunities available!

Importantly, customer touch points (I explained what they are in my article about Abercrombie and Fitch) should be thought through in relation to both groups of customers. The funky web site alone (actually, it's only the home pages that looks good, whereas national sites are pretty weak) will not do the job of maintaining the brand, and the biggest challenge for Zumba is to ensure that the quality of courses, instructors and spaces where courses are held, is consistent.

Orchestrating so many elements around the world (Zumba courses are offered on a global level) certainly requires a lot of dedication and consistency, but if this huge effort pays off, a true funky brand is born! Consistency of services is by the way one of the biggest challenges for any service brands, and only few get it right, on very rare occasions!

How is Zumba being promoted?

The most obvious channels that drive the buzz around the Zumba brand are its  web site, and coverage in the world's leading health, beauty and fitness magazines. I would imagine that a lot of the marketing is also word-of-mouth driven.  In addition to these channels, Zumba has partnered with The Kellogg Company to participate in a joint health and fitness initiative targeted to the US Hispanic market at some point, but this was an initiative undertaken only in the US. The name of this initiative was Zumbando con Kellogg's.

Something that Zumba could consider to build a brand would be celebrity endorsement by a Latin star – a dancer, fitness instructor, actress – plenty of opportunities here. Remember how strongly aerobics is associated with Jane Fonda? That's definitely something to consider in the Zumba case.

Apart from that, just like any respectable service brand (I am being a bit sarcastic here, as there aren't that many of those around!), Zumba should keep in mind that “point of sale promotions” (the actual fitness rooms where classes take place) as well as  instructors themselves shouldlive the brand, breathe the brand, and promote it. Just look at a very large selection of amateur Zumba videos on YouTube: each of them has a totally different look and feel with the only common factor being Latin music! More consistency is required!

From would-be-funky to truly funky

Building brands for services companies is surely one of the most challenging activities to engage in, as this requires so many elements to be in harmony at all times.  But if you manage to get it right, you can reach unbelievably good results. If Zumba wants to move from being would-be-funky to a truly funky brand, there are so many things it should still work on! In addition to the suggestions above, it should also know its competitors, position itself very differently from them, and get those brand core values sorted out in a more of a … Zumba way.

To learn about further developments of the brand, please read Zumba sells branded merchandise.

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 dog food: Bit-O-Luv

While searching the web in the hope to spot yet another funky or would-be-funky brand, I came across a site of a US pet food company, Bit-O-Luv. The last time I had a pet was many years ago, and pets don't quite fit my current hectic lifestyle, unfortunately. So, I feel fairly remote from the whole pet food thing. However, what I found on the Bit-O-Luv site is an example of very good brand differentiation and positioning which caught my attention.  Have a look at the following images of popular pet food brands, for example:

Natural Balance dog food

Or this selection of pet food brands:

Selection of pet food brands

They look kind of familiar, don't they? Even if you have neither cats nor dogs, you've probably seen those ads with a dog running through forests and lakes, ending up on a top of the mountain. All due to the dog's consumption of an X dog food brand. I haven't actually witnessed other pet food brands positioned in a slightly different way. Before I saw Bit-O-Luv. Look at this snapshot taken from their site:

Bit-O-Luv pet food

The site, and the product range, is built around three dog characters: Maddie, Otis and Louie. Here is the profile of Maddie, the spaniel:

Maddie the cocker spaniel

The Bit-O-Luv positioning is supported by cartoon-like characters, fun site and product design, and love for dogs. The company frequently organizes fundraising events to show support to local animal charities. The Bit-O-Luv comes across as an authentic brand, and I have ticked off at least several boxes that qualify it as a funky brand.

When I have a better idea about the Bit-O-Luv's profitability and growth potential, I will give you my final funkiness verdict.

Artists and brands

As a follow-up to the article "Is Branding Important for Artists?", this is an interview with Florida-based young artist Thaneeya McArdle. In this funky brand interview, Thaneeya talks about her passion for art, developing human connections with the help of the Internet, living life to the fullest and about her funky artist brand.

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

Revitalizing tired brands: Chiquita's Fruit Bars

What comes to mind when you think, "Chiquita?" Is this, "bananas?" Lately, Chiquita has extended its brand into fruit bars, based on a franchise model. This short post talks about a Chiquita Fruit Bar spotted in Brussels.

Marlies Dekkers talks about her lingerie revolution

Second in the SCHMOOZY FOX funky brand interview series, this article reveals the personality of the Dutch fashion designer and entrepreneur Marlies Dekkers, creator of the successful lingerie brand marlies|dekkers. In this interview, Marlies Dekkers shares her enthusiasm, drive and passion for the fashion empire she has created from scratch and turned it into a successful business and lingerie brand of choice among many celebrities. It's an inspirational story for all women entrepreneurs who dare to be.

NIKE partners with rapper Dizzee Rascal

This post is about NIKE's collaboration with rapper Dizzee Rascal to support the launch of the limited edition shoe Air Max 90 Tongue N Cheek, based on the new album release by the musician.

Aomori Apples from Japan

Source: lovelypackage.com This beautiful photo of packaging for apples caught my attention when I was browsing one of my favorite inspirational sites: The Lovely Package blog. This very tasteful packaging is creation of the Swedish designer Sara Strand, and it will be used as a container for two Aomori apples originating from Japan.

I already wrote previously about branding of fruit and vegetables, notably in my article about funky garlic, and later on, funky apples. The packaging created for Aomori apples is clearly a very strong element that can enable Aomori to stand out from the competition and build a brand. The only kind of information I could find about Aomori is that this is one of the best-known apple growing regions in Japan, and the apples that grow there are simply superb. I'd be definitely tempted to taste them, especially if I came across this wonderful packaging.

Introducing this attractive packaging design should certainly help Aomori build some nice brand awareness about Japanese apples. Good job!

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.

Italians, Paris Hilton and Prosecco

This post discusses the D.O.C.G. quality assurance label used for Italian wines, and discusses whether it will have repercussions for the Paris Hilton Rich Prosecco brand.

Nike Just Does It Digitally

Today I want to share a very good overview of how Nike is keeping its brand alive digitally. It's quite a lengthy article, but those funky brandsters with a lot of curiosity for building brands online should definitely check it out here. According to this article, Nike doesn't do TV ads. At all. Most of its advertising budget goes into creating cool video content. Promotions kind of "take care of themselves" virally because the content is good to start with -- entertaining and enjoyable.

"We don't do advertising any more. We just do cool stuff," says Nike's UK Marketing chief Simon Pestridge. "It sounds a bit wanky, but that's just the way it is. Advertising is all about achieving awareness, and we no longer need awareness. We need to become part of people's lives and digital allows us to do that."

And here are a couple videos that can give you a bit of a flavor of Nike's digital mindset:

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.