A wonderful piece by Debbie Millman at the Design Observer with Angus. Some interesting comments relating to the nature of brands and in some instances how they communicate through semiotics.
More notes to follow.
We know all too well the sensorial saturation that comes from spending an afternoon in the shopping district of a big city such as San Francisco. It happened to me this past weekend—toward the end of my sojourn through SF’s Union Square, it had to be something special to stop me in my tracks. Enter Anthropologie.
I had admired Anthropologie’s imaginative displays previously but this one was indeed special. Take a look at a couple of pictures of the display below. It doesn’t scream fashion per se, but manages to beautifully blend in with the brand’s promise of “creating unimagined environments.” In this particular case, Anthropologie takes up the cause of saving the cork oak ecosystem by urging people to recycle more. It uses recycled wine corks to create a multi-sensory and engaging storefront that educates, entertains, and most importantly, communicates the brand story by drawing support from an aptly uncommon but worthy purpose.
In my opinion, this window display fits with the desires of their target and is a great example of beautiful storytelling that matters so much in fashion retail today. Anthropologie has a very distinctive and particular style that is a reflection of its core shopper—affluent consumers with an eclectic taste and appreciation for handmade and artisan niceties. This sense of artisanship is reinforced across all touchpoints at Anthropologie—the products, catalog, website, interiors, well-positioned artful installations, and the aforementioned window displays—all woven together with an unmatched design sensibility to drive appeal for a desirable and seductive lifestyle.
Now only if The Gap could be convinced to steal a trick or two.
Images courtesy of Samar Birwadker, Landor Associates.
You don’t have to be a parent to understand that there’s a difference between just hearing and actually listening. This comment, at the beginning of the recent conversation I had with Karen Quintos, senior vice president and CMO at Dell Inc. summed up our shared opinion that a company can think it’s being customer-centric when, in actuality, it’s not. I had called Karen to talk to her about how social media has changed the way companies interact with customers and whether Dell, being a quintessentially customer-oriented brand from the get-go (as in, tell us how you want your computer built) had evolved as a result. What follows is a snippet of our very interesting dialog:
Allen Adamson: Dell, as in Michael Dell, came up with the idea of involving customers in the building of their personal computers and, in doing so, built a differentiated brand name, customer-centric from the start— “customer-centric” being a buzz word, but an appropriate description nonetheless. How has Dell kept up with this concept given the advent and exponential growth of social media since your company was launched in 1984?
Karen Quintos: First of all, customer-centricity is and always has been part of the Dell DNA. It’s not something we think about. It’s the way we do business. It’s like the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive. You can hear someone say something, but it doesn’t prompt any reaction. Listening, on the other hand, is active. You have a passion for the message and you take accountability to respond to what customers need. Listening is what we do at Dell and social media has made it that much more effective and efficient.
AA: I remember back to my “mad men” days in advertising when it was the research department that had the primary responsibility to look and listen and report back. It seems listening is the way Dell operates across the board.
KQ: Absolutely. We have taken listening to a whole new level and we use it in every aspect of the business—from product and solutions development to services to sales to customer support to marketing. A great example of this is IdeaStorm, which we launched in 2007. IdeaStorm is a social community that allows customers to suggest new product and services ideas, and then we refine and prioritize those ideas within our organization. As another example, we have a very active group of storage technology enthusiasts. We leverage their knowledge to help us with new solutions and technical specifications.
AA: With social media, there is almost no option but to get things done in real time. The transparency dynamic prompted by digital technology has really brought to life the notion that “a brand is as a brand does.”
KQ: Without a doubt. That’s why we pay close attention to the conversations we have with our customers. We have what we call ourListening Command Center which monitors conversations taking place about Dell on Twitter, Facebook, across all social media communities. The folks on this team can immediately triage a situation. They’re able to trend data that shows us what issues people are latching onto, positive or negative, and then our teams deal with them accordingly. One of the ways we respond to these conversations is through a program called Dell Cares (@dellcares on Twitter). Dell Cares is overseen by an enthusiastic group of customer support and technology people. Instead of just making note and letting issues fester, this team is on top of addressing problems or questions promptly.
AA: Do you think Dell has a particular advantage over other companies because you started out as a brand with an inherent listening culture?
KQ: Yes and no. There is nothing new or novel about the notion of listening as a way of providing customers with what they want and need. It’s so simple and so basic. But if you don’t do it, you can’t act on it. Listening enables superior customer outcomes. All of us at Dell, including Michael, start every staff meeting with a customer story, and then we talk about how we could have made the customer experience even better. If you fundamentally believe that being customer-centric is the right thing to do, opportunities will follow. But you have to believe in it.
Justus Oehler and his team in Pentagram’s Berlin office have designed the logo for Two Heavens Creation, a new Austrian-Chinese partnership in the field of culture, entertainment and the performing arts. The organization’s mission is to mutually promote and further strengthen cultural and creative relations between the Republic of Austria and the People’s Republic of China. The objective is to establish a long-term cooperation between the two countries for the purpose of transferring first-class Chinese productions to Austria and Europe and top Austrian productions to China and Asia.
The two letters “H” stand for the two heavens—China and Austria—and come together to form a bridge, which also reads as a “C” for creation. The logo is designed to appeal to both a European and a Chinese audience, hence the theatrical “sunburst” colour gradation from red (both Austria and China have red in their flags) to yellow.
Armed or unarmed? Publish photos or don’t publish? Extra judicial execution or justifed act of ‘national self defence’? How much evidence do we need to see before we stop doubting?
This week we have seen – very starkly – just how important credibility is, and how very hard it is to regain it once it is lost. That we doubt is the only thing beyond doubt.
Put simply: we don’t believe everything we are told. In business, as consumers, in global terrorism, in politics. And the more the story gets altered the less we believe. Saying something is true really does not make it true.
“we really are trying to lend to small business”
“none of us knew about the phone hacking”
“we are beyond petroleum”
Trust is born out of credibility and capability. If I believe your intent, and I believe you have the capability to deliver on that intent then I will trust you. Capability without credibility is worthless.
The straight down the line school of strategy says that most business growth is about leveraging capability. I’m pretty sure that’s wrong now. Brands like Apple, Tata, Tesco, Google, Virgin all show that if you can build a bond of trust, if you can build credibility with customers you can enter almost any category you like – whether you have the capability or not. If Apple made a refrigerator tomorrow it would be a hit.
You can buy or build capability. And smart businesses the world over are beginning to hook up with others in order to collaborate, in order to access capability they don’t have.
But you can’t buy credibility at any price. And you certainly can’t kill for it.
By Lori Gross
Executive Client Director, Global Oral Care
When we wanted to learn more about managing a global brand we turned to Lori Gross, executive client director of global oral care in the Cincinnati office of Landor Associates. With almost 20 years of branding experience, Lori works closely with Procter & Gamble’s oral care team to develop the global oral care strategy, including consumer segmentation, brand architecture, portfolio management, brand strategy, design themes, visual identity development, regimen systems, and brand revitalization.
What makes a global brand team effective?
The best teams work together toward a common vision. However, we often start before we know what the vision is. Building the right team to define a vision starts with identifying the right multifunctional team members. The best brand teams are like a three-legged stool. Each leg is strong on it’s own but the stool only stands if they all work together. In my experience, the best teams consist of the client’s internal marketing and design teams, and Landor. We all work together to create the vision.
What’s the first thing you do when embarking on a global branding project?
The first step I take is to immerse myself in the client’s business and try to understand the brand’s consumers. It’s essential to travel to the key world regions where the brand is sold to get a full understanding of the brand, the diverse retail environments it occupies, and to actually see how local consumers perceive and make purchase decisions. Brand teams can’t just spend time in the office—they need to get out in the world to understand the consumers’ reality. For example, the brand teams may want to put really clever and compelling language on the packaging, but it’s important to keep in mind that we are selling to a consumer who takes three seconds to make a purchase decision when she’s in the store.
Truly successful brands represent a commonly understood, relevantly differentiating idea that transcends cultures and geographies. How do you uncover that core idea?
I once had a client tell me that getting that idea is like capturing lightning in a bottle. It takes courage and perseverance to find ideas that do transcend cultures, and a leap of faith by the brand team to chase them. These core ideas need to be based on an inherent, human truth. When working on products that people both need and love—and ideally you want both—you touch their lives. I am passionate about working on oral care because I’m helping people all over the world keep their teeth healthy.
Landor worked with the Crest team at P&G to brand Crest Vivid White toothpaste in 2004 around a core, universal idea. Before Vivid White, people thought of toothpaste as just a functional product. But with Vivid White we changed the conversation from health to beauty. Our core idea was this new way of thinking about oral care, especially for women: toothpaste as a smile-care product that straddles hygiene and cosmetics. There are always more ways to think about a brand than the obvious.
Once Procter & Gamble acquired Oral-B in 2005, we were able to add toothbrushes to the line (we redesigned the packaging under a new subbrand, 3D White, in 2010). This changed not only how consumers saw toothpaste, but also how retailers shelved it. Consumers sought out a 3D White toothbrush and toothpaste together as opposed to differently branded pastes and brushes because both kept true to our big, universal idea: a beautiful smile matters. Now 3D White is truly the first global brand design for P&G oral care—in 2010 it was named one of SymphonyIRI’s most successful nonfood packaged goods brands.
As branding experts Landor needs to forge a path that not only showcases the big idea but brings everyone—from our clients to the consumers—along on the journey. That’s capturing lightning in a bottle.
What’s the most effective way to align teams around the world?
The most critical step is to determine from the onset who the approver is and who the other key influencers on the brand team are. It’s also necessary to be aware of the skeptics on the team. The people with contrary points of view need to be understood and be heard, too—even if they are eventually overruled. Ensuring the brand team is aligned to the process and their role in it helps the project run smoothly. We get pressured to work fast, but skipping this step is not an option in my book.
What are some of the greatest challenges in managing a global brand today?
To me the biggest challenge is getting everyone who’s working on the project to park their preconceived notions at the door. Just because something worked in North America five years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work globally today. How do you get everyone to check their egos and gain trust in the process to get to a good place? It has to be a collaborative experience that challenges the way we might normally work, both for Landor and our clients. The more that ambassadors can empower the rest of their teams to believe in the big idea, the better. Managing global brands and working globally has changed, in unexpected ways, the way P&G and Landor do business.
What’s the secret to successfully running a global brand management program?
The secret?! I can’t give away my secrets.
The keys to success are being a great listener and being able to filter—we need to trust what consumers are telling us. Brand teams provide a point of view and lots of data, but the consumer sees the brand differently, more simply. The brand team analyzes the brand rationally, often forgetting to understand the brand at an emotional level, which is really what the brand means to consumers, and influences their decision to purchase. Being able to balance the emotional side and the data to create a brand experience that delights everyone takes incredible filtering and listening skills.
What are the golden rules of global brand management?
The Landor oral care team created operating principles together. It’s a great tool to ensure we operate as a team and work toward a common vision.
By Russ Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer
San Francisco — 2 May 2011
One of the reasons I named my own blog Brand is Action is that I believe this is how brands will be built in this next era of branding—not through image, but through behavior. The experience of the brand has been a hot topic among brand managers and brand consultants over the last five years or so. As organizations have embraced “design thinking” and the “voice of the customer” as product features are increasingly at parity, and services are bundled with products, the experience of selecting, purchasing, and using brands is under as much design consideration as the product itself.