Archive for the ‘culture’ Tag

All Brands Need is Love

The other day a colleague pointed me to BBC’s 1 hour documentary on Steve Jobs called “Billion Dollar Hippie” (I’d send you a link but then the copyright owners might yank it. Google it for now). There’s a line around the 40 minute mark of the video where they’re telling the familiar story about the iMac and how its success was attributed to its unique design and how Apple managed to make a computer fashionable. Then came a line that not only captures the brand essence of Apple, a quote from iMac’s designer, Jonathan Ives, “We have to make this something people will LOVE![emphasis added by me]. “Love” according to my colleague, should be the thing to which every brand aspires.

Every brand? I wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘love brands’. I’m typing this post on my beloved MacBook. I have a protective case and an InvisibleShield screen protector for my iPhone. I find Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport (Yes I know it’s officially called Billy Bishop Airport) experience absolutely lovely. I think I’m falling in love with this (new to my neighbourhood) frozen yogurt chain from California called Menchies. As a professional marketer, I love to work on ‘love brands’. And yet, there’s a ton of no-so-loved brands that do perfectly fine if not thrive in the marketplace. Take a look at the top 10 companies in the 2011 Fortune Global 500…only one of them, Toyota, still going strong despite its massive recall in 2009 and the Tsunami, has some ‘love brands’ in its roster.

  1. Wal-Mart Stores
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. BP
  5. Sinopec Group
  6. China National Petroleum
  7. State Grid
  8. Toyota Motor
  9. Japan Post Holdings
  10. Chevron

You see what I mean. While I’m uncomfortable to say it, the evidence suggests that you don’t have to be loved to be successful. So that got me thinking…maybe love and not-so-loved brands can co-exist in the same marketplace. While being loved can be a competitive advantage, there must be other ways to gain competitive advantage and maybe being loved is something a marketer can choose a brand to be or not to be.

Enter Advertising Age’s ad critic Bob Garfield, someone not known for jumping on the latest marketing bandwagons. In what I think will become a landmark cover story, Garfield writes, “Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element. [bold face added]”

Notice that branding was not in his goodbye list. That’s because branding and brand building is more important than ever before. “…you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

“Your essential self.” In other words, we judge brands pretty much like we judge other people. We dislike insincere brands in the same way we dislike insincere people. We love those that we connect with emotionally and who we trust. Why do we tell brands to be authentic? It’s the same thing we tell people before their date…”Be yourself!”

Authentic, trustworthy, brands with whom we emotionally connect have staying power. The others do too…but they won’t get our love. Imc2’s “Brand Sustainability Map” charts out this brand universe where the love and not-so-loved brands co-exist.

Brand Sustainability Map

At the top-right are the familiar “love” brands but next to them and below them are brands that have enough to keep them going for a while. Emotional relationship brands aren’t maximizing that connection to its full potential or are missing something. In the bottom left are the reluctant relationship brands. These brands have traditional competitive advantages like high switching costs, high barriers to entry from competitors, patents, etc. which might explain why there’s a phone and cable company in that quadrant.

So love brands, not-so-loved brands, and even bland brands can co-exist. It’s the same with other people in your life. You don’t love everyone you know; some people are just friends and some people are that bland acquaintance who’s a friend of a friend who you see at parties but don’t pay much attention to ’cause they’re kind of…meh.  So here’s the thing. No one wants to be that ignored bland guy. Most of us want to be loved…or at least…not be bland. So how we get there? That’s for another post.

Your Real Name or a Pseudonym on Twitter

In the old days of the web pseudonyms were the rule. Anonymity was the web’s allure. You could escape from your real life and be whomever you wanted online. Then Facebook happened. Real names, real pictures. Authenticity starts ruling the interweb. And now Twitter. Seems like half the people go with a pseudonym (though most will have a real name in the bio) and the other half go with a real name or a variation involving initials. When a newbie wants to join Twitter, I’m at a loss to advise which format to go with?

I had a conversation about this with a colleague (who goes by his real name on twitter) and his theory was: If you’re going to be tweeting actively and often and you have a clever name, go with that memorable pseudonym. When you rock the twitterverse with your 140 character wit, the pseudonym adds a new dimension, maybe a level of mystique, to your personal brand. On the other hand, you know your real name, others know your real name, it’s your name why not use it? I suppose authors with pen names and actors/musicians with stage names go through a similar thought process…adding more fuel to my long-held belief that social media turns us all into public figures.

Twitter Serendipity

Last year I wrote a post about how mobile internet access was killing serendipity. For example, rather than just go into that neat looking funky restaurant I just happening to be walking by while hungry, I end up checking it out on Yelp or UrbanSpoon first and only if it’s highly rated by a critical mass of people would I enter. I might even order the dish recommended by the majority of recent commenters. I read my Surowiecki; I’m following the wisdom of the crowds. But there’s an excitement of not having a map (or the Google Maps app) in turning down that alleyway or pedestrian walkway and sampling some random place that just looks good and feels right.

Well last week, I experienced a bit of twitter serendipity. It was already a quarter to one, I was hungry but not sure yet where I wanted to go for lunch. Just then I noticed that a friend of mine had tweeted that he was wondering if anyone was available for lunch in my neck of the woods. I checked the time of the tweet and it was 2 minutes ago, so I told him I was game and we met up. Turns out someone else also noticed his tweet within a few minutes and the three of us had a delightful lunch with great conversation in a new place I had never been. One tweet and I discover a new place and meet a new face. Serendipity has been restored!

Tony Hsieh on Life, Business, and Being Happy

I was one of the fortunate bloggers to receive two free advanced copies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, he’s the CEO of Zappos.com the shoes and clothing e-tailer known to its customers for WOW-factor customer service and known to social media types (like me) for its amazing culture of openness.

While bookstores will likely stock it in the “Business” section, the book reads more like an autobiography with a bit of social commentary thrown in. The breezy, jokey style makes for an easy read but Tony’s storytelling brilliance really comes through when he turns anecdotes into fables. When he goes through his entrepreneurial exploits from childhood through university, we’re treated to the evolution of an inventive mind and lessons learned both through failures and successes. Along the way we also see an evolution in mindset from the boy who “always fantasized about making money, because to me, money meant that later on in life I would have the freedom to do whatever I wanted” to a multi-millionaire adult (following the sale of LinkExchange) asking the questions “What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” That’s when the epiphany hits him,

“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.”

And that’s when the Zappos ethos forms. Tony realizes that he’s happiest when he’s creating something and then even happier when the people around him are happy too. So the customer service WOW is about making customers happy and the company’s “Core Values” is partly about giving employees the ability and freedom to pursue their own happiness.

You’ll notice throughout this review that I haven’t mentioned social media once despite the title of this blog. And that’s because this book isn’t about social media even though Zappos is known in certain circles for embracing the technology. But I’ll leave that to Mashable and ReadWriteWeb to expound on that. What I took away was some whose taken some values shared by socially mediated culture i.e. radical transparency, openness, sharing information, along with many others and incorporated them into the DNA of the corporation, not only because it makes Tony and everyone around him happy (though that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself) but because it’s good for business.

Delivering Happiness launches today (June 7, 2010)
To learn more about Delivering Happiness visit www.deliveringhappinessbook.com