• Posted by: Interbrand on Thursday, April 24 2014 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

    According to Forbes, the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could not be clearer—climate change is a threat to economic growth. So how should investors and businesses react? A growing number of companies are already seizing opportunities, collaborating, and partnering to produce more sustainable products.

    Target, for instance, is unveiling "Made to Matter," a unique program that is giving 17 sustainable brands like Method and Burt’s Bees a platform to launch their products. The hope, says Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method, is to “accelerate adoption of wellness-based products,” and create “a ripple effect on the industry." In another collaborative effort, H&M is teaming up with the design think tank, Ever Manifesto, to showcase sustainable design that doesn't sacrifice style. Appropriately, eco-minded supermodel, Amber Valletta, will be the face of the brand’s two new collections – Conscious and Conscious Exclusive.

    From sustainable fashion and consumer products to the adoption of electric cars and the growth of solar, evidence of the move towards a low-carbon economy is increasingly visible. But opportunity isn’t only knocking for eco-fashion mavens and clean energy entrepreneurs. Companies in other sectors can make themselves more competitive by becoming more climate-smart and robust.

    In a Triple Pundit interview featured in this month’s Closing the Gap newsletter, Suzanne Apple, SVP of Private Sector Engagement at the World Wildlife Federation, explains that responsible environmental practices are not only good for people and the planet, but also essential to the long-term viability of businesses—a fact that has not been lost on investors.

    According to AXA Investment Management, investors are assigning greater importance to how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors impact their returns in the long run. Students at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business have proven the point by beating the market with a socially responsible fund that has achieved a 50 percent return over six years. The jury is in for AXA IM, which called responsible investment ”a clear trend that is gaining momentum.”

    To find out more about “capitalism with a conscience,” the evolving clean industrial revolution, the “new religion” of millennials (i.e., CSR), and how brands are working together to jointly develop solutions that minimize environmental impact while also improving business practices and profitability, check out this month’s installment of Closing the Gap!

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  • Posted by: Elyse Burack on Thursday, April 17 2014 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

    Analysts have long debated whether or not the Cable and Satellite TV industry is doomed. Subscriptions to Pay TV are at their lowest level in four years as consumers are seemingly beginning to “cut the cord” and cobble together their own solutions for cheaper and more flexible entertainment options. To add to the matter, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that scores for TV service are, on average, lower than any other consumer sector. The lack of satisfaction is attributed to chronic rate hikes, clunky set top boxes, poor customer service, and a lack of control over which channels one pays for.

    As pent-up frustrations with traditional Pay TV providers increase, customers are turning to “over-the-top” (OTT) providers including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Late last year, the Xbox One, PS4, and Chromecast emerged making it even easier to watch web-based video. Additionally, emerging disruptive startups continue to reshape the landscape. Aereo, for example, allows consumers to watch and record live TV over the Internet—without having any hardware installed—for a mere $8 a month.

    While there is debate about whether OTT will ever completely replace TV, it’s clear that the way consumers watch video is changing. Streaming services have broken down traditional barriers to viewing content and, as the world becomes more mobile, consumers want to watch content wherever and whenever on any device. Additionally, consumers are increasingly “binge-viewing,” or watching at least 2-3 episodes of a single series in one sitting. According to a 2013 Harris Interactive survey, 61 percent of adult viewers binge watch on a regular basis. This trend is shifting the economics of the industry, given that traditional providers rely heavily on advertising and syndicated reruns.

    Until very recently, Pay TV providers have been able to successfully dig moats around their current business model, only making incremental tweaks to their products and positioning in the marketplace. Recent deals between Verizon and Intel or Comcast and Netflix suggest the incumbents are making significant investments in innovation. Traditional providers have also made technological improvements such as On Demand programs and “TV Everywhere” apps that allow customers to watch certain channels live on mobile devices. While these are certainly positive product improvements, they are not going to revolutionize the video and TV industry. The truth is, incumbents are reluctant to take the risks required to really innovate the category more radically. It’s the disruptors that are remaking the industry.

    Case in point: the fall of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix. Blockbuster executives were too shortsighted to see the future of the home video industry and failed to recognize how quickly consumer behavior was shifting. Rather than adapting its business model to embrace streaming early on, Blockbuster pursued short-term growth by expanding its stores into outlets for books, toys, and other merchandise. Eventually it jumped on the DVD delivery trend, but it was too late at that point. Blockbuster soon filed for bankruptcy.

    In light of recent trends, many industry speculators are quick to proclaim the demise of the TV industry. But perhaps the true threat lies in the missed opportunity. After all, big companies have big capabilities. Having more resources, more reach, and an established customer base, traditional cable providers actually have greater potential than smaller, disruptive players to invest in innovation and reset industry norms. They can not only adapt, but also lead. By rethinking how they deliver their services and repositioning their brands as visionary, nimble, and cool, traditional cable providers can recapture lost subscribers and market share. This involves not only developing a campaign, but also closely examining and responding to unmet needs. Today, consumers crave seamless interoperability between devices, control over their video options, compelling content, and attentive customer service. They’re engaged by 30-second YouTube clips, but are also increasingly prone to watching 30 hours of their favorite TV series on demand. What does that mean for traditional programming? Should TV evolve into something more social? Or is more personalization the key? It’s a complex landscape and there are no easy answers, but the providers that apply their creativity and resources to the challenge will ultimately lead the charge to innovate.

    While no one can be certain of the future of TV and video consumption, it’s safe to say that it will continue to evolve. As for incumbent providers, the opportunity is theirs to seize or overlook: Do they want to actively shape their industry’s future or simply follow suit?

    Elyse Burack is a Strategy Consultant at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Jelger Arnoldussen on Thursday, April 17 2014 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

    A study of the Best Dutch Insurance Brands 2014

    Interbrand recently launched the Best Dutch Insurance Brands report, which, for the first time, was spotlighted in an article published by the Netherlands’ leading professional journal for the insurance industry. The research that forms the basis of the article shows which brands are leading in the marketplace and why. In this blog post, I will share key takeaways from the report that will benefit insurance industry marketers and brand leaders around the globe. However, because international readers may not be familiar with brands like Centraal Beheer Achmea, ANWB, or Interpolis, I will keep the focus on general insights we’ve gleaned from the report, rather than specific brands.

    Dutch insurance industry is under pressure
    Before we get to the insights, I will provide you with some important background information. Across the globe, insurance companies are seen as somewhat disreputable institutions. The Netherlands is no exception, and with an obvious reason. Not so long ago, in 2004, 80percent of Dutch consumers had a positive perception of insurance companies, which were regarded as reliable and responsible. But that changed in 2006. The industry was shaken up when research on investment-linked insurances by the Authority for Financial Markets revealed that clients had been overcharged and consumers were being misled. Since many well-known companies offered these plans, the entire industry was affected and most companies suffered huge blows to their reputation. Although the situation has begun to stabilize, Dutch consumer sentiment is at an all-time low when it comes to the insurance sector. The pervasive belief is that it doesn’t matter which company you join, they all want you for your money anyway.

    Expertise is not enough
    It has been eight years since the scandal emerged, but the insurance companies have not been able to turn the tide. One of the reasons is their failure to re-establish trust. Focusing on expertise in insurance, its functional benefits, and telling customers how much safer they’ll feel when they’re insured, is apparently not the way to go.

    ANWB, ranking third on our Best Dutch Insurance Brands list, illustrates the importance of the trust factor. The ANWB is an automobile association, comparable to the American AAA and British AA. It is a consumer rights-organization at heart and offers insurance as a by-product. Despite not being an insurance company, ANWB’s trustworthy reputation earns it a top spot in our ranking. This indicates that being an insurance expert has become less important than being trustworthy, credible, and customer-focused as an insurance brand. Given the state of the Dutch insurance industry, ANWB’s high ranking is exemplary.

    The best Dutch insurance brands are the ones that have connected with the public on an emotional level. This year’s winner, Centraal Beheer Achmea, has used the same central, easy-to-understand message (that focuses on convenience) since 1985. All of the brand’s messages use humor, setting the brand apart in a “serious” industry. The runner-up on the list focuses on prevention in its communications instead of insurance, which minimizes the link with insurance itself. In short, being part of the insurance sector seems of little benefit if you want to be a strong insurance brand.

    Little differentiation between insurance brands keeps status quo in place
    The research for the Best Dutch Insurance Brands report shows that a large majority of consumers see little difference between the brands. Insurance companies are unable to show what makes their brand different from their competitors’. As a result, the general belief remains that it does not matter which insurance company you join. The understanding of the brands is limited as well: almost all insurance brands seem to be unable to effectively convey a clear vision and corresponding message to consumers.

    Though the big Dutch insurance companies could use mass marketing to shift negative sentiment, strengthen their identities, and bring clarity to their messages and positioning, their communications have not changed much since 2006. They commit to corporate positioning messages that represent category values rather than showing a “personality.” Catchphrases like “…Whatever happens” and “Critical at the right time” emphasize the function and practicality of insurance, but are unlikely to bring these companies and consumers closer together. Not only are the messages ineffective in terms of differentiation and understanding, it is also very doubtful whether they are credible in the light of the events of 2006. The bottom line: Dutch consumers don’t need to be reminded why insurance is useful; they need to be convinced that insurance brands are trustworthy.

    Offering choice (and a human touch) to improve the industry’s reputation
    Consumers appreciate options. They want to know they have the freedom and opportunity to make a choice that befits them. In the insurance industry, this feeling of choice does not exist, leading to a victimized role for consumers and little confidence in the industry as a whole. The industry needs differentiating brands that show aspiration, ambition, and a higher purpose. The fact that these players have not presented themselves over the last eight years leads one to question whether Dutch insurance brands have changed in any fundamental way since 2006. And when it comes to internal clarity around and commitment to company vision, there is clearly room for improvement. The upside of this situation is that there is a big opportunity for insurance companies with a clear vision and true consumer focus to shape the insurance landscape of the future. We challenge today’s insurance brands to step up the plate, for their own good and the good of the industry.

    Insurance companies should embrace the notion that consumer focus is more than providing a feeling of safety and showing expertise. Expertise is necessary, but not by any means a driver of choice in an industry in which consumers lost confidence almost a decade ago. Offering tailor-made solutions and facilitating choice benefits consumers, but these instruments alone will not regain lost trust or touch hearts. 

    Jelger Arnoldussen is Senior Consultant in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office

    You can follow him on Twitter @IBJelger

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  • Posted by: Cathie Cocqueel on Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

    In a global market place, the best logos are the ones that are understood by all and consistent across countries. How can a brand convey its essence to those who speak and write in different languages? Create an icon, and let it speak for itself.

    In a globalized world, symbols are powerful communication tools. Think about road signs. One can navigate cities around the globe because the images on these signs are consistent and universally understood. Roads signs also happen to be visually impactful, even memorable. Isn’t that exactly what a global packaging brand wants to achieve? Bold, simple design is the key to reaching across both language barriers and cultural boundaries, while making an impression that “sticks.”

    Among corporate brands, this trend is well established and has a long track record of success. One of the first brands to use this strategy was Nike. The brand’s innovative product line, combined with aggressive marketing and brand positioning from the 1970s onward, created a strong mental link between the Swoosh image and the company's name. With so much equity in its brand, Nike felt it could drop the name and go with the Swoosh alone in advertisements, on products, or anywhere else the corporate logo would apply. Though it once would have been unthinkable to strip a company's name from products and ads, Nike set a new standard by going textless—which turned its logo into an icon.

    In the digital world, consumers encounter icons with every click. Whether it’s a button that represents a specific action, an emoticon that translates emotion, or a traditional logo elevated to an iconic representation, images speak louder than words online—and digital brands know it. A truly successful icon must be able to stand by itself, evoking all the manufactured associations that form a corporation's public identity. Apple does it. Facebook does it. Twitter does it. After all, it’s how a brand, as Nike has proven, becomes ubiquitous.

    This phenomenon cannot be underestimated by packaging brands. At a time when technology, entertainment, and design are converging, simple, evocative icons don’t just grab attention—they drive marketing. But how can packaging brands take advantage this trend? The rise of online grocery shopping is one opportunity.

    Today’s packaging designers have to think beyond the shelf and figure out how their designs can make an impact, not just in a physical retail environment, but also online. How can brands convey meaning and value, even when the representation of the product on screen is very tiny?

    The objective is to create a recognizable symbol that is easily understandable—an icon that can stand on its own.

    One brand already doing it in the food sector is Walkers Tiger Nuts. A kind of double image optical illusion, the tiger’s features on the front of the package are also the brand name. Whether one can read the text or not, by combining the product name and logo into a single iconic image, Walkers lets the tiger do the talking. Red Bull has accomplished the same feat—the iconic red silhouette of a bull renders the actual brand name unnecessary. One look at that image, and we instantly recognize the brand.

    When a brand no longer needs an introduction—and when it owns very strong and unique assets—its name can be replaced by an icon. Procter & Gamble’s line of laundry detergents, Ariel—a widely used brand in many markets—is one such example. P&G’s first detergent to use enzyme technology, making clothes brighter and whiter with less effort, Ariel’s iconic atom symbol positioned the product as a scientific breakthrough. From Europe to South America, Asia and the Middle East, the atom, combined with striking green hues, represents freedom from scrubbing, thanks to sound science—and lets consumers around the world to know what they are buying.

    To succeed in this process—to create an icon—a brand must significantly build on its equities. This means starting with a strong brand idea, zeroing in on the essence of the brand, and capturing that essence through symbolism.

    On the path to becoming an icon, brands that leverage symbolism effectively make an impact on the shelf, drive choice, achieve differentiation and also manage to create consistency and universal appeal across markets. .

    It took 40 years for Starbucks to drop its name from the logo. How long will it take packaging brands to realize the benefits of a logo without text? However it may read, the icon transcends language, making it the perfect mode of communication for today’s world—a global village that speaks in many different tongues, but shares common symbols.

    Cathie Cocqueel is an Associate Design Director at Interbrand Singapore

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  • Posted by: Christoph Meyer-Roscher on Friday, April 11 2014 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

    Recently I was invited to a nice little dinner at a friend’s place. Besides delicious dishes and drinks, there was something special about it. Everything was served in or on dinnerware she designed and created all by herself. How? Simple! She printed it.

    No longer in the realm of pure science-fiction, 3D printing has quickly become a science of its own and advanced rapidly over the last years, democratizing the process of 3D Design. Just by browsing through Thingiverse, a community sharing digital designs that can be transformed into physical objects at home, one realizes the pace of development this emerging movement has—with several new objects and designs being shared every hour. There are all kinds of little things you can print to enhance your daily life, but also bigger innovations on the way like 3D printed jet parts or experiments to print complete houses.

    Among some of the more groundbreaking applications, Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, pushes the boundaries of growing human cells, tissues and organs. In a TED Talk three years ago, he had already presented the prototype of a bio-printed kidney that could someday revolutionize organ donation. Or a more recent example: The Robohand project by Richard Van As, a woodworker from Johannesburg who lost four fingers in a work-related accident, and Ivan Owen, a theatrical prop designer from Seattle. They partnered up with MakerBot to develop a prosthetic hand that can be downloaded and printed for a total cost of around $150 USD.

    So, what are the ramifications of this technology for companies and their respective brands? Are we going to witness the rise of homegrown brands? Is the evolving opportunity for homemade production a threat to traditional manufacturing? From a historical perspective, rising threats are almost always accompanied by rising opportunities. And, in this case, it’s no different. Companies and brands can truly benefit from this technology in terms of workflow optimization and product innovation. For example, technology groups like GE and Siemens are using 3D printing technologies to speed up production processes across their business portfolios while reducing manufacturing costs. In another example, Nike released a first of its kind athletic shoe in 2013 that incorporated 3D printed football cleats: the Vapor Laser Talon. Constantly innovating around the shoe in its 3D printing and testing facilities, Nike unveiled an improved version in January, just in time to boost players’ performance during Super Bowl 48 to new heights.

    Beyond product innovation, an increasing number of brands are recognizing the huge potential of this technology to get audiences more involved and enhance the overall brand experience. Increasing its drive, Honda, following Porsche’s example (the brand published 3D printable data for mini Cayman cars), took this idea one step further and provided CAD data for some of their concept cars developed during the last twenty years. On the accompanying microsite people can download the cars and are invited to further develop the designs and play with them. Besides being a nice example of customer involvement, it is also an innovative recruitment tool that could help Honda attract the best and brightest car designers now and in the future.

    3D printing now also taps into the realms of food and cooking. Companies like 3D Systems, which teamed up with Hershey’s for its ChefJet Food Printer, or Barcelona-based Natural Machines, which invented the Foodini, are completely reimagining the future of food. During SXSW 2014, Mondelēz-owned Oreos created an engaging brand experience by combining social media with food printing technology for a real-time sweet-time: visitors are offered free Oreos from the “Trending Vending Machine” that incorporates trending flavors from Twitter conversations into the fillings.

    Just imagine the possibilities for other food brands. Maybe one day we’ll be able to buy chocolate printer ink from our favorite chocolate brands. Digital terminals inside retail spaces could allow people to instantly individualize their food. Printing cookies that match the tableware or food packages that come with digital cookbooks containing CAD data are touches that could really rock a birthday party.

    Other great future opportunities lie within the world of professional cooking for chef-focused brands like Unilever Food Solutions. Such brands could influence kitchens in real-time by incorporating live feedback from chefs into their product mix and making them co-creators or enabling them to fulfill the wishes of their most demanding guests with surprisingly imaginative solutions.

    The sky is the limit when it comes to 3D printing. It’s going to be very exciting to see how the technology evolves over the next few years and how brands will leverage this form of digital creativity to connect with audiences and create outstanding experiences together.

    Christoph Meyer-Roscher is a Designer at Interbrand Central & Eastern Europe

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