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  • Posted by: Dominiek Post on Thursday, May 15 2014 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

    Ugg Creative Council - woman with child

    In 1978, Brian Smith landed in Southern California with a bag of sheepskin boots—but the UGG brand would never again be just a sheepskin boot. People either love or hate UGG Australia, but everyone has an opinion of the brand. Since its humble beginnings, the brand's magical combination of functional benefits and emotional appeal quickly spread around the globe. I, for one, never saw myself as a big UGG fan, but I have to admit that I secretly admire the company for its successful brand strategies, thoughtful product portfolio extensions, and the creative new brand experiences it offers. The UGG story and the evolution of the brand is an inspiration for all retail brandsand a good example of how a brand's identity can transcend all platforms.    

    To its credit, the UGG brand has always had a recognizable brand proposition. However, to stay relevant to consumers over its 36-year history, the brand has had to evolve quite a bit. From a symbol of laid-back southern Californian culture to a luxurious global lifestyle brand for active people, UGG has always been able to embody both comfort and luxury, which it embraces as core values. These values had always been consistently reflected in UGG's brand mission statement and in everything the brand does, but in the digital age, a clear mission and close alignment between its values and brand expression was no longer enough. Now UGG is taking a different strategic approach to flex its brand expression and integrate digital touchpoints to further extend its brand image in the digital space. Specifically, UGG is breaking new ground by fusing brick-and-mortar with online channels and cultivating a thriving online community.

    Give influencers the spotlight

    With the online universe being as extensive as it is, a brand cannot attempt to assert its own voice among all channels without the risk of diluting the authenticity and inspirational qualities of its brand image. To expand its social media footprint and build awareness of its brand and productswithout losing authenticityUGG set up the "Creative Council." A disparate group of influencers, with strong personalities and a sense of style, will share their passion for the UGG brand and its products in their own unique way. The blog posts will live on each blogger's site, but will also be part of UGG.com. 

    Lead the conversation with authentic content 

    In a world in which consumers now trust on-line tastemakers more than they trust brands, this is a very smart moveand a clever way to market through content without UGG itself having to create it (something brands aren't always good at). Instead, the brand will be delivering the content to the digital world, while the bloggers share their individual opinions and real points of viewwhich will ensure more authentic content. Since this is marketing after all, UGG will obviously be influencing the influencers to write positive things about the brand but, the fact is, UGG cannot actually control what the bloggers write. It may be difficult for companies to let go in this way, but brands can no longer grow in isolation. Instead, brands need to focus on influencing and engaging people in the hope that consumers will shape "what the brand stands for today" in the best possible way. 

    Use digital to create a seamless shopper experience

    The aim to deliver a seamless customer experience across all available shopping channels, is a goal that is supported by UGG’s parent company, Deckers Outdoor. In fact, the corporation opened a brick-and-mortar "innovation lab" store with integrated technology offerings to improve its omnichannel strategy. The next generation retail store will serve as a testing ground for new technologies and merchandising approaches. You can now walk through the store, educate yourself about the UGG brand with the provided tablets, order your favourite pair of UGGs that are just out-of-stock and have them delivered at home, or even customize your own pair of new footwear. Regular UGG stores are also at the forefront of new generation retail, allowing customers to order out-of-stock goods online on in-store mobile devices. To stay relevant, brands need to integrate digital touchpoints into their physical retail environment, as customer journeys existing entirely in the physical world are history. 

    As these examples illustrate, UGG is forging new ground and flexing its brand expression across touchpoints to move with the world. By facilitating real dialogue, giving influencers the spotlight, generating authentic brand-associated content, and leveraging brand-led conversations across all platforms, brands can not only increase exposure, but reach the consumers who truly value what you have to offer.

    Ugg Creative Council - fashion images

    Dominiek Post is an Analyst at Interbrand 

    You can follow her on Twitter @DominiekPost  

    Photo credits: Images courtesy of UGG's corporate website

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  • Posted by: Sharmilee Rau on Monday, March 10 2014 09:56 AM | Comments (0)
    Victoria Beckham

    What do The Remington Arms Company and Victoria Beckham have in common?

    First impressions would suggest very little… but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that both are reportedly entering "‘lifestyle" brand territory.

    The Remington Arms Co. started to leverage its 200 year history last year, as one of the USA’s oldest gun manufacturers, capitalising on its heritage, expertise and legacy in the gun market by developing a line of clothing and accessories - the 1816™ Collection. According to Ross Saldarini, Senior Vice President for accessories and lifestyle, the new range has been designed to “celebrate the Remington lifestyle… for the field and beyond."

    Driving deeper emotional engagement with firearm enthusiasts, this new venture taps into an associated lifestyle. While there is significant controversy in America regarding gun policies, the brand's strategy recognizes an emotional connection intrinsic to the lifestyle of its consumers.

    On the seemingly other end of the spectrum, after achieving success as a global fashion brand and, perhaps more significantly, acceptance from the famously closed set of the fashion elite – being recently named one of The Top 20 British Fashion Players by The Guardian – rumours have emerged that the artist, formerly known as Posh Spice, has set her sights on launching a more affordable "lifestyle" brand to be sold in department stores.

    Anticipated as a brand for the masses, it will give consumers the opportunity to own a slice of VB’s lifestyle. Numerous other celebrities have adopted similar approaches in different guises (Goop anyone?). The general approach is based on packaging up the celebrity lifestyle and selling a curated version of it to the general public who are aspiring to live like their idols.

    These two examples illustrate how "lifestyle brand" has become a catch-all phrase to encompass anything associated with lifestyle. On the one hand, it can be taken as a brand that extends beyond functional product features to display an emotional characteristic (attitude, value or passion) that people identify with as part of their own lives. While on the other hand, it can be understood as a more clearly defined way of life that encompasses the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of a specific group of people.

    What’s clear is that lifestyle brands operate in much the same way as other strong, powerful brands – they are authentic, based on a clearly defined philosophy that’s underpinned by a clear set of values. They represent and celebrate ideals, creating deep emotional connections based on shared interests, attitudes and beliefs and they become a symbol of personal identity that consumers use to reinforce their own personal identity.

    So far, so good…but what makes them different? A true lifestyle brand is so relevant and specific that it becomes incorporated into the natural rhythms and patterns of a life for a clearly defined group or subculture. Brands achieve this status by exhibiting a clear attitude that reflects a philosophy that influences consumer behaviour and choices. In this way they can become essential to that culture, often show-casing an idealised representation of a lifestyle and becoming a symbol for the lifestyle.

    Sharmilee Rau is a Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Carl Yang on Wednesday, March 5 2014 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

    The big social media news of the moment is American TV host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ record-breaking tweet from Sunday night’s Oscars show. With more than 3.2 million and counting retweets and more than 1.8 million favorites, it’s a testament to the potential reach when the right brands come together with the right message at the right time.

    While the virality that powerhouse celebrity brands can achieve at one of the most popular events of the year may be in a stratosphere of its own, brands are finding there are ways to tap into the potential that social media offers. Beijing’s HuangTaji is a prime example of a brand turning the worries about social media’s impact on brands on its head and proving with the right approach, brands can use social media as an effective tool to build brand loyalty.

    A small Chinese pancake restaurant opened in 2012, it has grown through its social media efforts on platforms like Weibo and WeChat to build word of mouth, raising its profile, attracting new customers and engaging with fans to create brand ambassadors. What began as a simple 15-square foot storefront and brand with no traditional media advertising, has grown to become a popular brand with 95,300 fans on Weibo who post their love for the brand on the page and the page’s community manager actively interacts with its fans.

    HTJ has demonstrated it’s very good at communicating with consumers, creating shareable, playful content. Little quirky notes like, “Take a pancake and think about life” and “If you’re not chewing, you’re not happy” humanize the brand. Even negative feedback on Weibo gets a response, demonstrating a commitment to customer service. 

    HTJ on Weibo

    Using digital touchpoints in this smart and relatable way has helped build a brand image. Coupled with the brand’s strong elements, a solid core brand has emerged and garnered customer, investment and press attention. According to Hugo Yu reporting in e27, HTJ has secured more than $6 million USD in angel funding.

    The brand’s founder, He Chang, a formerly of digital companies like Baidu, Google China and Qunar.com, clearly understands how to leverage Internet culture to build a brand. But he’s also developed the brand’s product, environment and customer service. 

    HTJ on WeiboHTJ differentiates itself in a market where food scandals have raised questions about food safety with a strong focus and messaging on health. It never uses chemical additives and all of its soybean milk is ground on the premises, which send a very strong signal to customers that their food is safe.

    They’ve also elevated the pancake, developing new and fashionable food such as DongBei Rolls, Sichuan Cold Noodles, desserts and hot beverages that still stay true to the core food package of one Chinese pancake and a cup of soybean milk. While the brand’s prices may be a little higher than those of competitors, few customers seem to mind.

    Attention is also paid to every minute detail of the physical environment. Fashionable decor, lively music, novel baubles and free Wifi signal to young customers that the restaurant is not only about selling Chinese pancake, but also a fashionable lifestyle, similar to Starbucks' achievement in the coffee space. 

    The brand experience is humanized across touchpoints. This is no vending machine that sells junk food. The internal brand engagement is clear as every employee is always ready to welcome customers with a smile. If ever a customer is dissatisfied, the well trained employees of HTJ work to quickly rectify the situation. They even go so far as to show customers how to avoid parking tickets because the restaurant doesn't have a parking lot. 

    On China's Children's Day, in order to deliver happiness to the people, every customer was given a red scarf. Every employee was dressed in Spider-Man costumes.

    So many customers enjoy HTJ based on its brilliant attention to messaging, product, environment and customer service. These four elements create a distinctive brand experience. HTJ innovatively uses digital touchpoints and an interesting brand voice to not only give its brand a spirt and link to a fashionable lifestyle, but to build customer loyalty.

    Carl Yang 杨 建 is a Senior Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand Shanghai.

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  • Posted by: Laura Tarbox on Tuesday, March 4 2014 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

    Day & Night NurseFOMO (or fear of missing out) is a very modern affliction. Making it onto the hallowed list of Oxford Dictionaries in 2013 (along with"‘twerk" and "selfie"), it is very much an example of a 21st century #champagneproblem, symptomatic of the age of social media, and also of fast-paced disposable-income-fuelled urban life perhaps.

    Specifically, it speaks to the compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience or other satisfying event. It’s often aroused by posts online and can result in worry that others are doing more interesting things than you. FOMO has been a popular subject of the media for a while, but it recently gained attention for something different entirely – as the star of a rather perceptive brand advertising campaign.

    GSK’s Day & Night Nurse tapped into FOMO for its recent comic book strip inspired campaign that aims to cast its product as the antidote for unwanted seasonal illness that threatens to scupper sufferers’ plans. Cast against the usual tableau of spluttering cold sufferers, it’s a clever move and one that sets the brand completely apart.

    Just as the comic strips depict, the brand takes things one step further with its implied meaning. Along with the man who amusingly fears that by not attending a gig, his friends “will think [he’s] gone mainstream,” Day & Night Nurse implicitly joins in with the catastrophising, suggesting that, without it, missing out is unavoidable.

    Originally launched in the run up to Christmas ‘13, when party season is at its height, it’s a campaign with longevity. Not only does flu season run from December to March each year, but FOMO is a universal idea that is set to stick around for longer.

    In a low involvement category like Cold & Flu, it is powerful ideas like this that drive a big impact – not only it is immediately identifiable visually, but people can also identify with it. It drives relevance and an element of relatability to a brand that must compete with many others, particularly during these cold, sniffly months.

    Day & Night Nurse FOMO ad

    The campaign is tongue-in-cheek and not at all serious – the visuals take humorous aim at the wild thoughts that will flit through the minds of those who find themselves ill at the most inopportune of moments. However, tongue-in-cheek as it may be, it’s hugely powerful.

    Rationally, everyone sees FOMO for what it is. But try telling that to the girl who’s just bought a new dress for that date and finds herself bed ridden with the dreaded common cold.

    Laura Tarbox is a Consultant, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano on Thursday, February 27 2014 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

    Last year, we wrote a series of blogs about award show hosts, evaluating how their personal brands interplay with the brand of the ceremonies themselves. We took a look at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the hosts of the Golden Globes and dark horse Seth MacFarlane, the raunchy mastermind behind Ted and Family Guy who hosted last year’s Academy Awards.

    This year, the Golden Globes invited Poehler and Fey back to the stage, and the duo again delivered—playing up the relaxed, irreverent and self-depreciating attitude that their brands, and the show, have in common. One of our favorite lines of the night, in reference to their second time hosting, captures that spirit: “Because this is Hollywood, where if something kind of works, they'll just keep doing it till everyone hates it!" But while MacFarlane had some funny moments during his Oscar-hosting stint, most agreed that his rough-around-the-edges brand wasn’t a great match for the sophisticated Oscars.

    So how was the Academy to respond? After all, this wasn’t the first time they had chosen a host misaligned with their well-established brand in an attempt to appeal to a younger demographic (ahem, Franco and Hathaway in 2011).

    This year, the Academy has taken a turn, inviting comedian and television darling Ellen DeGeneres to host the show for the second time (she hosted in 2007). In fact, in 2007, DeGeneres was the first openly gay person to host the show, signaling a critical moment for the entertainment business and for the Academy Awards themselves. She addressed this status, staying true to her personal brand—always immensely kind, unapologetically real, and a little bit silly—saying: “What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room… and I want to put this out there: if there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars—or anyone named Oscar, when you think about it.” She received widely positive reviews, and was even nominated for an Emmy for the performance.

    So sure, she’s a smart choice. But will she embody the sophistication the Academy Awards is known for, or the star power that draws in that pesky Millennial demographic? After all, she’s not a twenty-something actress or the star of the biggest movie of the year, nor is she likely to don 20 couture gowns during the show.

    But since 2007, DeGeneres’ popularity and presence has only increased. Her daytime talk show continues to get heaps of accolades, and she’s expanded her personal brand with new projects, like launching the infectiously fun app, “Heads Up,” appearing in a commercial for Beats Audio, and starting her own record label, eleveneleven, which focuses on finding artists on YouTube.

    And DeGeneres, as a brand and as a person, stands for a lot of things that a lot of Millenials believe in. Gay marriage, human rights, animal rights and letting loose, like dancing at the drop of a hat and wearing sneakers with a suit. If DeGeneres had an overarching message, it might be the line she closes every episode of her talk show with: “Be kind to each other.” And like the best brands, she brings this idea to life thoughtfully, consistently and dynamically no matter where she is or whom she’s talking to.

    What’s more, DeGeneres has always adopted an up-close-personal approach to her stardom, way before the era of Instagram put all celebrities’ personal lives at our fingertips. Case in point: some of her biggest laughs in the 2007 Oscar broadcast came from hilarious interactions with celebrities, like having Steven Spielberg take a photo of she and Clint Eastwood, and then giving him feedback on how to get the perfect shot.

    So maybe she doesn’t stand for sophistication, but that might be okay, because it signals that the Academy is up on the trend, shifting from putting celebrities on pedestals to presenting them as peers. Instead of choosing a star having a “moment” for Millenials, they chose a host whose personal brand is fundamentally appealing, and who has always been on the same level as her viewers. Because as much as this generation might be intrigued by spotlight and scandal, we’d argue that they’re driven by something a bit closer to their ideals, values and ultimately, their hearts.

    Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano are Senior Consultants, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand.

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