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  • Posted by: Fred Burt on Wednesday, September 10 2014 11:15 AM | Comments (0)
    Superstition

    I'm at the airport, taking a short haul flight from London to mainland Europe. But my mind is somewhere else. I've just been taken on a journey of imagination, courtesy of a brand and the story it has told me.

    No single term in the world of brands seems to have caught fire quite as much as “storytelling.” The most recent example that caught my eye was Levi's Global CMO, Jennifer Sey, describing her role as storyteller-in-chief.

    A good story, well told, can draw in an audience like nothing else. The premium whiskey brands, in particular, love to tell tales. I pass through airports almost every week and there's nothing I like more than browsing through the duty free limited edition single malts, looking for a good read.

    Scotland is a fantastic backdrop, of course, with a rich, complex...wait, this is beginning to sound like a single malt! At any rate, it has ancestry, landscape, wildlife, ruggedness, aristocracy, mystery, and more. And it has made the most of these assets through its whiskey brands.

    Take Jura, for example, which I'm looking at right now. Jura is a small island with one pub, 200 people and a climate to put off all but the hardiest of tourists. But, as a whiskey brand, this translates into individual, intriguing, masculine, uncompromising, and primal. I have no idea what Jura Superstition whiskey tastes like, but, as I read its box, I was transported to a fireside on a dark and stormy night—with the whispers of the ancients swirling around me as I held the bottle and toasted good fortune.

    Sentimental and romantic? Maybe. And perhaps the fact that I am reading a story at the airport just as I'm about to go to a foreign place is making me more receptive to stories filled with a sense of place and people. But we're all creatures of imagination and, once in a while, we like to be transported to somewhere different, somewhere special.

    Fred Burt is Interbrand’s Managing Director of Global Accounts. You can follow him on Twitter @fredburt.

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  • Posted by: Rob Meyerson on Tuesday, September 2 2014 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

    Descartes

    Photo courtesy of The Guardian © Leonard de Selva/Corbis.

    What can Descartes teach us about brands? His concept of duality applies more to modern business than you'd think

    René Descartes, a towering figure of the scientific revolution, described the mind as non-physical, as opposed to the brain, which he reasoned is made of matter. His position, referred to in philosophy as dualism, seems like common sense: everyday experience suggests our own thoughts must be "made up" of something very different from our bodies and the solid objects around us.

    But while some continue to debate the mind/body issue, the majority of today's experts agree that, despite our subjective experience, the mind and the brain are not separable; they are simply two ways of talking about the same thing.

    It's this kind of philosophy that can be applied to brands. Like Descartes' view of the mind, some businesspeople still perceive brand as existing in another realm, away from the real-world activities that keep a business running, such as manufacturing, accounting and managing employees. They use "brand" to refer to an intangible thing that is related to, but separate from, the more tangible business entity it represents. It's why entrepreneurs ask questions such as, how can I create a brand for my new venture? It's why executives at mega-corporations insist: that's good for the brand, but it's a poor business decision.

    The brand is the business

    This separation between brand and business has proven useful. If the brand is a thing unto itself, it can be managed, measured and valued in order to better understand its potential.

    But drawing a line between brand and business also leads to confusion and missed opportunities. To extend the philosophy metaphor further, one of the biggest problems for dualism is the "problem of interactionism" – the idea that if the mind and body are made of different kinds of stuff, how can one affect the other?

    The brand/business dualism faces the same challenge; in order to have any impact, the brand must be able to influence the rest of the company. It cannot simply be a "ghost in the machine" – it must be of the machine; it must be part of finance's investment decisions, and HR's treatment of employees and approach to recruiting. To achieve this level of integration, we must deconstruct the concept of "brand".

    Read the article in full on The Guardian's Organic marketing hub, sponsored by Havas Media Group. 

    Rob Meyerson is the Director of Strategy at Interbrand San Francisco – follow him on Twitter @RobMeyerson 

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  • Posted by: Ilan Beesen on Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Brand Mashups

    To keep customers on their toes, brands have to figure out how to create unexpected connections. For some, that means exploring new ways to collaborate with others to create the never-before-seen. 

    The decision to pursue one type of partnership or another is definitely a strategic one. Think Intel chips in Dell computers—one brand lending a key capability to another. Of course, most co-branding/ingredient/sponsorship relationships feature one brand in support of the other. Attribution? Often unequal.

    But what happens when two brands meet each other as equals? They create something different. Unique. That’s the brand mash-up, and it’s sometimes expressed as Brand x Brand, or Brand + Brand.

    That naming convention suggests more than just one brand helping another. It’s the mingling of two different forces and promises—even industries—to create something that’s neither one nor the other—the unexpected third.

    It’s not totally new, but it’s still on the fringes—practiced by the most inventive. The Stussy x Nike mash-up pairs two very different styles and design sensibilities to produce shoes that are not entirely Nike or Stussy.

    Nike has been at it for a while, in fact. It was Nike + iPod in the early days that later produced the brilliant Nike+ set of products. This was the perfect marriage of design, tech, apparel, and fitness. Other notables include, M.I.A x Versus, Adidas x Opening Ceremony. Even retail stores like Target + Neiman Marcus are getting in the mix.

    While most mash-ups involve CPG and/or retail, GE is a notable exception. GE + Quirky pairs the resources of GE with the grassroots inventors of Quirky. The mix creates fun, jointly produced products that people wouldn’t expect from GE.

    Bloggers are getting in on the side-by-side game. Take Google x Berg for instance. This experimental collaboration may take Google out of the digital and into the real world. The key word being, “experimental.” The essence of the mash-up is nobody knows exactly what to expect.  

    We’re on the lookout for the next unexpected mash-up that will change the way we look at some of our favorite brands. What’s your dream mash-up? What would it change?

    Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand.

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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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  • Posted by: David Trahan on Thursday, December 27 2012 06:30 PM | Comments (0)
    David Trahan

    ROI isn’t just sales and Net Promoter Score. If one tries to build a social media strategy around fans, likes, click-through and sales – one ends up with a social media experience that no one wants to participate in. And after all, isn’t participation what social media is all about?

    Brands cannot force only traditional KPIs on social media, because unlike most other forms of communication, social media is more about brand than it is about anything else. The problem with elevating the role of brand is that it’s hard to measure ROI – hard, not impossible.

    There are many ways to measure the ROI of brand. Qual/quant studies, brand valuations and tracking studies are our traditional methods. Our latest addition to this is Brand Playback– our method of listening in on online conversations to understand brand insights.

    Some may think of this as "social listening," but it’s much more than that. The idea that we can use this capability to understand the effectiveness of our social media presence and tie that back to brand performance is just one way that ROI of social media can be determined for brand.

    The greatest hurdle to effectively measuring this ROI is that most brands forget brand when they enter social media. Brand architectures are ignored, brand voices are forgotten and brand messages are overshadowed by unnecessary content.

    2013 could be the year that changes, if in 2013 more brands take a brand-focused approach to social media that:

    - Reinforces the brand strategy

    - Aligns with brand/ product architecture

    - Speaks on voice

    - Communicates key messages

    - Employs visual consistency

    - Creates a holistic brand experience

    - Is set up for measurement

    Somehow, somewhere too many brands forgot about who they were and what they were trying to accomplish when they entered the realm of social media. If we come back to brand in 2013, then we can start to measure our success and prove that there is ROI in social media.

    David Trahan is a Verbal Identity consultant for Interbrand New York.

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