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  • Posted by: Josh Feldmeth on Sunday, July 13 2014 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

    The life insurance business—insurance, annuities, retirement—is one of the most dynamic business sectors globally. A recent PwC CEO study reported that more CEOs of life insurance companies were pursuing new business models than companies in any other sector.   

    The study notes that an “effective use of technology is going to be a crucial factor to spur greater innovation and differentiation as business models evolve. Applying digital technology in the life insurance markets, for example, is leading towards more flexible assisted and self-directed models for buying policies.”    

    These companies are all trying to make the same shift: from a supply orientation to a demand or customer-based business model. The fastest growing businesses today are building value chains that start with the customer, innovate around unmet needs and deliver products and services through connected experiences and ecosystems that allow for a high level of engagement, personalization, and advocacy.   

    But this kind of growth requires change and this is a challenge for the life insurance/retirement industry where the prevailing belief is that the product is sold not bought.   

    Here are three key strategies for making the shift and achieving customer-led growth:   

    1.   Bring the customer into the conversation. This is an opportunity for life insurance companies to display their skills in supply-side economics—underwriting, product design, pricing, and distribution—while offering a level of transparency where the customer can engage and voice his or her unmet needs.  

    2.   Make the economic case for experience. Delivering connected customer experiences requires functional integration and capital expenditure (capex). We witnessed it in a recent case for a global services business; we calculated an incremental $300,000,000 lift in revenue simply from optimizing the customer experience. And that was for one segment in the US alone. 

    3.   Lastly, increase the market rhythm. By opening the gates to allow management to listen to the customer, you’re accelerating the rhythm of the marketplace. This, in turn, changes the speed at which customers make decisions about your product. Life insurance and annuities generally have a very slow rhythm, but, with this new flow, it changes the natural frequencies and sells opportunities.

    By simply bringing the customer into the business, making a case for the business valuation to free capex and encourage functional integration, and building experiences that will relate and increase the market rhythm, the life insurance business model can be shifted into a personal and life-long experience.

    For more information about achieving customer-led growth, please contact Josh Feldmeth, CEO, Interbrand New York at jfeldmeth@interbrand.com. Connect with him on Twitter: @JoshFeldmeth

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  • Posted by: Brian Motz on Wednesday, April 30 2014 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

    FUSE, one of the most respected conferences in the brand strategy and design communities, was held April 7-9 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago. Lauded for quality of content and an exacting strategy for attracting engaging presenters and attendees alike, this year’s installment of FUSE, One Collective Voice, did not disappoint.

    Interbrand was proud to sponsor FUSE again this year, and to host a panel discussion entitled, “Hear and be Heard: Using Brand Voice to Create Value,” led by Paola Norambuena, Interbrand’s Executive Director of Verbal Identity for North America. 

    Joining Paola on the panel were thought leaders in business and branding who have embraced brand voice, and acknowledge the essential role it plays as an expression of a brand’s personality.  At Interbrand, we believe that brands have the power to change the world, and as a natural outgrowth of that belief, we see brand voice as instrumental in building the right emotional connections with consumers globally.

    How brand voice brings people and brands closer

    Clayton Ruebensaal, VP of Global Marketing at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, shared video and stories with the panel and audience, illuminating how brand voice is deeply rooted in their communication strategies with loyal customers, but also in their global daily operating strategy. Creating the ultimate customer experience is an objective that transcends anything that could possibly be perceived as merely transactional. Rather, as Mr. Ruebensaal explained, their “Let Us Stay With You” campaign was conceived with the understanding that voice is at the core of one’s experience with the brand. The way they speak at Ritz-Carlton is the way they behave.

    One particularly poignant example could not have made the connection between the brand’s intimate voice and its personal touch more clear. Management at one Ritz-Carlton location learned they had guests staying there to share a “final Christmas” with their mother, who was at the end of a long battle with cancer. Though Christmas was still far off, the family knew mom probably would not live long enough to be with them over the holidays, so they wanted to celebrate with her ahead of time. 

    Determined to make this family’s stay incredibly meaningful, the Ritz-Carlton team immediately sprang to action. Staffers began to gather as many Christmas decorations as they could find—which, in the off-season, turned out to be a challenge. Many members of the team even went back to their own homes and dug out personal decorations and holiday treasures to add to the ambiance. In the end, they created a room for the family to gather in that was truly inspired, and an experience that would stay with that family forever.      

    Similarly, Rick Slade, Senior Creative Director at Keurig Green Mountain, commented that “brand evolution reflects and acknowledges that of the consumer.” In other words, the changing needs of consumers influence how brands respond. Mr. Slade, for example, has witnessed and internalized the powerful communal aspect of gathering for coffee, tea, etc., and allows this to serve as inspiration for the creative direction of the brand. What role does brand voice play in connecting consumers with the brand experience? For Green Mountain, understanding the relationship people have with coffee—and the behaviors and feelings it elicits—is the key to knowing how to talk about coffee.

    Coffee can signify different things to different people—the start of a new day, a momentary break from the daily grind, or fuel for what lies ahead. It can be consumed routinely or spontaneously, and it’s enjoyable either way. For some, the act of brewing coffee is a pleasurable little ritual; for others, it’s a mundane task they’d rather skip for an instant cup. But, despite these different preferences and associations, brand voice can be leveraged to tap into a universal idea or sentiment to communicate to varied audiences around the globe. In the case of Keurig Green Mountain, assuring consumers that it is “there for them,” transforms ordinary beverage consumption into an emotional brand experience.

    Touching hearts and awakening minds

    Brand Voice was relevant and widely discussed outside of Interbrand’s FUSE panel, as well. Perhaps most notably were the talks given by Phil Duncan, P&G’s Global Design Officer, and William Espey, Chipotle’s Brand Voice Lead. Mr. Duncan showcased the evolution of P&G’s campaigns aimed globally at mothers—the primary purchasers of P&G products—highlighted most recognizably in February during the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. 

    Astutely, P&G centered its brand voice around the ideal of global appreciation for moms; all they do, and all they are. After all, before Olympians were Olympians, they were children, and many mothers sacrificed greatly for their children to achieve their dreams. This intangible feeling was brought to life in a very tangible way with the creation of the P&G Family House. It was a place for families of the athletes to stay on P&G’s dime, and an overt “thank you” to moms, inspired by P&G’s consistent, reassuring brand voice.

    Chipotle’s William Espey, on the other hand, candidly shared exactly why Chipotle operates unapologetically to produce the highest quality food possible from the initial sourcing of every material to the final product in-store. Being unapologetic allows Chipotle’s brand voice to convey a slightly irreverent, yet resolved tone that resonates very well with its rapidly growing customer base. It’s unique brand voice has also afforded Chipotle the ability to make a few animated short films that are truly captivating and inspiring (watch their “Back to the Start” and “The Scarecrow” videos on YouTube here), as well as a hysterical web-based original series that packs quite a punch with a satirical spin, lacking the guilt and snooze-factor of most documentaries (check out Farmed and Dangerous here)

    As disparate as some of the panelists and featured speakers were, not to mention their presentations, there was a consonance in the collective message indicating that brand voice—whether expressed aloud, in the form of copy (online or off), or through social media engagement—must be consistent to be perceived as authentic. As much as we marketers seek to understand the consumer and meet them where they are, it is equally imperative that they know where our brands stand as well—and consistency in voice facilitates this exchange.

    For more on Interbrand’s point of view on Brand Voice, please feel free to explore the three key white papers below, which might just help you find (or strengthen) your own brand’s voice.

    With one voice
    Give your name a voice
    Hear, and be heard

    Brian Motz is an Associate Director at Interbrand 

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  • Posted by: InterbrandHealth on Wednesday, February 5 2014 06:28 PM | Comments (0)
    CVS

    In a dramatic move today, CVS/Caremark announced that by October 1, its stores will no longer sell cigarettes or tobacco products. (The company has not made formal decision regarding e-cigarettes, but does not currently carry them.) CVS noted that the change could cost them $2 billion in sales, but that it is well worth it to avoid aligning their brand with the chronic illnesses that are a result of smoking and second-hand inhalation. The decision is sure to delight anti-smoking advocates, parents and health practitioners, but will it alienate customers who smoke?

    Maybe. But CVS has made the tough call that it can no longer supply a product that is demonstratively damaging to people's health. Embracing "health" as a crucial element of its identity, may help CVS position itself for the future and pave the way for other brands. It will be interesting to see if other "healthy" retailers follow suit. This change may also help CVS grow with the changing healthcare marketplace.


    Post by CVS.

    With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the US this year, healthcare providers anticipate a huge influx of patients, many of whom may not have had insurance in the past. Small walk-in facilities expect to accommodate many of these new patients. CVS currently hosts 800 MinuteClinics that cater to this very dynamic.

    And the company plans to add 700 more by 2017. The New York Times reported that CVS Chief Executive Larry J. Merlo wanted to correct the cognitive dissonance between selling cigarettes and providing health, but that the decision also allows them to position the company for future expansion and growth.

    It's a strong demonstration by CVS of the authenticity that we think should go into business goals and then be adapted strategically for brand development. Despite the $2 billion hit, CVS may find its revenues increase based on this decision, which reflects not only CVS's core values, but our culture's own changing behaviors. The decline of smoking overall, ubiquitous government bans and growing popularity of e-cigarettes, all point to a shift in our own thinking about smoking and its role in our lives. 

    By marrying business strategy with brand strategy, InterbrandHealth believes CVS is well on its way to being both an industry trailblazer and company to watch in the new world of health.

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  • Posted by: Lucas Piazza on Monday, January 13 2014 01:20 PM | Comments (0)
    DOT Image

    The new year kicked off in Las Vegas with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – an event that convenes the world’s leading technology brands for days of press conferences and product launches, providing insights into the future of the electronics industry. We watched with awe as Samsung unveiled its bendable TV, LG announced a service allowing users to text their home appliances and Pebble revealed Steel, its sleek new smartwatch.

    However, what we didn’t observe demands equal attention; that is, brands that promote truly sustainable, practical solutions for consumers and our environment, rather than just mere wonderment. Some brands continue to lead the conversation, such as auto brands, Toyota and Ford, who displayed fuel cell and solar powered vehicles, respectively, and Intel, whose CEO announced the brand’s commitment to conflict-free minerals in its processors and urged other tech giants to follow suit. But, these represented an exception rather than a rule.



    In Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2013 report, technology companies claimed six of the ten top spots, demonstrating this sector’s burgeoning importance in consumers’ everyday lives. It is time for these highly influential technology brands to capitalize on an amazing opportunity to introduce innovative products that offer consumers control and convenience, while protecting our planet, and advance the broader conversation around the environmental benefits of technology. The opportunity is too great not to.

    Machine-to-machine technology (M2M) connects appliances and infrastructure and allows them to communicate with one another in a growing connected ecosystem; the technology that took center stage at both last year’s and this year’s CES. With an estimated market potential of $19 trillion, this Internet of Things excites brands and investors alike. At the same time, this technology offers unimaginable environmental benefits, a fact that is often ignored in the current conversation.

    In a recent study, AT&T and the Carbon War Room found that global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced 9.1 billion metric tons by 2020 through rapid deployment of M2M technologies. These innovations could touch the most energy intensive industries, including energy generation, heating and cooling systems, transportation and agriculture.

    Imagine a world where all the vehicles on the road can communicate with one another, allowing them to travel more closely together and reduce accidents. Such is the promise of automotive brand Nissan, who recently announced multiple autonomous vehicles ready for production by 2020. As this technology proliferates and safety increases, cars could travel in caravans and be made with lighter materials, both of which would improve efficiency.


    Or, in the future your fridge alerts you when your spinach is about to spoil and conveniently provides a recipe using that produce. Not only will you have a delicious meal, but you have also eliminated potential food waste.

    With these benefits so readily available, why aren’t brands touting their products’ environmental benefits? It deserves acknowledgement that CES is a tech nerd’s heaven. Attendees wish to see what is sparkly and new, not what is necessarily the most environmentally friendly. However, promoting environmental benefits is absent across all conferences and big tech reveals.

    It is a brand’s responsibility to use this global stage and their influence to educate consumers about these benefits and drive demand. In fact, a study even found that almost two thirds of consumers expect companies to lead solutions that improve the environment – an unrealized opportunity to promote technology products that already include these benefits.

    Some in industry could profess ignorance of these impacts altogether, but in the contemporary Information Age it is unimaginable that a brand wouldn’t understand the environmental benefits of their products when that same information is so readily available to consumers. Rather, it’s likely they are making a strategic decision not to promote these benefits for fear that doing so would make them more susceptible to criticisms of greenwashing – a criticism they are not prepared to defend against.

    What the world needs now are truly innovative products that offer solutions to one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century – protecting our planet in a time of unprecedented global growth.

    Companies must first embrace sustainability as a key component of their brand and challenge others to do the same. Today, brands that are rising leaders in sustainable practices, such as HP and their Living Progress platform, started with a sense of humility and admitted imperfection at the onset, which was greeted with encouragement rather than skepticism.

    These companies continue to demonstrate their commitment through transparency and clearly articulated future goals. This model can serve as a guide for technology brands as they seek to spark their own industry conversation around the environmental benefits of new technology.

    Lucas Piazza is an Associate Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand New York.


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  • Posted by: Floortje Beemsterboer on Monday, December 9 2013 10:30 AM | Comments (0)
    Regent Street

    Recently J.Crew solidified its presence on the London high street with the opening of its first international flagship store on Regent Street. As the brand’s fastest growing online market, the UK is a viable growth opportunity for the classic American brand. Senior management has described the brand’s international growth strategy as “thoughtful” and “careful” and the success of the London store will determine whether or not J.Crew moves forward with their plans of expanding to Asia next Spring.

    The brand’s establishment of bricks-and-mortar in London has provided a unique opportunity to engage and delight customers beyond the experience the brand offered them thus far online. On its opening day cabs in J.Crew’s signature bright colours waited in front of stores, ready to take customers for a complimentary ride. Shoppers were feted with tulips and umbrellas decorated with fun statistics about the rainfall in London and NYC, a clear indicator of the brand’s cool yet accessible persona and a nod to its growing international presence. The highly anticipated opening succeeded in being an engaging and memorable experience, a testament to the brand’s attention to detail and commitment to delivering exceptional shopping experiences.

    Lauded for the level and consistency of its customer service, J.Crew is a brand that understands in business, people come first. Indeed, the example is often cited of CEO Millard Drexler personally calling customers who have had a negative experience with the brand.

    Whether online or in-store, J.Crew offers an experience tailored to the customer’s increasing demands for efficiency and quality. Ahead of the Christmas shopping season, the brand has partnered with MasterCard to offer an easier and faster payment method for customers shopping both online and in-store. It is fast becoming clear that the brand is setting an example for other retail brands on how to engage consumers successfully and consistently across all touchpoints.

    Reportedly, finding salespeople in the UK with the brand and product knowledge necessary to deliver a customer experience on par with that in the US was a challenge. In response, the brand has brought staff from America to train British employees, to ensure they deliver the service and product knowledge the brand prides itself on and that customers have come to expect. Maintaining this consistency as the brand enters new markets will be key to its continued success.

    Although a higher price tag relative to the US may deter some shoppers in the UK – those looking for the inimitable J.Crew experience will no longer need to cross the pond to find it.

    Floortje Beemsterboer is a Consultant on the Strategy team at Interbrand London.


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