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  • Posted by: Fell Gray on Thursday, February 13 2014 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Aviage Systems
    Best Asian Brands

    A 玫瑰 by any other name

    It’s the start of a new year in China, and the astrologists tell us that the Year of the Horse has the potential to be more successful than last year, but it will require patience and perseverance. And for any brand looking to launch a Chinese brand name this year (or any other), these are words to live by.

    While the appeal of the Chinese market is clear to most, the need for a Chinese name may not be. Given that the average Chinese consumer doesn’t speak English and sees Roman characters as graphic elements, a Chinese name is important just to break through. But there are a host of other reasons: a cultural desire to protect and preserve the Chinese language, marketing support necessary to educate consumers on the English name, and government requirements (e.g., audible Chinese for all TV advertising), to name a few.

    When you do jump into Chinese name development, brace yourself for the realities of the screening process. There are 6.27M active trademarks and more than 600,000 filed each year. And China follows a first-to-file not a first-to-use system, so registration can be a bit of a land grab. Beyond that are language and cultural considerations for a successful name: tonality, harmony checks, dialects, simplified vs traditional characters…. As I said: patience and perseverance.

    Then, Then Again, Now

    To get to the right names, you’ll have a range of creative strategies at your disposal: creation, translation, literation, and transliteration. The right choice lies in determining the importance of meaning vs. sounding the same as your existing name. Elevating the importance of meaning in Chinese over the sound will aid memorability and recall. And a name that sounds similar will strengthen the connection to the international name and its brand equity. Some brands manage to find an equal balance through transliteration (well done, Coke), but many make the decision to pick one over the other. Nike chose a name that sounds identical to the English and means “enduring and preserving,” while Citibank chose a name that sounds different but means star spangled banner bank. All are valid options, depending on your goals.

    Whatever your approach, one of the most important things to remember when evaluating your options is: don’t hear with an English ear. The right word in English is not necessarily the right word in Chinese. Pairings of characters can change meaning significantly, so you can’t look at characters individually. And you can’t underestimate the importance of symbols in Chinese culture, so be sure you are looking at all the layers of meaning the name provides.

    This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Senior Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York. She is also the practice leader for Brand Voice.

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  • Posted by: Fred Burt on Friday, June 14 2013 12:31 PM | Comments (0)
    Interbrand London Best Global Green Brands 2013 EventAs part of the Best Global Green Brands 2013 (BGGB) launch this week, Interbrand hosted an event at The Guardian newspaper's headquarters in London. With luminaries from the world of sustainability and branding in the room, and a panel-based format, the debate was always likely to be engaging and interesting. Here were the stand-out points I took note of:

    Firstly, Jez Frampton asked the crowd who had three or more old mobile phones in their drawers and cupboards at home and the majority of the audience put their hand up (including me). This illustrated why Apple, among our top global brands, slipped down the BGGB ranking: product disposal is not something they are addressing actively enough.

    Jake Backus, Customer Sustainability Director for Coca-Cola was a panelist. Coke is more interested in what they call casual greens rather than dark greens, as there are more of them, plus they’re looking for brands to help them be better consumers. They want their preferred brands to be more sustainable, rather than looking for the most sustainable brand in the marketplace. There’s an opportunity for leading brands to take note from Coke.

    The panellists agreed that sustainability is a genuine unfulfilled business opportunity. Consumers do want great products that are better for the world. But they don't want to compromise on quality, performance or convenience. This is a huge opportunity for businesses and brands with R&D resources at their disposal. An example cited by Jake Backus was Coke’s I LOHAS water product, which has taken Japan by storm, in part because of its environmental credentials (although dark greens would probably be uncomfortable with claiming imported bottled water qualifies as "sustainable").

    As the above example demonstrates, sustainability can be part of a growth strategy. This is particularly true in developing markets, where consumers credit brands that innovate in sustainability with technical excellence and therefore assume their products are superior.

    There was an interesting contrast between BMW and Nissan. BMW recognised that to build a successful ground-up electric car they had to set up a business unit that was entirely outside of the core business. Nissan, meanwhile is looking to put sustainability much more at the heart of the business.

    And I loved the idea that we, as brand stewards, should be looking at foresight rather than insight. The consumer wants to be led, and asking them what they want now will not result in leadership.

    Finally, leadership itself was a key topic. I heard Coke talk about being very aware of its "social license to operate." Taking a leadership position on the issues it can and should be influencing – child obesity being the obvious one – is a responsibility they’re not ducking.

    If last night’s event was anything to go by, our BGGB study is stimulating exactly the kind of debate we had in mind. I’m looking forward to following the feedback.

    Fred Burt is the Managing Director of Global Accounts at Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Jason Baer on Tuesday, April 20 2010 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Bing Crosby told us to “accentuate the positive." I wonder if he’d give that same advice to Audi today.

    If you’ve seen this year’s Audi commercials, created by Venables Bell & Partners, you know that the spots make clever use clichés to stereotype the competition. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes and Audi’s other luxury segment competitors all get a thorough walloping, with their car owners portrayed as soulless drones, vertically challenged wannabes, and bland housewives. And the impact of this advertising is undeniable. After all, who wants to be typecast as a materialistic automaton?

    But what is Audi offering in return? The carmaker is certainly promising to break the pattern of monotony, but how, exactly? Truth in Engineering is a powerful tagline, but Audi’s advertising could help shape this line a bit, and tell us exactly what it is that the brand stands for—as opposed to what it is that their competitors stand for. Sure, the car looks amazing, but Audi doesn’t have a monopoly on good looks.

    Then again, attack ads are nothing new, as the Apple/PC, AT&T/Verizon, and Coke/Pepsi wars can all attest. But speaking strictly for myself (and perhaps for good old Bing Crosby), it would be nice to see Audi start to carve out a unique position in the marketplace. Don’t you think?

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  • Posted by: James Cockerille on Monday, March 22 2010 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

    Despite our ongoing fascination and dependence on digital interactions, the point of social media—and perhaps all media—is connectivity.  Campaigns like Blu Dot’s experiment in New York, Grill’d in Melbourne, or the T-Mobile dance in Liverpool Street Station demonstrate the power that actual physical events and online channels create when they work together. These campaigns get watched. They get forwarded. They’re viral in every sense of the word. That’s because most of us want to look behind the curtain—maybe even participate.

    The physical and online convergence
    The physical and the online are incorrigible flirts. And producers are playing eager matchmaker, driving the convergence. While it used to be impractical to imbue products with ambient computing capabilities or use information in ways that people can touch, some of the best thinking (and most disruptive efforts) aim to debunk that conception. Just look at what foursquare and mobile phones now make possible. By comparison YouTube is a clunky, temporary way of bridging the online and offline.

    Meanwhile, just as producers are encouraging the convergence, consumers are also driving it.  If you look at the Forbes 500 list, all the big brands still sell physical things. While I’m sure brands like Facebook and Twitter will continue to climb the charts, there is a fundamental truth to human-based economies; there will always be money to be made from feeding, transporting, clothing and tooling-up the people typing at keyboards.

    After all, who doesn’t love getting that brown box from Amazon with the smiley face on the side? The one-click miracle hasn’t really happened until it hits your doorstep and hands.  Meanwhile, as more service companies drift online, expect to see the need for human interaction heighten. ING Direct realised this when it promoted its online banking products with offline information sessions. And consider the earliest successful networking sites: online dating. Judging by Ashley Madison, the use of online connection is leading to ever more bold versions of offline monkey business.

    Groundbreaking experiences go beyond the digital
    Today, digital is a given and delivering it is easier than ever.  As a result, digital platforms (as places to interact) don’t distinguish a brand or offering the way they might have five years ago. What they can do, however, is extend the brands’ meaning into or from the world of interactions.  Bolder experiences mean going beyond the digital and touching people on a physical level.

    One of the simplest as well as most subtle and intriguing viral campaigns of the last year was “The Best Job in the World”.  A print ad. A mystery. A call to arms that was slowly qualified and discussed through social media. But it wasn’t a job in Second Life. It was a job snorkelling around one the eight Natural Wonders of the World. It supported a message of adventure but also environmental sustainability. Beat that Coca-Cola.

    The use of social media without recognition of the physical world’s role is myopic at best. There’s a reason that ads still feature photography and that viral videos are rife with ridiculous scenarios sliced from life. It’s because we want to believe it’s real, not just made up. We want to interact with the idea. Not just witness it.

    The new challenge: authenticity
    The convergence is happening – it is a fact. As a result, the new challenge with social media stunts will be in what’s believable and what is merely a setup –something that has plagued advertising and other forms of promotion for ages.

    When I rewatch the clip for Coke’s Happiness Machine, I can’t help but wonder if everyone would genuinely be laughing in unison about a beverage machine that was broken, or visualise the number of cameras floating about to create the montage we witness. Something is fishy. And when that sense creeps in what was a comic gag, kind of becomes something horrific.

    So while the real world is certainly coming to a social platform near you, the way it’s handled will need to do more than simply document the moment.  The physical is indeed necessary to make it big, but the strategy behind it will be just as important.

    This post is the fifth in a series called That’s Debatable: Social Media Edition – posts designed around oft-debated topics in our community, meant to spark conversation and gather different perspectives. Learn more about That’s Debatable, and take our social media survey.

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  • Posted by: James Bickford on Tuesday, March 16 2010 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

    When it comes to social media it is not the ‘big bucks’ that matter, but the understanding and engagement within the channel.

    Just look at Ford, P&G, and Coca Cola.  All three are huge global brands that have embraced social media. They understand its capability and cultural significance. As long-time masters of embracing cultural changes (who have made this an integral part of their brand DNA), their shift in favor of social media sites, makes good sense.  However, Coca Cola’s mandate to its agencies to move away from “Campaign” websites associated with big buck spend, in favor of social media sites where the people they want to talk to already hang out, signals an effort to spend time—not money—where it really matters.

    While the less cash a social media campaign requires may seem like a blessing, it is also a headache for big brands. To some extent, the playing field has been leveled. Next generation social media monitoring tools are allowing smaller brands to react to big brands quickly and effectively. 

    Brands with less cash to spend enjoy the fact that the big brands spend weeks in legal, whilst they are able use the environment in a more ‘risk and reward’ way.  Small brands have all the same tools at their disposal and the added advantage of not having anything to lose—no internal barriers. If they embark in the wrong direction, they can just depart from those tactics and try something new quickly.

    Meanwhile, although leading global brands like Cokes and Ford are astute enough to get to the front of the social media revolution, many local market big brands, at least in my territory of New Zealand, are less skilled at adapting quickly. As a result, many are still struggling with how to use social media. Most have trouble grasping the word ‘social’ and are only just embracing the term ‘customer voice’.

    With the exception of a few, New Zealand’s biggest brands are having trouble competing with their smaller competitors in the social media space due to a fundamental lack of understanding. Rather than using the social media space to engage an already interested audience, they treat it like yet another ad space.  So even with all the big bucks at their disposal, they are still along way behind the eight ball. This, in turn, is feeding smaller, up-and-coming brands’ enthusiasm. Small and savvy brands are currently enjoying the benefits of social media without much big brand competition.

    There are exceptions to the rule. Air New Zealand and Cadbury New Zealand are good examples of local big brands that are engaging effectively with social media.  Cadbury uses Facebook to share customers’ stories and spearhead contests.  Meanwhile Air New Zealand has built on the buzz its Skycouch has generated and developed a cheeky, social media campaign around “spooning.” But for all of these big brands, there are also smaller brands like Kiwi Experience, which are able to use social media for relatively little cost to seriously leverage their brand and grab the kind of attention that would have been far more difficult to garner in the past.

    So, while there are certainly examples of leading, innovative global brands delivering results, it isn’t because of the money they are spending – it’s the level of understanding and engagement that they are putting forth.

    This post is the third in a series called That’s Debatable: Social Media Edition – posts designed around oft-debated topics in our community, meant to spark conversation and gather different perspectives. Learn more about That’s Debatable, and take our social media survey.

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