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  • Posted by: Felipe Valerio and Macaila Laubscher on Tuesday, August 26 2014 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

    IB Academy Zurich

    Eleven hours and 35 minutes. That’s how long my flight took to get from São Paulo to Zurich. I could’ve watched the entire The Godfather trilogy, or 7 football matches, or possibly gotten a good way through James Joyce’s 800-page Ulysses. But I didn't do any of that. Instead, I spent most of my flight imagining the experience I was about to have at the Interbrand Academy 1.0, in Zurich. Before you ask if the Academy is some kind of in-company training, I must say that it goes way beyond that. In reality, it’s a great way to do what we do best with the best people we have.

    More specifically, the Academy is a unique opportunity to work on real branding challenges alongside key Interbrand executives—from managing directors and strategy heads to CEOs. Every year it takes place in a different location among our offices worldwide, and brings together 18 lucky Interbranders from different regions. It’s not only a chance to meet strategists, designers, and writers from around the global network, but also a chance to work with them in an intense, high-energy environment. And, yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

    At the Academy 1.0, I met inspiring people from Madrid, Milan, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, and London, to name a few. One of them was Macaila Laubscher, a designer from Interbrand London, whose talent for connecting ideas and telling stories made an impression. As a verbal identity manager from São Paulo, I appreciated her knack for concepting and creative insight.

    Academy Zurich

    After our Academy experience, Macaila and I discussed what we learned in Zurich. Here is a snippet of our conversation about the workshop:

    FELIPE: Hello again, Macaila. What was it like to attend Workshop 1.0?

    MACAILA: Hi, Felipe. The workshop was an intense and brilliantly informative three-day course, which was a great privilege to attend. Meeting colleagues from every corner of our vast network of offices, opened my eyes to how big Interbrand is and how many amazing opportunities it offers to grow personally and professionally. Within minutes, even though most of us didn’t know each other, we dove in to tackle strategic challenges hands on and absorbed as much theoretical knowledge as possible. And with a schedule that was extremely efficient, speakers that were highly engaging, and content that was truly mind-expanding—not a moment was wasted.

    MACAILA: What about you Felipe, did the workshop live up to (or exceed) your expectations?

    FELIPE: At first, I was just hoping to understand how strategic thinking could help our office enhance the quality of verbal deliverables and strengthen their impact. However, about 20 minutes into the workshop, I realized that it was going to cover a lot more than I expected. In fact, the workshop was so comprehensive that it brought a new challenge I wasn’t anticipating: how to apply all of these learnings. Fortunately, the classes were more practical than theoretical. We explored real case studies and ongoing projects, which allowed the teams to experience, and more fully grasp, the synergy among our disciplines. My only regret? Telling all my international colleagues that Brazil was about to win the World Cup!

    MACAILA: As you know, we uncover some amazing insights at Academy workshops. What did you learn that was new to you?

    FELIPE: My first and most important discovery was about the importance of having clear strategic thinking behind everything we create. After getting more familiar with all of our methodologies, I was able to better appreciate how transformative brands can be. Second, I learned a lot about building relationships with clients and new ways to deliver winning pitches to our prospects. Finally, I understood how to apply these tactics and principles in different areas and situations.

    MACAILA: Good point. Having had a basic knowledge through my experience working for Interbrand for the past three years, I knew the strategy models at a top level and could work my way through it. However, now I have a deeper understanding that can really influence the quality of work I do and the confidence with which I approach brands.

    FELIPE: That said, what was your favorite part about the experience?

    MACAILA: The “syndicate project,” which framed the three-day course, challenged us to work in smaller groups and present our solutions back to a panel of highly esteemed Interbrand judges. We were fortunate enough to have a live client brief out of the Milan office. In retrospect, it is likely that the high pressure to deliver great quality work, in a short time frame—with people you’ve never worked with, who are all the best of the bunch and have their own great ideas—probably pushed me further than most one-month projects.

    FELIPE: I totally agree with you, Macaila. And that was only possible in such a stimulating multicultural environment. We had 18 people from different countries working towards one common goal: To gain a fuller understanding of the approaches, both creative and strategic, that make Interbrand the world’s most inspiring and valuable branding consultancy. The results were impressive. I think all of us came away with deeper insights and greater confidence in our ability to deliver world-class work. On a more personal note, I truly enjoyed our encounters outside of class as well (fondue + wine + beer). Socially, it was definitely a lot of fun—and offered great opportunities for us to hear about experiences from other offices.

    MACAILA: Yes, it was a great time. By the way, were you able to activate what you learned in your local office?

    FELIPE: Well, for one thing, I brought a new mantra back to Brazil: If you want to connect with brands you should first connect with people. The Academy was not only inspirational, but also emphasized the importance of connecting different areas of expertise in order to do the best possible work. Identity teams must be extremely strategic and strategy teams must be creative. Clients in Brazil, for example, are increasingly expecting our deliverables to be not only strategically impeccable, but also truly inspiring.

    MACAILA: I agree. Communication across all disciplines and activities is key to the success of both individual projects and the business as a whole. Designers, for instance, should be more integrated into the strategic process from the beginning, rather than solely bringing projects to life at the end. Their ideas can be integral to shaping strong propositions. In Zurich, we had a chance to step back and look at what really works, test out new approaches, and implement tools that can help us create truly world-changing work.

    IB Academy Zurich

    For more insight into Interbrand’s unique educational workshops, check out The Interbrand Academy: Cultivating Excellence.

    Felipe Valerio is a Verbal Identity Manager at Interbrand São Paulo and Macaila Laubscher is a designer at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Sarah McLaughlin on Thursday, October 17 2013 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

    If you’ve ever been around a precocious child, you are no stranger to the question, “Why?” And then when you answer that question, it’s followed up by another thought provoking question… “Why?”

    Eventually we all grow out of the “but why” stage, yet it doesn’t mean that the question no longer exists in our head. A clarity and purpose as to why you’re doing something drives motivation, especially in the workplace.

    It’s no secret that companies spend tons of money researching consumers so they can talk to them in the most effective way. Yet many of those same companies don’t invest the same resources in learning how to communicate to their own workforce.

    Recent studies have shown that how companies speak to employees through their internal messages and behavior is a valuable investment in employee engagement. According to a 2011 Towers Watson study, companies with the most effective employee communication have a 48% higher shareholder returns over the last five years.

    If you’re looking for a brand that excels in this type of communication, look no further than Nike. Over the past five years its stock price has increased 121%. Perhaps how the brand answers the question, “why,” for its employees has contributed to some part of that growth.

    Steeped in a rich brand DNA, Nike takes pride in and communicates its heritage to every single employee who comes to work for the swoosh. As a former MBA intern at the company, I got to experience first hand how Nike engages its employees. Prior to my arrival, I had only been influenced and inspired by their consumer facing stories. As a passionate Nike loyalist, I was eager to see how it all came together from an employee perspective.

    The first day you show up on the Nike campus, you are immersed in a 360 deep dive exploration about why the company exists, its vision and its brand maxims. You learn about brand history from senior leaders in the company, many who have worked at Nike since the beginning. It’s without a doubt an awe-inspiring, “lets go out there and kick some butt together,” experience.

    Nike Swoosh

    The Nike brand maxims are a 10 Commandments type list, although there are 11, that govern employees and emphasizes their reasons to believe in Nike. They are nothing like a typical employee handbook tossed aside after the first day. At Nike, the Maxims have infiltrated nearly every internal brand interaction.

    If you’re in a meeting and things are getting complicated, someone will ultimately say “Simplify and Go,” (Maxim #4). A decision will be made and the group will move on. When you’re planning a brand event you may hear, “We are on the offense. Always.” (Maxim #10).

    It’s an inspiring call to action that engenders empowerment, drives engagement and creates a mindset synonymous with going to battle. Your colleagues are your comrades in arms. When you and your team are looking to break new ground you’re always thinking, “It’s in our nature to innovate.” (Maxim #1)

    The commitment to the messages Nike sends to employees can also be seen at The Maxim Awards. Like the academy awards, the Maxims at Nike recognize superior work. An award is given for each one of the 11 Maxims to an employee or team that has brought the true meaning and vision of that maxim to life during the previous year. Maxim award presenters will often have very famous names such as former NFL player Jerry Rice or Carolyn Davidson, the woman who created the swoosh. Putting the person who drew the swoosh on equal footing as an NFL Hall of Famer sends the message to the employees that both accomplishments and contributions to the brand are equally valued.

    You can easily see Nike’s internal brand mindset infused in its external marketing communications. The FuelBand copy such as “I will defy winter and conquer Nike fuel missions,” or “I will crush my personal best,” is the same type of authentic, “on the offense” attitude used internally. With any great messaging platform, the brand repeatedly emphasizes the same messages but with fresh, varied expressions. By doing this, you can immediately see what the brand and the FuelBand stands for.

    Thinking you want to try this with your company and have no idea where to start? Start with the answer to the question “Why?” Figure out why your company exists and why it’s important and then reinstate that belief in your company. And if things start getting to complicated, just simplify and go.

    Sarah McLaughlin is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Amanda Munilla on Monday, June 3 2013 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

    Repair the Rockaways

    Games are nothing new. Competition and the need for rewards and recognition are innate in humans. Mobile technologies and apps such as Foursquare, Yelp, Wii and Kinect have all tapped this need and made gaming relevant across demographics.

    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the US's northeast, Repair the Rockaways, a Zynga-produced game raised money for recovery efforts. More recently, the beta version of Google Glass demonstrated the potential to gamify nearly any task in real-time. Games can even be used to help tackle abstract, future-facing challenges like resource scarcity and talent recruitment, as Siemens pioneered with Plantville.

    Games spur action and participation. Gamification can include using badges to show merit (you’ll remember those from your scouting days), creating leaderboards, and using those impulses of competition to encourage desired behavior.

    Games can also test understanding, gain constituent feedback and help guide decision-making. In the business world, gaming has become a common way for organizations to reach customers. According to Mashable, more than 70% of Fortune 200 companies use games for customer retention and marketing.


    Companies are increasingly using games to motivate their workforces. Brands like Walmart have used gamification to improve customer service through employee engagement, a strategy presented at The Conference Board's Extending Your Brand to Employees conference in May.

    Interbrand was also there, presenting alongside BNY Mellon on the importance of influencing employee behavior to drive desired business outcomes. Customer relationships are the core product in the B2B space, and gaming is a great tool for driving employee engagement.

    For gaming to be a powerful tool, however, it has to be underpinned by a solid strategy — one that is set to move the needle and prompt workforce action. To derive value from gaming, company leaders should ask themselves: What are my objectives and desired behaviors? What kind of games will work in my organization's culture? What incentives will prove effective at driving change?

    BNY Mellon conducted a robust exercise to identify the key behaviors in employees that would unlock the business strategy, as well as structured a system of cues and rewards to incentivize employees. This case serves as a great example of how a company can get employees, dispersed across the world, to collaborate on developing the right behaviors to drive the business forward. In the coming years, B2B brands will have to increasingly employ these strategies in creating sustainable momentum across their organizations.

    Amanda Munilla is a Senior Consultant in Interbrand New York's Strategy Department.

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  • Posted by: Fred Burt on Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:14 AM | Comments (0)
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

    I’m currently reading Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Read it – it’s a fascinating insight into how the human mind works, and it has much wider application than honest/dishonest behaviour.

    I’m increasingly interested in how behavioural economics is playing a role in challenging some of the tenets of brand building. And I’m also noting that a number of our clients are paying similar attention.

    Ariely runs an experiment repeatedly throughout his book that tests our tendency to cheat. The overall conclusion is that humans are all predisposed to cheating a little bit if we think we can get away with it. He then introduces variants along the way to tease out a few related issues to dishonesty.

    A number of thoughts have struck me about the results and how they relate to our work at Interbrand. Here are two:

    The first was around honour codes and how fragile they are. Ariely runs the experiment with first year students of a well-known US university who have all recently signed an ethics code where they pledge not to cheat. And he then asks these students, after completing the test, to declare that their answers are honest (despite giving them the chance to cheat in a way that they know thy can get away with). The results? The students still cheated.

    But he then re-ran the experiment and asked the students to sign the declaration of honesty before completing the survey. The tendency to cheat was greatly reduced. The conclusion seemed to be that you need the reminder right up front and in the moment for the honour code to be effective.

    As Areily points out, any industry – for example insurance or tax collection - that relies to some extent on the honesty of its "customers" should look to put the “I hereby declare…” at the start of the form.

    I think it has application for us at Interbrand too, in particular where we do a lot of internal engagement with businesses that are looking to embed brand thinking into their organisation as part of a culture change programme. Too often this is treated as a communication campaign that assumes that if you tell employees in a bright and compelling way, the behaviour change will happen. My conclusion is that we’re all inclined to laziness, and need constant little reminders to "do the right thing" rather than a big moment in time.

    Honour codes work, but they need constant reinforcement against the human inclination to inertia.

    The second theme that struck me was about the social aspect of behaviour change. In Ariely’s experiments he demonstrates that people will cheat if they can, but will cheat more if they see their peers doing it and getting away with it. It’s what Ariely calls "socially contagious" behaviour. Again I’ve got to think there’s a parallel here to the bahvioural change that many culture-led programmes look to engender. The conclusion for me is that we need to work hardest at getting the right behaviours adopted by a few influential employees, and then noticed by their peers, rather than just looking at better company wide communication.

    There’s more to come from Behavioural Economics in the brand world.

    Fred Burt is Managing Director, Global Accounts, for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Dan Spiegel on Tuesday, September 25 2012 04:16 PM | Comments (0)
    Working at Pret A Manger

    Photo from Pret A Manger's website, Working at Pret

    Lately I find I have eaten a considerable amount of lunches at Pret a Manger, the London-based pre-made sandwich shop. Thinking about one great experience after another, I grew curious about how Pret continues to over-deliver on my expectations. I did a little research on the company to learn more.

    The fundamentals of the business strategy are tight: provide a streamlined menu, prepare food the day of consumption, use local ingredients, charge a price roughly equivalent to a fast food value meal and get the customer in and out of the store in under 5 minutes.

    This strategy actually affords the brand an ability to beat the traditional giants on their own promises. Who else can deliver the freshness and speed Pret has to offer?

    Beyond speed and freshness, Pret really differentiates itself on the experience it offers. As you approach an army of cashiers on your way out of the store, you are greeted by smiling employees conveying excitement as they help you move through the line at lightning speed.

    No doubt, scaling this type of experience at the rate Pret has grown is no easy task. To do this, the company has very strategically aligned its employees to the superior experience it seeks to deliver to customers.

    This alignment is present in every phase of the employee’s journey with the company – from the experience of applying for the job through getting promoted. Prospective employees are sent to work in a store for a day where the team in place will, after a few hours, determine if the candidate exhibits the right level of customer orientation to get the job.

    Once on the job, the employee finds himself a part of a team that is collectively incentivized to deliver the highest level of cheer to customers possible. When employees receive a promotion, they are given $50-$100 that they are required to give back to the colleagues that helped shape their career along the way.

    As the brand continues to grow, no doubt other brands will look to react by pulling on the traditional levers: product innovation, price, and scale. However, pulling on these levers promises only periodic spikes in business performance, not the sustainable value generated from real strategic alignment.

    The lesson for brands? Focus more on aligning your employee base behind your business strategy to deliver a richer customer experience.

    Dan Spiegel is a Senior Consultant for Interbrand.

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