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

    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: Fred Burt on Tuesday, October 15 2013 10:08 AM | Comments (0)
    Classic Cutty Sark Ad

    We have a passion for etymology. A search for the history of the phrase “the real McCoy” led me to stumble on a lovely brand story. More of that brand in a moment, but first what of McCoy?

    William McCoy was a sea captain who spent his time sneaking past the coast guards and smuggling booze into the US to keep speakeasies in contraband goods. Bootleggers had a bad reputation for watering down their product, but Bill was a fair-dealing gentleman who never adulterated his liquor, so it became known as the “the real McCoy.” His honesty paid off: based on his good name, in 1924 he handled more than 6 million bottles of booze!

    McCoy admitted that he smuggled as much for the sport as for the money — in the same way that millions of previously law-abiding Americans suddenly took illicit delight in breaking the new Prohibition rules. In Bill’s words, “Americans, since the beginnings of this nation, have always kicked holes in the laws they resented.”

    One of McCoy’s regular cargoes was Cutty Sark Scotch whisky. Cutty Sark was created by British wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd specifically for export to the US. This was in 1923, right in the middle of Prohibition — so it was a brand specifically designed to be bootlegged illegally into the country! This was the golden age of cocktails and this new lighter whisky blend was designed to be mixed.

    It's a captivating story: the heady mix of the romance and sophistication of cocktail culture, the thrill of a drink that was at the heart of illicit boozing, a brand that has an authentic tale to tell, a product with a proper "reason for being" (lighter whiskey, better for mixing). As importantly, it genuinely makes us want to try the product again.

    Too many spirit brands come across as confections designed to dupe us, but Cutty Sark feels, dare we say it, like the real McCoy. Barman, make ours a Cutty!

    Fred Burt is Managing Director, Global Accounts for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Julia Bland on Wednesday, September 11 2013 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

    Bring me my jar, of brown and gold!
    Bring me the one that I desire!
    Bring me my knife. O bread, unfold!
    Now my breakfast is inspired.

    The brand's throw-away Facebook ditty speaks volumes. Taking a closer look at Marmite reveals exemplary social media cultivation, a spot-on tone of voice and polished execution of its positioning in the market. When coupled with continual bursts of inspiration and consistent and engaging brand values, it is not hard to see why this unassuming yeast-based spread has become a true British branding icon.

    MarmiteIndeed, far beyond the shelves of local supermarkets, where the £2 jar is nestled between fellow savoury spreads and commodity goods, December 2012 saw a gold-topped jar sparkle high above London’s Regent Street in its renowned Christmas lights. Selfridges recently selected Marmite as one of a limited number of brands, alongside such premium and esteemed brands as Crème de la Mer and Beats by Dr. Dre, for its unique, high-profile 2013 ‘No Noise’ campaign.

    With more than one million likes on Facebook and a finely-cultivated following of more than 32,000 on Twitter, this much-loved spread constitutes an excellent example of what makes British brands so likeable and successful. Or indeed, in Marmite’s case, loved to be hated. What is different in the example of this brand, however, is that this split opinion is encouraged, cultivated and capitalised on as the brand accepts the honest opinion of the UK’s tastebuds with tongue-in-cheek dignity.

    A prime example of the brand's well-executed market positioning was demonstrated in its first foray into television in August with the "controversial" spoof neglect advertisement. The ensuing complaints around an insensitive treatment of and parallels drawn with animal neglect do not, however, indicate a PR failure on the brand’s part. Quite the opposite in fact. What those who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) failed to realise was that this is exactly the point of the advertisement; it is an embodiment of the light-hearted tone of voice the brand takes across every piece of communication it puts out into the public domain.

    A quintessentially British attitude of self-deprecation, of a cheeky and playful tone that is pitched just so; the audience is supposed to be torn into a camp of love or hate, just as it is for the brand itself. Marmite’s donation of £18,000 to the RSPCA as a result is not an admission of wrong-doing either; rather it is a gesture of goodwill from Unilever’s portfolio star and a nod to those who have understood the real implication of the advertisement.

    Beyond being a humorous and memorable advert that really got everyone talking, what the advert also reveals is that Marmite fundamentally understands its customer insights. Every household, somewhat curiously, seems to own a jar of this dense brown nectar. The brand has succeeded in establishing a cult status as a cupboard staple, the sort of comforting product that requires no effort when returning from holiday on a slice of bread.

    Brands from Warburtons to independent butchers and eateries celebrate such unofficial partnerships. Whether anyone in the family even likes it or chooses to eat it is another matter. All it requires is the nostalgic purchase by the lead household shopper, who may not even like the product, leading to a dynamic whereby some of Marmite’s customer base does not even like the product they are buying.


    Whilst it may not quite be the jar that you dunk your spoon into when you think no one is looking (Nutella users, you know who you are…), the future looks bright for the nation’s most divisive spread.

    Julia Bland is an Analyst, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Nicole Briggs on Thursday, January 26 2012 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

    Blue Ivy Carter

    Whether you call her Hip Hop royalty or the next generation of stardom, on January 7th 2012 Jay –Z and Beyonce welcomed their first child, a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter. At just 4 days old, Blue Ivy Carter was the youngest person to appear on the Billboard Charts with the sweet melody of her cries on her father’s song titled Glory. But is she the youngest person to have a clothing line named after her?

    On January 11th 2012, fashion designer Joseph Mbeh filed for a trademark application with the USPTO for the mark BLUE IVY CARTER NYC for “Infant, toddler and junior clothing namely, t-shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, jeans, belts, hats, caps, sweaters, fleece pullovers, jogging suits, coats, scarves, bodysuits, socks, sleepwear, undergarments, boots, sandals and athletic footwear”. This application is the first application from Mbeh of any kind to the USPTO. Mbeh listed his clothing line as first use and in commerce on January 9th, just 2 days after this mega superstar baby was born.

    There are a few questions that arise with this application filing. The first, do celebrities and their offspring have automatic right to their name? And the second being, is this unfair capitalizing on a celebrity’s kid or is it a brilliant idea of beating the parents to the punch?

    Celebrities and their children do not have automatic trademark rights to their names. Names and surnames are viewed as descriptive and descriptive marks are not entitled to automatic legal protection. Most superstars have secured registrations for the protection of their names. Both Jay-Z and Beyonce have trademark registrations for their names covering a wide range of goods and services. The Kardashians and the Jenners all have trademark registrations for their names.

    Although Blue Ivy Carter does not gain automatic trademark rights for her famous name, it is known that a living person must give consent for the use of their name in a trademark. Mbeh did not seek any sort of permission from The Carter’s before filing an application to use Blue Ivy Carter. In addition, Mbeh has no proof of having the clothing line that bears the name of Blue Ivy Carter prior to the birth of Beyonce’s child. Having proof of use prior to the birth of Blue Ivy could play in Mbeh favor by showing he did not copy the celebrity’s name. Being that Blue Ivy Carter name is a more distinct name than most this may be a tough hurdle for Mbeh to jump.

    In a previous, Angelina Jolie clashed with a French perfume marker, Symine Salimpour who went on to register a perfume named Shiloh. Angelina Jolie was outraged with the fact that Symine Salimpour was naming her perfume Shiloh after her daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. The case was dropped by Jolie. Salimpour seem to have gain free fame and proved that in Hebrew, Shiloh means “his gift” and that the perfume will be used to give something back to the children of Israel and the Middle East. However, this is not quite the same argument that could be used in Mbeh defense.

    What are your thoughts? Should celebrities have automatic rights to trademark registrations for their names and kid’s names?

    Will The Carters oppose the use of their baby’s name? I believe that there will be a strong chance of The Carters going after Mbeh. Although the only way they can oppose the trademark application is by opposition with another trademark application, which the camps of Beyonce or Jay-Z have at this time. The couple can however use the “Right of Publicity”, which protects the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. I think that Mbeh is definitely using the likeness of Blue Ivy Carter’s name to sell baby clothing.

    Smart and Swiftly? Or Sleazy and Sneaky?

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  • Posted by: Brandy Lockaby on Friday, December 2 2011 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

    I tend to have daydreams a lot when I am alone – in the shower, on a short commute, preparing for bed. It’s like my brain is begging for some “me time,” some one-on-one attention. While I spend most of the day juggling meetings and presentations, my brain has been furiously taking notes, just waiting for the perfect moment to bombard me with a million ideas, as if it were my over-achieving personal assistant. I can almost hear the dialogue: “Brandy! Brandy! What do you think about this?” or “Hey, isn’t this a cool idea!” or “What if…?”

    Let me clarify: This is not about being merely distracted. As early as grade school, I would be engaged and attentive in class, yet feel like my brain was continually ten steps ahead of my body. I would find myself constantly multi-tasking; participating in a class discussion while mentally choreographing a dance routine, envisioning my next art project, and thinking about some boy, all while doodling my mermaid-inspired prom dress complete with a seashell-inspired bustier. Some may diagnose this flurry of cranial cartwheels as attention deficit disorder; however, I’ll defend it as the inner workings of a creative, right-brain package designer eager to connect with her left-brain coworkers and clients.

    Bridging the great divide
    The “right brain” is sympathetic to spontaneous thought, and spends much of its time solving multiple creative problems. The “left brain” is more straightforward, analytical and precise in its musings. Working in a branding and package design agency requires understanding and appreciating both left- and right-brained thinkers to attain maximum results. This can be difficult if you are a “righty,” as sometimes left-leaning thinkers can (in a righty’s estimation) overwork a creative vision by adding lengthy lists of objectives, success criteria, and consumer validation. After reading a list of “can’ts,” how do we right-brain folks stay inspired and create brilliant package design solutions that also deliver solid business results?

    Here’s an example: A left-brain brand manager may be looking for a device to increase sales volume or, as we righties typically say, “delight” their consumers. The problem is that an Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation does not have the capability to harness a righty’s imagination. We need to use a much bigger net; to expand before we contract. It’s like having a 2x2 versus a 40x40 canvas on which to create a painting: If I work on a 2x2 canvas, I have to do a lot of upfront planning and formulating ideas before even picking up a brush; so much so that when I finally do begin, each brush stroke ends up becoming very rigid and expected. Working on the 40x40 canvas, though, I could be relaxed, experimental, and free to find a “happy accident” which could become the centerpiece I didn’t realize I was creating when I began.

    Lost in metaphors? Lefties, bear with me. I am not advocating creative chaos. I’m talking about balancing creative exploration and project management to produce breakthrough package design that works within a client’s budget and time constraints. Here are some ways to bridge the great divide; to merge two opposing trains of thought, one linear, one swirly:

    This is an excerpt that originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Package Design Magazine. To read the full article please click here.

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