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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Tuesday, May 6 2014 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

    Foursquare Swarm logo

    A few weeks ago in Little Rock, AR, I used the Foursquare app on my phone to look up nearby restaurants for dinner, and found a local fish spot that lived up to its 8.3/10 rating. The next weekend I was in Charleston, SC, and checked-in at a restaurant that one of my foodie friends, whose opinion I trust, had checked-in at previously. I knew I had made the right choice in toughing out the hour-long wait.

    But it seems that I’m in the minority of Foursquare users, who both check-in to a location regularly, and use the discovery features to find new places to go. That’s why Foursquare announced this week that they’re splitting their app into two—one called Swarm that will just allow users to check-in to their location, and another that will keep the name Foursquare, but will function as a way to find crowdsourced recommendations nearby, similar to Yelp.

    The logic, apparently, is that having to check-in is a barrier for potential users who don’t want to share their location, but might otherwise use and benefit from local search features and tips on restaurants, bars, and entertainment.

    From a business perspective, this no doubt made sense to the Foursquare team (and investors) as a big step towards monetization and expansion for a startup that’s been struggling to do both. But from a brand perspective, there’s a risk the change in names and split experiences will alienate their core users who have spent the last five years building the mountain of data that makes this all possible.

    Let’s start with Swarm. While it was a nice touch to pull the name from the existing Foursquare vocabulary  (“a place where a lot of people are checked in”), many people use Foursquare today for the opposite reason—because it connects them to curated network of like-minded friends that's often much, much smaller than their network on Facebook. A name that emphasizes the wider reach over the smaller circle may make current users wary of Foursquare’s intentions, and misses the point—as the internet continues to grow, there's value in being able to carve out your own niche.

    There’s also the question of name equity. The Foursquare name has significant equity in the location-sharing space, and is most commonly associated with check-ins—even beating social Goliath Facebook at the check-ins space. Using the name for an app that will serve a completely different purpose, when its existing connotations might actually deter new users, doesn’t make much sense. Instead, going the opposite route and keeping Foursquare as the name for the check-in app would help maintain consistency during the change, and require less investment to rebrand.

    Overall, splitting the brand experience in two to gain a new mainstream audience that pushes away current users feels shortsighted. Why not reimagine the experience for current users, and re-envision them as part of the team, building the data infrastructure that powers local search? There’s certainly power in making people feel useful. Or, why not turn Foursquare into an ingredient brand, with myriad possibilities for partnership? What starts as social doesn’t always have to stay the course.

    Getting this unbundling right and growing both apps into sustainable, unique offerings will take significant investment, especially with apps like Yelp standing strongly in the space. This could prove to be too much, and like Netflix and Qwikster, they may ultimately decide that they’re better together. Either way, we’re curious to see how this will affect the Foursquare brand in the critical months ahead.

    For now, I’ll still be checking in, but know that the day will come soon when I’ll be more inclined to check out.

    Katie Conneally is a Verbal Identity Consultant at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Ariën Breunis on Wednesday, July 10 2013 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

    SocratesJust recently, our national government asked us to assess the competitive strength of the Holland Brand and to identify opportunities to increase the brands’ influence in stimulating both external trade and inward investment. For me personally this wasn’t only a very interesting nation branding project, but also a perfect way to serve my country.

    The most visible form of nation branding is probably when countries promote themselves as a tourist destination, a discipline often referred to as destination branding. On the Internet hidden gems such as "It’s more fun in the Philippines," "Cameroon is back" and "Definitely Dubai" are just a couple of mouse clicks away. Many national governments are transferring a vast amount of their national currency to big advertising companies in order to come up with the aforementioned slogans and even total marketing campaigns.

    The truth is: nation branding is a big thing. This goes for both destination branding and for economic branding (trade and investment focused branding). Obviously, showing a strong national profile in order to compete successfully in the many international contests of today’s global marketplace is very important. Countries all have their reputations and they are critical to their success. However, strong country brands are not created by means of campaigns and slogans. As Simon Anholt - a well-known nation branding guru - puts it: “you can’t just do branding to a country.”

    Anyone occupied with building a strong nation brand has to recognize indeed that the way to increased competitive strength isn’t paved with just communication. In fact, a strong national brand should be based on three essential building blocks.

    • First, you need a clearly defined national narrative, an agreement on a differentiating and relevant "story" of what the nation truly stands for. 
    • Second, this narrative has to guide and direct brand execution. What you’re looking for here is focused, strategy-led communication rather than stand-alone, short-term campaigns and taglines. 
    • And the third necessary element a strong nation brand requires, is a consistent stream of actions and behaviour that constantly prove the truth of the defined national narrative.

    Sounds like modern branding theory? Socrates - here he is - is believed to have said: “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” While Brand Greece may be struggling right now, actually, in a nutshell Greece's famous philosopher has spelled out how to create and manage strong national brands. Only those countries that incorporate Socrates’ thinking into their national brand strategy, will find themselves on pole position to make a critical difference to the success of its business, trade and tourism efforts.

    Ariën Breunis is Associate Director in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office.

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  • Posted by: Michael Quirke on Wednesday, June 26 2013 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

    3d Printing

    Tesco has just announced it is trying out 3D printing technology for its chain of stores. We ask a few questions around it: What can it do for Tesco's brand? What are the implications for business? How is this likely to expand?

    Firstly, let's get some context. 3D printing is very hyped at the moment – from artwork to practical applications like prosthetics, machine parts, implants, prototypes and even whole houses. The idea that a business, NGO or individual can print out fully-functional pre-designed objects, that harness the power and intricacy of a computer-generated model (cf. a plastic straw with water-filtering core printed inside; a house designed using biochemical algorithms), is certainly revolutionary for manufacturing. Even if it is not, as some have claimed, "bigger than the internet."

    The controversy around, and dangers of, mass-production and replication have been extensively laid out elsewhere, especially when it comes to weapons production such as guns and knives. While the debate globally about how best to regulate and monitor such uses continues, it's clear also that mass production can be used for tremendous good.

    Enter Tesco. What's a supermarket doing with 3D printing? As a global chain touching millions of shoppers across UK, Europe and Asia (75m shopping trips/week, according to its site), it has the power to do good in its own way. Paul Wilkinson, the Innovation Ambassador who is overseeing these tests, mentions three potential uses in-store: personalised gifts, child-designed toys and repairs for broken items. This last sounds incredible! Imagine taking in your old 1997 Black and Decker and, finding nowhere that will replace its loose power connector cable, printing a new, perfectly-fitting spare one direct from its original design. Off you go.

    The real threat comes to high-street DIY/repair stores like Timpson's (in the UK) and, to a lesser extent, B&Q. For our global readers, Timpson is a fondly-held chain of shoe repair, key-cutting and knick-knack engraving shops around UK and Ireland. Its store-fronts are usually small, but it's been around as a family business since 1865 and its generous support of employees ("happy staff make happy customers") have regularly earned it a place in The Sunday Times' Top 10 Companies to Work For. Just as we have witnessed the "death of high-street" or purely retail stores (Jessops, Woolworths, HMV) thanks to the convenience of buying online, so the convenience of repairing or modifying physical objects while shopping for milk will likely hurt local repair shops. The question of when depends on how quickly Tesco's 3D printing moves from plastics to metals.

    For big DIY stores, like B&Q or Home Depot, though they may find sales undercut at the tool retail end, unless Tesco completely changes its model from accessible local stores and superstores with small goods to huge, more disparate warehouses from which customers are happy to carry hefty building materials, they should be safe. Such a shift seems unlikely.

    How is this likely to expand, then, and what are the lessons for brands? Firstly, Tesco's move demonstrates strong principles for retail leaders – be useful to customers, be ambitious with your brand and be innovative with your space. We have seen Burberry leading the way for fashion, blending the physical and digital experience; now Tesco is doing the same for the convenience sector.

    Secondly, experiment with new technologies. 3D printing is not an immediately obvious move for supermarkets with the use cases that are touted in the media. But, just as Apple saw the advantage of being the distribution network for apps, Tesco will own the distribution network for small, cheap household parts. The opportunities for its supplier partners are attractive.

    Thirdly, don't compete: make your own market. While its main UK competitors, Sainsbury's and Asda, wage constant price wars on supermarket items, Tesco is reaping profits on a global battlefield all of its own, alongside Walmart and Carefour. Easing this cross-market stretch is both a healthy approach to technology and a smart brand strategy that complements its business goals, carrying it beyond just groceries to becoming the ultimate convenience brand for daily life.

    Michael Quirke is a Consultant at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Graham Cox on Monday, February 20 2012 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

    In the City of London, £60,000 is spent every year to scare off pigeons from around Trafalgar Square, with the use of a Hawk. With the fabled British High Street strip of stores facing tough times, there’s a new flock that points the way to a brighter future.

    Obviously it’s not actually our feathered friends that can save the day, but a brand that has taken the bird as its mascot — Funkypigeon.com. Owned by British bookseller WHSmith, Funky Pigeon joined the high-street brigade by moving from the web to brick-and-mortar stores in 2011 as Smith’s saw profits rise across the business. It stands as a fantastic example of how the face of the high-street must and will change to survive. In truth it’s an evolution, dispelling the negativity that grips the media to concentrate on the opportunity before us.

    It’s not just a case of strong online brands moving on to the high-street. It is the innovation they can bring with them. Apple is a great example of a brand that truly expresses its values through its retail stores. As consumers we all want something different, something new and something of value. We also want to experience the brands that we build an emotional attachment to, as Apple expertly achieves with the layout of their stores. Consider the assistants that can process payments on the spot, within seconds of a product demonstration, and then provide theatre style educational classes, which are open to all, to inspire creative ways to use their software, apps and devices.Other examples of innovation in-store range from the most simple and accepted self-serve tills to the more tentative exploration like Topshop’s augmented reality mirror in Russia. Tesco’s even tried to bring their shops to the people with a virtual grocery store in South Korea. But what can we learn from all this?

    Fundamentally, it’s that businesses need to react to the times and ensure their brand sits at the heart of their organisation to drive innovation that is manifested on the high-street in a new and engaging way. This is the only way to keep consumers emotionally attached. Another good way of looking at this is to question how well some online brands would do if they moved into a high-street near you. The likes of Wiggle, Blurb and ASOS could redefine consumer expectations by delivering a brand experience in real life that has driven their success online. Running tracks and static swimming pools could replace shelves and hanging rails for Wiggle, while Blurb hold creative writing classes and print production sessions to educate their audience and help them build their attachment to the service and the brand.

    There are so many creative retail opportunities for brands to explore. The high-street will be back, bigger and better than before. We just need to remain eagle-eyed for what consumers want and how they want to relate with brands, both online and offline.

    Graham Cox is Senior New Business Manager, Interbrand London

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  • Posted by: Graham Hales on Monday, December 19 2011 03:28 PM | Comments (0)


    When it comes to branding, what gets measured gets done.

    One of the clear benefits of brand valuation is that it provides a scorecard around a brand, provoking actions and strategies that build brand value. In principle, this is done through a vigilant understanding of the levers of brand value.

    The financial element of a brand valuation is largely a forecasted EVA (Economic Value Added). While this is a key component of a brand valuation, it is usually out of the remit of most marketers.

    Assessing a brand through a Brand Strength scorecard illustrates its connectivity and importance to the whole enterprise. Brand Strength dimensionalizes brand management above and beyond more cosmetic aspects and drives brand-led behaviours into the organisation. A stronger brand will also enable it to play a more important role within the purchase decision process, thereby creating further opportunity for the brand to increase its overall value.

    Beyond brand valuation, it’s important for the brand to live in a framework that provides a context for its success within the business. Giving the brand the domain it deserves within the business is vital for its ongoing health. A brand is “a living business asset which comes to life across all touchpoints to deliver identification, differentiation and value.” The key elements of this are ‘living’ (i.e. value can be affected up or down) and ‘all touchpoints’ (i.e. recognises that everything the business does can have a positive or negative impact on the brand’s health). Brand management, therefore, is a job that cannot be taken lightly.

    So, if we are to embrace all touchpoints, staff satisfaction surveys and customer satisfaction surveys need to be viewed alongside the business’ financials. Determining the dependencies across these three crucial measures of a business’ ongoing health enables the moments of maximum impact to become more clear across the customer’s journey. By undertaking this measurement through your people, your customers and your financials, the objective business case behind every action is locked into the business/brand agenda. This provides vital insight into the levers that connect and make brand success a replicable process – and one that can define hallmarks at the precise moments of maximum impact.

    Graham Hales is the CEO of Interbrand’s London office.

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