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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: Margaret Baughman on Wednesday, November 13 2013 05:27 PM | Comments (0)
    Chipotle Scarecrow

    Content is weighing heavily on the minds of marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86 percent of B2C marketers and 93 percent of B2B marketers are investing in content marketing, and the reason is clear. Instead of pushing communications at consumers or engaging in a two-way dialogue, marketers must deliver brands with consumers and content marketing is leading the way.

    Consumers now control the conversation around brands, and brand-created content must provide genuine utility to compete in the attention economy. If the content is truly “useful,” consumers will share and amplify the brand’s message by their own volition. Effective content marketing pulls consumers in and enables them to deliver the brand across media channels to their networks. As a result, paid, owned and earned media are no longer distinct but converging and it’s becoming harder to distinguish advertising from information.

    Content marketing traditionally focused on churning out intellectual property. Today’s content marketing has shifted from content as expertise, to content as a service, as entertainment and even inspiration. Consumer and B2B brands are stepping into a new role as publishers and producers of content and are relying on consumers to expand their distribution power.

    Developing a successful content marketing strategy is no easy task. It requires new ways of creating and deploying content across digital touchpoints. These challenges were addressed at the ANA Content Marketing Members-Only Conference, hosted at by Thomson Reuters and presented by A&E Television in New York. The event included speakers from Charles Schwab, GE, A&E, Post Foods and L’Oréal and a panel with participants from Thomson Reuters, Ogilvy and Interbrand’s Chris Koller, Senior Director of Strategy.

    The five speakers and three panelists shared an inside look at how content marketing is playing an important role in their marketing strategies today. Below are three key learnings from the day.

    As brands become publishers, marketers must learn to think and act like journalists

    The role and scope of marketers is expanding, as they become brand “journalists” and “editors,” finding and curating stories that support the brand. Brands can longer push out whitepapers; they need to have a strong point of view and take a stand.

    GE Sponsored PostAt Charles Schwab, Helen Loh, VP of Content and Digital Marketing, leveraged the expert insights that were already a core part of the business and placed this content where it was most native to their customers, positioning Schwab as a trusted advisor.

    At GE, Jason Hill, Director of International Advertising, sees the role of his team as “telling stories that lay claim to our innovation.” Finding the inspiration for content that exists within the business requires marketing to become intimate with inter-workings of the business, which is especially challenging inside large, complex organizations. Hill and his team looked for narratives within the organization that demonstrated how “big” could also be “personal,” building humanity into the GE brand.

    Embracing content marketing means working with new internal and external partners

    Marketers are organizing to create effective content, developing new processes and partnerships. Brands are partnering with media companies, creating syndicated content, sponsoring content or co-creating content. In order to distribute content across a range of digital touchpoints, marketing is integrating more closely with technology and IT departments.

    Loh discussed the necessity of working closely with colleagues in IT and product development, who were critical partners in fueling and creating content on investing insights at Charles Schwab. Hill’s team at GE partnered externally, joining forces with The Economist to develop Look Ahead, a series of GE sponsored content that provides “A daily look at innovation that transforms global business.”

    Marketers are also implementing new styles of working and even changing their physical environment to create agile and collaborate teams. At Post Foods, Jennifer Mennes, Director of Media and Public Relations, alongside her agency partner, Dan Curran, President of Manifest Digital, updated their physical space to create a newsroom-like culture. At A&E, Lori Peterzell, VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy, and her team have created a “social media war room” to provide viewers with shareable content in real time when new episodes of Duck Dynasty are aired.

    Creating relevant content requires a deeper understanding of the customer

    An intimate understanding of the customer and the customer journey is key to determining how and when content should be provided. As customer data becomes more readily available, marketers are getting better at segmenting their audiences, personalizing brand experiences, and placing content where it is “native” to customers.

    Panelist Koller pointed to Chiptole’s cause marketing strategy as best-practice example of identifying an issue that’s important to customers and fully embracing it. Chipotle’s Scarecrow campaign takes a bold, even risky, position on the issue of sustainable food production while establishing an emotional connection to the customer.

    Duck DynastyTo reach customers when content is most likely to be relevant, Schwab provides investing insight in real time following an important shift in the market when customers are looking for immediate advice. The social media and marketing teams at A&E develop Duck Dynasty content in advance based on what moments in the show they believe will be the most shareable and make it available in real time as viewers watch the latest episode. This strategy has helped Duck Dynasty to arguably become the most social TV show in history.

    Content-worthy moments are also created when products and experiences are designed around customer insights. Panel moderator Stephen Sonnenfeld, VP of Corporate Advertising and Brand Integration at Thomson Reuters, described the first time he used the Chase banking app to deposit a check. He was delighted by this new service, which so perfectly addressed an unmet need in his daily life, that he gathered his family around to watch the event, becoming an advocate for the brand, unprompted. As Hill from GE put it: “Products are marketing.”

    Content marketing may be saving brands from irrelevance in the post-digital world, but it’s also creating richer, more valuable experiences for consumers and this is why it is one of most exciting times to be a marketer in our industry’s history. In addition to developing content that’s a win-win for businesses and consumers, marketers today have an opportunity to directly influence business operations and direct the future of their organizations. 

    Rather than create content as an output of innovation and product development, today’s content marketing positions marketing as a valuable input. Content marketing is branding at its best: An authentic representation of the business strategy that brings intrinsic value to consumers.

    Margaret Baughman is a Consultant, Strategy, for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Miriam Stone on Friday, September 27 2013 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

    The trend toward healthier fast food is officially here. This week, McDonald’s committed to asking value meal customers if they’d like a side salad, fruit or vegetable instead of fries, and Burger King announced it will be offering lower-fat French fries. In the quick-service space, the success of companies like Chipotle and Panera has paved the way for a growing crop of health-conscious brands. Which ones are starting to stand out from the pack? Here are our top picks, and what they’re doing right:

    Making it Manly
    New Jersey-based Muscle Maker Grill is carving out a niche with a clear target – men who want to look beefy, but not eat all that beef. Salads and fruit smoothies sit on the menu alongside protein shakes and dude-centric fare like the “Rocky Balboa Wrap.” Even the logo, a big red oval reminiscent of a boxing championship belt, stands out from the green, leafy visuals that typically dominate healthy menus.

    Muscle Maker Grill
    Muscle Maker grill offers dude-centric, health-conscious fare
    Image from www.sgw.com

    Making it Familiar
    As the flexitarian trend takes hold, people are looking for ways to go meatless without feeling like they’ve had to make a sacrifice. The all-vegan Veggie Grill taps into this desire by featuring vegetarian versions of familiar foods, such as the Carne Asada Burger and the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’, which the LA times called “uncannily close to their carnivore cousins.” With a bold orange color palate and photos of overstuffed burgers that rival Burger King’s, Veggie Grill is a brand that lets you have it all.

    Veggie Grill 
    Veggie Grill makes vegan food look familiar and mouth-watering
    Image from Zagat.com

    Making it About More than Just Food
    What’s a salad chain with 20 locations in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast doing hosting a music festival for over 20,000 people? For Sweetgreen, it’s a natural extension of their brand, which has always been about connecting with people through food. From cultivating relationships with local farmers, to hosting block parties, to providing food education in schools, Sweetgreen is driven by their purpose. For this fast-food chain’s loyal customers, Sweetgreen is more than just healthy food—it’s a lifestyle.

    This year's Sweetlife festival, hosted by Sweetgreen, attracted more than 20,000 people
    Image from bizbash.com

    Have you noticed other restaurants building strong, differentiated brands in the healthy fast food space?

    Miriam Stone is Senior Consultant, Strategy at Interbrand San Francisco.

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