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  • Posted by: Cathie Cocqueel on Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

    In a global market place, the best logos are the ones that are understood by all and consistent across countries. How can a brand convey its essence to those who speak and write in different languages? Create an icon, and let it speak for itself.

    In a globalized world, symbols are powerful communication tools. Think about road signs. One can navigate cities around the globe because the images on these signs are consistent and universally understood. Roads signs also happen to be visually impactful, even memorable. Isn’t that exactly what a global packaging brand wants to achieve? Bold, simple design is the key to reaching across both language barriers and cultural boundaries, while making an impression that “sticks.”

    Among corporate brands, this trend is well established and has a long track record of success. One of the first brands to use this strategy was Nike. The brand’s innovative product line, combined with aggressive marketing and brand positioning from the 1970s onward, created a strong mental link between the Swoosh image and the company's name. With so much equity in its brand, Nike felt it could drop the name and go with the Swoosh alone in advertisements, on products, or anywhere else the corporate logo would apply. Though it once would have been unthinkable to strip a company's name from products and ads, Nike set a new standard by going textless—which turned its logo into an icon.

    In the digital world, consumers encounter icons with every click. Whether it’s a button that represents a specific action, an emoticon that translates emotion, or a traditional logo elevated to an iconic representation, images speak louder than words online—and digital brands know it. A truly successful icon must be able to stand by itself, evoking all the manufactured associations that form a corporation's public identity. Apple does it. Facebook does it. Twitter does it. After all, it’s how a brand, as Nike has proven, becomes ubiquitous.

    This phenomenon cannot be underestimated by packaging brands. At a time when technology, entertainment, and design are converging, simple, evocative icons don’t just grab attention—they drive marketing. But how can packaging brands take advantage this trend? The rise of online grocery shopping is one opportunity.

    Today’s packaging designers have to think beyond the shelf and figure out how their designs can make an impact, not just in a physical retail environment, but also online. How can brands convey meaning and value, even when the representation of the product on screen is very tiny?

    The objective is to create a recognizable symbol that is easily understandable—an icon that can stand on its own.

    One brand already doing it in the food sector is Walkers Tiger Nuts. A kind of double image optical illusion, the tiger’s features on the front of the package are also the brand name. Whether one can read the text or not, by combining the product name and logo into a single iconic image, Walkers lets the tiger do the talking. Red Bull has accomplished the same feat—the iconic red silhouette of a bull renders the actual brand name unnecessary. One look at that image, and we instantly recognize the brand.

    When a brand no longer needs an introduction—and when it owns very strong and unique assets—its name can be replaced by an icon. Procter & Gamble’s line of laundry detergents, Ariel—a widely used brand in many markets—is one such example. P&G’s first detergent to use enzyme technology, making clothes brighter and whiter with less effort, Ariel’s iconic atom symbol positioned the product as a scientific breakthrough. From Europe to South America, Asia and the Middle East, the atom, combined with striking green hues, represents freedom from scrubbing, thanks to sound science—and lets consumers around the world to know what they are buying.

    To succeed in this process—to create an icon—a brand must significantly build on its equities. This means starting with a strong brand idea, zeroing in on the essence of the brand, and capturing that essence through symbolism.

    On the path to becoming an icon, brands that leverage symbolism effectively make an impact on the shelf, drive choice, achieve differentiation and also manage to create consistency and universal appeal across markets. .

    It took 40 years for Starbucks to drop its name from the logo. How long will it take packaging brands to realize the benefits of a logo without text? However it may read, the icon transcends language, making it the perfect mode of communication for today’s world—a global village that speaks in many different tongues, but shares common symbols.

    Cathie Cocqueel is an Associate Design Director at Interbrand Singapore

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  • Posted by: Ariën Breunis on Thursday, April 10 2014 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

    Best Dutch Media Brands

    Best Dutch Media Brands: Important lessons from the past five years

    Interbrand recently launched the fifth edition of Best Dutch Media Brands, which has been spotlighted in Tijdschrift voor Marketing, the leading marketing journal in The Netherlands. The Best Dutch Media Brands report reveals which brands are strongest in the marketplace and offers a fresh perspective on the Dutch media sector. In this blog post, I will share key lessons from the report that will benefit marketers and brand leaders around the globe. But first, let’s get a sense of the bigger picture by comparing this year’s top brands with the top brands of five years ago.

    Top Ten—2014 versus 2010










    SBS 6



    Discovery Channel


    RTL 4



    Nederland 1





    Uitzending Gemist










    Donald Duck


    De Telegraaf





    NET 5










    RTL 7



    National Geographic




    While you may not be familiar with all the brands on the list, a closer examination of the changes in the rankings in the past five years is like looking at two different eras. As recently as 2010, television, mass communication, and big brands dominated. Just four years later, the internet, personalized content, and tailor-made brands are driving change and grabbing more mindshare in the Dutch media landscape.

    What can media brands learn from this shift? Here are three key lessons:

    1. Media brands have nothing to lose but their chains
    In recent years, traditional boundaries around media categories have blurred, if not evaporated. Television and radio, for instance, no longer exist in a vacuum and out-dated category laws no longer apply. The media world today is a digital and convergent one. It’s adage: B&C instead of B2C. Brand messages, content, and even products are no longer just “delivered” to people, as it was in the old days. Brands are now co-created, with consumer preferences and behaviors now influencing business strategy, brand strategy, and offerings. The people’s chief demand is clear: access anywhere, anyplace, anytime. Only brands that are responsive and adaptive to these trends now appear on top in the 2014 ranking. The NOS brand, for instance, is perceived as a brand that’s accessible via multiple entry points and is, therefore, close to consumers. Given the rising success of such organizations, other brands should take this as their cue to remove the shackles of their (former) category and embrace the possibilities of a digital, convergent world. Brands that still define themselves today strictly as major television or newspaper brands are likely to struggle in the future. They will become prisoners of their own category.

    2. Digital enables consumers to shape what a brand stands for today
    Another interesting development is the rise of social media brands such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Unlike traditional media brands, these brands don’t provide their own content. Social media brands offer user-generated content. In the digital age, a lack of brand owner created content, however, doesn’t mean a lack of brand influence. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn facilitate consumer connections and conversations, while monitoring what’s going in their social and professional lives. According the Best Dutch Media Brands survey results, consumers indicated that the most important driver for using these brands is to bond with others. The relevance of these brands lies in the fact that they’re tapping into a primary human need. Since social media brands use technology to deliver tailor-made, personalized content, the resulting brand experience flawlessly fits a consumer’s identity. As such, “my Facebook” is distinct from “your Facebook,” a notion that takes personalization—and relevance—to the next level. To thrive in the coming years, nearly all brands—especially media brands, which are communicative by nature—must figure out how to harness the power of digital technology to connect with and better understand consumers.

    3. Wanted: brands that believe what I believe
    A number of the top ten Best Dutch Media Brands convey or have their roots in a clear purpose, cause, or belief. Discovery Channel, for instance, is dedicated to satisfying curiosity and puts that commitment at the heart of everything they do. It’s literally the brand’s raison d'être. It gives focus and direction to all branded activities and helps to ensure consistency in look, feel, and experience—which extends to the hit series the brand produces such as Deadliest Catch, MythBusters, and Shark Week. The Discovery Channel’s products are tangible proof of what the brand stands for and believes. As a result of its clarity around and commitment to its core value, it attracts consumers who want their curiosity ignited and the thrill of discovery delivered. In Start with Why, Simon Sinek’s book about what it truly takes to lead and inspire, the author couldn’t have said it better when he when he wrote, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” In other words, purpose-driven brands don’t interact with a target group, but with like-minded people. Now that’s a strong basis for a relationship!

    As these lessons illustrate, the path forward for media brands is evident: break free from your category, embrace digital, and start with a clear purpose. The key to adaptation—and success—is “change,” as the title of this blog post, borrowed from Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, indicates. What will the media landscape look like in 2015? It will depend on which brands evolve (and how quickly), and which brands fail to keep up with the pace of change.

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

    You can follow him on Twitter at @BreunisA

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  • Posted by: Carl Yang on Wednesday, March 5 2014 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

    The big social media news of the moment is American TV host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ record-breaking tweet from Sunday night’s Oscars show. With more than 3.2 million and counting retweets and more than 1.8 million favorites, it’s a testament to the potential reach when the right brands come together with the right message at the right time.

    While the virality that powerhouse celebrity brands can achieve at one of the most popular events of the year may be in a stratosphere of its own, brands are finding there are ways to tap into the potential that social media offers. Beijing’s HuangTaji is a prime example of a brand turning the worries about social media’s impact on brands on its head and proving with the right approach, brands can use social media as an effective tool to build brand loyalty.

    A small Chinese pancake restaurant opened in 2012, it has grown through its social media efforts on platforms like Weibo and WeChat to build word of mouth, raising its profile, attracting new customers and engaging with fans to create brand ambassadors. What began as a simple 15-square foot storefront and brand with no traditional media advertising, has grown to become a popular brand with 95,300 fans on Weibo who post their love for the brand on the page and the page’s community manager actively interacts with its fans.

    HTJ has demonstrated it’s very good at communicating with consumers, creating shareable, playful content. Little quirky notes like, “Take a pancake and think about life” and “If you’re not chewing, you’re not happy” humanize the brand. Even negative feedback on Weibo gets a response, demonstrating a commitment to customer service. 

    HTJ on Weibo

    Using digital touchpoints in this smart and relatable way has helped build a brand image. Coupled with the brand’s strong elements, a solid core brand has emerged and garnered customer, investment and press attention. According to Hugo Yu reporting in e27, HTJ has secured more than $6 million USD in angel funding.

    The brand’s founder, He Chang, a formerly of digital companies like Baidu, Google China and Qunar.com, clearly understands how to leverage Internet culture to build a brand. But he’s also developed the brand’s product, environment and customer service. 

    HTJ on WeiboHTJ differentiates itself in a market where food scandals have raised questions about food safety with a strong focus and messaging on health. It never uses chemical additives and all of its soybean milk is ground on the premises, which send a very strong signal to customers that their food is safe.

    They’ve also elevated the pancake, developing new and fashionable food such as DongBei Rolls, Sichuan Cold Noodles, desserts and hot beverages that still stay true to the core food package of one Chinese pancake and a cup of soybean milk. While the brand’s prices may be a little higher than those of competitors, few customers seem to mind.

    Attention is also paid to every minute detail of the physical environment. Fashionable decor, lively music, novel baubles and free Wifi signal to young customers that the restaurant is not only about selling Chinese pancake, but also a fashionable lifestyle, similar to Starbucks' achievement in the coffee space. 

    The brand experience is humanized across touchpoints. This is no vending machine that sells junk food. The internal brand engagement is clear as every employee is always ready to welcome customers with a smile. If ever a customer is dissatisfied, the well trained employees of HTJ work to quickly rectify the situation. They even go so far as to show customers how to avoid parking tickets because the restaurant doesn't have a parking lot. 

    On China's Children's Day, in order to deliver happiness to the people, every customer was given a red scarf. Every employee was dressed in Spider-Man costumes.

    So many customers enjoy HTJ based on its brilliant attention to messaging, product, environment and customer service. These four elements create a distinctive brand experience. HTJ innovatively uses digital touchpoints and an interesting brand voice to not only give its brand a spirt and link to a fashionable lifestyle, but to build customer loyalty.

    Carl Yang 杨 建 is a Senior Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand Shanghai.

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  • Posted by: Jemima Maunder-Taylor on Thursday, January 30 2014 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

    Stroll down the sunny streets of Melbourne Sydney and you’ll find Sneakerboy, Australia’s new favourite footwear brand. Open the eye-of-the-cave door and immerse yourself in the seemingly endless, darkened aisle of designer label sneakers, special editions and pre-release samples, wandering ever further into the hologram tunnel.

    Artfully merchandised rows of shoes line the walls, ready to be worn, but none will leave. This is another brick-and-click setup; you won’t walk out of Sneakerboy with your new shoes. Instead you’ll order via iPads or the mobile app, to arrive at your door days later, and you’ll leave the store empty-handed.


    Hailed as the next generation retail model, Sneakerboy turns the search for a new pair of boots into a digitised world of play. Online convenience meets physical theatricality to revolutionise the space: product showcasing uses 77sq m of the 80sq m total in the flagship Melbourne store. This store is all about the illusion, the mysterious, futuristic foray into the world of Sneakerboy. The brand’s rebellious, savvy personality is brought to the fore so that shoppers can take part in the brand themselves.

    Creating digitised playgrounds out of store space is a simple and engaging tactic. Brands can showcase their core values and assets on the high street, minus the hassle of stock-keeping.

    US jeans retailer Hointer targets time-strapped shoppers with its seamless, effortless experience. The offer is wholly shoppable via the in-store mobile app. Customers select jean size, model and colour, which are sent within 30 seconds to a designated fitting room, thanks to behind the scenes robots. They purchase items on the spot in the fitting room, or discard them from the virtual shopping basket. Digital wow factors make this experience cool, collected and refined, just like its brand.

    Nike is the undisputed king of turning digital play into an emporium of its brand. The energetic, go-getting atmosphere of its stores is achieved through gamified innovation, using illusion and even magic to launch new products.

    The Box Park outlet in London’s Shoreditch is renowned for its neon-lit everything and wall-length displays. The pop-up is a Nike+ Fuel Station, with interactive displays and stations to test and showcase the Nike Fuel band. The store featured digital mannequins with motion sensitive mirrors revealing film footage of local runners clad in the latest Nike gear. Not to mention the gait-analysing treadmills and an immense interactive screen installation where shoppers could watch life-size images of themselves reflected via motion-sensors. The end picture became a personalised digital art piece, shareable via social media.

    Nike also designed the Building Twist in Tokyo, to launch its new twistable free-running shoe. The game used projection mapping to entice shoppers to play with the illusion. When players picked up the shoe and twisted it, neighbouring buildings appeared to twist in a mimic of the game, a magical experience playing on reality. These are just a few examples of Nike’s digital phenomena, for which it has been widely praised. And rightly so – the excitement and hype surrounding Nike are a perfect embodiment of the spirit of the brand, ready to unleash the athlete in all of us.

    This trend isn’t limited to fashion brands either. Mini, the brand of downtown fun, turned traditional car-selling on its head by driving the showroom test cars to the buyers’ homes. Imagine the surprise for the prospective purchasers of the brand of urban excitement.

    Moscow’s Noviy restaurant redesigned all of its surfaces as touchscreens so guests could communicate with each other from across the restaurant and order their meals by text. Traditional fine-dining was re-imagined for a brand positioned around the novel, the evolving and the unexpected.

    Even at product level, brands are looking at digital innovation to awe and entertain us – think edible QR codes, alcohol-aware ice-cubes and smart knives which display food freshness and provenance on the blade as you chop. Creating hubbubs of inspiration and illusion, or even just a game, is a winning tactic for brands wanting to invite consumers to join the experience. Those cashing in on our willingness to explore surreal and transportative brands are the ones which will drive footfall to the bricks-and-mortar stores.

    Jemima Maunder-Taylor is an Analyst, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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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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