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  • Posted by: Ilan Beesen on Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Brand Mashups

    To keep customers on their toes, brands have to figure out how to create unexpected connections. For some, that means exploring new ways to collaborate with others to create the never-before-seen. 

    The decision to pursue one type of partnership or another is definitely a strategic one. Think Intel chips in Dell computers—one brand lending a key capability to another. Of course, most co-branding/ingredient/sponsorship relationships feature one brand in support of the other. Attribution? Often unequal.

    But what happens when two brands meet each other as equals? They create something different. Unique. That’s the brand mash-up, and it’s sometimes expressed as Brand x Brand, or Brand + Brand.

    That naming convention suggests more than just one brand helping another. It’s the mingling of two different forces and promises—even industries—to create something that’s neither one nor the other—the unexpected third.

    It’s not totally new, but it’s still on the fringes—practiced by the most inventive. The Stussy x Nike mash-up pairs two very different styles and design sensibilities to produce shoes that are not entirely Nike or Stussy.

    Nike has been at it for a while, in fact. It was Nike + iPod in the early days that later produced the brilliant Nike+ set of products. This was the perfect marriage of design, tech, apparel, and fitness. Other notables include, M.I.A x Versus, Adidas x Opening Ceremony. Even retail stores like Target + Neiman Marcus are getting in the mix.

    While most mash-ups involve CPG and/or retail, GE is a notable exception. GE + Quirky pairs the resources of GE with the grassroots inventors of Quirky. The mix creates fun, jointly produced products that people wouldn’t expect from GE.

    Bloggers are getting in on the side-by-side game. Take Google x Berg for instance. This experimental collaboration may take Google out of the digital and into the real world. The key word being, “experimental.” The essence of the mash-up is nobody knows exactly what to expect.  

    We’re on the lookout for the next unexpected mash-up that will change the way we look at some of our favorite brands. What’s your dream mash-up? What would it change?

    Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand.

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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: Fell Gray on Thursday, February 23 2012 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

    Have you ever been drawn into a great TV ad for something you have to have? Just as you're considering buying that shiny new object, you're hit with a fast-paced, monotone voiceover expounding on various rules, exceptions and provisos. Sound familiar?

    It used to be that a promise to customers was conveyed with your word and a handshake; now we have 100-page "Terms and Conditions" documents in their place. Our litigious society has caused legal counsel to become deeply involved in communications, from warnings to ad copy. And while you should never underestimate the importance of their input, legal teams can sometimes silence brand voice as they try to keep businesses out of lawsuits and on the right side of regulations.

    Some brand and legal teams, however, have worked to find common ground—and creative success—with disclaimers, finding ways to create communications central to the brand experience that are on-voice and in compliance. And legal teams are seeing a reciprocal benefit. Writing consistently on-voice does more than make a cohesive customer experience; it gets people to pay attention to the legalese again.

    Potential side effects are…
    In the realm of alcoholic beverages, brands from Grey Goose to Captain Morgan have found their own ways to tell us to be safe as we have a good time. Hennessy told us to "Flaunt Responsibly," beginning a wave of brand twists on the standard social responsibility sign-off.

    Currently, the standard automobile safety message is front and center in two campaigns. The Mercedes "Disclaimer" ad has the C-class whipping around lawyers who stand sentinel in the desert as they solemnly convey standard disclaimers ("Professional drivers; closed course." "Always wear a seatbelt."). Elsewhere, the Nissan Frontier slaloms down a snow-covered mountain while fine print reminds you, "Fantasy. Trucks can't snowboard."

    Brands who partner with legal teams — early and often — find there's more freedom than they might have thought. So talk to each other, and then get yourself heard.

    This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Director of Verbal Identity at Interbrand, and a specialist in Brand Voice.

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  • Posted by: Paola Norambuen on Monday, February 6 2012 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

    Sometimes words are not enough—when you need to say I'm sorry, when trying to order food in a foreign language, when you're spitting mad—and you resort to gestures, whether grand, physical or obscene. The same, however, can't be said for naming, especially in mediums where exaggerated finger pointing simply doesn't work.

    So when words fail us, we often resort to numbers. But numbers are no less tricky than words: Some can't cross cultural borders, some convey vastly different things to different people, and some change in meaning when accompanied by words or other digits.

    We can all point to great examples of alphanumeric nomenclature in the market. Anyone who owns, or hopes to own, a luxury car knows how effective it can be. BMW and Mercedes, for example, have made an art form of it. The strategic pairing of this letter with that number tells me all I need to know. In this category it's a natural, a part of the dialect.

    From a naming system perspective, this past year Prius introduced an architecture as clean as their engines: Prius Two, Prius Three, Prius Four, and Prius Five. Each represents a different price point, but the whole gang stays within the realm of affordable and keeps the streamlined Prius promise.

    The same, however, can't be said for all categories. Today, nobody questions why there's a seven in 7Up. When Coke announced its new calorie-conscious Coke Zero—in spite of Pepsi's challenge that nobody wants to be a "zero"—we got it. (It has no calories. Zero.) But it can be risky in a category where taste always comes before digits. Take Tropicana's Trop50. It's saying all the right things, but it veers into a territory that can feel as artificial as an additive, and not at all delicious.

    When it comes to cosmetics, numbers can help too, especially when they signal a clear beauty benefit. That's why we like names like Revlon's Colorstay 16 Hour Eye Shadow: They promise to take you from day to colorful night. On the other hand, a name like Shiseido's Benefiance WrinkleResist24 makes the process sound exhausting, and shows us how sensitive numbers can be—they don't like to stand beside any old word.

    Unlike the lottery, alphanumeric naming should not be left to chance. So choose your numbers carefully.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Friday, December 2 2011 10:30 AM | Comments (0)


    Overindulge over the Thanksgiving holiday? Well, you’re certainly not alone. From that first piece of candy you sneak on Halloween to the last glass of champagne on New Years Eve, it’s that season: the cycle of indulgence, guilt and resolutions. Not surprisingly, weight-loss plans dance in our heads more often than visions of sugar plums. For as long as someone has wanted to lose weight, someone else has been willing to tell us how. And as the most popular methods have evolved over the years, so have the names and promises.


    As a message, thin will always be in. But what we’re allowed to call it continues to change. From the early ’80s, Lean Cuisine generously suggested that dieters could indulge in taste without the fear of gaining – it is Cuisine, after all. Besides, it wasn’t about getting skinny, it was about staying “Lean.”

    Before the ’90s dawned, though, Slim-Fast got a little more direct, and a little swifter. Don’t focus on food, they said. Instead replace it. It left indulgence to a single meal, and suggested that lean was not enough. What you really need to be? Slim. And even now they’re making it as easy as “3-2-1”.

    Today, as more of us turn to the extremes of reality TV and the desire to tell it like it is, we’ve given ourselves permission to celebrate the thin ideal by uttering the cinch-waisted bottom line: skinny. We promote the idea of indulgence, with Skinny Girl cocktails, Skinny Bitch cookbooks, Skinny Cow Dreamy Clusters and even endearing opposites like Fat Witch brownies.

    So it does seem that we’re ever more willing to walk away from euphemisms, and claim terms we’ve long, carefully avoided – terms like skinny and fat. With the season of celebration upon us, be it feast or self-imposed famine, there's no such thing as one-size-fits-all, and certainly more than one way to say thin. Or plan for it….just as soon as the holidays are over.

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