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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: InterbrandHealth on Monday, February 24 2014 05:05 PM | Comments (0)
    R. John Fidelino

    The Life Science Brand Reputation & Communications Conference was held last week in Atlanta, Georgia with attendees from a host of healthcare companies including AstraZeneca, GE Healthcare and UCB Inc. InterbrandHealth’s Executive Creative Director R. John Fidelino addressed the crowd on the role of corporate brand for communications professionals.

    A corporate brand is traditionally the most under leveraged business asset within the health and life sciences industry. When used strategically, the corporate brand in healthcare has the power to drive economic value for the company, create demand and build loyalty for a business. Historically, the corporate brand has been relegated to corporate communications and investor relations. 

    As we see the health industry transform, a strong corporate brand is a key tool for communications professionals. Using the corporate brand thoughtfully and consistently on products, services, and initiatives that matter can bolster your business's reputation and add value to your relationships with your consumers, investors, and employees.

    Fundamentally, brands can influence how people understand their world, and healthcare brands can shape people’s perceptions about disease, treatment, and even themselves. If your corporate identity is well-defined, then it can be the lens by which you innovate and also make business decisions.

    Communications strategists can reap four key benefits from honing in on the corporate brand:

    1. Defining your company’s distinct point of view is critical. Once you do, you and others within the company will have clarity around what matters most at your company and that will ensure coordinated and consistent messaging across your business.

    2. As mentioned previously, corporate brands often get “stuck” at corporate communications and investor relations. To grow influence, corporate brands need to be built around commercial dynamics and needs. The more aware you are of what is needed for commercial success, the more credibility you will have in mandating the use of the corporate brand across the business in a prominent way.

    3. You should be proud of your corporate social responsibility activities. They can boost corporate reputation, marketplace perception, and give employees something to be proud of. The equity and good will you build around the company as a result of your CSR activities can benefit your product brands. Getting credit for the good that you do also helps further your cause as it raises more awareness about why you invested in the first place.

    4. Your corporate brand can help you can connect to specialty customer groups in new and meaningful ways that product brands cannot. The corporate brand can aggregate products in your portfolio that share the same mission, therapeutic focus or technology. In this way the corporate brand can help support commercial objectives at the product level.

    R. John closed the presentation with best practices from some well-known healthcare brands, and gave attendees a few things to consider: everything counts, carry the torch, be proactive, and give them proof.

    All communications, relationships, and interactions make up your brand experience. Using corporate brand as a unifying force has an impact on every aspect of your business and, ultimately, on your company’s bottom line. By carrying the torch for the corporate brand across the organization, you’ll ensure clarity and consistency through all departments and business units, from research and development to human resources. 

    The best brands give their employees a reason to get up in the morning. They make sure that the people who work for them know what they are doing and why. They give them something to believe in and empower them with the tools to make things happen. 

    Lastly, you should create proof points for communications activities around the corporate brand and establish the metrics needed to demonstrate value. For a brand to be strong and meaningful, it must be embedded into every level of your business and measured.

    The Life Science Brand Reputation and Communications Conference, in addition to branding, covered topics such as optimizing social media, managing communications during mergers and acquisitions, and developing the role of patient advocacy relations.

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  • Posted by: InterbrandHealth on Thursday, November 7 2013 04:48 PM | Comments (0)
    Jane Parker

    Prioritizing brand and its role in consumers’ lives is essential for healthcare c-suites in the rapidly changing healthcare industry. All healthcare businesses can adopt best practices and leverage their brands to increase customer loyalty, improve market share, boost internal focus and morale and ultimately, increase revenue and success.

    Jane Parker, CEO of InterbrandHealth, spoke to the CTPartners Life Sciences Commercial Dinner today and armed attendees from companies such as GE Healthcare, IMS Health, and Danone with six basic questions to test the health of their brands:

    1. Does Your Company Treat Brand As a Business Asset?

    When brand strategy is seen as an expression of business strategy it strengthens all of a company’s planning and goal setting. When treated as an asset, brand can clearly express to outsiders what business the company is in, what its values are, and drives the company’s ability to command premium prices, physician preference, and customer loyalty.

    2. Is Your Company Discerning About What You Choose to Brand?

    Inconsistent branding can be just as harmful as no branding at all. A strong, focused corporate brand helps consumers find a company in the marketplace, quickly embrace its new products and services, and recognize that brand’s relevance to their well-being.

    3. Are Your Brands Consumer-Driven?

    Healthcare brands can break through marketplace noise by focusing on the impact of their products in the lives of their customers instead of simply the functionality of those products.

    4. Do You Make Your Brand an Experience for Your Audience?

    To give customers a distinct brand experience, healthcare companies must shift their thinking: sell a service, not a product. The relationship between service and consumer is crucial for brand loyalty and future purchasing decisions.

    5. Are Your Employees an Army of Passionate and Informed Brand Ambassadors?

    Your corporate brand aligns the vision of your company. It also helps employees understand the role they play in its success and to become key spokespeople. By building and nurturing a strong brand strategy, companies can connect emotionally with their employees, driving loyalty, company perception, and, ultimately, revenue.

    6. Are You Measuring Your Brand?

    Benchmarks and tracking studies of customer attitudes towards your corporate and franchise brands can be incredibly effective in shaping your business strategies. It’s imperative that all healthcare pioneers ask themselves key questions about the vitality and relevance of their brands and take the time to measure the effects of their brand strategies. Effective healthcare branding builds a lifelong relationship with customers and their families, ensures better adoption of future products, and overall, increases a company’s success and the internal wellness of its workers, consumers, and business strategies and goals.

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  • Posted by: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Tuesday, October 22 2013 05:56 PM | Comments (0)
    Dubrovnik, Croatia

    This year ABTA’s annual Travel Convention celebrated its 60th anniversary. Each year the event is developed around discussing travel in the context of world events, consumer behavior, the latest in the travel industry, new technology, marketing innovations and networking opportunities.

    This week, for the first time, the event was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel located on the Adriatic coast. Among the celebrated speakers were Kevin Mathers, MD of YouTube UK; Matt Warman, Head of Technology, The Telegraph; and Graham Hales, CEO of Interbrand London.

    From a YOLO take on what inspires travellers to a session on “Tourism in an uncertain world,” speakers and panelists covered issues facing the travel industry from customer service to embracing digital technology. Graham Hales, talking about “Building a valuable brand in the connected world,” touched on digital technology, brand building and internal brand engagement.

    Hales shared that a brand is more than an element of a communications strategy. It’s one unified vision that drives business performance, culture, experience and attitude. It becomes part of every aspect of what a business does and is, incorporated in all of its touchpoints, both internally and externally.

    Hales noted the importance of internal brand engagement. Clearly and credibly communicating the brand to employees is critical. His advice? Be it. Do it. Say it.

    With more choice in the post-digital world, the role of brand is more critical than ever. In order to create awareness and inspire not only consideration, but purchase in today’s noisy marketplace, strong brands must engage authentically throughout the customer journey.

    As Hales pointed out, customer perceptions of brands are now significantly shaped through the influence of other customers in the digital world whether from online reviews or customer tweets. Hales asked, from booking a trip through the travel experience and to the post-holiday feedback “What are the ownable opportunities to amplify the brand?”

    A brand needs to be about identifying customer needs, a real human personality that customers identify with and will seek out, values and a strong positioning, which all equal, as Hales said, “the most inspiring and compelling thing we can convey about the brand to this audience” or the “brand proposition.”

    KLM’s Meet & Seat was an example Hales shared of integrating digital technology in a clever way to engage customers and create a personalized flight experience. Passengers have the option to share their Facebook and LinkedIn profile details and check out other participating passengers. Allowing passengers to customize what they share about themselves, learn more about fellow passengers, such as who is attending the same event, and even select a seat based on that information, creates a unique brand experience.

    Also spotlighted was EatWith.com, a unique brand that creates an online global community inviting people to connect with hosts and fellow travellers for some homemade dinner experiences. EatWith hosts serve up meals from Whiskey Wednesdays in LA to dinner with a Michelin starred local chef in his home in Barcelona. Creating memorable and genuinely human experiences differentiates this brand.

    Key takeaway? “Be human rich.”

    Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.

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  • Posted by: Lindsay Beltzer on Tuesday, June 4 2013 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

    The A&F Club

    In an age where every PR blunder is transmitted across social media, generating petitions and raising the ire of the public, does it still hold that, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?” Recently reporting a loss of $7.2 million or nine cents per share and investors’ love for the brand waning, Abercrombie & Fitch, the focus of continued negative attention for weeks, might demonstrate not all press is good.

    Today’s headlines bring more bad news for the embattled brand, as The Huffington Post spotlights Heather Arnett and a group of teenage girls’ presentation at the Abercrombie & Fitch “campus” in Ohio to convince the brand in 2005 to shift its focus from exclusionary products to inclusive, empowering messages for girls. The line of shirts the brand was selling at the time that had inspired the visit featured messages such as, “I had a nightmare I was a brunette.” and “Do I make you look fat?”

    Less than two months after Arnett’s visit, at which time she and her group were directed to look for the brands’ statement of diversity & inclusion to be found on its website, Salon published the now infamous remarks from CEO Mike Jeffries declaring Abercrombie & Fitch to be a brand proud of being exclusionary. “We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely?”

    To the criticism of many, Mike Jeffries made his brand’s values crystal clear when he said he only wants “thin and beautiful people” to shop in his stores. Although he later took to Facebook to apologize, the fact that the story won’t go away in a world where the 24-hour news cycle gives stories an ever shorter lifespan, indicates maybe it’s time for a larger conversation on brand purpose and the role of the CEO in communicating and executing against a brand’s values.

    Strong brands are clear and consistent. They invest the time, energy, and resources to building value systems that transcend into every facet of their operations.

    From developing an employee-training manual, the design of a retail flagship, or crafting the message behind an advertising campaign – the world’s leading brands know that these sets of values need to be woven into every touchpoint and experience, which ultimately, consumers come to know and love. Now, in the heat of the backlash spurred by Jeffries’ comments, is an opportunity for Abercrombie & Fitch to turn its attention inward and reaffirm what it stands for as a brand.

    While the brand does have a statement on diversity and inclusion on its site, that statement needs to become the blueprint for how it behaves externally. That being said, every A&F employee, from its sales representatives, to Jeffries himself, needs to take the company’s diversity and inclusion policies to heart and walk the talk.

    As Interbrand’s Global Practice Leader for Corporate Citizenship Tom Zara tells me, what could be making the difference now in the way the press and public are responding to A&F and the way the world responded in 2006 when the comments were first published in Salon may be the role social media has played in changing how the world relates to brands. Jeffries’ comments have gone viral on Twitter and Reddit and an avalanche of open letters to A&F have appeared in the blogosphere, being shared across Facebook.

    While in the past A&F weathered scandals, including thongs aimed at tweens, charges of racism with what were seen as anti-Asian shirts and criticisms that its “maglog” resembles soft porn, in today’s post-digital world as angry consumers take to the blogosphere and social media, the sharing of their outrage can become exponential.

    “Without the perception of an authentic effort to turn the brand around, what has been exposed,” Zara says, “is an extreme and ugly take on niche marketing.” Not all brands appeal to all people, and targeted marketing isn’t new, but to deliberately take the power of choice from the consumer to select products based on price points, style and taste and declare a position seen as discriminatory is another thing.

    Some have suggested this is just how business is and gone so far as to ask if perhaps Jeffries is a genius. Forbes contributor Roger Dooley wrote a post entitled, The Perverse Brilliance of Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, but has followed it with This Abercrombie & Fitch Blowup Could Be Different. As Tom Zara points out, “Consumers today want to see that their brands share their values. Values matter more now than ever before.”

    Marks & Spencer

    Brands that celebrate inclusion have received significant positive public attention. Marks & Spencer, for example, was praised for its 2012 holiday campaign featuring a young model with Down’s Syndrome. Brands like Ikea, JC Penney, Ray Ban and Kindle have famously featured LGBT couples. While Cheerios’ recent ad celebrating diversity in an ad with an interracial couple and biracial child has received some vile backlash, it has also received considerable praise.

    As Abercrombie & Fitch’s Todd Corley, Senior Vice President & Global Chief Diversity Officer said in a video on Abercrombie.com, “It’s about making sure we value the person that’s here. It’s about making sure we create diversity champions. Diversity champions, that person, who really makes sure that inside or outside of work they are making certain they are representing the brand in a way that is inclusive to everyone.”

    But remember Abercrombie: Everyone means everyone.

    Lindsay Beltzer is Senior Associate, Global Marketing & Communications for Interbrand.

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