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  • Posted by: Lindsay Beltzer on Tuesday, July 15 2014 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

    Orange Is the New Black cast

    When the critically acclaimed show (now Emmy-nominated) Orange Is the New Black premiered on Netflix last July, it broke new ground. More than proving that audiences are hungry for “binge worthy” content, it moved characters of diverse identities and cultural backgrounds from the periphery of television drama to center stage. 

    Beyond the show’s provocative storylines, the way Netflix has marketed the series has been equally compelling. Netflix has illustrated, once again, that the right marketing mix and choice of channels are only as powerful as the brand and stories behind them. 

    Netflix took traditional marketing by storm in New York City (where the story takes place) covering city buses, subway station platforms, and telephone posts with OITNB advertisements—even blanketing the entire front façade of a SoHo building with video advertisements. 

    In a more strategic—and cause-related—effort, Netflix partnered with member-shopping site Gilt.com and the non-profit organization, Dress for Success, to provide professional attire to disadvantaged women. Drawing inspiration from an OITNB episode when a rep from Dress for Success offers wardrobe advice to the inmates, the real-life partnership featured the OITNB cast posing in chic workwear, offered at Gilt’s discount designer prices. For every item it sold, an item was donated to Dress for Success. 

    Orange Is the New Black cast Dressed for Success

    Netflix and OITNB then partnered with the radio-streaming platform, Pandora. Instead of just streaming the show’s soundtrack, Netflix went a step further by curating individual character stations, giving listeners the chance to customize various character playlists. For example, Piper Chapman, the character at the center of OITNB, favors the avant-garde and gloomy sounds of artists such as Lana Del Rey, Billie Holiday, and Nada Surf. The result? An authentic and inspiring expression of a character sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prison, reflecting Piper’s distance from the privilege and comfort of her pre-prison Park Slope lifestyle. 

    While brands are continuing to crack the code on “native advertising,” Netflix & OITNB’s sponsored ad in The New York Times garnered plenty of positive attention. Integrating video and interactive charts, it leveraged the narrative and landscape of the show to open up a broader discussion about female incarceration in the U.S. According to Professor Mike McKean at Missouri School of Journalism, what set the piece apart from other native advertising campaigns is its quality. McKean says, “The likelihood of clicking away before you scroll down and read much content is a lot higher than the average piece of native content. This is not average.”   

    Orange Is the New Black NYT Netflix sponsored ad

    So, what can brands learn from the sum of Netflix’s efforts? 

    1. Strategic brand partnerships are a powerful way to extend the reach of your story.
    2. Smart use of platforms and channels hinge on the clarity and authenticity of a brand.
    3. Going against the grain can be a good thing. Strong brands aren’t afraid to take the lead, but always invite the consumer into the brand experience. 
    4. Content is still king: unearthing the core of your brand story and learning to tell it in ways that move and excite new audiences is vital to success. 

    From bringing characters of diverse walks of life into the mainstream, to placing bold bets on branded-content, OITNB has been a trailblazer in more ways than one. It has illuminated injustices and humanized the stereotyped as effectively as it’s won over countless viewers—and, for all its impact, it might just win an Emmy, too.       

    Lindsay Beltzer is a Senior Associate on Interbrand’s Global Marketing & Communications team. You can follow her on Twitter @LindsayBeltzer.

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  • Posted by: Laura Tarbox on Monday, October 28 2013 01:22 PM | Comments (0)


    They say "knowledge is power," but in Zoopla’s case it really is. The property search brand that lets home-hunters (or just nosy neighbours) get the inside scoop on houses across the UK and beyond has just launched a new integrated marketing campaign called "Smart Knows," which aims to demonstrate the power of its website in helping potential buyers make smarter decisions.

    However, the really clever part lies in the brand’s characterisation of the very concept of "smart." Rather than focus on the property market and the comparative benefits of Zoopla, the brand shifts the spotlight onto bold characterisations of what they think constitutes a "smart" searcher.

    The effect is incredibly provocative. Intelligence is a cornerstone of the human ego, and acceptance and recognition from others are basic human needs. With headlines like "Smart searches on the move" and "Smart unlocks the mysteries of the neighbourhood," the ads challenge beholders to recognise themselves in it, and instil an element of self-satisfaction in those who do.

    Indeed, what’s really nice about these characterisations and the sentiment of the whole campaign is that in many instances the idea transcends just property – in the 21st century, smart really does "do" on the move; it really does do its research.

    It’s a powerful idea, and one that we're glad to see Zoopla capitalise on. Here, the brand’s implied proposition of "smarter property search" burrows its way into its very fibre. It’s no longer a laundry list of customer benefits, but part of their very DNA. And, indeed, if Zoopla is as smart as it says it is, then surely it has as much right to a point of view as the rest of us. After all, smart is as smart does.

    Laura Tarbox is a Consultant, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Alex Foss on Tuesday, September 3 2013 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

    The completion of the merger of Seamless and GrubHub was recently announced, and the combined organization will be known as GrubHub Seamless. Since the merger began, both food delivery companies expressed optimism for the benefits their combined technology and network of restaurants will bring. However, the new company will continue to operate as separate brands, despite its new name. It was very quick, but the new GrubHub Seamless president Jonathan Zabusky referred to the company in an interview as a portfolio of brands.

    Companies that enter into mergers and acquisitions often focus on the technical and financial aspects of the merger, while brand is considered after the fact. But the strategy that guides a union of brands can make or break a merger. Poorly advised or hasty integrations can destroy what made either brand valuable in the first place. Brand-driven decisions can help the new organization deliver lasting value.

    Several considerations may be underpinning GrubHub Seamless’ strategy to go forward as two brands:

    • A portfolio of brands can better serve distinct audiences and customer segments, such as residential diners and corporate accounts. Each brand also may have stronger affinity in certain geographic markets that might be compromised by merging the two. As Interbrand’s Darcy Newell wrote in her previous analysis of the merger, “If, in coming together, they try to be everything to all people, the new consolidated brand might lose its way, failing to be something special to anyone.” 
    • Keeping the brands separate can help the organization extend into new categories that a merged brand may not have permission to enter. While one brand may have solid associations with food, the other may be more of a vessel to extend to other services and categories. The way in which Seamless and GrubHub have expressed brand voice is an important determinant of that ability. 
    • Merging two cultures can be extremely difficult. Preserving the cultures of both companies can reduce friction and maintain amicable working environments for employees.

    These issues not withstanding, there are also compelling reasons to integrate the two brands in the future:

    • Only having to support one brand can lower overall marketing spend, as well as facilitate a clearer and more consistent message to the market. 
    • A company’s brand portfolio doesn’t have to reflect the company’s internal structure, but it does have implications for how customers interact with its offerings. GrubHub Seamless may be better able to deliver an integrated experience for their users and network of restaurants with one brand instead of two.
    • The combined brand could more effectively stave off competition, provided that the equity is transitioned and managed appropriately. The merger has already prompted competitive action with Yelp’s partnership with Eat24 and Delivery.com
    • Merging the brands and their names could signal unity to internal stakeholders and potential investors, as well as a shared vision and value set.

    The degree to which these considerations will apply to other merging companies will vary. But in all cases, the brand of the new company should have a strong strategic foundation that is rooted in the realities of the market. It will be interesting to watch how this company evolves.

    Alex Foss is an Associate Consultant, Brand Strategy at Interbrand San Francisco.

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  • Posted by: Kristen Selinger on Tuesday, February 19 2013 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

    Mergers are making headlines today with talk of US retailers and airlines coming together. News that OfficeMax and Office Depot are discussing a stock-for-stock deal between the two brands has shares up are up 25% and 16% respectively. Moody’s Investors Service says the merger between American Airlines and US Airways announced last week threatens the credit quality of US airports. The stakes are high for brands entering into mergers and can impact entire sectors. Digital Brand Management can help manage the merger process and manage its impact on a company’s most valuable asset – its brand.

    Brands contemplating or currently in the process of any merger, consolidation or other business combination are undoubtedly analyzing the impact of many elements including financial evaluations, tax considerations, operational processes, material contracts, real estate, technology, risk, organizational structure and change management. Most organizations do consider the effect a merger or similar transaction will have on its brand. It is vital that they also take a proactive approach to governing this change, communicating it internally and externally, and ensuring that the merging organizations capitalize on already developed assets.

    Kristen SelingerWhether following the transaction the brand will be a newly developed combination of the merging organizations or one organization will adopt the other’s identity, it is vital that this is communicated both within the organizations and externally in a thoughtful, efficient way. As the organizations team up to develop business together they will begin sharing marketing collateral and leveraging each other’s skills and expertise. However, this integration can be very difficult, costly and potentially detrimental to the brand if it is unclear what the identity is and where employees can go to learn about and execute the brand strategy.

    Providing a web based platform for marketers from both organizations that clearly articulates the new brand guidelines, strategy, identity, assets and templates that support it, prepares communications teams for the change. It enables brands to manage the process and reinforce the change both internally and in the external marketplace.

    The brand platform will become a one stop shopping experience for all things brand related. This will control and reduce costs, saving time spent recreating assets, clearly stating brand guidelines and expectations for implementing the new brand, training employees on the new brand strategy, policing the brand in the market and ensuring only brand approved collateral is utilized.

    Perhaps most importantly, a systemized portal will also demonstrate a commitment to the brand. Utilizing Digital Brand Management in managing merges will inspire the organization and partners to be participants in the development and governance of the new brand during the reorganization following the transaction when change must be managed carefully and effectively.

    Kristen Selinger is a Business Development Manager for BrandWizard.

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  • Posted by: Michael Benson on Monday, February 27 2012 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

    I had the pleasure, once again, of being a judge for the British Video Association Marketing Awards. Assessing marketing campaigns supporting the launch of titles on DVD and Blu-ray highlighted how innovative and effective they could have been. What struck me most is that more brand-focused thinking would certainly benefit the entertainment industry.

    There are unique challenges posed by the transient nature of the product (given the viewing experience) and the astonishingly short time that it has to become a success. Nonetheless, a small fraction of films launched have gone on to become lasting franchises, becoming brands that have extended beyond the viewing experience. It’s important food for thought for entertainment marketers, especially coming out of the movie awards season.

    Many campaigns are, sadly, an exercise of simply trying to place the title poster art in as many places as possible (online and offline), securing PR for the talent and throwing up website and Facebook pages for broadcast purposes that don’t really engage in dialogue. While much of this is driven by the need to push volume fast, it shouldn’t be an excuse for skipping rigorous thinking to make limited marketing budgets work harder. The problem: titles are not often thought of as brands to manage, but seats to fill and boxes to shift.

    What each title is and offers (the brand) needs to be clearly defined to identify effective connection moments and innovative ways to engage customers. This will also enable longer term brand building, especially as sequels and serialisation become a more common way to improve ROI. Some of the mega franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter appear to have clearer values that guide what they do in the many different extensions of the brand. This keeps the magic alive in the hearts and minds of current fans and help attract new audiences.

    Tactically, some distributors are using customer insight to effectively position and communicate their titles. I saw smart launch promotions that put potential viewers in the shoes of the hero, and the use of documentary to astonish and create a new fascination of the subject even before you see the film. These built on the understanding of what will engage potential audiences in a way that builds the brand. I can’t tell you who won (to be announced in the coming weeks) but I can say that the standouts clearly used brand-centric thinking.

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