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  • Posted by: Mark Dwyer on Tuesday, June 17 2014 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

    Never stop improving. Lowe’s is clearly targeting house-proud consumers with its tagline, but the North American retailer is demonstrating its own commitment to progress by boldly going where no home-improvement brand has gone before.

    With the launch of the Holoroom concept in Toronto, Lowe’s is revolutionizing the in-store customer experience. The 30-foot-by-30-foot augmented reality space gives customers a startlingly realistic 3-D depiction of their finished renovation projects—before they start tearing down walls.

    By dramatically improving customers’ ability to visualize the outcome, they are more likely to move ahead with renovation projects. Couples can agree on what they like or don’t like before they purchase and install items. They can try on multiple approaches to their renovations, risk-free, in a unique extension of the Lowe’s 3-D augmented reality mobile app.

    With the Holoroom, the Lowe’s Innovation Labs team has brought a novel version of augmented reality to the shopping experience. Inspired by science fiction, it has also proven science pundits wrong for predicting that the first real-life version of Star Trek’s Holodeck would not materialize until 2024. Kudos, Lowes, for being that far ahead of schedule.

    —Mark Dwyer is Director, Verbal Identity, for Interbrand Canada

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  • Posted by: Dominiek Post on Thursday, May 15 2014 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

    Ugg Creative Council - woman with child

    In 1978, Brian Smith landed in Southern California with a bag of sheepskin boots—but the UGG brand would never again be just a sheepskin boot. People either love or hate UGG Australia, but everyone has an opinion of the brand. Since its humble beginnings, the brand's magical combination of functional benefits and emotional appeal quickly spread around the globe. I, for one, never saw myself as a big UGG fan, but I have to admit that I secretly admire the company for its successful brand strategies, thoughtful product portfolio extensions, and the creative new brand experiences it offers. The UGG story and the evolution of the brand is an inspiration for all retail brandsand a good example of how a brand's identity can transcend all platforms.    

    To its credit, the UGG brand has always had a recognizable brand proposition. However, to stay relevant to consumers over its 36-year history, the brand has had to evolve quite a bit. From a symbol of laid-back southern Californian culture to a luxurious global lifestyle brand for active people, UGG has always been able to embody both comfort and luxury, which it embraces as core values. These values had always been consistently reflected in UGG's brand mission statement and in everything the brand does, but in the digital age, a clear mission and close alignment between its values and brand expression was no longer enough. Now UGG is taking a different strategic approach to flex its brand expression and integrate digital touchpoints to further extend its brand image in the digital space. Specifically, UGG is breaking new ground by fusing brick-and-mortar with online channels and cultivating a thriving online community.

    Give influencers the spotlight

    With the online universe being as extensive as it is, a brand cannot attempt to assert its own voice among all channels without the risk of diluting the authenticity and inspirational qualities of its brand image. To expand its social media footprint and build awareness of its brand and productswithout losing authenticityUGG set up the "Creative Council." A disparate group of influencers, with strong personalities and a sense of style, will share their passion for the UGG brand and its products in their own unique way. The blog posts will live on each blogger's site, but will also be part of UGG.com. 

    Lead the conversation with authentic content 

    In a world in which consumers now trust on-line tastemakers more than they trust brands, this is a very smart moveand a clever way to market through content without UGG itself having to create it (something brands aren't always good at). Instead, the brand will be delivering the content to the digital world, while the bloggers share their individual opinions and real points of viewwhich will ensure more authentic content. Since this is marketing after all, UGG will obviously be influencing the influencers to write positive things about the brand but, the fact is, UGG cannot actually control what the bloggers write. It may be difficult for companies to let go in this way, but brands can no longer grow in isolation. Instead, brands need to focus on influencing and engaging people in the hope that consumers will shape "what the brand stands for today" in the best possible way. 

    Use digital to create a seamless shopper experience

    The aim to deliver a seamless customer experience across all available shopping channels, is a goal that is supported by UGG’s parent company, Deckers Outdoor. In fact, the corporation opened a brick-and-mortar "innovation lab" store with integrated technology offerings to improve its omnichannel strategy. The next generation retail store will serve as a testing ground for new technologies and merchandising approaches. You can now walk through the store, educate yourself about the UGG brand with the provided tablets, order your favourite pair of UGGs that are just out-of-stock and have them delivered at home, or even customize your own pair of new footwear. Regular UGG stores are also at the forefront of new generation retail, allowing customers to order out-of-stock goods online on in-store mobile devices. To stay relevant, brands need to integrate digital touchpoints into their physical retail environment, as customer journeys existing entirely in the physical world are history. 

    As these examples illustrate, UGG is forging new ground and flexing its brand expression across touchpoints to move with the world. By facilitating real dialogue, giving influencers the spotlight, generating authentic brand-associated content, and leveraging brand-led conversations across all platforms, brands can not only increase exposure, but reach the consumers who truly value what you have to offer.

    Ugg Creative Council - fashion images

    Dominiek Post is an Analyst at Interbrand 

    You can follow her on Twitter @DominiekPost  

    Photo credits: Images courtesy of UGG's corporate website

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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: Interbrand on Tuesday, April 8 2014 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

    Best Retail Brands 2014

    Interbrand has released the Best Retail Brands 2014 report. The report examines 150 of the world’s most valuable retail brands across four regions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

    In addition to ranking the top 50 North American retail brands, the top 50 European retail brands, the top 30 Asia-Pacific retail brands and the top 20 Latin American retail brands, the Best Retail Brands 2014 report also provides readers with key digital trends, global insights on enhancing in-store experiences, regional overviews and a close examinations of seven sectors within the retail space: Apparel, Electronics, Department Store, Drugstore, Grocery, Home Improvement, and Mass Merchant. Exclusive and in-depth interviews with executives from top retailers such as CVS/pharmacy, Darty, The Container Store and PriceMinister are also available.

    This year, Walmart is the most valuable retail brand in North America (and across all four regions) with a brand value of USD $131.877 billion. Looking beyond North America, the following brands ranked as the top retailer in their respective regions:

    H&M – USD $18.168 billion (Europe)

    Woolworths - USD $4.948 billion (Asia-Pacific)

    Natura - USD $3.156 billion (Latin America)

    As the role of digital revolutionizes the world of retail, leading retail brands are adapting more quickly and successfully than others. From mobile shopping to virtual fitting rooms, the world’s most valuable retail brands are proving that reimagining the customer journey through a digital lens is the path to success.

    “The structural shift from physical to digital retail has not been painless—and reinvention is a must,” notes Interbrand’s Global Chief Executive Officer, Jez Frampton. “But we know that extraordinary retail brands will not only survive the transition—they will become more extraordinary because of it.”

    Click here to read the 2014 Best Retail Brands report in full or follow the conversation on social media by using #BestRetailBrands.

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  • Posted by: Sharmilee Rau on Monday, March 10 2014 09:56 AM | Comments (0)
    Victoria Beckham

    What do The Remington Arms Company and Victoria Beckham have in common?

    First impressions would suggest very little… but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that both are reportedly entering "‘lifestyle" brand territory.

    The Remington Arms Co. started to leverage its 200 year history last year, as one of the USA’s oldest gun manufacturers, capitalising on its heritage, expertise and legacy in the gun market by developing a line of clothing and accessories - the 1816™ Collection. According to Ross Saldarini, Senior Vice President for accessories and lifestyle, the new range has been designed to “celebrate the Remington lifestyle… for the field and beyond."

    Driving deeper emotional engagement with firearm enthusiasts, this new venture taps into an associated lifestyle. While there is significant controversy in America regarding gun policies, the brand's strategy recognizes an emotional connection intrinsic to the lifestyle of its consumers.

    On the seemingly other end of the spectrum, after achieving success as a global fashion brand and, perhaps more significantly, acceptance from the famously closed set of the fashion elite – being recently named one of The Top 20 British Fashion Players by The Guardian – rumours have emerged that the artist, formerly known as Posh Spice, has set her sights on launching a more affordable "lifestyle" brand to be sold in department stores.

    Anticipated as a brand for the masses, it will give consumers the opportunity to own a slice of VB’s lifestyle. Numerous other celebrities have adopted similar approaches in different guises (Goop anyone?). The general approach is based on packaging up the celebrity lifestyle and selling a curated version of it to the general public who are aspiring to live like their idols.

    These two examples illustrate how "lifestyle brand" has become a catch-all phrase to encompass anything associated with lifestyle. On the one hand, it can be taken as a brand that extends beyond functional product features to display an emotional characteristic (attitude, value or passion) that people identify with as part of their own lives. While on the other hand, it can be understood as a more clearly defined way of life that encompasses the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of a specific group of people.

    What’s clear is that lifestyle brands operate in much the same way as other strong, powerful brands – they are authentic, based on a clearly defined philosophy that’s underpinned by a clear set of values. They represent and celebrate ideals, creating deep emotional connections based on shared interests, attitudes and beliefs and they become a symbol of personal identity that consumers use to reinforce their own personal identity.

    So far, so good…but what makes them different? A true lifestyle brand is so relevant and specific that it becomes incorporated into the natural rhythms and patterns of a life for a clearly defined group or subculture. Brands achieve this status by exhibiting a clear attitude that reflects a philosophy that influences consumer behaviour and choices. In this way they can become essential to that culture, often show-casing an idealised representation of a lifestyle and becoming a symbol for the lifestyle.

    Sharmilee Rau is a Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand London.

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