Archive for January, 2010

Building culture | Building brand: Zappos shows how they are two sides of the same coin, benefiting from the same focus

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The New York Times’ recent Corner Office interview with Tony Hsieh of Zappos is a timely reminder that great brands are NOT built by executive fiat from the CEO’s office. Instead, they are built by identifying a finite set of core traits which connect and reinforce the actions of a sub-set of like-minded individuals. All too often, the C-suite feels that the simple top-down assertion of the executive vision of the brand is all it takes to get the rank-and-file moving in one direction. Tony Hsieh experience shows that brand excellence comes through continuing dialogue with the whole company AND by making brand “fit” a vital part of the recruitment and hiring process. The result is a strong corporate culture, a dominant brand and a company that is better suited to evolve to meet the challenges of the future.

NYT interview with Tony Hsieh

Google/Nexus One problems another reminder that successful product delivery must be rooted in core brand attributes

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Google Nexus One debacle reminds us yet again that failing to consider and deliver against a brand’s core attributes can be damaging, even for (perhaps especially for) a dominant brand. Google has built its reputation for excellent delivery of clean, considered and innovative services that make everyday life easier. The brand is based on instant and informative response. So a product launch marked by poor execution, poor performance and, worst of all, lack of customer responsiveness is not only bad, in and of itself. It is made much worse by the degree to which it stands in marked contrast to the behaviors that made the Google brand a juggernaut. If anyone had forgotten that branding is a on-going and never-ending process, this should be a timely reminder.

New York Times on Google Nexus One

Lady Gaga/Polaroid liaison a bold and brilliant move…provided it can deliver on the promise

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

This morning’s announcement at CES that Lady Gaga is to become an official spokesperson, creative director and inspiration for Polaroid is a bold and brilliant move by the venerable brand which has been on its last legs, thanks to bankruptcy, bad management, wrong-footing by digital photography and moves away from its core brand ethos. Lady Gaga is an awesome liaison for the brand, representing as she does the kind of dynamic creativity, spontaneous fun and intense visual impact which were at the core of Polaroid’s appeal in years gone by (just consider how many Polaroid-perfect moments are strung together to make the Just Dance video), not to mention a strong connection with the young female demographic which has a high potential for the company’s consumer offerings. To make the association pay-off and have a significant impact on its business, however, Polaroid MUST deliver with high-design, edgy products, services and communications which fulfill the promise that the pop diva’s endorsement implies. If it succeeds the Polaroid brand has the potential to stage an amazing come-back. if it doesn’t the brand may end up worse off than it was before.

Pollan’s Food Rules: Food marketers and their agencies, as well as food eaters, should have a copy in their libraries

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Michael Pollan’s newest book cuts through the polemics of the food and sustainability debates by distilling healthy food practices down to a manual of simple and easy to understand guidelines. Engendered in equal parts by his own research and input from the public (notably through responses to his call for rules to New York Times readers published in the NYT Magazine Food Issue) these 64 rules range from the commonsense (#2 Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognize as food) to the sublime (#13 Eat only foods that will eventually rot).

While an important read for anybody who eats, it should also be a required reference for any food marketer that wants to target the urban, upper middle-class buyer, as these rules, or some variation of them, are already starting to inform buying behavior, particularly on the coasts, and this trend will only continue as part and parcel of the sustainability and health debates.

I don’t agree (granted I am biased) with Pollan’s implicit assertion that the very act of packaging and marketing is a damning symptom of non-foodness. But I do agree with many of the communication cues he identifies (#9 Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” and “nonfat” in their names) and think this little book is a great thought starter for marketers and their agencies on how to better and more powerfully communicate the true value their products offer.

Emergence and Social Media: Grokking the conceptual connections that make social media powerful

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

My age, background and retiring disposition have made it hard for me to “grok” the fundamentals of the new waves of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). But once I made the conceptual connection between the nascent science of Emergence and where social media seems to be heading, its potential is beginning to come into focus for me. This connection was initially established for me by an hour of must-listen radio from the RadioLab website (one of my favorite destinations for mental floss). Initially broadcast in 2005, the program is fascinating in its own right, but it also outlines the conceptual underpinnings of social media in biology and psychology in ways that bring it home in a profound manner.