You don't need a social media strategy

"You don't need a social media strategy - you need a brand strategy that leverages social media. Don't get off the brand strategy just because there's a new communications channel, that's how you lose the plot as a brand. Technology is the tail, not the dog." (Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi via Tim Sanders).

This quote made my day today. Not just beacuse I agree - we always like to know that our own brilliant thinking is shared by others - but also because I've seen the shiny objects syndrome at play only too many times. We get so caught up by new possibilities and 'so ein ding müssen wir auch haben' that we take our eyes off the ball; this tendency is particularly prevalent when it comes to new technology, media and communications vehicles.

When I was European digital director at Levi's I would, among many things, work closely with the country marketing teams to plan and execute digital programs. I was met time and time again with all sorts of ideas from the teams on new stuff/things/apps/widgets/gadgets etc that somebody - often a local agency - had suggested.
While I really appreciated the creativity, my main role in these conversations quickly came to be Chief Sense-Making Officer, ie challenging them to test the ideas and their validity against the digital brand strategy - which of course was in place to support the overall brand strategy.
At some point, I developed a simple litmus test tool for the teams called 'Testing Your Idea', with the sentiment that all good marketing starts with an idea, however, not all ideas make for good marketing and with the purpose of encouraging strategic thinking. (I think I'll post this tool in a blog post soon, it's still pretty good!)

Anyway, as the digital protagonist in the company I was somehow expected to jump at and promote any new tech thingy that would pop out of the blue and often the teams just didn't get why I was so, in their eyes, conservative.
And this is why I love Chris Kirubi's quote above. Because it isn't about all the new shiny objects. It's about sticking to the brand strategy, having the courage to do so in the flurry of all things new, clever, cute and seductive, and having the judgement to filter out what isn't relevant and to frame within your strategy what is.
And btw, I'm not saying that social media isn't important, it's extremely important. But first and foremost the importance for a brand lies in finding the relevant and sustainable way to make use of it, whether for communications, research or other purposes.

Tim Sanders himself says it brilliantly: 'Don't let social media glam you out, causing you to waste time and money on keeping up. Confirm your brand promise and how you fulfill it, and find ways that social media can complement it. It's about being human, not techy.'

Attention all media folks

Brilliant article in Harvard Business Review, Branding In the Digital Age, on the new and necessary approach to media spend and paid vs owned vs earned media, among many many interesting things.
All media folks should read this. Brand and marketing folks may knock themselves out, too.

Steve Jobs' way of handling customer relations

What other CEO than Steve Jobs has a whole presumably 3rd party website dedicated to divulging and scrutinizing his emails to Apple customers?
Pls find an excellent analysis of Jobs' customer email approach on one of the Harvard Business Review blogs here.


Brand-bonding is the new brand-building. Where 'building' is a one-way thing, something the brand does on its own and for its own sake, 'bonding' denotes a relationship that involves participation from both parties and for the good of both parties.

And no, don't mistake bonding for bondage - that's exactly what we do not want to do. It's tempting to tie our customers as closely to our brand as possible, I know. Like telcos. Like where customers can't break the ties to the brand no matter how hard they try.

Rather, continuously give customers a good reason or better yet, several good reasons to stay with the brand out of their heart's content and bond with the brand over time. There's nothing more important than to be human, and that goes for brands too.

Music and Branding #7

This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing). Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their brand building efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. 
This column (# 7) was published in issue #15 out Dec 14th, 2010 and focuses on brand and artist associations. Please find links to the first six columns at the bottom.

In the previous column we examined one of the major barriers to a more strategic approach to music as brand building tool. The one about the difficulty of parking one's personal opinions outside the office door when it comes to the selection of music.
When we use music in the brand building, we need to take brand essence and brand values into consideration as well as target audience and context, make sure that there is a level of congruence and in general base our decisions on actual insights about all of this.
In this column we'll take a closer look at the results of a study that was carried out in the UK on exactly these matters.

The purpose and methodology of the study
In 2007, Millward Brown, Mindshare, MEC:Access, Ogilvy Action, and Hill & Knowlton decided to analyse a range of artists, genres, brands, and target audiences in order to improve the advice they'd give their clients on music sponsorships and properties. And, I suppose, also to influence their clients to think a bit more coherently and strategically about these things.
Now, this column is about music and brand building in general, not sponsorships specifically, but just the same I think we can gain interesting insights from reflecting a bit on the results.
The agencies carried out the study in 2007 among 10,000 people in the UK. They looked at the values associated with certain genres, key music events, and artists. Then they matched the data with select brands as illustrative examples.
Let's take a look at what they found. The following is taken from the study.

Brand and artist associations
Coldplay fans like movies and a socially/environmentally responsible attitude; this reflects front-man Chris Martin's own stand points. They like fair trade and will compromise in order to support the cause. They expect their brands to do the same.
Madonna fans are interested in designer fashion, believe that money is the measure for success, and aren't too concerned about the environment.
Starbucks customers like indie, R&B, and soul music. They have an expensive taste and appreciate inspiration from other cultures and life styles than their own.
Apple customers generally are more occupied with music than PC customers and tend to think of themselves as protagonists of good taste. They are concerned with how they dress and think it's important to present oneself as attractive as possible to the opposite sex.
Music taste and beverage preferences are also closely knit: Heavy metal fans prefer Coca-Cola to Pepsi. The indie folks, on the other hand and especially those who like Coldplay, go for Pepsi. Dance and club peeps don't really care, they go for either.
And folks who are 3 customers are more into music in general and more into dance/electronica specifically than O2 customers. Reversely, O2 customers are bigger fans of Eurovision Song Contest than any other telco customers. How about that!

Ineffective and effective collaborations
The study also looked at select brand/artist collaborations and whether they worked out well. Here's a couple of them:
  • Justin Timberlake got $ 6M in 2003 from McDonald's to promote the tagline 'I'm Lovin' It'. Unfortunately the crowd didn't love the collaboration at all, despite the seemingly shared youthful, energetic and broad appeal. The athletic Timberlake was not considered a credible McDonald's fan, his fans felt he was being downgraded and McDonald's brand image didn't improve either.
  • Rolling Stones have on several occasions agreed to lucrative tour sponsorships from big league brands like T-Mobile. Some Stones fans find that the band focuses too much on profit, as they aren't showing any interest in, goodwill towards or shared values with the brands they make deals with.
  • Take That worked with Marks & Spencer on their 2006 come-back tour where they posed as models in M&S campaigns and openly thanked the retailer at their gigs. This was very well received by the fans.
  • Paul McCartney's collaboration with Starbucks from 2007 onwards means that Starbucks operates as McCartney's record label. Indeed, some McCartney fans didn't approve, nevertheless his first album with Starbucks, 'Memory Almost Full' from that year, entered the Billboard top 200 at #3.
So, what can we learn from all this? That we cannot take much for granted; that what might seem obvious and right isn't always; that we can't just follow our gut instinct; and that we need to deeply understand not only our brand but also the reactions of the target audience before we start using music for brand building purposes.

Previous columns:
Music and Branding #1
Music and Branding #2
Music and Branding #3
Music and Branding #4
Music and Branding #5
Music and Branding #6

Music and Branding #6

This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing). Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their brand building efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. 
This column (# 6) was published in issue #14 out Nov 30th, 2010 and focuses on brand fit and relevance. Please find links to the first five columns at the bottom.

In the previous column we looked at the barriers that seem to exist for brands working more strategically with music as part of the brand building. We concluded that immaterial rights management, measuring effect, and professional objectivity are three major barriers that are keeping brands from working wholeheartedly, systematically, and strategically with music.
I actually think that professional objectivity is the biggest issue. How do we ensure that the selection of music is done on the basis of pragmatic and strategic considerations rather that unfounded feelings about what we personally like?
We know that values match between brand, music and target audience is critical for success - fit and relevance. That's what we'll look into in this column.

There needs to be a purpose
A 'brand' is not something we attach at the end of the marketing process when we're, say, launching a new product; it's the starting point for the entire strategic planning. 'CSR' is not something we do once in a while; it's something we are as a brand and company, all the time. Similarly, music needs to have an equally meaningful role for any brand that wants to use music in its brand building efforts.
By 'brand building' I don't mean the individual campaigns and advertising. I'm talking about the continuous effort internally in the organisation and externally in the market involved in positioning, differentiating, and maximizing the brand and its value for the company, owners, customers and all other stakeholders.
There's nothing more cringeworthy than a brand that comes up with a CSR activity which they then run as a campaign, and which by the way has nothing to do with the company's area of business. That's as bad as a brand with music glued onto it without any apparent coherence with whatever the brand is delivering in the market, or with its inherent values.
It makes sense if Best Buy is associated with music. Does it make sense if Whole Foods is? It makes sense that Tuborg is associated with music. Does it make sense if Danish Crown Bacon is? It makes sense that Apple is associated with music. Does it make sense if Google is?

Brand, band, context - does it all fit?
Rather than starting out with genres - our brand is 'jazzy', our brand is 'rock-ish' - start with target audience match and values match. What's the brand's target audience, what are the brand values, what music holds these values - and is there a match with the target audience?
The choice of music also needs to go hand in hand with the context in which the music will be used and what's practical and appropriate for that particular touch point.
Copenhagen's biggest and most enduring department store, Magasin du Nord, hosts a juice bar at its bottom floor called Joe & the Juice. It's right next to, or part of, the make-up and perfume department. Joe & the Juice have a habit of playing very loud club type music which seems out of place for the intimate and quiet make-up and perfume department, and for the fact that most people more than anything come to the juice bar to vegetate after a hectic shopping safari. Joe & the Juice's lack of sensitivity reflects badly on themselves, and on Magasin du Nord.
These decisions on coherence should not be taken randomly according to a moment's gut feeling and what 'I kinda feel like today', but be based on insights.
And when we dig deeper and look at collaborations between individual artists and brands, the coherence becomes even more important.
For example, I was a bit confused by the collaboration between Danish dance duo Infernal and McDonald's some time ago. On the surface it seemed just right and bang-on: Brand and artist share target audience and the values of joy and energy. But when one part of the duo is a declared health nut, then I struggle to see the point. It's as if both parties just hadn't quite thought it through.

Fragmentation requires facts
Music is a lot more complex to associate a brand with than eg sports. This is due to music's strong inherent emotional dimension which can have a different effect on different people.
Music is more fragmented than sports as far as genres and segments go, and one of the biggest pitfalls for a brand is lack of research into how or if a music activity - eg a sponsorship or the music played in the stores - is congruent with 1) the target audience of the brand and 2) their perception of the brand in the various markets, at that point in time.
For any music initiative started, driven or sponsored by a brand, sincerity and authenticity is crucial. And if we don't know what that means to our target audience from deep immersion into the culture we as a brand represent - ie their culture - then we better find out, and fast.

But how do we find out what our target audience likes and which values are associated with which genres and artists? How do we find out what makes sense?
In 2007, a group of agencies in the UK incl. Millward Brown and Mindshare did some research into these exact questions. In the next column, we will look at what they found.

Previous columns:
Music and Branding #1
Music and Branding #2
Music and Branding #3
Music and Branding #4
Music and Branding #5

What great companies continuously ask

'Can we save money here, can we charge more there? Great companies don't do that. They ask, 'How can we make it easier, simpler, more fun to do business with us?' They look at the whole experience (Vernon Hill)

What's an influential brand in the UK vs in the US

Interesting comparison between the top 10 most influential brands in the UK and ditto in the US, posted on Treehugger' site here.
Not only does it show the growing importance of the ethical brand, it also shows that national brands - still - play an important role, despite globalization.

Music and Branding #5

This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing). Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their brand building efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. 
This column (# 5) was published in issue #13 out Nov 9th, 2010 and focuses on how brands are using music and to what extent they are dedicating the resources to make it a success. Please find links to the first three columns at the bottom.

In the previous column in Markedsføring #12 (column #4 here), we looked at the link between the interest of brands for using music as part of their brand marketing and the resources that they dedicate to it. And found that in fact there isn't much of a link.
Many brands want to use music and think it's important for brand-building but don't invest risk, time, money, hands, skills, or thinking to do it properly, ie in a purposeful, value creating way. In this column we will investigate the reasons for this. What are the barriers?

Rights management
Rights management, in this case intellectual property rights (IPR), is an area of increasing importance and ditto complexity when working commercially with music. Not only is IPR fundamentally complicated, new digital platforms and tools, the fragmentation of sales and distribution channels, and the difference in national legislation increase this complexity.
There really is a lot to be aware of and be buttoned-down about, and we can't blame brands for saying 'No thanks, we'll pass'. After all, commercial use of music is not their core business.
When I was European digital director at Levi's - where music is in an integral part of the brand marketing and a central element in consumer engagement - I had good use of our in-house lawyers who are IPR specialists. But even their insight and my experience from the record business wasn't enough - quite simply because music IPR is so intricate and because new opportunities emerge constantly which the legislation hasn't quite caught up with yet.
Many brands try to manage the IPR stuff themselves or ask the ad agency to do it. But a layman is a layman, and the consequence often is that the brand fails to secure all necessary exploitation rights, and fails to clarify liability. Both can be very costly.
At Levi's we would work with external experts to assess rights costs, formulate and negotiate the deals and manage payment to the various rights societies etc. I strongly recommend doing it this way.

Measuring effect
Another barrier for brands to using music strategically is measuring effect or ROI. How do we know if the investment comes back, how do we measure it? And this is just the right question to ask. But it starts with establishing the right objectives. Without objectives, there's nothing to measure against.
The reality often is - as previously described - that the brands haven't clarified for themselves why they want to use music. What is the purpose and what do we want to achieve? See column #3 for more about music strategy.
So before you start whining about the difficulties of measuring ROI, get your success criteria in place, find out what you want to measure and why.
As we saw in the previous column (#4), precious few brands have customer loyalty and even fewer have sales as objectives. There is a lack of commercial focus which really is the place to start. When you have your objectives and success criteria in place, you establish the KPIs and then you start tracking them, just you do with the other marketing activities.

Rights management and measuring effect is stuff you can do something about pretty easily. It's much more difficult with the third barrier.
The third barrier is this nonchalant or random approach to the use of music. An approach deriving from bias and personal opinions within the marketing departments and/or the agencies. In other words: Objectivity is still a scarce resource.
It's as if music is not viewed as a credible, serious and valid strategic brand-building tool: Professionalism is allowed to put its feet up and relax, while decisions on music is taken on the basis of personal points of view and not according to what's appropriate for the brand and the target audience.
But as with any other marketing activity it's necessary to be concscious of the effect that our messages/activities - in this case, the music - will have on the brand as well as understand the target audience's preferences and possible reactions.
We might think to ourselves that we're one kick-ass fabulous music guru, but it's not our knowledge of music that makes us a good music marketing strategist - although some interest in music and music culture obviously helps. What makes someone good at using music strategically for brand-building purposes is the ability to place music in the bigger brand picture in a way that consistently benefits the brand and supports its strategic goals.

In the next column we will focus on the important objectivity and take a closer look at relevance and brand fit, ie the part of a music strategy that deals with values match.

Previous columns:
Music and Branding #1
Music and Branding #2
Music and Branding #3
Music and Branding #4

Why we 'like' a brand

This report which can be found on PSFK's website looks at why Facebook users choose to 'like' a brand on Facebook. The bad news is that most people do it to get a discount or other price offer, the good news is that just as many do it to show their support for the brand in question.

The last reason people list for 'liking' a brand on Facebook is 'to share ideas, provide feedback'. Interesting, considering Facebook is a social network where people meet to share ideas and provide feedback.

But (still) not in a commercial context, it seems. Or maybe the brands just (still) aren't good enough at using Facebook in a way the benefits both brand and consumers.

One of the best definitions ever of a great brand

Some 10 years ago or more I came across this way to describe what a great brand is. Scott Bedbury came up with it (wish I had!) and my friend Alan Webber wrote about it in Fast Company:
  1. A great brand is in it for the long haul. 
  2. A great brand can be anything. 
  3. A great brand knows itself.  
  4. A great brand invents or reinvents an entire category. 
  5. A great brand taps into emotions. 
  6. A great brand is a story that's never completely told. 
  7. A great brand has design consistency. 
  8. A great brand is relevant. 
One of the terrific things about Bedbury's 8 rules is that they are void of tactics and executions, like 'A great brand uses social media', 'A great brand focuses on CSR', or 'A great brand has distinct packaging', a tail-wagging-the-dog trap that a lot of folks fall into.
Not that any of these tactics are necessarily wrong, they're just not what you start with. Bedbury stays at exactly the right level of abstraction while being very concrete. 

Read the full story here

Who needs TV?

Facebook is the new mass media. Nike's CMO Davide Grasso says, "Facebook is the equivalent for us to what TV was for marketers back in the 1960s. It's an integral part of what we do now."

Why yes, Nike's latest video, a three-minute commercial called Write the Future, was launched on FB and passed on from friend to friend. The clip was played and commented on more than 9 million times by Facebook users and helped Nike double its number of Facebook fans from 1.6 million to 3.1 million over a single weekend.

Eyeballs, participation and advocacy all in one package. Getting the ad onto Facebook cost a few million dollars. Anyone who's ever worked with ATL knows this is a good deal.

Music and Branding #4

This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing).
Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their brand building efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. 
This column (no. 4) was published in issue #12 Oct 10th, 2010 and focuses on how brands are using music and to what extent they are dedicating the resources to make it a success. Please find links to the first three columns at the bottom.

In the previous column (issue 11 of the magazine), we concluded that there are almost endless possibilities for brands to use music. To that end, it's critical for those brands, who do use music, to do so in a systematic way that is on-brand and to describe this in precise terms in a music strategy. And we established that brands as a minimum must define their music profile - step 2 on the music staircase (see column 1).

So ein music ding müssen wir auch haben
Music and branding is nothing new. Lots of brands have used music as branding tool for decades, and with great pleasure. The last 10 years the trend has been on a sharp rise due to the 'so ein ding müssen wir auch haben' syndrome ('we need one of those').
The fact is, brands love music just as much as their consumers and think it's really cool.
But how seriously are they taking it? Do they dedicate the thinking, time, resources and boldness? Are they interested in taking a bigger, more strategic step? Or put in another way: Are they putting enough energy into maintaining the love?
Let's turn to a study done in 2008 by the bright folks at Heartbeats International. This study shows that there's a big difference between the importance that brands attach to music and the level of resources they put into it. Let's take a closer look.

Where should the finger be pointing?
In 2008 Heartbeats Intl asked roughly 70 of the biggest B2C brands in the US and Europe: What's your view on music as brand building tool; how relevant is music to your brand; how do you use it; and how will you be using it in the future?' The study shows that:
  • 97% believe that music can strengthen their brand
  • 76% are actively working with music
  • 68% believe that music is important to build a unique and consistent brand, also in future.
So music is deemed pretty important. But, and here's the paradox, the study also shows that:
  • 7 out of 10 brands spend less than 5% of the marketing budget on music
  • 4 out of 10 brands have defined a music profile
  • 2 out of 10 have a sound logo.
That's not exactly impressive. And the study didn't even look at the place music is given in the bigger brand organizational context.
Because money isn't enough. There has to be people in the organization to manage a music strategy. People with the right skills to carry it out or manage an agency who does it; who are placed close to where the decisions are made; are part of the brand team; and who have music and brand building as part of their job description and KPIs.
So really, where should the finger be pointing when the marketing director states that 'our music strategy has failed, we're getting no ROI, we're dropping it'. That's right, you have to give something to gain something.

Lack of commercial focus
Seemingly forgetting that brands must be prepared for dedicating resources in several ways to the project and over a longer period of time, means that they miss out on the benefits of strategic use of music.
And this might well be the reason why we see so much tactical and short-term oriented use of music.
Thus, it isn't surprising that Heartbeats Intl's study shows that the brands here use music primarily as complementary marcoms element:
The majority use music in TV ads, followed by music on website. On the 3rd place we find music in stores and showrooms, and only on the 4th place we have artist sponsorship/collaboration. Then follow events, radio spots, music products (promo CDs, ring tones) and coming in last is sound logo. It's worth mentioning that sound logo has gained significantly since 2008 but the others are more or less static.

The study also asked the 70 brands in what way music is important. And reveals that the majority (68%) believe that music is important for brand image and differentiation purposes. Only 20% mention customer loyalty and a measly 12% mention sales. Obviously, if there isn't a clear commercial objective with the marketing efforts incl music marketing efforts, then it's pretty darn difficult to advocate.

Altogether we can conclude that there's quite a bit of road to be traveled before we get to a systematic, useful and sustainable approach to using music.
But in many way this is the wonderful thing about it - there is so much potential still in the relationship between brands and music. It just requires awareness and a dedicated effort to be part of it. Or as the Beatles so simply put it in 1969: 'And in the end, the love you take / is equal to the love you make'.

Next time we'll look at some of the concrete barriers that brands experience as fas as working strategically with music is concerned.

Previous columns:
Music and Branding #1
Music and Branding #2
Music and Branding #3

Good brands

"Being a genuinely good brand in 2010 takes more than a widely used product and an ubiquitous global presence. Though there is no precise formula, what the ten good brands on our list have in common is a penchant for imagination, innovation, environmental responsibility and social consciousness".
So says PSFK's new Good Brands Report 2010 which apart from listing their top 10 brands, provides 10 key learnings about what helped these brands obtain a place on the list. Highly recommended reading.

Music and Branding #3

This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing).
Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their brand management and marketing efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. 
This column (no. 3) was published in issue #11 Sept 28th, 2010 and focuses on the importance of having a clear purpose for the use of music as part of the overall brand framework and a strategy for fulfilling that purpose (column no. 1 and 2 is here and here).

In the previous column (issue 9 of the magazine) we looked at how music influences our emotions and physical well-being as well as encourages social interaction. We established that music provides a variety of options for strengthening the emotional relationship between brand and consumer. And we concluded that this is the reason why brand managers must decide and define the role - big or small - that music should be playing within the overall brand strategy.

Eliminate the danger of too many options
Music is both media and content. Music delivers the broadest array of touch points than any other entertainment category and is hands down the most-consumed category across the board. So the opportunities for both reach and engagement are almost countless.
Exactly this fragmentation increases the risk of grasping at these opportunities arbitrarily. The best case scenario of which is an incoherent experience. This way, we obviously don't leverage the potential of music to build the emotional bond to the consumer, nor to deliver ROI.
So in order to achieve the desired return, we need to take a more considered approach. Just like we have a portfolio strategy, product strategy, distribution strategy, pricing strategy, marcoms strategy etc as parts of the overall brand strategy, we need to define the music strategy. And how do we do that - what is a music strategy?

Music strategy 101
The elements of a music strategy are the same elements as in any other strategy:

It's about relevance, not what we personally like
As you can see we do not start by saying 'What kinda music do I like'. Neither with musical genres although most people intuitively start there by saying that the brand is 'jazzy', 'hiphop-y' or 'rock-ish'.
Brands are not defined this way, rather by values like 'safe', 'modern' or 'edgy'. Hence, the brand values are usually best expressed across genres. Danish fashion label Noir are consciously using classical as well as German 70s soul in their shows.
The values match is essential for a music strategy but it's only one out of a number of key components and must never be defined on the basis of personal preferences.

Start with the music profile
We cannot and should not all be Starbucks, Apple or Levi's who have invested many years and $$ in their music association. A practical place to start is by establishing a music profile (step 2 on the music staircase, see column 1).
When we have that in place, we have the creative framework for all subsequent activities and media in which music will be used.
A music profile is the sound dimension of the brand, just like a graphic profile (aka visual identity) is the visual dimension. A music profile defines the unique tone of the brand and is used in all touch points where sound plays a role, eg TV/radio/online ads, stores, showrooms, website, presentations, and IVR/waiting tune.
In addition, a music profile defines each component of the total profile (eg sound logo, 'tag music', riffs or other specifics parts/fragments, number and types of music pieces, sound scape), the hierarchy between these components, and where the profile and each component is to be used and not used.
There's plenty reason to spend some time defining the brand's music profile - remember that brands with music that matches their identity boast 96% higher recall rates than brands with mismatching or no music.

In the next column we will look at the state of the nation as far as brands' use of music as brand building tool is concerned, and their dedication to making it a success. No doubt, brands love music as much as consumers. But are they dedicating enough energy to make the love grow?

Previous columns:
Column #1
Column #2

This is design thinking

Met up with my old friend, Wickie, today and discussed approaches to business and organizational transformation and progress. One of the hot approaches these days is 'design thinking'. I've always had an issue with the term because:
  1. Like so many other specifically coined terms, it becomes a buzz word that covers everything and nothing, and in the end no one understands what it is. Like 'experience economy', 'social media' and 'user-driven innovation' which have become very misunderstood (see my posts about the latter two 'It's the mindset, not the media' and 'What is user-driven innovation - and what is not').
  2. The spokespeople for design thinking tend to - as with all buzz things - describe it in long, very unconcrete terms that leave me none the wiser about what exactly design thinking is and why I should care.
  3. Design thinking fundamentally consists of elements that are very well-known from disciplines like brand management and web/IT development, so what's new?
    I prefer to call a spade a spade. Tell me in brief layman's terms what it is. So Wickie, who is trained as a designer and works with design as a mindset, and I tried to sum up in the simplest possible way the core elements of design thinking:
    1. A holistic, cross-disciplinary approach to problem-solving that uses
    2. ... a prototyping, iterative process in order make stuff (change, processes, things, plans)
    3. ... tangible very quickly.
    See, now I get what design thinking is. I hope you do, too.

    The evolution of error pages

    Ten years ago, in 2000, Levi's did the controversial 'Not Found' online campaign where 404 error pages were over taken by the brand and inhabited with various brand messages.

    This made me think how the nature of error pages has evolved from basic, somewhat cold, and sometimes downright frightening messages to fun, friendly pieces of communication (one of my favorites below, simple, fun, makes me chuckle).

    I wonder if anyone has looked into this, and I'm thinking it might make for interesting, cool and no doubt amusing reading. A look into the evolution of branding and communication on so many levels.

    K Forum in not accessible at the moment due to technical problems. We apologize for the inconvenience. Kind regards, K Forum

    Marketing is also about the experience

    So I'm reading this really useful and relevant article in Harvard Business Review about Unleashing the Power of Marketing. I applaud anything and anyone who promotes the principle of marketing as strategy driver and translator of customer insight into the next growth idea.
    But I don't applaud when marketing isn't also paying attention to the customer experience. Like on the very site where I'm perusing the article. Here, I've just experienced the most irritating online ad so far - and I've seen a lot during the past 10 years.

    At the bottom left is a square IBM ad that pops up immediately - and won't go away. There's no x or 'close' button. The ad is effectively blocking my view so I can't read the copy. Only when I scroll down, can I return to my reading - while the ad unfortunately stays on the site throughout.

    C'mon - I get that your KPI is CTR and all of us annoyed users will click on the ad in a knee-jerk reaction to make the sucker go away, and lo-and-behold you think you have achieved your ROI target.

    But this is a bad, bad experience. Dear IBM, HBR, and online ad agency, have you not tested this and realized how this lack of respect for the users most of all reflects badly on you? Maybe this post should be called 'How to turn Return on Investment into Throwing Your Investment Out the Window'.

    PS. Here are a couple of additional contextual display ads gone wrong, courtesy of e-Consultancy.

    Design vs decoration

    There's a difference between design and decoration. It's called substance, longevity, and relevance. Or as they would say in Jamaica: Don’t confuse sound systems with mobile discos – one can rock a real party, the other is useful for weddings.

    How to sell more bread - letter to my bakery

    This is an email I recently sent to one the bakeries where I buy my bread. 'Lagkagehuset' is an excellent bakery chain in Copenhagen who has become very successful with their baked goods and retail concept. 
    But a crucial component is missing which not only annoys me every time I go there but also would help them sell even more: 

    Dear Lagkagehuset,
    I love good bread, therefore I buy a lot of it at your bakery. I also love to know what's in the bread - after all, it's the ingredients that determine which bread(s) I buy.
    Unfortunately there is no information in your stores or on your website about this. So I have to ask the shop assistant every time. They don't always know what's in the various breads, it takes time to ask and (perhaps) get answers, and this just makes the queue behind me even longer.
    Thus, I often don't ask - I hate to waste the other customers' time - and the result is that I sometimes come home with a 'wrong' bread because I've just chosen the nearest one. This is a great annoyance. Most likely I'm not the only one who's experiencing this.
    So here's a few ideas on how to solve that issue, using your greatest asset and your two primary customer touch points:
    1. Talk about the bread on your website - tell us about them, what's in them, why, and what makes each of them special. You'll delight your customers, and you'll also create more interest.
    2. Same thing goes for your stores. Use them to tell us about what you're selling. Don't put up tiny little signs at each type of bread - the customers can't see what's written anyway. But you could develop small hand-outs, like set cards, about the breads which the customers can read in the store and/or bring home. Use them as bagstuffers, too. Customers will happily put it on their fridge at home if it's handy, stylish, and interesting enough and voila - instant in-home advertising 24/7.
    3. You could also consider large nicely framed posters in the stores that introduces each bread. Put on the right wall in the customer area where everyone can see it, it'll not only look good, it'll make for interesting reading and passing of the time as customers wait for their turn. Need I mention, they'll be prone to buy more and be happier with their purchase. 
    All this spells differentiation, increased revenue, smoother store traffic, customer satisfaction, and advocacy, at a low cost - what's not to like? I hope you will consider these or other ways to inform us about your otherwise excellent bread - thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,
    Helene Venge

    The purpose of companies

    The general wisdom contends that the purpose of a company is to create shareholder value. I say it is to create and keep customers. If done well, this helps to increase profits, which then increases shareholder value. Focusing squarely on shareholder value is a short-term perspective, leading to short-term results.
    The goal is long-run value - and the customer is the source of that value. So the customer must be the primary focus of any business, not shareholder value. By shifting the focus, you open up a broader range of opportunities that you otherwise just can't see.

    It's what we do that makes the difference

    We are what we repeatedly do (Aristotle). In other words, if you want to be something else, do something else. Yes, this also goes for companies and brands. If your customers are experiencing your company in ways you are not happy with, you have to change your company's behaviour.

    It's the mindset, not the media

    A friend of mine told me the other day of a roundtable he'd been in with a number of the biggest companies in Denmark to discuss business issues. He told me that one of the most prevalent issues among these companies was: What do we do with social and digital media?

    In this post, I will put forward my humble take on the issue, based on my experience working with business and brand strategies over the years including the elusive answer to the above mentioned question. The thing is, the question is actually wrong. It's not a matter of media but of mindset. Let me explain.

    Why are we still discussing this?
    You see, I was surprised by the prevalence of the issue. And then again not. Surprised because we discussed the issue already back in 2005 and surely we are pretty clear by now, aren't we?
    Not surprised because indeed big companies are built by complex structures that complicate the strategic utilization of social and digital media and all other activities that are two-way between company and consumers. I know this from having been in several large corporations, including one of the Danish companies participating in the roundtable.
    The very same day I came across this recent TED talk which concludes that:
    1. The bigger the corporation/brand the more force is required to change it (think Titanic),
    2. While it takes time to build a brand, it can be quickly dethroned  (think BP),
    3. While many marketeers lie sleepless at night at the thought of consumers gaining control of the brand, the (for marketeers entropic) brand energy that consumers create is actually a good thing (think Lego).
    The TED talk is good, solid, and funny. And I agree with everything that's put forward in it. But I'm also surprised that the 3rd point is being received as new. Like I said, we've discussed this since 2005 if not before.

    But then I need to remember the 1st point. Or as John Lennon put it: 'Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans'.
    He wasn't talking about business but often this applies to corporations, too. So busy planning their business that they lose sight of what's happening and they find themselves being distanced from real life, their consumers' life that is.
    And this is probably part of the reason why social and digital media is still an unsolved mystery for many of them and why they're uncertain and unsettled about embracing it. And why, unfortunately, many are downright scared of opening up to their consumers, thinking of the risk of quick dethroning - the 2nd point. Well, we only have to fear it if we've got secrets to hide.

    I went back into the annals and dug out a conference talk I did in, that's right, 2005 - excuse me one second while I dust it off, achoo.
    It was an IPA conference in London, and as European Digital Director at Levi's I was asked to talk about how we used digital media to build the brand and cut through the clutter. I ended up talking about how to harness your consumers' engagement in the brand - or distributing brand energy as the TED talk would call it.
    Let me re-state a few key points from the talk which I believe hold true today and maybe, hopefully, they can be useful to you.

    1) The way we talk about it shapes our perception and thus our reality
    When I prepared my talk back then, I was puzzled by the language that the conference programme was using. It talked about:
    “Advertising is on its deathbed and will not survive for long”
    “A fatal case of new technology”
    Confronting the challenge”
    “As the reality of opt-in sets in
    What is this, the emergency room? Or are we at war? Are we all about to die? Should we pull out the first aid kit? What's going on? Clearly, digital and social media was seen as a curse, something to fight so that 'we' could survive.
    That's problem no. 1 right there. It's not a 'we vs. them'. It's not a fight. But if you keep putting on those glasses, that's what you'll see.

    2) If the mountain won't come to Moses...
    Companies exist to fulfill a consumer need. Consumers pay companies to fulfill it. Herein lies the symbiotic relationship. Interestingly, there's a number of opposing forces within this relationship that makes it difficult for companies and consumers to get along, summed up in the brand paradox:
    As responsible managers we align with company policies, governance, processes, and planning cycles because they are there so that the company can operate. It's just that consumers don't really give a hoot about this and why should they. And because they now have a voice, or rather a lot of voices, we need to also align with their way of doing things. Indeed, Moses needs to come to the mountain.

    3) Social and digital media are means, not an end
    It's not about using social or digital media or not. It's about whether your company is willing and able to open up to its consumers. A Twitter stream does not make a company more open or cool (or social or digital). Saying 'We believe we can learn from our consumers and we want to thank them for buying our products and show them respect by being transparent and honest in everything we do' and behaving accordingly does.
    Once you've decided that you're ready to do this, are clear on the purpose and what you aim to achieve, understand the implications, and have a strategy for doing it - then you can start defining the tactics. Among these tactics may be social and digital media, but they are not the strategy and should not define your objectives. Be very careful of the tail wagging the dog.

    4) Join up and align the touch points
    Social and digital media enable a faster and more efficient roll-out of your strategy towards more openness and of building that deeper relationship with your consumers.
    But by all means, don't think that openness and a deeper relationship means 'Let's have that creative young fellow in the digital marketing dept create a Facebook page for us, and maybe a Twitter stream and then he can write some stuff when we launch the next product'.
    Don't forget that 'the new openness' must also manifest itself in internal communication and information-sharing and similarly in all external contact points. You can tweet all you want but if your customer has a bad experience with a sales rep, it doesn't really help.
    The internal information flow must be constant, efficient, and substantial so the left hand knows what the right hand is doing: Customer service, sales/retail, product quality, legal, marketing, research, and so on, they all need to have the same (detailed level of) information about the happenings in the company and about the consumer in order to support the openness objective.

    5) It isn't easy but the returns can be great
    Don't worry, be happy. See social and digital media as a blessing. Understand that social and digital media allow your consumers to engage with your brand and your company in ways that were impossible before. Think of it this way:
    As consumers take (more) control, we can create meaningful collaborations with them on both parties’ terms. If meaningful enough for them, they will do the marketing for you.
    There will be lots of comments out there that you won't like and that you feel are huge misunderstandings, but see them as a reflection of your company's behavior and adjust so your consumers experience you the way you intend.

    6) Learn from the learnings
    As a final note, a few Do's and Dont's and remember that the democratization of media is here to stay, so you might as well get used to it, with all its challenges and opportunities:

    Music and Branding #2

    This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing).
    Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their branding and marketing efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. Some do it well, others badly. Others just really boring. It also looks at new ways and models for collaboration.
    This column (no. 2) was published in issue #9 August 24th, 2010 and focuses on the importance of taking an informed stand on music and branding, even if it means choosing not to include music as part of the brand strategy (and column no 1 is here).

    In issue 7, I introduced 'the music staircase' from Swedish Heartbeats Intl - we resist the temptation of calling it stairway to heaven. It's a simple model used to assess how sophisticated a given brand is in terms of working with music as part of its strategy. On the first step, music is used unconsciously and entirely ad hoc. On the final step, music is an integrated part of the brand strategy.
    But why is it so important for brands to deal with and have a clear view on music?

    Music appears to be more important than sex
    In 2008, the research agency Millward Brown et al conducted a study of the relationship between music, advertising, brands, and consumers, "Bands & Brands, How Music Communicates With People". The study shows that:
    • Our consumption of music has never been greater. Music has become ubiquitous.
    • Music is something all of us love or like a lot. No one dislikes music.
    • Our senses, brain, and body is influenced by music. Music can influence the beating of the heart and our emotions.
    • Music can communicate atmosphere and 'transport' us to places, we've been, and to moments in our lives.
    • 60% listen to music every day.
    • 61% say that music changes their physical wellbeing.
    • 85% say that music changes their mood.
    • Music is the thing most people won't live without. Music beats computer, mobile phone, TV, and even sex.
    If this isn't enough reason to consider music as a fixed component in the brand strategy, then this might help: A study by professor in music psychology Adrian North and professor in psychology David Hargreaves shows that brands using music that match their identity have 96% greater recall than brands with mis-matching or no music.

    Tired of ads, not of music
    Are you still doubtful, consider this: Tens of thousands of brands are launched every year and only few last. We are exposed to an increasing amount of messages each day, let's say 5,000. We remember 10% of these at the most, compared to 33% 50 years ago. In fact, we are so cleverly designed that the more ads we're exposed to, the fewer we remember.
    Not so with music.The more music available to us, the more we engage in it. Today, an iPod can host 40,000 songs compared to the few tunes we might be lucky to hear through a lifetime 100 years ago. According to the Millward Brown study, today we consume music through on average 6 different devices, from the TV to the mobile. We never get tired of music, perhaps not counting the neighbor's party on a week night.

    People create music, music create people
    We don't get tired of music because it arouses emotions and influences our physical feelings. Human beings are born with rhythm and music in our bodies. Scientific research has shown that out of the 5 senses, hearing is developed first in the fetus. Already by the 18. week the fetus is able to hear the heartbeat of the mother.
    Music follows us through life and plays a role at all big events and milestones. In many cultures, music is used to awaken the gods and the forces of nature. Music is an element is us human beings.
    We use music actively to get in a certain mood. We use music to express our choices, identity, and own personal brand. Music creates energy and on a group level it engages people across age, gender, and culture and encourages social action, interaction, and transaction. Just have a look at the programme on national TV DR2 'Songs that Changed the World'.  

    Does this sound familiar? Isn't all of this exactly what us marketing folks are so keen to achieve with the brands we manage on behalf of the shareholders and consumers? Maybe not change the world, but then change at least the individual consumer's world in a big or small but certainly positive way? If not, then what's our reason for doing what we do?

    This is why it's so important that brands find out how they should associate themselves with music. Not all brands need to or ought to get all the way to the final step of the music staircase. But all brands need to - as a minimum - develop a conscious and well-informed view on and a systematic approach to the use of music. Also if this means choosing not to use music at all.

    The opposing forces of every business

    "Every business faces the opposing forces of the pull for more growth against the pull for more profitability; the demand to show profit today against the need to invest in the company’s future; and the call for optimizing the whole against the tendency of individual parts to maximize their own performance. The three performance tensions — growth versus profitability, short term versus long term, and whole versus parts — provide fundamental energy that can be harnessed to deliver superior, sustainable results."
    (Ken Favaro and Saj-nicole Joni in "Getting Tensions Right" in Strategy+Business 24 Aug, 2010)

    Try before you buy

    Adidas has launched a new shoestore in Japan, in fact it's a shoe store and and running club in one, Adidas Runbase. Besides perusing and purchasing gear experienced and rookie runners can borrow shoes, get tips from running experts, take the shoes out for a run, shower after your run, etc. The ultimate try-before-you-buy experience.

    Ikea economy

    We know about Apple economy, ie other companies creating businesses off Apple products (eg iPod accessories). 
    Here's Ikea economy: company that covers the part of the value chain that Ikea doesn't.

    Walk the Talk

    Quote of the day: "Advertising is sexy, PR is influential, and design is uplifting; but it's the substance of what you do that matters most" (Nicholas Ind and Majken Schultz in Booz Allen's Strategy+Business, 26 June 2010).
    Organizations, you need to get on board with this if you aren't already. Branding is about the whole organization and its stakeholders, not the campaigns and the marketing department.

    Music and Branding #1

    This is a translation of the column I'm writing for Danish industry publication Markedsføring (Marketing).
    Music and Branding deals with the trinity of brands, bands, and fans. It looks at how brands use (or don't use) music as part of their branding and marketing efforts and how bands collaborate with brands. Some do it well, others badly. Others just really boring. It also looks at new ways and models for collaboration.
    This column was published in issue #7 June 1st, 2010 and deals with the state of music and branding in Denmark, both client and agency side.

    From beer to consulting
    What does Avenue Hotel, Royal Beer, and Copenhagen Consulting Company have in common? They all use music as part of their identity and market communication.
    • Each week, Avenue Hotel in Copenhagen hosts the Yellow Lounge, a club night featuring DJs playing a combination of electronica and classical music - they also put out a CD series by the same name.
    • Royal Beer runs competitions to win tickets to select summer festivals that they sponsor and - perhaps more interesting - collaborate with Danish rock band Kashmir to find the support act for Kashmir's upcoming tour.
    • Copenhagen Consulting Company (CoCoCo) give away corporate CD compilations with the title 'Everest Within' and featuring a Stephen Covey quote inspiring us to always make our best team effort, like they do.
    All of them use music as association and borrow a little coolness in order to differentiate from the competition (CoCoCo) or get closer to the customer (Avenue Hotel, Royal Beer). In the case of Avenue Hotel they also seek to deliver a different hotel experience altogether, and Royal Beer to provide the coveted 15 minutes of fame.
    All in all pretty good - and pretty common - examples of how brands use music as a means to support or strengthen their identity.

    Lost in music?
    Using music as a branding tool is not exactly new. Actually, it is as common as free newspapers in the metro. But just how sophisticated are we in Denmark in this area?
    If we take a look at UK and Sweden, it would appear that there is a much greater interest - and ambition - not just for brands and music but brands and music strategies. Look at specialist agencies like UK-based Citizen Sound, New Music Strategies, BrandAmp, Frukt Music, Musically and Swedish Heartbeats International.

    They don't just create sponsor programmes, sound branding, and product placement opportunities. They cover the entire value chain from strategic planning, market analysis, music identity, music strategy, concept development, social/viral media, instore, mobile apps, digital media, evaluation, reporting etc. And they research and share their knowledge through workshops, seminars, symposiums, newsletters, blogs, and books.
    In other words: These agencies don't just maintain the field of music and branding, they expand and evolve it.

    I know a lot of agencies in Denmark who work with one or more parts of the value chain, but none that cover more than just the usual stuff or proactively seek to influence and educate the market. And from a brand perspective, the picture is equally sad - only Tuborg can claim to work with music systematically, strategically and longterm.

    From ill-fitting waiting tune to strategic platform
    Heartbearts in Sweden have created a simple way to illustrate how brands and agencies work with music - the music ladder. It has 4 steps:
    1. Unconscious use of music. Here, music is used accidentally and with no thoughts as to why, how and what music is used. Best case scenario is confusion as to what the brand stands for.
    2. Conscious use of music. Here, the brand has developed a music identity, a sound associated with a set of values. Music has become a branding element. CoCoCo is an example.
    3. Involved in music. The brand is actively involved in music activity, typically through promotions/competitions or sponsorships/collaborations. Royal Beer s an example.
    4. Strategic music platform. The brand owns a position in music culture and a platform from which it develops the brand, the fans and the music. Tuborg is an example. Heartbeats mention Red Bull Music Academy. Levi's, where I was marketing head for a while, owned music as association for a number of years in the 80s and 90s.
    The music opportunity
    In Denmark we see all too few examples of step 4. Ironically, except Tuborg probably the super markets are the ones working most strategically and research-based with music! But why?
    Is Denmark just too small a market? Are we satisfied with things the way they are? Do we not believe in the potential, the opportunities of music branding? I don't know but I'd love to hear your opinion.

    Music is the form of expression and cultural art form with the greatest appeal. Only sports attract the same amount of people and appeal on the same emotional level. Music accepts no limits, it ties us together across borders, age, sex, culture, class, religion and any other preference.
    Must this potential, this power, really be reduced to a buy-and-get promotion or an ill-fitting IVR tune - when there are so many other opportunities?

    What companies need to focus on

    Fifty years ago, Peter Drucker said that "any business enterprise has two - and only these two - basic functions: Innovation and marketing".
    It's unfortunate that so many companies still struggle with both; the good news is that there is so much potential for improvement and progress.

    Quality is a means, not an end

    Quality is often the main message brands want to convey. However, this is not an effective branding message because quality is relative and even expected. Quality is not your end-game, but the beginning, and should be treated that way.

    Loosen the reins

    "We have to strike the right balance between being in touch and being in control. The irony is, the more in control we are, the more out of touch we become."
    A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble, on brand management. He actually said this already in 2006 which just makes it all the more true. We had a lot of these discussions at Levi's, my stance being that strong brands only get stronger by facilitating that consumers can talk about it (the brand), rather than constantly saying 'look at me, I'm a great brand and don't you dare say anything different' which, honestly, just comes across as desperate.

    Feel good branding

    The other day I received a letter from my storage company. I rent a box there where I keep all sorts of stuff that I have no room for a home. I was so delighted to get this letter. Not only was it not the annual invoice, it was one of their newsletters which they send to all their customers a few times a year.

    This newsletter always delights me. It's a paper newsletter, two pages stapled together, 'designed' with a basic dtp program, not particularly well written, full of little stories about the team, new services, free ice cream, their flower pots, the colour of the gate, with corny pictures and illustrations (Easter chickens at Easter, xmas stuff at xmas), almost naïve in its look and content. So why does this newsletter delight me?

    Because it makes me feel good. I get a smile on my face when I read this newsletter. Here's a local office of this fairly big storage company chain who really wants to do a good a job for its local customers. They are only 2 or 3 people but boy, do they make an effort to give personal, friendly service and surprise and delight their customers. And what's more, they're proud of their trade and their work and it comes through in this newsletter.

    In all its old school-ness, this newsletter makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It's excellent branding and they don't even know it.

    Today's links

    Free your mind and your assets will follow

    Jon Bains has written an insightful and entertaining post on his blog about media-neutral marketing. Well, actually it's about looking for inspiration beyond the immediate, un-terming familiar terms, and breaking the habits while retaining the DNA of the brand. He titles it Analog to Digital Conversion and here it is.
    Jon co-founded digital creative agency Lateral in the mid 90s and I had the pleasure of working with him and his crew for several years when I was at Levi's.

    Wu Tang Clan vs The Beatles

    "Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers" is a remix album incorporating Wu Tang Clan a capellas and Beatles songs, and produced by Tom Caruana.

    So, not unlike the Dangermouse Grey Album which of course mixed Jay-Z's Black Album and The Beatles' White Album.

    But - unlike the Grey Album - this one features remixes/covers of Beatles songs, not originals. I love The Beatles and this is a really cool combo, with great vocals by Kelis to boot. The album can be downloaded for free at the record company's website.

    Honesty, passion, competence

    Honesty, passion, and competence. These were the three values that underpinned the Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page tells us in the documentary It Might Get Loud about the three guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. To me, it sounds like many corporations and organisations could learn something.

    Will it do or die?

    Tell me what you think: Is this old hat and will Octone vanish when the sales do the same or is it a different approach that will survive in the industry? The Plan To Save the Music Biz.

    Thinking man

    Last night I watched a program on TV where a sociologist was asked about the characteristics of the 2010's man. She said well-rounded, comfortable with both the 'male' and 'female' sides of himself, sensitive and also not afraid of cutting through whenever necessary. She names Obama as an example of this type of man. I agree.
    But I think she's missing a key attribute which Obama possesses in abundance: Intelligence and the ability to think - and being very comfortable with that. And isn't this about time? After all, we're homo sapiens.