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.