Archive for December, 2008

NPR creates a personal brand application

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

There’s some strategic brand thinking going on over at National Public Radio (NPR). They’re developing new ways to make the NPR brand a personal brand application. Specifically, they’re enabling the NPR brand to become more personal, portable and persistent–essential qualities of brands to come.

Saul Hansell in the New York Times describes it:

National Public Radio has introduced a nifty little feature that lets you create your own custom podcast of NPR content on topics that interest you. Type in Obama or Madonna or whatever, and you can sign up for a stream of NPR clips that match your keywords that can be downloaded to your computer, smartphone, iPod or Zune.

The future of brands lies in digital devices

As I’ve noted previously, the future of brands lies in digital devices. Brands will be universal enablers, as close as a second skin. It’s nice to see NPR taking a step in that direction. Of course, people don’t want mere “clips” from the information stream on those digital devices. They want a new context of insight into the world around them. That’s a large part of NPR’s brand challenge.

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Links for creative brand builders: 12/19/08

Friday, December 19th, 2008

These are links for brand builders pursuing creative contexts for brands, as well as radical new (root) connections with customers. I’ll try to post such links a couple of times a month.

Brand identity: go cosmic, or go home

For a nice identity fix, check out these spiffy tattoos from young scientists. They may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point. They’re emergent identities—symbols of fundamental truths, processes, or discoveries that shape the universe, and humankind. They’re identities that transcend market offerings and shopping carts.

In comparison, many conventional brand identities seem small-minded and transitory. That’s because they aim too low. They’re commerce, not cosmos.

Some corollaries: In brands, the biggest universe wins. Go cosmic, or go home. Identities chained to products risk becoming dead-end DNA. They can’t evolve, and they’re doomed to perish.

Brands radiate possibilities

Benjamin Zander elucidates the principle. Does your brand enable major breakthroughs in the lives of customers? Does it take customers to places they couldn’t reach without you? Is your brand a new world of possibilities?

Put your brand on the map

Google Maps now makes it possible. The creative context is up to you.

In brands, the back is the new front

Touchscreens are an emergent interface for a whole host of new digital devices such as the iPhone. However, designing small touchscreens is tricky because one’s fingers can easily block the interface elements on the screen itself. Solution: use the back of the device for touch inputs, rather than the front. You make things happen from the “working” side.

There’s a metaphoric analog here for brands: While every brand likes to strut its display side, it’s often inputs through the back end of the brand—the customer side—that move the brand forward. Every customer is a “capacitive interface,” with back-end customer inputs more valuable in the long run than the dazzle of up-front campaigns.

Store brands lift grocers in troubled times

Conventional packaged brands from “name brand” manufacturers were once the measure of what brands were supposed to be. Now they’re in danger of becoming obsolescent, if not obsolete.

Conventional packaged brands tend to fall short on two accounts. First, they can’t match the experience level of retail brands, who are far closer to the customer. Second, retailers can shape their brands to the context of their total offering, and to the whole customer. To see what this means, traipse on down to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, two stores that act like communities. When your brand is confined to a package, it stands alone.

Moreover, a store experience can differentiate the customer. That’s a far more valuable experience than package brand dress that merely differentiates a product from its neighbors on the shelf.

How a Steve Jobs approach might transform Detroit auto makers

Small chance of this ever happening, but Robert Cringely scores some good points on the strategic importance of brand focus and customer experience.

I especially like this line: “Apple is worth more than any of the car companies and for good reason: Apple has a future.”

Yes, indeed. Your brand holds the keys to your future. For decades, Detroit brands have been pseudo brands, little more than stylized sales stimulants. Lately they’re being reduced to progressively puerile ad campaigns. Customers are taking their futures elsewhere.

In brands, culture trumps commerce

The gist of a brand is its contribution to culture. Thus, brand builders pay attention to thinkers like Michael Shanks, a leader in reappraising past cultures and their living heritage, especially in terms of processes of adaptation and innovation.  He’s helping transform archeology into a discipline of foresight, rather than hindsight.

Brand builders are culture creators. The more your brand adds to the culture, the better its chances to self-seed and take root. A brand that isn’t a new context of culture is effectively DOA.

Also: the Stanford Humanities Lab, a brand builder’s sandbox.

Brand values are craft values

The new book is called The Craftsman, by Richard Sennett. It explores “deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values,” which just happens to be the very stuff of brands. Well, real brands, not pseudo brands. Brands predicated on craft have a material and spiritual advantage over synthetic brands (fictions) predicated on selling. When companies lose their craft, they wind up in dire straits, like those brand-deficient Detroit automakers.

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