Archive for May, 2009

Building your brand—there’s an app for that

Sunday, May 31st, 2009


In the near future you’ll be able to build your brand with an app. No, check that. In the near future your brand will be an app. It will re-define itself as a personal brand application on a smartphone or similar device, where it can deliver unique brand value to customers 24/7. Apple’s current iPhone ad campaign, “There’s an app for that,” provides a glimpse of this brand future.

In other words, there’s a new brand game in town. Can your brand set the agenda here?

The era of personal brand applications (PBA’s)

As I’ve noted previously, we’re now entering the era of personal brand applications (PBA’s). Personal brand applications are software applications on portable digital devices that enable customers to do more, and to be more, through the brand. They represent the intersection of high technology and brands in the palms and pockets of people, everywhere, and the chance for brands to be closer than ever to customers.

Why personal brand applications are important

Personal brand applications are important because they forge a new 1:1 brand/customer relationship. Through this relationship they have the potential to create new classes of customers from the ground up, in new market spaces. In this process they can undermine traditional brands built on ad campaigns, images, messaging and mass media saturation. Most importantly, personal brand applications free brands (and the brand team) to use the full fruits of their imagination—and to use the brand to lead.

PBA’s can accelerate brand trust

As applications, PBA’s are immediate and direct. They deliver results customers can use, now, and they build core brand trust in the process. While traditional brand campaigns may work wonders in building awareness and shaping perceptions, they’re not engines of brand trust. Personal brand applications are. They can accelerate and energize brand trust, compressing what used to take years into shorter time frames.

Technology advances make PBA’s possible

Since I first wrote about the concept of personal brand applications two years ago, we’ve witnessed amazing advances in wireless technology, digital handsets, user interfaces, online services, and software systems and platforms that tie everything together. With Apple’s iPhone, App Store and iPhone developers leading the way, we’re now are seeing a first flush of innovative smartphone apps that foreshadow the personal brand applications to come.

PBA’s: the ultimate brand relationship

In many ways a personal brand application is the ultimate brand relationship, where the brand operates as both a trusty sidekick and a trusted advisor, as close as a second skin. PBA’s do more than “connect” the brand with customers. They transform the brand into a proactive customer platform of choices, directions and actions, helping the customer at a personal level to accomplish objectives and deal with life’s challenges. The brand becomes a central means (and platform) for customer growth and development.

Personal, portable and persistent

Because they operate on hand-held devices that are wireless, Internet enabled and “always on,” PBA’s are personal, portable and persistent–the critical three P’s for brands going forward. In many ways they’re the ultimate brand presence. Think of them as perpetual touchpoints where the brand plays an active role in the culture, context and creativity of an individual’s life, day in and day out.



How brand trust is unique

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Brand trust is unique. It’s the only brand experience that both companies and customers can take to the bank.


Infamous brand quotes — Part II

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


Since one martini never seems all that productive, I herewith serve up the second pour of my infamous brand quotes. (Part I is here.)  The purpose of these selective sips is to open minds to a world of brands as deep and rewarding as culture itself.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Brand sensibility

Brand sensibility is the perceptive power to see untapped value in products and customers, and the creative power to bring that value to life.

Brand builder

A sensible type (see above) who creates new markets by creating new customers—through the brand.

Conventional brand icons are their own worst enemies.

Conventional brand icons are their own worst enemies, trapped in their own rigid molds. They’re sitting ducks for brand iconoclasts, the new non-linear brands that spin up in days to create customers on the fly. The new icon is the stream of value, socialized.

Sustainable brands

Brands fueled by customers.

Brand experience

What the product experience can’t do.

How to determine the context of a brand

To determine the context of a brand, ask what the brand is a “brand of.” For a snapshot answer, simply observe its customers. They tell the truth about a brand.

Brand innovation

Brand innovation is the practice of changing the customer’s world beyond expectations. A brand innovates when it frees customers from the constraints of prevailing brands, or commodities, or conventions.  As a rule, innovative brands make new contributions to culture.

Brand emotion

What brands aim for when they can’t deliver brand experience, or brand value.

Brands as creative engagements

For customers, a brand should be a creative engagement with life, opening doors, revealing truths and enabling new selves to be born.

When the brand is complete, the customer is finished.

Brands must continually reinvent themselves and their customers, or drown in message mire. The brand is a shared, open-ended journey. In the old days, brand essence was set in stone to anchor timeless brand monoliths. No more. Today’s customers move faster than brands. The brand mission is to lead with leaps of meaning. Brands are the new map, and metabolic. Act fast. Think small. And iterate, iterate, iterate.

Brands are code

Brands are code. They are algorithms of adventure, discovery and delight. They are written in a language called CUSTOMER. More here, and especially here.



Twitter and brand strategy

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


For brand builders, the current media frenzy about Twitter can only mean one thing: either it’s the last stage of massive fad fever before Twitter implodes, like Oprah’s latest diet, or Twitter actually enables people to enrich their lives in new dimensions–in which case brands better pay attention.

My bet is that it’s more of the latter than the former. There are revolutionary brand platforms waiting to be be built on Twitter—but only if brands take a strategic approach to Twitter, one predicated on creating customers through innovation and value delivered. This means moving beyond the routine marketing and PR uses of Twitter that make up most brand uses at the moment.

Twitter is an innovation challenge for brands

Twitter is a form of networked communications that’s fast, direct and highly granular, with the power to link individuals and groups through their immediate experiences. As such, Twitter stands as an innovation challenge for brands, which have typically been built on non-collaborative broadcast models. To leverage Twitter’s potential we’ll need to create new structures of brand interaction, new forms of brand value, new brand relationships and new Twitterized brand platforms. All this will require new brand strategies to incorporate Twitter’s unique strengths.

Don’t pour old wine into this new bottle

For brands, the last thing we want to do is to pour old wine into the new Twitter bottle. That would cripple its potential. Approaching Twitter as just another marketing, advertising and PR outlet, as a linear descendant of direct mail, email and blogs,  is poor brand strategy— as we’ll discuss below.

Twitter changes the context of brands

Twitter is important because it can change the context of brands, from one-sided inducement and persuasion (in the classic model) to a two-way street of shared experience, shared values and shared discovery. In the big picture of things, brands are collaborations in context. Twitter enables brands to create more collaboration, and more context.

Structurally, Twitter has the potential to turn brands inside out, transforming brands from symbols and icons to a seedbed of customer innovation, where what customers co-create with the brand returns more value than the purchase price. In this process, Twitter can grow customer value in a non-linear dance, which is much more agile and adaptive than regimented brand campaigns from the top.

Non-strategic brand uses of Twitter

To date, most brands have used Twitter for standard marketing, sales, promotion and publicity purposes. For the most part, this really has been putting old wine in new bottles.

  1. Companies can” listen in” to Twitter via keyword scanning tools to monitor how their brands are being mentioned. Simple enough. Most companies already monitor the Internet for this purpose.
  2. Brands can monitor Twitter to discover customer problems, and can respond promptly and directly, as needed. A quick, useful response can also help personalize the brand, faster than email or blogs. However, reactively chasing random Tweets across the Twitterverse is not exactly a brand building strategy. Some examples and caveats here.
  3. Brands can try to generate “followers” on Twitter, stringing them along via short messages. It isn’t clear yet how such a following ever becomes a brand community. (A key question: what are “followers” actually following? And why have followers when you could have co-creators?)
  4. Some brands use their Twitter connections to send out marketing and sales messages, as if Twitter were just another form of direct mail, or spam. This is counterproductive.
  5. Some brands may be tempted to use fake Twitter personas to gin up publicity. This tosses Twitter authenticity out the window. Some attempts in this direction have been egregiously lame.

Twitter’s “celebrity mode” certainly won’t last long.  Nielsen reports high rates of Twitter defection after initial celeb-fueled excitement. Twitter’s value lies deeper than the glitterati.

For an overview of standard marketing and PR uses of Twitter, see two Mashable posts here and here.