Archive for June, 2009

Power of the brand metaphoric

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Raymond Pirouz brings us a charming little video on the story of the ASICS brand, told in origami. The piece was done by German ad agency Nordpol+ Hamburg and origami artist Sipho Mabona. More creative details here.

A brand is at its best when it doesn’t pitch or posture or pretend. It simply becomes a metaphor on the world, endlessly inventive, buoying customers along.


A personal brand application from Whole Foods

Sunday, June 28th, 2009


Whole Foods has taken initial steps to create a personal brand application (PBA) that can strengthen its brand ecosystem and develop deeper brand relationships with customers. Potentially, it’s a PBA that can radically differentiate Whole Foods and its customers from the Safeway’s of the world, raising Whole Foods customers to a level of brand experience that other grocers can’t match.

Personal brand applications

Personal brand applications are software applications that deliver brand value on smartphones and similar digital devices. As brand applications they do things, and they’re personal, portable and persistent (always on). They enable the brand to be a partner, sidekick and mentor to customers 24/7.

(You can read more about personal brand applications here, here and here.)

Being enabled is a high-level brand experience

Personal brand applications enable customers to do more, and to be more, consistent with the brand’s vision and innovation roadmap. This sense of enablement is a brand experience. It’s proactive, not passive, the experience of a newly empowered partner and participant. It’s a tremendously powerful and often liberating feeling.

Brands that aim to amuse, flatter, entertain or otherwise “delight” customers are no match for brands with the power to enable.

What the Whole Foods PBA does

The (free) Whole Foods PBA is based on the iPhone/iPod touch platform. It enables customers to enjoy tasty and nutritious food by providing a comprehensive database of 2000 recipes, including nutrition information and tips for preparing meals from what one has in the fridge. As Whole Foods describes it:

Searchable by ingredient, special diets, and other elements like “budget” and “family friendly,” each recipe contains detailed preparation instructions and nutritional information, which can be copied and pasted, saved as a personal “favorite,” and emailed from within the App itself.  The App also includes an “On Hand” feature where customers can enter ingredients and get back meal recommendations.


The brand context of the PBA

At first glance this may seem like a pretty basic smartphone app that helps people chose and cook good food. However, there’s tremendous brand potential in the context of the PBA, where Whole Foods and its customers can team and collaborate in the daily process of eating healthy food and living sustainable lives. That’s a very different brand context than the traditional “grocer” + “shopper” context of supermarkets. It’s a shared context of value chock full of opportunities for personal growth and new market creation.

Whole Foods becomes more than a supermarket brand

The PBA makes Whole Foods more than a brand of organic foods and natural products. Its certainly helps raise Whole Foods beyond your basic supermarket brand. Through the PBA Whole Foods becomes a brand of healthy choices, healthy living, creative cooking, nutrition, sustainability and taste. All this happens at the personal level of the customer, via the iPhone/iPod touch. Brand and customers share and act within a unified, holistic vision, accessed on a daily basis. This shared context extends far beyond the store proper.

A PBA that builds brand trust

An added value of the Whole Foods PBA is that it can help build brand trust at the personal, interactive level. It integrates Whole Foods into a customer’s daily life as a trusted partner. And if Whole Foods ever decides to offer new products down the line, such as health insurance or life insurance, it can leverage the platform of trust created in part by its PBA.

Changing the retail future

Personal brand applications have the power to change the retail future. A retailer can combine store brands with personal brand applications to gain more brand presence (and brand clout)  with customers than packaged “name brands.”  The PBA becomes the connective tissue between retailer and customer, a low cost substitute for the billions of dollars spent by national packaged brands to advertise their goods. The PBA puts the retailer and the customer on the same page, writing it together.

Related post: Brand platform innovation at Whole Foods

Photo credit top : kalebdf – Flickr
Photo inset: Whole Foods

Sony still swimming upstream

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

As a world leader in consumer electronics, how do you intend to create customers in the 21st centry when one of your key executives believes that nothing good has come from the Internet? Yes, it’s time for another Fortune update on the travails of Sony, a company intent on capturing customers at the expense of its brand.

A doomed brand agenda

Howard Stringer has been “transforming” Sony for years, but so far all he has to show for it is the old entrenched Sony with a few younger faces. While other brands are innovating to set customers free (as with that Internet thing) Sony remains a preeminent brand of lock-in and lowered horizons. It innovates for Sony, not for you. That’s a doomed brand agenda.

The “transformed” Sony will be called Samsung

The way it looks now, the “transformed” Sony will be called Samsung. When you’re intent on capturing customers instead of creating them, you’re opening doors for your rivals.


Mobile design and personal brand applications

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Ajit Jaokar explores design parameters of mobile devices and how they can inhibit, or facilitate, greater use of mobile platforms as we move forward.

This subject is relevant to those developing personal brand applications, since one of the goals of a PBA is to be the strongest customer platform possible. Device platform limitations can get in the way.


Design thinking and advertising

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I’ve come up with a rule maxim postulate regarding design thinking and advertising:

“The amount of advertising needed to sell a product is inversely proportional to the amount of design thinking that went into the product.”

I Tweeted this thought this morning (@brandstrat) in a slightly different version:

The amount of advertising required for a product is inversely proportional to the amount of design thinking that went into it.

In other words, design thinking contains a “viral virtue.” It produces outcomes that can sell themselves through customers, rather than require large-scale campaigns.

Several Re-Tweets by others improved on the original quote in Twitter, so I’m now offering up the version above. It’s still a bit wordy and needs pruning, so feel free to whack away.


Personal brand applications: conceptual examples

Monday, June 1st, 2009


As a follow-up to my recent post on personal brand applications (PBA’s) on smartphones, here are some rough conceptual examples showing how various industries and organizations might use PBA’s.

As I noted in my post, “The most treasured PBA’s will be exclusive apps of elite circles of achievement.” Real personal brand applications would have much more depth and dimension than I sketch out here.

A conceptual PBA for business publications

A personal brand application from the Economist or Financial Times might help subscribers deftly navigate the global village covered in detail by these publications. If I”m off to a conference in Singapore the PBA might give me an insider’s brief on local airport logistics, where to stay and maybe the best hawker centers for a dash of local food. Tell me the top 10 do’s and don’ts. Remind me how hot it gets and where to go on Clarke Quay (see above). Toss in a Metro map, main local phone numbers, and so on. You know what’s relevant for me because I read your pub. Your PBA is your sharable (neo-Keynesian) savoir faire. It should (in this concept) qualitatively enhance my visit to the Lion City–or any great city.

Would the brand charge for this? Absolutely. This is real value. Make it part of the sub.

A conceptual PBA for an office furniture brand

Office furniture brands already understand that they’re no longer in the traditional “office furniture business.” They’re really in the workspace business, with the many additional opportunities that market affords. They may even be in the innovation business, and in the collaboration business—if their products can contribute in those value-added areas. Hence the strategy set forth in this podcast about Steelcase. The PBA of an office furniture brand might focus on helping customers innovate and collaborate, so the brand becomes a trusted innovation and productivity partner inside and outside the office.

This is what I mean when I call the brand a “value stream beyond the product proper.”