Archive for August, 2009

The brand is in the details

Friday, August 14th, 2009

zune hd

Behind every great brand is a critical, creative force that holds the brand to the qualities that set it apart. This force won’t tolerate mediocrity, half-ass execution, or excuses. It’s a force that radically differentiates the brand from the commodity approach of “good enough.” The “good enough” approach leads to products strewn across discount aisles, or piled in remainder bins.

Commodities are “good enough.” Brands are special.

Commodities are “good enough.” That’s why they’re commodities. Brands are special. And when it comes to delivering a special user experience, at the personal level of touch and feel and interaction, small details become amazingly large.

Details make the brand

As a case in point of details that make the brand, we might consider the new Zune HD, pictured above. See where I’ve outlined the word “marketplace.” The review site RantsAndStuff noticed that the full word “marketplace” doesn’t fit on the screen. The final “e” is truncated. Yep. Chopped in half. Read their article for their comments and the comments of others on how this “little” detail makes a big difference.

One excerpt:

It’s the little things like this that make me wonder what else did they not pay that much attention to. They couldn’t have dropped the menu font just a tad to make it fit on the screen? I know I’m nitpicking but shouldn’t someone at Microsoft also be nitpicking this kind of thing?

Of course, brand details are not really “nits.” Brand details are the brand.

In Microsoft’s defense (sort of)

In Microsoft’s defense, the new Zune HD  hasn’t been officially released yet, so flaws we see now can still be fixed. Engadget checked it out, with a video, too. So did TechFlash on 8/13. Official release date is September 15, 2009.

The question remains, however: Why send out a pre-release PR picture of a flawed product? First impressions are brand impressions. Why advertise your flaws? It’s not a good sign when the builders of a brand are less attentive than prospective customers.

Photo: Microsoft (with my highlight added)

Brands and value co-creation

Monday, August 10th, 2009


One of the tenets of value-based brands is that brands can help companies co-create value with their customers. Given the right brand strategy, this will create new forms of strategic value, resulting in competitive advantage for the company, and significant advances for customers.

A productive conversation

I recently posted a comment on brands and value co-creation on Wim Rampen’s excellent blog. The particular post includes Wim’s general definition of value co-creation, as well as many excellent comments from others. Especially useful to me were links to work by Graham Hill and Chris Lawler, especially Chris’s diagram on the Eight Styles of Company-Customer Value Co-Creation. Review the diagram full-screen and you will begin to see more than a few strategic brand opportunities.

I’ve included my comments below. The only change I’ve made is to add sub-heads to separate the text into more readable sections.



Great post and discussion —

I might suggest that we place value co-creation in the larger context of “creating customers,” in the Peter Drucker sense. The goal of any business is to create the customers who drive the business forward. Co-creating value with customers is a key ingredient in this process.

A strategic context for value co-creation

I’d be in favor of defining a strategic context for value co-creation. The goal is to co-create new forms of value that competitors can’t match, and that sustain the business going forward. This is an open-ended process based on the formula: company potential X customer potential, where companies employ a platform approach that places company and customer on the same page, writing it together. This is a shared creative context that transcends the traditional vendor/consumer relationship.

Brands and value co-creation

In my view the only discipline that can deliver these results is brands, with their programmatic power to produce outcomes ranging from the practical, to creative, to emotional to sublime. (Not traditional brands of course, but a new form of brands as modes of innovation.)

Further thoughts for brand builders

Further thoughts:

– A company’s master strategy to create customers will include its value co-creation strategies.

– Value co-creation means that the customer (in some context) re-creates himself or herself through the process.

– Properly designed, a program of value co-creation will create customers who are beyond the reach of competitors.

– Strategically, the new forms of co-created value should be the groundwork for new business models.

– A platform approach is the best way to co-create value with customers.

– In value co-creation, context is king—hence the importance of brands, as they are engines of context creation.

– To co-create optimum value with customers, a company must take the role of visionary enabler.

As an example for all the above we could use Apple + iTunes + iPod + customers. Together they “reinvented music” and disrupted the existing music industry.




NOTE: I’ll be posting more about value co-creation in coming weeks.

Photo: Spiritwood Images – Flickr

Back from long trip to Asia

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


Sorry for the huge gap in recent posts. Have just returned from a 24-day trip to Asia, including nine days in China. Travel schedules and the vagaries of Net connections made posting more difficult than I expected.

Will be catching up soon, with notes from the Asian brand scene, especially China.

Trip note: get your own Terra Cotta Warrior

I can report that at the Hyatt hotel in Xi’an you can purchase your own full-size (6-ft.) replica of a Terra Cotta Warrior for about $1500 US, including shipping and insurance. Around 220 BC the emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried near Xi’an with more than 8,000 clay warriors to safeguard his soul in his afterlife. He must have been a big icon guy.

Unfortunately, icons make poor soldiers. Emperor Qin’s enemies ransacked his necropolis five years after his death. With one or two exceptions, the fascinating “whole” warriors we see today have been painfully reconstructed from a tomb of shards. They’re a marvel of the curator’s art as much as the craftsmanship that originally fashioned them.