Archive for January, 2010

Animating the customer brand journey

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I use multicolored sticky notes when mapping out a customer brand journey, but even when a layout is complete, and quite useful, it’s still a static 2D display. Here’s a clever way to animate (or imagine) a customer path. This is how I see a brand journey come to life in my mind’s eye, with the customer moving from Point A to Points B, C, D and beyond.

parkour motion reel on Vimeo.

Also nice to see our old friend the flip book get a new lease on life. (If you’re a brand, your mission is to help customers escape the flip books where life [and other brands] have them trapped.)

This stop-motion movie was by Serene Teh, a design student in Singapore.


Key technology drivers for brands in 2010

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

From print to pixel, from ad to app and from icon to enabler, technology has changed the course of brands, with 2010 promising more of the same—at an even faster pace.

Technology shifts that can affect your brands

Mark Anderson, the highly-regarded publisher of Strategic News Service, sets forth his ten technology predictions for 2010 in the following Business Week video. If he’s right (and he usually is) be prepared for a year of platform wars, the continued rise of mobile content, paid mobile content, a disaster in cloud computing, and “game over” for Microsoft, among others.

These technology upheavals will usher in concomitant market shifts. May your brands be ready.


Brand challenge: develop a social media strategy that maintains price premiums

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

While social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have great potential to build brand relationships, brands must carefully manage their participation on such sites to maintain brand price premiums. Recent research suggests that social media sites have the potential to erode brand pricing by cultivating a customer focus on “deals.” When you’re a brand of “deals,” your prices have only one way to go: down.

The potential danger: brands reduced to “deals”

The research data I refer to is in a recent Razorfish study: FEED: The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report. The Razorfish study found that the largest single driver for brand relationships on social media sites was “access to exclusive deals or offers.” It was not customer passion for the brand, brand values, or brand experience. As Razorfish puts it: “Largely, it’s about deals—pure and simple.”

In its analysis, Razorfish wasn’t too concerned with this outcome, but I think brands should be. Building a large brand following geared to shop on price can be counterproductive for a brand—unless the brand is a brand of deals and discounts to begin with.

Quoting from the FEED study:

The Language of Love for Brands? Deals.

Clearly consumers are doing more with brands today than simply “receiving messages.” Many social pundits would say that this is a new form of “dialogue” with brands. But if that’s so, the subject of that “dialogue” surprises. Based on our research, it’s not so much about some type of “shared passion” for a brand’s values. Largely, it’s about deals—pure and simple

Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, 44% say access to exclusive deals is the main reason. This is also true for those who “friended” a brand on Facebook or MySpace, where 37% cite access to exclusive deals or offers as their main reason. [My emphasis]

Creating deal-seekers instead of customers

If roughly 40% of your social media “fans,” “friends” or “followers” link to your brand because they’re interested in deals, chances are they are shopping on price. If you’re a brand of deals, discounts and promotions that’s fine, if not flat-out wonderful. But if your brand strategy is to lead your market and command price premiums through brand qualities unique to you, then a significant part of your social media following may be working against you. Instead of creating customers, your foray into social media may be creating legions of deal seekers aiming to push your prices lower.

A deal experience or a brand experience?

Are you in business to offer a deal experience, or a brand experience?

Social media sites are often touted as sales channels, and many companies use their Facebook and Twitter accounts for dedicated push marketing, pumping out a steady stream of promotions to fans and followers. They amass as many followers as possible, then let loose a fire hose of blowout deals, loss leaders, high volumes, upselling and add-ons to squeeze a profit at the end of the day. Their actions contribute to the deal-finding ethos of social media sites. They condition followers (and their friends) to look for deals.

If your brand strategy aims for higher margins based on premium pricing, you may want to distance yourself from vendors boasting super hot deals at rock-bottom prices. Their world is not your world. You offer a brand experience, not a deal experience. You wouldn’t locate your flagship store next to a used car lot, or in an outlet mall.

Using social media to support premium pricing

Even with the above caveats I would still argue that social media technology is an outstanding way to build brands and drive price premiums. All it needs is the right strategy. While the Razorfish study identified “deals” as the No. 1 social media brand driver, it also had some interesting results in other categories. Let’s look at some numbers for Twitter/Facebook (rounded up) on why people follow a brand:

— I am a current customer 24%/33%

— Entertaining or interesting content 23%/18%

— Other people I know are fans of the brand 6%/6%

— Service, support or product news 4%/5%

If these numbers are representative, there’s a huge task ahead for brands to actively engage customers on social media sites in ways that bolster premium pricing. Brands can work creative wonders with content, service and support, but these currently total less than 30%. These should be brand strengths, part of a brand’s core attributes. They need to rank much higher to support price premiums.

Brand strategy options for social media

If a key brand goal is to maintain premium pricing, how should a brand approach social media sites? It’s a given that a brand needs to listen to what its customers are saying, engage them in the spirit of the brand, provide information, quickly answer questions and squash malignant rumors. What else?

I would suggest three options:

1. Use social media to build strategic customer relationships

Determine where you are leading your customers and use social media to advance your mission. Align your social media participation with your intended brand journey. This entails a strategic view and a focus on creating customers beyond the reach of your competitors. In this effort your customers are allies, not “consumers.” And yes, this is a strategy of maintaining—if not growing—price premiums.

2. Consider moving social media inside the brand

Carefully manage your participation on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. These are effectively co-branding sites. On their sites you merge your brand with theirs. Is this what you want? They may not add that much value to your brand, especially if their prevailing ethos is “deals.” Strategically, your brand may be better off if it brings social media elements inside the brand itself.  As an example, look at Burberry’s Art of the Trench. Burberry leveraged its Facebook presence into a Burberry social media site, where the Burberry brand calls the shots.

In other words, your Twitter or Facebook page is not a destination. It’s a portal into your brand.

3. Develop personal brand applications

A personal brand application (PBA) on a smartphone can be a far stronger brand builder for premium pricing than waltzing with the masses on social media sites. The PBA is personal, portable and persistent. And it’s all you, 24/7, as close to the customer as a second skin. Some reference links:

Bottom line: think outside the social media box

On social media sites, all brands tend to look the same, and act the same. That cannot help premium pricing. Apple, a highly profitable brand with tremendous loyalty and cachet, and $30 billion in cash, has a very limited social media presence. Ask yourself, “Why?”.


Mobile trends will shape the future of brands

Friday, January 8th, 2010

It’s increasingly apparent that the digital world is rapidly going mobile and is taking the brand world with it. This new mobile landscape will largely dictate the shape of brands to come. As smartphones multiply they’ll be creating more proactive customers in dozens of new dimensions. Brands will either gather dust on the shelf or join the mobile revolution as smartphone apps, becoming always-on, 24/7 enabling brands. Instead of icons they’ll be allies—actually, a much more powerful position.

Mobile trends out to 2020

To map your mobile brand strategy you need a vision of what the mobile world may be like in the years ahead. The following  presentation from m-trends may help. It’s a collaboration of more than 30 experts in digital technology, mobile technology and social change. The result is a wide-ranging collage of the potential mobile trends that may impact your brand.

Personal Brand Applications

As I see it, the future of brands lies in personal brand applications, where the brand is a smartphone app that enables customers to be more and to do more through the intelligence, imagination and sensibility of the brand. The brand is an application, not an attribute. It helps customers get things done: emotionally, spiritually, esthetically and practically.

If you’re interested, here are some reference posts on personal brand applications:

Hat tip: David Armano

Digital tablets will lead to new brand magazines

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

If expectations come to pass, 2010 may indeed go down as “the year of the tablet,” with Apple’s (rumored) new tablet and similar devices re-defining—and re-powering—the printed page. Digital tablets stand to reinvent the magazine, too. Digital magazines will be deeper and richer than their paper predecessors, and they can be downloaded in seconds. One of these new magazine types will be the brand magazine, a creative communication between you and your customers. Where your website is informational, your brand magazine will be interesting.

What’s in a brand magazine?

Think of your brand magazine as the diary, notebook and map of your shared brand journey with customers. An interesting brand (i.e., a truth-seeking brand) will attract the truth-seeking writers and designers to make a tablet-enabled brand magazine possible. There’s no room here for PR fluff, recycled ads or sales pitches. That’s what your block-headed competitors do, and that’s also why 99% of brands will be constitutionally incapable of producing brand magazines of their own. They aren’t interesting. You are.

You and your customers, interacting with the world

Your brand magazine details how you and your customers interact with the world in a creative dialectic. The tablet concept below shows how a new interactive tablet format might work. The deep insights behind your brand can flow freely to customers, be mediated by customer experience, and return all the richer. In the tablet universe articles become engagements, which become explorations, which become epiphanies, large and small. Brand epiphanies are what we’re after.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

The above concept was developed by Bonnier R&D in conjunction with BERG. More information on the concept here.


More thoughts on how Apple’s (rumored) “iTablet” could reinvent higher education

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010


A few months ago I freely speculated on how Apple’s rumored “iTablet” might position Apple to disrupt conventional higher education. It’s now time to update that post with some new thoughts and  information. In this post I’ll still call Apple’s rumored device the iTablet just to keep things consistent.

Apple emerges as the world leader of learning

In the hypothetical scenario I laid out in November Apple would emerge as the world’s leading enabler of learning, using the iTablet to replace conventional textbooks, lectures and learning materials. An interactive iTablet could offer a complete learning experience in itself. Apple, I speculated, could use the iTablet plus iTunes and cloud services to build a new digital model of higher education, in concert with the world’s top universities. This new model could enable a global level of learning far deeper than possible with current learning technology.

A 10-inch screen is the right size to reinvent textbooks

Recent rumors indicate that Apple’s iTablet—assuming there is one—will have a 10-inch screen. This makes perfect sense if one goal of the device is to reinvent textbooks as a means of reinventing higher education. Learning is large format. For education, the larger the iTablet screen, the better. In my speculative scenario, the iTablet would be much more than an e-reader that merely replicates textbook pages. Indeed, the iTablet would toss the whole category of  “textbooks” into the dustbin of history. In their place would be a new means of learning, a handheld computer that can access the full intelligence of the University. The iTablet would be  multimedia and web enabled, with embedded/downloaded lectures, videos, presentations, animations, dictionaries, databases, audio, photos, maps, charts, etc. And—like a computer— it would be interactive: a collaborative communications platform. It could replace the conventional classroom, too.

A strategic hire for Apple

One bit of data that I didn’t include in my previous post was a (potentially) strategic hire that Apple made way back in October, 2008. At that time Apple hired Joel Podolny, Dean of the Yale School of Management, as “vice president and Dean of Apple University.” That’s a pretty high-level hire. It would be a strategic hire if Apple’s intent were to create a digital education model for universities, with the current iTunes U serving as a rudimentary proving ground. At the time of the hiring Apple gave no additional information about the nature of, or future plans for, “Apple University.”

My recent Google search for “Podolny + Apple” turned up nothing after the original hiring announcement. I’m a big user of iTunes U as I noted in my previous post. But “Apple University” seems like a much more ambitious project. The name may be a placeholder . . . for what?

Disruption or liberation?

In my previous post I framed Apple’s potential move as “disruptive” of traditional higher education. It would certainly stand to disrupt traditional university classroom education, where students “go to class” to learn. Apple’s iTablet could turn that model on its head. It could bring the classroom (and much more) to the students. You could be in Oxford, Mississippi and take a class at Oxford University in England, with live lectures, notes, texts, comments and collaborations right at your fingertips. That’s liberating. And maybe that’s the best way to frame it.

NOTE: See our latest post on the iPad and education.

Photo:  Richard Peat — Wikimedia Commons