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Allegro 234

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Allegro 234 in the spotlight of European Branding

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Over time, Allegro 234 has been positioned as a team of strategic  marketing and branding consulting experts.

This positioning is recognized not only in Spain but also abroad.

Cristián Saracco, Allegro 234 Founding partner, CEO, considered as a branding specialist, has been invited by “Communicate Magazine” as a judge for “Transform Awards 2011″

This is the first time a branding consulting group based in Spain is part of the jury of this European Brand Award.

Branding experts, communications practitioners and academics, will be part of the jury. Among them:

Angus Hyland Pentagram United Kingdom
Cheryl Geovannoni Landor Associate United Kingdom
Christian Birck Holcim Switzerland
Cristián Saracco Allegro 234 Spain
Fiona Atighi Government The Netherlands
Florian Dengler Meta-Design Germany
Fred Burt Siegel+Gale United Kingdom
Graham Hales Interbrand United Kingdom
Marc Cloosterman VIM Group The Netherlands
Neel Bradham InterfaceFLOR France
Rasmus Bech Kontrapunkt Denmark
Ruedi Müller Tatin Scoping Complexity Switzerland
Séan McKnight Dave Soho United Kingdom
Susan Brooks RSA Insurance Group United Kingdom

Transform is Europe’s only awards programme celebrating excellence in rebranding, repositioning and brand transformation.

The Transform 2011 Awards are launched by Communicate Magazine, the UK’s leading magazine for corporate communications and stakeholder relations.

The awards recognise best practice in corporate, product, regional and national rebrands, with categories that focus on strategy, execution, content and evaluation. More than that, they are a platform to discuss reputational change and transformation.

Transform is open to all companies or agencies that have launched a rebrand between April 2009 and December 2010.

It’s important that winners are properly benchmarked and recognised, and that the professionals responsible are acknowledged for their work.

Winners will be announced at a gala dinner on March 22, 2011 in London, UK.

If you want to see last year’s winners

In Allegro 234 we are proud of knowing that our CEO, Cristián Saracco is becoming a renowned branding professional, not only in Spain but also across the border.

More info about Transform 2011

Cristián Saracco  Allegro 234 Spain
Fiona Atighi Dutch Government The Netherlands
Florian Dengler Meta-Design Germany
Fred Burt Siegel+Gale United Kingdom
Graham Hales Interbrand United Kingdom
Marc Cloosterman VIM Group The Netherlands
Neel Bradham InterfaceFLOR France
Rasmus Bech Hanssen Kontrapunkt Denmark
Ruedi Müller Tatin Scoping Complexity Switzerland

Branding | The European point of view | Presentation to EMBAs’ of the Nance College, Cleveland State University

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On September 18th, I was invited to make a presentation to the future EMBA’s of the Nance College of Business, Cleveland State University.

This presentation talked about the differences and similarities between US and Europe regarding branding. Below, you’ll find it!

I know that without the verbal comments, parts of this presentation could be difficult to understand, however, the key points are enough clear (I hope!).

If you have any question, do not hesitate to make a comment about it… I’ll be here!

I was honoured and it was a pleasure to share these thoughts with professors as well as the EMBAs’! Thanks!

Only entrepreneurship overcomes the crisis

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Politicians are still trying to understand the crisis, some big companies are launching innocuous campaigns, bankers are crying because they didn’t deserve this situation… Should I continue the list? Probably I could, but that’s not the point.

In this social network we use to talk about branding, about brand experiences… about us!… We could isolate branding issues from our current situation, however, it would look at certain point, something between naïf and unconscious.

Reality, which is neither the Big Brother nor Code Lyoko, is showing us that to overcome the crisis, we do need as individuals certain specific behaviours (remember what Dr. Utterson said when he talked about the online and offline worlds… both are real).

Going back to the first sentence of this post:

  • Today’s politicians (from the left, center or right) learned how to manage a country as if sea captains had learnt to sail in calm waters
  • Some big companies used to be managed under the SYA (Save Your Ass) policies. So, everything coming from them seems to be decaffeinated
  • Bankers follow the patterns designed by the Chicago’s boys or the ones that are fashionable, and teach how to overcome a crisis produced by others

All that I mentioned above have something in common…. All the people involved behave as bureaucrats. This is not bad, however, it is not enough to overcome a crisis.

Both bureaucrats as well as employees are needed to make the world work, and probably, they are better prepared to manage stable situations than other kind of people.

Today’s crisis is a point of inflection. It cannot be solved with old formulas because, probably, we are not going to go back to same old habits…. And they have no idea of what to do.

What is the connection of this with brand experiences?

During a long period of time I was thinking of differentiating between big brands from those ones that we finally fall in love with (it’s a way of saying):

  • Big brands belong to big companies, they have deep coverage, and we are aware of their existence. e.g.: GE (one of the brands with highest economic value worldwide)
  • Brands that we finally fall in love with could belong to big companies… or not. They are focused on their tribe. We are aware of their existence if we are familiar with the tribe… and we would love them if we live deeply their experience one time after another

And here comes the point… The brands that are loved have another key characteristic: they were created by an entrepreneur and his/her soul is still alive in the company.

Entrepreneurs think about brand positioning because they want to give strategic intention to their promises. However, before that, they bring to the brand experience two other things:

  • A call to action idea that is permanent, based on their value agendas and make the difference over time
  • They are the story behind the scene that personalizes that brand experience

We can love or hate those people… Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and/or Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA). But for sure, they do not go unnoticed.

These people are not complaining about limitations, regulations,… They are creating new rules. They rule their way of living!

Still looks that there is no connection… Hmmmm

The message in the bottle

Let’s merge both ideas, crisis and entrepreneurs…

  • Entrepreneurs are people who have a dream and the ability to make it come true
  • Entrepreneurs are not afraid of crisis because they live in an eternal one
  • Entreprenuers are inflexible with their ideas and flexible with their implementation
  • Entrepreneurs never surrender
  • Crisis forces to change habits
  • Crisis are solved by braves (a politically correct way of saying ‘crazies’)
  • Crisis requires flexibility and speed
  • Crisis usually keeps in our minds (self-fulfilling prophecy)

To overcome this crisis that we are “enjoying” now, we do need to create new kinds of experiences. Those experiences must be aligned with new behaviours, with new value agendas. Brands are not going to be what they were because we are not going to live the way that we were living up to now.

Only somebody with a soul of an entreprenuer (also if he/she is an employee) is able to understand this and do something… Actually, they are doing it!

Finally, perhaps it’s time to pay attention to the entrepreneurs and the brand experiences that they are creating because they are the ones who are going to change the world.


The tendentious Dr. Utterson | Synthesis | End of season

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I would like to begin this synthesis with something said by President Clinton, ‘It’s the economy, idiot…!’. At the end of this short story you will probably understand the reason why I’ve begun with this.

At the end of January I wrote the first chapter of this affair between trends and branding. Actually, the one who talked was Dr. Utterson, Dr. Jekylls’ best friend… the one who knew the truth.

Now, for the end of this season, I’ve invited Dr. Jekyll (J), Mr. Hyde (H) and Dr. Utterson (U) to discuss with you through their own dialogues.

(U) Trends are showing that people are changing, going back to their roots… Finally, we are talking again!

(J) For us that’s good news, we are revitalizing concepts and honestly validating what is around us. Good dialogues produce a better and deeper understanding of our reality

(H) And it’s great because we can manipulate people in the way we want, just telling them that we are good friends

(U) My not-so-good-friend Hyde, we, as people, are able to decodify the messages and segregate what looks like misleading

(J) Please, dear Dr. Utterson, don’t take him into consideration, he is an idelogical monster

(H) I could be whatever you want, but I’m not alone… my dear ‘other side of the coin’!

(U) But trends are something that’s happening around the world… And I presume that there are more honest people than monsters like you

(J) The important issue here, I think, is that we are facing a new kind of human momentum, disruptive, empowered, fascinating.

(H) No, no, no… There is a special feeling, I would say you get in extasis, when you know that you are cheating somebody else… Here you are, here I kill you!

(U) Your point is interesting and actually, it could be true, but I believe that it’s not going to work on the long-term. We wish to feel good, to avoid nightmares, to see that what’s around us reduces our uncertainties

(J) Now is time to observe, to anticipate… to execute… to innovate… to be and feel unique… And this is important for us, for companies, for institutions… I’m sorry to say that your time, Mr. Hyde, is gone

(J) (H) (U) Can’t you see it?… It’s simple… It’s the people, idiot!

To summarize, seriously and responsibly… Among trends and brand experiences, what matters is people… Yes, we are the key!

Time to think, time to talk, time to create, time to use our brains 🙂

Branding is a question of people… As simple as that!

The tendentious Dr. Utterson | ‘Luxurious’ trend & Branding | Chapter 7

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Things have changed… The traditional definition of luxury is losing content. Luxury will be whatever you want it to be.

Luxury, in a certain way, is related to scarce resources, and they are becoming an individual issue, specially, if the person is desperate to be different and unique. Does this sound like something strange?

Now, there are infinite ways to be unique. The days of better, more expensive, bigger are in the past. So, the concept has changed 🙂

Trend #7: Luxurious

The key is not to discover what is luxurious now, but to define and/or create it.

It’s a question of paying attention to the way that people in their different tribes are showing their status attributes.

Remembering Trend #1 ““Status & Recognition, some triggers could be:

  • Green, eco, sustainable…
  • Information and experience sharing
  • Mastery in something
  • Online image

Challenge #7: Create a unique experience

The challenge is simple to describe and difficult to implement (good brains are required): Create, design and launch something different, knowing that you are toasting with champagne on the Titanic’s deck.

The present “luxurious level” will descend in the Maslow’s pyramid to the “needs level” for future generations.

Interesting… Financial Times Special Report: Business of Luxury

The tendentious Dr. Utterson | ‘IAmMyBrand’ trend & Branding | Chapter 6

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Arriving to the “IAmMyBrand’ trend, I presume that we arrive to a point of real discussion.

As some of you may know, I have a clear opinion regarding personal branding. This is that I’m against that concept:

  • Brands and branding was and is developed to objects: We can work on improving certain identity and build its image
  • We are subjects: We are what we are and that’s something difficult to change. We can only work on personal image
  • To work on subjects cannot follow a pre-defined process: If we all follow a process to improve our image, we will arrive to the same point that companies did when they applied reengineering… A new standard without a clear differentiation between one individual and the others
  • Instead that we are gregarious and want to be part of certain tribes, as persons, we are unique and that is part of our identity

However, as everybody is defining the personal image as personal branding, I’ll use those words 🙁

Trend #6: “IAmMyBrand’ Trend

‘IAmMyBrand’ trend is about building our own personal brands online.

As it was said on the Trendwatching 2010 report: “The online world has unlocked existing needs in entirely new ways. Humans’ deep need to be interesting to others, to be loved, admired, coveted, special, recognized, unique can now be satisfied by building attractive online profiles and presences, which, if successful, will attract friends, followers, if not a proper audience’

The relation with products and services that make us more interesting is based on what they do, say, who they connect to… and help us as a dress to improve our own image. This trend needs you to be:

  • An empathetic person
  • A person who knows and tell valuable things
  • A person who is able to envisage the future (next minute or next century)
  • A person who understand the new reciprocity business framework

Challenge #6: Brands are for objects, Image is for subjects

Due to our online presence, brands can pro-actively learn about people preferences. However, there is a huge challenge here and it hasn’t solved yet:

  • As individuals we have our own preferences
  • Those preferences are based on our own experiences
  • Experiences are lived with different brands… Each of us has a unique sort of brand salad (e.g.: we expect that the retail experience that we had in Barnes & Noble, instead that we are in Carrefour… we want that our new car has the same kind of apps that we have in our iPhone…)
  • Companies need to understand that the issue is not their competition, is the competitors that we have in our minds (and that would reflect in our online opinions about brand experiences)
  • Brands are like prêt-à-porter dresses for our image

Brands and individuals are now managing their images across multiple platforms in this real “off and online’ world, with different messages, different images, to different tribes… with the same identity.

What do you think?

The tendentious Dr. Utterson | ‘From virtual to online’ trend & Branding | Chapter 5

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One of the deepest changes during this century has been that we have moved from a world split in real and virtual to one that could be described as offline and online… but always real. Now, there is little room for the virtual!

The effect of this new way of understanding our context has produced (also) a modification in our behaviors. In the online real world, the key is not longer to posses, but to allow that things flow. The new leader is not longer the one who has, it’s the one who becomes a master managing the flows… (Uoooppsss… I hope you understand this).

Finally, it’s relevant to recognize that after the homo-sapiens it came the homo-economicus… That’s what we are!… The homo-economicus is a special kind of bipolar individuos who is willing to belong and participate in a community (off & online) and, at the same time, feel unique and different to the rest of the tribe… Like my friend Dr. Jekyll.

Trend #5: Be real, off & online

Right now, almost 2 billion people are ‘on’, and for sure, almost all the young people are and enjoy their online lifes. And, BTW, the social events are generating more traffic/activity than the porn-sites.

For all of them, being actors or spectators, there isn’t a clear boundary between what it’s on and what it’s offline. For them, everything is real. Period.

In the online world (as well as in the offline) we can find:

  • The Godfather: that person that is provoking and generating activities
  • The Usual Suspects: those people who, independently of the contents, love to participate
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: those that sporadically participate and/or contact directly the authors of the activities and contents
  • The Lord of the Rings: Those who participate in certain events that are driven by people of his/her ‘gang’
  • Ghost: all that people who is paying attention to what’s going on, however, they only gives some evidence of their presence

This trend will evolve. Actually, it’s evolving. Each second, there are more people online, however, this situation doesn’t imply that there are neither more nor better conversations. Also, it is important to split the ones who are participating as actors in hubs & spokes of ideas.

So, as people are living in a real world, the meaning of this trend is that we are looking for the same kind of ‘functionalities’ in both online as well as offline experiences.

Challenge #5: brand experiences out of range

Brand experiences have to evolve by observation and anticipation. We, as people, have short scope radars, so, if brands are not close to us offering a dialogue in our ‘real’ world, they would be out of range.

Experiences will need to understand a new way of living, making thinks simple and forgetting the old paradigms of virtual and real world… It’s only real, off and online… but real!

Some brands already understood this shift and have begun to walk a new path:

  • Lufthansa offering in-flight WiFi
  • Givenchy launching ‘Play’ perfume
  • Nike offering online ‘offline products’ customization
  • Christies’ auction house (founded in 1759) has presence via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube…
  • TruePower UCS understanding that other devises need energy…

Thoughts, comments… Want to talk?

The Tendentious Dr. Utterson | The ‘innovation disruption’ trend & Branding | Chapter 4

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During the last years, we have segmented and studied different tribes. Actually, we have arrived to “almost one member tribes”…

The real issue, behind the scene, is that thinking of this situation we have converted our gray matter in a sort of mashed potato. We have thought a lot… Gray puree!

And some results are as great as interesting… Probably the most important event is that our lifes are becoming disrupted… and so our innovation processes.

Disruptive innovation is not to invent the square wheel, because it would be useless… It’s to come with new categories of products/services that are answering a real need (although that this could be a philosophical discussion, I’m assuming that needs exist adn are not created).

Hence, our disruptive lifes should be followed and anticipated (both at the same time) by disruptive innovation.

Trend #4: Disruptive innovation

Disruptive innovation is part of a conversation between people who belong to a tribe and companies that love to give something relevant to that people.

During the last years we have saw companies giving especific answers to:

  • Old people (retired)
  • Women
  • Gays
  • Kids

Also, we have seen that due to the conversation, products and services are becoming the result of a co-design between people of each system (company + providers + clients + customers + strategic partners + …). As a result of this we envisage three main drivers for innovation disruption:

  • Co-creation: People as part of the innovation event
  • Convenience: Products come to the market faster than ever… and this is better and more convenient… Dont’ you think?
  • Customization: Instead that ‘generosity’ is a trend, we will continue wishing to be unique and that requires personalization of the products and services that we use

Challenge #4: Brand customization

We are disruptives, innovation is disruptive… so, your brand experience should be also disruptive… Don’t be afraid, people will thank you!

A great number of brand experiences are changing and innovating. New categories are emerging and giving answers to especific tribes. Some examples:

  • Tiffany & Co. is developing customized dinner ware
  • Sephora has vending machines for cosmetics
  • Barcelona has a bike system for citizens with their correspondant bike stations
  • The Satndard Hotel has vending machine with socks and swimwear
  • Underwear for left-handed people
  • JVC’s Youtube camcorder
  • And we can add products fro tribes, from women to baby boomers 😉

In a continous timeline, we are jumping as kids 😉