Ever since we have had a notion of the existence of brands (7000 BC in Mesopotamia), the aim has been and remains the same: to express singularities which consistently distinguish my offering of products and services
All posts by Cristian Saracco
Different points of view, different discussed issues, different approaches… Same reality, same focus… Not in the brands, but in people, our values and a promising vision for the future.
Recently, with the Spanish saving banks reform we are attending the creation and deployment of new financial institution brands. What is the aim of these changes? Changing a name is actually quite different to changing a brand. Logos had changed, but what about the internal structure? Does it respond to a concrete strategy? A brand has its value; create a new one has costs.
The following chart shows a rough cost of each step supporting the change of a brand. Spanish financial system is known as one of the most serious in Europe. This consideration leads me to ask:
- Is such change indispensable? Considering the crisis, is this the right moment?
- Since it is not a legal obligation, was it necessary to change the brand? Couldn’t they think of umbrella brand systems, like ‘Star Alliance’?
- Does it communicate confidence to investors and clients? And to employees?
- Couldn’t be better to explain to clients the change from saving bank to bank instead of changing the brand?
- Is it possible to come together seven brands into a unique one? And the culture?
- With such names, can the enterprises expand all over the world?
Maybe saving banks had rushed too much. The new names are lacked of originality and/or rather similar, like Bankia, merger between seven saving banks, and Rankia, community of finance interested persons. Others didn’t thought either about the sense of the word they were going to use as a new name: existing brands, animal name, etc. being deep in a small crisis.
Now that the implementation of those brands has started, the aim for new bank entities and their communication department is to convince their stakeholders before to take the company public in a maximum of one year; they have to get renown
- Do you think they can do it?
- What do you think about the new brands?
- Do you consider it will have a positive effect on the bank business?
- How can new banks transmit this confidence that Spanish financial sector needs so much?
- Will they be influent in an international way? Is it possible?
Usually, after a few days of being on vacation (of which I’m back), my thoughts begin to wander freely again, without the normal ‘noises’ that we use to have during the rest of the year.
I would like to share those thoughts with you…
I’m a little postmodern
I like to self-express, to have my own ideas, to believe that I can change the world (at my scale and in my immediate surroundings). I am respectful with (although I think I’m far away of being an example) gender issues, environment or tolerance. However, the most important issue which I think defines me as a ‘postmodern’ is that if I do not see a distinct benefit in what is presented to me, I choose things I already know and that still mantain validity.
In this sense, postmodern would be an individual who is capable of creating her/his own world, blending what it’s comming with what has always been good.
I think I’m walking in this direction, and I like it.
I agree to be in a world that flows
I think more than half of the posts that I’ve written in Brand 3.0 (I or my alter ego, Dr. Utterson) talk about the changes we are living… How we have moved:
- From a real world and virtual one, to a real world, offline and online
- From own goods, to enjoy experiences
- From mere spectators, to ‘star’ of our micro-cosmos
- From a deep knowledge of few things to superficial information of everything that surrounds us
- From status by wealth and inheritance, to referential status and ‘meritocracy’
- From being patient, to behave as eternal capricious young people
The world flows and we flow with it at high speed… We live the moment with intensity… What we imagine is possible and achievable…
The question that came to me was: “Where were our dreams? Where is this ideal world of Plato and Sir Thomas More that we want but it is not achievable? Have we left on the road the utopia (without ideological connotations… please!), doesn’t it exist anymore or are we living in it?
We have put a giant condom to our dreams
I think that at some point in time we have forgotten to dream, sorry, to DREAM in capital letters.
It’s like the speed and vertigo have put us in the condition of surface dreamers… And this may be philosophically unrealistic, however, is not utopian.
It is rare, it seems as if we had put a giant condom which does not let the big dreams roam and wander in our spirit. Something to pursue!
We have confused the progress of mankind with the development of our own humanity… And in some cases, times and situations, we’re still so primates as 10,000 years ago, at least as savage and violent (although in some cases, with a white collar).
At some point, I think that we need to dream again in an ideal and unreachable world to balance the progress with our ‘primitive’ behaviours, and stop thinking and saying that that world is the present one.
Isn’t it time to approach ourselves without a condom?
Some of us, dedicated to branding, marketing and this sort of stuff, also have to get down to thinking.
Our life and our bias to think in terms of brands leads us to speak of achievable dreams, unique experiences, living haphazardly, here and now…
- What does it happens with us and with the ones whom we work? Haven’t we unattainable dreams?
- How can we think of a better world if our horizon is limited to today?
- What responsibility do we have to build a better world?
- When will we stop to think that Arcadia is a Nintendo game not an ideal place to live
If branding is a matter of, for and among people, something should be done.
I do not mean giving up what we do, but to go back to what it’s worth to keep, to be postmodern in our work. It’s to know that behind the dream offered by a brand, there is a deeper, more valuable, more existential… permanent and unattainable… Utopian.
It is to add to our thoughts and actions:
- Direction and guidance
- Delicacy and delight
And you, will you also do ‘Fast-Forward’ to those things of the past?
‘It was early in the morning and I was ready to departure to the Country of the Bears. Again I was going to delve into their forests which goes from the mountains to the sea. It wasn’t an unknown land for me, but this time was different. I would know not only new towns, but also more and new bears .
After several hours, I went deeper into the forest and slowly I arrived to the first bear‘s town. I noticed, when entering the city, that there was few office buildings (in the woods, animals also have this kind of urban areas), on the contrary, what I saw were factories. The first thought that came to my mind was… Bears are so tough, brave, and industrial workers.
That image, that perception, followed me throughout the journey. At a exquisite bar in the center of the town, I met one of the bears that wanted to know. With that bear, we kept a fairly fluid contact via messages in bottles… bottles that we use to find at the ‘sea of bottles with messages’, where only few of them are worthwhile.
The meeting was casual, we were animal whith good references. The brave bear was also warm, respectful, friendly … and yes, with industrial spirit … and you could smell it in each and every grunt. We visited its village, full of bears (obvious) and open to the rest of animals of the forest… There was room to squirrels, rabbits and other less fierce animals. Even the bears games that they have downtown, which looked like silent monuments, represented their laconic, austere and silent spirit. Fond memories of that meeting will remain in my mind… forever!
I followed my way and got to my second meeting in anther city of bears (of course… this tale speaks of these animals) called “Mydragon“. Again, the industrial suburbs, deeper than in my first visit… a more intense experience.
I arrived to the cave of bears that were waiting for me … Anecdotal evidence: some of them wear rings as a bear‘s symbol and it looks like all of them have their hair cut with the same hairdresser ;-).
They showed their cave, their working environment, which, although creative, still smelt like a factory. I liked it!
With them I took the road to the last of my travel destinations in the Country of the Bears. From the mountain we went down to the sea. Forest trees were behind … We were at one of its beaches, actually we were at “the beach“. We ate, drank, shared experiences, that among animals of diverse species are often different, although none were distant.
The story continues and I remember it fondly…
What I learned from the bears
I believe that the first lesson is that there is a clear difference between emotion and representation. I mean, a meeting may be full of emotions, unique and unrepeatable, however it doesn’t need to be expressed and represented with great eloquence.
Bears are tough animals, workers and as the story says, they smell of industry… His character is somewhat dry and in some cases, even distant. But when you are with them, you may recognize their esteem, their closeness and the different way the have of expressing it.
The second lesson is that even this way of being is a differential characteristic. Many times, if not too many, it is thought that what it’s around us, to reach the depths of our being it has to touch our souls. Particularly, to me, a Mercedes Benz does not touch my soul, although I think it would be an exciting experience.
In its hardness, in its brevity, its seriousness, its dry … bears, using their own way, generate emotions… and that is what makes the difference.
The third learning is that identity is rooted in values of belonging. Bears are proud of their forest and of being bears. For different reasons this is also true for other animals that are over this world, and we can learn from them (the bears I say).
We live talking about self-expression as an issue that is independent of the place where we live and the other animals with whom we share our lifes. Let us be what we are, neither more nor less … We have to know that each of us is different, live our-own experiences in our-own way… and if there is something that unites us, it would be the feeling of belonging in what was always ours.
Branding is an issue of, for and among animals… and I will be never tired of saying … New technologies, those that have developed and are eating many humans, can be tools to be better connected, to learn more (although more superficial), to find others of our species in remote places… but are just that, tools…
Things should return to its natural order … subjects first, objects well behind us!
The country brand experience
The last day I was with the bears, I participated in one of their events (great and for me very grateful, of course). During it, one of the key topic discussed was ‘Are bears good sellers? Do we have a clear differential attribute because we live inthe Country of the Bears?’
After a couple of weeks that I was thinking about these issues, let me share some thoughts:
- We buy what the bears produce because of their seriousness, their brave and the smell of industry. Do not try to sell as squirrels because you will create uncertainty, confusion … The bears are bears and that is their greatest asset. Follow the recipe of your hearts and do not try to imitate others animals… please!
- If the Bears want to sell outside their forest, they must continue (also) being bears … However, try to create empathy with the other animals to understand and talk with them in their own languages… This goes for any animal that wants to go to sell to other species
- I love and even I have a healthy envy for the pride that the bears show of their forest, the Bear Country. And this is another asset, not to go growling the benefits of the forest, but to put it as a recognized reference that makes them different and unique…
- It’s not a question of selling but buying, living our experience, participating and talking… The bears may be harsh and grumpy … but they are warm, emotional, friendly (when they wish… haha) and participatory.
Last month we organized an online survey asking about masstige brands. The survey was opened during two weeks.
- We considered only 12 brands that were mentioned as masstige ones (with global presence) in different media
- We excluded those brand that were, in a certain way, at the top and bottom pricing levels of the masstige category (if we can call it “˜category’). E.g.: Porsche Boxter or Sam Adams beer
- We considered the following brands: Burberry. Codorníu, Commes des GarÃ§ons, Hermes, La Perla, Lladró, Majórica, Manolo Blahnik, MÃ¶et & Chandon, Swarovski, Tiffany and Vivienne Westwood. (Please, do not kill the messenger, we only took brands mentioned several times in different magazines, off and online, during the last four months)
- There were 404 completed answers and 915 uncompleted (people left the survey before ending it)
- Participants came from 25 countries
- 50% of the answers came from Germany, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA
- 30% of the answers came from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France and Italy
- 90% of the people who answered were between 26 and 55 years old
- 55% between 26 and 45
- 35% between 46 and 55
It looks obvious that the main attributes recognized in these brands were: Prestige, luxury and elegance. What was not so obvious was that one out of five people did not know and/or couldn’t say anything about those masstige brands. The brands with high association to those key attributes were: Burberry, Hermes, Manolo Blahnik, MÃ¶et & Chandon and Tiffany.
Another interesting point about masstige brands, was that people perceived that they are becoming more massive. Exceptions to this point were: Hermes, La Perla, Manolo Blahnik and Vivienne Westwood.
Half of the participants believed that masstige brands are focused on adults (neither young people, nor grandma & grandpa). However, if we look at Spanish brands and answers coming from Spain, the results are perceptively different”¦ These brands are considered by them for older people. Also, they said that this sort of product is bought mainly as a gift.
Finally, almost 60% of the participants buy this kind of products more than once a year and at the brand store (neither duty free shops, nor department stores, shopping centres and/or multi-brand luxury shops); however, in their decision process, they consider other alternatives out of the masstige category. Actually, one out of four considers tech-products as an alternative (E.g.: Will I buy a Hermes tie or an iPad?).
What can we learn from this:
Results are clear enough; however, allow me to share with you some thoughts:
- Like each and every category, the masstige category has strong brands in it, brands that are telling us that they are strong (although it is not necessarily true), that they are niche brands”¦ The issue is that when we asked about attributes and we proposed some linear simple answers, 20% of the people couldn’t assign any of them”¦ When the sandwich has a lot of bread, you lose the flavour of the ham
- While half of the people believed/perceived that masstige brands continue being what they are, the other half believed that they are becoming more massive or more luxurious, and if they are more luxurious, they begin to be out of range (for purchase purpose)”¦ But this is a perception which in many cases has no relation to what happens in reality”¦ If the sandwich has a lot of ham it will look expensive, even when it’s cheap ham
- Masstige brands are competing with other brands (and products) that are beyond the category boundaries”¦ when you want to eat something exquisite, you look for tasty food, not only sandwiches
- Most of the masstige brand companies used to considered duty free shops, multi-brands luxury retails or department stores, their main distribution channel. But people want to enjoy a full experience with those brands, at their own stores”¦ If the ham is so good, don’t sell it at a 7/11, have your own “˜sandwich boutique’
Masstige brands are like the ham of the sandwich”¦ Although we are talking about excellent ham, it is still in the middle of the bread. If the brand belongs to a certain developed category where similar mass market and premium products are thought attractive, the masstige product will be recognized and considered as it should be “¦ If not, it is too much bread for a thin slice of ham”¦
A final thought or perhaps a question”¦
Could we consider in the same situation all things that are in the middle? People, neighbours, banks’ affluent clients, countries?…
Gideon would say: “Deleuze in The Logic of Sense: It’s a strange position the one that blindly values the depth at the expense of the surface, giving to superficial the mean of lack of draft instead of long dimension“.
Two facts that I am paying some attention:
- Increased access to information via the Internet, especially through social networks
- We know more, though with less depth (even without actually knowing if what it has been said is true)
More information wherever and whenever we want, tailored to our interests … More superficial, shallow and therefore no less exciting.
The question is: Do we really take advantage of this situation?
Communicate with meaning | Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo
Without going into the question of whether today’s social networks will be successful or not, it is true that the technologies allowed us to socialize at levels hitherto unknown. In a different way than few years ago but no less valuable.
However (there’s always a but …. God Dammed!), if we pay attention to what is said we could see several things:
- Many saying the same … even in some cases, or there are people who read and absorb knowledge very quickly, or they only read the titles
- A little added value in the flow of information … Something like “step as it comes”
- The talks, regardless of how many friends, followers, fans… you have, are almost restricted and are possible to follow for those who hold them
- Something that began with the virtue of honesty begins to be distorted… without that, much information can be categorized as disinformation…
Do not believe it at first, think about what you see, read or hear, create your own opinion, learn and expand … Be yourself!
And if you don’t want to, be aware, other is the one who is writing the script… 🙁
Someone is writing the script | The Usual Suspects
If we pay attention to general social networks (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Tuenti …), the information not only repeats tirelessly and without additional content, but also those who say something about it are few.
Much of this information, in turn, came from other networks, with people who took it from somewhere else and the story continues…
The point is that someone created that information and in some cases it ends up being, at least, of bizarre nature…
The risk of this is that eventually and with vehement negligence we are allowing few to write the script of our daily agenda…
An example of Spain, today:
- There is talk of a new law proposed by the government affecting the rights of people on the Internet
- “Someone” opened forums, groups, etc.. in different social networks with a “manifesto” (In basic twiterian it would say #manifesto) against the measure
- Several people joined the event
- Today we discover that behind the event there would be some personal intentions
- At least, I got off the list for feeling somewhat cheated, manipulated and poorly represented… And not because of my agreement or disagreement with the contents
- Today there was a meeting between government and the “usual suspects” … News: “The government has no intention of listening”
- I wonder with honestly thought: “Henry, are you really the interlocutor?
We should write our own scripts; we are players in our own play, we could also be actors in plays of others… Basically, no matter if our ideas are great, good or disposable …
The issue, I think, is to develop and practice the art of thinking by ourselves and this is the basis to do something together in community.
Co-creation starts with having something to give, and what better if what you have is an idea!
Co-creating means sharing | Pulp Fiction
Co-creation could occur in new environments … although they may not 🙂
In any case, new technologies, social networks…, at least give us good insights if you wanted to do something with other people… The question is: Did they choose me?
In a world where “to flow is the king”, find the “creators” is a complex task, if you do not know them personally.
Instead, not everything is so black … If you pay attention, if you read slowly, you’ll notice things cool, unique, shared… And if you do this for a while, you’ll also see that there is a small group of people who generates those thoughts that you like.
Co-create is to discover who, with patience, knowing that you have to give first… It is about peers where the greatest challenge is to exceed our ancestral aspirations of referential status.
In this case, it is not ideological writers, it’s about those writers of their own destinies who also invite to be part… and accept to change their ideas because they discover that together can cerate better things.
We move at a slow pace, the rhythm of human beings… seeking for empathy that comes from shared principles and agendas… and this takes time. Hence the patient, hence the feeling of overwhelmed by these new technologies that could help us.
The new technology is beyond us | Matrix
To give a framework to my thoughts: In a world with 6,400 million inhabitants, Internet penetration is 26% and like wealth , it’s unevenly distributed.
- Of all those people … 30% access social networks … that is, something like 7% of humanity …
- 10% actively participate and 2% create content… That means that only 0.1% of humanity is creating content. Are you one of them?
In summary … Although we are talking about millions, we are “early adopters” of these technologies in a world upside down, most children know more than we do 🙂
The interesting thing is that as individuals we are still so raw as we were several thousand years ago. The wars, hunger, poverty … slavery continue there, and our reactions are so “demode”, that just thinking about them make us feel shame.
My thoughts at this point (at least one of them) is that the mix between humans, technologies and knowledge is creating a new type of slavery … And I think we aren’t realizing this.
As a society we are beginning to know and learn more about the tools than about the contents:
- We use Excel but we are not able to rationalize the equations giving the response
- We use Word and believe that its spellchecker works wonders
- We welcome ideas from others who said this or that, and do not stop to think if what they told has any value, can be improved or even criticized
- Forget events to give space to others and do not stop to think about their relationship (eg: Today, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize announced that he will send more troops to war)
We are so preoccupied that we forgot to think. To know does not mean to learn.
A society that becomes expert in tools and ignorant of reasons is taking the decision of self-enslavement. Curiosity by itself is harmless. It should be curiousity that generates action, that moves us, what finally makes us creative, which humanizes us.
Thinking in terms of free society is the challenge for the ones who have ideas.
The challenge of having ideas | Serendipity
Everything goes so fast, so on the surface… Overwhelming!
Dazzled by this “belle epoque” that we are living is real… We are at an exciting time.
The paradigm of inequality continues and has additional aspects that require reflection.
Perhaps if I had to ask for something for this holiday season, would be to return to the roots of our humanity, to exacerbate our creative ability, to take the responsibility (at any level) to think and make others think… A challenge of love of what we always have been and are still learning to be… people!
Please, take care that we aren’t cheering with champagne on the deck of the Titanic 🙂
What I read
Some days ago I was reading and article published in the McKinsey Quaterly talking about marketing. The tittle was “The consumer decision journey”.
Although that the article is not saying anything new, the way the authors (David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder and Ole Jørgen Vetvik) stressed the new marketing problematic is quite interesting.
There were four points which arose my attention:
- Marketing’s goal is to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions
- Due to the explosion of product choices and digital channels, plus the emergence of an increasingly well-informed consumer, a more sofisticated approach is required
- Due to the shift toward a two-way communication, marketers need a more systematic way to satisfy customer demands and manage word-of-mouth
- During the customer journey, marketers must integrate strategy, spending, channel management and message across the organization
I do agree with all those concepts, however, I’m not so sure if they are strategic marketing decisions… Actually, they look like the “new issues” of marketing under the perspective of the function and close to sales…
What I thought
First of all, marketing as a function continues to be so operative and in the best case, tactic… If this is true, I would have some questions:
- Is it right to continue thinking of influencing consumers? Would it be better to think of helping the dialogue between people who belong to our key audiences?
- Is it right to consider that the “marketing goal” is to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions?
- Do marketers need a more sophisticated approach to deal with complexity? Wouldn’t it be better to go back to basics and make it simple (which doesn’t imply linear)?
- Isn’t it a simplification to consider that we only have a two-way communications? Are our world and our behaviours so easy to understand?
- How can a function integrate the whole organization?
So, if we understand marketing as a company process [neither a businees process, nor an organization one] my thoughts, in a “simple” way are:
- Marketing is “the” responsible of the first line of the company P&L [incomes] and co-responsible of the long term value creation, and it must balance both issues
- Marketing should understand its key audiences which means, it should know the people [within its key audiences] insights and take care of the people journey
- Maketing should take care of the experience that the company wants to create an this is “branding”
- Marketing should maintain the company’s relevance, and this means that it should innovate in the way of developing new businesses, markets and products
At the end it’s a question of observation, anticipation and execution to innovate and be unique…
“… Leaden, dense and static clouds covered the sky producing a time confusion and diverted us from the moment to make us feel like in a limbo where time stands still. For Jose, his soul was like the day and the pressure in his chest did nothing but confirm that he should speak with Ramirez. Yes, he called her using her last name when it came to something important, and she knew it.
– Ramirez, you look so cute and, at the same time, so like the others. At certain point it makes me think that you have lost your charm. Your fanciful hair which has taken that colour from “blondes” in the magazines… Your nose, lips… your face that also as a matter of fashion shows the signature of a well known surgeon, your body cared obsessively… what can I say! You are beautiful, much like the others… and that, in an attempt to give more color has ended up discoloring you… Any way, there is something that still keeps me at your side… I don’t know!
– Jose, you are like this day, like today … gray scales on your face transmit the fatigue of your age, the tranquility of your life experience which has certainly been intense … However, I know why I stay … It is the sparkle in your eyes that still continue showing how your soul speaks… even, sometimes, rebel and different, distinct and nuanced, close and deep… what can I say! Your fierceness still charm…”
The issue is that we often confuse gray scales with bleached. And we experience that daily.
We could talk about politics, business and individuals, companies, brands … discolored … Everything seems the same, laxity of action, lack of real leadership … even politically correct (something I think is a great source of discoloration)…
In the bleaching era, no one speaks bad of anyone, neither speak well. The nuances are lost … and it ends up being more boring than sucking on a nail.
In a grayscale world, it looks like the winners will be those, who with emotion and intelligence, know how to nuance… Those which do not confuse assertiveness and monotonous education with correction…
In this new world it seems that the winners will be those able to create, maintain and enjoy the differences… and not those which, also being shining star (though fleeting), begin a bleaching process to look like the others… For businesses, in a world of managers, the winners are going to be the ones with soul of entrepreneurs!
If you ask me what this has to do with marketing, innovation and branding, I would answer a lot! … Pay attention to the nuances and find the message there!