How to raise the profile of the arts and create value for the cultural ecosystem: public, artists, patrons and employees, from the brand point of view.
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
‘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?…
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
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 prÃªt-Ã -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?