15 April 2014
Share and Share Alike

Two thousand and thirteen, and quite possibly many more to come, will be remembered as the year ‘the sharing economy’ went mainstream. Leveraging private property and services through peer to peer selling has mushroomed from renting out a spare room or sofa to budget travellers to include workspace and offices (liquidspace.com), at-home meals and cooking classes (www.eatwithme..net), experiences for tourists (www.vayable.com) to sharing your car, lawnmower, ladder and other everyday chattels (www.neighborgoods.net, www.liftshare.com).  “The sharing economy is creating a new third category,” declared co-founder of Airbnb Nathan Blecharczyk. “People as business.” (And in Airbnb’s case, a hugely profitable, globally viable business growing at internet speed).

It’s not difficult to understand the allure of the sharing economy – a chance for ordinary people to pick up and/or save some extra cash in these economically challenged times, the eradication of the ‘middle man’, and the perception that is it somehow more ‘sustainable’ than traditional paradigms are just a few. But what does the sharing economy mean for the branding and marketing professions?

This article from Fast Company describes the rise of the sharing economy as a disruption – or challenge to the consumer economy. Citing research carried out by the Altimeter Group, it follows after the brand experience era (‘when brands were forced to hire digital specialists’) and the customer experience era (‘in which social media allowed customers to ‘talk-back’ to brands’). ‘As consumers collaborate (or in some instances even conspire) to work around further consumption by sharing their goods and services, brands are fearful they may have no place in the future,’ is the grim prophecy.

The article goes onto suggest three neat ways companies and manufacturers can tap into the sharing ethos: Company-as-Service (offering clients goods on a timeshare basis), Motivating a Marketplace (helping your customers to re-sell) and Provide a Platform – basically taking a leaf out Etsy’s and eBay’s books and encourage customers to connect with each other.

Whist marketing departments are no doubt discussing how these (and other) ideas can be put into action, a simpler proposal that uses the principles of asset sharing has been put forth by Brandgathering, an on-line community of entrepreneurs that encourages and facilitates collaboration. “Everything can be shared, from tasks to space and even debt” it argues. And that marketing is the next step.

Brandgathering advocates reaching out to non-direct competition brands to create mutually viable exchanges; e-newsletters features, using each others’ products in event goodie bags, and co-branded events and products in order to capture new client bases and make business grow. The interesting part in the near future will be to see which brands embrace the sharing spirit, and those that continue to slog it out alone.


3 April 2014

Grateful, surprised and enthusiastic: That’s how we feel. On April 2nd, during the awards dinner for the Best Pack 2014 prizes, we were awarded the grand prize of prizes for our Schweppes Botanicals project. At that very moment, something struck a chord with us: how effort, appetite and eagerness make us unstoppable. It’s the team, the ideas and the talent that have once again made it possible to receive recognition for doing what we do.

In this project, we focused on originality, on the courage to break the mold and create new paths. It seems the old adage rang true: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

We love to combine, redo and recreate, and for this reason, we wanted to fuse concepts that at first glance appear to be opposites: the elegance of modernity led by the hand of tradition -- to create an original Premium bottle.

Given the times we live in, constantly challenging ourselves enables us to continue bringing our way of seeing things and inventing to life. Through this, we uphold our motto: brands live and breathe.


28 March 2014
Damage Control

The month of March 2014 will forever be marked by the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. On top on the unspeakable sadness of 239 souls lost, the intrigue of one of aviation’s greatest mysteries, and the theories that grappled to explain it, gripped the world and instilled a greater sense of fear of the ‘unknown’ in air travel for many of us.

No other industry is so intrinsically tied to a country’s identity and ‘brand’ than the airline that flies its flag.  From the onset of the disaster, Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysia government was criticised for the clumsy way they handled the catastrophe, with confused and often contradictory information, slow responses and press briefings and media releases that shed little light. Even established protocol such as changing the landing page of the airline’s website to a graphic-less interface that headlined the incident was overlooked for a period. To some observers, the communication via text message of the investigators conclusion that the aircraft had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean was grossly inappropriate. (Malaysia Airline officials defended the decision, pointing out that the method was the quickest possible way to transmit the news to grieving families before it reached the media).

Whilst the case of Malaysia Airlines is extreme in its severity, most of us would agree to the importance of businesses having a crisis strategy in place in order to salvage, as much as possible, brand integrity.  This article from Forbes, summarises scenarios that some companies find themselves in when disaster strikes, referencing it the negative impact faulty brakes and acceleration incidents had on the Toyota Company in 2010 and 2011. The one here that most applies to the case in point is ‘Conclusion’; that is, explaining to consumers why the problem arose and why the brand should not be viewed more negatively as a result of the event – a process that could take Malaysia Airlines months or even years to fulfill.

Malaysia Airlines’ response to the tragedy is best compared to that of Air France Flight 477, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.  As this article points out, the company did many things right in the aftermath. And whilst Malaysia Airlines cannot be accused of ignoring all these examples, their lack of a consistent crisis plan was evident from day one, and exposed the company as simply being ‘out of its depth.’ Professional crisis management consultants exist for a reason. Companies that don’t have a firm crisis strategy in place before disaster arises, do so at their own risk.



7 March 2014
The mobile industry’s new innovator: you.

What happens when a market is saturated? Is there room for innovation? Lets look at the mobile industry. Last week, the Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona where more than 85000 attendees from over 200 countries gathered to network, showcase, learn, and sell anything and everything related to the mobile.

40 conference sessions were scheduled touching on subjects like “The Rise of the Machine” “Redefining Reality with Screens” and “The Future of Voice” with an exciting lineup of speakers including Jan Koum, Co-founder & CEO, WhatsApp, Robert Bakish, President & CEO, Viacom International Media Networks as well as the Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, Facebook.

What might have seemed like a jewelbox of exciting possibilities, putting brilliant global minds together against the backdrop of everything that is mobile, was actually a rather blasé sales meeting.

Chatting to various attendees from mobile switch inventors, to those that create apps, to those that sell apps, the general consensus was that the conference really lacked a sense of innovation.

The truth is that the market has become so saturated that essentially products only differ by a hairline detail like color or size. Eric Xu, an executive at Huawei, commented: “If we look at the perception of consumers, they are feeling innovation on devices has been slowing down in the last couple of years. They don’t feel strongly that there has been compelling innovation in devices.”

As the mobile industry becomes more developed, spirited innovation is being replaced by people who are simply just selling. With topics like “Building the 50thbillionth connected device” scheduled at the conference, it’s no wonder that developers have simply run out of ideas about what to create next.

So what happens when a market becomes saturated? Is there room for innovation?

Innovation lies in the hands of the consumers.

Instead of the design of the smartphone changing by a mm or shade of grey, it’s more interesting to explore what consumers do with that smartphone. The creative dynamic has shifted from the builder of a product to the driver of it.

In Kenya for example, users are driving innovation in all sorts of directions. There, mobile phones are now being used to collect data and report on disease-specific issues from more than 175 health centers serving over 1 million people. This technology has reduced the cost of the country’s health information system by 25%.

So although Google, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, tablets and e-readers are technologies that originated in the consumer space as simple marketable products, the innovation around these product experiences now lies in the users. Instead of expecting a new sized ipad, we can expect innovative ways people use this technology.

Even though the World Mobile Congress might have left a blasé taste in the mouths of those drooling for more creativity, the individual’s power to spur innovation will shape the mobile industry’s creative circuit in 2014.


21 February 2014
Smells are as strong as ever at this year’s fashion week

How brands are tapping into the power of synesthesia to provide a more sensory experience for their consumers.

Fashion Week has begun, with New York, London, Paris and Milan showcasing their ready-to-wear looks -- and smells --  for Fall 2014.

Sitting in New York’s runway show, it was all too apparent that visual cues were just a small part of fashion brands’ performances, with scents and smells taking a leading role in this year’s presentations.

It’s no news that the scent industry is largely untapped and a huge space for branding. What we might not have realized yet, is the sheer potential of this industry to overtake other elements of branding, particularly sight, which have been the dominant sense most design agencies have traditionally focused on.

The first olfactive branding company, 12.29, introduced custom scenting for New York’s fashion shows in 2013. The company creates palettes of smells for fashion week by considering the components of music, set, audience, as well as the clothes themselves. As each designer and collection has a distinct visual style, it also has equal potential to create its own scent identity.

Founder of 12.29 comments, “Smell is the sole remaining sense that can directly influence how a consumer regards a brand.  Scent can heighten brand connection, create stronger communication and deepen brand loyalty.”

Since the company’s introduction into the fashion world, many others have followed suit, bringing attention to the complex and intricate world of smells, and it’s importance in the world of branding.

SCENTURY, a Berlin based research platform for perfume culture strives to redefine the way we speak and think about fragrance. They create stories from perfumes working with a network of fragrance experts to translate the deeper social, cultural and psychological contexts of fragrances.

So the question is: do smells trigger more brand loyalty than traditional signifiers like colors, and sounds?

Smells tap into the most emotional and acute part of the brain, the smell memory, unconsciously dictating decisions about whether to stay longer in a space or not, thereby creating a deep sense of brand loyalty.

Having said that, we cannot overlook the power of visual cues either which have historically triggered the imagination and aesthetic desires of consumers.

The next step for branding is therefore synesthesia:  the melding of senses.

Defined as a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway, it essentially means that smells can be seen as colors and textures and vica versa.

The future of branding is about creating a unified brand vision, an integral approach, an immersive experience; something that showed emerging signs in this year’s New York fashion shows, and will continue to spread throughout 2014.