Archive for the 'Brand Management' Category

Q&A with method Soap Master Eric Ryan

Eric Ryan of method

An exclusive interview with method Co-Founder Eric Ryan. Mr. Ryan will lead a discussion on turning customers into brand advocates at the upcoming Liquid Brand Summit, held March 1 in Palo Alto.

Click here to learn more about the Summit and our other outstanding guest speakers and session leaders.

ABOUT ERIC:
Eric Ryan is one-half of the “proud brain parents” of method, the leading innovator in eco-friendly household and personal care products. He started method in 2001 with his high school buddy Adam Lowry and has since built the company into a $150 million retail brand that was ranked the 7th fastest growing company in America by Inc magazine. He’s been named an eco-leader by Vanity Fair, a Food & Wine Tastemaker, an eco-revolutionary by Time Magazine, and PETA’s Person of the Year.

With method, Eric has successfully grown one of the world’s most loyal brand communities, the core of which is rooted in the company’s distinct values and brand culture.

THE INTERVIEW:
Q: What were some of the initial challenges you faced in building a community of brand advocates for method? Can you describe the one or two things that were most successful in growing that community?

A: One of the biggest challenges for creating advocacy within method is the fact that we compete in very low-interest categories. While there are self proclaimed “clean freaks” in the world (think the character Monica in the TV show “Friends”), it is difficult to build a community around the act of cleaning, which most people consider a chore to be avoided at all cost.

We took the approach of building advocacy around a diverse set of shared values which includes the emotional connection to our homes, caring for loved ones in our homes (i.e. pets and children) and the environment our homes sit on. The end result is that our advocates share our passion for design, sustainability and eliminating toxins from the home - and it’s these shared values that allow us to create advocacy in a low-interest category.

The core of growing this community starts with our culture. The team at method is truly passionate about our values and this comes through in everything we do as an authentic brand. We purposely blur the lines between who we are and who we serve under the belief that we are all “People Against Dirty.” This allows us to build the brand from the inside-out with a high level of transparency providing a lot of ways to connect with our advocates.

Q: How has your brand advocacy program grown over the years?

A: The way we see it, brand advocacy is just a nice side benefit of creating remarkable product experiences and building a brand with shared values that people want to be part of. Our job is to do things that actually get people to love our brand and want to become an advocate so we try not to obsess too much on building a specific number of advocates. It’s really about quality not quantity.

With the explosion of social media tools, there are so many ways for advocates to share their love of a brand, so building a database is less of a priority versus creating stuff worth talking about. Over the years, we have shifted towards launching marketing flares that fuel advocacy by ensuring all of our marketing invites participation. Examples include: our Detox Pop Shops, where advocates could trade in toxic cleaning products for non-toxic method products, our Shiny Suds Viral video to build support for Al Franken’s Household Label Act that would bring ingredient transparency to the industry, and our Laundry Smarts Campaign that asked people to ditch the laundry jug to end detergent over-dosing.

Q: Can you give examples of how your investment in brand advocates has paid off? How do you track and measure the success of your program?

A: This is a tough question for us to answer because advocacy is embedded in our DNA, so we don’t stop to measure it or separate from other marketing programs. As a mission-driven brand, advocacy is part of everything we do from product development to PR. Our company is founded on seven competitive advantages, and for us obsession #1 is “inspiring advocates.” As People Against Dirty, it’s what we do!

Q: Who is typically responsible for the brand advocacy program, and where is it housed?

A: First and foremost, everyone in the company is responsible for creating advocacy for our brand. We start each Monday with an all-company huddle, which opens by reading an advocate letter to remind ourselves of who we all work for . . . our advocates.

Everyone at method is encouraged to do everything they can to build advocacy from openly using social media tools to hugging strangers on the bus. However, at a practical level, it is led within the Brand Experience department and run by the fabulous Anna who ensures we are spreading the advocate love both internally and externally. Thanks to Anna, everything we do from the Friday beer cart to the latest product launch finds its way to our advocates while leveraging insights from this community to make our brand and products stronger.

ASK ERIC:
Want to here more from Eric? Send us your questions and thoughts. We’ll include them in discussions at the Liquid Brand Summit. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Q&A with Chuck Eichten, Design Director of Nike DNA

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An exclusive interview with Chuck Eichten, Design Director for the Department of Nike Archives.

ABOUT CHUCK:
Chuck Eichten started at Nike as an apparel designer in 1996 and later moved to Nike Brand Design where he led the packaging, the logos, the books, the posters, the retail spaces and event experiences. Chuck is currently the Design Director for the Department of Nike Archives (DNA). In DNA he helps gather and preserve the Nike stories, and find fresh new ways of telling them again. The story of how the first best-selling Nike shoe was born of a waffle iron. How Phil Knight, when he first saw the swoosh mark, said reluctantly, “Well, I guess I’ll get used to it.” Why Michael Jordan wanted to sign with adidas out of college.

INTERVIEW EXCERPT:
Q: Why do you think the concept of “story” is so compelling to people, and how does story influence the brand?

A: Stories are compelling because that’s how our lives unfold. Stories provide context to what happens in our lives. You have a story to accompany anything that happens in your life. When brands tell stories, it makes them feel more real, more alive, more honest…more like us.

Stories influence brands the same way stories influence our lives. Grandma tells us a story and it becomes a part of who we are. It explains something about us. Stories are something we share as families, and as employees. Our stories make us unique, and help us imagine the traits that set us apart - and likely way above all the rest.

Stories of strength, of obstacles overcome, of passion, and belief, mistakes made and hard work that paid off (maybe even when no one else believed it would), that’s something to build a family or a brand around.

Q: How should a company decide who should be in charge of the brand’s story? And what is the responsibility of that person / group in maintaining the story?

A: Passion for the stories - that’s how a company should decide who should be in charge of a brand’s story. Everybody can tell the stories, but look for the people who have the passion to be in charge of it [storytelling]. Ask them to participate in developing ways to protect, build and gather the story. There’s no other way to do it. You can’t assign it to someone who doesn’t believe in it. If the people with the passion about the brand stories don’t sit in marketing, for God’s sakes don’t give brand story responsibility to marketing.

The group charged with managing the stories has to develop a plan to maintain, gather and tell the stories within the company. If you tell the stories to your employees first, they will figure out ways to amplify those stories to others who will care, which in turn will strengthen the brand and the business.

The one other thing that group has to have is the power to protect the stories. That usually has to come from pretty far up the chain of command. Every group will have their reason for compromising the stories. Groups can, and should, tell the story in their unique way, in the way that works for their needs. But storytelling should always be considered in light of the long-term, not the short term.

Q: What are some of the best ways to continue to build a story and disseminate it, and what are some of the best channels to use?

A: At Nike, we can go new school or we can go old school - there are different solutions for different situations; different audiences. One thing we love is books - actual, physical, printed books. Most people love the feel of a book in their hands. There’s a weight and permanence and a sense of authority and old-fashioned storytelling with a book that can’t be matched.

The other thing that good stories need is good storytellers. Some people got it; some don’t. Hire good writers. Nike is known for good advertising. Most people figure it’s because we have had good ad agencies or good athletes…or even good product. Hopefully, that is all true, but good advertising (like good novels, good movies and good love letters) requires good writers. Hire the best you can find and let them develop your storytelling voice. Tell them about your company, and let them experience it. Don’t tell them how to write.

The channel you use to distribute the stories matters less when the voice and stories are absolutely compelling.

Q: How can story be used to energize internal audiences like employees and partners? How do brand stories become part of the employee belief system?

A: Every company has stories. Anyone who has ever started a company or run a company or worked at a company can tell stories about the experience.

Ask employees to share their stories. Hire a good writer to interview a bunch of employees. Everyone has stories, but there is something powerful about hearing a longtime employee tell a story about the way it was and how they made it happen before they knew any better - back in the day before they had cell phones or expense accounts…or even desks to work from.

The good old stories aren’t the only good stories. What happened yesterday? Maintain, gather and tell those stories too.

Tell the truth. Don’t make stuff up to polish the brand or fit some pre-determined company line. The best stories are the real stories. Tell a story about how your company f*&%^* up and lived to tell about it. You can change the names later if you want to go public.

Repeat the stories. Look for interesting ways to tell the stories again. Relate the old stories to the new stories. Have the chairman tell the stories. Have the CFO tell the stories. Have the Chief Maintenance officer tell the stories.

Drag out old relics. Nothing gets people engaged, and inspires them to tell their own stories, like some old funny looking thing from their past.

Brand stories become part of the employee belief system because they’re real and it’s something employees feel they can trust, no matter what corporate crap they lived through that day. Employees feel like they’re building on something solid.

ASK CHUCK:
Chuck will be leading a discussion about brand storytelling at the Liquid Brand Summit March 1, 2011 in Palo Alto. Meet Chuck in person, be a part of the conversation, and find out how companies are transforming to meet today’s market demands. Feel free to post any questions about the brand summit, or about the discussion here. Read more

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Schmidt steps down at Google-to refresh the brand?

Schmidt steps down at GoogleEric Schmidt has stepped down as Google CEO and Larry Page, Google’s founding CEO, is back in the saddle. Is this a move to help revitalize the Google brand? Steve Jobs gave Apple a big refresh; can Page do the same?

For years, Brand Channel readers named Google the Reader’s Choice global brand of the year. At times, Google has won more worldwide recognition than the likes of Apple, Starbuck’s, Nokia and Target. Why? Because “Google is kind enough to hide its high-tech interior from the public and give us nothing but a friendly, easy to use, clear, clean exterior,” said BC writers. In 2009, our Liquid Brand Impact Study, an annual study that identifies the technology brands that perform the best in terms of a brand’s impact on purchase behavior, named Google the top overall tech brand for the year.

From its start, Google has been clearly differentiated, known as a world innovator with one very clear mission: to revolutionize search, making it better, easier and faster than ever before. The company’s incredible success has meant fast growth, but does that growth and expansion into new products also contribute to Google’s brand dilution? And, when other search engines have copied Google’s search model and the Internet is moving from search to social interactions, can this still be considered the company’s main point of differentiation?

Who is Google today? Is it possible that this 24,000-strong global company is capable of being the same nimble, fast moving start-up it was eight years ago? Or, has Google grown so large that it’s at risk of becoming another Microsoft? These questions loom large over the Google brand today, even as it’s seen record earnings and is announcing the company will expand its worldwide employee base by more than 6,000 this year.

If Google’s move to bring back Page is, at least in part, a move to reconnect the brand to its roots, will it work? Apple aside, other tech companies that have tried to breathe life into their brands by bringing back their founders have been largely unsuccessful (Jerry Yang at Yahoo! and Michael Dell at Dell, for example).

Jobs didn’t just come back. He helped transform Apple into the brand it is today with innovative design and revolutionary products that were always on the horizon. He led Apple into its next evolution. A brand can’t rest on its laurels. We’ve seen the consequences of that. So, how will Google transform? We shall see what the future holds.

In the meantime, transformation is the theme of this year’s Liquid Brand Summit being held on March 1. We have limited seats left. Reserve now, and join one of the year’s most important conversations with influential thinkers and decision makers in the technology market.

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Celebrity endorsement: The road to fame or the road to shame?

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Sometimes celebrity partnerships work out very well. And sometimes they can be a disaster.

For example, In 2004 Glaceau VitaminWater recruited the rapper 50 Cent to help promote the brand. He created his own VitaminWater flavor and sales of the brand skyrocketed among young consumers. Nike’s relationship with Michael Jordan is the stuff of legend. And Priceline has done well with William Shatner for over a decade; and lately Dr. Dre is using his own brand to help promote HP’s Envy notebooks. These partnerships have worked out very well.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Tiger Woods’ personal issues became a fiasco for several brands - while allegations of drug use by Kate Moss led to Chanel, Burberry and H&M terminating their relationship with the model.

Do the benefits of working with celebrities outweigh the risks? Can a troubled celebrity seriously damage a brand that is being endorsed by them? What can brands do to protect themselves from negative publicity generated by celebrities associated with the brand? What’s the best way to structure such relationships? Which brands have done this well? When do brands drop the relationship and how?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please post your comments!!!

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Nike, HP and other amazing brands will be at the Liquid Brand Summit.

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We are ramping up for the Brand Summit 2011, and soon we’re going to announce the final Session Leaders.

We’re not at liberty to reveal the names of the individuals who are considering being Session Leaders until they are confirmed, but soon we will be including names, photos and bios to our site. In the meanwhile, we wanted to share the names of the brands that we have contacted so you can get an idea of the caliber of expertise that will be there.

The line up is going to be spectacular!
Here’s a list of companies that are currently on our list:
Nike, HP, Jawbone, Virgin Mobile / Boost, Twitter, Cisco, Microsoft, MySpace, Method, Tesla, Skull Candy, and a few more.

Besides the Session Leaders we’re also going to announce some special guests.

Stay tuned…and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

Jesse Kearney
jesse@liquidagency.com

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Turning customers into brand advocates: What’s the secret?

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Some brands create such strong customer communities that they are practically cults.
Apple, the Grateful Dead, and Harley Davidson are a few good examples. The customers for these brands become part of a tribe - with its own culture and sense of belonging. The brands that succeed in creating such a strong connection among its customers and employees benefit from exceptionally high levels of loyalty, to the extent their customers rarely practice brand-switching - instead, they actually promote the brand actively - and often try to convert others into becoming “brand believers”.

I am curious to see if anyone has any thoughts on how do companies create such strong affection for their brands that their customers are compelled to become active brand champions? Does this phenomenon happen on its own…or is there a secret to help it along? If so, what are the programs that are put in place? How are they run? What are the strategies and tactics that turn average customers into brand advocate superheroes? On the other hand, in your experience what have brands tried that simply does not work?

Your thoughts and ideas are welcome. We look forward to hearing from you!!!

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Check out these Session Leaders!

“What’s Next” features a “Who’s Who” in brand marketing!
If you have not had a chance to check out the Session Leaders for the 2008 Liquid Brand Summit, you should take a minute and look through their bios. Our line up includes the person that spearheaded Adobe’s global brand campaigns…and one of our session leaders is responsible for the global management of Dell’s direct consumer sales and marketing efforts. Another Session Leader is the marketer behind the brilliant “shop victoriously” campaign for eBay. A former Brand Summit participant (and now Session Leader) is responsible for the brand management of the EA brand at a global level. In 2006 one of our Session Leaders was the recipient of the Creativity 50 award, honoring the most influential creatives in the world! And we have much, much more.

In fact we can pretty much guarantee that on February 26, we will have more talent, more experience, more ideas and more creativity in one place than anywhere else in Silicon Valley…or anywhere else for that matter.

The Session Leaders we’ve been able to gather are an outstanding group. Check out their bios on the site…and be ready for the fact that we’re about to announce a couple more that we’re very excited about. We can’t say who…but let’s just all say yahoo!!!
:)

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Want to be a CMO? Good luck!

A recent article in Fast Company, very nicely written by Ellen McGirt indicates that being a CMO is a risky proposition. If you attended the Liquid Brand Summit this would come as no surprise. CMOs are relatively new to the C-suite, and the performance expectations are both huge and rather unclear. According to the Best Practices Report 2007, “The average tenure of a CMO is less than two years. This is barely enough time to identify the issues, develop new strategies, recruit new personnel, and implement new initiatives. Real and meaningful change takes time, and it happens incrementally.” Additionally, “CMOs need to focus on quick wins to build organizational credibility and momentum” and “(CMOs) must have”C-level” metrics accepted and supported with adequate budget to achieve and measure them.” To read more, download the report on the website.

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The Brand Summit was a hit!

I am happy to report that the Liquid Brand Summit was a very well attended and very well received event. It was a pleasure spending the day at tackling issues about brands and branding with so many smart and interesting people. We’re now compiling all of the Best Practices that were uncovered during the day, and will share them shortly. I helped manage the session about Brands, Blogs and Social Media: Strategies for Entering the Global Conversation, which was led by Derek Gordon from Technorati.

We discussed the many ways that brands can leverage social media, blogs, vlogs, etc. Our key conclusion was that brands need to develop community through highly visible and easily accessible points of entry which invite and host other voices, as well as contributing their own. The four key steps to building community include: 1.Set objectives, 2.Curate, 3.Moderate, 4.Communicate. It was a lot of work…but also really fun! More details will follow!!!

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HP should look for a new CMO at the Brand Summit!

In today’s SJ Mercury News I read an article announcing that HP’s CMO (Cathy Lyons) is now responsible for “strategic change management” for HP’s imaging and printing business…and HP is looking for a new CMO. Maybe HP’s recruiters should show up at the Liquid Brand Summit…where they can meet some of the sharpest brand/marketing minds in Silicon Valley.
:)
BTW: The article happens to also feature a quote from Rob Enderle…who was one of the panelists that helped judge the Brand Impact Awards!!! (Small world!)

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