Archive for the 'Liquid Brand Summit' Category

2011 is shaping up nicely for Liquid Agency.

Liquid Agency Awards

Spring has sprung and so have we . . . if you haven’t heard, 2011 is shaping up to be quite a banner year for Liquid. Not only are we celebrating our 10–year anniversary, our Liquid Brand Summit 2011 was a huge success, we recently announced the opening of our first European office and we’ve been honored with dozens of design awards in the first three months of 2011, including a much coveted “red dot” Product Design Award and a REBRAND 100 Global Award of Distinction.

Read more about all these exciting developments on the Liquid Brand Exchange Blog.

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Q&A with Myspace SVP of Communications Rosabel Tao

Q&A with Myspace SVP of Communications Rosabel Tao
An excerpt from our interview with Rosabel Tao of Myspace.. Ms. Tao led a discussion on brand relevancy at the Liquid Brand Summit 2011, which took place March 1 in Palo Alto. View photos of the Summit here.

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

ABOUT ROSABEL
Rosabel Tao is an accomplished corporate communications strategist with two decades of experience creating integrated, multi–disciplinary communications programs and building communications organizations from the ground up. She’s worked with a broad portfolio of companies in a full range of growth stages — from global brands to start–ups, including of Bank of America, Microsoft, HP, Levi Strauss, Safeway and Spot Runner.

Q: As brands evolve, so do their audiences. What are some tactics companies use to ensure brands remain aligned with their core audiences or adapt to new audiences as market forces change?

A: First, brands need to be very clear about who their desired target audience is and focus on serving that audience. This is more difficult than it sounds — I’ve seen many companies try to be all things to all people for fear of not capturing everyone who could possibly want their product/service. Oftentimes, this results in an offering that is too broad to appeal deeply to any one audience and prevents the brand from truly taking root. It’s best to build a core, loyal audience first and expand from there.

Disneyland, for example, has historically catered to families with children. Over time, the theme park has added new rides and shows and expanded some of its marketing to appeal to a broader audience, but at the heart, it continues to remain true to its core demographic.

Starbucks is an example of a company that built a loyal core audience for its coffee drinks and the experience of its stores. There was period of time when it expanded very quickly and got into music, food, ice cream, merchandise and more — and it lost focus of its core customer and started losing marketshare to a wide array of competitors. Since then, it has recommitted itself to its heritage of coffee and the store experience.

FOR THE REST OF ROSABEL’S INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE.

WATCH FOR MORE FROM THE LIQUID BRAND SUMMIT 2011
We’ll soon be publishing more content from the Liquid Brand Summit, including additional video interviews with our expert session leaders, as well as key findings from the Summit’s 10 sessions.

Also, check out this year’s top tech brands, as named by the the Liquid Brand Impact Report 2011.

For more on brand transformation, visit Liquid Agency.

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Liquid and Socratic release the results of annual Brand Impact study.

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Liquid Brand Summit attendees got a sneak peek.
Who are the biggest brands in the technology sector? Folks who attended the Liquid Brand Summit last week were the first to find out as Liquid Agency released the findings from an annual research study by Socratic Technologies evaluating the impact of brands in 40 different technology markets.

Facebook dominates social media.

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When you combine Facebook’s explosive growth with the fact that TIME Magazine named Mark Zuckerberg its “2010 Person of the Year” and Hollywood released an award-winning film about the company, it’s no surprise that Facebook was named “Brand of the Year” in the Liquid Brand Impact Report 2011. The report summarizes the findings from the annual research study by Liquid Agency and its research partner, Socratic Technologies – which found that Facebook is the clear winner in the social media category.

More than 200 brands are evaluated in the study.

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The Liquid Brand Impact Report is derived from a quantitative study of more than 200 technology brands in 40 business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) categories. It examines a brand’s relative strength as measured by its “Brand Power Rating,” which is derived from a Socratic Technologies’ model measuring several key market perceptions: Awareness; Consideration; Preference, and Purchase Intent (ACPP). The Brand Power Rating has a very high correlation to a company’s current market share, but more importantly, it can detect early shifts toward newcomers with the potential to disrupt the status quo.

Adobe scores highest in B2B category.

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With its win as Brand of the Year, Facebook edged out Amazon who came in a close second. Adobe, Google and Intel rounded out the top five performing brands. In addition, Facebook also took top honors in the B2C category, while Adobe won the B2B category.

VMware, EMC, Vizio and HTC showed the most growth.

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The Liquid Brand Impact Report also tracks the biggest movers up or down in terms of a company’s brand impact in each of the 40 categories. This includes companies like VMware with the biggest upward movement in Virtualization Software, EMC for Enterprise Software, Vizio for HDTV and HTC for smartphones, to name a few.

Download the report.

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To download the full Liquid Brand Impact Report 2011, which provides a detailed breakdown of rankings and brand performances in each of the 40 categories, go here.

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Brand Leaders Gather at the 2011 Liquid Brand Summit

Liquid Brand Summit 2011

People, Ideas and Energy — it was all a buzz at this year’s Liquid Brand Summit, held Tuesday, March 1, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto. And what a day it was. By far our most successful event yet, the Summit brought together more than 120 truly outstanding folks — brand marketers, CEOs and thought leaders — who showed up ready to share in an open dialogue and exchange of ideas about their best practices and most difficult challenges in branding and marketing.

This year’s theme, transformation, resonated throughout the room as participants exchanged ideas in ten separate table discussions on topics as diverse as building brand advocacy and culture, the new frontier of social media, design innovation, and the art of telling your brand story — to name a few. Conclusions from those discussions were then shared with the entire group in an end-of-day panel presentation that summarized best practices and key findings. We’ll be expanding on these findings and making them available on the Liquid web site within the next two weeks in our Liquid Brand Summit Best Practices Report. Watch for it.

Our outstanding session leaders were instrumental in making this all possible, and we truly appreciate their dedicated work throughout the day. Thank you as well to our attendees who were so open and willing to share their experiences and thoughts.

We’d especially like to thank the folks who helped make this year’s Summit a success, including Rob Fuggetta and the Zuberance team, Socratic Technologies and Allison & Partners.

Finally, we have to give a call out to Marty Neumeier and Rob Fuggetta for kicking the day off with two presentations that were full of energy and insight. (You can view Rob’s presentation “Energizing Brand Advocates” on SlideShare.) And, of course, a huge thanks to Method Co-Founder Eric Ryan who stepped in at the last minute and did nothing less than “wow” the crowd with a talk that was not only intelligent and entertaining, but downright inspiring. Eric, I think we all agree that you’re a rock star!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting content from the Summit on the Liquid site and on our blogs, including live video of the presentations and one-on-one interviews with some of our session leaders. Stay tuned for more to come.

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Q&A with Boost Mobile’s Caralene Robinson

Caralene Robinson, Boost Mobile

An exclusive interview with Boost Mobile’s Brand and Marketing Director, Caralene Robinson. Ms. Robinson will lead a discussion at the Liquid Brand Summit on how brands are turning shoppers into buyers with new retail-experience centers.

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

ABOUT CARALENE:
Caralene Robinson, director of Brand Marketing and Communications for Boost Mobile, has spent more than a decade producing advertising and marketing campaigns across a broad range of products and services. Known for delivering results and creating vanguard campaigns, she’s earned a reputation as a creative innovator. At Boost, Caralene is responsible for planning and executing the company’s consumer marketing. In addition to developing all advertising campaigns, she utilizes brand assets, media, merchandising, creative, sponsorships, and local planning to drive integrated marketing programs that engage Boost Mobile’s core customer base.

Q: Define today’s retail experience through the Boost Mobile lens.

A: The consumer exploration and decision sequence has changed. For significant purchases, consumers now typically research online and collect opinions prior to visiting retail locations. They often visit retail locations with a partial decision, utilizing several locations to compare prices, engage with the product and connect with a live salesperson. Therefore, it is critical to create an engaging informative experience at retail. As a result, while we very much value our retail partners, over the past two years we’ve worked hard to create brand-exclusive destinations designed to create a surround sound retail experience.

Q: How do you think retail experience centers will evolve in two to three years?

A: Retail centers will become more of a comprehensive brand experience, designed to drive acquisition, retention and up sell.

Q: How do you use your brand ambassadors (athletes, musicians and celebrity) to boost the retail experience. Do you have a specific example of a particular retail experience or event that utilized your brand ambassadors extremely effectively.

A: We use integrated marketing and local experiences in partnership with our retailers to drive traffic to retail locations. In partnership with a regional sponsor, we utilized radio and a promotional contest to drive customers to a retail location for an autograph signing with one of our brand ambassadors. There was an incredible turnout and significant increase in sales on that day.

Q: How can retail centers become “community centers” for their customers and how do you sell the experience of the brand through those centers?

A: Like Apple Stores, retail centers should become destinations for learning, socialization and experience. Every consumer engagement in this environment should epitomize the brand-product, collateral as well as employee look and feel.

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

A: A brand story, mantra and positioning should be organizationally socialized prior to consumer launch. We use a core team to engage with every corporate function and provide an assignment that requires each group to define how they will integrate, process and execute against the brand story. These assignments are presented to the larger core audience, ensuring alignment and consistency.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:
Send 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 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 Skullcandy Marketing Machine Tyson Andrus

Tyson Andrus of Skullcandy

An exclusive interview with Tyson Andrus. Mr. Andrus will lead a discussion on customer engagement at the upcoming Liquid Brand Summit, held March 1 in Palo Alto. Click here to learn more about the Summit and our guest speakers and session leaders.

ABOUT TYSON:
When it comes to extreme-sports style, few companies have the street cred of Skullcandy, known for making the sickest headphones, earbuds, and iPod docks around. Tyson Andrus sits at the helm of the company’s Channel Marketing division where he leverages the brand’s authentic action-sports DNA with strategic retailer partners to drive growth that has landed the company on the “Inc 500″ list three years running. His career began at a boutique marketing consultancy and more recently led him to hone his brand management skills at General Mills before taking the plunge into the world of consumer electronics.

We asked him a few questions about what it takes to engage customers and build relationships that last.
THE INTERVIEW:
Q. Skullcandy has been extremely successful at staying in front of its customers’ desires. What methods have you used to get to know your customers? How do you go about doing audience research?

A: In my past life this would be a complex and lengthy explanation, detailing focus groups through one-way mirrors, countless surveys, customer “shop-alongs” and product usage observation studies. While some marketers will shudder at this response, the roots and culture of Skullcandy allow me to answer this one very simply: We are our customers.

From the marketing department to the design team, clear over to sales, customer service and supply chain, we all live the brand every day.

Although strictly speaking, Skullcandy is a consumer electronics company, the brand is unique to the industry in that it was born on the [ski] slopes and embodies the action sports culture associated with surf, skate and snow. This was as true in the fledgling start-up years as it is today, despite the fact that the company has grown to be one of the largest headphone companies in the U.S.

You’d be hard pressed to find many employees not wearing one of our 100 plus flavors of headphones on any given day, but it doesn’t end there. Every employee in the Park city office gets a season pass to the ski resort down the road and is encouraged to use it. In our San Clemente office, the “board room” contains just that - surf boards. And, while the offices have their own half pipe ramps, you’re just as likely to see people using their skateboards as transportation between their desk and the copy machine.

Q. How do you keep your hands on the pulse of your customer base as it evolves and changes? i.e. How do you find out what they are thinking; what they’re interested in?

A: An expression comes to mind: “Fads are bad, but the trend is your friend.”

Although sales numbers don’t lie, they’re only a snapshot of the past. Solely reacting to those numbers is just that: reactionary. We strive to align ourselves with the tastemakers and stay on the forefront of meaningful trends.

How exactly do we do that? The original success of Skullcandy was achieved through selling stylish, colorful headphones geared towards active usage in the very stores where our customers bought all their other equipment: board shops. You got it-surf, skate and snow! And, because that’s still at the heart of our business, we have a great relationship with those iconic shops from coast-to-coast, as well as the small business owners that continue to make them successful. We have many customer feedback mechanisms, but I would credit this as one of the most critical in not only following our customers’ evolving tastes, but being a part of the evolution itself.

Q. How are you using social media as a listening channel for getting to know your customer?

A: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare . . . it seems like you can’t go anywhere to escape them. Social media is both pervasive and potentially very persuasive. Being that social media [channels] are great communication tools - and communication should be a two-way street- they are also great feedback mechanisms to tap into our customers’ minds.

The insights customers are willing to share when they are safe and sound behind their social profile are nuggets of gold that you simply couldn’t coax out of them through traditional mediums. Spark a little bit of conversation and watch the frenzy ensue . . . we call it”social chumming” minus the fishy smell. From there, it’s pretty formulaic: monitor the dialogues, identify key findings, craft a plan and execute!

Q. What led you to decide the channels you are using were the best way to influence your customers?

A: I’ll have to be painfully honest here and say trial and error. What might work for Coca Cola may not work for us, and what works well for us now may not be as effective a couple years down the road. I think it’s crucial to have an array of tools in the tool belt to connect with customers - and just as importantly, not be afraid to experiment with new ones. Just as the customer is evolving, the methods by which you influence them need to continually evolve as well.

ASK TYSON:
Want more from the Skullcandy Marketing Machine? 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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Building an Army of Brand Advocates, One Shoe at a Time

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There are brand advocates . . . and then there are super hero brand advocates. TOMS Shoes, a company that started just four short years ago, knows how to attract super hero brand advocates - they’ve been able to very quickly build a community that includes millions of followers worldwide. How did they do it? With a unique offering that positioned TOMS outside the reach of other shoe companies and a very compelling brand story.

That story started in 2006 when TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie traveled to Argentina and found that an astounding number of children didn’t have shoes to protect their feet. He then created TOMS, with the promise of matching every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. They coined the phrase “One for One,” to describe their business model and began calling it a movement, and they’ve been using it ever since to help strengthen their brand and excite customers into becoming “super” brand advocates.

Their simple message resonated with the fashionably trendy, yet socially-conscious Gen Y and Gen X set - but its not just messaging that sells their shoes. Among those who love TOMS, they are considered as essentially hip, stylish and “must hav” as an iPhone. That’s because TOMS very smartly used their brand story to help build an internal and external brand culture that attracts fresh, hipster-type creative talent to the company, talent that has helped TOMS stay “in the know” with their customer base and ahead of the design curve.

Today, TOMS is selling not just hundreds-of-thousands, but millions of shoes around the world, with retail locations in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. Celebrities like Demi Moore and Jay Leno and high profile brands like Nordstrom, AT&T and Element Skateboards have bought into the TOMS “One for One” movement.

The company has definitely found its “onliness,” that unique space of differentiation that separates it from others in the market. And, its been wildly successful in leveraging that uniqueness to build and strengthen their brand community, which is made up of brand advocates who are near religious in their loyalty to TOMS and willingness to go out and evangelize its mission.

From college campus clubs to”Style Your Sole” shoes parties to a global “One Day Without Shoes” event, TOMS is using its status as a company that does good to expand its “movement” worldwide. And it’s working. Go to the TOMS Facebook page, and you’ll find more than 700,000 followers. Their Twitter page has nearly 600,00. And the TOMS YouTube channel? Well, it has had nearly 2 million upload views.

TOMS has also been brilliant in using documentary filmmaking to share their brand story with customers. The power of the images they capture and the story that supports them, paired with the power of social media to push them viral, has been instrumental in spreading their message.

When it comes to building customer communities that are practically cults, TOMS has found their magic formula. But can they sustain their momentum? The fashion industry is notorious for throwing today’s “must haves” out with tomorrow’s trends. Is TOMS brand story strong enough and its community loyal enough to carry it through being the current trend of the moment? Perhaps, that depends on how the company evolves as the market changes. Will TOMS be able to remain relevant in the long run? What are your thoughts?

Also, if brand advocacy is something you’re challenged with or are interested in, then join us for the Liquid Brand Summit on March 1 to discuss this and other issues associated with “transformation” and how brands and brand marketers stay relevant and competitive.

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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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