Veteran tech writer David Spark has written a great article about this phenomenon that appeared in Mashable this week: “Why Sharing Online Content Might Be Too Easy,” and we’ve written a complementary article that we’ve posted on the Liquid Brand Exchange “Sharing Branded Content: Can Advocates Make a Difference.”
Check them out and share your thoughts. There’s been a lot of buzz about these issues lately, as brands face the many challenges associated with the “new reality” of the social web, including the struggle of how to stand out in consumer’s minds when people are overwhelmed with information.]]>
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.]]>
Click here to learn more about the Summit and our other outstanding guest speakers and session leaders.
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.23ed ]]>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]]>
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.]]>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An exclusive interview with Zappos Insights guru Robert Richman. Mr. Richman is one of the Session Leaders at the upcoming Liquid Brand Summit, taking place on March 1, 2011 in Palo Alto.
Robert Richman lives in Las Vegas, where he works for Zappos Insights, an off-shoot of Zappos.com that was started by CEO Tony Hsieh to show other companies how to create a workplace people love and a service customers rave about. Robert began his career in 1996 creating sites for U.S. Senators and co-founding the web strategy company Articulated Impact. He co-wrote the business plan for a new online venture from the Tony Robbins companies and has developed digital media strategies for The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard Magazine, and The National Leadership Institute. When Tony met Rob, he asked him to re-launch the Zappos Insights program - then a small web site with a staff of one. Rob has grown the program to a 12-person company, offering a range of experiences and services to educate companies about culture and to give insight into “what” and “how” Zappos.com has built such an amazing culture and brand.
Q: How do you define brand culture?
A: Brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. One faces inside the company; the other faces outside. It is made up of the values, stories and rituals that a company engages, and it all starts from within, so the brand is usually a lagging indicator of the true state of the culture.
Q: How is a company’s overall performance influenced by its brand culture - for example, its management, growth, innovation, customer relationships, etc.?
A: The culture influences everything because it is everything. Said simply, the culture is the way of being. Or to be even more literal: In biology, you use a culture to grow something - it’s the environment that creates the context for growth, interactions, and relationships.
Q: Brand culture can be a fairly abstract concept. Name two or three concrete things that Zappos does on a regular basis to maintain and even strengthen its culture.
A: The most important ingredient to a strong culture is people, so we take a very long time to recruit the right people and we interview them based on our core values. Then, we spend four weeks training them so that they have the right mindset, connections and tools to succeed and grow our culture. Lastly, we encourage people to express themselves so they can bring all of their talents to the office. If you get the right people, empower them and set them free, we find that people take responsibility for growing the culture.
Q: Can you give an example of a company and/or companies whose brand culture you admire? If so, what is it that you admire most?
A: I admire companies that are not afraid to commit to their core values and also share what they’ve learned with others. I believe companies that share their culture learn the fastest - examples include IDEO, 37 Signals, and Ritz Carlton.
Please feel free to send us comments or questions, and we will make sure that we include them in the discussions during the Liquid Brand Summit. We look forward to hearing from you.
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.]]>