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The 2012 thoughts archive

No-one said it would be easy. Navigating complex stakeholder relationships to create brand truth.

Sometimes, even the leanest of organisations can have complex stakeholder landscapes and relationships. Senior executives, management teams, external service or product users, investors etc.In almost diametric opposition to this complex landscape, the most successful brands are created from a clear sense of purpose – a unifying truth.

How can you assess the requirements, understand the opinions and galvanise the values of these disparate groups, without ending up hamstrung by a ‘branding-by-committee’ situation?

The task of brand consultants such as True North is to facilitate the process by which the needs and attitudes of internal and external audiences are explored to arrive at a proposition and market positioning for the brand that successfully articulates its unique purpose and point of difference to best advantage.

However, especially at the early stages of examining this for the first time together (or first time in a long time), clearly views on this unifying truth can be very different for each stakeholder.

But, to create a differentiating brand idea that clearly sets the organisation apart and provides all stakeholders, internal and external, with an extremely easy to understand proposition, there is no alternative other that to actively examine and wrestle with any such differences of opinion or feeling.

The major benefit of such ‘wrestling’, or collaboratively creating these propositions is that management teams continue to own them and help apply and deliver them after our involvement has ended, so that the brand idea drives future activity.

And the real skill comes from engaging stakeholders and actively managing a collaborative process that respectfully incorporates their minds and hearts, BUT that extracts and confirms a clear, differentiated and unique brand truth. Rather than a camel.

So, whilst the aim is to be inclusive and comprehensive in engagement, the objective will always be to create simplicity, distinctiveness and differentiation; not just consensus.

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You need to be good, but you need to be quick too – our studio is very busy. With a minimum of 5 years’ experience you will be versatile and well equipped to work across branding and design projects as well as advertising campaigns. Your job will be to produce exceptional, boundary-pushing creative from concept to delivery as part of a team of exceptional designers. Some experience in digital design would also be a plus. Interested? Please send your CV to including links to your portfolio or blog posts.

Red Bull, Bodyform,Thomas Cook and what brands can learn

There’s been some big, brand related stories in this weeks news, so we thought we’d round them up and share our thoughts. Some winners, some losers but hopefully something to learn from all.

Firstly, Red Bull takes our belief that bravery is an important quality in a successful brand a little too literally. Felix Baumgartner did very nearly a marathon in ten minutes using only gravity to help him, breaking the sound barrier as he plummeted to Earth. If you want to remind yourself of his multi-record breaking jump you can watch it here.

But what can brands learn from what many commentators are calling the marketing stunt of the century?

1) Authenticity. Red Bull don’t sponsor events, they stage their own. Everything from Red Bull Stratos, to flugtag, cliff diving and x-fighters is a Red Bull event. Former toothpaste marketer and Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz once stated that his company doesn’t “bring products to the people, we bring people to the product”. By building close allegiances with adventure and extreme sports events over the years, Red Bull had a legitimate reason to be associated with Felix’s jump.

2) Effective leverage of technology. We’ll never know how much Red Bull spent on putting a man in space and him jumping back to Earth. But we do know that no media agencies made a single penny from it. Red Bull didn’t invest in traditional media at all. They had a microsite a couple of hashtags and a live stream to YouTube, that broke another record. 8m people watched the jump live via YouTube, the most ever. Analysts believe that Red Bull would have had to spend over $100m to achieve similar traditional media coverage.

The second story to catch our eye surprisingly shares the same principles. Following a tongue in cheek comment from a fan on their Facebook page, Bodyform decided to be brave and develop this witty retort.

Again a solid understanding of the opportunity social media provides to be authentic, engaging and far-reaching without a massive budget.

But of course, there are some brands who don’t quite understand that yet. A cautionary tale from Thomas Cook, who missed a fantastic opportunity for some positive coverage by sticking to rigid and outdated ‘rules’, and ended up being trumped by a competitor.

The long view for UK heritage brands. Has a 'new reality' arrived?

Imagine for a minute that you’re responsible for the medium-term success of a ‘heritage’ brand in the UK. A well-loved destination, perhaps; possibly an iconic institution or maybe a purveyor of products or brands exuding classic ‘British-ness’. Safe to assume your success depends on ‘packaging and promoting’ British provenance and/or a dependence on a largely older, middle or upper class audience.

From the depths of recession, where are the opportunities? Or the threats we need to be aware of and prepared to respond to?
Rule one, in our opinion, in the new reality is that as marketeers it isn’t acceptable to concentrate 100% of our attention on ‘selling today’s product’. Of course, it never was, but extreme situations require especially enhanced performance to help ensure that we survive and thrive. So, what trends are going to magnify the effects of recession and take away our livelihood? Or offer up the greatest opportunity?

In the new reality, the first thing to accept is that things have changed. Big style. They are not ‘going to’. They have.

It doesn’t feel like it here, but globally the middle class is growing, significantly. But not here in Europe and certainly not in the US. With China and India leading the charge, more than 90% of the world’s middle class will live in emerging markets by 2030, up from 50% today. That’s not much more than 15 years away. What are you doing to understand the demographics and behaviour of the new middle class?

Have you started to plan how your brand is going to be aligned? As a tourist destination how will you need to position yourself for a new breed of foreign visitor from a number of different countries and continents, without alienating your domestic, regional audience? As a direct mail provider to consumers turned on by British-ness, how can you ‘package’ our past, present and future to diverse audiences with a very different view than your current audience?

And power is in the hands of the consumer. Wherever in the world they are. This is just as true whether your customer lives 10,000 miles away or is a frequent visitor from round the corner. By 2013, for example, more than two billion mobile users globally will have made a purchase via their handsets. By 2020, a third of consumer purchases are expected to be made online.
You will need to find exciting new ways to engage with digital consumers and improve their experiences. And you’ll need more advanced real-time insights to better serve this dynamic, fragmented market.

One key will be to pick the right ways to interact with online consumers, manage conversations appropriately, and make the best use of digital consumer data. And the really successful will have found a way to enhance transparency and become more collaborative in their interactions with customers, online and off.

It might have started out being called ‘user generated content’. Now it means that your reputation and certain of your success will be in the hands of your customer/visitor, not you. The particular challenge for traditional heritage brands and destinations will be to adopt technology and channels without appearing ‘fake’ or disjointed.

Toes are being dipped; the Queen has her Facebook page and Royal Mint use Pinterest – but the really interesting developments that result in real engagement and commercial benefit are yet to come.Overall the key to success will lie in your ability to adapt to change at all levels – global, national, local and personal.

With continuous innovation, those that serve tomorrow’s consumers will need to drive brand value and revenue through greater engagement with increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumers, wherever in the world they are.
Investment, innovation and collaboration will be the watchwords for successful brands that succeed in the new reality.

Welcome to the future!

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