If you are a manager or a leader, it can be assumed that many people will be expecting your guidance this week. If you worked through the weekend, how are you hoping to lead people in the right direction if you’re not taking the time to lead your own life in the right direction? For many of us the working weekend has become “the new norm” at the cost of our personal time which is crucial for our wellbeing and our quality of life.
A powerful tool that can stop this stream of endless business is reflection. If you delibereately make the time during the weekend, you can reflect on the week that’s passed, the month, the roles in your life, and the desires you have as a human being. Reflection allows you to introduce a deliberate intention in your life as it allows you to plan your day to day and week to week by what’s the most important in your life. Reflection will stop things from getting out of control and will prevent the stream of other people’s worries and plans carry you away by automatic and unconscious doing. You might find yourself being beyond busy the whole week, but not having done anything that will significantly improve your life or business. You would have effectively worked through an “empty” week.
Stop what you’re doing now and honestly ask yourself if what you’re doing is contributing to your quality of life and satisfaction. If the answer is no, then it’s about time that you have a serious personal and professional recalibration.
I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts.You can connect with me here:
After Steve’s passing, it was obvious that things will begin to change for Apple. After all, Apple was Steve’s child of labor and he was the undisputed pastor of the company. I am not trying to sugar coat anything here either, I am perfectly aware of his iron fist rule. It was an iron fist which did wonders apparently, at least for the company and the brand overall. Steve managed to get Apple from the verge of bankruptcy, on the road to the most valuable company in the world.
Innovation, design and futuristic vision were the values which were most prominent in the Jobs era. The first iPhone was nothing short of revolutionary for the cellphone industry and if not for the tech industry overall. That single product made us feel like we are a step closer to our Star Trek future than ever before. Pair this with Steve’s insistence on design and Ive’s genius, and you got yourself a perfect recipe for success. Whether it be industrial, graphic, interface or interior, everything Apple had to be highly designed. In fact, I remember a video of Jobs discussing how important fonts were for the Mac OS back in the day. I don’t believe I’ve seen a single CEO focus on design so heavily since then.
Insistence and persistence (consistency) are keywords I want to focus on in this article because it took Jobs a long time, starting from Apple’s renewal from the year 1997 up until his death in 2011 to reinvent, build and most importantly preserve Apple’s brand. Jobs understood the value of persistence in enforcing the brand’s values and if it meant using his iron fist to do it, then so be it.
On the 2nd of August 2018, Apple was valued at $1 trillion. A valuation this high is huge news in the world of economics. This is indicative how things have changed under the new leadership though. The kind of headlines Apple makes now are more in business and less and less in the world of tech. I think all that success can still be attributed to Steve’s vision, although he’s not with us anymore.
My theory is that consumers still buy the brand out of the perception of what the brand is supposed to represent, while the products themselves have gone in another direction. Apple is burning through a lot of brand goodwill which was left by Jobs.
We can confidently say that there is not much revolutionary about Apple’s products in recent years and there isn’t anything revolutionary about them now. After all, they celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone with an awkward notch and an animated 3D poo emoji. Let’s not forget the touch bar on the MacBook Pro or the more than awkward placement of the charge port on the Magic Mouse 2. Would this have ever passed under Jobs I wonder?
What Cook does for Apple today was not possible for Jobs though and what was possible for Jobs looks like an impossible task for Cook, and I believe the latter is more important for the company’s longevity.
Cook thrives on operations and execution while Jobs thrived on vision. His vision is what basically made this company into the one we know and love, but we are steadily losing that under Cook’s rule, despite the surreal market valuations. The longer Apple stirs away from real innovation, and the more it starts to look and behave like its competitors, putting out products with only incremental improvements, the less differentiated it will have on the market. To put it mildly, there is less and less magic and wonder connected to Apple’s brand.
At the moment, the company is in the Goldilocks zone. Consumers are still loyal and acting on the company’s inherited brand goodwill and Cook’s operations and business skills. That is why the company is able to achieve today’s success. Brand goodwill is not an infinite resource though. New generations won’t be able to recall Apple values which Jobs put in place. If the company continues to stir away from producing products that capture our imaginations and melts down and that would make the brand less resilient to bad decisions or scandals like the #ThrottleGate for example.
I wonder what would happen to Apple if Jony Ive suddenly resigns from his position? Does the company have the leadership to persist in preserving their design philosophy? It brings me back to the ancient paradox and thought experiment, The Ship of Theseus stating: Will a ship that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same ship? I am increasingly uncertain this will be the case.
The Olympic games are now over, but the Olympic Spirit still lingers in the atmosphere. Still inspired, I dove even deeper to see what the Olympic Charter had to offer. This is a document similar to a constitution and it describes and defines the Olympic Movement, including its most important principles and values.
I had no doubt that the Olympic Movement is powerful and that it still had lessons to teach brands. Following are extracts from the Charter that stood out and to me and which I think have the power to reinvigorate your brand.
“It (the Olympic Charter) governs the organization, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”
There is a very important significance in wording here. According to the Charter, the Olympic Games are not being “held” nor “made”, but celebrated. This is a crucial distinction which encompasses the Olympic spirit and serves as a vision of how the Olympic Games should be treated as. The Olympic bodies treat the Games as more of a festival than a competition. This can be observed in reality too: from the big and colorful opening and closing ceremonies to the spirit of hope and joy the games bring globally.
This kind of wording is a very good indicator of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Traits which fundamental to any brand. They stem from careful observation of one’s own history and reflect insight of the present day. To possess this ability though, to testify about your organization’s truth takes particular will and effort not everybody is willing to make.
In my experience as a consultant, some brands try to live up to an unrealistic expectation of themselves, especially those tied to megalomanic projections of being “The biggest” and “The greatest”, but they could never escape the perceptions people had of their businesses.
Brands are inevitably tied to perceptions, but more importantly, they are tied to the truth. From a branding perspective, the first step in developing a successful brand is reality itself. It’s much easier for businesses to work with their own truths and build upon their own strengths. The only way to reach that elusive 100th floor is if you start from the ground and up.
A Brand with more than 100 floors can also suffer greatly if they don’t tune in to what their customers and press are saying. Living in the clouds, as attractive it may sound, hasn’t done businesses any good. Any leadership, new or old, experienced or not has to be prepared to look directly into the eyes of truth if they want to ensure their brand’s future.
What are the realities of your business you are not prepared to face? Do you keep finding yourself in a position to constantly disagree with your clients? Has a negative word or sentence been associated with your business? Maybe it’s time to put down those rose-tinted glasses.
“Olympism is a philosophy of life…”
Far from reaching quarterly sales goals, the essence of the Olympic movement is a philosophy. Moreover, it’s a philosophy of life itself. What can be more in touch with reality than this? Businesses also start as an idea, a vision to contribute and change the world in some way. This is very obvious, but some businesses can lose total track of it.
For startups, as we mentioned, it’s easy for them to get carried away with their megalomanic ideas. CEOs face the hurdle of being swept by so many different things at once that they lose track of why they funded the business in the first place. It’s especially hard to maintain a certain philosophy when it comes to high-performing managers who can perceive business principles as “obstacles to success.” Culture in higher management circles can get out of hand so quickly that a life-affirming philosophy which is set out to bring good in the world can easily be transformed into a philosophy of greed and corruption.
These are only one of the few reasons why brands should disseminate and practice their core philosophy every day. Not only can it prevent morally questionable business decisions, but it can be used proactively too. Whether if it’s hiring the right employee, designing a new product or expanding to a new market. Having a company philosophy signifies that you know who you are and what you are about. This position is a position of stability and strength and it makes the jobs of decision makers much smoother and easier.
What is the basic idea responsible for your business’s existence? What thoughts did your company’s “founding fathers and mothers” have? How can they be reimagined to serve our contemporary circumstances? Going back to your founding roots might uncover some much-needed energy, inspiration, and guidance.
“…promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
It seems very easy for businesses to lose track of how to treat employees and customers with basic dignity. There is something in the way we organize ourselves in a group, whether it’s the “not my responsibility” mindset or the simple fear of admitting your mistakes that brings out the worst in us. If human dignity is nowhere to be mentioned within the company’s culture, the possibilities to do wrong are plenty. Take Volkswagen and the Standing Rock incident for example. One doesn’t have to think twice that human dignity wasn’t on top of people’s minds when these events happened.
On the other hand, our human bodies react positively when we do something that’s good and positive. Research shows that the best thing you can do to boost your general wellbeing and happiness is to volunteer i.e. to do something for somebody else. While a business is a business, it can be most rewarding for employees to witness the positive impact their work has on others. Happier employees make happier customers and happy customers make more purchases. Coca-Cola’s happiness factory might have been on to something after all!
So, what kind of values, culture and policies does your business put in place to make sure every employee, customer and human being are being respected and protected? How would you approach solving conflicts with groups with different values and opinions? Do you measure your business decisions morally and what’s your company’s bottom line: is it money or making lives better?
I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.
The Olympics serve as the greatest sports event and as one of the most important conferences in the world at the same time. Over the history, they have been subject to controversy, boycotts and served as squabbling grounds between countries and political blocks. Yet somehow, they managed to survive and not only survive, but thrive. The Olympic institution and brand are stronger today than ever. On the other hand, it’s extremely difficult (impossible even) to single out a company which enjoys a similar amount goodwill today or throughout any point in history for that matter.
In this regard, there is one question worth examining: What are institutions, organizations, and companies but a group of people working united under a common idea? If this were true, then what makes the Olympics brand and ideals so true, grand and worthy of pursuing? On the other hand, what makes companies and organizations struggle, stray away from themselves and even stray from goodness itself?
As any other organization, the Olympic Games have seen their fair share of struggles. First and foremost they exist within the confines of our civilization which is susceptible to misunderstandings, conflicts, and of course war. They survived our two World Wars, all kinds of regimes, terrorist attacks, all sorts of political disputes and boycotts. For example, at the 1980 Moscow games, 62 countries didn’t participate as a result of the Cold War, and this didn’t even put a dent in the Olympic spirit.
The Olympics do not only show extreme resilience in the eyes of serious adversity but as a body, they continuously act accordingly to their established values. South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988, as a part of the sporting boycott during the apartheid era. Saudi Arabia was threatened with a ban in 2012 unless it sends women athletes to compete and this year Russia was banned to participate in the winter games due to a state-run doping program. The International Olympic Committee didn’t ban all the athletes from Russia though. It united them under its flag, as It did for the refugee team in 2016 in Rio. This shows true value-driven integrity: not to discriminate against anyone no matter the circumstances. This value is further strengthened by the existence of the Paralympic Games.
The Olympic Committee is not afraid to make tough decisions and run the risk of being perceived as the “bad guy” in certain countries. The same can’t be readily said for businesses.
Business and states nowadays have almost a symbiotic relationship too. Rightfully so, since it’s in the businesses’ interest to lobby for less regulation, tax, and other breaks. We are well aware that this relationship can get out of hand though. There is daily news of big political corruption scandals involving financial “favors” from a big business. Yet, this is only one sphere where businesses can stray away from the good.
Let’s take Volkswagen as our latest example, which is an appropriate one as well. They are a well-known brand globally and have a long tradition to boot. Although Volkswagen is loved and revered all over the world for their craftsmanship and build quality, recently it was discovered that they cheated their emissions tests on a big scale. More recently even, they were condemned for testing diesel fumes on humans and monkeys!
For me, it is inconceivable that an organization can be true to their values and still manage to act in a vile way. A company that pollutes can’t say they respect women’s rights and if a company has appalling work conditions, it doesn’t get to say they value good design. What’s the use anyway?
We have to keep in mind that the values both organizations and businesses respect are first and foremost human values. As such, they are complementary and interdependent. One can’t choose to have tunnel vision, to respect one and ignore all of the rest.
What gives the Olympics a starting advantage in brand integrity over today’s businesses then? If they were still under Zeus’s patronage, he would have stated something like the following:
1. Know thyself
I remember the shock of discovering that the company I worked for, for my first rebranding project, had no idea who they were and what was their business about. I thought that this would be a no-brainer for bigger companies, but it turned out to be a very big brainer indeed. Luckily dusting off only one core value ( customer service ) was enough to give the company new life and direction. The same goes for any other business whether it’s a startup or 100 years old. They must be aware of who they are and what they are about.
2. Nothing is more important than human decency
These three words are enough to guide you through all of your business decisions, especially the ones which are on the moral fence. Nothing is more important than valuing a person’s wellbeing. But this commandment deserves attention when making simple and apparently harmless decisions too. We often don’t examine our decisions form a broader perspective and we don’t fully consider all of their possible implications.
3. Include, don’t discriminate
It is well known that companies that encourage employee participation in decision-making report having staff who has greater ownership of their workplace and brand. Especially if you include your staff in brand creation, you will get dedicated life-long brand ambassadors which will disseminate your business’s goal, idea, and spirit. Otherwise, you might end up with uninspired employees which feel left out and forgotten.
4. Have a simple, fair and transparent rulebook
Sports are very simple to follow. That’s one of the reasons why everybody can follow them. By nature, they are open and accessible for everybody. This transparency allows anybody to witness what’s going on on the field or the track. Anybody can be a direct judge and this, in turn, creates the need for fairness.
A business is made of many individuals with varied backgrounds and capabilities. Having simple rules makes the system accessible and understandable for everybody. Fairness and transparency in employee treatment are key for achieving trust, confidence and long-term stability of your business.
5. Be larger than the sum of your parts
The Olympics aren’t organized in a traditional sense. Although they have their Committee and headquarters they appear and disappear into thin air every 4 years. They are more of an idea than a tangible “thing”. Same goes for any business that strives to be written in history and make a difference. Trough your business you realize the idea you have for the world so, to have a chance at greatness, your idea has to be attractive and universal enough to outlast you and your direct successors.
I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.
After reading trough FastCocreate’s article on National Geographic’s brand revamp I was left with mixed feelings. Following are the goods, the bads and the middles of their latest move.
The brand is re-discovering its core. They already updated their programming by including more of what the National Geographic Partners CEO Declan Moore says is “smart content”. This decision follows the increase of 21st Century Fox’s holdings in the company and after the management team recognized the growing thirst of millennials and gen Z for programs which are “more on the intellectual side.” The new and improved NatGeo channel includes programs like the newest Leo DiCaprio documentary: Before the Flood, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, Years of Living Dangerously, StarTalk with DeGrasse Tyson, Origins etc.
Moreover, the brand aims to introduce cohesion across all of their platforms. Moore sees this trough the lens of teams taking proud ownership of the content that is being produced at the level of the whole company.
Reading trough how Moore approaches his brand was a personal shock, to say the least. He said that the management team has just discovered that millennials like “smart programming.” Now, whilst people chased UFOs on NatGeo, people were tuning into YouTube channels like ASAP Science, Veritasium, One minute physics and to science blogs like IFLScience, Science alert, iO9. In fact, people have been doing this for more than a decade now and to share such a statement in 2016 shows that people at NatGeo are seriously out of touch.
There is a reason why these channels and blogs are so popular, and that is in part because of the lack of quality programs on dedicated science channels like NatGeo. I can safely say that the sphere of specialty science entertainment was destroyed in the last decade with the introduction of reality TV which increasingly got out of hand and out-of-brand. Animal Planet anyone?
Moore is quite happy to recognize and capitalize on the thirst for “smarter programming”, but is not aware that he and his team is responsible for creating this kind of thirst in the first place. All this comes from a business ethic which ultimately doesn’t show passion for its own brand. It’s opportunistic in nature and leaves a dry taste of old-school marketing where only graphs and numbers are considered.
One other thing. Declan Moore practically says that teams from different platforms were not comfortable taking ownership (responsibility) to what was happening over next door. For example, the magazine team was not comfortable with decisions made by the guys over at the TV channel. If this doesn’t illustrate a brand in cohesive shambles, I don’t know what does.
The middle ground
I am glad they are taking very positive steps towards more quality programming and more brand cohesion despite what factors influence those decisions. Should they have done it sooner – yes. Has 21st Century Fox got something to do with the new programming direction? Maybe.
If they keep up with the production of quality content and if they don’t stray off-brand again, National Geographic Channel could soon be well ahead of their colleges over at Discovery & Co and can reclaim their spot as the primary authority on exciting science and discovery.
The main mistake dedicated science channels do nowadays is serving what people want instead of what they actually need. I know this sounds unintuitive, but let me illustrate. Let’s say I had a choice between a doughnut and an apple. An apple is what I need because of the fiber and vitamins, and the doughnut is something that I want because it is tastier. I would almost always choose a doughnut over an apple , but when I eat it, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel terrible (and less healthy) afterward.
The same goes with television channels. They make people feel terrible about themselves. They make people feel like brainless, lazy slobs and this is not something any self-aware human being would ever need nor want to feel. This lesson can be applied to any brand. Each has the power to use its position for the greater good and make the world a better place.
Before there was Snapchat, Apple and Facebook, there was only one unopposed king when brands were concerned: Coca-Cola. It was the ultimate brand of the 80s and 90s. While I was an equal admirer of the brand, just like the next person, one thing never stopped poking at my mind: “How has Coke become so big?”
After at least two decades of maturing and a passionate interest in brands, I can finally answer my own question. What I discovered are (at least) five reasons determining its long-run success.
If there’s one thing I advise my clients to do, it is to always focus on making their products better. There is no amount of advertising and PR that can save you from being irrelevant or unattractive to your customers. In Coke’s case, the recipe has been crafted to perfection. There is nothing you can add or subtract from the product. It’s whole, robust and undeniably tasty. More importantly, they know they have a winner and you should never change what wins.
The only time Coke strayed from their winning recipe was in the mid-80s with “New Coke”. The thing was a disaster and after the catastrophic failure, the corporation got back to its roots by listening to what their customers wanted, and that was to bring back the taste they all knew and love. It was back then when Coke finally became aware of its definite position in the market: They were a brand of tradition. They reverted to the old recipe and never touched it again. Although New Coke was a very big flop back in the day, it enabled the company to find its inner strength and build a more stable and authentic brand that stands the test of time.
Coca-Cola was maybe one of the earliest pioneers in branding delivering one of the most important lessons in the discipline: Uniqueness. In 1915 they faced fierce competition and decided to launch a contest for the re-design of their bottle. They then probably made one of the best decisions in marketing history by deciding to go with the cocoa plant-inspired shape. This enabled Coca-Cola to differentiate in the competitive market and become one of the most recognizable brands of today.
This strategy has proven time and again to be a big market decider. It’s used across many brands from the utilitarian but exciting Swiss Knife to the minimalist treatment of Jony Ive’s iMacs.
Coke not only delivered a unique bottle shape but also made sure to be consistent no matter the changing circumstances (and there have been many). They have been using the same bottle shape, color and logo for over 100 years now. Few brands can say the same about themselves and it just illustrates Coke’s amazing self-confidence and belief in their brand value.
The Coca-Cola logo is now one of the most iconic images recognized instantly around the world. Keep in mind that this logotype was made in a style which was considered modern at the end of the 19th century. Aside from the occasional update, they never changed the treatment of the font. This strategy allowed for the logo to be ingrained in the minds of generations old and new, ensuring the continuation of Coke’s brand awareness.
I can never recall when I had a Coca-Cola experience that was off-brand. The corporation makes sure to establish strict quality standards with franchisees, marketing partners and retailers alike. I had the chance to witness this ruthlessness first-hand when I worked as an in-house brand manager in retail. No matter where you go, and which platform you use, you are guaranteed to get the true Coke experience. This stands witness to their success at adapting their brand identity to local cultures. One can even say that if two strangers were to meet in the street and have no way of understanding each other, they could probably develop some kind of language if a bottle of Coke was presented in front of them.
. . .
These are only 5 key factors which contribute to Coke’s success. There are of course much more which I welcome you to discuss.
I sincerely hope that Coke will continue strong in the next 100 years to come, especially with recent news of sugar tax and water shortages. Their practices (and mistakes) have been fundamental to the branding and marketing disciplines. I any case, I hope they will continue to lead the way forward and inspire the new generations of marketers.
I am brand strategist, designer and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.
In the hurry to launch or because of the lack of resources you decided to pluck “a sure winner” from an endless field of identical website templates. Or maybe you chose to use the Bootstrap or Foundation frameworks: it’s quick and easy! If you are one of the smart ones maybe you hired a designer guru or better yet a rockstar agency. Let me guess… This is the website you ended up with:
Congratulations. You have a website like everybody else!
Besides being damaging to creativity and diversity of visual web culture today, it is even more damaging to your brand and how you differentiate on the global market. It is highly illogical for me to see companies go for identical cookie cutter designs, especially in a time when business owners should recognize the value of branding more than ever before… In an environment where new competition emerges by the thousands every day.
You might think you are using a proven recipe for success, but this “success” comes with a price. At the very least you miss out on the opportunity to make a lasting impression your customers will remember you by, and at the very worst you lack the needed identity to differentiate from the clutter and you never succeed to engage them in the first place.
Templates, are meant to be modified, adapted and customized, yet we became afraid of them. What was meant to be a flexible guideline, today has turned into a design canon. “But it allows for a consistent user experience on the web. People learned to know what to expect, and that’s good” – someone would say.
Don’t listen to them. Get a good design team on your side and I am certain they will be able to provide you with a user experience which goes beyond what a website is “supposed to feel like”. If you don’t have the resources for a good creative team, make the effort to do the research yourself. You know very well that startups require many sacrifices.
I came across some examples on the web suggesting how to avoid this design trap. They can help, but to me, they don’t address the issue deeply enough. This is where brand discovery comes into play.
It could not only help you break the limits of this website mold, but it can also give you valuable insights which can lead to future exponential success.
Here are 5 ways how brand discovery can help you escape the web design singularity nightmare:
Each of these following questions is designed to inspire insight. First I recommend that you screen them quickly, then come back to the areas where you think there is more to explore.
Identify your industry
The biggest problem I see in the adoption of the cookie cutter mentality is to use this design template regardless of your industry and the nature of your business.
Take for example a digital creative agency, a cloud computing service, and a food delivery startup. Do these businesses have the same customers, employees, operations model or business objectives? What makes us think they should they have the exact same website design? What industry are you in? The creative filed? Technology? The internet? What are the current issues your industry is working on and how do you contribute to solving them? What kind of attributes is a company in your field expected to posses? What kind of problems do you solve for your customer? Is your brand image close to your industry’s standards?
Be crystal clear about your position in the market
Positioning is about differentiating yourself further within your industry. It’s about discovering your startup’s unique place and value.
How do you compare relative to your competitors and what is your competitive advantage? What value do you offer that can’t be replaced by anybody else? Do you sell premium products/services or are they easily available for the masses? How would that shape the way you design your website? Is your offering simple to understand or it is more complex and technical? If it’s simple, then a few lines of text and a call to action is all you need. If it’s complex, you might need diagrams, infographics or demo videos to explain your product or service.
Target your target group
This is marketing 101, and it’s about understanding who is your website addressing to. Making a significant effort in this area could drastically change your website’s content, and as a result, it will be better received by the people visiting it.
What do you know about the people you want to attract? Are they mostly male or female, young or old? Are they employees or business owners? What do they expect from a kind of product or a service you offer? What attracts them and what do they usually want to talk about? What do they aspire to achieve? How does your product or service help realize your customer’s dreams? What do you know about their values? A website providing cutting-edge risk management insight for Wall Street VPs should look and sound differently than a business which provides Miami city tours.
Decide what your site is supposed to do
Think about how you can use your website to elevate your business efforts. Websites have come a long way from simple brochure-like designs with plain info about your business. There are many strategies and web technologies which you can implement to make that much-needed extra sale.
Think about your marketing strategy. Would your business be better off if you only collected e-mail subscriptions or maybe it would be smarter to streamline it with your social media for a quicker response? Maybe both? Have you considered creating an online platform for users to connect with your brand? Then you should start thinking about designing a user forum and feature user-generated content which your customers are the most passionate about. Maybe you can attract leads by publishing useful articles with a lot of useful information and resources. Then you might be better off if you rearranged the content of your website with the latest articles from your writing team.
Dive even deeper in your brand
This simple effort always pays off. No matter how well you’ve worked on your initial branding, it’s always smart to re-visit the process and compare your brand with newly acquired data and experiences.
For example: How do your strategy statements sound today? Are you satisfied with your brand manifesto? Are you achieving the good in the world you hoped to achieve in the beginning? How does your site communicate and help achieve your vision? What is your customer’s feedback lately? If you asked them, what would be the one thing that your company consistently provides for them? Service? Speed? Durability? Is your site designed to illustrate and guarantee this promise? Do you communicate with your audience in an authentic voice or does it still sound stiff, generic and devoid of emotion?
Remember, any change in business has to be approached strategically. It’s not wise to be different just to be different.
These questions provide you with a direction which builds upon the already existing strengths of your business and it exploits your natural position on the market. Use them to discover and re-discover what your startup is all about. Recapture the world-changing momentum of your early days to seize the imagination and hearts of your audience. Be and express yourself!
At the end day, what would brands be without emotions anyway?
I am a brand strategist, designer and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.
Let’s be honest, when was the last time Apple graced the world with revolutionary innovation?
Makes you think, huh?
We keep hearing people divide Apple’s history into two distinct eras: during Jobs and after Jobs. This is not just an innocent perception. It could signify a possible seismic shift in Apple’s brand perception.
I remember that Apple’s brand in its peak (circa 2008) was about magic, innovation and cool. The touch display on the iPhone was everything anybody wanted to talk about and experience in their hands. This experience was unique, beautiful and practical and Apple developed a few other products around the same concept including the iPad and iWatch. They even re-vamped the very popular iPod with the same tech. Every mobile producer wanted to implement touch technology in their own devices. Everybody wanted to be sleek and minimal as Apple. The company without a doubt positioned itself as the leader in premium hardware.
During the golden days, Apple’s three main ingredients for success were: innovation, design and let’s not fool ourselves – marketing.
8 years and a CEO change later, it looks like marketing is all there’s left. In the words of scholar Vivek Wadhwa: “It’s been 9 years since the launch of the iPhone and since then it’s (Apple) been giving us bigger screens, smaller screens…” Their iPen and pressure sensitive touch are not changing any industry landscapes. They even keep resurrecting old models by adding new processors (the SE).
It is at this point when I wonder what do we really need from Apple: just another old phone with a new processor or to feel like we are holding a piece of the future in our hands?
Apple’s strategy today is laterally focused. They are reaching out into their own untapped markets. Jobs would have never allowed for an iPhone 6 Plus fablet and an “iPen” was out of the question. This is an opportunity that Cook took and he proved to us that he is not afraid to break Jobs’ holy commandments. For the time being it is working out for him. Although sales are looking good, what kind of brand would Apple be five years from today?
If this trend keeps up, we are going to have a bland and watered down company. Something like when a newspaper turns into pulp in water. The iPulp. Apple can drown in their own sea of screen sizes and updated processors.
Having that in mind, what measures can Tim Cook take to bring back the Apple spirit we all know and love?
Simple: Turn back to your roots.
The Apple of today has completely forgotten about the enthusiasm of creating something new and exciting out of your own moldy garage. This is what created the company in the first place and it was the force that animated Jobs while he was still at the helm of the company. An entrepreneurial spirit with eyes locked on to the future, one which laughs in the face of odds. This is vertical strategy focus.
There are a lot of ways to reintroduce this spirit back in Apple’s culture. I am saying culture here because I believe that Apple’s brand is less about the products themselves and more about the idea the people involved with the brand share. Contrary to what Jony Ive would say, it’s not about being slick, minimal, smart and shiny. Absolutely not. It goes deeper than that. It’s about a visionary future which expands the boundaries of what we as humans are capable to do.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels…”
Stefan Nikolovski is a freelance brand developer, manager and consultant. His philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.
I came across an interesting graph. It shows Android vs iOS usage in the world i.e. 67 countries. Looks like Macedonia is on the top. I wonder why is that.. Could it be that our mobile operators overprice their services when it comes to packaging iPhones or we just can’t afford Apple’s products? If the latter is true, this chart indirectly illustrates the Macedonian people’s propensity, or lack thereof for buying luxury brands. Same could be said for Balkan countries in general. Ironically enough, Russia has a larger percent of iPhone users than the USA.
In a small local shop in Brighton the owner is de-branding her products as a part of an art project. The goal is to replace favorite packaging with locally sourced design efforts from various social groups like: schoolchildren, mental health service users, people with addictions, and so on. The design and the execution is not fancy by any means. Everything is handmade, but it adds a familiar human feel to a “striving-for-perfection” sterile packaging.
For the shop’s customers, Kathrin Böhm who is the co-author of the project, hopes that It offers “a moment to realize that this is the way we shop and choose, and [that] who we shop with is a conscious decision.” Böhm’s project offers consumers a chance to reconsider their own patterns of behavior and, she adds, to realize that, quite apart from the logos and packaging, “there’s actual value to certain things like a good shopkeeper.”
I’ve reported in previous posts about how our buying decisions can be influenced by packaging and branding, so it is truly fresh to enable consumers to experience the “real” product behind the box, or a different shopping experience when our senses are not hijacked. It makes me go back to basics and think about the “hard” and “tangible” elements that constitute a product or a service, before all of the elaborate design and communication strategies. I firmly believe that a good product will go a long way in winning the customer’s trust and will guarantee his return.