Do you have a hard time defining the vision behind your visionary idea —to customers, investors, or even to your mum? Is your elevator pitch standing a bit too awkwardly in the elevator?
Take a class with Wolff Olins’ lead strategist Melissa Andrada on how to use brand to nail your pitch.
This interactive session will equip you with the thinking and tools to take your brand to the next level. We’ll highlight key learnings directly from our clients and share tried-and-tested tools to help you build your own brand.
By the end of the class, you’ll be able to:
- create a compelling vision for your brand that brings in customers, attracts investors and inspires employees
- use your brand to drive impact across all parts of your business - from your Facebook page to your product offer to your office space
Last week we held our first-ever MakeShop at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The event was our excuse to get some of our favorite partners, clients, friends and family together to dive deeper in the behaviors we explored in our latest Game Changers report.
In the spirit of making, we worked with Henrik Werdelin and Philip Ingemann Petersen, of Prehype, the venture development firm that’s helped companies ranging from Verizon to News Corp incubate and spin out new businesses. We heard from Jake Barton, principal and founder of Local Projects, whose media design firm reinvents public space through collaborative storytelling experiences like Storycorps, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and Change By Us. And we wrapped up the day getting our hands dirty (as dirty as littleBits will get you) learning how to prototype our product ideas with Bethany Koby, the founder of Technology Will Save Us.
Branding keeps changing. The way brands work – their role in the world – is constantly evolving. But it’s possible to simplify this complex story into five distinct stages: five versions of brand.
Brand v1: marking ownership
The emergence, centuries ago, of the idea of private property meant people needed to mark their property – to say either ‘this is mine’ or ‘I made this’. People used painted marks, written signatures, watermarks, hallmarks, stamps – or marks burned onto things like cattle. Though this practice goes right back to the ancient Egyptians, the mark wasn’t called a ‘brand’ until some time in sixteenth century.
Brand v2: guaranteeing quality
With the industrial revolution, and the emergence of mass production, came a new insight: if you were a factory owner, you could put a mark not just on your property but on your products. The mark would mean ‘this is a product you can trust’. In an era of shoddy products, and often adulterated foods, these marks could command higher prices.
The great pottery entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood was a precursor of this idea, with products labelled ‘Etruria’ from the 1760s. The technology of branding shifted: burned marks evolved into marks stamped onto products like pottery, and then printed on packaging. By the 1820s. the word ‘brand’ was being used in this new sense. The focus was on brand names and on brand reputations, and a new expertise emerged: the new breed of artists behind trademarks and packaging design.
Brand v2 turned direction, and gained huge new power, in the 1870s, with the idea that you could protect these new assets as ‘registered trademarks’. Design and law made a potent combination, and many of the earliest registered trademarks are still effective value-creators now, like Kellogg’s, Campbell’s or Bass.
Brand v3: promising pleasure
Around the start of the twentieth century, mass production was amplified by mass media. Factory owners realised they could combine with media owners to give their trademarks even more power: that through advertising in newspapers, then cinemas and radio, they could associate their products with powerful emotions. Brands could do more than guarantee quality: they could promise pleasure.
The chocolate entrepreneur George Cadbury anticipated this new version of brand. He associated his products with a big idea – purity – and gave that idea emotional power through advertising that used images of children. Once again, the technology of branding shifted, into the new arts of advertising and public relations. Cultural forces like psychoanalysis played a role in this: Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays was a founding father of PR. Brand makers defined brands through a proposition (or ‘unique selling proposition’, USPs) and a personality, in order to create powerfully persuasive communication. Large manufacturers of consumer goods – Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble, Ford and many more – became masters of the art.
Brand v3 turned direction, and grew in power, in the 1960s, with the arrival of television in almost every home, and the ‘creative revolution’ in advertising, which produced hugely more sophisticated brand messaging. Increasingly, advertising appealed not only to people’s sensory pleasures, but also to the deeper pleasures of self-image: by choosing the right product, it suggested, you would look good to your friends, or feel better about yourself.
Brand v4: inviting belonging
Through the mid twentieth century, a new force emerged: the post-industrial corporation. Companies became huge supra-national centres of power. Big corporations, and their institutional investors, saw that they could broaden the impact of brand, from their individual products to the company itself. Brands could now be corporate brands, and could do more than promise pleasure: they could invite all kinds of stakeholders to feel a sense of belonging. By feeling they belong, employees would work harder, and customers would stay loyal for longer.
Early pioneers of what was originally called ‘corporate identity’ included Peter Behrens at AEG in Germany before the first world war, then London Transport in the 1920s, then IBM in the 1950s. The technology of brand shifted into defining an organisation’s purpose (or vision or central idea), expressing it through visual design – the logo and its supporting paraphernalia – and sharing it through the various mechanisms corporations use to build their internal working cultures. And a new kind of expert took centre-stage: the design-based brand consultant.
Brand v4 turned direction in the 1980s, when two contradictory things happened together. First, Reaganism and Thatcherism glamorised the corporation still further, and created a new cohort of privatised companies. Second, the PC gave individuals a new sense of power, culminating in the Apple Mac, and the 1960s generation started identifying with a new kind of apparently anti-corporate company, like Apple, Virgin or Southwest. These new phenomena felt like consumer brands, and the old terminology of ‘corporate identity’ switched to ‘corporate brand’.
Brand v5: enabling action
At the end of the twentieth century, patterns of consumer behaviour were transformed by the arrival of the Internet. Writers like Alvin Toffler were talking about the producer-consumer, or ‘prosumer’, back in the 1980s, but the Internet made prosumers mainstream. Suddenly, people had more knowledge and power than ever, and gained huge new scope to make and sell things, as well as buying them. Entirely new businesses transformed industry after industry: Amazon, eBay, Google, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, Wikipedia. None promised pleasure, or (in any deep emotional sense) invited belonging, but they all offered people a platform on which they could do new things: they enabled action.
The technology of branding is therefore changing once again. These new platforms think in terms of their role in people’s lives, and of the principles behind the user experience – and their success depends on how well that experience works. The old arts of advertising and logo design are much less important in this world, and expertise lies with the tech companies themselves, and with new kinds of specialists like service designers.
Where we are now
All five versions of brand still exist, side by side. Probably v3 brands are still the most common, and advertising agencies are still the most powerful force in the brand world. Most big corporations now take their brand v4 very seriously, and brand consultancies are still very influential. Brand v5 is still very young: it’s impossible to predict how it will play out, and it’s unclear who the new breed of experts will be. And the story isn’t linear: it may even be that the biggest v5 brands will start to look like big corporations, and behave much more like v4 brands. What’s certain is that evolution never stops, and v5 isn’t the end of the story.
If you’re in London, the Museum of Brands offers you a journey through the evolution of brands, with a particular focus on v2 brand packaging. For a good insight into the thinking behind brand v3, read David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising (1983). Liz Moor’s The Rise of Brands (2007) gives an historical account of brand v4. And Adam Arvidsson’s Brands: Meaning and Value in Media Culture (2006) offers a cultural analysis of brands v3, v4 and v5.
Robert Jones is head of new thinking at Wolff Olins and visiting professor at The University of East Anglia.
Congratulations to the Serpentine on the launch of its new brand. I was part of the team leading the creation of the strategy and design, working with Marina Willer, formerly creative director at Wolff Olins, now partner at Pentagram. The subsequent development and execution of the brand was carried out by Pentagram.
A new beginning for the Serpentine Gallery
In 2010 the Serpentine Gallery won the tender from The Royal Parks to bring a Grade II* listed former 1805 gunpowder store, 7 minutes walk from the Gallery into public use for the first time.
The development marked a new beginning for the internationally acclaimed arts organisation, which has championed new ideas in contemporary arts since it opened in 1970. The Serpentine Gallery has presented pioneering exhibitions of 1,600 artists over 43 years, from the work of emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists and architects of our time
In recent years, the Serpentine has expanded its programme to embrace and invent new forms: Pavilions, Marathons, Park Nights, The Edgware Road project and art exhibitions within the park itself. The organisation has been building its reach and audience numbers too attracting 1,126,745 visitors in 2010- 2011.
Taking stock of these recent activities, and looking at the opportunities the new situation offered, led to an exploration of the organisation’s vision for the future: its role, purpose and place in the world and what would shape the programme for the future.
In 2011, the Serpentine Directors and I set out to address these issues.
A vision for the future
The question of how the Serpentine identified itself would be critical in both shaping what the organisation did, and how people defined and related to the Serpentine.
Looking back, it was clear that the Serpentine had been constantly opening out the idea of art - extending it into architecture, writing, film, performance, and inviting an interplay with other disciplines.
Looking forward, it was clear that there would be opportunities to do even more of that; through the new building, digital platforms and strategies, new relationships, and the unique and very special location in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in the heart of London.
The opportunity was there to open out in new directions, to introduce new art forms and make connections across different art forms and increase access.
The Serpentine now defines itself as ‘an open landscape for art’, a place where all sorts of art and all sorts of audiences can coexist- indeed cooperate - and be ‘at play’ with each other.
A corollary of this idea of open landscape is seeing not two buildings, but one: the Serpentine, extending physically into the park as well as digitally into the Cloud. Being appreciated, programmed, enjoyed as one. Communicated as one, looking as one.
The Serpentine now has a look and presence that embraces the open landscape idea by inserting a landscape aperture into the new Serpentine logo; an aperture that changes position and size.
This is a very simple and versatile idea, enabling the many different aspects of Serpentine and different moods to be foregrounded and enabling the Serpentine itself to open out more.
All of this enables everyone to take full advantage of the possibilities created by the combination of buildings, the digital space and of course the park location. It’s been exciting to work on and I’m excited at the prospect of what’s to come.
Brian Boylan is a leading museum branding expert and chairman of Wolff Olins.
I’m from the North. North of England. North London. Born in Huddersfield. Live in Hampstead.
Essentially I’m bi-northern. Like anything with a bi prefix (lateral, sexual, polar) this twin perspective means you tend to see the world a little bit differently (also see bi-focal).
The world of branding, however, tends not to deal very well with dual personalities. Lloyds TSB was essentially a ‘bi-bank’ - two regional entities forced together, first flowering, then wilting in the City of London. That was until this week when, with the resounding sound of ripping financial Velcro, they parted company.
This raises a bunch of questions about how modern UK brands are affected by their roots. As a new TSB customer, with one foot on either side of my north north divide, I feel compelled to add my tuppence worth. Let’s begin with history.
As a ‘new’ ‘new TSB’ customer I find it interesting that they have chosen to launch themselves as a 200 year-old bank. There is an argument (mine) that when it comes to brand building, heritage is just a bit boring. The fact your brand did something pretty good in the 1800’s means absolutely nothing if you can’t make it mean something to a generation of tweeters and twerkers.
I have shoes that are older than Google and tinned food that has seen more birthdays than Paypal, yet those newby brands are doing fine and I trust them. So, the fact that TSB were around when we were still paying for things in guineas is not particularly important when I can’t open my mobile banking app.
If you can’t just build your brand on history, what have you got left?
Part of TSB’s heritage is being the ‘local’ bank. This is more intriguing as, in many respects, it challenges the idea of a bank being a faceless monolith. It also flies in the face of the digital thinking that extolls the virtues of an interconnected and borderless marketplace.
Branding used to be about consistency, now it’s about cohesion, this means that you can successfully tweak your brand to be locally relevant. Tone of voice used to be a brand’s most important asset, but now it’s more about tone and quality of ‘conversation’. Brands don’t have to bray in a monotone, they can adapt for their audience and talk with them not just at them.
So, the real question is just how ‘local’ will TSB dare to become? Will the branches and communications in Wolverhampton feel different to those in Westminster? Will they engage real people in real conversation or will they just end up speaking ‘bank’ at them like everyone else?
The problem they have is that it takes bravery to speak differently to those around you. Even on a personal level where you come from, how you speak, is often seen as shorthand for your entire personal brand (that’s why people sometimes play safe and dilute it) something exemplified by two recent stories:
BBC presenter Stephanie McGovern recently claimed her strong northern accent had been criticised at an early point in her career and she had even being accused of being “too common for telly”. Whilst conversely a few weeks ago the TV personality Donna Air was ridiculed for conducting an interview in an accent that viewers felt denied her Northern roots. Donna was deemed to have ‘sold out’.
This is, of course, nonsense. Both women are bang on for their brand. Because their tone of conversation is appropriate for where they find themselves today - Steph the queen of the VT from the Macclesfield pie factory and Donna the new BFF of the future queen.
Successful 21st century brands are built from an accumulation of assets and experience delivered and expressed in a way that’s relevant for right now. It doesn’t matter if you change your accent or tell people what you did years ago. What matters is that what your brand actually says and does today is both true and authentic.
Time will tell if TSB find their true north but they won’t find it looking backwards.
Chris Moody is creative director at Wolff Olins London.
Everett Katigbak, brand manager at Pinterest and environmental design manager at Facebook before that, recently spoke to us about branding from the inside.
Everett started his career working in exhibition design at the Getty Museum. He moved to San Francisco in 2008 and joined what was then a much smaller Facebook. In his five years with Facebook, he co-founded the Analog Research Lab, worked on the design of every Facebook campus and satellite office, and designed the company’s sonic identity (the notes spell F-A-C-E). He joined Pinterest in 2013, bringing his passion for design in startups with him.
Pinterest, the ‘visual pinboard’ social networking site, is quickly growing with 25 million users as of February and 150+ employees. They’ve already out-grown their office in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco, and have expanded into the space next door.
Wolff Olins: At Facebook was the brand important to the founders from the start?
Everett Katigbak: Facebook was definitely an engineering-driven culture internally. In terms of [the founders] involvement, they are probably more engaged now in brand than in the early days. At Facebook the core focus is on the product, because a good majority of people’s brand experience is through using the product. So, at a high level they were always thinking about brand, but it wasn’t a focus, like let’s do ‘brand projects’ or engage in ‘branding’.
WO: How important is brand at Pinterest?
EK: Pinterest is definitely a different place because for one, we’re half design-founded, versus engineering-driven – that, by nature, seeps through our DNA. I think both of the founders, and in general the leadership team here, are really heavily involved in how the brand story will soon be told. Meaning that our short-term hockey-stick growth was primarily driven through the product, social media, and other forms of distribution. It wasn’t like there was a branding campaign that said “Join Pinterest”. And I would say that’s typical of most tech products. So now we are at the point where people are starting to talk about us in the media, and now we need to proactively engage in that form of storytelling.
WO:How much are the founders thinking about brand?
EK: “Brand” is such a loaded term. It means a lot of things to different people. When you talk about brand there is never one uniform definition of it. But as it pertains to the tech industry, a lot of people’s perception is that the product is the core expression of the brand, and to a certain degree that is true. As companies grow, if they don’t have a good sense of who they are, and what they are building, and what they are trying to solve for, then brand and identity design is kind of somewhat arbitrary. I think it’s really up to the founders to have a strong core of what they’re trying to do in the world, and then build a great team around that, that helps them express that in different ways whether it’s expanding the product in a way that ties back to the brand values, or pushing the visual design and identity design, or even just storytelling in general.
WO: As a brand manager, what’s your specific role like?
EK:Part of my role is helping define the brand strategy. This entails drafting our key brand position, and conducting user sentiment research to help make an informed decision. We then take this core brand strategy and develop creative work that helps educate around the product and drive awareness. We also work with the marketing team to translate these messages into some tactical campaigns for a target audience, to help acquire new users and create advocates.
I use design as part of telling a story, but I approach the work from a central narrative first. Then we figure out what the most appropriate medium for delivering that message would be. [Graphic] design is one part, but it usually involves film and interactive, as well as marketing and design research.
The other large part of my job is helping build the team…getting creatives excited about working at Pinterest and helping us build this young brand into something successful, while simultaneously building our own internal culture. I use design internally to build a fun and creative internal culture. The letterpress, sign painting, and the physical making of things is more of an expressive act, and maker culture is also core to Pinterest!
WO: I read an article where your CEO Ben Silberman says “Our focus is on helping millions of people discover things they love and get inspiration to go do those things in their life.” How does that influence what you do?
EK: That’s definitely the thing that drives us, gets us up in the morning, and keeps us awake at night.The more people that we affect and we see actually derive meaning out of the product, we obviously feed off of that stuff. But the more people that have a poor experience, the more sense of urgency we feel to make it better. And for me, the more I hear that Pinterest is anything specific, like it’s a site for women and wedding planning, or something like that, the more I feel a sense of urgency. It’s really a neutral platform, and we need to communicate the diversity of it (how educators use Pinterest, or how gear heads and car people use it) because there are large communities of these people. But the story that is being told right now is what the core audience was, early adopters fit into that cluster of people…
WO: Is that the biggest challenge right now?
EK: I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, I would just say it’s a lot of work we need to do. And I think it’s two parts: part of it is us proactively telling our story, the other part is building a better product that delivers more value to different groups of people.
WO: How is the internal culture developing so far?
EK: For the most part, because we are still so young, and a lot of our people come directly out of school, and a lot of other people come from other companies, we are still at that stage where we are trying to find our own internal voice, we are still trying to figure out the way that we work together. There’s still a lot of shaping. We’re still in that dough-y stage.
WO: Do you think a culture needs to form organically?
EK: I don’t want to say that all startups and all cultures should form organically. But I do think that in early startup stage you get more entrepreneurial people, bigger risk-takers – that generally lends to a more non-conformist culture. And as companies start to become more concrete, and their brand is very solid, then you get a more uniform vision and culture. There is definitely a shift. I would even say Apple, early on, was this free-spirited Silicon Valley culture. But that Apple is much different from what it is today. So the [cultural shifts] were necessary in those specific parts of the company’s life cycle to get it to where it is.
WO: Why are roles like yours are important in this industry?
EK: I think there’s huge opportunity for brand creatives at the early-stage startup…where there’s a mix of creativity and entrepreneurialism. These environments are typically flat structured, and creatives can have a ton of impact if they can internalize the startup mentality and run with things. With the surge of designer-founded companies, brand is being factored into decision making early on, and is seen as equally important as raw quantitative metrics.
WO: What do you see as the future of social networks as brands?
EK: Pinterest is actually different because it’s not a social network, especially in the way you think of Facebook and Twitter as messaging platforms. There is some overlap whenever you’re dealing with people at scale, but Pinterest is a deeply personal experience for people,which has some social mechanics which help them discover content.
Regarding any neutral platform, there is a risk of becoming too broad as a brand. Trying to be everything to everyone requires a lot of effort, and I haven’t seen anyone execute on this without numerous challenges. The root of these platforms as brands is tied so much to the product experience, but modern tech brands haven’t quite been able to build off of the generations of work that make commodities desirable brands.
WO: Thanks for your time!
For more, here’s a video of Everett giving a tour of the new Pinterest space on TechCrunch.
Sometimes brands find themselves in hot water. Sometimes it’s truly their fault, and other times it’s all part of an international misunderstanding about where people’s liquor comes from.
At least that’s the situation Stoli Vodka now finds itself in, following the public outcry to boycott Russian Vodka brands after the country’s recent enforcement of its draconian ant-gay legislation.
With bars around the country (including 200 in NYC) literally dumping Stoli in the street, the brand is facing a full-scale PR nightmare, replete with angry netizens taking to the Twittersphere to publicly condemn the brand with the hashtag and Twitter handle @DumpStoli. There’s only one problem—Stoli is no longer a Russian brand. Despite its longstanding reputation as a quality Russian vodka, Stoli is actually produced in Latvia and has been since 2002. That’s when Russian Billionaire (and Stoli owner) Yuri Scheffler, fled to Western Europe after Vladamir Putin issued a warrant for his arrest. The two were engaged in a heated legal dispute over the ownership of the Stoli Trademark, and Putin had made it his personal mission to hunt Scheffler down. When he left, Scheffler made sure to take his successful vodka business with him, and the Stoli headquarters were soon relocated to tiny Luxembourg.
What makes the Stoli story particularly complicated is what came next. In one of the more bizarre examples of brand imitation, Putin refused to let the iconic vodka go quietly into the night, instead helping to set up a state-owned “Stoli brand” to be sold solely within the confines of the Russian state. The name, packaging, and production techniques remained nearly identical, with the only noticeable difference being the words “Russian Vodka” printed prominently on the label of the Russian replica.
Of course, owing to the fact that consumers are more likely to associate quality with Russian vodka than they are with one produced in Latvia, Scheffler kept news of his business’s move relatively quiet. The result was a bizarre double life for the Stoli brand—one in Russia for the imitator, and another overseas for the trademarked original.
The problem is, the Stoli available here in The States—the one currently being poured in the gutters of America’s major cities to protest Russia’s oppressive policies—is not actually the Russian imitation. Instead, it’s Scheffler’s, from his company headquartered in Luxembourg. Add to that the fact that the vodka itself is made in Latvia, and the whole story becomes even harder for consumers to wrap their heads around.
It’s an unfortunate brand conundrum for Stoli’s founder. Whereas Stoli’s connection to the world’s preeminent Vodka-producing nation was once a defining characteristic of the brand, that same association has quickly become its biggest liability. It’s a situation similar to the one BP faced in the aftermath of 2010’s massive oil spill in The Gulf. Within a matter of days, the very product BP’s brand equity had been built upon, oil, had become public enemy number one. It took a long time, not to mention tens of billions of dollars, for BP to dig itself out from under the weight of public scrutiny and many could argue the brand has been irreparably damaged.
The question then becomes, when controversy engulfs an asset that’s so closely tied to your brand, how do you help consumers decouple one from the other? With the global lens focused so closely on Russia’s human rights violations, it’s a question Scheffler and his team are no doubt asking themselves, particularly as they look to draw a clear distinction between their actual product and the inherent “Russianness” of their Stoli brand.
Max Rosero is a strategy intern at Wolff Olins New York.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that today is ’Starbucks Gun Owners Appreciation Day’. But interestingly, Starbucks had no part in planning or organizing this event and in response, has issued this statement to the press: “These events are not endorsed by Starbucks. Our stores are gathering places for the communities we serve and we respect the diversity of our customers.”
Still, I wonder how many people will have their perception of Starbucks jolted a little – for better or worse. How many people will just see a tweet or headline and conclude - as I did initially- that Starbucks is encouraging gun ownership instead of the reality—that a group of gun owners is publicly expressing their appreciation for Starbucks?
Whether they choose to participate or not, brands are increasingly involved in debates around sensitive political and social issues that may not directly relate to their core business. Having a strong sense of purpose and a solid set of values is the only way for them to know when and how to participate in the discourse. But even then, of course, sometimes associations are simply beyond their control entirely.
This past weekend, amidst the heat and humidity of a typical Midwestern summer, a small army of people descended upon downtown Chicago to partake in an event that has become synonymous with both summer and the city itself.
Lollapalooza, the music festival founded by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, takes place every August in Chicago’s Grant Park, nestled between the famed Art Institute and the turquoise blue waters of Lake Michigan. This year, the three-day event attracted an estimated 300,000 attendees over the course of its 72-hour run, a record number since the festival first opened its gates in 1991.
One of the things that makes Lollapalooza, and the similar festivals it has spawned, such an interesting case study, is the allegiance and advocacy of their customer base. In many respects, festivals like Lollapalooza now command the same kind of intense brand loyalty normally reserved for names like Google and Amazon. Not only are attendees willing to shell out hundreds of dollars year after year for tickets, but they do so despite scorching heat, enormous crowds, and the occasional mammoth mud pit (as was the case at this year’s Governor’s Ball). So high is the level of demand that tickets typically sell out in in a matter of hours, if not minutes— leading one online reporter to dub the music festival business “virtually recession proof”.
This recession proof mojo likely stems from larger behavioral shifts within the young consumer demographic these festivals attract. Not so long ago, a brand’s “value” was simply a function of its quality and cost, but today, access to exclusive or “one of a kind” experiences is an increasingly important driver of purchasing behavior. Couple this with the fact that many young buyers are looking to deepen their connection with their peers and the world around them, and it makes sense that today’s most successful brands are often those that seamlessly blend their product offering with an experience platform that actively engages its customer base. Few players are better suited to do that than music festivals, where the product offering and the experience platform are one in the same.
Where many festivals have succeeded even further is in their implicit (and often unintentional) efforts to brand themselves. In much the same way that big names like Apple and Nike have managed to stand out in the crowd by marrying an innovative product line with a unique and easily-identifiable cultural ethos, so too have many of the nation’s most successful music festivals (Coachella, Bonaroo, and Outside Lands to name a few) carefully crafted a brand experience that’s as distinctive as the crowds they attract.
Hear someone mention a recent trip to Coachella and it’s likely to bring to mind images of fedora-clad hipsters mingling with Hollywood A-listers in the middle of the California desert. Bonarooo, on the other hand, held on a 700-acre farm in tiny Manchester, Tennessee is more reminiscent of a modern-day Woodstock, while Miami’s Ultra evokes imagery of pulsating light shows and ubiquitous rave attire.
Though event organizers have surely played an important role in shaping the overall experience of these festivals, the proliferation of a Coachella or Bonaroo “brand” has largely been the work of its attendees. By tapping into a collective desire to connect with one another, and providing an exclusive, one-of-a-kind setting in which to do it, festivals might point to a new model for successful branding—one where consumers and companies both contribute.
Max Rosero is a strategy intern at Wolff Olins New York.
Watch out newspapers, Amazon is coming to get you.
No doubt that thought kept a few editors awake Monday night, albeit that it’s factually inaccurate since it was Jeff Bezos (in his personal capacity) that snuck in and bought the Washington Post to almost everyone’s surprise. BuzzFeed – the much admired/bitched about online competitor of traditional news sites – dismisses the move as “old news”: just another mogul trying to buy power through media.
But it would be foolish to ignore that Bezos brings with him an Internet sensibility. He said as much in his open letter to the employees of the newly acquired paper: ”The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about and working backwards from there.”
Under his leadership, Amazon has become a threatening competitor to book publishers. Not only does it undercut prices, nail distribution and sell devices, it’s now building a suite of manuscript editors to bolster its direct publishing arm – bringing together old school talent with online might.
So, what does the Bezos takeover mean for newspapers?
It means established news groups can’t afford to look back. It’s another kick (if one was needed) to realize the time for action is now:
• Think Big – take your incredible, highly credible brands to the next level, exploring how they can evolve and reach audiences in new ways using the digital tools at your fingertips
• Listen & Learn – audiences are notoriously loyal to news brands but time is increasingly split across myriad new platforms and sites; papers need to understand why and what they can do better to serve changing behaviors
• Shake up – reinvention can be tough to do in an environment where the editor’s word is law; how does organizational structure and culture need to adapt to allow innovation to flourish?
Amy Lee is a Senior Strategist at Wolff Olins New York.