If you’re starting out on a career in branding, or if you work in a related area – like strategy, marketing, innovation or organisational development – or even if you just have an interest in branding, then this course is for you. The course will reveal the secret powers behind brands - the most potent commercial and cultural force on the planet.
You’ll learn directly from practitioners at companies like Virgin and Google, and watch brand experts in action. You’ll get a rich mixture of powerful theory and practical tools. With branding changing so rapidly, you’ll get the very latest insights and methods from the converging worlds of technology, design and brand.
The course ends by setting up the next stage of your journey. We’ll be opening up the many topics in branding that still need research. And you’ll learn how to define your own personal brand, and plan the next steps in your life in branding.
We hope you enjoy it.
Robert Jones is head of new thinking at Wolff Olins and visiting professor at The University of East Anglia. Melissa Andrada is a lead strategist at Wolff Olins.
While I was away at a music festival a series of pictures of colleagues looking dorky appeared in my instagram feed. This is how I learnt Wolff Olins London had a pair of Google glasses.
As soon as I could get my clammy hands on them, I logged in and squinted at the tiny little prism in front of my right eye. Pretty underwhelming, though I’m sure I pranced around like a peacock redux of terminator 2 for an hour trying to impress people.
With a dead battery it was such an intrusive talking point it didn’t matter if it even worked. You could put it on and discuss todays issues of digital privacy, you could contemplate the barrier of true engagement, conversation and listening, or like most, you could try them on, think cool, and get on with your life.
Wearable technology is all the rage right now. I’ve had a nike fuelband and tired of it’s daily nagging. We have to wonder whether, with glasses or an iWatch, do we really want this stuff? Critical design is useful in designing our aspirational and fictional futures, but can wearing something and looking a little bit star trek, make you dream harder? Are we relying on dated and nostalgic science fiction? Heads up displays in your eyes, or finally affordable virtual reality with the oculus rift.
Are we actually smart enough to come up with useful and beautiful experiences for whatever the next digital service or platform that’s chucked at us, or are we just creating complicated and sophisticated distractions?
We thought we’d give the glasses to some children to see what their thoughts were.
Karl Sadler is a design director at Wolff Olins London.
In the year since Google announced its Glass product, a whirlwind of Minority Report-worthy products have found their way to the consumer market. From the latest iteration of Fitbit’s popular activity trackers to virtual reality headsets and more, Glass has arrived at a pivotal time in the category’s evolution.
As one of the globe’s most widely recognized consumer brands, Google’s entry as a serious contender in the wearable technology realm has been both welcomed and wondered about. And as part of its efforts to test out the technology in the wild, “not simply with a bunch of engineers in a room,” as one Googler put it, the company recently released a wave of Glass with their Google Glass Explorers program.
Here at Wolff Olins, we’ve been lucky to be picked as a #GlassExplorer and we’ve started to test-drive the product around our offices.
Our first 24 hours with Glass took place in San Francisco. And we’ve gone through quite a fun roller coaster ride through the lens of augmented reality, with the help of a tool that weighs less than your average pair of sunglasses.
I entered Google’s #ifIhadglass Twitter contest and won last month. Upon selecting a color, agreeing to terms of service, and selecting a pick-up time and location between New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, the adventure began.
In San Francisco, the pick-up was located at the top of a brick building on the waterfront facing the lovely Bay Bridge. Once inside and having cleared security, Google Glass employees welcomed me and a fellow strategist to the onboarding and fitting process. With concrete floors and unfinished decor, the room had a work-in-progress feel. But it was easily forgotten as countless Google employees, members of the Customer Operations team—all fitted with Glass—walked about offering greetings, refreshments, and warm hellos.
The larger section of the room was set up with rows and rows of tables for one-on-one fittings between the Glass Explorers and a Google Glass specialist. Glass itself is a unique piece of hardware—minimal buttons and touch-heavy functionality allow for smooth curvatures and unobtrusive controls. While many of the commands can be dictated vocally with the all-compassing "ok glass" phrase, two buttons exist: the power button and an easy access button for capturing photos and videos without vocally notifying all those around you.
For the most part, however, the goal of Glass is to seamlessly unite the physical real-world experience and power of technology to enhance the scene at hand. While multiple popular apps have already synced up with the product, including Twitter, Facebook, Path, and the New York Times, each app serves to deliver no more than a few short sentences at a single time. Glass seeks to help its users experience the world more vividly and more informedly than ever previously possible. We won’t be browsing Facebook profiles through Glass anytime soon, but we’ll surely be sharing and connecting more thoroughly through instantaneous access to information.
Stay tuned for more first-hand Glass experiences from our designers, strategists, and more in part II of #ThroughGlass.
Nancy Xiao works in marketing at Wolff Olins San Francisco.
The need to evolve has led universities to use digital technology to re-think how education is delivered. We’re seeing a gold rush of universities racing to digitise their campuses to offer free online courses to the world.
However, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Few universities are making the most of this new medium. Most mass online open courses (MOOCs) consist of a ‘talking head’ in a front of white board. It’s no wonder completion rates are less than 10%.
Yet online education has the potential to be so much more. Technology enables us to create learning that encourages:
Learning shouldn’t just be about listening and watching, but also, doing and making. Education resources, like Codeacademy, start by throwing people into the content headfirst. With Codeacademy, you can begin coding right away without evening signing in or watching an instructional video.
Learning doesn’t have to be a dull chore. Organisations like TED set the bar high for video talks. Along with the RSA Animates, they’ve elevated the lecture to an art. They create highly curated visual stories that move both the mind and the heart. They inspire us to fall into a rabbit hole, going from video to video, hyperlink to hyperlink.
Learning shouldn’t stop when you’re 18 or 22. Education startups, like FutureLearn, are re-inventing learning for life. They will offer free online courses from top universities whenever and wherever you like. For FutureLearn, the classroom can be a lecture hall, a mobile phone, a museum, an airport. They are building an experience that welcomes everyone to learn, regardless of age, location or background.
My ambition is to put these principles into practice – to use technology to make learning sing. This summer Robert Jones, Head of New Thinking and professor at the University of East Anglia, and I will be co-creating a course on branding for FutureLearn. Our challenge and opportunity will not just be using the medium, but making the most of it.
Melissa Andrada is a lead strategist passionate about the intersection between brand, technology and social impact. In her spare time, she teaches entrepreneurs and startups how to build better businesses at General Assembly.@themelissard
Anticipation is a powerful emotion and competition is a powerful motivator. I’m struck by how effectively two different brand/product launches happening this week are leveraging both feelings, using slow-release tactics that build a sense of excitement in quite a purposeful way. Capitalizing on the fact that they have impressive products, both brands are:
1) Initially being selective with access to their product
2) Launching in beta, and making it clear they’re still in beta
3) Building a system where people make ‘reservations’ in order to buy (sort of like the Kickstarter model)
Maybe we can all learn a few things by continuing to follow these launches over the next few months…
1. Google Glass- The brand has engineered a situation where people must apply through social media to buy their product. I think it’s brilliant how Google is creating a competition to get Glass in the right hands first, and of course as a purposeful side effect, building serious social media buzz by making applications public (check out #ifihadglass).
The concept of ‘Explorers’ ensures that their early customers are on-brand. Few others are really thinking like this, since most brands push for maximum sales right off the bat. Allowing only the coolest, most creative people to use their product first makes brand sense (in addition, of course, to the logistics of working out kinks and the current minimal supply of the product). A launch like this builds real stories around your product. I’d bet that Google will turn this whole experiment into a commercial/campaign (‘here are all the cool ways our real life Explorers used Glass…’). I think more companies should innovate in public in this way, allowing users to compete for access to beta versions, then ultimately sharing their stories.
2. Mailbox - To build on the early media buzz that this app has been getting without overwhelming their capabilities, Mailbox has created a system where ‘everyone can watch the line move in real-time from inside the app.’ You download the app (placing a ‘reservation’) but don’t get access to it right away. It’s turned into a competition in some circles. Over the weekend, I heard two friends talking about where they were in line, playfully competing to see who was closer to the top of the list. Two other people overheard and jumped in line because, why not reserve their spot before everyone else? I particularly love that as part of this interface, they’re showing people with reservations the number of ‘people behind you’ in line. While at first glance this seems like a meaningless statistic (logically, you should only care when you get the product), it does a great job of a) making people feel special for being early adoptors and b) showing the intense demand for the product, assuring people that they made a savvy move by signing up.
Are you following either of these launches? What else are they doing right? What could they do better? Let me know @samliebeskind @wolffolins
This week AOL celebrated the premier of Makers, an unprecedented digital video and broadcast initiative made in partnership with PBS and filmmaker Dyllan McGee. The program and full-length documentary aim to capture the stories, achievements and breakthroughs of America’s most iconic and prolific women over the last half century — collectively impacting virtually every aspect of today’s culture.
“AOL wants to be known for groundbreaking firsts in the digital media industry, and we are thrilled to be partnering with PBS as they stand alone in their unparalleled ability to educate the world on the most important movements of our time,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman & CEO of AOL. “Partnering together to bring MAKERS to life is exactly the type of future-forward programming we believe in.”
The series features high-profile icons ranging from Gloria Steinem and Hillary Rodham Clinton, technology trailblazers Marissa Mayer and Meg Whitman to unsung heroes such as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer and up-and-coming inspiration. The collection of over 100 stories is just the start, “We are committed to using storytelling to help the next generation of women,” says McGee. “There is still a lot more work to be done.”
Makers.com, the dynamic media and community platform AOL launched prior to the documentary, features a deep catalog of engaging highlights from the series and works to uncover the women who are continuing to lead the charge today. Maureen Sullivan, SVP & General Manager of Women’s Content and Lifestyle Brands at AOL told the press “MAKERS.com was built to utilize the latest innovation in video and mobile technology.” The site lets users individually curate and discover the stories of all these amazing women.
We’ll be watching on February 26 at 8pm as the full-length documentary series launches on PBS.
With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, it’s the right time for people like us to write pieces about a) brands advertising during the Super Bowl and b) the analogy of business being a sport. (You know, the type of piece where CEOs are compared to coaches, employees are spun as the players on the field, etc.) We’re trying to avoid that here.
Instead, I’m thinking about the evolving business of sports, about how the four major American sports leagues are working hard to keep up with the new, 21st century challenges that all consumer brands are facing (for example, the home/digital experience overtaking the real, brick-and-mortar experience). Here are 6 things that more consumer brands should have in common with the most progressive, brand-focused, experience-obsessed sports brands.
TODAY, BUILT ON YESTERDAY
Celebration of history is vitally important for sports brands (think classic brands like the Yankees, Celtics, and 49ers), but these teams have fresh new players and story lines each year. The key is linking past to present in a compelling manner; viewing new infusions as a part of (not a replacement of) a long lineage. Because in reality, a brand is built over time, it’s the culmination of its own history. The 49ers rallying cry (and hashtag) leading up to the Super Bowl—#QuestforSix (a reference to their pursuit of a 6th Super Bowl victory)— is a linkage of today’s Kaepernick-led squad to the Joe Montana and Steve Young teams of the past.
The lesson for consumer brands? Have a style, create patterns and build expectations, but always consider the new, the next. Find your rookie and place it in context of a longer narrative. Could be a person (Marissa Mayer at Yahoo producing solid results already) or a product (Facebook’s social graph), but as long as it’s new and has the potential to be game changing, it’ll get people interested or re-interested.
PROMOTE THE STORIES
People always seem to want an inside look, a behind the scenes view of an organization they’re interested in. In the last few years, the leagues have all created documentary-shows that add a human element to their games (MLB’s The Franchise, NBA’s The Association, NFL’s SoundFx, the NHL’s 24/7). Combined with other small touches like NFL players tweeting live from last week’s Pro Bowl- sports brands are, more than ever, the sum of a set of personalities and faces.
The lesson for consumer brands? Be transparent and promote your people, your strategies, and your culture. Today’s best CEOs are now celebs. Zuckerberg is a household name. And Google has done it better than anyone, giving peaks into their culture to not only appeal to employees but attract customers as well. They fully understand the benefits of innovating in public, and the fact that their audiences are watching for the wins and the losses. The next brand to watch: Warby Parker. In my mind, this annual report is one of the coolest documents ever produced by a company.
PRESERVE THE QUIRKY, UNIQUE TRADITIONS
Sports brands are largely built on traditions. Some are serious, some are playful, but all are highly anticipated. The Packers have the Lambeau leap, The Yankees and Cubs support rowdy bleacher culture, the NBA holds an annual slam-dunk contest.
The lesson for consumer brands? Hold on to those unique moments that made you special when you were small. Do some things for the fun-of-it, because they’re exciting, different and bring a smile to people’s faces. Not everything needs to have a measurable ROI, productivity boost or revenue stream. Apparently Microsoft used to ceremonially throw Gates in a campus lake after each product launch. Burton famously awards employees snow days after blizzards cover local mountains. And Google’s doodle is nothing more than a delightful quirk.
REWARD THE COMMITMENT OF SUPERFANS
Sports fans pour passion into their teams. They spend countless hours of their lives promoting and defending their team. The most progressive teams are rewarding these people more than ever. The New York Knicks have started rewarding “Season Subscribers” (season ticket holders) based on tenure, essentially rewarding loyalty over straight-up cash. The NBA’s Detroit Pistons and NFL’s Indianapolis Colts are partnering with SocialToaster to give superfans exclusive, behind-the-scenes content and creating contests that encourage sharing.
The lesson for consumer brands? Do everything in your power to keep your users happy and help your fans look good themselves. View everyone as a user, not a consumer. Give them valuable content to share, ask what you can do for them, and help them help others. It’s no longer enough to just ask people to ‘share’ your content on Facebook.
DON’T BE SELFISH
Responding to loud calls from fans, the NFL has realized that just because someone shows up to an arena or stadium doesn’t mean that they want to place 100% of their attention on the field. Fans care about the other games too, a huge reason why they were staying home and watching on TV (it’s REALLY easy to change the channel!). So teams have pushed to get wi-fi in stadiums (so that fans can check their smartphones for scores around the league) and started posting out-of-town fantasy football stats on scoreboards.
The lesson for consumer brands? Understand that people don’t want to be tied down, that they don’t like commitment. Be boundaryless and don’t hold users hostage. Give them control and the tools to customize their experience. Last year’s Twitter/Instagram tiff that resulted in the removal of Instagram pics from the stream was an unfortunate step in the wrong direction.
All of the above is important, but ultimately, it needs to work hand-in-hand with a product on the field, court, or ice that’s producing. In sports, this is really cost-of-entry. But it’s not all about money (despite having by far the MLB’s largest payroll, the Yankees haven’t won a World Series in 4 years). It’s about being smart, building a product that’s different, that plays to its strengths and exploits everyone else’s weaknesses.
Lesson for consumer brands? Build a complete experience off of a solid foundation. As much as Apple builds its brand, it ultimately saw mass-protest at the end of last year when its Maps app surprised users and went haywire.
When done well, these tactics go a long way towards building daily engagement and life-long loyalty: something most sports brands have and all consumer brands want. By building a multi-platform story, a community of ownership, the brand becomes part of our lives. “New York Giants fan” or “Apple user” become a key point of identity. And for brands, that’s a win.
By 2020, advertising as we know it will no longer be the primary marketing vehicle used to build brands. Advertising will instead focus on driving transactions. Rather than a tool of marketing, advertising will predominantly become a tool of sales.
Replacing the role of advertising in brand building will be a slow process, but by 2020, the way we build brands will have transformed significantly. Instead of relying on advertising to drive extrinsic perceptions, brands will be focused on new methods designed to create more powerful intrinsic value.
Why Advertising Will Become A Transactional Tool
Automated, digital, transactions-driven advertising will be the single biggest advertising growth arena of the next ten years. The combination of big data (including social data) with ubiquitous smartphone usage and an intense focus on advertising ROI will create a hyper-aggressive, transactions-focused battlefield.
By 2020, smart devices and high-speed connectivity will have become pervasive among almost all consumer groups. Media consumption will have continued to fragment, turning today’s remaining mass audiences into a set of smaller, more atomized and more on-demand groups. And while this new environment will bring significant threat, it will also provide significant opportunity. For in this digital environment, consumers will continue trading their personal information for free access to services, providing more detailed, deeper data sets than we can imagine today.
What will not have changed is the pressure on businesses to deliver results, hit sales targets, and deliver growth. By 2020, these pressures will be intense. Product cycles will have shortened still further, competition become fiercer, markets more volatile and consumers more informed and empowered than before. In this environment, making the sale will be imperative.
As a result, an understandable desire for ROI will be manifest in tomorrow’s advertising solutions. Tracking which advertisements drive the most sales to which people, when.
By 2020, the winning advertising methods will be those that compress the time between the advertising impression and the transaction being made, and do it in a highly measurable and predictable way.
We will see advertising that is contextual to our actions and designed to encourage a specific transaction. Searching for a lawnmower? Here’s a deal for that. Eating at the same restaurant regularly? Here’s a deal for the one next door. Friends who like a certain store? Here’s a discount for you to try it too.
Contextual, automated, transactional advertising will be the perfect tool for the discounter but less so for the brand builder. An unintended consequence of the ROI imperative being that the coming era of advertising will act to compress prices, displace brand loyalty and reduce brand premiums.
In this new landscape, businesses will make a concerted effort to shift the risk profile of their advertising spend. As focus shifts toward measurable sales effectiveness, a new set of advertising players will emerge that are paid not by % of media spent, but instead by % of sales generated. They will be accountable to the sales team, data driven and more interested in efficiency of sales than creative excellence.
The New Brand Building Reality
While advertising is likely to become highly transactional, brand builders have much to be confident about. Just as technological and social shifts will provide new opportunities for the deals-driven discounter, they will also provide significant opportunities for the brand builder. Businesses that are focused on building and sustaining a brand’s premium will find themselves enabled by a new and more sophisticated set of tools with which to engage their customers.
By 2020, those same technologies that are driving discount advertising will be giving marketers and business leaders a more sophisticated understanding of their customers. They will be able to parse vast volumes of customer data, and monitor and hold significant social media-based relationships. The knowledge and insights thus generated turning marketers into key actors in the delivery of innovation and the creation of new layers of brand value.
In specific terms, we believe that by 2020 we will see three major areas of brand building innovation take over the role that advertising plays today.
1. Total Experience Management
Much as Total Quality Management transformed manufacturing in the 1980’s, Total Experience Management will transform brands in the 2010’s. Today’s brand experiences are highly fragmented and as a result are a significant source of competitive weakness (as any trawl of social media will demonstrate). By 2020, this will have changed considerably. Instead of focusing on individual touch points, brands will instead be considering the rich ecosystem of experiences they create. They will look at the integration of their brand ecosystem under a common “operating system” as a means of enhancing customer value. By thinking of the total experience, and usefulness, of the brand from the customer’s point of view, brands will create superior experiences across not just a single touch point but across the entirety of the branded experience. The beginnings of this transformation are already apparent in the way that technology brands such as Apple, Google and Microsoft are connecting their branded ecosystems together under a common user experience framework.
2. Marketing Products
Marketing products are products designed to deliver a marketing benefit, rather than something you intend to charge people money for. They exist to expand the ability of a brand to create utility, and value, around its core offer. For many brands, the core offer is often quite commoditized and as such unlikely to change significantly moving forwards. Under these circumstances, a marketing product seeks to create additional layers of value and utility that can ‘lock’ customers in to your brand rather than have them switch to a competitor. Tied directly into the brand experience ecosystem, by 2020, marketers will be using their social monitoring of customers to find new areas of value that can be built up around the core product or service offered by the brand.
A today’s world example is Nike+, which effectively uses technology to connect a community of running enthusiasts together, and in the process lock these runners into the Nike brand ecosystem. The innovation happening around the shoe, rather than directly within the shoe itself.
3. The Content Ecosystem
By 2020, the simple reality is that every brand will be a media brand, requiring everyone to consider how they produce, distribute and manage their content ecosystems. In tandem with brand experience and marketing products, brands will be focused on the overlap between content that informs a customer about products, services or propositions, content that educates them in its use or in the things they can do, and content that entertains them around the core proposition of the brand.
Often this content will be socially, or third-party driven, necessitating new skills in curation, editing and presentation.
Increasingly by 2020, informing, educating and entertaining audiences will happen through channels that are controlled by the brands themselves, rather than channels they pay to advertise on, and where customers have chosen to actively seek the emotional benefits that brands provide.
By 2020, advertising will have become a major driver of transactional sales. It will be automated, data driven, contextual and ubiquitous. A disciplined focus on effectiveness will have created new models of advertising agency.
This advertising will be ubiquitous and hard to opt-out of. Instead, brands will be built through new tools built through Total Experience Management, marketing products and content. The brands that do this will increasingly become opt-in, controlling their own channels to the consumer. Customers will go to these channels, actively seeking the emotional benefits these brands provide.
Karl Heiselman is CEO of Wolff Olins. Paul Worthington, strategic advisor/former head of strategy at Wolff Olins also contributed to this piece.
Vegas is like a microwave for your brain. And CES is like the Olympics or a world’s fair - a place where we get to see what everyone can now take for granted in terms of the possibilities of technology. Still, the show is more about confirming the past as the present than really showing you the future.
Ultra high definition remained the key arena for big brands this year.
The 4K TVs are so high definition that very little content exists to show them off. In a poignant twist, Sony used scans of regular newspapers.
Certain brands seem to be floundering in times of innovation overload. Polaroid was a heartbreaker, whereas United Healthcare’s “Dance Dance Revolution in a fake park” concept was just kitschy fun.
Extreme sports, durability and performance gear were key branding elements across the board, but particularly for cameras and accessories.
Our creative director Todd Simmons spoke on the Digital Hollywood panel about creating branded media.
For me, it was most fun to see all the weird little things, like a cigarette lighter that’s powered by your iPhone, or a calorie-counting fork. Digital home goods, as well as interfaceless and wearable technologies, appear to be the most exciting area for growth.
Headphones and sound-related brands threw down the hardest, style-wise.
Booth babes ;)
Some people (Wolff Olins included) caught the famous CES plague (a communal cold that comes from touching the same consumer electronics as 150,000 other stressed out attendees) :(
Last month the New York office met with VP Thomas Aabo of Brandworkz for our weekly Share. Brandworkz aims to streamline the branding process through brand management software.
Their program lets clients choose and fine-tune a series of existing modules to quickly launch a new brand or alter an existing identity.
Here’s what it looks like:
Thomas Aabo walked us through the Brandworkz process using a faux brand deliciously known as “Frootini,” a fictional online market place for digital smoothies. As “brand managers” for Frootini, we got to use Brandworkz for simultaneous education and application.
The software’s defining factor has to be its ease of use. By allowing clients to navigate and customize an array of dynamic templates, Brandworkz allows for easy on-brand decisions and asset management. Additionally, the software manages analytics and tracks all changes that occur within the program, allowing a company to efficiently manage their brand choices.
So what might an operation like Brandworkz mean for business? Well, for one, customization provides clients the choice to alter and manage on the go. The ability to manage assets remotely is an attractive feature, especially in a world that is constantly in motion.
While asset management is a crucial aspect of maintaining your brand, it’s hard to imagine that even the most integrated digital service will ever wholly replace bespoke strategy and design and in-person implementation. Brandworkz will have to consider how their modules can flex with organizations over time, and adapt to new platforms as the market and media evolve. We look forward to seeing how these new methods will complement more traditional branding and implementation practices.
Thanks to Thomas for a thought-provoking share.
Spencer Phillips is an intern at Wolff Olins New York.