When it comes to building a global campaign, most people will naturally think of visual and copy content – expressing the universal truth with locally relevant images and articulating the global messages with copy that resonates with the local audiences. But telling the brand story isn’t just about what images and copy, an aspect of a global campaign that not many people invest in is how the brand “sounds”.

I am not referring to designing just a sonic element or trigger that appears in the campaign – the Intel’s “Bong”, the Nokia’s “Grade Vals”, or Motorola’s “Hello Moto”. These are valuable addition to the execution that could add memorability and longevity to a campaign, but they are not enough to help communicate the emotional side of the brand message. Consumers have also entered into a truly connected world where the use of sound cohesively across all touchpoints – online, offline, events and a diverse form of customer interactions. The sonic branding has to act as the glue for communications across time, territories and touchpoints, locally and globally.

The recent manifestation of the HSBC’s “Together We Thrive” global platform perhaps have done just that. A series of commercials have been launched communicating the message of “shared prosperity” (inspired by the Chinese name of HSBC 滙豐) and the diverse nature of the brand, building on the visual identity that the outdoor campaign kicked off last year. To allow the core brand message to be flexed in each local region, a bespoke piece of music has been composed, created by Jean-Michel Jarre, that allows endless local interpretations expressing intricate nuances.

Orchestrating a global campaign requires great leadership and vision from the top, and complete collaboration at the local level. Music can be a shared “language” that everyone can contribute and build on.

On an execution level, music, rather than just an add-on to an idea, can also become a platform to support multiple activation between customers and the brand. I am looking forward to seeing how this will develop in the coming months.

The Sound of HSBC series:

“Orchestral” edit

“Stadium” Edit

“Connected” Edit

“In Flight” Edit

“Wayfoong” Edit

“Mindfulness” Edit

“Inspiration” Edit

video wall_1

The increasing popularity of using pictures and video to share on social media is driving a huge trend for using moving images to tell the brand story.

Speaking at an event in June this year, Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn endorsed this trend and said she would put money on Facebook “becoming all video over the next five years.”

No wonder clients want videos – lots of them.

Consider these stats:

  • Facebook grew to 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users in Q3 2015. The jump from just 4 billion video views per day in Q2 the same year was massive.
  • More than a third of Snapchat’s daily users create their own “Stories”, broadcasting photos and videos as chronological narratives, and users are watching 10 billion videos a day on the application, up from 8 billion in February this year.
  • The time people now spend watching video on Instagram has increased by more than 40 percent in the last 6 months.

And that’s just a glimpse into the burgeoning popularity of video content.

Interestingly, we’re not just watching more video, we are becoming more discerning about it too.

We expect videos to offer a more immersive experience – for example, the 360-degree videos that let us move around and explore a certain space, and interact with responsive elements. The 360-degree video from Expedia, created by 180LA in partnership with Tourism Australia, lets viewers lead their own exploration of the dramatic land- and sea-scapes of Australia. Since making its debut on YouTube in June, it has already gathered more than 3 million views.

Tourism Australia makes the best use of immersive videos

We also have a totally different perception of “quality” for videos. Instagram used to be less aesthetically forgiving than Vine, but I think the line is going to be blurred.

Then comes personalization. Amazon has just started dynamic video ads as a pilot, using browsing data to decide what creative to show prospective shoppers on the fly and tailoring itto individual users’ interests.

The media, more than ever before, is becoming the message. And it is constantly evolving. Even the greatest creative will fail if it is not delivered via the latest and most relevant visual format.

The Video Revolution

There are countless forms of video content. At one end of the spectrum, you have the most practical eLearning or product videos delivering informative / educational content, while at the other you might have highly engaging, entertaining and stylized content that tells a brand story. Then there’s everything in between. All forms of video content serve a very different purpose and certainly take a very different type of talent to create and produce.

In addition, every channel demands a different format and creative approach in reaching a high level of engagement. And as every brand is likely to adopt a multi-channel strategy, we are going to see more and more services dedicated to curation. Brands will need to have a central hub overseeing the creation of videos across all touch points and bring them all together.  After all, in the eyes of the consumers, the different types of video content should all be channelling the same brand.

So, what type of video content is suitable for your brand? What are the latest trends? Let’s take a look at some of my recent observations.

Long Form vs. Short Form

The common belief is that short videos, with text overlays instead of sound, are becoming more popular. They grab attention quickly and, when designed appropriately, they can produce an instant emotional response.

However, that doesn’t mean long videos won’t work. It’s all down to the creative idea. Brands now understand that if the content is engaging and rewarding to view, consumers will be willing to seek out the longer form.

Gautam Anand from YouTube APAC recently remarked on the trend for longer video ads in the region. The most popular ads from 2015 averaged more than four minutes. Four of the top ten YouTube videos were more than 5 minutes in duration. The single most viewed ad, from Malaysia Airlines for the Chinese New Year celebration, is a majestic 12 minutes long!

Sound vs. Silence

Voice-overs, when produced cheaply and unprofessionally, can wreck even the smartest and most beautiful content. Worse than being ineffective, they can actually damage the brand. In this case, silence is definitely golden.

Another reason why videos for social channels are increasingly being created without sound is that, in many cases, people are in locations where they can’t consume the audio. Savvy brands ensure their idea resonates even with people who haven’t turned their speakers on.

“Tiny Magic” Videos from Lostmyname can be fully enjoyed with no sound

As video consumers become more discerning, the bar for quality video is raised higher every day. Even the humble screen text is enjoying a renaissance. It’s not just about adding functional subtitles or uninspiring supertitles any more. Visualizations and overlays are getting more sophisticated all the time, raising consumer expectations, and therefore requiring us to plan ahead, to include them as part of the storytelling rather than an afterthought.

Local vs. Global

Can video content really go global? Just because you can (technologically speaking), it doesn’t mean to say you should.

If we know how crucial it is to draw emotional responses from consumers, we know that we have to reach them not just locally, but somehow personally. Does anyone really still believe this can be achieved with one version of one video that has not been even adapted or localized?

Inevitably, global brands do have finite resources, so it can be hard to create different content for every platform. Not to mention tailor-make it for each market with its different language and culture.

The key is to think global from day one – to take a brand’s core assets from the beginning and consider how the local audience will consume them.  This will allow you to think about how to tailor your content for different platforms, and how certain assets can be shared for global releases.

Localization of video content has come a long way from the days when subtitling or dubbing were the marks of a successful international brand. As an example of just how far, take Coca Cola, who recently launched Coke TV in the UK and Ireland. Instead of globally developed TV ad campaigns featuring global celebrities, the channel is aiming to target young local audiences via YouTube. Fronted by two YouTubers, Dodie and Manny, each episode will be based around the themes of gaming, sport and music. The appeal is obviously very local (or at most regional). It will be interesting to see if Coke TV rolls this tactic out globally.

CokeTV GB

CokeTV France

One thing is certain – for video content to go global, pre-production and planning are essential. Great videos, like any other content, demand the time-honored ingredients of success: a deep understanding of the consumer, superlative storytelling, and inspirational creative work. If you can combine that to deliver stories to people in each market in a new, exciting, and locally relevant way, then you will have won them – and quite possibly won the world.

choose happiness

Coca-Cola recently announced their “One Brand” strategy. A series of changes affecting the advertising campaigns for the portfolio of brands, and the detail packaging design alignments were announced. This shift from brand-specific advertising will see the brand uniting all four distinct brands – classic Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life, logically under one master brand marketing banner: The Coca-Cola family. The objective is to drive synergy across the portfolio.

The overriding tactic is that Coca-Cola is the only thing the company will position and give meaning to, and underneath it will sit different product variants. Each variant will be equal in the overall portfolio but “won’t have a meaning attached to them.”

Coca-Cola continuously ranked at the top in the world’s global brand rankings over the years. In 2013, according to The Best Global Brand from Interbrand, it slipped from the top spot after 13 years to third place. Perhaps it was the “wake up call” for the brand. But was the dilution of brand strength really due to its diversification into campaigns for individual product variant?

The strategy was an outcome of recent consumer research, which revealed that 5 out of 10 of consumers don’t know what differentiates each product in its portfolio. For example, people don’t know that Coke Zero has no sugar and no calories. Consumers are also unclear about the different between Coke Zero and Diet Coke.

Coca-Cola considered the company’s efforts to build personality behind its individual brands has become an obstacle to consumers’ understanding of the products.

Building meaning in the communications will not affect consumers’ understanding of the product. A brand under the brand halo itself could become an identity in its own right, as opposed to just being seen as one of the variants. I believe the heart of the matter is when the “meaning” is not connecting with what the product represents, then it ends up a waste of effort.

Product differentiation is increasingly hard for brands operating under portfolio brand strategy. From FMCG brands to service brands, the fragmentation of brand messages often causes confusion in consumers’ mind. When HSBC launched the “Personal Economy” platform for their “Premier Account”, was it distinctive enough to help consumers to clearly differentiate among the “Premier”, “Advance” and “Business” accounts? Do consumers clearly recall the commercial starring Jude Law was for Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label? What about the differences among Red Label, Black Label, Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label? How does the whole range connect with the brand message of “Keep Walking”?

The list goes on.

In the case of Coca-Cola, should the “Open Happiness” platform be given an even bigger playground with universal appeal? Or should it be changed to a more rational statement such as “Choose Happiness”?

The “One Brand” strategy will be executed on campaign level and on product level, and will affect agencies working within the framework. Some of the changes can be summarised as:

  • The newly evolved brand tagline “Choose Happiness” will be launched in Great Britain before moving to the local markets globally. It will be hugely interesting to see how the tagline could be adapted.
  • New brand campaigns will focus on the brand idea of happiness and optimism and will roll out in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Nordics and Spain.
  • All advertising campaigns from May in Northern Europe will feature all four products, with the lower and no sugar Coca-Cola variants presented in the final frames of all Coca-Cola TV ads.
  • Although all four variants will feature in future campaigns, Coke will be able to spotlight or “hero” whichever variant is relevant to the campaign, through visual representation and strategic executions.
  • Individual campaigns for individual product variant will be scrapped. That includes some of the newly launched campaigns such as “Regret Nothing” for Diet Coke.
  • Brand message will suggest there is a “Coca-Cola to suit every taste” by more clearly communicating product differentiation rather than personality – to enable consumers to make informed choices.

On the product level, some of the strategic changes include:

  • New packaging will see each variant being given the “same design” and set of characteristics, such as the iconic Coca-Cola script, ribbon and layout.
  • The “Cola-Cola” trademark will be made larger and more visible, with more presence of the iconic red colour.
  • Text will also be added to the front of Coke Zero, Coke Life and Diet Coke to enable consumers to better understand the range of products and the distinctive attributes of each. On the front of Coke Zero cans, the descriptor “zero sugar – great Coke taste” will be strategically repositioned in the foreground.
  • There will be an introduction of colour coded front-of-pack labelling showing fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories.

All these design changes are aiming to create a more visual “common identity” across the brands. The more unifying set of characteristics that the brand shares.

We are already seeing some of the new ads hitting major touchpoints.

In brand advertising, the big change can be seen in the latest global print campaign starring Marilyn Monroe and Elvis in celebration of the 100 anniversary of the brand’s contour bottle.

cc100_ooh_heritage_elvis_landscape_web-under-embargo-2nd-March-1002x752

In product-as-hero communications we see a deliberate attempt to present the range in equal light. But will the execution help the different product characteristics come to life when “product truth” are being communicated in a much more straightforward way? Or will the lack of “meaning” turn the ads into something better fit for corporate presentations? The result is yet to be discovered.

2015-03-13 18.24.19

New strategy brings new collaborations

At the end of the day, any new strategy won’t succeed without collaboration across the board. Here are some of my predictions:

Communicating product truth for each product variant is important but cannot be done without the support of a meaningful brand message. Product message needs to be connected with the brand’s umbrella message.

It’s not a choice between logic and magic, but a balance.

On a positive side, I think the strategy will be instrumental in paving the way to a more efficient and single-minded global campaigns. But this will only be achieved through rethinking how the brand campaigns are created and implemented across each product in the portfolio.

Doing it well, it will allow the brand to innovate into the future with a single voice, and do it in a way that doesn’t require the brand to invest in creating a new entity every time – a much more flexible approach in accommodating product manifestations.

I can also see there will be a need for tighter collaborations among the creative agencies handling different channels. Leadership will probably be driven centrally, where collaborations among agencies are encouraged and well facilitated.

The lead creative agency, on the other hand, needs to spearhead the development of the big brand idea, and create a strong creative platform on which messages of individual brand in the portfolio can build on. More important, creatives need to think of media-neutral platforms and not media-centric ads. Each agency needs to put their egos aside and completely understands the DNA of an idea and be able to expand it beyond any boundaries of a specific media.

For a global brand with local connections and meanings, any new creative platform needs to offer each country an opportunity to interpret its own “moments of happiness” and the brand’s role in those. The brand should tap into local talent to add to the effort to their marketing programs through joint global initiatives.

Coca Cola_shaes of happiness

It’s Chinese New Year on February 19. The Spring Festival is regarded as the most vibrant gift giving and shopping season in China, and therefore one of the major push for many leading brands. Many global advertisers follow the same old formula year after year, while others try to break away from the norm and do something different.

Pepsi curated a “crowd-sourced video” inviting consumers to submit 15-second videos via Mei Pai 美拍, a local mobile video app, to form a tribute to family reunions. The crowd-sourced final cut video will be eventually simulcast on the big screen in New York’s Times Square, symbolically bringing something local to a global stage. At the same time, the “Bring Happiness Home” themed promotion will deliver over 2000 postal parcels to help the mothers in the remote mountainous regions get through the cold winter days.

Apple, on the other hand, had taken this opportunity to unveil their first TV commercial produced specifically for the China market.

It has been an epic few months of localization activities for Apple. Recently they have opened five new stores timed right before the Chinese New Year. Four of the stores are in brand new cities for the brand including Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province, West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. In each location, they have strategically partnered up with local artists such as Wang Dongling and painter Yangyang Pan to co-create signature murals inspired by each city for the local store.

Apple Store, West Lake - About the Artist_00000

The TV commercial for Chinese New Year has been met with mixed criticisms. Directed by Ann Hui, best known for her films surrounding the topics of social issues, and cinematography by Christopher Doyle, a key collaborator in many films by Wong Kar Wei. However, you can hardly trace their signature style in the production. One of the main reasons, perhaps, is because they had to follow the tight guidelines imposed on the production – it has to be “consistent” with the global version. The story bears an almost identical storyline to a commercial entitled “The Song” released in the United States over the Christmas season in December 2014.

US “The Song”

China “Old Song”

Even though it is by large a just a localized version, but at the very least, there is a strong and relevant proposition. The storyline cleverly positions the brand being the bridge between the younger generation and the old, and technology plays a role in connecting the emotions across generations.

Different brands tend to adopt a different approach to localize brand messages for local market. In the old model, creating the localized version often involves so many levels at the client side. Depending on the category of the product, it could involve anyone from the local marketing team, the regional marketing team and of course ultimately the global brand team. During the process, any form of innovative thinking will be filtered, reduced, modified, tweaked, abandoned, shot down, reinterpreted or misinterpreted.

Any creatives who had worked within international network agencies on global brands will know the challenges. Fortunately, some global brands are now doing it differently.

Apple now adopts a centralized approach – global ideas being conceived centrally, while implementation and production being done locally. Local content are developed following the global guidelines. Pepsi has adopted a more locally driven approach, leveraging current consumer trends that resonate well in the local market. While brands like Microsoft, they have established processes such as “global-readiness audit” to make sure the ideas and executions can travel well.

No matter which strategy you decide to adopt, one thing is for certain – if you want a cohesive global brand at all, you do need to think global at the time when the idea was conceived. The key to success is to create a truly global platform, which could be so fluid that it allows local interpretations without losing its integrity.

Most global brands prefer the 80-20 ratio of global-local content – to adopt 80% of the content centrally and globally, and allow local market to reiterate and adapt 20% of the content to enhance local relevancy. I personally advocate the 70-20-10 model in which 70% of efforts focus on delivering quality global communications riding on universal truth, 20% on pushing the boundaries to contextualize it with local nuances, and 10% on ideas and approaches which are unproven but could transform the marketplace in each local market.

Which model works best for you highly depends on how you structure the global-local team, and where you put the right kind of resources.

It’s also not easy to motivate creatives to get all excited to work on adapting global ideas, but you can create the space and environment to allow creativity to grow. Here are a few tips:

  • Human insights trump cultural ones. Avoid merely dressing up the global ideas but rather go deep into the reasons why, because that’s what true consistency is all about.
  • Nothing should stop you from creating something that is uniquely local; using very native expressions as long as underlying it there is a meaningful concept that everyone understands.
  • Construct a platform that local teams can “build on it” fluidly and not wasting their time to think of how to make it work.
  • Give anyone on the ground the tools and resources to thrive in scale. Be brutal in keeping the platform intact and trust your own instinct.
  • Consensus is not about everyone agreeing, it’s about everyone being heard and the rallying around the best answer. Never go for the lowest common denominator.
  • You can’t tell creative people to be creative, but you can let them.

I wish everyone a prosperous year of creativity.

What is craft?

Two spots, both were created for the same event Rugby World Cup 2015.

Rugby 2015 “Promo”

 

Rugby 2015 “Team Talk”

 

The spot entitled “Promo” was released in 2013 in anticipation for the Rugby World Cup 2015.

Another spot entitled “Team Talk” has just been released this month to set the scene for Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets going on general sale on September 12.

“Promo” featured iconic images and archived footages from historical Rugby matches. The images were cut to a fast beat music. Scenes of fearless players intercut with dark stormy skies, the joy of victory, the hope and glory, the history and the anticipation. The analogy is obvious, all pretty expected.

“Team Talk” featured Charles Dance, best known for playing Tywin Lannister in the hit show Game of Thrones, giving a stern pep talk in front of an eclectic mix of spectators (probably played by extras) and current and former Rugby stars from South Africa, Australia and France and the World Champions All Blacks. Oh, and a hot dog seller. It is tongue-in-cheek, a strange mix of drama and a touch of humor. It is a well-told story, with the spot-on timing and rhythm. Not to mention great casting, acting and editing. You stopped and listened.

One is wallpaper.

One is a page stopper.

Which spot will you remember?

Which spot will make you glue to the screen from beginning to the end?

Which spot will you share?

Which one has raised the roof?

That’s what craft is all about.

Great idea needs great execution. And if it is well crafted, it really makes a big difference.

Note: This article was first posted on LinkedIn

Share A Coke campaign

Great global ideas do not come about easily. There is always the challenge when an idea works really well in one market, but does not resonate with the consumers in another. There is also the misconception of consistency and the danger of adapting global ideas for the local market without taking into consideration of the context, focusing more on the similarities and not the differences.

Traditionally, the narrow definition of a great global idea means the ability to adopt the same message and adapt it for the local market, maintaining ‘brand consistency’ and maximise cost savings. While this is still true in the broad sense, it is no longer enough. Not only the guiding message needs to be adapted, or transformed, to connect with local audiences, in a connected world, the way that the message is ignited is also likely to be different.

A recent campaign of Coca Cola was a good example.

The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was first started in Australia (originated by Ogilvy). Overnight, the much loved, but often overlooked, Coca Cola changed the logo on the bottles to 150 of Australia’s most popular names. It took the entire country by surprised.

The strategic thinking behind the campaign was that for a big global iconic brand like Coca Cola, people don’t find it ‘personal’ enough. The campaign was so successful that it was subsequently launched in markets including Brazil, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and the UK. This year, the China team (working with Leo Burnett Shanghai) adapted the campaign by applying local creativity. Instead of showing people’s names on the bottle, they put the very local and colloquial ‘nicknames’ that are fondly used by Chinese among friends.

icoke_webpage

A quick recap on how the idea has been transformed in different countries:

Australia – the original:

UK: (similar execution for the Netherlands and Belgium)

Greece:

China:

The result is an authentic execution building on local culture and nuances. Not only did the idea travel, but they also managed to adapt it creatively for each local market, so that the consumers felt that the idea was created natively for them.

Each market also had their own way to connect with the people. In Australia, the campaign was activated by an interactive billboard at Kings Cross in Sydney, taking advantage of the digital technology and transfer people’s names instantly through SMS messaging. In China, widely recognised as a mobile-first market, an app was designed to facilitate sharing of the chosen ‘nickname’ to people’s friends via social networking platforms.

Interactive outdoors billboard in Australia:

An app created for the China market:

icoke_app

Such creativity blurred the boundaries between origination and adaptation. I call it creative solutions.

This is the kind of creativity that every successful global campaign requires. Miles Young of Ogilvy Group commented recently that with budgets under pressure, clients aren’t prepared any more to have advertising developed in every one of those markets by local agencies. I also think that a shared brand vision globally can deepen the cohesiveness of the corporate culture internally and maximize the power of collaboration.

If there were two essential ingredients in creating brand content today, it will certainly be ‘participation’ and ‘sharing’.

Ford announced an updated Fiesta social media initiative that will invite content generated by users. It will not be just a one off promotion but apparently a yearlong activity. It will also be the very first ‘innovative ad campaign created entirely by consumers’ according to the press release from Ford.

Tweet_Ford Fiesta movement

It’s in fact an updated version of the ‘Fiesta Movement’ first debuted in 2009, when thousands of consumers submitted entries to be chosen as one of 100 ‘influencers’ given the keys to a Fiesta for 6 months. These Fiesta ‘influencers’ completed monthly challenges, posted video and blogged about their experiences. The videos can still be found on the current youtube channel.

Ford_become celeb

The updated campaign for the 2014 launch is called a ‘social remix’. On the dedicated website, Ford invites people to ‘Join the movement’. There will be 100 ‘social influencers’ being selected as ‘Ford Fiesta Agents’. The ‘Agents’ will be supplied with a Ford Fiesta and a camera. Curated ‘content’ will be shared through a mix of paid media, social media and experiential events so they can become ‘celebs of the social space’.

It seems to have ticked all the boxes. Elements of participation, user-generated content, channels for sharing, are all contained. What remains is the question of how the process of participation and sharing create meaning for the brand.

Perhaps it’s exactly for this reason, that the new ‘movement’ has some additional refinements:

  • A small percentage of the ‘Agents’ will be reserved for celebrities, current Fiesta owners and alumni, potentially ensuring the quality of the user-generated content to a certain degree.
  • There will be a ‘theme’ each month and a particular mission for the theme. The monthly themes are intended to highlight different features of the Fiesta – essentially acting as a ‘brief’ given to the ‘Agents’.
  • Ford will also partner with American Idol, the Summer X Games and the Bonoaroo Music Festival. Fiesta ‘Agents’ will be given inside access to these events.

The biggest change from the original format is that the new Fiesta Movement will generate ALL of the TV, print and digital advertising for the 2014 Fiesta launch over the summer. Which also means WPP agency Team Detroit will have to use the agents produced materials to create advertising content, potentially redefining the role that a creative agency plays in the process.

It may be unwise to assume people will automatically share any content their peers put out. And the new format seems to have defeated the original purpose of letting the Millennials speak their minds. It would be interesting to see how this campaign unfolds.

I will also like to understand the potential of this initiative being rolled out internationally, from the initial reactions on their twitter feeds I have already observed some interests from consumers from as far as India and Canada, given the global reach of social media I feel that is something we should not neglect. How can this be adapted for your market? Feel free to share with me your ideas.