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

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

I came across this campaign earlier this year. It was created by Print Power Europe, advocating the effectiveness of print media in the multi-media environment. Like any organisation exists to protect the role of a specific media in the integrated marketing world today, the message single-mindedly focuses on the effectiveness of the media, communicating the notion that print often demands the ‘full attention’ of the reader.

However, this is of course just one side of the story. When was the last time you were not being interrupted by a push message appearing on your mobile while reading the newspaper? Or have you ever read something interesting from the newspaper, and quickly tweeted it in 140 characters?

In fact, any single media attempts to operate in silo is surely going to fail. The Print Power Europe also acknowledged that digital integration is central to the success of the print media.

But newspaper and magazine advertising now offer that interactivity with the use of QR codes, Augmented Reality and Near-Field Communication. 
This digital integration is now central to the success of print media and offers the marketer a host of opportunities to engage with their customers in a number of new and exciting ways.

The challenge today is not only because of the multi-screen media consumption habit of consumers that caused huge disruptions to any specific media, it’s also much more difficult to make a strong business case if we frame contributions of one single media too narrowly – and not from the entire customers’ journey.

What we have started to see happening is cross over interactions. Twitter had successfully reminded the advertising industry about their close relationship with TV viewership, their 140 characters actually could be a good fit as and when the consumers’ eyeballs are glued to the TV screen.

In the context of print media, we also see innovative partnerships. Here are just two of the recent examples:

Enhanced Lexus print ad:

By inserting an iPad screen under the print ad, it transforms a print ad into multi-media visual sensation.

Independent+ Powered by Blippar:

Through ‘visual discovery’ pioneer Blippar app, the enhanced Independent content is enriched with videos, pictures, story updates and all sorts of interactive engagements.

The original page:

Independent_original page

Scan with Blippar which triggers additional content:

Blippar_independent_screen_1

Instant access to constantly updated online content:

Blippar_independent_combined

As everyone is talking about ‘mobile first’ when it comes to digital strategy, we are in fact just touching the tip of the iceberg in its potential. I am so looking forward to seeing how the creative folks can think of even more innovative ways to create interesting partnerships with traditional media channels; and how such ideas could be implemented for brands on a global scale. It’s a constant and never-ending iteration, and it’s only going to get better.

Untitled-3

Topshop is no stranger to creating social media sensations. Last year, Topshop took the high street fashion chain’s social presence to a global level when they collaborated with Facebook on a “Customize The Catwalk” experience during London Fashion Week (see my summary of it in my previous blog post).

This year, the brand worked with Google+ to create yet another multi-dimensional experience. The trend for brands to work with social media platforms takes the definition of ‘the medium is the message’ to the digital age. The benefits for brands to co-create content with social media platforms directly is to tap into the expertise of the technology and jointly exploring innovative ways to connect with consumers.

It also guarantees a certain level of exclusivity during content-rich season such as the London Fashion Week when every brand is now producing live streaming of some sort and winning the consumers over unique experience is important.

Brands are also able to make the best use of data collected from various activities. While live streaming, and other ways to give consumers digital access to runway fashion, was more of a marketing tool at first, is now being seen as a research opportunity.

Here I would like to give a brief summary of the key elements of the campaign to illustrate how they are all inter-connected with each other:

Teaser: On 12 Feb, a trailer “The Future of the Fashion Show” (as featured below) was released as teaser of the upcoming activities, giving hints on the ‘storyline’ that would unfold in the following days leading up to Topshop Unique show at London’s Tate Modern on Feb 17. It’s also a crucial step to invite fans to get onboard Google+ that essentially acts as the hub and springboard of the Topshop ‘story’ of the season.

The Future of the Fashion Show – the trailer:

Creating buzz: On 14 Feb, Google+ and Topshop installed a “Be The Model” photo booth in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Street store in London. Customers can try on Topshop outfits and snap pictures in the booth, the device creates animated GIFs users can share with others on their social networks. Organically growing the number of followers and Topshop fans were turned into brand advocates through peer-to-peer recommendation.

Connecting with professional influencers: On 15 Feb, Topshop unveiled behind-the-scenes videos of the models and creative team preparing for Sunday’s show on its YouTube channel, and invited bloggers and fans to join a Google Hangout with Topshop’s creative director Kate Phelan and the Topshop design team. Specific content targets at the fashion circles that in turn act as credible voice for the brand – to give ‘a 360° view of what goes into creating a catwalk show’

Real-time experience: On 17 Feb, Topshop activated its full portfolio of interactive tools. 3-D Google Map technology was employed to give fans access to the show’s space in The Tank at Tate Modern. To create pre-show buzz, 30 mins before the show kicked start, Topshop broadcasted Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities on their way into the unique space. More opportunities for the content to be widely spread on various platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Hangout Live Backstage Before Topshop Unique AW13:

Topshop Unique AW13 – The show:

Multi-platform distribution of content: The Topshop Unique Show was streamed live on Topshop’s owned website, as well as on Google+ and Twitter (Tweek Walk), in embedded media players on news organization websites and various fashion blogs, and on a giant screen in the window of Topshop’s Oxford Street store.

360° Interactivity: Runway models’ outfits and accessories were fitted with ‘Model cams’, HD micro-cameras powered by SIS Live’s Hawkeye techonology. The tiny cameras broadcast model’s-eye video in the corner of the show livestream, giving audience an opportunity to experience stepping out onto the catwalk through their favourite models’ eyes.

Content optimization: Other spin-offs were adopted from the success of the previous season’s livestream “Customize The Catwalk” initiative. These include the very successful “Shoot and Share” feature for fans to take still shots from the webcast, and various ways to prolong the experience by allowing fans to download the catwalk music tracks (this year the music featuring tracks from the Smiths, Beats International and Saint Etienne) and purchase the make up range. Every single element was fully utilised to extend the lifespan of the campaign.

Data intelligence: “Be The Buyer” post-show custom Google+ Hangout app was launched so that every clip from the runway will be swipable into a ‘wish-list’ which will then be featured on Topshop website. The data from the Google+ Hangout app will help the buyers decide what they are going to actually bring to retail. Fans feel like they are literally taking control of what they are going to buy.

It’s exciting to see how brands embrace digital channels to produce experiences that consumers really enjoy. The use of data also allows designers for the first time to make a very educated decision about how to plan. I believe the clever and seamless application of technology without making consumers feel like they have been put under the microscope is the key to success. As we know, the worst things happen to some of the digital campaign is that they tend to make consumers feel like they are generating content on behalf of the brands rather than having an enjoyable experience.

I would also like to see how this kind of co-creation could evolve to a global level, creating universal experience for consumers from different markets joining in the big event. It also allows brands to understand what works where globally. That could well be the next big news in global digital content creation.

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.

Not sure if it is the weather, or because it’s just that time of the year.

A few major ‘changes’ had made the headlines in the industry press. Here are the news from some of the global brands…

Global Brand-Building Officer of P&G Marc Pritchard said the company wants “fewer, bigger creative ideas that can travel around the world”, the impact will be lower agency and production fees by eliminating some that “don’t add value”. The major cuts will be on the non-advertising portion of P&G’s annual marketing spending, including production of promotion and in-store marketing programs, coupon distribution and eliminating things such as giveaways of stuffed animals. The spending on such promotions that “don’t build brand equity” amounted to around $2.1 billion in 2011.

Unilever is moving its 150-strong London-based European brand development team to Rotterdam while centralising its global brand development team in London – the whole shift will be completed by 2014.

These might sound like just everyday news, but if these are in any way an indication of a trend, and when we think deep into the impact, these changes potentially will shake up the entire agency support ecosystem. It influences how, and where, brand ideas and campaigns/ platforms are planned, created, implemented and fulfilled.

Further down the chain, it will impact every agency of any discipline, and every talent working within.

It will also fundamentally change how we, as creatives, producers and implementation specialists, approach any brief; and how and in what way we collaborate with each other, globally.

I find this exciting.

Could this be the starting point of a revolution? Is it a major trend in the making?

One thing is for certain. I am convinced that we cannot go after quantity, but need to invest in quality thinking and insights.

We all need to be as agile and flexible as possible to take advantage of the fast-changing conditions in the marketplace.

Rain or shine? How would you turn this into opportunity? What will we expect in 2013?

Sometimes we hope that cultural differences do not exist. Not only can we share the same values, it makes life so much more peaceful.

The reality, however, is never like that.

We are also living in the culture of sharing. What happens in one country, is all very easy to be shared globally.

It has just been reported that in the Saudi Arabian version of the 2013 Ikea catalogue, all images of women, including the photograph credit of a female designer and depiction of family scenes throughout the catalogue, have been mysteriously retouched.

You can see the comparison of the visuals in the below images which were taken directly from the pages of the catalogues in UAE and UK.

This is not just the case of misinterpretation of images – such as the digitally retouched photos of Julia Roberts and Christie Turlington in an ad campaign for L’Oréal (which was subsequently banned in the UK)

The case with Ikea this time is more than that. It has to do with the representation of the role of female in families and society. I am not surprised that it had created such a stir and debate – and rightly so.

For a brand that had consistently scored well from the innovative urban planning projects ‘Ikea-land’ to the widely published and popular catalogue, Ikea’s globalisation strategy had always been a textbook case study. In April 2012, AdMap published a ‘Meaningful Marketing’ report and praised IKEA “makes numerous meaningful connections with people, at an economic, intellectual, organisational, spiritual and emotional level” and had registered on top of the Meaningful Brands Index across all markets.

So what went wrong?

Localisation of marketing communications is nothing new. In fact it is something I am dealing with on a daily basis. Especially in the lifestyle category, global brands do sometimes need to adjust the ‘product’ when selling in a different country. From formula of food products to the message in marketing campaigns, customisation is what is needed.

It is also not uncommon to ‘localise’ marketing materials to fit local cultural norms, we are not just talking about changing the font or layout, but strategically curate it to bring out the best of what the brand is to the local market. What’s ‘design-led’ in one country could be ‘price-driven’ in another.

The lessons learnt from the Ikea case was that the executional treatment was based on stereotypical depiction of a culture. I am quite convinced that the production team involved at Ikea had done this with no intention to offend. It was likely that in this case, localisation has been boiled down to be just a technical process – just doing, not thinking.

Here are 5 tips when developing content for products on a global scale:

  • Implementation cannot be completed without a phase of proper planning
  • ‘Repurpose’ should not be just about execution (resizing, reformatting or retouching), it should be rethinking of the relevancy of the product and message
  • Avoid cut corner solutions. Plan ahead for the production across all markets involved and discuss requirements of additional production, such as photo shoot, for each market. If planning were done upfront, costs will be easier to manage.
  • Plan certain aspects of the production to be done locally with a flexible global guidance, such as sourcing local talent in-market
  • Involve your local marketing team even when the global strategy is coming from topdown

And one last tip – even though there is no such thing as ‘global consumer’, under the watchful eyes of social media, everything is transparent.

What do you think?