Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The New Next: The Brands that Bond

BoSacks Speaks Out: This article has nothing directly to do with magazines, unless you buy into the theory that magazines are about branding.
I am forwarding this along because I just liked the ideas and the imagery and I have filed the concepts away in my brain for future application.

"Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals."

Abraham Lincoln quotes (American 16th US President (1861-65)

The New Next: The Brands that Bond
by Tiffany Kenyon

Last year we saw the explosion of online social networks into the mainstream and beyond. Suddenly it wasn't just our early adopters that we were talking to via clever digital activities. But just for a change, let's consider real-world communities.

There is something to be said for the value of face-to-face conversations with people. It's not as easy as it may sound. Taking the time to find and meaningfully interact with groups of the right people requires subtlety and, often, odd working hours. Brands have to resist the temptation to overwhelm captive audiences with their messaging. There is also the challenge of measuring the returns on investment, especially when that investment amounts to a meaningful conversation with a mere handful of people. Am I selling it to you?

There's ample reason to make the effort, especially when targeting specific interest groups - fitness freaks or mothers, or mothers who are fitness freaks. In Argentina we've found a few big brands reaping the rewards of targeting existing communities and giving them useful ways to be involved with the brand.

>> Running the Club
How would you feel if your friendly local running club suddenly got sponsorship from a major sporting brand? Exploited? Not here. One Saturday my coach handed out Puma hoodies to his 40 or so amateur exercise enthusiasts. Two weeks later a Puma representative casually popped by at the end of training to tell us about the brand. There was no liveried vehicle, no obligation to use the equipment, just an explanation - and it was a Saturday. That's dedication. It was also very smart.

Our group shares the parks with other groups of runners that I'd assumed from their gear to be elite training units. Turns out they were just fellow amateur runners, color-coordinated thanks to the well-targeted largesse of other brands like Reebok, Fila and Adidas. We quickly defined ourselves and one another as the outfits ("Hey, Reebok, we've got the overpass today"). These running groups work out along the parks that line the main road out of the city. To the onlooker in traffic, they're a brand in action.

>> Oh la Ala
Ala is Unilever's second-tier washing powder in Argentina, but, much like a sudsy Gordon Gekko, it uses a "Dirt is Good" platform in its campaign. In 2007 Ala hosted a conference on the importance of play in a healthy childhood. It was part of a global study commissioned by Unilever, but the delivery of the conference seemed far from brand-motivated. Interested mothers crowded the auditorium, and the take-home packs included not sachets of Ala (they saved those for women in areas who really need it), but information on independent programs dedicated to healthy, educational activities for kids. Ala is by far the leader in detergent sales in Argentina.

>> Mimo Graph
After decades of bad government, it's not surprising that people are ready to trust brands over institutions. Mimo & Co is an upmarket children's clothing chain. It has built it's image from it's humble foundations 40 years ago through constant dialogue with parents. In recent years it has appeared at the annual Argentine Polo Open where it provides an outdoor children's nursery, complete with activities. Child care is not taken lightly in Argentina, yet stylish couples happily leave their little ones to the care of minders vetted only by the fashion label. What greater symbol of trust in a brand could you need?

Written by Tiffany Kenyon, curated by Paul Woolmington, of Naked Communications. ( and

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