National Geographic discovers its brand roots

Nat Geo.jpgAfter reading trough FastCocreate’s article on National Geographic’s brand revamp I was left with mixed feelings. Following are the goods, the bads and the middles of their latest move.

The good

The brand is re-discovering its core. They already updated their programming by including more of what the National Geographic Partners CEO Declan Moore says is “smart content”. This decision follows the increase of 21st Century Fox’s holdings in the company and after the management team recognized the growing thirst of millennials and gen Z for programs which are “more on the intellectual side.” The new and improved NatGeo channel includes programs like the newest Leo DiCaprio documentary: Before the Flood, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, Years of Living Dangerously, StarTalk with DeGrasse Tyson, Origins etc.

Moreover, the brand aims to introduce cohesion across all of their platforms. Moore sees this trough the lens of teams taking proud ownership of the content that is being produced at the level of the whole company.

The bad

Reading trough how Moore approaches his brand was a personal shock, tofdd59a95f27a7a0cf4dd7dd67374bd2c say the least. He said that the management team has just discovered that millennials like “smart programming.” Now, whilst people chased UFOs on NatGeo, people were tuning into YouTube channels like ASAP Science, Veritasium, One minute physics and to science blogs like IFLScience, Science alert, iO9. In fact, people have been doing this for more than a decade now and to share such a statement in 2016 shows that people at NatGeo are seriously out of touch.

There is a reason why these channels and blogs are so popular, and that is in part because of the lack of quality programs on dedicated science channels like NatGeo. I can safely say that the sphere of specialty science entertainment was destroyed in the last decade with the introduction of reality TV which increasingly got out of hand and out-of-brand. Animal Planet anyone?

Moore is quite happy to recognize and capitalize on the thirst for “smarter programming”, but is not aware that he and his team is responsible for creating this kind of thirst in the first place. All this comes from a business ethic which ultimately doesn’t show passion for its own brand. It’s opportunistic in nature and leaves a dry taste of old-school marketing where only graphs and numbers are considered.

One other thing. Declan Moore practically says that teams from different platforms were not comfortable taking ownership (responsibility) to what was happening over next door. For example, the magazine team was not comfortable with decisions made by the guys over at the TV channel. If this doesn’t illustrate a brand in cohesive shambles, I don’t know what does.

The middle ground

I am glad they are taking very positive steps towards more quality programming and more brand cohesion despite what factors influence those decisions. Should they have done it sooner – yes. Has 21st Century Fox got something to do with the new programming direction? Maybe.

If they keep up with the production of quality content and if they don’t stray off-brand again, National Geographic Channel could soon be well ahead of their colleges over at Discovery & Co and can reclaim their spot as the primary authority on exciting science and discovery.

The main mistake dedicated science channels do nowadays is serving what people want instead of what they actually need. I know this sounds unintuitive, but let me illustrate. Let’s say I had a choice between a doughnut and an apple. An apple is what I need because of the fiber and vitamins, and the doughnut is something that I want because it is tastier. I would almost always choose a doughnut over an apple , but when I eat it, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel terrible (and less healthy) afterward.

The same goes with television channels. They make people feel terrible about themselves. They make people feel like brainless, lazy slobs and this is not something any self-aware human being would ever need nor want to feel. This lesson can be applied to any brand. Each has the power to use its position for the greater good and make the world a better place.

5 ingredients to Coca-Cola’s brand success

cokemain1

Coca-Cola troughout history. | Courtesy: http://www.andbloom.com

Before there was Snapchat, Apple and Facebook, there was only one unopposed king when brands were concerned: Coca-Cola. It was the ultimate brand of the 80s and 90s. While I was an equal admirer of the brand, just like the next person, one thing never stopped poking at my mind: “How has Coke become so big?”

After at least two decades of maturing and a passionate interest in brands, I can finally answer my own question. What I discovered are (at least) five reasons determining its long-run success.

  1. Good product

    If there’s one thing I advise my clients to do, it is to always focus on making their products better. There is no amount of advertising and PR that can save you from being irrelevant or unattractive to your customers. In Coke’s case, the recipe has been crafted to perfection. There is nothing you can add or subtract from the product. It’s whole, robust and undeniably tasty. More importantly, they know they have a winner and you should never change what wins.

  2. Tradition

    The only time Coke strayed from their winning recipe was in the mid-80s with “New Coke”. The thing was a disaster and after the catastrophic failure, the corporation got back to its roots by listening to what their customers wanted, and that was to bring back the taste they all knew and love. It was back then when Coke finally became aware of its definite position in the market: They were a brand of tradition. They reverted to the old recipe and never touched it again. Although New Coke was a very big flop back in the day, it enabled the company to find its inner strength and build a more stable and authentic brand that stands the test of time.

  3. Unique look

    Coca-Cola was maybe one of the earliest pioneers in branding delivering one of the most important lessons in the discipline: Uniqueness. In 1915 they faced fierce competition and decided to launch a contest for the re-design of their bottle. They then probably made one of the best decisions in marketing history by deciding to go with the cocoa plant-inspired shape. This enabled Coca-Cola to differentiate in the competitive market and become one of the most recognizable brands of today.

    This strategy has proven time and again to be a big market decider. It’s used across many brands from the utilitarian but exciting Swiss Knife to the minimalist treatment of Jony Ive’s iMacs.

  4. Consistency

    Coke not only delivered a unique bottle shape but also made sure to be consistent no matter the changing circumstances (and there have been many). They have been using the same bottle shape, color and logo for over 100 years now. Few brands can say the same about themselves and it just illustrates Coke’s amazing self-confidence and belief in their brand value.

    The Coca-Cola logo is now one of the most iconic images recognized instantly around the world. Keep in mind that this logotype was made in a style which was considered modern at the end of the 19th century. Aside from the occasional update, they never changed the treatment of the font. This strategy allowed for the logo to be ingrained in the minds of generations old and new, ensuring the continuation of Coke’s brand awareness.

  5. Cohesion

    I can never recall when I had a Coca-Cola experience that was off-brand. The corporation makes sure to establish strict quality standards with franchisees, marketing partners and retailers alike. I had the chance to witness this ruthlessness first-hand when I worked as an in-house brand manager in retail. No matter where you go, and which platform you use,  you are guaranteed to get the true Coke experience. This stands witness to their success at adapting their brand identity to local cultures. One can even say that if two strangers were to meet in the street and have no way of understanding each other, they could probably develop some kind of language if a bottle of Coke was presented in front of them.

.
.
.

These are only 5 key factors which contribute to Coke’s success. There are of course much more which I welcome you to discuss.

I sincerely hope that Coke will continue strong  in the next 100 years to come, especially with recent news of sugar tax and water shortages. Their practices (and mistakes) have been fundamental to the branding and marketing disciplines. I any case, I hope they will continue to lead the way forward and inspire the new generations of marketers.


Stefan Nikolovski is a freelance brand developer, manager and consultant. His philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.

Connect with Stefan here:

twitter_icon           facebook_icon           linkedin_icon            behance_icon

If you are a startup, chances are your website is a nightmare

Is this you?

In the hurry to launch or because of the lack of resources you decided to pluck “a sure winner” from an endless field of identical website templates. Or maybe you chose to use the Bootstrap or Foundation frameworks: it’s quick and easy! If you are one of the smart ones maybe you hired a designer guru or better yet a rockstar agency. Let me guess… This is the website you ended up with:

generic-website-template

Congratulations. You have a website like everybody else!

Besides being damaging to creativity and diversity of visual web culture today, it is even more damaging for your brand and how you differentiate on the global market. It is highly illogical for me to see companies go for identical cookie cutter designs, especially in a time when business owners should recognize the value of branding more than ever before… In an environment where new competition emerges by the thousands every day.

You might think you are using a proven recipe for success, but this “success” comes with a price. At the very least you miss out on the opportunity to make a lasting impression your customers will remember you by, and at the very worst you lack the needed identity to differentiate from the clutter and you never succeed to engage them in the first place.

Templates, by idea are meant to be modified, adapted and customized, yet we became afraid of them. What was meant to be a flexible guideline, today has turned into a design canon. “But it allows for a consistent user experience on the web. People learnt to know what to expect, and that’s good” – someone would say.

Don’t listen to them. Get a good design team on your side and I am certain they will be able to provide you with a user experience which goes beyond what a website is “supposed to feel like”. If you don’t have the resources for a good creative team, make the effort to do the research yourself. You know very well that startups require many sacrifices.

I came across some examples on the web suggesting how to avoid this design trap. They can help, but to me they don’t address the issue deeply enough. This is where brand discovery comes into play.

It could not only help you break the limits of this website mold, but it can also give you valuable insights which can lead to future exponential success.

Here are 5 ways how brand discovery can help you escape the web design singularity nightmare:

Each of these following questions is designed to inspire insight. First I recommend that you screen them quickly, then come back to the areas where you think there is more to explore.

  1. Identify your industry

    The biggest problem I see in the adoption of the cookie cutter mentality is to use this design template regardless of your industry and the nature of your business.

    Take for example a digital creative agency, a cloud computing service and a food delivery startup. Do these businesses have the same customers, employees, operations model or business objectives? What makes us think they should they have the exact same website design? What industry are you in? The creative filed? Technology? The internet? What are the current issues your industry is working on and how do you contribute to solving them? What kind of attributes is a company in your field expected to posses? What kind of problems do you solve for your customer? Is your brand image close to your industry’s standards?

  2. Be crystal clear about your position in the market

    Positioning is about differentiating yourself further within your industry. It’s about discovering your startup’s unique place and value.

    How do you compare relative to your competitors and what is your competitive advantage? What value do you offer that can’t be replaced by anybody else?  Do you sell premium products/services or are they easily available for the masses? How would that shape the way you design your website?  Is your offering simple to understand or it is more complex and technical? If it’s simple, then a few lines of text and a call to action is all you need. If it’s complex, you might need diagrams, infographics or demo videos to explain your product or service.

  3. Target your target group

    This is marketing 101, and it’s about understanding who is your website addressing to. Making a significant effort in this area could drastically change your website’s content, and as a result it will be better received by the people visiting it.

    What do you know about the people you want to attract? Are they mostly male or female, young or old? Are they employees or business owners? What do they expect from a kind of product or a service you offer? What attracts them and what do they usually want to talk about? What do they aspire to achieve? How does your product or service help realize your customer’s dreams? What do you know about their values? A website providing cutting-edge risk management insight for Wall Street VPs should look and sound differently than a business which provides Miami city tours.

  4. Decide what your site is supposed to do

    Think about how you can use your website to elevate your business efforts. Websites have come a long way from simple brochure-like designs with plain info about your business. There are many strategies and web technologies which you can implement to make that much-needed extra sale.

    Think about your marketing strategy. Would your business be better off if you only collected e-mail subscriptions or maybe it would be smarter to streamline it with your social media for a quicker response? Maybe both? Have you considered creating an online platform for users to connect around your brand? Then you should start thinking about designing a user forum and feature user-generated content which your customers are the most passionate about. Maybe you can attract leads by publishing useful articles with a lot of useful information and resources. Then you might be better off if you rearranged the content of your website with the latest articles from your writing team.

  5.  Dive even deeper in your brand

    This simple effort always pays off. No matter how well you’ve worked on your initial branding, it’s always smart to re-visit the process and compare your brand with newly acquired data and experiences.

    For example: How do your strategy statements sound today? Are you satisfied with your brand manifesto? Are you achieving the good in the world you hoped to achieve in the beginning?  How does your site communicate and help achieve your vision? What is your customer’s feedback lately? If you asked them, what would be the one thing that your company consistently provides for them? Service? Speed? Durability? Is your site designed to illustrate and guarantee this promise? Do you communicate with your audience in an authentic voice or does it still sound stiff, generic and devoid of emotion?

Remember, any change in business has to be approached strategically. It’s not wise to be different just to be different.

These questions provide you with a direction which builds upon the already existing strengths of your business and it exploits your natural position on the market. Use them to discover and re-discover what your startup is all about. Recapture the world-changing momentum of your early days to seize the imagination and hearts of your audience. Be and express yourself!

At the end day, what would brands be without emotions anyway?


Stefan Nikolovski is a freelance brand developer, manager and consultant. His philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.

Connect with Stefan here:

twitter_icon           facebook_icon           linkedin_icon            behance_icon

Apple’s brand could soon face crisis. What measures should Tim Cook take?

 

iPhone 6s apple.jpg

Apple’s brand and marketing need change. Source: imgur

Let’s be honest, when was the last time Apple graced the world with revolutionary innovation?

Makes you think, huh?

We keep hearing people divide Apple’s history into two distinct eras: during Jobs and after Jobs. This is not just an innocent perception. It could signify a possible seismic shift in Apple’s brand perception.

I remember that Apple’s brand in its peak (circa 2008) stood for magic,  innovation and cool. The touch display on the iPhone was everything anybody wanted to talk about and experience in their hands. The experience was unique, beautiful and practical. Apple developed a few other products around the concept including the iPad and iWatch. They even re-vamped the very popular iPod with the same tech. Every mobile producer wanted to adopt touch technology in their own devices. Everybody  wanted to have a sleek and minimal design as Apple. The company without a doubt positioned itself as the leader in premium hardware.

Apple’s three main ingredients for success were: innovation, design and let’s not fool ourselves – marketing.

8 years and a CEO change later, it looks like Apple is only left with their marketing department. In the words of scholar Vivek Wadhwa: “It’s been 9 years since the launch of the iPhone and since then it’s (Apple) been giving us bigger screens, smaller screens…” Their iPen and pressure sensitive touch are not changing any industry landscapes. They also keep resurrecting old models, making zombies out of them with new processors (the SE). It is at this point when I wonder what do we really need from Apple: just another old phone with a new processor or to feel like we are holding a piece of the future in our hands?

Apple’s strategy today is laterally focused. What I mean is that they are reaching out into their own untapped markets. Jobs would have never allowed for an iPhone 6 Plus fablet and an “iPen” was out of the question. This is an opportunity which Cook saw and he proved to us that he is not afraid to break Jobs holy commandments. For the time being it is working out for Cook. Sales are looking good, but what kind of brand would Apple be five years from today?

 If this trend keeps up, we are going to have a bland and watered down company. Something like when a newspaper turns into pulp in water. The iPulp. They would drown in their own sea of screen sizes and updated processors.

Having that in mind, what measures can Tim Cook take to bring back the Apple spirit we all know and love?

Turn back to your roots.

The Apple of today has completely forgotten about the enthusiasm of creating something new and exciting out of your own moldy garage. This is what created the company in the first place and it was the force that animated  Jobs while he was still at the helm of the company. An entrepreneurial spirit with eyes locked on to the future, one which laughs in the face of odds. This is a vertical strategy.

There are a lot of ways to reintroduce this spirit back in Apple’s culture. I am saying culture here because I believe that Apple’s brand is less about the products themselves and more about the idea the people involved with the brand share. Contrary to what Jony Ive would say, it’s not about being slick, minimal, smart and shiny. Absolutely not. It goes deeper than that. It’s about a visionary future which expands the boundaries of what we as humans can do.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels…”


Stefan Nikolovski is a freelance brand developer, manager and consultant. His philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.

Connect with Stefan here:

twitter_icon           facebook_icon           linkedin_icon            behance_icon

Android VS iOS usage in the world

I came across an interesting graph. It shows Android vs iOS usage in the world i.e. 67 countries. Looks like Macedonia is on the top. I wonder why is that.. Could it be that our mobile operators overprice their services when it comes to packaging iPhones or we just can’t afford Apple’s products? If the latter is true, this chart indirectly illustrates the Macedonian people’s propensity, or lack thereof for buying luxury brands. Same could be said for Balkan countries in general. Ironically enough, Russia has a larger percent of iPhone users than the USA.

Android vs iOS usage by country

iOS vs Android usage across 67 countries for Q1 2015. Source: https://www.deviceatlas.com/

De-branding is on its way in a small shop in Britain

In a small local shop in Brighton the owner is de-branding her products as a part of an art project. The goal is to replace favorite packaging with locally sourced design efforts from various social groups like: schoolchildren, mental health service users, people with addictions, and so on. The design and the execution is not fancy by any means. Everything is handmade, but it adds a familiar human feel to a “striving-for-perfection” sterile packaging.

sugar-in-disguise

De-branded sugar. (Photo by Hyperallergic.com)

For the shop’s customers, Kathrin Böhm who is the co-author of the project, hopes that It offers “a moment to realize that this is the way we shop and choose, and [that] who we shop with is a conscious decision.” Böhm’s project offers consumers a chance to reconsider their own patterns of behavior and, she adds, to realize that, quite apart from the logos and packaging, “there’s actual value to certain things like a good shopkeeper.”

I’ve reported in previous posts about how our buying decisions can be influenced by packaging and branding, so it is truly fresh to enable consumers to experience the “real” product behind the box, or a different shopping experience when our senses are not hijacked. It makes me go back to basics and think about the “hard” and “tangible” elements that constitute a product or a service, before all of the elaborate design and communication strategies. I firmly believe that a good product will go a long way in winning the customer’s trust and will guarantee his return.

You can read more about the project here:
Taking the Branding Out of Brands in a Small British Town

The most boring ad ever made – The best brand storytelling video of the year

The German camera producer Leica has promoted their newest internet advertising video, titling it “The most boring ad ever made”. I must admit. It IS boring, but captivating at the same time. What’s the best is that it doesn’t fail short to communicate Leica’s brand distinction trough some spectacular copy-writing told by a soothing voice.

The German craftsmanship is at the upfront of this 45min video where are told the story of how a Leica case is made out of a single aluminium block and how a single person spends 45 minutes to polish the entire exterior of the case. The narrator hits all the needed spots in differentiating and adding value to the brand:

“…this is for those made or sterner stuff, like the robust, high-grade aluminium you see here…”

“Of course there are faster and less costly ways to make a camera, but is there a better way? A more fulfilling way? Hardly. Here everything is essential, nothing is extraneous.”

Totally hits the spot! I am totally in with this copy and I am in love with this 45min story of obsessive German craftsmanship. It is quite rare to see such quality in brand storytelling.

Iskreni slogani-10

Кога ги смислував овие слогани си мислев дека некако ќе им помогнат на спомнатите компании да поработат на посочените проблеми. Некои од нив пак, како да си легнаа на брашното на кое не требаше да легнат.

Во Сити Мол, и покрај тоа што имаше некој дечко што беше задолжен за раководење со смената, цело време беше залепен за телефон и не забележуваше што се случува околу него. Почекавме 10 минути и станавме да одиме. Откако го испивме кафето во соседниот кафич, на одење сакавме сладолед да земеме (ни помина лутината). Девојчето задолжено за сладолед во Тренд го немаше, а дечкото уште беше на телефон! Ка-та-стро-фа!

Алал платата и алал парите заработени со таква услуга.

Continue reading

Featured Image -- 1040

Bonuses Should Be Tied to Customer Value, Not Sales Targets

From a brand management point of view this is a focus that every company needs to take. Whilst financial targets worked for a very long time, we are now more sensitive to what it means to “do a job”. It has to have meaning to the employees and it has to have meaning to the customers. Shifting the focus from sales to meaningful relationships would be something we’ll see much more in the comming period.

Тинекс – креативно изложување на производи

Пријатно се изненадив кога влегов во реновираниот Super Tinex маркет кај Драмски. Имено, ја искористиле можноста да изложат некои производи меѓу просторот на нивните ескалатори. Ова одлично функционира, најпрвин бидејќи е нешто неочекувано, а и го збогатува искуството на пазарење со тоа што им дава можност на посетителите да изберат производ во движење.

Погледнете како тоа изгледа на видеoтo подолу:

п.с. Моите познаници од социјалните мрежи ми посочија дека овој начин на изложување веќе се применува подолго време што е одлична вест. Иако не сум имал можност да влезам во некои од овие маркети на две нивоа, мислам дека овој пристап сеуште на потрошувачот му нуди дополнително и збогатено искуство на пазарење.