Afternoon at the FUSE Symposia

Steven Webster , Mary Kay’s Design Visionary took us on a complex 7 year case study about transforming a heritage brand by keeping it relevant and then consistently globalizing it.

This huge mission to concurrently temporize and globalize had one objective feeding the other.  With respect to the founder Mary Kay Ash, they had to root her persona into history but take forward the guiding principles that drover her success.  They needed to evolve away from pink.  They discovered that they did not “own” pink, but pink “owned” the brand.  Pink was bringing dated and possible negative baggage.  Having proliferated into over 1,000 SKUs, they had a war with complexity.  The only way to fight that was to hyper simplifies.  Steve and has team created a brand architecture that dramatically simplified the design elements starting with enlarging and then cropping the existing logo. They evolved the pink and brought in new accent colors like black.  They defined a type style and a photographic aesthetic for the core brand.  They then evolved all of these assets for both Gen Y and for premium audiences to complete the new brand architecture.

How to implement this huge endeavor?  Steve offered two perspectives.  Get some distance from it and look at the inconsistencies.  And then get in to the granular level and seek the consistencies.   In the end the role of the Design Director was to be a preacher, a teacher and a game show host. Evangelize the branding message, explain it in very simple terms and then reward those who follow it!

Karen Edwards, GM Consumer Marketing and Robert Dietz, Bing’s Design Director gave us an inside peak at an evolving challenger brand. 

Like many challenger brands, they started by pointing out what was wrong with the category, in this case Google. They marketed themselves as “the antidote for search overload”.  They measured and contrasted themselves against Google in every way. We can do what they do but better.  But this created a “me too” proposition.  They also discovered that they were marketing ahead of the brand offering.  The product was not living up to the promise.

So they went after true differentiation by changing consumer search behavior.  The brand created “social-based searching”- incorporating your friend’s perspectives in your searches.  This was a truly unique offering but this time they were marketing ahead of the customer.  There were not enough friend postings to make the “social search” experience really different.   As the challenger brand they needed to build credibility before they could move beyond a comparison to Google.  These missteps were caused because marketing and design worked in silos.

  The way that marketing and design now work?  
1.      Communicate- share common success criteria.
2.     Collaborate- work together. Break the solos.  Mutual responsibility
3.    Integrate- shared view of customer value -- measure the process toward full alignment.

They embrace that Bing is a challenger brand and that frees them up to mentor other challenger brands.  They understand that the brand cannot rest on the Microsoft platform.   It needs to fit within the broader structure but can be scrappy when they need it to be.

James Fox, CEO Red Peak:  They Key to brand Success in China

James took us through an informative, thrilling and sometimes frightening look at China as it quickly evolves as the world’s super power.  He deconstructed the incredible contradictions in Chinese culture and how that is reflected in consumerism and the Chinese consumer’s relationship with brands. Ruralism has moved to urbanism, with a great percentage of China living in cities that have just been built, cities with no history. Isolationism moves to globalism with China looking outside its boarders to model its behavior. Regiment and governmental restrictions have caused the need for individual expression.  And collectivism under Mao has moves to ambition. There is a tremendous disparity between the rich and poor but now there is a growing middle class. This is mirrored in consumer behavior.
Brands are seen as a reflection of the owner’s success.  Specifically luxury brands.  The one child policy has created a unique group of Gen Y consumers who are referred to as “little emperors”. The great majority of these youths are male. All are dramatically over indulged and over worked.  They are regimented and yet seek individual expression.   They are China’s next wave of consumers.  Figure out how to market to them and brands will have dramatic success.  How? Market brand that resolve their conflicts and alleviate their tension and stress.

Jared Weiner, a futurist ended the day with an engaging look at the 10 forces that are shaping our near term and long term future both geopolitically, financially and in the context of branding.

1. Design Space- Its not what the product does but how that makes us feel.  Design will still shape the future of brand engagement.

2. Time Space- Time is the ultimate luxury.  We will continue to multi task and try to make the most of our work/life balance

3. Inner Space- Neuro imaging will help us understand how people think and better map the brain to create projectable outcomes from specific stimuli. Sensory branding will play not only on the 5 recognized senses but also on our sense of empathy, fear, self-reliance and other senses.

4. Micro-Space – Nano technology will determine how to synthesize oil and other natural resources so that they never run out. 3-D printing is already starting to achieve this.

5. Cyber Space – How the Internet and web model will be used for all other forms of communication.  Virtual reality and the alternative currency, virtual money like “Bit-coin” is examples of that happening already

6. Inner Space- We are evolving into one global brain.  The Internet will store all our collective information so that we will all have the same knowledge.  Collaborative consumption like Zip Car will evolve.

7. Green to Blue Space – Moving beyond “doing” Green to “being” Green in your every action.  This will then evolve to actually giving back more than you use, or being “Blue”.  Ecotechture allows trees to grow into homes.  Homeless hot spots give the indigent a revenue source.  New technology will recreate the ecosystem.

8. Play Space – Humans of all ages need to play.  Gameification and gaming mechanics are used in the military, in schools, in corporations to bring a sense of teamsmanship and play into our interaction.

9. Storage Space - We will need a place to store all our stuff and all our knowledge.  Quartz has been discovered as a medium that can hold an incredible amount of digital data.  We will also evolve to use our entire brain.  The human brain is capable of holding and using more.

10. Outer Space – We will explore extra terrestrial life.  The GPS is doing this now on earth, tracking our moves and anticipating our needs. This will continue as we explore the multiple universes.

This was an inspirational end to a great day of insights. Its time to share our new knowledge over a couple of drinks and come back tomorrow with even more to share!

Rob Wallace
Managing Partner, Wallace Church



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