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Five Ways to Keep Brands Out of Trouble

Every once in a while a brand will screw-up. If you go online and google “Brand Blunders,” you will find annual lists of the latest and greatest mistakes that brands have made. Social media has given us all the opportunity to see, almost in real-time, the latest and greatest gaffes. An advertising campaign with the goal of reaching a million customers can turn into billions of thrill seekers who will never buy your brand in the first place. The size of the mistake will determine how famous you will become. Famous for all the wrong reasons, I might add. Some brands have gone to the extremes to fake real people product situations with the hopes of becoming a viral sensation, but in most case this too back fire.

Big brand mistakes are self-inflicted wounds based on ignorance, arrogance, tastelessness and just poor judgement. But, sometimes, the reward of free publicity and fame are too hard to give-up.

There is always the temptation of getting your brand noticed – there is good awareness and bad awareness. Generally the bad awareness doesn’t build your brand, but can seriously damage your brand.

Here are some tips on how to keep your brand out of trouble:

Fine Line Between Funny and Offensive

Humour is a great way to communicate your brand. Nothing is better than getting your customer to laugh. In a study conducted by Millward Brown, over half of all ads around the world are considered either ‘funny’ or ‘light-hearted.’ The funnier the ad the more memorable it is likely to be. This is where some brands have gotten themselves into trouble. It is generally when a brand tries too hard and misses the mark or just doesn’t understand their consumers.

Spy Sunglasses tried to be witty and humorous with their outdoor campaign when they plastered the slogan ‘Happy to Sit on Your Face’ on billboards.  Clever, but it didn’t sit well with their customers.  The billboard, slated for a six month stint, was taken down after only one month.

The British grocer Sainsbury’s wanted to promote their ‘low-price guarantee’ and used John Cleese to break down Sainsbury’s aloof image. Lecturing the customers and the staff misfired badly and successfully alienated the target audience.

Skittles is known for their entertaining and fun brand – Touch the Rainbow. The experience of eating Skittles is just as important as the candy itself. In 2008, they crossed the line when they portrayed someone who turned everything to Skittles that he touched. He could no longer hold his baby and he accidentally killed a man on the bus. Depressing rainbow.

Sloppiness

There are countless examples of typos, wrong prices and misinformation. I am sure you have your favorite blooper. Here are a couple examples that will put fear into you to make sure you double and triple check everything you publicly display on your brand.

La Redoute a French fashion chain has had a number of embarrassing moments. On their website, they had a photo of kids promoting their children’s clothing line, but clearly in the background is a naked man. On the same website, they are also selling a t-shirt with a spelling mistake. Instead of having ‘Enjoy Holidays’ written in the garment it read ‘Enjoy Holydays.’

Remember the launch of Apples iOS 6 mobile operating system with the new and amazing Apple Maps? This system would no longer feature Google Maps.  The issues in the Apple Maps were endless to the point that a Tumblr blog was setup to document all the map errors. Every media outlet had a wonderful example in their backyard of wrong bridges, wrong towns and cities, airports turn to parks and parks turn to airports. One reporter stated, “While they are not enough to stop the iPhone 5 love-fest, I sincerely hope that the massive flaws in Apple Maps do not cost anyone their lives.” I am sure there were a lot of Apple employees who didn’t get much sleep until they solved all the problems.

With the desire to offer the widest range of product choices and selection Walmart’sHalloween promotional web pages included a category called “Fat Girl Costumes.” By the time the company understood its error, it was national news and the brand damage was done.

There are many examples of sending the wrong email to the wrong customers or sending out tweets that don’t reflect well on the company like US Airways, who accidentally send a customer a tweet with a pornographic image with a naked woman with a misplace model plane. This tweet was re-tweeted hundreds of times before the company noticed.

Contests and promotions are another area that has high potential of messing up a brand. Getting legal advice is a no brainier, but also making sure the contest fits the brand promise and builds on the brand. Malaysian Airlines still reeling from its misfortune of losing two planes launched a ‘bucket list’ campaign, asking customers to tweet places they’d like to see before they die. I think you know how this ended.

Double and triple check everything before you release it and ask the question does this fit our brand values and promise?

The Shock Value

Fashionista blog says “people are pissed about Harvey Nichol’s new pee-stained ad campaign.” It seems that the British department store Harvey Nichols knows how to get people’s panties in a knot and the Daily Mail said that the campaign has “soiled many customers’ opinion of the store.”

If you ask Tom Ford, he’d say that the shock value works just fine. He built a fashion empire (worth over $275 million) on pornography.  “When I shaved G for Gucci into the model’s pubic hair it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek statement about branding,” Ford said in People. “We had Gucci emblazoned on everything in those days—so I said why not the pubic hair too. It wasn’t just about sex.”  Really! Somehow he continues to get away with this type of thinking. But there is a limit to what people will allow a brand to do with their brand relationship.

Unlike most advertisements which centered on a company’s product or image,United Colors Benetton’s branding building focused on social and political issues like racial integration, AIDS awareness, war, poverty, child labor, death, pollution, politics, etc. The advertisements initially succeeded in raising the brand’s profile, but eventually began to cause dissatisfaction among customers, retailers, government bodies and various international non-profit organizations.

Some of Benetton’s most provocative advertisements were of a priest and a nun kissing, a just born baby with uncut umbilical cord, a black stallion and a white mare mating, a colourful mix of condoms, a black woman breast- feeding a white baby, AIDS victim and his family taken moments before his death, people on death row, a bloody uniform of a dead Bosnian, and senior political leaders kissing each other. I am still trying to figure what all this has to do with buying a sweater or a new polo shirt.

I never thought Microsoft would be an example of shock value. In 2009, they introduced the IE8 with an online commercial called ‘Oh my God! I’m gonna puke (O.M.G.I.G.P.). The purpose of this ad was to showcase their private browsing feature that is ideal for keeping your online porn habits a secret from others people who might share your computer.  As the Microsoft spokesperson said “some of our customers found it offensive, so we have removed it.”

Super Bowl is the Olympics of branding position new and old brands.  InsurerNationwide created a buzz, but the jury is still out if it helped or detracted from their brand.  They ran a campaign depicting the death of a child, due to a preventable accident at home. The negative reaction is largely based on why share this message at a time when people want to enjoy a game. USA Today describes the ad as “depressing, upsetting, and even brought down the uplifting Super Bowl atmosphere.” You be the judge.

Understand Your Customer’s Relationship with Your Brand

Where are the brand boundaries? For Tom Ford there are no boundaries as it concerns beautiful naked people, but see if he can sell food products or toys for children. Somewhere in the process common sense must prevail.

In 2010, Gap clothing store launched a new logo to portray the brand as more modern. In two days, they heard clearly that they change wasn’t what their customers wanted.  While their goal was to appeal to a more hip crowd, their existing customers who pay the bills didn’t want anything to do with the new image. Gap was smart enough to listen to their customers and quickly react.

In 1996, McDonald’s invite “adults back to McDonald’s by enhancing [their] adult and food image” as reported in the Mac Today magazine. It took two years to develop the adult burger Arch Deluxe. McDonald’s research revealed that 72% of consumers think the chain has the best burgers for kids, but only 18% said it has the best adult burger – a huge opportunity.  McDonald’s spend an estimated $200 million in a promotional blitz to launch this new product that failed miserably. The McDonald brand is based on friendliness, cleanliness, consistency and convenience. If someone at McDonald had asked their customers if they wanted a” burger with the grown-up taste,” they would have said no.

 Does It Make Good Sense?

Or, better yet does it make common sense? Just because you have a powerful and very recognizable brand doesn’t mean people will allow you to sell them anything.

Bic, the company that sells disposal pens, lighters and razors decided they should be also selling disposable underwear – actually, a line of women’s disposable pantyhose. Besides that they were disposable, there was no credible link between the Bic brand and the product. What were they thinking? Maybe they were thinking that they could do sexier advertising now that they were into underwear like Calvin Klein.

Colgate, the toothpaste company and the first to put fluoride into toothpaste had the bright idea to market frozen meals. They failed completely. Nobody wants a toothpaste-flavoured meal. Yet there must be many bright people at the Colgate Company who reviewed and approved this opportunity with the goal to succeed. Maybe they are too close to seeing the big picture beyond the consumer’s mouth.

Final Comment

The moral of the story is use the ultimate acid test – stand back from the situation and ask yourself does this message build on your brand promise. Is it building goodwill? Will you be sending the wrong message to your existing customers? Common sense should prevail. If you screw up, be transparent and fix the problem. Time and honesty will heal most errors.

And finally, double and triple check everything and if possible get as many eyeballs on everything before it goes out. In this instant world on digital communications, it becomes even more important that you communicate clearly and honestly.  Once it’s out there, it is out there for life.

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Lessons from the Brand Graveyard

Jim Mullen founder of Mullen Advertising said, “Of all the things that your company owns, brands are far and away the most important and the toughest. Founders die. Factories burn down. Machinery wears out. Inventories get depleted. Technology becomes obsolete. Brand loyalty is the only sound foundation on which business leaders can build enduring, profitable growth.” But so often, these business leaders fail to understand this and stick to what they know, which is to continue to withdraw on their brand loyalty and continue down the wrong path. There are thousands of brands that have come and gone and hundreds that are the walking dead. Learning from mistakes is always harder than justifying enormous brand successes. The graveyard is full of interesting stories of how not to build and sustain a prosperous brand.

“Brands have run out of juice. They’re dead,” says Kevin Roberts, executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and author of the book Lovemarks. “Now the consumer is boss. There’s nowhere for brands to hide.”

The truth is brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. There was a day, people who drove a Ford drove Fords their whole lives. Not anymore. In 2008, Nokia was ranked as one of the most valuable brands in the world. New Yorker writer James Surowiecki says Nokia failed to keep up with the competition in the smartphone game and relied on its past brand strengths. “The high-tech era has taught people to expect constant innovation; when companies fall behind, consumers are quick to punish them.”  Nokia was punished and is no longer in the mobile phone business.

In a 2009 study done by Sunil Thomas and Chiranjeev Kohli at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, they concluded that brand managers must always be vigilant “for signs of brand decline, in the form of problems with brand knowledge, brand differentiation, and customer response.”  But high levels of brand awareness and positive brand image isn’t a sure bet that your brand will survive the difficult times. It’s easy to build a brand on innovations. It’s much harder to sustain a brand on past innovations and successes. Kodak didn’t envision a future without film.

Brand Relevance – A Time & Place

Remember the Pet Rock? In 1975, Gary Dahl (passed away this month) an advertising executive conceived and marketed the Pet Rock. In less than a year, he sold 1.5 million for $4. It became an instant success story that was never repeated.

pet-rock

Remember the first time you had a Krispy Kreme? I do. There was a time the only Krispy Kreme store in Canada was in Toronto. Every time I flew back from Toronto, I took an hour detour to pick up a dozen of Krispy Kreme donuts and carry them on the plane. Everyone would look in awe and I was a true hero at home. I also remember the first visit to the Krispy Kreme that opened in my city. But, today you can’t find a Krispy Kreme anywhere and my waist thanks them. Was it bad luck with a major shift towards healthier diets and Atkins or was it just bad management? Andy Sernovitz author of Word of Mouth Marketing says brand overexposure was part of the problem as they offered cold packaged Krispy Kreme in stores and gas stations everywhere. But they also lost focus from the exclusive experience of customers waiting in line to taste the amazing hot and fresh doughnut made to order.

hummer

The story goes that Arnold Schwarzenegger saw a convoy of military HumVees driving down a highway in 1989 and immediately he had to have one. We know from history that Arnold gets what he wants. AM General worked with General Motors to supply a civilian version called the famous Hummer. It was a great success as other affluent Arnolds stepped forward to have the privileged to feel the power of a tank stuck in traffic gridlock. Sales peaked in 2006 and the last Hummer H3 rolled off the line on May 24, 2010. High gas prices and the ever increasing pressures by the environmental movement made the Hummer brand symbol unpalatable as a gas guzzler. Eventually, even Arnold sold his seven Hummers for a reported $950,000 to conform with other Californians.

Unable to Embrace Drastic Change

blackberry

 It starts with the fear of alienating current users by changing too much, too quickly. This is your bread and butter, so you want to make sure they are happy.Kodak and Blackberry are great examples of trying to stay in the past and trying to meet the future at the same time. They both failed. Allen AdamsonChairman of North America Landor Associates explains that Kodak “failed to seize the day in terms of moving away from the existing cash cow to figure out how to live and fight the future.” Today, Blackberry is trying to reinvent itself to find its vision again. Meanwhile, most of its customers are finding other solutions. I am now on my second iPhone since leaving my crackberry.

Remember the Friday or Saturday evening trip to Blockbusters to rent a new release movie? The writing was on the wall as cable companies, internet providers and Netflix’s offered seamless video streaming at home. But, Blockbusters stayed the course except for extending their late fees charging, which they accumulated over $800 million, which I don’t miss contributing towards.

There are many other brands (such as Circuit City, Future Shop, Olympus, Barnes & Noble, Borders, H&M, to name a few)  facing significant disruption from new technologies and digital innovations that will keep the brand gravedigger busy for a longtime. Unless they embrace drastic changes, but in some cases it too late.

Bad Business Model

The airline industry is notorious for building new airline brand then watching them fall from the sky (in some cases literally). Severin Borenstein, an economist at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley says “The industry in aggregate has lost about $60 billion over the 32 years since 1978.  The biggest mistake they seem to make is not making money.” Wikipedia has a list of defunct airlines by country. I counted over 430 USA airline brands and over 105 Canadian airline brands no longer taking off. Remember, Eureka Aero, Mohawk Airlines, Zip, Greyhound Air, Roots Air or Pride Air?

air planes grave

TWA, owned by Howard Hughes and Pan Am were the first airlines to fly around the world. They pioneered many innovations such as jumbo jets, computerized reservation systems, in-flight meals and much more. Sadly, they are both gone. In the last year,Malaysia Airlines has lost two planes carrying 537 passengers who didn’t make it to their destination. Malaysia Airline is also not in the best financial shape. Will travelers avoid this cursed airline? I am not sure if I would take the chance knowing that there are many other airline options.

The automotive industry has a similar story, but theirs are less about the business model and more about quality issues and costs. Check out the defunct USA auto list. The list is very long!

Survival of the Fittest

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, who made the company a microprocessor behemoth, wrote the book, Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Identity and Exploit the Crisis Points that Challenge Every Business.  While the book was written 19 years ago, it is still very relevant. In the book, he introduced the concept of “inflection points.”  An inflection point is a point where you know that the industry in which your business operates in, has changed so profoundly that you can either change your business completely as well, or get killed by your competitors. The inflection could be a change in competition, a change in regulatory issues and, of course, a change in technology. He believed in taking action, doing something about it, staying ahead of times and winning at all cost, even if it meant changing even his company’s core areas of business. “Most companies don’t die because they are wrong; most die because they don’t commit themselves,” says Grove. “They fritter away their valuable resources while attempting to make a decision. The greatest danger is in standing still.”

Some brands that came back from the dead and are flourishing today are Lego, Marvel comic books, Old Spice, Apple, Nintendo and Volkswagen.

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In this new digital reality, innovations are being launched at lightning speed, copied overnight, and improved upon continuously. If you freeze in indecision or blink your brand has a good chance it won’t survive. R.I.P.

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Does the colour of a brand really matter?

“Any color – so long as it’s black.”

Henry Ford

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If you followed the virtual sensation of what colour was the dress as people debated online about whether its colours were blue and black or white and gold then you would agree colour does matter. Research suggests cells in secondary visual cortex (V2)  is particularly responsible for how we see colour consistency, which explains why a red apple still looks red if we look at it outside, under a lamp or in different lightening conditions – unless you are looking at a blue or white dress.

Loyola College research points to the connection between colour and memory: seeing a logo in colour makes it 39% more memorable than seeing the same logo in black and white. Colour also drives engagement: adding colour to blog posts, product guides, print advertising and other brand collateral increases readership by 80%

According to KissMetrics, “Color increases brand recognition by 80%.” But you also need to differentiate your brand from the pack. If you are starting up a new bank you might want to use a different colour than blue which is used by: Chase, JP Morgan, Deutsche bank, RBS, RBC, Prudential, Barclays, Citibank, Capital One, Union Bank, Bank of Montreal, to name a few. Then there are those who used the colour orange as the new blue, like ING Bank and the new bank Tangerine.

It is no surprise financial institutions and many other brands use the colour of ‘true blue’ as it emotes feelings for trust and dependability. But, according to a study published in the Journal of Business Research, customers are actually 15% more likely to return to stores with blue colour schemes than to those with orange colour schemes. Try to tell ING Bank that the orange isn’t working for them as they turned a profit of 3.5 billion Euros in 2014.

The Birth of a Brand Colour

There has been a great deal of work done in the area of psychology of colour in branding. But, to me it’s like buying a house. You make the initial decision based on emotion and then you rationalize it after the fact to legitimize your purchase. The birth of a brand identity really starts with the logo design which is generally done by a graphic designer. Depending on your budget, you can employ a single individual of a massive agency team (Top 15 graphic design companies from around the globe) then it will depend on their ability to sell you on the colour.

My assumption with most start-up companies is that the brand logo design and its colour aren’t the biggest concerns of the day. It isn’t where they are investing or spending their time. Their biggest concern is focused on getting their product or service to market.

To believe they have the brand all figured-out would be a stretch. You might know where you want to go, but how you get there is not always in your control and that includes your brand. I am sure the college dropouts Steven Jobs and Steven Wozniak, who started Apple Computers in Job’s garage, didn’t have a clear vision of where the Apple brand was going. Their first logo void of any colour could have easily been a Tolkien book cover (author of the famous The Lord of the Rings book series) than a company logo. The logo depicted Isaac Newton sitting under a tree with an apple dangling over his head. You know the rest of the gravity story.

History_of_Apple_LogoII

This logo survived only a year, but the company now had the funds to be able to commission a real graphic designer Rob Janoff. He designed the rainbow colour apple with a bite taken out of it. This logo lasted 22 years until 1997 when the colours were replaced with a more modern monochromatic sleek look. It is these redesigns and modernization of brands that the rationalization and supporting stories are developed alongside the million plus dollar price tag from the mega graphic design firms. It is interesting that as the Apple brand became more popular, myths began to be told about how the Apple brand came to be.

Starbucks started with a brown or mocha coloured logo of a siren (or mermaid) from Greek mythology, which made sense since they were selling rich dark-roast coffee by the cup in Seattle on the west coast. But, 15 years later the logo was refined and the colour changed to green. Why? It is believed the three founders wanted to honour their alum matter, the University of San Francisco, which happens to a similar green.

logo-evolution

There has been a great deal of research done to understand the effects of colour on consumer’s response. But Gergory Ciotti, marketing strategist at Help Scout, points out that there has been “numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colors… but the truth of the matter is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.” He goes on to explain that gender, background, and culture all play a role in how consumers are influenced by colour perceptions, but that doesn’t seem to stop the rationalizations.

STOP_SALE

If this is true why are all STOP signs and SALE signs red? According to a study published in the journal Emotion, Professor Andrew Elliot found that people react faster and more forcefully when they see the colour red, with the primary reason behind the phenomena being that the colour red enhances physical reactions as it is programmed into our psyche as a cue for danger.

A brand that has used the power of red successfully for over 128 years has been Coca-Cola, which sells about 19,400 beverages every second around the world. Like the SALE sign, Coca-Cola started advertising their brand by painting big red signs on the side of buildings and coolers. They continued on in the early 1900’s with outdoor billboards and traditional advertising. In 1931 they successfully tied their brand to the man in red – Old St. Nicholas. As the years passed, the colour red became synonymous with Coca-Cola. It required years and years of persistence and hardnosed application of the brand principles. As the brand developed over time, a process was developed to define and codify the brand values and its essence. In this process, the brand colour(s) also get encoded into the brands DNA.

white coke canII

In 2011, Coca-Cola slipped up by changing their sacred red Coke can to white during the December holiday season to celebrate their highly successful polar bear advertising campaign. Within weeks, the white “polar bear” cans were pulled off the shelves because of a tremendous backlash from retailers and consumers, who were confused by the change from the traditional red. Some even complained that the taste of the soda was different—all because of the colour of the can!

Getting the brand DNA right takes time and is built on what works for the brand’s customers, but once the brand colour is locked in you must be ruthless in protecting this relationship to a colour and what the brand represents.  Can you see a John Deere customer selecting the colour he wants for his tractor? It comes in green or green or green.

heinz-ez-squirt-275When you think of Heinz ketchup you automatically think of the tomato red coloured bottle. They had the opposite results from changing their red coloured bottle to green. The Heinz EZ Squirt Blastin’ Green ketchup was a phenomenal success. But, to be fair, they still had the red bottle for those customers who didn’t want to change. More than 10 million green bottles were sold in the first seven months following its introduction. All because of a simple colour change. I am not sure if the ketchup tasted better.

Colour is a powerful signifier of a brand. When customers visually scan store shelves, they look first at colour clues, then at shapes, and finally at the label or name of the brand. Research conducted by the Seoul International Color Expo 2004 found that 92.6% of customers put visual factors as most importance when purchasing products and the colour accounted for almost 50% as the important factor. The Institute for Color Research found that people make a subconscious judgement about an environment or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone!

The colour a company uses to brand itself conveys how trustworthy they are, the quality of their products, how fun they are and much more. So, you need to have the right colour to succeed.

Paul Bottomley and John Doyle authored a study: The interactive effects of colors and products on perceptions of brand logo appropriateness where they demonstrated that the relationship between brands and colour are based on the perceived appropriateness of the colour being used and the particular brand personality you are trying to portray.

Does the colour fit what the brand represents? An obvious misfit would be the colour pick with a somber and serious lawyer firm brand or a funeral home. While the colour of pink might differentiate the brand, it might not built a solid brand message. Because there are so many brands today, it is getting harder and harder for new brands to build their own unique brand colour positioning, so they are pushing the limits of what is appropriate. In every business category, there is an outlier who isn’t following the colour code like Orange’s orange, T Mobile’s neon pink, Veuve Clicquot’s bright yellow, Yahoo’s purple, and BP’s lime green.

If you want your brand to be synonymous with a colour, you need to use your colour everywhere. The store environment or anywhere it makes sense. A fleet of planes painted orange with airline attends wearing orange uniforms (EasyJet), a fleet of brown delivery vans with drivers wearing brown uniforms (UPS), the tastefully accent colour of robin egg blue surrounding gold, silver and diamonds with the iconic blue box (Tiffany & Co), and flooding the exterior and the interior of the store and staff in yellow and red (Shell and McDonald’s). The colour is part of the brand experience.

I wonder how many brand colours were the results of the whims of the graphic designer exploring the next trend or the personal taste of the CEO’s spouse. In the case of Facebook, the founder Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind so blue was his choice.

Well thought-out colours can help define a brand’s value, strength and positioning, which will boost awareness and customer recall and differentiate the brand from the competition. If chosen effectively, it can even set the emotional stage for the overall brand experience.

The right colour does matter.

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A Brand’s Ultimate Weapon – Creativity

Creativity is at the core of every successful brand. It is also the essence of what makes the world go round driven by new ideas and new ways of doing business. It is also how you get to the next “blue ocean. According to an IBM study in 2010 of 1500 CEOs, creativity was ranked as the single most crucial factor for future success. How do you build a creative culture? It starts with leaderships’ understanding of creativity, then giving talented people the knowledge of how to be creative and the freedom to do so.

 

Pixar is a good example of a company with a creative culture—the innovative animation giant has created 14 No. 1 movies in a row. Pixar President Ed Catmull coauthor of the book Creativity, Inc. points out some basic beliefs:

  • Talent is rare.
  • Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when failures occur.
  • The working environment must be safe to tell the truth. Everyone must constantly challenge all of our assumptions and search for the flaws that could destroy our culture.
  • And always remember that the ultimate goal is “making the product great.”

 

Creativity isn’t elusive or exclusive. According to a joint study between Harvard and Insead, it turns out that creativity is 85% a learned skill. All we need to do it learn it! Easier said, than done, for most of us.

 

To help with the learning process, I have collected a mashup of thoughts and ideas (more brilliant than me) on how to encourage creativity.

 

Starting with this short PBS video called How To Be Creative – an inspiring summation

 

In support of the video, here is an insightful quote from Jim Jarmusch an independent film director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor and composer.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.””

 

Connecting the Dots

Maria Popova, the creative genius behind BrainPickings.org, says that creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected – it is the melding of existing knowledge into knew insight about the world around us. It’s the ability to connecting the dots between unrelated ideas. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is so passionate about this concept that it is part of their company’s philosophy of growth, they call it the ABCD process: Always Be Connecting Dots.

 

Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Curiosity

Psychologist Todd Kashdan thinks curiosity “appears to be a fundamental motive in facilitating industry and creativity.” Curiosity goes hand-in-hand with creativity. B. F. Skinner, psychologist and author, said “When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.” Visit a bookstore or library and wonder the rows of books and maybe get inspired to read something different. Buy a magazine from a section that you rarely view (stay away from the xxx adult section). Watch a movie or TED Talks about a topic you know nothing about. Take a course on a skill set that you are interested in but know nothing about. Start asking the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ on everything around you.

 

 See Things Differently

In Maria Konnikova book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, she emphasizes the importance of observing your environment on a deeper level. Leonardo da Vinci observed that many people look, but few people see – and that mindful seeing is the foundation of direct experience, itself the foundation of direct knowledge. Writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind. Try to be in the moment.

Expand Your View

Involve individuals and ideas from all walks of life to help collaborate. Google provides lunch every day for all their employees but there is one catch – everyone must participate from all departments and levels. They share what they are doing and discuss new ideas. According to Caitlin Adair, from Google’s head office, their café and microkitchens create collaborative space for employees to “discuss, brainstorm, meet and relax.”

 

Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with fun perks such as beach volleyball courts, mini golf courses, and adult playgrounds. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses that value creativity need to do their best to foster a creative, safe space where unusual ideas are celebrated and where creativity is nurtured.

 

Experiment – Appreciate That It’s a Process

Creativity is a process that is developed over time. We have to embrace that and give it time.

 

The first iPhone didn’t just happen. It took many hundreds of versions before it was finally released. Some of them, terrible versions that Apple never ever showed us, like the rumored click wheel iPhone that never was.

 

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

 

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” says Kotler. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent – these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”

 

Don’t be frustrated that you didn’t come up with a brilliant idea in five minutes. Creativity takes time – sleep on it, and get others to sleep on it.

Shake Things Up

Sitting in a room around a table brainstorming isn’t thinking out-side-the-box. Get up. Move around. Change your perspective, literally. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive effect on creative thinking.

 

Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg conducts meetings on foot – walking around the Facebook campus. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter, according to a study co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

 

Experience new things, take different routes to and from work, use your left hand for the things you would normally do with the right hand, avoid anything that makes life monotonous or mundane. Promise yourself you will do something different today.

Play

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO is an advocate that creative thinkers need time, space and permission to play in order to do their jobs well; because playfulness helps us get to more creative solutions. Check out his TED Talk as he talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play – with many examples you can try at home (and one that maybe you shouldn’t).

 

Right From Wrong

Creativity ultimately solves a problem as does a successful brand. Nick Woodman couldn’t get any great action photographs of himself surfing in Australia. This problem inspired him to develop the GoPro camera. Doctor Joan Fallon noticed that many autistic children had a deficiency in a certain kind of enzyme for processing protein. She started Curemark and raised $50 million to develop a treatment to solve the problem. Today, she is taking her unique technology and tackling problems like schizophrenia and other neurological conditions. Maybe, Ingvar Kamprad couldn’t get a table into his trunk of his small Swedish car so he took the legs off and then started IKEA.

 

As Steve Jobs said “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

 

 

The headline image is a protester whose Molotov cocktail has been morph into a bouquet. It was produced by the famous Banksy, a pseudonymous English graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique.

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The Scent of a Successful Brand

We use our traditional senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) to help make decisions and navigate the world of consumerism. Most brands focus their relevancy strongest on only two of these – sight and sound. It is through the use of imagery, design, texture, colour and rich sounds that strong emotional ties are built between a brand and its customer. But the strongest sense for evoking an emotional reaction is smell. Let’s take a look at who’s made the best scents of it.

“When we think about any experience, whether it’s personal or commercial, our sense of smell so profoundly plays into how we perceive and make judgments on the experience,” says Ed Burke, director of training and communications for ScentAir, a company that develops scents for other companies.

People are using their nose more acutely as we have become more sophisticated in many aspects of our lives. Today, we are all culinary experts; we have embraced new cuisines and use many new exotic spices, thanks in part to our noses. We have all become wine, beer and scotch connoisseurs as we swirl our glasses and stick our nose into the vapors. We are refining our sense of smell in many areas of our lives and are more aware of what we like and what we don’t like.

According to a report published by Kline & Company, a New Jersey-based market research firm, home fragrance retail sales reached nearly $5.6 billion in 2012. But Unity Marketing believes this market is growing so quickly that it may well surpass $10 billion.

According to Aradhna Krishna, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, scent marketing falls into the category of sensory marketing. In her book, Customer Sense: How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior, she defines sensory marketing as “marketing that engages the consumer’s senses and affects their perception, judgment and behaviour.” Krishna says that “no other cue is as potent as a scent-based cue,” and explains that the structure of the human brain is responsible for the close link between memory and smell.

Experts have suggested the special impact of odour on our memory could be related to the proximity of the closeness of our olfactory bulb, which helps us process smells, and the amygdala and hippocampus brain regions which control emotion and memory.

A well-known idea called the “Proustian Phenomenon” proposes that distinctive smells have more power than any other sense to help us recall distant memories.

Everyone has a library of smells that trigger memories like the scent of fresh cut grass, hot apple pie, vanilla ice-cream, someone’s perfume or after-shave, baked bread, balsam fir tree, and a dirty diaper. Pew!

Scent marketing is made up of two specific categories:

  • Ambient scenting, which uses pre-existing smells, such as movie-theatre popcorn, to recall consumer memory, and sets the stage
  • Olfactive branding, which creates signature scents based on a brand’s qualitative traits and specific clientele.

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Bloomingdale’s uses ambient scenting throughout their stores. They use the soft scent of baby powder to trigger mother’s memory in the infant department, soothing scent of lilac in the intimate apparel department and coconut in the swimsuit department. During the holiday shopping season you will find the scents of sugar cookie, chocolate and evergreen to incite the shoppers into a festive mood.

Any business that has the ability to control the customer’s environment in relationship to their brand experience can use ambient and olfactive branding. High-end retail chains, hotels, airlines, stores, banks and, even cruise ships are using signature scents to build their brands.

After touring the mall with my nose front and center, the most obvious and somewhat irritating use of distinctive fragrance is Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister as they pump their musky and masculine colognes through their ventilation systems. But I need to hold my nose, as I’m not their target audience of 12- 24 age youth who desires a heavy-duty stimulus of smells and loud music to get a reaction.

Other brands like Anthropologie, Aritzia, American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters and Old Navy all had subtle, unique fragrances that resonated with their environments. Standing out was the fashionable Hugo Boss store with their signature-scent of citrus, tamboti wood and tonka bean, Lululemon with its grassy and rosemary fragrance and the posh Tiffany& Co jewelry store with is cotton-candy scent. I am not sure that was a fit. But maybe it helps with the sticker shock of the $100,000 ring. Love can be such sweet sorrow.

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Ed Burke’s says the upscale hotel chains have embraced scent branding in a big way with the Westin Hotels utilizing the scent of White tea and Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco chain using a blend of soft citrus, green tea, black pepper and cloves. Good enough to drink.

Carnival Cruises, Qantas Airlines, home-builder Jayman Homes in Calgary all profess to use unique fragrances specifically chosen and designed to enhance the brand experience for their customers. Jayman’s director of marketing, Careen Chrusch says, “It doesn’t take away from the visual experience, and helps solidify the positive memories [consumers] have when they think of our brand.”

A study conducted by Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation claimed the amount of money gambled at a Las Vegas casino slot machine increased by 45 per cent when the site was odorized with a pleasant aroma.

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But is this invisible brand enhancing ethical?

While marketers say they are just beautifying the consumer experience, critics would argue that consumers are being unknowingly manipulated.

The Canadian Marketing Association’s code of ethics states that marketers must not knowingly mislead consumers. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission says it is unethical to transmit information below the consumer’s threshold of awareness.

Brand identity is more critical today than ever before, as more and more businesses and products compete for consumer attention across an ever-increasing variety of channels. Our senses play a vital and complex role in forming our thoughts, impressions and behaviors. By targeting the senses, brands establish a stronger and enduring emotional connection with their consumers. As online shopping continues to skyrocket it becomes even more important that every face-to-face brand time with customers become even more memorable.

Many brands fail to make use of their customers’ sense of smell. So harnessing the power of scents is an excellent opportunity for you to differentiate your brand from your competitors. As human memories are closely tied to smell, the longer you build your olfactive brand the more positive memories will be associated to your brand down memory lane.

Start smelling your brand today.