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Posts tagged with brand strategy

MIT Sloan Study Tour: Global Branding In A Dynamic Marketplace


In an interconnected world where boundaries between cultures and countries erode with each Tweet and international AirBnB traveler, brands are faced with a tension: how can you create a brand that appeals to people globally while preserving the flavor of each local community? In our MIT Global Branding Study Tour, we set out to visit some of the world’s most successful global brands to learn about how each has been able to craft an identity simultaneously unique and universal. 

From Old Town in Stockholm, Sweden to the mountaintops of Orense, Spain, we visited companies that were in the early stages of global growth as well as those who have already established global recognition, in industries from technology to luxury fashion. The branding challenges that both growing and mature brands face reveal fascinating trends that demonstrate the often-elusive capability of finding, understanding, and evolving with dynamic customer segments in a world of ever-changing technology. What all of these brands had in common was their mastery of connecting emotionally with their core customers by communicating the brand essence through a carefully created combination of service, product, marketing, and browsing experience.

Data-Driven Brand Development

In visiting Spotify, Nickelodeon, Zara, and Carolina Herrera, the role of data in defining the entire brand experience, from messaging to product to service was essential, and part of the core competency that has made these companies exceptionally successful in their global expansion. From quantitative analytics to qualitative observations, these brands had mastered the integration and interpretation of data to be able to take action on a day-to-day basis in a way that made a direct impact on the bottom line of their business to fuel global growth.

A clear example of brand evolution includes Spotify, which started in Sweden and has had to adjust both its product user experience and marketing based on insights from data to sustain growth globally.



Brands Grown From The Soul

On the flip side, Acne and Dominio Do Bibei have successfully become well-loved, high-growth brands by neglecting the traditional creation of brand identity that usually finds its genesis in research. Instead, these brands have been founder and mission-driven, with originality unique to each founder’s passion, yielding consequently niche products that magnetically attract diehard fans. 

Acne Jeans began as a fashion, technology, and art collective, driven to define the avant-garde. Since then, it has developed unique and highly successful luxury fashion collections that have propelled the brand into global recognition. The essence of the brand, artistic, futuristic, and luxurious, is imbued in every aspect of the company, from the CEO to its retail stores.  With growth, Acne has to learn how to maintain the uniqueness of the brand while creating enough definition to be globally recognizable. 


Seeing the headquarters of these brands firsthand and meeting many of the founders and leaders of these companies has demonstrated the importance of managing the tensions between focusing on core brand values and dynamically evolving to create and sustain global growth.

More in-depth articles about Zara, Spotify, Carolina Herrera, and Acne Jeans to come!

To capitalize on the Redbull-sponsored Felix Baumgartner skydive from space, the brand has enlisted Syyn Labs, a Los-Angeles-based creative collective best known for creating This Too Shall Pass  (Ok Go that with over 38 million YouTube) to create an epic athlete-powered Rube Goldberg machine. Since its release on Nov. 11, the video has already garnered 9 million views. One of the most risk-taking and innovative brands in the world, Redbull continues to think of ways to outdo itself, and its strategic partnerships continue to fuel the brand. A long way since the cutesy line-drawn commercials of “Redbull Gives You Wings.” 

Zoom Info
Zoom Info

L’Oreal Paris’ latest app make recommendations of colors based on the users’ outfit of the day. Users can take a photograph, then choose makeup to match it, blend it or clash it. By taking a photograph of their outfit and selecting what type of matching they want (hot pink or nude lips with a neutral gray dress?), the app automatically generates a list of suggested makeup colors that go with the outfit. Genius.

"When you hear some marketers talk about Apple, you hear about emotive benefits associated with the brand: the cool design aesthetic, the imagery in the advertising, and the sense of community evoked by seeing people you respect with Apple products. This glosses over the product’s most important trait: functionality. Using an Apple product feels so natural, so intuitive, so transparent, that sometimes, even people paid to know what makes products great completely miss the cause of their addiction to Apple products. It’s the natural, intuitive transparency of the technology. The superlative product experience comes from an unusual combination of human and technical understanding, and it creates the foundation of all the other positive aspects of the brand."

"One of the things that is unique about Estée Lauder is the way it has an integrated approach to social and word of mouth. ‘You need to realize that this isn’t something you need to quarantine to your website. You need to roll it out to your stores and print promotions, to help support shopping decisions, and then measure the impact through the entire value chain.’"

Ever want to find out where the most awesome graffiti is in your city? Red Bull Street Art lets you tag known graffiti locations on streetview so everyone can see the best graffiti in the world. A clear move towards further positioning themselves as a “lifestyle” brand with this partnership. Fans of Redbull are supposed to connect drinking Redbull with being able to produce awesome graffiti. Is it working for you?

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks has revealed a new logo, to a warmer reception than that of Gap, probably because it has stayed with its core brand imagery, dropping the iconic Starbucks typography and moving forward with only the siren in its signature green shade.

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz explains their reasoning to “allow the siren to come out of the circle in a way that gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee” and reassures everyone ”the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth”. 

Businessweek notes, “Starbucks has never been just about coffee. It has always been about selling an experience.” In fact, Starbucks’ strong focus on music (see: Love Project) in leveraging it to craft its brand identity had Starbucks shoppers accountable for 1/3 of all CD sales. (Of course positioning the CDs as an impulse buy at the cash register and selecting favorite “Starbucks artists” to display—after all, Starbucks is a taste maker, pun intended—makes it much simpler for folks than the aisles of messy CDs in Wal-Mart.) 

But the overwhelming growth of Starbucks has translated into a loss of authenticity, and a tough economy made $4 skinny lattes a luxury good, which forced Starbucks to shut down stores nationwide. CEO Hughes, navigating the Starbucks ship with siren at helm toward multimillion dollar worldwide domination, quickly acknowledged there can be something as too much growth (the branding laws of Ries are, after all, “immutable” - see Rule No. 1: Law of Expansion). Starbucks hired corporate eyes to do research, studying the ambiances of successful mom-and-pop shops for months to try to recapture the essence of its neighborhood coffeehouse charm, which Starbucks had lost in its nationwide replication of its store design. 

CEO Hughes’ current statement shows how symbolic this rebrand is: by removing the “Starbucks Coffee” typography circle around Little Miss Siren, they will be freeing the mermaid and themselves to continue pushing forward as a lifestyle brand and training the new generation to recognize this brand imagery so they can move into new frontiers, such as serving beer and wine

As brand specialist Scott Bradbury (previously of Nike and Starbucks) commented, "Brands have to evolve or die," he says. "It’s a tall order. But if anyone can pull it off, it will be Starbucks." And the new logo is simply phase 1 of this evolution. 

The Fun Theory. Easily one of the best campaigns of the year. By DDB Stockholm. It is the perfect example of a campaign that truly struck a chord with its audience; it wasn’t just entertaining or simply a visual treat. At its core, The Fun Theory was about designing an innovative user experience, and in staying true to its soulful philosophy of improving the world and bettering lives, it inspired brilliant ideas. It effortlessly garnered 17 million views and “The Piano Staircase” became the most watched viral video of all time. What was a simple series of viral videos became explosively successful: achieving top level PR coverage companies and agencies dream about, inspiring quality user-generated content (hundreds of submissions from 35 countries), and setting the standard for a new way of thinking. 

The beauty of this campaign and the core of what made it an international viral hit was that its creators weren’t thinking about creating an engaging new viral ad or an integrated multi-channel marketing strategy. The creatives behind this campaign had their heads and their hearts in the right place: they were thinking about the people, the human aspect. They had hit upon a “why” that motivates human behavior, one that Simon Sinek would gushingly applaud them for (don’t pretend as if you haven’t drawn the triad of circles somewhere on a whiteboard in your office).  

Because their creative came from an idea that resonated deeply with a philosophy everyone could relate to and cheer on, The Fun Theory has now become a legend and arguably created a much deeper connection between the VW brand and its audience. 

The moment you lose sight of the “why” that will resonate with your audience is the moment your campaign is headed into the annals of corporate fails. So once again, three cheers for DDB Stockholm and their refreshing, authentic, insightful, and fun campaign.