Friday, 30 May 2014

The A-List

With the recent rollout of Millward Brown’s 2014 BrandZTM Top 100 Brands list, we can tell who’s in and who’s out. BrandZ is a metric specifically designed by Millward Brown and conducted over three steps to evaluate the performance and success of the world’s most influential companies. Every brand brings something completely different and unique to the table, yet BrandZ is able to compare companies on the same scale and truly look at financial value, brand contribution and brand value. Below you can find the video of this year’s A-List.

The thing is, companies and big brands don’t just make the list because they gross the most profit; instead they are ranked by the values they embody, the needs they satisfy and the further successes they inspire. Key takeaways mentioned on the Millward Brown website include knowing the customers, staying relevant, using technology and creativity for competitive advantages, and being meaningfully different. These aspects are both part of learning about the consumer insights created by branding and advertising, as well as evaluating marketing performance in a universal way. By building a database of metrics like BrandZ, it becomes very clear what some companies are doing to be the most successful.

As an additional measure, Millward Brown evaluates the top 100 on their social media vitality. Social media presence is crucial, as seen in present day throughout politics, entertainment, and the workforce. This dimension has allowed Millward Brown to objectively rank brands based on both frequency and favourability.

Top 100 brands are those that have utilized market research, have specially customized marketing strategies to conquer international markets and digital markets, and who have really resonated with who their customers are and what they can do for them. 

This year it appears that around three Australian companies made the top 100, including Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and Woolworths. Brands like these are also ever expanding and will always play a large part in consumers lives.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Storytelling - The New Way Forward

Within both the content being studied in our classes and my own extra-curricular reading, I keep coming across the idea of ‘storytelling’, and I really wanted to discuss how powerful this method of communication could be for a brand, if harnessed correctly.

The first instance of storytelling that I came across was in reading an article published by The Business of Fashion on the success of Instagram. Speaking about the ‘story’ behind the brand, and its massive brand community, CEO and co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, was quoted saying that:

“We think of our user base as a community of people contributing to the larger vision of capturing and sharing the world’s moments. When I say moment, a synonym you could use is story. I mean, we really are about storytelling through a visual medium.”

What’s most interesting about this this insight, is that it applies to all companies, and not just Instagram. Consumption, in its fundamental nature, involves a moment, or many moments that create memories, evoke reactions, and build experiences. Whether it be quite literally capturing these moments, as it is the case for Instagram, or currating and controlling the moment, which is the focus for other brands, the need for a story to be told, or written is still universal.

What this means for brands is that the product or service they are selling, regardless of how well designed and sought after it is, still requires a strong context. And communicating this to customers is just as important as creating the product itself. Christopher Bailey, incoming CEO of Burberry, was recently quoted at the launch of the brand’s new flagship store in Shanghai, saying:
“I think [storytelling] is important globally, but in China it stops things from being [mere] product and starts to give it life. History and heritage is important to have as a foundation, but you have to build on top of that to keep it moving forward.”

Cara Delevingne at Burberry’s Shanghai Launch Party. (Source: Burberry)

For Burberry, a brand with such rich history in the UK, storytelling has always been a part of its brand ethos, but as they expand into new markets, or re-enter old ones, re-contextualising this story is clearly of crucial value. After all, how is a customer that is perhaps unaware of Burberry beyond its signature check pattern, able to understand how they fit in to the Burberry world? Well within Asia, part of Burberry’s storytelling strategy has been focused around the association of Burberry with weather, and conditioning Asian customers to see Burberry as a lifestyle brand, as much as a fashion one (i.e. if its raining outside, then you’ll need your Burberry umbrella to go out).

I could go on and on with different examples of storytelling in practice, but most of it is fairly intuitive, so I might save those stories for another time!

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 23 May 2014

The TEDx Sydney experience

I don’t think I have ever had such a fulfilling, inspiring, and exhausting day before TEDx Sydney 2014. I was lucky enough to have been one of the six recipients of the University of Sydney TEDx ticket giveaway from the ‘share your greatest lesson’ challenge, so I attended the TED exclusive studio event with fellow USYD student Ross Ketelbey (B.Sc).

The event stretched my mind in ways I couldn’t even imagine would happen within short 15 minute talks. Every speaker was so captivating and inspirational that you were sure to become an advocate in the end and learn a great deal more then you knew about the subject previously. In the marketing world, particularly, some speakers really stood out, such as Adam Alter, a Psychology and Marketing Professor at NYU who is originally from here in Australia. Adam spoke about emotional marketing and the significance tied to certain objects, ideas, or concepts that can affect our decision-making processes. This subject is highly relevant to our current course subject in Contemporary Consumer Insights.

One example given throughout the talk was about how prone we are to liking the initials of our names. This fondness of certain letters translates to the larger picture when statistics are shown about the commonality and frequency of letters beginning first names. The most common male names in the U.S. begin with the letters M, J, S, and A, for example. Now, if Adam is telling us we are most likely to like our own letters, then maybe we’d be subconsciously more inclined to donate to a cause such as hurricane or cyclone relief for a storm that had the same first letter as the most popular names in the country.

Adam therefore proposed a method to stop naming storms in alphabetical order, and instead name them based on common names within the country of question. If meteorologists played on these strong emotional connections, they could potentially source more donations following the aftermath storms. It’s not necessarily meant to be malicious, but simply displays the bonding that takes place when we find a cause that we can relate back to ourselves somehow; even in the slightest measure such as the initial of your first name.

Other extremely notable talks and ideas, in my opinion, came from Markus Zusak, Cindi Shannon Weickert, Mary Jerram, and Megan Washington; all of which can now be watched online. TEDx Sydney 2014 was an truly an incredible experience, and it definitely gave me a fresh perspective on many topics that I look forward to applying in my studies, and future work life.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Is there no such thing as bad publicity after all?

For those of you possibly living in social media exile, last week celebrity gossip website TMZ leaked elevator footage of Solange Knowles physically attacking brother-in-law, and rapper Jay Z, following their attendance at the Vogue hosted Metropolitan Ball. The footage was missing audio, and so it didn’t take long for #whatJayZsaidtoSolange to start trending worldwide, and an internet and media frenzy regarding the attack to follow.

Surprisingly, the breakout star of this whole debacle turns out to be the clutch that Solange used to attack Jay, and which she is seen holding on the red carpet a few hours prior to the incident. Given the part this clutch played in the attack, one could assume that the original designer would want nothing to do with the situation, and instead, choose to ignore the negative associations of this attack with his or her brand. But for Anya Hindmarch, the designer of said clutch, this was clearly not the route she chose to take, and instead, her team tweeted a tongue-in-check new campaign image for the clutch, as seen below.

Although it is often argued that bad publicity, is still bad publicity, in a situation like this one, the opportunity to cash in on such wide spread media exposure is no doubt tempting, but is it worth the risk of making a bad situation worse? Well PR Maven, Ken Makovsky, argues that it really depends on how well known the company was before the incident, and how long the negative press lasts. In his article on this matter, he notes that ‘unless a company is afflicted by an ongoing crisis which is reported on almost daily in the print, broadcast and social media, most people in due time forget the occasional negative they read or hear and just remember seeing the company or product name in the media.’

So for a fairly niche accessories brand like Anya Hindmarch, whose name is only really imbedded into the minds of devote luxury consumers, it couldn’t really hurt to capitalise on the unsolicited exposure that this incident has brought with it. Apart from perhaps offending those involved in the incident itself, I would argue that it was a great example of making good of a pretty bad situation. Maybe it was too soon, or distasteful for some, but when punches are already flying, why not throw one of your own?

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Co-creation in the Audi Virtual Lab

Audi faced a design challenge in 2004: how to use the lessons learnt from the poor reception of BMW’s iDrive to put together their own user interface.  Their aim was to create the ideal embodiment of intuitive use; consoles that would allow drivers to access information, communication platforms and entertainment that would appeal to different customer segments. It needed to be Vorsprung durch Technic, i.e. advancement through technology.

Enter the Virtual Lab, an online interactive excursion into co-design. It was a process that Audi felt warranted a second run in 2006, but this time across Germany, Japan and USA.

The aims for these invite-only Virtual Labs were reasonably ‘simple’: involve customers in the development of upcoming interior systems by gathering information on customer preferences and trends, in quick and efficient manner. Also, they hoped to gain insight into the co-design process itself; with respect to customer acceptance, the customer’s  perceptions and the quality of user input.
The interactive processes in Audi's Virtual Lab

Bringing together their designers, engineers, IT and marketing pros Audi laid out an interactive experience (shown in the accompanying image), that encouraged the user to design the info-tainment systems to their preference. All the options were there; communications, entertainment, audio, video, navigation, telematics, together with the UI itself. Ultimately, the end-user was now able to designe their potential console layout solely with Audi’s resources.

The participants for the Virtual Lab deliberately included both early adopters and more traditional customers. Audi was looking for insights -not only into what offerings tech-savvy early adopters were most keen on-but also what usability issues other customers may have faced. With BMW’s integrated electronics interface suffering some user-friendly issues, Audi took the right step in consulting those who knew best – their customers.

The lab itself offered a range of options for design: from the ‘easy-mode’ offerings of popular bundled items, to a  more micro-managed level where users were able to select components and layout individually. Many of the systems offered were still in development and only existed virtually, allowing both Audi and their customers to gauge insight into their adoption.

As this article suggests, this process was a success. This form of pre-emptive feedback benefited both customers and Audi. In effect, they were able to alter infotainment prototypes without losing sacrificing money, or waiting for the next model update.

Ultimately, Audi gained insights into driver preferences, enabling them to distinguish between what was considered as must-haves from the nice-to-haves. From the data they collected from participants, they were able to group results based on model preferences, demographics and other consumer traits.

What was interesting and worth noting was that customers were intrinsically motivated. They had their own interest in participating. It was enjoyable, and they felt they had real input; a channel right to a designer’s ear. The only external motivation that was offered was the distribution of promotional hats.

Overall, clear, open co-creation processes like this offer insight for businesses to solve customer issues: just ask the customers themselves. 

Based on information from:
Bartl, M. 2009, Making-of Innovation,, viewed 12 April 2014, <>
Bartl, M. and Füller, J. 2007, ‘User design in practice – the Audi Virtual Lab’, Proceedings of the World Conference on Mass Customisation & Personalisation, Cambridge, Massachusetts, viewed 12 April 2014, <>
‘Case Study: Audi Infotainment’ 2004, European Business Forum, vol. 19, Autumn, pp 56-7, view 14 April, <>

Jason Della
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Why Liking Curly Fries Makes Me Intelligent

As an avid curly fry lover from way back, I was very pleased to recently discover that my love for this fun fried food actually makes me smarter.  What’s more, I was completely unaware of this link which left me pondering the impact of the many other things that I like?

So at this point, I am guessing you are either intrigued or convinced that this paradox is simply serving to disprove my intelligence from the outset.  So let me put this into context.

Through advances in technology, hyperconnectivity and the rise of social media, our individual electronic footprints and personal information are becoming more and more visible.  In fact, it possible to predict many personal attributes such as political preference, personality score, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, intelligence and more.  Now, I know many of you will be thinking, ‘but my Facebook profile is private’, or ‘I do not share that kind of information online’.  Coincidently, that is what I thought too until I saw a recent TED talk by computer scientist, Jennifer Golbeck.  Jennifer discusses the implications of small, seemly insignificant actions.  Yet, when taken in the context of hundreds of thousands of other people, they start to tell a story. Watch the video below.

This brings me back to the humble curly fry and why they make me smart.  A recent study utilised online data to correlate it with what people like on Facebook. From their research they identified the five Facebook likes most indicative of high intelligence and amongst them was the humble curly fry!

In another example, Jenifer refers to a pregnant teenage girl who was sent Target catalogs for baby clothes two weeks before she told her parents she was pregnant.  That is amazing, targeted marketing at its best (no pun intended!).  But how did they do it?  Similarly to the curly fry example, Target was able to analyse buying behavior within a large pool of people to generate a pregnancy scale and accurately predict that this girl was pregnant. 

Now I am no computer scientist, so if you want to understand more of why this works then I encourage you to watch the clip.  However, as a marketer I began to contemplate:
  • Are we truly aware of what our online profile really says about us? (clearly I was not!)
  • What ethical and moral implications surround the availability of such personal data and its impact on personal branding?
  • How we might manage these ethical concerns while still maximising our opportunities to achieve our strategic marketing goals and objectives?
Jasmine Clement
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 2 May 2014

Burberry Kisses – Co-Creation at it’s finest

We’ve recently looked at the brand transformation of Burberry in our Internal Marketing studies, and although there was a brief mention of the digital strategies they’ve adopted (i.e. The Art of the Trench initiative), I wanted to focus on one of the more innovative, and frankly ingenious, campaigns they’ve run as of late.

Burberry Kisses was developed in conjunction with Google, the brief being that they wanted to “create an emotional connection between the Burberry brand and millennial consumers through the lens of beauty products.” To fully understand the concept behind the campaign, a quick watch of the following video will give you an idea of how it works, and why it has arguably set a new standard for digital marketing.

What we see from this campaign is a combination of co-creation efforts (namely co-experience and co-promotion), with a primary focus on humanising the perceptions of the Burberry brand. Not only do you get to send a ‘kiss’ to your loved one (and watch it being delivered using real Google Maps StreetView imagery), you also get to sample a select few Burberry lipstick colours in the process. The experience with the product comes secondary to the experience with the brand, and that’s where I’d argue the strength of this campaign lies. Given that Burberry is only just beginning to expand it’s presence in the cosmetics market, creating a brand-wide experience could be much more valuable than a single product experience. Once the Burberry customer has created an emotional connection with the brand, this connection has the potential to automatically transfer to other products, and contribute to the understanding of the brand as a whole.

Although the results of this campaign that have been shared publicly are quite modest (they only range a week from the initial launch), the innovation, and playful nature of this campaign, really serves as a great example of how brands can successfully humanise their digital marketing efforts, and create a message that is clearly (or literally in this case) ‘signed, sealed, and delivered’ to their customer.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School