Superhero Branding conference at NEXT16

Superhero Branding conference at NEXT16

On September 22nd, Olivier Kennedy and Martin Künzi gave a conference about Superhero Branding at NEXT16, the event for those who actively participate in shaping the digital transformation.

Following a tough selection process, our leaders Olivier Kennedy and Martin Künzi were invited to present the results of our research at NEXT16, on September 22. With their conference named “The fall of Lovemarks and the Rise of Superhero Brands” they delighted a packed room with revelations and a custom workshop to introduce the attendants to the art of Superhero Branding.

The conference was live streamed on Facebook and carefully followed by our teams in Geneva and Bern. To learn more about Superhero Branding, please take a look at the conference recording!

So branding has evolved and I think everybody of you has understood that branding is not the same anymore than in a 20th century, so we are in 21st century and things have changed. we have different kinds of brands. We found out that brands doesn't define themselves anymore alone, many brands are in a context, most of the brands have clients hopefully and usually what we are used to from the 20th century that brands could really create their brand themselves. They created the logo, their create colors and they just pushed it out. Today with the possibility of social networks and an interaction, brands are much more defined by their users, by their clients and so things have changed. We'd like to share a bit about this.

So they are there are many types of brand. Let's start by the corporate brand and Martin, I think you love them and you know a lot about them. Can you please tell us a bit about them?

You love them? I'm not sure.. It was really the point that you wanted to mention.

No, no!

Actually I know about corporate brands, I worked seven years for Swiss Post. So I know how a big corporate company works. And I learned to summarize corporate brands, how they behave in one centuries. You want to know it? It's about policies. So that's corporate brands and we brought you three different corporate brands. First it's Petronas the Malaysian petrol company, they were founded into 1974 and in 1998 they built the petronas towers. So they set a mark, they wanted to be seen all over the world and so this is the behavior of “We are the best”- Corporate brands Petronas. Another one Nestle. So nestlé is a Swiss brand and Olivier can tell us a bit what Nestlé is all about.

Yeah, it's about guidelines. It's a.. we've been working for Nestlé, we work still sometimes from Nestlé and it's really.. you have guidelines of how you can use the brand and the design, that at that big. I don't know if anyone knows them by heart or know them at all, but it's very interesting.

And then we looked at Deutsche Bank, because we are in Germany today. If you just go on their about “US page” on the website, you can read : ”Wir wollen die führende kundenorientierte globale Universalbank sein”. Wow! I thought the man or the woman who wrote the sentence already succeeded by writing it, by really fulfilling this vision because no one else have the same. So Deutsche Bank talks not an high level, they talk a corporate language. And so you can see, corporate brands, this is the way they behave.

And then there is the love brand. I've brought you a few and there's one I really interested it's in the book about the love, the love mark. It's a twinings! Who of you love, so it's kind of a strong emotion, twinings? Like you really love it? Okay so that was the way you build brand in the 20th century. The way you build that is : the more money you have, the more voice you will take. If I can be everywhere, I will be ever. Basically, the only minute limitation to my monologue as a brand, will be my budget. And well that worked, the advantages of the love mark is basically if you have the bigger budget, you will win. But in the 21st century things have changed and we see something new coming up. We see in the horizon a new type of brand emerging. And we would like to present you some of those new brands.

If you just look at them, we have Uber as first one. So Uber disrupted the way of mobility. We have Dollar Shave Club and Dollar Shave Club brought war to the playground of Gilet. And we have Airbnb, so they are not really loved brands for the hotel industry.

And what is interesting is, that on the product level, if we go in the branding level they do things very differently. Uber has a non-traditional branding, every time you log on it, there is a different pattern, a different color. And the Dollar Shave Club has a non traditional advertising system. Basically, you will find more content user-generated about Dollar Shave Club then you will find about Gilet. And Airbnb, has a very non-traditional way of doing storytelling. And we call that kind of brand, those very different brand, that superhero brand. And the superhero brand we would show you big ones, but we're going to show you example of small brand, that can use the superhero way to create a brand. So far we identified a ninth trait the way, we did it is we created a tool called the full potential it's a quality analysis tool of branding and we run it unto 250 companies we did two years in a row and we discovered that some red word was performing much better than others. So we start to analyze what are the common point of them and so far we are at identified nine traits. And today with you, we will present you four of them. And I will talk to you about the symbol and the personal cause.

And I would like to share some thoughts about how brands wear a mask, can wear a mask and they want the last one brands should act, not talk.

So for this is simple, the traditional way you build a brand when a company you want to start with brands, it’s to really say I want the logo, a font, a message. And the way it will happen usually is, you have a lot of time creating it and then when it's done it’s put in marble and it doesn't move and it becomes cold and it's something that you then repeat repeat repeat repeat. And there is another way to build brand, look Batman! I'm a big fan of Batman every time there is a new movie there's a new logo. And the logo tells us a story and this is a fascinating story actually, when Batman rise deploys a logo. I was like “oh there's going to be a hardcore one” it's going to be tough. And you can do that in banding.
Let me show you how you can do that, for example there is a bank that's called Atom Bank. The way they do it is, every time you log on the bank, they have a different logo the logo is always changing and when you create your account the bank becomes your bank. So it's Victoria's bank and Duncan's bank and that's really cool. Basically you have a sort of a living brand, something that is evolving, that is transforming itself and its really really lovely. Another example is Airbnb, they let you play with the logo. It's not something fixed you can redesign, it you can make it different, you can you can adapt it. And every time you log on it, you will see a different video and this video will be connected where you are, where you want to go or not and it will be something that is much more connect to your life. Basically, it will be much more human, it would be much more like a human so you will interact better with it.
And so.. what we take for that is as long as the meaning is untouched and you can modify the way you present your brand. And you can adapt the context and evolve with it. You don't have to look always exactly the same. And so Martin, let's talk about the mask.

Let ’s come with the mask. Actually a mask probably, this will be quite familiar. This mask everybody knows it, it's a master has become very popular in the way we have seen the internet evolving. It's a mask that we used to protest, to show something, to show a force, to show a power. But behind the mask there's always something human. And so I have brought you a very well example, that really shows something where we have a brand that has taken off its mask and we have a brand that wears the mask. So this is the example : it's the Pope, who just wished all at least from the olympic games that they enjoy the games and really spread something across the world. But then the official brand of Rio 2016 what they told, the Pope “@Pontifex please refrain from using Rio 2016 protect the terms”. So I told it's about policies “As a global brand you are in violation of official Olympic guidelines”. So this is the example of a superhero brand at the top, the Pope, and of a corporate brand.

It's a real one, it’s a real one! When I saw it first, I was like “this is not real, this is false”. So it's a real one.

So we have other examples from brands, bigger brands, small brands, a brand that you have brought with us is the “Les Chaussettes Rouges”. Actually, if just looked at this website you have the eye the feeling of it's a global e-commerce brand because, they ship all over the world their socks. But if you go deeper into detail, you will find that it's a really small boutique in Paris, 1.3km from the Eiffel Tower and they sell socks for passers-by and they do also e-commerce globally. So it's something different, so they put their masks to pretend being a global brand, take it away when you pass by. So it makes it very very human and we can see it, if you order socks there they send you a personal handwritten letter with it. So it's really something different it to be a personal connection that you can build and to be human, I think it's good if you see what it actually means to become human. And how you can do something in a way that human is, so we look at the video that this brand has made you can see it on their website. It's a good example of how can you be human and really connect to your audience.
So they really take you into this mood of being likable, being close to people and not a global corporate brand, but they still sell online as an e-commerce business.
So we have another example, it's Southwest Airlines. As we can imagine an American Airline is about rules and regulations. Southwest they try to get to become a human, have a human approach and what they did the creative community, because they believe behind every seat there is a story. And on their community site from Southwest, you can read stories about, for example like this boy her four-year-old boy who had cancer, this boy was on a flight with Southwest and on this flight he really was the likable person he was the star of the flight he connected to travelers, he was it interacted with the staff. And so this the story is shared on this community and created as many likes as you would like to have as a brand. So this is something that makes this brand really human and not a corporate brand, beside all the rules and regulation you can be human as well.
So it is about the mask and when you see what is in there superheroes use the mask to unleash their superpower, they don't need to use it all the time, so they only put it when I need it. At last they have a broad range of emotions. They know how their clients react to them. Olivier tell use about the personal cause.
So the personal cause is something very important, usually the way you build the brand the classic way is you think about values and you define a certain number of values. We come from Switzerland 80% of companies has respected as main values, that's how different traits it works. It's like you cannot differentiate with your value. The personal cause is something different, usually it's a is on where you come from and where your stories about.
So let's take this quote for Captain America “Why someone weak? Because a weak man oh the value of strength, the value of our power”. Captain America before we get his superpower, he's very weak and he get bullied by everyone. So when he got his superpower and get very strong, he says “I will always defend people who get bullied” and that's how the cause is defined. They find by a story and the cause is something that then you transform into actions. To have value and to put them on your front door, it's a bit like having a pretty girl coming and sitting less you and say “Hello I'm pretty girl”. It's like weird, either she is. She doesn't have to say it. It's like normally you see it, you find it. Captain America doesn't go around saying to people “I will protect the weak”. He does it and that's it. And let's take the example of a Basecamp. I'm very happy because, I think it's the first time I can present Basecamp without having to explain what it is. Because I'm sure of that, in this audience everyone knows what Basecamp is. So at the start, the goal of the company was not to create a software to manage project, they were doing something completely different. And they created there's this, to help them. And this became their cause, their mission and they wanted to have something that helped them to manage project in a very respectful way. So they wanted something that doesn't send notification outside of work hour, like this you can be a disruptive team, over different places and still respect people sleep or a people private moment. So that's something they kept all alone, same thing with slack, they didn't start I think we will create a discussion system. I discovered that slack plans was at the start to build a video game. I don't think the video game has ever come out and they were frustrated with ESC channel, so they decided to create a better one. Slack become this super tool, that many of us use, in this room. And the same thing, they have a respect for the way you want to work in a team. I've made some requests to them, in terms of.. to ask them why some features are not there, like a personal statistic. They said “Yeah because we don't want that you try compare one by one, we want that you track the wealth of your team and how your team is working together”. So the cause is is always very well embedded in the product. And that so with a personal calls what we learn in the superhero has strong cause name usually to a personal story. And outside their mission, the superhero can just be a normal human and we can chill out. And they don't act randomly, they always focus on one cause and that's very important. So Martin, I let you present “Act, don’t talk.

I think the introduction of the cause was already good starts to go further bit into the actions. Because if you just think of a superhero, they don't tell that they are great. They show that they are great. And there's a quote from Batman and as you already have heard Olivier is a great fan from Batman so.. I let him read the quote. “It's not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.”

So it's really the part, I show that I have super power and I use it for the good. That's the idea of the sentence and also the idea, how brands can behave as superhero brands. I come back again to this quote from Deutsche Bank : “Wir wollen die führende kundenorientierte globale Universalbank sein”. Who likes it? it's too much, so it's too strong. It's something you can't perform like this, if you would like to be there this, is not.. it's supernatural. But if you only talk to talk, you don't walk it and superhero brands walk and they don't talk. So that's the difference.
We brought you two examples to show how brands can act, there is Markhor. It's a Pakistani shoes brand actually a pakistani and the US who work together and what they discovered then, there were two entrepreneurs in Pakistan. We discovered that luxury brands used by Pakistani manufacturing shoes, to create a luxury shoes, sell it to a high price but don't pay the workers well. So these entrepreneurs fault, why don't we keep all the good stuff in our country, also the money. So they create the Kickstarter project and within 48 hours the project was launched and packed. And the cool thing is they didn't talk about their values, they acted. The founders, the CEO took the shoes and visited the backers all over the world and brought the shoes themselves. It's really something you are valued in my client, in our clients.
So as you can see… It’s works well. Look at the shoes he's wearing actually.
Actually it sure and it's really a service as I got, when I ordered these shoes and also when I stepped in the first time. It was the best feeling ever. So go on this website and try to find a pair of you shoes you can give all the sizes that you wear otherwise and they will find the right size. So they have really a good website, on how they do this. Another one is Tesla. Tesla is always a good example right but actually tells us a good example for cars. But it's also good example for other services or other products, for example, we found it... we know how about the blackouts in California. If energy consumption is at its highest, so they just break it down. Tesla find out that they could set up a power plant to store electricity for peak hours. So Tesla didn't talk I guess we could do something, they acted at they did. They created this energy storage power plant and can suit California in this problematic issue. And so Tesla is a good example on how you can act and at the same time get better as a company. Because it was the first that time that, they did such thing and they learned by innovating by prototyping and they made themselves better by an opportunity. So act don't talk!


So we had a struggle when we came across some brands, because they were loved works for your friend like where you can then they have the trait of some and trait of some other. And usually you have a problem with Apple because you can think about Apple for example about anything in marketing and that it really doesn't help. So what we discovered as we want to explain brands… Superhero brands, they put the mask to execute that power but underneath it's a human. But those brands, they are super, they are sort of supernatural all the time and the attribute a mask you're human because rent the Clark Kent brand. Because it's like Superman is the only superhero that has put a mask for is entire the life he is nobody, he is human. So that's the exceptional brand, they have a love mark traits and Superhero mark traits.

Superheroes actually start their actions as an accident, they haven’t look for something. It's not by accident, as soon as they are destructive that they become super power decided to execute it. It's a conscious decision and behold today is your accident to discover that you're rather, that you work for, you will become a Superhero brand.

Here the way is there is nine traits was identified so far, we share for with you. But don't imagine you need to have all of them, we never come across any brand have the nine of them. And so the superpower either the superpower trait, I don’t need to explain because it is what it is , is not even needed. You can create a Superhero brand without a superpower and the real example that is Kickass “At some point in our life, we all wanted to be a superhero”. Kickass has no power, nothing. Just put on a mask to defend the cause and that's what you can do.

So we wish you a really evening, good next and it was great to having you. Thank you.

Shaping brands for the 21st century

Superhero Branding is the latest finding of our Lab team. Over the last few years, we saw a new generation of brands challenging big corporations. What’s special about them is that they don’t follow the traditional process of brand building and marketing. And yet it works. Everywhere in the world, big and renowned brands are losing grounds to these newcomers.

We decided to dig deep and understand this new way of creating brands. And we ended up calling this new generation of brands “Superhero brands”. Because they share 9 special traits with actual Superheroes.