Happy Socks is going slowly back to just selling Socks

Happy Socks is going back to its core of selling socks. The website is restructured around Socks. The Happy Socks Underwear is gone.

The brand’s core idea, to bring happiness and color to every corner of the world, can be replicated to other categories as well – but in the case of Happy Socks, the brand name will forever be limiting. 

Back in 2018, I wrote a post discussing the brand stretch of Happy Socks into underwear, swimming gear, and much more. I did not see a future for Happy Socks Underwear, Happy Socks Swimsuits, or Happy Socks Pool Sliders.  Strategically I saw two options for the Happy Socks company:

  1. Stick with the category of socks – and take more market share
  2. Bring the other products under a different brand

It seems that Happy Socks company is moving into the direction of option 1. The website is reworked, and the homepage has a clear focus on Socks.

 

The web menu makes the distinction even more clear. It is all about Socks and Not Socks.

The Not Socks section cover face masks and swimming gear. By positioning the products clearly as “Not Socks” it feels these products are more like accessories, not part of the brand’s core. This positioning gives Happy Socks Company more freedom to make changes to the portfolio. For example, if a line does not work, the company can easily replace it without hurting the core Socks offering. Of course, it is still weird to walk around in Happy Socks Swim shorts.

But how did the company get here?

Happy Socks got famous for its colorful socks. When the company was founded in 2008, most of the socks in the market were plain. The founders decided to change that and bring more color and design to our feet. Something remarkable happened: they made a boring accessory item (socks) into a hip fashion statement and succeeded.

The mix of focus on colorful socks, decent quality, and a brand name that boozes energy in a boring category worked well. Happy Socks are truly happy compared to traditional socks.
In 2017 the company sold most of the shares to a private equity firm – usually one of the warning signs that growth needs to be accelerated. The shareholders must have been thinking: the company knows about color and design, there are contracts with factories that can produce socks. Why not do some clothing? Happy Socks quickly expanded the product portfolio to underwear and swimwear.

Today the company seems to be getting more and more back to its core: socks. By positioning everything else as “Not Socks” it allows for freedom to experiment with the portfolio – without hurting the core.

ZOOM the company that delivers happiness

Some of my readers know that I am busy with a brand new book. At this stage, most of the book is written, but I continue my research. One of the companies I recently looked at was  ZOOM and specifically the About ZOOM web pages. My aim: to figure out what ZOOM stands for both inside and outside the company.

It was honestly a shock to read the content that defines ZOOM. In short: the About ZOOM page is a collection of empty and not differentiating brand & strategy blurbs. 

Let’s take a look at each of the elements of the About page:

#1. What is the Promise of ZOOM?ZOOM delivers happiness, every single day.

Yes, you are reading this right. Think about that the next time you are in a ZOOM call or get communications from ZOOM.

 

#2. What is the ZOOM culture?

To deliver on the ZOOM promise of Delivering Happiness, the company simply defined its culture as Delivering happiness – how thoughtful, differentiating and unique..

 

#3. How is the promise of ZOOM delivered?

Through one value: Care. Whatever ZOOM employees do for Community, Customers, Company, Teammates, and Selves: they Care.

I am not sure how just “Care” can be differentiating. Values should give clear guidance, like a compass, how decisions are made, actions are performed, and how employees communicate internally and externally. The company values should be so strong and unique to the company that users experience them every single time  when interacting with the brand.

So, what is ZOOM all about?

By now, you might be thinking, is ZOOM a new-age type of Happiness company, with dedicated employees delivering Happiness every day, and who are delivering this amazing Promise in a caring way.

Now, just hang on for a minute because the ZOOM Mission and Vision turn it all in a different direction.

 

#4 The Mission and Vision of ZOOM

The Mission and Vision seem an afterthought or leftover from previous strategy work.

The keywords of the previous sections Delivering Happiness and Care are replaced by Frictionless, Secure, Empowering, and  Accomplishing more.

Do you feel the difference? It is huge – when employees are focused on, e.g., empowering and accomplishing more, they are in a very different state of mind than when they Care or Deliver Happiness.

On the Mission and the Security element specifically: during the initial part of the Corona crisis, ZOOM got hit with severe security flaws, and even today, there are still privacy and security woes. Tom’s Guide keeps an up-to-date list here

 

#5 About ZOOM

The website continues with a small section, “About ZOOM” which again steers the company’s core into a different direction. In this section, ZOOM is there to help you express ideas, connect to others, and build toward a future limited only by your imagination.

 

Simple suggestions for improvement 

What is wrong with all of this with the stock-listed company ZOOMPretty much everything!

Let’s clarify the ZOOM brand in a straightforward way with just a few steps. 

#1 Firmly claim a position
It is vital to claim a position – only by doing so can people know precisely the difference between your brand and others in terms of what it concretely is and does.

Using ZOOM own words:
– ZOOM, the only frictionless video conferencing app
– ZOOM, the innovation standard in video conferencing

#2 Define the company character
What type of company is ZOOM? How do people work, decide and take action? This is not what we want the company to be, but what the culture is all about. Based on the direction given by ZOOM, I use the Caregiver character as an example. The Caregiver’s strategy is to do things for others, intending to help others. Compassion and Generosity are essential.

#3 Define brand values that steer 
Taking the Company Character and Care concept, we can define strong values, such as Thoughtful, Humane, Compassionate. These are all adjectives and are easy to use to steer activities. I can, for example, say, “this copy text feels thoughtful, humane, and compassionate. It is on ZOOM brand.” The values are also not the opposite or conflicting, which makes assessing actions focussed.

#4 Define the Belief
The Belief is rooted in the Company’s Character. As a belief, it is shared among all employees and is the foundation to deliver every single day the promise.
For example: At ZOOM we believe that the greatest, most sustainable happiness comes from making others happy.

#4 Define the promise
The Promise is also routed in the Company Character and delivered by employees to each other and external.
For example: At ZOOM we promise is to be good and do good

 

Summing at all up

The brand can be summed up in a few lines. While I did not include a mission or vision it feels more coherent in steering the brand in actions, decisions, products, and communications.

  • ZOOM is the only frictionless video conferencing app
  • Audience:  Community, Customers, Companies, Teammates, and Selves
  • Promise to each other and customers: to be good and do good
  • The promise is delivered through the values: Thoughtful, Humane, Compassionate
  • And ZOOM can make it happen because it firmly beliefs that the greatest, most sustainable happiness comes from making others happy.

 

Photo by Arjohn Janroe Queral on Unsplash

And so much more…

It is the Apple WorldWideDeveloperConference time of year again! Traditionally the moment that Apple showcases significant changes to all their operating systems: macOS, iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS.

This year was a mixed bag. The announcements were mostly a list of Apple app updates. Clearly, Apple is a fine-tuning mode and has difficulties coming up with breakthrough features in the current platforms and usage scenarios.

Engadget stated for MacOS “With macOS Monterey, Apple is trying to polish its desktop operating system even further.”

What is worrying is that on the Apple.com front page there is just a sheer amount of features listed under every OS.

iOS 15

Connect with family and friends while watching and listening together in SharePlay. Be more present in the moment with Focus. Explore the world in unprecedented detail with a reimagined Maps. And use powerful on‑device intelligence to do more with iPhone than ever before.

iPadOS 15 update

Do more things even more easily with powerful new multitasking tools. Create notes from any app using Quick Note. Add new widgets that let you see information at a glance right on your Home Screen. And enjoy many of the great features also coming to iOS 15.

MacOS Monterey

Share your screen with friends and coworkers in entirely new ways with SharePlay. Explore a more immersive, customizable, and streamlined Safari. And with Universal Control, you can now work seamlessly between your Mac and iPad.

Watch OS8

Give your Portrait mode photos from iPhone a starring role on a dynamic new watch face. Unlock your door from your wrist with home keys. Work out with tai chi and Pilates. And center yourself with new Mindfulness experiences.

Now – tell me quickly….
What is the key reason to upgrade your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Watch?
or What is iOS 15, iPadOS15, Mac Monterey of Watch OS 8?

I know that the answer is not going to be a crisp one. Apple is not communicating the one reason to get completely excited about any of the updates, or the one reason you would want to have the updates running on your devices today.

Even when categories mature consumers need incentives to upgrade.  While difficult it is better to pick that One Feature to steer all communications and PR than having massive feature lists leaving consumers and media wondering where to focus on or determining which one is really important.

Volvo Corporation attacks electric with the Polestar brand

The car category is already for some time in turmoil because of the change to electric. On top of that, in the conventional car category the Volvo brand is struggling because of changes in positioning. The owner of Volvo Corporation, Geely Holding has determined that Polestar will be the brand to compete in electric. Is it the right move?

The change to electric genuine for car owners and drivers as they need to change the way they think about driving and “refueling” cars. Consumers experience, therefore, electric cars as a different category. There are conventional cars, and then there are electric cars – both require a different way to interact with driving and moving you from A to B.

When something so impactful happens in any category, we will likely experience a change of brands. There will be brands that only focus on the “new” electric category. There will be existing brands trying to extend from conventional to the electric category. When a category changes so profound, some of the car brands of today will need to make space for the electric car brands of tomorrow.

The impact to the current brand owners has everything to do with whether the existing car brands can compete with electric cars – at least on a level to be on par with the perceived leader in the category. In other words, if you are in the market for an electric luxury SUV, then it is easy to go for the Tesla Model X because the perception is that it is the best in electric and in-car technology. The Mercedes-Benz EQC would come close, but it needs to deliver more to change the perception of Mercedes-Benz and that of the perceived leader Tesla.

Volvo is executing two different strategies to conquer the electric car category. First, the company is moving the brand Volvo from a conventional to an electric car brand. At the same time, Volvo Corporation is following a conquer strategy with their new brand Polestar. Polestar is a standalone brand to focuses on electric cars.

The Polestar brand is not new to Volvo. It used the brand in the past for Performance upgrades of their vehicles. The real Volvo enthusiasts will know the brand with the desired perception of performance, technical advancements, etc. Unless you are a Volvo enthusiast, the Polestar brand will be new. As a bonus, the Polestar name has a nice Nordic / Scandinavian ring to it. Volvo bought Polestar in 2015. In 2017 Volvo Cars and their owner Geely Holding announced that Polestar would become a standalone to focus on electric cars.

Applying the earlier discussed Flip-test would indicate that Geely Holding made the right call to bet on two horses.

When we apply the Flip-test:

Current: Volvo gasoline cars
Extension: Volvo electric cars

Flip it!

Current: Tesla electric cars
Extension: Tesla gasoline cars

Does it make sense? Perhaps not so much. Geely Holding does the right thing to compete in electric with the new brand Polestar while not giving up on Volvo. It would be a shame if the Volvo brand will not make the transition to electric in the minds of buyers. The success of making the transition will depend on the number of cars at different price points from new electric car brands.

Personally I am very happy to see Volvo to take action. The brand has been in turmoil for years. I have written about Volvo in the  Volvo Positioning series Part 1Part 2Part 3  and a Reflection why successful companies change their positioning.

Credibility is lost when you do not live up to what you stand for

When you repeatedly go against your mission and values, you lose credibility, and your position is in danger. The audience will start to drift – first, slowly towards other platforms. Drifting will accelerate once a critical mass through worth of mouth is reached. Then there is no way back. 

Brands are like people.

If you for example do not like how a friend behaves, you can simply decide to no longer hang out with your friend. The same goes for brands. If a brand behaves terribly, you can decide to stop engaging, buying, or using that particular brand.

It gets tricky when your friend says that living according to noble values is essential and even points the noble way of living out to others. It comes then as an unpleasant surprise when you learn that your friend is everything but living up those dearly hold and communicated values. We get confused because the friend’s behavior does not match the perception we have about the person. The person is no longer credible.  If the friendship continues, it will be an unhealthy one based on disbelief and issues with trust. If a brand stops living the values, the same reaction of disbelief and distrust appears. And over time, we will look for alternatives.

Today I encountered a trust issue with YouTube, the brand that has brought video sharing to the masses. YouTube helped to accelerate the growth of humans by bringing immense knowledge to the fingertips of everyone.

Already for some time, YouTube is actively censoring freedom of speech by removing videos or channels about medical information, science, scientists, specific news channels, or simply videos containing an opinion (how scientific it might be) that is going against a set of guidelines, therefore stopping the debate and opportunity for humans to learn.

Earlier this morning, I decided to take a look at the About YouTube page (link, archive ) to understand what the company is all about and the brand credibility with me.

The first thing you encounter on the about page is a clear mission statement. Unfortunately, YouTube is actually actively going against their own mission. For YouTube not everyone is the same, some deserve to  have a voice, while others unfortunately do not.

When we look at the values we see a similar pattern.

The Freedom of Expression is striking:

We believe people should be able to speak freely, share opinions, foster open dialogue, and that creative freedom leads to new voices, formats and possibilities.

If YouTube in the last year has shown one thing it is that it is not a real advocate of Freedom of Expression.

I have therefore one simple question for YouTube:

—-
Dear YouTube,

You have given me a lot of opportunities to enrich my knowledge on virtually any topic. I thank you for that.

Unfortunately, I am distrusting you and as your friend I see two options going forward:

  1. You live up to your values,
  2. You update the values to reflect your behaviour.

Either way is acceptable because strong brands provide clarity regarding what they stand for and consistency in execution using company values as a steering compass. Only this way, they remain credible.

Make your choice.

—-

Photo by Adam Fejes from Pexels

Reddit Nailed It

Jep… Reddit nailed it with the first-ever JPG(!) SuperBowl Commercial

The actual message – that one slider – was nicely wrapped in a short reel controlling placement and impact. The total commercial was 5 seconds only. 

Reddit did a great job, and with only 5 seconds of airtime, the commercial generated a maximum impact. Those interested in learning what the message actually said had to go online to find out, and once online, the step to visit the Reddit platform to learn what it is all about is easy.  

In essence, Reddit tells us that “powerful things happen when people rally around something they really care about”. The old Nokia slogan “Connecting People” is still alive and well. This time, according to Reddit, the platform to connect is their online platform.  

The 5 second commercial:

The key message (JPG):

General Motors transitions to EV the Nokia way

GM makes the strategic error of announcing a full transition to EV without having the portfolio of cars to back it up. 

 

General Motors started the year with a big splash…. a new logo and a new company direction (link)!

General Motors invites ‘Everybody In’ – underlying the change to electric vehicles using their new Ultium platform.

This is the new home page:

And yes, you are reading that right:
We’re making Electric Vehicles for all.

Never mind that the current product portfolio has one electric car!

The stats across the GM brands:

  • Chevrolet: 1 EV  out of  16 car models
  • Buick: 0 EV out of 5 car models
  • GMC: 0 EV out of 12 car models

This reminded me immediately to a company very dear to my heart: Nokia.

Back in 2011 (the 11th of February, a day I never will forget)  the Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced transition from the  ‘smartphone OS’ Symbian to Windows Phone 7. All of this was done without a single Nokia Windows Phone ready to hit the market.

 

The fallout was massive… the Symbian sales went down the drain, and in fact the brand Nokia went down the drain.

What -on paper- appeared an ‘easy transition’ turned out to be not that easy. The company had an enormous knowledge of the ‘old technologies’ and very little of Windows Phone, it was a transition that was not easy, and it turned out to be very unsuccessful.

The reason for the failure was not alone the internal Nokia execution. The other part was  consumer perception. Whether Nokia employees liked it or not, Nokia as a brand was not Apple or Android.

Fast-forward to 2021 and GM… we see exactly the same happening:  introduction of a new strategy to ditch conventional car engines without having a line up ready to  underscore the strategic direction to consumers.

The result: consumers will pretty much stop buying GM conventional engine cars until the cheaper EV models are available. During this time GM will need to transition… at rapid speed. Similar to Nokia, GM is full of conventional engine experts and none of that is relevant anymore.  That is A LOT to bridge… especially in an economic downturn time.

On top of that GM is still not Tesla or any another EV car brand…

The only real benefit GM has at this point, is the fact that there are not yet any real affordable EV players in the market that consumers can buy right now.

GM: I am afraid you made a strategic error by pleasing shareholders (short term benefit) while ignoring the product portfolio and consumer perception (GM does, unfortunately, not equal EV). Announcing a transition without cars will result in stagnation in sales of conventional engine cars.

Snickers Shake! Do the Flip test

I found this Snicker Shake image on my phone. I took this photo back in 2017 to keep it as a memory of yet one more failed line-extension.

It is quite amazing to see big brands falling for the line-extension trap. In The Only Book You Will Ever Need on Branding, we introduced a simple tool to check whether a brand extension makes sense. We called it the Flip Test.

If your brand and category are Snickers candy bars, and you want to see whether consumers could make the stretch and buy Snickers Shakes, then… flip it! Take an established brand in shakes, like Ripple, and extend it to your category of candy bars.

Then ask yourself… does this make sense? NO! So, in this case, the brand Snickers should not extend into Shakes.

One more…

Current: Red Bull energy drink
Extension: Red Bull Cola

Flip it!

Current: Pepsi cola drink
Extension: Pepsi energy drink

Does this make sense? No.
So Red Bull should not have extended into cola drinks.

Flip before you stretch your brand!

Strong brands do not need discounts

The impact of discounting products on the short and long term. 

The Black Friday & Cyber Monday sales are almost over. Consumers who got some deals are happy, and so are businesses. 

For companies, sales discounts are a great way to boost short term sales. It is an approach with guaranteed success. If you want to increase the sales bonus, then start offering discounts! When your product is in demand, you will notice that even people who do not need it right away might buy it because of the deal. 

Like with everything, there is a flip-side to the discount deals craziness – I like to call them deal traps, and here they are:

Postponed purchases of higher value items in general

If your product is NOT a fast-moving consumer product but a substantial investment for consumers, you must consider any possible discount you are providing. Imagine if I am in the market for an expensive bed, I could easily wait till Black Friday to purchase if it saves me 30% of the new price. Believe it or not… people are willing to wait till the next round of discounts. And at the same time, they do know the room to negotiate.   

Artificial purchase cycles, esp with higher value items 

A great example of this discounting is FujiFilm. In Spring, Summer, and Winter, they run pretty steep discounts on cameras and lenses. Now how often do people buy cameras and lenses? If you are in the Fuji camp, you should make your purchase three times per year! And what happens when a camera or lens is you like to purchase is not on sale? Then wait -if you can- till the next seasonal offers. Changes are your dream kit will show up at some point. 

Suggested retail prices do no longer exist.

Discounts reduce the suggested retail sales prices of the products in the mind of the consumer. Once you have seen a printer in a special offer for 69EUR, you won’t pay that 99EUR suggested retail ever again. Perception is why strong brands never engage in discounts – because discounts perceptually make the brand and product positioning weaker. 

Apple only recently engages in discounts, but they are never direct discounts – always in Apple Gift cards, to be used in the Apple Stores. You pay the full price and get rewarded with Gift cards. This way, the value perception of the product in the mind of the buyer won’t change.

So, what is the alternative to consider?

Never discount your core product but provide perks around it. For example, if your business is, let’s say, Music composition software, then never create a deal on the software. Instead, provide perks and packages of items people get when they buy the software. For example: buy the software get a plugin for six months for free. 

Whatever you do, keep in mind that strong brands never do discounts and never need to do discounts. 

 

Apple Redefining the PC industry

The Apple The Future of Mac event was a big bold move as Apple transitions away from Intel processors to in-house developed silicon. The move is in fact a redefinition of the PC industry business from ‘processor speed’ to a pure choice in form factor.  Yet another industry will get a rude awaking. 

One to rule them all

The reason for Apple silicon is obvious: when you own the full stack from silicon to the user interface you are in control of the total experience while reducing interdependencies.

There is however one drawback to this approach and that became painfully obvious during the presentation of the new Macs: Apple has just one chip which is not advertised in speed.

Consumers have learned that processor speed and the type of processor determines the processing power of a computer. Secondly, by using different processors manufacturers are able to differentiate between their line-up.

An entry laptop will not have a 3.0Ghz 6 core processor with a turbo boost for example. The fact that it was technically not possible (battery and heat-wise) helped to differentiate in various product-lines built around the processor.

 

No more differentiation around the processor

With the introduction of M1, Apple uses the same silicon in their-line up. It was clear from the launch events that Apple struggled with the differentiation between the products.

Just take a look at the Apple Mac Compare page for the new M1 products: Macbook Air, Macbook Pro and Mini and you will notice it is all the same

There are some small differences, like Touch Bar, Wide Stereo Sound, nits brightness, expansion ports… but nothing more.

Even on the individual product pages, the same M1 information is presented:

 

The future is form 

Going forward the difference will be in the form, additional gimmicks, but not speed. In fact, just like with the iPhone product platform the difference will be the form factor: iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

This change in dealing with a computer portfolio is probably the biggest change we have seen.

Taking this approach makes it easy for Apple to create product update cycles based on the M processors, which could go like this:

2020
Macbook Air M1
Macbook Pro M1
Mac Mini M1

2021
Macbook Air M2
Macbook Pro M2
Mac Mini M2
iMac M2

With heath and power consumption for the first time not being an issue anymore in the computing industry line-ups can be dramatically simplified.

During the launch event, the positioning between the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro was far from clear.  Both are exactly the same, except for some small features like ports, touch bar etc – so why would Apple keep in them in the long run? The answer: for the form factor, think screen sizes and future platform enhancements made possible by the total control of everything from processor to UI.

 

Redefining the PC industry

With the move to form factor based differentiation Apple is redefining the PC industry. The same portfolio simplicity that works with the iPhone, iPad, and Watch has now finally entered the desktop and laptop market.  The PC manufacturers with Intel will be in for a rude awakening.

 

Receive a portion of snack-sized brand bites

P.S. We hate spam as much as you do.
Please click the activation link after signing up.

You have Successfully Subscribed!