Tag Archives: Brand positioning

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

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.

Be careful when leaving the brand core – case Fujifilm

Fujifilm – a personal brand favorite of mine –  recently launched a new product line of cameras seen as Sony copy cats. Is that a good or a bad thing? While I realize not all of my readers are digital camera photography enthusiasts, the lessons in this article are applicable to any industry.

In his brilliant book Innovating Out of Crisis: How Fujifilm Survived (and Thrived) As Its Core Business Was Vanishing, Shigetaka Komori, the CEO who brought Fujifilm back from the brink explains how he engineered the transformative organizational innovation and product diversification of Fujifilm. It really is an amazing story.

The key principle during this process of organizational engineering was that Fujifilm remained true to its roots.  The mission of Fujifilm remained that of Preserving and Sustaining the Culture of Photography.

This result of this mission can be found in the design of the Digital Imaging products of Fujifilm. Fujifilm understood there are a couple of ingredients to a valuable imaging brand: lens, sensor, processor *and* connecting to the heritage of photography.

In the case of Fujifilm, this translated itself to the creation of cameras with a  distinct vintage look, with the same dials and buttons and the original Fujifilm. And very important, simulations of original Fujifilm analog films are built-in the camera.

Fujifilm. X100V, a vintage looking camera

 

The result: a huge fanbase of Fujifilm camera enthusiasts combined with a distinct positioning. Fujifilm Is the only “film” brand that made -without any doubt- the transition to digital! 

So far… so good!

But something happens to every focused brand: the need to expand or extend. In the case of Fujifilm, they decided to copycat their biggest competitor: Sony.

And with it, Fujifilm launches a new “S” product line, the first product being the S10. Gone is the retro look, gone are the dedicated buttons, gone is that vintage photography feeling Fuji brand advocates love so much.

Fujifilm X-S10 – the Sony copy, no more vintage

 

The Fujifilm site “Fujirumors” calls it exactly what it is The Vintage Departure.  And that is not a good thing.

Of course, Fujifilm will attract some new buyers, but while doing so it loses in being the distinct photography brand. In other words, all the carefully build up brand equity will get a hit.

And, perhaps easy to forget, but if buyers would have wanted a Sony, they would have purchased a Sony to start with. Nobody likes to have the copy, it gives the impression you would not be able to get the real thing.

The same would be for Sony. If Sony would make cameras looking like Fujifilm it might attract of course some people, but those who really go for the Fuji look, feel and operations will come to Fujifilm.

Think about it, do you rather drink Coca-Cola or a “supermarket own brand” version? Do you rather drive a Tesla or the Mercedes-Benz electric car?

My prediction is that the new Fujifilm S line will be one of short term gain and a long term pain. The better move would have been to invest in new and innovative ways to stick to the core and preserve, sustain, and expand the culture of photography.

 

Will COVID19 force brands to get back to their core?

Looking back to the world prior COVID19 feels like a long time, most markets were growing and the economy was doing just fine. Companies focused on growth, and usually, that meant expanding the line with new products, trying to target different segments or purchasing companies.

Now when thew world has literally come to a standstill things have changed. And they have changed a lot.

The one thing that happens during every crisis is that both companies and people get back to focus on what is really important. For companies, this means going back to what made them memorable in the first place. All the activities beyond the core start to become the subject for discussion.

At my company, Monday Brand we have gone through a self-evaluation process as well. When we started back in 2012 the focus was on Brand Positioning and optimizing Brand Architectures. To facilitate brand ownership of positioning and architecture within client companies we started offering very successful In-Company Activation programs. Because after all, it is the people that need to make it happen!

And then it happened… our clients asked for more, which is a very natural thing when you like what someone does for you. And so we added Brand Identity Strategy to our services, helping our clients to translate the positioning into an authentic brand expression. In some sense it was perhaps one step too far, bringing us closer to full-service agencies and therefore undermining what we truly stand for.

So, today we decided to go back to the core and focus only on three services: Positioning, Brand Architecture and Company Activation.

In January we started thoroughly reviewing our services, and since then we made updates to incorporate the very latest thinking and approaches allowing us to be even more effective. As we work mainly internationally, one of the guiding principles has always been that everything we do has to work fully through ZOOM.

When COVID19 happened we were prepared – we are more focused on our core and in these times of physical distancing we will continue to work through ZOOM serving our clients globally.

In case you recognize as well the need to focus on your core within your company or personally and want to discuss more, then please contact me at michiel at mondaybrand.com.

Stay safe, stay healthy!

Why some companies change a successful brand positioning

Recently I got a LinkedIn message from a reader about my Volvo Positioning articles (see Article 1, Article 2, Article 3). The question was: WHY did Volvo make the change to dump its historic positioning around safety?

While I do not have the exact answer on the Volvo case – I have seen in my brand advisory business and previous corporate life a couple of reasons WHY companies change their positioning.

 

The four top reasons I have come across for making big changes in positioning:

1: Boredom internally or with agencies
Many times people inside the organization and their supporting agencies get bored with the brand. They have worked on it for too long, the brand has become their daily reality and when constantly seeing and hearing the same things, it is only natural for people to get bored. Yet, consumers only interact and think about your brand a fraction of the time you spend with it. And that valuable time is needed to keep reminding them about something they know! Unfortunately, most brands fall sooner or later in the boredom trap.

 

2: Significant change in shareholders
New owners are often THE reason to make changes. After all, why would one need NEW leadership if all stays the same? In many ways, shareholders also expect that… when new leadership comes in big things are about to happen… and shares/ profits / … should go up. This is what likely happened to Volvo.

Ford Motor Company offered Volvo Cars for sale in December 2008, after suffering losses that year.  On 28 October 2009, Ford confirmed that, after considering several offers, the preferred buyer of Volvo Cars was Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the parent of Chinese motor manufacturer Geely Automobile. On 23 December 2009, Ford confirmed the terms of the sale to Geely had been settled. A definitive agreement was signed on 28 March 2010, for $1.8 billion. (source)

 

3: CV builders
Another one to watch for – CV builders have an interest in well… building the CV, and that means… something substantial needs to happen to the company they work for (‘the host’).  Something really substantial is of course to change the positioning of a brand – a big CV ticket item!

 

4: New Marketing Lead
An obvious one – but when companies assign a new marketing lead, they do expect the marketing to change. There is nothing more profound and more interesting to do for a marketer than changing the positioning of a brand.

 

Now that you know some of the key reasons why companies change their positioning, let me explain HOW you can reinforce your positioning.

Keep the brand linked to a category or a ‘job to be done’.
For example, in case of Volvo the category is/was safety. The job the brand does/did was to protect the family in the best possible way.

Of course, over time many other cars have gotten safe as well, but only one brand can be the safest. So, the only job Volvo had to do, is to make sure consumers continue to link the brand Volvo with Safety. This is done through product development with a  focus on safety features, linking the brand to general traffic safety PR campaigns, and promote safety features in marketing … because even though other brands are safe too, the brand Volvo has a perceptual advantage.  And above all… why would Volvo want to waste millions of EURs in over many years build-up brand positioning?

Shift your category or ‘job to be done’ to an adjacent category if your current category is not relevant anymore
For example, analog photo camera’s are not that relevant anymore, but cameras (still) are. So, in this case, your job as a brand owner is to shift the brand from a camera that is analogue to a camera that is digital. There are plenty of examples that this works (Canon, Nikon), and the best being Fujifilm. Fujifilm was able to transition some of their amazing analog film rolls as simulations in their digital products. Fujifilm reinforced what made them big in the first place, just in a different, but adjecent category!

 

In conclusion – whenever you do change your positioning, keep in mind that you do it for the right reasons and that you need to continually build on the brand that you own in the mind of the consumer.  It is not just about “trying something new”, “renewing the essence of the brand” or “exploring the cool edges of the brand”. After all, learning and confirming the perception of a brand  is done best through repetition.

Mircosoft goes back to the future with renewed focus on productivity

It took a while, but slowly but surely Microsoft is becoming the company that truly stands for productivity.

Microsoft is going to make real strides in translating the brand into products and propositions and become again the company that stands for productivity; exactly as we came to know it.

After all, productivity is where the brand started for the masses. Think of the IBM PC with MS-DOS, first used in the business environment.

With the introduction of Windows and Office, it was, of course, completely clear: the combination in the workplace and synonyms for productivity.

Even the competition recognized this positioning. Apple made some jokes about PCs and PC users in its Mac vs PC ad, but deep down it was a character sketch of creative versus productive. This is also exactly the difference between the Office Suite and the Apple iWork Suite. One is focused on productivity, the other primarily on creativity.

Now it is clear again to Microsoft itself what the core of the company is. In an email, ceo Satya Nadella says that “at our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.’

The recent repositioning of the Surface tablets towards productivity is already a great example. In 2012, the Surface was launched as ‘a laptop in a tablet form’. Very inconvenient when the obvious trend is that the number of laptops is decreasing. In addition, the Surface had all sorts of problems such as a sky-high price (nota bene more expensive than a laptop with touch), moderate battery consumption and lack of applications. Due to its unclear positioning, the Surface was compared unfavorably to iPad, the #1 in the tablet category.

The new Surface website now provides more clarity. A translation of the brand into propositions is visible. I read ‘Surface – the most productive tablets on the world’. Of course this could have been even sharper, for example ‘Surface – the first tablet focused on productivity’ with a headline like ‘finally, a tablet that can replace your laptop’. But the beginning is there.

Now that Microsoft’s core is crystal clear, it needs to make a clear choice and then, of course, go for it. The recent news of 18,000 job cuts will certainly contribute to this. For example, how does the Xbox gaming platform fit with productivity? How does Nokia phones’ focus on their photographic capabilities fit with productivity?

If the brand is truly providing direction, then the character or values of the brand can be used as a compass. Creating and executing branded products & propositions then becomes easier. And consumers understand exactly what you do and-importantly-how you make a difference.

This article was published in Adformatie (Dutch).

Ace Hotel: be different by really doing different

Last week I was in New York for a brand positioning assignment. The customer assured me casually that the hotel would be a unique experience. I was a bit skeptical, because in the past I have slept often in hotels all over the world and you basically see a lot of the same. Of course there were some exceptions such as hip design hotels, but I was always bored after a few days. There was always something that simply did not fit the image. Initially funny things suddenly became very obvious or even annoying. Or interaction with the staff was different from expected.

Then I came to the Ace Hotel in New York. The Ace is a hotel that does things differently, but in a challenging and stimulating way. For starters, the location of the hotel is in a neighborhood that does not come directly to mind for a new hotel. And that is how it started…

Purple 

Upon entering I was greeted by a man in a big blue blouse with sleeves rolled up. He had a beard, unkempt hair and some tattoos. Indeed, this was the hotel manager. Super relaxed and sincere friendly. The receptionist had purple hair, sparkling eyes, a big smile and I got a greeting from the heart.

The crowded lobby featured a stuffed head of a deer, many copper items, an American flag and a DJ.

“Use your key card and start going places” was written above the key card slot in the elevator. My room is wallpapered with the sheet music of the opera Patience. Not some random sheet music, but an opera from the late 18th century that and as a satire also did things different. A perfect fit!

The hotel guide is called “The Ace Survival Guide – a manual for food, drinks and other ephemera. Then my eye falls on a set of cards held together by a thick band. I push the belt aside and read ‘Here are some art cards by artist Miho Hatori. We love them. We hope you will, too. Because they’re yours now. – Ace ‘.

Smoke outside. Meet a stranger.

Under the “no smoking” symbol in the room is written “Smoke outside. Meet a Stranger “and then in small text” Smoke inside, pay a stranger $ 250″. It can be that simple.

In the elevator I meet another guest who is so enthusiastic that he tells me he had a real DJ set and a guitar in his room. Where do guests talk in the elevator about their room? Neat!

The Ace Hotel is in my opinion THE example of a brand-worthy hotel. It is a hotel that continues to be Ace by being different and consistently executes that to the smallest detail with employees who have the brand in their DNA. 100% Ace! Doing so creates fans. And fans come more often, spend more and tell your story. This article shows exactly that!

Focused brands have the future

A great example of being everything for everyone is Facebook, the world’s second most visited site. How can Facebook’s growth be in trouble? Simply by being everything to everyone.  Within the next few years we will see that Facebook gives up market share to more focused social networks. The trend is already there. The Conversation presented results from a study funded by the European Union on social media. From the study, we learn that for sixteen to eighteen year olds in the UK “Facebook is not only on the slide, but actually dead and buried. Often the youth feels embarrassed to be associated with Facebook.”

The findings are in line with Facebook’s own findings. CFO David Ebersam reported during the presentation of the third quarter results of 2013 “We did see a decrease in daily users partly among younger teens … This is of questionable significance.” Wow. What is happening here?

Nothing to nobody

Facebook is the current leader of the entire social networking category. “Facebook is a social network that brings friends, colleagues, classmates and acquaintances together”. And that is a long-term problem. If you are everything to everybody, you will eventually become nothing to nobody.

It is logical that new social networks that focus on smaller segments or new categories will divide the big Facebook pie. A good example is Pinterest, the social networking site that acts as a bulletin board and has a tremendous growth.

These focused sites attract new users who are not using any social network, but more often users of Facebook. This leads to a smaller group of Facebook users, resulting in content of inferior quality, making the brand less interesting for existing users and more difficult for advertisers to targeted audiences.

Focus

In the long run the market will simply demand a focused approach because the perception of a focused brand is always better than the perception of a comprehensive one.

Just ask yourself these questions:

  • Which brand do you think is better in high end watches, the one only making high end watches or the one making high end watches, jewelry and clothes?
  • Which restaurant brand makes better Thai food? The one preparing Chinese, Japanese and Thai or the one just preparing Thai food?
  • Would you rather have a TV+Bluray+Digibox combo or have it separate?
  • Do you trust the all-around surgeon for an operation or would you rather go with a specialist?

And finally,  which bakery brand bakes better French bread? The bakery called Rezé “Boulangerie Traditionnelle Francaise” or a bakery baking all kinds of breads, including French?

If you are an entrepreneur make sure you are focused enough and associate yourself with one category, not many.

If you are an established business and want to have relevant brands in the future, it is time to make choices about the category in which you are active.  Don’t follow Facebook.

Volvo – Keep your brand focus on safety or be toast – Part II

This post is part of three Volvo Positioning articles :
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Reflection as to why successful companies change their positioning

———–

About 3 years ago I wrote in part 1 how Volvo is turning from a school book example of brand building into one that is about destroying the brand.

Volvo is of course historically known for “safety”. Around 2011 it lost that edge in marketing with campaigns featuring for example the “All-New Naughty Volvo S60”.  Safety features and innovations were not brought to the attention of the public. In fact, Safety all together was put on the back burner and replaced by the new key selling points Performance and Luxury.

The real problem with this approach was that Volvo gave up the best positioning in the industry: after all, which car brand would not want to be perceived as the safest car?

Brands that go out of focus usually go out of focus in sales as well.  In 2006 Volvo sold 427.747 cars worldwide. In 2013 it sold almost the same, 427.840 cars. Indeed, zero growth over 8 years. This happened all at a time when markets like China continued to boom and last year also for Volvo. Still, Volvo sales in the USA are so bad that already in 2012 the WSJ Market Watch  suggested that Volvo might as well exit the market.

AdAge calls it an identity crisis.  A commenter quoted in the article says “Volvo used to be all about safety and long-term durability. But [now] everybody has safety. Many companies have more safety features than Volvo does, so they can’t own that anymore”.

Of course, all cars are safe and these days some cars might indeed be safer, but only one can be perceived the safest. Volvo stopped reminding consumers it was in fact the safest car on the planet. When you stop reminding consumers about your positioning you will slowly start losing it.

Just think for a minute that Volvo would have in fact continued the crash test advertising from the mid 1980s and put all of its innovation resources to safety. Introducing new safety features, setting the safety bar for the car industry higher every year… and reminding consumers that Safety = Volvo and Volvo = Safety.  Continuous reinforcement would have helped Volvo to be still today perceived as the safest car in the world.

Instead of drumming the safety message, in 2011 Volvo talked about “Naughty Cars”

And when that did not work out, in 2012 it moved from being naughty to cars “designed around you”

And fine-tuned in 2013 to “designed for real people”.

Here is a transcript of the voiceover: “A Volvo isn’t for everyone and we kind-a-like it that way. The Volvo XC60, designed for real people, designed around you”.

So what is Volvo in plain consumer language, max three words? It is hard, isn’t it?

Volvo is so desperately trying to be a brand that it is not. You cannot be Audi, you cannot be the brand for people who cannot afford Mercedes-Benz, you cannot indirectly say that Mercedes-Benz drivers are “unreal people”.  Everybody knows they are not. In fact, Mercedes-Benz has its own list of very impressive safety innovations. They have just not activated it in marketing. They could easily launch a counter campaign targeting women with a focus on safety and beat Volvo.

What should Volvo do? Continue to reinforce what consumers still might believe or want to believe Volvo is! My suggestion: revert as soon as possible back to “the world’s safest car”, continue to innovate in safety and talk about it… loudly! There is not too much time left before the brand will turn completely meaningless.

————-

Read the other parts of the Volvo Positioning articles :
Part 1
Part 2 (this post)
Part 3
Reflection as to why successful companies change their positioning