• BRANDS ARE MEANT TO SING

    If building brand equity is important to you, we need to talk. If you want clarity around your brand’s proposition so you can align every brand contact, we need to talk.

    If brand is not important to you, but you barrack for Hawthorn, or you think we need to take climate change more seriously, or you have a great pasta sauce recipe, or you’re interested in exploring the world on horseback... we still need to talk.

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What We Do

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Brand Strategy

You will know exactly what your
brand rules of engagement need to be.

Defining the DNA of brands in a layered and empowering way. Establishing the platform for differentiated brand strategies that offer an edge.

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Brand Culture

No one will die wondering –
everyone knows what is required of them.

Creating cultures that breath life into brands. Inspiring and aligning organisational behaviours to make desired brand aspirations a reality.

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Personal Branding

Knowing exactly what you wish to
stand for and having a game plan for success.

We work with individuals in Melbourne and throughout Australia to leverage the power of a brand mindset. Purpose driven, passion and talent infused personal brand definitions.

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Brand Identity

You will have a lighthouse brand identity
that communicates exactly what you stand for.

Creatively designing the visual language of brands. Every element working together to produce a stunning representation of the brand.

We all know about attributes – the new frontier for brand is ethos.

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Client Brands

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Dispatches

Nissan fuses tribes and technology for college sports sponsorship

November 9, 2015
Nissan ain’t being shy with its strategy of hitching brand expansion efforts to sport sponsorship deals. Alongside sponsorship of ICC and UEFA tournaments, Nissan recently announced a massive deal to back 100 American colleges across 22 sports. We’re talking college juggernauts such as Ohio State, University of Texas and Oklahoma. We’re also talking about a new ability to leverage its association with America’s second most popular spectator sport: college football. To give its new deal some initial traction, Nissan has gone innovative. It’s launched a free Diehard Fan app, which allows fans to use a photo or video of themselves to virtually paint their face with any of the 100 colleges’ colours. Before you dismiss the app’s capabilities, you really should take a look below. The finished product is remarkably life-like. This is a pretty shrewd move. It allows Nissan to edge its brand into fans’ consciousness by tapping into the tribal, fervent nature of US college sports. Nissan is injecting itself into the heart of a college sports ecosystem typified by old rivalries, the thrill of wearing the same school colours as parents or grandparents and raw, passionate support of a current school or alma mater. Further, the app serves as a credential to show Nissan understands the college sports landscape. On its technological merits alone, the app is a fun, novel and conversation-generating way of establishing a connection with the market. With some colleges home to 100,000 plus capacity football stadiums, college sports running 11 months of the year and extensive cable TV coverage, Nissan decision to go big could well end up with a touchdown.   Image: scmikeburton via Compfight cc

Toyota, ISIS and an awkward brand endorsement

October 8, 2015
It’s definitely the sort of global, consumer-driven endorsement that companies would rather do without. Toyota HiLux trucks have emerged as a near constant fixture in ISIS videos, from convoys of HiLuxes kitted out with heavy weapons or terrorists jumping from the trucks to commence brutal executions. To compound the company’s embarrassment, the US government recently asked Toyota to explain how ISIS acquired the vehicles. This sort of adverse association isn’t new for Toyota. An interesting 2010 Newsweek article points out that HiLuxes have been favoured for decades by militants from the Middle East, Africa and Central America. The article, via counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, summarises the vehicle’s appeal: longevity, high ground clearance, an ability to cover ground well and people mover capacity. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Toyota. In this instance its brand has suffered solely for living up to one of Toyota’s enduring and defining brand promises: quality. Toyota is drawing negative publicity precisely because the HiLux is functioning the way it was intended. The HiLux’s reliability in arduous conditions and its ability to handle heavy haulage has simply appealed to ISIS just as much as it appeals to tradies around Australia. In response to the US government’s inquiry, a Toyota representative said all that could be really said – including it has a strict policy not to sell to people who may use them for terrorist activities. Essentially, Toyota will just have to ride this one out. It would hope consumers are intelligent enough to recognise the situation is beyond its control. It will also need to continue to be seen doing what it can to protect the integrity of its sales deals and supply chain, despite the reality that it’s impossible to stop HiLuxes ultimately reaching people who want them. This “endorsement” does get you thinking, however, how the owners of Harley Davidson felt when bikie gangs started embracing their brand!   Image: alex1derr via Compfight cc

The Amazon story of employer brand self-sabotage

August 21, 2015
A fascinating piece about Amazon’s workplace culture surfaced a couple of days ago in The New York Times. Based on interviews with current and former Amazon employees, the article illuminated the company’s combative and uncompromising work practices. Here are just a few of the descriptions of the Amazon work experience that appear in the article: At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. [Bo Olson] lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” David Loftesness, a senior developer, said he admired the customer focus but could not tolerate the hostile language used in many meetings, a comment echoed by many others. A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover. At present, this workplace culture does not seem to have adversely affected Amazon’s business success. It recently superseded Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the US. Additionally, maybe the strength of its consumer brand can offset the employer brand deficiencies laid bare in the article. Ongoing success will continue to act as a magnet for prospective employees who want to work for the best regardless of what they may have to contribute or sacrifice. But it is hard to accept that the very public exposure of Amazon’s inner machinations in The New York Times would not have a negative impact on its employer brand. A percentage of high potential, well-qualified people would surely reconsider whether it is worth working for Amazon, especially when other successful companies are perceived to have more employee friendly environments. It is also worth considering whether the toxic elements of Amazon’s employer brand will be in time taken on by its consumer brand. The article also draws attention to an intriguing dichotomy about how other employers viewed Amazon’s employer brand. Companies such as Facebook have opened offices in Seattle and benefit from former Amazon employees who are valued for their work ethic. However, the article points out some companies are cautious about hiring Amazon workers because they have been trained to be combative: “The derisive local

Domino’s Pizza uses tasty technology to make its brand number one

August 19, 2015
Last weekend, on a whim, I jumped on Domino’s Pizza’s website to order a pizza. I was after convenience and I got it: it was easy to order and pay. But more interestingly, I wasn’t cast aside immediately after my money had digitally changed hands. There was a time-elapse wheel that kept me updated on what stage my pizza was at: order submission, preparation, cooking and delivery. I then sat fascinated as I watched, via GPS tracking, my delivery driver make his way to my house. I was given his name and photo, and when his progress stalled (presumably at a red light) a little poll appeared asking me to speculate why he had stopped – had he seen Hugh Jackman? Was he pondering a new combination of pizza toppings? I’m not sure if I would follow my pizza’s progress as closely next time, but that’s beside the point. I was impressed. I valued the transparency and the involvement. Domino’s seems seriously committed to leveraging technology to advance its business. It went live with online ordering way back in 2005. Last year it introduced Pizza Mogul, which allows people to customise pizzas, market their creations via social media and take a cut of the profit when the creations sell (some bloke made $50 000 in fourth months using this process!). Earlier this year it shaved the online ordering process down to four clicks with a ‘Quick Ordering’ option and at the start of July it launched the GPS tracking. When listing the business’ four big pillars in an interview with Business News Australia, CEO Don Meij mentioned technology first. Product, store and image followed. That’s big. How many food industry CEOs would cite technology ahead of product? This focus on innovation has allowed the business to flourish despite having a product that most would not consider a market leader in taste. Domino’s can afford for its product to sit at an average, “good enough” standard because it’s secondary. When I ordered Domino’s on the weekend, I, like many others, prioritised ease and a customer-friendly experience ahead of a pizza that would uphold the finest gourmet traditions. We don’t want to go anywhere or pick up the phone and speak to someone; we want to click a few buttons and be done. Domino’s is constantly improving on that offer in ways that far outstrip its competitors. It’s also inventing ways for customers to digitally engage with its brand, like the Pizza Mogul program. This strategy is succeeding. Domino’s accounts for 43 per cent of the pizza market, ahead of Pizza Hut (23 per cent), Crust Pizza (21 per cent) and Eagle Boys Pizza (12 per cent). Maybe Pizza Hut can stop piss farting around introducing excessive, niche products like the Four n’ Twenty meat pie stuffed crust pizza and get tech-savvy.   Image: Kake . via Compfight cc

Can a new brand help Malaysia Airlines soar again?

August 5, 2015
It is hard to conceive of a bigger branding challenge than what lies before Malaysia Airlines. The airline has become synonymous with the MH370 and MH17 disasters. New CEO Christopher Mueller articulated as much when he pointed out Malaysia Airlines’ demand now correlates to social media mentions of MH370 rather than price in a recent interview with Fairfax. A new company will replace Malaysia Airlines on September 1. Mueller has provided some signposts as to what direction the airline’s new brand will take: “Brand is not just the name and the logo but is more what your airline stands for. We will embark on the idea that we provide value for money for our travellers”. This rebirth strategy is likely to be accepted by the infrequent traveller market segment, which prioritises price over airline allegiance. The association of the Malaysia Airlines brand with the risk of mortal danger – an overriding consideration that beats even price – will no longer stand as a barrier to the airline being considered by this segment in its purchasing decision process. Most infrequent travellers have trouble differentiating between the numerous Chinese or Middle Eastern airlines and the new brand would blend into the pack with little market awareness. There are reasons why the new brand should also have traction with frequent travellers and loyal customers. Given the amount they travel, there is a good chance frequent travellers would have reconciled the Malaysia Airlines tragedies in a more positive light – viewing them as freak occurrences in the context of millions of flights safely taken around the world each year – and see the new brand as a necessary business evolution. You would also hope that the airline built enough equity in its old brand for its loyal customers to naturally follow it across to the new one. Finally, you cannot discount a nationalistic desire for the airline to succeed feeding loyalty in Malaysia. One thing is certain: the new brand needs to ideally represent an energised proposition. What is it going to stand for? What value for money is the airline going to provide? It would be great to see the brand own something; whether it is the youngest fleet in the world, the most skilful pilots (unprecedented training?) or amazing service despite the price point. However, just when you thought all of this was hard enough, the airline is technically bankrupt and suffering low staff morale. In light of what it’s been through, I hope the airline can use the new brand to refresh itself in the market place. The real test is whether a name change will influence a purchase decision either way.   Image: Neuwieser via Compfight cc

Top of the Twitter personal branding charts

July 24, 2015
If you had to guess who occupied the top 10 most followed list on Twitter, who would you pick? Would it be a few musicians, a couple of politicians, a news service and some big brands like Apple and Nike? Well firstly, Apple and Nike don’t even make the top 100. No news service appears until number 21 (CNN). And there’s only one politician in the top 10…or top 70 for that matter – President Barry O. Twitter, it seems, is the preserve of pop musicians. The top 10 is as follows:                                 In fact, 46 out of the top 100 are musicians; nearly all American and respresenting the pop genre. The popularity of these particular artists on Twitter led me to wonder what comprised the demographic makeup of Twitter users. Were there more females than males? No, actually. In 2014 24 per cent of American male online adults used Twitter compared to 21 per cent of equivalent females, according to the Pew Research Centre. However, in 2013 18 per cent of females used Twitter compared to 17 per cent of males. This is a statistically significant increase in male usership and it will be interesting to see if it has any bearing on who occupies the most followed list in the future. Twitter provides a potent platform for these celebrities to continually build on their personal brand. It allows them to communicate directly with their fans, as well as provide the public with a snapshot of their lives, thoughts and interactions with other celebrities. Twitter’s ability to amplify the individual is borne out by its most followed list being predominantly filled with people rather than companies. Conversely, a celebrity’s personal brand can command a hefty following on Twitter with very little exertion. Beyonce has 14,085,904 followers and has only tweeted 8 times. 8! If anyone else is dismayed at the state of the world after seeing all of the Kardashian sisters present in the top 100 most followed list, we can take heart from the Dalai Lama sneaking in at number 99. And true to the Buddhist ideal of not holding on to things, the Dalai Lama may have 11,560,104 followers but his following count stands at zero. What a man.   Image: Thaís Santos / @thaistitina via Compfight cc

Clever brands get rid of the shit

July 14, 2015
People who roll with Firefox may have noticed the appearance of a Reader View icon in the address bar. Click on the icon and the website you are viewing is instantly stripped of all its clutter, leaving just you and the main text laid out against a crisp white background. No ads, no sidebars, no nothing. How glorious to be free of the extraneous and left to focus on what is important. Instagram has also been feeding from the same reductionist trough. This month the company launched a new website characterised by Spartan design. Photos are now bigger and displayed 3 abreast rather than 5. The banner of assorted images has been removed from the top of the page. Also gone are a host of lines and borders. Tellingly, Instagram has opted to let all the space freed up by these changes to remain…free. The new website is awash with clean, light space. Youngme Moon speaks to this phenomenon in her book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. Floating the term ‘reverse-positioned brand’, Moon says some brands deliberately decide to buck the augmentation trend in their category – for an example of the augmentation trend in social media think Facebook and its never ending march of new features. According to Moon, these reverse-positioned brands then imbue their scaled back value proposition with “some form unexpected form of extravagance”. In the case of Instagram the photos are the centrepiece. They have increased in size, sit in ample space and almost anything that detracts from their pictorial splendour has been removed. In a world usually characterised by sensory overload, the user is afforded the absolute luxury of enjoying the photos in a visually quiet place. The larger photos also improve browsing useability by allowing the user to evaluate their content without having to click and enlarge each photo like they did before. Resisting the pull to constantly offer consumers “more” can be a powerful way to create differentiation. By removing the superfluous, Moon points out, you “shed new light on the fundamental”. It may be my minimalist leanings talking here, but Instagram has refined its offering brilliantly.  

Chipotle stays true to its brand values

April 30, 2015
I need to start with a disclaimer. I think Chipotle Mexican Grill burritos are bloody delicious. A one-visit minimum is non-negotiable every time I visit the U.S. A couple of years ago, after a late Sunday evening arrival in Boston, I set out like a madman to score that sweet foil-wrapped parcel from the nearest restaurant. It involved urgent and confusing train rides across the city and culminated with me arriving just minutes after the restaurant had closed for the night. All I was left to hold was my unfulfilled desire. It hurt. So I can empathise with carnitas fans enduring Chipotle’s pork shortage. The shortage, however, represents an interesting brand lesson. Chipotle has been conspicuous in positioning itself as a purveyor of “food with integrity” (their words). Its website outlines a commitment to local produce, ethically raised and additive free meat and non-GM ingredients. In January Chipotle chose not to purchase pork from one of its suppliers after it discovered the pigs were not being raised in line with its animal welfare standards. This decision led to Chipotle being unable to serve pork in a third of its 1,700 outlets. On top of that, Chipotle is taking the time it needs to ensure any new supplier meets its requirements despite the shortage impacting on its sales growth. While Chipotle’s conscience-driven approach to the food it serves is no secret, the publicity resulting from this recent decision has given it another reason to reiterate what it stands for as a company. It has allowed Chipotle to offer up a very real and tangible expression of its brand values and make them come alive off its website. Such a decision underlines that when Chipotle says “integrity”, it actually means it. At the frontline, Chipotle’s staff are able to re-energise the brand’s storytelling of its ethical and sustainable food message on a daily basis by explaining to customers why pork isn’t available. This further serves to ensure Chipotle’s brand values, which comprise a compelling point of difference against other fast-casual restaurants, do not just get lost in all the white noise. Chipotle is, of course, keenly aware that the corollary of making this disruptive business decision is the boost that comes to its brand. In a recent earnings conference call, Chipotle Chairman and Co-CEO Steve Ells stated: “Since we made this decision the majority of sentiment from our customers has been very supportive in the email and web comments along with social media posts, customers are applauding our commitment to our vision, thanking us for standing on principal, commending us for taking action against the inhumane treatment of animals and congratulating us for standing by our business values.” Image: Jason Lander via Compfight cc