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A regularly updated resource of information and news items.

Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo!’

10 things you didn’t know about Facebook, the world’s biggest social network

Posted Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Today is Facebook’s 10th birthday. For better or for worse, the little site named ‘thefacebook’ created in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room on 4 February 2004 has become a global phenomenon

1. Why is Facebook blue? Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue,”

2. You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down).

3. Zuckerberg’s famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day.

4. In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company.

5. Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images.

6. Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens.

7. A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users’ photos showed someone drinking or inebriated.

8. Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times – once in 2012 and the rest in 2009.

9. Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.

10. More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online.

Do you know any others? Let us know


The biggest new website you’ve probably not heard of

Posted Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Quora is a question-and-answer site- much like Yahoo answers or Google groups. Whatever your question, type it in the search box and, if there isn’t already an answer there, users will attempt to answer it.

Why is it suddenly so popular? Because people have noticed that it has a strong preponderance of Silicon Valley’s finest among its users, and that influential people are also using it: Steve Case, the co-founder and former chief executive of AOL, is among those asking and answering questions – any question you like – on the site.

One point that marks Quora out from most other question-and-answer sites, such as the longstanding Yahoo Answers, or WikiAnswers, is that users are expected to use their real names – often derived from Facebook or Twitter. The challenge, Cheever says, is to keep the quality high while growing the site into the mainstream. “Right now, most of the content on Quora is very good,” Cheever told the San Jose Mercury News: “It’s very thoughtful and well written. So as we keep growing, how do we maintain that quality? There’s no one answer.”

Even Google‘s head designer, Irene Au, waded in, saying how much she admired the site’s design. “That’s been a very successful design, not only visually, but also for interaction,” she told the audience at a Zurb design and interaction talk on 27 December. “For a Q&A site, it didn’t turn into a Yahoo Answers with spammy answers. There’s a lot of really rich, high-quality content there. It’s one of my favourite sites to visit on a daily basis now.”

Ehow recorded 90m users and WikiAnswers 81m. The well-publicised, editorial-style Q&A site Mahalo recorded only 8m, according to comScore, and the teen favourite Formspring 958,000.

So far Quora, with a staff of just 12 people, has received $11m in financing, and was valued at $100m in its first round of funding.

How to use Quora
• Register. You can do this using your Facebook profile or Twitter profile.

• Start asking a question by typing in the search box at the top right. You’ll start seeing suggestions for questions that have already been asked (and possibly answered) begin to grow and change as your query continues. Want to know how making red wine differs from the process for white? Here you go.

• If you can add your own answer to an unanswered question, or improve on an already-answered one, do so by adding your own response.

• If you think an answer has been too highly or too lowly ranked, click it up or down. The best answers should therefore rise to the top.

• Start finding people to ‘follow’ by using Facebook and Twitter connections.


Facebook ramps up Google rivalry with messaging service

Posted Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Facebook has ramped up competition with AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google with a product to rival their e-mail services.

Facebook Messages aims to tie users more closely to the social networking site at a time when everyone is battling for their attention.

The product will merge texts, online chats, and e-mails into one central hub.

Facebook says traditional e-mail is too slow and cumbersome and needs to step into the modern world of messaging.

“This is not an e-mail killer,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told reporters and analysts at an event in San Francisco.

“Maybe we can help push the way people do messaging more towards this simple, real-time, immediate personal experience. E-mail is still really important to a lot of people. We think this simple messaging is how people will shift their communication.”

‘Killer app’

In a case of bad timing, reports surfaced hours after the Facebook launch that Gmail suffered an outage.

The new service is seen as offering an alternative to Gmail, the fastest growing web service in the past year with over 193 million users according to data tracker ComScore.

The irony was that ahead of the announcement, speculation was rife that Facebook’s new product would be most crippling for Gmail. Mr Zuckerberg said he did not see it that way.

“In reality they have a great product.

“We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and say, ‘I’m going to shut down my Yahoo Mail or Gmail account’.

“Maybe one day, six months, a year, two years out people will start to say this is how the future should work,” said Mr Zuckerberg.

AOL, which at the weekend previewed changes to its once popular web mail service, disagreed that e-mail was doomed.

“E-mail remains one of the killer apps on the internet,” said Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s senior vice president of consumer products.

Industry analyst Augie Ray of Forrester agreed.

“Research we have done shows we know that in the US 90% of adults check their mail at least once a month and 59% of adults say they maintain a profile on a social networking site.

“There is a big gap between the reach social media has and the reach e-mail has.”

Ease of use

At the heart of Facebook Messages is an effort to ensure users “see the messages that matter”.

The new feature will simplify how people communicate whether it be via text, instant messages, online chat or e-mail. All these messages will come into one feed known as a social inbox allowing users to reply in any way they want.

Facebook said around 70% of users regularly used it to send messages to friends and that a total of four billion messages passed across the site every day.

“We really want to enable people to have conversations with the people they care about,” Facebook’s director of engineering Andrew Bosworth told BBC News.

“It sounds so simple. We have all this technology that should be enabling that but it’s not. It’s fragmenting that. So I have one conversation on e-mail with my grandfather and another with my cousin on SMS and all these things don’t work the same way.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about the technology. I should just have to worry about the person and the message. Everything else is just getting in the way,” added Mr Bosworth.

The new system will be modelled more on chat than traditional e-mail which means there will be no subject lines, cc or bcc fields.

Liz Gannes of technology blog AllThingsD said she believed users would have a bit of a learning curve on their hands.

“I think the product is just different enough from what people are used to that it will feel really weird to users for a while.

“The lack of subject lines will get people upset at first and then of course they will probably realise they never wanted them anyway.”

‘Game over?’

Other features include being able to store conversations so users can have a complete archive of communications with friends and family. Mr Bosworth likened this to a modern-day treasure trove of letters stored in a box.

Incoming message will be placed in one of three folders – one for friends, another for things like bank statements and a junk folder for messages people do not want to see.

The product will also represent a challenge to Yahoo, with over 273 million users, and Microsoft, which has nearly 362 million.

“For me today represents the day when Facebook truly becomes a portal on the level of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL,” Charlene Li, social media analyst with the Altimeter Group, told BBC News.

“They now have to start making their inboxes more social. Friends are the new priority as opposed to the conversation. This makes Facebook so much more functional.”

Robert Scoble, technology writer and founder of Scobleizer.com, said this product gave everyone something to aim for.

“This is a new kind of communications system but it’s not game over for Yahoo and Gmail and all the others because it will take decades to get people to stop doing traditional e-mails.

“However this is something new and very powerful because Facebook can tap into my social graph and ensure that only my friends are there and I won’t get spammed.”

Facebook said this product was the biggest the social networking giant had worked on to date.

The company will also offer an @facebook.com e-mail address to every one of its more than 500 million users.


40% of People “Friend” Brands on Facebook

Posted Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

readwriteweb.com, November 10, 2009

see link to view charts: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/survey_brands_making_big_impact_on_facebook_twitter.php

Digital marketing company Razorfish has just launched its third annual FEED survey of 1,000 “connected consumers.” The survey is focused on online consumer behavior. This year Facebook and Twitter feature prominently. 40% of respondents “friended” brands on Facebook, while 25% reported following brands on Twitter. What’s more, Razorfish found that consumers access brands on Twitter and Facebook mainly for deals and promotions.

Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, nearly 44% reported that access to exclusive deals is the main reason. On Facebook or MySpace, 37% said that access to exclusive deals or offers was their main reason for friending brands.

Over 1/4 of respondents reported having followed a brand on Twitter, which is encouraging news for companies wanting to use Twitter to promote themselves.

 43.5% reported following a brand to get “exclusive deals or offerings,” which again is a statistic that companies should take note of.

 An even higher percentage of respondents have “friended” a brand on Facebook – a whopping 40%. Considering that Facebook is a social network that started out as a way for college kids to network, this is a statistic that will make companies and organizations take note. If you want brand recognition on the Web, according to these statistics there’s a very good chance that Facebook is a place you want to be.

 A smaller percentage follow a brand on Facebook for exclusive deals or offers (36.9%) – but still a majority.

 Is this “connected consumer” crowd mainstream? Well, about 62% of the respondents still use Internet Explorer as their browser, with 30% on Firefox. So yes, they are.

It’s interesting then to look at what are the homepages of these people.

 While Google is unsurprisingly number 1 with 32.6%, Yahoo is close behind at 29.7%. MSN is still well used at 11.9%. We were most surprised that AOL is now only 7.9%. These statistics show that Yahoo remains a force among mainstream consumers, whereas AOL is slipping further behind.

We reported last week that smartphones have almost overtaken ‘feature phones’ as the cellphones of choice for consumers. Razorfish‘s survey shows that 56% of connected consumers now use a smartphone – i.e. one that has email and web capabilities.

 As with the ChangeWave Research survey recently, Razorfish puts Blackberry (29.5%) ahead of Apple’s iPhone (20.1%).

 Another illuminating statistic is the number of people who now get their news from Twitter and Facebook. While nearly 80% of respondents still access “traditional news web sites,” 33% get news from Facebook and 19.5% from Twitter. Only 27.3% get news from “alternative news web sites” – by which we presume they mean blogs.

 Overall, these figures from Razorfish show that Facebook and Twitter are now major places for brands to be; as well as online sites where consumers get at least some of their news.


Curtain twitchers, the CIA and the rise of Facebook

Posted Thursday, October 1st, 2009

New technology and old-fashioned curiosity have made social networking so hot that everyone is cashing in. Nico Macdonald helps you sort the tweets from the bots

 Design Council

If everyone felt like Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook wouldn’t exist. The comedian observed: “As an adult, it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever group you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications.”

Yet, for most of us, the social instinct is deeply ingrained. So deeply that, by the age of seven, research suggests, two thirds of American children have an imaginary friend. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with real friends in undreamt of ways. When Tom Coates, a staffer in a London office of Yahoo!, needed a break, he decided the best way to round up some company was to post this message on Twitter, a hip social networking service: “I need to go for a walk to clear my head. Yauatcha for macaroons anyone?”

Social networking is such a phenomenon that many employers – even the CIA – now have Facebook pages and use the site as a recruitment tool. The agency plans to launch its own staff social networking site called A-Space.

The wisdom of friends: the psychological argument for using social networking sites full of ‘people like us’ is compelling. But how long with the fashion last? And what do sites need to do to increase their reach?
Asking all your friends if they’d like to join you for lunch would once have been impractical. But sites like Facebook allow us to gossip and curtain-twitch online, be bored by someone else’s holiday snaps without visiting their house, plan a business meeting and accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. Instead of taking months to realise that a new acquaintance, like you, can quote Seinfeld scripts verbatim, you can join a group of like-minded souls in minutes.

New technology, old-fashioned curiosity and a dollop of ‘wisdom of friends’ psychology have made sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo immensely popular. A 2007 survey found that 48% of American teenagers online visit social networking sites at least once a day and 72% use them to make plans with friends. In the network age, computing power is in the hands of more people and is tackling new challenges. We’ve moved from using computers as work objects to the widespread use of computing-enabled things – laptops, mobile phones, games consoles – to manipulate emails, diary entries, instant messages, contact information, URLs and blogs wherever we are.

Social networking is driven by significant technical developments and rapid social change. The current fears for – and of – teenagers – may explain why they have become core users of social networking sites, spending more time at home on the internet. As a rule of thumb, for every hour we spend on the web, we typically spend 23.5 minutes less with friends and family.

The culture of fear and decreasing trust have made some wary of encounters with strangers and reluctant to embark on deep personal relationships. Surveys show that a record one in four Americans say they have no close friends at all. Many prefer ‘safer’ relationships mediated, to an extent, via a screen, where they can connect with a wider circle of friends in a non-committal fashion. Consumer trends analyst Linda Stone calls this “continuous partial attention”, adding: “To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognised and to matter.”

Cheaper travel and a more integrated global economy, where staff change jobs more often and are more likely to work abroad, have played their part too.

Keeping in contact, avoiding cowboy plumbers
The functions social networking best supports are, in a nutshell or seven:

Familiarisation and maintaining contacts. From status updates and edited profiles you build a rounded picture of an individual. People you know may share this with you – to varying degrees – if asked. Essentially, human knowledge is being connected by the network (rather than embedded in it – the goal of so many past computing visions).
Swapping, sharing and storing of ‘objects’ – photos, movies or songs – online. We can be told when something of interest has been uploaded.
Group discussion, which is moving to social networking sites. Contributors’ real names and pictures can be displayed and you can check their profile.
Finding and hiring skills. The self-employed already use sites like LinkedIn to get in touch with businesses and customers regardless of location.
Online or internet-enabled applications which allow us to manage tasks, meetings and diaries. You can, for instance, open up your diary to contacts.
Campaigning. You can network with people with the same ideology. But the likes of Facebook can’t, by themselves, reinvigorate the democratic process.
Searching the web. Social networking can reveal, filter, enhance or shape the data we find when searching. We can link, recommend or rate almost anything and form an opinion influenced by our knowledge of the contributor or the number of recommendations. In a world full of cowboy plumbers – or so reality TV shows would have us believe – we might be relieved to find one implicitly recommended because they’re linked to someone we know. Friends or contacts are acting as ‘trust engines’, and by answering, friends build their relationship with you and increase their kudos with others.
While Google focuses on computer science, engineering and performance, Yahoo! has focused on what Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product strategy, calls “better search through people”, buying bookmark-sharing tool del.icio.us and photo-sharing site Flickr and developing such services as Yahoo! Answers.

Junk mail, smart address books and over-engineering
Social networking sites need to improve. As Facebook’s personal profile – which includes favourite music, TV shows, films and books – is completed manually, it is of limited use and soon out of date. Profiles would be richer if they drew on actual activity, such as the music we buy or play. Artificial intelligence-based tools could help others access a user’s locally stored information. There is a risk of over-engineering, though. An element of a profile or relationship can be extracted or inferred but do we want to share it with everyone? Giving users visibility on – and control of – what they share is a design challenge. Already LinkedIn lets you ‘View my profile as others see it’.

Sites need to be accessible and to hand, as easy to use as a stapler. Modern mobiles and smart phones like the iPhone have feature-filled browsers. A site such as Jaiku offers a dedicated application for modern Nokia devices that identifies your geographic location to your circle of friends. You could have a smart address book that tells you if a contact you plan to call is busy or abroad. Giving physical form to such ideas is the Availabot, a pop-up figure that stands up on your desk when the contact it represents comes online and falls into a flaccid heap of despair when s/he goes away.

Exhaustion, Rupert Murdoch and evolutionary psychology
The subtlety of human relationships can’t be over-estimated. We finesse what we tell different people, even lie. There is a danger that concerns about privacy, and scares based on extraordinarily rare – but shocking – abuses of social networking tools, may deter people from using these sites. Worries over security, time wasting and other abuses has led employers to block access to Facebook.

On a practical level, there is a danger of exhaustion. Coates says: “The amount of sites using social networks is so substantial that [registration] is no longer something people will go through again for no obvious reason.” Sites could be integrated as an external service to other sites. If LibraryThing could access your Facebook profile, it could show you books your friends liked. Profiles could be abstracted so they can be ‘applied’ to any site or service. So far, this has had little success, but as social networking profiles are made easier to edit and when this approach presents a competitive advantage, the ‘abstract’ approach may flourish.

Rupert Murdoch’s strategy for MySpace raises another issue. MySpace plans to run a TV series about showbiz wannabes as it strives to persuade users to linger longer, so they can be targeted by ads. If these sites are not full of user- generated content but have content developed by professionals, does that extend their appeal or fatally undermine it? Facebook has announced it will start targeting ads based on user profiles. Will users be deterred by advertising or welcome it? Concerns about privacy have been heightened by Facebook’s plan to allow (user-controlled) elements of profiles to be indexed by Google.

Historically, human relationships have built over time from face-to-face encounters, in which we use body language and other cues to assess honesty. By contrast, the ease with which we can indicate friendship with social networking allows us to appear to have a cohort of friends. There is some science behind Seinfeld’s gag. Evolutionary psychology suggests we are hardwired to remember no more than 150 people. These smaller, more intensely focused groups have often been responsible for scientific, technical and intellectual breakthroughs. The trajectory of social networking is in our hands. Will we, as a society, take these services seriously – or be satisfied to play online with our new ‘friends’?


The power of branding: a practical guide

Posted Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

What do we mean by the word ‘brand’?

Design Council, updated 06 April 2009

The words brand and branding are thrown around liberally by all sorts of people in different contexts and with different meanings in mind, so it may help to start by asking ‘what exactly is a brand?’

The simplest answer is that a brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control. For example, a poor press review for a new product might ‘harm’ the product manufacturer’s overall brand by placing negative associations in people’s minds.

To illustrate the idea, let’s take what is arguably the best-known product – or brand – in the world: Coca-Cola.

Although essentially just a soft drinks product, Coca-Cola the drink is eclipsed by the sheer might of Coca-Cola the brand. This phenomenon is best summed up by the following quote from a Coca-Cola executive:

‘If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.’

In a 2007 survey of the value of global brands by branding agency Interbrand, Coca-Cola‘s brand equity was valued at US$65.3bn, just under half the company’s true market value.

So what are these all-powerful associations? For Coca-Cola, typical perceptions might be that it is the original cola drink (‘The Real Thing’), that its recipe is secret and unsurpassed, that it’s all-American or maybe global, that it’s youthful, energetic, refreshing and so on. Visual associations might include the unmistakable red and white logo and corporate colours, or the unique shape and tint of the original glass bottles.

These are mostly positive brand associations, but there may be negative ones too. For example, Coca-Cola may be seen as unhealthy, or as a symbol of global ‘imperialism’ by American brands. What is seen as a positive association to some may be unpleasant to others and negative perceptions could become attached to a brand‘s identity even if the company strives to present a different character.

Of course, brands aren’t limited to the food and drink category. If a brand is just a set of associations then practically anything could be said to have a brand, even individuals – think Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay.

Ramsay’s own brand is so strong, in fact, that in 2007 he leant his weight to a major advertising campaign by Gordon’s Gin. He was chosen not just because of his name, but because his association with a sense of quality and exclusivity mirrors the drinks manufacturer’s own brand values.

Other high-profile examples of recognised brands include JCB, British Airways, Tate, Yahoo, The Big Issue or even London. From services to cities, products to publications, each carries a strong set of associations in the minds of a large number of people.

What is branding?

If a brand results from a set of associations and perceptions in people’s minds, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations to help the business perform better. Any organisation can benefit enormously by creating a brand that presents the company as distinctive, trusted, exciting, reliable or whichever attributes are appropriate to that business.

While absolute control over a brand is not possible due to outside influences, intelligent use of design, advertising, marketing, service proposition, corporate culture and so on can all really help to generate associations in people’s minds that will benefit the organisation. In different industry sectors the audiences, competitors, delivery and service aspects of branding may differ, but the basic principle of being clear about what you stand for always applies.

For the full article see: http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/en/About-Design/Business-Essentials/The-power-of-branding-a-practical-guide/


Global Brands

Posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

BusinessWeek/Interbrand rank the companies that best built their images – and made them stick.

Advertisers who want to reach the Bublitz family of Montgomery, Ohio, have to leap a lot of hurdles. Telemarketing? Forget it – the family of five has Caller ID. The Internet? No way – they long ago installed spam and pop-up ad blockers on their three home computers. Radio? Rudy Bublitz, 47, has noncommercial satellite radio in his car and in the home. Television? Not likely – the family records its favorite shows on TiVo and skips most ads. “The real beauty is that if we choose to shut advertising out, we can,” Rudy says. “We call the shots with advertisers today.”

BusinessWeek, August 1, 2005

The Bublitzes and other ad-zapping consumers like them pose an enormous challenge these days to marketers trying to build new brands and nurture old ones. To get a reading on which brands are succeeding – and which aren’t – take a look at the fifth annual BusinessWeek/Interbrand ranking of the 100 most valuable global brands. The names that gained the most in value focus ruthlessly on every detail of their brands, honing simple, cohesive identities that are consistent in every product, in every market around the world, and in every contact with consumers. (In the ranking, which is compiled in partnership with brand consultancy Interbrand Corp., a dollar value is calculated for each brand using publicly available data, projected profits, and variables such as market leadership.)

The best brand builders are also intensely creative in getting their message out. Many of the biggest and most established brands, from Coke to Marlboro, achieved their global heft decades ago by helping to pioneer the 30-second TV commercial. But it’s a different world now. The monolithic TV networks have splintered into scores of cable channels, and mass-market publications have given way to special-interest magazines aimed at smaller groups. Given that fragmentation, it’s not surprising that there’s a new generation of brands, including Amazon.com, eBay, and Starbucks, that have amassed huge global value with little traditional advertising. They’ve discovered new ways to captivate and intrigue consumers. Now the more mature brands are going to school on the achievements of the upstarts and adapting the new techniques for themselves.

So how do you build a brand in a world in which consumers are increasingly in control of the media? The brands that rose to the top of our ranking all had widely varied marketing arsenals and were able to unleash different campaigns for different consumers in varied media almost simultaneously. They wove messages over multiple media channels and blurred the lines between ads and entertainment. As a result, these brands can be found in a host of new venues: the Web, live events, cell phones, and handheld computers. An intrepid few have even infiltrated digital videorecorders, devices that are feared throughout the marketing world as the ultimate tool for enabling consumers to block unwanted TV ads.

Some marketers have worked to make their brand messages so enjoyable that consumers might see them as entertainment instead of an intrusion. When leading brands are seen on TV they’re apt to have their own co-starring roles – as No. 9 Toyota Motor Corp. did in reality show The Contender – rather than just lending support during the commercial breaks. All are trying to create a stronger bond with the consumer. Take No. 41 Apple Computer Corp., which last fall launched a special iPod MP3 player in partnership with band U2. Not only did the “U2 iPod” say “U2” on the front and have band signatures etched into the back, but the band starred in a TV ad and buyers got $50 off a download of 400 U2 songs. No. 8 McDonald‘s Corp.’s sponsorship of a tour by R&B group Destiny’s Child means that fans who want access to exclusive video and news content about the band have to click first on the company’s Web site. “It’s hard here to tell where the brand message ends and where the entertainment and content begins,” says Ryan Barker, director of brand strategy at consultancy The Knowledge Group.

It’s no accident that most of the companies with the biggest increases in brand value in the 2005 ranking operate as single brands everywhere in the world. Global marketing used to mean crafting a new name and identity for each local market. America’s No. 1 laundry detergent, Tide, is called Ariel in Europe, for example. The goal today for many, though, is to create consistency and impact, both of which are a lot easier to manage with a single worldwide identity. It’s also a more efficient approach, since the same strategy can be used everywhere. An eBay shopper in Paris, France, sees the same screen as someone logging in from Paris, Texas. Only the language is different. Global banks HSBC, No. 29, which posted a 20% increase in brand value, and No. 44 UBS, up 16%, use the same advertising pitches around the world. “Given how hard the consumer is to reach today, a strong and unified brand message is increasingly becoming the only way to break through,” says Jan Lindemann, Interbrand’s managing director, who directed the Top 100 Brands ranking.

Possibly no brand has done a better job of mining the potential of these new brand-building principles than Korean consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co. Less than a decade ago, it was a maker of lower-end consumer electronics under a handful of brand names including Wiseview, Tantus, and Yepp, none of which meant much to consumers. Figuring that its only shot at moving up the value chain was to build a stronger identity, the company ditched its other brands to put all its resources behind the Samsung name. Then it focused on building a more upscale image through better quality, design, and innovation.

Beginning in 2001, the newly defined Samsung came out with a line of top-notch mobile phones and digital TVs, products that showed off the company’s technical prowess. By vaulting the quality of its offerings above the competition in those areas, Samsung figured it could boost the overall perception of the brand. Besides, consumers form especially strong bonds with cell phones and TVs. Most people carry their mobile phones with them everywhere, while their TV is the centre of the family room. “We wanted the brand in users’ presence 24/7,” says Peter Weedfald, head of Samsung‘s North American marketing and consumer electronics unit.

Now that strategy is paying off. Over the past five years, No. 20 Samsung has posted the biggest gain in value of any Global 100 brand, with a 186% surge. Even sweeter, last year Samsung surpassed No. 28 Sony, a far more entrenched rival that once owned the electronics category, in overall brand value. Now, in a nod to Samsung, Korean electronics concern LG Electronics Inc. has followed its rival’s playbook. Cracking this year’s global list for the first time at No. 97, LG has also sought to elevate its product under a single brand led by phones and TVs.

Some of the older brands in our ranking are clearly struggling to remake their marketing and product mix for a more complex world. This year’s biggest losers in brand value include Sony (down 16%), Volkswagen (down 12%), and Levi’s (down 11%). VW acknowledges its brand value slippage. “Volkswagen is well aware of the current deficiencies,” says VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard. Sony, which disputes that it is losing brand value, has suffered from an innovation drought. The electronics giant pioneered the Walkman, but left Apple to revolutionize portable MP3 players, as well as digital downloading and organizing of music. Meanwhile, Sony‘s moves into films and music put it into areas where its brand adds no value. Worse, those acquisitions made Sony a competitor with other content providers. That, notes Samsung‘s Weedfald, gives his company an advantage in linking to the hottest music and movies. Samsung, for example, is lead sponsor of this summer’s much-hyped movie, Fantastic Four, in which a variety of Samsung gadgets play a part. VW faces different problems. It has attempted to move upmarket with the luxury Touareg sport-utility vehicle and Phaeton sedan models; but that has left car buyers, who associate VW with zippy, affordable cars, confused. Similarly, Levi’s introduction of its less pricey Levi’s Signature line in discount stores means it now competes on price at the low end, while trying to fend off rivals like Diesel at the upper end with its core “red tab” brand.

Of course, defining the essence of a brand is only part of the battle. Communicating it to the consumer is the other. On this front, there has clearly been a divide between newer brands that use traditional advertising as just one tool in an overall marketing plan and older ones that grew up with it. Sony, for example, far outspends Samsung on traditional advertising in the U.S. on electronics products. (Samsung advertises on TV only during the last six months of the year, its peak sales period.) Many young brands that scored big gains in value, like Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, depend on their own interactive Web sites to shout about their brands.

Now some older brands, like Coke, ranked No. 1 in overall brand value, and McDonald‘s are decreasing traditional ad spending. In the past four years, McDonald‘s has cut TV advertising from 80% of its ad budget to 50%. Most of the shift has gone to online advertising. What’s evolving, then, is a model in which most brand builders use a variety of marketing channels. HSBC has branded taxis to carry customers for free. And although eBay spends most of its marketing budget on Internet advertising, it also relies on TV to some extent to boost simple brand awareness. “With fragmentation and ad evasion, you can’t count on one medium,” says Tom Cotton, president of Conductor, a branding strategy firm.

Marketers who do turn to TV are trying to make brand messages as engrossing as the programming. Last year Toyota, whose brand value rose 10%, paid $16 million to have its vehicles be part of the storyline on NBC reality show The Contender, about small-time boxers competing for a nationally televised bout. The grand prize: a million dollars and a Toyota truck. Rival Nissan, up 13%, has been parking its Titan pickups on Wisteria Lane in hit ABC show Desperate Housewives. The trucks will also ride into the new Dukes of Hazzard movie this month.

Nor are TV and movies the only target. No. 1 Coke, McDonald‘s, No. 88 Smirnoff, No. 16 BMW, No. 23 Pepsi, and No. 61 KFC are among brands striking deals to plant their brands in video games and even song lyrics. Deborah Wahl-Meyer, who headed Toyota marketing until recently moving to the company’s Lexus division, says both divisions attempt to seed magazine and newspaper articles with vehicle references and pictures. “We have to be more a part of what people are watching and reading instead of being in between what people are watching and reading,” Meyer says.

In an echo of Procter & Gamble Co.’s creation of the soap opera on radio and then TV, some brand builders are taking control of the programming themselves and creating content that tries to draw in ad-allergic consumers. BMW, whose brand value rose 8% over the past year, turned out a series of popular short films on the Internet starting in 2001. The seven-to-ten minute films starred BMW cars and were produced by A-list Hollywood directors like John Woo. The German auto maker has moved onto comic books based on the films aimed at Bimmer-aspiring teens and adults alike. “It’s imperative to create media destinations that don’t look like advertising,” says James McDowell, who headed marketing for the BMW brand before recently taking over as chief of the parent company’s MINI USA business. BMW has also embraced the enemy, TiVo, the television-top gadget that consumers use to skip ads altogether. Since last year, BMW has produced short films and long-form ads accessible through TiVo’s main menu page. BMW fans are alerted to the films in the on-demand video menu when a BMW ad runs.

Such old-line brands as No. 14 American Express Co. are heading down the entertainment path, too. Tipping its hat to BMW, AmEx ran long-form Internet ads/films starring Jerry Seinfeld last year that succeeded in drawing consumers to its Web site and Webcasted concerts. AmEx Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes says flatly: “Brands are not being built on [traditional] advertising.”

Still, none of these marketing ploys are sure bets in a world where old-school advertising means less. That’s why more marketers are investing in design as a fundamental way to distinguish their brands and to stay on the leading edge of technology. “Design isn’t just the promise of a brand, like TV advertising – it’s the reality of it,” says Marc Gobe, chief executive of design consultancy Desgrippes Gobe. Samsung has tripled its global design staff to 400 over the past five years. No. 73 Motorola, whose brand value rose 11%, and No. 53 Philips Electronics have boosted design spending. The move sparked the launch of Motorola‘s hot-selling Razr phone, the thinnest flip phone ever made. No. 85 Nissan gained 13% last year on a wave of bold designs, like its curvy Murano SUV and Altima sedan, as the Japanese company differentiates itself from Toyota and Honda through design rather than quality.

Good design implies more than just good looks. It’s also about ease of use. Apple demonstrated this with its iPod. Users can pick songs or download music from the iTunes music bank with the swipe of a finger. That’s blunted sales of Sony‘s Walkman MP3 player, which has been criticized as too cumbersome. Design can also mean sound. Samsung insists that all its products make the same reassuring tone when turned on. The Samsung tone is even being used in some advertising. “We want to have the same sound, look, and feel throughout our products so it all works toward one Samsung brand,” says Gregory Lee, Samsung‘s global marketing chief.

The era of building brands namely through mass media advertising is over. The predominant thinking of the world’s most successful brand builders these days is not so much the old game of reach (how many consumers see my ad) and frequency (how often do they see it), but rather finding ways to get consumers to invite brands into their lives. The mass media won’t disappear as a tool. But smart companies see the game today as making bold statements in design and wooing consumers by integrating messages so closely into entertainment that the two are all but indistinguishable.


 
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