1. When dealing with constant changes in a brand's environment, you can ignore, react, embrace or, ideally, impact the change.
"My mindset is not to be the best at what everyone does today, but be the best at what everyone does tomorrow," said Sara Riis-Carstensen (pictured above), head of global branding at De Beers and former director of global brand development at Lego.
The main target audience for Lego used to be children and their mums (being the primary decision-makers in the family). However, Dads are getting more involved during playtime in newer family dynamics, Riis-Carstensen found before she joined De Beers in London, so her team began to position Lego as an enabler of dad-kid bonding then.
In Chicago, when Leo Burnett posted a listing on Airbnb that looked exactly like Van Gogh's painting 'The Bedroom', the agency not only creatively introduced the Art Institute of Chicago to a broader and younger demographic but also adapted classic artwork to a digital age.
"By hijacking Airbnb, we increased the impact of our paid media by 950%," revealed Peter Lefebvre, creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago. "People remember what you do long after they forget what you said. I hate that people say the campaign was a gimmick. Gimmicks don’t deliver great results for the business." To his point, the 'Van Gogh’s Bedrooms: Let Yourself In' campaign won the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2017. It led to the institute's most successful exhibition in 15 years, with total audience counts up 54 percent against previous exhibitions, according to the agency.
Lego gained an insight back in the 90s that children didn’t like playing with the brick anymore, and so reacted to that change and branched out into non-brick toys, but sales didn’t go well. After doing some analysis, Riis-Carstensen discovered that "the brick that we got away from was actually what consumers loved the most".
Now, whether product or long-form content marketing like the Ninjago movie, everything is linked back to the brick, she said.
When it comes to crossover marketing, it's a whole new ball game to determine relevance for both parties, when the importance of respecting each other's intellectual property comes into play. What if continuing a partnership was disrespecting a third party? In 2011, for example, Lego and Shell entered into a co-branding partnership, but after pressure from Greenpeace in 2014, Lego discontinued the contract.
3. Invite the community to take part in defining your brand.
The open-source Lego Ideas platform gave the brand, well, ideas. "Ideas that we could never come up with on our own," said Riis-Carstensen. Each design idea, such as this food stand diner below, gets immediate feedback from the community (in the form of 10,000 supporters) on whether it will become an actual Lego product to be sold. The product creator is featured in set materials and receive a royalty on sales.
Similarly, Muji's Idea Park, the brand's product research and feedback page, sources ideas which customers would like to incorporate into Muji products. "It forms a digital community with our customers," said Kei Suzuki, director at Ryohin Keikaku.
The GRL PWR T-shirt became the icon of the Women’s LA March this January, and was Rebecca Minkoff's way of building a community, giving back to them and "having relevant products at the right time and right place to influence them," said Uri Minkoff, CEO and co-founder (and also the brother) of the contemporary clothing brand Rebecca Minkoff. "We did the collection so it doesn’t become only about fashion seasons, but about how we foster a larger currency in today’s society."
4. Retailers who look at retail as a transaction won't have a future.
Instead, retailers who see retail as an experience make themselves much more valuable to the future consumer. Muji is an example of how to move from transaction to experience, explained Muji's Suzuki.
"We want our bricks-and-mortar stores to be not just for shopping but also spaces for unique experiences," he said. Those experiences may range from learning about the usage of organic cotton in Muji garments at ‘Open Muji’ talks in Singapore, or obtaining interior advisory services (upselling Muji furniture) at the company's Hong Kong store. Muji's book selection is also meant to inspire customers to "think about what is a better life", he highlighted.
Even as e-commerce gets more and more popular, Suzuki said human beings still want to be connected with someone else, so Muji made its physical stores to be "locations to connect" for the Muji community. "And we intentionally do that by selling fresh produce in our Japan store so as to create more frequent contact between buyers."
5. It doesn't make sense to show something in fashion shows when nothing has been produced yet.
That’s how the fashion industry has been for so many years—very decoupled from the apparel manufacturing sector, said Uri Minkoff (pictured below).
What if what’s on the runway can be bought right away? The possibilities of instant shopping, advocated Minkoff, in a see-now-buy-now approach are high, even though acclaimed designers such as Tom Ford have backed off from the in-season, shoppable business model.
When Uri started to help his sister Rebecca build the business at first, they asked each other: "We’re nobody in this world, so how do we dictate fashion like the big boys?" They saw that the world was moving towards a consumer-to-consumer economy, so became the first brand to work with bloggers and doing its marketing "totally differently".
"It isn’t enough to put products on a rack," he told the audience at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. "It’s not about retail real estate anymore."