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As if brands didn’t need enough of a reason to build emotional connections with consumers in their 20s, an interesting article titled The Mysteriously Memorable 20s: Why do we remember more from young adulthood than from any other time of our lives?, reminds us of the importance that this meaningful stage of life plays in the construction of our identities and the way that we formulate our personal narratives.

ImageBuilding brand relationships during this crucial stage of identity formation by having even a small role in one of those integral memories of self-actualization can create extremely meaningful lifelong associations and loyalty. And if the ultimate mark of a successful brand is the ability to become so entwined in a consumer’s life that the brand has become a part of that consumer’s identity, then there is no time better than the 20s to be there with consumers as they define their self-image.

Another interesting issue that this article raises, especially for those that are in or entering their 20s, is that this period of life is not a time to be spent wondering “what if?” Memories, as the foundational aspect of our self-identification, are our most valuable possessions and the 20s are clearly an essential time for creating new and unique memories by exploring and experiencing life to its fullest.

So what are some of your most cherished memories from this formational period of life and are there any brands you associate with those memories? Do those brands play a role in your identity today and do you still have an affinity for those brands?

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Yesterday, the “world’s first collaborative brand” was proclaimed on Twitter by @commonworks. Alex Bogusky (Common’s founder)  left CP+B last year and has since then been working on several interesting projects, and now we know what the majority of them went into. COMMON is a new type of playground: part community, part business- and part collaborative brand. They’re out there to, amongst many things, solve social problems.

I’m not writing about this because I think it’s the most revolutionary idea ever (because we haven’t seen any results yet). But consider what Groupon’s CEO recently said, after apparently firing agency Crispin Porter:

“We learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”

Is that really true? Maybe we just need something different. As an advertising student that is trying to get a grip of this unforgiving industry, I truly appreciate a fresh breath of air. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. I think Bogusky and his friends are keeping it interesting, and I dig this new angle, “COMMON is all about connecting people with good ideas to like-minded creative professionals.” Do you have another take on it? Please share. You can read more about Fearless Revolution and the COMMON project here.

In today’s world of change and infinite product choices one would imagine shopping to be a most enjoyable and liberating experience. On the contrary, as product lines have expanded to provide, for instance, 20 flavors of toothpaste, many consumers are beginning to find shopping a laborious chore. Some analysts believe that as the amount of choices reaches around 30 for a particular product our minds begin to become so overwhelmed we no longer feel able to choose. Therefore, we may give up on that product, sometimes even foregoing purchase of basic necessities. I find this line by Mike Reining sums up the issue well, “Faced with multiple options – we face paralysis by analysis.”

Have you been victim to buyers’ remorse? Not the “Oh, I couldn’t afford that” kind, but the “This was totally not what I came in here to buy” kind. You are not alone. Apparently, due to the information overload found on and around the shelves, some shoppers become so flustered they just grab any semblance of the item on their shopping list to avoid prolonged exposure to the stressor. As data and images bombard our minds we could even make “critical errors” of which Sharon Begley speaks in her article about decision-making.

So, how many choices would Goldilocks say were just right? One would estimate somewhere between two and ten per specific branded item such as toothpaste, to provide enough freedom of choice without overwhelming the shopper.

Choose wisely.

Just a quick entry today to highlight an article from Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It’s essentially a review and some light commentary regarding brands’ websites and how they’ve updated them in response to particular recalls, brand problems, etc. The lesson is to keep updating websites to ensure they reflect the current reality you’re faced with. The most interesting highlight is how the John Edwards ’08 site is “a shrine to a lost fantasy.”

Saab automobiles are, most would agree, a unique product within their catregory–“quirky” may be the word to best describe the well-etched brand. Having owned the company outright for the past ten years, GM wants to now cut and bury the company, as they’ve done with their Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer brands.

Yet Saab won’t go away easily. Despite representing less than one percent of GM’s overall sales, Michigan is now trying to sit on, squash and mufffle the dissenting voices of those on the other side of the pond. Perhaps GM hopes to use geographic distance to their favor, praying  for a big Nordic snow storm over the holidays so Michigan can quickly bury the remaining frames of Saabs sitting on auto lots.

But GM may face a bevy of  complications in killing off the scrappy Saab brand. First off, Saab is a cool car. Positioning-wise, I’d suggest it’s not that far off from Volkswagon, starring all these years in the role of VW’s older, more sophisticated female second cousin. And for all I know it’s probably a fairly-well engineered car that would benefit well in the hands of a smaller manufacturer who could pour some much needed mechanical attention and detail into the product, synching the auto’s integrity with its quirky, well-bred image. Perhaps most importantly, over 80% of Saab dealers are not in the U.S. (they’re located primarily in Europe), unlike the other brands GM killed off. Home turf can mean a lot in a passionate battle.

Don’t forget, Saab was a profitable company, until…. the year after GM bought them. It has not been profitable since then. A reason to kill them off? I think there are other options on the table to explore before such drastic behavior. It seems others think so, too.

In the end, the brand is a management nusance for GM, granted. It’s a distraction for a company with much larger concerns. But why not show a bit of love to the European community and help usher the Saab brand to a company willing to take on the challenge of owning and running the company? Such action would produce enormous goodwill for a (foreign) company with little positive equity to its credit right now. And Europe, by the way, buys loads of GM cars: over 2 million in Y2008, the second best result ever for GM. They can still grow there with less than ten percent of the overall market. Opportunity now knocks!

And besides, Saab will live on, somehow, some which way. Watch.

armani store

Over the years, my opinion of Armani has swayed radically. In the 80s, I coveted his aesthetic, the guy was ‘it’ for a frenzied generation weaning itself off disco and punk. In the 90s, I chafed at the glut excess of a static attitude gone, I thought, nowhere – a brand for laggard Eurotrash wannabes. Nowadays, I have utmost respect for the man. He has endured, and in retrospect, may actually transcend generational shifts with his personal zeitgeist.

Excerpts from a recent Metropolitan Home interview:

  • On Inspiration: “It comes at you when least expected; I can be inspired by almost anything: a book ,a film, or something as simple as the smile of a child walking down the street.”
  • On Taste: “The most important thing with taste is to reflect your own character; real good taste is not about an abstract ideal.”
  • Fashion vs. Style: “Fashion is often about trends, whereas style is about more eternal qualities.”
  • On Design: “The essence of good design lies in the consistency of the approach. Good design should aim to produce things that are both beautiful and functional. If it’s a chair, it should be well made and a pleasure to sit in; if it’s a leather bag, it should hold its contents and be comfortable to carry.”
  • On the significance of “Home”: “A feeling of warmth and tranquility; a place of physical and mental refuge.”

The guy just spent millions and millions of dollars to open a store in NYC, which surely didn’t need another high-end store but definitely can benefit from a ‘shot in the arm’ anchor; demonstrating someone is willing to make a significant investment in Gotham during these troubled times with everyone reflexively pulling back, ‘rewinding’, seeking a bailout,, or simply walking away from commitment . Given his age of 74 years, he will never see a dime in return. Rather, I think he did it because, aesthetically, it made intuitive sense. This guy is not going golfing…

Last week was Earth week. As part of its attempt to celebrate Earth week and attract consumers to its brands, Universal held its annual promotion Green is Universal. On the surface it seems kind of great that a brand is embracing the values of its consumers and trying to make a difference. However, when one digs a little deeper, it turns out to be a nice case of Greenwashing. Last year, the week after the big green promotion, the Today Show held it’s annual Where in the World is Matt Lauer promotion where Matt jets all over the world in an attempt to log a lot of miles and go to strange, exotic places.  Using all that jet fuel isn’t exactly green, is it?

Another example can be found in today’s New York Times. More as more hotels are becoming pet friendly.  Again, it sounds like a great example of how brands are paying attention to the values and desires of their consumers and acting accordingly.  There’s a catch, however, as many of these hotels have placed size restrictions on the pets allowed in the room, meaning that they’re selectively pet friendly.  

There’s a bigger lesson here than not greenwashing or making sure big dogs can get into a hotel. While you could argue that consumers are smarter than ever, it’s as valid and potentially more apt to say that consumers are louder than ever. If your brand makes promises it can’t or doesn’t live up to, consumers have more tools than ever to make their complaints heard. A small number can cause a stir and have it reach national proportions, remember the Motrin/baby wearing ad controversy?

While consumer values-friendly programs are great, they likely warrant a little research to determine a) how far they should reach, and b) how much backlash they could create should a small, yet determined group of consumers find flaws they deem to be serious in the plan. This is a case where half-steps toward consumers’ desires may do more harm than good.