"What makes a brand powerful is not its size but its community"

thats what Chuck Brymer the Chairman and CEO of DDB Worldwide recently said in an interview.

"What makes a brand powerful is not its size but its community"

According to him consummers have gone from having a "herd" mentality and following a brand to a "swarm" mentality who cannot have their thoughts dictated to them, they don't take orders and you can't impose a message on them. They are a community which can make or break a brand and the only way to attract them is 3 fold:

- conviction: he names Harley Davidson and Apple who have a strong community who believe in what they do and what these brands represent.

- collaboration: he names Lego who has children actually design some of the toys

- creativity:  not to base yourself on marketing models but by thought provoking creativity which stir emotions.

What are your thoughts on this and do you think that the Loungers  as a community fit this description?

The whole interview (in French) can be read here:

http://fr.influencia.net/articles/actualites/archive/2008/02/14/article-25600.aspx

I think it's right on target!
02/15/2008 - 13:08

The Loungers have a conviction, as an old(!) HD owner, until last year,

I know the special strong community.

La Maison VacheronConstantin is a perfect example of that you can design your own watch.

Hour Lounge is a true place for provoking creativity, that's what we are doing all the time!

Doc

He is right! What sells is not the marketing campaign or having a
02/15/2008 - 16:30

celebrity wear your watch but the word of mouth from the community.

This is very true for expensive items if you feel that you belong to a specific community you can become the best salesman in the world because your friends or people you know will certainly believe you more than any retailer or add when it comes to seeking advice on buying an expensive item (watch, pen, shoes etc...).

I think that VC has been very smart with HL because they provide the space and information but really leave the discussions free. The different HL meetings (Alex we want more ) also help to cement the online bonds and in the end it is us the Loungers who are VC's best ambassadors...BUT that does not mean that if we are passionate about a brand that we follow blindly.

We shall never follow blindly,
02/15/2008 - 20:19

HL is an outstanding possibility to let our voices be heard,

in a way that never have been possibel before

I think that's better than all marketing in the world for us,

who are already hooked,

but the big question is how to get new customers,

that not knows about the Brand!

When you bought your first VC, you'll find the way to this place,

and I don't think there are too many of us who doesn't own a VC !

We lucky aficionados can only send the message by mouth to other people,

and I know several persons that I have influenced to buy a VC,

that never really known anything about the old firm before.

On the other side, VC buyers are returning customers,

and it would be very interesting to see if there were any figures,

how faithful the customers are to different brands

Doc

agree 100%! the best marketers are the brand's clients and aficionados
02/15/2008 - 22:26

kudos should be given to VC for such an open forum which unlike other Richemont brand forums doesn't need registratin and require 1000 different steps just to access the discussion forum!

agree with what has been said NT
02/16/2008 - 10:12

.

a community is a powerful "device" but a double edged sword because
02/16/2008 - 12:47

the day the community members feel "used" or betrayed then they can become the worse publicity possible.

education seems to be important as well
02/16/2008 - 16:23

In addition to the three criteria Alex mentioned in his post, I personally think education has played a significant role in attracting people. In that sense, the HL community constantly has provided answers to the questions raised, as well as proposed new topics including the legendary VC watch makings. I believe the HL has become a place for novices and VC aficionado to know VC better, thanks largely to Alex and other VC fans’ contributions to this forum.

you are right about edication, but education in a smart way and not
02/16/2008 - 17:18

brain washing like what most marketers try to do.

Thanks to all here on HL!

good point
02/18/2008 - 14:09

and unlike one-way marketing methods, the HL is a good place for gaining knowledge (education) & discussing it with VC lovers. I believe as long as we are independent + can judge what’s right, there’s less risk of brain washing, and that’s what the HL is for.

Some translations highlights and comments
02/16/2008 - 18:37

OK, here are a few translations from parts of the interview. Alex summarized it very well though. I will not translate the whole thing as I have no permission at all and have made the mistake before. So hopefully I will not offend in:fluencia for my little bit of copyright violation.

This part below I believe defines what he thinks of as the "swarm" and his definition of the kind of meaningful community he has in mind. I highlighted the main part as I see it almost describing our little community here

In that sense Alex, I believe HL is exactly the kind of "swarm" community he has in mind (people who think for themselves, form bonds, do not want a message dictated to them, ...).

(talking about "swarms"). "In fact they are communities: individuals linked to each other, often via the web, who found each other thanks to common interests (cooking, politics, musique, comics, ...) or because they had common characteristics (teenagers, seniors, people from the same college or university, neighborhood, ...). These individuals meet each other in a virtual environment, bond with each other, interact together, sometimes meet in real life, exchange ideas, and recruit new members, all without the seeming need to have community leaders who could be considered responsible for the whole community. So would you go about convincing this new race of influencing people?"

This second part here defines more of his ideas about the change in communities.

"In the old days, people fully trusted institutions and companies. This is no longer true. Nowadays we are in the age of referal, not submitance/compliance. It is the end of the mentality of the herd, which is blindy passive, and the coming of the swarms. When you look at  birds in flight,  there are no leaders, but  they still nevertheless all go in the same direction, being mindful and coordinating their flight perfectly. One cannot give orders to a swarm or impose a message to it. The swarm often sees the outside "influencer" as a predator. So how can you make them accept a brand and make it live inside this swarm? That is the real question today."

Just some more of his thoughts on changing brand communication strategy:

"My message: stop thinking in the traditional way. You have to think 360 degrees, go from the monologue to the dialogue and conversation, and if you add creativity it is even better. We are going to leave the stage where we were creating communication to join the stage where we are creating communities. Because for me individuals have become the real media."

Now this is the part I find a bit scary: they will help brands create "people like us" to join (infiltrate?) communities and establish ideas and communications of a specific brand in that community through their acquired respect in the community.

What I really hope for is that a community (like us here) would be strong enough and independantly minded enough to still not be victims of this new form of marketing. I still want to tell myself at the end of the day that my informed decision is mine, not someone elses'...

"We are creating positions in each branch of the company: the Chief Community Offcier, that in France will be given to Thomas Clement. His role will be to combine all these expert skills in order to help brands identify the different swarms that form the best targets that they want to reach. His role will be to help the brand create an "influencing" strategy that will, every day, harmonuously and permanently insert the brand into the community. He will have to convince the brand to go to the same level as any member of the community, to bring relevant contributions to the table, if the brand wants to be accepted, respected and appreciated."

Alex, What is the watch on his wrist?
02/16/2008 - 19:30

.

I agree also on that,
02/16/2008 - 20:00

and share most of answers and positions, too.

Re: "What makes a brand powerful is not its size but its communit
02/17/2008 - 01:19

Greetings all,

The article to which Alex referred was quite intersting but I think we should recognize that Chuck Brymer is a bit of a salesman. DDB Worlwide is not a disinterested party but is very active in identifying consumer trends to advise its clients who of course, have things or services to sell.

The essence of his comments are quite relevant generally and to some extent with respect to the HL. However, to create a distinction  between swarms and herds is somewhat artificial.  Brymer also points to a flock of birds who move in unison but have no leader and then proposes the question of how to deal with such an entity: Conviction of personal vision, Collaboration of the "swarm" and creativity, all good approaches.

But his examples lack persuasion particularly that of "Apple Computer" Anyone need only visit an Apple Store to see a herd, swarm, flock, gaggle etc. mentality. People "swarm" to Apple" because its cool, their friends have it; in other words considerable peer pressure. The products themselves, which are good, are aimed at a age group were peer association rather than individuality is more important.

Personally I feel that Adobe Corp. would have been more appropriate. Here is company which makes products, "par excellence" which are extemely powerful and an excellent value (ie Photoshop, Lightroom to name two) for those who use them, both amateur and professional. Their products have an amazing and loyal following and a large one too. How did they get this way? They listen. They listen to individual users, photographers of all kinds to develop and modify their products. Lightroom is an excellent example. For many months before the final product was released, Adobe invited everyone who was interested to try in free of charge and write back with comments, likes and dislikes, recommandations, changes, etc. It was a giant testing ground, better than a "beta-test". When the final product was released, it was very impressive. The important thing here is that the company realized the real heart of their business... provide a product that was excellent in quality, make it work without significant problems, do what it was designed to do as easily as possible and please the users of their software. They succeeded remarkably and it is a wonderful product, developed in part by the users themselves (a bit like Linux). Adobe succeeded because they treated their users as people, as individuals and listened to them rather than regarding them as some amorphous group and treating them with disdain. By the way, their customer support is also first rate. The interview with Chuck Brymer skirts around one important issue, (excuse the cliche), that this is the age of information. The fact that people are better informed about almost everything is crucial. Thatt hardly categorizes them as part of a "swarm". People now have access to search engines and libraries worldwide where almost anything can be found. They also have access to opinion from friends, collegues and "experts" so that formulating an idea about something is much more comprehensive. Not everyone avails themselves of these opportunities but the options are there. The result of course, is an informed individual who now is also a knowledgeable consumer, hardly a part of a "group-think". This situation applies everywhere including medicine where a knowledeable patient knows the right questions to ask and is able to seek justification for any treatment instead of accepting it blindly.

Nevertheless, there must be a balance with ones own limitations, otherwise why would anyone seek professional help for anything, be it law , medicine, or home renovation.. A little knowledge can be a dangerous think if used in the wrong way. I am pointing out simply that with more information ann individual ends up being involved in any decision making rather than merely the recipient.

Now, personally, I believe that marketing is an important feature of a product. With respect to VC, I have met individuals such as Julien Marchenoir and Veronique Briand, wonderful individuals who know their products and are committed and dedicated individuals. And I believe their work is essential. How one goes about using their skills is what separates some companies from others and what I believe makes some companies more successful and their clients/customers more loyal. My personal feeling is that Vacheron is much more like Adobe that they are like Apple or Harley Davidson. The fact that they wanted a group like HL speak to that fact. I don't think they wanted necessarily a paean to their greatness, but rather ideas and reflections on their products, positive and negative.

This is a very diverse group with members worldwide, with divese interests, occupations and incomes and they are well suited to comment on Vacheron products since most own them, have owed them or will own them. But it is not a swarm mentality but a collection of distinct individuals who often agree, disagree, or agree to disagree about many aspects of Vacheron. Now no one, least of all Vacheron, believes that the people who visit HL own no watches other than VC's. There are many fine manufacturers producing great watches. But I believe that Vacheron, through some very good and very informative advertising has whetted the interest of people interested in buying a watch, enough to make them seek furlther information, from AD's, from websites, like this one and from Vacheron representatives. I think that VC is very forthcoming in its advice and recommendations with honesty and absence of bullshit. Sometimes a prospective buyer will look elsewhere but most often they will be impressed by Vacheron's history, attitude, support and most of all the beauty and quality of their timepieces. I believe that VC is fairly unique in this approach for a company of its size.

An informed consumer who is treated with personal respect soon becomes a loyal customer and his words of praise for the product he owns is priceless.

Is there "conviction, vision and creativity" with Vacheron? Undoubtedly! Is there "collaboration" avec le swarm humain" ? Non! Ce qui vaut le mieux, c'est le valeur de tout individu. C'est inestimable!

Regards,

Joseph