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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Brands are you Passionate About?

I2m_passionbrands Everyone has brands that they are passionate about.  Yahoo's dedication to launching 100 "Brand Universes," the success of marketing concepts like "Lovemarks" and the rise of consumer generated media are just a few of the symptoms that would point anyone towards this conclusion.  Yet we all know that there are levels of brand enthusiasts.  There are the Apple-kind of enthusiast/fanatics that believe their hero brand can do no harm and often dismiss those who "don't get it."  There are the employee enthusiast/evangelists whose loyalty stems mainly from being employed or having a close family member or friend employed by the brand.  Then there is the third kind of brand enthusiast.  The one that is just that ... an enthusiast.  They like the brand, they believe it maps to their lifestyle, and where there is an opportunity, they are likely to convert this affection into a purchase - 99 times out of 100. 

I am that kind of enthusiast for the brands I like.  The only problem is, I don't get enough chances to talk about them.  So in an effort to give myself and others a way to do it - I'm going to do my best to start this thread of conversation with fellow bloggers by asking a simple question: What are the 3-5 brands that you are most passionate about?  These are the brands that you would recommend to others and purchase as many products as they made - if money were no object.  If you had to be defined by a brand that you love, these would be the ones that you would choose.  To get the ball rolling, here are my five:

  1. Briggs & Riley - I admit it.  I'm a luggage-hound.  As almost everyone that knows me well would agree, I can't resist a good piece of luggage.  It probably explains why I have tons of bags in the basement that I have since outgrown or discovered weren't actually as great as I first thought.  But the bags that I use all the time are from Briggs & Riley.  Their catalog almost makes my mouth water ... they're just that cool. 
  2. Moleskine - There are many other folks that swear by these notebooks, and I would count myself among them.  The iconic books are marketed as the "legendary notebook of Hemingway and Van Gogh" and they have a full range of sizes including a new city series that I can't wait to come out in a few months.  There are strong brand enthusiasts for Moleskine, a well regarded fan blog, sites devoted to what you can do with your Moleskine, and even some great citizen marketing.
  3. Nikon - Having used Nikon since my very first SLR camera in high school, when it came to looking for a new digital SLR to upgrade before my trip to India, the Nikon D80 was an obvious choice.  Aside from loving the products, as a photographer I appreciate how they have continually tapped into the amateur photographer community through their smart marketing programs such as the Nikon Stunning Gallery and many others for several decades now.  I think they are the default choice for the amateur photography who is secretly a pro-wannabe.  That sounds about right.
  4. Thinkpad - Almost everywhere you look, you can get a great deal on a laptop computer.  Prices are falling, new competitors are entering the market everyday, and each one is trying to carve a niche out for themselves.  Despite changing owners from IBM to Lenovo* - the Thinkpad remains the category defining business laptop machine.  From it's easy to use features like the ThinkLight to the signature trackpoint and feel of the keyboard - once you use a Thinkpad, it really is impossible to consider anything else.  Sure, it might be a bit more expensive, but for a brand enthusiast like me it's easily worth it.
  5. Umbro - As any kid growing up playing soccer will tell you, Umbro is the soccer player's company.  From their brand story of two brothers founding the company based on their common love of the game, to their popular soccer shorts that were the standard on any soccer field, they are still one of the few athletic apparel companies to just focus on one sport.  As a result, they have a huge base of brand loyalists around the world that will only wear Umbro gear.

Those are some of my favourites.  Looking forward to reading some of yours ...

* In the interests of full disclosure, Lenovo is a current client of Ogilvy Public Relations.  As I noted in this piece, my relationship with Thinkpad machines predates my role at Ogilvy and this post is not related to any current work or incentives.

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In the world of cycling, the brands that do the best job and endear themselves to passionate cyclists are Chris King (www.chrisking.com), Yeti Cycles (www.yeticycles.com), Independent Fabrication (www.ifbikes.com), Wilderness Trail Bikes (www.wtb.com) and Phil Wood (www.philwood.com). Of course, there are others, but these companies have been around for decades, providing meticulous and beautiful parts that last for years and years. When you live and breath bikes and riding, you want to spend as little time as possible messing around with your bike and these companies help keep you on the road or trails.

When you are in the business of bikes, you feel a special connection to those who look for these brands and demand the best products from you. It's almost like a secret handshake.

In thinking about your question, I realized that I am not much of a consumer - brands don't get me excited. I usually buy a brand based on what I think is the best value for the money, and am not very loyal to one company. There is one glaring exception, and that is my Mac computer. Macs I am passionate about, and the thought of ever buying a different brand of computer evokes a visceral response. If money were no object, I would buy all of Apple's products (esp. that iPhone!). What is it about Apple's products that generate this response in me? Part of it is probably emotional - I've been a Mac owner exclusively since I bought my first computer in 1988. But I think the other piece of it is that their products embody what I like to strive for myself - they are simple and elegant. So, yes, I would be that "Apple-kind of enthusiast/fanatics that believe their hero brand can do no harm."

This is exactly what lovemarks.com has become. It is a forum for inspired consumers to reveal the brands they love. I go there all the time to praise brands that have made a difference in my life, Moleskine being one of the top on my list as well I have the journals and mini datebook. It's just good to know there is a site to go to praise good quality and service and read what others have to say about their experiences as well.

My favourite is Apple. I like their style, practical and elegant, and I'm very fond of I tunes!

Trader Joe's came to mind immediately. After that, no burning passions, no unwavering loyalties.

I'd add Freitag, the European company that make shoulder bags and wallets out of recycled truck canvases.

Also Threadless.com, the community voted T-Shirt website.

By the way, I'm reading Citizen Marketers by Ben and Jackie at the moment. It has loads of great examples of Brands to be passionate about (Threadless included).

My Sidekick III, it's my third one and fits perfectly into my lifestyle as I use it to take pictures, write and even blog with it. Each time I use the generous typepad and tactile scrollwheel—it reminds me why I love it so.

BTW, came across your blog from Mack's Top 25. It's nice to see other agency folks actively blogging.

In the world of motherhood, these are the brands I'd have to say that I'm most passionate about:
Diapers: Pampers
Toys: Fisher-Price, LeapFrog, Parents Magazine
Food: Whole Foods
Books: Disney's Read-along, Robert Munsch, Eric Carle
Diaper Bags: Coach, DadGear
Clothes: Baby Gap, The Children's Place
Baby Care: Johnson & Johnson

Umbro is huge on eBay... even the old, "vintage" shorts. And they going for lots of money.

For some reason they are popular with gay athletes, too. It must be the quality.

I love my Umbro shorts!

- John

Paul Newman dressings, in particular the Caesar dressing.
Aunt Jemima Pancake Mixes (we've actually compared with others because my husband thought I was crazy but even he had to admit Aunt Jemima mixes are better)
Quaker Instant Oatmeal (I really only like the maple and brown sugar though)
Crocs Shoes
L'Occitane (pretty much anything and did you know that they have their names in brail on many of their soups as well!)

Made me think. Like that. Thanks.

1. Lexus:: Truly a product that delivers beyond expectations of great performance--recognized by J.D. Power and Associates as the most reliable brand in the U.S. based on its vehicle dependability in 2006,it is car that is innovative in design with it’s new L-Finesse design treatment, tries to be eco-friendly with the first luxury brand GS model becoming a hybrid, and it has catapulted into being one of the top selling luxury brands in just a short period of time. Now, if only I could afford or own that SC model, you just might see me become that Apple-kind of enthusiast/fanatic for Lexus.

2. Apple:: Ipods, Macs, iTunes, this brand has definitely left its lovemark on me.

3. United:: Dare I mention an airline in today's hellish travel environment? I have been flying them for over 15 years now and have yet to have my luggage lost, been bumped off a flight, have rude service, and honestly, they seem to be more than accommodating than not when I’ve needed them to come through for me. I love that they offer up last minute upgrades to economy plus, which gives you a little more leg room and comfort for a fairly decent price, their efares always seem to come with offers on flights I need. After a delayed flight home from LA once, they actually bumped me up to business. Now that is service. (Okay, hearing a familiar voice from the cockpit might be where my bias is coming from, but hey, being one of the largest US carriers it must be doing something right, no?)

4. Urth Caffé:: No Starbucks for this gal. I am a huge fan of this stuff. For the following reasons:

a. All coffees must be certified as being 100% organically grown.
b. All source farms must practice sustainable agriculture, biodynamic agriculture, or other environmentally friendly growing methods that promote purity and quality, such as inter-cropping, cross cropping, and composting. Farms must allow Urth Caffé or a reputable source inspect them for proof of sustainable practices.
c. All source farms must be shade grown; meaning coffee trees are grown under the natural canopy of rain forest trees to preserve the natural habitat.
d. Source farms must pay their coffee workers a fair wage in order to improve the workers' quality of life. Urth Caffé representatives or reputable organizations must be invited to check the claims of fair wages by visiting workers' villages.
e. Fair Trade - All Urth coffees are bought at a guaranteed premium, usually three times more than the highest market price for conventional coffee.

5. Target:: Come on, you know why you shop there too!

Samsonite Luggage is top on my list. I usually find a great selection from LuggagePoint.com.

My favourite brand is Cadbury and is an iconic British brand.

I have grown up with the brand and can relate many happy family celebrations such as birthdays, Christmas', Easter etc with Cadbury in some way. My memories are connected with Cadbury and each product can be a cue to bring my memories to life.

I was happy to hear the other day that Cadbury Whisper would be making a comeback! I was sad when it vanished as it felt like a part of my heritage had gone forever. But now I can look forward to many more chocolate bars.

Here are a few more of my favourite brands:

Virgin
Marks & Spencer
Walker's
BBC
Boots

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