Posts by GunterSoydanbay:

    The evolution of private label brands

    August 23rd, 2013


    By Gunter Soydanbay.

    Did you know that private label brands (PL) have been around for almost a decade? Back in 1928, the Swiss introduced the PL concept and since then it has been spreading like wildfire. Actually, we should point out that PL is not only spreading but also “evolving.” We are witnessing a quiet renaissance, which deserves to be analyzed. This is the first installment of a series of essays on private label branding.

    Migros eliminated the middleman, inventing the private label concept.

    Migros eliminated the middleman, inventing the private label concept.

    Let’s start by reviewing PL’s origins: It was invented during tough times, sometime between the WW1 and the WW2. Also, those were the years leading up to the Great Depression. So, it’s not a coincidence that the PL concept is deeply rooted in low cost. For decades, people were conditioned to think that PL was equal to cheapness, both in terms of value and quality. This tactic worked like a charm for many decades. The combination of no frills approach and intentional lack of beauty served its purpose. But over time, masses got richer and had more disposable income. The proliferation of choice became a major hurdle for PLs. So, the no frills approach had to evolve…

    The famous "No Name" brand is still very popular

    The famous “No Name” brand is still very popular

    The next step in PL’s journey was the “me-too evolution.” In a crowded market, the easiest way to be recognized was to look similar to the leading brand. In addition to instant recognition, resembling to the market leader had unconscious effects: Consumers would automatically associate some of the positive attributes of the leading brand to the PL. As long as the PL looked like a poor cousin of the market leader, it was OK. That approach too, worked like a charm for a couple of decades. However, as time passed by, retailers realized that their PL brands had a halo effect on the retailer’s brand: The characterless, me-too brands started to negatively impact the overall image of the retailer’s brand. It was time for PL to evolve again…

    Me-too store brands were the next evolution in private label branding

    Me-too store brands were the next evolution in private label branding

    Third generation PL brands look distinct. Really distinct… They are more than wannabe store brands. PLs are building their own personalities. Well-designed PL brands are occupying the shelves, giving CPGs a good run for their money. And they are relentless, infiltrating in every category. No longer they are offering just staples. Any product you can think of, you name it, PL has it. Retailers started to be proud of their store brands so much that they want those to be one of their key differentiators… And, “that” turbocharges the next and last evolution of PLs.

    Private label brands now have their own look and feel. They look self-confident.

    Private label brands now have their own look and feel. They look self-confident.

    Self-confidence is an interesting thing: When you don’t trust yourself, people instinctually take notice and don’t trust you. But, when you have self-confidence, same people start trusting you. The more self-confidence you have, the more they trust you, the more they trust you, the more self-confidence you gain. It is a positive feedback loop. Now that PLs are building their own unique personality, people is taking notice and asking for more. That’s why today’s most successful PLs are becoming “destination brands.” People sometime switch supermarkets to buy a particular store brand. The future of PL looks really bright.

    Canadian grocery store Loblaws' clothing line Joe Fresh became an international success story. A true destination brand

    Canadian grocery store Loblaws’ clothing line Joe Fresh became an international success story. A true destination brand

    On our next article, we will analyze the unconscious of PLs. Why do we buy PL? Is low cost the main motivator? What’s going on in our mind while picking a PL? Stay tuned.

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    Open Space Technology

    July 23rd, 2013


    By Gunter Soydanbay.


    In Turkey, not a day goes by without a fascinating development… It seems like the Turkish protestors are on a mission to teach the world a lesson in 21st Century leadership. As you might know; apeaceful, local protest aimed to protect a public green space in Istanbul turned into a nationwide (even global!) movement against oppression – all within a matter of hours. During the protests, Turks organized so quickly, so efficiently and so seamlessly that politicians, who are behind the times, thought everything was a pre-planned foreign conspiracy. In reality though, it was nothing more than life organizing on its own! Once the government brutally cracked down the protests, Turks made an unexpected move: Across the country, every night they started gathering at local parks, hosting meetings, organizing community summits, creating speaker’s corners – all without a leader, all without a former agenda! Old-school mentality would tell us that no movement could be successful in the absence of a former leader, clear rules and regulations, and a system that works like a well-oiled machine. Surprise, surprise! Smart leaders have been using a similar idea for decades. It is called the Open Space Technology(OST). Let’s see how and why it works…

    “Chaos is the law of nature. Order is the dream of man,” Anonymous.

    Think about a typical seminar, meeting or conference you attend to. They all share some communality: There is a pre-determined agenda, speakers are already chosen, speeches are pre-scripted, and there is an invisible boundary between the audience and the speakers. Ironically, for most of us, the most exciting part of such meetings are the coffee breaks, lunches, and cocktails during which we can mingle with others. That’s when we can exchange ideas and network with people. On the other hand, the least exciting part of such meetings is the part during which we sit down and listen to a speaker –no matter how great s/he is– preach us. That is a one-way communication. I think such a meeting format was born of human ego, which is absolutely afraid of unpredictability. Deep down we want everything to be neat. The obsession for order is so much that for a typical event organizer, it is more important that the meeting runs smoothly than the participants get value out of it.

    "Parklar Bizim - The Parks are Ours" Movement is a beautiful replica of the Open Space Technology and a wonderful proof that life has the ability to self organize.

    “Parklar Bizim – The Parks are Ours” Movement is a beautiful replica of the Open Space Technology and a wonderful proof that life has the ability to self organize.

    But there is another way. If the issue you are dealing with is very important, really urgent and highly complex, then OST might be a much better fit for your organization. In OST, the attendance is not required. There is no formal agenda. Attendees figure out what needs to be discussed. Speakers are self-selected. The seating arrangement is circular. Nothing is scripted; conversation flows naturally, and it goes to wherever it is suppose to go. Here are the rules:

    1. Whoever comes is the right people.
    2. Whenever it starts is the right time.
    3. Wherever it happens is the right place
    4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
    5. When it’s over, it’s over.
    6. If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.

    Does it sound chaotic? Definitely. Does it work? Absolutely! Never mind more than 100,000 open space meetings that have taken place around the world. Just look at what’s happening right now in Turkey:

    Protestors voluntarily gather at local parks. There is no attendance requirement. Only the willing and caring people come. If you don’t like what you hear, you just leave. No one forces anybody to attend or stay. No one is in charge of the agenda. Whatever needs to be discussed is collectively decided, which means only the issues that the people care the most are discussed. Those issues are the ones that vitalize people and galvanize communities. That’s why the park meetings don’t flame out. The urgency of the issues and the passion of the attendees keep the engine running. The attendees are not mere bystanders. Subject matter expertsjoin and speak. They inform the public. Share their ideas. See how people react, and if need be they take action. Once the meeting is over, it is over. The minutes are shared online. Everybody can see what has been discussed, what has been agreed on. Actually, all the meetings are broadcasted live.

    We are all afraid of the chaotic aspect of life. Deep down, we yearn for stability and predictability. Unfortunately, those two do not exist in the Universe. They never did, and never will. But that does not mean that there is no order in life. As chaotic as it might seem, life has the ability to self-organize. Life is based on chaos, which gives us order without predictability. Nobody predicted that Turks would hit the parks to collectively imagine a better future. But they did. Nobody predicted that they would re-invent the OST concept. But they did. Nobody predicted that any good would come out of these park meetings. But it did. Because, Chaos is the basis of life, and it is extremely fertile… Feel free to use this insight within your organization.

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    Branding Czech Republic Part 2

    March 26th, 2013

    by Gunter Soydanbay. 


    Previously, we analyzed the Czech Republic’s new promotional logo, which did not receive a warm welcome. Unfortunately, the campaign failed to convey unique and compelling messages to the three major audiences of any place branding campaigns: Visitors, potential investors and the locals. We think this campaign did the expected: Promoted “the stereotypical Czech Republic.” However, successful branding requires us to disregard the stereotypes and instead look at the archetypes of the place. In Roman times, it used to be called the Genius Loci: the protective spirit of the place. Our article ended by asking the following questions:

    • Why is Czech Republic the home to Bohemia?
    • Why the Velvet Revolution took place here?
    • Why the 1968 Spring happened in Prague?

    Czech Republike

    The new brand of Czech Republic fails to capture the “genius loci” of the country

    In life, “why” is the most powerful question we can ever ask. “Why” takes us on a journey, in which we are clueless about the destination and the itinerary. If we can liken the Czech archetype to an artichoke, then metaphorically speaking, asking “why” would allow us to peel the leaves of the artichoke until we reach its very heart: The Czech Republic’s archetypal meaning. Arguably, here are the key elements of the Czech archetype:

    1. The Czech culture values stability and it creates a balanced and caring environment: The “Velvet” Revolution, the Prague Spring and the Separation are all manifestations of Czechs yearning for harmony, order and peace. Actually, this is more than a yearning; it is a reality.
    2. The Czech culture is humanist. Case in point: Pluralism, an accepting society (respect for the man on the street is the corner stone of democracy), and countless festivals (the joy of living together and celebration of the ordinariness of communal life.)
    3. Czechs value artistic creativity and exploration. Countless innovations, famous Czech writers and artists as well as the notorious Czech beer tradition are all manifestations of the Czech genius loci, which constantly explores, envisions and innovates.

    One thing that is worthy of our attention is the fact that Czechs haven’t been on a major war for almost two centuries. Obviously, this is not because they are not good at fighting, but because they choose not to do it, which reminds me a virtue of a warrior:

    “A warrior’s highest task is not to pull out his sword, not to fight.”

    Caroline Myss

    Maybe we can imagine Czech Republic as a “wise warrior”, aiming to protect the peace. Mythologically, this is the role of Quirinus

    Quirinus, like Mars, was a war god. His role was to defend communities and their crops against disease. He drove off disease, rust on crops. He was the veteran warrior always on guard during the time of peace. So, if we liken Czech Republic to Quirinus, then what is the modern equivalent of crop disease? What can Czech Republic protect the world from? Here are three levels of potential enemies:

    • At the political level: Czechs’ respect for harmony can be a beacon of hope for humanity and help heal the world, which suffers from conflicts, wars and sorrow. The Czech archetype can fight the root of all modern crop diseases: fundamental hatred.
    • At the social level: In an ego-driven world, where individuals are taught and forced to fight for everything, the joyous Czech Quirinus can fight to reduce the world’s stress, boredom and ennui, healing our collective soul. It can also fight for the Aphrodite, our yearning for the nicer things and beauty in life and become a design hub.
    • At the individual level: Globally, spirituality is on the rise. Pious people practice religion, secular ones turn to Eastern traditions such as mediation and yoga. Also yearning for creativity is on the rise. Individuals want to transform themselves and look for a North Star. Czech Republic can be the Mecca for innovation, where individuals as well as corporations could discover their gifts and create a better self.

    Our above analysis reveals that Czech Republic could play the role of Quirinus, the guardian of peace. It can fight social diseases of modern era and help build a better world. This role, combined with good storytelling, and creative initiatives could be a unique, compelling and sustainable positioning for Czech Republic. What do you think?

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    Are you asking the right questions?

    January 26th, 2013

    by .

    Have you ever left a meeting questioning why you were summoned? What was the goal? What did you try to achieve? Well, I have been to too many meetings where I felt we wasted valuable time and effort. Also, I took part in so many branding projects that did no go anywhere. I know I am not alone. So, let’s see if we can fix the problem of ineffectiveness.

    I truly believe that one of the reasons we waste so much time and effort in meetings and projects, is our lack of direction. Think about an airplane… If the pilot does not know where to land, what is the point of taking off? You have to know where you want to be, what you want to accomplish, what to consider as success before you start the meeting or the project. I know this is stating the obvious… But, somehow all those meeting agendas or project objectives do not prevent us from wasting time and money, signaling me that we wrongfully determine our objectives. So the bigger question is, how can we be sure that we have the right objective? My answer is: We should ask the right questions…

    Albert Einstein once said:

    “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

    Problems are like locked doors and questions are like keys. Only by asking the right question we can unlock the door. Based on my observation, often we spend too much time answering questions and too little time asking the right question.

    According to Vogt, Brown and Isaacs, a powerful question has three attributes:

    First of all they are constructed in a way to make us think differently. They force us to broaden our mind, to consider the inconsiderable, to think the unthinkable. There are yes-no questions, there are one-sentence-questions and there are powerful questions… Based on their research, they found that there is a hierarchy of questions.  The king of the castle is “why” followed by “how”. These two are the most powerful questions you can ask. Just consider these two examples:

    -Are we satisfied with our team’s performance?

    -Why might it be that our team’s performance has been declining for 3 months?

    As you can see, the “why” question opens more doors, generates a wealth of insights. Obviously, we are not talking about the simplistic questions like: “Why didn’t you call me?

    Second attribute of a powerful question is its scope. As a rule of thumb: the bigger the scope, the more vague the answer becomes. Realistically, what is within our reach? What is beyond our boundary? What would be asking too much? Again consider the following questions:

    -Why might it be that our team’s performance has been declining for 3 months?

    -Why might it be the real estate sector’s performance has been declining for 3 months?

    Second question is obviously too broad. Even if we have an answer, what are we supposed to do with it? What use does it have?

    Finally, powerful questions challenge existing assumptions. Often times, unconsciously we communicate our beliefs, assuming error or blame. We state the obvious. Powerful questions don’t point finger to anyone. They are not dualistic. Instead they lead to a third way.

    -How can we beat our competitor?

    -How can we become more than a corporation?

    First question states the obvious: We are not number one. We are inferior to our competitor. However, the second one pushes us outside our comfort zone. Of course, there is an assumption, which is we are a corporation. But it does not assume error or blame. It leads us to a place where we need to go to sustain our success.

    Next time, we will talk about another reason for our ineffectiveness: the Chief Answer Officer.

    Actionable tip of the day: Before starting a project, ask yourself, what are we trying to achieve? What are your aspirations? Align your goals with your aspirations. Ask more “why” and “how” questions instead of “what” questions.

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    Archetypes or stereotypes?

    January 15th, 2013


    By Gunter Soydanbay.

    Recently, I’ve learned that 86% of place branding projects fail. While the research does not explain why, I am willing to bet that one of the major causes of failure is “thinking stereotypically instead of archetypically.” Case in point: Ottawa.

    Ottawa ad campaign

    The above picture was taken in Montreal. It says: “We don’t shut down the streets at 5 PM.” This ad tells me two things:

    1. People from Montreal perceive Ottawa as a dull city.
    2. Ottawa thinks it can and should fix such a stereotype.

    While it is good for Ottawa to acknowledge that it is perceived as a boring city, I don’t think it is a smart thing to try to un-do such a stereotype. Anyone in the communications business would know that changing perceptions is extremely difficult, slow and expensive. Stereotypes are built over time, and they are transferred from one generation to another. For instance, would you be surprised had you read such an imaginary stat: “Half of the Montrealers, who think Ottawa is boring, have never been to Ottawa in their lives.” (I made this one up.) Such is the power of the stereotype! That’s why instead of limiting themselves to stereotypes, places should discover their archetypes. Let’s start by defining the difference:

    A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or ideaof a particular type of person or thing. For instance, these are all stereotypes: French are arrogant, Turks are barbaric, and Germans are cold. Such beliefs are childish, simple and predominantly negative. You should not build your brand or campaign on such a primitive ground.

    On the other hand, an archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious. For instance, these are all archetypes: Michael Jordan is a warrior, Mother Teresa is a caregiver, and Ben and Jerry’s is an entertainer. An archetype is not a personality trait but a mythological storyline. Once you find your archetype, you know the compelling and the authentic story you should tell. Going back to the Ottawa’s case, here is what can be done:

    About 5 years ago, the tourism bureau of Washington DC decided to rebrand their city in order to attract more tourists. A stereotypical image would be that DC is a governmental city, not a touristic one. But an archetypal image would be much richer. Research revealed that a trip to Washington DC meant powerful memories. When you visit DC, you experience the greatness of the city and feel empowered. The campaign invited visitors to create their own power trip. This is not a stereotype. This is a rich archetypal territory…

    Today’s actionable tip: Know your stereotype, so that you can take steps to fix it. But also know that you are more than a stereotype. Start by asking why?

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