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Nuorisomarkkinointipäivä 26.11.2010 – Haastattelussa the Brand Manual

J. Margus Klaar
Markko Karu

Nuorisomarkkinointipäivä järjestetään 26.11.2010. Ohjelmassa on Euroopan nuorisomarkkinoinnin parhaimmistoon valittu Joseph Ciprut Turkista sekä nyt haastattelussa olevat, The Brand Manual-mainostoimiston, J. Margus Klaar ja Markko Karu.

Tapasimme Marguksen ja Markkon kesällä Tallinnassa. Erityisen positiivista tapaamisessa oli uskomattoman avoin ilmapiiri sekä ideoiden jakaminen.

Haastattelin Margusta ja Markkoa blogiamme varten.

Tell me about the Brand Manual? What’s the story?

Brand Manual was formed as a reaction to local advertising and marketing reality. All four of us have a long background in advertising and design and we became increasingly aware of the big gap between client and customer expectations. We were in a business of selling products and services through promotions but in fact were often hired to cover up the underlying product problems with a cool campaign or sleeker package. We were rarely involved at the front-end, where we could have helped solve the problem and make customers happy without excessive marketing support.

Our goal with Brand Manual is to build brands from the inside out. Working with the board, the owners, the decision makers we start by clearly defining the point of competitive advantage, inventing or discovering it, if necessary, and we go from there to develop the look, the feel, the way the service is delivered. Working with us is challenging because we will continually ask for verification (why). If we don’t believe it, we can’t convince anyone else either.

What are some of the key lessons you have learned during your careers about marketing? Something that everyone in marketing (except your competitors) should know?

Common sense works wonders. Analysis paralysis is the biggest reason for failures and the bigger the group of decision makers, the more likely you are to end up with an expensive disaster. To ”make a ding in the universe,” as Steve Jobs puts, requires the right to make mistakes and the obligation to learn from them. Organizations that are happy with themselves tend to just protect their position and consequently penalize errors and their authors. To be honest, though, we are very happy if also our competitors know this. The smarter the industry as whole is, the better off we all are.

Has anything changed during past years? Where do you see the best opportunities to create competitive advantage?

In researching history for our beer client, we went through some 1930s newspapers. It was very refreshing to read about local problems: the sidewalks need fixing, trees fell down during a storm, the market is too expensive, the new railway line is making too much noise, the new Stanley & Laurel film is opening on Friday, etc. Apart from the use of language, it seems that nothing has changed. Same problems, different century.

On the other hand, the medium through which we now read, listen and see about all the same problems, has changed. The availability of information, new methods of sharing information are changing how we communicate. In this there will always be people who condemn the new for being dangerous and there will be early (usually young) adapters, that praise the new way as much better than old. The first guy to complain about communication technology was Aristotle, who derided young people from writing things down because they would then not remember and honor the old oral tradition of story telling. What do old people say about Facebook today?

Change is accelerating. As information becomes increasingly accessible the collective intelligence of humanity will be able to innovate faster and faster. Of course, we may kill ourselves in the process, but the pace is picking up. Ideas can be shared instantly and benefits reaped on a global scale.

The trick for companies, for brands, is to not only make a product, but provide the service that accompanies it and think global from the beginning. The internet provides a level playing field for small and large companies alike, information is no longer a luxury but a commodity. Being purely local fails to take advantage of this fact, since it is likely that there are people around the world who may like your stuff. Service is the key to this: how the purchasing process is built is as, or even more important, than the product itself. Follow-up to the purchase, recommendations, ease of transaction – these ”details” can swing a purchase from a global behemoth to an alternative producer by the click of a mouse.  As an aside, it is probably a good time to get into logistics as ever more people buy their stuff from somewhere else.

In November we will see you guys in Helsinki and discuss youth marketing. Is it really so different from marketing to middle aged or old people?

The difference between old people and young people is that young people don’t have an alternative experience. They’ve never been old, whereas we’ve all been young. There is an issue of nostalgia here for old folks, and an unwillingness to accept best advice for young people. It is human to want to make our own mistakes, not be told what’s best for you. It is only as we get older that we are willing to accept the wisdom of others (which also often stops us from trying new, cool things). Young people don’t see themselves young or unexperienced, their center of attention is the current moment. The magic vanishes the moment you are trying to address young people as different from yourself – the same as trying to be extra polite to a handicapped person. He’s missing a leg, but he is also just a normal person!

Our company is unique in one sense. We’re four partners and in between us (and our wives, of course) we have ten kids aged 1 to 16. We’ve grown up in different systems (Margus is a Swiss-Swedish-Canadian-Estonian whereas Dan and Kaarel are Russian-Estonian mix and Markko is Estonian.) We’ve had the luxury of these very different experiences in our past, while now viewing our children growing up in a regular middle-class environment. This has given us invaluable insight in consumer behavior, which quite clearly also indicates that youth marketing is not to youth, as such, but the real difference comes in marketing to experienced and jaded vis-a-vis inexperienced but curious consumers.

Consider the junk that could be sold to the average Eastern European at the beginning of the 90’s. As people didn’t have any experience with a) mass communication and b) the fact that stuff made in the West could also be crap, then people spent money on very strange items. They sold the family jewels to buy a microwave oven! Sort of like teens with too big an allowance. As experience grew, consumers got wise. Once bitten, twice shy. The brand owners and marketing people saw people buying less, so they started to stress price. Now they have only themselves to blame that consumers no longer react to every promotion for stuff at half price, if they are offering just junk and money is valuable. When you don’t know the value of money, spending it is much easier. In approaching youth today, the biggest challenge is the fact that news travels very fast indeed. Genuine value, even if it is just bling, is quickly separated from the marketing chaff and even youth expects respect. If we rarely respect the intelligence of adult customers, then what chance do we have with an informed youth?

Something else that you’d like to share?

The past year has been a real adventure for us all. We’ve seen the reality of recession with companies really struggling to survive. We’ve chalked up successes where we have managed to change the mindset of company boards; we haven proven that if you do things properly, they will work better. Eastern Europe is still learning to invest in thinking before acting, to be proactive and talk before, not afterwards. In this area it has been a pleasure to work with Finnish companies in the Baltic: things may take a lot more time, but when they are done they’re done properly, not halfway. We’ve applied this thinking to our own business and are slowly making headway in the rest of the business community.

Your headline for the presentation is ”It’s just porn, mom”. Where did you get the idea?

As we get older, we realize around the age of 25 that we actually don’t know much of anything. Until then, we’re smart as hell and we’ll change the world, if someone just gave us a chance.
New isn’t new, it is the natural order of things as everything is new. The problem is not in young people, but in adults who try to compare today’s experience with what used to be and conclude that today’s youth needs to be guided by, what is, outdated morality and method. Technology has changed consumption. Transparency and instant information are the tools by which youth can react to top down marketing and parenting and choose not to pay, not to buy, not to believe because they know better.
J. Margus Klaar ja Markko Karu esiintyvät Nuorisomarkkinointipäivässä 26.11.2010. Osallistumismaksu 295€+ alv. 23%. Ilmoittautua voi sähköpostitse osoitteeseen mikko.ampuja(a)1530.fi.