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Brands should avoid hard selling on social media: Nick Foley

09-January-2015
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Brands should avoid hard selling on social media: Nick Foley

Nick Foley is President of South East Asia Pacific & Japan for Landor Associates. Foley has worked on the client side of the business at a number of well-known brands like Mars as well as Nestlé, working across insight generation, brand positioning, strategic brand planning, new product development, and mass media campaigns; Foley is renowned for his pragmatic attitude towards the need for a commercially viable approach in branding.

A few excerpts from a freewheeling chat with Foley on social media don’ts, the impact of design on ROI, experience of being on the client side that he uses on the agency side and more…

How do you apply the client side learnings to now being on the agency side?

As a client what you are looking for from your agency is for them to understand your business well enough. So they can then start to bring ideas and initiatives. Anybody can bring in an idea, but it takes a level of understanding and a level of familiarity and partnership to understand what the client really needs. I am not saying that agencies should rush out and start taking numerous ideas to the clients. But work to understand your clients’ requirements along with their competitors’ strategy.  The other thing that all agencies bring of course is objectivity. Working as a client when I was at Mars, sometimes no matter what I said my colleagues at Mars, we would not get necessary traction and purpose internally. But if one of my agencies said it, whether it was PR, media or advertising with little bit of authority, people sit up and listen.

What do you think are the factors that culminate into successful marriage between brand aesthetics and financial impact?

It seems like an unusual relationship. Design is born from creativity, from liberal thinking which may seem quite disparate from the paradigms that can control finance. Paradoxically the more financially successful you are as an agency the greater the freedom that gives you to go and try and experiment new things. One of the most important things in businesses right now is innovation and you can’t be innovative if you are making low margins, struggling to perform and the market saying why is this company not performing. It’s an unusual link but the more financially successful an agency is, greater the likelihood.

How does design as a discipline impact ROI?

Why would one pay more for an iPhone 5 vs the Samsung Galaxy 4? Because there is something more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The more beautiful something looks and as long as it is also delivering on everything else then that affords you greater premium then one can charge for that product and service.

Do you think that the design aspect is ignored when it comes to brands in India or do you see a shift in the importance given to design in terms of business perspective in India?

What we are saying that businesses are more focussed on the brand experience than on advertising campaign or logo or pure campaign approach. One of my most favourite examples for brand experience is airlines. With airlines you think about from the moment you are on the airport, to when you go through customs to when you use the lounge, to when you board the plane. Airlines are supposed to be one of the most homogenous services in the world. So brand experience is increasingly important. The thing that social media has done for most of the brands is that it has given the consumer a voice. This has helped the consumers to say what they want to the brand custodian via social media and brand websites. So we have moved from being brand managers to being brand influencers.

What are the social media don’ts for a brand today?

What social media has done is empower not only the consumers but also the small medium enterprises, and in one way social media has brought on a co- existence of all the various levels of companies and organisations on one platform. But if a company wants to do some sort of a hard sell on social media, people are just going to reject that. I would advise brands to avoid hard selling themselves and their services as this serves as counter- productive and distances consumers from the brand.

Any pointers on making a distinctive brand identity?

Colour palettes are incredibly important.  For example blue is still the colour that people subconsciously gravitate to because it’s such a pacifying colour and that why United Nations chose blue and white as their colour. Red is a powerful colour and is often associated with market leadership and when you combine it with yellow it is a good combination. In India, what you would see is much greater mixture of colour palettes than what you would see in somewhere like in the UK, the US or Canada. For distinctive brand identity, you always have to come back to what’s going to be the stand out in the mind of the target audience. So one thing is you are either going to do with a world mark or you are going to do with the identity. Years ago Mercedes Benz decided that the three pointed star would signify everything that they did. No longer it’s written as an A class or B class in Mercedes Benz. Whereas companies like Nissan are still using the London underground approach to their identity. The mind works in pictures not in words. So, the more you can have something that is an unusual cover or structure the more it  attracts people. 

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