Lego, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter, Bitcoin and AOL: the digitally creative brands

Cuusoo was the answer to Lego's tyranny of ideas
Cuusoo was the answer to Lego's tyranny of ideas

Marketing caught up with the marketers and leaders of five of the most digitally innovative brands in the world, with conversations ranging from brand schizophrenia to the tyranny of ideas to building a new social network.

These five brands were a among of range of speakers at the Festival of Media Global in Rome this week. Marketing met up with them to hear about the big issues dominating their digital worlds.

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AOL digital prophet David Shing

Lego head of global community co-creation Peter Esperson

Coca-Cola Europe VP of marketing Javier Sanchez Lamelas

Net-A-Porter group mobile manager Sarah Watson

Bitcoin Foundation executive director Jon Matonis

Lego head of global community co-creation Peter Esperson

We call it idea tyranny. We were receiving 20,000 unsolicited ideas for new products a year just through the call centre.

You need to push back and let the community do the heavy lifting

Today we see it as a give and take relationship with our [co-creation] Cuusoo platform.

With crowdsourcing comes crowd control. When you open up it can be like the flood gates and everyone rushes in.

You need to push back and let the community do the heavy lifting. They need to do some of the sorting and they need to help out. It’s a tyranny of ideas, with people saying, ‘I have this great idea, why don’t you do…’

I say, ‘great make a prototype and figure out what it actually is’. It’s no longer about people just throwing ideas at you - that’s very unhelpful, it’s just overload.

Now, they make the prototype, or a drawing of the concept, then put it on Cuusoo. They campaign for it to try to reach 10,000 people thinking it’s a good idea. When that happens we’ll review it for production.

Evolution of Cuusoo

There’s many things I’d like to do. I’d like to be better at putting out specific challenges from the company on Cuusoo, and ask, ‘who can hit the basket on this one?’. That would be interesting.

Previously we have crowdsourced content for the Lego movie on the ReBrick platform. We’d like to do more of that.

Back in 1999, before Mark Zuckerberg even entered puberty, our fans wanted to connect with each other online and they created Lugnet 

How much great stuff can we source for different things. When we do a marketing campaign, can we source great videos for TV advertising? That would be fun.

A lot of people will say we’re really at the vanguard of the visual space. We’re actually second movers, we let the fans be first movers.

Our fans wanted their own system to connect online. Back in 1999, before Mark Zuckerberg even entered puberty, they created Lugnet [Lego User Group Network).

Fans are so good at doing this, at breaking down the door.

We are currently working on how we involve fans in creating a campaign for fan-created products for later this year. We will see if we can create the campaign and the assets with them, let them be the ones communicating the story instead of us. That will be exciting.

It will US and UK-based but we will try and enroll people from all over the world with this.

Maintaining brand control

We can’t control what people do. We can’t and we won’t. There are things we will endorse and there are things we won’t. But we can’t go out and say, ‘this is not how you should use Lego bricks’. There are actually some quite colourful examples of how you can use Lego around the web.

The lesson is: don’t fear the people who love you most.

Coca-Cola Europe VP of marketing Javier Sanchez Lamelas

Today it is about creating pieces of content that really makes people fall in love

The problem is that marketing today is moving from communism to marketing darwinism. A few years ago you were able to produce a piece of content and just get money, push the media and people would see it, people would watch it, independent of the quality.

Today that equation is not valid anymore. Today it is about creating pieces of content that really makes people fall in love. Once you do that, the best marketing flies by itself. You really don’t need a lot of money for great creative to fly into the new digital space.

That is a huge difference because only the best, the most adaptable and the fittest marketing will be the one that will survive. It is a world in which the winner takes it all.

Authentic stories

If look on YouTube at our ‘Security cameras from Coca-Cola’, I believe that today it has had more than 10m views. The story of that piece of creative is just fascinating.

I was talking to [creative director of that campaign] Martin Mercado, he said: ‘I have a beautiful idea, Javier, that I think we should do for you. We’re going to get footage from security cameras from around the world. But we’re just going to wear the goggles of Coca-Cola, of togetherness, of universality of doing something good for some other people, for enjoyment, of smiling. And that will be the way in which Coca-Cola will look at the world, through security cameras.’

I thought, ok, that sounds very nice, let’s put that together.

The film went to San Sebastian first, then to Cannes, where it won several awards. It was only then that the people at the Festival asked us to put it on the internet. We hadn’t even thought about using it as a media. We did it and that thing just flew.

It actually reached the head of Americas through his daughter who had seen it, and from there it went to TV in North America.

It’s about authentic stories. Stories that have a moral takeaway attached to them, human values that convey emotions. When you do that, bingo. It usually flies.

Coke’s World Cup

You’re not going to see a global campaign with big superstars, big stadiums or powerful people with cigars

You see that with our Trophy tour, with the films each all locally made. They are stories with a moral takeaway behind them, doing something for others in difficult times. So for Egypt, it was togetherness and joy of getting together with a star like Pele. Or with grass root programme and physical activity in other countries, like in France or Holland.

It’s not our ambition for Coke to ‘take over’ [during the World Cup]. Our objective is to make sure that the shared values are understood and that Coca-Cola comes across as a brand that is about universality and togetherness. If that comes across then we’ll be happy.

What you’re not going to see is a global campaign with big superstars promoting big stadiums or powerful people, or people with cigars. We will not do that. It’s about local communities - as you see in our Manifesto movie.

We will always strive for every World Cup to be bigger every time. And so far? We are extremely happy, we just love it.

AOL digital prophet David Shing 

The digital space is in a time flux. The reason I say that is that no brand is actually getting it right.

I love thinking about what’s going on in Asia. One of the reasons I believe that they’re really digitally native is because they’re kind of forced to be. They don’t have big families, so they’re not growing up with siblings. They’re human connections are less sophisticated than the digital experiences. They have those deep relationships digitally, as they don’t have people to bounce off.

In honesty, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. Look at these kids, they’d rather text a friend than talk as they’re comfortable there and there’s a dependency.

Where I also look for inspiration is the polar opposite of what people expect. I still like talking to people.


Design authenticity

Oreo is digitally gorgeous, current and fashion forward, then you go in-store and it looks like package was built in 1974

If your digital experiences match your physical product then that’s utopia. A brand is digitally authenticity when I pick up the product from the shelf and it matches the online experience. Coke do that. Its design experience is flat design all the way through - and they did it way before Apple. We’re all playing catch up to Coke with flat design.

When I look at a company like Oreo, a brand I love, the work they’re doing is incredible. At SXSW, their cookies were 3D printed from tweets. No reason why I can’t highly customise the product today.

So, the product is great, but here’s the problem. I think they’re amazing, but their digital experience is cooler and better than their physical product packaging. It’s digitally gorgeous, current and fashion forward, then you go in-store and it looks like package was built in 1974.

The era of personal expression

When it comes to digital marketing today, I love the fact that personal expression is the new form of entertainment. Brands are trying to figure out what their personal expression is at the same time consumers are.

Whether it’s a selfie with Samsung or Pharrell with his hat, brands are watching and listening.

I was watching the Superbowl, couldn’t give a shit about the Superbowl. I spoke to 50 brands directly that night. They all came back with different things. Hyundai came back and customised my avatar as ‘a gift’ from the Superbowl. I was like, ‘wow, they really thought about this’.

But the next day I didn’t hear from any of the 50 brands, not a single one. All these brands are so schizophrenic depending what platform you were watching, they’re all radically different.

Audi was acting like a three-year-old on Snapchat, then I go to their corporate site and they’re still talking about safety sensibility engineering. What’s going on here? Are we bipolar or are we just trying to figure out what our personal expression is for our brand?

Fast fail is really important, the ability to be an experimentation engine. But it can be confusing for consumers. The 12-year-olds on Snapchat may not be the target market for Audi today, but they could be in the long term.

Net-A-Porter group mobile manager Sarah Watson

Our own social network The Netbook [Net-A-Porter’s new social network] came about due to the fact we had built up this huge audience across all the different platforms. We were in constant communication everyday with them.

We also wanted to create a new shopping experience. From listening to customers, we found that they can get inspiration from other people - and that’s where the whole idea of the Netbook came from.

We can let our customers have a public facing profile, they can interact with one another and we encourage them to have conversations and talk about the things that they love and inspire one another.

There are 6,000 at the moment and it is currently invite-only. We will keep it that way for the time being. We started with something quite basic to test the waters to see if there was demand for it and we’ve had really positive feedback. We’ve been collating all of that and using it to build the next stage of the process.

We’ve had a lot of feedback about commenting; at the moment you can love stuff, but people want more than that. The features that are offered on social networks, those are functionalities now that people love and that’s what their expectation levels are.

The plan is to be at a stage where we feel comfortable opening up to the public and we know we have this engaged community in place.

Essentially we’re building a social network from scratch, all built internally and hosted on The Cloud - it's a huge learning curve for us

Essentially we’re building a social network from scratch, all built internally and hosted on The Cloud. It will be a huge learning curve for us, but it is so exciting.

We have started with having internal people as members so you have engaged people who are part of the brand but can be honest. Then they invite people to join independently, for example when they go to buyer appointments or at fashion weeks. It’s a very personal approach rather than mass emailing.

We’re hoping to grow it quite organically; we want it to grow from within so enabling people within the networks to invite others to join.

The Netbook has already hosted advertising, with Stella as a sponsor for the road-test launch, and we’ve had Isabel Marant as well. The fact that they came on board so early in the journey means they have seen what we do and really like it. It’s all about collaborating.

Digital and luxury

It’s about making things accessible to people. So back in the day when Net-a-Porter first launched, it was about enabling customers to buy luxury fashion from wherever they were in the world at a touch of a button.

Our customers are inherently time poor, so to be able to shop in a few clicks and have it delivered next day or even same day if in London, New York or Paris, it’s just a great opportunity. We can continue to utilise new technology to bring that service to our customers.

London inspiration

Inspiration comes from all over. Our mobile team are pioneers and they constantly have their ear to the ground, on tech blogs, at meet-ups, conferences, we’re constantly in conversation.

London is amazing and really exciting. You just look at the calendar of different meet-ups, you can go to something every night of the week if you want to. It is about going and talking to people and collaborating to find out what’s next. That’s how you stay one step ahead.

Bitcoin Foundation executive director Jon Matonis

One of the disadvantages of Bitcoin being open sourced and decentralised is there is no Bitcoin CEO or company headquarters. People always say, ‘where’s the HQ and how do I get there?’.

There’s no co-ordinated strategic brand management - it happens through word of mouth

It doesn’t work that way. We don’t have anybody who is the leader of brand management. There’s no co-ordinated strategic brand management; it happens through word of mouth. Much like a film could become popular.

They are still a lot of opportunities though, especially in online gambling, as they have trouble with payment methods. For example, the first online sports betting sites that start accepting Bitcoin will have a competitive advantage.

In terms of the non-commercial world, the appeal is very strong in places like Africa. Africa has more mobile phone than homes with electricity. If you can run a payment app on your phone you bypass the entire banking infrastructure.

It’s not branding, but it’s a brand for a country, for a continent, for the un-banked people.

Bitcoin brands is a retailer in the US, which is competitor to Amazon and Ebay. Earlier this year, it wanted to get a leg up on the competition and they dramatically increased sales very quickly just by changing the payment option to include Bitcoin. They went from decision to implementation in seven days, very rapid.

It’s good PR for them and they were smart to do it. But that wasn’t the only reason. They wanted to engage and embrace the Bitcoin community because it has its own following and its own community.

To bring them in as customers of Overstock can be very viral, as then it spreads not only within Bitcoin but to Bitcoin community friends.

By being one of the early brands to have Bitcoin, you’re shown to be a leader.

Overstock just happened to also believe in the principles behind Bitcoin: that it’s a non-political currency, more regulated than the free market, than the central banks. It helps when the CEO of the company understands those principles.

Virgin Galactic used Bitcoin to sell seats on the shuttle. Richard Branson is using this high tech currency to sell something that appeals to high-tech rich nerds.

Bitcoin Foundation’s role

We represent the 1,500 members we have in the organisation. We take on the role of education, of co-ordinated messaging. But we’re not the only ones, anyone is free to do it.

Bitpay has signed up more than 20,000 merchants now. They have an entirely different pitch when they’re selling Bitcoin, so for them the brand means something different.

We’re selling to merchants, consumers, general public. We’re trying to shift the mindset of a broader constituency which is much more difficult.

Politics of money

The most active nodes are the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Netherlands, but Russia has now slipped. Countries will come and go, but Bitcoin will outlive political institutions. Bitcoins will be issued until 2140 and it won’t be stopped by decree.

Bitcoin will outlive political institutions - they will be issued until 2140 and it won’t be stopped by decree

Although the US and Europe is not really where it has the most applicability, we’re seeingit there as it’s a mathematical crypto currency, and this is where people are crazy about science and where the software and tech innovation is. It’s a starting point but it will be worldwide.

It will evolve more quickly in the developing world, the places that are currently unbanked, where you have irresponsible management. You’ll see it thrive in those places.

Before you start seeing adoption in the developed economies across the EU and US, you will have to really get towards more user friendly applications, where it becomes as easy to use as Skype, where my mother can use it and she’s not afraid of doing something wrong.

Once you get the user friendliness then you’ll see the curve go up.

Currency of trust

It is a challenge but we’re not ultra concerned about it because there is trust in institutions and there is trust in the Bitcoin protocol. You have to separate the two, because trust in institutions is similar to your bank failing.

If you bank fails that doesn’t mean the Euro is a bad currency, and same with the pound. Trust in institutions is the weak link.

What Bitcoin allows is that your trust in institutions is voluntary. You don’t necessarily have to use them in the way you use a bank, because you can have a Bitcoin wallet on your phone which is completely in your control.

Then you only have to trust yourself. The currency and the protocol is still just as resilient.

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