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How Brands are Using Snapchat and Other Messaging Apps

The new revolution of mobile messaging apps began in a very innocuous manner. The basic idea was to bypass the charges involved in texting by creating an app that does essentially the same thing, but between smartphones over wireless networks. Although text messages are unlikely to go away anytime soon, for those who send hundreds of texts every day and are limited by a restrictive plan, messaging apps are a suitable alternative.

Messaging applications like Whatsapp, LINE and WeChat as well as more recent innovations like Snapchat, Jelly and Whisper have understood this requirement and taken these charges completely out of the equation.  WhatsApp has around 450 million users. WeChat has around 350 million and dominates the Chinese market, where American giants are not allowed to operate. Snapchat, which is only a couple of years old, is closing in on 100 million users. Newer ones are also quickly expanding their footprints and getting millions of new users every week, tailored to the new, clean mobile look of the Internet.

So, the question here for the businesses is how to capitalize on this new social development. Surely something that has hundreds of millions of subscribers needs to be at least explored and experimented with, especially when traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter are getting a bit overcrowded and reaching a point of saturation. The good news is that despite their newness, they are no longer a mystery to clever marketers. While they are likely to change and evolve in the near future, many brands have found out ways to use these apps to engage with their potential customers

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

One-On-One Interaction

The main benefit of these apps is that they are capable of ensuring privacy and allow people to interact with each other without the entire world witnessing these interactions. Instead of craving for mass operations, businesses can use this opportunity to have more intimate conversations with their customers. At Coachella festival, Henineken sent cropped images as clues to its followers on Snapchat. Whoever identified the artists from these clues correctly got entry to events at the Heineken House, the branded stage of the beer giant.  Essentially they used the unique characteristics of Snapchat to promote their branding event.

Offering exclusive and interesting content

Taco Bell made an exclusive film for Snapchat that combined footage from an MTV award function and tied it with a new product line. Due to the exclusive nature of the video people rushed to see it and made it a success. Similarly, HBO promoted its series Girls by making its stars post their images and letting the followers get them directly. They were posted regularly till the season lasted and was perfect for the younger followers who are obsessed with celebrity culture.

Direct Sales

Chinese mobile brand Xiaomi created a stir by organizing flash sale of its handsets through WeChat last year. It was a huge success as it managed to sell 150,000 units in little time. Promoting or branding keeping long terms benefits is one thing. But why bother about all that when we can directly sell it anyways? These apps are yet to fine-tune themselves completely for such purposes but they will surely do it in the near future. Some effort may still be required in order to sell physical goods, but they can be extremely useful for easily selling items that can be consumed digitally. For instance, selling a song or a small piece of graphic art can be easily done through such apps.

Customer Service

The private as well as ephemeral nature of networks such as Snapchat may be ideal for customer service. People often have genuine queries and grievances and they do not like to discuss such things in public. Such apps are ideal for these purposes. General Electric is using Jelly to answer scientific queries while Travelocity is considering the same for helping travellers.

All these messaging apps are not necessarily replacements but compliments for the existing social networks. They are offering features that the traditional networks cannot provide due to their very nature. These apps are still very new but it can be said that they will grow very fast in the next few years, just like Facebook and Twitter grew five years ago. Business would do well if they would spend some time considering how to use them and secure that early bird advantage before others realize the same thing.

Brand Experience: The Modern Narrative

Nike

Nike's strategy is cemented on determination: the story of a hero's journey, emerging triumphant against the odds.

When it comes to human connection, what good is your brand if it doesn’t evoke an experience? Campaigns may come and go, but in today’s world, brands should strive to focus on creating memories. Experiences are part of the things people carry for the rest of their lives. Brands such as Nike, for instance, base their vision on elevating the experience of the athlete. Authenticity is a key aspect when it comes to creating a brand experience. Ask yourself,  “Is there a real reason why the client is using the product at that particular moment?” Brands that will succeed in the future will harness this power and add the extra value to people’s life.

Media companies and brands are the same business: the business of telling stories that influence behavior and change minds. Understanding a consumer’s journey is key in order to leverage opportunities of having a voice during each step of the way. One way to approach brand stories is through the premise of having something interesting and creative to say. The news needs to be interesting enough to want to be shared.

It all starts with the user experience. After studying the consumer, think of what the person will take away from your brand and what this experience is translating into. What do you want people to think, to feel? Do people understand the story and what we’re conveying? Does the story adapt to the medium? And last, but not least, would people be compelled enough to want to share that information?

Digital platforms such as social media are excellent opportunities to ignite conversations revolving a product that often lead to one of the most powerful assets a brand could have: a community. Creating an environment suitable for user-generated content is the ideal scenario that not only provides a snapshot, but an ongoing story with people.

GoPro's Youtube channel features user-generated footage shot with their own cameras.

GoPro's Youtube channel features user-generated footage shot with their products, which has seduced viewers everywhere.

As a brand who creates stories worth sharing, what does it take for a person to want to share branded content? If you’re a brand and if you’re going to create content, you need a consumer centric approach that considers: the channels in which they consume content, the information they want to consume, a content that inspires credibility and that people might think their friends are going to like, and last, but not least, content that must add value.

We live in an age that demands constant reinvention. We can’t just do something and go “Phew, I’m glad that’s over.”

The History of Typography – An Animated Short

 “Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.”

- Robert Bringhurst, Canadian typographer and author of "The Elements of Typographic Style."

 

An animated short on the history of fonts and typography.
Created by Ben Barrett-Forrest
© Forrest Media - 2013

The legacy of Massimo Vignelli: a great master, a great friend. (By Armando Milani)

The world of design has lost a timeless icon. A bold spirit with a profound, abiding commitment to elegance and simplicity. Massimo Vignelli, known for his work on brands such as American Airlines, Bloomingdale's, IBM, the New York Metro System and many others, passed away at the age of 83. Esteemed designer, Armando Milani, shares a heartfelt memoir on his colleague and friend with More Than Branding. 

Vignelli and Milani oversee a project during a workshop at the Altos de Chavón School of Design.

Vignelli and Milani oversee a project during a workshop at The Altos de Chavón School of Design. (2006)

Massimo Vignelli has flown away with his charge of creativity, passion and dignity. I will always remember him as an extremely professional designer, a perfectionist with a big heart. He believed in timeless design, refusing any ephemeral fashion. He used so say to his students "if you design it right, it will last forever". He was like a lighthouse fighting the darkness of ignorance and bad taste.

Massimo succeeded in adapting his work to the needs of his clients, and with great coherence he never betrayed the principles of his minimalist design, always finding a subtle equilibrium between form and contents. His approach was to articulate a basic geometry in all his projects, translating it into visual pleasure, making the intangible tangible.

Massimo introduced the aesthetics of European Modernism to American graphic design. He was link to the rationalism of Mies van der Rohe, influencing the way we look at things by starting from a rational position, and choosing every solution for a precise reason. With basic grids, only six typefaces and primary colors he was able to invent different solutions for every problem, and they were always elegant and appropriate.

Among his more renowned works of graphic design, I recall the posters for the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, the logos for Bloomingdale’s and American Airlines, the image for Knoll Furniture, the map for the New York City Subway, and the graphics program for the United States National Park.

As a product and interior designer, among other projects Massimo designed the Divano Saratoga, the interior of St. Peter’s Church in New York, the Heller line of plastic ware.  His book "Canon" was widely distributed around the world.

But this is just a small list of his endless and fantastic creative productions.

When working on projects of my own, I would often wonder what Massimo would have thought about a particular idea, and from time to time I would send him my designs and ask for his advice. Massimo was always very generous with his time, and always replied with various suggestions or appreciations. When criticizing a project he was direct, logic and persuasive. His thoughts and ideas were always coherent, and his advice invaluable.

Massimo was a master of self-promotion, he knew how to sell and persuade a client, helped greatly by his wife Lella. On one occasion, I recall a competition for a corporate identity that he was participating in, along with two other important design studios in New York. When he presented his work he told the client "we are all very good, you could choose between us with your eyes closed… but if you open them, you will choose us."

He used to say that we designers should behave like doctors, suggesting to our clients to do what they need, not to do what they want.

Massimo was a tireless organizer, always pondering over new projects. I remember various AGI meetings where he was president, such as in Amsterdam, Amalfi, and Tokyo. Through his humor, enthusiasm, and distinctive elegance he communicated an international and an Italian flavor. Massimo was an Italian that held the image of Italy high around the entire world.

He used to say that he would like to design the corporate identity for the Vatican, keeping the logo, but redesigning all the rest. It was interesting to note the contrast between his sparkling personality and sense of humor and the meticulous strictness of his design.

I had the opportunity to teach with Massimo at various workshops and seminars around the world and I always appreciated the methodology, discipline and passion for design that he was able to communicate to his students. Roger Remington, director of the Vignelli Center in Rochester, said "as we move forward at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, our task is to extend his legacy of excellence in everything we accomplish.”

Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Roger Remington and Milani among others at the Moulin des Trois Arcs, Provence.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Roger Remington and Milani among others at the Moulin des Trois Arcs, Provence.

Collaborating with Massimo for so many years has been a privilege and a great pleasure. He was a grand master of design and a real friend, I will miss him very much and for me he will always be by our side. He wrote a book about his work "Vignelli from the A to the Z" but for us his Z will be endless.

- Armando Milani

Watch Vignelli's recent interview on More Than Branding.

Photo credits: The Altos de Chavón School of Design and Armando Milani.

Special thanks to Armando Milani for his beautiful words.