Social Currency and Branding

The concept of social currency is simple and straightforward. It refers to a brand’s “social strength” or intangible resources deriving out of social networking, either in the social media or off-the-net relationship management. The term emanates from Pierre Bourdieu’s work on social capital, which can be understood in a similar way when it comes to a different domain like branding.

Branding is about identity, or unique identity in particular. In a digital age like ours, social networking is blessed with blazing speed that could hardly be imagined in the past. Exchange of information, sharing of ideas and consumer engagement have become really handy these days. Sharing the right information, promotion and feedback help a brand create its online reputation that ultimately spills over to its offline image. The engagement to let people “keep talking” of our stories in social media and off-the-net further add to a brand’s social reputation or currency. The bigger the engagement and sharing, the richer a brand gets with its social currency. This goes in a cyclical fashion, leading to a catalytic effect of having more and more social currency and engagement. This is how something goes viral by leveraging on the strength of social currency.

However, the trickiest part of the game is to capitalize on the heaps of social currency and convert this into profits with sustainable engagement and loyalty. High level of social currency may not necessarily mean that a brand is harvesting the full benefit of it. For example, despite strong online presence, do you think all telecom companies have been able to successfully leverage their performance on “value-added-services”? Many of such services were experimental, or were discontinued later because of lack of interest on the part of the subscribers. It appears that brands need to get back to the basics of knowing customers before designing further engagement. At the end of the day, it is the customer experience that plays the critical role in creating or limiting a brand’s social currency.

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How likely is it for Nokia to succeed in the Android market?

Nokia is coming back with a couple of android smart devices. After being taken over by Microsoft in 2014, the ban on introducing “Nokia” branded devices is expiring in 2016. Industry experts opined that it was Nokia’s failure to adapt to the changing smart phone market that accelerated its decline in this segment. The question is: could it revive itself after coming back to the core trend? The answer could be a mild “yes” with “it depends”.

Global Smartphone market share is already dominated by Apple (23%), Samsung (15%), Huawei (8%), Oppo (5%) and geographical leader Xiaomi (4%). All of them have their own green_mobile_iconunique proposition to their target segments, with Apple and Samsung at the forefront of tech innovations. The question is: will Nokia be able to outsmart these established competitors with its novel design, features and innovative functionality? Recent past didn’t look so bright for its Lumia range (“Nokia Lumia” was marketed as “Microsoft Lumia” by Microsoft). While Lumia had the major share in the Windows phone market, the fact remains that Windows holds less than 1% of the global smart phone market share. Will its android devices offer anything new? That is something we will need to wait and see.

While Nokia had reputation for its engineering superiority of feature phones in the past, it is quite doubtful whether the same design skills are retained after all these ups and downs in the company. If it is another “me-too” product, only the brand name “Nokia” can hardly recover the reputation once it had.

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“Hello” is adding fuel to the “Fire”

“Hello” is an innovative feature in Firefox, that is adding more elements of competition in the browser market lately. The leading browsers—Chrome, Firefox and Opera—have their own differentiation propositions (Safari for Apple users alike). In fact, these browsers appear to be running out of unique ammunition in their arsenals. All of them claimed to be hello2concerned about speed, privacy and user-friendliness. Now it is time to offer something unique that others are not offering. Chrome started offering “music streaming” in the browser. Firefox started “Hello”—an innovative app to make free video calls and chats inside the browser, without downloading or installing any further application. Not to mention the loads of extensions and plugins that one can use to customize whatever browser one is using.

Could this be the Firefox’s answer to Microsoft’s browser-based Skype plugin? It looks like there is much going on in adding bells and whistles for browsers to compete with each other. Now it is time to see how users react to these frills offered by these competitors.

(Firefox Hello image credit:


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Failure by Design

Expert marketers may oftentimes skim your marketing plan and can tell you the prospect of its success at the end. It is possible because professionals handled similar situations in their lives, and can do a good guesswork of forecasting failures. Why not encourage risk-taking leading to failures? Learning from failures is good, but nobody wants to ensure that you fail at the end willingly. This is where lies the inept program design that is doomed to fail.

Cutting corners while preparing advertising budget could be the biggest candidate for future failure by design. Lowering product quality could cut down cost and increase profit, but only at the cost of losing customers’ loyalty. Losing a key executive might save you few bucks at the end, costing long-term creativity in your marketing strategy. Let’s not forget the loss of relationship based assets in this process. Insufficient distribution plan could cost you market share. In a nutshell, failure by design is about “cutting corners” when you need to create sharp edges to push your boundary. It is about preparing a product to fail after hard work, which could easily be avoided by preparing sharp edges, and not cutting corners.

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What are the aftermaths of death of a celebrity in entertainment industry?

The title may not be appropriate, the content may even be considered pathetic! But the fact remains that profit opportunities open up for entertainment industry as celebrities die, mostly for singers and actors.

Mourning by fans is natural, as it is by other celebrities in the industry. The continuous media vigil for a few days spikes the personal brand recall by fans. In the process, new fans could be created who used to hate him/her, and less loyal ones might suddenly become hard-core loyal because of compassion and sorrows. It is about being human at the end of the day, isn’t it?

Here comes the industry that has to make a living by aligning with viewers and fans to keep their revenues flowing. It is about meeting customers’ demands, getting along with the market trend, that is. We already know that Michael Jackson “earned” over US$ 1 billion since his death. In addition, over 50 shows were cancelled all over the world, and ribbon-blackfans did not want a refund because they wanted to keep the tickets as souvenirs. What happened to Prince’s albums lately? Currently, in Amazon’s digital music store, 19 of the 20 best-selling albums as of April 22, 2016, belong to Prince. The 20th place goes to Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller”. The top-seller appears to be the album “The Very Best of Prince”, followed by the “Purple Rain” and “Sign O’ The Times”. Same happened to Robin William movies after he committed suicide in 2014. The top 12 DVDs at consisted of Robin William movies that hardly saw any place in the top-50-list before the event. There was also a surge in piracy as was not able to offer a variety of older movies, thus peer-to-peer “experts” showered Robin’s fans with torrents!

There are other socio-psychological consequences as well, particularly when celebrities commit suicide or face unnatural deaths. In 2014, the suicide helpline (a free counseling line for those who feel like to suicide, but seek professional counseling) was flooded with calls from people who wanted to do it, most likely triggered by the news of Robin William’s suicide at that time. Real fans, whoa!

So the next time we face another sad event, industry needs to be ready with enough supplies to meet the market demand. Death of a celebrity may not mean the death of business.

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Should we take funny facebook quizzes?

Who thinks that you are cute; find out who is your best friend in facebook; find out your real personality; which of the famous actress do you look like? Who is your secret admirer? – facebookers want to know the answers to these funny questions, even for the purpose of just having fun no matter whether the answers are scientifically true or not. In a world of stress and monotony, facebook gives us a window to breathe out these bold questions, not that we really believe that the answers would be correct.

But wait, most of these quizzes are run by third party apps that require a number of permissions like access to your friends’ lists, their posts, your profile information, permission to send you emails, and many other permissions in fine prints that we often ignore and click “yes” to get the right answer without any delay. Of course, they have privacy policy written in fine prints. However, in a virtual world, how do you ensure that nobody is playing around with these policies to make an extra buck? These apps are wonderful tools for their developers to collect profile information and make a “network” database of grouping people based on their background and usage behavior. Most apps will leave cookies and permission intact even after you stop using them, just to keep tracking your online usage behavior.

The question is, isn’t facebook already doing this? The answer is yes, but these apps are run by third parties and there is reasonable doubt whether they would be as careful as facebook in not annoying their clients by selling these profile information to unscrupulous fourth parties, or even to the fifth or sixth parties, where you see more and more spam status and emails after several days of using these apps.

So what would you do if you already have used such apps? You may still continue using these apps at your own risk, just like we are using internet knowing all the risks of viruses and what not! Panic should not take over our joys. Alternatively, you may go to your app setting, and deny/stop the permission that is already given. You may also “report” apps to facebook if you think the app is violating its privacy policies. Wish you a happy facebooking!

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A watch that disconnects you from time

We often talk about brand promises, something that a brand needs to fulfill to satisfy customer expectations. So what does a wrist-watch promise to you? It is a stylish, accurate time keeping machine, isn’t it? How about Hautlence’s Playground Labyrinth? A wrist-watch that is NOT designed to show you time. It is for something else; it is appealing to your need to take your “time off” and be yourself.

Hautlence has been a luxury Swiss watch maker since 2004. The company is well-known for its eccentric and rule-breaking designs for its time pieces. The Playground Labyrinth model actually contains a miniaturized mechanical maze game that places a platinum ball inside the watch, with which people can play around like a labyrinth game. The whole idea of this watch is not to show you time, but to let you take your time off and enjoy being yourself.

The brand is being promoted as a “useless yet entirely essential object”. As Reginelli, the Hautleco-founder explained, labyrinth was an old game that people played in their childhood— so the wrist-watch is a throwback to the good-old time when we were young and cheerful, and let our imaginations ran wild and disconnected ourselves from the world. So what Hautlence is presenting here is a new vision of time that doesn’t show the time, so that people can disconnect and embrace this dimension where they decide what they want to do.

The price is around 9,000 British Pounds per piece, and only 36 pieces are offered for sale. Surely it’s a great collector’s item, and a superb example of branding to the extreme.

. (photo credit:

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Political Journey of Coke

Coke, one of the consistently ranked top brands in the world, has more political history than we know of today. After being invented in 1886 in Atlanta by a pharmacist, the drink grew in popularity for its unique taste and color. The first sign of its globalization was visible in 1906, when Cuba, Panama and Canada became the first overseas bottlers of the drink. However, Coca Cola closed-off their Cuba plant in the ‘60s and never returned until today. The first Asian plant was set up in the Phillippines in 1912. The growth continued for the next two decades, where over 25 countries were bottling this brand by 1930. However, the golden boost came in during the World War II, when US troops and allied soldiers were given Coca Cola, supported by over 60 military-controlled production plants around the world. The civilian consumers, of course, were able to get a taste of it as a spillover effect of military consumption. Gradually, it became a powerful symbol of American dream and a sign of freedom.

Well, not everybody would agree with this symbolic meaning though. During the ‘50s, French protesters thought Coke as a threat to the French society (via the influence of coke1anything American), and the mob on streets smashed trucks loaded with Coke. During the cold-war period between the USA and the former USSR, Coke was not sold in the USSR fearing that the communist regime would enjoy the profits to fund their agenda against the USA. Pepsi, perhaps, was smarter by taking the opportunity and captured the Russian market! Over time, Coke almost became a symbol of freedom to pro-Americans, whereas it evolved as a symbolic difference between “gnawing capitalism” and “equitable socialism” to pro-Russians. In the Arab-Israel conflict that spurred at different points of time in the history, the general consumers on the Arab side would first call of boycotting products made by the USA or Israel, and Coke was probably the first brand to be named (making it a more sought-after brand after all these days of habitual consumption!).

Another side of Coke’s political journey has been associated with the US foreign policy as well. There are certain countries on which the USA has various types of embargoes, mostly of trade embargoes. Among these countries, three countries may be mentioned where one may not legally find Coke due to trade restrictions on American companies. They are Myanmar, North Korea and Cuba. Myanmar could not legally import or bottle coke since the embargo was in place from 1962 to 2011. Recently, the trade embargo has been lifted after the general election resulted in the establishment of a civilian government. So Myanmar consumers now can enjoy both the democracy and Coke(?).

Now it would be interesting to see how Coke’s next political journey would fare with North Korea and Cuba.


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Are Facebook videos hurting Youtube’s business?

From business perspective, the answer is a definitive “yes”. Is the difference dominantly visible in users’ eyes? May not be so, or it may be too early to tell. Here are some interesting stats (from, summarized for easy digestion for common readers:

  • Youtube is still the dominant platform for sharing videos, and its growth in terms of sharing videos is expected to be up in coming years.
  • Photos are still the dominant sharing option in Facebook, whereas videos constitute about 5% of Facebook contents.
  • However, Facebook surpassed the engagement and sharing ratios for Facebook videos as compared to Youtube videos. Youtube videos draw less comments and engagement than Facebook.
  • Here is the headline news: Many advertisers and brands have stopped sharing Youtube videos in Facebook, rather they are sharing videos directly in Facebook. By doing so, brands are drawing-in more fans than they could do so in Youtube. Really a bad news for future Youtube revenues.
  • Brands are still having their own channels and videos in Youtube, but viewership is going to be affected. We need to wait and see what brands will do with two channels of video sharing options, whether Youtube will be used for more elaboration or demonstration purposes and Facebook for stunning promotion only? Really an upcoming PR challenge for brands.
  • It is expected that general public will still be uploading non-commercial videos on Youtube, therefore, the relevance may not be lost in general. However, Facebook is a strong commercial contestant which would be a major source of Youtube’s headache.

Here are my two cents. Facebook’s video sharing is still at an experimental stage. The traditional positioning of Facebook being a social platform of interaction is a strong proposition as long as it is the dominant platform in its category. Sharing too much commercial videos apart from users’ own “status” videos might hurt its classic positioning, unless it is controlled by user-fed choice algorithm that goes on in the background of such social giants (make no mistake about it). On the other hand, occasional exposure of “controlled” videos is not annoying. For example, have you noticed the muted sound “by default” in Facebook videos? This is the kind of caution that must go behind every experimental stage of shifting focus of a successful brand. Soon, Facebook will know us better about our liking and disliking based on our huge database of video watching habits that they will collect at their data centers.  So this is not our headache as users anymore, let Youtube have it this time!

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