When Brands and Technology Collide

January 24, 2007 6:20 pm

When Brands and Technology Collide – Understanding the Fusion Factor

When we think of examples of great creativity at work in business, whether it be a hot new product, new service model, or new type of business altogether, we often sit back and wonder, how did they do it?

In many instances, it was a case of identifying a common problem and coming up with a practical solution. Take the highly publicized success of last year’s YouTube. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim became frustrated with the problem of trying to email a video clip one evening. They developed an infrastructure for an online video sharing platform in a few hours. In February of 2005, they registered the domain www.youtube.com, launching the site to the public in May of that year. On October 9th of 2006, they sold the company to Google for an astounding $1.65 billion. And they did it without inventing a thing. No raw creativity. Which takes nothing away from their accomplishment. It just points out the power of putting two things together, in this case video clips and the internet community, to form an entirely new one…YouTube.

We call this the Fusion Factor: the blending of two entities, concepts, technologies or ideas to form something entirely new. When we take a look at the world around us, we quickly realize that many breakthrough products, services and technologies are the result of the Fusion Factor at work.

Fusion cuisine. The blending of the best culinary delights from different regions, such as Asian and French cultures, resulting in an entirely new dining experience.

Fusion of services. The blending of fast shipping (FedEx) with fast document output (Kinkos) to form FedEx Kinkos, and the ability to output and ship all under one roof.

For the road weary travelers, a fusion of convenience. The blending of fuel for your vehicle (Exxon) with fuel for you (Dunkin’ Donuts). Today, many Exxon stations now boast a Dunkin’ Donuts inside or adjacent to its convenience store.

If, like me, you happen to have young children in the household, you have to appreciate the home entertainment fusion of a DVD,VCR and TV into one piece of consumer electronics.

And if you’re as avid a coffee drinker as I am, you’re a fan of the fusion that Starbucks has created, integrating premium coffee with a comfortable lounge-like environment and hip music to finish it off.

We’re also seeing fusion of brand attributes: Lays Potato Chips is marketing a variety that uses Heinz Ketchup as a key ingredient. Cole Haan Shoes is marketing its use of Nike Air Technology, combining comfort with style.

Look at how far cell phone technology has come. Ten years ago, only a minority of us carried one, and most people referred to them as car phones. Today, you’re considered a dinosaur if you don’t have a cell phone that also serves up e-mail, your Outlook calendar, contacts, and is capable of snapping pictures and live video. I wonder how much longer we’ll even be calling them cell phones. And now Verizon is piggybacking on the iPod phenomenon by adding MP3 capability to its new multi-media line of cell phones.

Then there’s the Web – where the Fusion Factor is the newest example of how readily the Internet world takes to breakthrough ideas.

There’s Craigslist, fusing classified ads with online access.

There’s blogging, which fuses self-publishing with online publishing, opening the doors to corporate blogging and the ability for brands to establish conversational dialogues with customers in a fresh new way.

We have also seen the fusion of web connectivity and social/business networking with sites like linkedin, ecademy, myspace, fastpitch, and classmates.com.

You might think that the drivers of this technology are the technical gurus of our time – the ones that were tinkering with digital communications and the Internet before it was even called the Internet. But the shining stars guiding these people-centric Internet innovations are more like Catherine Cook. Catherine launched a site called myyearbook.com in April 2005 as a means of bringing the yearbook experience online (fusion of yearbook and web). One week after launch, 200 students signed up. Nine months later, myyearbook had one million members. According to Nielson/Net Ratings data, in the month of October 2006, the site attracted 2.4 million unique visitors. One other thing I should point out about Catherine Cook: she’s 17 years old and a student at Montgomery High School in New Jersey. Currently, she’s had offers by interested parties to purchase the site for numbers in the millions. Not bad for a high school student. Not bad at all.

Technology is moving at an alarming rate. Five years ago, you would be considered behind the times if you didn’t have a meaningful web presence. Today, you’re falling behind if your web presence doesn’t deliver a unique and meaningful experience for visitors, whether customers or prospects.

We’re already seeing it in our business. Ten years ago, customers would come to us and say, “We need a site.” Five years ago, “We need to improve our site.” Today, they are coming to us saying, “We need to turn our site into a profit center.”

This increased demand in online performance is what led to our fusion of branding and technology.

The process begins with an exercise in self-discovery. We ask our clients to identify the core attributes of their business, whether they are selling a product or service. Once we understand what their brand is all about, we can more easily identify meaningful ways to leverage the Internet and deliver on the core promise of their brand promise. Through the power of fusion, we can then provide customers old and new with a brand experience that moves them to take action and remain loyal.

How can the fusion of your brand’s attributes and Internet technology come together to form a brand new profit center for your company? We’ll be happy to show you.