Brand stories: Creating a “belief ecosystem” for SMART cars

@kylekues and I worked on a school project earlier this year, with the SMART car headquarters in Stuttgart Germany. While it is usual with student projects, we had our share of a couple of presentations with the company, but were not entirely sure on how well (or not) the recommendations were received. But, we were in for a present surprise when we saw SMART launch a new consumer-centric lifestyle brand positioning – and introduced the “FOR” lifestyle brand. Kyle pointed this out to me recently, and we were both quite excited.

I do remember talking about the project on Twitter and a few people were interested in what our learnings were. Admittedly there were plenty, the key being: keep meeting the client and talking (not that we didn’t know that, but a student project while being in a school comes with limitations). Although, I am excited to share, a part of what we recommended to SMART, which seems to be in line with their current strategy. Yoohoo!

Our ideas on creating a lifestyle brand out of SMART cars using a “belief ecosystem”

PS: touch the image for the magic & tips

Our key how-tos for creating a belief ecosystem through brand stories for SMART car:

  1. We benchmarked several companies across industries to come up with a hypothesis on how they were creating a “lifestyle approach in branding and service innovation (especially while creating add-on services related to the main product/brand)
  2. As expected, most successful brands seemed to have a strong brand ethos connected to their products and services: which had a “lifestyle” and “experience” focus as opposed to mere functionality.
  3. In moving from “product oriented” branding to a more “lifestyle/customer value/brand ethos” type of branding and marketing, a company would need to rework on defining it’s niche target group (the first believers), communication strategy (giving them a simple and clear reason to believe), create spaces (online or offline) for consumers to know about the brand and the product stories, and this in the end would mean, that the product features and pricing would move from “competition-oriented” to “customer value” oriented in line with the overall lifestyle brand positioning. In fact now that I read it, this argument is not any different from how content marketing can impact pricing by allowing you to differentiate better and create value and thus price yourself higher.
  4. Summing up, we presented the top line view which was: the brand identity is sharpened -> strong competitive differentiation ->higher price flexibility -> Increase profitability

The project further detailed the key services SMART needs to invest in to create a lock-in effect for its customers by first focusing on creating a brand ethos – say focused on urban mobility, or whatever else they choose as a firm. The most exciting part of this project has been the fact that what SMART is implementing now is exactly on these lines.

In my multiple years in the consulting work ( as a professional) this is one of those *so awesome* moments. We will keep a watch out! And, in the end, I will quote a few insights from @kenherron, a marketing guru I usually tend to follow:

PS: It helped that Kyle was the most awesome project partner in crime, ever! This project was done as a part of an MBA course in HS Pforzheim with Professor Janovsky and a team from SMART headquarters in Stuttgart from October 2013 to January 2014.

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