Martin Lindstrom – in love with Romania, the misunderstood country

Wouldn’t it be great if every brand could have its own guru? The wizard that could turn every product into a delightful story while making the consumer the happiest client there is. Martin Lindstrom is a little bit of everything when it comes to brands, but most of all he’s one hell of a wanderer. After spending 300 nights on people’s couches in order to find more about their little habbits, which he pointed out in his new book – Small Data – to be launched next week also in Bucharest, Martin found the time for an exclusive interview for his Romanian audience.

Interview by Marian Costache

M.C.: So, you’re coming on 10th of March to Bucharest. It is at least the second time when you visit Romania. How much do you know about the Marcomm Industry here in our country and what brings you back?

M.L.: I love Romania – but also feel it is a country which is greatly misunderstood by the world. I know some about the Marcomm industry in your country – in particular that you’re willing to pursue new and creative ways of reaching your audiences which I really love.

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M.C.: Do you think that in comparison to other European countries we are still too much addicted to well known brands?

M.L.: Yes – it is however changing – and will continue to do so as the admiration for U.S. and other European brands becomes less attractive.

M.C.: How many chances does a local brand have to become international? In what industry and why?

M.L.: It is incredibly hard to become an international brand – and often it requires you to break through in the U.S. first – then return back to your roots – in this case Romania. The issue is that it all comes down to aspiration – and the aspirational dimensions among Romanians about their own brands – is still somewhat limited.

M.C.: In an article that you published on Linkedin on 31.12.2015 you said that “when women are exposed to a positive scent, it increases their interest and engagement in a situation or product. They are also willing to pay more, generally speaking, for products that are linked to that scent”. What is, in your opinion, a “positive scent”?

M.L.: I’ve always been a huge believer in our senses – since I introduced the concept of Sensory Branding in my book Brand Sense back in 2003. It is incredibly powerful – and still today – a completely overseen technique to use.

M.C.: In another post you said that “a great brand identity and store design might have an impact for a couple of months. Then, as with everything, this becomes wall paper, fading into the background. The company soon returns to just… average. Yet, the staff mindset and their customer interactions refresh the brand impression. At the end of the day, this turns the brand around.” 

In fact what are you trying to say, do HR people have to know a lot about branding and positioning? If 70% of the company success belongs to them, due to the quality of the hiring process, do they have brand communication training and skills?

M.L.: Absolutely – they are essential in how brands are to be built – in particular brands who own and operate channels which are in a physical interaction with brands (like retail brands). We have a tendency to forget the power of our staff – think of Walmarts 2,2 million staff – yet the reality that people feel they’re inhuman…doesn’t this represent an opportunity?

M.C.: At the end of the conference that you had in Bucharest on 2nd October 2014 you said that agencies have to change, to reinvent themselves or to disappear. In Romania we can see year by year agencies that don’t change anything in their mindset and which are still working. In fact a lot of them are members of international networks, getting their clients without any “struggle”.

Regardless of what they declare, these companies are not oriented towards offering a detailed experience to consumers, within their brand campaigns, be they global or not. More to the point, there are media agencies that have the same team for both outdoor and special projects or, even worse, the same employee.

What do you think will happen in Romania? Is this situation similar to that of other agencies from other countries? Do you think that the global trend towards UX (user experience) will be so powerful so as to change the present situation in Romania?

M.L.: Adaption clients – i.e. international clients managed by each of the local agencies have never been and will never be interesting deals for the local agencies – often the money is not enough and there’s rarely any creative freedom. It is essential to understand that agencies fundamentally need to change their model – not be dependent on international relationships but rather become a consulting or strategic agency partner. You could say a McKinsey meets advertising – there’s still a major open space for this type of agencies yet few own it today.

M.C.: What would you do if you were an independent Romanian entrepreneur from the niche market in advertising – the area of experiential and/or guerilla marketing to be more specific? To what brands would you offer your services? The local ones are not “ripe” enough, the international ones hire within the network. What would be left? Quitting your job?

M.L.: Understand social and crowd branding – the idea that crowds in the future will build brands. I’d become the leading authority of it – and bring this fascinating behavior to Romania – and systematically adapt this methodology to all brands in the country.

M.C.: Let’s say you’re a fresh MD specialized in multi-sensory branding. Would you choose Romania for your work or not?

M.L.: Of course – but I’d also try to spread my wings into other Eastern European countries in order to create scale.

M.C.: In Romania media consumption is mostly oriented towards Television and Internet, according to Mediafactbook. Because you’re a visionary guy I can’t stop myself from asking if you think that this situation will ever change?

M.L.: Completely in 10 years from now the advertising spend on TV will be reduced to 1/3 of what it is right now.

M.C.: Your new book – Small Data – was launched internationally on 23rd of February. I’d like to read it before I come to your conference on 10th of March in Bucharest. Till then I think that Marcomm professionals from Romania would be delighted to know a few things from Small Data, things important for them from your point of view. Could you mention here please few “small” things/insights?

M.L.: Faster culture will be replaced with slow culture. Large online communities will die and be replaced by tiny communities. We’ll increasingly begin to seek transformation in our lives in order to revitalize our mindsets. Micro communities and micro celebrities – like the local sports coach, community leader or church leader—will become the next target group of larger corporations, who will seek to become increasingly local as global brands fall out of favor with consumers.

Instant brands will come to dominate 2016 – brands that will react within minutes to breaking news, instant trends and other major and quick community trends. These brands will entirely skip conventional advertising campaigns and instead play their game on a minute-by-minute basis based on what happens in the world right now. There will be a backlash against Big Data as companies come to realize that these data fail to reveal the entire picture.

Martin Lindstrom Bio

Change Agent. Brand Futurist. Best-selling Author. Martin Lindstrom is one of the world’s premier

(and toughest) brand building experts – advising Fortune 100 brands from the Coca-Cola Company to Nestlé to Red Bull on how to build future-proof brands. Lindstrom is a past recipient of TIME Magazine’s “Worlds 100 Most Influential People”.

He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of six groundbreaking books on branding, including Buyology: The Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, BRANDsense and Brandwashed. Buyology was voted “pick of the year” by USA Today, and appeared on the Top 10 bestseller lists in the US and worldwide, including including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. His book BRANDsense was acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as “…one of the five best marketing books ever published.”

His latest book (St. Martin’s Press, New York): SMALL DATA – The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, is out February 2016. Martin Lindstrom has carved out a niche as a global expert and pioneer in the fields of consumer psychology, marketing, brands, and neuro-scientific research.

He has developed an unorthodox way of doing what every company says it wants to do: understand its consumers’ deepest desires and turn them into breakthrough products, brands or retail experiences.

In 2015, Thinkers50 ranked Martin number 18 amongst the world’s most influential management thinkers. He is the anchor and producer of NBC’s popular TV show; ‘Main Street Makeover’ on TODAY; a columnist for Fast Company and TIME Magazine – and continues to feature in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Economist, New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Washington Post, USA Today, and numerous publications and television channels worldwide.