My Favorites in September: Airbnb’s Brand Strategy, The World’s Last Globemakers & Mothers of ISIS Fighters

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Image by Bellerby & Co Globemakers

How/why did the Amazon Phone fail? What do Converse and Airbnb do in order to make their brands attractive to existing communities? And do globemakers still exist today? Some answers are answered in this month’s favorites.

It’s a heterogeneous mix of articles about branding, marketing, ISIS and more that I would like to share this September. My personal favorite is the last link of this list, a truly insightful post by Standard Chartered Bank’s Global Head of Digital Marketing, Damien Cummings. I would urge every other brand marketer to write something similar, it would make my life so much easier 🙂 And it would allow for a lot of synergies between brands and agencies.

Do you remember that Amazon launched a phone? I honestly forgot about it… until I read this Wired article called “Amazon’s Hardware Isn’t About You, and That’s the Problem.” Brian Barrett explains that Amazon has laid off “dozens” of engineers in Lab126, home to its hardware division (including the phone, obviously), scaling back current offerings and abandoning some future projects. “It’s [a] shame, because nearly all of them would have it if Amazon focused more on consumers, and less on consuming,” Barrett writes. “Amazon produces hardware that’s designed to help Amazon sell things, often at the detriment of the overall user experience.

Have a look at this cool reportage about Bellerby & Co. Globemakers, one of only two workshops in the world that still make modern handcrafted globes. Bellerby & Co., a studio based in London, England, began in 2008 when Peter Bellerby struggled to find a quality globe for his father’s 80th birthday present. Faced with a choice between cheaply made modern globes or fragile, expensive antique reproductions, Peter decided to try and make his own. “We now have a small team of dedicated Globemakers constructing high-quality, handmade, terrestrial and celestial globes. With bespoke cartography, each globe is made to order and essentially one-of-a-kind,” he writes on Bored Panda. Also look at a recent book review I wrote about maps.

When the Huffington Post publishes some real, well-researched, original journalism… that’s what comes out. This is a great – yet horrifying – reportage about mothers of ISIS fighters, desperate about the choices of their sons and courageously testifying about the pain that they feel. From Norway to Canada and the Netherlands, read the article to understand more.

When Airbnb hired Jonathan Mildenhall as CMO in early 2014, he was VP integrated marketing communication and design excellence for Coca-Cola North America, a role that would hitherto have been considered one of the best in marketing. Mildenhall was writing a book and his intention was, having had a stellar seven years at Coca-Cola, to take a sabbatical and slowly “fade out” at the company, perhaps taking on consultancy work later. Then Airbnb called. This is a great article about fundamental shifts in marketing, and how to create a community-driven brand.

A propos Airbnb, here a cool post about the company’s early years. In “Lessons From The Early Pitch Decks Of Airbnb, BuzzFeed, And YouTube,” Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman shares some of these companies’ pitches, the ones they presented to investors on the path to… well, what they have become today. The article features some advice from Gus Tai, a general partner at Trinity Ventures, and ends with tips for today’s entrepreneurs. Really interesting!

In this article, quite similar to the above Airbnb conversation, Converse Brand VP Geoff Cottrill talks about the first redesigned Chuck Taylor in the brand’s history, why free studio time for musicians is great advertising, being useful to consumers, and more. “Your job as a marketer is to understand your brand, its position in the marketplace, what differentiates you from your competitors, and then serve those consumers,” says Cottrill. “My boss at the time must’ve said no a dozen different times. Every time I made a presentation to the organization, I kept saying it was going to happen. Finally I wore him down, and he let us do it. We [now] have a Rubber Tracks studio [and] it’s an amazing opportunity to interact with our consumer every day while they’re doing what they do.

This is a fantastic time machine, a way back to the Paris of the 1920’s, a rare look into peoples’ daily life back a century ago. There’s nothing spectacular to it, neither sound nor music, it’s really just like a loooong, animated postcard of Paris and the life of Parisians. I would love to know where this video comes from originally – any ideas? On Facebook it got shared by the musician Jean-Claude Vasseur, who stumbled upon this video while making research for one of his own videos.

I expected a revelation when I read this post’s title, but don’t expect one. It’s a short, yet very interesting, analysis of Quirky’s failure by seed-stage VC Ben Einstein. He basically says that Quirky should have wisely spent its money, iterating more with a focus on the same products & services, rather than going into a variety of different directions. Beside the quote that I insert in the tweet above, Einstein also says: “The Quirky brand was built around the people who invent their products. I love this idea, but it turns out consumers don’t care who invented their product; they care that it provides a valuable experience. The Quirky brand can’t be everything to all people but it was trying to.” Read on fore more insights about the failure.

Finally, here’s a Linkedin post that speaks straight to a vendor marketer like me. In “The problem with agencies & tech vendors: They don’t understand the business of marketing”, Damien Cummings, Global Head of Digital Marketing at Standard Chartered Bank, lists the variety of pain points that make a marketer’s life difficult today. I think every agency sales person, tech vendor CMO, project manager, even creative should read this. You rarely get to read such a direct, honest, straight-to-the-point, insightful article. “Agencies should understand that their role, and their entire existence, should be dedicated to help marketers do their job well. This basic point seems to have been lost somewhere along the way,” Cummings explains at the beginning. Read it, I really recommend it!


  1. Hi, thanks for posting about us. Please can you properly credit the photo used to Bellerby & Co Globemakers rather than Bored Panda – it’s our shot of us, by us & our globe! Cheers!


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