Fine art meets free-for-all

August 01, 2014
How will a partnership with eBay affect the Sotheby’s brand?
Karen Attyah
Strategy Director,
based in Landor Cape Town

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A June headline in the New York Times recently caught my attention: “ A Warhol with your moose head? Sotheby’s teams with eBay.” At first glance this seemed like an unlikely marriage. But then again, today it’s expected that brands are nimble, quick to market, and entrepreneurial if they want to survive. At second glance, pedigreed Sotheby’s teaming up with the nouveau riche eBay seems quite logical.

Traditionally, the fine art world evokes exclusivity, secrecy, and over-the-top wealth. It was about storied masterpieces trading hands among moneyed families with heritage and pedigree. And while this still may be true for some of the most sought-after pieces, overall the dynamic is shifting. Sotheby’s now understands that as a brand it needs to be more agile if it is to remain relevant and competitive and continue to provide returns to shareholders. Through its eBay partnership, Sotheby’s aims to reach new targets that would be willing to part with $5,000 to $100,000 online for a piece of fine art (the “mid-market”).

From a business perspective, the company sees the middle market as necessary. From a brand perspective, some see this marriage with eBay as risky. According to the same New York Times article: “As the 270-year-old Sotheby’s moves to broaden its customer base, some analysts say it risks tarnishing its storied image.”

The choice to move online is a no-brainer. The reality is that wealth is unavoidably passing into the hands of the digital savvy. Purchasing luxury items of all kinds online, even in the five-, six-, and seven-digit price range, is common. The success of Gilt demonstrates that consumers aren’t scared to drop $20,000 on a Cartier watch, sight unseen, through one click. Though rare, even on eBay, paintings have been sold online above the million dollar range.

Aware of this, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s stream select auctions and allow online bidding. But for Sotheby’s, this practice is limited, catering more to international customers in remote locations than to the general population. This is where eBay comes in.

By partnering with eBay, Sotheby’s fast-tracks its access to consumers who are at ease with purchasing, sometimes luxury items, online. While the majority of purchases on eBay are quite small, there are enough people considering parting with sums up to four or five digits without blinking an eye. As of writing this sentence, there are currently 96 people watching a $9,000 rare coin and 56 people watching a $21,000 French dining table—both items firmly in what Sotheby’s terms the “middle-market price range.”

Perhaps Sotheby’s would not, through its own streaming auction site, attract these same people as quickly as eBay. Given Sotheby’s highly exclusive and exceedingly high-end image, it’s probable that not everyone in this same group would consider Sotheby’s “for me.”

From a brand perspective, what does Sotheby’s risk?

One could say that eBay is too down-market given that its sellers auction some pretty tacky things. Others could counter that some notable pieces, including Ferraris and super yachts, have changed hands on the site. Whatever the argument, it’s important to remember that eBay isn’t a curator or a seller; it’s a platform that enables access, choice, transparency, and reliability. Out of the gate, Sotheby’s needs to clearly indicate this and build on these eBay attributes. But for the Sotheby’s brand to truly excel in the online environment, it needs to reaffirm, while modernizing, its heritage by:

1. Reinforcing what made the Sotheby’s brand famous; namely its heritage of selecting authentic fine art that has intrinsic aesthetic and investment value. Whether online or offline, this is of utmost importance.

2. Reinterpreting how it curates and presents items for auction in a purely online environment, independent of live streaming or its famed catalogues. Unlike luxury items purchased on sites like Gilt in which the brands themselves have broad distribution and exposure offline and online, fine art doesn’t always have the same public recognition. Additionally, each piece is nuanced and has its own story. Given that many consumers attracted to the Sotheby’s storefront may be less savvy, or even novices in the art world, how information and stories are presented becomes critical.

3. Creating an online storefront that is distinctly Sotheby’s in attitude but very forward-looking. The experience must have the same Sotheby’s gravitas but with a sense of engagement and dynamism that is relevant to a new generation of online Sotheby’s customers who don’t have reason to visit the auction hall.

Image courtesy of Flickr and the Financial Times


Category: Brand strategy & positioning
Millennials believe brands have the power to change society.
Mike Flynn
Senior Director, Brand Strategy,
based in Landor San Francisco

The marketing world tends to run through buzzwords like the fashion world runs through styles—each year it’s something new. But just as every new generation recycles fashions from the past, this year’s Cannes marketers were recycling a term: brand purpose. 

Among the themes that spanned the content at this year’s Cannes International Festival of Creativity was that to succeed in today’s millennial-centric world, brands need to be purpose driven. 

While we heard it come to life through presentations from small agencies like the Manifesto Project all the way to big corporations like P&G, I thought it was summed up best in the seminar “Brand Purpose, Millennials, and the Epic Creative That Engages Them.” Here, a panel of top marketers from across the corporate, agency, and media landscape laid out the new expectations of brands from this powerful generation:

  • Millennials believe brands have the power to unite and inspire people, and even to change society. This is a significant shift from previous generations and forces the bar to be raised to a higher emotional ground. 
  • Millennials are rewarding purpose-driven brands that mirror their own values. Brands from Patagonia to Pantene to Honey Maid have found common ground with millennials, over which they’ve created deeper connections. 
  • Millennials seek interaction that allows them to self-express. It’s not enough just to have a point of view that drives a conversation. Brands must be open to inviting their audience in, even if it means they relinquish some control.

The panel went on to talk about some of the key principles inherent in creating a solid brand purpose:

  • A good purpose is about them, not you. A purpose should be developed not around what the brand owners think is important, but rather around what the audience they seek thinks is important. Ultimately, you should be asking, “Would anyone really care?”
  • A good purpose should have the potential to cause a stir. Brands should aim to create a point of view that does nothing less than spark a global conversation, ingraining them into the cultural landscape.

However, brands need to understand what they have the right to champion. They need to be cognizant of trying to take advantage of values about which people do not believe they have a “right” to have an opinion. A brand’s purpose doesn’t have to change the world, but it must change your world.

Like all generations, millennials are tribal people at their core. It’s why they seek to be part of things that are bigger than themselves. They choose their tribes based on the values they see reflected in them. So make clear your purpose, and chances are you’ll build your tribe.

Category: Brand purpose & sustainabilityTags: Millennials

World Cup branding

July 08, 2014
The beautiful game is now the branded game. But while mass commercialization has swept the sport, the magic of football is as enduring as ever.
Dominic Twyford
Client Director,
based in Landor Kuala Lumpur

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The World Cup is under way, and for five weeks, whatever the time of day, a global audience will be tuning in to watch the best national teams compete for the ultimate footballing prize. 

Football was once the working man’s game, but now it is a big business. It has global appeal—more than 3.2 billion people are expected to watch at least part of the tournament live on TV. Not surprisingly, given its global reach, the FIFA World Cup is now a brand in its own right, a brand that corporations want to be aligned with.

Money: The most influential football supporter

Estimates are that the 22 official sponsors and partners of the tournament have each spent between US$14 million and US$200 million to tie their brands to the World Cup. Interestingly, this outlay does not guarantee official sponsors the halo effect that one would automatically expect. Research released by Global Language Monitor this week shows that four of the five brands most associated with the 2014 World Cup are not actually official sponsors.1 

More troubling is the fact that the unofficial four are direct competitors of official sponsors. Beats by Dre has ambushed Sony, KFC has ambushed McDonalds, Nike has ambushed Adidas, and while Continental tops the chart as the brand most linked with the World Cup, Bridgestone, their unofficial challenger, sits just three places behind them.

Beats appear to be the big winner of this World Cup. To try to protect Sony’s sponsorship investment, FIFA banned Beats headphones from the World Cup. Despite this, the likes of Brazil’s Neymar and Italy’s Mario Balotelli were seen wearing them during training sessions. Beats’ film, The Game Before the Game, now has nearly 21 million views on YouTube and has received extensive media coverage. Beats has been successful because of its raw communications. Unlike the superslick, corporate feel of many sponsors’ communications, Beats has captured the intensity of the game and provided an insight into the minds of football players by telling the story of how the match starts in the changing room. In short, the brand has generated relevance with player and public alike.

Brand football still engages the masses

Despite the money that pours into football and concerns about football’s governance, ethics, and transparency, the game endures.

While the business of football may be tarnished, in its purest sense the sport still has the ability to connect with the masses and generate unrivaled levels of passion. Although brands have fallen over themselves to be associated with the sport, arguably the strongest brands at this year’s World Cup are those of the competing nations.

Consider team Brazil as a brand for a moment. It is more than a football team; it has a unique personality and represents a clear set of values and beliefs. It has global appeal. For decades, Brazil has produced the most talented players and entertained football fans. Its consumer audience, the Brazilian public, demands a certain style of play—success on the pitch isn’t enough; winning with stylish football is the prerequisite. These “brand” associations appeal to all fans of the game and transcend nationality.

The winning brands of the World Cup—whether product, player, or team—will be the ones that strip back the game to its fundamental components of raw emotion and passion. Capture these emotions and you can capture a global audience.


This article was first published as “The branding of football #worldcup2014,” in Marketing.

Image courtesy of Flickr and Paulisson Miura


1. “Beats tops Sony in first Ambush Marketing rankings World Cup 2014,” Global Language Monitor (23 June 2014), 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning
Landor created the rally cry that is fast becoming the anthem to help save these architectural icons.
Mara Proctor
Senior Client Manager,
based in Landor Cincinnati

Two of Cincinnati’s beloved buildings, Union Terminal and Music Hall, are in need of repairs and restoration. Just this week,the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named both buildings to its 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places in response to the significant repairs needed at both sites.

Since its opening in 1933, Union Terminal has had a long and storied history, from the exciting times of World War II to providing space for three museums, an Omnimax Theater, and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives.

Built in 1878, Music Hall is Cincinnati's premier classical music performance venue. It serves as home for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, May Festival Chorus, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

Landor is proud to have created the rally cry “Hey Yo! Save our Icons” that is fast becoming the anthem to help save these icons. 

“We take a very broad view of creativity, which is why when I asked the team to come together to create a song they didn’t even flinch. We knew if we came up with the right lyrics and an engaging tune, we’d have something that could really animate the grassroots effort to save our icons,” said Mary Zalla, global president of consumer brands and managing director of Landor’s Cincinnati and Chicago offices.  

Cameron Butler, designer, wrote the song and sings lead on the recording. Direction, production, and lyric composition support was provided by senior designer Marty McCauley, designer Trey Zink, media designer Eric Hintz, creative director Scott Dannenfelser, and Mary Zalla.

“We hope people will seize this opportunity to use their voices to make a meaningful difference and loudly proclaim the region’s support for Union Terminal and Music Hall,” said Scott Dannenfelser.

We hope you’ll enjoy this behind-the-scenes making of “Hey Yo!” Visit to learn more.


Category: Digital & social media
Lasting memories from Cannes
Mary Zalla
Global President, Consumer Brands and Managing Director,
based in Landor Cincinnati

With my fourth trip to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity now behind me, and having thrived within the explosion of creativity and energy, I turn to writing this blog, if for nothing else, to organize my thoughts.

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is nearly impossible to synthesize or summarize in its entirety, but I must make some sense of my experience this year. Though I can hardly link to every great piece of work or share the full remarks of all the compelling speakers, I would like to share my thoughts on what stood out for me and show some work that I’m still pondering days after the festival’s close.

Fresh perspectives on continued trends

The major themes of Cannes 2014 were not all that different from those of years past. While still providing fresh perspectives and unique insights, Cannes continues to reward purpose-driven and environmentally friendly brands and programs. In fact, Landor’s own Central Park Conservancy trash and recycling receptacles were awarded a Product Design Lion!

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A forum for thought

There were dozens of seminars and forums to spark the mind and fuel creative discussion.

One great talk was Holler’s presentation “Planning to Stand Up,” which put forth the notion that marketers could learn a lot from stand-up comedians. Such a bold idea immediately caught my attention. The presentation really stirred some thought. Any good stand-up comic looks for universal insights of everyday life and then finds a way to portray them in a funny light. It really isn’t that different from our goal as creative marketers and designers. For example, take a look at this video of stand-up comedian Peter Kay dramatizing the disintegration of a biscuit when dunked in a strong cup of English tea. From a marketing standpoint, he’s proving the insight that consumers need a biscuit that can stand up to the dunk.

Interestingly, all planners at Holler are required to train as stand-up comics and perform; the point being that a planner’s core skill is uncovering a new insight or helping his or her team memorably activate an existing one. The speakers told us that about half of the candidates refuse or don’t make it through the course, but the ones that do, turn into accomplished planners.

While I can’t say you’ll see me auditioning for the next season of Last Comic Standing, I applaud any effort that highlights the pivotal importance of insights.

Another notable presentation was one by SheSays entitled, “Why 80 Percent of Your Advertising Budget is Currently Being Wasted.” The focus here was that although 80 percent of  purchases in consumer packaged goods categories are made by women, women are woefully underrepresented in the creative leadership of agencies all over the world. I’d love to hear more from SheSays about how this problem can be solved. 

Exemplars of creativity

Great work is always on display at Cannes. I will share some examples that really stood out for me.

Guinness: Made of More

The ad features athletes in wheelchairs playing basketball. The spot seamlessly links the core functional promise of Guinness—Made of more—with a human being’s capacity for love and empathy. As the players depart the gymnasium and you discover their true physical capacities, it almost takes your breath away

The Belgian Guide Dog Federation

The Belgian Guide Dog Federation’s outdoor series uses a single photo to at once extoll the benefit of a seeing eye dog and also humanize the animal viscerally and completely as it is driven to look at what its owner would if he or she could. 

British Airways: #lookup, real-time flight billboard

Talk about activating the right media at the right time. This billboard outside of Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports and British Airways’ hub, features a child pointing at the sky and real-time flight information each time a BA plane flies overhead.

Mother Book

This one really pulls at the heartstrings. A remarkable product—a 3-D book for expectant mothers illustrating the 40 weeks of pregnancy, “growing” as the child grows and allowing space for writing one’s thoughts. The Mother Book is one product I will research next time I need a gift for a mother-to-be.

Other works that caught my attention included Volkswagen’s anti-texting and driving campaign; the Bentley burial stunt, which cleverly challenges us all to think about the practicality of organ donation; the beautiful Music of the People display; and Premier Tissues’ simple, yet engaging outdoor campaign.

Brands that challenge

Perhaps because I am due to speak at Georgia-Pacific’s marketing conference this week, where I’ve been asked to focus my remarks on how challenger brands can best leverage design, I was struck this year by some very strong programs from some challenger brands:

Taco Bell is a challenger to McDonald’s, especially with its entry into breakfast. But this challenger punched above its weight with its Ronald McDonald Loves Taco Bell new breakfast campaign. I found myself laughing out loud at this.

An advertising campaign for Harrison’s Fund struck an especially emotional chord. The purpose is to bring awareness and research dollars to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition for which there is no treatment and no cure. Six words—I wish my son had cancer—perfectly and poignantly create the sense of urgency to do something.

Though it is World Cup season, I have to give a shout out to creative rugby team Cronulla Sharks, who drew in crowds by dressing decoys in their foes’ jerseys and feeding them to great white sharks, leading to the viral “It’s Feeding Time!” videos.

A note on the joys of France

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of a week at the festival, and I’ve not even mentioned the weather, which was splendid by the way. It was cooler than usually—lovely since the French are good at so very many things, but air conditioning is not one of them.

Cannes Fishing

The rosé—oh my, the rosé! Old Town, the flowers, the sea, the boats, the views, the creativity, the discourse. And amidst all of this, a universal truth revealed: everywhere around the world, old men love to fish. And in Cannes, they’re quite happy to do so with their shirts off.

And it will all be waiting for us again next year.


Category: Identity & design
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