Raison d’être

Brands are the sum total of varied interactions and experiences accrued over time. We believe that well-managed brands have the ability to drive incremental business growth. There-in lies an inextricable link between brand, business and marketing, so we have done away with puff terms like ‘brand equity’ and ‘brand love’ that cloud the clarity of purpose; to drive incremental growth through a well-managed brand. However, brands are built for and by those who consume and interact with them, so although our definition of brands and their value stays fixed, the Zeitgeist will determine the methods and techniques that generate leads and ultimately translate to increased revenue. With our fingers on this pulse we have through research and experience come to our organisation’s raison d’être based on these beliefs.

At Bamboo we grow brands through incremental innovation, substantial innovation or transformative innovation.  This is why…


In the web 2.0 hyper-connected world consumers are the new brand custodians…

Social media has ushered in an era of vocal consumers who will be your greatest advocates and simultaneously your harshest critics. From Time magazine naming ‘you’ the person of the year, to Obama’s re-election, to the Kony protest, and Gangam Style becoming the world’s number one song, the power of consumers is irrefutable. According to Bamboo innovation_HBR logo many savvy marketers and business leaders have acknowledged this, and have been rewarded handsomely for it. bamboo innovation_coke logo‘s move to Content 2020 (a strategy to achieve double digit volume growth through storytelling), is a bold move in a direction that empowers consumers to follow and share stories centered around a big brand idea. In reality, the majority of businesses and marketers have latched onto buzz keywords like ‘digital’, ‘social media’ and ‘viral’, with little understanding of the seismic shift in paradigm and its underlying causes. Hence in practice it ends up being a billboard featuring a bamboo innovation_facebook logo icon or a catchy bamboo innovation_twitter logo handle, or a TV advert uploaded to YouTube, or truckloads of money spent on paid online advertising with the hopes that they’ll become ‘viral’. In truth, if one spends time uncovering the reasons and patterns that underlie 2.0 consumer behaviour we can harness the potential of these empowered and connected consumers. At Bamboo, we have worked tirelessly to understand this not only by studying these patterns, but immersing ourselves in them as well. We have come up with a few key concepts to understand and live by:bamboo innovation_Social media icon set in bubbles talk

Source: bigvisionbusiness.com

“They know more than you think.”

This is not known as the information age for nothing. Trillions of bytes move around the world daily. One of the most important things to realize about this is that information does not follow the linear institutionalised flow of information.   “MIT computer programming” and you will find free lectures from the world’s foremost technological university. Perhaps you could   “Strategic Marketing pdf”. The point is people are learning what they want, where they want, when they want, with man’s insatiable appetite for knowledge, what makes you think he won’t?

So remember that people know about brands, marketing, business, ethics, etc., we are not magicians, the public wants to be fooled, and they choose when to be. So never make the mistake of underestimating the intelligence of your audience.

“Don’t tell them to feel something, make them feel something.” 

What do all of these have in common?

bamboo innovation_obama



bamboo innovation_ soldier

bamboo innovation_ photobomb

They all stir emotion. These images are some of the world’s most viral. How come? Well it’s simple. Some behavioural studies have shown as much as 90 percent of our decisions are made emotionally. This is very important. We act based on what we feel. Which makes complete sense; cute kittens, fails and porn, all share a similar characteristic –  they illicit a physiological response, a “ncaww”, or laughter or sexual arousal, so the acid test for virality or success can no longer be what we want to say and how we want to say it without considering how the audience will feel when they see it. We chase “aha” moments, tears, laughter, awe, fear, etc., because this is what sticks and what ultimately influences decisions.

“Innovation is viral.”

The new world is hungry. Reddit, has proven that the world has an insatiable appetite for the new and novel. Visit 9gag.com which has become one of the most popular sites on the internet – it’s a home for user-generated content. What makes it different is that innovation is at its heart. Innovative toys, to costumes, perspectives and humour, it is simply a content feast! And this content is shared worldwide by millions. Innovations are viral. On the right is an example of this; one of the hundreds of thousands of “Harlem Shake” versions (Youtube “Harlem Shake” and see what the fuss is about if you don’t know already. It’s even funnier when you see the original “Do the Harlem Shake” to give you context of how it all started).

Memes are a biological unit of cultural information transferred, resulting in shared behaviour. The phenomenon of Harlem Shake proves that we live in an age of consumer innovation, and consumer driven virality.

bamboo innovation_Harlem shake

Source: http://www.lipstiq.com

Open collaboration.

A study on global leaders by IBM shows trends in outperforming organisations. Their study indicates that to drive outperformance, CEO’s are doing the following: [threecol_two_first]

Empowering employees through values.

For CEOs, organisational openness offers tremendous upside potential – empowered employees, free-flowing ideas, more creativity and innovation, happier customers, better results. But openness also comes with more risk. As rigid controls loosen, organisations need a strong sense of purpose and shared beliefs to guide decision making. Teams will need processes and tools that inspire collaboration on a massive scale. Perhaps most important, organisations must help employees develop traits to excel in this type of environment.


Engaging customers as individuals.

The pursuit of customer knowledge is as old as business itself, but where and how those insights are found and used, are radically changing. To effectively engage an individual, consumer, client or citizen, organisations must weave together insights about the whole person – from sources they likely haven’t consulted in the past. They will need stronger analytics capabilities to uncover patterns and answer questions they never thought to ask. Client-facing staff and channels must be equipped to act on those insights. And since customers are increasingly mobile, organisations must be active there too, ready to engage in the context of the moment.


Amplifying innovation with partnerships.

Rising complexity and escalating competition have made partnering a core innovation strategy for many organisations. But to enable sustained, fruitful innovation partnerships, organisations will need deeper, more integrated relationships. Partnering organisations will have to share collaborative environments, share data – and share control. And even when the organisation is performing well, CEOs must occasionally break from the status quo and introduce new external catalysts, unexpected partners and some intentionally disruptive thinking.

Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, Genzyme, General Electric and Intel are examples of how one can attain market leadership through open innovation strategies. They tapped into knowledge that resided outside their own structures and thus out manoeuvred and outperformed their competitors with in-house approaches to innovation.

open innovation_bamboo


“This is some of what global leaders have to say about how to lead in this interconnected world:”

“This is now a continuous feed-back kind of world, and we need the organisational nimbleness to respond.”

– CEO, Financial Markets, United StatesNY stock exchange (US financial markets)_bamboo innovation

“We are focused on empowering employees to be more creative and active in creating the company’s future. We need to mobilise our collective brain power for innovation.”

– President and CEO, Consumer Products, Canada    Food & Consumer Products of Canada_bamboo innovation


“Of course we need better information and insight, but what we need most is the capability to act on it.”

– Unit Head, Government, Hong Kong    Hong_Kong_SAR_Regional_Emblem_bamboo innovation

“Each customer has distinctive traits we need to understand. To manage this complexity, we must be a digital cheetah.”

– President,   Axiata

“Social Networking has and will continue to significantly change how we do business. The way we collaborate with our customers will be transformed.”

– CEO,  Symantec_logo

“We recognise that innovation is also happening outside of our organisation, and we need to align with the right partners and thought leaders.”

– President, Sony-Logo_bamoo innovation

“We are not as good at innovation as efficiency. The HR function should help to build an innovative culture, create forums, develop leaders and find ways to measure and reward innovation.”

– Senior Vice President, Human Resources,  SKANSKA-bamboo innovation

“The HR function should be taking a leadership role in identifying tools for collaboration. It should also set up and facilitate ‘communities of practice”.

– Chief Human Capital Officer,   US small business administration_bamboo innovation


Traditional agency stuctures aren’t built for the 3.0 world

When you look at this picture, you realise how traditional agency structures are not built to respond to this new 3.0 world. This is why Bamboo goes a step further by having at its heart a social network of consumer innovators who feed us information, help us solve problems and push us to create better work. To take it a step further; our network is also our pool of skills, information and insight. This gives us the edge.

So while the core agency remains small, the organisation could rival the biggest in size and talent. We also create groups within the network that clients can be anonymously a part of, not only watch their ideas come to life, but also to contribute to the group their own valuable insights, knowledge and expertise. Delivering true open innovation for incremental growth.

Kia’s disruptive orchestral opera. How Kia’s route to disruption is led by strategic and creative harmony.

Kia’s recent  super bowl advert exemplifies the disruption that can happen when creativity, sound strategy, and cultural relevance meet.

Rather than describing the advert in full. Click here to watch it.

But here’s the short of the super bowl ad. It starts with a typically wealthy looking couple collecting their keys from a valet. Surprisingly they meet Morpheus from the Matrix, who offers them a choice of blue and red keys, symbolising the choice of the world they know or the world they can explore. The couple choose the red key, and get into Kia’s new luxury vehicle.

Morpheus then serenades them with an impressive cover of the aria from Puccini’s Turandot while the world implodes around them.

While the ad itself is beautifully executed and wonderfully simple. What really amazed me was the bit of strategic magic behind it.

Kia roughly translated as “arising from Asia”, is the story of a South Korean bike part manufacturer, turned car manufacturer. Over their history Kia have done a number of things that have culminated to the challenger brand, the case study for disruption, we know today. Among them was one of their best moves of disruption, the recruitment of the hailed Peter Schreyer as their Chief Design Officer, the designer of the Audi TT and the New VW Beetle, who with his team, brought the product beauty to life . The story can be told no more accurately than by Clayton Christensen’s theory on low-end disruption in asymmetric competition. Read more about Kia and Hyundai, they are amazing stories.

In this bold move Kia addressed three key strategic opportunities.

  1. The new millennial buyer and childhood heroes – With the consumer power shifting towards genXers to Millennials, Kia recognised it would cost too much to change the perceptions of the old guard and rather focus on the emerging consumer who is yet to shape their brand allegiance. What James Dean, Steve McQueen, Star Wars, the Godfather was to other generations is what Morpheus is to the Millennials, an icon of that zeitgeist, and in this case, one of choice.
  2. The new global consciousness surrounding products from emerging markets, particularly Asia – Asia has become a huge global focus, with every second article about the leaps forward by China and India. Consumers are considering Asian products as equal or superior to Western products, viz. Samsung is Apple’s only credible contender in the smartphone market, or the rise of Huawei and Lenovo as tech powerhouses.
  3. The new consumer, who equally weights brand and utility – Kia might have done this at some other time, however when you look at the K900 you must see it is no less beautiful than any other luxury vehicle. The quality of product presented a rare opportunity for the brand to back up its claim. Studies show that consumers in developed markets are more concerned with function than brand, which is where the pricing suggests Kia wants a foothold.

What is even more amazing is this strategic brand re-positioning is so serious the K900 is looking to retail for close to ZAR700 000, they are really shaking off the cheap and cheerful image, disruption without the price compromise. The other car manufactures have tried to not take on the luxury manufacturers head on, Toyota choosing to use Lexus, and Nissan using Infinity. Kia may be one of the rare times your first car and your last car are the same brand, clearly fearless world domination is the key issue at their C-suite.

Malcom Gladwell’s David & Goliath expresses this phenomenon wonderfully, the overarching thesis of “David and Goliath” is that for the strong, “the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness”, whereas for the weak, “the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty”.

In the end, there is no better way to describe Kia’s attitude than the subliminal message to their competitors encoded in the super bowl advert than Nessun Dorma itself:

“Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza, guardi le stelle che tremano d’amore, e di speranza!”

(“None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!”)

“Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me; il nome mio nessun saprà! No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo dirò quando la luce splenderà!”

(“But my secret is hidden within me; none will know my name! No, no! On your mouth I will say it when the light shines!”)

“Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio che ti fa mia!”

(“And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!”)

Just before the climactic end of the aria, a chorus of women is heard singing in the distance:

“Il nome suo nessun saprà, E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!”

(“No one will know his name, and we will have to, alas, die, die!”)

Calaf, now certain of victory, sings:

“Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All’alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!”

(“Vanish, o night! Fade, you stars! Fade, you stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win! “)

This is the strategic and creative harmony all organisations should admire and strive to achieve. Kia’s vision is clear and bold, the message is loud and clear, they are not playing for second place.

Image Reference: http://www.businessinsider.com/kias-super-bowl-teaser-with-morpheus-2014-1