As Professor, Vice President Research and Head of the Brand Innovation Master’s program, Prof. Dr. Yonca Limon-Calisan passes on her expertise on the subject of brands to her students at the Brand University of Applied Sciences Hamburg. We talked to her about the emotional appeal of brands and learned why artificial intelligence will be indispensable for the future of brand management.
Prof. Dr. Limon-Calisan, thank you very much for being with us today! We’ll start as usual: what was your favorite brand in your childhood and which one is it today?
In my childhood I was a big fan of the brand Levi’s®. Back then, this brand inspired me to live an authentic American lifestyle. Today, I have a much larger portfolio of favorite brands. These include Hamburg brands such as “Stop the water while using me,” Mymarini, and the global cult brand Ben & Jerry’s. These brands make a clear appeal to consumers and implement their brand staging very smartly and creatively. In this way, they create awareness in society for topics such as slow fashion, social commitment and climate change.
You are a professor at the Brand University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg and are therefore constantly involved with brands in your work. What fascinates you personally about brands?
Products with strong brand personalities exert a special attraction on us consumers, often unconsciously and first and foremost emotionally. In the marketing world, special brand loyalty is described with terms such as brand relationship, brand love, brand attachment or brand engagement.
This humanization of brands is currently being further automated and personalized by new data-driven technologies. Through bots, AI is creating unprecedented opportunities in personal brand communications.
What do you teach your students at Brand University?
As the program director of the Brand Innovation Master’s program, I teach modules such as “Brand Thinking”, “Consumer Psychology & Insights” and “Brand Research Lab”.
The course content includes, for example, the development of a brand identity and positioning in real competitive environments. We analyze trends and research the attitudes, motives, lifestyles and behavior of target groups. Students learn to translate these insights into positive brand experiences along the entire customer journey.
Although much of this content is certainly generally valid, we are currently living in a very extraordinary time. How do you see brand management succeeding in 2021? What role does the pandemic play in this context?
The pandemic has further pushed the digitization of brand experiences. Communication with chat bots, online shopping, and mobile payments have become integral parts of our lives as a result of Corona. Brand experts have become even more important as a result than before Corona. Working with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will continue to be the basis for successful brand management in the future. For the students in my Brand Innovation course, it is clear that acquiring these specific skills is indispensable for their future success as brand practitioners.
Based on your own international experience, do you see any international differences in brand management or brand perception?
Absolutely. These country-specific differences vary depending on the product category. For example, there are local adaptations in the food sector, because food purchasing decisions are strongly determined by cultural values, motives, rituals and lifestyles. In particular, the characteristics of the products, packaging sizes or even the respective design of the packaging can vary. Therefore, I strongly recommend that students visit local supermarkets as often as possible during their stay abroad.
How would you convince someone of the importance of the topic brand with just one argument?
Brands are part of our culture and therefore also a mirror of our society. Most people overlook this. In this sense, a brand not only stands for an image, but also always reflects the zeitgeist.