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NEW YORK Cannes, which began in the 1950s honoring only “TV and cinema ads,” has evolved over the years to include new categories. Design is the latest addition, joining nine other competitions. But as brand building moves from the simple TV spot, print, radio and outdoor ad to something more diffuse, what’s missing? There’s a strong case to be made for rising disciplines like public relations and word of mouth. So Adweek has come up with its own distinctions to honor some of the hard-to-pinpoint activities that are playing an increasing role in brand marketing. Unlike the current Lions, ours aren’t confined to a single execution or agency, since big, messy brand-building initiatives often can’t be.
This is awarded to the company that has best exemplified a commitment to building and responding to the needs of its community. Nike is our choice for showing that it understands how fostering a community of runners will end up solidifying its brand’s association with the sport. Nike+ has been the company’s biggest move in this direction, proving that marketing and community can be baked into a product, and digital channels can tap into a community. Nike has done a particularly good job of extending the Nike+ ethos into real life with group runs, races and local aid stations. In August, the brand is holding The Human Race, a 10-kilometer run that aims to enlist 1 million participants in 25 cities.
Given to the company that best exemplifies a devotion to serving its customers with respect and humanity, the award goes to Zappos. The online retailer of shoes and, increasingly, other merchandise has twined customer service into its DNA. Founder and CEO Tony Hsieh describes it as a “customer-service company that happens to sell shoes.” His goal is nothing less than a global brand built on the simple yet hard to execute idea of treating people right. Zappos has cornered the market of customer love stories with its free shipping, friendly sales staff and tireless CEO, who is prone to connecting directly with customers on Twitter or through impromptu happy hours.
As the company that has learned the most from customer feedback, even the negative kind, Dell wins for its efforts to turn around its public image after a series of embarrassing missteps that culminated in a blogger’s online tirade and YouTube clips of exploding laptop batteries. Over nearly three years, Dell has done the heavy lifting of improving its systems and internal culture to focus on customers, while making itself more open to outside criticism and ideas. The launch of Dell IdeaStorm, where customers can submit their own ideas for products and services, marked a seminal moment in companies opening up to their customers.
Given to the best product user experience, Apple wins hands down for the revolution in cell phone service it began with the iPhone. Until the product’s introduction in January 2007, cell phones were dreary, boxy and often counterintuitive. With its touch screen, simple navigation and sleek design, the iPhone won over more than 5 million converts and made Apple a leading mobile player nearly overnight. To its credit, Apple agency TBWA Media Arts Lab recognized this and made the usability of the iPhone the star in a series of commercials that showed off its features and functionality.