Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I just can't get you out of my head..

La la lala.. lalala la la la...

Ever have one of those days where you simply can't get a tune out of your head? I've had one today with this tune.

I tell you, it makes the days at my temp job fly by. Tomorrow, it'll be 'Do you know the way to San Jose', despite the fact I only know one line.

But why do these tunes stick in my head, and others don't? Yes, you've guessed it, it's because of simplicity.

I remember the very simple tunes (with the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody) and the oddly catchy melodies. There is something in this. People remember complex stuff when they are determined to listen to this.

I've probably watched one Banana Splits episode in my life, yet I know the theme music because it's simple and catchy. Similarly, I've knowingly bought the Economist maybe twice in my life, but I sure know about the advertising and respect the brand because of its comms and brand presence.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Generation Why?

The picture is from Lerema (usual policy applies; I'll take it down if you wish)

Imagine you are a marketeer.

You know that your audience is creating more of those strange videos online; you know about MySpace, but that's all fine, because Rupert Murdoch has bought it out for a large amount of money, and is going to conventionally market to them.

If you are particularly savvy, you know that that isn't going to last. They'll move on, and virtual tumbleweeds will inhabit that space.

User generated content may get passe'; after all, as a lot of abandoned blogs prove, people can't keep on being creative and innovative. It's why most blogs are simply link-fests with few original thoughts (including this post, inspired by Adnostic's post on the subject).

So how do you tap into this new generation's revenue stream? Well, firstly, you can accept that the pace of change is coming faster and faster than ever. Trends are found out not only via social networking sites, but by a mixture of the generations that have gone before them. Converse, for example, may have been originally regarded as a Gen X'er brand, but it's coming back in a big way.

To make you realise just how this new generation is changing - they don't regard Michael Jordan as the face of Nike, or maybe even basketball. Oasis, to them, weren't the biggest band in the world, ever.

And this is a generation which is much larger than the 17mill X'ers that made up the last wave. If anything, this picture paints a grim one for those who rely on mass-market trends. Those who will succeed will be those who spark a mass trend, and, I believe, those who are niche brands to begin with.

I'm not saying 'down with Levi, Nike & Coke'. That just won't happen. However, those niche brands which may never have had the spotlight may find their '15 minutes of fame' more forthcoming in this new media landscape.

Yet, I think those brands which try and court Gen Y with freebies and help them make their own content do the other Generations a disservice; I just don't think (in that respect), Y is that much different than other Gens. Y, like X and all of those before them, like smart ads which don't treat them like mugs/acknowledge their message - this last point is perhaps the most important; being self-aware to this generation is the key.

So why all the fear over Y? Branding (to our fictional marketing manager) has become more of a tightrope - but it's also never been more exciting.

Respect your audience and their love for the next cool thing, and you'll be fine. Trying too hard is death; but then, it always has been - it's just this time around, the next Generation has the power to sink your business in one nochalent 'huh'.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Layered thinking and symbolism..

Click on this picture. Go on, I dare you. Expand it to as large as it'll go.

Does it inspire you? Have you seen the real thing? It looks amazing 'in the flesh'.

Well, I love this picture. It sums up all I like about art; hidden meanings, different types of symbolism that are interesting whether you know anything about the period or not.

It got me to thinking about just how I respond to visual stimuli. Now, I first saw this in the National Gallery, where you are supposed to be appreciative of the art.

Would I have thought the same if I'd have just viewed this picture on this blog? Obviously not.

My point in this post was simply to draw your attention to the fact that not all ads/comms are created equal, and why I think media needs to come back into the fold if advertising is truly going to prosper in years to come.

Sounds bloody simplistic, but in order for any message to get through, I have to be prepared to listen and pay attention. I'll look out for all the clever little bits of symbolism in an art gallery, and I may even do so online, when I have time of my own - it's why the internet could potentially be the pandora's box of communication.

The below painting is what the majority of POS work and posters do, and people don't appreciate it:

So much is going on in this painting that it's impossible to take it all in on first viewing. Yet so many creative executions try to do this, in the hope someone will simply 'get it' straight away.

They won't.

Neither painting would succeed as a TV spot because, let's face it - where do you view ads? Unless you are Alan Fletcher, it's not in a museum.

You need a message people will remember, an impactful one. It's why so many pieces of COI work make great posters - one message, and people understand and respect it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Aspirational Advertising. Oh, and a Podcast..

When trying to tap into human emotions, advertising often has a difficult task.

Making people laugh through comedic stuff like the Pot Noodle campaign or the recent Burger King spots sometimes runs into problems simply because there's no way of knowing precisely what certain people will find amusing.

I love the Old Spice/Burger King work; I find it hilarious - yet for every one of me, there'll be a few who are completely alienated by it and dislike the brand.

There's also probably evidence to suggest that people are becoming more unshockable. However, that doesn't stop those who advertise for the COI attempting to amaze and horrify us with cautionary tales of how it doesn't pay to drink and drive or to take drugs.

So...with that in mind (and with more than a nod to Maslow, thank you Mr Colman), why don't more brands try the aspirational approach in their work? I'll show you an example below which I don't think quite pulls it off - though I love the strategic thought:

What did you think of that? Personally, I think the strategy would have been far stronger if the ad had interspliced 'real' people with the kids; showing just how imaginative the children can be, and how they are far more creative and aspiring than the adults.

I think a lot of brands don't paint their products in aspirational terms because it is very difficult to get people to go along with you for 30 seconds, or even longer. Also, given that the public are quite cynical, and that most brands have the subtlety of Johnny Vegas attempting to be a prima ballerina, it's often a very difficult task.

Now....the challenge becomes to make your brand aspirational without ever directly saying so. All of the world class advertising is able to do this, either via its execution (Sony 'Balls'), its line ('Happiness is a Cigar called Hamlet' / 'At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise you can hear in a Rolls-Royce is the electric clock') or its positioning (The Economist, Innocent, John Lewis).

Aspiration should be the fist inside advertising's velvet glove. More often that not, it's a poorly aimed and ill-disguised blow with a knuckle-duster.

Oh, and podcast 3, 'Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches' is up. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Orwell's pursuit of 'happyness'

Does the above make you angry?
Do you even notice what's the matter with it?
Well, this sort of thing makes me cross. It's a lazy bastardisation of the English language, as annoying for me as someone calling University 'uni', or, for a designer, someone using Arial rather than Helvetica. Grr.
*Gets off soapbox*
I am an ex-English student, so I am probably more of a spelling nazi than most, as well as a stickler for commas and full stops in their right place.
Anyway - to get to the meat of this post - I was having a discussion on Friday with Richard, and we were discussing about how Orwell essentially taught himself to write. I don't think Orwell's treatise 'Politics and the English Language' was brought up.
Read it here; it should be required reading for anyone who is looking to write professionally/writes run on sentences that last more than 400 words.
For what it's worth, I think my writing has become much worse recently - I'm going to make an effort to adopt Orwell's stance. More short, punchy sentences. Less rambling (disclaimer: unless a post of mine my sparks another thought).

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Yes, forcefulness may be devoid of subtlety, occasionally lacking charm and not always the most insightful thinking out there.

But it can be as effective as a hammer to the forebrain. That's right pop pickers, I'm talking about brands which say to the outside world 'I'm right. And you'll listen'.

I respect Jaguar so much more ever since they stopped dicking around with the faux English pretentions and told us what they were, in so many words, or at least told us why we buy them:

No, I don't think 'Gorgeous' is perhaps the best ad in the world, nor is it wholly all there strategically. But (in addition to the very good execution) it is unapologetic.
When you know who you are, and can say it - 'We are good because of x', it's brilliant. Of course, you have to commit - the below ad would have just been a good ad rather than an all time classic, praised for its excellent positioning and thinking, if not for the company's commitment:

Ballsy advertising, is, of course, not the refuge of the timid client. But being unafraid, honest, able to back it up and above all - a talking point - should be what every brand aims for.
As well as a healthy dose of humility if they overpromise.
I'm not eschewing thoughtful stories, seeded across many mediums and with 'easter eggs' in them. No. Those can exist as well. But I think the world needs its fair share of the arrogant brands - Old Spice is perhaps the closest example I can think of being able to bridge the divide.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A friend in need is a friend indeed.. a friend with uh.. better..

Blogs are great things. I become more and more convinced about this with each day.
Sure, I've not managed to meet another Stoke City fan (Jim Thornton, are you reading this?), but the range of interesting people I meet because of the blog increases daily.
In fact, the purpose of this post is just to say how much I'm looking forward to the meal I'm going for at St John with Lebowski, Angus, Beeker, Meme Huffer and Paul (also, drinks afterwards, if anyone else is keen - give me a bell - number's on the CV).
Unsure whether I'll try the most random thing on the menu (that honour, I think, will go to Lebowski or Angus), but we'll see.
This is why blogs are great - do I engage in this way with any other communications medium with total strangers? No, none, not unless I want some random encounters.
It's this medium which has such great potential, if it can be harnessed correctly. Yes, it can even get me eating offal.
Also, I promise I'm not as strange as Lebowski; though if he does the answer dancer at any point, I think he needs a drink bought for him.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Are Lovemarks Bollocks?

Kevin Roberts. Much maligned man? Complete Genius? Or massive advertising charlatan who is peddling old ideas from the 80s?

Well, if you read these articles, you'd be forgiven for thinking that yes, his theories are a bit overstretched.

However, I've found a little defence for his argument here.
Let's consider what he's got to say:

"Lovemarks transcend brands. They deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. Like great brands, they sit on top of high levels of respect - but there the similarities end. Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever."

"Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go."

Let's consider the penultimate line for a moment. 'You don't just buy lovemarks, you embrace them passionately'. Barring people queueing round the clock for the sales or the latest games console, I can't say I've ever seen this happening. Much as I love my adidas trainers, I don't hug them or call them a special name.

However, there is a simplistic truth to all of that. There are certain brands that people would buy ahead of anything else. But again, there's a limit to how far that can be pushed.

What stops me from agreeing from Kevin's thesis is simply that I don't believe that people value brands highly enough to make them Lovemarks. Russell Davies made the point very eloquently when he compared brands to a small figurine (the link is a download) - simply put, people don't value brands on anything like the same levels Kevin thinks they do.
Moreover, people are fickle - what he describes as a Lovemark can easily become a fad quickly. People respect people - they don't respect brands in the same way. It's ALWAYS going to be a fad, and the only way it commands a repeat showing is by it living up to the image the communication or perception has generated.
So no, I don't agree that the future is Lovemarks. Parts of the concept are interesting (if a little obvious, but that's about it).
Mind you, it poses an interesting question; if people can be brands now, can THEY be what Kevin describes as Lovemarks?
Edit: Good Lord, he has a sequel out. Proof 1000 admen can't stop it...

Monday, January 22, 2007

The more you know, the funnier it is/The Birth of Easter Egg Advertising...

I've got a confession to make. I'm shallow.
I love quick, pithy statements. I prefer reading Stephen King to Jane Austen or Dickens. I prefer playing football than sitting down to play chess. My dissertation appeared to be a fusion of two wordy texts (Hobbes's Leviathan & Milton's Paradise Lost), but it was really inspired by two Nick Cave songs ('Red Right Hand' & 'Song of Joy').

But my redeeming feature is that I LOVE complex things which appear to be simple. Whether it's a book, a song or a person, I find them far more compelling.

Now, this 'knowing a little bit about a lot' is happily quite useful in some circumstances; I'm damn good at pub quizzes and hopefully this will be useful in my future employment.

Yes... getting to a vague point now. The picture is of the first book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I love the series, if only because they are like episodes of the Simpsons. The more you know about literature/life in general, the more you get them. Take Wyrd Sisters. If you've not read Macbeth, a lot of it will be lost on you.

To be able to relay a deeper message in your apparently simple approach is a great talent, even if it's not immediately realised. Thinking about it, I suppose this is why so many people love Damien Hirst/Tracy Emin, because the viewer believes they HAVE to fill in the gaps with their thinking.

Anyway, to do a Godin on this post, the relevance the likes of Pratchett, the Arctic Monkeys or modern art have to do with comms is that any message relayed has to increasingly work on a more deep seated level, to get you to think about it afterwards. Yes, even the latest Burger King TV work - which got banned, so evidently someone took something away from it.

I think this resonates with Henry Jenkins/Faris Yakob's ideas about transmedia planning. Give me a dialogue that rewards me for spending time with it, yet doesn't confuse me at first point of contact, and I'll keep interacting. Actual brand channels would appear to be forms of this, but I do wonder if it'll ever be completely accepted and not sneered at. However, I have a theory.

Where I differ with some thinking that is common to at least one major agency is that a brand will ever be able to do the true 360 degree immersion. Russell's post about the size of brands seems to illustrate far more neatly than anything else I've seen. People just don't care about brands enough to engage with every touch point.

(N.B: Photo belongs to Pgilliver - let me know if you want me to take it down)

But...that's not to say, in the computer game parlance, if you give them easter eggs - hidden little nuggets of information or rewards (and the clues to find them) they won't try to find them. Whilst in reality brands pale into significance when compared to real emotional things (unlike what some agencies will have you believe), people enjoy feeling clever - so give them it. Or entertain. Whichever.

If brands can do either, then true comms effectiveness will be found. However, I think the former, that of playing on the consumer's need to find out and discover will be more successful. Especially for major ATL communication campaigns with massive spends.

Seeing as ad blogs seem to bring theories to light, I'll dub this my 'Easter Egg Advertising' theory. People like surprises, and (especially in the case of Generation Y) are used to finding out new, hidden depths to things.

I think hiding things away for discovery will become more prevalent as technology continues to march on and overlap. It ties in nicely with Ogilvy's own quote - 'The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife'.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The great debate/more podcasting..

(NB: Photo is from Assbach's collection - let me know if you want me to take it down)

Just to draw my readers (those that don't already read one of the best ad blogs on the net) to this debate at Adliterate.

Is blogging killing planning? Well, as a non-planning blogger (but someone who wants to become one, by hook or crook) that reads a helluva lot of ad blogs, I don't think it will.
There is a risk that those on the outside looking in (such as myself) overvalue opinions of those people who we 'read on the internet', regardless of whether they are Planning Director of United, Darth Strategist or unwashed oiks like myself with no planning credentials.

Also, there's a concern that we forget about the role of 'proper' qual research in the planning cycle. Well, I very rarely read blogs for their statistical content, unless they are the brilliant Indexed. Looking at stats makes up a proportion of my current job, and I think the role of reading blogs for me is to (first and foremost) unwind, and secondly to improve the amount of opinions and advice I have at my disposal. Others may have it t'other way round, but hey - I like to learn and relax.

Essentially, if someone really is junior and trying to get into planning, I think they'll have realised that the job isn't just about reading blogs for a living, and certainly won't take blogs to be the gospel truth - more a place to store thoughts and act as stimuli/a forum for debate, depending on your point of view or requirement for the blog.


Download my second Podcast here if you don't want to scroll down - it's in the sidebar. Featuring more random tuneage. For some reason the link auto plays the tunes, but just click 'stop' and download it normally.

Mistakes are made...

But when they are done in this way, you can't help but smile.
Whilst I've bemoaned brands adopting the Innocent tone of voice, when it's inappropriate, I think it's quite endearing for certain brands. Oddly enough, digital companies can do it and still 'cut through' the reflex action of swearing at having to wait or be denied.
I have a theory about this - firstly, you expect machines to bugger up occasionally, so it's conditioned at the beginning, and secondly, most software vendors don't have a 'voice' per se, so to have little disembodied comments like this work.
As it is, the likes of say, Burger King's packaging voice just doesn't seem to work. I have an idea of what Burger King stands for (big budget, sometimes dumb Americana), and when the work sticks to this - the excellent 'I am Man' spot - it succeeds. When the packaging became 'pally' and wise to the game didn't to work for me. Maybe it would have done in the States, what with the CPB work to back it up.
Apologise; but do it in the right way - if that means a whiter than white corporate press release, do that. If you can do it more personally, do that. But don't mess with your established image.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Podcasting nonsense/Oh No..Cucumber Sandwiches!

Well, Meme Huffer's podcast 'Sleazy Listening' made my mind up. It was time for a spot o' podcastery myself. Please find my first effort in the sidebar, entitled 'Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches'.
Don't ask me why, but hey.... the music itself is a random mixture of all sorts of things. Next week's (or however long it takes me to make another) will undoubtedly feature just as much frippery.
I was tempted to speak into my microphone, but I'll let you all imagine what I sound like (unless I get bored and do so next week).
If you are lazy, and can't be arsed to scroll down, download it from here.

The world's favourite travel destination (or where I'd like to go)

Non ad post alert (I have been doing quite a few recently).
Short and sweet - where in the world would you most like to visit?
I've got to pick Florence. Not entirely sure why, but I'd like to see some of Italy, and I'm quite keen for vaguely cultural holidays, and you don't get much more cultural than Florence. Assuming I am successful in my job hunt in the next few months (and have some time to kill), I'd like to take a trip out there. Does anyone have any suggestions about just where in Florence to go to?
I'd also like to take a road trip across the States, but I feel that will take a lot of time; so yes, it'd have to be a few months at least. I've been to California, but I'd like to see more 'normal' America (much as I like beautiful people and beautiful places, I had an odd feeling no-one got my sarcasm), and it'd be good fun.
Where would everyone else like to go?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It was only a matter of time..

Well, it had to happen. Someone's decided to parody the Dove ad:

Made me happy at least. It does pose a question though - where do you move the campaign to now if you are Dove? I appreciate that the Campaign for Real Beauty as a strategic idea has legs; despite seemingly being very obvious (the essence and charm of the whole campaign, in my view).

The only (slight) problem I could forsee with this all is if Dove become po-faced like Coke did after the Mentos discovery, and start discouraging parodies like the one above, adopting a sort of Oprah inspired, holier than thou voice. I don't think it will, but I do think the brand will have to be very careful about who it associates with (unlike Coke, who should have milked that Mentos thing for all it was worth).

Such is the weight behind the brand that to move it from a traditional luxury product (see below) to a heavyweight, one for all utilitarian brand was quite something.

However, that's not to say that the brand can associate with just any event or service. Indeed, the fact the brand is now deemed so universal could work against it if the future communications is clumsy or the media spend unfocused.

It's what I'd term a 'pedestal' brand at the moment; in such a great, overarching position that by associating with an event or person overly (yes, I know, it associates with EVERYONE at the moment - I think this may change at some point and become more on one or two brand spokespeople), it'll turn off those who previously supported it from its prior 'one for all' comms output.

That said, I don't think it has a massive risk. Associate wisely, accentuate the campaign in other important avenues (sponsoring certain TV programmes/fun runs and the like) and it'll be just fine.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Interview Thoughts 2: So Why & Where?

Well, in the second part of my interview thoughts, I'm going to begin by discussing something which seems to make up the mainstay of most interviews: WHY?

Namely, why you and why are you interested in the profession? (Please note, I'm going to use parts of my usual cover letter in answering this).

Well, I'm interested in the communications industry (and particularly in advertising, as it happens) because it relates to what makes me tick generally - I like finding out about people; what makes them tick, why they react the way they do to stimuli, be it a bold picture of marketing communications, a Rorschach test, a celebrity or a clever piece of writing.

And indeed, the download in my sidebar often helps when explaining to companies just why I think I'd be a good fit for the industry (or at least helps them realise just what makes me tick).

So anyway, people are the reason I want to work in this communications game. I like talking (as you will undoubtedly have noticed when you meet me - perhaps a little too much in the interview game, if I'm honest) and I like to write my thoughts down. It's why I enjoy keeping this blog.

I realise in terms of life experiences I'm never ever going to be one of those people who have mastered 6 languages and lived abroad for a massive amount of years before returning to take up the mantle of the communications biz. No, I'm a 22 year old from Worcestershire, someone who loves music, reading and writing (the very three things Russell mentioned in his podcast with Jon Steel that are things everyone says), as well as a host of other random interests. I'd also like to learn to play the guitar/piano at some point, if only to realise just how hard it is.

However, I think in terms of latent curiosity, enthusiasm and general appreciation of marketing communications, I can rival most candidates. Advertising plays to my strengths, and belief that the best communication messaging is always inherently simplistic, despite the rapidly changing communications mix.
My thoughts should be fairly clear (if you read the blog even vaguely) of where I think good communications lies, but in terms of the industry, I think the era of ‘Web 2.0’ has created a culture where any consumer can quickly publish their thoughts about a brand, putting them on a far greater platform to air their views. Indeed, as the Coke/Mentos YouTube videos demonstrate, brand owners cannot easily control just how their products are utilised.

The power of conversation, of a dialogue with a consumer rather than a ‘top down’, dictatorial and enforced message is something which I feel strongly about. In this new communications era, I believe that the ability to generate conversations in order to engage with your consumer will be incredibly important. Indeed, what will continue to endure will be authenticity and storytelling; if you can't do this, you are liable to be found out, as Sony found out here.

So, I think the why has been adequately explained. So WHERE do I see myself fitting into this new mix of communications?
Well, I'll be quite honest with you; much as I dislike the term 'creative generalist', I do think there are elements of all of the 3 main agency outposts which I could do and would enjoy.
I like account handling in so much as the idea of being able to maintain a relationship with a client and helping to present the creative work greatly appeals to me. The administrative nature of this doesn't massively appeal - but I'm willing to do it; hell, every modern day job has an element of this, right from a temp job to being the MD. I'd like a hand in the strategy though, and worry that the role of an account man has massively changed since the days of Frank Lowe, the Saatchi brothers and others, to simply not allow for much strategic thought.
Planning then; and seeing how I've been told by all and sundry in the industry that I'm a planner, I should be most inclined towards this. It is true, I like to think I'm a reasonable strategic thinker, and I love the idea of helping to write the creative brief, as well as mining insights from people and research. Yet, the prospect of being told to 'justify the idea' as I feel some planners are, doesn't appeal in some ways. However, of all of the suggestions, it's the one I lean the most strongly towards (especially given the fact that Russell, Richard and many others seem to think so).
I'll be honest, I've even thought about Copywriting. I think this crosses every English grad's mind, and I like to think I can write well. It's more of a pipe dream to be honest - I don't think I could come up with enough original ideas; sure would be fun to try and crack the odd creative brief.
So yes, out of all of those, I'd be a Planner, first and foremost. Where in the world? Well, I'd like to learn my trade in this country, then move further afield when I know what I'm doing.
What would you do readers, and what are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Interview thoughts 1: Magners & Kodak..

As reported in the prior post, I had an interview yesterday. However, I wanted to write a little bit more about my thoughts on some of the topics that were discussed, as well as linking to some of the source material I was chuntering on about.
Well, first and foremost, Magners.

Let's look at the line. 'Time Dedicated to You'. As discussed, I don't believe this line has had much impact on the brand's tremendous success. It sounds to me like they came up with the execution/the idea first, then tacked this onto the end of it.

However, let's consider the market before Magners' tremendous success. I've got a little bit of an inside track here, as one of my father's clients was Thatchers, one of Magners' closest rivals. Essentially, there was a two-fold market for cider before Magners. The first was the mainstay of the more traditional ciders such as Thatchers sales, that segment of the market that were liable to be CAMRA members, between the age of 35 to 70, possibly bearded, and definitely the antithesis of lad culture. The second segment who drank cider (and, before Magners, made up the majority of the cider market) were those who used cider predominately as a mixer. In this case, they preferred Strongbow & Black.

Now, Magners has been able to add a layer of sophistication to its offering by effectively turning cider into a long drink, making it far more of a social activity. Though the line appears to be a bit vacuous and tacked on, it does encapsulate the newly created market. I would imagine the creative agency (or indeed, Magners themselves) had the executional idea before anything else.

And indeed, there's the ultra simplistic approach - Magners were the first brand to actually explain just how the cider making process occurs, and how straightforward it is. Couple that with promoting the youth/Irishness angle in the executions whilst helping to create a new category of drinker emphasises, in my view, why the campaign has been a success. The strategic proposition would undoubtedly have been something along the lines of: "Create a new market for cider drinkers" or something similiar.

Magners managed to change the image of cider as profoundly as the reinvention of Lucozade from a medicinal supplement to a sports drink, changing attitudes to the sector from niche to mainstream. It remains to be seen if this will continue to endure; but one thing is for certain - no other drink is like Magners.

Moving on to Kodak, which was the brand I mentioned that I'd like to work on at the moment (not to mention the Independent, The Economist, Morrisons and others which escaped me at the time). Let's have a look at their most recent output, an internal video which was intentionally leaked to YouTube:

That piece of work was created by Partners & Napier. More on it can be found here. Thanks again to Jess for pointing it out to me.

The last thing I knew about Kodak's strapline was that it was now 'Keep it digital', which to me seemed rather strange when you consider the amount of cultural capital tied up in the brand. After all, this is the brand which has had songs written about its products and used them to sell it, as well as essentially owning the connection between memories and pictures - the 'Kodak moment'.

I expressed in the interview that this brand would be fun to work on given the challenges it faces and the amount of cultural capital still tied up in the name. Kodak, I believed, should go after the colour making process - after all, Kodachrome was the first amateur colour film. Surely a base can be built around that?

However, the potential challenge was discussed. Surely Sony could blow Kodak out of the water when it came to owning this colour process? This could be especially problematic, given that they have probably produced the best ad for emphasising colour richness in recent memory.

Perhaps then Kodak could continue to target the Baby Boomer generation, those who grew up knowing the Kodak was a brand leader in the production not only of film, but of cameras as well? I made the suggestion that Kodak could ape 35mill cameras by producing digital versions of them (physically bigger cameras like 35 mill, but with a digital backscreen), perhaps even continuing to produce 35mill cameras while all other manufacturers discard it. However (especially in the case of the latter), this would prove to be an anachronism - effectively giving the company's photography segment a shelf life of 5-7 years.

That said, the notion of dwelling on your heritage isn't a wholly bad idea, just so long as it can be expressed in a new way. I feel that the new Old Spice campaign is able to emphasise this both online and on TV:

And Kodak certainly has the background to be able to do this. Check out the Science & Technology section on their website; they should have a vested interest in making sure their colour credentials are underlined. Far more so than Sony's.

The 'Keep it Forever. Keep it Kodak' line is ok, but it doesn't underline Kodak's history, nor attempt to give a really thoughtful reason as to why consumers should buy their product - to me, it seems to suggest that the reason Kodak think you'll want to buy the camera is because you need something which will never change/be reliable. Digital photography is the antithesis of this.

That rather old fashioned approach aside, the company isn't as antiquated as you may believe; along with the viral, their 1000 words blog is interesting, allowing comments from the outside world (unlike an awful lot of brand blogs, which seem frightened that the consumer will play with/disrupt the brand), and also gets at another inalienable truth, that photos are about telling stories.

However, unlike colour, I don't think Kodak can effectively 'own' this space without seeming like they are harking back to a bygone era and overly targeting the ageing population. Give Kodak owners a reason to feel proud of the product, like Old Spice. They have waited a long time to go/market digital because they wanted to ensure that the colour process was spot on. There's part of the insight.

Another insight would be that Kodak photos aren't throwaway, unlike the majority of 'quick snaps' that take place with a digital camera. How digital cameras are used vs 35mill is like comparing Internet consumption with TV. It's just such a different ball-game. It is perhaps why the 'cameras for purists' angle could work to some extent - Kodak certainly have the associations to make it work.

However, by emphasising the colour credentials, I've learnt something. I didn't know the extent that Kodak had researched colour, much less that they had developed an alternative to the flat panel display screen, their self luminous OLED. There's something to shout about, and doesn't limit the market Kodak go after, unlike 'cameras for purists'. It's their patent as well, so they have a real point of difference. I'd organise my thoughts for Kodak around the strategic thought that should "Demonstrate how Kodak's unique colours allow people to capture their best memories" or something to that effect.

My initial thought for a tagline was something like 'Memories aren't disposable', but I think that doesn't emphasise the colour aspect well enough, and plays too much on the 'purists' angle again.

I take back what I said about the brand in the interview; that they are seemingly doomed - I really think Kodak (if marketed correctly) have a great chance at pushing on in the digital sector, even given the size of the competition. Sony/LG/Panasonic simply don't have the colour/imaging history that Kodak have. Find a way of exploiting that, and the brand could rise again.

I'm really keen to hear what others have to say about these two brands - any opinions/thoughts?

Musings on London..

Well, on my trip to London for the most recent interview and to go to Russell's latest coffee morning, I had all manner of interesting conversations with all sorts of people.

It was truly chock-full of bright and intelligent folks, with conversation topics ranging from meeting Steve Henry next week (best of luck with that - shoot me an email and let me know how you get on), to what not to say in an interview (going off on a massive tirade/complimenting ladies on their tops is apparently not best advised), critiques of what I was going to say in the aforementioned interview (thanks very much Jess - by the way, the magazine - Contagious - that she writes for is excellent, check out the link) and a bit of musing on the differences between old school account handling and new-age planning.

One interesting topic that came up with Russell and Jess was that of London geography. Now, not being a Londoner myself - just a humble denizen of Worcestershire at this stage - it was fascinating to learn about the city. For example: What resides at St Giles's Circus?

Centre Point, according to Russell. Learning about the Blue Points in Soho was also fascinating. I think I'm going to have to purchase Peter Ackroyd's book on London. Anyway, here are a few snaps of my journey down - featuring a little Regent St and some Berkeley Square - sadly no coffee morning shots. I'll leave those to Russell's post.

I'm also going to write about some of the topics discussed in my interview - I'd be really appreciative if the blogsphere felt like chiming in.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Banksy Brand..

Well, after an interesting discussion about brand devotees, I noticed a post on Russell's planner ziki from a chap called Ross Cidlowski, who runs this blog, which is excellent.
According to Ross's post, Banksy has released a load of his unreleased prints of his website, encouraging everyone to print them off at work on company paper (natch).
Drawing the two discussions together, what what would you classify Banksy as? For what it's worth, I think he harks back to a comment discussion MM and I had here. He's a brand onto himself; and I think greater credence can be given to this view as he's effectively anonymous. We can't attach anything that's real to him, barring his content.
What would you think he looks like? I think he's probably a lot older than we all think. Perhaps a renegade graphic designer, on the run from Pentagram.
It's this mythology which adds such a degree of charm to something. Perhaps why you can't get brand evangelists to easily come on TV without looking like used car salesmen. Put a face to something and it loses its edge.
Perhaps why, as Russell has just pointed out, Monkey is making a comeback. Everyone loves advertising characters (but damn well hate Jamie Oliver).
It's why I think having a blog creates a brand for a person - from reading this, you'll get some sort of perception about me, which I'm sure will change if you ever met me.
On that note, come along to Russell's coffee morning tomorrow if you fancy finding out or just want to meet some smart and interesting people (albeit without the love for Stoke City).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

iPhone communication thoughts..

Well well.. possibly the biggest product launch of the year.
Would you do a Steve Jobs and present it all on your own? Or would you let your employees help explain it?
Personally, I think Apple have missed a bit of a trick with this launch. Why not emphasise the phone's qualities by demonstrating how 'average' employees use it. Yes, a good old fashioned try before you buy.
It is perhaps testament to the controlling nature of Jobs (from what I've read) that he's reluctant to let it be shown this way. The products are his children, and damned if he isn't going gush and evangelise about them on his own.
Steve, the product's going to sell well. No need to be possessive. Let your army of Mac devotees do it for you. I suppose you always know what you are getting if you are the brand yourself.. coming neatly back to my suggestion that people can be branded, albeit in peculiar ways, whilst writing blogs.
Like Richard says in his excellent 'Brands & 2.0' presentation, talking and writing about the brand changes the speaker more than the listener; is it then better to have a single presenter, so they can evolve with the brand?
Look and what Bill Gates as done with his presentation to the world; as he's become more philanthropic, attitudes towards Microsoft have softened.
Or, perhaps better yet - should brands have readily identifiable spokesmen/people at ALL?
For what it's worth, I don't think it's nearly as much of a risk/reward thing as with associating celebrities with brands which seemingly have nothing to do with them. At least product evangelists have some form of history with the brand.
Still...if Jobs rubs people up the wrong way, or indeed, if the iPhone flops (I don't like the lack of keys, I'll be honest - this may not help it.. but I don't know...I hated the RAZR, but it seems everyone has one...) - which it won't - Apple could have an interesting time on its hands.
But if it did fail, Apple would be able to get out of it; it'd call in the renegade Apple preachers, something which no other brand seems to have.
P.S. There is more new music in the sidebar. Check it out...

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's the little differences.. Or how BBH saved Christmas..

Forgot to mention this at the time - many thanks to Scamp and the gang at BBH. Here's hoping next Monday goes well.

Blog/Brand devotion..

I'd like to begin this post by saying a big get well soon to Marcus Brown. Having the foresight to bring a camera along to the doctors, let alone blog about it deserves some respect. I'm not sure I'd have done the same, but this just cements Marcus's legendary status.

Curiously, this also coincided with me reading Naked Conversations (the book's blog can be found here) and learning about the 'rules' for blogging, and how blogging frequently can help businesses put out the fire of negative publicity.

I'd like to extend this belief into more personal thing (touched on by the book). It's quite staggering, when you think about it - blogging voices seem to in some cases to subsume the 'real' or certainly cross over. If any one of my blogging friends suddenly stopped posting for a prolonged period of time, I'd wonder what had happened to them. Yet, with twitter and technology like it, we are now more connected than ever. Indeed, if a blogger was ever struck down with illness, I wonder how many would text twitter before doing anything else.

Becoming this devoted (or mildly insane, in the case of the latter example) would surely have tremendous implications. You'd become what Gladwell calls the 'Salesman' of the piece, inspiring an audience almost on the basis of your relentless blogging. And, as one of the book's examples cites, 'good' bloggers blog once or twice a day. I've resolved to do that, but it's not going well this year. Perhaps I should get a Yo-Yo. I do have a digital camera now though, so more random pictures will be forthcoming.

Going back to the book for a second; it references a chap who was interested (to put it mildly) in Treo's. If blogs can whip up high priests of the brand, think how much your product would benefit. Even entering into a conversation with your consumer would surely help - yes, even the flaming you'd probably receive at some point.

Indeed, this blog was initially begun as a highly self referential online CV. However, as it's matured/become more irreverent/posted about music, I hope it's done rather more than that. I would like to think now it's a conversation with the world, as well as an online record of all my thoughts, even if they aren't always strictly marketing or advertising focused - I have had difficulty reconciling normal situations to marketing or advertising scenarios, unlike Mr Godin. Still, I'm not paid as much as he is and am not published quite yet.

I think I'd feel quite sad to abandon it at this point, although I'm not about to take photos of myself on a hospital bed. Some conversations shouldn't include photos of me laid out - I'll leave that to the drunken Flickr photos.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Music! Music for you!

Well, faithful readers (whomever you may be - I've even managed to have someone from the Guardian read this site.. don't quite know how) I'm spoiling you today. First of all there are 2 whole posts, but.. even better than that, one contains music.
Inspired by Beeker's new site, I've decided to post a track/a couple of tracks each week that I'm enjoying. So click the mystery links and savour the musical flavour (it's in the sidebar under 'Weekly music'
I've also added my Flickr, for any nutters who want to know what I *really* look like (no, I'm not the ginger one with the beard) or anyone who enjoys random photos of cats - the best animals (sorry Paul).
And to finish off the adding, I've put some more blogs in the sidebar. In addition to ones I've already mentioned, go and see Coloured Glass (aka Nicholai's blog) and Dan Germain's blog. They are both excellent.

A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks..

That fine quote came from Mr Jonson - the legend behind the Roaring Girl. It relates to a post I've been thinking about for a while, prompted by Amelia's post, which summed up what I've been thinking about brand conversation/s.

I'm going to have to go back on what I posted some months earlier. Not every brand can talk to a consumer. If a brand tries to have a conversation with a customer that doesn't want to listen/isn't interested in the first place, I don't believe it works all the time. I'm less than convinced by the recent HSBC campaign, for example.

It's a strategy ('what's your point of view', or in other words what they believe to be a natural extension of 'the world's local bank' - something which I felt resonated far more strongly with the consumer, getting to the heart of why people bank) which seems far more at home with the likes of The Independent or the Guardian rather than a global bank.

However, make it more pally, akin to the Barclay's campaign which Amelia refers to in her post, and it doesn't seem to work either. The bank 'voice' just either seems like mindless babble in the case of the latter - and God knows, I don't trust a bank which is staffed by muppets - or overly detached from cold hard finance. Perhaps staffed by philosophers? Hard core thinking about David Hume or Sartre won't make my money work harder, damnit...

Although, in this instance, I understand why the point of view campaign was adopted. As a campaign idea, it can be translated into millions of executions worldwide without losing its central message - that everyone will take a different approach to life, but attitudes towards finance remain unchanging.

On the bank thinking, perhaps that's why the Halifax campaign works so well - it's entertaining, and yet you still know it's about a bank. Albeit with employees who will undoubtedly be on Pop Idol in the next edition. But they certainly will care about giving you extra. It also echoes my thoughts about jingles.

'Matey'/'Chatty' tones work for Nuts, for WKD, for Innocent. Brands which the consumer feels can talk with. Crucially, they also OFFER something and are genuine about what it is. I get the impression with HSBC or Barclays, the consumer reaction will be 'Oh...' and promptly forget the ad, or distrust it.

Perhaps one of the reasons why brands have a seemingly endless room for discussion is that a myriad of positions seem to be able to adopted; yet those which get it so right or forge new territory often seem so obvious and straightforward.

It's why I was such a fan of 'the world's local bank'. It implicitly said 'yes, we understand people are different, and we understand these differences and can help', rather than opening the debate up farther.

Perhaps in 20 years time there will come a bank which will be so societally relevant that people will get conversational tactics. Perhaps, but I doubt it. Speak to me like a bank, and I'll listen.

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