24 July 2013
Another week, another badly thought out creative idea making its
way out of the brainstorm room it should have long since have been
locked up within. This time, the culprit is SeeYourFolks.com - a website
whose pretence is to make you think about spending more time with
your parents, by highlighting how little time they have left and
when they're going to die.
Yep, you heard that right. It's a website which tells you
when your parents are likely to die, by highlighting how
many times you have left of seeing them. You enter your country,
how often you see your folks and your parents' respective ages and
the very basic algorithm behind the skin calculates regional
mortality ages and tells you that you have - in my case - just 240
meetings left with my parents before they die. The 239th
is going to be weird if I keep count.
Seriously, how insensitive and crass is this? I can just about
understand the underlying concept - spend more time with your
parents, value them, be better people by appreciating what you have
- but honestly, did no-one take a step back and ask, at any point
in the website's development, "do people really want to be
told boldly when their parents are going to die?"
Compare this to the National Trust's recent list of
"Things to do Before You're 11 and ¾", which has a similar
ethos - 'enjoy life, do what's fun, hug your inner child' - but is
done so utterly charmingly, so enchantingly and sweetly that it's
getting more attention from adults keen to connect with their own
childhood. Presented simply as a list of things to do, it's a great
example of a wonderful mission, presented in a wonderful fashion -
things to tick off include "climb a tree", "play conkers", "dam a
stream", "make a mud pie", "explore a cave", and "hunt for bugs".
It's an utter joy. (Genuinely coincidentally,
this campaign is a finallist in the Brand
Republic and Octopus Comms #Future5 Awards).
however, as parents' deaths just aren't something people think
about. It's not the norm - and so dropping this kind of information
as a bombshell is just… insensitive and mindless. The developers
suggest 'why sugar coat it' if they're to get their message across,
but in this instance they absolutely need to confront it
in a different way - imagine if doctors dropped news about terminal
illness without sugar coating it, without framing it in a positive
light where possible and showing what modern medicine can do?
Saying "why sugar coat it", about a topic people don't talk
about, is like being hit in the face with a brick and
told 'watch out for bricks'.
Where was the person in this whole process who stood up and
asked "have we hugely misjudged this?" - or, more to the point, why
was there no-one in this process whose role it was to question the
With such fundamentally flawed concepts somehow making their way
to being published, is it time for the notional role of the Chief
Sanity Officer? Someone who can view the campaign idea from a
distance and look at it afresh, and - without risk of attack -
point out what the twitterati will happily do so once the idea is
unleashed to the masses?
SeeYourFolks | Leave comment
18 July 2013
A recent trip to Turkey made me realise just how much we take
our great British brands for granted. I say this because you don't
realise how significant they are until their names have been
butchered (quite creatively, in my opinion) to provide a sense of
homeliness for wayward British tourists.
I've captured some of my favourites for your enjoyment. Please
note that all of these shops were located with 50 yards of one
another - cheekily not *quite* copywriting a brand name is
being used everywhere.
"'Nexst?' surely they can't expect that to work?"
"Surely not. Shall we go in anyway?"
Selfridges, but with the glitz and glamour of Turkish
Expect to see the new Marc Spencer line in the fall
We were too far away to get a picture of 'Sainzbury's'
branding, brands, asda, selfridges, next | Leave comment
03 July 2013
The public appear to have finally got tired of the worn, filthy,
ripped, chewing gum-tacked floors, fittings and carpets of the once
Today saw the emergence of what could well be the first
crowd-sourced pressure group to focus on just having a bloody good
tidy up - the wonderful @WHS_Carpet, which is inviting people to tweet
in pictures of the filth and grub in outlets nationwide.
Firstly, I like this. Not out of malice for the stores, but just
because they are genuinely all quite grimy and filthy, and no-one
wants to shop somewhere like that. Apathy about presentation isn't
something which retail can afford to indulge.
Secondly, I want to see how the brand responds - not just to the
social media aspect and the viral nature something this cheeky,
left field, and communal; but to the issue itself. Will it take a
country tweeting in pictures of the filth wizadry countrywide for
the managers to realise that trodden-in-chocolate isn't a Farrow
and Ball shade for good reason?
Finally, will this herald a new dawn in social action groups -
and which will be next? Is crowd-sourcing the new online
WHSmith | Leave comment
An article in today's @EmeraldStreet got me thinking (and not about
datacentre transformation, workforce management or tennis for the first time this week!).
The article was all about our lack of attention
span - how, years ago, we'd listen to a song from start to
finish, but now we're checking email/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram within minutes of it starting.
I know I'm just as bad when it comes to watching TV…I find
myself scanning my phone for updates instead of really focusing on
what's happening on screen. Now admittedly, the gripping plot
lines of Made
In Chelsea and Revenge, or Paul O'Grady telling me about those poor little
pups on For the Love of Dogs, don't require my 100% attention
to keep up.
However, my latest TV addiction has changed all that - for those
who haven't tuned in, #TheReturned is the cult new show to hit
Channel 4 on Sunday evenings, it's all very dark, moody and cool
and based on the lives of key characters in a village where the
victims of a deadly coach crash are coming back to life (not in a
weird Thriller-esque way I hasten to add).
But here's the big difference - it's in French. With English subtitles. My French
is okay - I can order dinner, ask for directions and tell you that
my friend Anne-Sophie lives in a small town near to La
Rochelle - but I definitely can't watch this show without
reading the subtitles. Which means I have to concentrate
- for a whole 60mins - on the screen…no checking Facebook,
messaging friends or tweeting my thoughts on the plot.
I have to actually watch it…all of it…to have the slightest clue
what's going on. And it's really refreshing…I actually feel
engrossed in the storyline and the characters, rather than just a
vague understanding of what's going.
According to the @EmeraldStreet article, Becki Houlston, a human behaviour expert, says
"People have become a slave to distraction and fill every space
with it, then feel alien when it goes quiet." Houlston says the
modern human mind has become like a computer screen, with hundreds
of screens minimised, just waiting to pop back up. "You are
creating a hypersensitivity to stress because you're not in charge
- your computer and social media is. They tell you to act, rather
than you making a decision, and when your mind is over-working, it
will impair your decision-making."
Now that is some scary sh*t. I don't want a head of teeny
little screens minimising and maximising…I need to take control and
PUT THE PHONE DOWN.
But it got me thinking about how easily distracted we are, and
how impactful previously successful viral
campaigns/adverts/articles are these days? What can we do to get
our target audience to really, truly, focus on the message we're
trying to communicate?
I'm not suggesting we deliver all our campaigns in a foreign
language, but it really reemphasises the importance of cutting
through all of the noise and distractions by being creative,
capturing people's imaginations and making them stop for a moment.
I'd love to hear about brands that you think are doing this really
channel4 | Leave comment
27 June 2013
Getting the blend just right: a taster tour of
innocent's Fruit Towers
As reward for being a recent Rogue Monkey, I had the pleasure of
taking a tour around
one of the UK's coolest offices, innocent's refreshingly
vibrant Fruit Towers.
Now when I told my mum I was heading to innocent's HQ, her eyes
lit up as if I had just unwrapped a golden ticket. Such is the buzz
around innocent -
even in the world outside of our Octopus Group bubble - a trip to
smoothie central is equated to being the closest thing to the
(fudgemallow)delight of behind-closed-doors access to Willy Wonka's
And I can confirm there is good reason for the comparison.
You sense the passion and commitment to the innocent product
straightaway. Before you've even wiped your feet and been greeted
by a Cheshire Cat like smile from behind the reception desk,
there's a tummy-fluttering, heart-skipping aura that oozes from the
walls. Stopping by the fridge brimming with smoothies (a safe
Strawberries and Bananas before you ask) you enter into the
motherland of all cantinas, and bang the taste-sensation has
started. The Astroturf clad floors are decked out with picnic
benches aplenty, clumps of bean bags, table tennis, foosball, with
something different on every wall (baby photos of all staff are up
on the wall somewhere), and an extensive gadget-laden open plan
kitchen (the 'guess the cereal' box caught my eye) sets the flavour
for every floor.
The envied palette doesn't just stop at the décor. When it comes
to organisation of personnel and desk layout you don't sit within
your teams, you sit amongst all the different departments. This
changes it up and allows the workforce to learn from all aspects of
the business. The transparency that innocent swears by means staff
are openly encouraged to learn from one and other, negating the all
to often plateau that many people reach once they've learnt all
they can for their specific role and helps create an integrated and
adaptable workforce who are constantly striving to learn, grow and
Everyone is of course 'drinking from the same bottle' (apologies
I had to!), so an issue can be worked on by all and not left to one
area of the business, helping to give a different approach or
perspective to an issue. And when there is need for the marketing
team to blitz a task together, the team congeals in the various
breakout zones that although open to the office still seem to be
the ideal place to conjure the next lip-smackingly good campaign.
This method seems to break the monotony of 'same place, same time'
and stops people finding a comfort zone in the boundaries of their
desk. If anything this disruptive work pattern keeps you switched
on and focused on the job in hand.
Noticeable highlights from the rest of the head-spinning,
'aaaah-oooowh', helter-skelter journey over the five
floors of fun, were a Lego wall (we all know where @wonky_donky
would be found when stirring his creative juices), a shed plonked
between pods of desk as an office space, the annual Golden Bottle
awards display (an internal Oscars-like ceremony for those
nominated by their fellow colleagues), and a stand-alone old
fashioned red telephone box (supposedly the only place to have a
private telephone call). It was also fascinating to see the latest
intern in the taste kitchen take on her new role as Chief Taster
for the year (yes… day 2 of the new job… and yes made Chief Taster…
So, what did this hour in the Fruit Towers' blender of a
building teach me?
That, yes, it's all a bit quirky, but it's the freedom within
the set framework (innocent after all is just a drinks company!)
and the playful details that keeps the staff happy and creates this
warm family of a workforce. Everyone seems energised and engaged,
and it's not just the free flowing smoothies that are at work, it's
the inbuilt ethos rooted in the company's history (which is of
course cleverly timelined up and down the five floors of banisters)
that makes working for innocent a pleasure and not a chore. They
might as well have 'WORK - SWEET - WORK' on their entrance mat…
well they might have, but I was far too immersed in everything else
my eyes could set upon.
Innocent | Leave comment
25 June 2013
Pimm's has recently announced the 'Blackberry & Elderflower' variety, its
latest addition to a previously extensive product line, (that 'No.
1 Cup' bit on the label? It indicated the first of seven flavours,
all bar one (produced in tiny quantities) now phased out).
Having dominated the market for summer drinks with the instantly
recognisable "Anyone for Pimm's?" tagline; the hugely
successful Pimms Bus touring round festivals dishing out
cocktails to those with a fruity palate; and the partnership with
Alexander Armstrong, who epitomised the English
country gent, it's tempting to ask why Pimms felt the
need to add another flavour to a distinct, unique brand.
Brand extensions are nothing new, yet the more they persist, the
more diluted the market becomes, and the less the market share
available. A glance at the cereal market demonstrates this all too
clearly - long gone are the days when the battle for the breakfast
table was between Corn Flakes and Rice
Krispies; now there are dozens of brands, innumerable
sub-brands, and hundreds of flavours to choose from, each of them
in turn taking another 0.05% market share away from stable
Pimms is such an iconic brand (and flavour) I can't help wonder
what good a brand extension will do - ask for Pimms in a
bar and you know what to expect anywhere, anytime. Will people now
have to ask for 'Pimms No. 1' or 'Pimms Original'…? Will they just
go with 'Pimms… the red one' or 'Pimms, not the new one'? Were
people really not buying Pimms because they wanted
alternative flavours? My guess is not.
Now I'm not in charge of Diageo, obviously, but diluting an
iconic brand just seems to me an odd decision - where do you
, pimm's blackberry elderflower new flavour brand dilution advertising festivals english epitome | Leave comment
19 June 2013
many things I bleat on about on Twitter (@LewisHamilton,
#TheReturned, #percypigs, hangovers), are my love of magazines and
the latest beauty products. I'm like the perfect consumer - a
sucker for anything in nice packaging that promises to make me look
younger/fresher-faced/less knackered! And if a journalist or
magazine endorses it, then you can pretty much bet your life I'll
buy it. And so I found myself rushing online and ordering a
bottle of Red Fox Bottle O'Butter Cocoa Butter Moisturizing Lotion
- according to her column in the @TheSTStyle, @IndiaKnight
is adamant that this product will transform my skin…and all for
seems I'm not the only one who thought "get me some of that!" -
India's article has sent thousands of us online and into high
street chemists to order a bottle (or ten) of this magical beauty
cream! It's like Johnson's Holiday Skin all over again
(remember those pasty people queuing outside Boots for the next
delivery?!). Demand for Bottle O'Butter has been so great that the
suppliers can't keep up, causing delays in getting the product out
to new customers…something that could have disengaged new customers
before they'd even had a chance to try the product for themselves.
The good news is that the manufacturer and suppliers seem to
have their acts together, using email and social media to
communicate regularly with customers like me who are eagerly
awaiting their delivery. It's great to see brands (even small
ones) thinking about the consumer - making sure we're kept up to
date on the status of our orders, product availability, etc.
It's a shame not all retailers share this same ethos…I
recently ordered some books from a small supplier via Amazon, paid
for an express delivery, only to be notified by email the following
day that the books weren't available and would take two weeks to
arrive. No apology. No mention of refunding my express
delivery fee. Not cool and not on.
interested in hearing your views on brands who get the whole
customer service thing right, and who use social channels to engage
really well with customers (@asos and @topshop both
do this brilliantly in my view). Let us know your
Customer service | Leave comment
06 June 2013
Last week, Burger King announced it had created a very limited
50 'hands-free' Whopper holders as part of its own
50th birthday celebrations - a stunt which was received
with mixed emotions; some thought it quirky and fun, others pointed
out that sloth is an excellent companion to gluttony as far as the
Seven Deadly Sins is concerned.
However this week
Burger King backtracked, laughing, and pointing the finger
saying "haha - fooled you - it was all a hoax!", debunking their
own video of people using the hands-free Whopper holder in action.
Which begs the question… what's the point? Is a hoax-spoof really a
There's nothing wrong with quirky, fun, spoof content - but to
create it, let it go relatively viral, then debunk it seems, well,
gratuitous. And - ironically - greedy. More to the point, for those
people who liked the idea of a hands-free Whopper holder, (sloth /
gluttony combo aside), and were bought into the idea, do they
really want to be poked fun at now and told they'd fallen for a
Making fun of yourself and your brand can be good, and a way to
appear more approachable, but to turn the tables and make fun of
your customers seems a step too far.
| Leave comment
29 May 2013
I think an individual's Google search history is quite personal;
one of my housemates won't allow me to use her iPad for fear of me
judging her for the ridiculously far-fetched things she has tried
This leads me to believe that the Google 'search by voice' feature isn't entirely
practical. You probably don't want the world to know that you're
searching for help with how to do your job properly or symptoms of
But that's not to say my first experience of the feature wasn't
Despite it taking marginally longer than it would for me to
simply type my search terms - and annoying my colleagues by inanely
speaking into my laptop - I thought it worked well.
It's likely that it will lose its appeal very quickly. Either
that or I'll be reprimanded to a meeting room on my own to Google
at my heart's content! But it will be interesting to note how
effective and widely used it will be in the long run.
My first three Google voice searches (and the
, Google | 1 comment
28 May 2013
Whether it's looking for a journalist's email address, a
publication's contact details or keeping up-to-date with industry
is usually the first stop for PRs. Last week, the Gorkana Group
launched a new dashboard format for its PR database and, at a
glance, it really looks like a step in the right direction.
The update combines sector-specific PR news, social media
updates, RSS feeds and all my contact folders in one homepage
At a time when integration is becoming increasingly important
across traditional, digital and social, Gorkana's 'one-stop-shop'
approach fits nicely.
For a tool that is often taken from granted, it's worth taking a
step back and appreciating the new layout as it's one that could
make our lives a lot easier.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if other PR tools
like Features Exec and Precise get similar updates in the coming
| 1 comment
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