12 October | Thoughts
Ask the audience
Today, a growing number of businesses are incorporating user-generated content into their advertising and marketing campaigns.
It offers a refreshing way to connect with your audience, creating new, meaningful content with a sense of authenticity. It’s also a neat way to integrate social interaction into a campaign. What’s more, it can be done for a fraction of the cost involved in more traditional processes.
McDonalds attracted over 20,000 submissions for its user-generated “We All Make the Games” London 2012 ad campaign, which showed the variety of ways in which British people celebrated the Games. A slightly different example is the Coca Cola security camera ad made up entirely of CCTV footage, which ‘catches’ people committing acts of kindness.
It all sounds great – so what are the pitfalls?
Authenticity is one of them. Some advertisers will inevitably be tempted to fake user-generated content to fit their needs. Others might simply stretch the definition if the content doesn’t quite fit. Of course, all this dubious content means that audiences are much more likely to be sceptical.
Incidentally, this is exactly what happened with the Coca Cola ad. One article in the Huffington Post questions just how Coca Cola was able to capture so many seemingly spontaneous scenes without some kind of forward planning. Coca Cola later admitted to ‘recreating’ some of its scenes to get around rights issues – which somewhat lessens its warm and fuzzy appeal.
The conclusion? User-generated content has its place, but it shouldn’t be overdone – and most importantly of all, it should be real. Nothing offends viewers like realising they’ve been fooled.
20 September | Thoughts
The blipping boom
Augmented Reality (AR) apps have been mooted by marketers and advertisers for a long time. Using a combination of real-world inputs and overlaid virtual elements, AR enables the everyday to be transformed into a set of entertaining, interactive experiences.
The problem has long been that AR apps have required in-depth, expensive development. Now though, Blippar is on the scene. It makes AR advertising available via an off-the-shelf solution – making it affordable and increasing the chances of user uptake. So is it the next big thing?
Blippar’s offer is certainly an attractive one. It enables advertisers to add value and interactivity to any physical marketing asset – be it a billboard, print ad, storefront, exhibition stand or anything else. If the user has the free app installed, they can point their phone at the asset to launch an interactive experience, known as a ‘blipp’. The possibilities are wide-ranging, and you can see some existing blipps here.
This can turn stale media into something fresh and intriguing – without busting the budget. The challenge for Blippar though is whether it can achieve enough consumer uptake to become relevant to advertisers.
To engage with a blipp, the user has to install the Blippar app. It’s free, but there’s still a significant challenge in persuading people not only to download it, but to use it and revisit it.
It has been around for over a year, and has racked up over a million downloads – but that’s still a minute proportion of the population. The challenge is therefore persuading advertisers that blipps will enable them to reach enough of their target audience to warrant the modest investment that it requires.
Or perhaps we should look at it in a different way. Maybe the brands that adopt Blippar share the responsibility of increasing uptake of the app among their customers. If they use blipps to offer real added value to the consumer, there’s every chance that they can play a role in persuading people to engage.
Perhaps in a few years’ time we’ll all have our Google Project Glass specs on anyway, and augmented reality apps will be redundant. But in the meantime, Blippar is a serious contender – as long as brands are willing to help push it out to their consumers.
3 August | Thoughts
Cheap and cheerful
In a time of deepening recession, supermarkets are recreating their value brands in an attempt to make them more palatable to consumers on a budget. Even with less money to spend there is still a certain stigma attached to seeming ‘cheap’ – and nothing screams cheap more than Tesco Value stripes.
Tesco was the first supermarket to launch a value range back in 1993, but since then customer needs have changed. Though many of us seek out bargain products, we still want to feel like what we’re buying is decent quality.
Now Tesco has dropped the rigid stripes altogether, opting instead for a warmer 1950s style design. It has also changed the name of its range from Tesco Value to Everyday Value, helping to shift some of those negative connotations and create a more desirable budget product that people won’t feel ashamed about buying.
Supermarkets appear to be employing a ‘cheap and cheerful’ strategy, where before the emphasis lay solely on being cheap. Morrisons has done something similar with the rebranding of its M Savers range. The new designs are a far cry from the previous white on yellow branding used on every product. Like Tesco, the use of bright, simple silhouette illustration has resulted in a much friendlier-looking product that catches the eye – and looks better in your kitchen cupboards.
Since the new Morrisons designs were launched, sales have increased by 48 percent. This is the power of branding. The look of a product has a huge influence on the way we feel about it – even when the product itself is the same.
2 July | Thoughts
Personality versus consistency
Dennis Hwang is one of the most famous artists in the world. Though his work is not exhibited in galleries, it is regularly viewed by millions of people worldwide.
Dennis is the man behind Google Doodles – the playful, modified logos displayed on Google’s homepage to commemorate holidays, special events and the birthdays of famous or historical figures.
Through its Doodles, Google breaches one of the golden principles of brand identity – logo integrity. For most brands, there are strict usage guidelines on how and where to use their logo, and on the importance of keeping it consistent. And yet in this case, abandoning that rule works.
For Google, these creative reworkings are an extension of the company’s personality, keeping the brand connected to people, places, issues and events within the public consciousness.
The Doodles range from still designs to interactive games, videos and animations. Here are some of our favourites:
- Lantern Festival 2012 – an artistic image commemorating the Lantern Festival in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong with Google’s name spread across glowing orange lanterns.
- Heinrich Rudolf Hertz’s 155th Birthday – an animated electromagnetic wave in honour of the German physicist who proved their existence. Who knew they were Google-coloured?
- Robert Moog’s 78th Birthday – a digital version of the electronic Moog Synthesizer. Not only can you play it; you can also record and share your brilliant musical creation with the rest of the world.
- 30th Anniversary of PAC-MAN – a working version of PAC-MAN with the word Google embedded in the game. Before searching you get the option to ‘Insert Coin’ and play. An excellent way to forget what you were searching for.
- 122nd Birthday of Charlie Chaplin – on this occasion Google went so far as to create its own black and white silent movie. If you look closely, you can just make out the giant Google in the background.
26 June | Thoughts
Euro 2012: history repeats itself?
If like us you have been following the progress of Euro 2012, you may have noticed the competition’s two mascots Slavek and Slavko.
The maniacally smiling twins were created by Warner Brothers and wear Polish and Ukrainian kits respectively. They are said to represent the two host nations in that they are ‘young and energetic’.
That’s all very well, but has anyone noticed the striking resemblance to the mascots from the last competition in Switzerland and Austria? Their names were Trix and Flix, and they too were created by Warner Brothers.
While it’s understandably tough to represent two very distinct nations in one unified package, simply recycling old ideas is surely a missed opportunity to create a lasting impression in people’s memories.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time there’s been such flagrant disregard for originality at the competition.
Germany 1988/Sweden 1992
In 1988 Germany released Bernie the German grey rabbit into the football wild. Four years later, Sweden decided that they too would use a rabbit as their mascot, but rather than brainstorming a new name, they thought it better to simply call it Rabbit.
England 1996/Netherlands-Belgium 2000
In 1996 England decided to recycle their 1966 World Cup mascot World Cup Willie. In the following competition the Benelux countries stuck a crazy wig and some devil’s horns on him and hoped that no one would notice.
Hasn’t happened yet, but we’d place a bet that we’ll see the return of World Cup 1998’s cockerel mascot Footix – an updated version of Euro 1984’s Peno.
11 June | Thoughts
God save the Queen (and also baked beans)
Her Majesty the Queen marked 60 years on the throne last week. What better way to celebrate than with plenty of bunting, cake and Pimm’s. Oh, and some limited edition Ma’amite. On a slice of Queensmill.
Britain was expected to spend an additional GBP 334 million on celebratory food and drinks over the Jubilee period alone, so it’s no wonder that companies went all out to embrace the event. In the run-up to the celebrations our supermarket shelves were steadily filled with newly patriotic versions of all the usual products.
Limited edition variations are often created within a short timeframe and on a low budget. This year some were more creative than others. But if you look closely, you will notice a pattern. Designs largely fell into one of three categories: retro, wordplay or Union Jack.
Going retro was something of a trend for long-established brands such as Kellogg’s, Heinz and Fairy, all of whom reverted to their traditional designs. At the same time, French fancies suddenly became Great British fancies, Famous Grouse became Famous Jubilee, and KitKats became BritKats (groan). And tumblr blog Put a Jack on the Pack illustrates just how many took the easy route, with everything from crumpets to dishwasher tablets desperately flaunting the British flag in an attempt to appear celebratory.
With the Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic Games falling in the same year, there is every reason to feel proud to be British. Even if you are a loaf of bread.
31 May | Thoughts
Try, try and try again: the hard road to success
Facebook’s initial public offering, and its surrounding media frenzy, highlighted how much the social media network has transformed the online industry. But its development has not been an easy one. Since Mark Zuckerberg created the groundbreaking website he has been plagued with lawsuits, legal and privacy concerns, which got us thinking that the road to success is rarely an easy one.
Think of the world’s greatest creative and innovative businessmen of all time and you will most likely think of Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Steven Spielberg. Today their names are synonymous with success, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, some of them almost fell at the first hurdle.
Walt Disney: Today, Disney is a multi-billion dollar brand, producing everything from films to theme parks, but in the 1920s not everyone saw the potential in the young animator. He was fired by a newspaper editor on the grounds that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. Following several unsuccessful start-ups and eventual bankruptcy, Walt suddenly came up with an idea for an animated mouse character, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bill Gates: He may be one of the richest men on the planet, but the Microsoft founder wasn’t always a success. Not only did he drop out of Harvard, one of the world’s most prestigious schools, but his first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, named Traf-O-Data, failed miserably.
Henry Ford: Transforming an industry is no easy task, but that is exactly what Henry Ford did with the US automobile industry. While not necessarily a creative type, Ford is seen as the personification of American innovation and ingenuity due to his assembly line business model. But before he became America’s greatest industrialist, Ford saw several businesses fail and was declared bankrupt five times.
Steven Spielberg: Arguably the most successful film director who has ever lived, Spielberg has been responsible for such mega-hits as Jurassic Park, E.T. and the Indiana Jones films. However, before he hit the big time he was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television three times. In addition to this, Jaws, the film that launched him onto the A-list, began as a disaster. The production went way over schedule and the budget doubled.
In comparison, Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to glory looks relatively straightforward.
3 April | Thoughts
Can you design better than a ten year old?
2012 is set to be a year of celebration and achievement in the UK as London hosts the Olympic Games and the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. As you would expect, these landmark events have their own logos to communicate their unique identities to the world.
We discussed the controversial 2012 Olympics logo in one of our previous blog posts, but what’s more unusual is the logo that has been selected for the Jubilee – and how it was created.
In a bold move, the logo was chosen following a national competition organised by Blue Peter for children aged between 6 and 14. The winner was ten year old Katherine Dewar from Chester, whose design features a crown-topped Union Jack surrounded by diamonds.
At first glance, it is not the sort of logo you would expect for such a prestigious occasion, but perhaps that is the point.
Branding expert and competition judge Martin Lambie-Nairn said that giving a child the chance to design the emblem was “a brave ambition”, and that the result is “beautiful, fresh and practical.”
The internet is awash with company logos that have drawn criticism or mockery due to their design. But when a logo is hand-drawn by a ten year old out of a sense of national pride (or a desire to meet The Queen and get a Blue Peter badge) it shows that they don’t always have to be the compromised result of a committee decision.
16 March | Thoughts
Engaging customers + social media = free publicity
There is an old saying which states that if you have a good customer experience, you will tell three people – but if you have a bad one, you will tell ten. In this age of social media, companies are realising the value of online customer feedback and its potential to win customers – or to lose them.
This may or may not have been at the forefront of Chris King’s mind when, while working on the Sainsbury’s customer services team, he received a letter from three year old Lily Robinson. In her letter, Lily asked why tiger bread was called tiger bread, pointing out that its pattern bore a closer resemblance to a giraffe, and suggested that it be renamed giraffe bread.
Chris’ witty and endearing response (which included a £3 gift card) so impressed Lily’s mother that she posted the letter on her blog. It quickly went viral and on the back of that publicity, Sainsbury’s announced that they would implement Lily’s suggestion and rename the bread.
This simple act has given the supermarket a free advertising boost, and won it favour from many in the blogosphere. It is a prime example of just how far an act of “above the call of duty” customer service can spread.
Here are some examples of other unexpected successes generated by customer engagement and social media:
1. Bring back Wispa
In 2003, Cadbury’s discontinued the Wispa bar due to a decade of falling sales. However after a Facebook group dedicated to its return drew impressive numbers (and media coverage), Cadbury decided to bring the bar back.
Cadbury’s also cannily turned the opportunity in to a creative and media strategy. In order to overcome budget restrictions, they started the “For the love of Wispa” campaign which quickly went viral and saw Wispa become the UK’s best-selling chocolate bar with sales of GBP 92.5 million.
2. Coca-Cola causes ‘Happiness’
According to Coca-Cola, the only other thing that spreads faster than a viral ad is happiness. That seemed to be the thinking behind their campaign that saw a very special vending machine placed on a college campus. The resulting video was watched by over a million people on its first day through showing that everyone likes to be cheered up – and that students love free stuff.
3. Snakes on Social Media
In 2006, Snakes on a Plane was released and despite it being quite a poor film, it arrived to extreme online hype. Why? Because of the phenomenon that was the Snakes on a Plane meme. When it was first announced, the online community leapt upon the ridiculous title and nature of the film and made it part of the cultural consciousness.
New Line Studio, of course, embraced the madness and cancelled plans to rename it to the more sensible Pacific Air Flight 121. They even ordered reshoots to bring it in line with growing fan expectations that included more snakes, more nudity and more Samuel L. Jackson f-bombs. No studio has since been able to duplicate that level of free publicity.
24 February | Thoughts
Time to get personal
Our generation has grown up surrounded by consumer culture. We get it. In a brand-saturated world, companies must work harder than ever to stand out – and sometimes that means being willing to push the boundaries of conventional advertising.
The growth of an increasingly liberal culture coupled with the rise of the online arena has bred a new kind of consumer – one who responds to more ‘human’ brands. It’s a trend known as Maturialism: exposing people to more challenging, uncensored ideas.
For business owners, this means thinking beyond conventional offerings. There has never been a better time for being bold with brand image, nor a greater market for unusual, outspoken material with personality and wit.
Here are some examples of modern brands which have embraced the more provocative side of marketing:
- Antonio Federici Italian Gelato combines an image of a pregnant nun eating ice-cream with the tagline ‘Immaculately Conceived’.
- Saint & Sinner, an Australian wine company, label their wines in the style of vintage phone booth calling cards.
- Spanish clothing brand Desigual ran an offer at its stores in Madrid and Barcelona, where customers who arrived semi-naked were rewarded with free clothing.
- Gwilym Davies, 2009 World Barista Champion and owner of the Prufrock coffee house in London, created a new take on the traditional customer loyalty card with a customer disloyalty card, encouraging customers to try coffee at other independent stores.
Brand identity is important, but so is brand humanity. In a world full of faceless corporations, it’s nice to come across something different now and again.