Monday, July 31, 2006

The Rise and Rise of Branded Festivals

Being a relative newbie to the festival circuit, having been to about 6 in my entire life, I'm hardly an expert to comment on the change in festivals over the last few years. Everyone talks abouts the commercialisation of festivals, with frequent articles about whether Glastonbury (the original and the best) has sold out. However, the more interesting question is whether the commercial festivals (aren't they all commercial? Artists need to make money after all!) are any good.

My first true camping experience was at V, and whilst it was a far better camping experience than Glastonbury (running water, nice toilets, hot showers) the total package experience was nowhere nearly as good. Of course the music is important, but so is everything else from, the beer to the food, and most of the commercial festivals forget about that. You tend to feel you are in a closed "buy what we tell you to buy" environment. Now whilst the V-Festival and O2 Wireless Festiva's might have started it, there are some new pretenders on the block from Fruitstock to Ben and Jerry's 'Sundae' and the interesting thing is they're all about the total experience.

Maybe it's because they're food brands, or maybe it's becuase they have very rounded emotional territories, but they really understand the experience. The Ben and Jerry's Sundae festival yesterday in Clapham was excellent. It was a family treat, with good bands, but importantly lots of other good things like free ice-cream, a little farm, face painting, toe wrestling, pimms, etc. etc. And although it was heavily branded and we all knew why, it still wasn't HEAVY SELLING, but NICE SELLING, and I suspect a lot of people will have left thinking Ben and Jerrys' are a pretty good bunch.

So I say bring on commercial festivals like this, because they've not forgotten the most important people there are the people and if they keep doing that then people will remember you and like you for it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The mother of all shocks

Posted on the this would surely rank as one of the most successful ways of getting back at someone. That is, if it's true. But an eagle eyed colleague was quick to point out the heavy branding of the media owner, which leads one to question the veracity. The question has this little prank, spawned something?

This appeared yesterday on brick lane:

Much more low-fi, but somehow more believable. It's like anti- classified advertising!
My first attempt at developing a viral seeding strategy

I know the viral piece has been done to death, but I thought I'd share my views, and some of the stuff I've learnt from a planning perspective.

The interesting thing is just how poorly understood the process of seeding really is, that might be because there isn’t really much of a strategy needed! Nevertheless it’s pretty obvious most people are entirely clueless as to how to go about doing it.

So when I started to plan a ‘seeding strategy’ whatever that is, I thought the first thing is to understand how a virus propagates itself. A human virus invades the body and spreads by invading cells and recombining with human DNA and causes cells to replicate.

So how is this similar to a viral piece of marketing? Well only in the sense that somebody will choose to accept and then send it (infect?) on to multiple people. Really they don’t have a lot else in common. I mean lets face no-one actually wants to get a virus, people do tend to like to see virals. Virus’s change and evolve, most virals are unique stand alones. So basically the reason why people use the word is probably because it sounds cool, rather than it being that helpful a comparison.

Faris and Iain are vociferous in their arguments over what makes a good or bad viral, but what both come down to at the end of the day is whether it will affect behaviour: A viral isn’t a thing, it’s a behaviour – end of story. Think of it as natural selection, in the real world an unsuccessful virus will be beaten by the immune system and cease to be, it’s only the successful ones that cause the problems. With virals it’s the same, bad ones won’t make it.

But I do believe there is an in-between: moderate and outstanding. I was chatting with Nick Suckley of Agenda21, and he reckons 1 in every 10 virals will be a moderate success and probably 1 in 20 outstanding, there’s no real way you can tell whether you’ve created the latter, only time will tell, but there are things you can do to help achieve moderate success. This is where seeding, or getting as many people as possible to see it can help.

My un-sophisticate chart above, pretty much illustrates the idea. Most population growth patterns including viruses follow the above life cycle.

With viruses you get a slow build up, as one after the next cell is infected, before rapid exponential multi-cellular invasion, and then at some point the immune system kicks in and the virus is gradually defeated. Interestingly I think we can help to re-create this to help get a moderate viral success at least (providing it has some intrinsic worth).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bringing the crowd to you

Last week whilst walking down Tottenham Court Road, I saw or rather a heard a clever marketing ploy. A woman with a small ice cream stand, was ringing a bell to attract attention to her stand.

Two things struck me, firstly what a clever ploy to get people to spot her amongst the crowded retailers. Using noise to draw attention is hardly new; go to most fruit and veg markets and you'll be confronted by the wails of stall holders trying to draw you in to buy their goods. But in an environment where there is no 'marketing' noise it really stood out. Whether she knew it or not, she was employing a clever communication channel.

The second thing that made me smile, was the use of old technology, in a world where everyone seems to embracing new technology (which I'm all for), here she was ringing a bell, like the town criers of yesteryear. Now whether the bell was the best sonic device (although I'm not convinced some clever ice-cream jingle would have done any better), is neither here nor there, what was refreshing was this sense of old-worldlinness.

This has led me to think about other media, perhaps we should be applying some of these mechanisms to stand out in different media. There might well be a town crier principle for online, or ringing posters. Having said that, if everyone is moaning about the proliferation of advertising media, I'm not sure they'll thank us if they started making noises too!

Anyway I digress, the question is from a retail perspective did it work? Yes, I bought an ice cream, and no it wasn't very nice.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Urban Spam: another bad example, but could it have been a good one?

Whilst spending the morning perusing the wonderful thoughts and opinions of the people on the world wide web, I came across this at Three Minds. I couldn't agree more with Misha's sentiment that advertisers and brands are in danger of annoying the very people they're targeting by being overly intrusive, branding every single available space out there.

This left me thinking about what would be a good thing to lazer etch onto an egg. What if they gave something back, actually made us smile or feel more fondly about them? What an opportunity to move a product from commoditity to brand. Egg manufacturers could do all kinds of fun and interesting things, rather than advertising, what about recipes, or poetry or jokes?

Remember when ice cream sticks used to have jokes etched into the wood? That was brilliant and clever, I used to saviour it, I'd like to think it wasn't cynical marketing, it had shades of the Innocent way of doing things. If anyone is out there who works in eggs, why not try doing something different, we'll thankyou for it.
Hello world. Here's a tiny, wheeny little cog, who's adding his thoughts to the world.