Thursday, September 28, 2006

What it means to be English

More often that not, an outsiders perspective gives you a much better idea of your own culture than you will ever have, because they see the differences... at least that's how the theory goes.

By and large I go along with that, as discomforting as it can sometimes be.
Chief Giorgio Locatelli, revealed something about us in the Observer Food Monthly, which I'd never really considered particularly associating with us.

I quote:
"They are very passionate, the English. They are very passionate about different things. They are passionate about fair play"

I really wasn't expecting that, I mean fair play is not the first thing that would come to mind in describing the English, but when you think about it...

Maybe that really is a unifying factor, a sense of justice and fair play is something that we hold true. Lets face it, we don't like cheats be it sportsmen or businessmen, if you're successful fine, but play by the rules.

Having said that, in comparison to Italy where corruption seems to part and parcel of life, 'fair play' might well seem enhanced. And I'm not convinced historically we've always adhered to these principles, but I do wonder if the US held 'fair playness' more centrally as an ethos, perhaps the world and their own country wouldn't be in quite such a mess.

Must remember this, could be a useful brand positioning: x the fair play brand.

Statistics can be fun

A few weeks ago I posted some scary cigarette smoking stats, so here instead are some fun non-scary booze related stuff, specifically for Guinness and will not, I guarantee, send you scurrying into a corner to hide with a pillow.

There is a pub, in the soho vicinity, that specialises in Guinness, if you drink the stuff then you've probably been there, it's The Toucan on Soho Square. It has to be one of the tiniest pubs in London let alone Soho, but has more taps of Guinness than in any pub I've ever been to, which might help to explain how the following was possible.

On St.Patrick's day 2005 they got through 43 kegs of Guinness.

There is approximately 85 pints in a keg.

Which means that The Toucan served a staggering 3,655 pints in a 24hr period.

In fact, more accurately, their hours of opening are from 11am to 11pm, so they served 3,655 pints over 12 hours.

Or 304 1/2 pints per hour, or unbelievably 5 pints per minute (remembering that it takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint).

Which is nice.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Roadside advertising and more

My driving trip round the US was amazing, and the thing you reaslise, is just how fundamental the car is to American society. Consequently most most towns are organised round the car i.e. the road (as opposed to pedestrians, squares, etc.) and this results in a multitude of roadside advertising.

The following are some of the funnier roadside "ads" or rather signs that we came across during our trip. Notice how many times "God" is used to sell a product.

The first is possibly the scariest, and the last is unbelievable!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Design of the week: my new ipod

And to kick off my return, I'm going to share with you a present I got for myself when I was in the US: a brand new ipod.

I don't care what people say about Apple or ipod's, I think it is a thing of beauty. Simple as that. why on earth would you want anything else?

It's the first time I've spoiled myself in ages, something I rarely do. It often feels like it's wrong to do, at least from my perspective, but it felt really nice. A treat.

Friday, September 08, 2006

See y'all later

I've been a bit blog lite this week preparing for our road trip across America.

In less than 24 hours, we head for mid-west USA. I'd like to thank everyone who helped to build what will be our soundtrack for America. When I get back I'll post the full list for future travellers.

And hopefully I'll have some great experiences to share...

Do come back ya here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Creativity and the future

I have no idea how Jon does this, I didn't when I worked for him, but he's found an amazing talk on the internet. A very insightful and enjoyable speech about creativity and education systems. I've often thought that our schooling system in the UK is damaging to creativity, as Sir Ken Robinson, puts it beningly pushing you away from it: you won't get a job doing art, dance or music...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 a stretch too far?

I used to think was great; I really understood what they were about. But I'm not so sure now.

The book selling was the really compelling proposition, I really got it: if the book's in print somewhere in the world you can get it from us. And with the marketplace, if the book isn't in print you might still be able to get it. That was revolutionary. And because we're online, we can lower costs, and hand them over to you. Brilliant.

Understandibly wanted to grow, so they added music to their inventory, which still kind of worked with their overall model. Then they added DVD's, games, electronics, toys, houseware...

The problem with all these additions, is they've started to move from a clear proposition of what they're about, to a generic retailer. Where once they were revolutionary, they're now simply copying other companies.

And now surprise, surprise they've introduced the credit card. It's not revolutionary it's just another store card.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Innocent of cereals?

I like muesli, I have for a while. But for so long it's either been hopelessly worthy or dull.

But now there's a new kid on the block: Dorset Cereals. They seem to have come from nowhere; first they were in our local corner shop, and now they're in Sainsbury's and Tesco's. And the good news for them, is they keep selling out.

The first thing is, like Innocent, the product is very good, it tastes great, there's a good range and from my experience it's better than most muesli's out there. Secondly, this definately feels like the first 'adult' cereal, or at least the first 'adult' cereal that somebody has taken the effort with.

But there may be a problem, I can't work out if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but Dorset Cereals does feel an awful lot like Innocent. If they were to do cereals, I don't think it would be a million miles away from here.
- a fun look to the packaging, yet at the same time quite understated
- down to earth communication style (feels very much like a conversation)
- yet allied with a slightly irreverent tone

This a definately a brand to keep an eye on, I suspect it could get a whole lot bigger.

Doing the right thing

I saw an amazing film over the weekend, I missed it whilst it was out in the cinema: Goodnight and Good luck. It is a fascinating insight into the McCarthy witch-hunt era and his fall largely a result of intrepid newsmen. Specifically Edward Murrow.

He delivered several powerful speeches, but one in particular made me think about some of the discussions given towards moralism in marketing. It was delivered to the Radio and Television News Directors Association in the late 1950s (for the full transcript go here).

"This instrument (television) can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."
This is surely as relevent to brand communications today. Wouldn't it be great if our collective aim was to illuminate and inspire. Imagine the visual landscape, and the potential for new brands...

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Morals of Marketing

There has been some really interesting discussion on various blogs about the ethics of marketing, good and bad practice. Should consultants/planners/marketeers stand up and be a lone voice when clients want to or continue to tread a dangerous line with their brand.

It's been fuelled by comments picked up by Brand Tarot in regards to Coke's poor working practices worldwide, and specifically Rita Clifton's stance where she suggests that this isn't necessarily that big a problem for the brand given that "People are radical in research questionnaires and reactionary at the checkout … People like to carry on doing what they like doing".

Others have commented on this morally dubious statement, none better than Jon Howard's post here, as he argues "wrong is wrong" and rightly so.

The irony is that anyone who works with Coke knows their business is in HUGE trouble. So I suspect to some degree people will carrying on doing what they like doing, and if that means feeling better not buying coke then they will. (I still for the life of me cannot work out how Coke is still considered the world's number 1 brand).

So to add fuel to the fire, here's an article from the Washington Post demonstrating just how amoral marketing can be. OK no surprises it's the USgovernmentt/Military, and it's hardly news that they are attempting to manipulate the media to present a better picture of Iraq.

But when you consider there's a $20 million contract, and that PR firm's will be pitching for it, you have to question the morals of any firm even willing to take part..don't you?