Thursday, 29 March 2007

Even ruddy CRM guff can sound nice

I signed up to E4's newsletter the other day and this standard confirmation came through. These days I sign up to so many things I rarely bother to read emails like this, but it did catch my eye. E4's attention to detail on even the most boring part of CRM is awesome. Have a bloody good read.

'Thanks for requesting the E4 newsletter. To confirm your subscription and start getting the newsletter wedged lovingly into your inbox, please click daintily upon the link below:

Do this now! It's the only way you'll get the newsletter, you know.

If you've changed your mind, or if you didn't subscribe in the first place, or perhaps you just want us to ruddy well go away and stop hassling you, please ignore this e-mail.

The E4 Team'

Ever since Paul Feldwick's Poetry and Planning evening I've tried to pay close attention to how brands use language and I'm yet to see one that doesn't just do it so well, but also so consistently. A round of applause for E4.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Planning and poetry # 2

Oscar Wilde on planning

'Life is not complex. We are complex.
Life is simple and the simple thing is the right thing'

Monday, 19 March 2007

Save our Sauce

I have to admit it, there's nothing better on a Sunday morning than a bacon sandwich with some HP sauce to cure a hangover. Proper British, as they say. Or at least they used to.

HP's new TV ad aired last week and I noticed they had dropped the 'Sauce of Great Britain' line in favour of the 'Sauce of Weekend Pleasure.' The former was much better, why have they dropped it I thought? Well all became clear when reading the papers on Sunday. HP is moving the production of HP sauce from the UK to Holland.

As a result the country is up in arms. This isn't just a dissapointment economically, it is another example of a less than impressive British branding at work. You can sign a petition to save the jobs of British workers here. Tommy sauce it is this weekend!

Monday, 12 March 2007

More on football

I’ve been watching a few matches lately and some clubs are attempting to recreate that lost atmosphere by giving all the kids inflatable noisemakers (nicely branded of course). I admire their efforts, but it’s a bit like putting a small plaster on a gaping wound. I can hear the die hards now saying something along the lines of: "When I was a lad I had to sit on my Grandad’s shoulders just so I could see".

Clubs are going to need to do a hell of a lot more than this to get the atmosphere back. Although I do think some ingenuity from the fans would also help. After all, they will understand what is needed better than the club. I was reminded of this great example from Blyth Spartan. Spartan are a lower league Scottish team in the Highlands who have an avid following that dress up as Mexicans in order to add a bit of fun on match day.

Anyone for a kick about?

We pitched for relatively well-known football club account a couple of weeks ago, but unfortunately we didn’t win it. I’m gutted. Not just because I’m a big football fan, but because I’ve just seen the work that won it. It really could have been for any club in the country and that’s what ticks me off the most about football.

I had just finished reading Herd when the pitch came up (excuse the pun) and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Or so I thought. I got the hint we were going in the wrong direction halfway through the pitch process when the client allegedly said to one of my colleagues: “I don’t care about the 15,000 fans that already go, they’re addicts. It’s the ones that have never gone that I’m interested in.”

This diminishing, 15,000 strong group of people are the most vocal about how the club is run. British football fans are generally quite pessimistic but these fans were just abnormally pessimistic, bordering on depressing. Everything from the price of tickets, to the money available for transfers, the board and the lack of atmosphere in their shiny new ground was a problem. Despite looking like they are going up they were still think the club will cock it up. The club always do apparently.

Each interaction between fans, at work on Monday morning for example, was negative, even if they won. Something was always wrong. Feeding off each other, this group of people actually became negative influencers. I don’t blame kids for not supporting the same team as their Dads if all he does is whine about them – it’s much easier to support Chelsea.

The fans that had been going for over ten years weren’t looking like they were going to renew their season tickets again. This particular club is a way of life for many of them; it’s more than just 90 mins of football. Fair weather fans or what’s known as the ’prawn sandwich brigade’ (where the biggest opportunity is apparently) were ultimately replacing the heart and soul of the club. The more and more the club ignored the core Herd if you like, treating them like addicts, the more the club seemed to suffer.

Football crowds have changed massively over the last decade or two. Not just in terms of numbers, but the sort of people that go. You are as likely to find a mum that hates people shouting as a loud mouth yob. Both are found just as offensive to each other. The whole football environment is undoubtedly safer and more accessible to people of all ages but the result is homogeneity between clubs and fans. There is no longer anything left to identify with.

Fans across the country now go to grounds that all look similar because one construction company made them all. Too many grounds and stands are now named after sponsors rather than local landmarks. Many teams now have the same sponsors as each other. There are few homegrown players left to idolise. Young fans aspire to the lifestyle of a footballer from a big club rather than the scoring the winner in the FA cup final for your hometown club. Matches are now played at different times for TV. As a result, Britain has lost a National ritual where nearly a whole nation descended on grounds and public houses all over the country at the same time.

Many fans cite ticket prices as the reason they don’t go and watch their team anymore. However, it’s the loss of experience and identity that has reduced peoples threshold. It is this feeling you get on match day, the banter between fans, the anticipation and the pride experience that creates the value, not just the ball being kicked around. In an environment that oppresses mass behaviour and the interaction between super social apes, fans will continue to use different excuses for not going. Fans are currently given the opportunity not to support their clubs rather than a reason to support them.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Impressive, most impressive

This post is an amalgamation of a number of things I’ve been thinking about recently. Mainly based on books such as Herd, Convergence Culture, The Perfect Pitch, Brand Innovation Manifesto and The Economics of Attention, as well as other thoughts such as marketing enthusiasm and interestingness. My feeble attempt of simplifying all of this is to describe it as impressiveness. This is a scale if you like. All brands should honestly ask themselves how much do we actually impress people?

Brands impressing people might seem like a simple concept but few do it. Why? Impressing people isn’t as easy as it used to be. If Darth Vader was a planner he might of said brands today can’t just be impressive; they need to be most impressive.

Here is a list of the things brands should think about in order to impress people

1.Ask yourself objectively, how much does your brand impress you? Stop treating people like they’re dumb. If you aren’t impressed by your brand then your customers will feel the same. Don’t be so complacent. Competitors, new entrants and even new business models are waiting in the wings to take your place.

2. Just be yourself. You’re human, your customers are human and the people your customers talk to are human. Get back in touch with what it is to be human or super social apes. What makes people angry? What makes them happy? What do they find interesting? What do they care about? What do they talk about? How do they interact with other people?

3. Don’t always hide behind research. If you can’t find a big problem then make one. Challenge conventions and define new markets. Create a new meaning in your sector, be a leader and have the confidence to be intuitive.

4. Be more than just an image, have substance and style. What does your brand believe in? What is your brand enthusiastic about? Do things that prove it? You don’t need big budgets to be impressive. So watch you back

5. To be consistent, is to be the same, the same as everyone else. Consistency might make people feel safe, but it doesn’t impress. Mix it up from time to time. Be complex, be random and be unexpected. God forbid, be immeasurable. Don’t tie yourself down to one way of doing things. The only thing it does is hold you back and makes you vulnerable. Before you know it a challenger brand will be impressing your customers and all because you wanted to be ‘consistent and on message’.

6.Make things happen, be fluid and be light on your feet. Find your entrepreneurial spirit? Step out from behind the comfort of your processes and your media and research budgets. Find out what is it that you need to do to impress people and go out and do it.

7. There’s a world out there, of media that is. Don’t just sit there worrying about the ‘future of the media landscape’ - change it or make it work for your brand. Do what enhances your brand, not what everyone else is doing. People are impressed when brands do things differently.

8.Use the media available to you to construct and tell a story – make it work harder. Create a more fulfilling experience. Experiment with media and occasionally trust your brand in the hands of others, even your customers. You never know, they might do a better job than your agency. That will save you a few quid and impress your boss.

9.Let go. People will talk about your brand and there is nothing you can do about. Just embrace it and encourage participation. If you have done number four properly then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Should you? People will be impressed by brands with nothing to hide.

Planning and poetry # 1

Network South East - By John Cooper Clarke

It's so insubstantial, it swerves on the curves.
The noise of the upholstery batters the nerves.
If you were a passenger day after day
You'd pay to have somebody blow you away.

As I travel these tracks I cannot forgive
How I lose by degrees the incentive to live
Knowing that vengeance will never be mine
That's what hurts on the misery line.

Hell on Wheels with go-faster stripes.
These passengers here are the tolerant type
I'd like to see them in seven months' time
When the shatter-proof windows are splattered with slime

And they've sacked all the fellas who did the repairs
And shovelled the cheeseburgers off the chairs
From germ-free services smelling of pine
Now it's travel no-class on the misery line.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Running Scared

We had this weird conversation in the office this morning about the fact that joggers always seem to be the ones that find dead bodies. I initially thought it might make quite a good concept for a murder mystery series. You can imagine it now, an oldish chap, living on a narrow boat, running everyday along the canal with his dog. He is obviously an amateur sleuth and spends his day stumbling across dead bodies and then solving the murders. Maybe it’s an idea for the 118-118 chaps?

However, I then came across this on the tinternet. Now this is obviously a parody, but I was pleased to know it wasn’t just us sickos that were thinking about it. It could give a new angle on all things jogging related or even develop into some social movements or trends. People for the right to run and not find dead bodies (PRRFDB) or Murder Mystery Running Clubs. I can see it now, Run London – I dare you! A route going through all the best hotspots.

Oh no, the brand police won’t like this

Every year E4 gives people the chance to go mad with its logo in its ESTINGS competition. In association with Creative Review, this competition is attracting some of the best young talent. The lucky winner will see their work commissioned and turned into series of indents for the channel. In E4’s own words they are giving people ‘the opportunity to weird us out with your crazed imaginations’. You can view previous entrants efforts here, here and here. Branded content at its best I'll think you'll agree.

I love Channel 4 in general, not just E4 and cult programmes like Shameless and Skins. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting media brands of the moment. It’s approach to creativity, media and programming is way ahead of the others. Until recently Channel 4 worked with Naked and has also developed its own commnications agency 4Creative. I think the thing I love about the brand is its confidence and fluidity. It has the ability to evolve quickly and the nerve not to be 'consistent and on brand' all the time.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Planning and poetry

I’m really excited about the next APG evening. Paul Feldwick is giving a presentation on ‘Planning and Poetry’. I quite like a bit of poetry, but I’m more of a fan of what people describe as urban poetry rather than the Oscar Wilde variety. John Cooper Clarke being one of my favourites. I think urban isn’t really the right description for it. It draws too much of a likeness with commercial Hip Hop and Rap genres. It doesn’t really explain its depth, realness and accessibility. It’s about real life observations, some so obviously simple and down to earth that it is often receives criticism as being an unitelligent genre.

This genre has evolved into a marketable entity in the form of artisits such as The Streets, Lily Allen, Just Jack and more recently NME award winner Jamie T. They all get bad press as the ASBO generation if you like. People can’t seem to look past the image and the unpolished, almost amateurish sound. But that is the point, it is a completely different sound and that must be good – not everyone has to like it. Give it a chance and listen to the words. A lot of it is very intelligent and makes some, gritty and often humerous interpretations of everday situations and emotions. Take this poem for example.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Always look on the bright side of life

I’ve been working on a few campaigns over the last year aimed at what I’ll call young working class people, who like a good time, but they're often referred to as chavs as soon as the brief comes through the door. I’m sure that’s the same in many agencies full of proper folk. Now I love this post about liking your audience. I think it’s too easy to be cynical. We’re quick to make assumptions about people and the first thing we naturally do is to look at the bad side of people rather than the good side.

As a single parent bringing up two boys, if my Dad wanted a couple of pints down the local after football, he didn’t have much choice other than to take my brother and me with him. I remember nearly every Saturday afternoon being dragged down the pub, until I, well, wanted to go myself. This was a great experience, although I remember finding it boring at the time (my hair being ruffled was also quite annoying). And the reason being is you see the fun, jovial, good spirited side of a diverse group of people. The rough diamonds if you like. From now on if the cynic in me raises its ugly head I’ll be sure to remember the good old days.