Friday, June 29, 2007


Green issues have been on my mind quite a bit over the last couple of weeks. I’ve touched on the environment in a few posts in the past and it is an issue that I am constantly aware of and have been making a real effort to pay more attention to over the last few years. And yes, I could say that I am not doing enough (is anyone?), but I am doing something and that’s what counts.

A few things in this vein caught my attention this week, one an advert in China, one a piece of research Neil Perkin spoke about on his blog
Only Dead Fish, and one a piece of commentary at the FAIR* blog on the Anya Hindmarch ‘I’m not a Plastic Bag’ that I blogged about back in April. Each threw up different issues that have made me think a lot this week.

The advert in China was an outdoor campaign with a difference that I found on
Houtlust. The campaign won bronze at the Cannes Lions in the outdoor category this year, very well deserved in my opinion. The picture below is the final part of the execution, you’ll find the rest here. From the agency Ogilvy and Mather Beijing for WWF, the campaign was designed to highlight the huge growth in the number of cars and exhaust emissions in China, the copy on the balloon read ‘Drive one day less and look how much carbon monoxide you’ll keep out of the air we breathe.’ Although aimed at the Chinese, it received coverage not only in the media there but also in Germany and the Middle East. I would imagine not least because it’s a poignant message not just for those in China but all over the world. I wonder if it would have attracted quite so much attention had it been staged somewhere in the Western world however. I suspect not, and when I read the post on Only Dead Fish, it backed up exactly why I think this.

When it comes to environmental issues in this country, there’s no doubt that many have begun to pay a lot more attention to it, many have made an effort to change their environmentally unfriendly habits and many companies have also begun to implement changes to their practices that will have a more positive impact on the planet. But, many people still don’t care. They don’t think that it’s their responsibility to do anything. Many are ignorant of the impact their actions have, ok, but many use the excuse that larger countries such as China and the USA are polluting the environment to such a huge extent there is no point doing the little things as an individual. The 'Green Matters' research conducted by Neil Perkins and co found that although 95% of people thought that the environment was ‘everyone’s responsibility’, only 40% thought it was ‘mine.’ So, how to change this mindset? What can companies do? The three things the research threw up for brands to do to make the issues important and real to people at a personal level were to: make it real, relevant to their own lives; make it easy to be green; and make it inclusive, let them know they are not the only ones doing their bit for the environment. Sounds simple enough, but how many companies do actually make a real issue out of the environment and how easy is it really for the individual to be green? Which leads on nicely to the third thing that caught my attention this week…

When the Anya Hindmarch ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ was launched, it was positioned as a stylish alternative to plastic bags. For those lucky enough to get their hands on the extremely limited number, I’m sure there were at least a few among them who were buying the bag as much for the environmental kudos as the fashion kudos. But (and at the point I wrote the last post on this subject, I was not aware of the fact), the bag itself is not actually made of recycled materials. Therefore it only actually becomes environmentally friendly if it is re-used (which is the intention of the bag we are told). Taking into account the amount of people who bought the bag only to resell it on e-bay though, the carbon footprint caused by the resale contradicts much of the ‘good’ the sellers were trying to do. And now the same is set to happen in the U.S. Why am I dredging up this old issue? Well, if those behind the release of the bag had actually wanted to make it easy for consumers to be ethical and re-use one ‘fashionable’ bag instead of taking plastic bag after plastic bag for their shopping, they would have made the bag widely available. Thus, they would have made it easy for consumers to do this. Instead, an opportunity was wasted and a greater impact was made in the fashion world than the environmental one. A shame really.

I feel this post has been a bit of a raggle-taggle today of things that have been catching my attention, so I’ll apologise for it’s lack of cohesion. With the recent flash floods occurring throughout the country over the last few weeks though, these posts only served to reinforce the urgency, in my mind, of making real changes to our lifestyles to slow down the effects on global warming. I wouldn’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do care and I do try. That’s a start.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sheila’s Heels

I saw an interesting new product in my TRENDCANDY newsletter from TRENDHUNTER this week - convertible stiletto heels which go flat at the push of a button from Sheila’s Wheels.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Sheila’s Wheels, quite apart from their adverts, I find the whole notion of women-only insurance companies sexist and don’t really know how they get away with it. You can hear the outcry if there was a men-only insurance company. It’s prejudice pure and simple and from what I’ve heard from friends who’ve used similar companies, the only thing that really sets them apart is that they give you a pointless phonecall after you crash, the purpose of which only seems to be to have a wee chat with you and make sure you’re ok and not too shaken up after it. But, I digress…

I actually think this is a good idea and when you look at the statistics the company present
here, it seems an even better idea. But, glaring omissions from the press release that Sheila’s Wheels have put out are where the shoes will be available and how much they will cost. How will they make a success of the product if no-one can find it?

Plus, I’m quite surprised it’s taken a company this long to bring such a product to the mass market. I remember remote control convertible stilettos in Ally McBeal years ago and I’m sure a new designer had designed a similar type of shoe years ago too.

I’m curious to see how well the shoes actually take off, but that will likely be dependent on a number of factors, one of which being whether you can actually find out where to buy them from! How practical a big pink heel will be either is debatable, but perhaps in time more colours and plainer versions will come out. And while these particular shoes are aimed at women drivers, they would also come in very handy after a night out on the town.

I can’t help thinking mind you that if women want to drive in flat shoes they will already just keep a flat pair in their car all the time, but nice idea all the same…

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Friday, June 22, 2007

‘The Motorcycle Blog Diaries Project’

Deborah Bonello, a freelance journalist, specialising in digital media and advertising, is setting off with another journalist, Tom Parker to South America for a digital experiment. Initially travelling through Mexico and Guatemala, the pair are launching a social media experiment and plan to cover stories on their trip through using blogging,, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

The idea is to use words, pictures and video to “bear witness” in their journey through Latin America and to update as they go along. Bonello said she would focus on “the experiences of both the human narrative and real-life stories from Latin America”, stories that the mainstream media normally miss. In a nod to the book and film ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ which documents the young Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s trip through South America with his companion Alberto Granada, they have dubbed the trip ‘The Motorcycle Blog Diaries Project.’ No Motorcycle is being used for transportation however – Aww! Well, I guess Ponderosa II did not make it too far in the original anyway.

Another journalist, Mike Butcher, will be working with the pair back in the UK and will be helping to find a sponsor for the trip. They are currently looking for a commercial partner, either a brand or an online service. It is expected that the project and its sponsor(s) will gain widespread press attention as they highlight the potential of social media technology in today’s ever-more technology driven world.

I’m quite excited to see what the experiment will uncover. Aside from simply providing readers with an output, the two will also be involved in dialogue with their audience and through reader ‘requests’ will investigate particular stories in the region they are in, in collaboration with their online audience.

Will this be the future of newscasting? I doubt it will replace mainstream news altogether, but I certainly think, should this experiment, and the similar experiment to be undertaken by a BBC journalist covering the general election in Turkey this July, be successful, we will see a lot more of this type of journalism.

Interesting too that they have chosen Facebook over Myspace for their social site, as more and more people seem to be moving from the latter to the former, especially within the older age groups.

I’m really looking forward to the start of their journey and following their progress, from both a professional and personal point of view.

Vive le digital revolution! Che Guevara would be proud (at least with regards to the revolution part).

You’ll find the blog at Letters from Latin America, which has already been set up, but as yet does not contain any content. I’m unsure at the moment when the experiment is due to start, but will keep you updated when I find out. Gordon’s Republic also provided contact details for both Deborah Bonello ( and Mike Butcher should you wish more details.

[Update: Letters from Latin America does not seem to be in place anmore, Deborah's blog can be found instead at New Correspondent]

[Further update: The site has now changed name to Mexico Reporter and can be found here]

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quote of the day

"I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes..."

Philip Dusenberry


Monday, June 18, 2007

Big Brother

I don't watch Big Brother. It's not because I think it's cooler not to watch it or anything, it's just that I find it quite boring. Each year the housemates they put in are even more outrageous than the year before, even more annoying and quite simply caricatures of different factions of British Society.

Don't get me wrong, I love to people watch. I could quite happily sit at a café window for hours watching people go by. I like research and finding out the motivations behind human behaviour (hence I studied psychology for a number of years). And, in general, I like the concept behind the show. That's why I watched the first few series. Normal people in an unnatural situation, watching the bonds they make, the arguments they have and the activities they carry out while 'trapped' within the confines of a not-so-big house and garden. But for me, it lost its charm over the years and began to just get ridiculous and ever more manipulative as they tried to stop the programme from being boring.

But, my biggest problem with the format recently has been the actual contestants they put in. I don't need to say anything more than Jade Goody, and she was just the start of it. I have no interest in watching a bunch of 18-24 year olds (with the odd older contestant thrown in) talking about a load of rubbish with hardly an ounce of intelligence among them. Not that I'm saying that no-one with a lower IQ should be put in the house, but let's not make a whole houseful of them.

So, it was with surprise that I read on Brand Republic that Jonathan Durden, the founding partner at media agency PDH, entered the house along with three other contestants on Friday. Having made millions selling the company he founded, having been in the media industry for 30 years and also having sidelines in music management and restaurant industry as well as having written a novel, he's certainly a break from the usual Big Brother contestants.

I have to wonder if it's a purely personal crusade or whether there is, at least in part, a business reason behind it. In reality, it's probably a mixture of both, as it is for most contestants. Only difference is, Durden is not some wannabe trying to be famous, he's already made it.

I doubt I'll become a convert to the program, but I might actually tune in to the program the odd time now. I'm interested to see what he'll make of it, how long he'll last and what use he'll make of the experience afterwards. Rather him than me, but nevertheless, an intriguing move from Durden. I'll watch this space.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Travelling light

Although we are a marketing blog I wanted to go a little off tangent today to talk about a great new site that launched a few months ago, found through

I’m going to Malaga for my holidays this year to go on a Spanish language course for two weeks and during my weekends I want to do a little bit of travelling around and visit some friends who live nearby(ish). But, enough about me. The point is that I ordered a travel guide this week so that I can find out what the attractions are in the area and can decide what I want to do in my spare time while I’m there (I’m one of these people who likes to cram a million things into my holiday). So, I ordered a book on the whole of Spain as I reckon I’ll be visiting various areas over the coming years, but I’m sure there will be plenty of the guide that I never even cast my eyes over, such is the enormity of information these things provide.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, when I was blog surfing yesterday I came across a new site with a new approach to travel guides, from
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. According to research, although 75% of travellers buy travel guides, they only actually read around 20% of the publication. So, 80% of the weight and space taken up by their guide could potentially be used for other things. In come DK, whose website offers users the chance to browse their destination online, organise information in their own personal guide and then download the guide for a small charge. And hey presto – customers have their own customized guide; minus all the boring bits you weren’t going to read anyway.

At the moment it’s only in the first phase and has a limited number of destinations to choose from, but there are a good number covered already and this will surely be added to and evolve as time goes on. Another exciting feature is the DK Travel Community where users rate and comment on the destinations they have visited, as the site grows in popularity this will undoubtedly become a great resource for travellers.

So, perhaps not strictly a post on marketing today, especially since I only heard of the site through another blog (I think a more concerted effort is needed by the team at DK Eyewitness Travel Guides to raise awareness of their great site), but I wanted to share the site with you. I’m sure I’ll be using it in the coming years and look forward to seeing how it develops over that time. Go check it out yourself.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Selling out?

One of my favourite (an indeed one of the nation’s favourite) drinks manufacturers have come under fire the last few weeks for making a deal with the devil (well, not the actual devil, just the corporate empire many believe to be in league with Beelzebub). Innocent drinks have agreed to sell their smoothies in McDonald’s Happy Meals for children, and the Innocent drinkers are not happy. “It’s all about money and you won’t be getting any more of mine”, one angry blogger wrote on the Innocent blog. A slight overreaction in my opinion.

Yes, McDonalds may not be (OK are definitely not) the most ethical of companies. However, to give them a little credit, over recent years they have made a real effort to overcome the negative perceptions of consumers and actually be more ethical, working with the likes of Greenpeace and the Rainforest Alliance. And Innocent are only supplying them with some of their drinks, they aren’t selling the company to McDonalds, which is what you might think viewing the hostile reactions of some consumers.

Innocent understandably defended their position on the wake of the backlash. At the end of the first day of the barrage, Richard Ree, one of the three founders, put out a statement on the company’s blog saying that ‘surely it’s better for children to get the chance to drink healthy fruit smoothies than the kind of stuff that is more usually available from McDonald’s.’ Unfortunately this just fuelled the fire for some.

Jamie Mitchell, the managing director of Innocent in the UK did admit that Innocent had been quite naïve in not realising just how negative the reaction would be. However, he does point out that they had consulted with both Greenpeace and the Rainforest Alliance beforehand and made the final decision based on ethics and health. “Our objective is to get kids to have more fruit. We couldn’t just stand outside being angry about it. We want our drinks to reach kids wherever they are – that means schools and family restaurants. So we’re aiming at both of those.”

In addition to various statements, the company bosses also surprised around 30 of the harshest critics on their blog by phoning them up for a conversation. “We might not have convinced them, but at least we’ve reached a point where we know we respect each other’s position.” Not only great damage limitation I reckon, but also an excellent customer feedback strategy.

Obviously I can see the point of view from those with a deadly opposition to Innocent having any association with the likes of McDonald’s. They see it as a small(ish), caring company selling out simply to make big bucks. But those consumers who grew to care so much for the Innocent brand should surely have a little more faith in the brand and look beyond the money aspect of the deal.

I am an Innocent lover. I subscribe to their newsletter, I read their blog sometimes and I consume the smoothies on an almost daily basis. Every time I buy a carton I turn to the bottom to see what little witty saying they have put on and look around the rest of the carton to see if there are any new stories or funny bits that have been added to that particular flavour. Along the way I’ve grown to have a great affection for the company, not just because of their quirky brand personality but also because of their honest, heartfelt ethical stance. And clearly I’m not the only one. Shoot me if you like, but that hasn’t been eroded one bit by their decision to work for McDonald’s. If anything, I possibly have more respect for them, because instead of standing back and shaking their heads at the big, evil corporate empire, when McDonald’s came to ask if they could sell their drinks, they said yes. Why? Because they know that a lot of kids eat there and it’s yet another way to introduce them to healthy food in an otherwise unhealthy environment. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean that Innocent agree with everything McDonald’s stands for and doesn’t mean that they won’t make money out of the deal either, it simply means that they weren’t too scared to do something they knew may be unpopular. Because they thought it was the right thing to do.

At the moment this is only a regional pilot scheme and I suppose time will tell how successful it will be for both companies. Innocent certainly have more to lose than McDonald’s in the scenario. I don’t think it will deal a deadly blow in the long run however. It is debateable whether McDonald’s are supplying the drinks for the ‘right’ reasons. It may be the case that they are merely making a/another token gesture to appear to care more about the health of their customers while riding on the coattails of Innocents success and great reputation. But maybe, just maybe, they do care. Either way, I’ve got no doubt that Innocent has done the deal for the right reasons. Perhaps I’ve been blinded by my brand loyalty, but to me that can only mean that Innocent is doing their job right.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Just Try It Out # 6: Auditing Marketing Efficiency

We haven’t had a Just Try It Out for a wee while now, so I thought I’d throw one back in again. With the start of summer upon us (hopefully), you may be thinking about reviewing the marketing you have already conducted this year, or, alternatively, you may be thinking about starting some marketing in the following season. Either way, the following steps should give you some tips as how to start tackling this review of your business and marketing.

Step 1: Analyse this
Take a virtual snapshot of your business and analyse it (objectively) from various angles. Assess your strengths, weaknesses and any likely opportunities or threats (SWOT analysis). Next think about any environmental forces that may affect your business both internal (micro) and external (macro), the latter of which will include Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) forces.

Step 2: Review
Review your business objectives and decide which marketing activities have delivered the best results (if you have already conducted marketing). Even if you haven’t conducted any formal marketing, consider referrals and Word of Mouth as these are also forms of marketing. Take note however, a few activities might take some time to have any noticeable effects. Even if you feel that some are not yielding the desired results straight away, try to maintain the momentum on those activities and fine tune them where suitable to ensure maximum results.

Step 3: Generate new ideas
Brainstorm to think of new ideas for potential marketing activity, but make sure they are appropriate to your business objectives. Use the analysis you conducted in step 1 also to help devise activities that will maximise your strengths, minimise weaknesses, manage external threats and exploit external opportunities.

Step 4: Plan Ahead (If you haven’t already)
Your planning and auditing schedule should follow a cyclical pattern and if an annual marketing plan has been agreed you will already (or at least should) have noted when your audit(s) will take place. If there is no plan, your audit should uncover the need for one, which can be formalised at the next appropriate juncture. You can then fit each activity and campaign into a suitable time-slot and begin the new season with some new marketing.

So, Auditing Marketing Efficiency - Why not try it out?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

That logo

You’ve probably seen it already, heard the complaints and possibly already made your mind up about it, so what do you really think of the London 2012 Olympic logo? Designed by brand consultants Wolff Ollins at cost of £400, 000, the organisers seem to love it while many of the public have vomited at the sight of it.

The idea behind it was to be”…dynamic, modern and flexible”, symbolising “the dynamic Olympic spirit and its inspirational ability to reach out to people all over the world.” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge obviously feels it has managed to achieve this, saying that “This is a truly innovative brand logo that captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games - namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values… the brand launched today by London, is, I believe, an early indication of the dynamism, modernity and inclusiveness with which London 2012 will leave its Olympic mark.” Well, at least they seem to be happy with it. And public opinion?

There has been a furore in some quarters, with a petition having been started already to change the logo or use the Candidate City emblem. 17, 000 had signed already at around 12pm today and 2, 000 more were reported to be adding their signatures hourly. To be completely honest though, I don’t hate it. But then, I don’t love it either.

My first reaction was, what are those shapes supposed to be? Then I thought, ‘Duh! They’re the numbers 2 0 1 2.’ All the same, on first glance, it isn’t really evident and I’m not the only person I know who didn’t realise they were numbers straight away. Then, there’s the font they’ve used for London, or “london” as they have it in lower case (which I have to say I don’t particularly like, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “disgrace” as some have, but I feel it takes away a little of the city’s importance). Granted the font is not the dreaded Comic Sans, but it’s heading that way. A big no-no. If ever you want some reasons why you shouldn’t use Comic Sans, please feel free to drop by the office or give my colleague Graham a phone, you might be talking to him all day mind you as he rants on about it. But back to the logo. Yes they want to appeal to young people, but that doesn’t mean they have to use almost cartoon-like writing. There is also criticism that the logo is imbalanced as both London and the Olympic logo appear at the top. This may be true, but it would have been difficult to place either elsewhere on the logo. And I don’t think it’s really that much of an issue.

With regards to the colours, red, white and blue would have been obvious choices, but at the same point, they reflect the heritage of the country staging it. What does shocking pink, blue and orange really mean. Vibrant? Yes. Modern? I suppose it depends how you look at it. He colours remind me of the 80s I have to admit, especially in the film
here about the brand. Which, while we're on the subject, I do hate. If the logo hints at the 80s, the film screams it, I feel like I’m back watching kids TV again, I keep expecting the ‘Grange Hill’ or ‘Why don’t you?’ tunes to come on, or, as my colleagues started singing when they watched it – Queen’s Kind of Magic. I feel a bit like it’s so ‘modern’ though it’s almost out of date already. And flexible? That’s a hard one to answer.

But, I did say I don’t hate it and have just spent the last couple of paragraphs pulling it apart. What do I like about it? It’s definitely different, and, memorable. It will, I believe have a certain appeal to kids and is reminiscent of street art which seems to be more and more prevalent in advertising at least at the moment. So perhaps it scores some ‘cool’ points there, (conversely, perhaps people will just feel they are trying too hard), but regardless, they are trying something new and by doing so are letting the world know that they will be taking the same approach to staging the games. Some traditionalists may not like it, but London is saying that it’s time to take the event into the 21st Century and really make it something to remember.

For me, the jury is still out. I like what they are trying to do at least, whether I actually like the execution, I’ll have to think more about it. Many of the general public might hate it, but I don’t see it being changed. And lets face it, do they really want another £400, 000 spent coming up with an alternative? I doubt it.

So, love it or loathe it, time to start getting used to the logo I think. It might look “like a car crash in Mr Men world” as CMM News (who is a fan of the logo incidentally) so nicely puts it, but we have 5 years to let it grow on us. What’s more important is the brand as a whole rather than just the logo by itself, that’s what the organisers will ultimately be judged on.

Update: The 'logo in action' film has now been withdrawn after it sparked epileptic fits in at least ten people. For those of you who did not have the misfortune to see the film, be very glad. However, what they have replaced it with is no more inspired.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Some favourite International blunders

Many of you will already be aware of some of the blunders large companies have made when entering new markets abroad. But, for those of you who are not I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.

Firstly, product names:

- Clairol had a curling iron named the "Mist Stick." They introduced the product in Germany, to later find out that "mist" was German slang for manure.

- Over in Italy, Schweppes Tonic Water’s campaign found that the name translated into Schweppes Toilet Water. Maybe not the most desirable of soft drinks.

- And in China, the most famous product name blunder of them all – Coca-Cola. When it was first introduced there in the 1920s they wanted to have the English pronunciation of “Coca-Cola”. A translator used a group of Chinese characters that when pronounced sounded like the product name. They were promptly put on the cola bottles and marketed. But they never sold well. Why? The company later discovered that when the characters were translated they meant, “a wax flattened mare” or “bite the wax tadpole.” Yea, I wonder why it never sold well? Needless to say, Coca-Cola changed the characters and the new characters translate to “happiness in the mouth.” A bit better than a tadpole in it.

Next, packaging:

- Apart from the connotations of colours in different countries, for example, white symbolising death in Japan, green representing danger or disease in Malaysia, sometimes the actual pictures on packaging can cause problems. One such example of this was when a baby food manufacturer tried to sell jars of baby food in an African country using a label showing a happy baby. Seems fine? The problem was that most of the prospective customers were illiterate and could only determine the contents by looking at the label. The picture gave them the impression they would
actually be purchasing bottled babies. Probably not what most were planning on buying.

Lastly, and my favourite, slogans:

- Coors beer slogan "Turn it loose" didn’t quite translate so well in Spanish, it meant, “Suffer from diarrhea" – nice!

- The Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux also used a catchy slogan in an American campaign: - "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." I don’t if this was a complete blunder however, as there’s certain irony to it. I doubt they were trying to be ironic though.

- Salem cigarettes tag line "Feeling Free" was roughly translated in Japanese to mean "feeling so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty." Was it just tobacco they contained?

- An American T-shirt manufacturer printed shirts for the Latin market commemorating the Pope's visit to Miami. Instead of reading, "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read, "I saw the potato" (la papa). No difference there.

- Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated in Chinese to "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." No mean feat.

- Perdue Chicken's had a slogan "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" when read by Spanish audiences it translated as "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate." Hmmmm.

- Finally, Spanish-speaking audiences in Southern California were asked, "Got milk?" To them it meant, "Are you lactating?"

And now I’ve provided you with a little amusement to make your Friday pass a little quicker, I’m off for a wax tadpole…