Friday, September 28, 2007

How very true...

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom."
Jon Stewart


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“No Anorexia”

I am slightly divided when it comes to the size zero debate. It’s not that I support models starving themselves to be as skinny as they can be, not for one minute. But what annoys me about the issue is firstly that outside of America, size 0 doesn’t even exist, so while everyone is banging on about size 0, in the UK it’s actually size 4 and in the rest of Europe it’s a 32 (perhaps, every conversion table I ever look at is different), still ‘the size 32 debate’ doesn’t sound quite so shocking does it? What also annoys me about the debate is that the media who write about how terrible this issue is are the very people who perpetuate the idea that ‘thin is beautiful’, but one minute stars are too fat (i.e. normal) and the next minute they are too skinny. What sort of message does that send out to young girls?

Aside from these points, there are many other issues within the debate which also cause me great annoyance, but this isn’t the purpose of this post. At the same time, there are many reasons I also think that the debate should be had and should continue to be discussed. Number one of which is the disease Anorexia Nervosa, the actual reason for this post.

As Milan fashion week begins this year (where last year they followed Madrid’s lead banning any models with a BMI under 18 and asked that models carry medical certificates), size 0 and anorexia is still an issue very much on people’s minds. As a result, the fashion brand Nolita has released an ad showing a naked anorexic woman to highlight the effects of the disease. The posters have been erected all over the city of Milan during it's fashion week.

The ‘model’ used in the ad is a French woman named Isabelle Caro, who has suffered from the disease for 15 years. Weighing only 31kg (just over 4st 12lbs) and also suffering from the skin disease psoriasis, Isabelle spoke to the magazine Vanity Fair about her decision to take part in the ad campaign: “I’ve hidden myself and covered myself for too long. Now I want to show myself fearlessly, even though I know my body arouses repugnance. I want to recover because I love life and the riches of the universe. I want to show young people how dangerous this illness is.”

The ad has been shot by the same controversial photographer, Oliviero Toscani, who photographed a man dying of aids in 1992 for a campaign for Benetton. Of the campaign for Nolita the photographer said that his aim was “to use the naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion”.

It certainly does show everyone the reality of what the illness does to sufferers bodies, but what about what the illness does to their minds?

So far the response to the ad has been quite mixed. While the Ministry of Health feels it can help promote responsibility with regards to the disease, the President of Italy’s Association for the Study of Anorexia is not quite so keen. Fabio De Clercq feels instead that the woman used should be in hospital and the image is “too crude”. He also expressed concern that instead of helping those with anorexia, many may feel envious of the woman pictured and become determined to get even thinner than her.

Unfortunately, it’s a very tricky subject to approach and obviously one ad campaign isn’t going to make a world of a difference, even with an accompanying website which explains the motivation behind the campaign a little more. The aim is to shock people and it certainly does, at least it shocks those who do not suffer from the disease, but whether it shocks those who have an eating disorder themselves, I don’t know.

It may very well end up that some will look to the ‘model’ as something to aspire to be, but even without this campaign, those with the disease have many ‘role models’ already in the media to look to for ‘inspiration’. I wonder also whether the ad is aimed slightly more towards those who do not have the disease to highlight just how hellish the actual reality of the disease is. Because ultimately, those suffering from anorexia already have a distorted image of their own bodies and their problem is in the mind, a poster cannot make them change the opinions that they have so firmly ingrained. If Nolita really wanted to target those with disease, their campaign would go much further than a billboard poster. But then they are a fashion company, not a charity, and so is it actually their responsibility to tackle the disease itself or is it enough for them just to make a statement? Again, I don’t know.

The campaign has left me in two minds. The pictuers are shocking and hard to look at, but the ad has made me think and has made the issue of anorexia and the media and fashion industries' glorification of 'thin' more prominent in my mind once again. So I guess in a lot of ways it’s worked, on me. The actual test will be when it comes to those within the fashion industry however...

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No-one loves their car this much

Sometimes an ad comes along which just leaves you scratching your head wondering why.

For many recently that was the Cadbury's Dairy Milk ad. With the gorilla. It was random, completely unrelated to the company or the chocolate bar and totally unexpected. But whilst quite a few hated it, I have to admit I really liked it. Not that I'm saying I think all advertising should be like this. But this time, what's made it stand out is that it's so out of the ordinary. Should every ad go in this direction we’d never actually know what was being advertised and just learn to tune out. But once in a while, this type of ad is good. It shakes up the industry a little and shows that you can venture outside the box and still have something that works.

Anyway, Cadbury's gorilla aside, I saw an American advert for Volkswagen Jetta online today. A guy, about to set off and meet his date, notices that a bird has been using his new VW Jetta as target practice. He loves the car so much that he resorts to licking the offending droppings off the bonnet, before promptly planting a smacker on the lips of his girlfriend.

First it made be baulk and then second, wonder why they would do this. It’s not that I don’t understand the premise – he loves his car THAT much that he doesn’t want it being soiled in any way and obviously he’s about to go on a date and so he can’t use his clothes to wipe off the bird faeces. But licking it? Licking it? And then giving the girl a kiss? That's just gross and not needed. Do Volkswagen want to make us buy their car or make us puke up a little in our mouths? I can see the funny side, but the disgusting factor far outweighs it.

And there’s only one more thing I have to say on the matter – Yuk!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Into the autumn and back into Little Chef?

Well, the summer of love is over.

We tried to stretch it out a little longer, but the torrential rain and cold we encountered yesterday left us in no doubt that it had come to an end. And although it is not yet autumn officially, it's safe to say that the weather has other ideas. But enough of moaning about the weather, the new season brings new fashions, new colours, new ideas and new focus. And, autumn is definitely my favourite season, watching the leaves turn from green to red to brown. Living near the countryside makes it even better as you can appreciate the season fully.

But I digress, back to the land of marketing and today, the land of Little Chef. After a well-documented struggle over the last few years and the chain being saved by private equity company RCapital in January this year when bankruptcy had been looming, it seems the company could be heading into a new chapter once again. Jamie Oliver, who first brought his simple, no-nonsense style of cooking to our screens, then brought the restaurant fifteen which took unemployed teenagers and taught them to be chefs, and more recently tried to revolutionise school dinners in the UK, is now considering making a bid of £20 million for the company.

Why you may ask? Well, funnily enough he is considering filming another reality show, this time based around revamping the menu of the “struggling but iconic chain” as Brand Republic puts it. And given this iconic status, I presume, Oliver does not plan to change the name or logo, only the cafe interiors and menu. And, if you haven’t already guessed, the idea is to introduce healthier food and fresher ingredients to the menu.

Jamie may be up against competition however, as only last month Gordon Ramsay offered to rescue the chain on his TV series ‘Kitchen Nightmares’. The Benetton family were also keen to purchase the chain, however their plans to rename the chain under their Autogrill master brand meant that RCapital refused the offer. Apparently the name and logo have to stay, this is non-negotiable.

So what will be the fate of the chain? It seems clear that many people still have a great affection for the brand, but they fail to vote with their feet and actually visit the cafes. I would have to admit also that I’m one of those people. My brother and I also have a long-running joke when we are talking about someone attractive that we’d “take him/her to Little Chef” – long story, but we read in a magazine many years ago that a guy they were interviewing for some ‘eligible bachelor’ type of feature would take a girl to the restaurant to give her the perfect date. As the years have gone on however, the Little Chefs close to me have all but vanished and I tend only to happen upon them when I’m taking a road trip somewhere, so it would have to be quite a long date.

But, before I go off on yet another tangent, I’m sceptical about Jamie Oliver ‘saving’ Little Chef. After school dinners he began to be a figure people either loved or hated, and much of the hate came from the young children who wanted to eat junk food and their parents who wanted to let them. And, many of these same people are the ones who have been choosing McDonalds or Burger King over Little Chef when they stop off at a service station already. So will Oliver’s takeover of the company really make that big a difference? Also, if he takes the chain so far away from the original concept and ethos of the brand, he may as well change the name because the rest won’t ring true.

But perhaps I’m being a little hard on him. Let’s see what happens first, whether he will actually bid for the brand, and if so, what he can do. Undoubtedly though, it’s sure to make for some interesting television.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We are 1!

Today is our first blog birthday. One year ago today it all started. How time flies when you’re having fun!

Also, it’s talk like a pirate day, ha-harrr! So enjoy it me mateys!

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Mission statements

Mission statements can be a good thing, a very good thing if you actually believe in them and follow them. Unfortunately though, all too often organisations come up with one that uses a lot of words to say very little which doesn’t actually mean anything to the company or its customers anyway.

If you want a mission statement that really does communicate what your company is all about, take the time to look at your objectives and goals and make it as simple as possible. If you just want something that sounds fancy however, why don’t you use this handy Mission statement generator.

Ours came out as “We are dedicated to helping the highest quality stakeholder value with expansion through added value second to none” – perfect!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007


Normally, I like Tom Ford. Actually, that’s wrong - I love him. His reign at Gucci was nothing short of genius and his dabbling since, although not always to my taste, has retained that same ethos and feeling. But then came the adverts for his new fragrance for men...

I saw this first ad a few weeks ago on Brand DNA and at the time had been rendered quite speechless, not just because of the content of the advert, but also because of who was behind it. True, Tom Ford has always used sex to sell and it’s not always been subtle, but until now it hasn’t been downright crass. I don’t have any problem with sex being used to sell, and let’s face it, in fragrance and deodorant ads it’s almost a given that there will be some link made to romance or sex, that’s fair enough. But this?

But perhaps it was just a blip. I put it out of my memory never to be thought of again so as not to blemish my love of the great man. Phew, worshiping still intact. But then, just when I’d forgotten all about it, I stumbled upon another execution today.

I have absolutely no moral objection to the ad. It’s not that I find it offensively objectifying to women, either. Okay, it certainly does objectify a woman, but it’s not the first advert in this vein. It’s not even the fact that it looks as though it’s come straight out of the 80s, although this factor does disturb me quite a bit. It’s the sheer crassness of the adverts which completely put me off. As Adrants put it so well “Ford removes all pretense in his latest fragrance campaign and celebrates what every man wants: to f*@*.”

And I guess that’s why many people, not just men may I add, do buy perfumes and aftershaves, to attract the opposite sex and eventually lure them into bed. But while Lynx does this with humour and other brands do it with romance or at least with a little subtlety, this campaign just rams it down your throat, and not in a nice way.

A Tom Ford Beauty Spokesman said of the campaign “...we decided that a sharper, more graphic approach clearly communicated the bold and provocative mood of the fragrance." Hmm, bold – check; provocative, double check. But what about stylish and sophisticated? Poor show Mr Ford, poor show.

And why should this correlate in any way to you loving marketing? Reason number 20: Sometimes it can actually put you off buying a product and in the process can save you a little money. That’s more a positive for the consumers I guess and a warning to the advertisers.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beer, the healthy way

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of beer, however, while on holiday there I found myself drinking it quite a bit (along with some lovely vino tinto and tinto de verano). Back in sunny Scotland though, it’s something I wouldn’t really think if drinking. If I’m looking for a longer drink I would be more likely to go for a cider, and since Magners introduced the notion of enjoying a cool cider over ice, I’m certainly not the only one in the UK. But enough about me and my susceptibility to marketing messages.

There are a number of women in the UK who do drink beer. In fact, the percentage of women drinking the beverage is roughly equal to the number of men here drinking it – 40%. The same can also be found in Spain (where I was on holiday funnily enough). But it’s certainly not the case in all of Europe however, particularly in Germany, where women find drinking beer to be unhealthy, fattening and unsophisticated. I would imagine that for those women in the UK, and perhaps also in Spain who also refrain from drinking it, the same complaints may be made. But then, all three complaints could also be leveraged at alcopops for example, but they still seem to have a great number of women drinking them (I’m not one of them). Yet the reason for drinking in the UK is often not to be sociable, but simply to get drunk and in that case the health properties of what is being drunk is of little importance. But that’s another topic for another day.

Still, for many drinking alcohol is not confined to binge-drinking sessions, but is instead something to be enjoyed on a regular basis, i.e. a drink with dinner, a few drink before bed, etc. And over recent years as concerns over healthy living have grown, they have also extended to alcohol with numerous studies looking into the health benefits of different alcoholic beverages when taken in moderation. Where women are concerned there has been much talk of the health benefits of wine, but not so for beer. Therefore, for those women who may be looking for an alcoholic beverage that will compliment their healthy lifestyle, wine has looked to be the best option. Until now. At least that’ what Karlsberg (the German brewer, not the Danish ‘Carlsberg’) would have us believe.

With their new beer for women,
Karla, the firm are trying to change perceptions of beer and market it not as a regular alcoholic drink, but instead as a health drink. The stress is on the fact that beer is a natural product, and the beverage is low in alcohol (only 1%), containing a mix of beer and fruit juices. Even the names of the products reflect the healthy image the company are trying to project – Karla Balance, Karla Well-Be and Karla Acti-Fit.

But it’s more than simply their names that align the drink to the health market. Karla Balance mixes hops with lemon balm, known for its sedative properties – hence the claim that it provides ‘peace and balance’. Well-Be, which funnily enough is being pitched as a drink to aid harmony through physical and mental well-being, contains such ingredients as soy-derived lecithin, which may affect cholesterol levels positively, and folic acid, recommended for women considering pregnancy. And Acti-Fit is said to help strengthen the body’s defences through its ingredients including Echinacea, Green tea and Vitamin C. In addition, they all contain a number of other vitamins to aid health.

What’s more, instead of selling the beverage in off licenses, Karla took the unusual decision to distribute the drink through pharmacists. This not only enhances its credibility as a healthy drink, but also brings the beer to a completely different audience than its traditional counterpart.

At the moment the drink is only available in Germany and to-date the distribution has not been nationwide. However, the German pharmaceutical manufacturer
Amapharm has now teamed up with Karlsberg to distribute the beer to pharmacists across Germany and international expansion is ‘in the works’ for the future.

I found the product and the ethos behind it very intriguing. I’m unsure how much of a hit it will be, especially across the whole of Germany given opinion there, but the branding seems to be far removed from other types of beer and so focused on the health aspect that it may be almost forgotten that it is beer. And the choice of pharmacists as a distributor seems on one hand ludicrous, but on the other hand ingenious.

I’m not altogether familiar with the nitty-gritty of the legislation in the UK regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages and wonder if it would be possible in this country without a license being obtained, but the low percentage contained in each drink may mean this is not so much of an issue. I’ll be interested to see whether the product does make it to the UK and if so, how exactly it will be marketed here and what distribution channels might be utilised. It has the potential to be a big hit with health-conscious women and also women who already drink beer for its taste and refreshment I would think. However, I feel that, especially in the UK, limiting the distribution to only pharmacists would be a mistake and undoubtedly health stores should also be included in the mix as well as more specialised food markets at least, perhaps larger supermarkets in addition. But time will tell.

It’s not really been a ‘why to love marketing’ post, but if you’re looking for a reason within all that – finding out why women did not want to drink beer allowed Karlsberg to go back and produce a new product which is in a category of its own. For the health conscious, Karla allows the drinker to enjoy an alcoholic beverage without any pangs of guilt. It may not be a reason for everyone, but that’s what niche marketing is all about and as we all know, you can’t please everybody!

Apologies, but could only find the links in German!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Research, online and on-road

Reason to love marketing number 18 (I think): It constantly finds new ways to tackle problems. One such strand which certainly falls into that category has to be research. Love it or hate it (and we at AME Marketing definitely fall into the love category), it is one of the most important elements of marketing. You’ve heard us harp on before, but without proper planning, any marketing you do will be simply a stab in the dark and its effectiveness will purely be down to luck. But lecture aside, as I said, the great thing about research is, as well as being the foundation to any good marketing, it is also a discipline which is constantly evolving and coming up with new ideas about how to capture and analyse data.

One such recent evolution that has been in the blogosphere recently is the use of social networking sites to gather information. Facebook seems to be leading the way in this respect, with its polling application providing researchers with a quick way to find answers to simple questions. Users have simply to log in, type their question, specify a geographical area, sample size and boom, their survey is born. 100 interviews cost as little as $51 (around £25). Now, of course it is not going to replace traditional research completely, and it may be hard to ensure that a representative sample is gained, but it looks to have many advantages. For instance, it may just allow for better planning before larger scale studies are carried out and eliminate much of the cost associated with research when there are only a few questions to be answered. And, as time goes on, it is sure that the application will evolve and become more functional and more complex. My only concern would be how those on the site will respond to the application as time goes on. Personally I have ignored any surveys I have seen so far – but then, as a marketer I shouldn’t be taking part anyway...

On a slightly different tangent, another interesting method of collecting information has also been thrown up by the research company Hall & Partners. I read in last month’s Research magazine that the company had bought themselves their very own taxi to conduct research in. OK... Apparently most days it will operate as any other cab, however, at least once a month it will become the venue for mini interviews with the ‘regular’ people on the street. In exchange for offering their honest opinions on brands, advertising and the latest hot topics, those who ride in the black cab will be given a free ride to their destination. CEO of Hall & Partners Europe said of the venture “We are delighted at with the launch of our company taxi. We’re always looking for innovative techniques to help deliver real insights to our clients. What better way to get at the word-on-the-street than through asking everyday consumers’ honest opinions in the back of a black cab?” Sure, it won’t be representative, but I think it’ll certainly give a flavour of the general thinking on a variety of topics and brands. And the venture presents yet another reason to love marketing I reckon, and in particular market research – for at least one day per month it gives passengers the chance to talk and air their views instead of the taxi driver!

And what will be next in the world of research? It’s anyone’s guess.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


A bit of a cheeky reason to love marketing today – pardon the pun – courtesy of Sloggi and their campaign to find the perfect male and female bottom. And the reason why this should make you love marketing of course is that on occasion, not always granted, marketing allows you to ogle at some lovely half-naked bodies. Well, sex sells, right?

Being an underwear company, it is inevitable that the human form is going to be used to sell the product, but usually the model is over six foot tall and perfect in every way. But here, Sloggi is going a little outside the box and asking us ‘ordinary’ people to send in photos of ourselves in our best undies (preferably Sloggis of course) and the photos will then be rated by the public to find the best. Finalists will receive a range of prizes while the winning two bottoms will have the prestigious title of ‘best bottom in the world’ as well as 10, 000 Euros and a modelling contract with the company. Certainly not a ‘bum’ deal (OK, last pun of the day, promise!).

But not everyone is quite in love with the campaign. Media in Sweden have blasted the campaign as a “pornographic”, “cynical and sexist” and some have even gone so far as to say it is a “porn trap”for young girls. There is also talk that the Trade Ethical Council Against Sexism in Advertising (ERK) could look into the campaign. A spokesman for the organisation asserted however, “We do have the possibility of taking up the case on our own initiative but this hasn’t actually been up for consideration yet.” He added though that he would be “...surprised if we weren’t to receive any complaints, since this has been so widely discussed in the media.”

So, not such a great reaction in Sweden then. But, as one Swedish phrase quite nicely puts it “Taste is a bit like buttocks – divided.”

And with the campaign running in another 38 countries besides Sweden, and with no other such negative reactions elsewhere, overall it doesn’t look to be harming the campaign too much. In fact, with around 72, 000 photos of rear end from all over the globe having being sent in; I’d say the campaign is doing rather well.

And, as for complaints that the pictures may be of those under 18, Sloggi has assured us that all pictures are carefully screened before being uploaded to the website - “They have to be over 18. If we are in any doubt we ask to see official identification. And we don’t upload every picture.” Said spokesperson Sofie Lindahl-Jessen.

Of course, it’s clear that a campaign such as this is going to have to tread a thin line between amusing and pornographic and is constantly going to be under scrutiny with regards to its propriety and ethics. But at the end of the day, it’s only a few bottoms, it’s a little fun. Surely we all like to look at a nice bum now and again?

So, if you’re a fan of bums and fancy a look at what all the fuss is about before the competition has ended and the top bottoms have been chosen, you can visit the Sloggi site here. You can even sit and rate the posteriors which have been submitted already in a ‘Hot or Not’ style. What better way to spend a lunch break?

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