Friday, 24 June 2016

Goodbye to all that

A few years ago, my mother was asked to take part in some market research. It was what used to be called a Hall Test, and maybe still is. It involved tasting samples of orange juice. My mother enjoyed the experience, and being asked her opinion.

However, at the end of the interview, the market researcher asked my mother her age and explained that she was 'terribly sorry, but they wouldn't be able to use her interview as she was past the cut-off point.' Needless to say, my mother was not too amused to be declared 'past the cut-off point,' as if her opinions didn't count.

When I did my stint as an interviewer, the 'cut-off point' was absurdly young - 65 or even 60. This was explained to me (if I remember correctly) that 'older people' were difficult to interview/find and all the rest. Some couldn't hear well, some couldn't see well, some couldn't manage the steps going up to the room where the research was taking place. I have noticed on surveys I have done that it has crept upwards, but I expect there is still a bias against say, the over 75s.

Orange juice is one thing, but decisions about the political and economic future are another. When I woke up to the news this morning that was so different from the last poll I'd heard last night, my second thought was my mother and orange juice.

It's only a theory, but I expect that the polls underestimated the 75+ vote. From the demographic breakdowns I saw before the referendum, there was a clear age effect, with the 60+ group strongly more pro-Brexit compared to the average. My suspicion is that 75+ would be even more so.

With Brexit, it seems as if the 'Silent Generation' have found the voice the pollsters didn't want to hear - and used it.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Post-modern Positioning

I blogged last year about the Japan Post's Watch Over Service whereby friendly local postmen and women keep a watchful eye on the elderly.

Now here's another great example of the re-positioning of the postman, this time from Finland's Posti. They are offering a weekly lawn-mowing service, on Tuesdays, the least demanding day of normal post delivery. The postman/woman will turn up and mow your lawn for you if you book up. It's a win-win situation, filling a gap in a less busy day for the postman, and getting your lawn done on a regular basis by someone you trust for the customer.

Posti are also already in involved in meal delivery, and may partner up with care services and providers as an extension of this idea.

It's a great example of re-positioning away from product (physical post) and more towards qualities and values - local, friendly, daily, trust and so on. The lesson for brands is one of adaptation - are you too tied to your product? Imagine if Kodak had been less tied to physical film and cameras and positioned more towards sharing memories - they might have invented Instagram!

Maybe milkmen are due for a renaissance in another guise. And, incidentally, when I first came to Germany, I was interested to hear that 'eggmen' were more commonplace than milkmen!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The story of the emperor's new clothes

The expression 'story-telling' is one that has crept into branding and business over the last few years (usually referred to as 'Story' in the singular with a BIG Capital Letter by those who think they are in the know). I've nothing against it - I have been known to tell a story or two myself. I think it's a lot to do with the massive change in the way people use media, and the vast choice of media available.

Brand communication has moved from (more of) a message/receiver model - although tell me people never used to discuss ads in the pub - to something more akin to a multi-media network. This was all brilliantly illustrated by The Guardian a few years back.

I say 'more of', because I think story-telling has always been an element of brand communication. Creative people in agencies have an instinct for story-telling: look how many of them become novelists and film directors. Back when I started in advertising, long-copy ads were still in vogue. I was involved in the development of some super ads for The London Philharmonic - the kind of posters that would fill up a dull minute or two waiting for a train. They were about the lengths the musicians went to to perfect their art - for example, the trombonist refraining from kissing his wife a few days before a performance in case of damage to the embouchure.

Stories are fine. Where I do object, however, is how some practitioners create their own (trademarked) tools and models, and sell these to the unsuspecting marketing community, like a dodgy lamp in the bazaar. These tools and models are invariably backed up with a reference to an academic, in all likelihood Joseph Campbell, along with numerous examples from the world of Disney, fantasy and Sci-Fi (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter being particular favourites). Suddenly 'Story' becomes a problem-solving tool for business.

I'd love to know how many of these tool-and-model-touters, the people who go on their seminars and the Corporate Storytellers (yes, really - Procter & Gamble have one) have actually read Joseph Campbell.

I've read The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found it fascinating. But it's certainly not a quick skim-through, at around 400 pages. I have studied psychology and read a lot of Jung, and I did not find Campbell's book an easy read. But it contains many, many beautifully-written and thought-provoking passages. Like this:


The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors and deluding images up into the mind – whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. They are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life – that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

Now, compare that description of the unconscious with a 'framework' that I have seen presented on the internet as a simplification of Campbell. This 'storytelling framework' will (purportedly) help you to develop advertising:

A hero overcomes an obstacle in pursuit of a treasure, aided by a mentor.

Now then, just substitute the following words and phrases in the sentence above:

'Consumer' for 'hero'
'Problem' for 'obstacle'
'Benefit' for 'treasure'
'Brand - probably from Procter & Gamble' for 'mentor'

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Makes burgers, not war



This is a bit of an old story - it's from last year - but it's a goodie, and with the Cannes Awards coming up, who knows?

Collaboration is one of the buzz words for brands this decade - with customers, other brands and other organisations. And the fast food giants have certainly played the game, with all manner of collaborations with confectionery brands, or charitable organisations to encourage literacy or sport.

But what about getting together with your biggest rival?

Y&R New Zealand had the tremendous idea to raise awareness for Peace Day, a global day of ceasefire. Their client Burger King invited McDonald's to get together to create a one-off super-burger. No, not King Donald (or even Don King) but the McWhopper.

In the end, McDonald's, in an act maybe more fitting to Wimpy, turned it down, but the proposal itself generated a mass of positive goodwill and PR for Burger King, as well as awareness for Peace Day.

Next time I talk about bold advertising, I'll have this at the back of my mind as a yardstick.

Friday, 3 June 2016

50 is the new ...no.

When my son was born, nearly 16 years ago, I signed up for freebies and tips from as many baby product brands as I could. I was entering a phase of the great unknown, and appreciated a few experts (even if they were connected to brands) giving me advice.

Procter & Gamble, who make Pampers, have hung onto my data with the tenacity of a terrier, and I was the recipient of their new magazine for 'Women around 50', Victoria, subtitled Lebenslust ist Zeitlos (Joy of Life is Timeless). My first thought was - if Joy of Life is Timeless, why mention 50? My second thought was - uh-oh, there's something squidgy in here that feels suspiciously like an incontinence pad. It nearly went in the bin. The whole magazine, that is, not just the free sample.

However, the sensible marketing part of me told the customer part of me to grit her teeth and have a look. How does one of the world's biggest companies go about marketing to such an important target group, in terms of numbers and spending power?

I'm afraid the answer, as far as I'm concerned, is not very well. I also looked at the UK site, and it's not any better. The first two comments on the site were negative, one woman saying she found the newsletters offensive and the second criticising Procter and Gamble for reinforcing stereotypes rather than challenging them.

P&G, of course, shout loud and long about how 9 out of 10 women enjoyed the first issue of Victoria. Well, these appear to be women who had already (for whatever reason) visited the website and chosen to take part in the survey, not those who had the magazine, complete with incontinence pad (sorry, Always Discreet) shoved through their letterbox.

The content of the magazine and website is as cliche-ridden as it comes. How to get through the menopause with herbs. SMS or WhatsApp? A little guide for beginners. Fashion tips to help us (sic) look younger. What's making you look older than you are? 50+ blogger and Life-Coach. A recipe (or is it a tip?) for 'Water with Cucumber and Radish.' Detox for your bathroom cupboard (Yeah, great idea - chuck out all those useless Procter and Gamble products). All accompanied by stock shots (like the one above) of models doing something no sane person would dream of doing unless they'd taken a few drugs.

There's a film of grinning women in clothes that don't suit them (probably chosen by the 50+ stylist) to one of those Coldplay soundalike tracks going on about 'my best time' and 'I feel super' and '50 is young' and '50 is just a number.'

And then there are the crap products. Teeth whiteners for those who still have their teeth and denture creams for those who haven't. The Always Discreet (according to a French study, one in three women in Germany has need of these). And then the thing that really got me - something called Lenor Unstoppables - presumably some cocktail of chemicals to make your laundry smell like a Proctor and Gamble factory. It's difficult to tell exactly what to do with it as the writing on the back of the sample is illegible to anyone over about 15, let alone 50.

And this is the point. Instead of going down some high and mighty 'empowering women 50+' route (have you ever thought, Procter and Gamble, that 50+ contains three very different generations?), why not do something practical? Packets that people can read? This is worth so much more than all that patronising 'best age' drivel.

And, if you must attempt that 'inspiring women' thing, take a leaf out of Boots No.7's book. I'm not into ballet at all, and I'd never heard of Alessandra Ferri, but this is a great piece of advertising.




Thursday, 26 May 2016

Reuse, recycle, resauna

Some of my favourite new product ideas are actually old product ideas.

In other words, new uses for old or obsolete products. I've seen telephone boxes used as mini libraries, bags made of old lifejackets, airline drinks trolleys for the home bar, old boats converted into bookcases (although I'm not convinced the boats in question have ever sailed) and even old skis used as signposts.

Talking of ski-ing, the latest idea to catch my eye is Saunagondel, where old ski lift gondolas are converted into mobile electric saunas. They're available to rent or buy and can be used more or less anywhere. Quite the thing for the stylish exhibitionist.

I'm convinced this is an area where brands could do more. It sends such a positive message when new uses are found for something old, with a little ingenuity. One of my pet peeves is the short lifespan of electronics - TVs, printers, scanners, computers and so on. The old ones are difficult to dispose of and no-one wants to repair anything any more.

Or there's my current favourite jewellery - made from old Nespresso capsules.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Hold that status!

Somewhere in an old briefcase, I've got a British Airways Gold Card. Being a Gold Member was certainly good while it lasted, but my status went back to almost zilch with the birth of my son. On my return to work, I orientated myself more towards working within Germany, with at most short trips within Europe.

I was pleased to read that Qantas have launched a Status Hold initiative. Frequent Flyers will be able to hold their status 18 months after having a child. This applies to mums and dads, as well as those adopting or fostering a child, as long as they have taken at least 6 months m/paternity leave. So no more having to rebuild your status, and you can still use all the privileges bestowed on you - lounges, preferred seating and so on.

This is a great idea, and shows the true meaning of a loyalty scheme. It's a long-term reward, with the new parents getting something back. The brand recognises the potential value of those customers in the future, and also gives the new offspring a good first impression of the airline when they are travelling with their parents.

More than that, it recognises the way a new mum who has been a successful career woman may be feeling. She may feel guilty about leaving her young child, she may experience a loss of confidence. She is almost certainly sleep-deprived. Letting her keep her status and all those privileges, just when she needs them most, is something that hardly costs much to the airline, but could lead to increased loyalty in the next phase of her life and career.

Now that's what I call family-friendly!