Sunday, 9 December 2018

Can a brand be humble?

Although "Feeling Humbled" seems to be the stock phrase from marketing people whenever their particular  brand or campaign is up for whatever award, a lot of the behaviour of brands - or the people behind them - is far from humble these days:

* banging on about how brave and bold they are, as if they've climbed Everest without oxygen, or swum the Atlantic in winter
* launching high and mighty "purpose" campaigns that often have precious little to do with the products they make
* pontificating in the language of religion, or psychology, about "icons" and "fans" and "heroes' journeys" and "archetypes"
* not accepting that they are the cause of many of the issues they are trying to solve
* and most worrying of all, as well as "curating" people's lives for them, brands are beginning to dictate what their employees should and shouldn't do

In amongst all this bragging, it's good to find a new (to me) brand that seems to do what it says on the tin - or handle in this case. The Humble Brush, from Sweden, has been around since 2013. The simple toothbrush has a bamboo handle, purchasing helps to fund dental-related projects for children in need, and the website asks users to help with co-creation and ideas.

I'm not quite sure how easy removing the nylon bristles with pliers is going to be, but I'll find out in 6 months. Meanwhile, this does seem to be a brand that's putting money where its mouth is.

Maybe the meek really will inherit the earth one day.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Sitting Pretty

We stayed in a hotel this weekend - a good, old-fashioned classic hotel, full of bygone charm. It reminded me of my first tour of Europe as a small child in the 60s, where every different country was a different country, with idiosyncratic ideas about what breakfast should consist of. Or my discovery of the "new" parts of Europe in the 1990s, gradually shaking off the dusty trappings of the communist bloc. About the only concession to modern life that that the hotel had was WiFi. Oh, and we did find it via TripAdvisor.

Now, if I'd been part of the generation where my mobile was my home-from-home, I expect I would have gone for something of a less classic nature. For example, an Ibis hotel. If you go away on holiday, you can delegate a house-sitter and dog-sitter to take care of things while you're away. And now, thanks to a campaign from Ibis by Jung von Matt/Limmat, you can also get a social-media-sitter (a "top influencer") to do all that pesky social-media curation while you enjoy yourself (if you know or remember how to).

There's a whole report from JWT Intelligence here about "Social Hotels."

Where do I start? This new generation of hotels are "encouraging meaningful connections" and "building visitors' stays around social networking." You can have a "safe, inviting and inclusive" space to meet your Bumble date at the Marriot Moxy hotel. Or "connect with vetted locals" at some other place. I hope they have all had a good dusting of flea powder.

There's also an idea to "share experience with the past and future occupants of your room." Eeek! The last thing I want to think about.

What on earth happened to wandering into the hotel bar, or better still, outside to discover for yourself what's going on?

Friday, 30 November 2018


It's been official for a few weeks, but I didn't feel properly bona fide Beutsch or Gritish until I picked up my passport today. I am now proudly Anglo-Hessisch, along with goodness knows what else in my DNA.

Will I need to rename my blog "Additional Sausage Thrown In"?

Doesn't sound too catchy.

However, I am working on a new logo.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Free Electric Van

I listened to Les Binet and Sarah Carter talking about their new book (one of those ones I wish I'd written) on a WARC seminar yesterday, and one point they reminded me of was: don't believe all those myths about traditional advertising being dead. Far from it - Facebook advertise in magazines, and both Apple and Google employ posters - yes, old-fashioned billboards - to communicate their wares.

Outdoor advertising still makes so much sense, especially if we really are going to be more and more concentrated into urban areas. And, this week, I also saw a new brand, a start-up in the area of electric mobility.

UZE Mobility, from Aachen are looking to smarten-up and relieve the strain and congestion in Germany's cities, via electro-power, AI, blockchain and all that modern stuff. Their flagship - or flagvan - offering is free of charge van-sharing. As well as running on electricity, the van runs on advertising revenue and data-dealing. The sides of the van are mobile billboards, which can even be bought as the van is in motion. In addition, data about road quality, traffic jams and so on, collected as the van drives around, will be sold to local authorities.

Perhaps the vans will soon be generating their own adverts, too. Also in the news this week was a commercial for the Lexus ES, written by AI:

I do wonder what the creative brief looked like.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Knocking Purpose off its pedestal

The Edelman Earned Brand 2018 report is another useful chapter in the development of brands, what they are, how they work, and how they can progress as the 21st century grows up out of its teens.

The big soundbite to come out of this research is that nearly 2/3 (64%) of people around the world say that they "buy on belief" - a massive 13 percentage point increase over 2017. Even taking into consideration the inevitable amount of virtue signalling that this involves, the scale of the increase is pretty impressive.

But somewhere along the line - in this report, too - I have the feeling that two quite different ideas (which may, and possibly should be linked)  are being muddled.

Is it about brands taking a stand? Or about brands standing for something?

Taking a recent example, of what might go down in history of as the most unlikely brand taking a stand and achieving a huge impact, at least in the short-term, there's the story of Rang-tan.

I first saw this beautifully-made and moving commercial in Campaign back in August. I think one Facebook friend posted it, and it got a couple of likes. I don't know how many people signed the petition. Now, it's difficult to escape the news coverage. It took Iceland's collaboration with Greenpeace, a "ban" and social media outrage to get the commercial noticed on a wide scale. It's interesting that it was the relatively small and unlikely player Iceland that took up Greenpeace's challenge and not one of the big guys.

No-one can deny that this has been an effective act of brand activism, but I'm not sure how much it has to do with purpose. I may be wrong, but I doubt Iceland's purpose is to save orang-utans, or even to reduce palm oil in their products. These may well be related to the overall purpose, but in my book, purpose is broader than one or two campaigns on social, environmental (or even political) themes.

Purpose is connected to a company's products or services and to its values. It can be high-and-mighty, but it doesn't have to be. Not every brand is Patagonia. In fact, a more down-to-earth purpose that's closer to people's everyday lives is often easier to put into practice, and is more authentic for a brand that has no history of standing on a soapbox and shouting about major issues.

The Effective Use of Brand Purpose Report 2018 from the WARC talks about the idea of "purpose" going mainstream. Here, it's not about campaigns, or jumping on the latest cause bandwagon, but finding a genuine, unique purpose for the brand which can act as a navigation compass for the whole company. With product, purpose and profit working together symbiotically.

In this way, purpose can be seen as the new boss for the 21st century.

Friday, 9 November 2018


I've always been proud of being something of a mongrel as far as my DNA goes, but now I can officially call myself a hybrid, with dual nationality - British (my Heimat) and German (my adopted home).

I do notice that this mongrel business is getting more and more on-trend with people proudly presenting their pick 'n mix DNA credentials on social media. And products and brands are going for it too - there's a huge push in the world of whisky to re-elevate the blend as something special in its richness, for example in this ad from Chivas:

I'm not entirely sure what that says about single malts (or the people who drink them) but never mind.

The lady at the Standesamt told me I could be German in Germany and British in Britain. I don't know - I think the other way round is more fun. Or perhaps I can be best of both, wherever I am. Or a humourless fat slag who can't cook if I'm merely feeling spiteful and perverse.

Getting back to brands, it occurs to me that all-too-often, simplicity is confused with clarity. Simplicity in the sense of straightforwardness, obviousness, a sort of inoffensive homogeneity, without Ecken und Kanten, as we say in German.

A brand to me can have clarity or coherence, yet still be rich, have paradoxes and contradictions, many facets, yet you can perceive and appreciate its wholeness. It may well have a one-word equity, if you're into that, but that word itself may have many facets and nuances, and be brought to life in many contrasting moods and styles.

This quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald seems apt here: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

Let's try out my ability to function with that Chivas.


Or is that Preers!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Through a glass darkly

The theme to Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2018 is "Activating Brave", which is another variation on the theme of "long-term agility" - the acknowledged approach for brand growth in the 21st century.

In this article, Daniel Binns from Interbrand explains a little more about how the best brands grow:

“What are these brands doing to achieve success? They are harnessing the ability to take bold short-term action in pursuit of a clear and aligned long-term vision. The key to Activating Brave is to simultaneously look through a microscope and a telescope, and have the courage to intercept the future, not just flow with it,”

I like the idea of the simultaneous microscope and telescope - but does it miss something? Or, rather, are we in danger of missing something if we are forever looking through this lens or another - the customers lens, the consumer lens, the competitor lens. In marketing workshops these days, there seem to be more lenses than at Specsavers!

How would it be if we also used those perfectly good lenses behind the aqueous humour and looked at how brands exist out there in the real world, too?

As the Good Book says (1 Corinthians Chapter 13, v12): 
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.