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!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Dressed to kill?

Not many weapons have the status of a brand, but Kalashnikov is surely one that does.

The heat has been on for the last few months for the Russian arms producer, as Western sanctions will limit sales in Europe and the US. These markets had historically accounted for 70% of hunting and sporting weapons sales.

In a branding move worthy of the best capitalist brands, Kalashnikov plan a diversification into - wait for it - fashion. Apparently, 60 stores will open in Russia by the end of the year.

Mind-boggling as it may sound, it's actually a worryingly good idea. Look at the success Caterpillar had diversifying from diggers to boots and apparel.

Oh, those Russians!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Never forget where you came from

In a very early post on this blog - over seven years ago, gulp! - I bemoaned the change of name from Norwich Union to Aviva. This change was accompanied by some kind of ballyhoo about 'outgrowing our name.' I note, with amusement, that Aviva still sponsors Norwich City Football Club. Maybe they will push the football club to change their name to Aviva FC.

And that's just the point. The global brands that are football clubs, from Real Madrid to Chelsea to Bayern München don't change their names. Even if they only have one player who comes from anywhere near their named city, they don't forget where they came from.

Part of the (good) reason for this is that while we may have global brands, there is no such thing as a global customer. People live in markets.

I've recently noticed a brand undergoing the reverse procedure. This really was a brand that got too big for its boots - the Royal Bank of Scotland, who at some point decided to rebrand as RBS, as the name Royal Bank of Scotland was considered 'too parochial' for a global bank. Well, after years of criticism, crisis and bail-outs, the RBS branding is to be removed from branches in England, Scotland and Wales. The England and Wales branches will operate under the name Williams & Glyn, while the Scottish branches will go back to the original name.

I'm pleased to see that this accompanies a refocus back on UK retail banking after all the high-blown global ideas. The new CMO, David Wheldon, has a great track record, so let's hope he can help to salvage what was once a trusted high street bank.

In the end, maybe the Avivas and RBS's of the world (what memorable brand names!) could learn from some of the giants in branding. Has IKEA ever forgotten its Swedish origins? Has Apple ever pretended it came from some imaginary global place?

I don't think so.

Monday, 2 May 2016

All together now

I'm a great fan of Coca Cola's marketing. I have blogged about how the old dog does indeed learn new tricks here . The ideas from Coke that stem from the bottles are a marketing masterstroke, from the original 'Share a Coke with ...' and the names, to the football teams, to the 'Coke through the decades' retro pack designs. These are ideas that are about togetherness and individuality, the collective and the personal simultaneously.

And this summer, Coke has done it again with 'Share a Coke and a Song.' The 'Big 4' Coke varieties will include song lyrics on the packaging, with a promised mix of 70 songs, encompassing old, new, borrowed and blue(s), I expect.

This feels so right for Coke and hopefully will be worth all the effort and expense taken to secure the lyrics. Music is, of course, an international language which unites people. Music is about emotion, memory and mood, which ties in perfectly with Coke's new 'Taste the Feeling' campaign.

In another smart marketing move by Coke, the company will be rolling out its 'One Brand' packaging in 2016 and 2017.

It makes sense to me to bring the variants closer together under one brand - rather like car brands such as Audi, it's the marque that is important emotionally, not the individual variant that suits your physical tastes or needs.

And, going back to the music, I wonder whether it is also one in the eye for Pepsi, who have always had close associations with music in the past.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Artificial vs. Intelligence

The APG UK's forthcoming conference to be held on 25th May, is entitled 'Strategy vs. Robots'. The publicity features the clever idea of a Top Trumps -style card, comparing a robot with a human strategic planner. The robot (slightly) out-trumps Ms Mills on intelligence and processing power while our human hero wins hands down on creativity and sense of humour.

It promises to be a good event, with such people as Kate Fox (of 'Watching the English' fame) and Steve Hilton (whose has published a book entitled 'More Human'). I'm not sure who is going to be representing or sticking up for the robots, but maybe they will invite a special guest from Japan.

Apparently, McCann Japan have appointed an AI robot as a creative director. This new employee will be 'mining and analysing creative databases of adverts to find the best commercials for products and messages.' I am still not entirely sure this isn't a wind-up, as the 'new employees meeting' where AI-CD ß was due to appear was April 1st, which seems a bit fishy to me. However, stranger things have happened.

I've blogged a couple of times about where I stand on the planning - or even creativity - by AI and algorithm debate, here and here .

I'm old enough now not to worry about my own job being taken over by a robot. But I guess in the end, there always has to be someone human working to design and build the robots.

Or does there?

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A jolly Happy Birthday!

Celebrations are in full swing back in Blighty for The Queen's 90th birthday, and I will no doubt join in. But I also want to celebrate a different birthday, for another (excuse the 'i-word') icon. Not a lady, this time, but a rather fine gent.

Mr Peanut, of Planter's fame, is 100 years old and celebrated his birthday officially two days ago.

Mr Peanut is one of my favourite brand characters, along with the Michelin man. Not many brand characters reach 100 without being deemed un-PC, too fat, too skinny, the wrong colour, inappropriate or - shock horror - offensive.

Although one or two of Mr Peanut's incarnations are laughable rather than endearing (I am looking at the first NUTmobile here), his longevity surely relies on his staying the sophisticated, nutty gent who promises great quality peanuts. Monocles and spats never go out of fashion.

I'm not sure what year my Mr Peanut mug dates from, but it could as well have been made yesterday.

The history of Mr Peanut is fascinating. In an early example of crowd-sourcing, the original sketches won a competition for 13-year-old Antonio 'Tony' Gentile. Tony won $5 for his idea, which must have been a fair amount of money for a young teenager in 1916. Here's one of his sketches, and you can see the others and read more here.
There's a rather sad end to Tony's story. He didn't go into the world of Madison Avenue, but qualified in medicine and became a surgeon. He died of a heart attack at the tragically early age of 36.

I do wonder, though, what that young boy would have thought if he'd caught a fast-forward glimpse of his creation in 2016.