The Trump Baby balloon is a timely reminder of the power of outdoor advertising and the potential of the biggest medium in (or around) the world - the sky.
Another aerial campaign that kicked off this month is from Hunter as part of the strategy to be recognised as a classic British export.
The 120-foot inflatable welly was launched in Scotland, and will appear at festivals, sporting and other events in the UK and Europe before crossing the Atlantic for some US appearances in the brand's biggest export market.
This is, I think, what's known as a "Big Idea."
I am sure there are some who would have loved to see the Flying Welly boot the Trump Baby up the backside!
I came across a fascinating article by consumer behavioural researcher Ayalla A. Ruvio this week, entitled How Spam became one of the most Iconic American brands of all time.Definitely worth reading in full, it shows how a not terribly exciting product became an iconic brand through involvement and emotional connection with people, employing all manner of ingenious "brand experience" ideas decades before the term was coined.
The article is brimming with historical examples of collaboration, co-creation, tapping into culture and generally being informative, useful and entertaining.
Yes, entertaining. The Spam story that caught my imagination the most was that of the Hormel Girls, a musical troupe of female WW2 veterans. So there's even female empowerment in there too!
But maybe the biggest example of Spam's iconic status is the passing of the brand name into everyday vocabulary. Of course, the brand could have kicked up a huge fuss and not wanted their name sullied with connotations of junk mail.
But I am sure that would have done more harm than good.
There's a rather good series of articles running at Marketing Weekto celebrate the publication's 40th anniversary. I remember Marketing Week if not 40 years ago, then - ahem - certainly 30 years ago. Of the "trade publications" we received, it was my second favourite after Campaign, and certainly infinitely more readable than The Grocer, which seemed to smell vaguely of brown paper.
The articles are written by industry luminaries, and I was pleased to see my old boss from my Saatchi days elevated to branding royalty with this excellent article . Rita Clifton reflects on brands and branding over the last few decades and concludes that for success, strong brands must remain the anchor point, organising principle, heart, call it what you will, of a business.
One thing that hasn't changed in my decades of marketing and advertising is the continual dichotomy: (long-term) building the brand and (short-term) sales - today characterised as "taps, clicks and bricks." I expect our arguments in the last century weren't helped by so much mumbo-jumbo surrounding the idea of a brand. The whole idea seemed vague and airy-fairy, with the continual reference to 'brand image', as well as the contrived and frankly up-their-owm-backside ways that various practitioners conjured-up an enigmatic 'brand essence.'
Images and essences aside, it's interesting that today's most powerful brands are what we used to call single-shot or mono-brands in terms of brand architecture. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Instagram, Pinterest and Co. don't lurk in the depths of mysterious 'brand temples' - more mumbo-jumbo - these are completely clear and upfront in their presentation.
One more reflection on the article: back in the last century, brands were dominated by what we used to call FMCG - Fast Moving Consumer Goods. Groceries in plain language.
It's ironic that the biggest changes that have impacted on branding in the last couple of decades are to do with speed and scale.
When those 20th century marketeers talked about Fast-Moving, they didn't know the half of it!
In much of the coverage of the concept of Purpose in the marketing press, there's often confusion between two separate, yet connected ideas:
1. Brands - or indeed - businesses as a force for good in society and the world as a whole
2. Brand Purpose - the reason a brand exists, which defines its uniqueness and differentiates it from everything else.
This post is more about the first of these ideas - that brands and businesses have the scale, reach and wherewithal generally to do some good in the world. And that people are expecting this more and more as trust in traditional institutions declines. It's worth pointing out (as anti-capitalists tend to forget this) that most businesses have always done good in terms of providing employment, developing the skills their of people and contributing to the local communities as well as the economy. But this is often overshadowed by the negative effects on people and planet that irresponsibly-run businesses can have.
The first lion in this post is the recently-concluded Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It was at this forum that the second lion was premiered.
The second lion is an initiative created by Mars and The United Nations Development Fund, along with creative partners BBDO and Finch. The initiative is called The Lion's Share Fund and here it is introduced by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough:
It's refreshing to see a different theme picked by advertisers to the usual suspects amongst the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and Conservation is particularly apt, seeing as 20% of advertising uses images of animals. Many of the animals featured in ads are endangered species - think of all those tigers, pandas and gorillas. 0.5% of a company's media spend for ads featuring animals won't make a huge dent in profits, but it'll certainly add up to giving something worthwhile back - an appearance fee, if you like.
So, well done to Mars. I do wonder if their arch-rival, Nestle, who make Lion Bar, will join up.
And as for the third lion, well, after last night, I hope you'll forgive me my little indulgence at the top of this post.
I'm still not a huge fan of McDonald's burgers, but I do find I'm liking (if not lovin') McDonald's as a brand more and more. Despite having been in the world of advertising for decades now, my heart still misses a beat (well, half - it's only advertising) when I see an idea I instinctively know is right. And damned bloody good.
"Follow the Arches" by McDonald's Canada, from their agency Cossette, has just won the Outdoor Grand Prix at Cannes.
There's no heavy philosophy or high and mighty purpose here, but instead there's first of all an ingenious and brilliant use of the medium. Plus a nod to popular culture - all those "guess the logo" games. Human insight, too - who doesn't identify with tiring car journeys with hungry kiddies, driving round and round a strange city? And then, positive use of brand consistency, values, global presence. Stunningly simple.
Best of all, it's useful and helpful, which means it'll work.
It puts the ghastly phrase "driving traffic to the stores" in a whole new light!
I went to an open-air rock concert at the weekend, something I hadn't done for some time. One aspect of the experience that intrigued me was that they seemed to be giving away ear plugs at the bar. Rather weird, if you ask me. I asked the girl behind the bar what that was all about and she didn't really seem to know but commented that "maybe some people are sensitive."
A strange remark, I thought, but there seemed to be a streak of concern for the sensitive running throughout the show. At the entrance was a security sign telling you what was allowed and not allowed in terms of bringing stuff into the show. All very well. But then there was an extra section listing what is not liked at the venue: racism, sexism, homophobia and so on, but also stuff like overstepping personal boundaries, coming on to people inappropriately and that sort of thing. Look, I don't like that stuff either - but does it really need to be spelled out to adults?
It reminded me of the sort of sign you get at swimming pools: no running, no jumping, no diving and all the rest. And even though I've left my adolescence behind long ago, those sort of signs always make me want to do exactly the opposite.
The band's singer gave us some cod philosophy about "the rules are there to be broken", but I felt pretty sure that no-one would look kindly on anyone breaking those rules of desirable behaviour that the venue has laid down. I wondered vaguely if the venue's management go through the back-catalogue of lyrics with a red pen each time some rock dinosaurs come to strut their stuff.
Hate is only acceptable when it's channeled in approved directions.
Perhaps the conversation Johnny has in The Wild Ones would go like this today:
- Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against? - What's on the approved list?
This is important for brands, as I sense an increasing homogeneity: brand values are interchangeable, and even "rebel" brands seem to be more and more conformist. I am not a great fan of those "12 Brand Archetypes" tools, for a number of reasons. Not only is there rather too much over-simplification involved, but the whole thing seems to be about fitting in rather than standing out. ("Which Disney Princess is your brand?" to which a real rebel brand should really answer "None of 'em!").
Are the "usual suspects" who get held up as Outlaws or Rebels really so? Harley Davidson, Virgin, Diesel et al? Or are they merely the establishment's idea of an acceptable rebel?
I'm on the lookout for brands that do something genuinely rebellious. Existing only in the Internot, for example.
Yesterday, I nearly got into a fight, or at least a slanging match. A man crossed the path of my car (yes, I was on the road), glued to his SmartPhone, not looking, oblivious. If I'd been paying as little attention to my surroundings as he was, he'd be dead or seriously injured. Yet, he seemed to think I was in the wrong.
The news (which most people probably read on their SmartPhone) is cram-full of articles about SmartPhone addiction (or is it social media addiction, or internet addiction? And does it matter?) and as long ago as 2014, the McCarthy Group's Trust and Attention Survey found that, for millennials, access to the internet is more important than access to their best friend. The word Nomophobia has been coined to mean "the fear of being without your phone."
We're not just heading for the dystopia depicted in this cartoon (inspired by The Fleischer Bros.' Bimbo's Initiation), we're active - or passive - participants already.
The Googles, Facebooks, Instagrams and YouTubes of this world are responding by a focus on "Digital Wellbeing", building take-a-break features into their services, amongst other measures. This move towards "responsible devicing" feels familiar - rather like the booze companies encouraging responsible drinking. A little bit "nanny knows best?"
The man on my local street aside, it's difficult to say how much of this is real and how much is media hype. And I wonder if just as much anxiety and mental distress comes from well-meaning and "look at my perfect world" posts as it does from hate speech and the like.
One thing is for sure: the (social) media companies dealing with the problem head-on isn't new.
Vancouver is one of my favourite cities, and this week it has been playing host to Sustainable Brands 18"Redesigning the Good Life", where the good and great in branding and marketing get together to talk about how brands can help make the world a better place. Vancouver seems an apt choice for the host city, as it aims to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.
One of the speakers at the event was Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G. In this interview for Sustainable Brands, he talks about what needs to be changed in the world of branding. No huge surprises, but it's a useful summary of the way that branding has evolved over the last decade or two:
*Lead disruption rather than trying to follow
*Focus on growing the market, not just gaining share
*'Built-in' doing good rather than 'bolted-on'
*Big is beautiful when it's good
*Sustainable is mainstream, not niche
So there we are. It seems that one place to start with being a sustainable brand is to recycle your old marketing paradigms and models - and possibly re-purpose them as frameworks ;)
As someone who has worked in advertising for more years than I'd like to admit to, the thought that often provided me with the best guidance is: "it's only advertising." Perhaps that hides a regret that I never became a brain surgeon, or something equally useful, but it has certainly saved my sanity more than once.
When I worked in the UK, I admired the way that the ad industry constantly took the mick out of itself, from ridiculing preposterous product demos to beer brands sending up pompous and pretentious perfume ads.
I've commented before that the industry seems to have lost its sense of humour of late, and it seems ironic that it's a beer brand that's being parodied in the video from Oasis (owned by Coca Cola) above. The Togetherness Bottle campaign, created by The Corner, London, has a subversive swipe at all those worthy ads with their plinky piano music and social experiments: "Brands acting holier than thou while everyone knows it's about sales, not saintliness," as its creators say. It's all part of an overall marketing strategy from Oasis, #RefreshingStuff, that the brand has been pursuing since 2015.
It's a fun idea with a serious point behind it for all marketers. Purpose is important for brands, but it really doesn't need to be about stopping wars, obliterating sexism/racism/anyotherism, empowering women, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or saving the world in any other way.
It could just be about refreshing people with a cooling fruity drink and a bit of a laugh when advertising people get too up their own bottoms.
I have always been fascinated by the Bayeux Tapestry - not just for its awe-inspiring ancientness, but also from the juxtaposition of the medium and the content. An action-packed bloody battle depicted through that most ladylike, refined and patient of crafts - tapestry, or more exactly, embroidery.
There's a similar juxtaposition going on with the BBC's FIFA World Cup 2018 launch commercial, created by their in-house agency BBC Creative, and Blinkink. The thrills, spills and action of past World Cups have been captured in 600 individually embroidered frames. The style of the embroidery and the soundtrack to the resulting film are inspired by the host nation, Russia.
A 7m long tapestry will live on after the winner has hoisted the trophy in July. This is only 1/10th the length of the Bayeux Tapestry, but it certainly reflects the tagline of the film: History will be made.
I'm sure there are other interesting and creative ideas for combining medium and content in unexpected ways that this could inspire.
And will it perhaps still be there to marvel at in 1,000 years?
I am sure I have remarked before on the preponderance, still, of independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in Germany compared to the UK. When my son was young, shopping was never a chore, as it seemed that just about everywhere we went, he'd be offered something to nibble on.
A little packet of Gummibärchen in the Post Office, an apple at the greengrocer, a corner of currant bun at the baker and a slice of sausage (indeed, sometimes a whopping great chunk of sausage) at the butcher. I can imagine the shock-horror reaction to that last one in health & safety-allergy-obsessed UK.
This all reminded me of my own childhood shopping trips, when greengrocers had brown bags proclaiming Eat More Fruit! and extras were always slipped in over and above what showed in pounds and ounces on the weighing scales.
This was all brought back to mind on a recent trip to Tesco in the UK, where I saw a tray of free fruit for kids:
This initiative, launched in 2016, has been a huge success for Tesco and they reckon they've given away 50m pieces of fruit since its launch. It's part of an overall renaissance for the retailer, since its low point in 2015. Since then they're on their ninth consecutive quarter of growth.
The principle is so simple: put yourself in the customer's shoes - and why not take a lesson or two from retailers down from you in the food chain, for a change. The kind who haven't got a high and mighty Corporate Purpose Statement on the boardroom wall, yet know their customers personally, and put purpose into practice every day, in all they do.
It could be a case of: An Apple a day keeps the losses away.
I read a fascinating article this week in the HBR, entitled Marketing in the Age of Alexa. The article charts the rise of AI platforms and voice assistants, painting of a picture of a life where the skilled digital assistant accompanies its human owner? partner? master? slave? 24/7 in home, car, mobile device and so on and so forth.
But hang on. Voice assistants may become increasingly skilled, through AI, I don't debate that. However there will be some aspects of our lives that they will never have information about, unless we so choose. And that includes most of what happened or was made more than, say, 10 years ago.
Spotify won't have a clue that I may decide to dig out old vinyl from my teens and play Iggy Pop at full blast from my 1980s sound system. Or set up my wind-up gramophone from the 1930s outside on a sunny day and listen to 'On the road to Mandalay.'
The are furniture items, books, toys, crockery, photographs, letters, bicycles, bedknobs and broomsticks that will never be connected to the internet of things (unless we want them to be.)
Beyond that, there is the whole of nature, which grows without a code or chip.
And beyond that, there is the future.
The AI platforms have no connection to this world and don't "know" - as far as they can know anything - that it exists.
Maybe it's one strategy for rebel brands today to plant themselves firmly in the world of the internot.
One of the core questions for marketing people has always been centred around how to adapt and transform in an ever-changing world. There's an interesting and useful analysis here by two authors from the agency Flamingo, who have examined change in a wide variety of fields, and constructed a simple model showing four strategic directions a brand could choose - Guide, Translate, Create and Pivot - along with good examples of brands who have used those different strategies.
I like this analysis, although it does tiptoe into an area that seems to be, in my mind, rather over-played currently: that of the VUCA world "out there."
There can be few readers who haven't heard about VUCA from some source or another, but in case you haven't, the acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
This acronym didn't come from some marketing consultant, but from the U.S. Military, in the context of Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s.
Is this really how we want to see the world we're operating in? Are our brands weapons in some kind of war?
I don't think so.
What if we thought of it this way:
For 'Volatile', read 'Spontaneous'
For 'Uncertain', read 'Surprising'
For 'Complex', read 'Diverse'
And for 'Ambiguous', read 'Enigmatic'
Because it's not us against them, there is no world "out there", "external" and "internal". We are all part of the world.
It's the role of brands not to provide stability in the sense of stasis and resistance to change, but rather to provide a clear purpose and direction as part of a wonderful, multi-facetted, animated, rich and mysterious world.
Today's post leads on from my last one, as well as picking up a theme a looked at over 5 years ago: curators and curation.
Since I wrote about Brand Curators (which on balance, I still think is a good idea), the use of the word and its variants - curated, curate as verb - has exploded. it's almost as omnipresent as the dreaded "journey" - in fact, "curated journeys" abound.
Curation is a good and necessary thing in the present day, with digital overload, and it does suggest a degree of discernment, skill and knowledge. But have a look at a typical brand activity - I've picked Amazon - which involves "curation."
Amazon Prime's Book Box Serviceis one of those ideas that it feels a little churlish to criticise. I do take the points about encouraging children to read and love books and all the rest.
But. The books are described as "hand-picked" as well as "curated". Does that mean a human being is doing the choosing? But how much is that human being aided and abetted by algorithms? And does this kind of "curation" involve an aspect of "nanny knows best"? The word "curate" does come from curare - "to care."
Where does curation stop and censorship (of a gentle sort) begin?
Is it the curators who have their knives at the ready to dock the long tail?
Twelve years ago, a book came out which celebrated the almost unlimited choice enabled by the internet: The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson. Four years ago, I questioned the notion of choice: were we maybe living more in an age of pseudo choice, where increasingly, the internannies Google, Facebook and YouTube were knowing better what we were looking for: Did you mean ...?
I'm still irritated by Did you mean .....? as in most cases, no, I didn't. If I looked up something obscure that 99.9% of people would never search for, the chances are I did it on purpose. But in the four years since I wrote that post, the internannies have become increasingly sneaky, manipulating what we might or might not like to see behind the screens.
And, reading this excellent article from Contagious, about Voice. It's estimated that, by 2022 55% of US homes (48% of UK) will have a Smart Speaker in their home. And within two years, 30% of web-browsing will be done by voice.
Of course screens won't disappear, in the same way that bricks and mortar shops won't disappear, or TV advertising, but imagine this: if you search for an item on amazon via your device, you'll probably look through a largish number of the options presented. You can process visual information pretty rapidly.
But if you ask Alexa, how many options are you likely to want to listen to? Not many. Processing of auditory information takes far longer.
Whether you dock a dog's tail is a matter of choice and fashion, but I can't say I particularly like it.
Brand Purpose seems to be the 21st century equivalent of Brand Positioning - everyone wants to have one, and for good reason. There's maybe a tendency, though, for Purpose to be confused with Doing Good, in that what used to be called CSR activities are now labelled as Purpose.
It's probably the subject of another blog, but ideally, Purpose should drive the entire brand, with the 'Doing Good' activities stemming from it. But Purpose itself does not have to be about saving the world single-brandedly.
Still, whether its an overall Purpose, or activities that stem from that, it's important that these are true - and unique - to your brand. It's only too easy to look at something like the UN Sustainable Goals and pick something you like the sound of or is flavour of the month in the media.
To be true to the brand, the Purpose or activities should:
- reflect the brand values and beliefs
- connect in some way to the products
- be motivating for customers
- be relevant for what's going on in society.
A great example of a very simple brand "doing good" activity is the tonic water brand Fever-Tree which supports the eradication of the disease malaria via Malaria No More UK (since 2013) as well as recent lobbying of Commonwealth Heads of Government via Malaria Must Die. So Millions Can Live.
The connection is very simple: the ingredient that gives tonic water its bitter taste is quinine, derived from the Cinchona tree, known as the "fever-tree" - hence the history with the colonial time in India. This may be an association that is not particularly desirable these days, but it is great that the brand hasn't shied away from this, rather turned it around to look to the future and doing good.
It would be great if they had an underlying brand purpose, too, from which a wider range of activities could stem - or maybe they have already?
Carrying on from last week's post on the subject of Great (New) British brands, I'll turn my attention this week to a couple of British brands born on the other side of the millennium.
The received wisdom is, these days, that it's all about 'Experience' and 'Story'. Something the brand Colman's Mustard did, I feel, most admirably with the Mustard Shop & Museum in the Royal Arcade in Norwich. Sadly, it seems that this wonderful emporium closed down last year.
But just a little further south in East Anglia, Tiptree jam is opening up another tea room, this time in Chelmsford.
This tea room is slightly different from the brand's previous forays into retail and gastronomy in that it's in a rather more modern setting. It's easy to design an English tea room when you have a quaint country cottage or ancient mill at your disposal, but with a modern building, the designers have to think differently. I think they've succeeded with their blend of the past and the present:
Let's just hope that Tiptree isn't the next to be taken over by Unilever.
I always admire the organisation Trendwatching for their breathlessly optimistic tone of voice, something that old cynics like me would do well to take heed of. Back in 2016, in the light of Brexit and the rise of Mr Trump, the agency suggested that brands might like to join the backlash against globalism in a positive way.
It seemed naive at the time: surely all those that supported Brexit were dreadful flag-waving jingoists at best? But now, with Facebook in the particular limelight that's reserved for villains of the piece, maybe there is room for 'Nation Nurturers' to stand up as heroes for people 'seeking solace in the familiar.'
I've found two menswear brands that are doing just that, and combining the history and tradition of the British Services with bang up-to-date business models and media.
First, there's Realm & Empire, who have 'honest, original garments that offer modern fits with strong historical links.' Inspired the archives of the Imperial War Museum, this is just the ticket for those who'd like a piece of vintage kit but find only sizes S and XS on eBay. Wouldn't mind a job as a designer there!
And then there's a brand that's only been around half a year or so, Patria , which is a purpose-driven outfit, founded and staffed by veterans and committed to supporting Armed Forces Charities. The business model here is bang up-to-date, employing crowd-sourcing, which removes the necessity for stores and stock, and cuts down on waste. They're currently offering T-Shirts and Sweatshirts to celebrate the RAF centenary.
Patria's logo, the terrier 'Jack', is, quite simply, top hole.
Advertising in the past (especially from the likes of Procter & Gamble) frequently featured a format known as Problem - Solution. The Problem would be dramatised in a way first to get heads nodding - oh-yes-I-have-those-stubborn-stains-too-but-never-dared-mention-them. Then, in a starburst of glory, the Solution would enter the screen in a heroic pose, possibly accompanied by a man in a white coat or a super-scientific nifty demo.
Once super-hero Solution had done its job, the end benefit would be celebrated with cheesy smiles all around (particularly if the Problem was unsightly yellow stains on teeth, or similar.)
However, after a while, 'Problem Fatigue' began to set into that style of advertising. Most of the world's household stain problems, washday woes and less-than-perfect skin, hair and teeth gripes had been tackled, if not completely eradicated by the various solutions on offer. Companies started inventing problems to which they'd already made the solution. Or dilemmas which no normal person in their right mind would ever entertain. It all got a bit ludicrous.
But a few years ago, advertisers started to strike a rich seam. Problems - less physical, more attitudinal - that the advertising and marketing industry had themselves created.
Take the picture above. Back in the 80s, 90s and even early noughties, clothes and toys for young children were fairly gender-neutral. With a few notable exceptions. But for the last couple of decades, more and more sparkly pink and girl/boy-designated books, toys, birthday cards, wrapping paper and even cakes and sweets have crept in. So, all of a sudden, there's an issue - gender stereotyping - that brands can bravely fight against. While keeping quiet about who created the problem in the first place.
Ditto Objectified Women in Advertising. There are more than a few plucky brands taking a stand against this issue. Accompanying their efforts is a narrative that suggests that back in the dark ages of the last century, almost all women in advertising looked something like this, unless they were cast into the role of mother/housewife:
And, worst of all, women at the time meekly accepted their lot of how they were portrayed. Really? Maybe most of us had more important things than advertising to worry our pretty little heads about at the time.
While we're on the subject of women, there are those now well-known enemies: flawless beauty:
And stick-thin models:
Again, these 'issues' - which were manufactured by the advertising industry itself - are being used as societal problems which the new, virtuous, purpose-led brands can rush in and solve in a blaze of awards, social experiments and tear-jerking commercials.
What takes real bravery, though, is to admit to having created (or exacerbated) a real problem, like plastic waste, or unnecessary additives in foods and make a commitment to do something about it:
Sometimes the world of advertising, with its issues, problems and solutions, feels rather like the world of reality TV, where the winners of one ghastly show are recycled as contestants for the next.
I've had the pleasure of working on several alcohol brands throughout my career - Courvoisier, Harvey's sherries, and Lanson champagne, to name a few. The 80s and 90s of the last century were something of a golden age for drinks advertising in the UK. Who could forget this glorious commercial?
Working on alcohol brands today is a different story. Much of the brands' budgets are taken up with promoting what's called 'responsible drinking' which must be something of a conundrum. How do you promote your brand, differentiate it but at the same time warn about not going overboard with the stuff? It's a bit devil you do, devil you don't, and I don't envy people working with this puzzle, to be honest.
If you look at the stats and that alarming rise in the early 2000s, you can see why something had to be done:
And this is what you end up with. It kind of swims or sinks depending on how much cred the artist in question has. And I must admit that I don't have a clue on that front.
There was another time in history when alcohol consumption was at alarming levels in the UK - and by all accounts easily available to children:
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, alcohol consumption levels were even higher than 100 years later. This gave rise to movements promoting 'abstinence' and 'temperance' rather than today's phrase 'responsible drinking.' These movements were usually linked to religions and certainly not to the alcohol producers themselves.
One such was the 'Band of Hope Union' which tried to nip the habit right in the bud. This was a club for children with the aim of preventing them from starting to drink alcohol. One method was to teach youngsters about the effects of alcohol on the human body, and certificates were awarded for 'reporting a lecture on alcohol and the human body' - the one above was awarded to my grandfather while he was in his early teens.
I know my grandfather grew up to enjoy a pint or two as much as the next man, but I wonder how much of the decrease in consumption seen in the pre-WW1 years above was due to the efforts of the Temperance Societies? Behind all the drum-beating and holier-than-thou stuff, they were at least treating teens as intelligent humans with an interest in the latest scientific findings.
Today, the UK alcohol industry is quite different to the one I knew 20 years ago. There are 10,500 less pubs in the UK today than there were in the year 2000. Here's a recent article with this and other statistics on the Brits and drinking.
I'll end, I think, with a quotation from Hilaire Belloc which makes me slightly misty-eyed:
But when you have lost your Inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.
There's not a lot more dreary and self-congratulatory than a 'bloggoversary' crammed with statistics about post views, page views and your audience from Outer Mongolia to the Inner Depths of Brexit Island. Unless it's a Facebook anniversary - look-at-this-awesome-video-that-I-didn't-put-together-myself-with-pictures-of-silly-monkeys-and-sickly-cakes (oops.)
So, to mark 10 years of this blog, I'll direct you to my first post, You know it's time to start blogging when, which reflected on a local exhibition of advertising from the past, and pondered on the difference between 'modern' and 'contemporary'.
Then, there's my most viewed post - quite why is beyond me - Spring Cleaning, all about that daffodil-yellow German equivalent of the Hoover, the Kärcher.
And now, to leave the stats alone, I'm going to pick a post from each year that I particularly liked at the time, a kind of curated (bleurgh!) best-of.
I've remarked before on how, over the last 20 years, the internet has become more and more of a passive medium. More like the 'couch potato' picture of TV, in fact. Twenty years ago, we were surfers, springing from crest to crest in an invigorating new world, with just a few other cool young dudes for company. Fifteen years ago, the pace had slowed and we were stumbling over this or that in a mild-mannered absent-minded professor sort of way. And now, most of the world's population are online and content, in many cases, with being fed non-stop with digital drivel by Nanny algorithm, in the guise of a personal curator.
Another parallel is that of nourishment. In the early days, information was relatively scarce, and you had to forage for it. We then moved into what seemed like a golden agricultural age - everyone could grow and create their own stuff, and pass it around for the greater good. But somehow, that dream descended into a passive force-feeding in an age of overabundance.
Well, over-indulgence isn't good for anyone, and the signs are there that the digital honeymoon is over, that paradise is lost for more and more people.
Exhibit One: The Edelman Trust Barometer this year shows that people trust platforms less than ever before, seeing Facebook and Co. as harbouring bullies and trolls, spreading extremist content and fake news, and not taking any responsibility for it. 'Woah! Hang on, we're just the platform' in a sort of 'don't shoot the messenger' sort of way.
Exhibit Two: Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever, threatens to pull investment from online platforms that 'create divisions in society'. There's talk of 2018 being the year of the 'techlash' and that 'social media should build social responsibility.'
Exhibit Three: Belinda Parmar aka 'Lady Geek' in today's Guardian gets tough on the tech companies that launched her career, on a personal (locking away the family's devices) and collective level, calling out those who profit from our 'over-engagement' (now, there's an interesting euphemism!). For example, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who said that the company's main competitor wasn't Amazon Video or YouTube, but sleep. Ouch.
This article is a cautionary tale for all parents. Children imitate their parents' behaviour. If you want your child to grow up a bookworm, he or she has to see you reading. Often. If all they see is their parent glued to Twitter in the bathroom, bedroom, while driving, well ...
Exhibit Four: Sludge - the new word for inserting a pesky seam into all that seamless stuff, making it more difficult to 'over-engage'. Breaking the passivity and forcing action.
So there we have it. Will 2018 be the year our beautiful digital paradise will be regained? And what will it look like with the benefit of experience?
Kitzbühel, St Moritz, Davos - the names of famous ski resorts are so evocative, you can almost feel the tickle of snowflakes against your skin, and taste that first sip of Glühwein. When asked for my favourite examples of advertising from the past, I have to say that 20th century poster art, particularly in the area of travel and tourism, comes generally high on my list.
Maybe it is this pedigree (and quite possibly a budget as high as the Matterhorn) that leads to some of these mountain resorts being so clever with logo design. Back in the old days, there may have been consistency from year to year in the way the resort presented its signature, but often that wasn't the case:
What to do when you want to present your uniqueness beyond sun, snow and mountains, and when you need to do this throughout all online and offline media available these days - including merchandising.
Enter the cleverly designed logo - maybe accompanied by a slogan. It adds a visual dimension to the name, something that is understood intuitively, and stamped on the memory instantly.
Take Davos, for example. Very simple, very clear, very classy. Sunshine and mountain - unmistakeable.
The tourist logo may take its cue from the town's original coat of arms, for example, here are the town and tourist logos for Kitzbühel.
And of course, the practice is spreading to towns who may not have quite the budget or pull for tourists, but nevertheless see the advantages a logo can bring.
I don't mind a bit of a brand drag party when it's done in the spirit of fun, even if there is a serious message underlying the carry-on. But with some gender-themed promotions I've seen, I do wonder what the real motivations are. With International Women's Day coming up, my cynicism radar starts bleeping overtime.
Take the limited (to the U.S. market) 'Jane Walker' Black Label edition. This has been conceived to 'draw more women to the brand' and 'acknowledge a broader push towards gender equality.' OK, on the second part of that, there are donations to organisations supporting women's progress such as Monumental Women. (Whether building statues supports women's progress today is another matter.) But I question whether this is really going to attract women to the brand. Looking at Jane, with her cane and shiny boots, I think she's more likely to attract more men of a certain sort.
The VP of Johnnie Walker, Stephanie Jacoby, says that 'Scotch is seen as particularly intimidating to women'. Now, I don't ever recall having been seriously intimidated by a bottle of Scotch, but there you go. Ms Jacoby is allowed (maybe) to make sweeping generalisations about women because she is one. And she continues '... we like to think of our striding man and our striding woman as really walking together going forward.'
Going forward? Not after a few measures you don't. You go from side to side.
Well, I suppose if the hidden agenda was publicity, I've given them a little more.
I do wonder what awaits us next. Perhaps a gender fluid version, Jo Walker? And what about a few other famous brand icons attempting to attract more women? Can we have a Michelin Woman, maybe? Or a Mrs Peanut?
None of this is new, of course. A Pillsbury Doughgirl was around back in the wonderful gender-bendering 1970s.
One benefit of the wonderful digital age in which we live is that agencies have become so much more generous with their information and knowledge. You may argue that there's no such thing as a free report, or that if it costs nothing, then it has no value, but I beg to disagree.
JWT Intelligence has recently released a report on the women of what they term 'The Elastic Generation'. It's a UK report, based on research amongst women aged 53 - 72. That age group, born from the late 40s to mid-60s, are more commonly known as Baby Boomers, especially in the US. The re-name has been chosen to reflect this generation's inner resilience, energy, strength and potential - as embodied by, for example, Pauline Black of The Selecter, above.
The report, which you can download here, is pretty comprehensive, substantial, and a million miles from the kind of customer-facing horrors that, for example, P&G put out. There are all manner of interesting links and references, including the fascinating Age of no Retirement
So, many thanks to JWT Intelligence, and I'll finish with two remarks:
It may be my age, but I'm afraid I immediately associated 'elastic' with comfy elastic waistbands, much as I get your reasons for the name.
And - the big question - what happens after 72, or do I have to wait to find out?
I realised, with a large gulp, that this year, I'll have been a strategic planner for 30 years. I've been in this business longer than many of today's top brands have been around. There was no amazon when I started, and certainly no Google or Facebook. No one was wittering on about platforms, except for the man who told you to 'mind the gap' in the London rush hour.
I have been lucky with my work. I'm a stayer, rather than a flitter, not due to inertia, but rather due to change just happening as soon as I got itchy feet, rather as if I'd willed it. A new account, a completely different market, an international role. And then, of course, the changes in the world - through technology, which has had a huge impact on the ways of working. I remember the days when you didn't have to schedule a phone call. Yes, there were phones back then (but very few of them were mobile.)
But in terms of what I'm doing, rather than how I'm doing it, the same things are on the agenda. What makes people tick? Why do they behave the way they do? What drives them? And how can brands help to meet this infinite palette of human needs, dreams, desires, wants and hopes?
The agenda has widened for me - on top of this, what is the relation between brand and business? What role or responsibility have brand - and business - in society? These questions retain their fascination.
Back in my college days, I think I did one of those vocational questionnaires that guided me towards suitable fields of work. I seem to remember the legal profession and HM Inspector of Taxes being high on the list. Here is another kind of work-related questionnaire, and rather a good one, from The Book of Life. Rather than suggesting specific careers, it highlights what is important for you in your work, more in terms of what moves you.
I'm pleased to say, that for me, it was creativity. Some things don't change.
Back in the last century, the sexes were segregated - certainly when it came to books and learning. There were boys' schools and girls' schools, and at universities, women's colleges and men's colleges. I considered myself lucky to be growing up when all that was changing, and even made a little bit of history myself as one of the first women undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Over the last few years, there seem to be increasing calls for segregation - in car parks, in railway carriages, and more in more in the way some products are sold and marketed. Maybe International Women's Day has brought out the worst in them, but here are just a couple of examples from the (UK) publishing industry.
Penguin are going to pop-up in Shoreditch with their "Like a woman bookshop" from 5th - 9th March. This bookshop will stock only books written by women. A Penguin spokeswoman is quoted as seeing this as a push for "women's voices being heard and taken seriously ..."
Meanwhile, there's the publisher And Other Storieswho will only be publishing works by women in 2018.
In my admittedly limited (to children's books) experience of the UK publishing industry, I've noted that it seems, if anything, to be more female-orientated than male. It is rare to find a literary agent for children's books that's male.
Are these activities creating a problem where there is none? Fiction-writing, with its calls for empathy and communication skills seems to be one area, to me, where women might just have the upper hand.
Where there is a problem is in countries whose regimes and cultures still suppress women. This will not be solved by a pop-up shop in Shoreditch. It will only be solved by publishers actively seeking out authors from these countries (and I don't mean comfortable middle-class third-generation UK-based women) and taking on the risks and dangers involved, if they believe that strongly in "making these voices heard/insert next cliche."
Incidentally, I've been invited to join something called Trinity Women's Network and attend several events that they host. Having gone to a mixed college, why on earth would I entertain the idea of segregation now?
So many years have passed since the word 'sustainability' entered the language of business that I believe many people have forgotten the difficulties they may have had in understanding exactly what that word means. Although I use the word, it's one I've always had misgivings about. It's a heavily-laden word, weighed down by its own worthiness, implying a lot of hard graft for not a lot of reward. It has associations with endurance, with injury and suffering, but none with anything positive, be it people, purpose, planet or profit. It's a must-do rather than a want-to do.
I'm pleased that businesses have started talking about the 'circular economy.' Like the idea of the 'sharing economy', it's an idea you can understand intuitively. I'm surprised the term has been around since 1989 (raised by British environmental economists) as I have only been aware of it in the last two or three years.
Rather than a linear economy, with its produce - consume - dispose beginning, middle and end, the circular economy, as you see above is all about keeping resources going and giving value for as long as possible, and then re-cycling.
Incidentally, this ties in well with my abhorrence of the word 'consumer' - in this model, people are active participants, creating, selling-on, adapting, repairing and recycling as well as using the goods.
It's only a pity that many of the major tech companies with their in-built obsolescence don't seem to have got the hang of this just yet.
I've said before that one of the hazards of being a trend forecaster is that sometimes, you get it wrong.
But apart from the nuclear bomb and the new ice age, there's very little in the predictions of these teenagers, asked in 1966 by the BBC's Tomorrow's World what life might be like in the year 2000, that's so completely wrong, even if some of it took a little longer to start happening. I wonder what these people - now well into their 60s - think today of their predictions?
Robots and computer funerals, madmen and atomic bombs, overpopulation and radiation.
Automation and people out of work.
People will be regarded as statistics and not actual people.
Boredom, everything the same, people the same.
Housing problems, people squashed together and cramped - or living under the sea.
Battery farming, artificially-reared animals.
Rockets and sputniks interfering with the weather. The sea rising.
Black and white, rich and poor all living mixed together.
Very dull, no fun or anything. And - cabbage pills.
I have often pondered the factors behind the success of IKEA. The various press articles and books written on the subject cite everything from product names to meatballs. And they are all (partly) right.
Some of the factors I always come back to when thinking about IKEA are these:
Demographic Design and Vision: Long before it was fashionable to talk about such things, Ingvar Kamprad laid out the Idea and Purpose of IKEA: to create a better everyday life for the many people through affordable Home Furnishings. Those few words say so much and highlight the uniqueness of IKEA. You can copy a product or two, or the hot dogs. But the whole lot? Nah.
The original participative brand: At the risk of repetition, here's another factor that's been in the IKEA DNA long before it was fashionable. IKEA has always involved effort on the part of the customer. 'You do your part, we do ours, and together we save money.' It's well known ('The IKEA Effect' ) that you value more objects to which you've made a contribution.
Then there are a couple of paradoxes at the heart of IKEA which provide a healthy tension, and maybe the 'Marmite' nature of the brand that means it's rarely out of the conversation.
Universal and individual: yes, it's mass-market and yes, the stores look and feel the same. Everyone has collective stories and jokes about IKEA. But once you get BILLY into your home, and fill the bookcase with your stuff, it's uniquely yours.
Change and Ritual: In the same way that our lives at home follow a dynamic of familiar ritual and change, so it is with all aspects of the IKEA brand. The way through the store may be standardised, but there are surprising new products around every corner.
As I write this, I'm looking at a table in my office. I bought it 22 years ago as a dining table when I first moved to Germany, expecting it to last a few years before we bought something more solid. It's been through three different homes now and although it's currently enjoying something of a holiday from dining (it's the winter indoor home for a couple of hibiscus plants), I suspect it will have a new lease of life in a few years, maybe as a dining table once more when my son moves out.
And maybe this will be Ingvar's legacy. A recycled, renewed IKEA for the 21st century.
'Most things still remain to be done. A glorious future!'
It's official, I think. The store of the future is here today. Well, not here in downtown Bruchköbel, but in - where else? - Seattle. Amazon have launched their first no queues, no check-outs Amazon Go grocery convenience store. To get into this cornucopia of convenience, all you have to do is scan your Amazon Go app and it's 'Open Sesame.'
In you go, pick stuff off the shelves, put it in your bag and out you go again. Change your mind? Dither? It's all covered, via the crafty technology (computer vision, sensor fusion, deep learning - as used in self-drive cars) There are loads more photos here.
Part of me is excited about this, but part is alarmed. Not so much by the shot in the link of that flock of cameras, but by seeing the Amazon branding all over those food products and meal ideas. Being a little behind the times, I still associate Amazon primarily with books and stuff.
I suppose the source of the alarm is the audacity of it - the assumption from the Amazon people that they have a right to infiltrate every area of my life, including those where their competence is questionable. What'll be next? Pharma?
I read another article this week, in The Economist, about Google, Facebook, Amazon and Co. These brands have such power in terms of data held that they do pose a threat to healthy competition. What is the solution? Difficult to say.
But I have a feeling that, in the end, people need something more than convenience alone. However fast and seamless 'shopping' (if I can call it that: it seems more like shop-lifting) at Amazon Go is, if those make-a-meal kits taste as bland as they look, people will vote with their stomachs and seek out fresh ingredients, or their friendly local bistro, or a greasy junk-food fix. At least for some of the time.
I do wonder at what point the tide of opinion will turn that Amazon has Gone Too Far?
Well, at least one that seems somewhat uncompromising. Strohrum, known as The Spirit of Austria, is a brand that turns all the current 21st century must-dos of branding on their heads.
From its beginnings in 1832, back in the imperial days, Stroh has made a virtue of being inauthentic. So inauthentic that it's authentic, in fact. Austria is land-locked and didn't have many colonies so it was unlikely that anyone would be able to bring enough sugar cane back from the Caribbean for an authentic rum. So the strong spiced rum was concocted from sugar beet, plus aromas and colours.
It's available in 5 different strengths: 38, 40, 54, 60 and 80 and, yes, those are the ° proof. The two highest are described as "overproof" which is about as blunt as "overweight."
Devoid of stories about crafting and palm trees and pirates, the pack design is also uncompromising. In fact, it could be mistaken for something you'd put in your car engine, rather than your mouth. The whole thing is redolent of last century ski holidays, tin signs, dark wooden huts, smoky bars, paper bags from picture postcard newsagents, the whiff of Jagertee.
The only time Stroh gets slightly less disreputable is when it's used as an ingredient in cakes and desserts. But those aren't terribly good for your waistline.
2018, the trend forecasters inform us, will see yet more leaps forward in brands getting close up and personal with their customers.
Right on cue, I received the flyer above a couple of days ago, through the good old post. It's not from a huge global brand, but from a local sports store, informing me of a loyalty bonus I've earned. I have to say that receiving something with my name literally on it made me feel quite special. Especially as I am about to set off to the slopes. I was flattered by this little surprise, a lot more so than if it had been sent via email.
But maybe that's the point. The surprise is that it combines what we used to call old (flyer) media with new (personalisation) technology. No-one would be surprised to receive something of this sort via their smart phone, for example.
This raises an interesting issue about people's expectations. We say again and again that people's expectations from brand communication are changing, but we seldom stop to think what that really means. What it does mean is that personalisation will become so commonplace that it won't be a surprise any more. It will become par for the course, expected, maybe not even noticed any more, in the way that people want Smart Home technology 'so seamless it's forgotten.'
We all have the same tools at our disposal. Being first to use these may win you a few temporary points for novelty value. But it's only when the tools are used in a fashion and to a purpose that is unique to your brand and what it stands for that will build lasting attachment.
One major anniversary in 2018 will be 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Those who're aware of my author-ego will know I have something of a soft spot for the RAF and I thought I'd kick off the New Year with a look at how the recruitment advertising for the RAF has reflected cultural changes across the last century. Well, actually, it's an excuse to go rummaging through some wonderful old ads.
When the RAF, born out of the Royal Flying Corps, started, it was all about honour and glory. The beautiful poster above looks and feels every bit of its hundred years old, from the typeface to the sentiments expressed. The 'See the World' poster is probably a little younger, and introduces a perennial theme for the RAF - the exciting possibilities and adventure that such a career opens up.
By 1941, in the middle of the 2nd World War, things were getting grittier and direct on target. There was no doubt here about what was required and what was the task that lay ahead. This image is courtesy of the very magnificent Aviation Ancestry - but I will issue a warning straight away - you are likely to be some time if you visit the site!
Moving into the 1970s and 80s, the promise of excitement and adventure was still writ large. The advert featuring a Tornado is also care of Aviation Ancestry. And changes in society were reflected too in the RAF - or maybe the services actually influenced some societal changes? The advert below is courtesy of the Advertising Archives:
As the century due to a close, the recruitment advertising went into full James Bond action mode, as seen here in a 1997 TV ad:
And now, almost up-to-date, one of the ads from the 'No Ordinary Job' campaign:
Being the youngest of the services, and being born into the golden age of poster advertising, the RAF does sometimes feel more like a brand than the other services. I feel that the RAF Roundel has a lot to do with that - one small symbol that says so much, so powerfully.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: