On a wet and windy weekend, the traditional Christmas Markets are selling off the last of the Glühwein and Lebküchen, and will be packing up on Sunday. Christmas Markets - like all markets really - are the original pop-up stores. There's still a good representation of craftspeople selling everything from knitted socks to wooden spoons to cookie-cutters in every shape and form imaginable, as well as Christmas decorations ranging from tacky to terrific.
But increasingly, the Christmas Markets are becoming more about the food, drink and "gastronomic experience" (or whatever we're meant to call it these days). There's a growing tendency for places to sit indoors within the Christmas market, to guzzle your Glühwein in comfort.
And it was only a matter of time before brands would see the opportunity. At the Köln Heumarkt Christmas Market, you can enjoy a beer or two in the Allgäuer Büble Alpe - a beautifully constructed rustic barn with the feel of an Alpine hut.
Allgäuer Büble Bier is the sponsor of the Christmas Market, and the whole barn is splendid to behold, quite in keeping with the feel and tradition. But I rather hope that there won't be too much branding invading this brand-free zone in the future, particularly if some of the global food and drink brands try to get in on the act.
Meanwhile, have a wonderful Christmas and don't drink too much beer, Glühwein or anything else in case you too start to see ski-ing gnomes!
Together Forever, the commercial for Ancestry is my Ad of 2019. I've been rattling on this year rather a lot about political or cause-related advertising that doesn't really connect with the product, but here's a great example of a commercial that does.
Where shall I start? The idea is insightful, clever, topical and makes me want to go off and try the product by getting my DNA checked out. The end-line is one of the best I've heard for a long time: We may be leaving Europe, but Europe will never leave us.
Then there's the execution - super casting, use of music, all of which adding up to a film you want to watch again and again - and talk about.
The ad was created by Dan Morris and Charlene Chandrasekaran at Droga5, London. I gather, in the interests of international alignment, the account will be leaving to go to a new agency, but with an ad like this, I wonder if it'll also be a case of the old agency never really leaving the client.
The first snow has fallen overnight, there's winter sports on the TV and my thoughts are turning to ski lifts and pistes.
Shopping for winter clothing is something I've always associated with struggling into padded jackets in over-heated changing rooms, with the faint smell of ski-wax in the air. As far as Customer Experience goes, it's not brilliant.
I've recently seen an excellent idea from Woolrich, famous for their Artic Parkas (originally developed for Alaskan pipeline workers). In their flagship store in Milan, there's an "Extreme weather condition" room - a 14 sqm freezer at -20°C where you can try on a new parka and see if it's up to the job.
When it comes to the coolest ideas for Customer Experience, this one has to be up there.
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:
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.
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 Intelligencehere 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?
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: