Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Purpose Onion

It's inevitable, I expect, with Purpose proliferating all over the world of marketing and business, that we should brace ourselves for a plague of Purpose Models to replace the crop of Brand Onions, which are slowly slipping off the boardroom walls and mouldering in corners.

It's over ten years since marketeers and consultants started raving about Simon Sinek and his Golden Circle. (Guilty) Although these days, I look at the Golden Circle and see it for what it is: an onion with a big "Why?" bunged in the middle.

In the past, personal development and coaching has borrowed from the world of brands and marketing. But now this field has leapt ahead (yes, I know a leaping field is a slightly tricky mental image) so far that the marketeers are borrowing back.

Here's an example of something that's been borrowed from an untranslatable Japanese concept and twisted into shape for personal development. It's just a small step from there to reapply it to a brand or a corporation. I can understand the appeal - it's not an onion, more like a lotus blossom, and has the hygge factor of an untranslatable word.

But besides the fact that brands and people are not interchangeable entities, which is my hang-up about Lovebrands and Brand Loyalty, there's another issue with these Purpose Models. Whether an onion or a lotus bloom, the thing that sits in the middle is doing just that. It's sitting, trapped, suffocating from all the layers and blah around it. Purpose should be actionable, something that directs, a navigation needle.

By the way, if I try to squeeze myself into a lotus blossom, all the petals fall apart. Probably another slightly tricky mental image.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Sober October?

Could there be a better way to celebrate the end of summer than a drop of something rich and red? As marketeers seem to be developing a conscience these days, for some, the wine might taste even better if it comes from Garçon Wines .

"Sustainable wine packaging solutions" may not sound that exciting, but just take a look at the Eco Flat Wine Bottle:

The company has been going since 2016 and originally designed their wine bottle to fit through a UK letterbox. Of course, it has additional benefits. While respecting tradition in terms of its proportions and colour, it's 40% spatially smaller and 87% lighter than a typical glass bottle. It's made of pre-existing plastic and recyclable, so it is doing its bit to offset the climate crisis and reflect changes in people's attitudes and behaviour.

The traditional glass wine bottle was invented in the 17th century, but selling wine in bottles is a relatively recent thing, dating only from the early 20th century. Before that, you came along with your own container and wine was sold direct from the barrel. The new bottle shares this "disadvantage" in that the wine only maintains its quality for around a year.

Although the design and virtuous part of me likes the flat bottle, I'm afraid that the hedonist in me feels a bit yuk about it. But then again ... I don't say no to wine boxes for quaffing wine, or plastic bottles in aeroplanes (although I draw the line at tins). And, I'm sure ten years ago or so, I was very snooty about screw-tops, but completely accept them now.

But what a thing to virtue-signal with if you can't quite face Sober October!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Brilliant or bullsh*t?

I've worked on the client side, the agency side and somewhere in the middle, as a consultant. And I still feel these conflicting personas, rather like the Good Cop and the Bad Cop, leaping around in me trying to gain supremacy when I see communication ideas.

Take the recent Burger King "Meltdown" campaign in the UK. The agency side of me is terribly excited about this one. It ticks all the boxes and then some. Where to start? Well, the idea originally came up as a result of a petition from two eco-conscious schoolgirls, Ella and Caitlin, aged 7 and 9. It's big and bold and involving and exciting. It's about actually doing something (people donating unwanted toys, Burger King working with up-cycling partners to convert the unwanted plastic into play areas and trays) rather than just blabbing on and empty virtue-signalling. The execution, from the melting logo to the giant sculpture, is terrific.

And it takes a good pot-shot at McDonald's in tune with the brand's recent edgy attitude campaigns.

My agency side is practically having a meltdown, screaming "what's not to like?" at my less easily-enthused bah-humbug client side.

I don't know. A year or two ago I might have found this original. But now it feels, however good the execution, rather like an opportunistic stunt. One of these. Does it come from the core of the brand? Not really. And sniping at the main competitor merely deflects from the real problem. As pointed out in the article linked above, the campaign broke on the same day that Burger King was presented with an award by Greenpeace for "flame-grilling the Amazon." Perhaps the "Meltdown" campaign name and logo are a little insensitive?

I wonder what our junior eco-warriors think of that?

Talking of which, I'm won't be surprised by a flood of Greta Thunberg wannabes and Fearless Girls appearing in forthcoming brand communications. It has already started, for example, in this campaign for Zürich's public transport (admittedly timed to coincide with Ms Thunberg's visit to the city). The ads are telling us that if we take the tram or trolleybus, we're a little bit Greta.

I'm not convinced there's such a thing.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Just book it

I felt a particular pang of sadness this week at the news of the demise of Thomas Cook. For the people who worked there, and the people who are stranded, but also for the brand and what it stood for. There are few brand names that go back as far as Thomas Cook - 178 years all in all from its beginnings in 1841.

I've probably always been vaguely aware of the brand, but it was the game Go that consolidated that awareness. Landing on the Thomas Cook square in the game was almost as good as the jackpot in the Casino - you could buy tickets for air, sea and rail, book a car and change money to boot. I guess this was an early introduction to a kind of "everything travel-related under one roof" positioning that the brand had.

It's difficult to say what went wrong with this brand. Hubris and Ozymandias syndrome? Or simply head-in-the-sand and fear of change? In the end, it was probably a bit of both. Thomas Cook hung onto their old model and bricks & mortar when they should have hung onto the values and purpose and adapted that for the 21st century.

The irony is that the famous end line - "Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it" - is exactly what people don't want or need these days. From no-frills airlines to direct booking online.

I'm surprised booking.com didn't launch under the name justbookit.com

Will they still be around in 178 years? It seems unlikely.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Aviatrix, the Algorithm and the Roulette Wheel

Ever wondered what an algorithm would make of a photo of you? In the  Milan exhibition Training Humans, Trevor Paglen and Kate Crawford show an exhibit which looks at how machine learning classifies people, based on the ImageNet dataset. ImageNet was created in 2009 to "map out the entire world of objects."

There are 2833 sub-categories under "person", and some of these are described as "problematic, offensive or bizarre." If you are intrepid enough, you can upload your own photo here.

I had a shot with my author photo, and bizarrely enough, given the theme of the books, it came up with "aviatrix." Even more bizarrely, my husband's photo prompted the label "co-pilot."

In order to dispel my worry that it was all going to be aviation-themed, I uploaded my son's photo.

The one he used for his CV. And the label? "dissimulator, pretender, phoney."

Luckily, the CV (and the photo) got through and he has an apprenticeship. One assumes that the humans were still in control at his place of work (ironically, an aviation engineering company).

But it does all give you pause for thought on who - or what - is sifting through the CVs, and the basis for acceptance or rejection.

Would a roulette wheel perhaps be fairer?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

More than skin-deep

I wrote a while ago about old dogs and new tricks and here it comes - a brand new and very impressive trick from a positively ancient old dog - or at least its great-grand puppies.

Beiersdorf's first new brand to be launched for over 30 years is Skin Stories, a skincare brand for tattooed skin, including a sun stick, UV moisture lotion and a special repair serum. The new brand recognises that tattoos are mainstream these days (nearly half of all German women aged 25 - 34 have a tattoo - or two).

The cleverness lies in the winning combination of experience/trust (skincare expertise) and innovation - a skincare brand not targetted to gender, age or skin-type, as has been done in the past, but to a segment of the market who have chosen to modify their body in this way.

And there's a brand purpose, too - better and safer tattoos - with the brand going beyond product to set up a think-tank for modern tattooing, for example.

Let's hope it comes up roses for Beiersdorf.

Monday, 9 September 2019

To all the clothes I've loved before

I've made a real effort this year to cut down on buying clothes. It hasn't been easy, and I have caved in on a couple of occasions (notably to replace shoes that have worn through - why don't shoes last these days?). And it seems I'm not the only one - the world is has been waking up to recommerce for some time - see my posts here, here, here and here - and even the everyday retailer Asda is having a go with its Re-Loved section in the Milton Keynes store, where donated clothes of all brands, not just Asda's own, will be sold.

Second-hand clothes have always been part of my wardrobe, from hand-me-downs as a child, and later jumble sales and the Army Surplus Store (still going as "H.M. Government Supplies) to Kensington Market. And what a joy to hear that Flip is still going, albeit up in Newcastle as the Covent Garden branch with its Hawaiian shirts and naval jackets - like a giant cast outfitter for South Pacific - has long gone the way of the rest of the 80s.

As well as the re-use/re-sale angle, there's the re-purpose thread of sustainable fashion, too. And maybe an even bigger opportunity is fashion rental. Changing the mindset away from weddings and ballgowns and fancy-dress costumes to the everyday. The clothes rental market is heading to become a multi-billion dollar business  and subscription models are springing up everywhere from children's shoes to plus-size clothes.

But whether the subscription models are really sustainable remains to be seen. The danger is that people will continue to hunger for the latest fashions, but once the responsibility for the cleaning, repair, passing on and responsible disposal is in someone else's hands, they'll turn a blind eye to the cost to the environment.