Monday, 22 December 2008
It is argued that we are now in the "Age of Mass Intelligence" and that, in rich countries at least, there have never been so many educated people. There are more visitors to museums, literary festivals and the opera than ever before.
Now, the cynical and the cultural snobs and the doom-mongers will all argue back: Ah, but those museums themselves are "dumbed-down". "More educated" doesn't mean "better-educated". This is just about the popularisation of culture, surely, not about intelligence?
Do you know what? I don't want to split hairs, nor do I want to get into an intellectual debate about what constitutes high culture or intelligence these days. Along with the book "The Long Tail", this article has brought to my attention just how much choice is now accessible to all of us, in terms of film, reading, music, thought, entertainment, art and culture in the widest sense, if we choose to seek it out. And I believe that only the worst cultural snob in the world could begrudge a fellow human being discovering the wit of Jane Austen via Gwyneth Paltrow, the beauty of Chopin through Classic FM or the splendour of Puccini through Paul Potts.
Monday, 15 December 2008
In this article by John F Jungclaussen, the London correspondent of Die Zeit, the author reassures readers of a very British newspaper that all is well on that front (apart from Gordon) and a difference in opinion over something as trifling as the economy won't make a dent in the Germans' unconditional love of all things British (except Gordon).
I wrote a similar article a year or so ago. What occurred to me then is that Germany is not in love with the reality of Britain, but rather in the idea of Britain, as expressed through various archetypes. Some of these are mentioned by Herr Jungclaussen: others can be found in my piece - from Rosamunde Pilcher's Cornwall, to Gaslit London, to British Humour, to Braveheart. But, as the article pointed out, the love does not extend to chavs, teenage girls puking in town centres, hoodies - or now Gordon himself.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Let's not join the lemmings...
I'm no expert on economics but this seems to sum up for me just why Britain is heading for disaster, while Germany - I hope - will plod steadily onwards. When I first arrived here, twelve years ago, I was annoyed that my credit card was viewed with disdain and distaste, but now I'm thankful.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Getting it wrong
But sometimes it's fun anyway to consult an ancient tome of trends and to see exactly what they got right or wrong. I think that Nostradamus probably had the right idea to make his predictions so vague and open to interpretation that he couldn't really be held up for criticism. But 20th Century authors had to be a little more precise. I have a book entitled "Megatrends 2000" which was first published in 1988. While much of what the authors predicted was spot-on, I couldn't resist a smile at a piece singing the praises of the "facsimile machine".
"Facsimile machines empower people everywhere to operate at the individual level...Ever wonder why fax machines have become so popular while high-tech electronic mail is such a slow poke? It is the principle of high-tech/high touch described in Megatrends.
Through the technology of the telephone you receive a fax, which you then rip off the machine and proceed to cut up, photocopy, mark up, and otherwise be physically engaged with - high touch. Also, you can write (or draw) something long-hand and send it over the wires. With electronic mail there is no high-touch, just high-tech."
Oh, dear. This all brings back memories of valiantly trying to collect, un-roll and re-order umpteen pages of rolled up shiny paper spread around the grey office carpet like giant cigarettes. And jammed-up shiny paper. And shiny paper that's inconveniently run out during a 50-page document. Didn't toilet paper used to shiny, too? High-touch? No, thanks!
Monday, 1 December 2008
Unfortunately, I didn't answer them very well. Although the questionnaire was well-structured enough and the interviewer perfectly understandable and polite, the questions themselves were nigh-on impossible to answer if one took them seriously.
It was an advertising tracking study for banks , insurance and other financial institutions and most of the questions were asking me to recall not only which financial organisations I'd seen advertising (defined as TV, radio, poster, print, personal direct mail and flyers) for in the last week but also the content of the advertising.
Put on the spot, nothing, but nothing, surfaced except a few logos and snatches of jingles. But I could not honestly say that I had seen or heard these in the context of a piece of advertising in the last week. Yet I know, with almost complete certainty that I have indeed seen communication for banks and the like in the last week: driving along the Hanauer Landstrasse, flicking through the Stern or out of the corner of my eye in a commercial break. It's just that I have long internalised these impressions and added them to my overall inner picture of that brand...and it's something I did not do consciously.
Sixteen years ago, I wrote a long and rather academic paper questioning "Do ads need to be recalled to be effective?". The answer was a resounding No! And yet, I still sit in tracking study presentations and get as excited as the next person when we get a good Awareness Index. I don't like to admit it, but it's true. Sixteen years ago, I wrote that the tide was turning as far as research methodologies go. It's a slow tide. There are some super new methodologies around today which embrace new technology to pick up real-time response to brand communication.
But unfortunately we fall back only too often on measuring what we can and assuming that, because we can measure something, it must be important. And it only took a ten minute interview to remind me that, in doing this, we are only kidding ourselves and probably wasting a lot of money into the bargain.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Brands of Substance
The ten brands include - unsurprisingly - five automobile brands (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche and VW) as well as SAP, Siemens, Adidas, Allianz and Nivea. Actually, it is always quite an amusing exercise to see how well a country's top brands reflect the country stereotype. With Germany it's a pretty good match: a sporty, technically astute, financially solid car-freak with a rather good tan from all those sunbeds (had to get that in somewhere!).
On analysing the success of German brands, Barry Silverstein puts this mostly down to the factors of "discipline and quality" with a downside of being somewhat "lumbering". I'd say this is pretty spot-on, but I'd like to look at that "lumbering" and see if I can find anything positive there.
I would re-interpret that "lumbering" into a few other, more desirable qualities. There is a sense of substance and staying power with these brands. They are damn good products first and foremost, with a minimum of frivolous marketing hot air. While certainly innovative, this is genuine and considered innovation, rather than flash-in-the-pan stuff. I can't see any of these brands suffering from the hubris of over-expansion like that of my "favourite" coffee company!
Finally, although I am sure all of these brands have the usual German skeletons in the cupboard from the 1930s and 1940s, there is a sense of responsibility about them. You could almost say it's part of the brand engineering.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Research that entertains
I'm not sure if Powerpoint has made life better or worse for the audiences of market research presentations. I'm tempted to say worse, but then I remember the horrors of stacks of framed overheads that wouldn't have been out of place in the IKEA warehouse, or even reading hand-drawn Nielsen charts on what was called microfiche (younger readers can ask their grannies...)
So I was delighted to receive the following link to the Japanese clothing company Uniqlo from my friend Charlie at Red Spider . Now, the subject matter is probably more interesting to all (for a variety of reasons) than the average Nielsen presentation, but isn't it just super? My question is: are they real respondents or is it all just a bit of show? Either way, I'm impressed!
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Back to School
I'm someone who's a little bit cynical about all those personal coaches who seem to have sprung up over the last few years. It's probably OK for some, but I suspect that, for me, it would be rather like that feeling "when you lend a management consultant your watch and he tells you the time." I am also slightly stingy by nature so I have also always shied away from splashing out on any kind of wellness or beauty treatments for myself.
But here is something on which I'd willingly spend my money: a sort of indulgence for the intellect, I suppose, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. At the School of Life, you can go to lectures and sermons, take an expert on almost anything under the sun out to lunch, have a bibliotherapy session (I'd never heard of this but it sounds like a Personal Shopper for books), or arrange a quirky one-off holiday via someone in the know.
All-in-all a fantastic idea and a great antidote to the usual dumbed-down diet of pap that we're fed by popular culture.
Monday, 10 November 2008
When did you last see a good ad on TV?
Anyway, the point is that I do get to see lots of TV ads these days, but not on TV. I get round-ups of the best new ads sent to me by e-mail, or I have a poke about on YouTube, or sometimes friends pass on a link or an mpg. My consumption of TV advertising has completely changed. It is now selective and active. And I think it's not just people who have a professional interest in TV advertising who consume as I do.
One site which is a great source of new ads in the UK is Thinkbox . There are also some extremely good articles on the site, including this one by the great Paul Feldwick . In it, he argues that we should stop talking about messages when it comes to TV advertising. I can imagine it must be frustrating for someone who has spent so long in the business to see that some thinking doesn't seem to move on.
Monday, 3 November 2008
The generation game
However, as ever in an article about a product for "seniors", the terms started to get confused in the article. We started off with "65 and over", then moved on to the familiar territory of "seniors" and the rather curious description "older adults". And then the author launched into something about "Baby Boomers" - which I think is my generation, so rather alarming as I don't think I'm a "senior" just yet.
Later, all was revealed as the author told us the origins of the name Jitterbug: "Jitterbug was a dance style made popular in the mid 1930s, so the name squarely targets consumers who remember that era." Well, that makes the target group at least 80, then.
Maybe the problem is that all this marketing putting-generations-in-boxes stuff didn't really take off until those famous Baby Boomers were running the show (and dismissing the next generations as X, Y and Z, rather unimaginatively.) They never really got round to finding a nice snappy label or two for the generations before. What do you call those born before 1945? War babies? Depression Kids?
I don't know, but it must be quite nice not to have been put in a box.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
What goes around comes around
And it got me thinking, which is a good thing. About how we classify and try to measure Social Media. For good reasons, the guys at the agency restricted their analysis to a known (virtual) universe of communities, forums (fora???) and blogs. But, of course, in real life, things are different. Conversations and ideas burst effortlessly out from the blogosphere into the "traditional" Social Media of the pub, the coffee morning, the club - and slip just as effortlessly back in again, no doubt augmented by their experience in the real world.
I would find it fascinating to follow a "conversation" (or whatever you're supposed to call it these days - a conversation certainly sounds more friendly than a meme) from its original spark (a blogger, say), through the online world and see at what point it obtains critical mass to burst out into the "real world" and perhaps even get taken up by the traditional mass media. Maybe a pipe dream, but there are some researchers who are having a serious bash at an holistic approach for tracking brand communications...so, at this point, I'll give a serious plug for my friends at Mesh Planning, who are developing a great approach in this direction.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
ALDI in the Limey-light
One result of this, I am convinced, is going to be Aldi and Lidl really taking hold of the UK grocery market. For years, UK consumers have turned their noses up at the drab German discounters in favour of the twee Tescos and Waitroses with their lush advertising campaigns, over-packed fruit and vegetables and their "twenty different kinds of shopping trolley to make your life easier".
Well, the figures are beginning to speak for themselves. Last month, sales at Aldi and Lidl grew by 14%, while Tesco's growth slowed to 3.5%. And Tesco have even introduced their own "discount brands" such as Daisy washing-up liquid. A case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?
Sunday, 19 October 2008
My cup of tea
So it was just right that, while off my own today, doing my thing for once (husband and son would be as likely to go to the Book Fair as drink Yogi Tee), I was handed a bookmark with a sachet of Yogi Tee. Good one, Yogi Tee!
Monday, 13 October 2008
An epidemic of possession
Thursday, 2 October 2008
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Free Planning for the neighbours?
Monday, 22 September 2008
Books that are the business
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
21st Century charades
Thursday, 11 September 2008
I went to see the Queen of Reinvention on Tuesday in Frankfurt. Madonna seems to sing "Tick Tock" rather a lot these days (I think it's taken over from "waiting...anticipating...hesitating" as her favourite phrase...) and it did occur to me that as well as being the Queen of Reinvention and the Queen of Pop, Madonna is the Queen of Tick Tock. Everything in her shows runs like clockwork. A Madonna performance is a triumph of straight-jacketed spontaneity, of disciplined decadence, of controlled creativity.
It was somewhat ironic that, once we left the concert, everything fell into chaos. You would expect the Commerzbank (as in Arena) and the German Police to be masters of efficiency and organisation. But a lack of basic signage and zero presence of anyone to shepherd thousands of concert-goers, mesmerised by the Queen of Tick Tock, back to their car parks resulted in countless distraught and tired people desperately seeking their cars in a pitch-black wood.
Now, if Madonna had only been in charge of car parking and signage as well, we wouldn't have had any waiting or hesitating and we would have all been tucked up in bed at least two hours earlier.
Friday, 5 September 2008
Hanging on the telephone
I was amused and a touch annoyed with my latest encounter with these people (I assume there are some people there somewhere!). Having got an e-mail congratulating me on my choice to have my bills (Rechnungen) online, I thought I'd better call them to say, no, I have never made that choice and I'd quite like old-fashioned paper through the post so I don't have to be fussed with printing the things out for the taxman.
Well, they now have a sort of voice-activated selection system where you have to pronounce the subject of your call instead of pressing "1 für Rechnungen" and so on. I expect this has been installed to save time and reduce frustration. Unfortunately, in my case, it increased my frustration. Having been told a number of times that my beautiful pronunciation of Rechnung was not valid, I got put through to that part of the Call Centre which I suspect is reserved for foreigners, people with speech defects and the mentally subnormal. I was feeling like all three by this time.
The cheery lady at the other end immediately enquired as to the name of my tariff. I mumbled that I didn't know offhand, feeling completely humiliated. She then gave me some prompting. Could it be the "Call & Surf Comfort" tariff? I recalled that the tariff did have some meaningless pseudo-English name. Now, come on Deutsch Telekom, make up your minds! Are you an International concern with English product names? Or are you a foreigner-unfriendly blast from the past?
By the way, the Call Centre lady wouldn't have passed my pronunciation test on their ridiculous tariff name...so there!
Monday, 1 September 2008
But last week a news report came out which opened my eyes again. By 2060, Great Britain will be the biggest European country, population-wise. Now, I think it's debateable whether my countrymen will have admitted to being part of Europe by then, but it is quite extraordinary to think that before too long, that group of little islands will support more people than the vastness of Germany.
While immigration is a factor, the over-riding difference, of course, is in the birthrate. And I have to say that, had I known what I know now about the difficulties of combining parenthood and career in Germany, I might have done things differently. It seems wrong that, as I start to think about the next school for my son, my first criterion is whether they provide ganztags education or facilities, rather than academic standards, philosophy or even location.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Wake me up when September comes
Monday, 25 August 2008
Old and new media symbiosis
I have just seen another great example from the world of books: Penguin Dating. The idea here is that Penguin Books have got together with match.com to create a dating site for people interested in books. And, although I'm not in the market for this, I can see the attraction for singles. A shared enthusiasm for Dickens or Doskoyevsky will probably get you a lot further than knowing that someone is Aquarius with a GSOH in your search for a mate!
And, the idea plays on the old archetype or myth of the power of the written word in love that stretches from Cyrano de Bergerac, to those glamorous Hollywood librarians through to that T-Mobile ad a couple of years back where an author was actually invented as part of the campaign, which took the whole thing back full-circle.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
So I was amused to read one character's rather zealous viewpoint in a much older novel: “Now what you need in this little old island, and what is needed in all the countries of Europe west of the so-called Iron Curtain, and even more I imagine…in all the countries of Europe east of the so-called Iron Curtain as well as in the backward lands of the Far East and the backward lands of Africa, is some greater precognition of and practice of (but practice cannot come without knowledge) our American way of living. I should like to see a bottle of Coca Cola on every table in England, on every table in France…When I say a bottle of Coca Cola I mean it metaphorically speaking, I mean it as an outward and visible sign of something inward and spiritual, I mean it as if each Coca Cola bottle contained a djinn, and as if that djinn was our great American civilization ready to spring out of each bottle and cover the whole global universe with its great wide wings.”
The novel is Nancy Mitford's "The Blessing" from 1951, a wonderful study of culture-clash, often overlooked for her more famous works. The character is the superbly verbose Hector Dexter, who I am sure would be one of the top bananas at P&G if he was around in the 21st Century.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
If you go down to the woods today...
So I was intrigued by the flyer from the Zukunftsinstitut announcing the latest trend that they've discovered: "Neo-Nature". According to the flyer, there is a new longing in the German soul to get back to nature and into the woods. Nature is the new luxury and the market for Wandern is booming at €12 bn.
While it may well be the Zukunftsinstitut's perogative to wrap this up as an exciting new trend (we all have to make our money somehow!), I would argue that love of the woods and forests is a basic part of the German DNA, stretching right back to when whichever Germanic tribes jumped on the Romans, upsetting their little plan for world domination, and probably before that. Go into any German wood or forest any day and you are guaranteed to see most of the following: gathering wild mushrooms/herbs, Nordic Walking, BBQ-ing in the specially designated place, children's playground to blend in with nature, mountain biking, jogging, gathering horse chestnuts (I've always wondered what for - they don't play conkers here!), photographing and sketching, birdwatching, Keep-Fit (Trimm-dich Pfad ) as well as good old Wandern.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
My, my, muesli!
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Brands through rose-tinted glasses
I was in Canada a few times as a child in the 1960s and there are certain products and brands that made an impression on me: Cracker Jack, Lifesavers, grape soda (can't remember the brand) and root beer. When I started on my quest, the first thing that struck me about the soft drinks/candy/snack fixtures was how disappointingly familiar everything was. Coca-Cola, Mars, Pepsi Co and their ilk really do rule the world. There was even our own Ritter Sport in great abundance.
I did track down Cracker Jack. It's now in a bag (no surprise as the brand now belongs to FritoLay) and while the nutty popcorn was as yummy as I remembered, the magic of the box and the surprise was gone. Ditto Lifesavers, which is now part of Wrigley: the remembered foil tube was nowhere to be seen so I bought a plastic bag of - get this - individually wrapped candies at the airport. They taste much the same, too, but I winced every time I unwrapped yet another layer of totally superfluous packaging.
I know that brands have lifecycles and maybe these two are past their sell-by date. But I can't help but wonder if the continual succession of new brand owners and brand managers doesn't really help. After all, there are plenty of brands of the same age that go from strength to strength - just look at Coca-Cola.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Yodel all night long
I am always interested in new brands, especially those that a little quirky or downright cheeky. While in Vancouver we just happened upon Frank's Energy Limo, parked in a sidestreet. There was no sign of the girls: I expect they had popped out to replait their hair or tighten up their Lederhosen.
Frank's Energy Drink seems to be the brainchild (if that is an appropriate expression) of automotive parts and horse-racing mogul Frank Stronach, originally from Austria but now well-established in Canada. For anyone who is really interested, have a look at the website, where you can read that Frank's Energy Drink "boosts physical performance and mental alertness" and learn what Heidi, Gretl and Liesel's favourite hobbies are.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
The spider and the fly
Anyway, once I had got used to the idea, I felt a wonderful sense of freedom and release. I asked myself: why is it assumed, these days, that you have to be connected, that you have to have your network at your fingertips, that you have to be "in touch"?
I think a lot of us kid ourselves. We think we're spiders, spinning our wonderful complex nets and webs, in full control, at the centre of things. But away from it all, I realised that I am often just a poor fly, caught up, buzzing helplessly in a sticky, suffocating net of someone else's making.
Friday, 4 July 2008
Now, it does seem that Mr Howard Schultz does have some insight into his predicament with talk of the wounds being "self-inflicted" through too much emphasis on growth at all costs and a proposed refocus on quality, innovation and service rather than over-rapid expansion.
But I then read a rather alarming comment that "the International business is cushioning the weakness in America at the moment" from Mr Schultz, who plans to license 150 new coffee shop locations in Germany, Britain and France in the next three years - with 120 of these in Germany. So, rapid expansion in Germany is going to bolster up the mistakes made back home.
Please, Mr Schultz, when you open your new stores in Germany, can you learn from your mistakes and try to do so with a little understanding of local wants and needs? You are already quoted as saying that "coffee drinking culture in Europe is vastly different than in the US". Well done, that it the understatement of the year! I, for one, have no interest in buying any of your sickly, over-priced beverages that seem to masquerade as the McFlurry's expensive big brother in order to help bail you out.
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Follow the leader
First off was Prof. Jansen who took us wittily and entertainingly through the history of organisational leadership, aspects and trends in leadership. With a fast-paced delivery Prof. Jansen managed to throw everything from herrings to Paul Gascoigne into his talk. Next up was Prof. Langguth whose talk on political leadership in Germany, contrasting Kohl, Schröder and Merkel was interesting enough but I have to admit not so relevant to me personally as someone dissecting Thatcher, Major and Blair (and I am sure there are enough people who would like to see that literally!). So I am afraid that, by the time Herr Jörges from the Stern came on with more state of the nation stuff and answers to questions that were longer than the original talk, I was only aware that I was stuck in Hyde Park Corner, German-style, and that my feet were freezing cold!
Prof. Haberfellner (who looked alarmingly like Bianca Castafiore, the opera singer from Tintin), provided a change in theme and gave a talk about leadership in education, with a particular focus on her own school, Schloß Salem. While lacking a little in depth, Prof. Heberfellner's talk was pleasant to listen to and provided a welcome injection of optimism into the proceedings. I was pleased to see that the next speaker, Dr Ditzer, was going to do a presentation, rather than a talk. At last, having been deprived of Powerpoint for a whole day, there would be something to look at! Unfortunately, this particular presentation, about leadership Japanese-style was rather like the origami paper before you start folding: flat and with unfulfilled potential.
Finally, with about half of the delegates already gone, came Herr Geyer, the mountain guide. And at last, we had visuals: glorious pictures of mountains and plenty of them! And here, finally, was the quirky, bizarre element of the Open Source that I had missed up to now. I could sense the audience becoming increasingly intrigued and amused by the superimposition of the clunkiest Powerpoint arrows, stars and boxes in the most unnatural colours littering the peaks of the Alps and Himalayas!
Overall, I feel that the organisers could have cut out at least one of the speakers: and a wider spread would have been nice - spiritual leadership would have been an obvious candidate for me. Herr Geyers's main point was that a mountain guide's decisions are always based on the trade-off between potential risk and potential experience. I'll certainly have to bring that one into play in my decision whether to come next year. Or maybe I'll just be a headless herring.
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Getting my post in order
This is brilliant in some ways, mainly because I never really know what I'm looking for until I find it and because I've always loved stashing interesting snippets away for later use.
These days, subscribing to various newsletters about what's going on in business or branding or strange new media makes life a lot easier, too. Well, as long as I'm sitting at my desk, that is. I'm shortly going to be disappearing for two weeks for the first time in 13 years and I have vowed not to look at any e-mails during this time. And now, having coped with all those spammy people who want to sell me something for non-existent parts of my anatomy or offer me their entire wealth as a sixty-first cousin twelve-removed, I am wondering if I really need to wade through out-of-date updates on a new radio ad for the Fun 'n' Friends Mobile phone tariff on my jet-lagged return.
So I am going through a process of unsubscribing and weeding out. I'm keeping all those that I've paid for or may possibly look at, like Brand Channel or Contagious. But the rest can go, especially all those from Social Networking Sites telling me who's poked a sausage at me or that my "friend" Santa Claus is a 88.395% match with me on My Favourite Tiddlywink colours.
But, for anyone else doing this, be warned. A lot of these e-mails cling like barnacles. So far, McAfee seems to be the worst offender. Trying to unsubscribe from their pointless reminders is a task as difficult as finding out, definitively, How Advertising Works.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Anyway, here's the film from the cider boys. At least we're still good at the funny stuff.
By the way, if anyone knows how to embed a YouTube video into Blogger, I'd be very grateful!
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Rafts or Rockets?
Monday, 9 June 2008
Because it's there.
This year, it's all about Führung, a word that has connations of "direction" and "management" as well as "leadership" in German. I see that there are two professors (hopefully totally batty) on the speaker list as well as someone from the Stern and - get this - the Worldwide leader of Mountaineering Training from the German Association of Mountaineers and Alpine Skiers. Well, that's done it. In the words of one of Britain's most famous mountaineers, I'll have to go. "Because it's there."
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Brand-tunnel vision: guilty?
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Anyway, the silly season has started here. The car flags have been dusted down and shops are stocking up with face-painting sets, triangle bikinis in red, gold and black (a somewhat frightening thought when worn by Gundula, the president of the local Landfrauen ) and those Hawaian garlands to drape over and obsure your rear-view mirror.
I do remember writing a piece about World Cup marketing gone crazy which is over on my Secret Agency site, which included such wonders of the World Cup as sushi footballs and tomatoes in black/brown, red and gold.
I am convinced that it will get even more ingenious this year and I will now officially start a challenge for the tackiest/weirdest/most inappropriate Euro 2008 item from any category you like. All entrants in the comments below, please...
Friday, 23 May 2008
Oh, to be in Germany now that June's nearly there
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Subway's not sleeping
The growth of Subway in Germany has been of great interest to me as, back in the late 90s, when I came over here, I thought that it would be a cracking business idea to establish a Pret-a-Manger-style sandwich/filled rolls chain in Germany. And it was around this time, in 1999, that Subway opened their first franchise in Berlin.
I wouldn't have put my money on Subway in Germany, to be honest. I am quite surprised that a country where the bread is so varied and tasty has taken to Subway's offering. And I did also anticipate something of a Starbuck's effect where maybe people wouldn't be prepared to shell out quite so much money for something really quite basic.
But it seems that I have been wrong: Subway have over 400 outlets in Germany and the expansion doesn't seem to be slowing down. So, respect where respect is due. I guess they must have done their market research. But give me a yummy slice of Bauernbrot mit Hausmacherleberwurst any day!
Sunday, 11 May 2008
With an alarming evangelism and armed only with a rudimentary Powerpoint presentation and a few spiral-bound A5 booklets - one of which I still have in my possession - I was on a mission to tell the world of Saatchi & Saatchi and P&G about the brave new world of Insights.
A lot has happened in the last 13 years. There are now "Consumer Insight Directors" in client companies running huge departments of Consumer Insight Executives or whatever Market Researchers call themselves these days - although I have always thought that the term "Consumer Insight" was in itself not particularly insightful! For a good few years now, we've seen a lot of "Brand Aid" brands find their insight (no little piddly "product insight", this, but the huge holy grail of a "category insight"), pump it up into a Cause and go forth to Save the World with their Brand.
In a lot of cases, this is good and admirable and has broken new ground - I would be churlish to criticise Dove, for example. But when everybody tries to do it, particularly in a "watch out, your strategy may be showing" kind of way, those pesky "consumers" begin to see through you. It brought me right down to earth recently to sit through some Group Discussions to look at an internationally-developed campaign of the "social problem - solved by Brand X" variety. If not done well, this sort of stuff is depressing and met with bored cynicism. I am not saying that we should give up on Insights but rather that taking our brands so seriously is not always the only way. Sometimes people just want to escape and to be entertained - by a drumming gorilla if necessary.
Monday, 5 May 2008
Bring on the cliches
Now, here's an interesting challenge. In their recent analysis of 5,732 advertising slogans in Germany, slogans.de and Trendbüro have identified the latest themes in German advertising to be Orientierung, Nachhaltigkeit, Exklusivität and Gemeinschaft. That's orientation, sustainability, exclusivity and (feeling of) community to my non-German-speaking friends.
Apart from finding it a terribly interesting job to sit down and analyse 5,732 slogans on a socio-linguistic basis (not kidding!), I also thought it would be quite an amusing exercise for anyone with copy writing ability to try and write a slogan containing all four. Now, I appreciate that it will end up sounding earnest beyond belief, but I'd love to see any ideas...and don't forget to say what the brand is!
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
I love the way trams glide past you when you're sitting in a traffic jam on the Hanauer Landstrasse or somewhere. And even better than the standard aqua issue are the trams in full advertising regalia. There's one I see regularly done up like hundreds of Maggi enamel signs and I saw a real beauty today: a Lufthansa tram with a clouds and sky artwork to rival that of Michelangelo (well, almost). Maybe there's something not quite right about an airline pushing its wares via an older and more mundane form of transport but as I watched it serenely sailing past, I didn't really care. This streetcar evoked exactly the "consumer response" that I'm sure was desired.
Thursday, 24 April 2008
More secrets to give away!
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Ich liebe es...well, actually, I don't
Thursday, 17 April 2008
What's in a name?
But, fair enough, perhaps it is time for a change. After all "Account Planning" is a term left over from the 1960s when people worked on "Accounts" in "Advertising Agencies". I remember that word "Account" seriously putting me off in my days as a naive graduate when Monty Python's derision of Accountants was still fresh in my mind.
And, as a German group, maybe an English name is sending out the wrong signals. I won't get into that particular debate here but I do have my views...
So some options were kicked around and the "working title" of Strategie Verband has been decided on - or has it? Some have it that this has yet to be officially agreed while others note that what used to be http://www.apgd.de/ is now redirected to http://www.strategieverband.de/ : a fait accompli?
I won't go into my view on the proposed new name just yet - maybe next time - but I know how I would have gone about the name change if I were on the apgd Vorstand: from grass roots up. The joy of Germany is that it's still a collection of princely states in some ways: surely each Vorstand member could have taken one of the big cities: Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, München - oh, and Hamburg of course, held an informal evening meeting there then reported back to base with ideas and views. That would surely have got round any accusations of not being 100% democratic.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
The website was pooh-poohed by the experts for having a "distinct lack of marketing" and for have "too much information" on how Bionade is made, rather than "talking about how it tastes". Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I don't think many people spend sleepless nights trawling the Web to chance upon descriptions of how new products that they might like to try taste.
And then comes the comment "it should at least tell an interesting story about the company, the founders or the origin of the product. It doesn't even have to be real, just a good yarn." Excuse me, but the joy of Bionade is its authenticity. They don't need marketing hype and spin because they have a real story to tell, as compelling as that of any malt whisky or Real Ale.
Finally, the Canadian expert also suggested changing the name: "it lacks the zest of same-suffixed beverages such as Gatorade or Powerade. It sounds like I'm drinking some sort of medicine. I'd change the name to something snappier that reflects the product more or come up with a story and market that." I suppose the English pronunciation is a little different to the German one...but I think it has some nice associations with "bionic" which sounds pretty "zesty" to me.
I did wonder whether the article was written on April 1st but I fear not. Let's just hope that Bionade don't take it too seriously otherwise we'll have "Mega-tasty Schnappi-Ade, brewed by cute baby polar bears" on the North American market before we know it. Cheers!
Thursday, 10 April 2008
You old smoothie!
Well, "True Fruits" beat my friend to it and, for the last two years , more and more of these "baby bottles for grown-ups", as the Stern puts it, have smoothed their way into the chiller cabinet. It started with the Innocent lookalikes, such as True Fruits, but the big brands (interestingly, from quite diverse categories) such as Schwartau, Chiquita, Knorr and Mövenpick have also been quick to leap on the bandwagon. And the discounters have their own versions, too: Lidl's presumably with a micro-camera for surreptitious consumer research into "how do you slurp yours?"
By all accounts, the market is growing healthily (it should: it has only been in existence for two years) but a sneaky feeling inside me wonders if I really should be kicking myself. Germany has no real chilled fruit juice culture like the UK or USA and when it comes down to it, these seductive little bottles are incredibly expensive. Leaving aside the niche of urban on-the-go young singles, I have the feeling that the bulk of pragmatic, thrifty, down-to-earth Germans will vote with their wallets and stick to munching fruit in its original form.