Wednesday 28 May 2008

It's started...

The good weather in Germany has taken everyone back to the glorious Sommermärchen of the 2006 World Cup. Now, I know it won't be of much interest to my chums in the UK, but the football is nearly upon us again. In fact, I heard a rather annoying radio ad for radio advertising (if you get my drift) today: "for my English friends, what do Malta, Aserbajan and Kazakstan have in common with England? Their football teams will be watching the championship on their TVs too." Ha, ha. We always said you Germans weren't very good at humour!

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

Much has been written about the trend back to regional produce and the revival of Farmer's Markets in the UK. And, at this time of year in Germany, you don't even have to go to a Hofladen or Wochenmarkt. As you drive through the beautiful lush green countryside, you cannot avoid the countless little booths and stands at the side of the road selling the two main delicacies of the season: strawberries and (white) asparagus.
Of course you can buy both at other times of year, but most people tend to concentrate their consumption of these two (sometimes, surprisingly, eaten together in a rather interesting salad!) into the months of May and June when supplies are plentiful and freshness and tastiness are guaranteed.
I've often thought that seasonality is an interesting marketing approach for products outside of the food and drink arena, too. After all, we still have an internal clock that governs much of our behaviour and desire, even in these days of 24:7 365 day availability.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Subway's not sleeping

I was quite surprised to see that in the "Marketing" (UK) annual brand popularity survey, Subway is the 2nd most-loved fast food brand in the UK. OK, it's also the 4th most-hated, but the love:hate ratio is rather healthier than that of poor old McDonald's.

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

Insights out

Back in 1995, when I worked for Saatchi & Saatchi, I was in the full throes of the "Insights Net European Tour" on behalf of my then-clients Procter & Gamble.

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, 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!