Tuesday 26 August 2008

Wake me up when September comes

Now, I did make a rule for myself not to push too much of my clients' work on here, but today I had to make an exception for something that is utterly brilliant. A live webcam of a man by the name of Nils in a rather sad and empty looking apartment as he goes about his normal life, with the intruiging title "warte bis September". What can he be waiting for? Only a few days now before all will be revealed!

Monday 25 August 2008

Old and new media symbiosis

I'm always cheered to see "old" and "new" media working in partnership and one of my favourite examples of this was the original idea behind amazon: an on-line bookshop.

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

Global Genie

Discussion of the good and evil of global brands seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, arising, I would guess, about 15 years ago in the wake of "No Logo".

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...

One of my first strong impressions of Germany was the view from the plane on landing at Frankfurt airport: far and wide, there are just trees. And, in fact, almost a third of Germany's land mass is covered with woods or forest.

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!

Just in case anyone is beginning to think that I'm a grumpy old woman who spends her whole time whingeing about modern brands or wallowing in nostalgia, I must introduce you to what I think is going to be my "brand of the year" - and I haven't even tried the product yet!

mymuesli is a super idea that's been going for just over a year - custom made organic muesli to mix and buy online. It's the baby of three smart young German chaps who - if their website can be believed, were so irritated by the radio advertising of a certain Schwäbisch muesli company (anyone who lives around here will know what I mean!) that they decided to go one better and create their own muesli company.

The good news for my pals in the UK is that mymuesli is now available to you, too: have a look at the UK website .

The only slightly odd thing about all this (which maybe confirms my status as a grumpy old woman) is that I didn't hear about mymuseli through word-of-mouth or via a blog or chatroom or anything 2.0 like that: no, I heard about it through good old TV advertising. Odd, that.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Brands through rose-tinted glasses

I was interested to read that Cadbury's, after pressure from a Facebook group, are bringing the 1980s brand Wispa back to the UK for good. This got me thinking about my recent experience in Canada, where I tried to reaquaint myself with some of those "blue-remembered brands" from the North American holidays of my childhood.

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.