Tuesday 25 November 2008

Brands of Substance

Barry Silverstein has written an interesting piece on German brands on Interbrand's Brand Channel . Of the Top 100 Global Brands, no less than 10 are German, with Germany being second only to the USA in the roll-call of Top Brands.

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

Don't you just hate it when one of the less enlightened market research agencies turns up brandishing their latest 300 page Powerpoint presentation on a USB stick?

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

It's not often that I wish I lived in London again, but seeing this brilliant new idea: The School of Life , has given me a yearning for the Big City.

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?

I can't remember when I last saw a good ad on TV. In fact, the last ad I actually noticed on TV was one for coffee which wound me up, because it was a blatant rip-off of an ad that Saatchis did back in the last century for Ariel - the one where Mum shocks just-returned-from-Glastonbury-son with the "in my day, we didn't wear clothes" line. Now we have coffee and granddaughter and granny. I was half expecting granny to say that they took rather stronger drugs than coffee in her day, but boringly, granny comes out with the old clothesline (as it were ) again. Now, what on earth has that to do with coffee???

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

I was very interested to read about a new (ish) phone called the Jitterbug, over on Brand Channel. This is a "no frills" phone that's easy to use with just the essentials. I was looking for a mobile phone for my mother a few months back and it's a shame that this hasn't hit Europe yet as it would have been just the ticket.

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.