Saturday 30 May 2009

Coffee Wars

The Financial Times reported this week that McDonalds wants to overtake Starbucks as the biggest coffee seller on the continent.
McDonalds plan to open around 500 more McCafes in addition to the 700 that already exist in Europe. Meanwhile, Starbucks continues to reduce and close its European outlets.
I'm rather pleased that these two global giants have decided to go head-to-head. I can't say that I am particularly enamoured of either, but at least McDonalds don't give me the feeling that they are ripping people off.
Hopefully it will take their eyes of the ball of the real, independent, traditional coffee houses of Europe. The CFO of McDonalds Europe is quoted as saying "We can become the biggest seller of coffee in Europe". Well, good for you. I know that, when I'm looking for a decent cup of coffee, I couldn't give a toss of sickly vanilla syrup about how "big" the chain is. I am just looking for - to quote Special Agent Dale Cooper - "A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee".

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Citizen (Yes we) Can

One of the many consequences of Barack Obama's presidency has been the question in marketing circles: what does this mean for brands?
Much has been said of the "remake of America", which calls for people to act as citizens, rather than as consumers. This move from passive consumer to active citizen has also been hailed as the new Zeitgeist when it comes to brands.
Brands are now expected to behave as citizens, too, with the buzz words of today being responsibility, sustainability, transparency, accountability and trustworthiness. Citizens (people and brands) have the emphasis firmly on save, not spend with calls for less consumption and more value. Companies are still looking for profit and growth, but through value rather than volume.
As an overall movement and trend, this is all very worthy super-ego stuff and to be applauded. But we must never forget that not all brands are created equal. Not everyone can be a Lovemark. And this is a good thing. We need brand diversity (to bring in another buzz word) simply because citizens remain human beings. They have moods, modes and moments and they also have an Id (or whatever you care to call that most basic part of our psyche). And sometimes the Id simply must have irresponsible, instant gratification.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Spot the Difference

I know I blogged about birthdays not long ago. But unfortunately I am a bit overcome by seeing the display of patriotically coloured foods in my local Plus under the banner of "60 Jahre Deutschland" - tri-coloured taglietelle in black (presumably squid ink), red and gold was one of the more restrained choices on offer.
Even in my home country there's no escape from the jubilee jamboree. I can just imagine long discussions about the importance of reminding customers of our heritage, our roots, our core values, particularly in these difficult times...
But can anyone tell me the difference between this and this? And the answer's not 15 years!

Friday 15 May 2009

Shortcut through the stamp collectors

For one reason and another, I have had to get my hands on some UK stamps this week. Now, I suppose I could have just asked a friend to buy a few and send them over but in today's world of long tails and 24 hour home shopping I decided it must be not only possible but easy to order these over the internet.

One option I had was to forget the stamps and get something called an International Reply Coupon but these seem to be about as rare as a Penny Black and furthermore, you have to go through Deutsche Post, who are not my best friends (see Return to Sender).

So I had a look at the Royal Mail shop. There weren't any 56p stamps for sale, so I thought I'd order a sheet of 10p ones. After giving Royal Mail my full details a few times over, probably including my shoe size and passport number, I sat back and waited for my stamps to arrive. What did arrive was an email, informing me that, despite having every country in the world as an option on the various forms, this service was only for UK customers.

Luckily, there was a number to ring. That of "philatelic enquiries". I gave it a go and spoke to an extremely helpful man with a wonderful Scottish accent. He was a little disappointed that I only wanted common-or-garden 56p stamps, but he didn't let that deter him. He responded to my enquiry with the same interest and genuine "customer-orientation" as if I'd ordered a bulk lot of the rarest First Day Covers.

If only all Customer Call Centres could be like this!

Friday 8 May 2009

Digital Diarrhoea

I had a good old chuckle at Claire Beale's Opinion piece in last week's Campaign. Having wasted another morning reading yet more uninformed opinions on newssites and hopping mindlessly from one obscure blog to the next (more paddling than surfing), all in the name of trying to put my finger on the Zeitgeist, Claire hit the spot.
She was actually writing about the "Complaints Culture", specifically complaining about ads. People do - in their thousands - because they can and because it's easy:
"Yet our complaining culture is not simply a result of an effortless system for lodging dissatisfaction. It's also a result of the cult of the individual, the growing sense of our own importance and a growing belief in the wider significance of our ideas and opinions that has been nurtured by the digital revolution.
We're all blogging, Tweeting, telling everyone we know as often as we can what we think and feel about everything. And, of course, we all assume everyone's interested in this digital diarrhoea.
The media has helped drive this sense of importance, falling over itself to encourage comment from audiences and, in turn, eagerly using this wealth of opinion as fresh content (which the audience is invited to comment on, creating a terrifying cycle of comment on content on comment that might never end)."
Oh dear, now I'm guilty, too, after regurgitating that lot. Someone pass me the blog roll!

Sunday 3 May 2009

Go, logo!

There's been a rather hot-under-the-collar debate recently in the usually delightfully restrained-in-a-gentlemanly-way blog Unmitigated England, one of my favourites. But it's a subject that is bound to raise tempers: the destruction of perfectly good brands and logos in the name of globalisation.
The Walls/Langnese "Heartbrand" case is one example, as is the Norwich Union/Aviva story that I commented on a couple of blogs back.
It has to be said that, whatever their current problems, the automobile industry doesn't play this game, thank goodness. Can you imagine BMW deciding that the "Bayern" part of their initials was too parochial and small-fry for the brave new global world? Or Mercedes deciding that their 100 plus year-old logo wasn't really reflecting innovative international synergy? Maybe it's because these "logos" are badges made of good old metal substance rather than Powerpoint will o' the wisps. Perhaps some of the FMCG companies could bear that in mind when they next babble on about "brand value".