Tuesday 23 November 2010

Go East

Back in the 1980s, Phileas Fogg escaped from the pages of Jules Verne and travelled the world in search of snack products. He was single-handedly responsible for introducing the tortilla chip to the UK - or at least the brand of the same name would have us believe.

Nearly thirty years later, the products from MeiAsia caught my eye in my local Tegut. This is a range of Asian sauces and ingredients from Thailand, Japan, China, Indonesia, India and Singapore. Behind the brand is Heuschen & Schrouff Oriental trading, a Dutch company who have been distributing Asian food brands for years.

Well, now they have developed their own brand and they seem to have ticked all the right boxes. They have a damn good story - traveling Asia for two years tracking down the favourite recipes of the Asian people. The packaging is gorgeous, National Geographic-style photos of people and their recipes. I don't know how authentic it really is, but it certainly feels that way. The company also runs the Frits Schrouff Foundation, supporting social projects in Asia.

Oh, and if tonight's prawn jalfrezi is anything to go by, the products are pretty yummy, too.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Party on, not fade away

When I was a devil-may-care young thing in advertising, we often used to wonder what happened to people in our business once they hit 40. Such ancient specimens were, to all extents and purposes, invisible.

Last week, at the Charlotte St 1970 - 2000 reunion, there were precious few people to be seen under 40. So, with a whole club filled to bursting with old ;-) people who had been in advertising and who I hadn't seen since we were all in our 20s and early 30s, it was time for an answer to that question.

Well, there were a few who were still in the business and quite possibly still working in Charlotte St. And a CEO or two of some thrusting young start-up. But what was delightful was that I also met mature students, farmers, charity workers, a novelist or two, the happily retired, ladies of leisure - and even a builder!

There were a few wrinkles, a few paunches - mostly mine (!) - but the spirit and joie de vivre and energy were all still there. Not in a mutton-dressed-as-lamb way, but with the realisation that in our "work hard, play hard" ethos we shared a golden age of young adulthood that no-one can take away.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Surprise, Surprise

I always look forward to the IPA Excellence Diploma essays that come in a supplement with Campaign. I commented on the last lot here and I've just read the four that achieved distinction this year.

Tim Jones of BBH has a great new metaphor for a brand - instead of all those onions and keys, he's looked at gaming as a way of moving from brands as message transmission devices to behaviour change systems.

And, maybe influenced by a game or two, Simon Robertson of Dare believes that brands should embrace their Dark Side. I'm not convinced that it must always be the Dark Side, but I'm convinced that brands need an edge, a quirk, a bit that doesn't fit.

What really got me was that two of the essays, both excellent, seem at first sight to contradict each other. Sarah Morning of Agency Republic argued for the counterpart to the spatial-based Big Idea in the temporal-based Long Idea, with the reintroduction of myth and ritual into the digital world. And then James Hamilton of McCann Erikson argues the case for putting surprise and serendipity back into marketing, believing that our lives are increasingly predictable as we're driven more and more by algorithms that tell us what to read, watch, know....?

But both can be part and parcel of one brand and its communications - and maybe this is the trick. IKEA comes to mind, surprise, surprise. There are new ideas, surprising products, inspirational combinations. But the elements of ritual from KNUT to following to arrows to the hot dog at the end are there too. A seeming paradox but the key to success.

Friday 5 November 2010


A horrifying scandal has been exposed in Germany. It seems that the Hamburger Sparkasse is using devious and shadowy methods of psycho-profiling its customers to sell them more financial services. Who would have thought something like that could happen in this day and age? Just when you thought you had a good relationship with your advisor at the bank, you realise that he's got you pigeon-holed as a "Performer" or a "Hedonist" and will be following some fiendish ploy to get right inside your head to your innermost thoughts.

The point is, it was always thus. What do people think selling and marketing is about, if not psychology? To me, the only scandal is just how unsophisticated and cliche-ridden the "segmentation" is - you can see it here. I would hesitate to describe it as "neuromarketing" myself.

Personally, I find some of those ghastly stock shots of shiny happy people far more terrifying than Norman Bates.

Wednesday 3 November 2010


On a recent trip to the UK, I popped into Lidl just to see how much thinking global and acting local was going on out there in the chill cabinet.

It was a rather interesting mix with familiar German specialities such as Lebkuchen (it was October, after all) rubbing shoulders with Indian-style ready-meals (the closest you'd get to this in a German Lidl might be a chilled Currywurst.)

It looks as if Lidl has certainly claimed some of the UK's stomachs, if not their hearts.

So I wasn't surprised to see two German brands up in the 20 final contenders for The Marketing Society's Brand of the Year. This will finally be decided at their Annual Dinner on 18th November by text vote amongst the top five.

And the nominations from Germany are...Audi - not surprising as Vorsprung durch Technik is one of the few German phrases that most Brits know that isn't connected directly with the Second World War. And the other brand that is up for it couldn't be more German if it tried - Jägermeister.

But our old friend Leberkleister has been very cleverly marketed in the UK, via music festivals, playing on the "heavy metal" look of the brand. Jägermeister experienced 100% year-on-year growth in 2009 in the UK and should do well again this year.

Somehow I don't think this would have happened if they'd called it "Hunt Master."