Monday 26 March 2012

The art of keeping quiet

A couple of years back, I commented on digital diarrhorea, but it seems that the problem of brands that don't know when to shut up has not abated.

With reduced budgets, it is tempting for brands to look to lower cost ways of engaging and keeping in touch with people, and Facebook and other social media offer what seems to be a cost-effective way of maintaining a presence in people's lives.

It's very easy to make the assumption that volume of content, measured in sheer number of activities - or number of explanation marks - will keep your brand top of mind.

But rather like the person that loves the sound of their own voice, if what you are saying is banal, is of no use and does not inform or entertain, people will start by ignoring you, in a passive way.

Passive ignoring is bad enough, but it can go one step further into active avoidance. Once people have made an active step to cut off the brand's communication, it is nearly impossible to get them back.

With a reduced budget for communications, the answer must be to do less, but better.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Does a book need a website?

Does a woman need a man?
Does a fish need a bicycle?

Rather like these questions that I remember from my student days, the answer is that it depends on the book and it depends on the website.

In a rare glimpse into the mind of my alter ego, the children's author S.P.Moss, maybe the more honest answer was that I wanted a website for 'The Bother in Burmeon.'

Books have got by for years and sold millions without websites, but I think I can justify my indulgence on a number of grounds.

My main audience is children aged 9-12. Their mode of operation is digital and visual and, although 'The Bother in Burmeon' is unashamedly retro in style, I felt that a visual presence beyond the cover design would act as a doorway into the world that the story portrays.

And what I don't know about publishing is made up for (I hope) in my experience and knowledge of marketing. Having a well-designed website which adds value to the book, rather than simply repeating it in another medium should help me to be recognised in the overwhelming world of children's books.

I hope that my creative partner and I have made a half-decent job of it.

Thursday 15 March 2012

A snortin' good ad

Back in the last century, The Guardian created one of my all-time favourite TV ads - "Points of View" aka The Skinhead Ad, which cleverly showed how one should look at a situation from all points of view to see the big picture.

Well, The Guardian has done it again. This is definitely my favourite ad so far this year, showing how the story of The Three Little Pigs might be reported in today's world. The illustration of "Open Journalism" and how a story grows and evolves through classic and social media is nothing short of brilliant. And, by showing it, the paper can claim the territory, the way of thinking as its own.

What I also like is that it's not a brand new creative idea. It's clear that the creatives who worked on this were inspired by virals of the "Christmas Story on Facebook" ilk and have used the huge popularity of these to The Guardian's advantage.

I nearly said "paper" just then - but it isn't just a paper any more, is it?

Monday 12 March 2012

An all-round good idea

I remember when I first saw the British Airways charity action, "Change for Good". What a great concept, I thought, to collect all those pesky little foreign coins for the greater good. And last week, I had a similar sense of "Yes!" when I heard about the new action in Germany, Deutschland rundet auf (Germany rounds up.)

Like all good ideas, it's a simple one. Customers in a range of retail outlets from supermarkets to shoe shops can volunteer to round up their purchase with the words "Aufrunden, bitte!" ("round up, please!"). As there's a limit of ten cents maximum on the rounding-up, it is envisaged that a lot of people making a little difference will make a big difference.

The rounded-up money will go to charity projects which address current issues in German society, with 2012 projects being focussed on children and youth.

With its elements of a small behavioural change, the feeling of a movement for the greater good, the simple core idea and transparent nature, Deutschland rundet auf has the markings of an all-round success.

Monday 5 March 2012

Emigrant Brands

It's 16 years since I came to Germany and I still remember the first few weeks well - getting used to Apfelwein, carrying wads of cash around 'cos credit cards were (still are) the work of the devil and remembering that any attempt to buy as much as a bag of sugar after 1pm on at least three Saturdays in the month would end in tears.

But I also remember the wonderful feeling of freedom I had in how I presented myself at work. I was something exotic, a rarity, as an Inselaffe - and I had more-or-less free reign to be what I wanted to be. There was no history, no consistency that I had to uphold.

In a way, it's the same for brands that move into markets beyond their home one. They can have a clean sheet. Of course, their provenance can be played on if that's going to add anything, but it's not compulsory.

A great example for me is T-Mobile. The advertising for this brand here in its home country is so-so, the shadow of the Deutsche Bundespost Telekom of the past still present, a conscious or subconscious restraint. The tariffs have silly names like Call & Surf Relax Super-Comfort XXL.

Compare that to what T-Mobile does in the UK. The Royal Wedding spoof from last year or the latest "Full Monty" spot, full not just with Montys but giant rolling cheeses, fake-tanned cheeses and cheeky chappie humour in a Blackcurrant Tango-style celebration of all that's Bonkers British.

Maybe we should consider this particular "what if?" more often: what if our brand was advertising in a country where it has no history?