Wednesday 30 May 2012

Buzz Marketing?

There are a few famous examples of packaging where the bottle or jar itself, through its shape and design, is the branding. Coca-Cola is the best-known, and Orangina is another that springs to mind. Today I'd like to add the "Real German Honey" jar (Echter Deutscher Honig) to the gallery of fame.

The jar is a sturdy item, of thick glass, embossed with the tree and beehive motif from the label. It's no surprise that the jars are reusable, with a deposit, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some have been in circulation for generations.

The jar itself has certainly been around for generations - it was introduced by the German Association of Beekeepers, the Deutscher Imkerbund in 1926. It's a beautiful example of thinking global (OK, national) and acting local. The non-nonsense jar and green/gold label graphics are standard, a guarantee of quality, while the local beekeeper can customise with his own contact details and honey variety.

Evidence, if it's needed, that Germans take their honey as seriously as they take their beer.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

A Jubilee Toast

I'm off to the UK in a few weeks and expecting to be overwhelmed by the massed Jubilee-Olympics-patriotic-madness that will be abroad.

But I do have one "must-have" souvenir - a Limited Edition jar of Ma'amite. This just had to be a good idea waiting to happen - both the packaging itself and the advertising have got brilliant written all over them. I believe Marmite is the only brand on Facebook that I have genuinely "liked" on its own merit, rather than those that I was working on or wanted to find out about for ulterior motives. The Ma'amite Limited Edition says everything about what Marmite is doing right in its brand communication: coherence rather than consistency.

"Toasting the Queen's Diamond Jubilee" is a stunning line. The whole concept is an expected idea, executed in an unexpected but totally right way.

I always thought that Marmite must have a Royal Warrant but just checked and there isn't one.

But perhaps that will change now.

Tuesday 15 May 2012


If I really wanted to 'drive more traffic to my blog' - a phrase, incidentally, that conjures up images of cattle and whips, I'd stop the slightly quirky titles and promise my readers (sorry, traffic) something finite. 'The 7 habits of highly effective people', for example, or 'The Top 10 ways to drive traffic to your blog' or  'The 6 secrets of highly successful and beautiful women'. Apparently, articles and blog posts of this ilk attract clicks by the million - and it certainly seems to be a successful formula for a best-selling business or self-help book. In fact, the written word is becoming littered with lists, whether it's '100 things to do before you die' or '8 ways to tie a scarf'.

The appeal of this stuff is obvious - much of the thinking is already done, pre-packaged. You can skim through the list and think that you know all that there is to know. But do you? Maybe you recently voted in an article such as 'The 6 enemies of greatness (and happiness)' one that was recently doing the rounds. How many people actually chose an answer other than the given six enemies of greatness (and happiness - actually, why is that in there?)? 

Of course, most of these articles are harmless enough - a bit of pop-psychology to fill in a pause in the day. But underneath it all lurks a danger to original thought. The more we rely on check-sheets and forms and someone else's presentation from SlideShare on 'The 6 successful strategies of brands in commodity markets', the less we rely on first principles and fresh thinking.

I don't know who originally said it, but the thought has always stayed with me: thinking within a fixed circle of ideas is dangerous. As long as the questions remain there, then so will the answers.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The Renaissance of the Phone Booth

The red telephone boxes of Britain were an inextricable part of my childhood and youth. Usually, the reality of this design classic fell sadly short of the Platonic & chip wrappers, mauled telephone directories, gum on the windows, dubious stinking trickles in the corners...but I still miss them.

I've seen the original telephone boxes turned into everything from garden art to community libraries but now there's a great idea from Italy as to what could replace them.

The "Smart Booth" - born of a cooperation between Telecom Italia, UbiConnected and Turin Universtity as part of Turin's "Smart City Project" does just about everything except wash the dishes. Partly solar-powered, it offers touch-screen calls, wifi, pollution monitoring, electric-vehicle recharging and services from tourism to shopping info and social networking.

You could call it a Renaissance Phone Booth.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Shwop til you drop

One of the biggest things a company can do is admit to having been part of a problem - and set up initiatives that commit to being part of the solution.

That's why I love the new M&S partnership with Oxfam. Instead of side-stepping the issue of landfill and how many clothes are thrown away in the UK, the Shwop initiative confronts the issue full-on, by providing people with the means to help.

The idea is simple: "buy and give back" - M&S are encouraging to bring their old garments (from any brand) into the stores and leave them in a "Shwop Drop Box" when they buy something new. All the garments go to Oxfam to be re-used, re-cycled or re-sold.

The tonality of the initiative is as important as the idea behind it - it's fun, upbeat and participative - something that people will want to join in with.

And it's a million miles away from all those empty promises on some corporate websites.