Sunday 30 December 2012

In the brave new world that has such internet in it, why do we still have graffiti?

About fifteen years ago, before people started talking about "digital",  I remember the phrase "new media" was much in vogue. In those days, the phrase referred primarily to the internet or "the information superhighway" or "worldwide web" as it was still known as then. Since then, we've seen the birth, childhood and adolescence of Facebook and YouTube and all those social media Web 2.0 chappies and the "new" kid on the block is anyone that has anything to do with local and mobile and social.

Maybe I've been around that new kid's block a few too many times, but I'm not sure that these "new" media are changing my life or anyone else's as fundamentally as some would like to think. Do you remember, as a child, marvelling at the wonder of television or video, feeling empowered as no other generation before you had been? I expect not. Like today's children and their relationship with the internet, you wonder at what went before, not the norm that you've grown up with.

And however technology may change, human drives, motivations, dreams and desires don't, much. You can declare your love for someone in public over Twitter, or you can spray can the nearest bridge.

Old media never die. They just don't get Twittered about.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Behind the scenes at the museum

When I was a young lass, I can't remember anyone aspiring to be a curator when they grew up. Curators were associated with museums and long-dead dusty creatures encased in woodworm-infested display cabinets. Of course, museums have changed since then. Gone are the hand-scribed labels in fading purple copperplate and the forgotten cellar atmosphere. It's all flashing lights and hands-on experience.

Curator, from the Latin curare ("take care") traditionally meant someone who took care of and managed objects - artefacts, specimens, paintings or sculptures. But recently, as we've entered the digital age, the role has widened to include digital content and data - and, with it, interpretation and selection as well as simply "taking care".

Today's curators are Rock 'n Roll. Literally. I have seen the word in connection not just with contemporary art exhibitions, but with music festivals and DJs, with technology and even with curators of style and taste. It makes sense that with so much more creation going on as a result of the digital explosion, that there must also be more curation: interpretation, selection, guidance, juxtaposition, focus.

There are even people whose job description is Brand Curator. Whether this is what used to be a Brand Manager is not clear but these people have the remit of "delivering a curated set of customer experiences" as I read recently.

In these times of rapid change in marketing directors and departments, there does seem to be a need for one person in a company - with experience and a real feel for the brand - to take the role of Brand Curator. While focussing on the past and assimilating the present as it happens, such a person could also be of great use in guiding the latest marketing director into the future.

Friday 14 December 2012


This is either the most brilliant or the most absurd new product I have seen this year. It's the Jaktogo and is positioned as an ingenious way of avoiding Ryan Air's extra baggage charges. In essence, it's a bag that converts into a stylish...OK, forget that part...a coat, which you can wear onto the plane at no extra charge.

The brilliance is the "beating the system" aspect, the absurdity is, well, you can judge for yourself.

I'm looking forward to more products to get back at the less-loved aspects of well-known brands.

I just hope I'm not behind someone wearing one of these bags, I mean coats at the security check.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


There's been something in the air over the last few weeks urging us to have a go at some of the biggest global brands. Stories about tax dodging, revelations about use of forced labour, Facebook postings about where NOT to do your Christmas shopping and a general disillusionment with the big boys.  The Havas CEO, David Jones, terms this "The age of damage" - these days, the people can rise against a corporation or authority that is not seen to be behaving responsibly via social media instantly and knock anything from 10-15% off your share price in a day.

The main victim in the UK seems to be Starbucks. I expect that there has been resentment against Starbucks brewing for a while and the recent tax revelations have brought it all to the fore. Starbucks is unlucky, in a way, as I suspect the brand has now become a symbol for the people to direct all their anti-global feeling towards.

It's got to the stage where Starbucks have had to release an Open Letter, where they admit that they have  "found making a profit in the UK to be difficult" and "not performed to our expectations."

But hang on. If I'd emerged from a ten year Rip Van Winkle-like sleep, I wouldn't believe how the mighty have fallen. Ten years ago, Starbucks was up there as the poster-boy of branding, along with Nike and Apple. I even have a book, published in 2002, by Scott Bedbury, called "A new brand world - 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century". The gold standard example is Starbucks.

In the introduction, Scott Bedbury states "Given the near collapse of public trust in large institutions - from major corporations like Enron and Worldcom to organisations like the Catholic Church - there has never been a more important time to establish and strengthen brand trust." Plus ca change, it seems.

The books lays out 8 principles for brand-building, including "everything matters" and "big doesn't have to be bad". It's all good stuff, still valid today.

But the principle that got to me most was the final one: "Relevance, simplicity, and humanity - not technology - will distinguish brands in the future."

It's a shame that Bedbury's successors at Starbucks don't seem to have practised what he preached.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

I see, said the blind man

The Power of Words from Seth Gardner on Vimeo.

One of the most famous and effective short stories is Hemingway's six-worder, possibly written as a bet:
'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.'
Most of us will hit on a tragedy when it comes to finding a meaning in these simple words, although there are other explanations, such as a baby with bigger feet than expected or even free-spirited hippy parents! But whatever the interpretation, it's what the words don't tell or spell out, that invites the reader into the world of the placer/s of this small ad.

This short story reminds me of another story, currently being used by online content specialists Purple Feather to remind potential clients of the power of words. The film is beautifully made, and, I should think, effective to those who haven't heard the story before.

But I have, and I think that the original version is far stronger and closer to the power that Hemingway conjured up with his six words. In the new version, the copywriter changes the blind man's sign completely:
FROM: I'm blind.
TO: It's a beautiful day and I can't see it.

The earlier version (attributed variously to Ogilvy or one of the Saatchis) is much simpler and involves the addition of three words to the original sign:

It's Spring and I am blind.

Instead of just spelling out the facts, this version draws the reader in to empathise with the blind man, to make their own connection and conclusion.

And, like all good creative ideas, it takes the basic truth of the client and brings it to life, rather than changing it.