Wednesday 29 May 2013

Whatever happened to lighthouse brands?

I think it was Adam Morgan that coined the phrase "Lighthouse Brands" some time back in the last century, as part of the Challenger Brand theory.

OK, times have changed and brands have to adapt, but I have always liked the concept of a brand as a lighthouse. And, after all, lighthouses still perform a vital function today, even if technology has changed.

In much of my reading on the subject of brands, I see a focus on 'how to fit your brand into the consumer's (sic) life today' rather than 'how to inspire people with your brand for how they might like to live tomorrow.'

There's a lot of talk about relevance, especially to the here and now, about fitting seamlessly into people's lives, about harmony instead of disruption or interruption and of course about meeting the consumer's (sic) needs.

There is rather less about allure, desire, magic, dreams.

I can't help but feeling that many of these seamless brands are rather like stalkers. They lurk and they collect data and they make notes and then creep up on you and ambush you based on your past behaviour, not on your future dreams. Because, like stalkers, you mean far more to them than they mean to you.

Should good brands really have to resort to this?

I can't recall ever having been stalked by a lighthouse.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Where it all began Part 2

Continuing my words of wisdom (aged 14) about advertising. Part 1 can be found here.

'The adverts are devised so to appeal to different kinds of people. Adverts for crisps, sweets etc. may have cartoons on them to appeal to children. Or they may show children in the adverts.

Some adverts for food, washing powder etc. may show a perfect-looking happy family, or a famous personalitie's (sic) family to appeal to mothers.

Adverts for cigars, drinks and after-shave may show men as being very masculine and irresistable (sic) to women. These appeal to most men, particularly those who may be very shy and long for a more exciting life.

Adverts for bubble-bath, hairspray etc. may be very romantic showing a beautiful woman maybe with a good-looking man, suggesting that if you use these things, this will happen to you. These are designed to attract girls and younger women, and sometimes older women who wish they were younger.'

So that's targetting covered! In the next extract I get on to morals and this space.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

No pooh-poohing this idea!

I do love the Springwise newsletters. If you don't know them, they are a digest of the week's most innovative product ideas from around the world, a cornucopia of curiosities. Unfortunately these days, rather too many are pointless apps, but there are always a few gems shining through. This week's selection includes 'Smart PJs' - scannable pyjamas for children where the designs reveal bedtime stories when scanned. Then there's a PopUp Agency, six enterprising young creatives who pop up all over the place for 48 hour projects. And finally, the one we have all been waiting for - the 'T.Jacket' which is "a tablet or smartphone-controlled jacket that uses embedded air pockets to simulate hugs and calm children without human contact". Just what a busy working mum or dad needs to stop those important Powerpoint presentations being interrupted by desperate calls from the kindergarten.

I am sure it was via Springwise that I first heard of my favourite new product so far this year: who gives a crap aka the toilet paper that builds toilets. The brand was launched via crowd-funding last July and the concept, design and jaunty pack design combine a typical Aussie combination of humour, no crap and big-heartedness. With killer slogans like "Flush poverty down the loo" and a pledge that 50% of the profits will go to Water Aid to build toilets and improve sanitation, this is an idea that deserves to take over the world.

Definitely one for the blog-roll.

Friday 10 May 2013

Targetting by the kilo

For all the Doves of the world, who are on a mission to make women (and men?) feel good about themselves, whatever their shape or size, there are always those who buck the trend.

This week, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, has had quotes he made a few years ago regurgitated throughout the internet along with criticism of the company's sizing policy by retail analysts. Mr "Mutton-dressed-as-lamb" Jeffries states that "candidly, we go after the cool kids...a lot of people don't belong (in our clothes) and they can't belong..." Particularly galling for women is that the sizes for woman stop at L, while men's sizes include XL and XXL, presumably to accommodate all those muscly jocks.

Certainly around here, what Mr Jeffries thinks may already be irrelevant as Hollister seems to be the outfitter of choice for "cool teens." (sic)

But in another story this week, even those muscly rugby players will be penalised for their bulk. Samoa Air have decided to charge people on a sliding scale for flights, based on luggage plus body weight. Probably a sensible idea in theory, given the size of their planes, but not the most intelligent move for anyone with an ounce of emotional intelligence. It's not helped by the preponderance of chunky hunky guys on the website, none of whom look less than 80kg!

The really interesting thing will be to see how long it will take Ryan Air to catch onto this one and whether they'll have the guts to risk sabotage via an army of enraged Vicky Pollards.

Monday 6 May 2013

5 reasons why checklists should be delisted

Checklists and rating cards seem to have crept into just about every aspect of modern life - no sooner have you bought something over the internet, or had a conversation with a service chappie or chappess on the phone, when you're sent some kind of rating card. Restaurants and hotels, even in the most far-flung of places, beg you to rate them on TripAdvisor or to "like" their Facebook page with such an intensity that you get the impression that this is more important than you having enjoyed the experience, or getting a good tip. But these ratings are more pointless than pointless as they can be bulk-bought these days.

There are also checklists to download from the internet for everything from picking a Eurovision Song Contest winner to buying a home to having a baby.

On the work front, checklists abound too. They are usually introduced under some pretext of "having everyone singing from the same song sheet" like some weirdo culty choir. And, although their perpetrators are usually keen to point out that this is just an aid to decision-making, the sad truth is that many people use checklists and scorecards to make the decision for them. And often, getting a good scorecard seems to be an end to itself.

Why should they be delisted? Well, where to start? Checklists are a lazy way of working that avoids intelligent thought. They generate extra pointless work - who hasn't been in a meeting where the "items on the checklist" are discussed at length? They - or their perpetrators - invariably make the mistake of thinking that what can be measured is what is important. They're held up as being a shortcut, but a shortcut to what? To making a good decision? Or to have ticked a number of boxes with arbitrary  headings?

And maybe the most important reason to delist checklists is that the mere process of pre-defining categories (usually based on past experience) is a classic case of rearview mirror thinking which excludes the possible.

If the questions remain in a fixed circle of ideas, then so do the answers.