Thursday 27 June 2013

My little car park

I must have seen too many bad films involving car parks, but the places give me the creeps. The low ceilings, the dim lighting, the sinister odour they exude. Shiver. I am all for the German law which requires the allocation of a number of designated parking spaces for women at no extra cost.

But I have to say I was rather taken aback at my last trip to Frankfurt airport. They have redesigned the women's parking areas from top to toe in a look that wouldn't be out of place in a Barbie or My Little Pony toy set.

It's, well... pink.

There are pink walls and pink ticket dispensers. There are flowers and the words 'Ladies (sic) Parking' just in case you were in doubt.

I have nothing against pink in the right place. I noticed that my deodorant  has a similar pink packaging, but, well, it's from adidas, which is normally a manly sort of brand, so they have to make things clear. And the whole thing is only about 10cm big and tucked away in the bathroom.

But this expanse of pink, and flowers - I'm not sure. It's not clear what the advantages are for me to park here rather than in one of the grey unisex bays, other than it's prettier and girlier. I would hope that this area has more thorough CCTV monitoring (there were some nasty incidents at Frankfurt Airport a few years back) but it's certainly not nearer to the terminal.

The thing is, most women who park at the airport are surely business women. Exactly the sort of women who don't want a pink laptop or mobile phone.

I note that the agency responsible, Damm & Bierbaum in Frankfurt, is run by two chaps called Dirk and Philipp. They even had flyers (arf, arf!) designed in "handbag-look" for the launch. Hmm.

And another thing I didn't like. I've got a red car. It clashes dreadfully against those pink walls.

Friday 21 June 2013

Paying for Attention

They say that women are better at multi-tasking, but I think it's an age thing, especially when it comes to media. If I'm watching a film on DVD, I sit and watch it, distracted only by a glass of wine. My son, on the other hand, flits from the big screen to a smaller screen (his laptop) to an even smaller one (his iPod) when he gets bored.

A study by Time Inc. in 2012 showed that Digital Natives subconsciously move between devices and platforms 27 times an hour.

The implication of all this is that some advertisers are finding new ways to grab their share of the attention economy.

And one way is to pay for people's attention.

Hitbliss is just one new service that rewards attention to branded communication with content. On Hitbliss, you can earn (viewing movies, TV shows) via "engaging with personalised brand messages" - that's watching ads, taking part in surveys and so on.

I'd be wary of this if I were an advertiser. It reminds me of those bogus serial respondents we used to get in group discussions: "this week, you're a mum of triplets called Julie who sews, darns and washes her babies' nappies but drinks 10 litres of full-sugar Coke per week."

Maybe advertisers should stick to the old ways of getting attention - through empathy and creativity, producing ideas that people actually choose to watch.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Another (New) Marketing Manifesto

Manifestos became all the rage in marketing circles about fifteen years ago, I think. Suddenly it wasn't sufficient to have a plan or a strategy for your brand - a manifesto was needed. A manifesto has all the associations of action, of getting things done, of motivating, of not over-theorising and getting caught up in intellectual knots.

John Grant's excellent book, 'The New Marketing Manifesto' was launched in 1999. It caught a lot of the new spirit of marketing and is still valid today.

The Marketing Society in the UK have recently launched another (new) Marketing Manifesto which sets out how marketing generally can continue to contribute powerfully to society over the next decade.

I've had a look at it, and it makes a lot of sense, although I feel it could be bolder and more revolutionary still.

The new Manifesto defines the purpose of marketing: "To create sustainable growth by understanding, anticipating and satisfying customer needs."

I like the move away from (just) profit. But I wonder - is the term "sustainable growth" a bit of a weasel? It implies a lot, but what does it really mean? And - is growth assumed to be measured in terms of sales value? Or some other kind of growth?

I'm happy to see that the word "consumer" doesn't feature. But is "customer" so much better? And "needs"? Are dreams and desires part of that?

The Manifesto sets out three challenges:

Pursue your Purpose
- define your organisation's purpose
- make sustainable growth your central aim
- leave a positive legacy

Champion Customers
- anticipate customer needs
- shape the customer experience
- find creative ways to engage

Mobilise the Organisation
- collaborate with your peers
- bring the voice of the customer into the boardroom
- quantify the cost and value of your work

It's good, as far as it goes, but I do wonder if it's a bit "business as usual."

Maybe the problem is that Manifestos themselves have become a little old hat. They've lost their power.

Is the challenge now to find a new metaphor?

Wednesday 12 June 2013

If I were a brand...

We often ask who brands would be if they came to life, but who would you be if you became a brand?

My answer gives me an excuse to say Happy Birthday to one of my new favourites in terms of brands: Cath Kidston. Having been out the UK for 17 years now, I have missed the "Coming Up Roses" success of the brand at first hand, but it never fails to catch my eye on visits to the UK.

Whether it's Ingvar Kamprad, Anita Roddick or Steve Jobs, there are some brand founders who are as necessary to a brand's being as marmite is to toast. Cath Kidston's early life had a profound influence on the direction her business took. There a few parallels with mine. She's a little bit older than me and a rung or two higher on the class ladder, but we share a 1960s Home Counties childhood - and there's aviation in her blood, too. As well as a love for fox terriers.

Cath spent her childhood surrounded by chintz sofas and egg-blue wallpaper with rosebuds - and maybe even had cowboys on her bunk bed mattress, as my brother and I had.

The success of her brand is due to having the right concept at the right turn. The idea of Modern Vintage came into its own as the century approached its turn. Cath has been very clever in using inspiration from the past to create products for today. Her vision is "to create practical, everyday useful things that make you smile. To design prints that are colourful, cheery and evoke a sense of nostalgia and fun."

20 years after she first registered her company, Cath Kidston has 59 stores and concessions in the UK and Ireland and 54 internationally (mainly Japan and the Far East.)

That's enough to make anyone cheery!

Monday 3 June 2013

From the dashboard to the couch

"It is a melancholy truth that the more expert I have become, the less my expertise is valued."

So laments Jim Carroll of BBH in an article which questions what brand planning should be about.

It's a good article and argues that planners should be strategic psychoanalysts rather than merely strategic doctors, looking for meaning rather than simply gathering information about symptoms and prescribing a likely cure.

I'd go one step further.

Psychoanalysis, in the Freudian sense, is still about illness. Illness of the mind, but still a "non-well" state. It's about going from a problem (ill) to a solution (well).

Analytical Psychology, in the Jungian sense, is about more than that. It is about human potential and development. It's about going from OK/goodish to The Best you can possibly be.

Surely this is a more inspiring way to look at brands.

We can search for meaning, of course, but that's not the whole story. "Thinking" - relating to meaning is only one of the four modes of perception that Jung outlined. In addition there are sensing, feeling and intuiting.

A brand dashboard is all very well but it doesn't tell you about your potential, or where you are heading.