Monday 30 November 2015

Schade & Schade

The last time I was in London, I made a nostalgic visit to Charlotte St to see the old Saatchi building, which I blogged about here. And, at the end of last week, I heard about the next of my old workplaces to go - Saatchi Frankfurt. They'd long moved out of the building I'd worked in, but that still didn't stop the nostalgia-tinged sadness, especially as I imagine the remaining staff will be offered 'come to Berlin/Düsseldorf or get out'.

I spent a couple of years using the Frankfurt office for my base, jetting around the 'new' markets of Eastern Europe for P&G, before settling in as Head of Planning in 1998. Account Planning was the latest thing in Germany in those days, and I was amused, and a little sad, to dig out some bits and pieces from early management away-days. Life really was so simple then.

Positioning the agency. No ghastly 200 slide Powerpoint, just a couple of hand-scribbled overhead transparencies. A brand personality with 5 elements: creative, innovative, no rules, little bureaucracy, 'nothing is impossible' attitude. We weren't the biggest or even necessarily the best, but what we could do - and had proved this - was 'Being First' - from First over the Berlin Wall to First ad on the moon. We were going to lead a communications revolution: everything would be new - new ways to focus on what is true, new media opportunities, new targets, new creativity.

We didn't muck about. Someone came up with the brilliant sperm visual - a bit provocative, a bit cheeky, very powerful and very Saatchi (after all, we'd conceived the Pregnant Man) and the plastic cards were produced:

 Know more than the client, get the idea before anyone else, solve problems before they turn into the same, discover talents before they develop, have ideas before they are needed, look for new opportunities where no-one has looked before, think what no-one else has thought, be first to clear the path for others ... and so on.

And these days we talk about agility. Agility, for me, means dog shows.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Needs must

As a marketer with a background in psychology, I'm always interested in discussions about human needs and how these can be classified. In the course of my working life, I've lost count of the number of times that the Maslow Hierarchy has popped up on various Powerpoint presentations, like a biblical plague of pyramids. And, apart from Maslow, there are all manner of other systems and classifications, such as those mentioned here and here.

The latest Needs Model that I've seen is the ladder, above, from The Book of Life. I'm happy to pass this on, as I'm aware that even if a particular ladder isn't my cup of tea, it may well float someone else's boat.

My first observation about the ladder is that there's some judgement going on here. In Maslow's model, the pyramid deliberately describes needs as 'lower' order and 'higher' order, as the higher order needs cannot be fulfilled unless the lower order ones are satisfied. But in this model, I feel that someone at the School of Life has made a decision that self-understanding, maturity and wisdom are more worthy needs than status, indulgence and entertainment. After all, that is what the School of Life is selling.

I am wary about the movement described in the article, which suggests that brands in the 21st century should strive to meet the 'flourishing' needs. Two reasons. First of all, I believe that a brand satisfies a basic need, first and foremost, through its product or service - something physical or physiological. There is then a psychological need (want, or desire) that the brand addresses on top of that (the added value of the brand), but this is likely to differ from individual to individual.

And, secondly, I believe that many of the needs in the 'flourishing' rung of the ladder - if they are needs at all - can only be satisfied through other human beings (and maybe nature, and spiritual beings if you believe in such things), not through packets of washing powder or cans of beans.

Friday 13 November 2015

Small ads and Big Ideas

I read an article in the FT magazine from Ian Leslie recently, entitled How the Man Men lost the plot which rung a few bells for me. It starts off with ad man Jeff Goodby's observation that cabbies used to know about our ads and what we did, when the Saatchis were as big as Persil and 'we made famous stuff, and we made stuff famous.' The author poses the question: has the ad industry, through 'embracing the digital gospel... lost sight of what made it valuable in the first place?'

The internet has changed how the game is played, but certain rules still seem to hold. Mass marketing works. Fame works. Emotion works. And so does a long-term coherence in the sum total of what a brand says and does. All of these work to inject the brand into what the author calls 'the cultural bloodstream' - so that those cabbies know about the ads.

Reading through, it did strike me that in the past, we also had a mass of cheap, throwaway ads that even a member of the general public could afford and compose themselves. They were called small ads. But in those days, small ads didn't frighten the industry, neither did we try and use them for our clients, except in cases where we were being clever and disruptive and ironic. We concentrated on our skills, our talents, what we knew how to do.

We had big ideas, we used big, bold media that we knew would generate emotion and build fame.

Surely there is a parallel here?

Friday 6 November 2015

Lust for Land

For the last year or so, a massive (42 sq m, so I'm told) patchwork blanket has hung on a house wall opposite our town hall. The blanket is made up of individual squares, knitted or crocheted by everyone from primary school children to pensioners.

For me, this comforting and colourful piece of art, along with the explosion of festivals, Tchibo weeks and Aldi special offers celebrating crafts, and home cooking, jams, marmalade, gardening, growing and making, characterises a particular aspect of the 10-year 'reign' of Angela Merkel.

Despite the fact that Germany is becoming more urbanised, German hearts still yearn for a simpler, slower, less technology-ridden life closer to nature. Probably the clearest manifestation of this trend is the success of Landlust magazine, which was launched 10 years ago and now enjoys a circulation of over 1 million - more than that of Der Spiegel.

And, yesterday, Landlust launched in the UK, with its German title and the tagline 'spirit of the countryside'. The British edition carries the same mix of crafts, nature and recipes, with a distinct German touch - the recipes include hazelnut cake, baked apples and Rouladen.

I suspect that an unashamedly German title launching in the UK would have been met with derision 10 years ago, but times have changed. I blogged about the subtle German invasion here. Can Landlust tread in the footsteps of Aldi and Lidl? Will the W.I be renamed Die Landfrauen?

Monday 2 November 2015

Memory lane

The Autumn school holidays took us to the UK and the inevitable trip up to London. On something of a whim, I dragged my family off to Charlotte St to see if tales of the demise of the Saatchi building were exaggerated. Thankfully, I was able to take one last look at the place where I started my advertising career, back in the 80s.

And, not too far away from 80, Charlotte St, I spotted two newish brands that I'd loved to have worked on back then (and wouldn't say no now.)

In the Carpenters' Arms, our old watering hole, I was delighted to see that Madness have started brewing beer. While other rock stars may favour giving their names to wine or Bourbon, I think the nutty boys have a brilliant fit, branding-wise, with pubs and pies and pints. The section of the website dedicated to The Madness Brewing Company ('Beers that go one step beyond with flavour and style') presents the wares - Lovestruck Ale, Gladness Lager and Night Boat Porter. I had a quick half of Lovestruck, which was tasty indeed. Good one, chaps.

And a bit further down Charlotte St, I saw an idea that I wish I'd had. Well, actually, I have had this idea, only someone else has been much quicker off the mark. Herman ze German is a German fast food cafe selling sausages 'made in the Black Forest' by Fritz. Clever idea, great branding.
And, how could I resist their slogan?

'Our Wurst is ze Best.'