Monday 28 May 2018

A stitch in time

I have always been fascinated by the Bayeux Tapestry - not just for its awe-inspiring ancientness, but also from the juxtaposition of the medium and the content. An action-packed bloody battle depicted through that most ladylike, refined and patient of crafts - tapestry, or more exactly, embroidery.

There's a similar juxtaposition going on with the BBC's FIFA World Cup 2018 launch commercial, created by their in-house agency BBC Creative, and Blinkink. The thrills, spills and action of past World Cups have been captured in 600 individually embroidered frames. The style of the embroidery and the soundtrack to the resulting film are inspired by the host nation, Russia.

A 7m long tapestry will live on after the winner has hoisted the trophy in July. This is only 1/10th the length of the Bayeux Tapestry, but it certainly reflects the tagline of the film: History will be made.

I'm sure there are other interesting and creative ideas for combining medium and content in unexpected ways that this could inspire.

And will it perhaps still be there to marvel at in 1,000 years?

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Eat more fruit!

I am sure I have remarked before on the preponderance, still, of independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in Germany compared to the UK. When my son was young, shopping was never a chore, as it seemed that just about everywhere we went, he'd be offered something to nibble on.

A little packet of Gummibärchen in the Post Office, an apple at the greengrocer, a corner of currant bun at the baker and a slice of sausage (indeed, sometimes a whopping great chunk of sausage) at the butcher. I can imagine the shock-horror reaction to that last one in health & safety-allergy-obsessed UK.

This all reminded me of my own childhood shopping trips, when greengrocers had brown bags proclaiming Eat More Fruit! and extras were always slipped in over and above what showed in pounds and ounces on the weighing scales.

This was all brought back to mind on a recent trip to Tesco in the UK, where I saw a tray of free fruit for kids:

This initiative, launched in 2016, has been a huge success for Tesco and they reckon they've given away 50m pieces of fruit since its launch. It's part of an overall renaissance for the retailer, since its low point in 2015. Since then they're on their ninth consecutive quarter of growth.

The principle is so simple: put yourself in the customer's shoes - and why not take a lesson or two from retailers down from you in the food chain, for a change. The kind who haven't got a high and mighty Corporate Purpose Statement on the boardroom wall, yet know their customers personally, and put purpose into practice every day, in all they do.

It could be a case of: An Apple a day keeps the losses away.

Friday 18 May 2018

The Internot

I read a fascinating article this week in the HBR, entitled Marketing in the Age of Alexa. The article charts the rise of AI platforms and voice assistants, painting of a picture of a life where the skilled digital assistant accompanies its human owner? partner? master? slave? 24/7 in home, car, mobile device and so on and so forth.

But hang on. Voice assistants may become increasingly skilled, through AI, I don't debate that. However there will be some aspects of our lives that they will never have information about, unless we so choose. And that includes most of what happened or was made more than, say, 10 years ago.

Spotify won't have a clue that I may decide to dig out old vinyl from my teens and play Iggy Pop at full blast from my 1980s sound system. Or set up my wind-up gramophone from the 1930s outside on a sunny day and listen to 'On the road to Mandalay.'

The are furniture items, books, toys, crockery, photographs, letters, bicycles, bedknobs and broomsticks that will never be connected to the internet of things (unless we want them to be.)

Beyond that, there is the whole of nature, which grows without a code or chip.

And beyond that, there is the future.

The AI platforms have no connection to this world and don't "know" - as far as they can know anything - that it exists.

Maybe it's one strategy for rebel brands today to plant themselves firmly in the world of the internot.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Change happens. Get over it.

One of the core questions for marketing people has always been centred around how to adapt and transform in an ever-changing world. There's an interesting and useful analysis here by two authors from the agency Flamingo, who have examined change in a wide variety of fields, and constructed a simple model showing four strategic directions a brand could choose - Guide, Translate, Create and Pivot - along with good examples of brands who have used those different strategies.

I like this analysis, although it does tiptoe into an area that seems to be, in my mind, rather over-played currently: that of the VUCA world "out there."

There can be few readers who haven't heard about VUCA from some source or another, but in case you haven't, the acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

This acronym didn't come from some marketing consultant, but from the U.S. Military, in the context of Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s.

Is this really how we want to see the world we're operating in? Are our brands weapons in some kind of war?

I don't think so.

What if we thought of it this way:

For 'Volatile', read 'Spontaneous'

For 'Uncertain', read 'Surprising'

For 'Complex', read 'Diverse'

And for 'Ambiguous', read 'Enigmatic'

Because it's not us against them, there is no world "out there", "external" and "internal". We are all part of the world.

It's the role of brands not to provide stability in the sense of stasis and resistance to change, but rather to provide a clear purpose and direction as part of a wonderful, multi-facetted, animated, rich and mysterious world.

Thursday 3 May 2018

The Curator's Egg

Photo: Tyler Orehek

Today's post leads on from my last one, as well as picking up a theme a looked at over 5 years ago: curators and curation

Since I wrote about Brand Curators (which on balance, I still think is a good idea), the use of the word and its variants - curated, curate as verb - has exploded. it's almost as omnipresent as the dreaded "journey" - in fact, "curated journeys" abound.

Curation is a good and necessary thing in the present day, with digital overload, and it does suggest a degree of discernment, skill and knowledge. But have a look at a typical brand activity - I've picked Amazon - which involves "curation."

Amazon Prime's Book Box Service is one of those ideas that it feels a little churlish to criticise. I do take the points about encouraging children to read and love books and all the rest.

But. The books are described as "hand-picked" as well as "curated". Does that mean a human being is doing the choosing? But how much is that human being aided and abetted by algorithms? And does this kind of "curation" involve an aspect of "nanny knows best"? The word "curate" does come from curare - "to care." 

Where does curation stop and censorship (of a gentle sort) begin?

Is it the curators who have their knives at the ready to dock the long tail?