Wednesday 29 August 2018

Bed & Breakfast Boom

How many brands can really claim to have changed lives on a mass scale? There really aren't that many - even Facebook has probably changed behaviour more than it has changed lives en masse. I blogged about Airbnb three years ago, and unlike Facebook, it did take me a while to overcome my doubts and prejudices and become an Airbnb customer. Maybe because I sensed the enormity of the change it represented.

Airbnb has moved on in the three years since I wrote that blog, and is now 10 years old. A recent article in the Telegraph gives all sorts of facts and figures on Airbnb and its 150m customers. My own view is that what makes Airbnb not just game-changing but also life-changing is that it's not just about travel, as a brand like Uber is. It's as much about the hosts and their city as it is the travellers. Especially now that the focus is not just on homes, but on restaurants and experiences, too. Airbnb themselves claim it's about community, and it's probably true that the hosts' lives may be changed along with their guests'.

In some ways, Airbnb goes back to the days before organised travel and tourism. If you rolled up in a strange place on your trusty steed, you'd either have a letter of introduction for some distant relative, or you'd seek lodgings in the village via word-of-mouth then eavesdrop in the local hostelry as regards the Do's and Don'ts of the area. Today it's much the same, but enabled via mobile internet.

The article also questions whether, as Airbnb grows, it might lose direction or clarity. The brand has, like Facebook, suffered the onslaught of tabloid wrath when things go wrong: for every Facebook party story, there's an Airbnb trashing story. There have been protests (e.g. in Barcelona) about Airbnb and everything from huge hordes of tourists overrunning cities to more long-term worries about housing prices and affordability. Traditional hotels are jumping onto the air mattress in the spirit of can't-beat-'em-'join-'em.

Who knows? But I feel that if Airbnb stay true to their purpose and take their responsibilities seriously, they'll be here to stay (as it were.)

I just wish this had existed when I lived in Wimbledon.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

DO shoot me - I'm the piano player, or composer, or somebot

I've remarked on these pages often recently about the modern tendency to throw pull-on-the-heartstrings plinky piano music into advertising to evoke the "made me cry" reaction.

Here's a prime example, and here's the plinky piano music's depressing partner-in-crime - the ominous cello music. And here's an ad that takes the mick out of it all.

Seems I am not the only one who's crying with inappropriate laughter at all this tear-duct-squeezing mawkish music.

Here's what could have been a clever creative idea, ruined by the execution, particularly the plonky-plinky soundtrack. As the writer says, "best use of Generic Sad Piano Film Trailer Score #647" - could be a new award. There are enough contenders.

I blame all those clever people who suddenly discovered that human beings don't make decisions primarily based on their rational thoughts, but on their feelings, ergo we have to make an "emotional connection."

But why do emotions always have to be morose and mournful? Whatever happened to the jolly jingles of yore? I still remember them decades afterwards, and if that's not an emotional connection, what is?

So go ahead, shoot that plinky piano player. And I don't feel in the least bit mean or cruel saying that as in all likelihood it's just a robot anyway.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Pity the Postmaster

In days gone by, the postman's main fear was being bitten by an aggressive dog. These days, the email postmaster is probably more at risk of being attacked by angry customers, but more of that later.

A new study by consultants Globeone shows that only 18% of German companies communicate a purpose (the benefit to society at large) in their claims. But, as Globeone point out, having a claim with what appears to be a higher purpose expressed in it is not enough:

"However, the use of a strong purpose goes far beyond the development of a brand claim – it must be lived by the entire organization, because otherwise the credibility of such a positioning is not given. "

Quite often, even if the management are behind the purpose, it doesn't filter down to those who are actually communicating with customers.

Take an example: Deutsche Telekom. To cut a long story short, I seem to be unable to send emails to BTinternet users. You'd think that 2 of the largest providers in Europe might actually be able to work out that their users want to communicate with each other, but it seems not.

Here are just some statements from my email conversation with the Postmaster:

"unfortunately, there is no way for us to force other providers or
administrators to accept messages from our servers. We think that BT's
policy is not wrarranted and that "SPF" really does more harm than good.
Thus we do not have an solution for you at this time."

"we are afraid that it will take some time until our customers can send
e-mail to customers of BT again."

"We are familiar with the behaviour of the servers from
and we stay in contact with btinternet. But we can't promise you a fast

These emails were inevitably signed off with the claim "Life is for Sharing", which I would like to amend to "Life is For Sharing. Except with BT customers."

I don't blame the Postmaster. He/she/they have a fairly thankless job, dealing with problems and customers that make a rabid Rottweiler look like a poodle puppy.

But I do think that people on the customer interface should have training on the implications of what the purpose means for them in their customer-facing role. Of course, there will be problems and hitches.

But it's how these are dealt with that makes the difference.

Friday 10 August 2018

People in glass houses

Careful - your corporate culture is showing!

In the age of rising demands for transparency from brands and organisations, the phrase "Glass Box Brands" is one that's rarely off the brand agenda these days.

I haven't been in the job-seekers' market for a long time, but I do get involved now and again in the question of Employer Brand. Job-seekers' platforms are probably not quite as developed here in Europe as in the US, but a future is certainly round the corner where job seekers can find out anything about a company - warts and all - from TripAdvisor-like review sites.

One such is Glassdoor, no new-fangled shiny thing, this, but established since 2008. It's a site where employees and interviewees can do anything from share salary information to posting reviews of their interviewer, the management, the culture and so on.

It's an interesting development. Over time, to avoid the platform becoming a receptacle for bitter and twisted personal rants, Community Guidelines have been introduced as well as a "Give to Get" policy. The Glass Door has a lock - there's no casual browsing, and after a few peeks through the windows, all becomes opaque until you sign on or sign in.

Does all this policing destroy the object of such a site? Are enough people contributing to make the information valuable?

Or will the increasing wariness of "wot I read on the internet" mean people would rather trust their own experience and instinct when seeking a new job?

Friday 3 August 2018

Age fluidity

When I was a lass, our corner shop was always well-stocked with sweet cigarettes. As well as packs that mimicked grown-up brands, all the TV stars of the day, human, animal and robot, had their own offering, complete with cards to collect - just like Grandpa.

And, if you got bored of getting your pretend-smoking kicks in this form, there was always Spanish Gold:

Mmmm: can still taste the coconut!

Fast-forward a few decades, and my husband recently tried to get some e-cigarette refill in the UK with a vague taste of tobacco and failed, miserably. Instead, he was offered a vast array of flavours that wouldn't be out of place at a 6-year-old's birthday party:

Caramel, Cola Pop, Juicy Blueberry, Liquorice Torpedo, Bubble gum, Marshmallow, Blue slush - need I go on?

It was all rather reminiscent of those over-priced milkshakes in Starbucks that masquerade as coffee - vanillacaramelbutterscotchcheesecakefrothochinos - or whatever they call themselves.

Or the alluring colourful bottles of homogenised baby food dressed up as trendy hipster smoothies.

Not to mention alcopops, alcoholic ginger beer and beer with banana flavour.

I've blogged about Kidults before, but maybe, as all these items seem to be liquids, perhaps the correct term for this trend is Age Fluidity.