Friday 22 December 2023

Time for altered images?


The last couple of times I’ve signed on to my internet banking with Commerzbank, I’ve had a lovely little seasonal surprise. The visual, above, drawing my attention to the bank’s Christmas charity drive. They have partnered with brotZeit e.V an organisation that provides free breakfasts for schoolchildren. And, sad as it is, there are plenty of children in Germany at the moment who could benefit from this charity.

Why am I commenting on this? Well, the visual itself is striking and eye-catching, with its healthy snacks in the guise of seasonal characters. Pictures do paint a thousand words and fun, hope, cheerfulness, children, health, colourfulness, yumminess, friendliness, cosiness, kindness, imagination and creativity are just a dozen to start with. This is so much richer than the type of visuals that usually confront me on opening the website.

Typically in the last year, these will either be the usual grinning plastic people looking thrilled and excited over their laptops. Or pairs of said plastic people smooching. I’ve written about these plastic people here, and I don’t think it needs repeating. 

What I wondering is - in the obsession with representation, diversity and “people who look like me”, have we forgotten the power of the abstract and the symbolic? Long, long ago, we handled the Commerzbank account at Saatchi. We created a striking look, and from what I remember, there were no visuals of human beings. Everything was symbolic, from squirrels to oak trees. And plenty of less expected, yet rich, evocative imagery, too. 

Why does everything have to be so literal? Surely communication works harder when the visual is not merely a reflection of the text? The problem with using the thrilled and excited plastic people is that everyone else is using them too. Within the banking category and without. 

Advertisements from the golden age of posters are now regarded as art

Isn’t it time to give the thrilled and excited plastic people and their laptops a rest?

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Everything, everywhere, all at once


According to Interbrand, Amazon is the world’s third biggest and most valuable brand. Next year, the company will clock up 30 years in business. I’ve watched it grow from an “internet bookstore” (how quaint) through a destroyer of the small and local to a paragon of customer-centric brand virtue (according to Interbrand). And back and forth again. Amazon nows occupies a position of what I’d call uneasy ubiquity.

My own relationship with Amazon illustrates this perfectly. I resist Amazon as default, in the same way that I avoid And yet - I’m trapped with my Kindle. And sometimes, Amazon is the only practical option. 

This is what Amazon have understood. And it’s what they understand by customer-centric (rather than people-centric). When people are in customer mode, when there’s something they really, really, want, and they want it quickly and cheaply, reliably delivered, noble principles go out of the window. Amazon understand the power of “make it easy, make it convenient.”

So, when you already offer “everything”, where can you go from there to make things even easier? You try at “everywhere”. So people don’t even have to leave their favourite social media app, let alone their armchair for (almost) instant gratification. Amazon have partnered with Meta, as well as Pinterest and Snapchat to link your account and shipping address for a check-out without checking-out of the app. 

I won’t be joining in, as I’m old and contrary. But I doubt that’s of much concern to Amazon. They are probably more perturbed that, at this stage at least, TikTok aren’t playing ball, either.

Friday 8 December 2023

Trad and all that jazz


I’ve said it once and I’ve said it again - I’m a little bit queasy about the idea of brands “owning” anything. But if there’s a UK brand that has a claim on Christmas, it’s John Lewis.

The agency - and strategy - has changed this year. The retailer is moving from “thoughtful gifting” (or is it giving?) to “let your traditions grow.” Whether or not you’re a fan of the festive Venus Fly Trap, you have to admit this is a clever strategy. It’s the perfect mix of the personal and the collective.

One part of the campaign is something for market research nerds like me - The John Lewis Festive Tracker  . This investigation into the UK’s tinsel, turkey and traditions has been put together with YouGov.

Fascinating festive facts on what’s changing - “two-tree” households, all day pyjamas and combining celebrations from other cultures with Christmas. And what isn’t - family & friends, baking & crafting, board games and watching films. And, I presume, church and carols, although these are a strange omission in the report.

There’s also a little look into history so you can see that John Lewis did “do” Christmas prior to 2007. In the world of advertising, memories are very short!