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We’ve been working with Luxury Vacations for more than 12 years now – rather shocking how time flies!

The team have always been amazing in a graphic design sense, appreciating and demanding good design for all their marketing material. Over the years, the brand has come to life in many ways and recently we are focusing on completely re-vamping all the digital material.

We are now at a stage where more and more of their fantastic tours are in brochure form, giving clients the choice to read it online or even request a printed copy. Thanks to digital print and much faster website speeds, the options are all there for customers. And from a design perspective, it all helps to create a rounded brand image that resonates with overseas travel agents and visitors.

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Many (actually shockingly many) years ago the US part of the charity YMCA did a re-brand. A in my mind rather underwhelming one. I wrote about it back in 2010.

And – it’s back again as the logo for estate agents yopa – yopa.co.uk – which in itself sounds like they want to catch everyone mistyping zopa into google 😆

It’s still not bowling me over – but it did make me remember the YMCA and its long standing efforts to help homeless youths – which may also be exactly the kind of association one should perhaps try to avoid when selling houses?

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Layers of Deception Book Cover design

This has been a great project. We’ve been working with Leo James, a UK crime author, to create his latest book cover design for his crime thriller Layers of Deception. We created a ‘layered’ composite including elements from the story’s location and content. It’s definitely a challenge to give a visual overview of the content of a novel with limited space and considering the even more limited attention span of people browsing book shelves.

Layers of Deception Book Cover front and back

Layers of Deception Book Cover pile

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The Royal Mint announces a set of coins featuring Paddington™ the friendly Peruvian bear

 

The Royal Mint has revealed two new commemorative coins to celebrate the 60thanniversary of Paddington Bear’s first adventure in A Bear Called Paddington.

This launch is just the start of a series of exciting adventures for Britain’s favourite bear with the Royal Mint. Paddington fans can follow his journey at www.royalmint.com/paddington and #AllChangeAtPaddington.

The full designs capture the vivid blue and vibrant reds of Paddington’s famous duffle coat and hat in minute detail – creating two miniature works of art that are beautiful, collectable coins. I for one can’t wait to see these – especially since it’s unusual to have colour on coins. They look like they have some lovely detail in them.

The 50p coins feature Paddington in two of the most iconic locations from his adventures – Paddington Station and Buckingham Palace. Michael Bond, who first created Paddington Bear in 1958, would perhaps not envisaged his bear on a coin as much as on a jam jar.

Dave Knapton, Coin Designer at The Royal Mint, was chosen to immortalise the much-loved character for the coin collection and commented: “I loved reading the books about Paddington when I was younger, and felt a real sense of nostalgia as I was designing these coins. Paddington was part of my childhood, but now he’s being discovered by a whole new generation. I wanted to bring his portrait to life and show him in a very realistic environment, so I began with a modern train at Paddington Station, showing Paddington waiting patiently on his suitcase for his new life to begin”.

As a brand, the Royal Mint is pretty interesting. It’s obviously serious business, but also has the ability to capture the spirit of the people handling its goods, i.e. the currency, reflecting national pride and being a ‘current’ currency. It’s a step away from historic figures and buildings, but that’s what makes this so appealing in my mind. It’s the perfect excuse to design something different.

Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint commented: “It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate a character from popular culture as well-loved as Paddington Bear, and the 60thanniversary of the books seemed an appropriate time. I’m sure Paddington would be very honoured to be the first Peruvian bear to appear on British coins”.

It’s obviously a collectors’ item rather than general merchandise, but I for one will try to get a set for a rainy day – like Paddington’s emergency jam sandwich under his hat. Bless is furry socks.

 

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This made me smile – and not  just because it could only happen in England.

It made me wonder if the person writing this may have thought twice about it if they replaced some of the text with images, so here is one I made earlier with the according visual cues.

Anyone notice anything odd? 😆

Curious days… Germany is out of the World Cup, England is still in the World Cup… and tea bags are considered relevant for use in the toilet (for what?!?!?!)

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British craft beer brand TicketyBrew has unveiled a refreshed identity with design by multi-disciplinary studio Carter Wong.

Restoring impact and structure
Having quickly expanded to include more than 35 flavours the brand had begun to suffer from a series of tweaks to its overarching visual identity. To restore impact Carter Wong refocused TicketyBrew’s messaging, stripping the brand back to a simplified identity with a more contemporary look and feel.
The range was then segmented to provide structure, splitting the portfolio into a Core Range of 11 beers and a Limited Editions range of approximately 26 more unusual flavours.

Stripped back design
Carter Wong retained the original colour palette for the Core Range but reduced the volume of written content on the wraparound label for a cleaner feel. Each flavour within the Core Range now has a number to help distinguish between the products, with a stamp design to celebrate where the beer is made and touches of bright colours to appeal to the latest trends.
Across the Limited Editions range, a patterned background in vibrant tones creates standout to differentiate from the Core Range, with four patterns on rotation and colourways chosen based on the individual flavours.
Where the Core Range shows a stamp of origin in a contrasting hue, the Limited Editions have the year the flavour was introduced. With new flavour profiles released every 4-6 weeks, a newly-introduced digital print approach enables TicketyBrew to amend and print new versions quickly and easily.

 

Engaging a more informed consumer

Sarah Turner, Managing Director, Carter Wong, says: “Since the launch of TicketyBrew in 2013, the craft beer market has grown considerably and as a result, the average consumer is more knowledgeable about their options. Once fit for purpose, the TicketyBrew brand had begun to lose impact as the craft beer category became more competitive.

“We retained the core brand identity with its wrap-around labels and perforated tickets with hidden glass shape but refined the core messaging for an evolved marketplace. The updated design sets the brand apart in an increasingly crowded sector, with added flexibility to introduce new flavour profiles as it continues to grow.”

Je ne sais quoi

It may just be the French way of life, but…
Compare the pretty standard wheelchair priority sign with that for pregnant ladies and mums. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a flirty depiction of a mother with child in a supermarket – mini skirt, high heels, coquettish hand on hip, leg hoisted up on the stroller.
From my own experience with three boys, the typical picture of a mother with impatient kids at a checkout is a rather different one!
Mind you, it may make the men look twice and remember to let mums to be and mums that are go ahead in the queue 😉
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In app twist

A lot of apps are very visual these days but we still do have to write things. I'm not even starting to talk about how awful the spelling mistakes are in news apps.

I started using this clever little Instagram grid helper and was actually really surprised to see a typo on the one page that contains instructions. How on earth?!?! The trouble is, it reflects badly on the brand and sows a seed of doubt about the quality. It's easily avoided.

(Last time I checked it was following, not 'follwoing'…)

One of my friends works for a large corporate and I like this footer – 'this email has been typed on a phone and may contain errors'. I like that somehow – it's expressing the frustrating downfalls of predictable text, Siri and other clever tech that's almost but not quite there yet.

As a brand manager, typos are details that should not be overlooked – we may all be accustomed to the quirks of instant messaging and high speed Comms but in my mind it's this attention to detail that will differentiate a brand in terms of quality and expertise.

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…. the name of my product!
Don’t walk up too closely to this banner stand in the local cinema. What looks like a standard ad for Doritos quickly becomes a giggle when you see that the actual ‘new flavour’ had been forgotten (unless this is a new way to style roll up banners) and had to be stuck on with paper and the perhaps slightly uninspiring line ‘Have you tried Chilli flavoured Nachos ??’
I won’t even mention the typography (or lack of). IMG_1621-1
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And why would a triangle have a thinking bubble? Perhaps it is a dream cloud and the designers found themselves in a little bit of a nightmare…
 
 
 
 

I’ve been bemused many times by brand expansions that perhaps don’t come to mind naturally… mustard made by a whiskey brand, marinades by Dr. Pepper, perfume by Zippo lighters. And we seem to be having a new one that seems just a little contrived to me. The Mercedes Benz scent is upon us. Complete with baseball cap offer.
Just one thing made me smile – a special smell of petrol positioned right next to Diesel.

I like this – it always pays to customise as much as you can for your brand image! Nicely done hotel chocolate! 🙂 This is a nice way to use the regulatory cookie policy on their website. Who says you can’t have fun with legalities!

Not taking the biscuit...
Not taking the biscuit…

I love sports, dancing, skating, running… And healthy eating goes with it. This however has stopped me in my tracks, confused and perhaps a bit bewildered.
What were they thinking? Is it a promo merchandise goody for the latest apocalyptic movie hitting the screens? Or did I miss the band wagon of runners fashion etiquette? Or is it leftover stock from a yet unpublished branding exercise episode of The Apprentice?
Eventually I was ready to move on, Spring in my step and fuel your 10k hours left of the shelf.

scary, not yummy, perhaps I’m not zombie enough!

 

When the agency placing this advert for the saucy fish co got a copy of the magazine on their desks they must have had one of those moments…
How can this happen in today’s tech savvy world? Get a discount for the next one! What a shame.

looks good at a glance, but look closer!

print technology taking the bisuit

bloody bleed!

  
Just to start the year – has it really been that long? – a nice little detail showing how a brand icon can blend with a standard icon to create a new meaning. 
Get switched on by Actimel. 
I like it!

When there are about a million competitors in your marketplace, it’s hard to stand out and be recognised as different. 
mental rental branding
“A mental rate for your rental mate” — its perhaps a tad unexpected for a van rental business, but hey, why not! 
Made me chuckle and remember…

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If this restaurant has done one thing with their logo it’s make me read it twice – but I’m not sure if for the right reason!

Since I believe that what we feel about a brand identity is just as important as what the brand delivers, I’d be wary to try this one, even if it’s a matter of spelling and interpretation.

Of course this is only because I am ignorant and not concentrating whilst flicking through the ad section of a magazine but there may be others  like me so beware when deciding a brand name.

terroir restaurant
I am filled with it reading this name 😉

It actually reminds me of the muppets and Ricky Gervais as the international tour manager with the name Dominic Badguy — “pronounced Bad-gee…it’s French!”… 🙂

… Quite literally actually! Returning from a trip to Germany, I came across this ‘freshness centre’ which left me chuckling. Toothbrushes and mints may go well together but slotted together with tampons and slip inlays seems somewhat inappropriate and perhaps a tad tasteless. I am not sure why, but since branding involves a lot of gut feeling, the feminine hygiene or travel refreshment guidelines could have done with some brand guidelines stating a product clear zone – even if it’s just the width of a hand – the way we prescribe them for logos to ensure they have enough clear space around them to stand out and not be compromised. We call it logo integrity. 

Product integrity should be a consideration in my mind, see also the boots example of amusingly misplaced water filters on the bladder weakness isle. 

Oh well, it is all in good humour and invites to caption writing!



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Fresh at both ends. Lovely!


(Or the POS department)…

Messy.
Messy.

What a shame! Someone in the display section of this major high street retailer really missed an opportunity. These egg timers have all the promise of making an eye catching product in the kitchen department. Why not try to feature them with an equally eye-catching display? Egg cups anyone? Or even better an egg box to be truly authentic with the amount of egg timers and different colours available.
I found this egg packaging endearing: behance – though just an open egg box would have been fine…
Lovely simple egg display…

A simple egg box would have done...
A simple egg box would have done…

Branding doesn’t stop with a good product and messaging. The packaging is just as important – and if there is none in a retail environment, POS or display design takes on a crucial role in expression that brand message. Looking at the shelf now it says bright and will fly around the house. Not sure.
If it was neatly displayed, and looked organised, that would be more my cup of tea. Kitchens get messy without anyone doing much of anything! If you compare this display to any of the  Joseph Joseph brand, I am quite certain they would have made a feature of the holder as much as of the product.
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Ladle stand..

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Chopping board file…

Ad hoc” tea infuser design with stand – no dripping, rolling off or mess after use

Branding is in the detail. And those little extra details can make all the difference in the busy shelves or high street shops…

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It’s made me stop every time I walked passed, which may be considered a good thing in the world of branding and advertising, but this advert has actually lost its charm for me.
I can’t decide if it is the strange nose like bit on the top of the ad or the background looking far too much like flattened skin with a ribbon and items spread across it. It’s just not working for me! It clearly can’t be skin because it would seem very peculiar to spread a number of bracelets across someone’s tummy and still have that much space left in-between without showing any limbs.
Oh well, Valentine’s is over so hopefully there will be another less curious advert appearing there instead.

Is it skin? Is it a nose? Whatever it is, it's not making me want to get near it!
Is it skin? Does it have a nose? Whatever it is, it’s not making me want to get near it!

I know it’s personal taste and subjective but where was it ever a good idea to mix left aligned and centred especially in such close proximity and without any apparent need to?
The Apprentice titles are never a typographical feast for the eye but this really narks me. It would have been so easy to add a sub title that matches in style – or was this one of Lord Sugars’ unpublished tasks for ‘the candidates in the process’?

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Parents of adventure-loving boys might relate to this. My son – and credit to him for his endurance – has been an avid Shark boy and lava girl movie fan for more than a year now.
That’s ok – but when his letter to Santa only contained one wish, it became more of an issue. He desperately wants a shark boy outfit.

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There is however little or no merchandise around – and the few retailers that do have some items are so niche that it all becomes very expensive.
It will need to be a DIY job, but it will never be as good as the original.
I think it shows how kids movies these days almost demand a product to satisfy fans. Out comes the movie, followed by the goods. Toy Story, Shrek, Frozen, Cars, Monsters inc… Or the more grown-up Starwars, Spider-Man and Batman (I think it’s funny that he can’t watch these, yet has already bought into the products).
Somehow this movie got away, and whilst I congratulate the fact that it means the lack of character merchandise actually stimulate his creativity and makes him create his own material, the part of me does not want to sit sewing shark fins on jogging suits wished shark boy had been branded a bit more!

Back to basics

We have a newbie in our family – which is why it’s been quiet on the blog. Now that life has settled in a bit, I think it’s time to go back to basics.
Branding is not only relevant to businesses, personal brands have been expanded and monetised for a long time – think Jamie Oliver, the Beckhams or in a crude way, politicians vying for votes.
Brands help categorise not only products, but also personalities, and as a combination of both they make us belong to our own little (or large) tribe. We all naturally brand ourselves not just by the clothes we pick, the phone we buy and the car we drive, there are also professional differentiators, such as job titles – and which company we work for.
With business social media sites the likes of LinkedIn, personal and professional branding has become more and more connected to our status in the market place.
Previous jobs, references, titles and responsibilities shape an image for those researching ‘human resources’ or useful connections for their own venture. Taking care of your image online is now high on the agenda – and it’s not down to make-up and work wear.
We have become official representatives of the businesses we are connected with, be it employers or our own. And they in turn need us to complete their own brand image. It is one big branding soup served as the market dish of the day.
Have a go and google yourself! It’s quite insightful to see what the world sees when your name comes up.
There are lots of little helpers to create a personal brand image for yourself. Depending on how you value your privacy and perhaps how ‘delicate’ you everyday life is, Facebook is one of the most known platforms. But, for a more business related approach, here are some thoughts on what to look out for:
Personal profile websites
Flavours.me
Flavours
About.me
About.me
Pixelhub.me
Pixelhub
Other useful sites to build – or check – your online brand reputation
Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.
LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service. Founded in December 2002 and launched on May 5, 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking.
Klout is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score”, which is a numerical value between 1 and 100.
Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”.
Many more are available and it depends on your location, your situation and your intention.
There are however boundaries to even the best attempts to brand yourself professionally – at least when it comes to insurance quotes! We work so hard on differentiating ourselves with job titles and descriptions, yet the IT systems behind the insurance broker websites don’t recognise half of them.
I have specialised in brand consultancy for many years now, combining the analysis and development of a brand strategy and visual brand identity / implementation, being, if anything, more of an art/creative director – yet I will always end up being a ‘graphic designer’ in the field of ‘marketing’. 🙂 I don’t mind, because at the end of the day I work with people and not form fields.
Personal branding is not about pigeon holing and it’s not about being crazy (unless there is a strategy for that) – but at the end of the day we are all professionals and the titles will only matter if someone actually has a tick box for them in their system.

Proud to be broken

Lego is coming to a cinema near you.
Lego is coming to a cinema near you.

With two boys under 6 there is no way you can escape Legomania! We have been bricked up ever since my oldest could hold a shovel – it’s a brilliant toy for training fine motor skills and as a mum, I personally prefer playing Lego with them than endless car chases or the usual boisterous fighting games.
I played Lego as a child (the East German version with limited colours :-)) and remember the magic of unpacking a set of the Western counterpart that was more than just a heap of bricks ready to be transformed into something. There were little men and bits that made a motorbike or a fire engine. I don’t think I had many Lego man but we did find my husband’s childhood collection in the loft and there were quite a few space men with helmets and rocket packs, awesome. Sadly, quite a few of the helmets were broken at the chin strap, promptly rejected by perfectionist dear son.
So, when walking through town centre and seeing the large version of the cinema poster for the Lego movie, I was double impressed by the brand and its attitude to super heroes, not shying away from self-deprecation and mixing grown up humour with childlike excitement and naivety…
Whats that tear in the helmet? Tradition! A  convincingly human brand attribute...
Whats that tear in the helmet? Tradition! A convincingly human brand attribute…

The rocket man in the post has the renowned broken helmet! Well done Lego! It’s a display of confidence as much as known brand loyalty when a product brand can actually celebrate its flaws from the past – a true translation of human traits and values.
Just clever. The magic continues…
 
 

Looking back over some news of now last year, the Brand Channel‘s announcement of the 2013 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners and Losers covering movies released in 2012 made me smile – especially ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ for worst product placement.

As with many years, 2012 had its fair share of bad and egregiously bad product placement. Incongruous on-screen brand cameos such as Subway in Wreck-It Ralph and Acura in Avengers are the stuff that gives the practice of product placement a bad name. But while even Heineken’s role in James Bond had a few defenders, practically nobody came out to stand up for Peter “Spider-Man” Parker’s choice of search engines.
Making Bing’s forced Spider-Man placement worse was Microsoft’s inability to spin the negative publicity to its advantage. Ironically enough, Comicbook.com points out that in the comic book, Peter Parker uses Google as his search engine of choice. (A bit like how the film version of E.T. famously featured Reese’s Pieces while, to this day, the novelization uses M&M’s.)

Of course it is easier to mock those who got it wrong but there is something about brands working with characters, movie topics or scenarios and I am bemused that BING considered itself to be the search engine of choice for snazzy Peter Parker, spiky haired, rebellious and secretive…
Looking at what is out there in terms of search engine brands, perhaps the funniest one is DuckDuckGo – with Google being the obvious choice (and apparently what the comic writers had intended). Most search engines just lack the familiarity of Yahoo and the before mentioned Google and BING, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a correct brand match in my mind.
Still, I guess it could have been worse if they accepted an offer from AOL… Roll on 2014…

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My boys are crazy about this animation from the creators of Ponyo and Spirited Away. I have now seen this movie more times than any of my all time favourites (no I won’t list them as there are some embarrassingly cheesy choices in my feel good movie selection) and I couldn’t help starting to analyse the content a bit more.
Turns out, Kiki has real entrepreneurial spirit we can perhaps all learn from!
To explain, Kiki is a with in training and it is custom for witches to leave home and live in a different city or town when they reach the age of 15. Kiki can fly but that’s about it it seems – her mum has not had enough time to show her potions and I am not sure dad is into witchcraft at all considering his car loading troubles.
Once in a seaside town, unexpected events lead her past a bakery and she observes how a lady lost her baby’s dummy, pregnant bakery owner to the rescue… Kiki offers to fly after the lady and her push chair to save the trip home and promptly gains her first reputable recommendation ‘your new delivery girl is great’.
So, putting broomstick and business together, Kiki sets up a delivery service – more or less with a flying start.
It’s just a story of course but it does remind how important it is for existing business owners or startups to keep their eyes open for opportunities and possible business expansions. Meeting people and finding out about their problems might just inspire the next brand extension that breathes fresh air into a venture – opening opportunities for a fresh look at existing methods, the market, changes and trends in technology, in what consumers or B2B clients require, internal processes and innovation.
Just because you have always done something doesn’t mean you can’t add to it, build on it or change completely if you discover a gap in the market.
I have a number of clients that have successfully launched new parts to their business, reacting to new government legislation, changing trends in the travelling industry and in medicine – they all kept their eyes open and even though things like this involve risks, they can equally involve great rewards.
Let’s get that broom out the cupboard in the new year and start some flying around the competitor landscape and business scene – who knows what ends up right under our noses.

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Helping family to move house a couple of weekends ago – yes, this is one more reason why I am so inactive on my little blog at the moment – I came across a couple of brand items that struck me as amazing.
Player’s Navy Cut (a cigarette brand part of Imperial Tobacco) has had a very different marketing approach than cigarette brands of today.
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“The sales of Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes for the past twelve months show a substantial increase over the preceding twelve months. Here is definite proof that “It’s the Tobacco that Counts,” and that “Quality will Tell.”
You don’t read that in the papers these days! Nor do you read “very gratified to have given so much more pleasure” on a cigarette advert – in fact, you don’t see cigarette ads any more… which also means that Swan had to change their brand strategy:
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“The smoker’s match” seems dated for more than one reason. I spotted this Swan ad on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7gWAdy7Jwg
Swan Vesta, now part of Swedish Match, has a bit of a hard to believe vision, considering the industry they are in, but it shows that even the most unlikely products can adapt to a changing market:

Swedish Match brand vision and strategy

It’s perhaps a bit of a crass example illustrating the importance of keeping your brand current and relevant to trends in the market, changes in technology and in perception.
A brand health check is just as important as keeping track of your finances, your insurance, policies and business strategy. And as in most areas, working on your strategy a little bit frequently avoids having to consider a drastic shift in positioning because the brand and its vision have lost their ways.

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When it comes to feedback from clients following the ‘go live’ of a web design or the distribution of a brochure, catalogue or marketing campaign, usually no news is good news. Feedback is usually given during the concept phase and and the ensuing design and print or web development management success is (understandably) expected. That’s why it always feels special when you get an unprompted compliment after ‘go live’ or ‘go public’ – and even more so when it comes in the form of flowers and kind words.
I think most creatives will agree that whilst we all need to earn money, that’s not really why we are trying to do the best job… it’s the process of finding a solution and how it is perceived by the client and the public.
So, thank you to APP for being more than a super client!

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No, this post won’t have an underlying thought on branding, brand strategy, graphic design or advertising. Just a reminder of the weird, wonderful and never failing to inspire world that is London. That blue cockerel is such a warming sight amidst the more traditional architecture or Trafalgar Square, it makes me want to shout about it… Once again, thank you London for being a city full of creative opportunities!

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Once brand, different opinions
Once brand, different opinions

Yesterday’s news of the leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson causing a stir at Selfridges when a member of staff refused to serve his friend, all conveniently documented on video and published on YouTube, has seen many finger wagging for or against the reaction of the retail brand.

Whilst the suspended shop assistant is not receiving any disciplinary action, the brand’s PR team will have a bit of work cut out for them to counter the dismay of many about the fact that they apologised profoundly and offered the two shoppers a free lunch – which, may I add, at £80 does not exactly do them any favours in this situation.
It reminded me of one of the key tasks and capabilities of a brand strategy that is thought-through and includes risk assessments and training for all those involved in representing the brand. This may not be the worst-case scenario, but the clash of political opinions, especially in a high profile brand that will frequently be dealing with well-known personalities or celebrities, and how to behave humanly yet with the brand values in mind surely seems one eventuality worth considering.
A Selfridges spokeswoman said ‘We’ve been in business since 1909 and we serve everybody regardless of who they are or their political views.
‘We investigated the incident involving one of our sales assistants and he fully understands our position and we won’t be taking any further action.
‘The suspension has been lifted and he is aware he can’t refuse to serve customers.’
The shop manager’s decision to apologise may thus have been in line with the view from the top, but it backfired in how it was perceived by us normal folk and seems to have brought to light a discrepancy in values between management and staff on the shop floor, never a good sign for brand managers.
Politics are precarious of course and with all the equal rights and freedom of speech elements, it is a complex one for sure. It’s just tragic that the only winner out of this one is actually the leader of the EDL who got great coverage and will perhaps find his upcoming court appearance for public order offences on October 22 eased by the media attention.
Could have gone better, Mr Selfridges

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I’ve been away most of July and August – what an amazing Summer! It’s an ongoing challenge to get back into everyday work and family life, kids starting school and bringing home bugs. I’ve been coughing for all of September now but we are getting there – if only because no matter how poorly I feel, some things still bug me that others probably won’t care about but I have to mention them. This typographic blatantly obvious mishap for example.
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Did they spend all their budget on Gerard Butler (is it really him?) and the graphic design department’s working hours were cut? Or the proof reader’s for that matter?
Making sure it really was Gerard, I came across this poster from imdb and the name of Dracula is not even listed?
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What did Gerard do not to be on the it? And why do they show five characters (minus vampire) but only four actors are referenced?
It may be that they felt a vampire’s name wouldn’t appear in print (mirrors and all) but I think it reflects the general quality of the script that is in my mind seriously lacking some bite even as a “late up with a cough and nothing else to watch movie”…
Bring on Gary Oldman!

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I did it, loved it and held a workshop after. London was amazing. Super weather and Andy Murray won Wimbledon that afternoon.
Here is the presentation from the day. I am working on getting the workshop notes across to those lovely people joining me that afternoon – I’ll be in touch in the next few weeks.
[slideshare id=24418630&sc=no]

20130718-181332.jpg We must be a nation in love with sport at the
moment. Last year’s Olympics are still a relatively fresh memory,
Andy Murray did us proud at Wimbledon and all is not lost yet for
the football, either. I get that celebrities are powerful brand
endorsers and can add to the image enormously – but what Santander
has to do with it is still a mystery to me. I find their sports ads
this year just as contrived as the bank account raving ones with
Lewis Hamilton last year. Throwing anames at a brand campaign does
not guarantee it will be memorable for all the right reasons. Note
to self: must research some good examples of where it works well
for a brand. After my holiday. And without thinking about
Santander’s iPhone app.

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You are working like crazy on building your brand, playing it all by the book, getting plenty of exposure and collecting feedback. Make it a recurring practice to analyse and digest your findings.
We are in the great position that the old communication model of blasting out a message to the masses and hoping some of it sticks on some of the target market is long gone and a much more transparent communication model has replaced it.

Old brand communication model
Old brand communication model

New brand communication model
New brand communication model

It’s no longer a shouting match, it’s a conversation (or at least it should be). Many brands have embraced this and it adds an interesting dimension to marketing – the scope for more targeted campaigns to smaller audiences with a higher response rate has increased and is supported by the ever-increasing adaptability of digital print for ‘traditional’ campaigns.
As your brand evolves so will your customers. Vice versa, you have to be able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour due to new technology, politics, the economy, social trends, medicine, etc.
It may mean that advertising campaigns and loyalty programmes have to be adapted to suit changing communication styles, but it is above all a great opportunity for brands to act ‘real’ and show their personality.

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“BRAND IS NOT WHAT YOU SAY IT IS – ITS WHAT THEY SAY IT IS” Marty Neumeyer

Brand strategy and brand building is a vast subject, ever-evolving and ever more relevant to everyone. Brands used to be owned by life stock owners to mark their cattle, by manufacturers to mark their products and assure us of their quality, by advertisers and marketeers trying to push their clients ahead of the competition. It’s only in recent years that brands have had to get their head around the transparency brought by social media and digital, by the immediacy of feedback via smartphones and tablets – and now more than ever brands are owned by all of us, they are made by us and risk being abandoned by us. Brands no longer have segmented touch points – they are interlinked and interactive.
Alina Wheeler made a lovely simple brand touchpoint diagram showing a number of brand touch points. Since I am having a bit of a cup cake theme for the food bloggers conference talk, here is one I made earlier.

Brand touch points
Brand touch points based on a diagram by Alana Wheeler

And if this is hard to read as a diagram, here is a list as well with some added points:

  • Advertising
  • Telephone
  • Social Media
  • Trade Shows
  • Networking
  • Signage
  • Blogs
  • Word of Mouth
  • Direct Mail
  • Competitors
  • Associates
  • Public Relations
  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • E-Shots
  • Publications
  • Packaging
  • Emails
  • Voicemails
  • Proposals
  • Speeches
  • Employees
  • Products
  • Services
  • Billboards
  • Business Cards
  • Web Banners
  • Exhibits
  • Letterheads
  • Vehicles
  • Merchandise

We can categorise these into internal and external stake holders, into customers and suppliers, partners and the competition – these days chances are that an employee is just as much a brand advocate (or the opposite!) than the media and it is ever more important that the message a brand sends out is the same on a web banner, in speeches, when commenting on subjects in the press, on bill boards or vehicles, internal publications or lovely designed marketing material.
The amount of touch points may seem scary or irrelevant, but it is also a great opportunity for smaller businesses to make their mark because most of these points of engagement with a product or service are now easier to achieve and manage. As usual, it makes sense to have a bit of a strategy in place. Think about where you would ideally like to engage with your customers, then try and build up that ‘touch point’ so it becomes a buzzing hub of brand exchanges.
This part of brand management can be as hands-on as you want it to be. There are lots of examples of brand involvement on a corporate level and as people brands. Think Jamie Oliver. He has a whole brand guideline manual written about him as the person and him as the brand. Both are equally important and interact with a multitude of stake holders on different levels.
He sets a good example of a successful balance of blatant product placement and social engagement for the ‘greater good’, corporate responsibility on a ‘one man band’ level one may say. The apparent consistency is part of the strength of his brand strategy and something to aim for if you are in a similar position as an expert in your field wanting to raise your profile and reputation.
Jamie-Oliver-personal brandJamie-Oliver-personal brand
There is so much that can be explored. If your central focus of featuring your products is on a website, for instance, think about different avenues to interact with your target audience with the underlying strategy to increase traffic to your site. It won’t be an overnight project, but there are many options to engage the public.
Here are just some thoughts on how to network around a website.
ONLINE Reputation building

  • Exposure on expert sites (Linked in Answers, Wiki, squidoo, hubpages, alltop etc)
  • Online PR
  • Social media to share content and relevant information (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr etc)
  • Online reputation building platforms (Proscore, Klout, etc)
  • Social bookmarking (Reddit, digg, delicious, folkd, etc – see a list of the top 1000 kindly provided by genius optimizer here
  • Blog about related subjects setting you apart as an expert (in-built, wordpress, tumblr, blogger etc)
  • E-newsletters (mailchimp, maxmailhq, campaign monitor, constant contact, sendy, answerbag etc)
  • Guest article writing, blogging or commenting
  • Online networking (LinkedIn, SunZu, etc)
  • E-book or self-published book about your expertise
  • Advertising (google, bing, etc)
  • Reviews on other blogs or e-magazines

‘Traditional’ marketing

  • Networking / business breakfast clubs (Business Scene, Bob Club, etc)
  • Conferences and trade shows (various depending on subject)
  • Competitions or awards (enter or create your own)
  • Charity support
  • Advertising campaign in relevant publications
  • Marketing collateral to promote via direct mail or at trade shows
  • Merchandise (corporate gifts, loyalty giveaways, etc)
  • Collaborating with other businesses
  • Generating partnerships and affiliations with similar aims
  • Teaching about the expert subject
  • Holding open days or events

This is just a small selection without paying specific attention to the business or service in question – its specialism will dictate which engagement channels will work best and most effective.
It’s never good to put all eggs in one basket and brand engagement certainly is one of the subjects where you have to keep hatching out new ideas and ways to keep your brand in the conversation.

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Another brief exploration of what it takes to change a product or service to a brand. It’s not rocket science. It’s about being different, adding personality, style and content. It starts with the name – whether you are looking at a blog, product or service.
What’s your name?

Naming a brand
Name your blog. Name your URL. Name your products.

It’s a bit like giving birth. Think about the name for your brand in the context of today’s market, your brand positioning and target audience, but also about how it will sound in a few years when you are more established and spread out across lots of brand touch points/different media.
Make it as future proof as you can… and above all, make it unforgettable.
What’s your identity?
Think about the whole brand identity as a reflection of your vision and values. What does your logo say about you? What do your colours mean? How is your layout? What’s your photography like? Are you minimalist or exuberant? Identify your brand with a style that sticks and then stick to it! Ever changing visual representations may be fun to develop with a designer, but they are guaranteed to leave your customers perplexed and confused.
As well as photography and colours, your writing style also defines what your business stands for and helps to build your brand. Be different! Research your market, find a niche or a gap – or be better than the rest! Think about the tone of voice and how you can emphasise this with suitable typography.
Sometimes it helps to envisage your product as a person. If your brand was a celebrity, who would it be? Or which famous person would be the ideal brand ambassador for you?
Don’t shy away from trying something daring or from using humour if it suits. As long as you develop an identity that is easy to understand and easy to recognise, you are on a winning streak.
What’s the brand architecture?

When you are trying to create a long-lasting brand, it makes sense to envisage a future where you may want to grow the business into different areas and have sub brands or affiliates that nest under the same mother brand. This brand architecture does not have to be put into action straight away, but making sure that a brand identity can cope with expansion can save future headaches when it becomes a necessity.
There are three common types of brand architecture.
1) Freestanding pluralistic brand structure

  • unconnected brands, the consumer is not aware that there is a holding company connecting them all
  • Each brand has to develop its own reputation, has own brand management strategy
  • Brands owned by the same parent company may be competing in the market place

Different TradeMarks
Brand architecture pluralistic brand structure
 
2) Hybrid solution

  • a main brand will associate itself with another brand
  •  as a synergy, both will be affected if things go wrong though each coud create their own strong market position

Trademark by / powered by
Hybrid solution brand architecture
 
3) Masterbrand

  • a strong main single masterbrand
  • public is aware of the masterbrand when dealing with any of the sub brands
  • Trust in the brand has greater effect on a buyer than benefits of the individual sub brand
  • works on brand loyalty, the master brand reputation is developed at all times

Trademark and descriptive name
Trademark and trademark
Masterbrand brand architecture
Virgin master brand architecture
fedex-logo-blog-post-1
No matter what you decide works best for your business model and goals, adding passion and originality into every aspect of the experience you give people with your product or service will work towards creating an engaging brand with a recognisable character people can learn to value and trust.

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If you are serious about building a brand for your business, blog or product, here are some thoughts on what to consider.
Start building your strategy by thinking about who you are, what you do and why anyone should care. Imagine a personality for your brand. Be different, be it by product selection, service offering, way of communicating or anything else you can think of. Build a reputation. Are you an expert? Is your product a specialist item that solves a need? Can you prove your superiority? What’s your market? What are your opportunities and threats within that market?
Brand strategy is powerful, and as so often, the simplest strategies are the best.
The power of the ‘big idea’

Coca-Cola Brand strategy
Sharing happiness and bridging the gap between in-store promotions and social media campaigns…

Coca-Cola. Everybody knows it, loving or hating its omni-presence. Most will say they love it because of the way it makes them feel. That’s an amazing effect to have as a drink! Coke promises fun, freedom and refreshment – and whilst the brand is ever evolving, it combines its nostalgic heritage with cutting edge campaigns centred around ‘sharing happiness’ which resonates with millions and connects consumers to the brand.
‘Always coca cola’ may have changed over the years, but Coca-Cola reinforces its values through celebratory promotions – like recently celebrating its 125th-year anniversary (“Sharing Happiness”) and the London Olympics (“Move to the beat”).

“According to a survey released in July by Research Now, Coca-Cola scored over 90% in brand awareness among respondents from the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Australia. One of the few marketing platforms that are relevant to a global audience, the Olympics have allowed Coca-Cola to solidify a powerful association in the minds of billions. Through its consistent presence at the Games, Coke, a sponsor since 1928, continues to build its brand strength, reach, and impact every time the Olympic torch is lit.” – Interbrand

Coca-Cola has another attribute that is vital for a successful brand – despite being a giant corporation, it remains flexible,  innovative and reactive, working with local knowledge and respecting its heritage. It embraces new digital media as much as traditional promotions and has created connections far beyond the world of drinks to ‘common sense’ audiences in the events and music industry.

“Coca-Cola may be 126 years old, but with more than 50 million fans on Facebook, 1.8 billion Coke products consumed daily and 3,500 beverages in its diverse portfolio — Coke’s still got it. – Interbrand”

Create a Legacy

Create a legacy- apple brand
Still thinking different

Brands live on even when those who have defined them are gone. Look at Apple and Steve Jobs’ legacy.
Create a legacy- cottage industries built on apple brand
iPhone stands are just one of many products designed to serve Apple…

Steve Jobs managed to create a brand that is so well-respected and loved that it has sparked off a whole cottage industry of Apple accessories, affiliate shops, goods designed to look good with Apple products – and despite new challenges the brand has having become a household name with their iPhones, iPads and Apple TV, his legacy lives on.
That’s the magic of creating a brand rather than just a service or product.
If your business is a blog that becomes a brand, you can have guest writers, or ghost writers – as long as the values you introduced to the brand are still respected and the experience is consistent, people will follow the brand rather than just you.
gold-star-netmums
Once a forum, now a trusted brand…

NETMUMS are an example for that very effect – it’s a forum that has evolved to a trusted brand and is now pretty much an institution for anything family related, companies paying to advertise on the site or to have their products reviewed.
 
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6VzhDE1Wso&w=560&h=315]
British Airways did a FaceBook campaign during the Olympics in London 2012 which invited viewers to see the plane on your own street at http://www.facebook.com/britishairways #HomeAdvantage. The message was to stay home and watch the Olympics, which didn’t work for everyone – but the idea was nice…
Marmite brand campaign
Love breakfast, love Marmite?

Marmite has always had the simplest of strategies – Love it or hate it. Its Facebook campaign is once again a personal approach to brand messaging with changing page profile image of Marmite lovers or haters. Emotional! (And fun…)
And why should you care about all this?

“Only one brand can be the cheapest. The rest have to use branding. The stronger the brand, the greater the profit margin.” – Marty Neumeier

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Brand basics - Food sign

branding-sheep
I love walking in Derbyshire and the Lake District, experiencing unspoilt nature, raw countryside and the feeling of going back to basics – and I always get a bit of a shock when I see red, pink and green patched sheep skip around fields. My kids are now asking why someone painted them so funny and I have to explain that they are marking which sheep belong to which farmer. Make that a bit more sophisticated and you have the origins of branding – marking products or livestock with a branding iron.

branding iron - history of the word branding
“The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.” It refers to the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” – Wikepedia

We’ve come a bit of a way since then, but perhaps more in evolving the meaning and using it to define our lives and cultures than in the actual act of differentiating one product or service from another.
Brand basics - Food sign
Back to basics. Though we all have a feeling that this type of ‘food’ is not necessarily winning health food awards…

It used to be enough to simply name the product. With competition, the market share decreases and suddenly it is no longer enough to ‘bake the bread’ in the village, you have to ensure people understand that your bread is better than that of the bakery down the road, and you have to try to sell their product as more than just a price-driven commodity that is worth paying a premium for.

Marketing has shifted from communicating FEATURES ‘what it has’ (1900) to BENEFITS ‘what it does’ (1925) to EXPERIENCE ‘what you will feel’ (1950) to IDENTIFICATION ‘who you are’ (2000) – Marty Neumeyer

brand basics - shopping isle
Where is your brand and how can your customer pick you out from the mass of competitive items?

Today’s overwhelming offers and information on products and services at our fingertips makes it ever more important for businesses to break out of the low margin – high competition cycle and to create a name for themselves that goes beyond packaging.
Brand basics - what sticks if the label comes off
“Branding is about everything.” – Tom Peters

Once people seek out your brand in overcrowded supermarket shelves or in business directories because they trust you, they relate to you or they are proud to be associated with you, that’s when brand strategy comes to fruition. When more than the label sticks, you know your brand message is being received and working for your business.
Of course not every business is built on a product that can be packaged and marketed in the ‘traditional’ sense. Much is being discussed about personal branding and reputation building for experts – and the benefits of branding are obvious even for writers, speakers or trainers that are consultancy based or have more intangible products and services.

  • More brand awareness = more opportunities
  • Commercial success from increased exposure
  • Personal development, confidence and motivation
  • Sense of achievement

The magic of it all is that even if you are developing a personal brand (hello Jamie Oliver), it won’t stop you from transferring those brand values on a business or range of products you endorse. With all the complicated layers of shopping offers and packaging, ultimately you mark your brand in the mind of your clients as the synonym for the one category they are shopping for so they know if they think FOOD, they think YOU (if that is what you are selling of course)…

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What-do-brands-do
“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.”
– Kent Huffman

We are creatures of habit with some basic instincts subconsciously dictating every day actions and decisions. Even in our oh so cultural society, it often feels that we are just a very thin layer away from our ‘uneducated’ ancestors we would now call wild. We remain  territorial and most of us seem to have an underlying desire to find a partner with certain attributes (depending on male or female preference), to have children, to gain a position within social and work circles. (It seems to me that ultimately pretty much all of our behaviour can be tracked back to the innate desire to find the best partner and pass on our genes).

Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.’ – Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape

Businesses can tap into this unshakeable heritage of emotions and rational/irrational behaviour and build their brands to answer the basic needs of their clients.
In a nutshell, brands are about:

  1. BRAND AWARENESS – Most people don’t like  making choices. Brands add familiarity and a sense of comfort when picking a product. Our memory is selective and limited. Standing out and being in the mind of the consumer at the time of purchasing or decision-making is paramount.
  2. BRAND EXPERIENCE – Giving consumers confidence into their choice of product or service. Get it right, and you have won half the battle to get point 3. Better still, a happy customer will probably recommend you – but beware, there is the thought that people experience loss about ten times as much as gain, so better they see interaction with your brand as a benefit, not a disaster!
  3. BRAND LOYALTY – Evoke aspirations – inspire consumers to want to become part of the brand’s ‘tribe’. Would someone buy a t-shirt with your slogan on even though you have nothing to do with fashion? Is it ‘cool’ to be associated with your business? Are your products status symbols or attract a certain audience? People don’t like to be proved wrong, they don’t like to regret their buying decisions. Brand loyalty is a difficult one to get especially if your product is seen as a commodity, but if you can break into the world of being seen as a brand with added reputation and values instead, loyalty is a key factor to evolve and adapt to changing markets or consumer needs.

Perhaps, if a brand can create comfort, confidence and connections, it is doing so by being less of a manufactured product and more of an expression of human personalities. Bring on passion brands!

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I have been invited to talk at this year’s food blogger’s conference in London in July. As excited as I am about the opportunity, I am also terrified of public speaking and thus wondering how I will actually present my thoughts in a comprehensive and meaningful manner to those wanting to hear about branding for bloggers… Preparation is everything, so I will use the next few weeks to go through salient points of my presentation to ‘practice’ in writing.
To introduce the subject, I’d like to clarify my understanding of the word BRANDING. Ever since the word entered the general marketing and design chatter more than a decede ago, I now often come across it as being misused to describe the brand identity of a business or organisation or be interchanged with the term LOGO.
A logo is a visual mark or identifier for a product or service.
An identity, or brand identity, combines the logo, the colours, the photography style, the tone of voice, the sound, smell and anything else sensory that represents the product and brand.
A brand however is more intangible, more touchy-feely, it’s the gut feeling a person has about a product or service. It creates an emotion of what the company or product stands for and what it means to us if we associate ourselves with it.

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind” Walter Landor

I tried to visualise the key words foodie style… it’s never perfect but I hope it helps to quickly grasp the concept.

A-brand-is-not-a-logo
Aristotle – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

So, in cup cake land, a logo may be a decorative identifier of the specific flavour. The colours, packaging and shape are all part of the brand identity. The brand will only come to life, however, once a customer has taken a bite. The flavour, texture and how it was digested are just as important if not more so than all the triggers that made someone buy and try this particular cake instead of another.
Where branding becomes really powerful though is when you also take into consideration  the ambience in which the cake was selected and eaten, the interaction with the seller, the buying experience as a whole and of course the ‘value for money’ feedback that follows.
It really is an opportunity for businesses to make a difference by optimising their customers’ brand experience and making sure they don’t leave any bad tastes in their client’s mouth.
Here is to branding sweetness… Bon appetite!

post-office-branding-nessness

My advertising tutor at Central Saint Martins always talked about ‘ness-ness’ of things, about finding the essence of a subject matter and then visualising it in an engaging and simple manner. (Hello Clive!) Such adverts or brand messages have an innate honesty within them which may be the reason why they are often far more successful than complicated (and convoluted) displays.
This banner stand reminded me of the ness-ness tutorials. Using stamps to carry messages seems rather apt for the post office and whilst it’s probably nothing to shout about, the banner design feels appropriate and invites being read. We like!…

post-office-branding-nessness
Nice use of ness-ness in this banner stand graphic

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BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise
What were they thinking? This amount of words from such a brand is leaving me speechless…

Hands up everyone who thinks that this is a yellow pages ad from a small business with the BMW logo stuck on… I hope I am not the only one that feels this is way below the usual brand aesthetics of BMW, brand managers cry your eyes out.
Upon closer inspection I realise of course that this is a franchise advert – but I still don’t understand why that implies you can throw any typography style out the window. They may however have gotten a decent discount from the media agency backed up by brand guidelines because there must be a paragraph somewhere that states that the type should be completely visible after the ad has been stuck on, and not like in this sample missing a letter right in the middle of the sheet.
BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise-error
We know how it happened, but that still doesn’t make it right.

Located at a prime spot in our town, this seems such a wasted opportunity – although I wonder how many target market drivers go past the local Aldi… It does blatantly highlight the difference between brand advertising and franchise advertising where the bar still seems to be set much lower and price dictates quality of design.
Whatever the motivation  behind this, in my mind the brand would have been better off with just the logo on a white background.

Oneustonsquaredomainname

Oneustonsquarebranding
Clever use of colour to highlight the location name

The jury is out on this one… What looks like a really slick and simple branding concept for One Euston Square (which forms part of a pedestrianised southern approach to Euston station) has been flawed by an in my mind over keen design of the small print. Whilst the logo works beautifully with the detail in the letter ‘q’ featuring a square, this is lost in the domain name oneustonsq.com perhaps for legibility reasons.
However, because of the colouring going hand in hand with the brand logo itself, the missing square somewhat weakens the brand concept and leaves the thought in my mind that they may have been better off leaving the web address as a ‘normal’ piece of information that is not treated as another interpretation of the brand identity concept.
This very ‘square’ element has been nicely reflected on the website where information is displayed in square shapes adding consistency and continuity to the brand logo.
Oneustonsquaredomainname
Perhaps better left alone and simply displayed as a domain name
since they didn’t show the detail of the square in the letter q.

It’s hard as a brand manager to always know where to draw the line between graphic interpretation and sheer practicality and it’s by no means easily definable.
Lumejet S2000 product name typography
The product logo is a sans serif type, but for this brochure spread it was
vital that the name fitted into the concept with both the colour and typography.

Looking at it the other way, a client I am working with at the moment was really concerned about using their product name in a playful manner on a ‘fashion spread’ advertising their product because the typography is designed to go with the content of the pages rather than be an advert for the brand per se.
We did explore the subject and came to the conclusion that the brand should have the confidence to use the name of their product in different styles since there is good reason to do so (rather than compromise the message) – but it really is one of those things where you have to assess on a case by case basis using both gut feeling and common sense.

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It’s one of those lovely finds my husband brought back from a business meeting – well, the photo that is, he wouldn’t have dared to get the product looking at the packaging!
I guess I may have been in danger of mocking him… have a look at the picture. Anything striking you as odd? Perhaps we are not getting this but why would you use a picture of a summery dressed girl with a laptop on her bare legs (if you’ve ever held that type laptop on your skin you’ll remember how hot it gets) advertising a cosy fleece blanket – which incidentally has not been treated with fire resistant chemicals and can thus not be used on soft furnishings, such as the sofa the lady is lying on?!!??!
I wonder what Alan Sugar would say to this packaging (‘does it show the product?’…) To me, it looks like a churned out product line not really caring about any brand awareness and purely targeting a ‘cheap buy’ at a motorway station, so never mind the apparent packaging inaptitude – it’s just a lovely sample of ‘what not to do’.

Brand-Packaging-Design-Mistakes
Not hot enough? Need a blanket? Don’t use it on a sofa though!

 

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All news is good news. At first glance, it may well seem like that in the world of marketing and PR, but it is also true that mud sticks and it takes years to overcome bad feelings once the seeds are planted in the minds of the consumers.
Even though businesses of any size will (and should) strife to create the best possible brand experience for their customers, it is inevitable that sometimes things don’t go to plan. A crisis management strategy is always a good idea when a business enters the media world and is exposed to not just positive feedback. A good and thought-through crisis management strategy will define the strength of a brand and how quick (or if) it will recover.
There are many reasons for why a crisis could occur – look at the recent horse meat scandal where the supply chain has compromised both budget and premium brands all over Europe. Who would have thought… And whilst Tesco and Iceland are starting a brand trust campaign, other organisations are using the crisis for their own benefit – like PETA and their campaign to ‘go vegan’.
Tesco
iceland-branding-ad
PETA horsemeatad-Campaign
Small brands are perhaps less exposed to the media, but just as vulnerable to a crisis, especially if unprepared. Bad word of mouth is damaging on whichever scale. And being ready for the worst case scenarios gives a business an advantage over competitors in the same or similar situation no matter how small.

Brand Crisis Management quick 123
A quick guide to brand crisis management

Consistently create and increase your brand's reputation
Keep building! Brand reputation – or love for your brand – are key to overcoming a crisis.

Rescue plan of action
Assign a team and think ahead to prepare for a considered and speedy reaction to a crisis.

Identify brand crisis risks
Play through different scenarios, identify potential threats to your brand and how to react.

When in a crisis, there are a few things to consider, but perhaps one of the most important ones is that the business understands the concerns of the public and stake holders, that it remains tactful and human, that it puts people and emotions ahead of profits and potential loss of assets.
Crisis-mantra-04
No-one wants a crisis, but a business should not fear those ‘sticky situations’. A crisis is as much of an opportunity as it is a problem – and how it will turn out is once again dependent on how the brand is managed and prepared.

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I know that when you really look hard, everything has been done before in some way, shape or form, and the challenge of creatives is to come up with new and innovative ways to use a set number of visual devices us people are familiar with to communicate in an engaging manner, but it does strike me as strange when a big brand like McDonald’s uses literally the same device as another big brand (albeit in the pet food market) to advertise one of their key products.

mcdonald's brand advert
What does it say about the brand – apart from ‘hey, we like the Whiskas campaign and thought we do the same!’

Looking at the advert for McDonald’s chicken burger, I am not convinced that it actually works as a brand or product advertisement. It is neither here nor there in terms of emotion and message. Surely if you stuffed your face with a chicken burger in a delightful frenzy, the packaging would look worse for wear with eager fingers dipping in?
Whiskas product advert
Cat food origami… a bit different… but quite sweet.

I know that you can’t always avoid repeating visual devices, in this case origami, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as such, if executed in an innovative way or used to tell a new story, be relevant and fresh.
tissue brand advert
Folded message. Not really unfolding well.

Looking at this ad for Colhogar, I am not sure the connection with tissue paper for runny noses is really evident. And if you ever tried to actually make origami out of these type of tissues, it is nearly impossible and frustrating because of the softness of the paper (now here is a thought that might actually show a benefit of the paper to the consumer who might prefer the message of ‘too soft to be stable’ for their noses).
greenpeace advert
Missing something.

This Greenpeace advert is another origami example, the connection being the ‘wasting paper kills more than just trees’ but the visual execution is somewhat missing some warmth or depth.
bancoMatoneparrots
This bank’s strapline is ‘multiply your money’ but it beats me why they used birds instead of animals we naturally associate with rapid breeding (rabbits, anyone?).
brand advertisement
Sport artificial leather to stop animal slaughter – sorry, lost on me!

I also don’t quite get this advert for Rexiine House. I don’t even know what the connection is to their brand, what they do, why I should care. Perhaps this is simply an unlucky find because they are an indian company and won’t have exposure here.
The adverts below for Western Union also use origami, but I do like what they have done with it. Unlike the ‘multiplying’ advert, they used the essence of the bank notes themselves to create a connection between money transfers and the human aspect as well as the distance and cultural differences. It shifts the brand message from being a financial transaction to being a human interaction. Nicely done.
western union advert western-union-money-transfer-faces-1
I wonder how the McDonald’s chicken burger campaign will work for them. Perhaps they have planned a whole interactive origami media campaign with in-restaurant tutorials and bespoke packaging with instructions to bring the rather unsubtle copy of the Whiskas adverts to a better live… but why do I doubt that?

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Spot the Brand

Spot the Brand
Unless they are trying to promote eye tests, this seems to be a rather very poor brand application on the site of a mighty big van. It is also a good example why we test a logo during a brand identity design process, and why there are brand identity design guidelines that help avoid such failures.
Colour and legibility go hand in hand and there is no doubt a bit of an art to finding the perfect mixture. It’s another tool for communicating a brand’s values – and a very emotional one.
Sadly, the only emotion this van evokes is that of frustration and strained eyes.

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This is a weird one. I don’t drive a fancy car and in order to take a phone call whilst I am out driving, dear husband researched and gifted me with a hands-free box that clips onto my sun shield and connects to my iPhone via bluetooth.
Sadly, after months of working blissfully, I started losing connection about a week ago and despite best efforts of restarting, disconnecting and finally forgetting the device actions I didn’t manage to get my iPhone and Jabra to talk to each other again. This morning, about to head off to a client meeting and expecting a phone call on the way, I once again tried and tried, with no luck. Finally, and almost in jest, I held the hands-free box in my hands and pressed the function key for what is I guess a SIRI equivalent asking me to say a command and voiced in a rather desperate tone ‘pair with my iPhone’ – only to receive a simple step-by step guide to pairing the devices and within seconds I had a connection again!

Brand experience with a voice
Answering my desperate calls… unlike SIRI, this technology created a brilliant brand experience.

What a positively surprising outcome to a frustrating process! I want that Jabra computer everywhere! Where SIRI clearly wasn’t ready for the market, this simple version did just the job. And the brand’s tagline ‘You’re on’ is translated brilliantly into a rewarding brand experience.
I think I will always remember the day when a computer became a little bit more human (and a whole lot more helpful) without being gimmicky and trying too hard.  Thank you, Jabra! You are officially my personal brand of the week!

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We often talk about the brand as an asset and sometimes I wonder if it perhaps sounds a little bit fictitious or like typical marketing buzz word talk, so I am always on the lookout for examples of perceived brand value to see how it affects a product or service and how we interact with it.

Perceived-brand-value
A no-show as a sure sign of success

Once again using that local jewellers shop window as an example – it strikes me that some brands are clearly perceived to be worth more than others. Rolex? No need to advertise the watch itself and definitely not worth the risk of staying in the shop display during the mall’s closing time. MONTBLANC? Another product with just the bare bones of the watch holders kept on show and the actual goods nowhere to be seen.
Maurice Lacroix on the other hand seem to be in need of a better brand strategy (and perhaps they should really reconsider their choice of brand ambassador). Their products remain on display no matter what the risk.
Even if there is some simple insurance reason behind the empty shelves, it does differentiate Rolex and MONTBLANC as superior brands worth protecting with the extra effort of taking all the goods off the display when the shop shuts.
Ernest Jones are by no means a market stall, so it tells a funny little story about brand value. I wonder if the brand that are kept in sight of potential thieves and thus potentially deemed less tempting are aware of the perhaps unintentional brand differentiation.
For Rolex and MONTBLANC it’s surely another win – win situation in the luxury watch market and also shows how their logos alone are deemed brand communicators enough to warrant taking the products away despite plenty of out-of-hours foot traffic passing by.

I mused about this strap line from petrol brand Esso not long ago in this post and when I filled up at the very same station where I first came across the slogan, I had to smile when I saw this new info sheet hung on each petrol pump, advising that advanced fuels are not sold at this station. It’s just one confused brand message in my mind. What do they sell now? Normal fuels? Advanced fuels? And what does the strap line have to do with it all if not the obvious?

Esso-Brand-Advertising
All that progress, just don’t expect to see any of it where you fill up…

I wonder who made them clarify – and I wonder how long they will stick with this in my mind saying a lot without saying anything really tag line of Esso.
Perhaps the tiger will be back in our tanks sooner or later – or perhaps these days animal rights campaigners will have to say a thing or two about this as well…

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… or so it seems to be in the case of this portuguese ice cream advert.
When it comes to photography, the model is just as important as the product – and in a case like this, the pose and gaze they are shot with can really influence and change the message intended.
It may not have made us purchase their ice cream, but it certainly made us stop and smile!

hypnotist-selling-ice-cream-brand
You will buy this… You will, you will

Hypnotist-icecream

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BCU-Brand-Advert
Become the best – and look the other way

Of course this is another very subjective matter, but it struck me as odd to see this advert promoting Birmingham City University courses. In my mind, teaching is about communication, facing each other, learning from each other – and in this poster, they seem to be saying that you become the best when you don’t look at each other. It may be that the visual won’t work as well because the lines of the cogs and conveyor belt would go across the eye area of the heads, but then perhaps they should have thought of a different way to show this message.
This graphic doesn’t work for me and if anything, the visual makes me doubt that they have the right courses on offer that will be stimulating, engaging and empowering – it just feels wrong, whichever way I look at it.

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fitflops-covering-beach-with-logo
What are they saying?

Imagine a vast landscape covered with your logo, visible at every step. Would be nice? Meet fitflop, the brand who had the chance to do just that, but decided not to.
fitflops-beach-branding
Turns out, they are saying nothing at all! What a pity, ’cause they could have had their logo plastered all over the sandy beaches of the world…

Their fashionable take on flip flops with a ‘special’ sole has been present on the UK high street for a while now and has become another summer shoe brand alongside Crocs .
On the bottom of their shoes emblazoned in large letters is their logo in a distinct type. It seems that nobody in the product design department saw the potential of the beach shoes spelling out the brand message on Britain’s sandy shores and overseas. Instead, they leave a rather uninspiring ‘golftit’ or just a jumble of what could be letters.
It seems such an apt carrier  for their brand message (beach, sand, sandals, big letter logo…) I can’t believe no-one jumped at this opportunity!

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They have seemingly filled the gap on the high street left by Woolworths. Wilkinson has become a household brand in the purest sense – whether you need a bucket or some baby wipes, some wallpaper or gardening tools, they stock a wide range of household goods at a cheap price compared to the more specialised retailers (Boots for baby items, B&Q or Homebase for DIY, the usual supermarkets for household goods.)
It makes sense to highlight this versatility in a marketing campaign and even more so on their delivery vans for the mail order side of the business. But whilst their online appearance seems to be professional, with attention to detail (such as this 404 not found page design), their lorry advertising is just plain awful.
It’s not only the forced justified type that causes huge gaps between some of the words and looks dubious, it’s the inconsistency in the use of the singular or plural that follows no rule or reasoning. It’s a nice concept, but the execution lets it and the brand down big time.

wilkinson brand identity
A clean, simple logo…

Wilkinson-truck-typography
… spoilt by poor typography.

Wilkinson-truck-typography
Jarring even in the dark..

Wilkinson-404-fun error 404 message
That’s better! Makes you want to get to an error 404!

The concept has been visualised by other stores in a more sophisticated manner. John Lewis’ tissue paper shows outlines of all sorts of products, and Bob Gill did the concept of visualising ‘we do all sorts of things’ many, many years ago in a poster that showed the goods of a department store arranged to a nearly out of context graphic with the interest kept by ignoring the actual scale of the items and arranging them, no matter what their real size, next to each other.
It may be that the back of a van does not make or break a brand, but poor typography does reflect on the professionalism and attention to detail of any business (even if Wilkos could have done worse – they could have used Comic Sans)….

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A question of brand loyalty
A question of brand loyalty

It remains to be seen if the latest move from coffee brand giant Starbucks will get their brand loyalty program back on track. Whilst they, like Google, Amazon and Vodaphone, have been using loopholes in the UK tax law to avoid millions of pounds payable to the government, they started to feel the effect of the bad publicity this tax evasion has created.
Even without considering the effect their behaviour has on local small business competitors, who have to face not only the massive branding and marketing budgets of Starbucks, but also the fact that they do pay 20%VAT on every cup they sell, the public is less than impressed especially since everyone feels the economic downturn and personal tax burden of us living in the UK.
Perhaps someone thought that offering to pay 10million Pound to smoothen the waves is a good idea, but it will have to be seen if they are that easily forgiven or if in fact it fuels the anger and conception that they are trying to buy their way back in…
This Guardian article has some more details.
Brand trust is a quick one to be broken and I for one will continue to avoid the bitter taste their actions left and go to a coffee brand that shares the pain of being taxed.

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There have been a number of blog posts about Bob Geldof’s campaign with Maurice Lacroix and how those two brands go together. They even made a video clip – though in my mind it doesn’t really help change the perception that Bob has perhaps gone for the bucks rather than the ethos.
This blog post by merrick describes the moral dilemma rather nicely.
There is however another issue in this – one where I question the watch brand’s choice to use Bob Geldof as their ambassador – and the main question why they could not manage to create a better image of him representing their high quality products! Greasy hair, bags under the eyes, unhealthy looking skin, a rather cynical look – the whole poster shouts everything other than individualism, integrity and high quality.
Perhaps they are appealing to an audience I do not understand but it would put me off considering their watches as desirable no matter what the price tag.

Bob-Geldof-branding
The right kind of image for a luxury watch brand? It might have looked good as an idea on paper, but the result looks more like a badly printed student project.

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It probably seemed a good idea at the time, but I wonder if the brand owners of this advert expected their advert to be overshadowed by nothing less than another building! Made me smile anyway…

Brand-Advertising-Problem
What came first? The chicken or the egg?

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I’ve just had a weekend in York and had lunch at a restaurant / bar with a Latin theme. It was spacious in itself but there was no toilet on the ground floor. You had to climb five flights of stairs and there was no lift – lots of accessibility issues spring to mind, even ignoring wheelchairs (try carrying a child up all those stairs…).
I could have left the place with a dampened feeling and not just tired legs, but they did something clever with their unfortunate toilet situation – they made it a feature!
All it took was some entertainment on the way up. Instead of emphasising the somewhat arduous trip, it made me walk up twice (second time iPhone in hand to capture the trail).
No business is perfect – and I feel that this is a really simple and nice example for how to deal with situations that have to be managed before they can eventually be altered.
I for one will be remembering this bar for the positive brand experience their innovative dealing with a negative situation has created.
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They famously sparked the usual rebranding debate in 2010 when Waterstones changed their logo from the traditional serif W to a rounded sans serif. It was linked to a campaign ‘feel every word’ – and the typography that ensued always struck me as uncomfortably familiar to Unilever, rebranded by Wolff Olins.

Waterstones rebrand 2010
Feel every word… I feel the world ‘familiarity’

Waterstones Logo 2010
Familiar concept? Compare it to the Unilever brand…

Unilever branding
Plagiarism is a form of flattery…

Early this year they have undergone a backward revolution, I suppose, by abandoning the sans serif FS Alberta Pro back to Baskerville and by dropping the apostrophe. Perhaps it got a bit crowded in the logo marketplace when even Tesco adopted that visual type style.
Tesco welcome typography
Another Unilever inspired brand visual…

It’s an interesting decision by the brand owners, and a somewhat brave step to go ‘back to the roots’.
Waterstones brand evolution
From brand evolution to brand revolution – and back again…

They did however still keep that very Unilever style, now on the new old type.
VentureThree rebrand of Waterstones
VentureThree sticks to the Unilever branding approach…

With all this happening, one can excuse the shop owner of the bookstore chain for struggling to keep up with the latest brand guidelines! This Birmingham outlet seems to believe that if in doubt, stick them all on the shop front – something for everyone…
Waterstones-brand-confusion
Brand confusion? If in doubt, stick them all on!

Perhaps the brand guidelines never made it up to Birmingham, or perhaps there is a hidden message here – but it makes me smile in disbelief that such an established brand can allow a clash of identities…

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It has taken me a few days to digest a press release I received relating to Filofax, a brand I have been following for a while now. Here is the bit that that is almost too bad to be true when relating it to those brand followers that have been loyal and dedicated to the brand throughout its turbulent history.

Filofax press mention
Working the media… enough to reposition the brand?

The Filofax personal organiser is an iconic product with a strong heritage but as a brand they’ve found it challenging to stay relevant in the current digital age. We were challenged to re-position the brand to make it culturally relevant again and re-capture the imagination of ‘lapsed users’ who once used a Filofax but now rely on their smartphones to keep their diaries.
Following a usage and attitudes study, we identified that lapsed users and current Filofax users share the same common ground – they like to write notes and are very interested in fashion / stylish accessories. With this in mind we needed to make Filofax fashionable again to recapture this audience’s attention, so we set up a fashion-focused press office targeting key fashion and style journalists in aspirational and mainstream media, as well as influential bloggers with style focused tactics to change their perception of the brand.
From creating monthly trend reports that tied Filofax designs into leading catwalk looks, celebrity seeding, to implementing a series of style led blogger challenges, over the course of six months Filofax was starting to become recognised as a style accessory. This was all supported with a design partnership with iconic British fashion designer Alice Temperley who created a limited edition collection designed to showcase Filofax’s design capabilities but ultimately raise their profile amongst a high fashion crowd.
Helena Bloomer, MD of SLAM PR

Especially the ‘usage and attitudes study’ must have felt like a slap in the face of those users who are more keen on what’s in it than who made its cover. Some vented their frustration and published an open letter addressing the issue.
Dave Popely wrote a lovely reply to the PRs strange conclusion based on focus groups or other research which, if anything besides missing the point of the brand and its followers, puts our industry in a bad light. It made me cringe reading the buzzword loaded marketing speech and I am going to try doubly hard not to jump to marketing conclusions that are short sighted and biased.
Even though I am not a Filofax user, having just had a few encounters with those passionate about the product on sites like Philofaxy (hello Steve), I believe the very core of the ongoing success of the brand lies in the provision of a tool helping people organise their lives. Those people don’t want to rely on fancy gadgets, they appreciate the versatility, flexibility and reliability of paper and Filofax’s different systems for keeping notes is at the heart of their social and business organisation – day in, day out. To be pigeonholed as “people who like to write notes and are very interested in fashion/stylish accessories” is not only patronising, but alienates exactly the core of brand followers that seem to be keeping the company alive amidst the mass of digital alternatives.

Winchester and Malden
Kindly provided by Steve Morton from Philofaxy, throughout the decades Filofax has excelled as a brand of quality and function

I had a read of a PDF published on Philofaxy in which Kevin Hall lists the chronology of the company since the 1920s and if anything it highlights once again the lack of understanding that the true magic of the personal organiser lies in its functionality rather than its form.
There are so many possibilities of rejuvenating a brand without attempting to use the glittery but fickle and  shallow fashion direction. The best brand ambassadors are those who believe in the product and I just can’t understand why they are not being included in the development of the brand be it for a social campaign or at least for an in-depth forum or brainstorm. They meet up regularly as a group of enthusiasts sharing ideas, ways to file information, laughs no doubt. Why can the Filofax marketing department not see and capture some of that social magic and break through this strange notion that style will rescue them all.
Cat137_page9
An old system based on functionality

Just like Apple used to create extra special hardware and software for the design community, there is an opportunity to develop an extra special functional paper organiser that looks good as well – and if, as it has been with Apple (excluding SIRI and Maps to date) the design is just as amazing as the product itself, people will happily pay a premium.
Scotsman article about the filofax brand on sale again
Up for grabs – will the French know how to take the brand in the 21st Century?

It remains to be seen what’s next on the cards – with a new edition of the Alice Temperley range announced for the 2013 London fashion week and all those “style led blogger challenges and celebrity seedings” – or perhaps with the possibility of a takeover by French firm Exacompta Clairefontaine. Possibly the future ‘Le Filofax’ will be naturally confident of their French style such that the focus of the brand managers will shift towards the deeper appeal of the product for those using it as an integral part of their life.

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It took me a while to realise what was bothering me about the new campaign for Esso. Something just didn’t feel right – which I guess is what branding is all about. The chemistry seems wrong between me and their new slogan ‘We fuel progress.’
But what’s not to like? Straplines and slogans have been with us forever, they are a great, simple way to get the brand essence across and gives the company the opportunity to show some attitude, its own language, its mentality and gives a glimpse of what the brand stands for.
Nike’s ‘Just do it.’ inspired a whole nation of fitness lovers without olympic ambition. Apple’s ‘Think different’ struck a cord not only with creatives, but more and more with consumers of home entertainment and technology. Even Esso’s ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ seems more exciting and personable than the extension of last year’s ‘We fuel creativity’ with Lego promotion. It seems the line lacks meaning for the consumer. In a time where fuel prices are ever increasing and profits soaring, there is something patronising about this statement. ‘We fuel progress’, don’t you know? Aren’t we clever! You just keep paying us and we keep paying our marketing department to come up with yet another clever line that tells you how well we are doing because naturally this is all you are interested in!
Oh, they mean the long term benefit of their fuel and are ‘making fuel work harder for you’. It just does not engage me.
There are plenty of great slogans that have stood the test of criticism and time.

Andrex Toilet Paper

Around since the 70s, the Andrex® Puppy is one of the UK’s most recognisable brand icons.

Andrex brand slogan
It’s the little things… and that little bit of consistency that adds to the success of this brand.

Tommee Tippee

This household baby brand is probably far more known for their sub brand ‘closer to nature’ than its slogan ‘simply intuitive’… but it’s a nice line nonetheless.
Tommee Tippee Logo and Slogan

Closer to nature sub brand
The power of a sub brand. Often used interchangeable among mothers, the sub brand has become a brand name and slogan in itself.

BT – British Telecom

BT slogan
I had to look it up – when BT dropped its “It’s good to talk” slogan, it didn’t quite capture the imagination with ‘bringing it all together’…

Dulux

It’s another household name and the slogan ‘let’s colour’ sums it up just nicely.

Dulux brand slogan
Another famous dog – dulux has made a brand name for itself and I wonder if the dulux dog is now part of the dog breeders index…

BBC
A brilliant brand and institution (in my mind anyway) and one with such an amazing history. I can’t imagine they will ever change their old motto “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” – but who knows!
BBC motto
What they all have in common (and there are many more) is a story, a sense of something relating to the product or service, and not just words without much human interest.
Where Esso fails to convince, other brands have managed to capture the imagination of their stakeholders and are good to bear in mind when developing slogans or straplines for less well-known businesses. Not everyone will make it into a household name cited on wikipedia, but having a memorable and imaginative strapline can lighten up marketing banter and provide a step in the direction of brand advertising without having to explain in many words.
Once a slogan becomes synonymous with the meaning and essence a company tries to communicate, it becomes part of a brand and will be a useful tool for marketing and communications.
How to come up with a good strapline? Here are just some thoughts:

  1. KISS – Keep it simple stupid – as mentioned before, it’s a great rule for straplines. Anything complicated, long winded or hard to pronounce will be forgettable.
  2. Be real – don’t make promises you can’t keep. Emphasising strengths is one thing. Blatantly boasting or exaggerating usually won’t work long-term.
  3. Be human – use words we understand. Add some empathy, some feeling. It will go a long way.
  4. Be creative – don’t shy away from trying something new. Just avoid emblazoning it in the brickwork of your building until you are sure it is working for your brand!
  5. Be consistent – don’t have a new strapline every couple of months. Develop one and stick with it at least for the duration of a campaign or something you can measure the success of. There is no point keep changing a strapline if the issue is lying elsewhere.
  6. Be proud – don’t go for cheap laughs. Have a slogan you are happy to share and shout about. If it works, it will work wonders…

 

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They have been spending lots of time, money and resources on building their brand. They have invested in advertising and PR, social media and other means of getting your message out. You have perfected your image and relating product. And they seem to have made a success of it. People aspire to wear their brand name on t-shirts, trousers, sun glasses and anything else they decide to stick it on – so what more could they do?!

Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture detail
Unless I have missed a vital lesson in luxury roof finishes, this tiling method does not live up to its brand’s promise

Talk to the architect of their themed shops is one thing that instantly springs to mind! With a brand as upmarket as Abercrombie & Fitch you would assume there was some budget left to fit the roof tiles of their outlet in a shopping mall. And even if it was the mall’s shop that finished the exterior, there must be a way to ensure the quality of the brand is reflected in the quality of the roof it sells under.
As with most elements of branding and marketing, consumer perception does not start when they hold their purchase in their hands – it’s important to think through the entire shopping experience or in the case of A&F to not just see the exterior as a means to an end but as an opportunity to shine… or at least stick together nicely!
Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture
All under one shabby looking roof…

Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture
Be assured we put all our money into the production of our expensive clothes – not in our shops!

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The Paralympics have arrived and we are once again bathing in the excitement of a global sporting event hosted in our capital. I had been on the lookout for cool and crazy merchandise featuring the much debated and much protected London 2012 branding, and here are just two recent ones I came across…
It’s odd to think that this is the item of choice for promoting an event that excels in its dynamic nature, is full of vibe, confidence and energy, that is about breaking records and inspiring a generation. Was the underlying brand messaging strategy to engage with the nation every time they take their  Sunday roast out the oven or put the tea pot on the side table? Oven mittens and tea pot warmers, ladles and other cooking equipment may be apt for MasterChef or Ready Steady Cook… but I am somewhat doubtful of the effect beyond the gimmick and ensuing giggle… Then again, we might inspire a generation of record breaking oven users and tea makers.
Anything is possible!

Olympics-Branding-potholder
Serving oven roast dinners in record time – the 2012 branded olympic oven glove. Torchbearers accessory perhaps?

Olympic-branding-tea-pot-warmer
Polly put the kettle on! We have an Olympic tea pot warmer to watch the 100m!

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If it wasn’t for the scale of the people directly in front of this billboard for McDonald’s, this would be right up there for me as a super ambient brand advert that plays with the environment with great effect.
It works really well in terms of message and being memorable – and it’s apt for the campaign the brand was running as a main sponsor during the London 2012 Olympics. I’m Lovin’ it!…
Image

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Brand identity chilled ambient
Waiting for your food? Chilled ambient and the ‘wheel of doom’ from apple…

They have everything going for their brand identity. Clean, clear type and colours. A bold message. A modern feel. Shame that the first thing I associate with their logo is not anything to do with food and transport / logistics – it’s simply the feeling of frustration and losing time watching the famous Apple pin wheel rotate on my screen.
What is a shame is that exactly this association of waiting is less than appropriate with a delivery company of any type.
Apple Pin Wheel Icon
Looks familiar? What a shame about the implied association which seems to be a bit ‘off brand’ message!

Apart from that… I like!
 

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With the Olympics finally here, I was interested in those brands that paid to be affiliated officially with the event.
The big brands have the cash to participate – but having observed who does what in recent weeks and months leading up to the event, I wonder if they are playing their cards right.
When visa insisted tickets could only be purchased with their cards, they lost a lot of respect from me simply because a brand that limits options is in my mind a brand that reflects an attitude of wanting to gain rather than wanting to give and that doesn’t support individualism and consumer choice.
And why everyone has to eat Mac Donald’s is just another example of selective monopolism that is so very much against the idea of the Olympics, it makes me somewhat doubt their brand strategy in this respect. I understand they give a lot of money to be sponsors and allow for better games for all of us – I just wished someone tried a fresh approach to the inevitable marketing frenzy of the event that ensues.
In comparison, it seems rather harmless that Panasonic puts his Olympic stamp on products designed to capture the moment. (A bit like crunchy bars as the snack for audiences…)
I would have liked to see a truly refreshing brand action in connection with the Olympics that was more than handing out micro bottles of coke on the torch route – at least with crunchy bars you got the full size! 😉
It just shows that most brands are motivated by profits and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, in connection with events such as the Olympics makes their benevolent activities seem somewhat contrived.

I am still not sure it’s the ideal colour combination for brand and logo, but it certainly makes the olympic logo stand out.

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I’m on holiday – thus the rather sporadic and short entries – but I always look out for anything branding related that can help my SME clients.
This one is a tricky one – it’s a design issue for sure but one a brand manager has to handle. Does your brand identity have to be forced onto every object even if it distracts from its clarity and even destroys its legibility?
Brand guidelines generally contain rules on how not to distort, change, discolour or deconstruct a brand icon or name – but perhaps we need to add another rule and send it to supermarket giant Sainsbury… How not to space out your brand name or website address!
Especially if people won’t consider your business a household name (yet) clarity is paramount and designs such as this example from Sainsbury can do more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s perhaps better not to feature a name or logo if it is confusing and detrimental to a brand – or find a different brand vehicle, pardon the pun…

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Brand Advert for Virgin Mobile
Speaking a brand’s language – visually and in the copy. Nice one.

Here is  just one of those nice ads that don’t try too hard and don’t try to be too clever, either.
I love the typography and the feeling they don’t take themselves too seriously, either. The Virgin brand at its best. Talks the language and has a light feel around it. Shame they still send me unsolicited mail every week which is irrelevant to myself and puts the brand values down a notch in my own mind.
 

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branding in a recession
Saving in the wrong place – an easy mistake in the world of branding and marketing

It’s much talked-about in the media and favourite subject of a lot of marketing agencies – for good reason. An economic downturn inevitably means budget cuts, and marketing, design and advertising budgets are often conceived to be the outgoings which businesses can live without.
Of course everybody who knows even just a little bit about market positioning, purchasing cycles and consumer behaviour knows that this is a bit of a trap a lot of SMEs fall into. Because it is so hard to track the ROI (return on investment) of marketing elements, such as a new brochure design, an updated website or even a fully fledged re-brand, businesses find it hard to see why they have to keep the work up in order to reap the rewards.
I like to think of it as one of the vital habits of business. Just the way you can’t expect your teeth to stay clean if you stop brushing them because you are short of time (or toothpaste), you can’t expect your brand to flourish and grow if you don’t keep working on getting your brand message out there. So in that sense, all that marketing talk is very true. I do however think that the recession does give more than the challenge of continuing marketing activities to benefit from gaining market positions due to competitors bailing out or lying low.
When money is tight, creativity becomes extra valuable. Creativity allows to stretch a brand, to tweak out new methods of getting it out there, to household with budgets and still stand out with truly beneficial messages, information, services or products instead of  expensive gimmicks. Looking beyond the print and online marketing could yield inexpensive answers that retain existing customers and get your brand talked about.
Consider some of the following:

  • Have you clearly defined your target market or are you ‘carpet bombing’ and thus having increased spending without guaranteed response?
  • How can  you add value to your existing customers – can you share some expert knowledge that will help them and set you apart from competitors?
  • How do your target audiences engage with your brand? Is there a way to reach them that does not require expensive ad campaigns?
  • Do you have a single focus product or service that is the core of your brand and that convinces new and existing clients? Are you pushing this or are you in danger of diluting your brand by trying too many other things that may or may not increase business?
  • Do you excel through excellence in your field – and in the way you treat your customers? Are there ways you can improve the interaction between your brand and consumers with staff training, brand understanding and focusing on delivering an amazing experience?
  • Are you talking to the right people?
  • Could you use the press to gain some coverage through interesting stories?
  • Is your brand easy to recognise? Is your existing marketing material adding to your brand and are you proud to share it?
  • Do you spend your time and resources on perceived ‘free’ marketing, such as social, because it works for  you or just because everybody else does it?

Each business is individual and has individual challenges. The recession is not great for most of us (money lenders and crooks not counting). It is however a definite opportunity to drive a brand forward and gain momentum when the competition seems to stand still…

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu5rlsBzKEQ]
I came across this advert and I think it is another great example for using the language of a brand to get across the brand message. It’s simple, it’s not trying too hard and it even reminds of one of those student briefings for coming up with the essence of a brand and using it to create a memorable ad campaign.
Entertaining. And true to itself. I’d never drive one, but if I ever should need a cross country vehicle, I will probably start by looking at their brand.

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Spiderman
White trainers? Short sleeves? This rainy summer does not help convince my little one that this is still spiderman despite the suit alterations…

They have done well getting their movies linked with instantly available merchandise. My three year old can name you all the super heros not because we have taken him to see any of the movies, animations or comic strips, but because they are omnipresent in shop windows, supermarket isles, on food packaging and clothing.
A great example of creating a far-reaching brand. However, after this weekend I am not sure how loved the brand is in parent’s eyes! Dear son had earned a toy and since he is in spiderman mania we got him a matel toy figure – happy it did not come with another silly plastic gun that gets lost, doesn’t fire and is totally unrelated to the super hero within their movie story lines. What should have been an amazing spider man success turned out to be an amazing disappointment when little one pointed out that they made him all wrong! He was not wearing the right boots, he had no gloves, his sleeves were too short and he could not bend into the position of the poster display where he is crouching.
We resolved it by actually painting the faults in with permanent red pen and discussing at length how this was just a pretend toy – but it did make me realise once again how well we are trained to recognise music, patterns, visuals, logos and how deeply we associate them with our experiences of those brands – and how we struggle when somebody changes them.
It may be one of the many reasons why big brands tend to evolve their brand identity instead of giving it a completely new look – unless they are looking at a very different positioning and new brand message ‘ala BP in 2000.
BP rebrand
A new look for a new brand message and brand positioning strategy. Shame they messed it up a few years later.

Just why Matel decided to release a toy that bears so little resemblance to the icon they spent so much time and money for creating I don’t know, but I do have to admit it has been a valuable lesson in Martin Lindstromeque ‘brandwashing’ and the power of a marker pen.
 

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… In the case of Wayne Rooney, some may say that brand personality may be debatable compared to David Beckham or Stevie Gerrard, but he has undeniably an amazing followership on twitter and the brains behind him to make money from his brand.
Turns out, a lot of other celebrities have done the same and that kind of endorsement has been debated by the ASA and in the case of a tweet relating to the NIKE campaign, he has been asked to change/remove the sponsored tweet.
In an article the BBC writes:

“This is relatively new territory for us as a regulator,” ASA spokesman Matt Wilson told the BBC.
“People are experimenting and using Twitter to reach consumers, but the same advertising rules apply. It’s an ongoing process and this illustrates the care firms must take.”

Wayne Rooney Twitter Campaign for Nike
Not identifiable as marketing communications – Who’d have thought…

It is an interesting development and perhaps a sign of things to come as commerce exploits people brands as key influencers on social media. It also makes me wonder if such strategies will be a long-term success for both sides; the celebrity and the consumer brand. Either may be taken less serious or be seen in the wrong light when the true motivation behind brand endorsements is made obvious.
It does seem a logical way to use influencers to evoke desirability and connect a product or service with a certain status – but in my mind this works much better when it is not as obviously doctored or orchestrated as the Tag Heuer watches ad campaigns.
Tag heuer brand adverts
Pure paid brand endorsement by celebrities – always making me cringe slightly because of its contrived nature.

On the whole though I agree with Ed Aranda, cited in an article about the twitter endorsement issue, that people should be grown up and wise enough by now to understand those new emerging adverts and to take them for what they are – an invitation to pay to join the tribe of the endorser but by no means any more forcefully than all the other marketing surrounding us daily.

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Alice Temperley for Brand Filofax
At £399, with little or no sales, is this really the future of Filofax?

Just as I heard on the grapevine from a reliable source that Filofax’s venturing into the fashion world trying to sell organisers for £375 and £399 (this is about 4 times the price of a conventional Filofax) may have been all but a disaster, in comes the press release that they will do it all again!

“I’m so pleased to be partnering with Filofax again to create a second collection, especially following the amazing response we received from the limited edition styles earlier on in the year. A Filofax is much more than just a diary, for me it’s a place to collect inspiration, write my endless lists and juggle my life. I wanted to turn it into an accessory which can accompany you anywhere; from day meetings to nights out with friends. It’s a busy world and still so important to write things down” says Alice Temperley, MBE

Whilst the current range, according to retailers, is actually bombing, it makes you wonder why they are doing another run – but then I saw the price range and it is significantly less than last time:

“Temperley for Filofax, consisting of the Violet and Ikat, will be available nationwide and online from September 2012 in pocket and personal sizes, priced £45 – £165.”

The feedback from their loyal, traditional customer base has been mixed – there seem to have been a lot of problems with the production and quality of the new range. It’s probably the single most important issue for a brand selling luxury brand experiences with high priced goods or services – you expect immaculate quality –so it’s a shame they got this so wrong.
Here is a link to anther blogger discussing quality issues.
I am sure Filofax will continue to work as a brand in some shape or form – and that belief is mainly due to the excitement and dedication I experienced talking to those that still see the value and place of a paper based diary in today’s age of smartphones and electronic gadgets.
Considering this dedicated customer base, such as the Philofaxy community, I still wonder if it really was a wise decision to stretch the brand into this new area  – and the notion that they are doing a fashion range at cut down prices now somehow defeats the whole purpose of it.
Perhaps they could look at working closer with their ‘fan base’ instead and do a collaboration with their actual customers  rather than investing all their efforts into an unknown market. I guess we just have to wait for the next press release after London Fashion Week and be surprised once again!

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Hertling logistics brand identity
Anyone feeling a sense of innuendo? Do they really not see the resemblance to a male body part? 

From their website – anyone notice a familiar shape?
This may be a case of juvenile association – but perhaps I am not the only one wondering about this choice of logo shape. Even describing it as an icon symbolising fluidity and movement seems inappropriate. If it was a word, I would understand – plenty of those happened when international brands made cultural slip-ups with ill-advised translations. But this is surely an international symbol and I can’t help but not take their branding serious!

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It’s one of those things shoppers have to expect: You walk into a store and a shop assistant will ask you within seconds if they can help you. (When I first arrived in the UK, I was stumped but then quickly learned the phrase ‘no thanks, I am just browsing’.)

Street fund raisers
Chuggers or charity muggers and their effect on brands

Another regular occurrence of high street shopping is that a team of fundraisers will hustle you to appeal to your giving nature. This one is a particularly tough one because obviously the charities need to raise funds. However, there are different ways to go about it and I have come across groups of fund raisers who gathered at lunch time, swapped their branded vests and changed into another charity – it does border on insincerity and changes the image of philanthropy to hard core business.
More crazy though, every week, I get a letter from three household brands and, after more than five years of getting them now, it is definitely affecting the way I see their brand. Lloyds tries to give me a credit card, BT some phone line upgrade and Virgin anything that’s on their mind at the time. I subscribed to neither, and neither messages have ever hit me at a decision making point over a rather large ‘buying cycle’ period, which makes me question their effectiveness.
Yes, the old dogma of brand marketing used to be to ‘carpet bomb’ the consumer in the hope that a message would stick with a number of people which, despite being very small, would build the customer base that made the business worthwhile. We have moved on – and very select targeted advertising is possible now, but it seems it’s still too much effort or too scary for brands to throw away those huge direct mail data bases and find new, innovative means of brand communication.
It’s not just about shouting out messages at people, it feels like an invasion of personal space. Those brands, that have looked at other approaches to become embedded in the mind of their target market when it comes to the buying decision, will probably find the long-term benefit of not poking their nose into our every day life and let us come to them when we want something. It’s not just the power of the niché, it’s the power of the brand itself.

  • Educational approach – provide customers with practical, educational content, be it on your website, blog, via an app for smartphones, on social media platforms such as twitter or LinkedIn, appearances on seminars, exhibitions, in the press – you are the expert, so make sure other people can benefit from that. Yes, it’s a worry that the competition will ‘take inspiration’ from what you do, but you can’t run a business worrying about what they may or may not do; it’s much better to be the first one that wholeheartedly embraces the ‘sharing’ attitude and builds a name (brand) for themselves in their chosen field.
  • Subtle post sale marketing – Someone bought something from you, whehey! They get a receipt, and that’s probably it. Perhaps this is the point where they are open to find out a bit more about your magic product or service. Perhaps the receipt could be accompanied with a short message about related items of potential interest? Amazon’s ‘others also bought this’ system and derivatives are really effective and make sense if you consider the consumer being on a ‘shopping spree’ and open to suggestions.
  • Supporting causes, charities, events, fundraisers – it’s nothing new, but ‘giving back’ means free PR, great local exposure and a positive attitude towards your brand. It’s a win-win situation and doesn’t have to cost much.
  • Devising a strategy to reach the most relevant target market – this has a few advantages. Speaking from a designer’s heart, one obvious plus point is that the value of a very specifically targeted campaign item is much higher because of the better conversion rate. Thus, it is viable to invest proper time (and money) and the creation of a great piece of communication that will convince rather than grind down readers. Another one is the likelihood of recommendations and referrals. If I talk to those interested in my brand, chances are, they will appreciate the communication and remember to mention it with other like-minded people. Nobody really shouts about the local pizza menu thrown through the letterbox every week, but if you are a golfer and found a brand that provided you not only with great relevant products but also added value to your shopping experience by giving tips, insider tricks, offers, etc, you may very well tell your golfing friends about it.
To summarise, I believe personal space also applies to the way brands communicate with their clients and customers. Respect is key – as is relevancy and adding value.
I might just have to drag one of them charity workers to one side for a chat one day…

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This is a really interesting subject. I guess it does go beyond loyalty card systems and referral schemes.
It brings to mind psychological phenomena such as the notion that people experience loss ten times more than they feel when gaining something. Or the idea that our brain is programmed to find patterns, and changes – we become blind to things that don’t change and we become superstitious when patterns in our interaction with the world are detected.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the subject to some extend in Tipping Point when he describes the characteristics of those influencers who can tip the balance and achieve a result – be it hush puppies or Paul Revere‘s ride during the American Revolution.
It would be great to see some examples of current brands using behaviourism as a basis for their brand strategy – and perhaps that kind of case study would be just what they expected…

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Challenge-extreme brand name
Is it a sports brand? Equipment for mountain expeditions or marathon runners?
No! It’s a DIY tool… Puzzling.

Challenge-extreme-DIY-tools
A challenge too far?

Yesterday, I had one of those moments where you see something, walk past, stop, walk back and smile in disbelief. No, it wasn’t yet another Banksy display – not here in sunny Sutton Coldfield! – it was the packaging displaying the brand name ‘Challenge Xtreme’ and the realisation of the content: a lawnmower.
Little did I know then that the brand also comprises more home grooming products, such as a grass trimmer and a screw driver. Is it just me or is there a disparity between the brand name and the product? Should trimming or mowing your lawn be associated with ‘challenge extreme’? What does it tell me about the brand? Is it an extreme challenge to operate? Will it always break or is it challenging to store? I just want a lawn mower that is  ‘extremely easy’ or ‘the quick and simple’.
There are of course other lawn mower brands and a quick search on Argos reveals the following list:

Black and Decker, Bosch and Flymo are brand names that connect with attributes such as quality, reliability and technology. Especially Flymo stands for ease and comfort when keeping that famous English lawn neat and tidy.  I am not much of a gardener, so the other brands are unknown to me and, apart from Qualcast reminding me of the “It’s a lot less bother than a hover” controversy against Flymo many moons ago, they don’t evoke much feeling or reaction. Challenge and Challenge Xtreme, however, stick out like sore thumbs and I don’t quite get the brand strategy surrounding the product name.
Are they targeting a nichè of ninja gardeners? Is there a secret society of cutting-edge DIY practitioners who will require the emotional backup of a Challenge Xtreme screwdrivers to conquer those plasterboard walls and hang up some pictures?
Perhaps I should hang out in garden centres a bit more and see who goes for the Challenge or Challenge Xtreme – it may be one surprising tribe to belong to in and outside the house…

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Ford brand icon
The Ford Oval – more than just a logo

If someone is in doubt that a logo really is of monetary value to a business, and that a brand identity can be used to vouch for credit re-payments, here is a current news article that describes just that…
Ford pledged their Ford Blue Oval as part of a loan package and a representative commented on this: “When we pledged the Ford Blue Oval as part of the loan package, we were not just pledging an asset (…) We pledged our heritage. The Ford Blue Oval is one of the most recognized symbols in the world, and it is a source of great pride and passion, both inside and outside our company.”
Now, seven years after the bailout, Ford have their logo back in their possession – and comment further that this has an ‘enormous psychological impact on Ford and all of our employees’…
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT610oLXLjI&w=640&h=360]
It’s just great example to advocate the importance of a brand symbol and why companies work so hard on keeping their icon unique and memorable. It is, after all, one of the easiest visual identifiers of a business, if neither the product or service are visible.
Whether Ford will use this opportunity to once again evolve their logo and thus mark the beginning of a new era will have to be seen – and maybe there is a brand strategy meeting being planned as we speak…

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Santander-brand-advert-in-control
More out of control… A jumble of brands and graphics

Santander-brand-advert-pole-position
Pole position? Or running behind the times?

The adverts position Santander as one of the Formula One brands. Here are some thoughts on why I don’t think they really work in favour of this brand.

1) Visual appearance

The images come across as contrived and – apologies to the designers – a bit messy. The main graphics features racing driver Lewis Hamilton wrapped in a range of brands – Mercedes Benz, Vodaphone, Boss etc – some in a far more prominent position on the driver’s suit than Santander. It does (in my mind at least) not convey the message of being ‘In Control’ especially since the advertiser’s logo is cluttered by other brand icons.
Visually, the first thing I saw was the Mercedes Benz star, then I noticed the Vodaphone logo and finally I did make the effort to follow the ad to the Santander logo.

2) Too many messages spoil the broth

There seem to be at least three strap lines there as well – ‘In business with you’, ‘Driven to do better.’ and ‘Value from ideas’. All have their own different typography. To add to the disjointed image they put on a QR code and yet another logo linking to Santander.
The messages don’t gel and they don’t make me want to scan that QR code and find out more. They just create a sense of ‘design by committee’ where too much was packed in.

3) The right brand ambassador?

I am no Formula One expert by any means but it seems to me that Lewis Hamilton has been more in the press recently for his on/off relationship with Nicole Scherzinger than winning races.
And even if he is ‘consistently improving this season’, as a brand I would be very careful in the selection of a person that you associate your brand’s persona with.

Kerry Katona Iceland Brand Ambassador
A step too far for Iceland brand values. Following photographs of Katona taking drugs, she is dropped from the advertising campaign of the supermarket chain.

Iceland is a great example for how not to pick women as responsible brand ambassadors – Kerry Katona and Stacey Salomon, both displaying dubious behaviour. Katona was dropped quickly following her drug revelations and Salomon was stripped of her ‘mother of year title’ when she was ‘caught’ smoking whilst pregnant.
Stacey Solomon Brand Ambassador for Iceland
Smoking whilst pregnant – Iceland stands by the young mum despite public outcries

A representative of Iceland said in March:
“Stacey has proved to be very popular with our customers over the last 18 months. We understand she deeply regrets the embarrassment she has caused with her recent actions but we are also aware that she has significantly reduced the number of cigarettes she smokes.
“Stacey tells us she is seeking medical advice to help her stop smoking and we remain fully supportive of her during this present time and going forward.”
Kate Moss Brand Ambassador of Burberry
Dropped because of drugs… Kate Moss lost her role as Burberry model in 2005

Some other less fortunate brand partnerships included Garry Glitter and National Rail and Kate Moss and Burberry who dropped her following her drug scandal.
Going back to the Santander advert, in light of all the issues with banking, even if Hamilton was still winning every race, I am not sure it is the best message to invest money and effort in being associated with Formula One at this time of financial difficulty.
Whilst other banks drum home their messages about security and responsibility, ‘In Control’ and ‘Pole Position’ seem to be missing their point a bit… Let’s hope they can recover their brand message as well as their credit rating. It may take more than showing a race driver to regain the trust of businesses in the UK.

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Land Rover Survival Guide
An edible survival guide. What more can you ask for when stranded in the Arabian desert (other than perhaps a car that took you back home?)

Talking of large brands hesitant to try new things in this economic climate, Land Rover Dubai had something else in mind. Their survival guide doesn’t just explain how to survive in the Arabian desert, it also offers the reader to truly digest their information – with the nutritional value of a cheeseburger.
It’s just nice to see a big brand that stands for adventure be adventurous and communicate with their brand essence written all over it. It’s a simple idea but wouldn’t really be suitable for many brands. Use it for Land Rover, and a bit of marketing magic happens.
I think this is what I am struggling with when brands suddenly venture into areas that don’t seem to gel – I am still coming to terms with the Kelloggs handbag. Any news on that one?
Banksy Bunting
Bunting at Turnpike Lane. Just simple and clever.

Another really nice piece of creative is the latest Banksy design – assuming it is him. Ready for the celebrations, it’s just a simple and sweet statement that makes me believe in the power of creativity.
Whichever way you look at brand communications and marketing today, there is no real reason why advertising, social and print can’t be extraordinary. It may be a step in the dark, but a mixture of understanding what a brand is about and great creative ideas to get the brand personality across to the nowadays pretty demanding consumer usually pays off long-term.
 

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Simply M&S food brand
Cheap and M&S quality? And pigs are flying?

Aldi, Morrissons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose – in my mind that is the ascending order of grocery stores in terms of cost and quality. I would never buy chicken in Aldi unless it is a free range product. I treat Asda as good for kid’s clothes, Tesco as everyday reliable, Sainsbury’s as a bit more fancy and Waitrose as expensive but special, reliable quality – with some good sushi. And M&S? Up until now I considered it as a shop for a mid-week treat, a quality ready meal, for own-branded products that are a bit more expensive than other grocery stores. A business aware of their corporate responsibility and choice of sourcing and ingredients.
It seems I will have to re-evaluate. M&S this week launched Simply M&S, a new range of ‘basic’ products, 800 in Autumn, at budget prices. There may be good reasons for this decision, faced with the double dipped economy, stronger competition among food suppliers and the need for brands such as Waitrose and M&S to gain new customers.
But why pick that strap line – “M&S quality now at prices you’ll love” – ??? I can’t help but feel betrayed! Was I not supposed to love their prices before? Did they not spend all this time  convincing me that they are worth the extra money? I just can’t imagine what this will say about their existing ranges – let alone for their Marks and Spencer Simply Food stores at service stations.
I guess it’s another ‘let’s see’ situation and I may find myself deeply infatuated with the new budget brand – or it may be the end of a love affair.

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It may be a very obvious detail of shaping a customer’s brand experience, but the fact that I had two reactions from the same brand representatives in the same shop made me wonder if it is something to think about a bit more as part of staff training.
I had used my smartphone all day and was literally left with an important call to make from town and 1% battery left.
I thought ‘why don’t I just pop in at my local mobile phone supplier and ask them for a few percent of their electricity?’ I approached a member of staff who was alone in the shop and kindly stopped whatever phone call he was making at the time. When I explained, he said all I could do is buy a new charger and use it there.
I didn’t think it was worth it and was left feeling a bit disappointed about the lack of empathy and non-apparent creativity in dealing with my plea for help. Just as I was about to leave to try elsewhere, his colleague came in and asked what I needed and quickly suggested I just use one of the cables they use when sorting people’s phones out. Easy! We chatted for ten minutes and I walked away with enough charge to make my call and a much needed brand love boost from T-mobile.
I don’t understand why the first person didn’t have the guts or brains to think outside the staff manual. It was a bit of an unusual request, I know, but the shop was empty, Friday afternoon, and no harm was coming their way by offering to help.
The self-initiative of the other shop assistant really made a difference to my brand experience and I am passing on my good opinion about the brand – more so then I would ever do when seeing an advert or marketing campaign.
When you are dealing with clients, no matter how large or small your organisation, working on great customer interactions to create and maintain a food reputation should be one of the most fundamental things to consider.
Even if a consumer proves difficult or hard to please, giving up on him could be the route to mediocre customer service and a ‘why bother’ attitude that will spread into other areas of the business and effect not just the brand but also ultimately the product or service.
Branding is all about creating that connection with a product, that warm feeling of goodness and positivity about a company, so the more human the ‘corporate machine’ can appear, the more it has a chance to be a success.
If you manage to train your brand representatives to act in the manner you want your business to be perceived, even the weirdest and unusual situations will be not just a challenge, but a much cheaper and more sincere way to surprise and be remembered than the most ingenious ad campaign.

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If you didn’t know this brand, you’d be none the wiser having read this advert. It is as such a lovely example for why this type of advertising can only work for established brands or those who can pre-empt or follow-up with a campaign that creates the connection and link to the brand and product.
It also showcases how it has become common practice for companies to utilise charities to make a statement, show that they care, support and ‘give back’ — the essence of corporate responsibility.
For this particular brand it works because it doesn’t try too hard, it doesn’t even attempt to obviously mix this fundraising initiative with messages about their product directly, and it visually speaks the language of the brand, adding to its story and its roots rather than trying to be controversial/contradicting for the sake of some short lived attention.
Even in their choice of charity, the brand positions itself among a certain demographic and engages without pushing the product directly.
That’s the magic adverts as good as this one come with in the long-run.
Something to aim for…

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I am working on quite a few corporate identity projects at the moment and the question keeps coming up as to what should be on a business card and how vital a good design is these days for a small business.
So here are some thoughts on the origin, relevancy and importance of the business card.

A brief history of the name card

With a history pointing back to the 17th Century, business cards, or ‘name card’ as they were first called, have been a consistent part of communications. Originally used to introduce the owner as a ‘calling’ visitor, the cards were designed to be just big enough to fit in the palm of a hand and to announce the arrival of its owner ‘in all his glory’.
Whilst name cards were tailored for the individual, businesses used trade cards to advertise where their shops could be found in cities such as London (where at the time there was no formal street numbering system available.
The arrival of printing methods also meant the change of the card design from woodcut or letterpress to lithography and subsequently to include tints and colours. Whilst very popular in those days, come the 19th Century (with new technologies and a wide-spread distribution of newspapers that allowed businesses to display their services more lavishly and prominently) businesses preferred to place adverts, leading to the decline of the trade card industry.
Especially in the US, a distinction was made between calling cards and business cards, one serving social etiquette, the other trade and the promotion of products and services.
Today, we are probably still most familiar with business cards promoting brands – though individualised for the representative – though the availability of off-the-shelf printing solutions such as Moo or printed.com allow greater accessibility of affordable custom print services for those who want to promote their own personal brand.

So how do you start?

If you are looking to promote yourself or your brand, there are a few vital pieces of information that should be found on any card. But whilst you may be tempted to stick everything on there, and possibly everything on one side, it is one of the biggest design challenges to create a clean, clear and legible layout on 85mm x 54mm or thereabouts.

  • Who are you?

This is easy – kind of. You want your brand identity clearly displayed as well as your name and professional title, should you brand use titles. Sometimes the use of lengthy acronyms is more off-putting than useful. It all depends on who you are trying to reach with the business cards. If you are a doctor, surgeon, lawyer or any professional where titles signify the level of experience and the specialism and you are targeting people who understand and value the expertise these titles imply, then by all means include them.
Sometimes however, a brand will benefit from steering clear of the use of titles to create a more accessible, friendly, non-differentiating culture amongst its staff and brand ambassadors.

  • What do you do?

Business cards offer the opportunity to visualise an ‘elevator pitch’. As such, the ‘what do you do’ part needs to be concise and memorable, avoiding endless lists of buzz words relating to your industry.
Also beware that once you write down certain areas of your business, people tend to assume that this is all you do so you may miss out on inquiries relating to those areas you did not mention.
A clearly defined brand essence and core brand message will help to get people interested enough in your brand to engage and find out the details on a website.

  • Where do you do it?

Depending on how you operate, you may or may not include a physical address here. These days, every business should have a thought-through and well-designed web presence that contains these details for those who need them.
However, it depends on whether you are operating from multiple sites, whether you are a local consultancy looking to attract visitors to your offices, whether you are selling a product and really only want web traffic.
Think about what you want to ideally happen when someone picks up your card and is interested. That should dictate how much you disclose about your whereabouts and also how you would like to be contacted.
If online and social media is your aim as a communication platform for engaging with your clients, this would mean the inclusion of relevant icons and perhaps a QR-code. These are constantly evolving and you can now include little brand icons within them to make them more your own.
These are probably the most important pieces of information to include on a car. What will make your card different from others and thus more memorable and valuable for your brand is the consideration of the following:
Format (Size)
Whilst the common size of the business card is practically dictated by wallet and business card holder sizes, there is some flexibility in width and height you can play with. I would never suggest to go too crazy as it may backfire – unless of course you are making a statement and have a solution in mind so the size becomes an asset to your brand.

Unusual size Business Card Sample by Catalyst Studios
This elongated format still fits in a wallet but stands out not just by the material used, but by the size as well.

Shape
As mentioned above, there are certainly restrictions to the shape of a business card which needs to remain practical or may just end up in the bin with all the other uninteresting print material. However, even subtle elements that make the shape special and relevant to the brand can really make your business stand out.
One or more rounded edges, a cut-out bit, a rough boarder – look at your brand essence to see if there is some element that can be visualised by an alteration in the shape of your business card.
Shape Business Card Example from Couldbe Studios
Who says round edges are all you can do? If it works for the brand, an unusual shape can greatly enhance the brand message.

The use of type
There are cases, where you want a lot of information in a small space. That does not mean it has to look busy or cluttered. The challenge of the designer is to find the right balance, the right size and the right fonts (which is why business cards are usually part of the brand identity design development, where type faces and colour palettes are defined).
Luxury Vacations Business Card Design by Essence Design
Even if you have quite a lot of information to display on a card, using clean typography and leaving plenty of ‘white space’ will ensure legibility and that the type does not take away, but adds to the brand identity.

Use of colours
Colour greatly affects how people perceive your business. They are of course part of your brand identity and but a business card gives the opportunity to make bold statements and to use colour in an innovative way. Double sided cards come to life with one side displaying a contrasting colour. Sometimes, less is more and the subtlest shades create an amazing effect that supports your brand message.
CathyPhillips Business Card Design by Essence Design
Here is a sample of a brand ID for an interior designer. Keeping the colour scheme cool and contemporary and printing two coloured business cards at a time reflects the nature of the business as much as the hand crafted logo design and paper choice.

Variations
When working with a printer who either accommodates variations of colours or designs or sets up a job bespoke for you, there is always the option to include different colours, patterns, backgrounds or content on a business card set to create a versatile, collectible feel. It’s something worth considering especially for B2C customers.
Fish Restaurant Business Card Design by Essence Design
This restaurant has a quirky, colourful interior and the business card set reflects this by coming in two distinct variations.

Brand essence
It always creates some magic when you can visualise the brand essence of your business. A tire company with a tire profile across their card. A nitting shop with a needle effect. A visual on the name, such as this example with ‘Hidden’. Once you know who you are, you can play with it to great effect.
Brand Essence Business Card Design Sample by Hidden Design
In this example, the company played with their name ‘hidden’ and created a fun and memorable design.

Paper and material
The material a card is printed on can be as simple as plain paper or as crazy as a bit of wood – if it fits the brand, innovative materials can really bring out the brand message.
There are thousands of specialist papers out there, and companies such as Fedrigioni, GFSmith and Robert Horne work closely with designers to achieve the best creative solution. When it comes to the ‘printability’ of the stock, I would always recommend to work closely with a printer to ensure the design will translate well into print. Sometimes, a ‘wet proof’ is the best option where by the actual paper, inks and print finishes are used on the actual press to create a proof. It’s expensive, but especially if you are using experimental papers and printing methods, it can save hundreds of pounds later if something does not go quite as expected.
Other materials, such as rough card board, Priplak (polypropylene), soft plastics or even wood can be utilised to create a unique feel and special effect for the brand.
Meethalfway Business Card Design by Essence Design
On this example, we simply used a matt laminated card that avoids fingerprints and is sturdy enough to give the card longevity as it is meant to be kept in the wallet for future reference.

Printing methods and print finishing
Two colour Pantone, full colour CMYK, screen print, blind emboss, thermography, UV spot varnish, silk or matt laminate, gloss UV, emboss, die cutting, foiling – the list is extensive when it comes to available printing methods and print finishes. Some simpler print finishes, such as laminates, are now often part of the printing press setup and thus available even on the cheap printing websites. For everything else it is good to find a knowledgable, passionate print partner
Anam Cara Business Card Design and Folder by Essence Design
In this sample, we used copper foil to enhance the visual of this alternative therapy brand.

What else is there to think about?

You could say that that’s enough – but I wouldn’t stop there. Think about how you will hand out the business cards. How does the container look that you pull them out of? Which side would you ideally present first? How do they fit with the other brand collateral? Are you proud to hand them out? What does their appearance say about your business? Do they look cheap? And if so, is that ok for what you do? (A charity has to take a different approach to a luxury good retailer.)
Business cards are one of the smallest print materials every brand should call their own – but they are also one of the biggest opportunities every brand should make their own.

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It’s a far stretch in my mind, but it seems the creators of Kellogg’s are the next brand to enter the world of fashion. Their first special edition designer handbag by Australian fashion designer Kirrily Johnston was announced this week.
It does have a pocket for holding the Special K snack bar but I am somewhat bemused and curious if this will be a sell out or just a fad…

Kelloggs special k handbag
What if I put my Mars Bar in the pocket?!

The cost of the handbag, which is made from calf leather and has a handcrafted detachable tassel for a key ring, is around $750 and I will be really interested to see who will buy this. At this price point, is a cereal brand really attractive enough to make a woman who could spend that money on an established handbag or fashion brand to splash out on the Kellogg’s handbag?
Maybe they will and it’s genius. Maybe they won’t and it will move to the section of ‘brand extensions that didn’t work out’.

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It’s been twice now in recent weeks that I have been surprised by the generosity of businesses who didn’t have to, but did go beyond expectations.
I was about to travel with my youngest son to see the great grandma quite a long way away and someone made me aware that my break lights stopped working. So I headed to the local garage since I never had the opportunity to do that type of car DIY myself and asked if they could change the bulbs for me. The mechanic booked me in and we got the pushchair put so I could take the kids home and leave the car there. (Hurray to truly local businesses).
What happened next was sweetly unexpected – he came back to me fumbling in his pockets and pulled out two pound coins. One for each son to put in their money box – for good luck.
My car was fixed for less than 10 Pounds within the hour and I was left happy and ready to send any car owner their way!
It wasn’t that they had some marketing theme, some ‘buy one, get one free’ offer or a prize draw for getting more customers – they were simply human and tried to make my life easy and put a smile on my face.
At the weekend we visited York and ventured into a board game shop to get an expansion for Dominion. My husband joked whether they would give a birthday discount (it was his 40th that day) and a few seconds later the shop manager came out of the wood works (ok, the window sill) and told his staff to give us 10% off. How nice was that!
Again, there was no email subscription offer, no referral scheme, just good old customer friendliness and unexpected generosity.
It’s something I think any brand can learn from. We spend all this time, effort and money to give brands a human face but sometimes the simplest human interaction is worth a hundred campaigns. It doesn’t have to involve money, and it’s not about just giving away things, it’s about relevancy and an appropriate response that allows people to feel connected to your business.
Think about how you can add value to a customer’s purchase. Can you train your staff to be able to take liberties and react to enhance a purchasing experience? Is there another way to engage with shoppers apart from the age old ‘can I help you with something’ question?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes and try to create an experience with your product or service that will keep your brand in their mind and on their tongues when recommending you to others.

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I wrote a post not long ago about ‘odd things to stick your brand on’ and I guess this entry is the opposite — odd brands stuck on (in this case a mug).
Whilst I love the whole Pantone colour merchandise, I am just not sure that simply sticking an image from the old ladybird learning to read books makes for good brand application… Perhaps if they had some reading exercises to do with tea and coffee or played with the alphabet…

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It might be just me but when I saw this packaging of people brand Jamie Oliver’s knife selection, I had to smile. For one, I am not sure if he’s such a pink guy but mainly the head is a bit close to the knife’s edge! A bit of Henry VIII maybe?
It would have been nice if, when they did the packaging design, they played with the presence of the knife and what the product does to try to link it visually to the brand.
It seems like a missed opportunity I hadn’t expected from the otherwise ‘super brand’ Jamie.

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Just looked at this video about the revival of some old brands in the US – such as  Astro Pops, Boast logo shirts, National Premium beer, and the Seafood Shanty restaurant.
Is this the retro movement in the retail industry? Rather than coming up with new concepts, brand owners decide that it’s time to recycle.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N8TCmJah2A&w=640&h=360]
Astro Pop
Last sold in 2004, this lollipop with a reputation for being ‘the longest lasting sucker’ is making its comeback in the US.
Astropop logo
Boast Polo Shirts
The Polo shirt brand was first established by a tennis pro in 1973 and has now been revived with updated cuts and colours.
Boast Polo Shirts
National Premium Beer
Last sold in 1996, Tim Miller, whose fam­ily sold a string of ser­vice sta­tions 10 years ago, has decided to re-introduce this once famous beer brand.
National Premium Label
Seafood Shanty (Sadly I can’t find the website for this one)
The chain of restaurants known for their seafood dishes closed in 1996.
Now it’s set for a come-back.
Seafood Shanty
I guess the big challenge all these brands will face is to adapt their products and services to the current market demands, to inspire those not familiar with the brands from the past and to excite those who remember them. It’s a great project, I think, and one where brand strategists, designers and marketeers can be really creative in coming up with innovative brand messaging and advertising.
Linking the old with the new, innovating and reviving are such important factors in brand management, it will be interesting to see how these brands will master the challenges of re-entering the high street and the minds of the consumers.
Actually, I am curious which British brands may follow this trend and give it another go… I can only think of Woolworths‘ online shop right now, not seen Adams anywhere yet!

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The Diet Coke brand s on the move. A few months ago it was London Fashion Week.

diet coke and lipstick
At Boots as a freebie, the lip gloss was one promotion linking diet coke to the world of fashion and beauty.

fashion week cans 2012
Wild inside... some funky designs for the diet coke cans

fashion shoot
Positioning the brand in the fashion scene.

Now it is the launch of the Jean Paul Gaultier bottles for diet coke that is in the news. The ‘Madonna’ inspired designs position the brand as a cool accessory, which reminds me once again of the FiloFax strategy to use a designer to create a special collection for the rather traditional brand.
jean paul 02
Gaultier 01
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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq8OKMw6c7I&w=560&h=315]
When looking at the different bottle designs and musing over the undoubtedly super versatile history of the brand, I remembered a scene from Strictly Ballroom that may have been the brand’s first exploration of the fashion subject – check out the socks! Almost as eccentric as the  ‘The Cure’ Love Song where they have socks hanging up in a cave.
Coca-Cola-Strictly-Ballroom
Product placement with a touch of fashion... foreboding the brand's strategy of 2012?

Here is a video of the whole scene. Obviously unintentionally, in light of the news and fashion hype surrounding the brand this just makes me smile.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRx0b993Lj4&w=560&h=315]

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Some very interesting thoughts on the news of the planned re-brands of Millets and Blacks. It sounds quite plausible in the Design Week article and it will need to be seen if a new strategy and ‘lick of paint’ will overcome the internal cultural and external high street behaviour issues that caused the brands to be in this situation in the first place.
Perhaps they will start the process on the ‘inside’ and it is not just a marketing fix, but the beginning of a new era for both brands.

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Having written about niche brands and why they are a great way to dominate the market place, demand higher prices and have the ‘expert factor’, here are some thoughts on potential issues with being so specialised and targeted.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Niche

Brand diversity
Niche can be too niche...

I have a vast portfolio of work within the hotel and leisure industry as well as arts and culture. However, was I to concentrate on these sectors alone, a number of issues would occur, including the number of clients I can work with without causing problems with competition, the fear of clients that my work may be repetitive if I am not exposed to other markets, the danger of the industry being in trouble and marketing budgets being cut; not to forget my own personal longing for diverse problem solving within a multitude of industries and company sizes.I guess it is about finding the right balance between being a ‘Jack of all trades’ and a master of not a lot of industry.
Whatever your niche market, make sure your product and service are far reaching and adaptable to a larger playing field.
Keep Your Eye on the Mainstream 
Mainstream brands
Step out of the niche and into the world of household brand names

Starting out as a niche, you may find yourself comfortable and secure – but it may be a good idea to strive for a larger market long-term. We all know the typical global ‘household brands’. Apple, for instance, used to be very focused on the designer’s market alone before breaking into the mainstream with their innovative iPod and iMac many years ago now.
Being a niche brand, you may never consider that step – but it’s a good one to aim for if you want to grow into a global brand with the relevant advantages of a much larger market and influence.That’s not to say mainstream is the ultimate solution for brands – BlackBerry are just abandoning the consumer market in favour of going back to their roots in targeting businesses, Dell is another example that struggled with trying to be everything to everyone.
Sometimes though, a niche (such as FairTrade for instance) becomes relevant and popular with a large part of society and is the next step for a brand.
So, if it suits your product, service and the demand on the markets, mainstream is a viable aim. On the upside, retailers are discovering more and more the power of niche brands and are offering smaller brands valuable shelf space.
Innovation is Key (again…)

brand Innovation
Make sure your niche has its place in the future

Even though you may be the expert in your field and have a great reputation, without innovation and pushing your brand and its boundaries, the competition will catch up and overtake you in the long run.Purchasing preferences even in specialised sectors change and evolve so be aware and step out of your comfort zone to explore new value-adding products and services – or markets.

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Sometimes I feel like officially complaining about the undervalued state of the branding and design industry.
Lament lament – every now and again the BBC does us a favour.
In the latest episode of The Apprentice – You’re Fired, Levi Roots explains that it was all wrong because of the marketing and the branding. Not just about the spelling mistake of the brand name, but about the visual messages not coming across.

Bellissimo Spelling mistake
Cringe factor. Wrong brand. Wrong brand message. - Photo from BBC

Levi nicely pointed out the importance of a professional image especially when dealing with other businesses in the trade industry.
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They didn't get the message across.

Thank you Mister BBC and Levi Roots! Apart from the entertainment, it is very nice to be in a sector that once in a while is appreciated as a key factor in the success of a business. Made my day!

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