Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Baaaaad Brand!

Well, at least one that seems somewhat uncompromising. Stroh rum, known as The Spirit of Austria, is a brand that turns all the current 21st century must-dos of branding on their heads.

From its beginnings in 1832, back in the imperial days, Stroh has made a virtue of being inauthentic. So inauthentic that it's authentic, in fact. Austria is land-locked and didn't have many colonies so it was unlikely that anyone would be able to bring enough sugar cane back from the Caribbean for an authentic rum. So the strong spiced rum was concocted from sugar beet, plus aromas and colours.

It's available in 5 different strengths: 38, 40, 54, 60 and 80 and, yes, those are the ° proof. The two highest are described as "overproof" which is about as blunt as "overweight."

Devoid of stories about crafting and palm trees and pirates, the pack design is also uncompromising. In fact, it could be mistaken for something you'd put in your car engine, rather than your mouth. The whole thing is redolent of last century ski holidays, tin signs, dark wooden huts, smoky bars, paper bags from picture postcard newsagents, the whiff of Jagertee.

The only time Stroh gets slightly less disreputable is when it's used as an ingredient in cakes and desserts. But those aren't terribly good for your waistline.

Please keep the branding consultants away!

Friday, 5 January 2018

Especially for you

2018, the trend forecasters inform us, will see yet more leaps forward in brands getting close up and personal with their customers.

Right on cue, I received the flyer above a couple of days ago, through the good old post. It's not from a huge global brand, but from a local sports store, informing me of a loyalty bonus I've earned. I have to say that receiving something with my name literally on it made me feel quite special. Especially as I am about to set off to the slopes. I was flattered by this little surprise, a lot more so than if it had been sent via email.

But maybe that's the point. The surprise is that it combines what we used to call old (flyer) media with new (personalisation) technology. No-one would be surprised to receive something of this sort via their smart phone, for example.

This raises an interesting issue about people's expectations. We say again and again that people's expectations from brand communication are changing, but we seldom stop to think what that really means. What it does mean is that personalisation will become so commonplace that it won't be a surprise any more. It will become par for the course, expected, maybe not even noticed any more, in the way that people want Smart Home technology 'so seamless it's forgotten.'

We all have the same tools at our disposal. Being first to use these may win you a few temporary points for novelty value. But it's only when the tools are used in a fashion and to a purpose that is unique to your brand and what it stands for that will build lasting attachment.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Magnificent Men (... and women)

One major anniversary in 2018 will be 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Those who're aware of my author-ego will know I have something of a soft spot for the RAF and I thought I'd kick off the New Year with a look at how the recruitment advertising for the RAF has reflected cultural changes across the last century. Well, actually, it's an excuse to go rummaging through some wonderful old ads.

When the RAF, born out of the Royal Flying Corps, started, it was all about honour and glory. The beautiful poster above looks and feels every bit of its hundred years old, from the typeface to the sentiments expressed. The 'See the World' poster is probably a little younger, and introduces a perennial theme for the RAF - the exciting possibilities and adventure that such a career opens up.

By 1941, in the middle of the 2nd World War, things were getting grittier and direct on target. There was no doubt here about what was required and what was the task that lay ahead. This image is courtesy of the very magnificent Aviation Ancestry - but I will issue a warning straight away - you are likely to be some time if you visit the site!

Moving into the 1970s and 80s, the promise of excitement and adventure was still writ large. The advert featuring a Tornado is also care of Aviation Ancestry. And changes in society were reflected too in the RAF - or maybe the services actually influenced some societal changes? The advert below is courtesy of the Advertising Archives:

As the century due to a close, the recruitment advertising went into full James Bond action mode, as seen here in a 1997 TV ad:

And now, almost up-to-date, one of the ads from the 'No Ordinary Job' campaign:

Being the youngest of the services, and being born into the golden age of poster advertising, the RAF does sometimes feel more like a brand than the other services. I feel that the RAF Roundel has a lot to do with that - one small symbol that says so much, so powerfully.

Chocks away, 2018!