Thursday, 22 March 2018

A decade of drivel ;)

There's not a lot more dreary and self-congratulatory than a 'bloggoversary' crammed with statistics about post views, page views and your audience from Outer Mongolia to the Inner Depths of Brexit Island. Unless it's a Facebook anniversary - look-at-this-awesome-video-that-I-didn't-put-together-myself-with-pictures-of-silly-monkeys-and-sickly-cakes (oops.)

No-one cares.

So, to mark 10 years of this blog, I'll direct you to my first post, You know it's time to start blogging when, which reflected on a local exhibition of advertising from the past, and pondered on the difference between 'modern' and 'contemporary'.

Then, there's my most viewed post - quite why is beyond me - Spring Cleaning, all about that daffodil-yellow German equivalent of the Hoover, the Kärcher.

And now, to leave the stats alone, I'm going to pick a post from each year that I particularly liked at the time, a kind of curated (bleurgh!) best-of.

2008: Rafts or Rockets? Should agencies be bolder and not give the client a choice?

2009: The Palace of Wisdom - how all successful brands are progressed by Contraries

2010: Journey - the over-used word of the 21st century so far - and talking of which, have we really progressed since the old AIDA models of communication?

2011: Why, oh why? Planning made extremely easy by simply asking the right questions

2012: "Liking" ourselves to death - who got the future right, Orwell or Huxley?

2013: Data can't tell you anything - up on my soapbox!

2014: An element of surprise - the most important thing?

2015: Is the internet the new TV? - from surfing to being (force) fed

2016: The untrendy strike back - diversity is in as long as it doesn't mean diversity of opinion

2017: Measurement Madness - just because you can measure it doesn't mean it's important

2018: Circle of Life - the sooner we get rid of the notion of (mindlessly) produce - consume - dispose, the better.

Which neatly brings me full circle, having responsibly recycled some of the best of the (Extra)wurst!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Overabundance and overindulgence

I've remarked before on how, over the last 20 years, the internet has become more and more of a passive medium. More like the 'couch potato' picture of TV, in fact. Twenty years ago, we were surfers, springing from crest to crest in an invigorating new world, with just a few other cool young dudes for company. Fifteen years ago, the pace had slowed and we were stumbling over this or that in a mild-mannered absent-minded professor sort of way. And now, most of the world's population are online and content, in many cases, with being fed non-stop with digital drivel by Nanny algorithm, in the guise of a personal curator.

Another parallel is that of nourishment. In the early days, information was relatively scarce, and you had to forage for it. We then moved into what seemed like a golden agricultural age - everyone could grow and create their own stuff, and pass it around for the greater good. But somehow, that dream descended into a passive force-feeding in an age of overabundance.

Well, over-indulgence isn't good for anyone, and the signs are there that the digital honeymoon is over, that paradise is lost for more and more people.

Exhibit One: The Edelman Trust Barometer  this year shows that people trust platforms less than ever before, seeing Facebook and Co. as harbouring bullies and trolls, spreading extremist content and fake news, and not taking any responsibility for it. 'Woah! Hang on, we're just the platform' in a sort of 'don't shoot the messenger' sort of way.

Exhibit Two: Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever, threatens to pull investment from online platforms that 'create divisions in society'. There's talk of 2018 being the year of the 'techlash' and that 'social media should build social responsibility.'

Exhibit Three: Belinda Parmar aka 'Lady Geek' in today's Guardian gets tough on the tech companies that launched her career, on a personal (locking away the family's devices) and collective level, calling out those who profit from our 'over-engagement' (now, there's an interesting euphemism!). For example, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who said that the company's main competitor wasn't Amazon Video or YouTube, but sleep. Ouch.

This article is a cautionary tale for all parents. Children imitate their parents' behaviour. If you want your child to grow up a bookworm, he or she has to see you reading. Often. If all they see is their parent glued to Twitter in the bathroom, bedroom, while driving, well ...

Exhibit Four: Sludge - the new word for inserting a pesky seam into all that seamless stuff, making it more difficult to 'over-engage'. Breaking the passivity and forcing action.

So there we have it. Will 2018 be the year our beautiful digital paradise will be regained? And what will it look like with the benefit of experience?

Saturday, 10 March 2018


Kitzbühel, St Moritz, Davos - the names of famous ski resorts are so evocative, you can almost feel the tickle of snowflakes against your skin, and taste that first sip of Glühwein. When asked for my favourite examples of advertising from the past, I have to say that 20th century poster art, particularly in the area of travel and tourism, comes generally high on my list.

Maybe it is this pedigree (and quite possibly a budget as high as the Matterhorn) that leads to some of these mountain resorts being so clever with logo design. Back in the old days, there may have been consistency from year to year in the way the resort presented its signature, but often that wasn't the case:

What to do when you want to present your uniqueness beyond sun, snow and mountains, and when you need to do this throughout all online and offline media available these days - including merchandising.

Enter the cleverly designed logo - maybe accompanied by a slogan. It adds a visual dimension to the name, something that is understood intuitively, and stamped on the memory instantly.

Take Davos, for example. Very simple, very clear, very classy. Sunshine and mountain - unmistakeable.

The tourist logo may take its cue from the town's original coat of arms, for example, here are the town and tourist logos for Kitzbühel.

And of course, the practice is spreading to towns who may not have quite the budget or pull for tourists, but nevertheless see the advantages a logo can bring.

Not quite Davos, but it's home:

Friday, 2 March 2018

Me Johnnie. You Jane.

I don't mind a bit of a brand drag party when it's done in the spirit of fun, even if there is a serious message underlying the carry-on. But with some gender-themed promotions I've seen, I do wonder  what the real motivations are. With International Women's Day coming up, my cynicism radar starts bleeping overtime.

Take the limited (to the U.S. market) 'Jane Walker' Black Label edition. This has been conceived to 'draw more women to the brand' and 'acknowledge a broader push towards gender equality.' OK, on the second part of that, there are donations to organisations supporting women's progress such as Monumental Women. (Whether building statues supports women's progress today is another matter.) But I question whether this is really going to attract women to the brand. Looking at Jane, with her cane and shiny boots, I think she's more likely to attract more men of a certain sort.

The VP of Johnnie Walker, Stephanie Jacoby, says that 'Scotch is seen as particularly intimidating to women'. Now, I don't ever recall having been seriously intimidated by a bottle of Scotch, but there you go. Ms Jacoby is allowed (maybe) to make sweeping generalisations about women because she is one. And she continues '... we like to think of our striding man and our striding woman as really walking together going forward.'

Going forward? Not after a few measures you don't. You go from side to side.

Well, I suppose if the hidden agenda was publicity, I've given them a little more.

I do wonder what awaits us next. Perhaps a gender fluid version, Jo Walker? And what about a few other famous brand icons attempting to attract more women? Can we have a Michelin Woman, maybe? Or a Mrs Peanut?

None of this is new, of course. A Pillsbury Doughgirl was around back in the wonderful gender-bendering 1970s.