The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Serious About [Healthy] Food.
February 25, 2007, 3:55 am
Filed under: Comment

A while back I wrote about a Singaporean company who were passionately promoting the fact they believe in making/selling truly healthy, tasty and nutritious food.

Well I popped back for a quick sandwich and when I opened the bag, I saw they had thrown in the above keyring.

Now I know it’s a little thing … but it helps solidify in my mind that these people are really serious about what they say – and given I’m embarking on a little health kick [honest!] it ensures I will go back there as often as I can.

In a time where so many brands are spending billions on empty and/or outrageous promises – it’s really great to see a small company [especially in Asia] have a ‘brand philosophy’, that they proudly live by.

Some multinationals should take note …

Words With No Meaning …
February 23, 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Uncategorized

As seen in the window of a clothing store in Singapore

Maybe I’m missing something … maybe they’re being ‘ironic’ … but how can a black dress [the fashion stable for 99.4856% of the female population] be something that is ‘daring’ and will cause women to feel they’ve ‘re-invented’ themselves?

Marketing wank at it’s best … even the model looks average. [though admittedly in Singapore she’d be a bit of a ‘freak’!]

I hate the way the comms industry has taken away the real meaning of certain words. 

For example REVOLUTION is no longer about fighting against a political wrongs … oh no … now you’re likely to see it used in an ad for socks or fucking mittens! 

When will companies realise that what is important to them, quite often means fuck-all to the consumer and simply adding a word like REVOLUTION isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference!

To counteract this sort of behaviour, our creative briefs have 2 very important questions within them …

1 What is the customers attitude towards this brand? 

2 What is the customers attitude towards this category?

Doing this ensures we never make the mistake of assuming a well known/used brand means it is well liked and important in consumers minds.

A perfect example was when we worked on a Colgate project … 

1 What is the customers attitude towards this brand? 

It is a well trusted, well known and well used product for people of all ages, all demographics. 

2 What is the customers attitude towards this category?

While having nice teeth is very important to people, in the big scheme of things, toothpaste choice is not something people spend any time thinking about – except Mum’s and even then that tends to be on behalf of their kids teeth [who don’t regard it as overly important] rather than themselves. 

Infact its purchase tends to be when people are on ‘automatic shopping pilot’ – as it has little significance to the masses and brand choice is probably dictated by the purchasing habit of the previous generation.

So instead of ending up doing the usual self-indulgent ad that only appeal to [1] Colgate Marketing Executives and [2] The odd Mum … we knew the only way we could broaden their market share was to create communication that resonated with consumers ‘lives’, not just their ‘teeth cleaning habits’ – which led to the infamous [well, infamous for Colgate] ‘People With Ugly Mouths, Don’t Get Laid’ ads. 

[Yeah … yeah … so Colgate didn’t end up buying the campaign, but in testing it achieved the highest recall rates in Colgate Palmolive history. Oh well …]

All I am saying is that to achieve greater success, it’s not just about understanding the consumers relationship with the brand – it’s about understanding the consumers relationship with the category … because it doesn’t matter if you are the undisputed brand leader for the last 1000 years, if the consumer doesn’t regard your category with any real level of importance in their lives, you’re not going to make any communication that drives your growth other than [if you’re really, really lucky] a short-term spike.

Honesty gets you better work, loyalty and results … I encourage you to tell the harsh truths [if you’re not already!]

Now as I’m off to Delhi for about a week, I’m not sure how much updating I’ll be doing [no, not because I’ll be on the loo, but because I have back-to-back-to-back meetings!] so can I take this opportunity to promote a great post by the brilliantly talented Fred about CNY and the outrageous cost of Abalone.

Oh and Billy, hope today’s op goes well my son – we’re all thinking of you.

And when you get a chance, can you please tell me whether Andy is having me on or not about including a few porn movies in the gift pack we sent you.  If he’s not, our insurance company will probably revoke our policy and then we won’t be paying for your little surgical procedure.  Yes, be afraid, be   v  e  r  y  afraid, ha!

Finally, with the Oscars coming up, I thought I’d highlight one of the worst-acted [actually, one of the worst-everything] ads EVER. 

Excellent camera work … genius script writing … beautiful use of gratuitous female sexuality …  no, it’s not a cliché-ridden beer ad, it’s a cliché ridden construction ad instead.  Enjoy. Sort-of.  [Thanks Jonno for sending it to me, I won’t ask how/why you found it!]

When You’re Desperate For Things To Say, Say Anything!
February 23, 2007, 10:25 am
Filed under: Comment

So yesterday I went and bought the above iPOD clock radio. 

There were a number of reasons why I went out to buy it … none of them in the least bit practical …

1 I’d just been in the World’s most boring research meeting and needed something to make me feel good about wasting the last 2 hours of my life

2 I am a sad, technology-obsessed individual

3 We have so many bloody iPODs around the place, anything that can take one off the shelf and charge it is alright by me

4 It came with a remote control – meaning it is more than a clock, it’s a gadget

5 I like the idea of waking up to something other than a Naziesque ‘Buzzer’ or the most inane Singaporean Radio DJ [think Fluff Freeman from 1982!]

Anyway, when I got it back to the office, I was looking at the symbols on the box …

Made For iPod

Dual Alarm

Wake To iPod, Buzzer or Radio

Play & Recharge

… then I came across this one …

What the …. !!!???

The cheeky bastards are trying to make out that ‘Worldwide Radio Frequency Ranges’ is some sort of ‘super, special feature’ when in reality, every soddin’ radio on the planet offers exactly the same benefit.

They’re not saying my new gadget can pick up all radio stations in the World from my house in Singapore … oh no … they’re just saying that wherever I take it in the World, it can pick up local radio signals.

It’s like Ford promoting cars saying, “Multi-Journey Capable”

That little logo … that seemingly innocuous little symbol … immediately made me look at the product as a pile of cheap tat, which for a new brand in the marketplace [iLuv] is not good. 

Luckily for them, it works really well … but marketers preoccupation with meaningless little symbols is driving me mad, especially when they are for features which really aren’t ‘unique features’ at all.

Words Have Feelings Too …
February 22, 2007, 9:18 am
Filed under: Comment

Sure it’s not the greatest ad in the World, but I do like the sentiment of the idea … a letter is written with emotion whereas an email is written with efficiency.

Hmmn, so I wonder what that makes the post below written by?  Have a wild guess … ha.

When Companies Deserve A Kicking …
February 22, 2007, 9:07 am
Filed under: Comment

I recently wrote about companies who give out cheap shit under the guise of caring about their customers [the photo of the mouse mat was deleted by my Flickr hackers] … however I’ve just come across the World’s greatest piece of tat and want to share it with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen … allow me to introduce you to the CitiBank ‘Business Card Holder’.

Look how cute it is … it’s just like a briefcase – except it’s the size of a box of matches and has ‘CitiBank’ written on the side.

Marvel at how the locking mechanism really works.

Gasp at the ingenious way it transforms into a business card holder. Or a briefcase for midget business rabbits.

I kid you not, this is a real giveaway. For the financial representatives of CitiBank!!!

I cannot imagine how embarrassed you would be if you met a new client and had to reach into your cheap polyester suit to pull out a miniature briefcase containing all your uber-professional business cards.

Lets be honest … would you buy ANY financial product from a person who used this item? 

Do you think it conveys professionalism? Do you think it represents success?  Do you think it is the item of someone ‘in the know’?

Someone … somewhere … thought this was a good idea because I have been led to believe they ordered thousands to be given away at some internal conference.  Let me tell you, if I worked for CitiBank and was given one of these, I’d either resign on the spot or just find a quiet corner to cry/slash my wrists.

Companies go on and on about conveying the right image … ordering their ad agencies to instil cliché-driven images of professional, successful and suave men and women into all their communication … and then they go and order some of the most cheap, nasty and embarrassing shit ever created, without a second thought as to what it could be conveying to their clients and staff.

I’ve said it many, many times that it’s the little things that make all the difference and this is a perfect example of it.

Despite CitiBank spending literally billions on their communication every single year, this stupid little item has the power to undermine all they supposedly stand for in an instant. 

Sure, someone in the company thought it was probably a ‘cute’ idea, but then some people think Austin Allegro’s, Crossroads and George Clothing are cool … which leads to my point, who has the responsibility for the development of these sort of things?

At cynic, we have a philosophy that says if it has any direct interaction with consumers, we want to be involved with it … which is why apart from ads, we’ve been involved in things as varied as Jumbo Jet interior design, consumer packaging, sales kits, content creation, [none harmful] military hardware development, new distribution opportunities, NPD, brochures, on-hold messages, clothing etc etc … however in many big organisations, it would seem the marketing department relinquishes responsibility when it comes to areas they believe are ‘unimportant’ … often things like internal/external ‘leave behinds’.

Why is this?

As I said … it’s these little things that can really reinforce a brand and its values to employees and customers. Sure they may seem inconsequential, but as the crappy business card briefcase shows, they also have massive power to ruin a brands carefully constructed image. 

I appreciate some companies like giving other departments a chance to ‘express their own creativity and choices’ … but what I find interesting is that this only tends to happen where marketing is concerned – if someone suggested a brand manager could ‘have a go’ at R&D, I’m sure it would be met with outrage.

Why is marketing given so little credit?  Why is it something that is seen as a ‘treat’ for people to do rather than a specially crafted discipline?

Sure, by the standards adopted by a lot of companies, you’d never guess there was any skill or discipline in the creation of consumer communication [whatever channel it may utilise] … however in the right hands, it’s role in helping forge a particular image is vitally important and yet it is so often just passed over to someone who sees it as a ‘bit of fun‘.

Don’t get me wrong … I am not saying marketing and communication is a science – sure, there are some elements to it – but in essence it’s a pretty simple job. The skill is knowing what makes consumers tick, what’s really on their mind – not just in terms of the category, but interms of their life and culture … so with this in mind, handing it over to someone who thinks marketing and communication is just pictures, logos, templates, promotions and giveaways is probably one of the most daft business decisions you can make. 

Actually there is another daft business decision made quite often … and that is employing mediocrity in the Marketing Department.

Too many of today’s marketers are either ego maniacs [driven by the insecurity there job is not respected within their company], process managers [where they just ‘follow orders’ and offer no influence/direction to moving the company forward] or simply underqualified in terms of real, practical marketing practices [they know all the marketing books, but don’t appreciate that many of them are based on 1950’s philosophies and not as relevant for the modern age as they would think]

When you combine these 2 issues … the general standard of marketer and their ability to relinquish anything they deem not really important enough to even less qualified individuals … is it any wonder that brands, marketing and communication are so ignored by the masses?

It’s time to get real … treat consumers with the respect they deserve and not continually undermine your brand via tacky giveaways and/or misguided communication campaigns because in the right hands, marketing can help you truly be a force to be reckoned with, however in the wrong, it not only screws you over but makes your competition happier, healthier and richer.

Bring consumer needs back into business considerations … because when you do – not only can real creativity, imagination and expression come to the fore, but you actually achieve results that gets you respected again.

Now wouldn’t that make for a nice change?