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


It Takes A Lot Of Work To Keep The Fizz From Going Flat …
April 21, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Design

A long time ago, I knew the guys who started the design company ATTIK.

They had the sort of rollercoaster ride that made everyone involved in it, feel alive by scaring them half to death.

While this article is old, there’s tons of great advice in it for companies … whether new or old.

Having gone through a bunch of highs and lows with both Cynic and Sunshine – and a load of others to be honest – there’s so much of what they say that I absolutely relate to, whether that’s never letting the hustle stop to always being connected to what’s happening at the edge, rather than letting yourself be comfortable with the middle.

Or as they say it …

“It’s like retiring from football and ten years later expecting to play against younger guys, it wasn’t the way to go.”

Read it, I’m pretty certain you’ll enjoy it.



Little Things Make The Difference …

In Asia, hand cleanliness is almost an obsession.

People even eat their sandwiches and burgers with knives and forks to avoid having to pick them up.

OK, so maybe that’s the case everywhere and I’m just showing my common Nottingham roots … but I still find it fascinating.

Everywhere you go, there’s hand sanitisers.

I’m not just talking in hospitals, I’m talking restaurants and all sorts of other places.

Recently, I saw this on my wife’s bag.

Yep, it’s a portable hand sanitiser.

But I’m not saying this because it highlights how long we’ve been in Asia, I’m saying it because making a product that can attach easily to a bag is an act of simple genius.

For a culture that doesn’t want to just wash their hands, but have them truly germ free … this little idea has big appeal.

Sure, there’s other products on the market that do a similar thing, but having something that attaches to your bag gives a peace of mind that wipes hidden in your bag, just can’t do. Plus being permanently on display helps advertise the brand to all who see it. Nice.

I’ve said for a while that I feel designers are doing things in more interesting ways than ad agencies and ultimately that’s down to one simple difference of approach.

Designers want to solve problems whereas ad agencies want to communicate problems.

Not all agencies are like this.

Not all agency employees are like this.

But right now, the design industry is kicking our ass and I swear it’s because we are holding on to remuneration models that reward ‘the old ways’ rather than finding ways to get paid for what we are truly capable of if given the freedom to do it.

[That and the fact adlands creative department hiring policy is still primarily based on art and copy rather than embracing different types of creative people/thinkers/doers]

We will have to wake up soon, otherwise the bullshit we churn out for Cannes – that we claim is ‘creative problem solving’ will become the benchmark for our standards and when that happens, we may as well pack up and go home.

But I have faith it can be done, if only because I saw The Kennedys Shanghai consistently solve problems in imaginative and innovative and intriguing ways for 9 months.



Why Trust Is The Single Most Important Word In Business …

One of the things that makes me smile is when I hear – or read – Western articles talking about how things like iPay will change the way people spend/transact forever.

The reason for my amusement is not just because this has been happening in China for at least 2 years, but that iPay is a massively inferior product when compared to something like Wechat wallet.

Now, to be fair, lots has been written about Wechat.

From how it has become a hub for almost every aspect of daily life in China – from messaging, to ordering food and taxis to spending, borrowing, investing or sending money – right through to it’s ability, in 2016, to transact more mobile payments in 14 days that eBay & Amazon did globally in an entire year.

[UPDATE: During the 2017 Chinese New Year, Wechat say 46 BILLION red packets [envelopes with money] were sent through their app over the 7 day holiday period. This represents 5 times the volume that occurred in 2016]

And all that is true and fascinating … but unless you live here, I don’t think anyone can truly grasp the way China has embraced technology based spending.

What makes it even more amazing is that prior to Wechat, China tended to be quite protective in how they used their money.

They were one of the slowest nations to embrace internet banking.

There’s millions upon millions of people who still won’t put their money in a bank.

And yet Wechat has come about and despite not being a bank, if has fundamentally changed consumer habits and sentiment regarding their cash.

Which has fundamentally changed retail habits and sentiment regarding how they offer service to their customers.

So how did they do it?

Well, there’s a bunch of reasons.

Without doubt one is they appeal to a different generation to those who were there before.

A generation brought up in the digital age.

A generation who have a ‘I want it now’ mentality.

But it’s more than that.

You see Wechat’s genius was they refused to take any advertising for years.

In a nation where making money is everything, Wechat resisted the lure of ‘easy cash’.

This might not seem a massive thing, but to the people here, it felt like they’d found a brand that actually cared about them.

A brand that wouldn’t sell them out to line their own pocket.

This gave Wechat an integrity few brands could ever hope to achieve – especially in such a limited period of time and in a place as suspicious as China – so when they launched their ‘wallet feature’, there was no doubt people would embrace it because the level of trust in them was so high.

Of course there’s many other reasons for their success – and arguably, Wechat did this so they could ultimately win the long game with advertisers and partners – but with so many brands talking about ‘changing behaviour and perceptions’, it’s worth remembering part of Wechat’s success is as much because of what they didn’t do, as it is what they did.



Has The Ad Industry Become A Hype Industry Rather Than A Creative One?

A while back – unsurprisingly, at Cannes Scam Ad time – an agency made a plate that they said absorbed the grease from food to reduce the calories.

Of course, I’ve not seen this plate anywhere since they entered it into an award … but the reason I bring it up is because I recently saw a real, live, genuine product that frankly, is an embarrassment to that piece of scam.

Worse, it’s an embarrassment to the whole ad industry.

Here is it …

Yep, it’s another plate.

Except this plate doesn’t have mini-holes to “supposedly” drain a small proportion of the bad stuff from your dinner.

No, this one is shaped to reflect the size, shape and capacity of the average human stomach.

That’s it.

At a glance, you can see the quantity of food that should be going down your mouth.

Now of course what food you put on the plate has a huge impact on the effect it will have on your body, but given so many of the obesity issues are caused by quantity, this could have a real impact on your overall health in an instant.

No questionable ‘technology’.

No ads telling you to eat healthier.

Just a product that actually helps you help yourself … albeit in an ingenious, guilt-tripping/educational way.

I’ve said this before, but I genuinely believe designers are currently solving problems in better and more powerful ways than adland. Of course we still do brilliant things, but in our quest to try and make ourselves look good … we seem to be focusing our energies on chasing hype rather than doing something that proves how genuinely smart we can be.

And if you need any more evidence of that, just look at the recent Super Bowl.

An event that should be the best ad for the industry but ends up being the worst … mainly because for all the talk we spout about being innovative and focused on solving problems, we end up making TV spots that sell bad humour, brand ego or z-grade self-help manifestos.

Sure there’s the odd one or two every year who do something genuinely interesting [but rarely as good as this], but at a time where we have a chance to show how good we can really be, they still end up being the exception rather than the rule.

Or said another way.

A bunch of ads that cost millions of dollars are less effective, creative and insightful than an £18 bowl from fullstopbowl.com



When Design Goes Wrong …

I must admit I’m kind of happy to write this post.

You see, over the last couple of years, I’ve been writing endless odes to the creativity and ingenuity of designers … even proclaiming them to be far better at problem solving than most ad agencies.

Which is why I was so happy when someone sent me this milk packaging from Tesco’s.

I hope it’s real. Can someone please tell me it’s real.

[Though to be fair, based on the milk ingredients, it’s ‘on brand’. Literally]



A Kodak Moment Is Now An Embarrassing Moment …

Kodak.

A company that once was synonymous with photography that is now synonymous with failure.

There are a million stories detailing their demise, but fundamentally, it wasn’t because they couldn’t innovate [they were one of the pioneers of digital photography], they didn’t want to bring it to market because they didn’t want to kill their photographic developing business, even though that business was going to kill them if they continued with it.

But this post isn’t a bad history lesson, it’s about the new Kodak … the lean, mean, technology machine.

Have a look at this …

Yep, it’s the World’s first 360 degree action-camera with 4k picture detail.

OK, so you could say bringing out a device like this, years after GoPro blew-up the market, shows Kodak still have a habit of being late to change, but at least this time they are trying to offer a fundamentally better product than what is currently available – not to mention leveraging the 360 degree market, that seems to have come from nowhere.

But even that isn’t what this post is about.

No, what this is about is that based on this ad, Kodak still think it’s the 1980’s.

A few years ago, I wrote how one of GoPro’s strengths was how they were part of the culture they were making products for. This authenticity separated them from the countless other brands that tried to jump on the bandwagon – even when they had arguably better products.

Two years later and it seems some brands still haven’t grasped the importance of focusing on the culture, rather than the category.

Look at that ad. Look at it.

It’s fucking horrible.

If a photo of the London skyline from a bloody restaurant wasn’t bad enough [what the hell is ‘action cam’ about that???] … what about the utterly terrible shot of the product.

A brown square with a shitty dome on top.

It looks like a crap 1950’s robot toy that you’d find in a Kinder-Surprise.

What the hell were Kodak thinking?

And then there’s the product name and the font choice.

PIXPRO … using a stencil type font in a desperate bid to look cutting edge.

If your product is the ‘future’, you don’t need to use a shitty font because people will work it out for themselves. And even if you decide you absolutely, positively, desperately want to do it … my advice is to not use a font that is synonymous with the 1982!

And what’s that line … ‘Brings You Closer’.

What does it even mean?

Here is a product that gives you 360 degree views [which, arguably, they don’t even show in the ad] and they use that line.

Mind you, here is a product that gives you 360 degree views in 4k quality, and they don’t even help you understand what 4k quality means to the recipient.

There is so much they could do to make people want to know more – even using an old-school print ad – but no, they’ve gone for the worst advertising you could get.

Apparently the product is quite good … but sadly for Kodak, with a name that represents the past rather than the future and an ad that reinforces that perspective, I think the only view they’ll be seeing is their once great name growing smaller and smaller into the distance.



It’s Red Nose Day Every Day …

I’m back. Which means the operation went well.

Otis is still in Australia but he’s doing well and has starting dancing again so his Mum and me can breathe a massive sigh of relief.

With that in mind, let’s get back to more bland, boring stuff … starting with this:

I’ve always been of the belief that whether it’s an ad or a film or a product … it’s the details that really define who you are.

They can demonstrate the standards of the brand … the quality of the product or the stupidity of the ad agency amongst countless other things.

You see while society is often distracted by the big and the shiny, it’s the little things – often hidden in the shadows – that truly demonstrates whether the people/brands you are associating with, value you as much as they are asking you to value them.

I truly believe that, but the fact of the matter is I’m only saying it so I can post this picture …

At first I thought it was just a genius and cunning idea by the brand/agency to make their fairly bland ad stand out, then I saw the website was partially obscured and realised that it was just another example of lack of craft and care.

If they do that to their ads, I daren’t imagine what that means Cake Box do to their food.