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


Unperfectly Perfect …

So last week, the disgustingly talented Nils Leonard posted this on his instagram.

I have to say, I love it.

Sure, it’s for Mothers Day that affords more creative licence in terms of how a brand expresses themselves, but given Chanel has only celebrated elegance and perfection for years, it’s a huge leap.

Apparently it was drawn by a Chanel employees daughter on a ‘bring your kids to work’ day.

I can’t imagine how much money this saved them in terms of ad agency costs.

Though of course, this is less about being cheapskates and more the changing face of luxury.

For too long the category has been a closed shop.

It dictated terms, rejected new entrants and ruled by an iron fist.

Cold. Clinical. Aloof. Exclusive.

But the shift has been happening.

The rules of luxury are changing.

And while the establishment may look down at brands like Supreme as nothing more than expensive hype, the reality is the new generation of luxury buyers feel differently.

They don’t want to be part of the old rules, they want luxury to reflect them and how they live.

Personal. Emotional. Ridiculous and audacious. Human. Fun. A new definition of perfection.

And with brands like Mr Ji and Gucci both embracing this change and driving it … it will be interesting to see how many other luxury brands start stretching the boundaries of who they are and who they associate with moving forward.

Though I accept there’s a good chance they’ll just do what they’ve always done – especially with designers – and just try and buy the brands/people who are making waves.

Then assimilate them into their system.

Wow, look at me talking about fashion. And luxury. Who Am I?



Rainbows Make Everything Better …

When Corona happened and we were all asked to stay at home, the first thing I thought about was the impact it would have on Otis.

It was bad enough he wouldn’t be seeing his friends for god knows how long, so the last thing I wanted was for him to start thinking the outside and people in general were dangerous.

All this led to an idea about creating a storybook to help kids understand the situation … help parents talk about it in a way that wouldn’t be scary and maybe let everyone ask questions or talk about things without freaking each other out.

A small team, predominantly Ed, James, Igor, David, Dre, Becs and Anna came up with the story, the design, the visuals and the animation – while all in individual quarantine – and 10 days later, From My Window was born.

To be honest the inspiration for all this came from the way Sesame Street handled the death of Mr Hooper – one of the human lead characters.

When he died the producers didn’t know what to do.

Do they recast the role? Do they explain his departure as the character moving away? Do they say he quit or just retired?

Instead the writers and producers decided to create an episode that taught their young audience about the difficult topic of death – not just because they felt that was the best way to respect the character, but because they assumed many kids in their audience may have experienced a loss of a loved one and this could help them better understand what it means and find some inner peace.

The episode was written by the shows head writer and aired on Thanksgiving, 1983. Even now it is regarded as having set the standard for dealing with difficult topics on children’s television and remains the highest rated episode in the shows history.

You can read more about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Hooper

While ‘From My Window’ obviously is not Sesame Street, we hope it can help kids maintain their love for the outside and help parents deal with a situation they never could have imagined would ever happen to them.

From My Window is available for parents to read with their kids [on a smart phone or tablet] at www.frommywindow.rga.com and includes a colouring-in book. The animated version – like the one below – is also available to enjoy here.

I have to say the animated one – below – is my favourite because all the voices are from kids of parents from R/GA London.

And yes, Otis is in it … he makes his debut at the end, when he takes the story on from the beautiful rainbow … which is appropriate because he drew the one at the top of this post.

I’ve got to be honest, I love we did this. I hope in its own small way, it helps. We know it won’t change the world but it may help your kid to keep looking out the window and see wonder and excitement.

No posts till Tuesday because of the Easter holidays. Enjoy the break. Stay safe.

www.frommywindow.rga.com



Interactive Print Ads …

Hello. Back again.

Sorry. Ha.

So I was looking through a bunch of old D&AD annuals and one thing that struck me was how brilliant print and outdoor ads once were.

Clear.

Powerful.

Crafted specifically for that medium.

But today, in these over-rational, client-directive days, they’ve become nothing more than brochures for product features.

OK, there’s still some that are fighting for the medium – there’s the McDonald’s work that recently came out of Leo Burnett London [which many people are hating on without realising their arguments often reinforce why they are so good] and Uncommon are using print and billboards in a way that reclaims their glory days – but generally, they’re a shadow of their previous self.

Which is why I like these Tesla ads that have recently come out …

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Clean.

Simple.

Uses the medium to convey a product truth … albeit in a mischievous way.

OK, so if I was being a dick, I could say that any electric car company could do this and their logo is still the most horrific, dated design I’ve seen in a long time … but it makes you smile, embraces the slightly cheeky tone of the brand, reminds people of some benefits they may not realises and doesn’t use the same ‘aspirational lifestyle imagery’ most car brands like to use.

Which makes me think print isn’t dead, it’s our imagination on how to use it that might be.



Stooopidcases …

Yesterday I wrote a post about stupid.

Well, it appears it may be the theme for 2020, because I just saw this …

Yes, that is an ad for a new suitcase that is making a big deal that it comes with wheels.

WHEELS.

Actually it’s much more than that because they’re making a big bloody deal about where the wheels are supposedly from.

Now I know I once bought a wifi suitcase that the security people at the airport wouldn’t allow me to take on a plane because the ‘battery charger’ wasn’t removable, but even for me this is utterly bonkers.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate Japan’s perfectionist, craft mentality – to make a big deal about ‘wheels made in Japan’ is possibly the best example of bonkers brand manager ego/delusion that you’ll see this year.

And no, I didn’t buy it.

Cheeky bastards.



If There Was A Eurovision Door Contest …

… then surely this door would win it for England hands down.

Yes, I am writing about a front door.

Is this a new low on this blog?

It just might be.

So this door is a few doors up from our house.

To be honest, in all the time I’ve lived there, I never noticed it … and then one morning, it’s pinkness shone bring like a lighthouse against the cold, miserable, darkness of Fulham.

I don’t know why, but it feels quintessentially British to me.

Maybe it’s because of the tiles that lead up to the door.

Maybe it’s because of the gaslight lamp attached to the door.

Maybe it’s because of that single milk bottle nestled by the door.

Or maybe it’s because I swear I’ve seen doors like that in movies like Four Weddings And A Funeral and Paddington.

Who the hell knows, but it came together enough to make me want a pink door at my house.

Seriously.

And I swear if you asked me what colour door I’d want before seeing this one … I doubt I’d have ever suggested pink in a million years.

And yet seeing it in the flesh makes me feel differently.

Not because it stands out from the typical blues and blacks … nor because it feels showy or attention seeking … but because as much as I see the colour, it’s what the colour makes me feel that is enticing.

You see for me, I feel everything behind that door will be lovely.

Charming. Comfortable. Warm. Inviting … all the things you would want your house to feel.

Which all goes to show, features on their own are nothing if they don’t stir your emotions.

Clients could do with remembering that like I could do with remembering never to write a post about a front door again.



Strategy Is A Direction, Not A Shopping List …

I am getting fed up of hearing strategy talked about in terms of a process.

Of course, there is one, but it seems people seem to value the process more than what it is supposed to deliver.

Which is clarity and direction.

Something that will change the behaviour of the brand/business from the very next day.

Something that will help create a clear position in culture, not just in the category.

Something that will contribute value, loyalty and appeal to the audience that will move them forward.

Something that is focused on the long-term, not just the next quarter.

That’s it.

That’s all strategy is.

And yet, I am meeting so many people who are getting lost in the process or worse, getting lost in the word ‘strategy’ … saying nothing can be done without it being deeply involved at every step – and I mean ‘every’ step – of the process.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking and expertise is important – but to imply that only someone with the word ‘strategy’ in their title can do it, is wrong.

Actually, it’s insulting … especially when you consider that so much of the magic happens when you invite people who see the World differently to the party.

But it’s happening.

I’m seeing it everywhere.

And what it’s doing is creating so many strands to the strategy discipline, they’re getting in the way of each other.

That might be good for the agency fee, but not great for the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these strands of strategy don’t have value – of course they do – but in many areas, it’s not actually strategy … it’s not delivering on any of the 4 areas listed above … it’s simply helping push along the process of the output to get to a [allegedly] more effective result.

In other words, it’s short-term tuning rather than long term creating.

Adding obstacles rather than taking them away.

Or said more cynically, it’s more tactics than strategy.

Doesn’t have to be.

Not everyone is doing that.

Not everyone thinks like that.

But my god, it seems there is a lot of it about … and when you look at the amount of work that is being produced because of it, you have to admit that while there’s a lot of optimization, there’s not a lot of distinctive, magnetic energy.



Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.