Over Christmas, we spend a lot of time with our families and all make assurances that we should make more effort to stay in touch and see more of each other through the year.
Inevitably though, with all the good intentions in the world, the thick of thin things soon takes back over our life and we get back into our lazy ways.
But I tried an experiment this year and it really worked. Rather than just sending my Aunty Freda a card and a present, I wrote her a letter. It took me about 20 minutes and ran to three pages of actual writing. It was mainly gibberish about the kids and work and everyday bilge, but she was so delighted that she rang me up to say thanks. She’d not been well, so it gave her a nice lift. She also claimed it was the first letter she had every had from me in all my 43 years. (so what happened to all those forced thank you letters then?)
My first ever boss has been taken il too, so I wrote to him. Again not anything particularly significant in its content, but it allowed me to lay out how much of an influence he had been to me in my early years in advertising and design. And I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.
And then twice, when I was about to text people wishing them well on sad anniversaries, I rang them instead and it couldn’t have been more appreciated by both.
I wrote a piece about branded stamps a few months back and had a good response from people, but I’m going to make 2010 my year of the letter. I’m going to write and ring rather than text people. Royal Mail could do with the business anyway as my mate Tim Garratt has stopped using them!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Christmas, have a great New year and speak soon.
If you care enough to text, then call.
If you care enough to call, then write.
I just looked on this site called http://moninavelarde.com and it generates a new years resolution for you. Look what it gave me!
It was a big day yesterday on my blog and I saw the huge power of social media first hand.
Around lunchtime whilst talking in the office, I really thought that we had uncovered the fact that the RATM Christmas number one was a scam that had been funded by Sony to get sales for all their artists up. I didn’t like the manipulation it implied, so I started digging.
I put two and two together and made twelve.
There are so many coincidences that point towards it being a set up, I thought I would run with it and see what came out.
The most amazing thing was quite how fast the truth did come out.
I put the post up at 2pm and by late afternoon there were those who believed the story and those who violently opposed it. There were RATM fans who went to such lengths to defend their band that I was genuinely shocked.
And then the lady at the centre of the whole conspiracy theory came on to the site and put her side of the story. Later that day we spoke at length on the phone and I was reminded very simply of the human side to this. What started as a laugh for Jon and Tracy Morter became a beast that they simply couldn’t control.
There were hundreds and maybe thousands of people who just didn’t believe they could have done it for nothing (me included) and that is because social media channels and conspiracy theorists started to paint them as orchestrating gurus, pulling the strings for big business.
Social media has immense power. It has the power for social change and social good as well as massive media manipulation. But it also has the power to get things wrong and escalate things out of control.
Not all of the information on the Internet is correct, we all know that. Many coincidences are just that, coincidences.
For me, Jon and Tracy Morter are a slightly geeky, Internet obsessed couple who have been caught in the middle of a prank that grew beyond anything they could have imagined.
I’m sorry that I added to their woes, but very pleased with the fact that they have been able to come on here and have a voice that clears their name so conclusively.
I have to put this first as it’s the most important part of the story. I was convinced that I had found something that proved a conspiracy was afoot with Sony funding the viral campaign to get RATM to the coveted UK Christmas number one position.
But I was wrong.
It was never my intention to cause offence to Jon, Tracy and their family, it was to uncover a story that I thought was very interesting.
So I want to say sorry to Tracy and Jon Morter unreservedly.
I saw the response below here from Tracy and it got me (very) worried that my facts may be a bit out of line, so I mailed her and asked her to give me a call, which she did. We have just had a good chat with her kids running around in he background shouting for their tea.
Which she followed up a few minutes later with this
I offered to remove the entire post, but Tracy asked that I leave most of it in place as others will surely uncover the same series of coincidences and we agreed that this was a better plan to put my apology and her answers first.
Tracy assures me that all those coincidences are just that, coincidences.
They picked that song because it had rude words in it and they thought it would be funny on the Christmas Top of the Pops. I agree.
The Essex sites were done as a ‘swap’ to allow Jon to hold the real ‘World Cup’ and they didn’t even get paid for it.
The sites that link to the song on play.com are not connected to them and they are not earning commission from them.
They didn’t announce that they would be working to get Three Lions to number one for the World Cup. They refused an interview with the Evening Standard and the newspaper sort of made the potential connections themselves.
Tracy herself acknowledges that the coincidences are painting a picture against them, but they are just that. Coincidences.
Incidentally, Simon Cowell hasn’t been in touch and they haven’t been offered a job by his company.
And they’re not planning to run a similar campaign next year.
I’ve tried to be as open as possible here and published all the responses apart from the ones that are just offensive to the Morters or myself and don’t make any relevant points.
The story itself
Okay, I appreciate this isn’t going to be a very popular blogpost with some, but I said I was going to use this platform for my thoughts and these are my personal thoughts..
We’ve been talking about this a lot in the office and are now completely convinced that the RATM is no viral backlash, it’s a very clever piece of viral placement that is funded by Sony themselves.
So lets look at the evidence.
1. Simon Cowell wins both ways up, he is a director of Sony BMG who look after RATM. He has been since 2005 according to Wikipedia.
Rage Against the Machine’s album is on Epic Records. This single Cowell released on his own label is actually owned by Sony Music UK. Like Sony Music UK, Epic Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
2. The strategy he employed is the same as that he used within the X Factor format itself. He is a bright fella and knows that the UK public either love him or hate him. He is the archetypal Mr Nasty – A pantomime baddy of the modern age. So, when he says he hates Jedward (and who could blame him for that) the whole of the voting public come out in their defence and vote for them to stay in the show. This has the effect of pushing the viewing figures to the highest they have ever been.
3. The guys behind the Facebook campaign don’t appear to have other jobs. Jon Morter has a linkedIn page that just lists him as professional. Perhaps he is a professional viral marketer?
4. There are press releases that have been placed on PR Log that have been written by an unnamed third party, but link back to a French Concierge Service that has in itself got links through to the UK music industry. I’m not sure this is a coincidence.
5. All the money is being given away to Shelter. Again, maybe I’m being overly cynical but I don’t believe that RATM have made Soooo much cash from their music that they can afford to ignore a casual £1/4 m of unexpected income? It sounds a bit premeditated to ward off the bad press in case they got caught. Which they have been.
6. The campaign’s Facebook page went down on December 13th. How convenient, just as the big push for sales was about to start that they should be front page news. They made it look like the establishment was even trying to take down two little individuals’ campaign to stop Simon Cowell dominating the charts, when all they were doing was actually helping him.
It’s just all a bit too convenient isn’t it?
7. Sony Have a track record of Viral deceit
In 2006, they placed stories as real customer feedback using an agency called Zipatoni and got caught. Again, I would say they are on the verge of being fully exposed again
8. RATM aren’t really anti establishment anymore. They are the establishment, they just swear for a living now. How is that anti? If all they do is the same stuff over and over again, are they continuing to actually rage against the machine or just capitalise on others desire to be seen doing so.
9. The Couple Who ran the campaign are called Jon and Tracy Morter. They ran a campaign last year to get Rick Astley to Christmas Number One against the X Factor Single. And yes, guess what record label our friend Rick is on? yes, Sony BMG.
10. They also announced yesterday that they were going to try and get the song Three Lions to be the Number one for the World Cup. This was written by The Lightning Seeds and featured Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. Guess what label they are on? Yes, it’s Epic, owned by Sony BMG again.
11. And perhaps the most damning evidence of all – from some great detective work by Hannah Pearce
Iris digital are on record as working on a project called Kiss The Cup (KTC). They have a facebook group for it, Which you can see here. And they have another one here. By some strange quirk of fate, the two administrators behind these sites are Jon and Tracey Morter.
Iris Digital are a part of Iris Group – an integrated services agency – and guess what they specialise in digital communications and campaigns. AND Sony is one of their biggest clients!
So that’s it. I know it’s not conclusive, but I’m convinced that this is a scam that is going to be exposed some time soon, as soon as someone can find who was really paying the bills behind the whole campaign.
What does this mean for the brand of Sony?
I would say that it will be in a little trouble if they get found out for this, but it shows the power of very cleverly manipulated social media and viral marketing campaigns and it also still shows that people do want to fight back against the dominance of this crap TV and crap music that is being produced by Simon Cowell and his pals.
You may also like to read Jane Love at Purple Circle’s take on it here.
A product itself, is just one element of the overall brand experience. Like a burger in McDonalds to the Petrol in a Shell station, the product is the product is the product. It is not the brand. If it has a logo on it, it’s a logo’d product. It’s still not a brand.
But any product, whilst not a brand in its own right, is the start of a brand ‘promise’. If people have an expectation about a branded product being able to deliver them some ‘effect’, some feeling or some performance benefits and the product fails in that, they will start to have serious doubts about the overall efficacy of the brand itself. In effect, they will start to believe that everything else the brand owner says, must be questionable too.
There is a lesson in here for any brand owner that is well worth thinking about.
Is the quality of anything and everything you do adding to the reputation of your brand, or is it slowly undermining it for it to become average at best, or potentially collapse around your ears at worst?
In what way is it enhancing its differences?
In what way is it making itself one of one to its potential audience?
Is it honestly the best it can possibly be for the money or is it made as cheaply as you can get away with? – if it’s the latter, your brand is in trouble.
Those running brands for big plc’s may well be tempted by the short term gain and leave the longer term problems that they invariably create, to those following in their footsteps. Guinness used to say that brands were far too important to be run by mere brand managers.
For some time, there was a difference in the UK to the US with the way brands were run. In the UK, if your brand did well, you were moved on to others and left your baby behind. This hardly encouraged long term planning. In the US, the opposite applied and if your brand got bigger, so did your job. But it still remained your responsibility and you treated it with far more reverence.
In building a brand, you create layer upon layer of brand expectation and brand experience.
Using the onion analogy, a brand has many layers and a core of values. Every contact or touch point builds another layer. A good one obviously adds in a positive sense and a bad one if you’re lucky, may just peel back one layer, but still leave lots of good stuff in place.
The fear for any owner is however if your layers are thin or if there are doubts already beginning in a consumers mind, it could almost certainly undermine all the hard work you have gone into building it in the first place.
So, a product isn’t a brand, but if you get it wrong you can guarantee that consumers will make a negative connection between the two very quickly indeed.
Thanks to ‘The Food Pornographer’ for the use of her image. She’s from Perth and you can see more of her work on Flickr here and her website here.
I’m working on the brand for Robin Hood with the City of Nottingham and we’re trying to define what his values are all about. What does Robin Hood mean to the current generation growing up and how does that differ from any of our own perceptions.
One of the biggest changes for any organisation that is considering a new logo, is top accept that the logo doesn’t need to say what you do, and just concentrate on letting it say who you are.
Look in the yellow pages and you will see many, many ‘logos’ where there is a person with a hammer or spanner or pipe wrench next to the name of their company. These don’t say who you are, just what trade you practice. They make it impossible to extend into another area without causing confusion, but they still proliferate in ‘trade’ markets.
By removing the ‘what you do’ element, you have to work harder to explain this, and so the second option is to introduce the strapline to attempt to explain the services offered, or the ‘what you do’.
There are hundreds of examples out there.
‘Britain’s favourite retailer’ by Tesco
This line allows them to say what they do without having to say underneath the name on the front of the shops.
It is very rare to see a logo out of context anyway. You would normally see a Tesco logo on a store, a pack a vehicle or an advertisement, so the logo is simply an identifier to say that it is ‘one of theirs’. The branding work comes in saying what can be expected by choosing a Tesco product over any other one.
A strapline is quite different to a campaign slogan such as
‘Vorsprung durch technik’ that Audi have used since the 1970’s. This was already on the wall of the factory when their German design agency MetaDesign went for a factory tour. They saw that it summed up what the business was all about and their living the brand ever since has been part of the reason for their growth to become one of the biggest car makers in Europe from their humble roots as the fabulously mad little NSU luxury car brand and their hugely innovative but incredibly unreliable RO80 Wankel engined car of the late 1960’s.
Their chosen phrase actually means ‘Advancement through Technology’ and as such, does not actually explain what the business does. The slogan therefore just adds a little more layering to the brand by way of an advertisement theme.
The big brands such as Tesco become known for ‘what they do’ because of their scale, visibility on the high streets and the (omni)presence delivered by big marketing budgets.
But when Tesco lunch into another country, they invariably work under another brand name or with a local partner. Jack Welch, in another of his Podcasts argues that it is ALWAYS more effective to buy local talent in the target market than it is to try and import it, citing their plastics businesses opening in China as a real life example.
When Tesco went to the US, they started under the brand name of Fresh & Easy, launching a much smaller format store to those they are known for in the UK and starting out from California. They therefore face the same issues as any start up. They may be better financed, but they still have to prove and refine their offer in order for them to begin to roll it out nationally. Even Tesco don’t have deep enough pockets to attempt this with a flawed or unpopular concept.
It is often argued that smaller companies can’t go down the ‘who you are’ route because they don’t have the marketing budgets of the likes of Tesco. We would argue that they could make their smaller budgets both more cost effective now and more valuable in the future, by concentrating on the ‘who you are’ now.
Focussing on a one or very few key message will always make marketing more effective and make what you do spend work in a more focussed way.
Without the ‘who you are’ you can only sell ‘what you do’. This limits the growth and expansion possibilities of your brand.
Potential customers who like what they see in the ‘who’, will go the extra mile and find out more about you, what you do and what you stand for. This creates devoted customers who both love and understand your brand.
I’ve just read an excellent article by the hugely talented Seth Godin, where he sets out to define what a brand is. You can read that in full here and I thoroughly recommend you do. But what we do is branding. The creation of brands, so its important for us to take a slightly different view to the great Seth and define what we believe exceptional branding to be all about.
Exceptional branding is about creating and controlling every single element of the customer experience. The way you put these elements together is the way you are. It is you. It is what, who and why you are. It is your brand.
Branding is a way of being, a way of thinking and your way.
Wolff Olins, the agency that are widely seen as the creators of modern branding describe it as creating the situation where you become ‘one of one’ and not one of many. You become unique in your own market.
Bill Schley in his book ‘Why Johnny Can’t brand’, takes this a little further. He says that to create a brand, this could, or maybe even should, be in a market you have invented yourself in order to allow you to differentiate yourself clearly. More of this in bit.
The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has a rather different and remarkably narrow view on what constitutes a brand. To us it appears out of date and well wide of the mark of where current thinking is based.
The act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services:
Example. ‘The successful branding and marketing of the new beer has already boosted sales and increased profits.’
I’m afraid we take a different view again. A brand to us is a way of being, not just a new style of advertising and packaging.
Its more than the way you act, it’s the way that you are.
The dictionary view may be that it links to the marketing of a product, for us, its intrinsically linked to the whole outlook of the organisation. It sets the entire agenda for how the marketing should begin to behave. It is most definitely NOT just the ‘prettying up’ of the advertising and packaging.
Virgin, Nike and Google, to name but three, are not just about clever marketing. They are about being built on a brilliant basis throughout every possible touchpoint.
They set an agenda for how their brand should be perceived and work incredibly hard to ensure that wherever anyone comes into contact with them, they will get the correct Virgin, Nike or Google experience.
So are any logos brands?
Well, no, they are simply logos. The word logo is an abbreviation for the word Logotype, which is design speak for a mark of distinctiveness. In some cases, this is extended into a trademark, but overall, it’s a name made up of individually designed letter types that allows us to recognise who you are.
If you look at the logos around you that you come into contact with in your daily life, you’ll notice that fewer and fewer have an actual ‘icon’ element attached to them. It would appear that the trend is changing away from the complicated icon towards the use of illustrative typography.
And they come in all shapes and sizes. Some good, some bad, some words, some images, some illustrative, some as an outline or silhouette.
But they are nothing more than a public mark that represents your range of products. Perhaps the reason for the increasing simplification is the sheer number of uses that a logo can face.
A brand manual we write at Purple Circle today, may be as many as 200 pages plus and talks about behaviours in many applications. A brand manual of the mid 90’s was all about how you could and couldn’t use the logo.
If you look again at where a logo is now expected to work consistently, the list is endless.
In press advertising
On the product
On the big screen
And probably many more. So this means even brand colours have to be specified not just as Pantones, but as RAL, CMYK, RGB and maybe even the Dulux colour make up.
But this is the challenge of the logo designers, to make something that looks ‘distinctive’, recognisable and actually works to differentiate this product or service from any other in the market.
The less detail or elements you include on the ‘logo’, the harder it is to differentiate it and the more details you include, the harder it is to replicate consistently in all of the different media.
Volvo is one of those brands that few people actually fall in love with. It is a car that is far more likely to be bought with your head than your heart as they have had a reputation for safety for as long as I can remember (which is quite a long time as I’m quite old).
The 1960’s P1800 coupe was a beautiful old thing and I wanted one when I was at college. I loved the old 1980’s 480es as well and I really love the new C30 and their product placement within the Twilight series of vampire films is an inspired way to deliver the brand to a younger generation. In my opinion, it’s probably the best car placement since the Bond films and its association with Aston Martin.
But I can’t say I’ve ever really hankered after an S60. It’s all a bit anonymous and well, worthy for me. But now they have made its safety systems even more central to its reason for being.
They have just demo’d a new system that will reinforce these brand values even further and it looks brilliant.
Anything that makes life safer for cyclists and pedestrians in crowded city centres has to be good news if it’s as intuitive as this. Nice one Volvo, good luck to you.
I’m quite a keen cyclist, but not as fit as I used to be or I should be. It’s often not practical to use a bike to go to a meeting because I arrive as a sweaty mess.
The Copenhagen Wheel changes this. It reuses your kinetic energy from braking to power other stuff and even powers a bluetooth connection to your phone. Whilst this video isn’t of the best quality, it does show the possibility this product offers and it’s very exciting. With some proper tax breaks, it could push loads more of us into using it for our daily commute as it will keep it affordable as well as very cool!
I want one. If I could retrofit this to my hackabout bike it would be amazing.
There’s a bit more here with a prelaunch interview and a close up.
On the day when Liam Donaldson, the Uk’s Chief Medical Officer, announced that allowing children to drink under 15 is not just a bad idea, it’s dangerous, I thought it would be a good idea to look at Kids and drinking from a brand perspective.
I only need to look at various nieces and nephew’s Facebook pages to see how many of them are drinking well under the legal age. My dad ran a brewery, so we always had lots of beer in the house but I guess our generation has just grown up with far lower price points, far stronger drinks widely available and a far more liberal attitude to drinking at home than any generation before us.
I’m not one to lecture on this as I was smoking well under age with most of my peers, but almost all of them have given that up. It does seem that smoking early is perhaps inevitable as part of the ‘trying to be a grown up’ process but at least it’s one that most grow out of. Drinking isn’t though.
From a branding perspective, getting associated as a kids drink is very bad for their long term health. It always seem to kill them in the end.
Diamond White was (I think) the first of the premium bottled ciders and after a while, gradually started moving from 275ml bottles (ie a small and controllable amount) into 500ml cans and then eventually into 2litre PET bottles. In doing so, they cheapened the brand, killed it for ever as a premium product and ensured it’s demise.
It was also announced today that White Lightning, it’s spiritual successor is being withdrawn too as the brand owners are admitting it has become a problem for them.
Andy Dawson, in his brilliant article (here) reports on the decision by Heineken’s Marketing Manager in charge of the brand Mark Gerken,
‘He admitted that white cider “is a problem drink” for the booze industry because it tends to have negative connotations with “the park bench,” adding: “We’re trying to distance ourselves from the negative images that the old traditional category had. Cider is now much more about enjoyment, refreshment, sharing and over ice.”
In other words, it used to be for tramps and now it’s just for twats’
Brilliant. They are attempting to relaunch cider upmarket again, which probably means it will drift down towards being a kids drink within the next few years.
And there’s Stella, or Wife Beater to it’s friends. It used to be reassuringly expensive, now it’s worryingly cheap. Partly because they changed the recipe to allow them to hit new price points, so they could chase market share. In doing so, they took away one of the key differentiators of the brand – which was that it was far more flavoursome and better quality than other similar beers – and made it accessible to kids.
There has to be another generational change to make drinking a social occasion rather than an ‘all the time’ occasion, or there will be far more teenage alcoholics, dying kids and lots more dying beer brands.
Beer brands, like most adults, shouldn’t try to get down there with the kids, it will kill all of them in the end.