10 brands that will disappear in 2010

Ten brands that will fail – starting with the dodo

In an article written by 24/7 Wall Street, there is a great article about the ten brands that will disappear in 2010.

Now for UK based businesses, they will not be as familiar with all of the ten brands but the lessons are pretty much the same for any dying brand you can think of the world over.

Adapt or die.

None of these have adapted fast enough, so they’re all dying.

Lets deal with each in turn

1. Newsweek

It’s printed news. The end.

The fact that you are reading this on a blog and I read the original article on another blog just goes to show that we are gathering most of our information online these days. It used to be that the credibility was offline in print, but that just isn’t the case anymore. There’s good stuff in both and crap in both too. The man problem is that advertising has followed the readership and not many of the old media barons have worked out how to monetize the new media platforms, because Google seems to own the space at present.

2. Motorola

I’m surprised it’s lasted this long really. Back in the mid 90’s I had an original Nokia Orange phone (that was in the days when they didn’t even have model numbers) and we needed two more mobiles, so we bought Motorola MR1’s (luggable rather than mobile) as they were half the price.

Big mistake.

Non functioning menus and useless interface. It was so hateful, I smashed it against the wall to give myself an excuse to buy another Nokia.

Any Motorolas I have seen since, seem just as bad.

3. Palm

Not since the Palm pilot and the shortlived ‘Pre’ have they had anything the market wants. When did they last produce anything innovative?

4. Borders

All a bit pointless. They stood for nothing and offered worse pricing than Amazon and less loveliness than Waterstones. They reminded me of how WH Smiths have been for the last ten years and I could never really think of any single occasion when I would need to go and buy from them. So I didn’t. It appears that few others did either.

5. Blockbuster

How have they survived this long against the marching digital army? If I want to watch a film, do I pay the same amount and watch it now on Virgin or Sky or drive down into the town and hire one, only to be bollocked for returning it late?

For a brilliant exchange of letters and emails between David Thorne and Blockbuster, have a read of this. It’s brilliant!

I’m sure we’ve all tried the monthly subscription thing where we can pick films and they send them to us, but it’s not actually that spontaneous is it? On a Monday, you can’t really say whether you’ll feel like a ‘romcom’ or a thriller on Friday night can you? Its a model that suits them and not us, so will never take off really big.

6. Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac

It’s named after a front bottom and a burger. Enough said.

7. Ambac

Never heard of it, sorry to see you go, It’s been a blast.

8. Eastman Kodak

To me, this is going to go down as the biggest brand ever to fail. They let the market swamp them by not seeing the digital revolution. They used to be innovators and now are in danger of being totally unknown by a new generation.

They have tried to move to digital products and even to printer paper, but the market just isn’t convinced.

I will be sad to see this go. But I will make a prediction. It will go bang and then someone will buy the name and after a few years, when they have shaken off the years of debt and structure problems, it will come back with some small innovative products that will take the market by storm. It is just too good a name to allow it to die forever. Give it ten years and it will be a force again.

9. Sun Microsystems

This isn’t one I can talk about with any authority, but for any brand to have the name of a type of computer that was superceded ten years ago seems to be a problem to me. Microsystems were the babies to replace mainframes in the 80’s weren’t they? So what relevance do they have now?

10. E*Trade

Again, I don’t know much about these other than they are some of the eejits who lent money to people who shouldn’t be getting it. Surely if they had no income and no way of repaying a loan, you shouldn’t lend them money?

Maybe this is a bit simplistic of me, but just because it has the word ‘E’ on the front of it, doesn’t make it a good business. They deserver all the failure they’re getting. Bye.


There’s no really surprises to me here. Bad businesses that haven’t evolved are failing.

I run a small design business and have done for over 18 years. It’s called Purple Circle. What we do know is very different to what we did then, because the market has changed massively. If I was still trying to sell pasted up artwork on bromide and magic marker visuals all round, do you think they’d still be buying?

No me neither.

So why have all these businesses assumed they could do the same?

It’s clear to me that Apple are really getting their act together.

One week. Three different examples of Apple getting their act together in terms of their customer services.

Apple are in serious danger of becoming mainstream at the moment. They seem to be on everyone’s shopping list and the research recently showed that more houses that have some wealth are choosing to add macs to their home computing set-ups. I wrote some more about this here.

What normally happens in line with this growth and move to mainstream, is a level of corporate arrogance that starts the beginning of the end for any brand. But Apple seem to be behaving slightly differently, with three examples that have happened to me this week.

1. My laptop broke

This has never happened to me before (yeah yeah yeah, I believe you). So I rang my old friends at Jigsaw who supplied it and they asked me to send it over for a free check to identify the issue. They went through it’s history and advised that it was just under two years old, so out of warranty. As the screen was totally dead, this sounded expensive.

The next morning, they called to say that it was a graphics card that had gone. Ouch. That sounds even more expensive. They went on to say that a few of them had gone wrong recently and Apple weren’t happy with this, so would be replacing them free. Result.

The machine was returned by taxi the next day in full working order again at no cost, even though it was out of warranty. Wow.

2. I couldn’t install Pages

This is part of a longer story but I am testing iWork and Pages (Apple’s version of MS Office/Word) in order that we switch all of the Purple Circle machines over to it, next time we need to upgrade. The cost difference for this with 30 licenses is £510 from Apple to £7950 for a Word upgrade. Who says Apple is the expensive option? Pages isn’t perfect, but it is very easy to use and with a more powerful dictionary, will be a better product that Word anyway. I had previously had the trial version downloaded and then wanted to install the full version which I had purchased, but every time I tried, it kept on saying my trial version had expired. aaaargh!

So i called the FREEPHONE number on the pack and spoke to a lovely person in Cork (just across the water from my family in Crosshaven), who spent 22 minutes talking me through solving the issue, which she did first time, again at NO cost to me. Wow two.

3. A broken Ipod

My Godson James had a problem with his iPod and took it back to John lewis from whence it came. After two weeks of sitting on it, they declared it broken and have just given him a brand new one for nothing. admittedly within warranty, but still a new for old replacement without any undue delay.

We have been huge fans of Apple since they declared they were going to be different with their unbelievable SuperBowl TV ad in 1984. It was at the time, the best ad I had ever seen and still enthralls me now. It was one of the reasons that I entered the creative world as I wanted to be associated with this sort of brilliance.

I liked it so much, I thought I’d share it with you again.

Apple are breaking the Microsoft monopoly and they are doing it by producing better products and caring more about their customers. Any brand that does this deserves long term success.

Never has the need to be clear and demonstrably different been, well, so clear

I’ve spent much of my time this weekend looking for a place to rent for our holidays next summer. It’s one of the most enjoyable bits for me and I just love looking around at who’s letting what and how much they want for it.

But this weekend, I noticed something else altogether and that is how few decent platforms there now are offering a good access to rental properties and how undifferentiated some of those competing have become.

The one we used to use all the time was Holiday Rentals. These have now either been taken over by, or are changing their name to Home Away, which I have to say is a sightly weaker name than they have already.

holiday-rentals.co.uk, which takes to the UK version of the homeaway site
holiday-rentals.co.uk, which takes to the UK version of the homeaway site

The .com name takes you to a more US based site and the old UK name takes you to the interim UK (ish) site.

www.homeaway.com the US based version
http://www.homeaway.com the US based version

The site that seemed to have the most property in the area we were looking was actually another one called Holiday Lettings. I didn’t realise at the time, but this is part of Rightmove and works very well indeed.

Holiday Lettings, which is now part of Rightmove
Holiday Lettings, which is now part of Rightmove

But the one that really shocked me was Owners Direct (UK).

It may be my imagination, but this is the one that started the direct rental revolution many years ago (even though Holiday Lettings claim it is ten years old!).


Will the real Owners Direct please step forward.....
Will the real Owners Direct please step forward…..



They are in a situation where the four simple combinations of their domain name are owned by different people with totally different sites.

http://www.owners-direct.co.uk/ is dreadful holding page.

http://www.ownersdirect.com/ is an individual trying (unsuccessfully I assume) to sell their house in Virginia for $599,000

And http://www.owners-direct.com/ is another portal style site that doesn’t really have any stock.

But, for a market to be this confused is terrible for customers. It’s a simple lesson to any brand or business owners as to why you need to be really clearly differentiated in the market you address.

It’s not always important to say exactly what you do in your name (the Ronseal, does exactly what is says on the tin school of thought) but it’s absolutely vital that it is very clear who you are and what you stand for.

The alternative school of thought (the Egg, Orange O2 model) is one that has an equal place but is perhaps now done to death in certain markets as we run out of fruits, colours and fluffy animals with an available domain name.

It’s a basic fact that If you look the same as your competitors, your customers will not know who you are and why they should talk to you.

Perhaps that’s why all those years ago we called our business Purple Circle and not the very forgettable Fisk, Lyle, Slack to join the army of three name acronym design agencies that dominated the early 90’s.

The rules are still the same now, and I’m truly amazed that there are still some site/brand owners, like Owners Direct who haven’t learnt them.

I’m looking for a web developer for Purple Circle’s Nottingham Studio

Purple Circle's Nottingham studio
Purple Circle’s Nottingham studio

If you’re a developer or know someone who is and they feel like a change of scene to come and work at Purple Circle, then click this link to read the role definition of exactly the type of person we’re looking for.

The job is a full time position based in our Nottingham studio and is to start in January 2010.

At Purple Circle, we’ve won lots of awards over the years and we’ve been around since 1991, but we’ve never been as strong as we should be in the online world.

The work will be varied and start with rebuilding our own site to incorporate all of our social media content and making sure that Google and the other search engines, love what we’re doing as much as we do.

To find out more about Purple Circle, click here.

Look at our blog here.

And download the web developer role definition here.

I was at the DBA Awards last night and…

We won a gold award for our work with BeWILDerwood. For a little agency like ours, this is amazing for it to be recognised by the very top people in our industry and beyond. The awards are given for the effectiveness of the work, rather than just how good it looks. It’s always been our target to get one or two, so for our first to be a gold is just fabulous.

But we had to win, because Simon Egan from BeWILDerwood had his awards suit on. It looks suspiciously like the one he wore here.

Simon and Mich in the cab - as you can see, Simon has his award suit on
Simon and Mich in the cab - as you can see, Simon has his award suit on

We met our good friends from Hemisphere who won a Silver award for their work with Manchester Central Convention Complex.

Our good friends from Hemisphere
Our good friends from Hemisphere

And then after all the celebrating was over, we went back to the hotel, where I noticed that Simon Egan talks with his hands more when he has had a few drinks. This is a snapshot of one such conversation.

Simon gesticulating - Part One
Simon gesticulating - Part One
Simon gesticulating - Part Two
Simon gesticulating - Part Two
Simon gesticulating - Part Three
Simon gesticulating - Part Three

As you can see, I have my pint and a whisky and ginger in front of me too. I’m not sure from the way I feel today that I should have had that last one.

Blogging and brand values

There seems to be a lot of blogging going on a Purple Circle at the moment and it’s all to do with some of our own brand values – being passionate and actually daring to have an opinion.

One of our problems with research has always been that it is often used as a tool to hide behind and not as a platform to launch something bold, innovative and different – That’s why we’ll be talking about Purple Circle Brand Insight that we’ll be launching in a few weeks.

So at Purple Circle, we have always encouraged people to say what they think, because it’s the right thing to do, and not necessarily because it’s always the right thing to say. This makes some clients feel uncomfortable but makes others far more comfortable in the knowledge they are paying for (and getting) honest answers and not a bunch of flannel from yes men/women.

So Michael Slack has started his own blog at www.michslack.co.uk about branding and business, with his first piece being about brand layering, which you can read here.


Michael Slack's Blog at http://michslack.co.uk
Michael Slack's Blog at http://michslack.co.uk

Abi Jackson will be writing about more esoteric design stuff in her blog called Pretty Damn Fine with her first piece being about Sanderson designs, you can read that here.


Abi Jackson's Pretty Damn Fine Blog at http://prettydamnfine.co.uk/
Abi Jackson's Pretty Damn Fine Blog at http://prettydamnfine.co.uk/

So why all the blogging?

Well, simple really. Our clients are asking about how they can get a more clear personality online, about how they can work more cleverly within the social media environments, so what better way to advise than practice what we preach in order to understand it more fully ourselves.

Oh, and that’s not far from another of our brand values either.

Nice post about branded philately

My clever colleague at Purple Circle, Abi Jackson has written a rather nice little blog post about branding in the world of stamps. Have a look at it here.

It’s one of those areas that you maybe don’t notice there is branding even going on, but the Royal Mail have been quietly doing it for years and there have been many beautiful examples ranging from the current UK theme of Plants (Action for Species) right through to Victoria Cross winners back in 2006. All have real design integrity, because you have to work so hard to design something that beautiful in such a small space and still get the salient information across.

In the US now you can even get Simpsons stamps to celebrate their 20 year run. It was selected as a subject from over 50,000 suggested themes. They are officially sanctioned stamps launched by the USPS and they even ran a vote so that people could select their favourite.

Its hard to deny that we all write fewer letters than we used to, but integrating brands into postage stamps could be a lovely way to get kids interested again. If there were Everton FC stamps, my son would find excuses to write to people. 90210 (didn’t this used to be Beverley Hills 90210 – before it got rebranded?) stamps would get my daughters pen up off her desk and into her hand.

Perhaps we should have Bob the Builder ones, that are subsidized by the brand owner to get kids writing, or maybe even the best postage stamps in the world by Carlsberg, or even McStamps by you know who?

Just a thought, but it does seem a good way to raise revenue for the Royal Mail AND engage with new audiences.

Letters, Just do it.

The best of British stamps
The best of British stamps

What are the eleven rules and three checkpoints for brilliant branding?

This is my checklist for starting to look at any branding project, in order to capture where the business and the brand already is.

As I’ve said in my work for Purple Circle Branding and on many occasions, branding is not about logos, it’s about a whole raft of ideas that come together to create an overall branded experience. Think of the logo as the marker to know you have arrived at the correct place and you’ll see its context. For me, the brand experience covers every aspect of an interaction or even a potential interaction – so therefore manage it.

In some particular order with the most important first.

1. What are its values and are they published for all to see. More importantly, is there evidence of them actually being lived throughout the organisation?

2. Is the merchandise/product/service supporting the brand experience and actually making it more positive or undermining it by not being as brilliant as it should be?

3. How does the brand speak and look visually? Is it on brand and consistent in every application that’s out there?

4. Has it defined its customers. Can you see from what you are looking at who it is they are expecting to engage with/sell to – and is it who they are actually targeting?

5. How does the website work. Does it look the part, publish the values and really live them?

6. Are the logos being used of a consistent feel. Not necessarily all in the same place and at the same size (as this is just consistent logo usage) but creating the same sort of effect wherever they appear?

7. Are they practicing CRM or MCR (maximising Customer relationships) by engaging with customers in every positive way possible?

8. Is there evidence of customer feedback. Do they use a product such as Feefo to ensure they are constantly engaging with their end users. In effect, are they engaging in dialogue or just giving them diatribe?

9.  Are employees engaged and leading at every level. Are they ‘chattering’ externally in a positive way using social media platforms? When you meet or speak to them are they brand advocates, or sales prevention officers?

10. Does the marketing collateral also talk the talk or does it drift towards the desperate in its sales message or continue to reinforce the brand, create the tribe and sell the dream.

11. Is the SEO on track too? A brilliant brand understands writing for SEO and is employing the best techniques throughout the experience.

This is all well and good. There are now only 11 things you need to manage to make a great brand but from this, you need to define three more final things.

1. What are the problems caused by low scores in any of these areas?

2. What does success in any of these areas look like?

3. Conversely, what does failure in any aspect look like?

These are obviously only rough guidelines and there ill need to be a variation for any specific sector but as a brand owner if you manage all of these well, you won’t be far off a great brand.

Here are a few examples of ones I’ve worked on over the years.

Its Purple Circle’s 18th Birthday

In May 1991, three innocent young men started a branding business called Purple Circle at the tender ages of 24 years and with a grand total of 18 months post college work experience. It should have been a recipe for disaster, but somehow, we have kept going and kept growing. Now we’re 18 years old, so we’ve decided to produce a little website to celebrate and we’d love people to contribute so it becomes a showcase for ‘Shed Art’ across the world. Here’s the site and some of the early contributions, but more will be added every day in all sorts of different style and genres. www.shedloadsofideas.com All you need to do is download the template, be creative and then upload your idea to our server for us to showcase your brilliant work to the world. We’ll obviously make any links from your work to your site fully live and reciprocated. Thanks and have fun. John, Mich and Darren Now older and far, far more baldy

From Left to right: Darren Fisk, Michael Slack and John Lyle - Note the purple helmet in the middle back of shot
From Left to right: Darren Fisk, Michael Slack and John Lyle – Note the purple helmet in the middle back of shot

It’s great when your own work comes home

We have just had an application from a brilliant potential employee. The most focussed presentation we have received in 18 years of running Purple Circle – a branding and graphic design business. When you get 50 speculative applications per week, to have one this good restores your faith in humanity.

She even used one of our own quotes that she found n the web, summarising what branding is all about to show she had read through all of our materials and then demonstrated it by allowing her own brand to pervade everything!

Our summary of what branding is all about.

“Branding is far more than simply sticking logos on things; rather, it is about an organisation – however big or small – setting and managing a tone for its entire communications and ensuring that the core values of the company pervade every aspect of the business. If you can do this, it doesn’t matter whether you are speaking to your team or to your customers, you can create a brilliant brand.”