Copy my product, but bow before my brand…

As I wandered around my local Co-op food store the other morning, picking up a few bits and bobs for breakfast, I found that Tropicana seem to have finally got round to launch a smoothie product… it’s right beside the innocent smoothies, in a similar shaped carton, and is even in the same flavour…

…so, being an innocent loyalist (and weirdo), I thought I’d buy a carton of both, and take them home for a taste test.


Now, the tropicana smoothie seems to be a bit more ‘raw’ (there are ‘bits’ of seeds, roughage etc, like they haven’t whizzed it round for quite as long), but by and large the smoothies taste pretty similar to be honest.  If I had a blindfold on, I doubt i could tell the two apart without extensive tastebud training…

…but then you’d expect that really; there’s only so many ways you can blend together strawberries, bananas and the other fruits that go in to it.

And the price difference isn’t that huge either… they both come in around the £3 mark, with innocent a little more expensive.  Neither use concentrates, so it’s a pricey old game I guess.

So what’s the differentiating factor going to be?  Brand.  It’s true that marketing folk go on about the innocent brand ALL THE TIME, but for good reason; it’s an honest, new, fresh, friendly company (and therefore ‘brand’) in a world where there’s not that many (despite all the innocent-like companies which have emerged in their wake in different sectors).

It’s unlikely that the innocent brand loyalists will switch to Tropicana to save 20p on a £3 product.  What’s perhaps more likely is that Tropicana brings more of it’s OJ audience into the smoothie market… they will grow the sector.  The opportunity for innocent then is to maintain their market share of a larger sector… just as well they’ve got a great brand to help them do just that.


How often are you doing it?

After doing the Actionplanning training session about ten times now, it’s time to look back and survey whether it’s done any good.

My first impressions are it’s something that, like everything, you get better at the more often you do it.  The teams here at PHD that are in Actionplanning sessions every other day are the ones that are getting really into it, and doing different variations, and trying different things… they take the various principles, and then do something new.  And the ideas they’re devloping are constantly challenging and fresh.

But it’s perhaps that because of the nature of the businesses they work on, they get more of a chance to do that… they have multiple smaller briefs, rather than one big ongoing one.

So for teams that don’t think they get the opportunity to run sessions that often, because there’s not a brief that often, I wonder if there’s a different way of doing it?

Perhaps a ‘scenario planning’ session every week for an hour, where each of them proposes a question like ‘what would happen if X launched into our market, what would we do to combat it’?  Or switch it the other way round, ‘what if our client launched into this other market?’

It’s not seeking to create work for work’s sake, but instead taking your knowledge of the brand for a stretch of the legs… a quick stroll down a different route home, to see if you bump into anything interesting…


What happened, Thom?

Last year, the world gasped as Radiohead ripped the music market model asunder, with MP3s for free, and box sets for £40.  I opted for the later.  It’s a beautiful thing:


And now?  As soon as they strike a deal with a record label (yes, a passionate, artist loving, music fan label, but a label nonetheless…), they do this: You can get the separate ‘stems’ (i.e. separate tracks featuring just the vocals, or the guitars, or whatever) for the new single ‘Nude’… but you have to pay nigh on a fiver for them. 

And, if you were really into remixing, you’d want all the guitar tracks separate, as opposed to just all lumped in together… it’s not how you’d start remixing properly.  If it was all the proper separate stems, then ok, but this half hearted effort… no, just no.


…it smacks of lazy, label, money led thinking; the wrong product
for the wrong audience at the wrong price.  I’m REALLY FUCKING DISAPPOINTED.


The physical world…

I’m doing the “IPA Excellence Diploma”, which is, by and large, excellent; the knowledge it gives you/lands crashing down on your head is phenomenal.  If you ever get the chance, grab it with both hands.

The reading list is, to say the least, extensive… here’s the newly set-aside bookcase at home dedicated to it; books, folders, the lot:


…although the animals don’t come with the course (shame!).

But it’s nice having the physical books there, because they might, just might, remind me to pick them up again once in a while, and learn something new.  If I had digital versions, would I browse through a folder to see what I have?  Probably not.  I don’t with MP3s, I raid the CD racks instead…

I guess whichever part of my brain that deals with ‘things wot I own’ is built for analogue.  I wonder if the MP3 generation would alos be happy with a folder full of digital books?


Now THAT'S presentation training…

Everyone, without exception, has been guilty of putting far too much on a PowerPoint slide in a vain effort to remind themselves what they want to say.  You forget that people are there to listen to you, not to read off some chart at the end of the room.

So, imagine you were in this situation…

…charts you don’t know, that you have to sum up in a compelling (and in this case humerous) way, mere seconds after seeing them…

That’s what I think you should be aiming for all the time… less is definitely more…


Introducing the MacBook Paper…

So, there’s a spate of parodies, paeans and the like around of the new MacBook Air advert…

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…with two of the best being this one, that Thaer sent me…

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…and this one, called the ‘MacBook Paper’…

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…which has the extra benefit of coming complete with a ‘do it yourself cut-out-and-keep’ version, from this blog here… which of course I felt obliged to cut out and make for myself (portable computing is very important, as you know, so having a MacBook Paper in my wallet is invaluable…)

My efforts…


Anyway, there appears to be more ‘anti-Apple’ versions of the ad than there is positive (though of course I’ve not looked at them all and cataloged them.  Apple are being less lauded by the hardcore techies in the same way that a band loses credibility when it starts to sell millions of albums instead of being the ‘best-kept secret’ of a few fans.  And, let’s be honest, the ‘Air’ ad is far, far too smug for it’s own good…

…but I wonder if that matters?  As the old PR maxim goes, ‘no news is bad news’.  If people are talking about it, making & watching piss-takes (and cutting out mini-paper versions on their desk), the message that ‘this is a REALLY thin laptop’ gets through… whether it impacts positively on sales is another matter, and one a bit harder to solve in a blog post…


(Not) Far from the Mad Men crowd…

I really enjoyed the first few episodes of Mad Men, the US drama which is set in the advertising world of Madison Avenue in the fifties (it’s on BBC4 if you’re looking for it), but began to lose interest a little when it started to lose the emphasis on advertising and focus more on relationships… it’s becoming a bit ‘Desperate Housewivey’…

Of course my ‘niche’ interest was perhaps what compelled me to watch in the first place.  Wouldn’t be great if people would produce niche content with the production values of mass content, rather than just use the niche as the MacGuffin into (yet another) drama about failing personal relationships & affairs.

The economics of TV production vs. increasing piracy (both the film & tv industries are primed for an ‘iPod’ moment where one device exponentially increases illegal downloading of content) means that this model is, at best, unlikely.

Mind you, I asked Helen about it (who doesn’t work in advertising, which is just as well as we’d talk all evening about it when we got home I suspect), and she preferred it when it was more focused on the advertising bit too… ironically, maybe the glamour & mystique of how the business works they try and depict in the show is what makes people more inclined to watch in the present day… everyone wants to know how advertising works.

Especially the people who work in it…



Here’s something that’s occurred over the last couple of days: in a world of social networking sites & other sharing applications, and the acceptance of semi-amateur looking user generated content, is it possible to create an effective communications plan solely using free media (or ‘Freedia’) and home-made content (not just video, but artwork, copy and the like)?

No paid for space, no trips to Brazil to shoot an ad, just a bunch of story-tellers you employ to act on your behalf ‘at large’ in the world.  Looking after your social networking hubs, filming & editing your video blogs, encouraging users to contribute to the look, feel and tone of your brand…

Are there any Freedia Agencies out there?  Do good clients just do it themselves?  Is it just wrapped up in whatever your advertising / digital / media agency is doing for you?

I still need to give it some thought, but thought I’d post the beginnings of it…


A general tour of Generalism…

When you’re setting up an Actionplanning session, and you want to draw people away from their day-to-day thinking so the brainstorming is more productive, I’ve always found it helps if you have lots of interesting distractions from other places to show people.

So, for instance, I’ll point you now in the direction of the ongoing Generalist vs. Specialist debate.

Essentially, if you’re a ‘Generalist’, you have an understanding across many areas, picking up and fusing inspirations from these places to help frame a specific strategy or problem.  You’re ‘well-rounded’, you define the goal.

A ‘Specialist’ is someone who works exclusively in one area with advanced understanding and capabilities in that area, and delivers a solution to the goal.  You’re an expert, you solve the problem.

Anyway, this image from Dave Gray, of visual thinking company XPLANE, perfectly describes the issue (and I found it first on Mark McGuinness’s brilliant synopsis of the Generalist/Specialist debate)


Thinking about the two stages of Actionplanning, you are seeking to get people acting as both Generalists AND Specialists. 

So, for the divergent thinking section, when you want people to stretch their brains as far as possible to explore pioneering solutions, you want people to be Generalists… “tap into lots of potentially exciting, different areas, but not in great depth.”

Then, once you’ve identified the most fertile areas, you get people to start working up more thorough, descriptive, fleshed out versions of what the solutions would be; they’re being Specialists… “design a precise solution based on this defined territory”.

It naturally follows that if you need people to be Generalists and Specialists in Actionplanning sessions, the best sessions you run will have a mix of Generalists and Specialists from around your agency.  Just like the best parties, you’ve got to invite the right mix of different people…


Current TV / Not so current poster

Now, take a look at the poster below for Current TV from the underground at <st1:street w:st=”on”><st1:address w:st=”on”></st1:address></st1:street>Old Street…




Looks fine at first glance, images of stories that Current TV obviously has playing, and pictures of the people who produced the films beside them. Grand, nice.

But if you’re there, and keep looking, you notice something amiss… I’ve highlighted it here in ‘lightsabre red’…


They’ve painted over some of the poster with black paint, it would seem. Some of the programs they had on the poster are no longer relevant however many days later.

‘Not so Current TV’… or something equally pithy.  But a serious point to make – if you put communications out there that you can’t change, you’d better make sure that they’ll still be true a few weeks later…