Archive for April, 2011

What has the Milkybar Kid got in common with Zappo’s founder Tony Hsieh?

by Emma Brock

Believe it or not the Milkybar Kid is fifty. Time to give the little dude a change of clothes and a bit of a scrub up, you might think. So that’s exactly what we did last year and this week our update of one of the UK’s most enduring brand icons finally found its way into the shops.

As part of the redesign Coley Porter Bell developed a whole world for The Kid as well as a psychologic profile, describing what he thinks, how he reacts, his interests and motivations. Not only does he now have a clearly identifiable moral code, he is active fun, generous and fair and just a little bit cooler than his recent incarnations.

Predating the film Bugsy Malone by a good fifteen years, he used to be the sheriff of a small town peopled by kids. Now he is leader of a small posse which includes Bluebell the Cow, Scruff the dog and Sonny the horse.  Their different interactions and adventures allow for The Milkybar Kid to appear in many different scenarios and scenes.  Inviting consumer to construct their own narratives around his activities.

Ok, you might think that creating a back story for a cartoon character selling chocolate is a bit, well, pretentious. But like any marketing update, any micro change, it tells you something about the way that consumers and society at large are changing.

In this case it’s all about the humanisation of brands. While our Milkybar packs are clearly in the analogue world, the demand for brands to become more ‘human’ is actually being driven by the virtual world of social media. As US marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck puts it: “Social media have taken us back to small town rules. You can no longer stack it high and see it fly.” ie You have to have a real personality and use it to interact with your consumers.”

There are various strategies available to achieve this. One is to literally make a person the face of the brand or corporation. Richard Branson, Stelios and Remington’s Victor Kiam are prime examples in the real world.

A modern variation on that theme is the construction of a social company or brand on-line. US on-line shoe firm Zappos was established in 1999 and now has sales of well over $1.2bn a year.  The company was built largely on Olympian service which in turn was based on the idea of showing that the company is made up of happy individuals that you’d really like to get to know, says Chief exec Tony Hsieh. He takes pains to lead from the front in this respect and astonishingly takes the time to reply to every Twitter addressed to him. What better way to communicate that this is a social company than to use social media?

A third approach is to humanise the brand through tone of voice. Probably the best example of that is innocent which has built a stunningly successful business based on pure ingredients and fresh natural vocabulary. It’s personal, informal and even a little cheeky

They use back of pack copy to engage, charm and make people believe in the brand “We’re perhaps not as sophisticated in database management as we’d like to be but  we do realise the value of direct contact, ” said communications chief Charlotte Rawlins a couple of years ago.

The Milkybar Kid, isn’t a CEO, he isn’t a tone of voice, but he is very human and in a world dominated by the internet, that counts for an awful lot these days.

Steet art engages. Why don’t posters?

by Stephen Bell
Pure Evil's engaging provocation
Pure Evil

Profit is a stern disciplinarian that generally keeps commercial creativity on its toes. Well that’s the theory at any rate. But it’s a theory that is sorely tested by a new exhibition of Street Art at the Black Rat Projects, nestling in a railway arch behind Cargo (the club) in increasingly yuppified Shoreditch.

As you enter the formerly shabby little side street containing the gallery, you pass two well known Banksys stencilled on the wall -they must be worth millions and they aren’t even part of the exhibition. Inside there’s a show of prints by artists like …Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek Le Rat, Pure Evil and D*face, all from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection. But they don’t come across as fusty old museum pieces. They are astonishingly vibrant, energetic, clever, funny, provocative  and inspiring. 

The exhibition opens with three works by Shepard Fairey all using his characteristic Soviet-style  graphics and ends with a beautiful piece by Pure Evil mimicing Peter Blake’s famous cover for The Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper album. But instead of a cast of 60′s celebs, he lines up images of dozens of the most evil people of the 20th century. Hitler, Charles Manson, Stalin Pol Pot and Maggie Thatcher are all there. In the foreground where Blake spelt out ‘Beatles’ in red roses,  Pure Evil spells ‘Pure Evil’.

As I shuffled out it struck me that even though Street Art isn’t new, it still has energy and the ability to engage in a way that has become conspicuously lacking in the more mainstream street form -commercial posters. (more…)

Many Ogilvy Hands Mini Secret Art Sale

by Alex Ririe

Beautiful works of art adorned the walls of Coley Porter Bell on Wednesday 6th April, when the Many Ogilvy Hands Mini Secret Art Sale private view was held.  Attended by numerous people from the worlds of art, design, advertising and photography, the scheme was divised by Leia Baker and me to raise funds for Many Ogilvy Hands, a charity set up by CPB’s parent company to help build a secondary school in Uganda. 

Both of us visited Uganda in March to get our hands dirty and see the progress being made on the school. It was an amazing experience to see first hand how the money is being put to such good use.  The Secret Art Sale was our big fund raising event and what a success it was.  We raised over £2,000 thanks to the generosity of both artists and art collectors.  Thank you all so much.  We are extremely grateful.

All the artworks are still available to view online, visit:

Beauty Spot

by Craig Barnes

A new coffee shop opened on my high street recently. I popped in to try their pastries and blends at the weekend but ended up being more enthused by their floor, which they kindly allowed me to capture. Unlike the family who run the business, they’re not very French, but I like them anyway. I want them in my bathroom!

This blog is about all the things that inspire us as we make brands beautiful: insights and ideas, points of view, fabulous work, nascent trends - all the things that excite us and help us to see new possibilities for the brands we work on. So please enjoy, add your comments, forward the link, and come back and see us. We’ll be posting regularly.