Archive for November, 2012

stop thinking. start rapping.

by lauriehills

the inimitable lupe fiasco

I recently came across a study on what brain scans reveal about Freestyle Rappers via my lovely nerdy friend Dr Jess.

Now I’m not about to pretend that I know anything about the world of functional MRIs, but what did get me interested was how this is essentially a mapping on creativity and the fluidity of language.

Yes it is a small and subjective study in a very niche area of medicine but it does have fascinating implications for understanding such incredible processes of creativity. Although it is somewhat ironic that in order to study “creativity” we have to structure such uncreative study designs…

In a nutshell the study compares the functional MRI results with those of freestyle rapping (improvisation) and a set of learned rap lyrics.

Using freestyle rap as a means of image mapping the areas of the brain, and connectivity mapping to analyse the complex interplay between the areas of the brain that control coordination, fluency, information processing, intention, multimodal sensory processing, language, rhythm … (the list is as long as it is complex!) what it suggests is

“… the conscious, deliberate, top-down attentional processes mediated by this network may be attenuated during improvisation, consistent with the notion that a state of defocused attention enables the generation of novel, unexpected associations that underlie spontaneous creative activity.”

Whilst sadly proof that not all of us have the gift of the gab on hip-hop karaoke night, let alone freestyle hip hop karaoke night, what’s interesting about the results is the sense that the inherent creative result comes from a non-conscious process of decision making and adjustments.

Perhaps this has implications for our individual creativity and we should just… not think too hard.

As they put it; “…ongoing actions, moment to moment decisions and adjustments in performance may be experienced as having occurred outside of conscious awareness. This is not inconsistent with the experience of many artists who describe the creative process as seemingly guided by an outside agency.”

So next time you’re in a creative pickle – whether it’s writer’s block as a strategist or an ideas rut as a designer – maybe you shouldn’t jump straight to the interwebs for inspiration/the answer and instead embrace your inner Lupe or Dr Dre.

Failing that, the festive season is upon us, so for the on-stage divas amongst us maybe it’s time to make a name for yourself at the Christmas Party?

If you’ve had enough of pre-frontal gyrus’- and made it this far into the post- you deserve to be rewarded and may now gyrus to Will Smith’s (of Fresh Prince Of Bel Air brilliance) casual free-styling… hold out for the FPOBA drop at the end. Probably NSFW but well worth it. Happy Friday Everyone!

How many brands reach 50 like The Stones?

by Alex Benady

The Rolling Stones gig at the O2 Arena celebrating their 50th anniversary this week was remarkable for many reasons. First, that any group of people doing anything could do it together for five decades. Imagine founders of a design or ad agency working together that long. Most brands certainly don’t last that long.

What’s more they did it in a genre that was by definition disposable and transitory. Then there’s the fact that despite their combined age of 273, they are still working in a field that supposedly depends on youth for its vitality.

But surely one of their greatest achievements is that somehow they have managed to stay relevant. It’s the perennial problem of success, in music as in many other fields, that very often success distances you from what made you successful in the first place. How do you credibly sing about poverty, rebellion and heart break when you are a tax-exiled multi-millionaire currently on his fourth wife?

While most marketers don’t have an awful lot in common with say Keith Richards, two separate sources this week identified the problem of ‘staying in touch’ as a similar conundrum for those working in marketing. (more…)

Coley Porter Bell overhauls Müller Corner range

by Alex Benady


New navigable range

Coley Porter Bell has overhauled Müller’s Corner yogurt range to improve consumer appetite appeal and navigation at point of sale.

All Corner subranges have been redesigned including ‘Fruit’, ‘Greek style’, ‘Breakfast’ as well as new ranges such as ‘Dessert Inspired’ and ‘Voted By You’ which will be rolled out over the coming weeks.

The new designs mark an intent from Müller to keep its outstanding blue colour whilst increasing subrange differentiation and product taste appeal. A more differentiated brand architecture has been introduced using high quality photography of ingredients dialling up deliciousness as the major signal of different flavours and varieties. Product titles have been made more visible both on single pots, multipacks and trays.


Old range

“As anyone doing the weekly family shop will tell you, you don’t want to linger too long in the chilled food aisles. They are just too cold. That’s why it was important to make the packaging more evocative which will in turn make choosing flavours and varieties easier for consumers. We have transformed the packaging from a signpost to an invitation,” said Vicky Bullen, CEO of Coley Porter Bell.

’We are always looking for ways to improve our offer and to delight our consumers. We believe that these new designs will reinvigorate our instore presence and make it easier for consumers to buy our products,” said Michael Inpong, Marketing Director of Müller UK-Ireland.

Can P&G’s innovation strategy help address our economic woes?

by Alex Benady

It emerged today that Proctor & Gamble is planning to revitalize its stagnant business with a raft of breakthrough innovations that redefine their categories.

According to Marketing Week, Jorge Mesquita, P&G’s group president of new business creation, innovation and pet care, told an annual meeting for analysts that he aims to launch three times as many “change innovations” in the next five years as it has in the previous five years. He defined a “change innovation” as a “breakthrough that resets the competitive bar in the category and leads to significant share increases, category growth and competitive advantage”.

Innovation is a loose word covering anything from a new flavour of mayonnaise to the invention of entirely new technologies. Given that P&G spends or invests $2bn a year on innovation,  I wondered what effect the new strategy might have,  beyond its own share price –in the broader economy? (more…)

CPB business director excels in wine diploma

by Alex Benady

Alex Ririe

A Coley Porter Bell staffer is one step away from joining the wine world’s elite as a ‘Master of Wine’ after successfully completing a prestigious wine diploma.

Business director Alex Ririe spent the past two years studying at nights and weekends for her Level 4 Diploma in Wine & Spirits with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Last week at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) banquet it was announced that she had gained one of the top marks in her cohort of around 350 oenophiles and has been put forward as one of four candidates for the IWSC Waitrose scholarship.

The Diploma is widely regarded around the world as the gold standard in wine education and is the stepping-stone to the Master of Wine qualification.  There are just 297 Masters of Wine in the world.

The Diploma course which is attended by many career wine professionals is designed to give specialist knowledge of the principal wines and spirits of the world combined with commercial factors and a thorough system for the professional evaluation of wines and spirits. The exams go beyond wine tasting and enjoyment to cover wine production, detailed knowledge of producing regions, terroir, legislation, key players and markets, as well as the commercial side of selling and marketing wine.

Alex heads the Pernod Ricard account at Coley Porter Bell, working on brands such as Ricard, Chivas Regal, Royal Salute, Beefeater, Olmeca and Perrier Jouet. She describes wine as her “personal passion”.  “Initially I joined the WSET courses four years ago simply because I love the varieties of wine and wanted to know more about them. Now my long term ambition is to own a vineyard and develop my own wines. But in the short term it’s a great way of gaining greater insight into my clients’ business.”

Alex will find out if she is the winner of the prestigious IWSC Waitrose Scholarship at her graduation ceremony in January.

Imitation is flattery…isn’t it?

by Jenni Mellor

My heart and my head are torn…

This week, the government repealed section 52 of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents act meaning that the UK will extend the amount of time that artistic copyright exists on ‘industrial practices’ (aka knock-offs), bringing it in line with the rest of the EU.

Essentially the amendment means that no-one can make copies of protected designs for the author/artist’s life, plus 70 years; a lot longer than the current 25 year limit… Elle Decoration are rejoicing after a year long campaign and the design industry is hailing it as a coup.

Undoubtedly it is fantastic news for designers and craftsmen both now and in the future, though not necessarily for design-loving, but relatively poor, consumers.

And this is my dilemma:

Intellectual Property laws allow growth and security when creating something beautiful and unique but, frankly, I’d quite like to own some cool furniture.

right? right


It’s not that I don’t think craftsmen and designers should be recognised and rewarded for their work, more that there’s a disparity between this and other creative industry outputs.

A great piece of art? I hang a print

The best music? I buy the CD

New writing? I get the book

(The obvious answer to this would be miniature imitations of originals so they could sit on a bookshelf and be admired, but the only person I know who has things like this is my Knoll-working uncle who already owns the full sized versions anyway)


Sir Terrance Conran argues that:

“By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design

…Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again…

…We have the creative talent – lets use it”


Of course he’s not wrong, but perhaps a solution can be found, allowing the average-Joe design fan to experience and enjoy the best of British design in their homes, at the creator’s gain, not expense.



Co-created ranges with high street retailers (like Conran with Marks and Spencer) are one route though these are still ‘expensive’ to the everyday consumer. Inevitably, the recession has made it mark.

And with some of the most design-savvy everyday names disappearing (the Home Retail group which owns Argos, Habitat and Homebase announced the closure of 75 Argos stores in October), the design industry runs the risk of alienating itself from some of its best advocates, creating a chasm between average but affordable, and innovative, beautiful and very cool but completely unattainable…



Perhaps lessons can be learnt from the fashion industry, where high fashion sits comfortably alongside high street and joint ranges are becoming the norm (see H&M and TopShop for fantastic examples of how to do this very well).

Or a British version of Ikea that promotes great design at really affordable prices and possibly compromises on quality of materials in order to focus on the quality of the creation.*

Or even something as obvious as designers creating their own ‘ready-to-wear’ ranges of furniture, cutting out the middle-men who they say take their profits and bastardise their detail and intricacies.


At this week's London launch for the range, customers began queuing at around 1am

Something needs to happen, whatever it is. If not, design will continue to be superb but no-one will recognise it outside of the industry, and Ikea will continue to dominate unchallenged (a position which can only lead to a deterioration in quality across all facets).

If Britain can pioneer this then, to steal Conran’s words, the UK can become both a profitable workshop and a guiding light, and the knock-on effect  will benefit the wider creative industry enormously too.


Other interesting articles on this:


What you save in taxes you pay for in brand value

by Alex Benady

Yesterday Amazon, Google and Starbucks, three jolly giants of modern American capitalism were up in front of the Public Accounts Committee accused of short-changing the British tax payer by shifting profits out of the UK to lower tax regimes.

You cant help feeling that what they may have saved in tax, they could lose in brand value.

Starbucks was said to have paid no corporation or income tax in Britain in the past three years and had paid only 8.6 million pounds tax since 1998 on sales of 3.1 billion pounds.

Google had £2.5 billion of sales in the UK last year, but still managed to report a loss in 2011 and 2010, paying tax of just £3.4m in 2011. Amazon meanwhile paid only £1m tax last year on sales of between $5.3 and $7.2 billion.

Consumer disappointment will be all the sharper because these firms were supposed to represent the new capitalism. They are thoroughly modern businesses with positive social missions at their heart. Starbucks wanted to liberate us from the strictures of home/work and bad coffee. Amazon wanted to help us by giving us huge consumer choice and convenience at rock bottom prices. And most ambitious of all, Google wanted to give everyone access to all human knowledge in seconds.

So somehow we expected better of them. Listening to conversations in restaurants and pubs over the past twenty four hours, people are cIearly taken aback by the gap between the image and reality. There seems to be a real anger that these companies which have embedded themselves so deeply in the fabric our everyday lives could turn out to be such poor corporate citizens. There is talk of boycotts and buy British campaigns and consumers punishing them generally.

They have put themselves in the same category as bankers: people who profess to be helping us but who are perceived to be ripping us off. They will almost certainly be punished by lower sales and more intrusive legislation. Their brands are now tarnished. And the damage isn’t confined to them. They have contributed to the general decline in trust in business

What is particularly baffling is that companies continue to think they can get away with such dubious behaviour. Surely it can’t come as a surprise to them that business is under scrutiny like never before? Have they not heard of social media? Are they not aware that news easily leaps national boundaries? Society is a legitimate stakeholder in all large enterprises these days and sees no reason why it shouldn’t hold them accountable for not only the legality but the morality of their actions.

Clearly part of the problem is a byzantine tax system that effectively allows people and organizations with complex financial affairs to decide for themselves what tax they should pay.

But the real issue is that some businesses are still only paying lip service to the concept of social responsibility. In many companies the marketing people are treated a bit like children. They are allowed to do the soft stuff like ‘brand’ and consumer relationships. But the grown ups in finance and tax planning do all the hard work that makes the business profitable.

Maybe someone somewhere in thse companies is comparing the gains through tax avoidance with the losses in brand value. Maybe they have concluded that bad behaviour is worth it.

It is quite clearly not enough that companies’ should simply claim a higher purpose as part of their business philosophy. Perhaps people like Paul Polman of Unilever are right when they say that such thinking needs to be more than an intent. Maybe companies should have their higher purpose written into their articles of incorporation.

Why are Democrat and Republican symbols so similar?

by Alex Benady

Today is voting day in the US presidential elections. It’s often said that the difference between the two main US parties is so slight that it makes no difference who becomes president. In this particular run-off  however the difference between Democratic candidate Obama –a Keynesian welfare statist who might feel at home in Scandinavia and Republican candidate Romney, an enthusiastic  free marketeer, is so marked that the differences are discernible even three thousand miles away across the Atlantic.

But if the candidates and parties are so different, the question that keeps nagging at me is why are the party symbols so similar? If they came out of the studio here we would conclude that they were obviously different brands, but they wanted to make it absolutely clear they came from the same house. (more…)

Give a designer a pumpkin…

by Sarah Cameron

It’s amazing the scalpel-skills our team have built up over the years, evidenced by these wonderful pumpkins! Happy Halloween.

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.