Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Lovely, tasty, nutritious, disappearing packaging

by Alex Benady

We may make our living from packaging. Packaging may enable our clients to make their living. The trouble is that within seconds of being opened or the product being consumed, packaging has no further useful purpose. It becomes surplus or waste.

And what a waste. According to HMG, in 2011 the UK produced nearly 11 million tonnes of packaging waste –just under a tenth of the UK’s total waste.  Although around sixty percent of this waste is recycled, that still leaves 4.5 million tonnes of packaging rubbish to be sorted, put out, collected and then transported to landfill, every year.

Just by way of comparison, that is almost exactly the same mount of earth that was removed from the 42 kilometres of tunnel dug for Cross Rail. But packaging is far les dense than earth so it  would fill a much longer tunnel

Wouldn’t it be so much better for everyone if somehow a large proportion of it just, well, disappeared?

Earlier this year we blogged about the work of Aaron Mickelson from the Pratt Institute New York who has found ways to make packaging do just that. He has created packaging that is part of the product and is used up as the product is used up.

Now we can report on two more developments in socially responsible, environmentally friendly packaging that just vanishes. (more…)


by Stephen Bell

Yesterday Dublin based bookmaker Paddy Power and the gay charity Stonewall kicked off a new campaign to give homophobia in football the boot.  ‘We don’t care which team you play for’ runs the witty copy on their poster.

As a gay man, albeit one not terribly interested in football, I applaud Paddy Power for its bravery and willingness to tackle a difficult social issue head-on. Hopefully it will give the conservative and outdated culture of UK football the “kick up the arse” it badly needs to join the twenty first century in its attitude to matters gay.

But as a brand professional and as a citizen this intervention leaves me uneasy because it raises serious questions about the role of brands in society and the extent to which brands should lead on social and political issues.

In this case I commend Paddy Power. But what if I didn’t? What if I thought homosexuality was a sin and an abomination? A few years ago a Caribbean holiday company let it be known that it was discouraging gays.  You could argue it was a blow for Christian values and the family. Were they too entitled to express their values and beliefs?

What if P&G launched a campaign to get mums to stay at home or car manufacturers campaigned against limits on carbon emissions, or booze companies started telling us to vote for a particular party because it was in their interests?

The idea that brands and corporations should be able to use their financial muscle to set political agendas is obviously fraught with difficulty.  After all brands aren’t political experts and by what right or authority do they intervene? Now you might argue that they already do. That’s what lobbying is about.  The difference is that campaigns like Paddy Power’s appeal directly to the consumer.

Then again look at the environment. Corporations like Unilever are taking the lead in environmental action, largely because consumers cant and wont.  Consumers may have gone green for a moment at the top of the last business cycle, but there’s not a lot of evidence that they are seriously engaged with green issues now.

Consumers are volatile, they discount the future too heavily, so anything further than a couple of years away scarcely exists, and they have to finance environmental measures out of their own pockets. Companies have a longer time frame, are more likely to maintain a consistent strategy and finance environmental measures out of surpluses.  Thank God they do. Left to consumers nothing would be done until it’s too late.

So there’s no hard and fast moral rule here. The morality of brand interventions in social and political issues seems to depend entirely on the intervention and whether you agree with it.

But what about the marketing wisdom of PP’s campaign? They obviously have their timing spot on.  They couldn’t have run such a campaign ten or even five years ago, they would have been way out on a limb. With gay marriage enshrined in law, the issue of gay rights is safe but still a tiny bit edgy.  They are just ahead of the curve, and that’s the sweet spot for such interventions.

Although it is part of their ‘We hear you’ strategy, I was struck by the lack of obvious connection or synergy between Paddy Power and the issue. Conventional marketing wisdom says a brand should only endorse a cause if it is at the core of its identity.

I doubt if homosexuality is core to Paddy Power’s brand. So the campaign could be cynical attention-seeking .  And there is danger in this approach. All it needs is one unfair dismissal case or one gay employee complaining about being bullied and Paddy Power will score a massive own goal.

But actually it made me think better of them. They have gained extensive media coverage and maybe that was their intention. But there is the possibility that rather than performing some cynical cost-benefit brand calculus they may be doing this out of conviction.

All that said, I still don’t see myself ever visiting a Paddy Power shop.



Is Vodafone’s sale of Verizon related to its new identity?

by Alex Benady

It has been a busy 24 hours for Vodafone.  Last night it completed the second biggest deal in corporate history when it sold its stake in US phone network Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications for £84bn.

But earlier in the day a lesser story was reported in Marketing Magazine.  With virtually no fanfare Vodafone announced that it is to roll out its first new ‘global identity’ since 2005.

The work by our WPP stable-mate Brand Union features a red rhombus shape emerging from Vodafone’s inverted comma logo. Apparently it is all about demonstrating the company’s “confident energy and progression.”

The question that intrigues me is, what do these two events say about the relationship between corporate identity and corporate strategy? (more…)

Coca Cola Life highlights problems of going green

by Alex Benady

Latin Americans seem to be experimenting a lot with Coke these days.

Three weeks ago it was an ice bottle in Colombia. This week it’s a green bottle in Argentina.

‘Coca Cola Life’ as it has been branded, is a new formulation of the world’s favourite soft drink that includes a mix of sugar and naturally sourced sugar substitute Stevia. As a result a 600 ml bottle has only 108 calories compared to the usual 250.

In addition Coca-Cola Life is packaged in the company’s PlantBottle, which is the first recyclable bottle made from petroleum-based materials and up to 30% plant-based materials. The hope is to create a 100% plant-based bottle in the future.

To wrap it all up, the new bottle has a rather undelicious and unrefreshing green label –surprisingly close to the ‘don’t smoke me’ olive green now used on Australian fag packets.

Executional questions aside, the new product highlights a real debate about how companies should approach green issues. Should they use green improvements as tactical/promotional devices like Coke Life seems to? Or should they embody them deep in the strategic direction of the company -like Unilever?

There is a school of thought that goes, because governments and consumers are too short term and expedient in their thinking, the lead on environmental issues has to come from corporations. Unilever has acted radically to help address this short termism by making profound adjustments to the way it operates. Most notably it has abolished quarterly financial reporting.

In contrast Coca Cola Life has all the appearance of a consumer option, not a company compulsion. In fairness to Coca Cola, while Coke Life looks like a tactical response to the environmental issue, it is quietly rolling out the Plantbottle in nine different countries. So it is serious.

But in Argentina Coke may have taken the route it has because it has a rather unique problem. One that many brands would love to have. The brand has become a straightjacket. Coke consumers are so loyal and so traditional that it cannot mess with its ingredients. Remember the New Coke fiasco in the 1980’s?

It would have been impossible for Coca Cola to launch this product under the classic Coke livery. But this puts it in a quandary. How do you embody profound changes in your product if your consumers wont let you? ENDS


Brands that are ashamed of their parents

by Alex Benady

Lexus. Not a hint of Toyota.

It emerged this week that JK Rowling chose the nom de plume Robert Galbraith for her new novel The Cuckoo’s Calling. She wanted it to be judged on its own merits rather than be flooded by associations with what you might call the Rowling power brand.

“Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” she told the Sunday Times. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Like many individuals and brands before her, Rowling has discovered that having a clear identity, especially a powerful identity, is a two- edged sword. (more…)

Ad agencies score at Cannes because they make the effort

by Vicky Bullen

The Cannes Lions festival has become a fixed if not entirely unwelcome feature of the marketing calendar. It is hard work, and because there are so many clients and bosses there, you really do have to have your wits constantly about you –even in your cups at two o clock in the morning. Not that I’m ever up that late obviously.

The festival has undergone significant mission creep in recent years. It started off as purely advertising awards. Then under the ownership of Emap which bought it 2004, it gradually added dm, digital, PR, activation, content and design, not to mention recruiting the global client community.

But looking at the results this year, the question being asked by many is whether Cannes has ever really got over its first love -advertising.

Take our sector, design. 23 gold Lions were awarded. Of those no fewer, than 18 went to advertising agencies. There’s a similar story in the PR sector. 20 golds were awarded. 16 went to advertising agencies. (more…)

Does the lions share of branding and communications lie in the name?

by Alex Benady

A journalist friend of mine met the communications chief of an extremely large organization last week. (By large, I mean the size of small nation state.) After a couple of drinks talk turned to the topic of difficulties this comms chief has been having communicating important messages.

His organization has been having problems with one of its services recently and has received a good kicking in the press for its failure to provide what its customers need.

“It’s a bit unfair,” lamented the comms chief, “because we’ve done everything we possibly could to stop people using this service until it is improved.”

He explained how his organisation has even run campaigns explaining the problem, advising people not to use this service and giving them better alternatives.

But all that happened as a result of his carefully plotted ‘don’t buy’ campaign was that use of the service went up instead of down.

It could still be that the campaign was successful. Maybe not as many people used the service as would have done in its absence.  But the comms chief didn’t think so.

It could be that the campaign was just poorly thought out or poorly executed.  Maybe. But again the comms chief didn’t think so.

Far more likely he thought was that despite all the thought and planning that had gone into creating and targeting a carefully nuanced message, most people, don’t engage with details.

All they hear is the brand name. They don’t pay enough attention to hear any qualifying message. So the message ‘don’t use service x’ merely highlights the existence of service x in people’s minds.

Perhaps that’s why they say “all publicity is good publicity” and “make the logo bigger.” Maybe getting the name/brand name across is the most important thing and doesn’t much matter the context or the thing that is being said about it.

If this is true, the implications for marketing communications would be immense, pointed out my journalist friend. Why bother with costly branding, design, PR and advertising agencies when any chimp could put up a sign with your company’s name on it for free?

Surprisingly the comms chief sprang to the defence of these disciplines.  Yes, name alone may do sixty, seventy or even eighty per cent of the communication work, he conceded. But it is in the other thirty to fourty per cent that branding, design, PR and advertising works its magic and earns its keep.

It is precisely because well thought out branding and communications can help consumers go beyond the top line communication of the brand name alone, that they are worth while.

News Corp’s new logo fails to convince

by Alex Benady

Possibly the kindest thing you could say of News Corp’s new logo is: “Oooee Rupert, your strategy is showing’.

The new logo consists of the words ‘News Corp’ in a face based on an amalgam of the hand writing of Rupert Murdoch and his father Keith. It’s artfully contrived to look like it has just been dashed off. The very clear implication is that News Corp isn’t some faceless corporation, it’s human, it’s informal, it’s warm. It’s not perfect.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with using a signature for your logo. Far from it. Coley Porter Bell is part of the Ogilvy group and its logo is the signature of founder David Ogilvy. It hints at craft and continuity and personal service.

And we use signatures all the time on packaging. But there are very clear reasons for doing it.

So we used the signature of Beefeater’s founder William Burroughs to locate a new gin in a long tradition of distilling.

We used the signature of master blender Colin Scott on a new bottle for Royal Salute bottle whisky to denote the hand crafted nature of the product and the care that has gone into it.

We might use the signature of an entrepreneur if he or she is the face of the brand.

We even invented our own hand-written type face for Morrison’s own value label range, to show that the products are cared for by human beings.

The problem with the new News Corporation logo is that it does none of those things. It’s not a reflection of a long journalistic tradition. It’s not a mark of the craft that goes into its product.

It seems to be more of an attempt to turn Rupert Murdoch into the face of News Corp. But unlike say David Ogilvy or Paul Smith or even Richard Branson, he brings no useful equities to News Corp. In fact quite the opposite.

Rightly or wrongly Murdoch is widely viewed as the archetypal uncaring global capitalist whose main priority is making money and it doesn’t much matter how.

It doesn’t feel that this logo reflects any deeper truth about News Corp other than it is controlled by Murdoch. It’s perfectly imperfect, artfully artless nature  simply makes News Corp feel more cynical and scary. Not less. Which was evidently not the intention.


How to fan the flames of consumer desire. Part1: Luxury cues.

by Alex Benady

We now know that human decision making is primarily emotional. Shopping is no exception to that rule. So, arguably the key question in brand and packaging design is how do you press the right emotional buttons to create that emotional, as opposed to rational, desire for your brand or product?

We have identified 5 main areas that can help harness the right emotional cues and fan the flames of consumer desire.

The first of these is the business of making your brand seem more prestigious. Pamela Danziger a consumer insights expert who specialises in targeting the affluent consumer segment  pointed out that  “the natural evolution of all luxury concepts is from class to mass.  First luxury is introduced and embraced by the affluent; the inevitably it is translated and reinterpreted down the masses.”  So these rules apply to all brands, no matter how mundane.

Here are five ways for even the most everyday of brands to burnish their emotional appeal by adding ‘luxury cues’ to their packaging.  As you’ll see they don’t need to be obvious ‘bling’ .

Monograms – They anchor a design and bestow instant heritage and authority. Here Nicky Clarke professional hair care is all about his skill & expertise

Heritage – Fentiman soft drinks.  Even if the brand isn’t ‘old’ you can cue a sense of heritage & quality through structure, typography, detailing & layers – a sense of authenticity

Layers and detail – For Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce again the intricate detailing gives a sense of quality, authenticity and being an original – ‘the real thing’

Provenance – gives a sense of place, authenticity & quality – in the case of make-up brand Rimmel – they reference London & the UK in their packaging as a way to link to London style … their tagline is get the ‘London look’ – here even the actual product eye shadow is formed into a union jack & embossed with a crown.

They subvert classic provenance codes to add edge & street style.

And lastly

Rarity– Create desirability by touching limited editions, collectable packs … Evian do this brilliantly, linking up with fashion designers like this pack here designed in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier.  It adds flair, style & new worthiness to the brand … & of course creates sales. ENDS



Li Edelkoort predicts a new boldness for the future

by elayneread


Planning and designing brands inevitably involves trying to work out what imagery and values will have currency months or even years from now.

That’s why we religiously make our biannual pilgrimage to hear what trends forecaster Li Edelkoort has to say about imagery, texture and colour in the medium term future.

Last week at the Lumiere cinema in South Kensington, it was gratifying to hear her build her argument using not one but two themes from our own Visual Futures presentations.

She opened her analysis with the observation that with the world in crisis for the sixth year running, it’s time to “dream and give into absurdity and excess, to embrace the grotesque and exaggerated, to enter a new world of hyper form and strong colour”.

This echoes the same sentiment we expressed last year in our Visual Futures presentation Reality Sucks, where we talked about people wishing to escape the awfulness and embracing alternative realities and absurdism. (more…)

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.