Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

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!

Cold Madonna has lesson for disliked brands

by Alex Benady

Were you one of the four million people who watched Madonna’s car crash of an interview with Graham Norton In mid January? If you weren’t, it was a typically controlled piece of Madonna publicity for her new film WE. Cameras angles were agreed in advance and although she looked pretty good for her age, there were strictly no-close ups. Well, who can blame her, she’s got a brand to manage hasn’t she?

What she couldn’t control however was her inner pathology.  The interview started off jauntily enough with Madonna and Norton joking and laughing. Even then she was stiff and uneasy -as if someone had briefed her on how to appear normal. But as the interview proceeded, the effort evidently became too much for her and the real Madge started leaking through the fag-paper-thin veneer.  She became in turn, cold, brittle, imperious, humorless, controlling, disinterested, dismissive and rude. (more…)

Too Magical for Müller?

by Guest Blogger

Love the new Müller advert… fun, bright and captures the imagination in an optimistic, ‘the world is a good place’ Disney way.

It would be perfect for a brand with similar attributes. But for Müller? It just doesn’t seem right. The brand has always been about pure, delicious enjoyment, and not just from a design perspective but with the previous ‘Got Life’ campaign and then the brilliantly tongue in cheek ‘Thank You Cows’.

‘Wünderful Stuff’ is the new brand idea, inspiring a new mission whereby they talk about wanting to ‘stir a large tablespoon of  wünderful into the world, and let everyone experience what wünderful tastes like everyday.’ Lovely sentiment, but for me there’s a big connection missing between this and ultimately what the consumer engages with; the packaging design and the product. Maybe I’m speaking too soon and there’s a design change in the process plus some amazing new flavours and product experiences soon to grace our shelves…fingers crossed.

Creative Britain is not in Reverse. Yet.

by Alex Benady
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The future of British Art schools?

The future of British Art schools?

Tonight at The Institution of Mechanical Engineers luminaries of the UK creative world will debate the proposition: Is Creative Britain in Reverse?

At first glance there is little evidence to support such an idea. Ok the UK did put in its worst showing for decades at Cannes this year. But as we all know awards prove little or nothing.

In contrast Government figures suggest that creative Britain is doing rather well. They confirm that the creative industries are one of the jewels in the crown of UK Plc. At the last count the creative economy employed just over 2.25 million people -over 7 per cent of the work force. It comprised nearly 158,000 businesses and accounted for 6.4 per cent of UK Gross Value Added, producing exports of £16bn. (more…)

From “Patronised of London”

by Alex Ririe

Dear Lil-lets,

Women have periods.

Sorry for stating the obvious, but I saw one of your new packs the other day and for a moment I thought you were trying to attract eight year old girls. Of course I soon realised that this would be ridiculous because children don’t have periods, women do. Agreed teenage girls do as well, but when you consider the total UK female population, it’s probably a fair assumption to say that the majority will be women aged over 18.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate my confusion. It’s just that I saw that you had introduced a new innovation in the world of tampons and it’s called ‘CandystripeTM Technology’. Are you serious? This is just a new accessory for Barbie, right?

I realise now, that you are of course absolutely serious. You’ve got a pink and white cord, an on-pack icon and three claims to prove it. To be fair, it’s a useful innovation. It’s a new technology to prevent leaks. (It means that I can now roller skate wearing white jeans in full confidence.)

This innovation also extends to making the product ‘easy grip’. Hmmm. I’m not convinced that this should fall under the ‘technology’ banner. You’re really only talking about two different coloured strings inter-twined aren’t you? But hey, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as this might be quite advanced stuff if you’re an eight year old.

Now the final part of the innovation – CandystripeTM Design. Excuse me??? Now I really think you’re stretching the ‘technology’ idea a bit too far. In a way, I suppose it’s actually very clever. You’re tapping into the insight that us girlies are suckers for a pretty design. You’re so right. Yeahhy for the candystripe design!



I do apologise if this seems a little ungrateful. It really is a very good technology. Well, the non-leak bit is anyway. I just wish you’d think about your target audience. Are you a brand for eight year old girls or for women? I do understand that you want to get people into the brand early – that makes good business sense. But what about your old loyalists?

If you could just let me know who you’re for, I’d be very grateful. I’d like to know where I stand (or parachute, or swim, or bike ride).

Yours sincerely,

Alex Ririe.

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.

What about the people?

by Ed Silk

You’re sitting there, watching the box with the missus, when an intriguing new programme comes on. The People’s Supermarket. What a great concept. You become a paid up member in order to get 10% off the provisions that you buy there. All you have to do in return is contribute 4 hours of your time every 4 weeks. Then I got annoyed. Then I started shouting (at the TV, not my wife). What seemed great on paper appeared to be failing at the first hurdle. In his bid to achieve this utopian ideal of a supermarket for the people by the people, Chef Arthur Potts Dawson had failed at the fundamentals. He’d hadn’t actually asked what the people wanted to buy from a Supermarket (nor for that matter had he identified which people either). And it only seemed to dawn on him when he’d already opened the doors. If you’re going to go head-to-head with giants likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, you’re really need to have a comprehensive understanding about your shopper and consult them on their needs and wants. It’s branding 101. Forget that and you’re a Supermarket short on custom.

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.