Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up


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The Future of the High Street

There is much debate over the demise of the High Street, with the Internet seemingly  being single handedly being responsible for the demise. In this piece I will explore whether this is the case and what we can do to try and make retail an art, like it used to  be.

Tescopoly

It was over a decade ago when Andrew Simms released his then controversial business book Tescopoly. The author told the story about how supermarkets bought up land on the edge of towns and in subarban areas and essentially stockpiled them. They then moved to  buying units in town.  Whilst single handidly changing the way people shopped by providing all  the retail services that was once the provision of the local high street. We are talking, butchers, bakers and even key cutters.

Tescopoly shows how retail changed thanks to Supermarkets

The book also explores how Tesco and the other supermarkets used their buying power to “convince” farmers and other producers to supply them and their extensive supply chains as opposed to smaller more local purveyors.

Whilst the book goes deeper, including profiting from poverty, it does show how supermarkets created waves of ghost towns or even worse as Simms states it Clone  Towns.

But why is this relevant? Well the demise of the high street and the local retailer was on its way long before the internet, seemingly took charge. In fact, a lot of the retailers that are claiming they are being hit by the internet are the exact same retailers that rose with the advent of clone towns. The same shops appearing on every high street, with no regionalisation to reflect the local area.

So it could be argued, that actually the current wave of retail issues is purely cyclical and the internet has just been the vehicle to drive the change.

Facing  the music

A while back when I ran a music  website,  I explored why the landscape of music and music consumption had changed. It could be argued a similar pattern emerged in music  with people embracing new hard formats to listen to music and moving on with the times in to eventually sales dropping dramatically and streaming becoming  the new norm.

All of that is true and technology did drive change, largely thanks  to  Apple  in the  early  days and more latterly Spotify and  the like, originally driven by platforms such  as Napster.  However, similar to what was discussed in the previous section, the selling of music went through a similar pattern.

When I was younger  I used to DJ  back in  Bristol and  the West Country, some times venturing to London or Birmingham.  However, this was so long ago, I didn’t have a laptop and software to create and mix playlists for me, I used those black bits of plastic on a turntable.

I used to go to Replay Records in Bristol, under a  subway, right by the old bus station.  It  was close enough to Broadmead shopping centre but far enough away for it to be a  genuine experience.  They had decks in the shop where you could mix and listen to the tunes you had bought.

Image result for ourprice

Ourprice Records the  turning point for indie record shops

As I was in to Hip  Hop this  was my place.  However the city was littered with  local  record shops.  Old  Market had shops that sold rock and more indie music. Park street was home to shops with  dance  music, in short they were everywhere.

Whilst the digital age definitely changed the music  landscape without a shadow  of doubt, it was originally altered by big corporates who took prime spots in shopping centres and provided just enough music  outside the core mainstream,  to make people feel they weren’t missing anything.

First HMV.  Then came Our Price and then Virgin took over Our Price.   The whole music  retail scene was being eaten up. Ring any bells?  These retailers are pretty much no more, with HMV bemoaning their fortunes, due to the internet. However, poor management in their history meant they simply didn’t keep up. Remember though, they  were originally responsible for hundreds of smaller independent record shops closing.

A similar tale  to what is currently happening on the high street.

So before we cry foul that the internet is ruining our high street, lets listen to  the lessons retail have provided us in the past and understand, the potentially cyclical pattern. We also need to recognise that the internet has provided many customer benefits/ Benefits that bricks and mortar retailers have in the main, failed to embrace or have been too slow to adapt.

Another great example is ToysRUs in the UK. Setting up huge out of town toy sheds. At first they won the nations hearts by allowing kids to experience play. As they matured every inch was allocated for selling and the experience for kids was removed, leaving  just big warehouses. They also failed to adapt for the  digital age, allowing Amazon to swallow their share under their noses. ToysRUs went from stealing the toy shop from the high street by being bigger and cheaper, to losing their place, by somebody bigger and  cheaper.

Convenience

Whether we like it or not, as a nation, we are more time poor than ever.  With this in mind, no wonder convenience is a massive factor in helping  shape our shopping habits.   What internet retailers have been great at, is trying to ensure we can not only buy things from their online stores that may not be readily  available from the high street, but larger online retailers have been obsessing over convenience.  Next day delivery. Order tracking. Pick a time slot for delivery. Same day delivery.

Even online retailers that haven’t obsessed over customer service have been effected, proving its not all plain sailing. Look at the different fortunes that somebody like, my former employers, boohoo had over some of its competitors.  When I was at boohoo, we would try to find ways our delivery cut off time could be extended. We would look at ways we could cut the cloth differently with couriers to make it cheaper for our customers.  Whereas if you look at somebody like Maplin who provided quite specialised equipment, but  failed to invest in service, its UX  or an eCommerce application that really added anything to its standing as a multi-channel operator, showing that a digital presence isn’t the be all and end all.

As our lives change and the world moves on, we need convenience. The beauty of the way the internet and online retailing has developed is that it can deliver this. Not just from a delivery aspect but also from a UX perspective. Hours of research and testing is  spent on improving customer journeys on retail websites. Yes some of that is for pure commercial reasons, however it also aids us as customers.

Improved technology means the imagery that is seen on sites and the quality of video has increased astronomically and again,  retailers that don’t adapt to this need for high  quality content, could be the next victims of the retail cycles.

Its all about  science

Whilst there are many experts in customer experience. Jobs  exist now that were even conceived a couple of decades back, a lot is down to the reams of data processed by big machines. Testing  platforms that can optimise on the move. Of course all supplemented by hugely intelligent data scientists and analysts that provide information to marketers and eCommerce professionals alike.

The early and perhaps, still, the best proponents of this are Amazon.  The digital retail goliath grew from selling books online to the huge retailer, broadcaster and hardware company you know today. This all started from neat algorithms that identified trends and helped to improve customer experiences online, but all based on speed and convenience.  As Amazon develops every sector it is unusual for them to spend much on  trying to make sticky content, they are effectively the Google of retail.  All built on strong data driven decisions that  power the entire existence of the organisation.

Going  back to convenience. Amazon realised a long time ago, that providing a great  delivery proposition could engender loyalty.  It worked and Amazon Prime is one of the most successful  subscription services today. Not only do they generally (unless you  live in rural Bedford) provide fast and accurate delivery, they have convinced you to pay upfront for the privilege. Yes they make you pay up front a quite healthy sum for deliveries you may make in the future. Genius. Remember, with all their data modelling,  they would have already worked out the numbers. Yes you  may order smaller and more frequently, but equally you are more likely to make more purchases to ensure you  “get  your money’s worth”

This commercial acumen and understanding of customer behaviour and value is  something that the majority of bricks and mortar retailers would only dream of. They all have the opportunity, but they have preferred not to invest to the level needed in their technology and spent the profits elsewhere.  This has come back to haunt them.

Retail isn’t dead

The simple truth of the matter is, retail isn’t dead. As with the comment of cyclical retail patterns, that  is the current trend. Brands such as Apple and  Nike are throwing up shops in key retail environments. However, rather than just putting up stores with shelves of their boxes, thy have  reimagined  what retail means. They  have looked at  their customer base and  created retail experiences that  will appeal to their  customers. There is that combination of customer and  experience again. The same terminology  that  eCommerce professionals use, but translated to physical retail.

The  successful retailers of today look  at their retail offerings as more than the confines of their four walls. They  also look beyond just the physical products that they  sell in the actual store.  They see their stores as experiential platforms and useful marketing and brand tools.

Basketball activation at Nike, The Grove in LA

Basketball activation at Nike, The Grove in LA

One of my favourite executions of Nike’s retail presence is at The Grove in LA.  The  store has had several experiential areas, that in theory allow the customer to try before they buy, but in all honesty, it provides that element of theatre thats needed. They used to have an immersive basketball simulator that challenged users in their b-ball skills. They  had a football (soccer) court where people could have a kick about and latterly, they have a  running machine  which expertly crafts for an individual to help aid their running.

All providing the theatre but  creating real customer value. Showing for certain that  retail isn’t dead, its just that businesses need to  catch  up.

Pop-ups

The fact that many  digital retailers are clamouring  for  a physical presence is further evidence that retail isn’t dead. The likes of  Amazon, boohoo, RIPNDIP  and adidas  with its launch of NMD in London all created  pop-up retail experiences. Brands like Amazon and Missguided are securing  slightly longer term placements.

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up

The more successful of the  pop-up shops share a few commonalities. Perhaps the most  common is  creating an installation that will be  talked about and perhaps more importantly provide photo opportunities for content hungry  grammers.   Whether thats  with  a cool frontage, urban interiors or just some  cool  people that provide a crowd with  an interest point, again  something way  beyond the realms of  standard retail.

Government

Above all of this, even if the internet  isn’t damaging retail, or isn’t the complete cause, one thing is for  certain. If we want any  form of retail experience on our high   streets or in our town centres, local and central governments  need  to act.  Something needs  to  be done  to  encourage both shoppers and  retailers back  in to the spaces before  they are filled with  charity  shops or coffee shops.

The end  (is not) nigh

Hopefully this  piece has helped paint  a slightly  different  perspective on the current retail landscape. Its not all down to internet retailers. Retailers just need  to  get good again. Perhaps they key  is  also to stop relying on chains and  help  local shopkeepers get  back  to connecting and selling quality products to  their friends and neighbours.

The crux of  how  retail needs to  shape up, is surely by getting closer to the  customers again. Identifying  the customer wants and needs. Understanding  a customers desires and  what  will  attract somebody to visit your  store. Offer something  different and  dare I say it unique. It doesn’t have to  cost  the earth. Above all, embrace digital and make it a part of the customer experience and buying journey, then the whole retail perspective is modernised

I  would  love to  hear your views. Feel free to comment on this article, even  if you  disagree or perhaps agree,  let me know

 

 


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England Football Sponsorship

This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile with the title “Its Coming Home” if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn feel free to add me here

As England qualified last year, in all fairness from a pretty poor qualifying group, for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, few, if any football fans expected this success. When the groups were drawn, we were expected to qualify for the first knock-out stage but probably little beyond that.

The “tactical” defeat by a second string England side against a second string, albeit still very strong Belgium side, ensured they had an easier path to navigate in the knockout stages. However, as the team has progressed so have the emotions, so have the passions and so has the feel good factor around this little old country of England.

With political turmoil and ever growing confusion around Brexit, the fortunes of a little fancied football team are helping the country. Few would have planned, but the nation and business are more than happy to embrace this. As I write this, I am awaiting the France Vs Belgium game to see who our potential final (or 3rd place playoff) opponents will be).

So I take a non-fact based look at who I believe has done well from England’s unexpected performance.

The logical first port of call is to examine the official partners of The FA. If we progress to the final, I might even look at some of the unofficial brands that have made the most of the experience.

Vauxhall

First off we have Vauxhall, who are the closest of the FA partners to the relationship we used to have when I was at Nationwide. They have their names on the training kit, I assume they have access to players and they have rights to use the official badge and players in their marketing materials. Bizarrely though, the automotive brand seems to have failed to embrace either the success or even the fact they are a partner of the FA. Whilst it may difficult and costly for a larger company with rigid processes to adapt TV creative to respond to the current opportunity, they should be able to adapt press and could definitely make more of it on their social media. If you were to look at Vauxhall’s social media channels, even Facebook, the one they could adapt to location if they were worried about alienating people, there is no reference to football or England. The imaginative content the brand could have produced shows this is a huge missed opportunity and a bit of a shame.

Nike

As main kit suppliers Nike are embedded with the FA and fans alike. You can’t see England without seeing the famous tick. Nike’s potential issue in terms of really taking advantage of the current buzz is their global accounts and their stable of countries they are involved with. Nike actually supplies kit for three of the four semi-finalists, with only Belgium bucking the trend with their adidas kit. Nike is so in to its brand with amazing executions, that genuine football fans would forgive them and still consider them part of what was going on. They could still do a bit more in terms of content and tailoring their properties for the English market, but they do pretty well.

Buildbase

Now maybe I am not their target customer. OK. I am not the Buildbase target customer, but until I looked it up, I had no idea that they were a partner of The FA and haven’t seen them at all in conjunction with this England push. Even when looking at their social accounts, you would be forgiven for not realising they were so closely aligned. Apart from a quite poor game and some unimaginative posts the brand seems to have wasted its opportunity to engage and undoubted football audience. Perhaps you can move in their stores for football paraphernalia

Mars

Mars have been involved with the FA for some time and the are great at capitalising on their relationship. They do have the undoubted advantage of selling quite a few of their products and being able to put on pack promotions and messages that are in pretty much every supermarket, petrol station and convenience store in the England. Their ATL efforts clearly align them to the football team and there is no doubt of the connection. As England have progressed, it feels their ads are more regular which shows great ability to capitalise on the mood of the nation. Bizarrely, if there is a weakness in its armoury, again it is in content and social media, where its Mars football accounts have small following, infrequent posts and low engagement.

Lidl

After a successful partnership with Sainsbury over the years, it came as some surprise that Lidl was unveiled as its new partner. The Lidl TV ads were actually fun and engaging and really use humour and the human angle to captivate an audience. However in terms of retail execution, something was awry. Particularly as Sainsbury’s still seemed to have a volume of “official” England merchandise available in store. Its presence on content on both Twitter and Facebook appear strong, however Instagram feels the poor relation. Overall though it was a good showing from the German retailer.

Carlsberg

Carlsberg extended its long-standing relationship with the England football team. With other relationships in football the brand has genuinely smashed it again. A strong branded website and great content relevant to its audience. Again, the publishing of social could be stronger but assets are strong.

Lucozade Sport

With a reputation engrained in sports its not really a surprise that Lucozade have a good take on how to run a sports marketing initiative. Their on pack materials are limited but the content they have produced is strong and lives comfortably across all social channels. They have done good work with many influencers both football and non-football related. It was surprising that there wasn’t more native video built specifically for the platforms and for others to push out and share.

Overall, of the official partners I looked at their pushing of the association with the England team is mixed. Very few have really taken the tactical opportunity of the unexpected success. None of the brands, with the exception of Nike delivered a particularly strong presence in terms of social.

I feel Vauxhall who had the biggest right to do something was the biggest disappointment. So, if anybody from Vauxhall is reading this, get in touch.

The lesson for me from this exercise is one of how to tactically take advantage of an event (that may be unexpected). Also, how much potential there is in the realms of sponsorship and sports marketing, still out there in relation to social media. Now that gives me an idea…

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign


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Defining a good Collaboration

Brands through the years have been jostling for position as the leader in their category. Some have done this through innovation in product design. Some have focussed on providing excellent customer service and others on generating a go to brand.  There are many other ways brands have attempted to be top dog, however a common method is by creating collaborations.

Collaborations can take various forms an can centre on partnerships between brands and individuals, brands and various bodies and of course brands with other brands.  Collaborations are not mere marketing tactics, sponsorship and ads cannot be confused with collaborations. Collaborations, in their truest sense are when two parties work together to create something.  In fact to put it more succinctly below is the definition from Business Dictionary

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 22.36.43

Fashion and sports industries have been at the heart of these collaborations for some time. However other brands such as tech companies and car marques have taken great strides in their collaborations.

So, what is the basis of a good collaboration?

  1. Objectives

Now stating objectives might seem obvious. But for me, this is crucial to ensure that everybody involved understands why you are doing the collaboration.  All stakeholders involved need to share the same goals and adhere to the same objectives.

The basis of all collaborations isn’t necessarily always down to a direct ROI and instant revenue from the product you create.

Shot of Charli XCX in her exclusive boohoo range

Charli XCX x boohoo

An example of this that I personally worked on was CharliXCX x boohoo. The basis behind this was to open boohoo up to the slightly edgier girl.  However, the primary objective was to help accelerate our launch in the US by achieving greater levels of press coverage.  The multi-collection collaboration did well in terms of sales, however, as a business this wasn’t our primary objective.  We answered the questions in relation to our investment by achieving press coverage of a much greater value than the monetary investment placed by boohoo.  The coverage we got in fashion and lifestyle publications and websites in the US such as Access Hollywood and Yahoo Celebrity would have been close to impossible with a standard fashion message.

2. Credibility

This is a tricky angle for a brand to tackle.  How can you use a collaboration to make your brand more credible and become accessible to a wider and critical audience?  Well Monster managed to crack this in one of the early celebrity/influencer collaborations when it partnered with “gangsta rapper” Dr Dre to create Monster Beats.  Monster created some good, but lets be honest, not great earwear but with the power of Dre behind it, the brand and hardware became instantly credible and sold in bucket loads.  Obviously we all know that this didn’t end particularly well and Dre and Monster split with Dre creating Beats by Dre which literally earned him a hood full of cash.

Picture of Dr Dre

Dre teamed up with Monster for his first Beats collection

 

3. Expertise

Sometimes there are specialist audiences or areas to target that are just to difficult to do on your own.  Nike are the kings of collaborations and their recent decision to tie-up with Muslin Athletes to create a Nike Hijab is inspired.  Not only does it open the brand up in a new way it also provides quality items with branding that was previously difficult to attain.  Obviously it is too early to decide if this is a commercial success, but the attention the collaboration has received has probably warranted the decision.

Image of woman in nike Hijab

Nike team up with Muslim athletes to create its own Nike Hijab

4. Commercial

When Nike first teamed up with NBA legend Michael Jordan, it was largely to gain a foothold in the streetwear market.  Yes, it was a collaboration that used Jordan‘s athletic prowess to produce footwear that aided athletic performance. However, Jordan was so synonymous with America’s urban black culture at the time, that the main benefit was to create quality AthLeisure.  The solid product placement in Spike Lee‘s film Do The Right Thing really cemented its place in Hip Hop and Urban culture.

Air Jordan logo

Nike Air Jordan one of the finest collaborations of the modern era

5. Creativity

When Land Rover wanted to make its baby Range Rover Evoque stand out they called on the fashion expertise of none other than Victoria Beckham. The Posh brand (Becks that is not Range Rover) is so popular across the globe, but never more so then China, Brazil and the Middle East all breakthrough markets at the time for the vehicle marque. Only a few hundred of Beckham’s Evoque’s went on sell, however the model became quickly known as the car Victoria Beckham designed.  There are many other examples of vehicle manufacturers teaming up with designers to ensure creativity comes to the fore.

Victoria Beckham and Range Rover Evoque

Victoria Beckham and the Range Rover Evoque she designed

6. Stature

When a high street brand wants to attract a more affluent customer or help its core customers buy up by feeling part of something bigger, what do they do?  Well team up with a major designer of course.

This goes on in fashion on a pretty frequent basis and one of the best examples is Balmain x H&M.  The collaboration saw prestige designer Balmain create a capsule range for the global high street fashion retailer.  Obviously, H&M isn’t budget anyway, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, but the difference between brands was still marked.  The success of the collaboration was unprecedented with the whole collection selling out, queues around the block in major cities across the globe including fashion capitals New York and London and items selling on eBay for pretty much close to the price tag of core Balmain items.

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign

Balmain x H&M was a successful collaboration

 

 


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Impact of Urban Culture on Sports Brands

Once upon a time, a long time ago – people lived nice comfortable middle class lives.  They listened to their lovely music which the whole family enjoyed.  However this changed in the late 70s early 80s when a new culture began to impact on lives.  Initially this was underground culture in the US.  However as it grew bigger in the US and grew from underground to niche it began to migrate to the UK, becoming huge in the 90s.

After reading that opening paragraph you might be wondering what the hell I am talking about.  Well let me explain.

At last the youth of this era had something they could relate to that wasn’t ageing long haired rockers, thrashing their guitars and screaming like banshees.  This was the emergence of urban culture.  The most noted rise at this point was actually in Hop Hop culture with b-boys, breakdancers and of course Hip Hop (Rap) music.  At the same time though was another strand including House.

The main impact happenned when Grandmaster Flash released the seminal piece of Whitelines, noted for its mesmoric tune and catchy chorus this track took to the airwaves.  Granted some radio DJs and music commentators took their time to link to the obvious link to drugs, and maybe that’s the reason for its success.  But this was the start.

The culture wasn’t limited to the music, along with the music came the dance.  Along with the dance came the clothing.  Along with the clothing came a new attitude.  An attitude of change and challenge.  This new urban culture was all about bucking the trend.  This was something adopted very early by youths in the UK, particularly and perhaps understandably by youths of an Afro-Carribean descent.  It gave them a powerful voice, that demanded to be listened to.  Of course it touched and impacted people from all different types of backgrounds.

The culture has evolved a lot through the years and has touched many areas, including film, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was a chilling tell of life in New York at the time.  This sparked a whole genre of films which created new directors and became more challenging Boys In The Hood and New Jack City.  It also created a brand of humour through the likes of House Party and White Men Can’t Jump.

It wasn’t just Hollywood that was challenged.  Spike Lee appeared in a memorable ad for Nike which transformed the brand from very White Middle Class athletic wear to edgy fashion items.  This was carried on by Nike owning the basketball space with launching  Nike Air Jordan in 1984.  More recently areas such as street tournaments have taken off, which really focusses on bring sport to the real street level.

I caught up with Ortis Deley, presenter on Channel 5s Gadget Show and he summed it up really well for me  “I think the two have become synergistic.  I can’t imagine one without the other.  The eighties have a lot to answer for.”  The 80s for me was the real initial link, back to Public Enemy and Troop.

But why did urban culture adopt sportswear? And importantly what does it actually mean?

Why was sportswear adopted in urban culture?

There is no 100% certain answer to this.  When the adoption first happenned the figures ‘on the streets’ were generally young men.  They played sport both seriously and as a hobby.  As sportswear brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas took the lead from niche players such as Troop they developed the styles and fashion of their product.  Increasingly changing ranges meant youths wanted to gain bragging rights by owning the latest trainer.

Technology was increasing as well.  Cushioned platforms in the trainer (that were the preserve of the expensive running shoe) were being put in more trainers, most famously in Nike Air trainers and later with Reebok’s Pump trainers.  Purely and simply this made them the most comfortable footwear around.  Ideal for kicking about “on the street”.

Perhaps the biggest influence however was when Nike got Spike Lee the symbolic figure in urban culture endorsing their brand.  The advert and strong endorsement was seen as a massive step forward, adding the fact that the products appeared by name in the firs t massive hit from Spike Lee “Do the Right Thing” meant that the link was cemented.  All Nike had to do was claim the link between culture and its range and the job was done.

Nike (perhaps) more successfully than any of its rivals did more than that.  They adopted a massive link to possibly the “greatest athlete on earth” at the time Michael Jordan.  The man could do no wrong.  He won everything in his sport and due to his text book style to dunking he (and Nike) created a symbol.  This symbol and Jordan himself became the must have for any youth.

The film tie-ins continued with Nike again associated in one of the biggest ‘urban’ films of the 90s in White Men Can’t Jump’ the comedy that took the link further and actually made a movie about basketball, street culture and music. Making fun of the apparently ‘clutsy white men’ Woody Harrelson, pumping up his trainers, whilst the uber cool Wesley Snipes starred in is Nikes.

What does it actually mean?

Well sports brands that get the link become part of everyday life within street culture.  People often don’t say do you like my trainers, they say do you like my Nikes? Or my Reeboks?  The segement are willing to pay top money for the right product as a lot of the focus is on bragging rights and getting the latest and best.

If a brand can capture the audience, they can make them fiercely loyal.  I remember in my group of friends growing up, peers that would only buy Nike (even after Jordan had finished) – I myself bought a pair of the second generation Jordans when they were re-released.

The culture is very demading though.  Not only do the brands need to keep up its innovation to make the product better than its competitors it also needs to invest in its brands.  This investment needs to be in design and notably also in its endorsements.

Again, Nike is particularly good at this.  The influence of culture from the states has diminished slightly and the super-icons of the football world are now more prominent again.  Nike has the majority of key names in this field including the entire Brazil National Team and did a great job with the likes of Edgar Davids, Ronaldinho and currently Cristiano Ronaldo.  However, Adidas reacted in this space and have their own stable of stars including Lampard and Messi.

The connections have become so interlinked that in some people’s minds this the two have fused together.  I think this is best illustrated by the street tournaments that various brands have organised.  A great example is Usain Bolt racing through the streets courtesy of Puma.

The biggest positive to the whole relationship is that the brands have created genuine role models for people to aspire to.  The likes of Michael Jordan was a great positive example during a time when music was creating role models that parents didn’t want their children to aspire to. Nike has had a great reputation of this using the likes of Tiger Woods (although he managed to harm this), Kobe Bryant and now Puma with Usain Bolt

Whilst this is a lucrative market, because of its demanding nature it is as much about fashion as it is endorsement.

In short, if a brand can crack this area and maintain both its credibility and relevance it is on to a winner.  If it doesn’t it will have no place to play (where are Troop and Fila now?)


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Celebrity Endorsements

With high-profile celebrity status, endorsements, sponsorship and advertising deals generally follow.  However sometimes the celebrity face becomes stronger than the brand itself.  If a brand is to select a celebrity to front their brand then they need to be 100% certain it they will resonate with the target audience and act as a suitable ambassador.

Sadly with some celebrities comes a fair share of controversy.  The likes of Tiger Woods and John Terry have brought shame upon themselves recently and haven’t reflected well on their brands.  The likes of Kerry Katona and David Beckham have also caused their brand associations to become strained over the years.  Some of these celebrities have done minor things which in the grand scheme of things aren’t huge, some of created furore bordering on national disgraces.

So why do brands continue to use celebrities? What are the risks? What are the benefits? And are there alternatives?

Why use celebrities?

Brands that produce or sell luxury goods often use celebrities.  They choose celebrities that they perceive share the same values as their products. Celebrities that offer the glamour, to portray their products as aspirational to the general public.  The perfume and cosmetic industries generally use glamorous or beautiful people to show how effective their products are.  These celebrities have generally been huge celebs from supermodels to hollywood stars.

Another key trick is to pick up on somebody that’s popular or hot at the moment.  Whilst I mentioned in the above post of perfume and cosmetics companies picking über glamour, brands like L’Oreal are experts at hand-picking people “of the moment”, classic examples include Cheryl Cole and at one point footballer David Ginola.  Garnier also pulled off the coup of grabbing a popular celebrity by enrolling Davina McCall.  There are other cases when companies get it wrong, remember Jason McAteer advertising shampoo? More bad decisions later in this post.

The potential

Get the celebrity right and your brand could be off to a flyer.  The endorsement is believable and customers want to be associated with the brand as much as the celebrity.  Get it wrong and the endorsement looks at best paid for and at worse ridiculous.  Of course it isn’t always down to the celebrity, sometimes it is as much the cheesy production of an ad that breaks down the credibility – Jamie Redknapp and Louise Redknapp holiday commercial anybody?  It can also be the innocent and bizzarrely naive actions that undermine the endorsement (David Beckham shaven his head whilst advertising Brylcreem).  Whatever the case brands need to have a plan in place to mitigate poor choices by either their agency or celebrity figurehead.

The potential is also great.  If you can get an up and coming act at the start of their rise you could benefit in two ways.  Ride the crest of their rise to fame and receive some quedos in terms of helping them achieve their goals.  If the tie-up works as it should in your strategy meetings then there is no reason why you can’t succeed.  Nike seem great at this. They consistently select sports stars that embody sporting excellence and in the main shy away from bad news stories.  They also execute their merchandising, promotion and Marketing strategies with clinical expertise.  Michael Jordan was perhaps the best example of this.  Jordan was an NBA superstar, Nike created an image for Jordan and in terms helped him reach World status, perhaps unrivalled by any NBA star either then or now.  They have also successfully used the Brazilian national football team to great effect.  Their ads show the squad performing awe-inspiring tricks whilst maintaining a genuine feel to what is being played out on TV.  However this particular tie has also caused controversy, with concerns over the depth of influence Nike has on the Brazilian national association.

Good tie-ins

So as mentioned previously good tie-ins are ones that match celebrities with the brand.  Maybe they share similar values or appeal to the same audience.  They match has to be believable and resonate with the audience.  Below are my suggestions of good tie-ins.

Nike and Micheal Jordan

For all the reasons highighted previousy, Jordan became bigger than an NBA star, bigger than the man himself.  Jordan became a ridiculously huge commercial engine.  The relationship was part of Nike’s desire to corner sporting excellence with their brand.  Jordan also gave Nike the urban edge, with Nike Air Jordan shoes the choice footwear for Hip Hop stars and fans.

L’Oreal and Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole has had her issues in her past, including allegations of racial assault.  However the Girls Aloud star has turned things around since becoming one of the key faces in the band and a judge on X-Factor.  Her showbiz marriage to controversial footballer Ashley Cole also made her a media darling.  With Ashleys alleged extra-marital activities she came from being and aggressor to a strong independent woman.  This mix of defined character and huge success was an instant pull for L’Oreal and despite Cole’s strong North East accent, she fitted the role perfectly.

Sainsburys and Jamie Oliver

Sainsburys have long battled the likes of Tesco to become a force in the highly competitive supermarket sector.  This has been helped in no small means by TV chef Jamie Oliver.  Jamie was always well liked as a TV personality, however he took a few risks that could have back fired.  Taking on the government and schools to improve school dinners propelled Jamie into the big time.  This good feeling towards Jamie has rubbed off on to Sainsburys.  The tie-in also works due to Jamie being famous for food, which is the staple component of Sainsburys.

Walkers and Gary Lineker

Walkers crisps have gone from another snack food company to the dominant player in UK crisps and snacks.  This incredible journey has gone almost hand-in-hand with taking local star and national hero Gary Lineker.  The ads and concepts have adapted over the years, but Lineker is a constant.  Even off the back of the ex-England stars marriage breakdown, Lineker has remained a popular figure.

Bad tie-ins

The tie-ins here are about as popular as a fart in a lift.  Some due to poor judgement in terms of celebrity, others due to actions after becoming associated to the brand.  Either way, just take a look and squirm or tell me how wrong I am.

Iceland and Kerry Katona

So when Iceland first pulled off the coup of landing Jungle queen Kerry their ad execs must have been rubbing their hands together.  They had one of the nations favourite and a normal down to earth girl made good.  Unfortunately, the public very quickly saw Kerry as a figure to loathe rather than love, not helped by her own misdemeanours.  Since then Katona has come out as having problems with various addictions, debt and failed relationships.  Iceland have since dropped Katona

Accenture and Tiger Woods

Accenture one of the world’s premier consulting firms paid a massive sum to use the image of undoubtedly the world’s best golfer, the Jordan of PGA and all round admired sports star, Tiger Woods.  Tiger has since been found to have a number of extra-marital affairs and has been treated for alleged sex addiction.  Tiger was all over the front pages for all the wrong reasons.  Tiger was promptly dropped by Accenture.

What is the alternative?

So as discussed the potential for a star to gain bad press through either misguided naivity or more worryingly through poor actions that damage their public equity as well as a brands.  So despite all the benefits should you do something else?

Well brands such as Halifax and B&Q have used their own staff to varying degrees of success.  This isnt always the best route as you aren’t guaranteed to find a personality big enough to make an impact or if you do, they could become primadonnas.  This provides equal issue of reliance on a face to lead your brand.

So how about using a character?  Advertising seems to go through cyclical phases where characters become the force and celebrities go into the background.  At the moment some of the most successful ad campaigns feature characters.  Immediate campaigns that spring to mind include Meerkat, Compare the Market, Opera singer, Go Compare and Churchill the nodding dog, Churchill Insurance.  Bizarrely, all of these are finance related.  These factors can be as problematic as celebrities.  With characters you are generally expected to tell a story and improve on one campaign to another.  The non-finance ad that springs to mind is Cillit Bang.  The ad campaign also pushed Barry Scott in to becoming a cult figure, especially within student communities.  However an outburst by the character on social media and the uncovering that Barry was indeed made up has meant to concept has backfired.

Another alternative, which may sound groundbreaking is concentrate on your company, your business and promote what is good or different about it.  Or pick a theme that can create a platform as opposed to a one-off.

Potential future tie-ins

So to sign off, I thought I would suggest a few light hearted tie-ins.

Dolmio and Joe Calzaghe – Dolmio’s animated Italians would be no match for World Champion boxer Calzaghe.  Would his Welsh accent generate credibility issues?

Red Bull and Robbie Williams – Robbie made a particularly highly charged performance on X Factor.  This could easily be the result of a Red Bull marathon.

Specsavers and Arsene Wenger – The Arsenal manager is well known for saying, “I didn’t see anything” – maybe Specsavers could set the Frenchman’s sight back to 20:20.

Kalms and Naomi Campbell – World renowned laid back super model Campbell would be the perfect ambassador for Kalms.  She could even undertake roadshows highlighting to the public how to avoid conflict.

Disney Channel and Amy Winehouse – A match made in heaven.  The world’s cleanest and happiest TV channel with, um, err, Amy Winehouse.


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When Virtual Becomes Reality

t-mobile flashmob-dance-tv adWhen Virtual Becomes Reality

FlashMobs were once the buzz of those in the know.  Mobile and online communities creating a mass gathering, normally just for the sake of it. This has now been given mainstream status by the recent T-Mobile ads.

 

Nowadays with the rise of social media the distance between virtual and reality are becoming ever more blurred. People have for years used social media (chats, blogs and forums) to arrange meetings with others with similar interests.

 

 

At present social networking is used to generate mass awareness, awareness within niche areas or to generate attendance at events.

 But the world of virtual and reality are colliding and the masses are joining forces to meet with fellow followers, whilst at the same time raising money for charities. What am I talking about?  Twestival is a perfect example of this.

Twestival saw Twitter users, followers, Tweeters create events all over the world in over 200 towns and cities, raising over $250,000 for water projects in Ethopia. This isn’t isolated, who can forget the infamous Facebook waterfight. Two things make Twestival stand out from my point of view, the fact that Twitter has only recently hit the mainstream and that given the current economic climate it was all done for charity.

 facebook waterfight

 

Examples of brands identifying this phenomena early and making it work to their advantage are Innocent (and the innocent village fete which uses Flickr and Blogs) and Nike utilising actual products (Nike+) and creating a massive buzz around a sports event. Not only did Nike create a one of buzz, it has successfully maintained a passionate and engaged community. There is a real connection between the concept, the events, exercise and the Nike brand. Members of that community are very likely to be strong advocates of the Nike+ product.

To my mind, very few organisations have really struck a chord with their target audience in social media. However those that find a winning concept will not only create immense brand awareness. Their strategies should also engender loyalty and in turn sales.

Maybe its an old fashioned marketing theory. But if you give people something that they want or need and create a buzz from more than just one medium – you should just get a winning formula.

You can keep up to date with Twestival updates by following on Twitter


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Top 5 TV Ads

 

This is a list of my Top 5 favourite recent or current TV ads.This won’t feature the usual high-budget productions from Nike, Guinness or Coca Cola that you are used to seeing. For me the ads on this list off something different. Create engagement, impact or break the mould in their sector. 

1. Cadburys Dairy Milk

The latest series of ads are both creative and show a brave move from the Cadburys Head of Advertising. Rather than concentrating on the chocolate or people enjoying the flavours, Cadburys have created a new stance. They have managed to mix music with humour and creativity and not once does if feel like the brand is being bastardised. Hats off to Cadburys and their agency on these. I could have picked any of the recent series, the Gorilla is probably best known, however due to currency and sheer weirdness I have selected the two kids with the 80s watch and eyebrows.

2. Compare The Market

This ad is a fine example of where creativity takes a lead over the brand police. Obviously the outcome of a creative think tank, the agency that came up with this concept probably couldn’t believe their luck when their client bit. The ad lends itself to some neat viral activity with a spin off website comparing Meerkats. It also very simply gets the message of Compare the market across. Its use of the web to extend the campaign further is a fabulous example of using all channels effectively. The Meerkat with his simples slogan, could also become a great icon. Visit Compare the Meerkat – its worth a look

3. PG Tips

The series of ads featuring Johnny Vegas and Monkey from ITV Digital is a genius idea from the outset. However the latest ad which shows the over complex method of making a cup of tea. Including the milking of the cow and Vegas dancing with Monkey to the Stripper by David Rose. It takes on some classic cartoon style moments as well as classic slapstick. There is no other tea to beat PG

 4. T-Mobile

The first time this was aired was as an exclusive to channel 4. With over 2 minutes of footage from a ‘flash mob’ in Liverpool Street train station, London – it took a while for the pay-off to show that it was an ad for T-Mobile. What T-Mobile created here was a talking point, a stand-still moment that is very rare in advertising. The slimmed down versions are no less entertaining. Whether this is more than a good one-off remains to be seen. The snippet showing a bar-code is hardly inspirational. However as a piece of creative with standout, this is up there.

5. Virgin Atlantic

The ad works on a number of levels. Maybe it is a generation thing. Maybe it’s the visual clues to the 80s, Wimpey and Our Price. Maybe it’s the distinctive Frankie sound-track. Maybe it’s the vivid colours used on the cabin crews uniform and the photogrpahy in the background. Whatever the reason. The ad works – it simply and effectively puts Virgin’s birthday message across (something I wasn’t even aware of before the ads)

Nearly made it: 

 

Nationwide Building Society OK, so I may be a little biased here (having had a hand in the development of these ads). However, Nationwide broke the mould in terms of advertising Financial Services products. Rather than solely concentrating on the product and the potentially good rate, they took a brave step of moving to a situational approach. It focussed on exactly what Nationwide isn’t by introducing the bungling Bank Manager, played by Mark Benton. This combination of good story, good one liners and a pay off, mean it is without doubt worthy of a place. Also, it was a contributory factor to the downfall of those annoying Halifax/Howard ads.

 Barclaycard  The ad with the slide is another fine example of standout within a sector. Finance is slowly moving away from the stayed boring ads. Visually it stands out with good filmography and great visual clues to every day life (Scanning card in supermarket). The music is unusual (Let your love flow by The Bellamy Brothers) offering standout. The addition of a few funny elements such as getting stuck on the slide and the towel line, means this deserves a mention.

Love to hear your views.  Do my choices resonate with you?  Or do they jar with every sense you use?