Tag Archives: creative

The Best of a Marketer’s Diary (March 2012)

Since May last year I have been capturing ads which have made an impression on me and tried to explain why. I look around all the time for marketing messages (it’s part of my job) and attempt to choose one each day which really stands out, to me. At times, the pickings are pretty lean. But on occasions true gems emerge. Each month I publish the previous month’s highlights.

In March I have found a mixed bag. The deluge of disappointing Olympic executions continue to underwhelm. Fortunately, there are some really smart media placements and clever emotionally engaging ads out there at present to restore the quality balance.

In the ‘oh my goodness, did they really do that’ bracket we find soft toy incentives in exchange for credit card take up and José Mourinho’s brand continues to be butchered by an asset management company. 

But at the other end of the quality scale, the following are at the top of my crop:

Best alternative pricing message – Marks & Spencer

This isn’t just pricing. This is M&S pricing.

Who else can pull this off? They are bundling product and selling it cheap and yet we still look at it as a ‘Saturday indulgence’. With many brands looking to move away from fruitless pricing strategies, this is a prime example of how to do it without compromising the brand.

Best use of a celebrity asset – Vitamin Water / Jessie J

So let’s get this straight, it’s not about the price tag. Jesse J is hot sponsorship property at the moment and she doesn’t mind playing the game. From tights to flavoured water, she’s helping brands get some bang for their marketing buck. With her music on teenagers ipods, her face all over the billboards and personality arriving on BBC prime time she’s a short cut for what’s hot for the mainstream late thirty somethings. Vitamin Water have done more with the property than most linking the Olympics tie up of P&G with a party and a specially designed bottle. Not quite brand activation in the league of B&Q (our current favourite in this space), but a country mile more sophisticated than slapping Jose’s face on your ad and calling your asset management business ‘the other special one’ (sadly a true story).

Best innovative use of a conventional media – Sky Atlantic/ MadMen

This is as much for the 60s ads that ran in the first episode ad breaks as for the posters. Such an impression have Stirling, Draper and the gang made on us that we need only a straight shot of a character to start drooling over the anticipated new Mad Men series. Bit too much of a sepia wash for my liking on these – it’s as if we were going back to the 40s rather than rushing from the 50s into the 60s (but given it’s Mad Men, they are forgiven of course).

And the significant PR coverage from this stunt hasn’t escaped my notice either. With one commentator perfectly stating how the ad break can often ‘rip’ the viewer from the mood and atmosphere created by a period show back to the present. But not on this occasion, the ads respect the show!

April 2011 will be the last monthly post before the Best in Marketing Communications 2011/2012 grand final. Until then, I hope you enjoy these March highlights. For the full March selection visit the flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/66864671@N00/

Posted by Christopher Brooks.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which achieves cut-through propositions for our clients. To do this we look beyond the familar towards the unordinary. 

To find out more about what we do and if that might be of interest to you please visit our website lexdengroup.com

Or contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. 

Can crime be inspirational in marketing?

We work with service brands to help them build better propositions for their customers. Part of the what we do involves ideation type activities to find more engaging ways for brands to resonate with customers.

Using creative activities, the sessions are structured so that clients arrive at new and unordinary outcomes. One of my favourite parts of the job is to hear the exciting ideas generated during these sessions. To  achieve this we spend time at Lexden honing the creative activities we use in the workshops to achieve results.

So when I come across examples of propositions in market which are different to the norm I will take a step back and consider how their process might have worked to allow them to get to somewhere new.

One area I always feel must be challenging to arrive at ‘out of the box’ solutions is crime prevention, given the seriousness and the public scrutiny of the subject matter. But as these examples show, it is possible to arrive at some very unexpected solutions.

Fashion defence

Japanese designer,  Aya Tsukioka created a dress which doubles as a Coca Cola vending machine should the owner feel threatened and want to blend into the background.

Bonkers, perhaps. But I believe it’s an idea which has only been conceived because of the type of contributors involved. When running ideation sessions it’s important to make sure the invitation list is wide reaching and includes those you wouldn’t normally turn to for solutions but have insight into the subject in hand.  

In financial services I find people from risk are very good at idea generation if given encouragement. Give these renegade types (the non-marketers) the tools and permission to run off in unordinary directions and they will often surprise you with the territories and solutions they get to.

Miss Tsukioka said: ‘It is just easier for Japanese women to hide. Making a scene would be too embarrassing.’ She added: ‘These ideas might strike foreigners as far fetched, but in Japan, they can become reality.’

From DC to Brazil

Andre Luiz Pinheiro, a retired police officer, has been drafted in by the police to the Brazilian city of Taubate. In a city where the murder rate is 12 times that of London they have turned to fiction to change the crime facts.

Andre is Batman. Batman is Andre. And he is inspiring children to consider an alternative life than crime, “I am fighting crime in a preventative way by helping these children to avoid becoming criminals.”

It’s a long term strategy which has the full support of the police. They were looking for symbols of good that they could leverage and help inspire children.

Batman fits ‘the bill’.

Imagine how that would have sounded when it first came up in the ideation session! To let these ideas live a little, it’s important to forget the world in which you inhabit sometimes and think about your audiences world in order to see what the outcome might look like – as they would have done here. Is it working? Time will tell.

Crime can backfire as a creative territory

But as this Sony example shows, using crime as an entry point for something as escapist as entertainment is more challenging to pull off.

When Sony launched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on DVD they decided to style the DVD to look like a pirate copy.

I have seen the Swedish original and assume the piracy theme is meant to link more to the crime genre rather than the film itself. But either way it was intended to make the film stand out.

And it did, but not in the way intended. Those renting the DVD thought the shoddy looking production was really a pirate copy and not a gimmick. So rather than enjoy the film, thousands returned it to their DVD rental store for a genuine replacement. Only to find out it was genuine. Do you think that enhanced their enjoyment of the film? I assume not.

It also highlights how some territories don’t work so well when creating ideas for products or campaigns. Whilst an interesting idea, if the agency had run a ‘de-risk’ activity after the idea was conceived they would have spotted this potential flaw, looked into it further and canned the idea. The de-risk activity is an important post-idea generation exercise often overlooked. 

So there is much to learn from crime when it comes to idea generation. I hope these examples inspire you to push your ideation sessions a little further.

My point is this; as long as you start with a customer’s motivations and end with customer betterment, by leveraging a brand’s advantage and validating the viability of any solution, then what you do inbetween needs to break the rules in order to be authentic and stand-out.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which achieves cut-through propositions for our clients. To do this we look beyond the familar towards the unordinary. To find out more about what we do and if that might be of interest to you please visit our website lexdengroup.com

Or contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. 

Creating brilliant ideas is in all of us

If your position requires you to be creative, you are blessed. It’s a privilege to be encouraged to suspend what you know and create what doesn’t exist. I am fortunate to count myself as one of those who spends time each week creating.

My creative bias is marketing strategy, but I think my point holds for most genres of the artistic science. But it’s not an exclusive club. We are all gifted with ability to create, given the right ingredients.

#1 Take from your own creative palette

Once you’ve got a brief (focused permission) you need a palette of reference. This is personal and it’s different for us all. For some it’s Ian Dury, a passion for designer shoes, an obsession with the Four Tops, the last year of lectures at university or even the pop culture consumed over the weekend. All have been quoted back to me as inspiration behind an idea.

Of course our sources and memories are vast, unstructured, badly organised and blurred over time which makes it the greatest library for creativity available to us – so use it.

The reason being that as Paul Arden sort of puts it, ‘it does not matter where you take ideas from, it’s where you take them to which matters.’

#2 Building your own ideas labyrinth

I have ways to structure ideas, and techniques to hold thoughts and return to them and add small advancement weeks later.  They have taken years of refining by listening to others approaches and forming my own archaic but ultimately successful network in my mind. As a consequence they are messy and probably only effective for me.

#3 Finding your own creative workshop

But there is one aspect which I believe can be replicated by all and that’s the creative space. You never hear a rock star saying I wrote the hit whilst sat at my desk. Unless you apply a regimental Roald Dahl like approach to creating ideas (yellow pencils, yellow paper, white writing shed, red tin of sweets, green sleeping bag etc) I suggest finding a variety of places which encourage your creativity. Find places which trigger ideas by their significance or by highlighting your own insignificance. Either way they inspire me to arrive at new outcomes I hadn’t reached before I spent time there. Below are three of my favourite. I like to think of them as my creative workshops.

The British Museum workshop

I recently met with a friend in the cafe and we came up with an idea which could change his life and possibly a way in which an established part of his industry works. It’s the height here. You sit with one hundred and fifty feet of headspace. And all areas are shared so you get a buzz all the time from the lives others are living around you. And whilst all around are consuming we are creating. Contributing to the future. NB. Bring some change as the cafe doesn’t take plastic for less than £5.

The Building Centre (Store Street) workshop

When you walk in you are welcomed by a 3D model of London’s landscape including those planned developments. You can trace your route to work and figure out in miniature how much of London’s footprint you actually cover. I’d suggest unless you are a town planner, cabbie or a tourist it’s probably not very much.

Move around the centre and you will find 3D photocopiers, new material exhibitions and stories about the impact of commercial and residential developments in London.

You feel like you are getting the ‘inside’ story on the city, which is empowering. You start to see something you know very well from a new perspective. Bingo. This is exactly why it provides such a fabulous new canvas for creativity. There are many break out areas and a decent cafe too.

Edinburgh Castle view workshop (Princes Street)

High above Princes Street in Edinburgh is the Debenhams Cafe which, with its convex windows, has a ceiling to floor view over Princes Street Gardens and up towards Edinburgh Castle. Take lunch at 1pm and you can even hear the roar of the ceremonial cannon. It’s never occupied by anyone except shoppers so you can lose yourself in thought and vista. The clash of timeless significance and throw away everyday retail make it a heady cocktail.

It’s the sort of view of the castle many are looking for, but it’s not the sort of place you’d think to come to get it so you can get lost in your thought. Admittedly the windows need a clearer Perspex solution, but the view has always fuelled my imagination.

Obviously, we are all gifted with the ability to create ideas. We do it everyday. If it’s your job you’d hope you are better at it than others. But if you can create the right environment, it’s interesting to see what you can achieve.

So if you want to be creative, you need do nothing more than get off your backside and take a walk. It’s free and it frees the mind. And who knows the rest might just come to you.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which achieves cut-through propositions for our clients. To do this we look beyond the familar towards the unordinary. To find out more about what we do and if that might be of interest to you please visit our website lexdengroup.com

Or contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. 

Unordinary Thinking No.15 – Using death to create life and other stories, by SJ Watson

Being a law abiding citizen, I had never really thought that I could be inspired by crime, but that’s what happened last week.

I was lucky enough to be at an inspirational evening with SJ Watson last week including a reading from his best-selling crime novel, ‘Before I go to sleep’. As many will know this is his debut novel, in fact the fastest selling crime book ever from a new author. And before it even hit the number one spot in the Times crime novel list, Ridley Scott had snapped up the film rights. Which for an author who still holds a part time (although not drawing a salary) post with the NHS his story seems more like fiction.

During the evening he revealed how this overnight success actually took many months of writing and editing and a few years before that believing and growing in confidence as a writer. Which owed as much to the creativity in his process as anything else.

As the evening unfolded I was looking to pick up tips to help stimulate my own future writing ambitions but, in truth, I was finding I was also picking up a number of creative thinking suggestions to improve my present occupation as a strategic marketer.

Through his explanation of the creative writing process I found there were some interesting parallels between his world and my own. We both look to create a plan to achieve a goal and are heavily reliant on smart interpretation of research to create structure and need to inject this with creativity to achieve compelling output. Whilst I’m not convinced a strategic marketing plan would ever make the Richard & Judy Book Club, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a boardroom page turner.

I believe great marketing strategy is achieved when you focus on where you take ideas to, not where you take them from. So with that in mind, indulge me and I’ll illustrate two of the many things from the world of crime writing which you can apply to the strategic marketing day job:

#1 A crime novelist researches characters; a strategic marketer looks deeply at customer insight

In order to breathe life into characters and develop their profile, SJ Watson looks for neatly packaged articulations of a life. And he finds these in obituaries, where a person’s entire life is summarised. Their stand out moments, achievements and defining characteristics are captured in a few short paragraphs. Very quickly you recognise and establish a portrait in your mind. Take this back into customer insight activities to frame segments and you will find it a very smart, and quite dramatic way to bring a segment to life. Try it, it works.

#2 A crime novelist builds his story around ‘magnetic ideas’; a strategic marketer develops ‘propositions’

SJ Watson also spoke about the strength of an idea as a magnet. It can be measured by the amount of related elements that can be drawn and attached to it. Which, in turn, strengthens it. Look at strategic marketing and we seek to build propositions which achieve the same magnetism by being able to incorporate the assets of a brand, resonate with the emotional needs of customers and optimise the capabilities of a business.

However, perhaps marketers try too hard to tick all the boxes of the proposition build checklist or an A3 mind-map template.  If, instead, we think about it within the laws of magnetism, it allows the mind to reach out to a wider selection of ‘attractive’ elements. And, when visualised, these elements will be pulled towards the central thought. You’ll find that your mind will repel the less attractive but those elements it allows to attach will make the central idea even more powerful.

Both are unordinary approaches to arrive at better outcomes for conventional challenges. That evening made a big impression on me. I caught up with the author afterwards and he acknowledged the importance of looking beyond the obvious places to find something extraordinary. The fruits of his method are in abundance in his novel. Do read it, it’s wonderfully original and executed in a captivating fashion.

Overall it reminded me of the extra energy and different perspective you can gain when you look at the challenge from an alternative starting point, or even apply a different logic and approach.  And, by doing this, you get to interesting outcomes you may never have considered.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris and @consultingajai.

Unordinary Thinking No.6 – Commercial creativity from Dubai

Whether it is creative or construction, the daily pace of growth in Mirdif City in Dubai outstrips what most Europeans would consider a very busy day. With this rate of growth and relaxed planning laws comes a ‘secure investment, put it up fast, market and move on’ approach to business. Companies which pontificate are likely to be short lived. So service providers to the fast track mindset, such as branding agencies, need to get the brand proposition quickly, create it and move on to the next project at speed too. Creative resources in Dubai have proved this is possible – you just need to be sharper with ideas at the first time of asking.

That said, one project proved to be a very different case for TMH. The branding agency won the pitch to develop the brand for a ‘first in the world’ concept aqua park for children. The difference is that children don’t need their swimming costumes. The brainchild of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Aquaplay is a park full of water-based rides and attractions rather than slides and pools. Described by Karen Iley of Time Out Dubai as being like “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – only with water flowing all over the place instead of chocolate”.

As requested, TMH developed the brand positioning, livery and visual iden. Regardless, Paul followed his instinct and finally found the answer one evening walking along the beach in downtown Dubai. He created a range of oceanic based characters, each representing a different ride. These friendly creatures had a soft illustrative style and playful personalities too. He revealed the characters to TMH, along with a big idea he’d had which he felt was strong enough to get Aquaplay’s interest again.tity guidelines which the client loved. And that should have been it. But something troubled creative Paul Green. The rides, whilst united by the brand Aquaplay, did not connect together in any other way. He worried that customers might not fully get the ‘completeness’ of the proposition either. However, being a pragmatist as well as a creative, Paul realised that a simple ride naming exercise would probably not be welcomed by Aquaplay who now needed to invest energies in the marketing of the park. They had moved on.

Out of courtesy, Aquaplay agreed to meet. When presented with the characters, they thought it a nice idea but were keen to return to their destination marketing tasks.

That was until Paul explained the bigger purpose of the cute characters: their commercial angle. Paul described a well worked through merchandising opportunity for the characters he had created; 8 soft toys, 8 pen and pencil sets, 8 jigsaws, 8 t-shirts, 8 cups, 8 downloadable games etc. It was then that they absolutely bought it. It has enabled AquaPlay to add a brand new income stream by creating a gift shop into its business model. Now live, the merchandise is extremely popular as children look to take memories home of their favourite experience from the day.

Paul’s instinct was right. By stopping and considering the wider opportunities, Paul had found a brilliant way to enhance the agency’s reputation, generate extra revenue for the park and, importantly, strengthen the Aquaplay proposition. Paul’s unordinary approach has created an exceptional asset, which would never have prevailed had he allowed convention to rule and ‘moved on’. Paul Green can be found at http://www.thisispaulgreen.com/

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Business Playground

Business books can be hard work sometimes. And when they are often about motivation and teaching change management skills, that’s not good.

So when one cuts through, it’s worth mentioning. The Business Playground looks ‘zesty’ and is co-written by Dave Stewart, so that immediately draws you in. But when you realise you’ve bought a book about business from a rock guitar legend, you might start to question it as being as logical as key cutters and shoe repairers always being in the same shop (why is that?).

However, open the cover, give it a few pages and bingo; inspiration and motivation abound.

A lot of cutting through conventional thinking and with it making sense in a memorable way to help marketers improve their strategic decision making.

There’s also a website. www.business playground. Get involved.