Thursday, 29 January 2009

Freak show products

In a post-material age, brands and designers should be creating experiences and products that tap into a more irrational, elusive and imagination-driven society. We should be looking at designers such as Freddie Yauner, the RCA graduate who creates products for a new era of fantasy and imagination. 

For the consumer or status seeker who has everything and all the 'right' brands - such as the Dualit toaster, why not try 'the world's highest-popping toaster' instead, arguably, Yauner's flagship product. Function has gone as far as it can, we're now at a point where design has become about the idiosyncratic fantasy. 

Then there's 'the 'world's most intricate diary', so-called because it provides two pages per hour. For those with less time on their hands, Yauner's 'the fastest clock in the world' might be more appropriate. It offers digital time to a millionth to a second. I love that all the product names sound like they should be in a freak show. This is about putting the spectacle back into new product.

Brands should be working with blue-sky creatives like Yauner to make their products and services more inventive, unique, and spectacular. Imagine Yauner got together with someone dull and in need of imagination such as Dell or Braun or First Great Western (the brand names alone fill you with despair). Could we be seeing 'the world's curliest curling tong' or 'the most scenic railway route'? 

Forget justifiable rational product claims, this is about tapping into the the consumer's imagination and desires and dreaming up the most hyperbolic brand promises you can inspire.

Product nostalgia

I think in the recession and Fantasy age we will witness more limited edition and vintage remakes. Beauty brands in particular, have been quick to capitalise on the elitist and heritage cachet this offers. I especially adore Bourjois' vintage eyeshadow collection. According to a Bourjois spokesperson, the vintage line sold out in the UK within 2 weeks. The brand plan to reissue other products this year.

I think there's a real hunger for products that are truly special and unique, which this trend taps into. I'd like to see brands maintain vintage aesthetics, however. I can't bear to see Yardley try to modernise with a bland spa collection when it should be revelling in its endearing grannieness.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Goodbye Bush

Simple, funny and clever print ad by Veet (thanks for alerting me Liz Worrall). 

I'd like to see more humour in hair removal comms. It's a funny, even fetishistic (or is that just me?) thing to do - why not be open about this that rather than show gleaming models galloping on beaches or in perfect white bathrooms all the time? 

My sister's friend manages a beauty salon and was telling us funny stories about her clients and all the extreme 'services' they ask for - not sure if it's too gross for me to say explicitly here but they're definitely getting more 'uninhibited'. I can definitely envisage a time when people - women - will demand to have completely hairless bodies. That means more extreme products and services.

I did a report for Gilette once about the future of shaving. Women are getting hairier (hormones, diet, arguably even climate change, are factors). In the report, I explored the trend for nasal hair removal (the new manicure in New York), back hair removal for women, and going clubbing with your razor (essential item for the 'shag bag').

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Muffragette marketing

Muffragette is a trend I coined in my Future Lab days when combining the words 'muff' and 'suffragette' = my week's work done (if only it was that easy in other jobs!). Muffragettes are the rise of a new breed of post-feminists who are pro-men, women and Agent Provocateur. It's women's rights with cocktails. 

One of the key insights about this group is that they have a paradoxical relationship with women's rights. They enjoy and feel obliged to be sassy independents who are not defined by men whilst still seeing marriage as the gold standard and hankering after that ring on their finger eventually. It's this nuanced planning insight that De Beers tapped into with their just brilliant 'Raise Your Right Hand' campaign. Big thanks to Sarah Musgrave, one of my mentors, for highlighting this campaign to me! I know everyone raves about Dove's 'Real Beauty' but I think this is far superior in insight and execution. L'Oreal's 'Because I'm Worth It' is also text-book Muffragette and female marketing I reckon.

Anyway, DeBeers wanted to tap into new target markets and had created a 'right-hand ring' aimed at convincing women they could buy their own diamonds rather than wait for a man. Their agency JWT in the US created a campaign to shift the perception amongst women that diamonds were about romance and male validation, and instead fashion and self-validation. Print ads featured fashion models wearing the right-hand rings which were placed in mags such as Elle and Vogue. The manifesto-like but not militant supporting copy statements included: 

"Your left hand says 'we'. Your right hand says 'me'. Your left hand likes to be held. Your right hand likes to be held high. Your left hand is your heart. Your right hand is your voice. Your left hand lives for love. Your right hand lives for the moment." Each ad included the call to action, politically-charged tagline: "Women of the world, raise your right hand."

The campaign was a commercial and cultural success winning a Gold EFFIE in 2005 for among other things achieving 39% awareness of the right-hand ring and boosting non-bridal ring sales by 15%. Right-hand rings became a Sex and the city-like style and political statement, and were also worn by said stars and featured at New York Fashion Week.

Semiotics of burlesque

I'm soon to co-write a cultural critical essay on the semiotics of burlesque, part of a book which is the labour of love of Chris Arning, an academic chap who works at research company Flamingo (who has also written about the semiotics of karaoke and hip hop). This is a dream project for me as a Sally Rand fan (burlesque pun there) and closet Dita! 

I'll be exploring the signs, symbols, visual language, and cultural significance of burlesque. I'm particularly interested in how broad the definition of burlesque has become - from film noir (Paloma Faith), to satanism (Georgina Baillie) to Chav (Roz Porter) to Ann Summers fake diamente nipple tassels (get them here instead). Any thoughts do drop me a line!

Why I want to be in advertising

One of my favourite ever campaigns is Phillips' 'Sense & Simplicity'. It was created by Carat and DDB in the US back in 2004 but it's one of those campaign ideas that can live on and on. Like 'Absolut..'. I also think it was ahead of its time and very of the credit crunch moment.  

Phillips' research showed that consumers wanted to simplify their experiences with technology, the world is stressful enough. Phillips and its agencies decided that the idea of simplicity was a brand truth and something Phillips could own. I also like the idea that in a sector which is all about being the fastest and most techie, Phillips wanted to make a virtue out of being the simplest and slower. Broadband player Comcast also successfully tapped into this with their 'Slowsky turtle' campaign.

Carat realised that the simplicity message conflicted with traditional, interruptive media. The medium had to be the message. Two of my favourite executions were for cinema and print. Sadly, the cinema ad never came to light because short-sighted Screenvision (who sell ad time) felt it was 'poking fun at the advertising industry'. Judge for yourself. Phillips wanted to buy pre-movie ad time and use it to shorten the time the audience waits looking at ads before their film starts. They wanted to run an 'ad' of silence and blank space offering the audience a pause point, simplicity, followed by the strapline: 'We could have run a four minute commercial. Instead, we chose simplicity.'

I also love their table of contents sponsorship campaign. Similarly to the invasion of cinema ads, ads are front-loaded in magazines making it a real chore to find the contents page. Phillips decided it would simplify this experience and pay for a table of contents right at the start in mags such as Time, acting as a brand concierge. The strapline on the page read: 'Simplicity means not letting complexity stand in your way. It starts with a table of contents on the first page.'

The result was a campaign that engaged with consumers desire for simplicity, clarity, and respite. I think advertising will become increasingly about branded utilities, driven by social media. 

Permanent credit crunch

Read an interesting opinion column in the Guardian the other day saying that the very poor, just like the very rich, are immune to the effects of the credit crunch. They don't have mortgages so are unaffected by house prices, many are unemployed, so no fear of redundancy, and few have shares or savings in Icelandic banks. If anything, the perennially skint are slightly better off as retailers slash their prices and compete more aggressively for budget shoppers. Tesco, for example, have introduced more discount lines to their shelves. 

The journalist also points out that whilst supermarkets may undercut the price of corner shops, the very poor will still frequent the latter because for one, many don't own cars, but more interestingly, local shop owners may give 'tick' to customers they know well or who can't afford to pay until a later date. A courtesy and service the likes of Tesco do not provide. 

When I was in Australia there was a popular service known as 'lay by' where you could pay a small deposit to put an item on hold until you could afford it or pay in installments in their equivalents of Topshop. Whereas this is seen as a bit cheap and nasty in the UK by consumers and retailers alike, it's a completely normal and acceptable thing for young, relatively affluent, trendy women over there.