Thursday, 8 December 2011

It makes me smile...

With a few moments on his hands Jonathan came across some lovely little movies on the Boden website. Having worked with them last year we're very pleased to see the spirit of the brand still echoing through the many layers of their communications. All their photography is stunning and their natural warmth and wit brings a smile to your face.

How to be a Model is a masterclass in charm whilst Dad Dancing is just funny enough - and shows extraordinary bravery from a far too attractive and slim chap to be in any way embarrassing...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Room to fail

Time to play
Inspired by an article by Heather Peace in today's Guardian entitled, "No more can a detective sing," this is really an ode to the creative mind and hard work.

Her discourse is around the reasons why the BBC are unwilling to re-run The Singing Detective to celebrate its 25th anniversary, and the state of the BBC today. The bit that really got me thinking was the idea of giving writers time to be nurtured. And time to do a lot of work. She writes, "Writers are not born brilliant; they need to learn their craft by doing it, the same as any other artist or worker. New writers need room to fail." And she goes on, "Potter himself required years of writing Plays for Today – when he was permitted to explore and offend in the name of art and free speech – to develop the skills which enabled him to create The Singing Detective. Without those early hits and misses, he would never have risen to such heights."

So along with creativity and imagination, the other ingredient for great work is prolificness. I am always struck by how the greatest artists are often the ones who do the most. Ok there are a few exceptions, but just think of Picasso's relentless productivity and David Hockney's constant excitement about new and different ways to 'paint'. I can't wait for his Royal Academy exhibition in January with huge canvasses as well as iPad drawings.

It is so vitally important to give people the space and time to think, explore, mess around - and indeed in the great words of the goddess Nike, "Just do it." This is what we risk in these days of cuts, efficiencies, league tables and unemployed youngsters.

I was minded of a link between the BBC's nurturing of new writers being on 'the brink of extinction' and the genius of Picasso - the Attenborough brothers. Two great influencers and leaders of our time. Peace says in her article on the demise of single dramas and new writing,"David Attenborough wouldn't have let that happen when he was a controller."And just stare in jaw-dropping amazement at what he's inspired in The Frozen Planet. Richard, not only impressed his talent and leadership on the film industry but has also created an astonishing collection of Picasso ceramics started with a piece he bought in 1954 for £3. And they're from Leicester. Like me.

Let's hear it for those who value the creative spirit and allow themselves and their fellow playmates the time and failures to succeed.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Best ever slogans

Loving Creative Review's call for nominations for the best slogans ever. We love words as well as images - so following their 'best logos ever' in April it's nice to see them lauding the writer's art. One of my favourite's, that doesn't seem to have come up on the blog yet is, "A finger of Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat!" I wonder why it's not used any more...

My favourite mentioned in the Creative Review blog comments is a cheese shop in Amsterdam called "Cheeseland" with the slogan, "Lots of cheese,"

Friday, 29 July 2011

Forever young...

Roxanne McAnn has just shared a rather good blog article with me called, '10 Old Brands That Managed to Stay Modern.' Enjoy...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Brand survival

Well - on the news is the fact that News of the World is closing down. A remarkable action to try and put right some wrongs. It is/was 168 years old, and apparently the most read English language newspaper. But now it's a damaged brand.

On You & Yours this morning a contributor (sadly I missed his name and can't 'listen again') gave good advice for brands facing a crisis, "act transparently, clearly, honestly and quickly." News of the World is part of a brand architecture where the damaged reputation of one part can seriously affect the rest. NewsCorp has acted to attempt to save their brand, and possibly News International. They have certainly acted quickly. With famous brands pulling out from advertising in the paper, public opinion was never going to come back. And I don't think James Murdoch's statement really captures the horror everyone else is feeling, "The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company."

There's a thought that it's a political move to demonstrate they are taking this really seriously (well I should think so!) and therefore still a contender in the BSkyB deal. Really?

But I think with words flying round like "toxic" and people saying, "I think the country after Sunday will be a better place," there doesn't seem any place to hide. Zac Goldsmith has just described it as, "a sinister and bad organisation" with, "widespread corruption and criminality."

To say the discussion will run and run is rather an understatement - but I'm pretty sure it will be on the GCSE History syllabus in 20 years. And I'm not sure transparency, clarity or honesty will feature highly in the analysis.

ps I'm not going to put in a link to the News of the World website.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Screw up your business card

The coolest business card?
Martin Lindstrom's recent article in Fast Company challenges everyone to consider their business card as a vehicle for the essence of their brand. His rule of thumb for a well-managed brand states, "If a brand can describe its core values and philosophy on its business card without resorting to a detailed description, then the brand becomes a full representation of its vision."

In order to create such a compelling brand ambassador you need to 'crack the code of creativity.' We are absolute advocates of the use of creative thinking, problem solving and excellent design skills to fulfil the brief of the business card as brand billboard, making it stand out from the crowd, be remembered and convey the very heart and soul of the brand.
The business card designed for Swanswell by johnson banks as part of our branding project is just such an example of creative genius. The cards arrive in a little pad. When a Swanswell person wants to hand one out - it involves a little performance: they remove a card from the pad, scrunch up one end, then hand over a half-crumpled business card. A physical demonstration of their logo and their brand vision, 'change and be happy'- uncrumpling lives.

Brand success is, to paraphrase Lindstrom,  all about staying on message and maintaining focus on your core vision - all the time - in every situation - predictable and unpredictable.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer Fair Wars

Every year the quality of estate agent boards advertising (and sponsoring) school summer fairs seems to get better and better. And each year the rivalry between the schools, the sharp elbows of the PTA and the competitive creative streak gets greater and greater!

These three fine and tasteful examples are all up in my road now. All quite delightful. I will try to attend them all even though Greenside and John Betts seem to have been scheduled on the same day (heads will roll...)

A Brand Icon

Television Centre. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
I admit I was upset when I heard Television Centre was to be sold. And I am conflicted about my feelings. I see the logic - I can't separate my emotional connection. I live near it, I love going by it, my memories of childhood are imbued with it, my kids have performed there, my dog has performed there, I've done work there. But I suppose it is just a building...

That's the thing about brands though. They aren't just places, or things, or stuff. They are a bagful of emotional content that gives each of us a personal connection with a brand. How a brand fits into your personal and individual life. Often those brands are made up of some significant iconic objects: the Coke bottle, the Levi's red tag, the Disney castle. They act as anchors to connect us with all the feelings that make the brand.

Charlie Brooker's article in today's G2 expresses excellently his/my frustration about the TVC development. I love his reference to Glaswegian comedy writer-performer Robert Florence (Burnistoun) who wrote that telling an aspiring comedy writer that TV Centre won't be around any more is like telling a budding astronaut the moon has disappeared. Read it and weep...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

When naming was simpler

Strolling through the back streets of Leicester on Saturday I came across this piece of stationery taped to the door of a disused workshop. I was struck by the excellent brand name 'Kumfi Bedding'. This put me in mind of the joy of making up brand names that describe exactly what the product does and bring in three excellent rules of naming:
1. Mis-spelling
2. Concatenation
3. Hyphenation

My extensive research for examples runs to two that popped into my head, Sleepeezee and Krispy Kreme, both dating back to the 1930s, the La Z Boy recliner (as featured in Friends) and looking through a copy of Ideal Home magazine from May 1954 (the sort of thing I have to hand). This was a cornucopia of of on-brief brand names:

Nevastane kitchen equipment - true to the mis-spelling rule and has that knack of not looking like what saying it out loud means
La-Ze-Li luxury hammock - nicely combining all three rules
Rolakoton - it brushes in as it rolls as it paints (a paint roller to you and me)
Buttador - an ingenious compartment in a Coldrator fridge door that keeps butter at exactly spreadable temperature
Rely-a-Bell, Burglar and Fire Alarm Co Ltd - cleverly bringing in a fourth ingredient - the pun

These names came on a wave of post-war consumerism, influenced by American trends crossing the pond, and inspired by a more advertising savvy world of relaxed language and expansive ideas. There was a streamlining of brand names just as streamlining was an aesthetic (more than scientific) movement in design in the 30s. The names looked good as well as sounded good. They made good logos.

I think the joy of them today is that they are honest, capture a simple proposition, are authentic to their values and celebrate a direct customer benefit. Oh for a La-Ze-Li luxury hammock when you need one...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Customer Contact

Very impressed with the Unlocked Guides efforts to listen to their customers. Our youngest, 8-year-old Tansy, attended their Children's Board Meeting on Friday morning. Emily and Josh, the two Unlocked Guides Directors, led the meeting of 9 or 10 children to help them make some key decisions concerning next steps for the developing publishing business. They made a real effort to engage the children and get a real feel for what they wanted. Putting their customers at the centre of their business is excellent practice but rarely done with such verve and enthusiasm. And there were chocolate muffins and Haribo.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Expert Diagnosis

Explain the symptoms. Add a bit more background information. Answer a few questions. That's the way to engage an expert to help solve your problem.

My car windows wouldn't open. Just the front ones. The car wouldn't lock with the plip. After a flurry with Halfords and fuses to no avail I rang my regular, local garage, Smallbills. They are always polite, reasonable and even call me when it's service/MOT time to book me in. I explained my problem and the lovely chap said, ' Just drop in and we'll have a look. Probably a fuse.'

On arrival I was passed straight to a mechanic - lovely big greasy hands, smudged blue overalls and a rich, maybe Polish? accent. An expert in his trade. I could almost see his diagnosis brain clicking into action as he went through his mental flowchart and ticked off possibilities as he went. Click, click, click. He waggled a loose wire to the door and da da! His magic hands had worked their wonders. Nothing to do with fuses, then. And as the song goes, no charge.

When you talk to the right people, who've put in their 10,000 hours, their brains are programmed to solve the right problem. I hope we can offer that service too.

50 books for an 11-Year-Old

It's not always that a bit of outbound marketing arriving in your in box hits the spot, but this missive from Abe Books is quite delightful: 'Earlier this year Britain's education minister said an 11-year-old should be reading 50 books a year. That statement sparked a lengthy debate.We just know that 11-year-olds should be reading, so here's a list of 50 fantastic books that appeal to young readers.'
The link at learn more takes you to the most heart-warming personal piece by Richard Davies about kids and books and a selection of books from the near and more distant past. Reassuring, nostalgic, visually lovely. Indeed Abe Books can be proud of their tag line - Passion for Books.

About Abe Books: 'Launched in 1996, AbeBooks is an online marketplace where you can buy new, secondhand, rare and out-of-print books, as well as cheap textbooks. We connect you with thousands of professional booksellers around the world and millions of books are listed for sale.'

Friday, 20 May 2011

Passion Killer

 Polly's GCSE work inspired by William Blake and Rob Ryan
I'm not talking about socks in bed or cold showers. No, I'm talking about the over use of a once valid, and latterly brave, highly emotive word. The sort of Latin idea that would never pass the lips of cool business men or calculating politicians. Passion.

There was a little montage of David Cameron using the word on Newsnight the other evening. His passion for the NHS creates an unquestionable cloak of righteousness. He's passionate therefore everything he does must be right.

I was at an induction evening for a Sixth Form with my daughter a few weeks ago. The very enthusiastic headmistress stressed the importance of ensuring you choose A level subjects that you are passionate about. Well, Polly is keen to stay on for A levels, go on to University, pursue some of her interests, get the best start in life. She is also passionate about quite a few things: her hair, clothes, pretty shops, pretty boys, looking after younger children, tickling children, fashion photography, colour... to name a few. None of these translate directly into a neat label for an A level subject. She felt intimidated by the passion spewing forth from the Head and ebullient current students. The best she could do was name a few subjects she considered her least worse. I have no doubt that she will succeed beautifully in whatever she chooses to do, but implying the need for passion in your choice of A level subjects?

Don't get me wrong. I love passionate people. I love being passionate. I just worry about people talking about it too much. Requiring people to be passionate about something in particular. Setting out passion as an HR criterium. I think people sometimes think they have to be passionate about the wrong thing.

Matthew Rice's latest book
I went to a talk by Emma Bridgewater and Matthew Rice on Tuesday afternoon at the V&A. They just talked very nicely about their business and what's going on in Stoke, and how important the way they do business is for them. Yes, a great enthusiasm for pottery came through. Their love of the domestic came through. Their devotion to heritage, re-interpretation for today and respect for craft came through. Their concern for people, Stoke and the creation of work came through. Emma said, 'the most important thing you can make is jobs.' I looked at their website when I got back to the studio. The opening paragraph on their 'About us' page does mention passion. But a genuine and authentic passion. And not a forced or commercial passion: 'Find out more about Emma and Matthew, the things that inspire them and how their passion for family life has had such a huge influence on their designs.' It's all about the way they want to do things. The things they genuinely love.

In 'Forget Passion, Focus on Process' on the 37 Signals blog they start with, 'The problem with the “follow your passion” chorus: We can’t all love the products we work with. Someone has to do the jobs and sell the things that don’t seem sexy but make the world go round.' There's some seriously good sense here. One of the comments links to a TED talk by Mike Rowe celebrating 'dirty jobs'. I was also put in mind of Stephen Covey's 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.' Although not top of the behaviouralist's charts at the moment, Covey's point that excellence comes through a series of habits is well put and worth learning. Picasso was a genius - he was talented and importantly highly prolific. His work habits let his genius be seen.

Let's think before we expound passion. And let's not use it as a default requirement. But ensure that our process is fit for purpose and delivering excellence to our customers. I wouldn't mind customers being passionate about brands and services that we help develop and build. That would be a desired perception.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Trouble with Love and Sex

What a great programme - on so many levels (Wonderland - The Trouble with Love and Sex, 9.00pm Wednesday 11th May, BBC2).

Firstly our admiration to the participants for their bravery and Zac Beattie, the producer and director, for getting it together. And to the BBC for making such an important programme, earning themselves much praise in the 'worth my licence fee' department. It's an inspired idea. Access into the private, elusive world of other people's real relationships is rarely permissible. But having it is so intriguing, enlightening and reassuring.

Secondly, hats off to Relate, an organisation we have the greatest respect for having worked with them closely. Not only did they have the courage to take part, they also exhibited their immense skill through the counsellors. The piece of genius that I will most remember is the letter to the single man's 'dark side.' The real brilliance was the idea of acknowledging this dark character's help so far, thanking 'him' for what he he had done, and now telling him he was no longer required. So clever. So right. So effective.

Thirdly on an artistic film-making level. The combination of real voices and animated characters enables both the authenticity of the piece to come through and the addition of an expression of emotion through the clever and naturalistic drawing. The use of animation in adult productions is rare and can lead to false pre-conceptions around the material. Its use in a documentary is very interesting. I was reminded of the excellent feature film, 'Waltz with Bashir', Ari Folman's animated documentary into the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war. The animation there was strangely naturalistic, with dramatic lighting and the portrayal of remembered scenes, unfilmed at the time and too difficult to reconstruct.

It also brought home the importance of our role with brands and their people. Whatever business we are working with, we believe that it is people who make the difference. Our practice is based around listening, probing, guiding and yes, sometimes, upsetting. Now, I wish I was half as good as those Relate counsellors, but I do think we allow people to unearth their worries, understand the benefits of open and honest communication, and begin to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Maybe it's no coincidence that the client for one of our favourite jobs of late, Swanswell, CEO Debbie Banagan, is ex-Relate.

One of the counsellors summed up the similarity we feel with what we do, when he said he would like to ask a 'simple sounding, but maybe difficult to answer question.'

Monday, 9 May 2011

Brand Fitness

Congratulations to our friend David Ball at BrandFuel for winning Britain's Fittest Director 2011. Behind every great brand there's a man running very, very fast.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Tiaras and Tea Towels

Brand UK was at its sparkling best last week, aided by some lovely sunshine and much of the population being in a good mood as a result of two long weekends in a row. The abundance of red, white and blue, union flags, glistening regalia and matched horses with shining coats in a beautiful  ‘camera ready’ London did much to enhance the brand that is brand UK. It was a right royal knees-up as many enjoying a street party and general celebration. While by no means universally popular, the fuss and spectacle generated comment and debate in abundance. Just how many programmes about these two people and their relationship is it possible to make? One TV critic pointed out an average of six programmes per day not counting the news coverage wall to wall.
I was curious to see the range of commemorative articles for sale and was not disappointed. True to form there was the good, bad, ugly and downright baffling. I’m not a great one for commemorative items, but recognise eager purchasers, be it avid collectors or people wanting a keepsake to mark the event. A day out in Chichester the previous weekend had shown that there at least there was lots of red, white and blue about from commemorative items to accessories for decorating your house or party.The windows of the Cath Kidston shop beamed with pastel good wishes of celebration for William and Kate. A brand match made in heaven.

At Westminster Abbey I could purchase a replica of the Diana engagement ring or a set of wine glasses, but I decided to take a mass market/budget approach to reflect our austere times resulting in a £2.97 spend in the 99p Store. I came away with a plastic tray (robust and useful), a ceramic bell with dreadful quality photo transfer (a bright, tingly sound, but of little practical use in my household) and celebration polyester mini cushion (of no use whatsoever). They’d run out of bunting and flags, so I took what was going. Now I’ve documented it, it’s going to the charity shop.
The most baffling item I came across next to the polyester cushion was a figurine, meerkat versions of William and Kate, to be found in Morrison’s supermarket. I wondered whether the happy couple had seen themselves anthropomorphised and what they would think. Meerkat cuteness combined with Will and Kate a winning combination on the basis of put two things you like together and come up with something brilliant that everyone will love. Perhaps I should have bought one. I’d better hotfoot it to see whether there are any left in discount corner.

My favourite item was a tea towel from the Tate shop – no pictures of the happy couple, rather some lovely illustration and a distinctly mid-century modern graphic feel. I thought that it reflected perfectly the tree-lined aisle at Westminster Abbey and the couple’s refreshing attitude. The tea towel looks like it’s a good investment already being offered on ebay for more than the purchase price. Indeed if you want to see what other commemorative tea towels are on offer just log on to ebay and do a search. All this goes to prove what I have long thought, that we love a good tea towel!

By Pauline

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Do Something Amazing...

It’s a Monday, late afternoon and I’m in Brixton Town Hall. I’m sitting in a large hall surrounded by a cross section of the great British Public. There are two things on my mind, both guilty pleasures. One is comedian Tony Hancock, the other a packet of ready salted Walker’s crisps. I can guarantee that three times a year these two guilty pleasures coexist and occupy my mind. It’s blood donor day for me, which has become a little ritual that makes me feel ‘grounded’.
I love vintage radio comedy and a late session in the office is often accompanied by Round the Horne, The Navy Lark or Tony Hancock’s ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ masterpieces. Of these two stand out, ‘The Radio Ham’ and ‘The Blood Donor’. If you’ve not heard them (or seen the TV versions) then check them out. Hancock, a much troubled comic genius, portrayed himself as an everyman, but a very pompous one. He decides to do his duty and contribute to society by donating his blood, only to discover that they want as much as ‘an armful’, something he failed to realise. Around him is a reassuring nurse, calm, professional doctor, whose patience he tests, and members of the public played by an ensemble cast.
Today’s Blood Service is welcoming and efficient. For me the double heart logo is iconic.  Its strapline and excellent ad campaign ‘Do something amazing today’ go to the heart of what the organisation is about. The fact that many thousands of people turn up to a public hall three times a year to be poked and prodded (all be it very professionally) and have their blood extracted shows how a campaign message can be a call to action. And all of this for no financial reward. We all know that our health is core to the quality of existence and how vulnerable we are all likely to be at some part of our life. So, while the going is good, giving an armful helps someone, somewhere.
I look at the logo on the water jug, the design of the pvc tablecloth covered in children’s drawings and the logos. Plain crisps and a cup of tea, what a joy as a small group of us munch and slurp then head off into the early evening darkness.

By Pauline

Monday, 21 March 2011

Humble Provenance

One of the delights of the growing awareness of provenance and local-ness over the last few years has been the growth of regional potato crisps.  They tend to be hand-cooked, farmer driven brands with a sense of charm and wit.
Salty Dog is an excellent name for a plethora of puns and fun. They have even bred a sister brand called Darling Spuds. Their websites ooze authenticity and charm.
Kent Crisps come from the Quex Park estate, only recently launched and with a suitably Kentish twist to their flavours: Oyster and Vinegar, Ashmore Cheese and Onion, Sea Salt and Biddenden Cider Vinegar, and Sea Salt.
Yorkshire Crisps are 'moreish and convivial' and show a smattering of Yorkshire grit with their 'Nowt on' flavour (or lack of...)
Pipers, made by farmers in Lincolnshire, embrace the whole idea of regionality in all their flavours. I love the way they embrace the culture of supporting other independent producers with Anglesey Sea Salt, West Country Cheddar & Onion, using cheddar made by John Alvis at Lye Cross, Parsnip crisps using Biggleswade sweet chilli, Sea Salt and Somerset Cider Vinegar with cider vinegar made by Julian Temperley. The tone and generosity create a sense of well being that makes you feel warm about the brand, and the people behind it.
And then, linking to one of Pauline's recent posts, there are the Lusty Pirate Cornish Pasty flavoured crisps. I don't know whether they have to make pasties, crimped on one side, with no carrot, and then extract the flavour - or whether the concept of 'flavour' covers a simpler method. They are definitely made in Cornwall. Another good concept for funning and punning, and what's not to love as Lusty himself says,"I like crisps and I love me pasties so I’ve combined the two and come up with some proper treasures."
The visual cues of these specialist products can be 'borrowed' by some larger manufacturers to try and send out the same authentic and trusted signals. I'm not saying their products are bad, but it is a slightly different offer. Real crisps were an independent Welsh producer but are now part of the Tayto Group. They carefully side-step the question on their homepage "So who are we then?" The small print on the packaging needs to be carefully read so as not to be misled by the effectiveness of the graphic design.

Regionality is part of the trend that has seen the success of Farmers' Markets, Borough Market, Jamie Oliver - and a respect for cooking real food, allotments and seasonal food awareness. It's something that's well worth supporting and building on where we can.

When Special is the Norm

Christmas special offers, long gone. The January sales, well and truly over. What strikes you though, as you walk along the High Street, is that special offers still scream at you from shop windows. ‘Madness!’ is announced in Shoezone. In the perpetual home of discount Holland & Barrett, the posters herald ‘Buy one get one half price’ on everything in the store. I turn around and the 99p Store have their banner ‘When it’s gone, its gone!’ and indeed it will be, but there’ll be another to replace it.

There’s nothing new in retailers pushing these messages, indeed in the UK it verges on being an art form. Our supermarkets do it, pound shops do it, value retailers do it. Playing on the psychology of ‘everyone loves a bargain.’ It works.

Competition has heightened due to the combination of goods costing less relative to income over the last 20 years, and the increasing sophistication of retailers in terms of what they can offer and how they present it. The abundance of ‘3 for 2’, BOGOF, ‘2 for 1’ has created the expectation of significant discount being the norm from Maltesers to Magnet kitchens.

Yet, there are some places where serious discounting just doesn’t happen. I don’t see an Apple Mac or iPod at 50% off, and I don’t expect to. This is about value not discount. Yes, it’s a different marketplace to grocery products, not an everyday purchase. The desirability of the product and the message of the brand mean that we buy into it big time and expect to pay. And what’s more our sense of reward and contentment are generally higher.

So does brand matter in all of this, or is it price that’s king? The reality is that it’s both and that people are somewhat flexible in attitude and action. Our individual preferences and loyalties combine with the practicalities of budget, convenience and time.

I tend to shop local, so my supermarkets are predominantly Co-op and Morrison’s and my good and friendly local convenience store and newsagents. The market as well for fruit and veg. There are occasional forays to a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s for a change of scene and variety. No Asda or Watirose locally so they really are an adventure. My neighbour is a committed Ocado user, another favours Tesco home delivery, another a weekly ‘big shop’ at Sainsbury’s. Then there’s Philip opposite. ‘Bargain’ is his middle name and he’s a heat seeking discount missile who hits the spot on a daily basis.

The times are a changing. Food will become more expensive, not necessarily a bad thing if it results in us all being more thoughtful and less wasteful. Rather than chasing bargains, that often encourage over-buying, we can control our grocery bill by not  throwing away the alleged 25-35% of food we already buy. This could result in effectively being what we pay (for the use of) two now, becoming the price of three, without the accompanying graphic cacophony.

I think there is a fundamental shift imminent alongside a new sense of responsibility. Trends of scarcity, moderation and vigilance will model our behaviours. Discount may be forever with us, but our response to it will become more considered. My mantra will be to not be bamboozled by those special offers.

By Pauline

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Bloomsbury effect

Picking up on one of this year's trends, I was overjoyed to walk past the People's Supermarket on Saturday afternoon and see it looking so fresh and vibrant.

Two things strike me. One is the fantastic sense of cohesion engendered by these local, cooperative initiatives. The sense of well-being goes way beyond the individuals who are contributing and benefitting directly. I feel good just knowing it exists - and thrilled that I could see it, smell the goods, squeeze the fruit.

Secondly, trends take time. I might say 'this year's trend', but this idea will be around for a while, and will take time to actually take effect. Arthur Potts Dawson, the live-wire behind the enterprise, has worked enormously hard over a prolonged period to make it happen. It was March 2009 when he first got coverage in the papers, and must have signed up to make the TV series at around the same time. The series that finished on Channel 4 on 27th February was filmed over two years. So he was picking up on a trend then, and with the opening of the store, propelling the wave forward.

I suspect the appreciation of local, reduction of waste and a collaborative approach to making things cheaper/affordable are ideas that will get bigger and more influential over the next few years.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Crimp my Pasty!

A Ginster's Cornish Pasty
Two of the joys of life are seasonal and regional produce. From a Fat Rascal (a Yorkshire fruit tea bun) to the Wensleydale cheese I so love with a morsel of fruit cake to the delicate white flesh of an Arbroath Smokie. 

Local produce is great and where once these products were literally only available locally the rise of rail and road transport saw these goods transported to towns and cities and across the land. Foods that reflected local topography, commerce and requirements in many cases extended beyond the locality in which they were created. The addition of the place name can imbue a product with positive imagery, evoking the rural, the old, the never-changing. It might be mythical in many cases, but it resonates.

Is a Cornish Pasty vastly superior to one made in Devon? Is it better than one made in Milton Keynes or Carlisle? One can understand the Cornish wanting to claim the heritage as the inventor of a novelly shaped pasty filled with nourishing ingredients, designed to fuel the work of a Cornish tin miner deep down a hot and dirty hole. Today the pasty is 'food on the move', the well loved snack of drivers and those who can't or won't stop for a meal break. It's beloved of visitors to Cornwall, just walk through the streets of St Ives and count how many people are joyously munching their way through their pasties. 

The last time I ate a Cornish Pasty was following a meeting I had at Ginster's. Part of the brand experience and also my lunch. Ginster's rightly claim their local credentials as Larry File, their Brand Communications Manager, states, "It really is an important industry in Cornwall. More than 2,000 people are directly employed in it." The announcement that only pasties produced in Cornwall are able to be labelled 'Cornish' resulted in welcome publicity. There's an issue of shape here too. Pasties crimped on the top and not at the side are also unable to be called Cornish, so there are manufacturers who are genuinely  'Cornish' who will have to alter their crimp.

Hot from the Brand Guardians kitchen...not a 'Cornish' but a hearty meal in itself following the traditional recipe - and no carrot!
The Protected Geographical Indicator, the system under which the origins of products, has become increasingly important in recent years as a means by which producers protect the uniqueness and quality of their products and ultimately their livelihoods. They also deliver a guarantee to the consumer. So whereas a piece of cheddar cheese can originate from anywhere, White Stilton and Blue Stilton cannot. 

There are three different designations under the system:

The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
For products processed and prepared in a specific geographical area where the features and characteristic of the product is due to that area.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
For products produced or processed within a specific area where they have a reputation, features or certain qualities attributable to that area.
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) 
For products which are traditional or have customary names and a set of features which distinguish them from similar products, not be due to the geographical area it is produced nor based on technical advances in the method of production.

The Camberwell Pasty
Our contribution to local food. A new variety with a local feel. An 'all rounder' plenty of crust, lots of lean and vitamin filled filling for busy urbanites on the move.
So, if you like Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, Cornish Sardines, Whitstable Oysters, Rutland Bitter, Melton Mowbray Pork Pie and Jersey Royal Potatoes are all registered. Many more will follow. These products command a premium because they promise to deliver a high level of quality and taste established over generations. They're important tools in the Grocer's brand armoury. Each has their time and place. Eat them all at once and you'll have mighty indigestion!

(I think it sounds like a rather perfect pub lunch - Kate)

by Pauline

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Let the kids do it

Yes, logos are often controversial. Yes, they are often misunderstood. But hey, some things are charming and some things are just a bit, how can I say it, less charming.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee logo, above, was designed by 10-year-old Katherine Dewar from Chester, the winner of a Blue Peter competition.

The London Olympic logo was designed by 46-year-old Wolff Olins from London, and is the subject of yet more controversy. And could even cause a boycott. Not least from the design community...

What do you think?