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.