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Hei: welcome to our Norwegian visitors

12 Sep

Dsc01391_2I’m running a brief session on branding (personal and corporate) and social media today, together with Anderson Lima, for some visitors from Oslo School of Management. My notes for the session are here.

The photo shows the new Oslo opera house, which I visited recently on the recommendation of Svend Anders, who has organised this return visit to Leeds. (All he gets to see here is Elland Road.)

I was glad to have learnt the Norwegian greeting ‘hei’ (pronounced hi). I’d assumed ‘hi’ was an import from America; it was, but only having been exported first from Scandinavia. How appropriate, given that Viking explorers were the first Europeans to settle in North America, centuries before Columbus.

Brand, value and advertising

12 May

Wharfedale_viaductHow’s this for a marketing strategy? Avoid expensive media advertising and undercut your competitors by 50%. A recipe for success or the road to ruin?

Let’s look at a case study. Beer is expensive, mainly because of government taxes. Rural pubs are closing and people are choosing to drink wine at home. Last weekend a pint of beer cost me £1.37 in one country pub near my home and £2.70 in another just a mile or so away. The cheap beer comes from Samuel Smith, a small independent brewer in Tadcaster, Yorkshire – not to be confused with heavily advertised industrial brewer John Smith’s from the same town. Sam Smith’s is proud of its focus on product (all natural ingredients) and the lack of advertising support. I can name beer I prefer from several other small independent breweries, but none competes on price.

With low prices comes little choice: cask or keg. With low prices comes a general lack of investment in real estate, so traditional buildings are still partitioned into small rooms. This lends charm (I like to take my visitors either to the Gardener’s Arms at Bilton or the Harewood Arms at Follifoot, both near Harrogate). But just to show it can invest, Sam Smith’s has completed the renovation of the Dyneley Arms at Pool-in-Wharfedale. It looks great and the food’s good too. (Update: since the budget, the beer here has risen to £1.44 a pint.) Not all reviewers share my favourable opinion, but a company that doesn’t advertise needs all the free PR it can get, and should take the rough with the smooth.

Photo: Wharfe railway viaduct, posted to Flickr

Ted Baker – another PR success story

7 Oct

The cutting’s old – but the song remains the same. Ray Kelvin, the boss of Ted Baker, was interviewed for Jeff Randall’s Weekend Business today; he ascribed the clothing brand’s success to ‘limited use of PR – and no advertising or marketing.’

It’s an interesting one, because most case studies that support the central thesis in The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR are drawn from technology or publishing.

No publicity, mind

1 Dec

It started here as another exercise in word of mouth on behalf of a South African winemaker. Now it’s gathering major news headlines and is threatening to become a ‘brilliant-marketing-but-bad-for-business’ case study. Let’s hope for Thresher’s sake it’s not Hoover all over again.

One phrase equity

4 Sep

More praise for Tesco. CorpComms magazine reports on the retailer’s community relations initiatives, and Naresh Ramchandani in Media Guardian explores the meaning (free registration) of the firm’s slogan ‘Every little helps’ (‘perhaps the most ingeniously modest slogan ever written’).

…and the rise of ‘one word equity’

22 Jun

The decline in traditional TV advertising is not in dispute. Maurice Saatchi acknowledges it in this interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and outlines a new model for marketing.

If you’re over 25 you’re a ‘digital immigrant’. If you’re a ‘digital native’ you’ve learnt the digital language; the brain of the digital native is different. It’s literally been reworked. It’s faster. It sifts more; it recalls less… A new model is required for marketing. What I’m describing is a new business model, one in which companies compete to establish one word equity. That is they aim to define in one word the particular characteristic that they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world. I would say this is the most priceless corporate asset of the digital age.

An example: Google ‘which has global ownership of the one word search.’

UPDATE: Maurice Saatchi’s written an article on this topic for the Financial Times.

Testing the thesis

22 Mar

The central thesis of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR is simply stated by the authors. ‘You can’t build a new brand with advertising because advertising has no credibility… You can launch new brands only with publicity or public relations (PR)’.

It seems to me (though not to all) that it’s a surprisingly robust thesis. But I’d add two qualifications. It works best if the brand is a new technology product or service that, by definition, adds something new (think of Microsoft and Google). It also works well where the brand has a strong narrative (think Body Shop and its ethical campaigns).

But does it work for me-too products in mature industries? Probably not. Today, the first new national daily newspaper in twenty years appears in Britain. A narrative capable of strong PR support, you would think. There has indeed been some press coverage, but The Sportsman has been launched on the back of TV advertising and sponsorship (I noticed a Sportsman logo on Sky’s cricket coverage from India this morning).

This pattern repeats itself in another mature industry. Most cars need massive promotional budgets while the Toyota Prius thrives on ‘free publicity’ thanks to its novelty and strong environmental narrative.