Posts filed under ‘trends’
If we are to believe the trendwatchers and futurists, we’ll all be running our lives by smartphone within a few years, using them for everything from paying for goods to opening our garage doors (thanks for the link Ally).
I have an android smartphone and I’m rather attached to it…but I’ve just declined the upgrade I was due. As well as the cost savings of switching to a SIM only plan I can’t bear the thought of wasting a day of my life trying to get a new smartphone up and running and the possible/probable data loss that would occur as a result of the changeover.
You see, I just don’t quite trust technology. I did a software update on the phone last week that mysteriously and randomly wiped 20% of my contacts. It was only because I refuse to be parted from my backup Filofax that I had a copy of everything.
If I was entirely reliant on my phone as camera, diary, address book, credit card, keys, web browser, email reader, calculator and, erm, phone then my handbag would unquestionably be a lot lighter and smaller. But what if the phone got nicked? Or broke? Or just ran out of battery? My entire life would grind to a halt.
I’m just not sure that the majority of smartphone owners are ready to break away from their other Stuff and trust their lives to the gods of hardware, software and signal.
I detected a definite shift this year towards homemade gifts, with jam, chutney, Turkish Delight and flavoured vodka all being unwrapped at my house on Christmas Day. Having heard similar stories over the last few days I can only imagine that businesses selling kilner jars and jam pot covers had a bumper December.
From Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas to Lorraine’s Last Minute Christmas, switching on the TV it was easy to get the impression that if you weren’t making your own gifts in 2011, you just weren’t trying.
It’s lovely that people are choosing to go back to basics and put more thought and effort than cash into their gifts, but all this domestic goddessing is slightly tricky to reconcile with my career in an industry whose primary purpose seems to be to get people to buy more Stuff.
I do appreciate that sometimes we create very worthy behaviour change – persuading people to eat more healthily, support charities or drive more sensibly for example. But when it comes down to it, the majority of the British marketing industry’s turnover comes from businesses that sell food, toys, cosmetics, alcohol, furniture and so on. Stuff we might want, but don’t necessarily actually need.
Ok, we do need to eat, but we don’t necessarily need an unlimited supply of Ferrero Rocher, a Heston Christmas Pudding or an Iceland prawn ring in order to celebrate Christmas properly.
Of course you can always reassure yourself that you’re not telling people they need more stuff, you’re just persuading them that should they happen to need item X, your brand is better than the alternatives.
I don’t know yet quite how the two trains of thought fit together. If we’re moving away from consumption as a measure of success and/or affection and towards something more personal and meaningful, what does that mean for the economy? But then there’s the positive impact on the environment to consider too…
My head hurts and I haven’t even tried that flavoured vodka yet.
Update, 02/05/2012 – if this post strikes a chord, you should read this great piece about making people want things vs. making things people want by John Willshire (found via Neil’s April Post of the Month nominations)
Sometimes, when I meet someone at a party and they find out I work in advertising (and especially once I explain what a Planner does) a flicker of surprise crosses their face. I suppose I don’t seem the type, perhaps like someone more likely to be a teacher or accountant.
You see, I’m not cool. I don’t have an edgy haircut or wear clothes that hover on the narrow line between ‘cutting edge fashion’ and ‘what the heck is she wearing’. I’m not into bands that haven’t signed a record deal yet, underground clubs, NHS glasses or Guatemalan street food and I can’t write code. In short, it’s a wonder they let me into the APG.
Ok, I might have made a few sweeping generalisations there but I think the outside world’s view of what AdLand and its people are like might have rubbed off on the industry itself in some kind of self-perpetuating cycle – I actually saw an agency MD wearing guyliner in the local regional newspaper recently.
And I’m not sure that all this Hipstering is actually a good thing. Hip and cool seems to be equated by this industry with youth, the general feeling seeming to be that if you’re over 45 you can’t possibly have anything of value to contribute. So for anyone middle aged who hasn’t made it far enough up the agency tree to have enough equity for age not to matter, the future looks pretty rubbish.
I’ve blogged about the age issue before, but it appears that the problem extends beyond agencies into the marketing departments of clients too. I recently caught up with an expert in marketing professional services brands who left their role with one of the big accountants after being “revered by the partners but dismissed by everyone under 30 who couldn’t understand why skills and experience might matter”.
I’m not saying that creativity and individualism don’t matter, of course they’re the lifeblood of any decent agency. But perhaps we need to get better at recognising that individuality and creativity comes in all shapes, sizes, clothing and age brackets. And that whatever challenges an agency might meet, someone who has been round the block a few times might well have met something similar before.
There’s been an awful lot of thinking recently from respected Big Thinkers in the Planning world about what the agency of the future might and/or will have to look like.
Neil recently wrote about the need to hire T-shaped people (who possess a strong vertical skill, but also have a broad empathy toward other skills and disciplines encountered in the business).
Amelia wrote back in January about her ‘agency and friends’ model (building a loose network of partners, developers and producers who can work alongside the core agency hub).
And a Major Planner posted something fairly recently about smarter, faster, more agile and responsive Planning that I commented on at the time but seems to have since gone AWOL.
My comment on the Major Planner’s post wasn’t received very warmly. It was something along the lines that all these ideas are very relevant for where we’re all…but to my mind they’re all also a new take on (and a new name for) stuff that’s been happening (at least round me) for quite a while.
I gained my Planning spurs at a series of Regional Integrated Agencies. They were largish by Outside London standards (up to 175 staff in one office) and did pretty much everything. Most started out years ago as pure advertising agencies but quickly added specialisms like DM and PR in order to survive.
So Planners trained Up North have always been able to plan for multi-channel campaigns. It was expected that you knew about promotional insurance, newshare, PR press days, why silver print was expensive and what CMS was.
You were also expected to be a decent qualitative researcher and an insightful and strategic Planner. In other words, you had to be T-shaped, with strong core planning skills while having a broad understanding of what everyone else in the agency did for a living and why.
The newer, smaller agencies up here mostly tried to do Integrated too, as (until very recently) that’s what many clients were interested in buying. So a lively freelance market of trusted ex agency employees and specialist suppliers sprung up to support the core agency teams.
And with quiet, Northern confidence, some of the agencies that did decide to stick to one thing behaved as if size was no barrier to greatness. In the 2000’s, some quite significant pieces of big brand multi million pound business were being run from agencies round here with a head count under 30.
But most agencies Up North rarely had massive budgets to play with – and rarely much time to work with either. Not for us the three month pitch or million pound production budget. So Planning had to be good, cheap and fast. I know it’s hard to manage more than two out of that three, but we tried our hardest.
It seems that up here, Up North they had the right idea. The agency of the future is undoubtedly going to consist of a tight core of smart, agile, strategic, T-shaped people who work in real time and rely on trusted partners to help them get the job done.
So what I suppose I’m saying is that there’s probably no such thing as an entirely new idea…but there are certainly some great, fresh angles on old ideas flying about at the moment.
I put Winter Tyres on the car last week (it’s rear wheel drive, I got stuck three times last Winter). There’s a badly shot but concise video explanation of the benefits of switching here.
I asked the nice bloke at Kwik Fit how many people he thought would be doing the same as me this year. Based on sales so far, he thought 40% of cars would have Winter Tyres on in a couple of months.
Up to last year, proper Winter Tyres (they have a snowflake symbol on them) were thought to account for just 0.5% of total annual tyre sales.
So what’s changed? Well obviously we had a harsh Winter in the UK last year and many people like me will have decided not to risk normal tyres again. But my Kwik Fit bloke also thought it was partly down to the recent advertising push from the big tyre manufacturers like Continental.
The interesting thing it, my tyre prophet didn’t suggest that his customers were asking for tyres by brand name. They mostly just wanted ‘Winter Tyres’ generally, suggesting that ads like the one above have done a good job for the category generally in terms of behaviour change rather than benefitting their specific brand (although of course as the market grows, so should the comparative sales of brands in that market).
But it strikes me that when presented with a range of Winter Tyres to choose from, most people will go for something in their budget range, from a brand they’re heard of. Which might well be the brand they saw on TV last week.
So my hypothesis is that these ads are doing double duty – changing behaviour across the category and boosting promoted brand recall at the point of purchase. Which is pretty impressive for a 20 second ad.
I own a pair of shoes, specifically purchased ‘for work’, that I can barely walk in.
This wouldn’t have happened to me when I started work twelve plus years ago. Back then, Smart Work Shoes for Women could be divided neatly up into four categories:
Flats – in the pre ballet shoe era, we’re mainly talking loafers
Kitten heels – for women who hadn’t quite mastered major heel height or had a lot of dashing about to do
2 inch heels – standard work height and sturdy enough to run for trains, up the stairs etc.
Anything over 3 inches was strictly reserved for Going Out and 4 inches plus was left to pop stars and drag queens.
The reason I’ve ended up with 90s-drag-queen-height work heels is that in contrast to everything else in the shop, they looked quite practical. Someone in charge seems to have decided that in the case of heels, bigger is better (especially if you add a platform sole for extra oomph). But the women of Britain (at least the ones for whom smart footwear is a necessity for at least part of the working week) are hobbling around in unsuitable, unsupportive footwear that they can barely walk in.
photo from here
As the fabulous Caitlin Moran puts it in How To Be a Woman, she merely wants shoes that a) she can dance in and b) will allow her to run away from a murderer, should one suddenly decide to give chase.
Of course, the higher the heel, the thinner you’re supposed to look. But I’m not sure that looking thin, while wobbling around and wincing from pain is really an impressive look for the boardroom…
Update, same day (should really have remembered this before posting) – in last weekend’s Sunday Times, high heel king Christian Louboutin plays off the discomfort of high heels against the empowerment and awareness that comes from holding your body differently. Well, I can’t be the only Planner to have popped on a fierce pair of heels before a particularly tricky client meeting.
We’re enjoying some unseasonable weather here in the UK, with temperatures that would be impressive for high Summer, let alone mid Autumn.
This heatwave has been unexpected and we all know it can’t last – so as a nation we seem determined to make the most of it. Asda is reporting record sales of burgers (although since it gets dark at 7pm the BBQing might have to be done by torchlight) and sundresses and shorts have been dragged out of the back of wardrobes for a final airing this year. Parks and other public spaces are teeming with people enjoying themselves with the determination of someone who has looked at the calendar and knows that the sunshine can’t last.
Brighton Beach today, pic from The Guardian
Yes, at heart we Brits are a pessimistic lot, perhaps best illustrated by the fact that last Thursday as temperatures topped 25C/77F, Asda sold 147 snow shovels. This isn’t as barmy as it sounds – the first snowfall is predicted within the month…
I’m becoming increasingly interested in not so much what we think about other people/places/things – but how we see ourselves.
My Dad’s friends (in their 60s and 70s) are constantly telling him (and me) that they can’t possibly be as old as the other people their age look. It isn’t because they’re vain – they just don’t feel that old.
I certainly don’t feel like I’m in my mid 30s. In my head I’m stuck somewhere around 24 at the moment. I look at women my age with two or three children and really can’t get my head round the fact that we’re the same age. Obviously they’re two pregnancies, a lot of sleepless nights and only-five-minutes-to-get-ready-this-morning behind me in the looks department, but even so. They just seem so much more grown up, so very much older than me.
Which makes it very hard to worry about things like pensions and joint health when in your head you don’t feel like you’ve even really grown up yet.
We had a couple of elderly relatives to stay last month. I watched these ladies (both in their early 80s) nattering away, giggling and gossiping and I realised they could just as easily be 20somethings at Starbucks working their way through the latest issue of Heat. Then they told me about how being a widow meant the disappointment of not having anyone to dance with at tea dances, which to be honest is equally applicable to modern singletons at the average wedding when the slow dances come on.
It would be very easy to fall into the trap of writing creative briefs aimed at people as others see them – when in fact we should be considering how they see themselves.
Whenever I’ve been out with friends recently, the conversation has tended to revolve around subjects a bit outside my personal experience, like primary school places and Baby Ballet. Yes, 90% of my friends now come complete with small children – they’ve moved into the next stage of their lives. In contrast I haven’t got kids (and for long and complicated reasons can’t see children on my horizon), which sometimes leaves me with nothing to contribute to the conversation.
It strikes me that there must be a few brands out there in a sort of similar situation. The original core customers have moved into a new lifestage – but taken the brand with them. So you end up with Samantha Cameron wearing Topshop at the same time as a load of fourteen year olds. Who the heck are they supposed to market at?
It can only be a matter of time before Topshop stops trying to be all-things-to-all-women and starts chucking out a few proper sub-brands. I seem to have ended up as Aunty Gemma in several households. Perhaps it’s time to open some nice stores next door to Boden and Jigsaw called Topshop Collection?