A Less Charitable Cashless Society

22 Feb

The shift from a cash-carrying to cash-less society in the UK has been incredibly rapid, with the effects of the shift to contactless increasing in the past year. Although this shift to using digital transactions has been lauded by many as proof of our technological advances making lives easier, many others have identified the creation of a two-tier world where those without access to bank accounts or incomes are cut off from life because of their dependence on cash. The CEO of Mastercard, Ajay Banga, has been vocal about his passion to bring people who live outside of the financial system into it, as otherwise we risk ‘creating islands, where the unbanked transact only with each other’.

For many of us who don’t carry cash – or at least not in the same way we did 10 years ago – we are unable to donate the spare change to those in need as we used to do. In the Netherlands an ad agency recently released a new solution to this growing gap; a jacket, to be worn by homeless people that not only keeps them warm but also allows passers-by to donate €1 by tapping the contactless payment area. The money that is donated can then be redeemed in shelters for food, a bed and a bath.


Via Blue Cross


This isn’t the first foray by charities to try and encourage us to donate using our contactless cards – Cancer Research UK has trialled contactless donation terminals in central locations, and the Blue Cross attached contactless donation points to dogs to create the world’s first ‘canine fundraisers’. The move to cash-free is forcing charities to rapidly innovate, but this can be beneficial. The children’s charity NSPCC said that their recent trial using contactless donations set at a fixed amount such as £1/£2 actually increased their average donations, because people are less likely to donate small coin denominations, and because contactless offers a quick and easy spontaneous donation.


Via the NSPCC

We’d love to see charities partnering with other brands in this area to fully explore all innovation opportunities; people want to donate money to worthy causes, but they now expect this to be as easy and on demand a process as everything else in their lives, and charities must rise to this. A financial brand such as Mastercard could back a charity contactless campaign, such as the jacket for homeless people, to provide more credibility and confidence for those who decide to donate on the street. Alternatively brands such as supermarkets could encourage in-store charity donations by offering to round up transaction amounts, from say £6.59 to £7.00, with the extra money going straight to the customer’s charity of choice.

Although the evolving digital economy offers solutions and possibilities for many, we must be careful as a society to ensure that those without access to it are not excluded entirely – and brands should play a vital part in helping to bridge this gap.

Brand of the Week – Bayer

17 Feb

via Bayer

Our brand of the week is Bayer – their new campaign ‘HeroSmiths’ targets people with the last name Smith and invites them to become aspirin carriers to help those in need in case of a heart attack.Their aspirin key-chain is designed to be carried everywhere, and by identifying how many people someone is likely to interact with, they can easily effect great change through small acts.
 It’s fascinating to see how a pharmaceutical brand is changing the traditional brand narrative to become a supportive, informational service that also empowers people to become life savers. At a time when the US health insurance industry is becoming increasingly fractured between those who can and can’t afford it, empowering ideas such as the HeroSmith campaign help to bridge the gap by equipping people with power through knowledge.
Image result for herosmiths bayer

via Bayer

Spotlight On: Palm Vaults

7 Feb

photo via tuppencecollective.co.uk

We have recently been utterly delighted by a small café on a backstreet of Hackney.

It had long frustrated us that every venue that serves a flat white seems to look exactly the same – with distressed wood, lightly rusted metal and a colour scheme that consists only of varying shades of brown. This aesthetic has dominated our coffee houses for nigh on a decade. Palm Vaults turns all of this on its head.

From a decadent mother-of-pearl sign, to the glorious baby pink on the walls and velvet chairs, to the jungle of suspended flora, it is a fresh new world we haven’t seen before. It takes influences from Miami vacations, 80s workout videos, Wes Anderson films, and creates something so unique and charming it has already cluttered the pages of Instagram. Every detail ties into the theme, down to the most beautiful take away cups we’ve ever seen. It is bold and decidedly different. It has a strong, unapologetic personality. It is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.

We hope this beckons in a new wave of aesthetic playfulness. We hope that other independent – and even chain – stores seek inspiration from far and wide, let their imaginations show, and create spaces that immerse us in creative new worlds. We dream of spaces that are distinct, original and even downright odd.

Louis Vuitton x Supreme

27 Jan

Louis Vuitton and Supreme, iconic French fashion house and downtown Manhattan streetwear brand respectively, launched their much-hyped collaboration at Louis Vuitton’s menswear show at Paris fashion week. Supreme has flirted with the establishment ‘kiss and punch’ style before. The notorious Supreme brick seemed to be a simultaneous middle finger up to, and flirtation with, the commerciality of consumerism. This is just one of the tensions that the collaboration highlights, read on for the questions we have about the collaboration and the tensions that make it a particularly interesting one:

Where next?

The collaboration is aimed at men unlike the women-oriented designer collaborations to date. While this is not surprising, it could mark the opening of the floodgates. Zara x Tom Ford? Topman x Armani?

Runway Ready:

Paris Fashion Week is the Louvre of the fashion world, a hallowed hall of art and creativity. It is highly unusual for a collaboration to appear as part of a main show. This is telling, LV is clearly taking the collaboration seriously and sees the LV x Supreme relationship as a symbiotic one, and rightly so, which brings us to our next point…


Instagram @louisvuitton

Balanced Kudos:

Supreme is no H&M. At the weekly Thursday ‘drop’ of new Supreme pieces, collections sell out instantly. This means that the resale value is astronomical and the rarity of products has propelled the brand into the minds of the exclusive and the aspirational. In this way, Supreme brings an inimitable, and crucially, lucrative cool to the table. Supreme is a legitimate player on the bona fide fashion stage, which may be amusing to those who recall that not so long ago, LV filed a cease and desist against Supreme for using their logo on merchandise.

Culture Clash:  

Collaborations require the perfect balance of Yin and Yang, they rarely work when two aesthetically similar brands converge for a hot minute just to make a quick buck. With LV and Supreme, we have brands at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum, even their logos assign them semiotically to their pole, luxury and streetwear in turn. The price point of the items in the collaboration will be LV standard so it will be interesting to see whether this will challenge Supreme’s claim to be true to the streets. Or conversely, will this propel the brand even further and make the ‘normal’ Supreme prices seem entirely palatable, an acceptable buy-in price to get a piece of one of the most exclusive brands in fashion? But what does this collaboration do to the notions of luxury and streetwear? Does it blur them, render them redundant or make them more poignant than ever? Supreme is turning away from the roots that built it into the desirable brand it is today – it has now become part of the fashion world, a world that it used to be estranged from, a door from which it used to be turned away, now it is on the inside, a double agent. This will doubtless sully the spirit of the brand in the minds of original fans, but this is certainly not to say that this will stop it from being an enormously successful commercial arrangement.


Instagram @supreme__hustle

Sport 2.0

25 Jan

Sportswear has long been multifaceted. Sportswear as facilitator of movement, as beautifier of movement. Sportswear as uniform or prop, as mask or costume.

The two global behemoths of sports clothing, Nike and Adidas, have both released new cinematic adverts. They are fascinating examples of established brands shaping their category by forging an adventurous path with a radical aesthetic and tone of voice.


Multi-talented artist and athlete, FKA Twigs, directs and stars in the Nike ‘DO YOU BELIEVE IN MORE?’ advert. This ad feels like a deep and deliberate fissure with what has gone before. Through the choreography of the athletes, we are told a story about the holistic nature of sporting prowess. Sport is meditation, sport is sound, sport is expression. Achievement in the new Nike world view is creative not linear, it is about manifesting a physical expression of an internal feeling. Sport becomes an exploration of the self, it is self-improvement and meditation, it is perfecting a craft, and not honing a physique, it is the blend of the mental and physical. Nike is once again telling us to be our best, but the definition has loosened, or rather, it is up for grabs, be your best, your way. We are challenged to be cerebral and have faith, to ‘Believe In More’, a far cry from the prosaic pragmatism of Just Do It.




The Adidas Originals advert, ‘ORIGINAL IS NEVER FINISHED’, feels more like an edgy European short film than a commercial for one of the world’s best-known companies. The advert is a heady combination of high and low culture, of creation and destruction, of discordant image and sound. The aesthetic is stark, aggressive and even unsettling at points. The conflict between ‘original’, ‘imitation’ and ‘new’ is foregrounded.

Many brands with an illustrious heritage to mine content themselves with worshipping at the altar of their past rather than translating this myth into something that still resonates in the present. Adidas, however, sidesteps this trap by speaking about the notion of ‘original’ in a radically updated way. Original means the first, but when transposed into the past it is just the first of many, or in other words, old, the very antithesis of original. Arguably, once original lives in the past, it ceases even to merit the term. Therefore, the only way to stay original is to combat the anxiety of influence, to set original alight and resurrect it. Adidas stands for the restless pursuit of the new.



Both adverts converge on a new aesthetic (interestingly also present in the Dior Couture show) and set of beliefs around sport. There are shades of spirituality, meditation, and worship where bodies in motion are transformed into higher, other-worldly beings. This marks a new commercial occasion for sport; exercise is becoming a form of worship, to the human form, to movement and to creation.

Form and content align, these are pieces of art and their message is clear, go create, go express. Welcome to Sport 2.0.



Pollution Brings It Home

23 Jan

With the recent news that some areas of London have already reached their annual air pollution limit for 2017 in just 5 days, the topic of pollution has been on our minds lately. Separate to the effects these pollution levels may have on the planet (and at a time when the incoming US President is known to be a climate change sceptic), concerns have been rising over pollution levels in our cities due to the effects it may be having on us at a personal health level.


City Air App

The change from environmental awareness on a global level to concern over our local area and our own personal health has been brought into sharp focus by the recent cultural trend of self-monitoring through apps such as ‘London Air’. This app shows us in real time, and down to an individual street level, the invisible pollutants surrounding us. This expression of pollution on a micro scale, and in an easy accessible format, means that people are both more aware, and more concerned about the after-effects of human activity on our environment.

Brands have been aware of the importance of climate change and sustainability for years now, and are better than ever at tapping into consumers’ desire for them to address this in their internal and CSR policies. But when the discussion surrounding pollution becomes more focused on individuals, it also becomes more emotionally charged. People will soon start to expect brands to not only address the effects of climate change on a global level, but also at a local level: ‘what are brands doing to protect me from air pollution?’


Apple iOS Health App

Brands who champion a cause through lobbying, CSR and internal practices do a fantastic job, but with an issue such as climate change, it is important for people to be able to take ownership and feel like they are having a positive impact. Apple have already made huge tracks in terms of self-monitoring health apps, but what about an app that measures the air pollution you contribute to per day in easily understood figures? ‘You have created 0.08 tonnes of CO2 today.’ Or more positively; ‘You have saved 1.8 tonnes of CO2 this week.’

To take full advantage of this opportunity, a brand would do well to both highlight air pollution, and also encourage people to make positive changes to their lifestyle to prevent air pollution.

Brands for a cause: Maltesers

12 Jan

We’ve blogged before about Maltesers’ recent advertising campaigns that have focused on representing disabled people’s lives in a ‘lighter’ way, and this week they have increased their efforts by releasing a bus stop advertisement entirely in braille, with the raised dots the size and shape of a Malteser.



(The sign reads “Caught a really fast bus once, turns out it was a fire engine. #LookOnTheLightSide”)

In many ways Maltesers taking up the mantle for disability and becoming a ‘Cause Brand’ feels like a strange fit – do people really want their chocolate snack to take a political stance? Or are Maltesers’ efforts assuaging our guilt; we can buy their chocolate safe in the knowledge that they support the rights of disabled people, and we need not worry about disabled issues.

It’s interesting to consider whether a brand such as Maltesers has the right to talk about these causes and adopt a stance on issues such as disability awareness. Perhaps a good indicator would be to evaluate whether they mirror this stance internally, for example with policies that make sure that members of the disabled community are represented in their staff teams.

There is a broader question as to whether it should be the role of brands to advocate for these causes in society. The progressive stance that has been adopted by certain brands such as Mac, Smirnoff and Always has gone some way to shift our cultural thinking, but should it not be the government (or we the people) who take this on ourselves? Perhaps it is the case that because these brands take up the cause, we feel we need not worry about it.



From a branding perspective we’re wondering if this poster is indicative of a larger trend towards representation, intersectionality and inclusivity becoming the norm for all brands, or if like so many marketing gimmicks before, it is just a fad that will pass when disability/transgender/women’s rights become unfashionable and are no longer the hot topic of conversation.

We’ll continue to update you on brands that are taking on a particular cause, and whether our predictions ring true.