Are Brands Becoming More Politicised?

21 Oct

During the referendum we examined how brands were taking a bold stance and publicising which way they would be voting. Now that US election fever is well underway we are noticing more and more brands championing their candidate of choice in humorous and interesting ways. We all know that millennials are searching for a brand that has a worldview they can identify with, and companies are cleverly capturing the zeitgeist in different ways.





Ben and Jerry’s founder Ben Cohen confirmed his support for his fellow Vermont native and candidate for the Democratic nomination Bernie Sanders by creating him his own ice cream flavour. ‘Bernie’s Yearning’ has a thin layer of chocolate at the top (to represent the 1%-ers that Sanders riles against) that can be crushed and incorporated into the mint ice cream below. This did not feel out of the ordinary as Ben and Jerry’s are already known as a brand that is involved in social commentary, with their climate change and equal marriage ice creams.





Gourmet Burger Kitchen have had a more tongue in cheek approach to the US election, bringing out their ‘Vote Rump’ burger – using the taglines ‘Our thickest burger ever’ ‘It’s a bit of an arse’ and ‘Makes any hands look tiny’. Although this is a relatively safe stance to take in the UK, with most Britons bewildered by the popularity of Trump, the humour in the campaign seems to have struck a nerve with burger lovers in the UK.





Some brands have also been dragged into the election cycle buzz unwillingly. Skittles became a focus in the election cycle after Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the now infamous poster comparing a bowl of skittles to Syrian refugees. Skittles were applauded for their restraint as they responded to the furore with a simple statement: ‘Skittles are a candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it is an appropriate analogy’. By making as little fuss as possible, Skittles quickly distanced themselves from Trump’s campaign, and subtly demonstrated which nominee they favoured.





Although we love the humour and entertaining nature of the above campaigns, it is perhaps because this election cycle feels so ridiculous and caricatured that such responses seem normal. With more serious political issues such a stance would be inappropriate. Ben and Jerry’s demonstrated this recently when they came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than trivialising the issue with a humorous ice cream name, they sensibly put out a lengthy statement to explain their viewpoint on the issue.

We’d love to see some of the brands that have taken a political stance in this election cycle also tackle some of the trickier political and social issues in culture; perhaps Skittles could release a special ‘Love The Rainbow’ pack, with proceeds going to refugee charities?

Maltesers showcase the lighter side of disability

3 Oct

Over the last few weeks we’ve been reflecting on the impact of the Paralympics on brand efforts throughout the games. Channel 4 again spearheaded the coverage of the Paralympics, and this year they encouraged advertisers to reflect diversity in their campaigns, going as far as offering £1 million worth of airtime to the best campaign idea featuring disabled people. Maltesers’  #LookOnTheLightSide was the stand out winner from over 90 entries.

What is it?



Working with the disability charity Scope, Maltesers developed the ad based on the real life experiences of people with disabilities. Borrowing cues of female honesty from programmes like ‘Girls’ and ‘Inside Amy Schumer’, the ad portrays Storme’s character as fully dimensional, with a sexualised life – in contradiction to the controversial portrayal of disability in the recent film ‘Me Before You’. Following direction from Scope, Maltesers say that they were keen to use humour to break social taboos surrounding disability.

Why does it work?



By showing people with disabilities as neither superheroes, nor people to be pitied, Maltesers is pushing culture in a direction which sees disability as normalised. The fact that they cast actors that have real disabilities also lends their campaign authenticity, which brands such as Vogue have recently been criticised for (link to vogue controversy).  Crucially, the ad fits in with their brand message of #LookOnTheLightSide; ensuring that their backing of disability awareness through humour is perceived as genuine.

Taking the idea further?



During their Paralympics coverage, Channel 4 screened a world first ad break that was entirely signed using British Sign Language by deaf actor David Ellington. When the Maltesers advert featuring BSL appeared, David sat back, ate a packet of Maltesers and watched the advert with the viewers at home. The audacity of Maltesers to put out a 30sec TV spot with no audible speech, requiring viewers to read subtitles did not go unnoticed:



Recent statistics show that there are 12 million disabled people in the UK, making up 20% of the population, and that 80% of people feel underrepresented by TV and media. We’d love to see Maltesers not only continuing to show their adverts outside of the Paralympics timeframe, but to work harder to make their adverts accessible to their audience. Providing BSL, subtitles and Audio Description for all of their adverts would be a huge expression of their support for the disabled community in the UK, and would help the general public become more comfortable with disability.

With cash prize incentives removed, only time will tell if brands continue their efforts to portray a more diverse Britain in their adverts.

Is Social Technology Kindling or Killing Creativity?

23 Sep


The launch of iOS10 last week brought with it an updated iMessage that allows users to write in invisible ink, send handwritten notes and create animations. These additions allow for a new level of creative personalisation when it comes to communicating, a trend we have seen emerge more and more across social media.

Whilst previously social media platforms were used largely for documenting lives with sentimental purpose, they are now being used more and more as a way to express a personal sense of creativity. Excelled by the popularity of snapchat and Instagram, the shift has got us wondering whether the filters, emojis and other essentially frivolous tools are actually helping creativity, or limiting us to a rather formulaic form of self-expression.

With a finite number of filter options to choose from, and a limited number of colours to doodle with, every time a user attempts to deliver a personalised piece of content, it is always reminiscent of something that has come before. These limitations, though constraining for personal expression, are ideal for a brand’s pursuit of creating a distinct yet definable character. Brands such as Nike and Starbucks have acted masterfully in utilising visual social media to develop their personalities, and have been rewarded with giant followings as a result.

Just a few days ago self-proclaimed technology devotee Kanye West took to twitter to declare he’s doing away with his smartphone, citing the reason as wanting to ‘have air to create’.

With technology showing no sign of slowing down when it comes to delivering new ways to communicate and develop a personal identity, we too wonder whether these tools and developments will be of benefit to creativity. Or will they in fact hinder and stand in the way of people making something more rich, creative and nuanced.

Interesting Things About… Personalised Subscription Boxes

16 Sep

We’ve seen a new wave of subscription boxes emerge which are taking personalisation to a whole new level. Whilst beauty boxes have been widely customisable for a while now, and have become quite overdone, these new subscriptions are understanding our needs in a much more intimate and closely targeted way. It feels like a massive leap into a world where personalised subscription boxes are totally in sync with our minds and bodies, meaning that we are finally getting a truly personalised service.  Here are 3 of our favourites:


Ms Flow



Taking intimacy with its customers to the extreme, Ms Flow describe themselves as a ‘luxury period and wellbeing subscription service’. Customers are able to choose between light, regular and heavy flow packages and can even select their preferred sanitary towel or tampon brand. By ‘syncing up’ their delivery dates with recipients’ cycle, Ms Flow are able to offer a truly unique and personalised service.

The Book Drop



Targeting the improvement of our minds, The Book Drop allow its customers to select from different genres and then curates a collection of books based on their choices. By getting to know your mind over time, this service suggests a range of books to suit your mind and stretch your thinking. By allowing recipients to switch boxes from month to month, they enable a more personalised approach.

Club W



Understanding wine and becoming a true ‘oenophile’ can be a difficult process, Club W decrypt this by offering a tailored wine subscription service. Customers answer specific questions in order for Club W to truly understand their palate profile. Their app truly learns your palate to deliver a service that combines the expertise of their wine knowledge with their customers’ personal tastes.


Why this is interesting… 

These subscription boxes feel much more in tune with the people they serve, and achieve a much more intelligent method of personalisation. Being able to totally understand their mind and body means a much more tailored service can be provided.  As subscriptions continue to try and engage with more parts of peoples’ lives, we wonder what areas they will try and tackle next. We can imagine the likes of Hello Fresh combining with Fitbit to form HelloBit– a service which provides people with calorie counted meals based on their food intake and the amount of calories they have burnt that day.


Interesting Things About… Fitness, Fashion and Beauty

31 Aug

Health and beauty have always shared a close relationship, but recently we have seen a shift in how beauty and specifically fitness are interacting with one another. The concept of fitness is expanding, and as a result it has become more significant to the world of fashion and beauty. Here are some examples of where the concepts have combined to create something new and interesting:


Bellabeat Fitness Tracker



Bellabeat have recently launched a fitness tracker for women that looks more like a piece of high fashion jewellery than your traditional Fitbit. Designed by artist Urska Srsen, Leaf not only tracks activity and sleep, but also supports mindfulness activities and gives you help meditating.

Selfridges Body Studio



Aiming to tap into the wellness movement, Selfridges Body Studio is about understanding that the needs of everybody are different. Their in-store staff are on hand to provide tips on how you can support different body types through fitness effectively.

ELLE’s first ever fitness columnist



This month, beauty and fashion magazine ELLE has introduced a fitness column for the very first time. Spinning instructor Bangs, AKA Murieann Carey-Cambell will pass on tips every month from what she has learnt as an exercise expert.


Why is this interesting…

Whereas at one time fitness was associated almost entirely with sweaty gym sessions and exhaustive activity, now it covers a much wider set of ideas that are not kept exclusively for an elite group of exercise fanatics. People have become more aware of the importance of exercise for holistic wellbeing, and in turn this has meant influencers within fashion and beauty have had to step up and involve fitness in their conversations. A more holistic approach means people are connecting fitness with their overall wellbeing rather than just their weight and size, and brands are changing the way they talk about the concept as a result. It is important they keep up with the change in narrative or risk being left behind and out of the dialogue.

Are all-female remakes really the best way to address gender inequality in film?

25 Aug

Inequality is a hot topic in the film industry. From the growing pay gap to limited lead roles for women, it seems that Hollywood is not stepping up to the mark when it comes to transforming the industry.  Jennifer Lawrence is one of many female actors who have vocalised their anger about the pay gap for leading movie roles, and the backlash has begun. Hollywood seems to be addressing the inequality between men and women on film– but with all female remakes of previously leading male roles. While it’s nice that Hollywood now believes that women can bring in box office cash, this all-female remake trend is really getting on our nerves and isn’t really pushing the industry forward.





When we heard that they were making another Ghostbusters but with an all-female cast, we waited with bated breath. Big fans of the original, it seemed that Hollywood wanted to bring the movie into the 21st century with a dazzling new line up. However the doors have since opened and closed again – it panned at the box office with an estimated $70 million loss. The original is a well-loved cult classic that really shouldn’t have been messed with.


ocean remake


Hollywood is now talking about an all-female Ocean’s remake to bring in the crowds, but the idea of bringing back a gang of con artists that worked so well in the original – but female only – really doesn’t feel that revolutionary.

The Expendables



And yes, it’s happening, the all-female remake of The Expendables titled The Expendabelles (no that isn’t a typo) includes big names such as Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana. It will be out soon for us all to criticise – fingers crossed we won’t be disappointed.


Why are we seeing women remake iconic male film roles? It seems Hollywood is just not quite confident enough to actually write new material for women.  The likes of Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect prove that original productions with a leading female ensemble can be lucrative for film studios, but this recent trend seems to suggest that Hollywood still has limited confidence when it comes to writing new material for women.  Perhaps brands should look at the failing box office results of the most recent release – Ghostbusters – and wake up to the need for genuine female leads – rather than remakes of male roles, or lead females who fall at their male co-stars feet.

Interesting Things About… Returning to Our Roots

19 Aug


Digital technology is increasingly being perceived as toxic, with the potential to corrupt the purity of our minds and souls. According to recent OFCOM research, 15m of us undertook a ‘digital detox’ last year, owing weight to a growing anti-digital movement. Recently we’ve seen a novel manifestation of this ‘digital detox’ movement: a romanticising of the time of Genesis. A time encapsulated by naïve innocence, raw foods, and tools without push notifications. Here are three of the favourite examples we’ve seen:



Eden on Channel 4

Directly referencing the Biblical utopia, Eden sees twenty young people stranded in a remote corner of Scotland. Tasked with building a society from scratch, Eden’s inhabitants all talk of wanting to forgo their high pressure jobs and always-connected lives in pursuit of a more primal existence. They build their shelters and grow (or kill) their food. Despite the physical hardship, the Adams and Eves constantly remind the audience about how the experience is distilling the human condition down to its purest form.



The Bunyadi

When London’s first nudist restaurant opened at the start of summer, it was tempting to damn it with faint praise as a Time Out enthusiast’s latest novelty haunt. Diners leave everything in lockers: servers wear tactically placed fig leaves. People are encouraged not to feel abashed: embarrassment is a modern day affliction. A feeling of liberation certainly follows the initial shock. Once modern clothes and gadgets are removed, we are reduced to a state no different from God’s garden.



London Foraging Courses

These courses have proved highly popular over the last couple of years, with people coming from far and wide to learn what it takes to forage successfully. The course covers over 20 wild food plants and provides tips on how to identify, cook and prepare them.


Why is this interesting?

At the same time as many brands race to become further integrated with our digital lives, more people are jumping on to the digital detox movement. We think some brands can build meaningful relationships with people based on anti-digital positions as a growing desire for ‘purer’ non-digital experiences begins to become an aspiration.

Interesting Things About… The New Social

10 Aug

As urban centres throughout Europe become ever more crowded, clubs bars and restaurants are taking a more resourceful approach when launching spaces for people to socialise in. Here are some of the most inventive efforts we’ve seen recently:

1st Spätival, Berlin – Festival of Late Night Shops

Berlin 2


Berlin is launching its very first Spätival festival this year, in which corner shops throughout the capital are turning into concert venues for the night. Some of the country’s most exciting new talent will be found not on traditional stages, but within off licenses across Kreuzberg.

La Cabina Restaurant, London – Dial In On “2-5-8-0”

Berlin 3


Spanish restaurant La Cabina in Hoxton has given the traditional phone box a quirky new purpose as the main entry to their venue. Visitors must dial “2-5-8-0” on the keypad to secure entry.

Café Pförtner, Berlin – The Latest Bus Stop

Berlin 4


Café Pförtner has recently opened its doors to the public at the former garage of Berlin’s public bus company BVG. The restaurant is actually situated within one of the traditional buses.

Why is this interesting …

We seem to have an increasing fascination with immersing ourselves in the fleeting and the unconventional when it comes to socialising. Brands such as Hendrick’s Gin and Lipton are taking notice of this fact, and are venturing away from conventional social spaces when it comes to launching their touchpoints. A careful balanced must be drawn between participation and intrusion when brands choose to engage with this form of socialising as its success often relies on maintaining a rebellious spirit.

Uber Convenience

20 Jul


With a fresh approach Uber’s most recent campaign has caught out attention. The days in which Uber stood as a mode of luxury transport are long gone, and the campaign marks a shift in the company’s tone.

“Get there with Uber” has been distributed across the country and features real life Uber users talking about their everyday Uber stories. This ranges from busy mums talking about their shopping trips to entrepreneurs discussing how Uber has helped them with their businesses. The brand has also published a production video on their YouTube site to highlight just how real these people are.

Uber has changed direction from wanting to provide people with the chauffeur experience, to focusing on giving them the freedom to do what they want every day. As Uber’s take on luxury always felt slightly dated, we think this move is culturally on point and more reflective of how people actually use the brand.

Whether it’s as simple as helping people get home from nights out, or enabling them to take bigger steps like move house, Uber is making it easier for people to do the things that matter to them. Their new campaign highlights and celebrates this fact, showing they appreciate what is most important to the everyday Uber user.

Reframing Health Food – The Beginning of the Revolution

14 Jul

It’s been a long time coming but we are starting to see a cultural backlash against the somewhat unsustainable Clean Eating movement, which main focus is deprivation and control. There has been a revolution in health where food is starting to be part of self-care and wellbeing. It is not about the calories but the flavour and the enjoyment you get from food. Food has become part of a holistic lifestyle where it is fuel for the mind, body and soul. This new manifesto against clean eating seems to move the health debate forward into a new conversation that is exciting and refreshing. Let’s have a look at some of the things that are leading this movement:




Ruby Tandoh: The long awaited second cookbook by former Great British Bake Off winner Ruby Tandoh is titled Flavour: Eat What You Love, and includes recipes that put your appetite first.  Flavour encourages readers to follow their cravings and go wherever their appetite takes them. It is a celebration of the joy of cooking and eating. Ruby has recently written for Vice about the danger of the Clean Eating craze and how damaging it is for peoples’ bodies.



#SelfcareSaturdays: Bloggers have started to promote #selfcaresaturdays which encourages wellbeing by giving their followers a simple self-care idea to try each weekend, something that makes them feel special, and look after their bodies.  It is about having one day each week when you look after you. This movement is trying to subvert the wellbeing paradigm to one that is about feeling good and ready to face the world rather than trying to control it.




Eat Like A Girl: This London food blogger loves to travel and find exciting recipes.  Her blog encourages women to eat the food that they love – real food, delicious food, food that is packed with flavour. The recipes are built for cosy home cooking that will cheer your lunch box and your evenings rather than make you feel bad for eating.


Why this is interesting:

This is an interesting movement in the health conversation – it was getting pretty stale. In fact this approach to health and food feels much more nuanced – thinking about food not just pragmatically as a calorie, but at an emotional level.  It is changing the meaning of health and food and the way in which they are being communicated to people. Brands need to take note of this and monitor the ever changing health conversation closely, in order to be on top of the evolution of heath food and how people interact with it.