Tag Archives: culture

Planting the Seed

25 Nov



We were surprised and intrigued when it was revealed that 32% of adults in London don’t drink alcohol (Office for National Statistics). The release of non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip marks this shift out even further, introducing a new era in the alcohol-free market. It feels about time for an alcohol-free drink which feels as sophisticated as a spirit to hit the market.

Many low- or no- alcohol drinks make much of their alcohol percentage, but do not manage to convey a strong sense of personality. Many are simply lower percentage versions of existing beverages, or feel rather childish, and not something to drink in a bar on a night out. Seedlip, on the other hand, has bags of personality. At the centre of Seedlip’s brand is the idea of “the art of nature”, echoed in its labelling and in its use of six individually distilled barks, spices and citrus peels. This natural take on non-alcoholic beverages certainly feels different from the artificial feeling low-alcohol drinks that already exist on the market. This brand refreshingly focuses on what it has, rather than what it doesn’t.

We think that other brands need to follow Seedlip’s example, and create non-alcoholic drinks which have interesting stories and ingredients at their heart. Drinks brands need to strike out and create bold, new, non-alcoholic products which can credibly take their place alongside their alcoholic counterparts.

Like for Like

25 Nov

Facebook photo


In response to those crying out for a negative counterpart to the well-loved like button, Facebook have extended their response repertoire to incorporate six new ‘reactions’. We think this is an interesting concept, but wonder how it will impact the way consumers interact with brands on social media.

Certainly, the risk of branded content being met with a negative reception has increased. Previously, posting inflammatory comments was the only avenue for users to publically express displeasure, but the new sad and angry reactions mark the introduction of a measurable way to show negativity. We’re fascinated to see what response brands have. Will they start producing tamer, more neutral content? Or will they be pushed to be more extreme, aiming to elicit a more powerful reaction?

The like button is fundamentally ingrained in the Facebook experience – with its existence often helping dictate the type of content brands publish. Only time will tell if the new reaction options will resonate with similar success.

Revealing Change

23 Nov


Every November, famous tire company Pirelli releases its world-renowned trade calendar. Sent to a restricted number of important customers and celebrity VIPs as a corporate gift, the calendar features the world’s most beautiful women, scantily (or not at all) clad, and shot by a celebrated photographer. Appearing in it, both behind the lens and in front, has become a mark of distinction.

The Pirelli calendar is the sort of cultural artefact that precedes itself; much like theSports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Its pin-up pages (or at least an idea of them) are ingrained in the cultural consciousness, even if most people’s names never make it on the mailing list.

So much has been made of the news that for the first time ever, Pirelli is departing from its tried-and-true (and frankly, tired) formula of sex and eroticism. For 2016, the calendar will feature intimate portraits – fully clothed – of 13 women who are shaping the world today, photographed by world-renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz.

Hailed as Leibovitz’s “celebration of femininity,” current PR commentary lauds the tire company for paying tribute to the evolving meaning of female power, for recognizing the diversity of roles that women play by spotlighting their strength and achievement – not just their seductive sexuality.

But this leap in content and style is not just an example of jumping on the girl power brandwagon; it also sheds light on a just-as-important dialogue in culture around the shifting definition of masculinity.

Compared to this era of female empowerment, the attention paid to masculine identity has been scant. But the veneer is beginning to crack. Articles are being pounded out by both sexes, frustrated by one-dimensional portrayals of themselves, their friends, and their partners. Mental health charity, BringChange2Mind, has launched a campaign featuring men speaking out on the importance of talking about their feelings, in the vein of attempting to reduce one of the main killers of men: suicide. #MasculinitySoFragile is being employed to satirize perceptions of stereotypical “male” behaviors, harnessing the populist idea-distribution tool of the “feminist” masses: the hashtag.

It’s true that in redefining what it means to be a woman, we’ve rested on our one-dimensional, musclebound-sex-addict-sports-enthusiast stereotypes of what it is to be a man. Which is why recognizing Pirelli’s decision to depart from their house style as a watershed moment for both sexes is so important.

In one giant step, the brand is transforming itself from something that represents an archaic remnant of masculine stereotype, namely garage backroom centerfolds, to something at the forefront of an important, emerging cultural conversation on the future of how we see men – using the lens of how men see women as the starting point.

It’s one thing for female-positioned brands and categories – soap, deodorant, makeup, baby wipes — to champion multifaceted depictions of women. It’s another thing altogether when a brand explicitly positioned for men – that uses the bodies of women as its central signifier of its hetero-male orientation – does the same. After all, can we imagine the brand altering the most prominent representation of its worldview without considering the ROI? Absolutely not.

So the Pirelli decision must be rooted in a fundamental recognition that the calendar recipients, historically male, have definitions of self – particularly with regard to women and the roles women play in the world today – that are broader than the cultural construct the brand has traditionally allotted to them. By changing the way the women in their classic calendar are photographed and portrayed, the company poses an interesting question: could male gazers be more than just their gaze?

Originally published on http://www.huffingtonpost.com as “What the 2016 Pirelli Calendar Actually Reveals”

Lessons Learnt

20 Nov



We are reaching fever pitch when it comes to marketing to Millennials.

As sights are set on capturing that elusive group, tunnel vision ensues with nearly every new client challenge. Not only that, but in a bid to alight on a piece of even more useful insight, industry articles abound on the subject ranging from the broad (“Understanding Millennials in 2015”) to the specific (“How brands can tap into Millennial wanderlust”). And even The White House has an infographic that aims to visualize everything one might need to know about Millennials: where they are, where they’re going, and what President Obama is doing to ensure their success.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find the seeds of an uprising. From a tongue-in-cheek take on “How to advertise to Millennials” to the more explicit “Everything You Know About Millennials Is Wrong”, commentary is springing up that speaks to the mistakes marketing has made when it comes to dealing with such a big group of people.

Painting with broad brushstrokes

One such charge is the treatment of Millennials with broad brushstrokes that actually have more to do with life stage than anything generational – for example, some things are universal in ways that don’t appear so at a single point in time. Human beings are generally idealistic when they are young, more pragmatic in middle age, and philosophical later in life. Many express surprise that “hipster” Millennials are buying suburban houses – but that’s what happens when people have babies, which 30-something people generally do. Indeed, the timeline of Millennials’ life stage milestones may not be as linear as that of older generations, but it doesn’t mean they won’t happen.

Disregarding context

Another is the assimilation of certain traits as gospel across the board, without considering the nuanced context that frames them. For example, attaining a leadership position is indeed a goal for many Millennials, according to research by Universum. Overall, nearly 70% say becoming a manager/leader is either important or very important: a solid figure. However, it is the intricacies of these findings that are important. While half of respondents from Central and Eastern Europe chose high future earnings as a reason, 46% of African respondents cared most about opportunities to coach and mentor others. Clearly cultural context is important when considering broad findings like this, and arguably has the potential to tell us more.

Surface level stereotypes

The number one allegation, though, has to be the stereotypical traits that marketing in its droves has insisted in employing at largely face value. Call it singing from the same hymn sheet or showing your strategy, but many campaigns targeted to Millennials have largely become caricatures of themselves; depictions of bearded youngsters seeking out experiences with their arms outstretched as an errant wind lifts their hair that serve to show marketing up as, well, marketing, and alienate the very group they’re trying to reach as they fail to recognize themselves in such pigeonholes.

So with this in mind, and with Gen Z already on the horizon, what can we learn from our treatment of Millennials to aid our understanding of the next buzzword generation a little better?

Plugging into culture

When it comes to a new generation, the first thing is to recognize that they still have much growing up to do. Perhaps the most effective thing we can do given this context is seek to understand the cultural world they exist in; the things that are influencing their lives today, that will possibly shape their mind-sets and behaviours as they come of age in the future.

For example, American Gen Z-ers have grown up in a post 9/11 world amid a recession, developing life skills and identities in an economic environment marked by volatility and complexity. Not only that, but for the first time traditional gender roles have been challenged meaning that their self-identity had the opportunity to be less constructed by gender than for past generations. Their context has been one of increasing diversity – the tenure of an African American president and the country approving gay marriage vs. the Millennials childhood in which homosexuality was merely no longer considered a disease. And thanks to the prevalence of social media, it’s no wonder that American teenagers are more enthralled with more ‘everyday’ YouTube stars than they are the biggest names in the more established entertainment industry – one can only imagine the implications that might have for how they view the potential of their own success.

Intricacies of context

Second, if taking a cookie cutter approach to over 80 million Millennials in the U.S. alone shows us anything, it’s that a more nuanced view is necessary. As with any group numbering such a figure, the likelihood of them all being cut from the same cloth is slim to none. To counter, what attitudes exist within the broad Gen Z group that we can use to segment them into smaller, more manageable and truth-to-life cohorts, for example? Further, what intricacies of context can we pillage to get to deeper understanding of why people say and do what they say and do?

As with every case for change, it is only as remarkable as the impact it makes in the aftermath. But if marketing to Millennials has taught us anything, it is that we need to think differently about how we deal with broad generational segments of the world population.

With that in mind, viva la revolution.

Here Come The Girls

3 Nov


As ideas around femininity shift towards empowerment, Barbie have made a move to become more culturally relevant. Their recent “Imagine the Possibilities” campaign seems to position the doll as a force of enablement for young girls – but do they make a big enough leap?

The new campaign features young girls taking on adult jobs such as a university lecturer and a sports coach, and captures the adult audience’s bemused reactions on a hidden camera. The campaign encourages young girls to be confident in following professions that may have previously felt more “male”, which is a huge step forward from a Barbie who lives to shop. The brand has even started to address Barbie’s impossible figure – with football Barbie boasting newly articulated ankles and feet that allow her to kick. Clearly they have recognised the importance of representing a wider range of opportunities beyond that of a leggy blonde model.

However, Barbie still seems steps behind other brands. We’ve seen the Always “Like a Girl” and Sport England “This Girl Can” campaigns, which encourage women to be strong and confident. Artist Wendy Tsao’s “Mighty Doll” project takes Bratz dolls and turns them into empowered female icons – such as Nobel Prize winning teen activist Malala – in a bid to create authentic superstars for young people to look up to. Indeed, the wider doll industry is starting to step up with the likes of inventor doll GoldieBlox, and the ethnically diverse Naturally Perfect Doll.

Although Barbie has been smart with this culturally switched on move, it feels like they could have pushed the issue much further. As a toy which plays such a central role in many young girls development, we feel they have the right to become more active. By readdressing the Barbie blueprint,t and taking inspiration from the women who are shaping today, we feel they can transform Barbie into a truly modern icon.

Hidden Gems

28 Oct

hidden gems

Time Out’s new Love London campaign asks people to nominate their favourite neighbourhood places for a poll. This leads us to a big question  – do we want the whole world to know about our favourite haunts? Or would we rather they stayed a little bit secret and, well, local?

With the onslaught of chain coffee shops and generic restaurant chains, the quirkiness of a small, local business is more appreciated than ever. Nothing makes us happier than drinking a beer that has been brewed only a mile away, or eating a locally baked scone. Maybe the WiFi is a little bit dodgy and the cutlery doesn’t match, but that somehow makes it all the more charming. These places become a haven away from the cookie-cutter nature of the high street, and what makes it exciting is that not everyone knows about them. There is a satisfying sense of discovery in finding a new place away from the hustle and bustle, and the thought of sharing it with the world seems rather counterintuitive.

However, apps such as Great Little Place have already tapped into the idea of sharing lesser-known local places with a community online, allowing you to seek out places that are a little more off-the-beaten-track and deviate from the guide book. Equally, Y Plan opens up all of the more under-the-radar events that the masses may not have originally known about. All of this makes it more difficult than ever to maintain a sense of being in-the-know about something exclusive.

So, although it is great that services and brands are tapping into the idea of uncovering local hotspots, it feels like this might detract from the pleasure of finding them yourself. We can’t help but think that some places are meant to stay hidden.

Rebel Rebel

15 Sep
[Russian Vogue]

[Russian Vogue]

It’s official – the septum piercing has gone mainstream. Once the reserve of the truly rebellious counter culture, this piercing has become more of a fashion statement, appearing in the pages of high end style magazines. This change echoes a wider acceptance of the markers of rebellion such as tattoos, piercings and graffiti into the mainstream, which raises the question: how is it possible for a brand to feel authentically rebellious?

There has been a shift which means that many of the classic markers of a rebel  have been adopted as signs of creativity rather than of hardcore rebellion – for example having tattoos does not necessarily mean that you are planning on joining a biker gang, but rather are a mode of self-expression. Whilst we love creative self-expression, this does cause these markers to lose their sting in having real impact that feels subversive and challenging. Even a brand like Dr Martens which was built on rebellion now finds that its boots are worn as much by teenagers clothed exclusively in Topshop as they are by punks. If everyone is a rebel then it becomes more difficult to be a real subversive.

It seems that these old indicators for rebellion have been replaced by something new. A brand no longer has to feature punks and extravagant body modifications to feel like it is challenging the status quo. Protest and having a cause have begun to replace this as the heart of the rebellious brand. Brands like Lush and Ben and Jerry’s whose focus is making a difference to the world and supporting causes that could be seen as controversial are now flying the flag for challenging consumers and other brands to change the way they think. It is no longer about feeling rock and roll, but rather about creating new and inspiring ways to operate as a brand.

To feel truly rebellious, it is essential that brands consider what they really believe in and the values at their heart to create their own individual sense of going against the grain. Brands must find new ways of feeling challenging and innovative, as using the traditional symbols of rebellion is no longer enough.

Nights at the Museum

1 Sep


The way in which we experience the world is constantly evolving. The consumer experience is becoming more and more important and developed, with increased use of technologies that make them smarter, faster and more impactful than ever before.

The V&A’s recent exhibition Savage Beauty celebrated the extraordinary creative talent of Alexander McQueen. This retrospective was stirring and beautiful, celebrating McQueen’s work in all its glory. Looking at the whole exhibition experience however, we fear it failed to push the boundaries of curatorship. It feels as though McQueen’s truly audacious vision could have been more fully realised through technological and visual innovation, especially as the curators had such a wealth of material at their disposal with which to capture the essence of his creativity.

What this exhibition highlights is a huge problem that museums and art galleries are facing – consumers are expecting experiences on multiple levels across several touchpoints. Although museums were originally at the cutting edge of creating incredible experience, the rest of the world has overtaken them. They must now compete with brands such as Punchdrunk’s immersive theatre productions or Bompas & Parr’s flavour based culinary journeys – which both provide truly immersive experiences across multiple platforms.

Therefore, for museums and galleries to push themselves at the forefront of cultural experiences –and maintain it – they need widen their horizons and look beyond their category. Imagine if the next art exhibition you visited is intensely sensorial, or enables you to interact on a personal level with each of the paintings?

The In Crowd

22 Jul


[ adweek.com ]

Reddit co-founder and returning CEO Steve Huffman has vowed to make Reddit more accessible to new users with features to help them navigate the labyrinthine forum. The question is – will current Reddit users embrace this new open feel to the niche community? The idea of openness or going mainstream feels like a desirable progression for brands – this is how many brands would measure how successful they have become and whether they had “made it”. However, for online communities which have built their following through quirky content and a sense of being in the know like Reddit, losing that sense of exclusivity may well cost the site much of its allure. We have seen this before with Facebook, a prime example of what can happen once a community becomes open to all.  As the average user has become increasingly older and the site is no longer the reserve of the savvy younger crowd, Facebook has lost the feel of being a cool place to share and communicate with your friends and become more of a functional tool. Once everyone (including your grandma) was on Facebook there was no sense of being in the in crowd. Interestingly, we can see this desire to be in the know in wider culture, with an influx of hidden bars and secret events: people love to feel like they are part of something exclusive. It seems that there is something innately alluring about being part of something which is slightly difficult to access. Although it is great to make content accessible to the masses, in order to maintain their character as a brand it seems that Reddit will need to hang on to t defining sense of obscurity that got their original fans hooked in the first place.

Big Girls Don’t Cry

29 Apr


Marisa Meltzer’s essay ‘Crying Game’ in this month’s edition of Elle asks us to rethink how we look at crying – especially in terms of women.  Meltzer suggests that crying “is having a bit of a feminist moment” as more women embrace the healing abilities of a good weep. This highlights the beginning of a shift away from the notion of crying as a display of weakness, or loss of control.

Displaying and owning vulnerability rather than masking it got us thinking about how brands could tap into emotional honesty when communicating with women. Many brands have adopted the very aspirational ‘Superwoman’ image in their communications – women who are strong and infallible, women who just get stuff done (think Nike and Sure). But, just as women aren’t just emotional wrecks, neither should they feel the pressure to be constantly running around throwing positivity into the atmosphere. We love that brands are embracing women’s ability to be strong and fierce, but we think that maybe everything has just got a bit, well, shouty. Sometimes women don’t want to go trekking through a jungle in Peru. Sometimes they just want to watch rubbish telly and eat Hobnobs. And maybe even have a little cry.

We think brands need to bear in mind that women experience a myriad of emotional states. Sometimes women are strong, sometimes they laugh, sometimes they cry – but brands need to interact with all of these sides in order to communicate authentically with them. We loved the beautifully shot Kleenex advert a few years ago which featured Tom Hardy having a good sob, and feel that brands could learn from this use of honest emotion when speaking to women. Campaigns such as This Girl Can and Dove’s Real Beauty embrace women’s imperfections and emotional honesty, which are also celebrated in books such as Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. We’d love to see this honesty taken further, and for brands to interact with emotional rawness in a way that embraces the wide range of women’s experience and emotions.


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