Tag Archives: culture

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.

Breaking into the Watch World

30 Mar



The world has been abuzz with thoughts on Apple’s new watch. To us, it feels like an odd step away from their forward-thinking, aesthetically pure products.

The world of watches is so different to the world of computers and phones, where Apple have dominated so effortlessly. Watches tend to play one of a few roles – they can be fashion accessories – think Michael Kors – an heirloom piece like Patek Philippe, or a tech action device such as Casio. We struggle to see where this new watch fits in.

Perhaps the Apple Watch will be positioned in the lifestyle data space, competing with Fitbit, Fuelband and Nike+ rather than traditional watch brands. But we wish they’d tapped into the aesthetic purism that is at the heart of the Apple we love. We think this could have great potential in the watch category – pushing an uber-modern, slick space –  and would’ve highlighted Apple’s technical innovation and unrivalled beauty.

High Street Tech

30 Mar



Not long ago Argos seemed like just another victim of the digital retail revolution – a tired high-street relic, soon to be made redundant by the likes of Amazon and Ebay. However, following a brave new rebrand, it’s having an unexpected lease of life.

It now presents itself as a youthful, dynamic innovator, taking cues not from mainstream retail – but from the tech giants that threatened to make it irrelevant. The open plan shops owe a debt to Apple, and the high impact visual identity echo Google and Microsoft. They have also announced their entry into 3D printing. Though limited only to a range of jewellery items – bracelet, rings and earrings – customers can create personalised pieces by altering patterns and shapes. This firmly places Argos as a tech innovator. Not only is 3D printing a frontier yet to be fully crossed in mainstream shopping, but the move also puts a contemporary spin on Argos’ reputation for offering an endless variety of affordable jewellery.

We think they could push it even further. The service is available only online, and the product takes a barely hi-tech 21 days to arrive by post. What would be truly innovative would be a highly visible in-store service, which would take advantage of one of the brand’s key advantages – its physical presence. We think they could really run with this approach – creating products that are at the cutting edge of technology, and truly playing the tech giants at their own game.

The New Mainstream

30 Mar



Every year the UK’s Office for National Statistics updates the shopping basket of goods and services that is used to reflect the rate of inflation. This year’s struck us as being remarkably hipster – with craft beers, music streaming and headphones included in the list. If these products are representative of a typical British person, is seems to highlight how much hipster style is now firmly in the mainstream.

We think that brands can learn from this. They can shed the fear that hipster cool is only for the few – but embrace the fact that it is now nationally aspirational. They don’t need to be afraid of being too niche, but should accept that this is now the new mainstream. Nationwide, the hipster trend’s move from emergent to culturally dominant has been incredibly swift – putting great pressure on brands need to keep up.

We’re excited to see next year’s index. We predict that coffee machines, grey hair dye and bow ties might be included…


Go Explore

26 Feb



Well-loved British mapping agency Ordnance Survey has recently revealed their new brand identity, titled ‘We are Ordnance Survey’, seemingly aiming to attract a younger audience and reflect its digital capabilities. We love the design – it feels fresh, beautiful and inspiring – but we think they could push the brand even further.

Experience is of utmost importance to consumers – we know they no longer boast about what car they have, but the incredible holiday they’ve been on. We think OS could tap into this and become a true lifestyle brand. Their promotional video shows hikers exploring beautiful countryside, and urbanites finding their way around cities. It encourages exploration – urging people to ‘find a way’ and discover ‘what’s just around the corner’. Their tagline ‘Go Explore’ could be the seed of a whole new attitude. Let Google Maps own the domain of stressed out commuters, and position OS as the off-line adventure-maker. Their carefully folded maps can be used anywhere, and are a genuine ally when you’re off the beaten track. The user experience celebrates the journey, rather than simply the dash from A to B.

We think that OS could truly champion the intricacies and joys of getting lost and finding your own way back. They could also encourage exploration of Great Britain – urging people to take advantage of the beautiful country they live in. They could use their digital side to enhance these adventures – providing targeted information about local events, places to go, intriguing folk tales.

By embracing the outdoorsy, adventurous spirit at their heart, they could help to create truly memorable experiences.

Re-engaging Millennials

9 Feb

For young people, perfume has lost its appeal. What is it doing wrong and how can our insights about their world helping brands re-engage millennials? Creativity, individuality and self-expression are three of the key drivers leading millennial buying power.

To be invited into their gang you need think creatively about your product and how you communicate with them. The perfume industry’s  uniformly one dimensional adverts speak to one tired aspect of perfume, which fails to cater for the growing desire of the young for self-expression. It is not just about sex, there are different ways of getting to sexy without being explicitly sexual.

Value is important for expression because it enables you to pick and choose, try something new, and take a risk. By mixing and matching scents, layering perfumes, selling across brands and really exploring and showing off the ingredients that are being used, there can be multiple ways of interacting with millennials.

Use inspired ingredients and be explicit about them. Le Labo and Jo Malone do this in a really great way, helping consumers be led by their scent rather than the brand they choose. A scent led experience will help navigation through smells and ingredients, opening up of a world of perfume connoisseurs, like the wine and whiskey worlds.





On another level, it is also about you as an individual, and your interaction with scent. Perfume is an individual choice and experience. Some brands like Swallowable Parfum and Escentric Molecule, which interact with your body to create a truly individual scent, are playing here. Individuality and self-expression are really important; no one wants to have the same scent at their friend.





The challenge is to communicate and engage with the younger generation with the understanding that perfume is a very intimate and personal product. Thus in order to lure the millennials back, using the knowledge that individuality, creativity and self-expression are vital drivers, could help in driving consumer buying up, and creating a new relationship with this generation.

Frank Reality

9 Feb

We have noticed an increased craving for the real, raw and authentic.  In a world of manicured online profiles, genuine candour is valued more than ever. In a reaction to the glossy, the gritty is becoming aspirational, and we have seen this articulate in many different ways in culture.

For four years, street photographer Brandon Stanton has been taking pictures and collecting the stories of the real, everyday people he meets in The Humans of New York.



The Institute of Sexology exhibition at the Wellcome Collection is a candid exploration of the most private of acts – sex.



The Whisper app allows people to tell their most real and candid secrets with complete anonymity.



We have noticed that some brands are beginning to play here. The Converse ‘Shoes are Boring Wear Sneakers ‘ adverts celebrate how their shoes become part of peoples’ real lives, and have the scuffs to show it.



Brands should be open and honest, celebrate reality and make sure they don’t mistake the real for the mundane. The challenge is being honest and open without coming across as insincere and boring; exposed brick and no make-up selfies will not suffice.

Check out our Cultural Themes website for more information.


Defining Belonging

6 Feb



Last year, Airbnb launched a new identity and proposition heartland around ‘belong[ing] anywhere’. A gorgeous idea centred on a universal human truth, it speaks to the platform’s ability to connect guests with homes (and hosts), anywhere around the globe. When you’re in a city that you don’t know, there’s a home to go back to, and intimate insight into the locality to be found among the personal touches that adorn it, from the people who know it best.


It is because the heartland of Airbnb is so clearly defined (and deeply resonant) that the brand’s newest listing, The Saulire in Courchevel, jars. An exclusive one room cable car suspended high above the Alps, it offers a luxurious experience and one of a kind view of the mountains. An incredibly unique idea, of course, but does it really stay true to the idea of belonging, in the grounded, intimate way Airbnb have defined it? We would argue that it starts to complicate matters.


If Airbnb is about belonging and community, this cable car is about the experiential and a singular experience at that. It’s just you, your partner and a lot of snow. Further, it’s no-one’s home already and so there are no personal knick knacks for guests to gain hints and tips on, say, the best bars to hit in town. Sure, it’s a competition so no money changes hands, but the crux is that it’s a wholly invented space with emphasis on the experience (and luxury therein), not the belonging.


It’s not that Airbnb can’t do this, or that such a listing appears completely at odds with the brand. Of course they can, and of course it doesn’t. It’s an extremely cool idea and an experience for which most of us would sell an undisclosed body part or family member. But it might be that the brand needs to widen its definition of what ‘belonging’ means in order to couch this extension in a logic that doesn’t break with the overall narrative. Or, perhaps even better, they could look to develop a sub-brand that deals with experiential, one-of-a-kind listings in places previously unimagined, allowing it to borrow from the overarching Airbnb brand, but interpret the idea of belonging in an alternative way and signal that, here kids, they’re doing something slightly different.





Classy Fun

30 Jan

We have been observing silliness and fantastical play aimed at adults for a while now. From ridiculous events and cocktail craziness at event space Drink Shop Do, to a giant Twister at the top of the Shard, and a day dedicated to floating down an East London canal in a blow up dingy, it’s been funny, frivolous and fantastical!

Next on the scene is a new ball pit specially created for adults in a West London gallery space, dubbed ‘Jump In!’. Containing 81,000 balls, the 30-person ball pit is meant to “champion the transformative power of joyful play”, and also support children’s charity organisation Right To Play.



While there’s a nice charity link in there, it’s still just a ball pit, and therefore so far so not brand spanking new. So why are we so interested then, beyond the pure cerebral joy of diving headfirst into a glorious 81,000 round plastic balls of course?

Well, rather than following the neon multi-coloured-with-abandon cues of the kids’ world of dress up, show and tell and other games (like many of our above examples do), the clever folk at mastermind agency, Pearlfisher, have imagined the grown-up play space in an altogether, well, more grown-up way.

This is classy fun, folks, and an aesthetically considered space is the order of the day. The balls are white – all white. Against a backdrop of a white gallery space, that means there isn’t a jot of colour in sight. And the event is framed as an ‘installation’, the very word forcing an appraisal of the space from a mere playpen to a place to have fun, play, but also contemplate and consider.



So could this be the start of a crossover to the fun and the aesthetically pleasing? A move from the unconsidered to the considered perhaps? In whatever manifestation it presents, the ‘new’ has never had the pleasure of being new for long, and as emergent crazes and ideas become more wide spread and popular, it is reimagining them that continues to add the element of interest and provide extra longevity.

So perhaps when it comes to the world of play and frivolity, where adult play in a kid’s world was fresh for a while, perhaps even fresher is adult play in an adult world.

Now, where do we sign up?

Flourishing Curiosity

19 Jan

People are hungrier than ever for knowledge and discovery. They are pursuing learning for pleasure – craving mental stimulation and enlightenment. Knowledge is valued for its enhancing qualities – to learn more about the world, and to enrich and define your character through skills and ideas. The thriving life of the mind is treasured more and more.


We are seeing this expressed in culture around the globe:

The Lost Lectures are a Europe- wide series of underground lectures that push the boundaries of knowledge.



Serial is a new podcast that tells a complex, intellectually stimulating story. It has become the most popular ever, and sparked ongoing debate.



Hendrick’s Gin hosted a Carnival of Knowledge that featured experts sharing their knowledge insights and ideas.




Therefore we think that brands should consider the importance of connoisseurship, enabling a learning process whilst not being patronising. Check out our Cultural Themes website for more information.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 210 other followers