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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Essential Trends for 2011

It’s that time of the year when the experts tell us what we can expect for the next 12 months. To add to everyone’s enlightenment Thinktank have scoured Twitter for the best of 2011 crystal ball gazing. Beyond the bland and oft-told (everything is going social, people willl use their mobile phones even more, Apple will make lots of money blabla), we bring you our five favourite less obvious trends and suggestions for next year: 1. Use Your Pet As Marketing Tool Remember 2009 as the year of the Meerkat? Well, according to this biz expert 2011 will, apparently, be the year of the branded hamster, guinea pig or budgie: “Companies have new policies where you can bring your pet to work, there are new pet day care centers that offices offfer, and I think this trend will grow even further into ways to incorporate your pet into your business, whether it be marketing strategies, product integration, etc”.
— Linsey Tilbor, 5wpr.com Spotted on Business News, 50 Big Ideas, Predictions and Trends for 2011 and Beyond 2. Think Protein Judging by the number of Twitter entries, food and weight management are key themes for forecasters – and Trends included digestive health (number 1 in a list compiled by Research and Markets. Though apparently, proteins will be the No.1 ‘micro-trend’) http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/46bbfa/10_key_trends_in_food_nutrition_and_health_2011 3. Stop Brunch If you look across the pond for trends in eating out, you may be interested that in New York queueing for brunch will be soo over: “Brunch backlash: (Hopefully) in 2011, people will finally realize that waiting on line for an hour to eat poached eggs isn't worth it. Because eggs are never, ever, worth an hour's wait.” By Lauren Shocke, spotted in Village Voice Blogs, 5 New York City-Centric Food Trends for 2011 4. Get Married What about the really important trends though, I hear you ask - what guidance is there for people who are planning to get married - what ARE next year’s trends in wedding invitations? invitationcrush.com has issued its forecasts for next year and bullishly predicts ‘that patterns will explode in popularity in 2011’ ‘ 5. Have Cutsey Nails And finally if you worry what to do about nail fashion in 2011 Becomegorgeous.com er, nails it with these lovely Hello Kitty designs … There you go, you’re sorted! Happy 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thinktank's Review of the Year

Full of Mince Pie and seasonal goodwill to all men the Tank sat down and took stock of 2010. Here are a few of our highlights from the year; Best Ad John Lewis' tearjerker and Andrex's mechanical dog both garnered nominations. Dixon's press and outdoor campaign was based on a brilliantly resonant insight into consumer attitudes and behaviour. From the World Cup, Carlsberg’s effort might have been a bit jingoistic but it was lightened with touches of genuine humour. However, our winner this year is Old Spice. Brilliantly funny (who says Americans can't do irony?) and of course came attached with one of the Social Media Campaigns of the Year…. Best Social Media or Digital Campaign Talking of which…it was tempting to give this award to Old Spice as well given that it was such a viral sensation but hey, others should get a look in too. Foster's resurrection of Alan Partridge was a great way of spearheading their desire to align the brand with great comedy. 'Parallel Lines', Phillips' link up with Ridley Scott had credibility amongst film makers and worked brilliantly well to showcase product. Branded Entertainment that gets the balance between 'branded' and 'entertainment' just right. However, this was a World Cup year and our winner is Nike for their fantastic campaign with Arsene Wenger, the Chance. Brilliantly tapping into young people's desire to be a legend in their own network. We then started thinking about our own year. Where has 2010 taken us? What have been highlights for the Tankies? And where did we encounter our... Most Happening City This year we've conducted research on every continent (apart for Antarctica) and seen a plethora of exciting cities. Our top three destinations this year (with apologies to Sutton Coldfield - maybe next year) are; Lagos, Nigeria - Not only a phenomenal and bustling African city but also one filled with brilliantly enthusiastic and unjaded young consumers. We were struck by just how open and optimistic everyone was about the future. Berlin, Germany - much visited but never dull, still manages to excite us as a hub for creatives and those who understand to loaf in style. Great for stores, event marketing and non identikit bars and cafes. But our winner this year was Beijing, China. Hugely dynamic and defined by a young generation oozing a self confident, self defined coolness that's not looking for outside approval. Finally, here are some of our ‘moments of the year’, the times that reminded us why we love our job and like being part of the Tank. To take a selection, this year we… …hung out in Beijing punk bars with Chinese students …loved the multi-puporse experiential spaces that are Bangkok shopping malls …got up close and personal with student protesters in Westminster …discovered young Nigerians’ saucy and Indians’ philosophical sides as expressed on their mobiles …were surprised at the vibrant and open gay community amongst Mexico’s new generation …were charmed by young Russian’s seriousness about self-improvement …took a peek into women’s living rooms, kitchens and even – oops - saw them taking a bath in an auto-ethnographic project for Hello! magazine … enjoyed our speaking opportunities on music, social media, brands and film Let's hope 2011 is just as exciting! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Friday, December 17, 2010

German Markets

In Hamburg this week, where among other things we’ve been enjoying the Christmas Markets. As we stood enjoying a Glühwein it struck us again how even the most seemingly traditional of events can capture a great balance with modern relevance.

At first glance the markets could seem simply to offer a picture postcard view of Germany aimed at the tourists

However, don’t be mistaken into thinking the young of Hamburg don’t enjoy them too. On a cold and wintery Tuesday evening, they were full of 20somehings and teenagers hanging out at the end of a long cold day. In Hamburg they're sponsored by the local NDR radio station. Such local engagement gives the markets a much greater sense of belonging; it attaches them to the city and the people in it.

All rather lovely really, and quite clever.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Word on the Street

Our article about the student demos published on brand-e.biz: By Samantha Shellie.*In the aftermath of UK Parliament voting in favour of raising student tuition fees, Topshop’s Oxford Street shop windows were smashed and graffiti sprayed on the store. Earlier that day, bank branches were also targeted and spattered with paint.

It would be easy to believe that a new anti-brand sentiment is on the rise, but after going out onto the streets to talk to student protesters during last Thursday’s demo, it’s clear the story is more nuanced.

Let me set the scene…

It was simple to find the action – I just followed the sounds of the helicopters. The atmosphere was electric. Thousands of students were waving ‘Coalition Resistance’ banners. Children Of The Revolution was blaring from a huge sound blaster as students bopped, cheered and shouted their way to Westminster.

I started talking to the students…

Some sixth formers quickly raised the topic of corporate tax avoidance. “It makes me so angry, they owe billions of pounds,” one said.

However, it became clear that student anger was directed far more at the government than at corporates – and uncertain whether that anger would affect brand perceptions.

“The government basically just gives money back to these companies and now they’re like ‘we can’t pay for your education’.”

“They spent £18 million on the World Cup bid and now they can’t pay for our education.”

There was implicit disagreement with ‘Big Society’ thinking

“It shouldn’t be their [the brand’s] responsibility in the first place, it should be the government’s.”

One student was concerned about suggestions of involving corporations in educational funding and feared business might start to hold too much influence over young impressionable people, discouraging critical thought and leading to a bias in favour of commercialization.

So, is there a rising movement against brands?

It seems students are more likely to see failings in politicians appearing to rely too much on business rather than scapegoating commerce per se.

This may change – an anti-commercial movement may rise – or pragmatism and apathy may take over. It’s worth saying though that right now, when so many organisations are looking to get involved in the arts and in good causes, and government is inviting commercial participation in society, education is very sensitive ground for brands to tread.

*Samantha Shellie is a researcher at Thinktank International Research

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Uniqlo X Monster Hunter Portable 3rd

If you get on a train anywhere in Tokyo then the chances are that at least one person in your carriage will be bashing away on a PSP. And more than likely the game they'll be playing is Monster Hunter, in which the player takes control of a hero on a mission to capture a virtual menagerie of weird and wonderful, well... monsters. Having played the game I can't personally see the appeal. It's a true grinder, requiring a real input of time and commitment to build up the supplies needed to catch your prey. Think Farmville but with weapons and the occasional burst of intense monster-hunting action The game has built up a cult following here, partly due to it's social aspect - it's not uncommon to see a group of teens sitting in McDonalds, all tapping away on their PSPs in tandem, playing together over local wi-fi. The latest edition of the game - Monster Hunter Portable 3rd - has just launched here and is being heavily advertised - in the papers, on TV, on the TVs in train carriages, on the billboards at train stations. Given that the title sold over 2 million copies within it's first 5 days of release, the ads don't seem to have gone unnoticed! But walking past Uniqlo in Ikebukuro station today I noticed a slightly more subtle form of advertising on their racks. Capcom - the studio behind the game - has teamed up with Uniqlo to produce a range of t-shirts featuring icons from the game and other monster-hunting memorabilia. So now discerning fans can not only play the game but can also indeed buy the t-shirt - potentially a nice little link up given the cult status of the game. And the designers have done a good job of turning the imagery from the game into some pretty wearable designs, perhaps unsurprising given the company's history of producing limited edition manga and anime based t-shirts for their capsule collection lines. Apparently Uniqlo's sales have been suffering in Japan against competition from 'fashionable' new competition such as Zara and H&M . Their owner, Tadashi Yanai, Japan's richest man, has stated that he aims to switch strategies back to a focus on their core, more functional product lines and away from 'superficial fashion' items. Whether that means we'll see less of this type of collaboration in the future remains to be seen. Posted by Nick, our man in Japan Follow his continued adventures in Tokyo on his blog at http://tokyodiaries.wordpress.com

Friday, December 03, 2010

Merry Christmas

The Goose is getting fat....

It's that time of the year again when all the ads start to look remarkably similar.

The Christmas ads are here.

At first glance it doesn't feel as if there's actually that much to say about the Christmas ads. This isn't really the season for game changing work. It seems the creative brief for most Christmas ads is 'Make people feel warm, loved and slightly whimsical' (exactly what I imagine Richard Curtis has written as a reminder on a post it above his computer whenever writing a screenplay)

Of course the model Christmas ad, and the one which comes up time and time again in groups at this time of year, is the Coke ad. Repeated and still much loved, it' so syrupy you can put it on your pancakes.

So, if this isn't the time to do anything revolutionary, how can brands stand out at Christmas? After all this is a vital time for the High Street

Christmas work seems to walk a tightrope between trying to stand out and not breaking the cosiness of the season. It seems there are a couple of ways 2010's Christmas offering have tried to do this;

1. Celebrity in a slightly unusual context

While M&S' efforts with Peter Kay are perhaps more instantly recognizable it is not alone in seeing the potential for sparking interest with a well known face in a slightly surprising context, Derek Jacobi's in Sony's Christmas campaign is no less arresting. In many ways Sony's use of Jacobi is more interesting. It's not immediately apparent that it is Jacobi and when it becomes so he brings a gravitas and sophistication that is at odds with most of the fluffy Christmas fun.

2. Music

While the overall tone of Christmas ads seems to be sacrosanct the music used to create it is certainly not. There is a pleasing lack of Slade or Wizard in the Christmas ads this year. Brands seem to be being a bit cleverer when choosing music. Looking beyond the obvious and the trite. Last year John Lewis really set the bar when they created a wonderfully gooey Christmas mood that could make any parents heart ache with a Guns 'n' Roses song. This idea then carried on with 'Always a Woman' (which I was a bit nervous about watching the office as I feared I might reveal just what a soppy tart I am). And then, this Christmas they've used a cover of 'Your Song' to create another offering as rich, glossy and comforting as a Chocolate cake

3.Very Gentle Humour

There is space to have a bit of fun with a Christmas ad within the aforementioned confines. The important thing is that the humour should all be safely contained and playful rather than challenging. It should almost be laughing at itself. As already mentioned M&S have Peter Kay bringing a smile in what would otherwise be a fairly standard (though impressive) M&S effort. There is no real biting satire here though, there's a fat bloke from Bolton pretending to be a camp dance teacher. Argos' humour comes from twisting a familiar Christmas image. Bing Crosby as a ghetto star is not earth shattering satire and the technology used is to create the image hardly cutting edge but it is silly. Finally, Tesco do have a discernible victim in the absurd Amanda Holden but it's harmless Keeping Up Appearance style stuff. Holden's snobbish sister is as awful but slightly endearing as Hyacinth Bucket in a campaign which confirms my suspicion that Mark 'I was that close to making it in Hollywood' Addy is becoming a poor man's Geoffrey (Onslow) Hughes

Again, none of these are game changing but they do create an added level of interest and help these ads to stand out just a little bit in a sea of safe toasty warmth.

Merry Christmas