History repeating itself

Are companies too quick to change their branding or ditch an ad campaign?  We take a look at how history can repeat itself in marketing and beyond.

The old adage of holding onto something for long enough and it’ll come back into fashion seems truer today than ever. Perhaps it’s this age of austerity that we’re living in or that these items have an emotional pull that makes us look back fondly on a certain point in time. Maybe it’s just that we like to get our money’s worth out of a product! Whatever the reason, many things that were sales successes decades ago are among today’s must haves.

If you were a child of the 1970s and 1980s you probably got busy with the fizzy and were used to the iconic sound that a Soda Stream made. The machine and the bottles have undergone a few redesigns over the last 30 years, but Soda Stream’s sales are once again rising – up 25% in 2013. If you’re still using the version with the glass bottles you’ll probably be seen as the height of retro fashion.

When it comes to toys and games, some things have an enduring appeal. Board games such as Monopoly and Cluedo have remained popular for over 60 years, and building just wouldn’t be the same without Lego. One game that became popular with youngsters again recently was Subbuteo. Originally manufactured in the late 1940s the game was a mainstay of kids’ toy boxes until the mid 1990s when production stopped. With lots of accessories you could recreate your favourite teams and even stadia! Production started again in 2012 and youngsters once again discovered the joy of Subbuteo – also the injury your finger sustained from flicking the little figures…! With the FIFA World Cup just round the corner, players young and old will no doubt be laying the green Subbuteo cloth over the kitchen table and getting competitive with the plastic men wobbling about after the ball.

Even computer technology launched in the 1980s is being reinvented. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was a popular home gaming computer and over its 10-year production run around five million of the British-built devices were sold. Now mobile games firm Elite Systems is aiming to reinvent the iconic computer as a Bluetooth keyboard that can play an array of classic games on phones and tablets. ‘Head over Heels’ or ‘Arkanoid’ anyone?

As was shown last year it is not just products that can be successes 20 years later, but music too. In 1994, when starring in Byker Grove as PJ and Duncan, Ant and Dec reached number one with ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble’ and in 2013 after performing it on their Saturday Night Takeaway show it hit the top of charts once again as a result of downloads.

Over the last couple of years two things have become fashion must haves – quilted jackets and leather satchels. Walk down the street in any city recently and you were bound to see someone in a quilted jacket. They were the height of fashion in the 1970s and early 1980s, were revived and remodelled in the 1990s as puffa jackets, before Barbour added their twist in 2012 and every clothing manufacturer jumped on the bandwagon. The humble leather school satchel that carried every primary school pupil’s jotters until the late 1980s has also become a must-have accessory. The bag has been jazzed up from its brown origins and can now be bought in all sorts of vivid colours.

An old schoolbag is now the height of fashion

An old schoolbag is now the height of fashion

Even the royals are famous fashion recyclers. The Queen has been known to dust off the same outfit time and again; recently she was snapped wearing a coat that she bought in the 1960s. Her Majesty’s make do and mend attitude has also rubbed off on her children. Princess Anne has been known to sport outfits 20 years after she first wore them and Prince Charles has been seen wearing 40-year-old shoes and darned jackets.

Marketeers and advertisers aren’t averse to delving into their promotional archive and blowing the dust of successful campaigns from bygone years.   We’ve seen many of them do it and to great effect. Milky Way revived its ‘Red car and the Blue car’ advert 20 years after it was aired, while Persil, Fairy and Tennent’s all looked to their advertising past for inspiration for TV campaigns 25 years on.

When it comes to brand identity, however, some firms don’t bother undertaking rebranding exercises. Instead they just update their brand to prevent it from becoming dated. Shell’s Pecten has stood the test of time over the last 114 years, with only its shape and the typography used altering slightly. The most drastic changes were the introduction of red and yellow in 1948 and then the removal of the word Shell in 1999.  This is how it has evolved.

Motor manufacturers are another example of brands that rarely change their logo. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota have all made few changes to their identities. However, Fiat has changed its logo several times throughout its history and the most recent incarnation from 2006 takes inspiration from the badge of the 1930s that adorned vehicles for more than 30 years.

Regardless of whether it is something in our home, an item of clothing or even an ad campaign, hang on to it for long enough and it will be back into vogue before we know it. Maybe we should also take the view of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and save ourselves a lot of hassle and money. Let’s hope we’ve seen the back of some things though. Do we really need shellsuits again…?


April Fools’ Day

April the first has rolled round once again and with it comes the job of trying to differentiate fact from fiction as we attempt not to fall for the pranksters’ tricks.

The exact history of April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, is unknown, but there are many theories. It has been suggested that precursors to April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria which was held on 25 March and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held on 28 December. Pranks are still played in Spanish-speaking countries on this date.

In Scotland, April Fools’ Day was called Hunt the Gowk Day – gowk being Scots for a foolish person.

No doubt in offices around the world many pranks have been played this morning already. The April Fools’ jokes haven’t been restricted to places of work. Over the years we’ve had to tread carefully while reading the newspaper or watching TV. Here are just a few:

  • In 1957, BBC got in on the act and broadcast a Swiss farmer harvesting freshly-grown spaghetti. The corporation was later inundated with requests from viewers looking to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing it to declare it all a hoax in its news bulletins the following day.
  • Blackpool Zoo announced that it was launching a recruitment drive to find giraffe keepers in 2010. The prospective keepers had to be over 6ft 2in tall to even be considered for the role. The Zoo teamed up with GMTV for the stunt and the broadcaster encouraged viewers to visit its website for more information on the job, or sign a petition on heightism.
  • GMTV was involved in another April Fool in 2008. This time it was Yorkshire Water that provided the idea, which actually formed the first stage of its quality water campaign. The firm was to ‘launch’ diet tap water that could be plumbed into consumers’ homes. It provided a freephone number for people to find out more and in the 12 hours following the TV broadcast more than 10,000 had called.

  • Last year, The Guardian unveiled a new way to read the paper. Lois P Farlo reported on a groundbreaking pair of web-connected augmented reality glasses that would beam its journalism directly into the wearer’s field of vision. It all sounds farfetched, but aren’t Google already planning something similar? Read the full Guardian article here.
  • Advertisers get in on the act too. In 2013, BMW cashed in on the royal baby craze that was sweeping the nation by announcing the arrival of its P.R.A.M or Postnatal Royal Auto Mobile. If you were interested in purchasing one you were asked to e-mail Joe King.


Today’s crop

What has made the news today? Well, The Sun has reported that Her Majesty is going to drill for oil at Buckingham Palace, while Vegemite is to launch a new energy drink called Vegemite iDRINK 2.1.

If you had a boiled egg for breakfast this morning while watching ITV’s Daybreak don’t rush out to purchase new egg cups. The story of a farmer managing to rear hens that lay square eggs may have been cracking, but in reality it’s half-baked.

The newspapers weren’t afraid to wade into the debate on the Scottish independence referendum today either. The Guardian had an exclusive story that in the event of Scotland gaining independence from the rest of the UK it would switch to driving on the right. It even posted a video on its website to explain the changes and how they would work at the border. While The Daily Telegraph’s Flora Poli revealed the Scottish Government’s plan for the Scottish pound or Salmond Sterling. In place of The Queen each coin would be adorned by Alex Salmond. Perhaps we need more humorous stories like this before 18 September.

Read with care out there today. If you spot articles from Lois P Farlo, Flora Poli or even Paolo Frils, don’t believe everything you read. And remember, if you’re planning an April Fools’ joke make sure you do it by midday or the joke is on you.

Energy publications

Some of the publications that support the global oil and gas sectorAberdeen is the heart of the European oil and gas industry and there is a wide range of publications that cover this important sector.  With the rise of online media the number of platforms has increased in recent years.  Here are some of the media, both print and online, that many of our clients feature in.

The Press & Journal – Aberdeen’s daily newspaper covers the sector in each daily and has a monthly supplement called Energy.  The paper launched an online news service called Energy Voice.

Roustabout Energy International is a long-standing monthly Aberdeen energy publication.  Over the past 40 years it has charted the development of the industry in the north-east of Scotland, but also features international news.

Platform is another Aberdeen-based monthly magazine publication and its digital version can be read at www.platform-oilandgas.com.

Oilonline.com is the online home for well-established magazines Offshore Engineer and Asian Oil & Gas.

Oilvoice.com is an online news service bringing together news of the global oil and gas industry.  It provides daily and weekly e-newsletters to subscribers’ inboxes and also publishes a digital magazine on its website.

Offshore-technology.com is another online news service dedicated to the global oil and gas industry.  It also produces a digital magazine called Offshore Technology Focus.

Published since 1944 by the International Association of Drilling Contractors, Drilling Contractor magazine covers the global completion and drilling industry, onshore and offshore.

Hart’s E&P is another long-standing energy industry publication.  It informs exploration, drilling and production operations managers, onshore and offshore and in all parts of the world, about the trends and technology they need to do their jobs more efficiently.

There are many other titles and we will add them to this post in the coming days.

Augmented Reality (AR)

It’s been around for a while but we’re hearing more and more about augmented reality or ‘AR’ as it is often abbreviated to.  So what exactly is augmented reality, how does it work and how might it affect the way that you communicate with your customers?  Read on to find out more…

What is augmented reality?

Wikipedia describes augmented reality as ‘a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.’ 

A shorter – and perhaps simpler – description is provided by Oxford dictionaries. It refers to augmented reality as ‘a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.’

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality, where the real world is replaced with a simulated one.

How does it work?

The reasonably new technology of augmented reality blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.  The basic concept behind AR is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time.

Perhaps the best way of understanding augmented reality is to experience the technology in action.  You may have already done so without realising it – particularly if you are an IKEA customer.  The Swedish furniture giant’s 2013 catalogue app was the most downloaded branded app of 2012 and featured an augmented reality viewer that allowed readers to use their tablet or smartphone to visualise furniture from its catalogue in 3D, along with related video and digital content.

A recent Business Insider article highlighted some recent clever AR campaigns that achieved what many organisations strive for: They created a positive ‘buzz’ around the brand.  A couple of our favourite examples are highlighted below:

Ford shows off some of the features of its Grand C-Max via an outdoor AR campaign that offers the next best thing to actually test driving the vehicle.

Food processing company, Heinz, uses augmented reality technology from blippar to allow customers to access a virtual cookbook by scanning their Heinz ketchup bottle. All of the different recipes used ketchup as their “secret ingredient”.

How can I use AR to communicate with my audience?

As smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their use more prevalent, augmented reality offers organisations another opportunity to bring their brands and products to life for prospective customers.  AR is therefore likely to secure a place in many companies’ advertising budgets in the future. It is estimated that the market for augmented reality in the US will reach $350 million in 2014, compared to $6 million in 2008.

As with many types of technology, there is always the risk that some will use augmented reality incorrectly, or in a ‘gimmicky’ fashion.  When used properly, however, AR has huge potential as part of an organisation’s marketing efforts. By its very nature, it allows individuals to interact with the brand and its products or services.

Augmented reality also offers new opportunities for non-commercial purposes, such as educational or charity campaigns.

Two very different examples below show how a charity has used AR to highlight the serious issue of domestic violence, while National Geographic embraced the technology to introduce members of the public to ancient dinosaurs.

Non-profit domestic abuse campaign

National Geographic’s live augmented reality campaign

If you would like some assistance with your organisation’s communication activities, please get in touch.

A modern day scrapbook

PinterestThe way we plan our lives and communicate with each other has changed considerably over the last 20 years or so.  The internet has revolutionised the way we interact and share experiences with family, friends, work colleagues, and people we don’t know.

Social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all become part of our daily online routine.  Even the business community has got in on the act to with LinkedIn, which now has over 200 million users.

But one site that really took off in 2012 was Pinterest.  At the start of the year it was relatively unknown, but by the summer more was being heard about it and by the autumn Pinterest had 25.3 million unique visitors.

So what is Pinterest and why is it proving so popular?

Launched in 2010, the best way to think of Pinterest is as the modern day version of the scrapbook you had as a child.  Like a virtual magpie you can seek out things on the internet that you find interesting and ‘pin’ them to your own site.  It provides us with a window into each other’s lives through image and video.

Pinterest lets users organise collections of images from across the web under different boards or categories, whether that is fashion, arts and crafts, or cooking.  These boards and pins can then be liked and shared by other users who are looking for inspiration.

At one time access to the site was restricted to invitation only, but this has been lifted and now anyone can visit the site and find inspiration.  The site is more widely used by females than males.  This is probably unsurprising when you consider that as children, boys are less likely to use scrapbooks than girls.

Pinterest - a modern scrapbook

An electronic version of your old scrapbook

What sort of inspiration can it provide?

The sky really is the limit.  If you browse through the site you’ll see that ideas range from the mundane to the zany.  If you’re planning an event or a wedding there is plenty of inspiration for invitations, decorations, gifts, cakes and much more.

Perhaps it’s ideas for work lunches you’re after, would you have thought of a salad in a jar?  Or why not give your old photographs a modern up to date twist by remaking them – simply take the people who feature in them back to the location and capture the scene again.  The site can also provide product inspiration by throwing up a wider range of ideas than a normal Google search.

Can businesses benefit?

The simple answer is yes.  Because Pinterest allows people to pin items to the site that they’ve found on other websites and these are linked back to the original source.  For example, if you saw a piece of furniture on someone’s Pinterest board that you liked, you could click on the image and it would take you to the original source, such as John Lewis, where you could then buy the piece of furniture.

Originally the site only allowed personal accounts, but recently it introduced business accounts to allow businesses to better engage with their Pinterest audience.  Pinterest has also produced a set of guidelines to help businesses provide relevant content to the site’s users and not just bombard them with product advertising.

If your business is planning an office redesign, looking to build a new website, organising an event, or just looking for some creative ideas, Pinterest can provide plenty of inspiration.

So visit Pinterest, find inspiration and get pinning; it’s much safer than scissors and glue!

Mark of a great TV advert?

Christmas treeAs it is the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of the 21st century, we thought we’d mark the occasion with another blog post.  Just in case the Mayan calendar is correct and the world ends on the Friday, 21 December and we don’t have time before then to pen another post.

We wrote an article last month that looked at Christmas TV ads and one of 2012’s festive offerings has been hitting the headlines over the past week.  John Lewis pulled off another great piece of storytelling this year with its Snowman setting off to buy the perfect present to keep his Snow-lady warm.  And six weeks after first airing it is still filling column inches and sparking debate.  So does it deserve a place alongside Guinness’ Horses and Surfers, Smash’s Martians, BT’s ‘Ology’ and The Yellow Page’s JR Hartley in the UK TV advert hall of fame?

Top of the hit parade

It is not often that the sound track from a TV advert reaches the number one spot in the UK singles chart solely as a result of being used in a campaign.  That however is what has happened to the soundtrack of John Lewis’ Christmas advert.  The retailer very cleverly spotted the potential of Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of the 1984 Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit ‘The Power of Love’ and released it as a single and on Sunday (9th December) it reached to the top of the charts.

The haunting reworking of the classic is the 20-year-old Indie-folk singer’s first number one and also the first number one music hit for the high street chain.  It has previously released the soundtracks to its festive campaigns as singles, but they’ve not had the success that this year’s one has.  ‘The Power of Love’ is being tipped as a Christmas number one, but it will have to do battle with this year’s X-Factor winner, James Arthur.  His single, ‘Impossible’, is on track to be the fastest-selling debut single of any X-Factor winner and sold 187,000 copies by midnight on Monday – just over 24 hours after he won the show.  The fight for the festive top spot then could be a close run thing.

Called The Journey, the John Lewis advert has been viewed on YouTube more than 2.6million times, while Gabrielle Aplin’s single has clocked up more than 3million views on the video sharing site.

Defying gender stereotyping

The yuletide campaigns from Asda and Morrison’s were both criticised for being sexist and saw complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority by disgruntled viewers.  Some people, though, have been irked by the John Lewis advert, saying it doesn’t truly reflect Christmas shopping patterns because it is the females who do all the shopping.  If it was to truly reflect men’s mad Christmas Eve dash round the stores then the Snowman wouldn’t make it back in time for Christmas Day and his Snow-wife would be left to brave the elements on her tod, watched by some unhappy children.

Amusing follow-up

If the gender stereotyping is to be believed, and followed, then on Christmas Day the Snow-wife would smile and say thank you to the Snowman, before asking if he’d kept the receipt so she could return.  And it is this idea that has sparked some chatter online.  It is being claimed that John Lewis will follow up on its pre-Christmas blockbuster with an inspired Boxing Day sequel that promotes the store’s returns policy.  The advert will of course be vying for our attention alongside the plethora of TV adverts that appear on Christmas Day and Boxing Day from furniture stores and Next promoting the huge discounts to be had in their sales.

Sources claim that the Snow-lady will set off on her own journey across the fields to ‘Two Tribes’ – another Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit – in order to exchange the hat, scarf and gloves for a Kenwood ice cream maker, which she really wanted.  Are the rumours true?  We’ll have to wait until Boxing Day to find out!  You can read more about the rumours here.

Sincerest form of flattery

Perhaps the strongest acknowledgement that an advert is a success is when it is imitated by another brand.  Aldi has jumped on the John Lewis Snowman bandwagon with a parody of The Journey in its latest Christmas advert.  Featuring a cake decoration Snowman and Snow-lady sitting atop a Christmas cake extolling the virtues of an own brand bottle of champagne compared to a premium version, it pokes fun at the high street retailer’s 90-second campaign.  In addition, Aldi’s 20-second advert injects some humour by suggesting that the Snow-wife wasn’t very impressed by her husband’s choice of present, adding further fuel to the Boxing Day campaign rumours.

Is it a great ad then?

Well, six weeks on from its first airing the advert is still being talked about; the sound track has reached number one; it has sparked plenty of debate about the shopping patterns of different sexes; created plenty of online chatter, including rumours of a follow-up; and is being mimicked by others.  So if it has achieved all that, in addition to being beautifully and creatively shot, then here at Innes Associates we think it deserves a place in the TV advertising hall of fame.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Finally, just to confirm and put you at ease, governments around the globe have issued statements verifying the world won’t cease to exist on Saturday, 22 December.  Further reassurance comes from Mayan expert Leonzo Barreno of Saskatchewan, Canada, who in a Daily Mail article stated that it just marks the start of a new Mayan calendar and not the end of life was we know it.  So we can all sleep well on the winter solstice in the knowledge that our surroundings won’t look any different when we wake from our slumber on the 22nd.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

ChristmasEverywhere you go, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Christmas lights are already adorning the shopping streets of London and here in Aberdeen the Christmas lights have marched their way down Union Street thanks to the efforts of the council staff.  Let’s just hope that they aren’t subjected to the strong winds that battered them last December, which meant they didn’t shine as brightly or for as long as usual.

Christmas is always a busy time for the retail sector with every brand fighting for our custom.  Each year the big names roll out festive advertising campaigns in order to capture our attention to ensure we visit their stores or buy their products.  This year is no exception, with brands rolling out all manner of festive-themed campaigns.

2012 adverts

Asda launched an amusing advert for its 2012 festive campaign that depicted a mother preparing for Christmas.  However, the minute-long advert has angered some people who claim it is sexist and its strapline of ‘Behind every great Christmas there’s mum’ could reinforce negative gender stereotypes.  Others say it accurately reflects the division of labour in a household.  Perhaps we should just view it in the way it is intended; an amusing look at all the work that goes into making Christmas a memorable family day.  Watch it below and make up your own mind.

Asda hasn’t been alone in irking TV viewers with its advert, Boots and Morrisons have both received objections to their yuletide adverts.  It seems not everyone is enjoying the light-hearted theme that is running through this year’s Christmas ads.

In the Boots advert, dog lovers have objected about a girl blow drying her dog’s hair in order to make it look like a unicorn – claiming it could harm the dog.  Others have raised concerns about children using electrical appliances.  While Morrisons’ advert follows a similar theme to Asda’s and has also been criticised for being sexist, it is arguably more comic than its larger rival.  Perhaps all these complaints are being generated just because as a nation we like to complain!

Last year’s soar away Christmas advert success came from John Lewis.  It was an inspired piece of storytelling that left much of the nation reaching for their hankies to wipe away tears when they realised that the wee boy didn’t want Christmas to hurry up and arrive so he could get his presents from Santa, but instead it was so he could give his gifts to others.

So how would John Lewis follow it up this year?  With a budget of £6million it would turn out to be another great piece of storytelling that conveys the message of it being better to give than to receive.  The journey is the 90-second story of a snowman walking across the countryside, wading through rivers, crossing motorways and dodging snowball fights in pursuit of getting the perfect gift for his snow-lady.  Going by the online response it would seem John Lewis has another winner on its hands and is again helping sales of Kleenex!


Christmas crackers

What of yuletides past, what adverts have stuck in our minds?  Marketing Week has had a look back at some of the most memorable of recent years and there are a few classics.  Who can forget that magical place with toys in their millions that was Toy R Us’ 1990s advert.  It was so popular that the toy store remade it for Christmas 2009.  Irn Bru’s fun parody of the 1980’s film The Snowman was a winner with viewers and critics alike when it launched in 2007.

Another that makes it onto the Marketing Week list is Coca Cola’s holidays are coming campaign.  The main theme of the advert hasn’t changed over the years; it always proves popular and is now a Christmas mainstay.  Perhaps it works so well because it has run for so long and taps into our nostalgic memories, taking us back to a time in our lives that seemed so much better.  But, in 1993 Coca Cola dispensed with tradition and went with polar bears settling down to watch the Northern Lights with a bottle of ‘the real thing’.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolates and Quality Street makes it onto the Marketing Week list with its 30-second magic moments lollipop lady advert.  It’s heart warming and amusing, not least because of the way the wee lad nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders and says: “It’s OK”.  At what other time of the year apart from Christmas would you eat Ferrero Rocher?  Whether it is at a diplomat’s party or just round at your friends, Ferrero Rocher’s adverts always at least raise a smile.  Back in 1985 Cadbury’s said thank you very much very simply with this 10-second Roses advert.  A short and simple advert with a memorable jingle!

One brand whose Christmas adverts didn’t rely on a memorable jingle, but instead used a cracking Christmas hit, was Andrex.  The toilet roll manufacturer used Slade’s ‘So here it is merry Christmas’ as the backing track to its festive campaign while a Labrador puppy darted about in the snow chasing toilet paper and a duck skidded on ice.  Cuddly and amusing, but it also reinforced the age old message that a puppy is for life and not just for Christmas.

Staying on a canine theme; whatever you do don’t forget a present for your four-legged friend.  Pedigree ran a very clever campaign about a dog getting revenge on its owner when they forgot about it at Christmas.  So be warned, don’t miss your pooch off the Christmas list or this could happen!

Just as we publish this story news is reaching us of HMV’s 2012 campaign.  Nipper the dog is coming to life alongside his best friend Gramophone in a series of 11 animated spots.  The humorous Christmas Tales campaign is a departure from HMV’s previously product and price focussed advertising.  From those we’ve seen online the short ads have made us chuckle.

An extra stocking filler

Still in need of more Christmas adverts?  There are more on the Thinkbox website and if you search for UK Christmas adverts on YouTube, this selection box appears.  And, if you’re now singing ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ to yourself, here’s Bing Crosby’s version.

Happy shopping and remember, just like John Lewis’ snowman, it is always better to give than to receive!