Shortbread stooshie takes the biscuit

When is a Scottish product no longer a Scottish product? Apparently, according to some, when it is packaged in tin with a Union Jack design.

A storm in a shortbread tin has erupted online after Scottish food manufacturer Walkers decided to sell some of its famous delicacies in containers bedecked in the flag of the United Kingdom.  A picture snapped by a Scot of shortbread on sale in a German airport has sparked claims that the Moray firm is ‘destroying our Scottish brand’, while others have labelled them ‘traitors to Scotland’.

Box of Walkers shortbread – image courtesy of Walkers Shortbread Ltd

Is it really a case that the 120-year-old company has ditched its Scottish roots, or simply that it is aiming to appeal to as wide a market as possible?

Reading some of the comments that have been posted online you’d be forgiven for thinking that the firm had discarded its traditional tartan packaging.  Far from it.  Heading to Walkers’ online shop you are presented with all manner of products which are still proudly bedecked in the famous red tartan everyone has become familiar with.

The Union Jack tin that is causing a shortbread stooshie – Image courtesy of Walkers Shortbread Ltd

Nestled alongside such packaging on the virtual shelves are tins depicting other bastions of Britishness, the Routemaster bus, the black cab and even a red pillar box.  Yet these don’t seem to have caused upset.  And far from ditching packaging boasting the saltire in favour of one with a Union Jack, as has been suggested, the blue and white tin is still available online.

On closer inspection of the photograph that has got some people bumping their gums you can clearly see that sitting on shelves above, and even alongside, the offending tin at the airport are Walkers products in their familiar red tartan cartons.  When you look at the bigger picture it illustrates how the loud assertions being made by some about the firm seem to lack any real bite.

Perhaps those individuals have other more political motivations as one newspaper has suggested, or it is that they don’t want to be consumers who are offered choice.

Offering customers a selection of products to choose from makes clear business sense.  Walkers has grown from simply baking plain shortbread in an Aberdeenshire village into a global brand, respected by consumers around the world for its quality range of biscuits, oatcakes, cakes and tarts.  Alongside its plain shortbread are chocolate covered, chocolate chip, fruit, nuts and ginger varieties.  Would it have achieved such success if it hadn’t diversified its product range?

With shortbread being one of the classic products associated with Scotland, the tourist market is clearly an important one for Walkers throughout Britain and around the world.  Different nationalities will hold different images of Scotland in higher esteem than others, whether that is a Scottie dog, Nessie, Edinburgh Castle, a piper or a Highland Cow.  Being able to appeal to as wide an audience as possible is crucial and if that means using different images on packaging as a marketing tool, then so be it.

Walkers has gained a reputation for offering a quality product.  So much so that its shortbread can be bought online from Harrods.  What appeals to that high-end retailer’s customers in London, and in other businesses in the capital, will not necessarily be the same as what might catch the eye of a tourist visiting Loch Ness or Edinburgh.  Therefore, having packaging to suit different markets makes commercial sense.

A tin of Walkers shortbread © Walkers Shortbread Ltd

The Walkers name and tartan logo is emblazoned on all of its packaging, no matter its shape or principal design, meaning customers are not going to be confused about the product’s authenticity or heritage.  When it comes to marketing and promotion, brand consistency is crucial.

Such has been the stooshie that this picture has created, Walkers felt compelled to issue a statement to underline its commitment to its Scottish roots.  For a firm to be forced into such a statement in response to half-baked claims by a vocal group of individuals with political leanings takes the biscuit.

Rather than berating an important Scottish firm – one that employs 1,400 people and generates millions of pounds for the economy – because it is offering diversity, we should instead celebrate its achievements, its global appeal, its tenacity to innovate and, above all, its ability to look beyond the borders to one country in order to succeed.  After all, a successful economy is in all our biscuit eating interests.

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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.

BMW P.R.A.M

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.

Innes Associates helps to mark some milestones

Innes Associates at 10It seems that 2013 is quite a good year to be celebrating an anniversary in Aberdeen.  This  year Innes Associates celebrates a decade a business and we’re not alone in reaching a significant milestone.

Also celebrating ten years in business are subsea intervention firm Bibby Offshore and Belmont Street eatery Books and Beans.  Others who are blowing out candles on the top of their tenth birthday cakes are the Press & Journal’s monthly Energy supplement and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s Northern Star Business Awards.

This year marks 40 years since the first Offshore Europe exhibition and conference was staged in the city.  Originally held at the University of Aberdeen and called Offshore Scotland, the event has grown into the largest oil and gas production event in the eastern hemisphere.  This year’s event is expected to attract over 1,500 exhibitors and welcome around 50,000 visitors over its four days.

Another Aberdeen business celebrating a major landmark is Roustabout Energy International, one of the leading oil and gas publications in north-east Scotland.  Its first magazine came off the printing press in September 1972 and nearly 41 years later its 500th edition has just been printed.  Thanks to modern technology you don’t have to have a printed copy to be able toread it as its digital version can be read on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone.

Charlie Innes

Charlie Innes, managing director, Innes Associates

It was this combination of advancing technology and significant milestones that led to Innes Associates managing director Charlie Innes putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to look at how technology and the way we communicate has evolved over the past 40 years.  From telex machines to touchscreens and tablets, and how jobs in the oil industry have changed, are all covered.  To read the full article and have a look at the new look Roustabout Energy International has received to mark the 500th issue visit their website.  You might also spot a dashing young Charlie Innes!

Small businesses warned not to skimp on marketing

Improved marketing could add value for SMEs.

Improved marketing could add value for SMEs.

Recent research carried out by technology services company Pitney Bowes and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) reveals that the SME sector is losing out on up to £11 billion in sales by allowing marketing to slip off the radar. While 77% of companies recognise that marketing is important to the success of their business, a third rate their efforts over the last six months at under five out of ten, with 11 per cent admitting to doing none of the marketing they had planned.  When asked what’s holding them back, SME owners cite time (21 per cent) and money (36 per cent).

At Innes Associates we understand the challenges faced by SMEs and work closely with our clients to develop marketing plans and communication activities that deliver. Keen to chat things through? Simply get in touch to arrange a no obligation consultation.

The full article about the benefits of improved marketing for small and medium-sized companies is available to view here.

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.

Offshore Europe 2013 – it’s just around the corner

Make your stand space visually appealing.

Make your stand space visually appealing.

Offshore Europe 2013 is just around the corner but don’t let yourself be driven around the bend by leaving everything until the last minute.

The secret to making the most of exhibitions, events and trade shows is to be prepared.  Time spent now is time saved later – and costs can be more easily controlled if you have the luxury of time to play with.

The very first question to ask yourself is whether the event is right for your organisation? Stand space at major events is priced at a premium – and these events can be very worthwhile if you exploit their potential – but make sure it makes sense for you to be there.  Don’t feel pressured just because your competitors are exhibiting.  Remember you can always ‘walk’ the event instead.

Once you’ve made the decision to exhibit, your next priority is to secure the best possible site within your budget.  If you are a regular event exhibitor, chances are you’ll be given first refusal for the space you occupied last time. If the event is a new one for your organisation, get in early to try to give yourself as many options as possible. Bear in mind that a small stand with good footfall might be a better investment than a larger one that no-one passes.   It may sound obvious but paying for the stand space is only the start of the exhibition spend – you may also need to purchase or hire furniture, audio visual equipment, literature and giveaways so don’t blow the budget at the outset!

Once the space is secured, you can turn your thoughts to stand layout and design.  Never underestimate the importance of getting these two aspects right.  An uninspiring or tired-looking stand sends out the wrong message about your organisation and its products or services.  If you can’t be bothered to make an effort when trying to attract new business, then potential customers aren’t going to trust you to go the extra mile for them.  Work on making your stand space visually appealing, open and accessible and this will translate into increased visitors – and potential new sales leads.

Similar principles apply to your stand literature and giveaways: Put some thought into these at the outset and make sure you spend your budget on well designed literature and promotional products that people will read or use!  We’ve all heard tales about cupboards full of leftover giveaways – but equally you don’t want to run out of brochures halfway through an event.  Think through your targets for the event – how many leads are you expecting to generate? You’ll also need to brief your colleagues on the exhibition stand, so they are clear about who makes a suitable recipient and who is a timewaster.

Preparation for an exhibition doesn’t just refer to organising your stand and the associated marketing materials, you also need to promote your attendance and stand number to your target audience in advance.  This might include an electronic or physical mailshot to existing and potential clients, or something as simple as including an extra line in your email signature, stating your stand number and the event title and date.  Remember also to make full use of the publicity opportunities on offer from the event organisers, such as the exhibitors’ manual, trade show website and any event newsletters.  At the event itself, there may also be a press office on-site that you can target with any newsworthy announcements.  (Yet another aspect of the preparation is to ensure that you’ve thought about topics for press releases in advance and briefed your public relations agency accordingly!).

Seems like a lot to think about? Innes Associates has been working with clients to maximise the benefit they get from exhibitions, including Offshore Europe, for years.  If you’d like support with any aspect of your next event, drop us a line. We’d love to help you to prepare for success.