Friday, 30 July 2010

My iPad won't carry my chips!


Gadget and Gizmo Geeks everywhere are abuzz this week as Amazon launch the latest version of their e-reader, Kindle, in the UK. Coming only a few months after the monstrous launch of Apple’s latest phenomenon: the iPad, I think we may have a fight on our hands… Constantly challenged, technology giant Apple are being put on trial again as the Amazon Kindle promises to not only have the largest selection of book titles available, but also to be the cheapest supplier of e-books on the market, outsmarting the uber-shop that is the iTunes store.

But how has this flooding of the gadget market, offering the chance to read books, papers and magazines online and on the go, affected the humble newspaper rag and mag? Will The Times and The Guardian be relegated to the local chippie and used only for absorbing grease on a Friday night?

I’m not sure the answer is as doom and gloom as you may have anticipated. Take for example the introduction of a paywall on the Times Online asking for £2 a week for daily news content. The result? A 90% reduction of readers. However, research revealed these same readers were still prepared to dish out pennies for buying the real thing, and according to a poll, 72% of readers are enjoying their daily newspaper reading experience. Not only this, but 70 percent of 18-34* year-olds (32 million) read a newspaper during the week and 21 million read a newspaper on Sunday. Does this sound like news in print is on a death spiral? (*Apple & Amazon, please note that this is the very same target demographic you need splashing the cash on iPad’s and Kindle’s…)


A lot of people who know and appreciate the nature of PR think us PRO’s have it easy, starting our day with a cup of coffee and a flick through the day’s newspapers and the weekly celeb mags. But this happy tradition isn’t about enriching our minds and easing ourselves into a day of work, it is essential for us to have a grasp on the daily events around the world to help with campaigns, give a head’s up to a crisis and just make us commercially aware. Starting up a laptop and being confronted by a gazillian e-mails will inevitably distract us from scouring BBC.co.uk and the Sun online.


All of this to digest - and now today a poll of 20,000 consumers has found that the typical owner of the iPad is seen as power-hungry and has little time for the concerns of others. According to those polled, the image of someone who owns an iPad is of a selfish workaholic between 30 and 50 who has an unhealthy interest in making lots of money. Hmm....in this case, I may remove the device from my Christmas list in favour a subscription to the Daily Mail!


Photo credit: werledesign.com

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

HMV vs Apple


HMV have launched their new download site this week which it anticipates to have market leader ITunes quaking in their boots!

The well known high street music store has launched a website that sells Top 40 music tracks at 40p as part of its strategy to move from high street retailer to a wider entertainment brand. First opening in 1921, the British entertainment retail chain is now the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom and Canada. ITunes accounts for 70% of worldwide online digital music sales, making the service the largest legal music retailer. But is this all set to change?

To date, if the IPod, MP3 and download junkie wants to have the latest tunes blasting through their headphones, ITunes has been the place to go for secure, safe music downloads. From Top 40 to 80s classics, podcasts to movies, Monday night's Eastenders to Katie Price’s latest biography – ITunes has one of the largest download directories available.

HMV Digital, operating from its new standalone site has a catalogue of 10 million tracks. In addition to the Top 40 singles, chart albums start from £4.99, placing the offering in direct competition to Apple's established download service. HMV is also offering an introductory offer of five tracks free on a first-come first-serve basis.

A feature of HMV Digital, which is currently unavailable on ITunes, is the ability to re-download tracks if a hard-drive is lost or broken. It has a download manager that enables users to sync purchases with their iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries.

HMV may be the biggest entertainment high street retailer, and its new site is offering more to the download generation. Its competitive pricing may switch some of the more savvy users but will it really impact ITunes sales… Is HMV really powerful enough to take on the mighty Apple?

Photo credit: hmvdigital.com

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A little thought goes a long way…

In the last couple of days, our key journalists have been arriving at work to find an apple tree on their desk courtesy of Copella. It’s a gift that will remind them of their trip to Hampton Court Flower Show and the spectacular garden Copella has there as well as the new Copella Apple & Cherry flavour being launched.Journalists go to so many events it can be difficult to make your news story and event stand out and stick in the mind. Just because you have met them face-to-face and dazzled them with an amazing event doesn’t mean you can kick back, relax and wait for the coverage to start rolling in. One essential is to follow-up after an event with some kind of personal touch so that when the event is over the experience is not forgotten and you get that all important coverage.

Photo credit: GardenOasis, Shoot Gardening

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A little taste of Italy…in a sandwich?


There are simply some foods that should never have been invented; deep fried Mars bars, spam and chocolate liqueurs to name a few but I think Tesco has topped these with their latest creation, the lasagne sandwich.

I can definitely see their thinking on this one; lasagne is a classic dish and a firm favourite with Brits so why not transfer that to a sandwich? It’s true that the step from dinner plate to sandwich has been really successful in the past, for example turkey and cranberry is always a favourite around Christmas, the ‘all day breakfast’ often graces the chiller shelves and chicken tikka is a great filler too but this lasagne creation really doesn’t work for me. Lasagne has always been one of those meals that’s homemade and warming, certainly not something I would consider sandwiching between two slices of white bread and eating cold. It just looks soggy and unappealing.

The creator states that her inspiration came from her student days when she found that many foods tasted even better the next day, which in some cases is very true such as curry and pizza, but lasagne? Even so, I would never consider putting my curry or pizza into a sandwich!

This has triggered me to wonder what other creations Tesco may have up their sleeves – the Chinese stir fry sandwich, fish, chips and mushy peas sandwich or even perhaps the mushroom risotto sandwich. I’m penning a letter to Tesco straight after this with my ideas!

It’s never going to win Tesco any awards in finest cuisine or healthy eating but I think they’ll be suitably happy with the column inches and hype they’ve managed to secure with this new NPD, even if their mocked-up packaging was highlighted as having the incorrect nutritional values printed on it! I am very much looking forward to seeing how Tesco can top this one.

What does everyone else think - would you buy the lasagne sandwich? What other meals would you like to see transformed into a sandwich?

Photo credit: Dailymail.co.uk

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Boring gets kitsch, then massclusivity hits


Ah, the rise of the humble cupcake – previously the preserve of school hall ‘Bring & Buy’ sales and the local village fete… a small piece of dried-out sponge in a flimsy cupcake case that featured Christmas mistletoe designs, and all housed in a sweaty tin full of crumb remnants of cupcakes gone by.

My how far it’s come…. having recently endured a frenzy of positive media coverage and getting a new lease of life through appearances in the likes of Sex And The City, the humble cupcake became kitsch. Reinventing itself in gorgeous technicolour with mouthwatering flavours, a menagerie of pastel hued frostings and cutesy mini-topping decorations meant it has begun making guest-of-honour appearances at A-lister weddings and celeb parties.

Listed in Google’s annual zeitgeist list as the ‘fastest rising recipe search’ in December 2009, the cupcake has now evolved from its position of exclusive kitsch in the mid Noughties (when the Hummingbird Bakery brought it to London’s ├╝ber cool South Ken, Notting Hill and Soho as a treat for London trendoids), to becoming exclusive to the masses.

Now boasting fresh buttercream icing, moist layers and oozing gorgeousness, lickable lips-ness, cupcakes have retained their exclusive/cute appeal even though they are available through the high street. Clinton cards– the card and pressie retailer have done cupcakes brilliantly with www.clintoncakes.co.uk which means in this bespoke era, you can personalise your cupcake order from flavour, frosting, decoration and even feature an image or photo of your choice.

So go on, what or who would you have superimposed on your cupcake and who would you send a batch to?

Photo credit: Clintoncakes.co.uk

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Festival Marketing

Festival season seems to have become the defining sign that the British summer has well and truly arrived. From June right through to September, you’d be hard pushed to find a weekend where somewhere in the country, some kind of festival (be it music, comedy, literary or film) isn’t going on.

Whether, you’re partial to Glastonbury, Latitude, Edinburgh or even Bestival, there’s no denying that these events, which attract the nation in their masses, present some of the most lucrative marketing opportunities around.

Many festivals are working harder than ever to create tailored opportunities for brands to help them reach their target markets and engage on a personal and practical level. For instance, mobile network Orange’s tie up with Glastonbury this year would have been music to most festival go-ers ears. With their ‘chill and charge’ tent, they created an area where people could go to re-charge their phones (vital when most phone batteries don’t last more than a day of full use) as well as send messages and tweet. Providing this vital service and resulted in a facebook group with nearly 6,000 followers, not to mention numerous tweets on twitter.

One of our very own clients, Remington, have taken the idea one step further this year as they prepare to be official hair partner of the ‘Beauty ‘n’ Beats zone’ at this year’s Big Chill festival in Herefordshire. Providing much needed style to those who are more used to glam-ping rather than camping, the Remington style bar will use the sleekest tools in the business to create festival frizz free hair – and what girl could refuse?!


So, it seems the rule is simple; provide a service that people really want and you can’t go too far wrong. But what service would you really like to see at a festival?


Thoughts please…


Photo credit:
routenote.com

Friday, 9 July 2010

Facebook takes back gifts

Facebook shockingly lost more than a quarter of a million users during June. For the No.1 social media site that has constantly been riding high, it seems Facebook may have finally reached its peak. With so many other social media platforms popping up literally every month, users are streamlining their memberships rather than using multiple sites.

So its no surprise that yesterday Facebook announced a major change to its site. The gift shop service where users can ‘buy’ friends virtual gifts with Facebook credits will as of 1st August be no more. Users have to earn credits first before they can send most of the gifts, which in my opinion would make this an unpopular service. However, according to Facebook users have sent millions of gifts, yet the service will be removed allowing the development of more popular areas such as photos, comments, news feed and the ‘Like’ button. I for one have never used this service and will certainly not be mourning its disappearance.

Looking closer at the credits, a key area where users can earn credits is through Facebook games, which are extremely popular (I know my news feed is full of what fishes friends have found and crops they have grown). With the amount of gaming updates I see I expect there are a lot of credits being collected, but where will they spend these credits now? At the moment users can use their credits to reward friends for interesting status updates, but how many people will want to use their earnings for other people?

Facebook could become a major player in online credits, but unless these credits can be spent on something more exciting (think reward scheme websites where credits can be used for real gifts such as branded mousemats and t-shirts to shopping vouchers and product discounts) then they are probably going to just sit there in virtual Facebook piggybanks.

What would you like to spend your Facebook credits on?

Photo source: Facebook

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Back to the future


Sci-fi fans everywhere were thrown into a state of disarray after a new internet hoax has been doing the rounds today. Today is the day that Marty McFly allegedly travelled forward in time in the cult classic Back To The Future. But how far are we from hoverboards and self tying trainers?

I remember watching this movie as a child thinking it would be virtually impossible to live in a world so technologically advanced- I was hoping that I would live that long and was secretly jealous of the generations to come who would get to make the most of the gadgets and gizmos of the future! So, considering I used to think 25 was old, I have now come to terms that we ‘live in the future’. What gadgets do we have that were almost unimaginable back in the 80s? I had a quick think of the things that inspire me right now and have listed my top 3:

1, Smart phones: My first phone had an ariel, a green screen, lots of buttons. Smart phones have revolutionised the way we do things, combining so many features into something so small means we never have to worry about printing off tickets, checking the AtoZ, or even finding something to do! Location based apps are becoming huge and changing the way people are interacting with each other and throwing augmented reality into the mix is getting consumers to start ‘playing’, injecting a tiny bit of fun into everyday life… and we all know that’s a good thing

2, 3D TV: I was impressed at seeing these at CES this year while I think the 3D TV concept is not quite there yet, it is rapidly advancing meaning the readily available technology shows we aren’t far off. With TVs replacing the fireplace as the focal point of the modern living room, how will the 3D images change this and the way we watch our favourite shows, sports or even play our favourite games?

3, Games consoles: While I can’t pretend to be a gaming geek, the evolution on how we play on consoles is fascinating. Nintendo got the ball rolling with the Wii bringing motion control to the forefront but then Xbox took this one step further with Kinect.

What are things that inspire you right now?

Photo credit: moviesonline.ca

Friday, 2 July 2010

Foursquare – The next big thing?

Marketers are constantly looking for the ‘next big thing’ in social media, and Foursquare is the widely touted frontrunner this year. Part game, part loyalty scheme, Foursquare is a free service that combines social networks and maps, allowing users to check in at locations all over the world through their smart phones and the internet, receiving points and rewards.

There are many ways for venues to reward their customers through Foursquare. Perfect for independent stores and food outlets, the simplest of these offers a discount to anyone who checks in, encouraging trial and repeat return. Outlets may also benefit from Foursquare’s ‘Tips’ function, where users can find recommendations from other customers on any subject from the best thing on the menu to the best seat in the house.

Many more prolific companies are taking Foursquare discounting to the next level, and offering special deals to anyone who becomes Mayor of their outlet. Users can become Mayor by checking in regularly at one venue, with only one person holding the title of Mayor at any one time. Companies like Starbucks and Dominos offer free products to the Mayor of each of their stores, rewarding users for regular check ins. These promotions do have their drawbacks (not least, how to stop your full time employees becoming Mayor rather than your customers!) but they capture the spirit of Foursquare by treating the Mayor position as special and desirable.

However, my favourite Foursquare campaign was a little more complicated, and a lot more fun. Jimmy Choo, the designer shoe brand, recently used Foursquare to host a real-time treasure hunt which allowed users to win a pair of their new trainers. Catch a Choo saw a single pair of trainers checking in at fashionable locations around London, and sending updates about their whereabouts. The first person to reach the venue and catch the trainers won a pair in their size.

This campaign combined relevancy and talkability to brilliant effect. As a well-known shoe lover, I had several friends sending me links to the story and saw it mentioned time and time again in my social media channels. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join in this time, as I’m not based in London, but the message around the launch of Jimmy Choo trainers got through to me loud and clear. Should the brand ever repeat the exercise with their high heels, I might find an excuse to work from the London office for a while!

Do you think Foursquare is overhyped or the next big thing? Should marketers be embracing it regardless?

Photo credit: Jimmy Choo