October 30, 2006

Wait Lifted

The first episode of Penguin's 'The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters' (see my previous post 'Worth Its Wait In Gold') arrived in my mailbox during the week and I got stuck in as soon as I could. The book itself is a slim volume, closer to an old-fashioned magazine in shape and size - making it quite exotic in the modern context - and I enjoyed the sense of anticipation with which I turned to the opening page.

This first book tells the story of Temple, a woman whose fiance cuts off their engagement without explanation, prompting her to disguise herself and follow him to a mysterious country house where she witnesses all sorts of strange goings-on. I found the writing style a little irritating at first but settled past that to enjoy the story, which finishes rather abruptly as promised with all manner of things unexplained for now, and left me hanging on for the next installment.

I suspect it's a little early yet for me to judge how successful the approach is. I've certainly found myself wondering in the meantime about Temple's adventure and where it leads and am looking forward to the arrival of the next discreetly adorned white package.

I'm enjoying the experience although in a fairly self-conscious way. It reminds me of keeping my diary as a child - when I was always mindful that somebody, someday, would read my entry and edited accordingly. When I read it now, it strikes me as contrived and careful. I'll have to relax a little more into the next book and just let it sweep me away.

October 23, 2006

The Unfriendly Skies

Here in this part of the world (Ireland), Ryanair's recent bid for our national airline Aer Lingus has been the talk of the town. Analysts have looked at the proposed takeover from almost every angle but, as far as I know, no-one has asked what this means for the Ryanair brand.

For me, this makes for a fascinating sub-plot. Despite being one of the world's larger airlines, Ryanair has long relished playing the part of underdog taking on the fat cats but, in baring its teeth and menacing the much smaller Aer Lingus, I wonder whether it's lost its grip on that position forever.

In the short term, I suspect this matters little, but over the long haul, Ryanair may regret moving in for such a public kill. Could it be that Michael O'Leary has finally bitten off more than he can chew?

October 16, 2006

Clap Hands

Fairy Liquid's new print ads for their dishwashing 'active bursts' feature a clever riff on one of the more memorable taglines of the past twenty years: Fairy Liquid - For Hands That Don't Do Dishes.

The original For Hands That Do Dishes worked so well for me (and presumably for everyone else too) because it had that grain of everyday language running through it that seems to mark almost all of the truly great campaigns: Guinness Is Good For You, Beanz Meanz Heinz, Let Your Fingers Do The Walking etc. The new ads play on that very nicely indeed.

It's not as easy as it looks though - sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep it simple, particularly when the temptation is to try and say it all.

October 09, 2006

Box Of Tricks

The power of music in helping to set the scene, whether at an event or in a restaurant or hotel lobby, is often underestimated, so I was delighted to happen upon Pandora whilst pulling together the soundtrack for our Smile Conference.

Pandora offers me the tools to create a playlist based around a particular song that I like and uses the individual characteristics of that song to suggest other songs that share those characteristics. I listen to each suggested song and give it the thumbs up or down, which helps Pandora refine its search further.

Apart from being a lot of fun, Pandora has allowed me to make a soundtrack based around Simon & Garfunkel's 'Mrs.Robinson' that taps into the particular spirit of that song (which in turn has tapped into the brand profile of the conference itself).

Seems to me that this approach offers event organisers and venue hosts the opportunity to set the scene in a way that's much more likely to strike a chord with their own visitors than the bland muzak that's usually served up.

October 04, 2006

King For A Day (Or Two)

Travelled by train to Mayo and to a client of mine, the Westport Woods Hotel, where I was treated like a king rather than the hired hand and reminded how blessed I am to work for the likes of my host this evening, Michael Lennon. Despite the late hour, Michael travelled in from his home to shake my hand and make me welcome. He had better things to do, I’m sure, but he made the journey all the same.

Michael’s in good company. Other clients of mine, Sean Buckley at the Arbutus Hotel in Killarney, Martin McCaffrey at the Hole In The Wall Pub and Conor O’Kane at the Quality Hotel, the last two both in Dublin, are men who share the same natural generosity of spirit as hosts. It goes beyond what can be prescribed by a brand consultant like me as something that might offer an edge, some commercial advantage. It comes from a different place.

As someone on the receiving end, I can tell you it feels different. Sean greets me at the airfield and bids me welcome to the Kingdom, Martin offers me a bottle of wine to take home and “tell me what you and Christine make of it”, while Conor stops by my table to share an observation and, as I discover only when I go to pay my tab, treat me to lunch.

For this hired hand, it doesn’t get much better than that. This stuff can’t be taught but it’s something that many another business might do well to learn.