April 29, 2007

Soldier, Soldier

I've been greatly amused at the very different approaches that our party-leaders are taking to woo us in the lead-up to the General Election here in Ireland.

The one in possession, Bertie Ahern, continues to play the 'man of the people' card that has served him so well in previous contests. His challenger, Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has produced a more business-like contract for government which seeks to highlight the broken promises of his rival and appeal to the growing disillusionment of an electorate in what has largely been seen as a marriage of convenience between the existing government coalition partners.

Enda's very modern pre-nuptial agreement may be showing up Bertie's nod and a wink approach as that of a smooth-talking but ultimately unreliable suitor (if recent opinion polls are anything to go by) and it will be interesting to see whether his clever use of the marriage analogy will deliver success for his brand of politics come voting time.

April 20, 2007

All My Own Work

I'm just back from a break near Barcelona where the change of pace had me seeing the world through different eyes. We sat and watched some sand sculptors on the beach at Sitges and I was intrigued at how passers-by on the beach-front promenade (many of whom were apparently workers taking a stroll on their siesta-break) stopped to admire the extraordinary work and dipped their hands into their pockets without any further prompting beyond the customary, strategically-placed hat (although one sculptor had added a 'Saving To Buy A New Ferrari' note in the sand which drew lots of laughs and probably a few more euro).

Whilst the sums on offer were not huge, I was struck with how easily we part with what commentators like to call "our hard-earned cash" in the face of creativity and beauty. These same commentators would seem to suggest that we must always have our hard-gotten gains prised from our reluctant fingers but it seemed to me as I sat idling on the beachfront that we are just as likely to happily show the money when we are delighted by what's on offer.

This suggests (to me, at least) a shift in how we might approach the whole selling / buying business for our brands and seek out ways in which we might effortlessly charm a contribution from the pockets of our customers.

April 08, 2007

There Were These Two Guys

Friends and colleagues of mine will know both of my conviction that the great brands build personal relationships and of my own personal affection for the Apple brand. Both conviction and affection are reinforced in Apple's latest series of Online Ads where the personalities of PC (anxious & neurotic) and Apple (low-key and laidback) are neatly contrasted as they discuss a range of functions and operations:

PC: "I get a little nervous when they mess around with my insides."
Mac: "What do you mean? Isn't it just straightforward?"
PC: "Not really. Like a lot of PC's I have to update my graphics card, my memory card...it's major surgery."

Whilst Apple's strategic brand direction has really only paid off for the company in the last few years, the company has always taken a personal, perhaps surprisingly low-tech approach to its advertising and these ads are worth watching for anyone curious as to how they might capture the drama of a brand's relationship with the customer in their own business.

April 01, 2007

Are You Looking At Me?

A reminder that our attention is fast-becoming the most valuable asset of all comes courtesy of Contagious News that Blyk , the 'pan-European free mobile operator for young people, funded by advertising' has just announced collaborations with some of the world's best-known brands, including Buena Vista, Coca Cola and L'Oreal Paris.

If at first glance, this appears to have nothing to do with smaller brands, particularly those of SMEs, I suggest you look again. Most small businesses have a strong relationship with their customers and an ability to ask for attention thanks to the trust they've built up. I've seen this at work in our own company, Islandbridge, where customers often ask for introductions to our other customers or events.

Perhaps it's time we considered how this attention might translate into opportunities for us and our customers to offer the commodity part of our proposition for free whilst charging (others!) for the privilege of talking to us and the group we have gathered around our brand.

On the other hand, does anyone else share my own misgivings that this simply catapults us into a Minority Report-type world where every visible surface is given over to advertising of one kind or another and every relationship is up for hire?

(Notwithstanding the claims of Antti Öhrling, one of the masterminds behind Blyk that, "The fundamental principle is that advertising never interferes with primary function of the phone. If you do it in the right way, it's not just how much [advertising] can you tolerate—it's something people find useful and fun.")