Brands are people, people are brands #159 – Nero Stars

Now, I can’t remember exactly when I signed up for this, but I think it was last Winter… oh, actually, around the same time as I wrote this post on it, maybe…

Yes, anyway, Caffé Nero sent me a letter, a poker-chip style token, and a couple of vouchers for free coffees. The deal? They wanted me to give the token to a ‘Nero Star’… a barista in their stores who was going above and beyond the call of duty.


It’s a lovely idea, I really like it. It creates a bond between customer and your staff that wouldn’t normally be there. And, actually, having that token nagging away in my pocket has probably made me think more about going to Caffé Nero over the last month as a result. Everyone wins, I think.

Anyway, I’ve given mine to the whole team that work here, in the lonely little booth at the far end of Victoria.


It’s the Siberia of the Nero empire. And yet they are always, without fail, lovely, charming and smiley.

Thanks, guys.

BMW; back in the film business, but now in the future business

Years ago (in the early noughties), BMW made some films.  They were great, lavish, statement making films.  They had Clive Owen in them.  They had freakin’ Madonna in them.



They told you this:  BMWs are for driving fast, looking amazing, living dangerously.


Especially if you were an insurance salesman in the home counties.


Looking back, it’s easy to see how the mental picture of the BMW driver was a gregarious, suited, loudmouthed wanker… it was all about the badge, that shiny BMW medal of belonging for Kevin and Justin and the golf club mafia.


Now, BMW are back in the film business.  But in a wonderfully different way…


A series of four films based around “The Future of Mobility”; a look to the future where we need to create a sustainable lifestyle for the human race.  They’ll all be released this month, and first is up here now




That guy?  That’s Buzz Aldrin.  Yes, the second man on the moon.  “You get where you wanna go, when you wanna go, with the least fuss… that’s what we need”.  Doesn’t sound like the message Kevin & Justin would bandy around the 19th hole.


It’s well worth a watch.


What’s beautiful about the films, and the idea, is that you get a sense of BMW as a group, a movement, an ideology… not because it’s chock-a-block full of BMW people (it isn’t), but because this is the kind of statement they want to make about themselves to the world.


And the thing about an ideology is that it can last forever, and transcend whatever it is you physically make or do as a company in any one era.  It’s probably as much of a message internally to BMW as it is externally for us.


In 1975, Theodore Levitt said this of marketers:


“To survive, they themselves will have to plot the obsolescence of what now produces their livelihood”


I guess “The Future of Mobility” feels like a future for BMW too… now let’s see what actions they use to back up the words.

George Lucas Sells Adidas, Volkswagen, PC World… and your childhood down the river

Oh George.  What are you doing.


Sure, the Adidas thing was exciting at first… 


…but the ad was largely forgotten in the trail of Nike’s Write The Future, and the shoes were kinda rubbish in the end.





Then there was the PC World thing.


God, really?


Look, here’s C3P0 bending over for the advertising buck… 






And now, there’s an VW ad.




OK, it’s kinda funny.  And in isolation, maybe any one of these would be fine.


But you know, where’s it going to stop?


How many ads will feature Star Wars characters, themes, remixes.  Is it the default, lazy creative hook up for exciting a generation who’re now driving cars and raising families?


I have a theory.


George Lucas hates Star Wars.  It’s ruined his life.  He had the potential to be a respected director, making a series of interesting, different films.  But people kept making him do the kids films.


Then told him that was all he was good at.


THEN told him that actually, when he tried to make more, he wasn’t any good at them after all, and the first ones were a fluke or something.


So George has decided to take his ball away.


We ruined his life for Star Wars, and now he’s going to ruin Star Wars for us.


He’s fucking ruining it for me, that’s for sure.

Passion and Scale – getting “participation” right

Off the back of the Verb, Reverb and Amplify post from before Christmas, we’ve been doing some work projects on what this means for participation; we’ve a whole host of brilliants clients & brands that have done participation and done it pretty well…


…although as always, you’re never sure who did it, you or the community who started, kept and spread the participation.  That’s another story though.


This is more about two things; passion and scale.


Passion is what fuels participation; a central group will be hugely involved and collaborative, and others who see it are drawn to join in if it’s


a) simple to do so
b) they feel there’s encouragement to join in
c)  it’s something they’re pretty interested in



You know all this, I’ll move on.


The thing is about passion is that it disperses the bigger the group gets.  Be it a function of the Dunbar Number or whatever, it’s just really hard to do participation on any sort of massive scale.


Which is probably what makes it really hard for companies & agencies who’re used to dealing at the scale that advertising delivers to work through how they become ‘participative’ in their marketing.


Too often, perhaps, the answer reached is “to make this participative activity a success, we must set a really high target for the number of people who participate”.


Which I think is the wrong approach.


Let’s go back to this idea of Verb, Reverb and Amplify.  Rolling in the idea of participation & scale


i) VERB – what you do with people; the participation

ii) REVERB – the natural resonance that creates in social spaces; usually small, usually fast decayingiii) AMPLIFY – the way you tell the story of the what you have done together at scale; ‘advertising’, for instance





As a working model, it’s interesting as a principle.


It helps prioritise an order for doing things.


It builds in a realistic view of what’s possible, by highlighting that the natural reverberation of social spaces isn’t huge.


Which means it lets you build up more realistic targets for success.


And it gives a clear role for the more traditional media spaces of still potent tools like television (the debate about how long it remains potent is again, one for another day).


The thing I find most interesting about it though is this; for anyone who comes into contact with it at any stage, it can feel participative.


Yet it’s not reliant on mass participation to feel like a success.  It’s reliant on you being able to scale it in the right way, to tell an entertaining story about the things you’ve done with people in a compelling way.


Entertainment is central to this; the recent globalwebindex survey showed that for 66% of 16-24s, the prime motivation to engage with brands was for entertainment.  The good thing about entertaining things is that if they like them, people share them.  That’s what you were after, wasn’t it, people to share your message.


Why do the share them?  Well, finally, I think Bilal Jaffery hit the nail on the head with this…


“If I tell my friends about your brand, it’s not because I like your brand, but rather because I like my friends.”


So there you go; participation, scale, entertainment & sharing.  A rough model, granted, but we’re finding it kinda useful.

[PT] – “The Promoted Tweet”

As reported here in The Guardian, the latest OFT crackdown wants celebrities to reveal if they’re being paid to tweet about brands and products.




Which is, you know, fair enough I reckon.


And I don’t think people are daft enough to think that in the modern age of celebrity, it hasn’t been going on anyway.


But with only 140 characters to play with, it’s going to be pretty hard for people to add in a full statement along the lines of “This tweet was sponsored by The National Geographic Society”…


…so what I suspect we’ll see is some form of user-created shorthand for ‘promoted or paid-for tweets’, perhaps something like:




It’ll be short, clean and clear enough to be included at the end of a message.


Crucially, it won’t be something controlled centrally by twitter (which would be an unmanageable task), but a common practice that emerges from the PR & social ends of the industry.


What’ll be most interesting, if it happens, is seeing just how many tweets in the stream start to feature [PT] or equivalent… or do celebrities really just tweet about stuff because they like it…?

Brands are people, people are brands



Increasingly the lines are being blurred between ‘brands’ and the ‘community’ of people who work together to make and do the things that company makes and does.

Where does brand stop and community start? Lush, who’ve always made a big thing on pack of the people who work there, are taking an interesting step to show that it’s not ‘a marketing gimmick’.

Although, arguably, is this now MORE of a marketing gimmick than the stickers of people on pots? Don’t know. But I like that they like their people.