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Welcome to the inside out design and branding blog

I’m Tim Masters, a graphic designer with over 25 years’ experience working with corporations and SMEs. All through my professional life I have helped clients develop their brands and my work has included the design of logos, identities, literature, websites, exhibitions and all the other elements that combine to create a brand image.

Apart from meeting the challenges of finding good solutions to clients’ communications problems – and convincing them that they are the right ones – I’ve often found it necessary to explain the difference between design and styling.

This is the way I see it; if something is well-engineered or well constructed, its inherent strengths are echoed in its outward appearance. So the design enables it to be used reliably and continuously. This applies equally to a piece of graphic design as it does to anything else. Whether it’s a website, brochure, car, mobile phone or food mixer; if it’s well-considered on the inside, it stands a far better chance of looking good on the outside.

The designer Ray Eames said; “What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.” I would go further and say that working good is only part of the appeal; the thing also has to look good to stand any real chance of commercial success.

Dieter Rams, Braun’s chief designer knew this. So did Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO. Braun’s products were beautifully made (and they looked as good as they functioned). Apple’s Mac computers, and iProducts are wonderfully engineered and they look beautiful too. The BBC’s website is another example, so are Audi’s cars. All of these companies offer great services and products which work good and look good. So these products are, in my view, well designed. They work from the inside out.

Styling on the other hand is a cosmetic exercise; something that makes an object (or an organisation) look good irrespective of how well it functions. We’ve all come across businesses selling goods and services which look stylish, but which turn out to be poorly thought out or dysfunctional. And we don’t buy from them again.

How does this apply to brands? Well a brand is far more than a logo, colour scheme and a few nice images. It’s how an organisation represents itself to the outside world in everything it says and does. The most successful brands have firmly-held beliefs and values and a great story to tell. They speak the truth, they behave ethically and don’t make promises they can’t keep. They employ the right people and give them the right training. And, whether knowingly or not, they provide great customer service by following David Ogilvy’s maxim that ‘the customer isn’t a moron.’ In other words, the most appealing brands are authentic. And it’s no coincidence that they put good design at the heart of their operations.

So the inside out concept simply follows one of the laws of nature; if something is unhealthy on the inside, sooner or later the disease becomes visible on the outside. And no amount of cosmetic overlay can disguise it.

The aim of this blog is to take a look at products, marketing communications, brands and other items of interest to see how they fit within the inside out paradigm.

Some people will agree with me, others will not. That’s great because whatever you feel about the examples I talk about I would love to hear from you.

Over to you.

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Was it all worth it for VW?

In the summer of 1945, just after the Second World War had ended, Major Ivan Hirst, a British Army Officer of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) arrived in Germany to look for a workshop that could repair and service allied tanks and transport.

He found one in an industrial town in Lower Saxony. It had been built in 1938 by the Nazi government to build motor cars. But the factory had only made a handful by the time war broke out in 1939 and production had been switched to military vehicles. The most famous of these was the Kubelwagen, a utility vehicle with a foldable canvas roof. It was to the German army what the Jeep was to the allies.

The factory also made parts for the lethal  V1 rockets or ‘Doodlebugs’ which Hitler sent across the channel into England in 1944. All this had made it a prime target for allied bombers.

When Hirst arrived, the town and its factory were in ruins, just like most of the rest of Germany. Inside the factory was a large unexploded allied bomb, a set of blueprints for a car and some associated parts. He defused the bomb and decided to recommission the factory and try to build the car. The idea was for it to provide much-needed transport for the occupying allied troops. He succeeded in making one and sent it to the allied command HQ.

Shortly afterwards, he received an order for 20,000 more.

By March 1946, with the factory roof still so full of holes that production had to stop when it rained, the British Army had  made its 1000th car. That was the Volkswagen Type 1 which became known as the Beetle.

In May 1949, the Volkswagenwerk or ‘People’s Car Factory’, was officially handed back to the Germans.

By 1955 one million Beetles had been built.

VW Beetle ads-Small-&-Lemon

Sales rocketed in the 1960s, especially in the United States. They were driven by two things; the quality and price equation of the cars and the brilliantly effective advertising by Doyle, Dane Bernbach. The campaigns were created around a beautifully simple concept: show the car, tell the truth and don’t make exaggerated claims.

By the end of the decade approximately 15 million Beetles had been built. Together with the Kombi camper van, it became part of the counterculture that spread from the West Coast of America to the rest of the world. People loved the quirky shape and the reliability of its rear mounted air-cooled engine

While production had reached its high watermark by the mid 70s with over 16 million vehicles sold, VW realised it needed a more modern car, one with a water-cooled engine mounted in the front, that would compete with the Japanese.

So in 1974 it introduced the Golf (named Rabbit in the US), which has been in continuous production ever since. Designed for ‘everyman’, it is the true successor to the Beetle; a real modern-day people’s car. James May, one of the presenters of the BBC motoring programme Top Gear once wrote that it is the only car anyone could ever need.

And so, through a combination of good product design, hard graft, powerful advertising and effective marketing, involving  tens of thousands of people, it has become the second largest car maker in the world with three models in the motoring world’s Top Ten all-time best-sellers; the Beetle, Passat and Golf. It is symbolic of Germany’s remarkable industrial power and the country’s post-war economic recovery.

Car buyers have bought VWs in their millions believing them to be well-made, reliable, economical, and as good for the environment as anything with an internal combustion engine can be.

VW Beetle ad-straight-&-Psychedelic

But the emissions scandal has changed all that. The company has taken its customers, and the wider public, for fools, charging a premium for clean diesel technology while using software to hide the fact that some of its engines give off 40 times more NoX than is allowed.

The full extent of the deception, and the cost to human health, is not fully understood yet, but scientists are beginning to calculate the impact. The costs to the company however are considerable.

  • Approximately 11 million vehicles will have to be recalled and refitted at a cost of around 6.5 billion Euros (£4.7 billion)
  • 30% has been wiped off the company’s share value
  • Fines of around $18 billion are likely in the US alone
  • Legal action from purchasers and shareholders may follow
  • There could be further lawsuits from its competitors on the grounds of sales lost against fraudulent claims

I haven’t a clue as to what the final figures might be, but it’s going to cost the company a mind-boggling amount. I’m not an engineer but I’m pretty sure it would have been less expensive to have actually solved the emissions problem in the first place rather than disguise it.

It’s an astonishing situation for VW to be in. Its brand has been developed and nurtured for more than 60 years yet it’s been demolished, along with its finances, in less than 60 minutes. All because it put profits before people.

There’s a lesson in there for all of us, irrespective of the size of our businesses.

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Tescofication part 2

I’m on record as saying that I hope Tesco successfully turns itself around and emerges in better shape than it is now.

I stand by that statement.

But apart from the rationalisations that have already been announced, there are some other fundamental changes that the business needs to make too. One of these is its relationship with its suppliers.

Recently, we have learnt that on top of investigations into its affairs by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Reporting Council, the company is to face another one, by the Groceries Code Adjudicator, into the way it conducts its relationships with suppliers. Apparently, Tesco has been pressurising them to pay premiums to the company to ensure favourable shelf positions.

I’ve heard of similar pressures on suppliers before.

When I moved my young family westwards during the 1980s we found ourselves living in a rural community. Agriculture is the main industry in that part of the world, and we got to know a number of farmers, growers and other people who earned their living working on the land. Quite a few of them supplied milk, fruit and vegetables to the large supermarkets; Tesco among them.

Farmers and country people are, in the main, rugged, stoic types with a high degree of resilience. Yet some of the stories they told me about the buyers from Tesco, and the other supermarkets, were truly shocking.

Take the guy who grew soft fruit. He started selling to Tesco in a small way. His profit was lower than it might have been if he had sold it elsewhere, but at least he had found a ready market; one which was eager to have his fruit.

Each year when the supermarket buyer called, my farmer friend was told that one of his crops was so highly regarded by the company that they couldn’t get enough of it. He was asked to supply more, and encouraged to specialise. So he did. He was squeezed a bit on price but it was worth it because of the volume he was growing.

By year ten or eleven (I can’t remember which and it doesn’t really matter) and his vast acreage of fruit had ripened, he waited for the buyer to arrive. But the guy didn’t turn up. He waited a bit longer. The buyer still didn’t arrive. He wasn’t answering his phone either.

It eventually transpired that Tesco no longer wanted his fruit because they had found someone else who would provide it for a little bit less.

He’d been dropped. Overnight. Yet nobody had told him.

That seems to be an occupational hazard if you work in agriculture. Dairy farmers are now expected to sell their milk to supermarkets for less than it costs to produce. That’s because there’s a price war going on and milk is the supermarkets’ weapon of choice. For now at least.

It doesn’t stop there. Dairy Crest, one of the UK’s largest milk bottlers has announced it will close its glass bottling plant in London within two years. That means their 1,400 milkmen will no longer deliver fresh milk in glass bottles.

Consumers can now buy a litre of milk, in a polyethylene bottle, so cheaply that it doesn’t make sense to buy it from the milkman any more. So why pay extra when it’s cheap as chips from the supermarket?

Begbies Traynor, the business rescue and recovery specialists, believe there’s a perfect storm brewing for many of the UK’s food suppliers. Their Red Flag alert for Q4 2014 warns that the UK’s food retailing industry experienced one of the sharpest increases in ‘significant’ financial distress of all sectors monitored.  In the same quarter last year, there were 2,878 businesses feeling pain. This year it’s 4,552; a rise of 58%. It’s even worse for smaller suppliers where the increase is 61%.

Factor all of this into every small, independent grocer, butcher and baker up and down the country whose business has gone to the wall because they can’t compete with the supermarkets, and the problem is magnified a thousand-fold.

It’s Tescofication.

So Tesco has some very big challenges ahead. Dave Lewis, the new MD, is going to have to rebuild trust with his suppliers, regain relevance with customers, pacify shareholders and calm the nerves of anxious staff. The company needs to realise that its corporate and social responsibility has a 360 degree axis, not a narrow one.

And then there’s ‘us’, the consumers. We’re the ones who have really created Tescofication.

We’re hell-bent on buying whole chickens for 99 pence whilst demanding ‘high quality’. We want two-for-one deals, BOGOF’s and freebies, cheap clothing and Black Friday bargains. And we’re so disinclined to visit independent retailers in significant numbers, that we’ve allowed companies like Tesco to flourish at the expense of the High Street.

Food is the most important thing that any of us buys on a regular basis. So why do we insist on paying so little for it?

For Tesco to thrive, we’re going to have to play our part in its turnaround too.

I think we have to radically change our own collective mindset.

That might be the biggest challenge of all.

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Tescofication

Who would have thought it ? Tesco, the poster child of British grocery retail, has run into trouble. Loved by the City and housewives alike, it was, at one time not so long ago, the third largest retailer in the world (by profits) and estimated as the second largest by revenue.

Its growth has been spectacular. The 500 stores Tesco had in the mid 1990s multiplied to 2,500 within 15 years and it expanded into the US, Europe and Asia. In the process it  has knocked Sainsbury’s off the number one spot in the UK. Alongside its core grocery products, Tesco also sells books, clothing, electronics, furniture, toys, software, financial services, telecoms, internet services, DVD rental and music downloads. It also set up a joint deal with Esso to sell petrol, and even ventured into tech by introducing it’s own tablet, the Hudl.

That, in my humble opinion, and with an outsider’s perspective, is the root of Tesco’s problem.

It’s  become a couch potato; overweight and complacent. And has moved so far from its core offer that customers no longer know what it stands for.

So I wasn’t completely surprised last year when, according to one City analyst, I learnt that Tesco was losing customers (or, more accurately perhaps, individual customer sales) in their millions to rivals Aldi and Lidl. Ironically it is these stores which offer their customers a similarly simple proposition to the one Tesco did before it expanded so dramatically.

What distinguishes Tesco from Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, or any of the others anyway? Nothing that I can see. Their quality doesn’t seem to be any better. Their prices aren’t really any lower. Their staff aren’t any better trained and their stores don’t have a unique look and feel about them.

So where’s the differentiation? Apart from parenting the phrase Tescofication (which is regarded by many to be a euphemism for regeneration) I can’t see that there is any. So it’s going to be fascinating to see what shape their turnaround takes under the new CEO, Dave Lewis.

The process has already begun. Staff numbers at its HQ have been cut and the office will be closed. Blinkbox, the video streaming rival to Netflix is being sold off along with Tesco Broadband. The shareholder dividend is to be slashed and the pension scheme is being reviewed. On top of that, and most significant of all perhaps, is the closure of 43 of its stores and a huge cut-back on store expansion.

So it looks as though they’re heading back towards where they started. Instead of adding to the core offering, they’ll be taking away. In my view that has to be a good thing because I’ve always felt that ‘simplicity’ is the key to success.

On top of all the pruning, Dave Lewis has also just appointed Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) as Tesco’s advertising agency. BBH are currently working with Waitrose. That’s an interesting move. The two supermarkets are so far apart it will be fascinating (for me at least) to see what BBH comes up with. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the Tesco brand. Will they continue with price cuts or play Aldi and Lidl at their own game by adopting a simpler approach while maintaining their margins?

I think Tesco will survive and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in five years’ time. I hope they’ll drop the tired old ‘Every Little Helps’ line and take a new approach. Something radical. Maybe take a few cues from Waitrose, who are the quiet stars of the John Lewis Group. I’d love to see them create shopping environments that seem less sterile. And of course, I’d love to see them forge a new connection with their customers.

I’m really hoping that once Dave Lewis gets the company structure right, a new, slimmer, leaner and more attractive Tesco will emerge to compete with the rest. But I do fear there will be one casualty; and that, I think, will be Morrison’s.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you have a view?

To be continued . . .

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Knowing Londoners inside out

You would have had to have spent the last 10 years living in a cave, or on a remote island, not to have heard talk about the ‘death of print’. There’s been a lot of it.

But is it true? I don’t think so. At least not yet.

I made a visit to a digital printer recently and learned that the print they offer has never been so popular, evidenced by the fact that their order book is full. I believe them. It helps, of course, that their work is top-rate and practically indistinguishable from good quality litho but it seems to suggest that, for them at least, print is clinging on. More significantly, a recent report from WARC, the media industry’s online insights resource, found that although print’s wider audience is waning, magazines and newspapers in particular are still highly trusted by consumers. And while it is true that a great many of us view them on tablets another survey, by Deloitte, has established that 88% of magazine readers still want hard-copy versions.

I began my career when print reigned supreme in the hearts, minds and boardrooms of clients and marketers, so I confess a real fondness for it. In fact before qualifying as a designer, I began my working life as an apprentice printer so I have an understanding of the process. Yet I still marvel at how the disparate elements of ink, water, paper and metal all come together to create things of beauty.

And this brings me to a fine example of print which I have been admiring for some time. 
”Completely London” is a dyed-in-the-wool, perfect-bound, 84-page magazine. But it’s such a lovely example, for so many reasons, that I couldn’t resist the opportunity of taking a closer look to see how it fits the ‘inside out’ theory.

Elements-Cover
The magazine is published triannually by estate agency Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, as a way of differentiating themselves in London’s property market which is full of publications that all have a generic look and feel about them. The title derives from the KFH brand proposition, and forms an integral part of the firm’s strategy of customer engagement.

So what’s inside? To put it simply, great content. Completely London contains a treasure trove of beautifully-written and engaging articles from a professional team of writers. It’s eclectic too. For example; a story on a chichi west-end apartment can very easily be followed by another about the street cleaners who work in the dead of night. That, in turn, could be juxtaposed against an interview with urban bee-keepers, the owners of a micro-museum or an article on the most brain-bursting pub quiz nights. You can even discover which caffs do the best Londoners’ breakfasts.

Caffs1

Caffs2

But there’s something else too. It’s a fundamental part of the design which is invisible to the reader; it’s the grid, or framework, the magazine is built upon. That’s what connects the content to the ‘look’ or, to put it another way, what links the inside to the outside. It does this by imposing order on the text and images to give rhythm to the articles. In other words, the grid is the foundation of the design. And, just like with property, it’s hidden well below the surface.

In terms of layout, a huge amount of care has been taken when choosing the images, their size and proportion. They’re all nicely balanced and perfectly colour-matched which gives each article a real sense of unity. And there are some nice design touches too to keep obsessive people like me, who follow the minutiae of layout and typographic detail, interested.

Young-bloods

On top of that there’s an excellent mix of visuals from skilled photographers and talented illustrators whose styles range from complex digitally-generated montages to traditional pen and ink, lino-cut and watercolour. So not only is it expertly produced, it’s something of a showcase for talented people too.

But it’s not just a ‘nice-to’have’ publication. Yes, it clearly does have coffee-table appeal but there’s a hard-nosed philosophy behind it. Completely London is designed to raise the KFH profile in the property market and advertise the properties on its list. Yet even that is carried out in a measured, thoughtful and clever way as the property pages are carefully paced at intervals throughout the publication; often in connection with a particular feature. For example, a story on some of the unique cultural aspects of Tooting or the hidden charms of Blackheath will be punctuated by a list of KFH properties for sale or rent in those areas.

Dulwich

In an article for Marketing Week, Paul Masters, KFH’s Marketing Director explained: “For the magazine, our brief to August Media (the agency) was unusual in that it explicitly set out what it shouldn’t be; ie heavy with property listings, predictable restaurant reviews and the latest, coolest bar to open.”

That inverse brief gave the agency the scope to create a publication that hadn’t been seen before in the property world. When asked what readers think he added: “It’s been extremely well-received. The winning formula for us has been the fact that our magazine is interesting and informative; focusing on the more unusual aspects of London life rather than trying to overtly sell property. We’re also not afraid to deal with edgier subjects either, as we don’t want to present an unreal sugar-coated view of London.”

Dressing-up

So it seems that KFH are, refreshingly, living up to their brand proposition by being relevant by their customers (and if you want to read more on relevancy there’s an excellent article on the subject here at the Marketing Microscope). The philosophy seems to be bearing fruit as the magazine attracts some interesting advertisers. You can be absolutely certain that the likes of Boss, Toni & Guy, Ligne Roset and Rimmel would not take space if the readership didn’t match their target audiences or if the magazine ran counter to their brands. So there’s some clever brand alignment going on too.

To my mind Completely London is a perfect example of the purpose of design; what I call ‘inside out design’. Why? Because the ‘inside’ (the beautifully written content) is brought to life on the ‘outside’ and the look and feel is so appealing, and powerful, that the reader can’t help but be drawn in.

Bohemian

This is what a readership survey carried out in October last year discovered:

• Almost two-thirds of readers think the magazine is excellent or like it a lot
• 86% of people think that it is better than other property magazines
• 98% read more than half the magazine
• 92% of respondents spend more than 20 minutes reading the magazine
• 82% of readers visited websites featured in the magazine
• More than one in three readers searched for properties at www.kfh.co.uk
• More than a third encouraged friends and family to read the magazine
• More than half of readers pick up the magazine more than once
• 69% keep the magazine for more than a week; only 4% keep it for a day or less

I really do think it’s an excellent piece of marketing for any organisation, let alone an estate agency who, to be honest, I wouldn’t automatically associate with something as good as this. Not surprisingly, it’s picked up a host of publishing awards.

BlackheathIf I have a tiny niggle (and it’s more of an observation than anything else) I would love to see imagery from the magazine used more overtly on the company’s website. That, to me, would really tie their online and offline presences together.

So if you’re thinking about living in London, or are already there and are moving from one part to another, you can find out about Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward at kfh.co.uk.

Or to read ‘Elements’, the latest edition of Completely London, go to kfh.co.uk/completely-london/magazine/elements/

I think you’ll find it fascinating.

Pub

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EKOCYCLE Cube – what goes in isn’t what comes out

Last weekend I nearly tripped over a discarded plastic drinks bottle as it rolled across the pavement in front of me. I recognised it straight away as a Coke bottle because there’s nothing else quite like one. And as I bent down to pick it up I wondered how the Coca-Cola Company feels when its name can so easily be associated with litter. Pretty sick I would imagine.

They certainly can’t be held responsible for the lazy or careless members of society who discard their waste into the street instead of the nearest bin. Yet they do seem to want to be seen to be doing their bit to help the environment. As part of that they have recently introduced a range of plastic bottles which, according to their press releases, contain plant extracts. When you dig a bit deeper you realise that what they’ve really done is to replace the fossil fuels traditionally used to make plastic bottles with renewable ethanol from sugar cane. This means that the plastic isn’t quite as eco-friendly as it could be and the resultant bottles have identical chemistry to their traditional PET (polyethylene terepthalate) counterparts. In reality therefore, they present all the same environmental problems as if they were made from fossil fuels.

While Coke have acknowledged this, it hasn’t deterred them from trying other ways of helping the environment, and they have recently partnered with OpenIDEO to launch a recycling challenge to co-create solutions to help improve domestic recycling habits. The 11-week initiative has enlisted OpenIDEO’s 60,000 members from around the world as part of Coca-Cola’s ‘Recycle for the Future’ campaign. And in Bangladesh, the company has turned to a “Happiness Arcade” which includes gaming machines that run on empty plastic Coke bottles instead of coins.

EKOCYCLE LOGO
The latest development in their recycling campaign is the introduction of a new 3D printer; the ‘EKOCYCLE Cube’, part of the EKOCYCLE™ joint initiative between Coca-Cola and will.i.am the former Black Eyed Peas frontman.

The name EKOCYCLE is interesting. When I first heard it I thought it was something to do with cycling, as in the leisure pursuit. But after seeing it in context the name makes perfect sense, even more so when you realise that the brand name COKE has been neatly incorporated into EKOCYCLE. It’s clever and creative, rather like the initiative itself.

WILL.I.AM-&-headphones
The aim of EKOCYCLE is a big one. It begins with the message “Let’s make more of what we have” and goes on to explain: “will.i.am and The Coca-Cola Company have joined efforts to launch EKOCYCLE to inspire new things made in part from recycled materials. Their shared ambition is to motivate brands and people like us to join us on our quest to make more sustainable living cool.”

The EKOCYCLE Cube is an important new part of the initiative. It is designed to recycle Coke’s plastic bottles into items you design yourself. As will.i.am says, the Cube “is not just another tool for making, it is a revolutionary tool for RE-making, and encourages and helps us to change the way we think about recycling.” He goes on to explain the goal of EKOCYCLE and the Cube is to “partner with the most influential brands around the world and use technology, art, style and inspiration to change an entire culture. We will make it cool to recycle, and we will make it cool to make products using recycled materials. This is the beginning of a more sustainable 3D-printed lifestyle. Waste is only waste if we waste it.”

The EKOCYCLE Cube will convert the equivalent of three 20 oz PET bottles into something more useful such as a pair of shoes, phone cover or ornament. Purchasers of the printer will receive a free collection of 25 fashion, music and tech minded accessories, chosen by will.i.am, so they can start 3D printing straight away. Cartridges for the EKOCYCLE Cube are available in red, black, white and natural and the Cube itself is also manufactured from recycled content; both the filament and cartridges are made in part from post-consumer recycled PET bottles.

CUBE-threequarter-view
To begin with it will only be available in the US from the latter part of the year, but the price is astonishingly low; just $1200 which is about £700 at today’s exchange rate. That’s not bad considering it will print in 70-micron high-resolution at high speed and up to 6x6x6 inches in size. It also has ultra-fine supports for complex prints, a colour touchscreen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and an auto-levelling print pad. There’s even a Cubify app for iOS and Android which will enable mobile printing directly from your smartphone.

3D printing is something I’ve been curious about since the 1990s. When it first appeared on my radar it really did seem to be the stuff of science fiction because, theoretically at least, it seemed to be possible to print anything. But the technology is developing at such a rate that fiction has become fact. Just think of the possibilities for medical science for example and what it could mean for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

Web-page
I think the EKOCYCLE concept is a great idea. And the Cube is a wonderful thing to have. It’s a lovely example of joined-up thinking or, to put it another way, something that’s been thought all the way through from the inside out.

You can see will.i.am explain more about EKOCYCLE and the Cube here and here.

When the Cube arrives in the UK I’ll be tempted to buy one. Not least because the next time an empty Coke bottle rolls in front of me I might trip over it and break a bone in my leg. With a 3D printer at home maybe I could print myself a new one.

An interesting idea isn’t it?

Ekocycle-copyright

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Is Fifa decaying from the inside out?

The 2014 World Cup is under way in Brazil. For millions of football fans, from all over the world, this is the highpoint of their sporting calendar.

While the teams are playing, work has already begun on the stadia in Qatar which has won the bid to host the competition in 2022. When the winner was announced, eyebrows were raised in many quarters and the question on people’s lips was “How the hell did they do that?” Qatar has no footballing tradition and it’s nightmarishly hot; so much so that players’ lives could be put at risk by being expected to play in such temperatures.

The suspicion at the time was that someone had taken a ‘bung”, the footballing term for bribe. Now, amidst allegations that the play-maker behind the bid made a series of large private payments to officials of Fifa, football’s governing body, it seems that those suspicions were correct. The claims have been made after The Sunday Times were handed millions of documents by a whistle-blower. The story has since made headlines across the world.

FIFA-logo

Some of its main partners, namely Adidas, Sony, and Visa, are, understandably, alarmed by the furore. Adidas are reported to have said: “The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners,” Clearly these organisations are questioning whether they want their brands to be associated with another, which, in the public’s mind, is damaged.

Fifa claims itself to be ‘For the Game. For the World.’  That’s a laudable statement. But is it a hollow one? So far Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s head, has shrugged off the affair after branding the claims ‘racist’ and is offering business as usual. In doing so he seems to be one of the breed of business leaders who still believes that they control the conversations around their brands instead of their customers. He’s wrong about that. And misguided.

Fifa, it seems, is suffering from a corrosive disease. It may have been there for years but now the symptoms are visible to everyone.

It’s as if the brand is decaying from the inside out. What do you think?

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BrewDog: inside out design and branding?

You may be aware of the term craft brewer; it’s the name given to an independently owned (and usually small-scale) brewery that produces a limited amount of beer where the emphasis is on brewing technique and flavour. Otherwise known as micro breweries, these enterprises first appeared in the UK in the 1970s and have since spread to Europe, North America, Asia and Asia-Pacific.

Probably the most well-known craft brewer in the UK is BrewDog; a brand set up in 2007 by Martin Dickie  and James Watt, two Scots who were bored with what they perceived as the bland, industrialised beers from the big breweries. What started out as a two-man-and-a-dog business five years ago now has a turnover of £20 million. And this has been achieved during the worst economic downturn the UK has seen for 60 years.

BrewDog logo
BrewDog really came to my attention when they were involved in a pub brawl with the Advertising Standards Authority. The problem began when BrewDog described itself as “a post-punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a craft brewery” and fell foul of the ASA which instructed the company to remove the statement from its website because it felt that the asterisk did little to disguise the use of offensive language. The ASA also felt that other memorable phrases such as ‘rip you straight to the tits’ and ‘drill the bastards’, were also likely to cause serious offence to some people.

Things took a turn for the worse when Watt (on the right above) snarled in response: “We have thousands of craft beer fans who have invested in what we do and how we do it – they are the people we listen to – not the killjoy, self-important pen pushers at the ASA in their Burton suits. Those mother fuckers don’t have any jurisdiction over us anyway.” BrewDog’s fans then took to Twitter in their droves with the hashtag
#KissMyASA.

But now the brawling is over, for a while at least, and the furniture’s back in place, I thought I’d take a look to see how BrewDog fits the inside out theory.

I have a casual, purely social relationship with beer and alcohol in general, which means that in market researcher’s terms I most likely fall into the consumer category of 1-5 units per week. So I don’t drink huge amounts and therefore I’m by no means an expert. But the BrewDog I’ve tasted so far is wonderfully different; the beers are hoppy and malty if that’s a good way of describing them, and they’re strong too; it’s worth noting that when BrewDog introduced ‘The End of History’ limited edition brew it had an ABV of 55%.

BrewDog-labelling

So the product is good; how about the branding? As BrewDog describes itself as ‘post-punk’
the look and feel is spot-on. There’s plenty of attitude in the logo and this extends to the labelling which makes good use of  grunged-up typography on vibrant single-colour grounds, to create powerful designs with strong and distinctive shelf appeal. The copy on the reverse is right on cue too as it really taps into the spirit of the brand.

The website? It’s good; very good in my opinion. The look and feel (yes, you can ‘feel’ a website) and the tone of voice is consistent with everything else. It  tells you exactly what you want to know, is easy to navigate and makes great use of video.  There’s plenty of info on each of the beers and it’s easy to buy them online. And you’re encouraged to mix and match, even blend your own, if you want to.BrewDog--websiteThe site’s mobile version is nicely optimised and all of the functionality is carried over so it’s a great tool even if all you want to do is find your nearest BrewDog bar.  The responsive design works across all platforms and there’s an additional stripped-down version with easily legible black text on white for those who want things simplified.

BrewDog’s bars are great places to be; there are currently 13 of them in the UK with more planned. Walk into any one of them (or the ones in Japan, Brazil or Sweden) and you’ll find craft beer fans relaxing in well-designed post-modern, post-industrial spaces filled with reclaimed industrial furniture, concrete, exposed brickwork and steel. The business invests heavily in its people, so whoever you meet behind the bar will be friendly, knowledgeable and well-trained.

Bar-serving2

I believe BrewDog’s success is down to some sound principles:

  • The founders are driven by a real and genuine passion – and there’s a terrific
    back story.
  • The business offers something different – an authentic product which consumers
    want, and are willing to pay a premium price for.
  • The company knows its customers. It talks to them in a way they understand
    and it uses the right channels. In doing so it’s building a powerful and loyal
    ‘brand tribe’.
  • There is no misunderstanding about what the brand stands for and the message
    is consistent.
  • The company used crowd-funding to finance expansion. Its ‘Equity for Punks’ scheme raised £1 million in one day and was heavily over-subscribed.
  • Staff recruits are carefully vetted; they won’t employ anybody and employees have bought in to the brand’s values just as strongly as its customers.

BrewDog-Newsletters

I never really got into punk (the Sex Pistols stuff passed me by) but I loved some of the art and music that influenced it, especially from people like Andy Warhol, Lou Ree and John Cale, yet the anarchic nature of BrewDog’s post-punk culture demonstrates that is has cleverly tapped into the zeitgeist of its target audience. I think it’s a perfect example of a brand developed from the inside out.

What do you think? Take a look at www.brewdog.com. Or better still, visit any one of their bars (but please don’t even think about driving anywhere afterwards).

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