Destination Liverpool

In my first few years at Saatchi’s I worked on ‘Destination Branding’ branding accounts. It’s a fascinating area of branding whereby environments can be branded in  exceptionally imaginative ways (rather self-explanatory title isn’t it?!).

Recently, I thought about this area whilst doing fieldwork in Liverpool, our new Capital of Culture. Arriving at Liverpool Lime Street I was hoping the station would give enough impact to match it’s new ‘Culture’ title. 

To be fair, they do a good job with a series of large banners advertising art exhbitions, super lamb bananas , bushes trimmed into golfers, glassed etched panels running as a see-through wall between platforms and a gigantic branded facades/hoardings covering buildings. And that’s just when you arrive (sadly all I have to go on is the station and and the 2 minute walk to a neighborouing hotel so was unable to see the rest of the city!)

To be honest, I don’t know how much research is done into this ‘destination branding’ area. I am aware it is an relatively untapped resource in the communication shope/branding world.

Alain de Botton’s premise in his book the ‘Architecture of Happiness’ was that our built environment influences who we are as people and our state of happiness. That is the more you care for your environment, the happier you will feel. May sounds more architural than marketing focused but that’s not the case. Take Chiswick Park as a prime example where Branding and architecture come together in the corporate world.

Amoungst high-tec building and a water features & grass landscape, Wolf & Olins delivered a branded destination through the idea of ‘enjoy work’  for the big businesses to rent office space there. Examples of how their branding works is having a playground with regular ‘sporty’ events, branded deck chairs on the grass and acoustic guitars with lots of other examples (take a look at the website). Naturally, it’s been a huge success.

This is an area that seems to have many exciting opportunities where industries of branding, marketing and strategic thinking come together with that of architheture. I would be interested to hear from anybody who’s involved in the ‘reserach’ side of things out there to tell me more what it’s all about. Personally, I see a good deal of worth in it with a healthy dashing of self-fulfillment.


Catching up on old news

Back from hols and time to catch up on old news I quite like.

1. Ning.

This is great.  You can create your own Social Network. I see there is a Market Research one. Thinking about setting up one for more junior researchers. 










2. Harrod’s Posh Pot Noodle

It sells for 30 quid and not a quid, like it’s non-posh cousin. It’s also a collector’s item, selling 100 only. It comes in ‘Poulet and Champignon’ flavour only – no  ‘Bombay Bad Boys’.

 A one-off but it gets people talking about your brand for a bit and ticks the ‘memorable marketing’ box.











3. Heinz Deli Mayo

No balls. To appease global head quarters in the USA and 200-300 whingers, Heinz have offended the 2-3 million gay and lesbian community in the UK. TV advertising should have stand-out. That meanz being daring, brave and breaking eggs to make an omlette (or Deli Mayo).

4. Uniqlock Won award at Cannes I hear. Take a look at the link. Thanks for pointing out Will. Looks great but still trying to get it to work on my blog. Any ideas anyone?










Falling socks and holidays

You mean to blog but something comes up more often once the initial thrill of starting your own blog passes.

‘I’d like write more  often’, I tell myself and then I realise I am off on holiday.

I’m sure it’s to do with the credit crunch.

Socks are up when I’m back.

How you communicate is better than what you communicate


Chris Barnham has written a new paper called Instantiation: reframing brand communication in the latest copy of the International Journal of Market Research. It’s an great, thought provoking read and has real implications in how we think about brands.


The article asks us to think of brands as ‘essences’ as “actualisations in the mind of the consumer rather than as senders of messages from outside of that mind”. Chris continues: “we need to start asking questions such as ‘How is the brand being?’ rather than ‘What is it saying?’ And we need to being thinking about the brand as a mental structure rather than as a name that simply has associations with it.”


Recently reading Heath and Feldwicks paper Fifty Years using the wrong model of advertising (thanks Will), they see advertising as processed on an emotional and low-attention, subconscious level. They say that for effective advertising, the onus should change from communicating ‘proposition’, ‘product benefits’ etc to “a holistic basis that includes implicit communication” where we “will have to accept that communication…must be planned and executed not just on the level of explicit content.”


This means how you communicate is more important than what you communicate. That is, it’s 90% of how you say it and 10% of what you say.


Perhaps clichéd; but Clients, briefs and research debriefs dwell on ‘what did the consumer understand’ or ‘what do we want them to understand’. I think we’re relying too much on the ‘rational’ creation and measure of communications because we don’t really know enough on how to convey or measure the emotions or the subconscious. Ultimately, it means taking a risk to get more effective advertising.


That said, Honda have done it well with latest ‘Jump’ ad: the how of the advert did billions more for the brand, than the what ever will do. I don’t particularly remember whether they were advertising the brand or a car, but it makes me feel loads better about the brand. Here it is:



However, for research, this proves a challenge: how do we measure ‘how the brand is being?’ Can this be measured or does it rely on the shrewd judgement of the savvy researcher?


I don’t claim to know the answer but it’s an intriguing, creative challenge to think how we can measure any new approaches into how brands reside within the complex depths and mysteries of our minds.

Take it to the Next Level

Whilst the 2008 European Championships are just beginning, thought a quick post of the latest Nike ad to put us in the mood. It’s how I dreamt being a footballer would really be.

My money’s on Germany by the way.

Thinking Qualitatively

I tend to think about things quantitatively.

 I sit down at the start of the day, think ‘what should I do today?’, and then write a long list.


All this to ‘stay in the game’ for the modern-day working man. I’ve tried this mindset: it’s mostly unworkable and it takes the fun away.

If I’m honest it does feel a bit like achieving a lot of very little. Mind you, don’t we all like telling people how much we’ve done today: ‘Oh, I did x,y and z’etc. ‘Aren’t I achieving?’ reads the subtext.

As my photo asks: are we simply spending free time or investing it?

Instead, I am just trying to do one important thing a day, doing it well with a degree of quality. Isn’t that the ‘qualitative’ mindset: to give meaning and value about what’s going on in people’s heads?

Perhaps qualitative research is even about developing a small idea very, very well.

So, I’m sodding the rest of my checklist. It’ll sort itself out.




Small and Big Fish



Recently, I was thinking off my Uncle’s words to me years back: “this world’s full of small and big fish. You start as a small fish in a big pond and end up as a big fish in a small pond”.


With fish on the brain, it got me thinking about my first post and I thought I’d start with this: ‘how should a qualitative researcher develop into a big fish?’


The answer to this of course is that I don’t really know and I doubt there is any ‘set’ route; but I did want to have a stab though and am interested what others think. 


So, I thought a temple analogy would be a place to start.


Here is one (the National Portrait Galley using my new Viewty LG phone camera – very good by the way):



National Portrait Gallery




I see us all starting out as ‘pillars’, building a secure foundation. These ‘pillars’ being learning the Discussion Guide, Project Management, Sample design, briefing fieldwork, moderating, analysis etc. That is, the more ‘tactical’, core elements:


We start as pillars


Next I would say are designing projects, proposal writing, and developing insights, that lie up here:


Then we are triangles


Finally, Strategy, Consultancy and Thought-Leadership that I see as the final ‘state’ at the peak of the temple. It’s where the gold at the end of the rainbow lies, where the enlightened, qualitative sage sits, here:


The Enlightened place

(Please excuse the not-so-enlightened graphics!)


My opinion is whether you are a ‘pillar’, a ‘triangle’ or an ‘enlightened one’, personal thinking and conversation should happen about every level at every level. It is important for junior figures to not shy away and discuss and debate all areas openely just as the more established industry figures do (even if we get it a little bit not-so-right at first).


I am a big fan of the likes of Russell Davies and Adliterate blogs. I hope that a few interested, happy go-lucky juniors can start to blog too with as great frequency and currency as they do.


I have recently joined MRS’s R-Net for younger members; next meeting is the 24th July. May see a few young ‘fish’ there.