Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Sony and Microsoft’s head to head may prove self-defeating

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Sony’s PS4 is going head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox OneSony’s PS4 is going head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox One

Wow, like buses you can wait for a considerable amount of time – seven years in the case of Sony – and all of a sudden two will arrive in tandem.

If you’re over 12 years old, you may be one of many people out there who has been waiting with baited breath for the arrival of PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. Their arrivals are going to be filling up many fans’ time from now through to Christmas and new year. These are two huge brands killing Nintendo as the must have game platform.

Can these brands really attract a willing audience, especially with launches so close? And how do they benefit?

With brand loyalty at an all-time high, won’t those loyal to Sony or Microsoft continue to be loyal without the need for the media hype and PR frenzy, which for one will result in likely negative publicity and a potential drop in share price? Why wait seven years to go head to head with your biggest rival?

These brands invest so heavily in their equity. And in the case of gaming, they have on their hands a fickle audience where the right brand or platform is crucial for them to appeal to their peer groups. They’ve already transformed the functions of their consoles to do more than just provide an outlet for gaming.

With the console industry’s revenue falling, these brands have had to stretch their limbs to provide a kind of living room one-stop set-top box that offer all types of digital entertainment. These devices are now used to watch and control live television as well as streaming video from services such as Netflix and Hulu. No call for living on your sofa could be stronger than these incentives.

Launching deliberately so close together to create a battle may potentially be self-defeating and could have more far-reaching ramifications for the larger brand portfolio. After all, Sony, having just written down its profit forecast by 40 per cent, is taking a huge risk on one platform at the expense of the brand as a whole.

Social criticism is part of the nature of gaming, where violence, gender stereotyping, swearing and not forgetting the health inflicting aspects all have a cross to bear. Is it not time for these brands to consider the wider brand impact? Gaming is one of the most inventive, creative and technologically advanced industries within the developed world, and in the case of the UK, is a considerable contributor to the economy through forward thinking studios supplying Sony and Microsoft. Its social effect is vast and growing and once my generation fades into a distant memory, I imagine it will be hard to find anyone who doesn’t use a console to be socially active.

However, this all hinges on the brands’ survival and the luxury of choice Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony provide, which through self-imposed brand wars could disappear if the brand as whole dies. This could leave us with no choice but to head towards a future of dull conformists with only one platform to play on.

Dan Todaro is managing director of Gekko

read the full article at http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/11/29/why-sony-and-microsofts-head-head-may-prove-self-defeating

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Europe’s Warm Embrace to Advertising

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I understand the importance of a uniform approach for global brands, ensuring the same message, feel and equity is experienced by consumers whether they’re in Bangkok, Bombay or New York. However, on a recent trip to the style capital of Europe Milan, I experienced a global brand that successfully tapped into a region where style and brand are paramount.

As marketers we must not only make our brands inspirational but also accessible to all and in Milan, Samsung has tapped into a demographic you may have never thought possible through some particularly clever use of technology.

The Ambrosiana Gallery in Milan’s Duomo district was once the studio of Michelangelo and displays not only the works of the great man, but precious artwork in a remarkably beautiful and ancient setting. Samsung however, has cleverly added a unique modern twist through the use of technology, integrating smart phone functionality as a means of interpreting the art. Next to each piece is a magnetic/electronic chip that gives visitors more information when they place their smartphones over it.

In this instance it’s about the art that you’re viewing but – to Samsung – it’s about you engaging with the brand and experiencing the technology as a portal bestowing you entrance. For some it’s a revelation and I’m guessing that for many of the visitors who make a point of using the feature, it is just that.

What better way for a brand to show that it understands the consumer than by placing a campaign in a venue that is synonymous with the city’s characteristics and fits the perception of Milan. Samsung not only takes into account the consumer demographics within the city, but also uses a variety of publicly-available information to create a picture of how well-suited the city is to the brand. Beyond Samsung this model is adaptable for virtually any type of product. For a fashion label, I am sure a place like the Ambrosiana Gallery would make a beautiful home for greeting fashion-conscious consumers. A depiction of understanding for the cultural life of cities makes all the difference when analysing whether a brand’s campaign is relevant or not.

You only have to read the stats to know that Italy is a place of adland freedom, with a huge Samsung advert adorning the side of the city’s iconic Duomo Cathedral as it undergoes renovations. Could you imagine Samsung creating something like this in the UK, a Christmas installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral? In the UK, our heritage buildings are fiercely protected and they would certainly lock their doors to a brand’s knock. In Italy however, advertising can be found on buses, trams, buildings in glorious Technicolor lights, allowing brands to speak to their target audiences, even when they least expect it. Rules, whether right or wrong, are abandoned. Brands have a luxury of freedom that they don’t have in other countries.

Italians are I suppose, used to a heavier level of brand messaging. Just look at the production values of national TV (in particular any transmitted by a Berlusconi company). The advertising is plentiful and sometimes even better than the programme being watched! With this in mind, are Italians (or European’s in general) more accepting of consumer electronic brand advertising as they know what they want and their maximum price point for quality products or specific brands?

Subsequently I believe this has resulted in a market where brands are not commoditised and able to sell at a price point that enables a margin and sustainable, profitable growth as opposed to crowded categories with brands trading at a loss and eventually abandoning the category altogether.

Could this be why so many UK retailers have unsuccessfully succeeded in Europe and beyond?

Image credit: Leonard Ambrosiana 

Read the full article at http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2013/11/25/europes-warm-embrace-advertising/

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Top 7 tech gadgets to gift this Christmas

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From health gadgets to espresso machines, we present the festive hot list 2013

Brits now spend £9bn on new tech devices each year, carrying around £22bn worth of gear around with them. Preparations for the Christmas rush are under way and all but the most-forward thinking of consumers is beginning to think about what to buy. You’ll already be getting bombarded with glamorous retailer ads with annoying tunes. For those who will struggle to buy that gift for the busy business-driven loved one in your life, here are my top seven recommendations which will spread joy beyond any advert or celebrity endorsement.

1. Fitbit Flex
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This is the ideal gift for any healthy-minded individual. This bit of kit learns your daily activity, calories burned, your sleeping patterns and weight. It is lightweight and very comfortable and all you have to do is upload wirelessly and see progress on your mobile or online.

2. iPhone 5S
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Of course there has got to be an Apple product in this list! The beautifully designed iPhone 5S looks like the iPhone 5, but goes so much further under the hood. It has a new finger print identity sensor, 64-bit A7 chip, faster and better iSight camera and ultrafast LTE wireless.

3. Panasonic NC-ZA1 Bean-to-Cup Espresso Machine
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This compact and stylishly designed machine fits into any kitchen and will impress discerning coffee connoisseurs with its state of the art technology. A decent coffee to start the day is a must and the new Panasonic NC-ZA1 Bean-to-Cup delivers a personalised cup, just to your taste as it’s delivered through the easy touch screen function.

4. Eastpak Gybbs bag
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Perfect for storing all your gadgets in one stylish but hardy bag. It is roomy and is available in lots of on trend colours to suit smart or casual dress.

5. Toshiba Portégé Z930 Ultrabook

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Ultra light at 1.1kg and thin at 8.3 mm, it delivers with an Intel Core i5 processor, 128GB SSD, HD Graphics, non-reflective display. The steel grey metallic, magnesium chassis and matt black keyboard makes it a stylish gift. The perfect business tool and leisure too, portable and fast.

6.Samsung UE55F9000 LED 4K Ultra HD TV
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This is arguably the world’s most advanced Smart TV system and probably one of the year’s most exciting and eagerly awaited TVs. A 4k ultra HD 3D Smart TV with built in Freeview HD gives you viewing choices shaped around your viewing needs. It is clever enough to recognise your face and voice, it has gesture control and upscales your content to four times the resolution of Full HD. It is the first UHD TV that upscales HD 3D content to a UHD resolution.

7. Epson Expression Premium XP610
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The Expression XP-610 Small-In-One Wi-Fi is a premium printer, perfect for home users who are interested in printing photos and need a Wi-Fi printer that can print glossy photos and crisp, clear text documents. It has touchscreen control that will do your document printing as well as any scanning and copying you need too. What’s more is that there are two loading trays so that you don’t have to keep switching between photo and plain papers. It works from your iPhone too with Epson iPrint sending prints directly from your phone.

Gifts for all pockets that any tech aficionado will know all about and perhaps wish for.

Dan Todaro is the MD of field marketing agency Gekko

Read the full article at http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/top-7-tech-gadgets-to-gift-this-christmas/6858.article

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Are retailers wasting money with their big budget Christmas TV campaigns?

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When your local supermarket, department store or specialist retailer breaks a brand new above-the-line ad in November, you know the silly season is upon us. With so much revenue and profit generated in this quarter you can understand why the stakes are high. Ads increase exponentially in prime time slots to lure us and retailers live off the hope that the shopping public will spend their hard earned cash through their cash registers. Production values go up, a memorable ditty is sung and a plethora of celebrity smothers the campaign, but do retailers really need to spend so much on the celebrity endorsement? As a marketer, I fully embrace the necessity of advertising and I understand the value in it. I agree that prime time advertising slots are a must if you want to make an impact, as are production values, but based on the criticism lauded on the lacklustre impact Marks & Spencer’s “Leading Ladies” campaign, can retailers justify the expense?

In August Annie Leibovitz shot and featured 10 leading ladies from Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren and artist Tracey Emin to drive sales of ladies fashion (pictured). Did the campaign need to be so “high budget”? Beautiful and well produced was the advert, but I can’t help feel that the garments the ladies were selling were somewhat lost in the foray of the campaign. It was not great fashion and to be honest I doubt many women felt drawn to the concept that these leading ladies really dress in M&S, felt comfortable in what they were told to wear or really engaged with consumers to convince that M&S was back on trend. After all, they’re usually sporting the latest designer labels down the red carpet. With Marks & Spencer posting its ninth consecutive quarter of falling clothing sales, the results certainly don’t live up to the celeb hype. Therefore, you’d believe a rethink was in order for Christmas Peak but not so. Rosie Huntingdon Whitely, David Gandy and another Oscar winner Helena Bonham Carter feature but I reserve my judgment on whether this will truly resonate with the average M&S shopper this time round.

From Waitrose to Debenhams to John Lewis with its just released Lily Allen advert singing the Keane song Somewhere Only We Know, retailers will spend according to market analyst Nielsen, an estimated £390m on advertising over the last three months of 2013. That’s £128m more than one retailer M&S reported in profit for the first 6 months trading. But then John Lewis reported record sales last Christmas, so ads can work but you need the quality products to help close the loop.

Brands in crowded categories may require celebrity endorsement to drive advocacy, however some do it better than others. Do retailers really need to drive our emotion to shop in their stores with the glamour of celebrity wearing, eating or commenting on the quality, style and taste of what are really just run of the mill products? What’s more, how much of the campaign is devoted to the celebrity? I can’t imagine that the aforementioned Oscar winning actresses are inexpensive; on the contrary, they are eating into an already squeezed margin. And do celebrities themselves truly embrace the brand enough to tap into its target audience? I doubt the M&S leading ladies of the summer are donning M&S’ A/W collection, even when they pop out for a pint of milk.

Some of the heavyweights have ditched celebrities this Christmas. Asda has slashed investment in its Christmas advertising campaign and blasted rivals’ “celebrity filled” ads. The grocer has cut its budget by 10% and put value at the heart of its festive messaging.  It has also been announced that the Tesco ad will not be celebrity-focused either. We shall see if they turn their savings this Christmas into profit.

Brands are increasingly defined by experiences, so the use of celebrities has to perpetuate the story and allow consumers to visualise the products as part of their lives. Celebrity ads have become ubiquitous. Marketers often scrap over celebrities for a chance to use their name. The need for standout means marketers are exploring new approaches to maximise the celebrity’s appeal. Some work, others fail, some are unproven. Regardless of approach, the ad has to be credible and authentic.

For brands, often such deals give advertisers a direct line to celebrities’ fan followings via their personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. However, the true asset is a star’s relevance, buying a marketer the kind of buzzy exposure that only a Hollywood headliner can bring. The choice has to be right. So why tech brands have enrolled the world’s biggest stars to endorse cutting-edge tech products is anyone’s guess. Kevin Bacon for EE, Robert Downey Jr for HTC and David Beckham for Motorola back in the day; I really can’t see the connections here – please tell me if I’m wrong. Brand recall is vital but let’s not forget the goal here, revenue, and whilst Beyoncé may drive me towards buying Pepsi, do I care which retailer I purchase it in?

No one will argue more than me that ATL campaigns are crucial. But I shall enjoy critiquing from my sofa the raft of celebrity appearances and voiceovers, which will grace my TV screen over the coming months. Perhaps I will be congratulating my choice in viewing via Freeview+ to allow me to pre-record and fast forward past the ads to my favourite Christmas special. Then again I may just hold out for John Lewis’ much lauded Disney –inspired masterpiece.

Read the full article at http://wallblog.co.uk/2013/11/12/are-retailers-wasting-money-with-their-big-budget-christmas-tv-campaigns/

Daniel Todaro is Managing Director at field marketing agency Gekko.

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Has Product Placement Gone Too Far?

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Product placement within film and TV is hardly breaking news. Since the dawn of broadcast media, brands have been eager to muscle in on our attentions and put their logos in front of us. We now expect to see James Bond with his Omega watch, driving his Aston Martin and flashing his latest smartphone. But I have to ask, are brands now taking product placement to a whole new patronising level?
 
Recently, we took the kids on a cinema trip to see The Smurfs 2 (not my choice, I hasten to add!). I can’t say I was expecting an Oscar-worthy, two-hour emotional tour-de-force of filmmaking, but I was astounded by the degree of product placement within the film. Prior to the screening, I wasn’t aware that it was a Sony Pictures production, but by the end I was wondering if the script was actually based around Sony products!
 
From the newscaster presenting in front of a Sony LED TV to every single adult cast member using a Sony Mobile (of course, demonstrating its full range of services), I actually think it’s difficult to argue that the brands didn’t tailor the script to meet their product placement needs. The villain Gargamel even used a Sony Vaio tablet to cook up his dastardly plans. Twice!
 
As it transpires, Sony Pictures secured deals worth $150 million from over 100 corporate partners to promote a raft of products within the film, far exceeding the production budget of $110 million. To my kids, and I’m sure every other child in that theatre, this likely didn’t register. But for us more brand-aware adults, it was so blatant that I have no doubt I missed several more Sony products woven into the script.
 
Are brands beginning to push their luck a bit too far? Investment in the film and TV industry is crucial, but, in exchange for a sizable cash injection, brands are naturally going to push for as much of the limelight as possible, with scant regard for the script. The larger the investment, the larger the degree of control exerted.
 
The trend was highlighted in typically overstated-fashion by Morgan Spurlock last year with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – a documentary on product placement with a $1.5 million budget entirely funded by… product placement. As brands become an even more ever-present constant in every facet of our lives, the natural progression is that the volume will further increase and the stakes raised even higher.
 
The connotations for the film and TV industry are slightly worrying, particularly at a time where the industry – I believe – is enjoying the rudest of health in recent years through some remarkable films, TV content and documentaries. I wonder if, as brands seek greater screen-time, we are going to see a day in the not-too-distant future when an actor will refuse to endorse a brand in a movie? Or will the lure of money continue to trump all as more and more blockbuster movies appear as little more than very long adverts with a storyline bolted on?
 
To some extent, audiences do want to see product placement within films; for example, to see a character entering Starbucks as opposed to a trademark-friendly, fictional alternative adds a degree of realism to proceedings. However, there is a fine line that needs to be observed or else the brand risks sticking out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, since James Bond swapped his Martini for a Heineken, Will Smith dwelt a bit too long on a pair of Converse in I, Robot and Superman reboot Man of Steel hedged it’s box-office failure by securing over 100 global brand partners to the tune of $160 million, the act of product placement has been increasingly taking the spotlight away from the actual stories themselves.
 
I like to think I can appreciate both great branding and great filmmaking, but how closely should we be allowing these two disciplines to merge? With cinema visits in decline and gimmicky features such as 3D failing to take off, the money has to come from somewhere after all. But is it in the brands’ best interests to push their own agendas at the expense of great filmmaking? Is it in their best interests to appear cheesy, naff and downright uncool, thereby damaging their valuable brand equity?
 
You would think not, but, still, I can’t help but feel that it’s up to us – the audience – to make that stand.

Read more at: http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2013/11/05/has-product-placement-gone-too-far/

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