Category Archives: marketing

UK Christmas spending totals £43bn – but have you spent your £680 yet?

"Christbaumkugel" by User:Euro2008 - Transparent version of Christbaumkugel.jpg. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christbaumkugel.png#mediaviewer/File:Christbaumkugel.png

“Christbaumkugel” by User:Euro2008

According to consultancy firm PwC, Christmas spending in the UK totalled £43bn in 2013, with consumers spending £680 on goods in the last two months of the year.

The Christmas period is still the busiest for the UK’s retailers, with just under a quarter of annual spending being carried out in the last two months of the year.

This year I did my bit for the Christmas economy by buying my first ever Christmas fir tree. After seeing lots of signs offering trees for sale, we ended up at the ultimate niche pop-up which sold Christmas trees, stands and nothing else. But they were doing a roaring trade, driven by a single sign by the side of the road.

Christmas Trees sign

Sign says all it needs to

The site was professionally run, with the trees sorted by size and needle-drop variety (drop or non-drop). I assumed they would only accept cash, but they had a credit card machine tucked away in a cosy shed. With our 8 foot whopper selected, they soon had it wrapped up, and three burly men carefully inserted it point-first into our car (for easy extraction at home).

Christmas trees for sale

Plenty of Christmas trees to choose from

 

Have breakfast all day at the Cereal Killer Cafe

Cereal Killer Cafe logoAs you may have guessed by now, I love niche products and services. The ‘nicher’ the better as far as I am concerned.

So how about a cafe in London that only sells cereal? Well, identical twins Alan and Gary Keery from Belfast, have just opened Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane, in trendy East London.

Apparently the the idea came to them when they were hungover one morning and really craved breakfast cereal.

They offer British, American and global cereals all at £2.50 for a small bowl with a choice of milks and toppings such as banana or marshmallows. Also on the menu are what Gary calls “cereal cocktails – mix different cereals together with different milks and toppings to create different flavours.”

Gary is confident that people won’t just come for breakfast: “Many people eat cereal throughout the day as a snack or a meal … we will be open until 10pm.”

Slightly worryingly they didn’t have enough takers when they tried to crowdfund the project. The publicity, however, enabled them to get a loan and a sympathetic landlord.

Alan and Gary Keery - Cereal Killers

Gary (left) and Alan Keery at their Cereal Killer Cafe

 

KrustyOs

Here is a niche with in niche… Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons in a box.

My new favourite trademark… Magicman

MagicmanLOGOWhilst enjoying my ‘mindful commute’ on my Brompton (as recommended by the Evening Standard – How to have a mindful commute), I spotted a van with my new favourite trademark – Magicman.

I had a quick search on the UK IPO trademark database and was relieved to see it was registered to Magic Man Limited under class 37;
Maintenance, repair and restoration and resurfacing of all (i) surfaces, cladding and facades (in each case both internal and external) including but not limited to ceramic tile, stone, stone resin, marble, granite, wood, laminate, uPVC, plastic including but not limited to thermosetting plastic, glass and powder-coated surfaces and (ii) fittings including but not limited to bathroom and kitchen worktops, sanitaryware, floors and doors; glass scratch removal; plumbing; general commercial and domestic repairs.

Magicman and van

Surprisingly there is only one other use of Magic Man on the database. It is owned by Dieck & Co. Erfrischungsgetränke OHG, and is used for;
Class 32 – Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; energy drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.
Class 33 – Alcoholic beverages (except beers); alcoholic mixed beverages and alcoholic energy drinks.

Even more of a surprise was only finding one reference to ‘magician’ on the database, which is now dead, but was owned by Branston’s Limited, and used between 1948 and 1997.

Magicman has plenty of examples on their website of their ‘magic touch’ to “repair, renew and restore”.

window_repairhard_surface_doors

 

 

Using Twitter to get Lady Gaga’s attention

Dayne HendersonIn my workshop Introducing Social Media for Small Business I talk about Twitter’s unique ability to engage with otherwise inaccessible public figures.

To be honest, someone with millions of followers is unlikely to read every tweet sent their way. But it is possible to get noticed if the content piques their interest.

This is one of the wonders of social media over traditional forms of communication. You wouldn’t expect a letter, text or fax to be read by your celebrity target, let alone to get through on the telephone, or meet them in person. They would all be filtered out by their agents and minders.

But in fact many high-profile figures revel in the opportunity social media, and Twitter in particular, has given them to be in direct contact with their fans.

A recent story in the Metro newspaper gives a great example of this unprecedented access. Fashion designer Dayne Henderson who produces latex fetish outfits in his spare room in North Shields, uploaded some images onto Twitter. These got the attention of Lady Gaga, who commissioned him to make 19 headpieces for her world tour.

As Dayne told the Metro, ‘I never in a million years thought my first bit of work as a self-employed designer would be with Lady Gaga’.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga wearing one of Dayne Henderson’s latex designs

Personalised car number plates. Fun – Flash – or just plain Naff

Last November the father of autonumerology, Noel Woodall died at the age of 82. Noel is credited with creating the market for personalised car number plates in the UK, worth more than £2bn to the Treasury since 1989.

Noel WoodallHis interest in what grew into a multi-million pound business began in 1960 when he noticed a car driving past with the plate BB 4. He discovered it belonged to a local Blackpool Bookmaker. Thinking other people might also be interested in memorable number plates, he started the first cherished number plate business in the country.

As this was in a time before the Internet, Noel went on a research mission to his local public library, and was surprised not to find a single book on the subject. So, being the entrepreneurial type he put an advert in the RAF’s Air Mail magazine, asking for information about distinctive number plates. He received so much information in response, he decided to compile and publish it in a small book entitled Car Number Galaxy – Celebrities. It cost him £250 to produce, which was 6 months’ wages at that time.

He went on to publish more than 20 books, including Veterans, More Celebrities, Cartoons and a series called Car Numbers, written with Brian Heaton and described by its publishers as “one of the longest running, and most popular publications about vehicle registrations”.

Car Number Galaxy 1963

As for me, I grew up with a strong prejudice against preening drivers who paraded around the streets with vanity plates adorning their shiny cars, like some kind of automotive bling jewellery. I couldn’t think of a more idiotic way to waste money than to ‘invest’ in an ‘IAM GR8’ plate.

So, I was glad to read that even people involved in the industry recognise its controversial nature. Piers England an auctioneer from the DVLA’s auction company admitted, “We call them marmite products – you either love them or hate them.” To quote one contributor to an online discussion “When I see a vanity plate, I think only one thing: ID 10T”.

List of the 10 most expensive plates sold by the DVLA

  1. 1 D – £352,000
  2. 51 NGH – £254,000
  3. 1 RH – £247,000
  4. K1 NGS – £231,000
  5. 1 O – £210,000
  6. 1 A – £200,000
  7. 1 OO – £197,000
  8. 2 O –  £142,000
  9. 6 B – £130,000
  10. 1 HRH – £113,000

So how then can I even start to justify my recent purchase of N11 1NFO for my humble Skoda Octavia? The answer is a combination of my failing memory and local car park rules. Until recently there was an opportunity to end a shopping trip in town with a good deed by handing over my parking ticket to a new arrival. The grateful recipient could then benefit from whatever time remained.

The local council became aware of this ‘good Samaritan’ behaviour and decided they were losing valuable income. The solution was to introduce shiny new ‘intelligent’ ticket machines which required your car registration number in addition to payment. This was printed on the ticket to prevent it being transferred to another car. So no more ‘random acts of kindness’ in the council owned car parks thank you very much.

As well as being frustrated by this meanness of spirit, this change led to a challenge for me. Sadly I have never managed to memorise any of the number plates of any of the various cars and motorbikes I have owned since passing my driving test back in 1976. So I would either have to park with my bumper in view of the ticket machine or keep a note of my number to hand. A third and unexpected solution was to buy a new plate with a memorable number.

After much internet research and even more soul-searching I was finally ready to go ahead and join this group I had enjoyed despising for so many years. The change in my thinking came about when I realised a personalised plate was just about the only way to express personality and even humour on a product that is standardised and factory produced. If you own a Ford Mondeo it looks just a like any other Ford Mondeo apart from a limited range of colours. Although I did see a chrome-plated car the other day which was so bright it actually hurt my eyes.

chrome-mercedes

But just having an initial or two, combined with a number seemed to be a wasted opportunity. And I began to take notice of properly memorable numbers I came across in my travels. Whilst cycling through the East End of London on a ‘Boris bike’ I spotted SK1NT on the back of a brand new Rolls Royce. A nice example of four wheeled irony. I also saw a rather surprising DARR0N on an Audie A4 queuing to get out of Legoland.

Mazda car MX55-NOB

My challenge was to see if I could find a memorable plate amongst those listed at the DVLA  starting price of £250. Needless to say, there wasn’t anything close to ‘librarian’ at that price. I compromised on a combination of my initials and info (my chosen profession), with an additional redundant ‘I’ stuck in the middle.

The irony of this story is that by the time I had deliberated, purchased the number, had the plates made up, sent in the forms, and finally got out my screwdriver and physically replaced them, the council had changed their parking policy. Outraged shoppers had bombarded the local council with complaints and the local newspaper had picked up on the issue. After initially robustly defending their new ‘fairer’ policy, the politicians realised they were on a losing wicket and eventually caved in. So now when I go shopping I no longer need to enter my number plate into the ticket machine, undermining the original reason for personalising my car’s identity.

 

A revolution in websites has arrived 25 years after the birth of the Web

Tim Berners-LeeThe World Wide Web turned 25 this month, and it got me thinking about how website creation has changed since Tim Berners-Lee first proposed it to his boss at CERN in 1989.

For the first few years websites had to be hand-coded by computer programmers, which rather limited their number and design.

My first website was built back in the mid 1990’s, for my Hot Dog prothen employer Hermes Pensions Management. I used, what was then, state of the art software in the shape of HotDog Pro from the wonderfully named Sausage Software.

It was something of a labour of love, as each new page was another step on a steep learning curve. However just like the game of Snakes and Ladders, one false step forward could result in many steps back. I still remember clearly the moment we realised moving one page, required manually editing links on every single page on the site.

We made a major leap forward when a colleague in our IT department suggested using FrontPage from Vermeer Technologies. This company was soon taken over by Microsoft who were keen to establish themselves in the world of web. As one of the first “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editors, FrontPage was designed to hide the details of the dreaded HTML (hyper-text mark-up language), making it possible for novices to create Web pages and Web sites. Even better, when you moved a page, it automatically updated all the relevant links!

Microsoft Frontpage

However although FrontPage was wonderful improvement, it did have major deign limitations, and it was all too easy to spot ‘FrontPage’ websites.

Next on the scene for me was Dreamweaver version 2, the ‘Ferrari’ of web design software (beautiful and fast… and a bit flaky at times). After a couple of days training we were able to start producing complex websites with beautiful pages.

Dreamweaver v2

After many updated versions, Dreamweaver is still available today but is dying a slow death thanks to content management platforms such as WordPress and Drupal (Dreamweaver is still dying).

But in the last year or two the world of website creation has been truly revolutionised by template based, low cost services from the likes of Weebly and SquareSpace.

Now almost anyone can create professional looking websites, with no technical skill at all.
I surprised myself by managing to create a very simple but attractive website for my father within a couple of hours using SquareSpace. Compare that to the week it took me to create a 20 page website for SLA Europe using Dreamweaver ten years ago.
squarespace-logo-horizontal-white

Weebly_logo_and_tagline_2013

A great example of a Weebly website is Keep Me Jewellery from one of my clients here at the Business & IP Centre. As you can see from his amazing creatures, Tom Blake has a great eye for design, but he doesn’t have any background in building web sites.

Keep Me Jewellery

Also, these new platforms enable you to easily add a blog onto your website (an essential part of your marketing strategy – Blogging for fun and profit). And if you want to sell through your site there are shopping modules available too.

So if you were considering a career as a website designer, now might a good time to think again.

 

A brand as strong as a Hippo

On my drive to work this morning I got stuck behind a big yellow lorry. It was a Hippo Bag truck, and I was struck by how strong their brand is.

HippoBag_logoApart from the bright yellow base colour, the enormous text splashed across the back made it impossible to miss.

It got me thinking about strong brands, and how it doesn’t really matter too much what the name is, as long as it is memorable. In this case Hippo conjures up images of strength which help reinforce the brand. But it is also the most dangerous animal in Africa. Hippos kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined.

I had a quick look on the Intellectual Property Office trademark database and saw that Hippo has been used 333 times in trademarks. Hippobag is registered by two different owners; one by Waste Management Systems Limited for the following classes:

  • Class 22 – Non-metallic bags and sacks for the transport, transfer, handling and storage of materials in bulk.
  • Class 39 – Removal and transport of waste to transfer, disposal, recycling and treatment sites.
  • Class 40 – Recycling and treatment of waste.

But it has also been registered by The Old Tannery Shop, Cambridge under Class 18 – Bags, pouches, holsters, belts, wallets; all for carrying or holding tools, fittings and instruments; but not including any such goods made from hippopotamus skin.

 

 

Rihanna wins rights to her image over Topshop

No, this isn’t about a tabloid newspaper controversy involving the rather racy Barbadian pop star. Instead it is about a recent High Court case where Rihanna took on the high street fashion chain Topshop over the use of unauthorised photos of her on their T-shirts.

The dispute centred on the issue of ‘passing off’, a fascinating aspect of Intellectual Property law due to the way it depends, not on some arcane legal technicality, but on what an ordinary person would think.

During my seven years working in the Business & IP Centre I have learnt that Intellectual Property can be immensely technical and complex, but also has aspects that rely on good old-fashioned common sense.

The test for passing off is quite simple, would an ordinary person think the item they are buying was either produced or authorised by someone other than who they thought it was. Wikipedia defines it as; The law of passing off prevents one person from misrepresenting his/her goods or services as being the goods and services of the claimant, and also prevents one person from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with the plaintiff when this is not true.

Not surprisingly the most frequent cases of passing off tend to involve household brands. In April Which? magazine conducted a survey that found ‘a fifth of Which? members have bought an own-label product by mistake because it looked so much like a big brand. They found more than 150 own-label products they thought borrowed elements of their packaging from branded competitors. Own-label ‘copycat’ products: can you spot the difference?

One of the most well-known involves the best-selling dandruff shampoo brand Head & Shoulders. They have taken numerous supermarket chains to court for producing own label shampoos which are too similar to the their brand. The supermarkets tend to mimic the shape of the Head & Shoulders bottle, their colours and font styles. Each time the supermarkets lose the case, they go back to their designers and make slight changes to their bottles, leading to another round of court action.

Head&Shoulders_vs_Boots

Next time you are in a supermarket, have a look along the shelves and see if you can see any ‘look alike’ packaging from own label brands. In my experience cereal boxes make for rich pickings. Put yourself in the shoes of the busy shopper (or in my case reluctant shopper) rushing along the aisles with only time to glance at the packages as they zoom past. It is all too easy to grab the ‘wrong’ one and drop it into your basket.

In the case of the T-shirt with Rihanna’s photo, the judge Mr Justice Birss said the “mere sale” of a T-shirt with an image of a celebrity did not automatically amount to passing off. But in this instance he thought that a “substantial number” of buyers were likely to have been deceived into buying it because of a “false belief” Rihanna had authorised it.

He said it was damaging to her “goodwill” and represented a loss of control over her reputation in the “fashion sphere”. It was for Rihanna not Topshop to choose what clothes the public thought were endorsed by her.

 

Introducing social media for small business

Last year I gave a workshop about my blog as part of our Web in Feb month of activities.pinterest_logo

This year I have been asked to turn it into a regular workshop by extending the coverage to social media.

Using the tried and trusted ‘Ronseal’ approach we came up with ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ as the title.

So far I have the run the workshop twice, with more to follow on 15 and 29 May. It has proved popular, but I am struggling to fit everything in to the two hours available. Social Media is such a big topic and the platforms continue to grow, with Pinterest being the latest hot topic.

Here are my top twelve tips for Social Media success:

  1. Try to limit to 30 minutes a day
  2. Keep it professional – you might go viral in a bad way
  3. Keep an eye out for new services
  4. Try to measure results
  5. Cull any activities that don’t help your business
  6. Try to stay focussed – keep away from the Lolcats
  7. Be a person online – but not too personal
  8. Always try to add value
  9. Don’t just lurk – contribute
  10. Try to be ‘marketing lite’ – avoid spamming
  11. Have a consistent brand / name across your social media platforms
  12. Have fun with it

I recently posted my workshop slides onto Slideshare and was surprised to discover that I already have had 127 views there.

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introducing-social-media-for-small-business

Anorak – now a cool brand and a Success Story

anorak_logo I have blogged in the past about the importance of using a ‘made-up’ name for your trademark, but there are other ways to establish a distinctive but protected presence in the market place.

I was recently helping a couple of customers in the Centre find some useful market research reports on home wares. In conversation I discovered they were the founders of Anorak, a company who make and sell ‘functional products inspired by the great outdoors’. I also learned that we had helped them along their journey to success over the last four years, so they qualify as one of our Success Stories.

For me, the story here is the ingenuity of taking a widely used slang term with negative connotations, and subverted it into something cool and trendy.

trainspotter

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Mattbuck

According to Wikipedia the term anorak came from the Observer newspaper’s description of UK trainspotters, based on their preferred form of clothing. Allegedly members of this group often wore, the by then very unfashionable anorak jackets, when standing for hours on chilly railway station platforms noting down details of passing trains.

However according to the Guardian Newspaper’s Notes and Queries column, the term was was originally created by Radio Caroline Disk Jockey Andy Archer in the early 70′. He used the word anoraks on air, to describe the boatloads of fans who came out to visit the pirate radio ships anchored off the Dutch coast.

During the 1980’s it became a general derogatory term for a someone with an obsessive interest in unfashionable and largely solitary interests. 1980’s UK rock group Marillion called one of their albums Anoraknophobia, referring to the long running in-joke that Marillion fans were sometimes called freaks or anoraks.

isle of wight computer geek iow

www.theisleofwightcomputergeek.co.uk

In the United States the term geek or nerd is often used instead, but is not associated with a particular item of clothing as far as I am aware. The exception might be the wearing of large unfashionable glasses. The US based company GeekSquad have also attempted to exploit the label to their own advantage.

The word anorak is derived from Greenland Eskimo ‘anoraq’, used to describe a waterproof jacket, typically with a hood, of a kind originally used in polar regions.

I am aware that this post may be in danger of straying into anorak territory itself with this level of obsessive detail, so I will stop here.

 

Anorak_fox_mugAbout Us

Introducing Anorak. A British brand with its heart planted firmly in the great outdoors. Inspired by childhood camping adventures (in a bright orange campervan), Anorak’s founder and Creative Director Laurie Robertson uses striking silhouettes to bring a touch of fun and whimsy to homewares and outdoor lifestyle accessories.

From Kissing Rabbits to Proud Foxes, Anorak’s animal designs are bold, bright and a good deal less timid than their real life relatives. But looks aren’t everything, so the entire Anorak product range has function at its heart. The wash bags are wipe clean, the sleeping bags have leg room a plenty, the picnic blankets are light enough to carry on the longest of country strolls. So if you’re a fan of the great outdoors (even when you’re indoors) and think fun should follow function, remember to pack your Anorak.