The Deeley Bopper rises again for Sport Relief 2012

Deeley BopperThis evening I stumbled across a Deeley Bopper in a Sainsbury’s supermarket on my way home from work. In its current incarnation it is being used to raise money for Sport Relief 2012.

The Deeley Bopper or Deeley Bobber is one of my all time favourite ‘inventions’. I’ve used quotes because this multi-million selling innovation from the creative mind of Stephen Askin in 1981, is not actually registered as either a patent or even a trade mark.

Although I am definitely not a fan of the object itself, and you are unlikely to catch me wearing one out in the street (or in the house come to that), I use it as a great example in my business innovation work.

One of the strict rules we apply when we meet clients for our confidential Information Advice Clinics, is never to give an opinion on their business idea or invention. And the main reason for this, is however many years one might have in business, it is impossible to tell what will be successful – and vice versa.

The Deeley Bopper provides the perfect illustration. I just ask my colleagues to imagine how they would have reacted if Stephen Askin had come in for an advice session, and asked for their opinion on his latest business wheeze. I can imagine my response would have been something along the lines of; “You have to be joking. No one will buy those”.

And yet they sold in their millions in the 1980’s and appear almost as popular in their revised ‘Red Nose’ guise today. So, however stupid an idea might appear, it can still make a fortune for its creator.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A monster of a book about a monster of a man

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_IsaacsonMany thanks to Debbie Epstein for giving me this amazing book as a present.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson is the only authorised story of the life and death of one of the most influential figures of the last 50 years, who died on 5 October this year, aged 56, from pancreatic cancer.

The book is something of a monster at 627 pages, and chronicles Steve Jobs‘ life from his childhood, through the creation and early days of Apple computers, his battles with Microsoft, his sacking and 12 year later return to the company he founded. Isaacson managed to interview Jobs himself over forty times, and tracked down more than a hundred friends, family, colleagues, competitors and adversaries.

I found it a compelling read, and managed to complete it in less than a week. It is perhaps the most honest and revealing authorised biography ever written of an industry leader. Isaacson uncovers both the amazing stories behind the revolutionary products Apple produced. However, he also reveals something of a monster of a man.

Jobs was a sensitive person, perhaps more so due to being adopted at birth, who spent several months wandering across India in his youth looking for spiritual enlightenment and followed Buddhism for the rest of his life. But he could also be the most manipulative and down-right nasty person it is possible to imagine. So much so, that his early colleagues referred to his ability to distort reality to his own ends (Reality distortion field even has its own Wikipedia entry).

Having been something of a computer nerd as a teenager in the mid-1970s I first came across his creations in the form of an Apple II computer. As you can see it was some way from the sleek and sexy design of the more recent iMacs. So reading the story of how Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed these machines made for riveting reading.

Apple II computer

Although he made many mistakes along the way, as well as many enemies, and a trail of broken colleagues, his vision and passion resulted in products which have truly revolutionised the computer industry, and made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Steve Jobs was that he never felt the need to conduct market research (something we recommend all our clients in the Business & IP Centre should do). Instead he worked on creating ‘insanely great’ products people would discover they didn’t know they needed until they saw them.

SquidLondon brighten up a rainy autumn day

emma-jayne_parkes_and_vivian_jaegerSomething of a surprise on my way home tonight to see a full-page advert for our Success Story SquidLondon in the Evening Standard.

Fashion graduates Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger founded SquidLondon after being inspired by Jackson Pollock. They thought it would be cool to walk down the street, it starts to rain and your clothes turn into a walking Jackson Pollock.

Their first product, the Squidarella, is an umbrella that changes colour as it rains. Developing such an innovative product meant that intellectual property – protecting their ideas – was an essential topic to crack. The pair visited the Business & IP Centre to learn more about how intellectual property applied to them.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zJrVSA_k80]

Squid have now moved to the bathroom with their latest product : ‘Miss Squidolette’ Shower Curtain!

Miss_Squidolette-Shower_Curtain

How to revive a brand

On the way home from a recent road trip to Scotland, I made a ‘pit-stop’ at a McDonalds restaurant near Birmingham.

I’m not a regular customer at the ‘golden arches’, so was very surprised to discover a waterless urinal
with a sticker on it saying it saved 100,000 litres of water a year.

urinal
Copyright Sorven Media ltd

This is all part of McDonalds’ efforts to combat the negative press that has built up over the years. In particular the reaction to ‘McLibel’ case and reaction to the 1994 documentary film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock.

McDonalds have created a website to allow you to Make up your own mind, which currently contains 24,000 questions and answers:

Your Questions
A dedicated Make Up Your Own Mind team from across McDonald’s is working hard to answer your questions. You can ask whatever you want, and we aim to answer even the toughest question within two weeks in an honest and straight-talking fashion. The ‘Questions & Answers’ can be searched either by keyword or by sub-sections – this should help you find the information you’re looking for.

The website also includes reports from their Quality Scouts.

What is a Quality Scout?
Quality Scouts are members of the general public from around the UK who are curious about McDonald’s business. They are not paid, and have no ties to the company. All they do is take an honest, behind the scenes look at McDonald’s and report back. And they’ll tell you exactly what they hear and see.

I have to say I am impressed by their efforts, but wonder what it will take to change public opinion.

Two examples spring to mind:

Fiat cars of the 1970’s, which became notorious for their rust problems.

In response they built the Tipo in the 1980’s (a car I owned), and gave it a fully galvanised body, giving it better rust protection than almost any other car on the market. However, it took many years for their ‘rust bucket’ reputation to disappear.

A more recent (if fictitious) example is from The Archers radio show where an outbreak of E. coli,  has resulted in regular customers deserting Ambridge Organics, despite having been given the all clear several weeks ago.

History in an Hour – another of our Success Stories

History-in-an-HourAfter my post Here’s one we helped earlier – Seasoned culinary courses, I’ve heard from another client of the Business & IP Centre who has gone on to great success.

Even better, History in an Hour is the brainchild of a librarian.

Rupert Colley had the idea ten years ago, but with the encouragement of his partner Annabel and help from the Business & IP Centre, he finally made a success of it.

The value of the idea has now been recognised by international publishing house Harper Collins, who recently purchased the e-book series from the Rupert.

Annabel kindly sent me a note saying;

“… had it not been for the Business & IP Centre, I wouldn’t have had the idea or the confidence to know where to start in registering a trademark for “In An Hour”, which meant that this became also an asset purchase, not just a straight multi-book licensing deal.”

Rupert also sent me a note to say they are having a summer sale. For the month of August 2011 only, the apps are 69p –  iBooks 49p – Nook 99c and Kindle 98p or less.

History-in-an-Hour-wide

HarperCollins Signs History in an Hour Ebook Series

In a major new acquisition HarperCollins has purchased the History in an Hour e-book series from the company founder and author Rupert Colley. The deal was set up by Scott Pack and the books will be published by Arabella Pike at HarperPress.

History in an Hour is a series of e-books and apps that summarise key areas of world history in digest form, with each title taking no more than sixty minutes to read. From World War Two to Black History, from American Civil War to the Reformation, History in an Hour titles have been a permanent fixture in the Apple bestseller lists since September 2010, often with 3 titles in the top ten or five in the top twenty. They recently came out on Kindle as well. The History in an Hour website and blog can be found at: www.historyinanhour.com

Scott Pack says: “When I saw these e-books topping the Apple iBooks charts I was intrigued as I was pretty sure they weren’t from a major publisher. I downloaded one and was really impressed, it did exactly as it promised. I was amazed to discover that they were all the work of a librarian from Enfield creating them in his spare room. I was determined to snap them up before anyone else did.”

Rupert Colley comments: “History is fascinating but it can also be daunting – huge books, a huge choice and endless websites. My aim with History In An Hour is to make it less daunting and more accessible whilst still providing a quality read. I want to offer readers a starting place in their historical reading; a platform on which to build. Now, with HarperPress, we can take it to a new level and spread the word – that History is exciting.”

HarperPress will launch the series on 4th August with six titles. A further seven will follow in October. All existing books will be rebranded and an ambitious programme to grow the series will include titles on the fall of the Roman Empire, the Gunpowder Plot, the Vietnam War, Castro and the Wars of the Roses, as well as an extension of the brand into other subject areas. More than one year on, History in an Hour is still topping the charts with World War Two in an Hour currently number 15.

Arabella Pike comments: ‘This is an incredibly exciting venture for HarperPress. In just over one year Rupert has, single-handed, created a superb brand offering great history for busy people – short, sharp, informative books to be read on a phone or e-reader perfect whilst enduring the daily commute to work. As a leading publisher of history, we intend to work with Rupert to build this pioneering series to publish some terrific titles, show how historical content can be refashioned to suit the digital age, and open up a whole new generation of readers to the delights of history.’

Launch titles:

  • World War Two
  • The Cold War
  • The Afghan Wars
  • The Reformation
  • Henry VIII’s Wives
  • Nazi Germany
  • October titles:
  • Black History
  • 1066
  • Hitler
  • Ancient Egypt
  • American Slavery
  • The American Civil War
  • The World Cup

Seeing red over the Red Shoes

	AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by pixieclipxI’m no fashion expert, but there seems to be something about red shoes.

They feature in a typically grim Hans Christian Andersen fairly tale, in which a vain girl is punished by a pair of red shoes which refuse to stop dancing, even after she has her feet amputated.

This inspired one of my favourite films from the 1940’s by the great Powell and Pressburger, and more recently an album by singer songwriter Kate Bush.

Now they are featuring in a trademark dispute between two haute couture fashion houses, Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent. Christian Louboutin loses round one of red sole battle with Yves Saint Laurent.

Christian Louboutin’s whose shoes have a distinctive red sole, was suing Yves Saint Laurent for using the same colour on the bottom of its footwear.

US judge, Victor Marrero, has denied Louboutin’s request to block sales of  ‘copycat’ red soled shoes from YSL’s 2011 collection.

Marrero wrote in his ruling:

‘Because in the fashion industry colour serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.’

Mr Louboutin is seeking more than $1million damages for alleged infringement of his ‘Red Sole’ trademark, claiming that he was the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women’s shoes.

YSL hit back, with their court papers stating ‘Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz.’

The re-branding of Beachy Head

logo_beachy_headThe biggest surprise on my recent four day perambulation along the final section of the South Downs Way, in England’s newest National Park, came on the final day of walking.

Although the established local beer for the area is Harveys, famous for its Tom Paine Ale, and still brewed beside the river Ouse in the heart of Lewes, there is now a new rival.

It comes in the form of Beachy Head Ale, produced in a micro-brewery based in the pretty village of East Dene.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their brewerytap pub, the Tiger Inn, sitting in the sun on the village green looking across to Sherlock Holmes’ retirement home.

The surprise came when reading their promotional brochure and discovering the re-branding of Beachy Head. As a relatively local inhabitant, I am well aware of the stunning beauty of Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, but also cognisant of its more well known feature. For most UK residents Beachy Head it is quite literally a jumping off point for those who want to end it all.

This, less attractive aspect has featured in many films, documentaries and news items. Beachy Head suicide spot.

Now, working as I do on the Euston Road opposite Kings Cross Station, I am all too aware of the stigma that can cling to an area, even if that reputation is no longer deserved.

So I was fascinated to see how the Davies-Gilbert family, who have farmed the Beachy Head area for 200 years are attempting to re-invent and re-brand Beach Head. As you can see at Beachy Head.org.uk, it is a beautiful part of the country, with lots to see and do.

While there, I began to notice the clean and modern Beachy Head logo almost everywhere I looked. And it will be interesting to see if the media starts to pick up on this more positive story about the area. However, given their predilection for the gory and ghastly, I have my doubts.

As a geographer, I was somewhat perplexed by the brochure map of the area. I would expect it to concentrate on visitor highlights, but, the designers have decided to omit the large village of Friston. Perhaps because it is adjacent to, and somewhat overwhelms the village of East Dene which appears to be the heart of Beach Head.

Have a look a the maps of area below and see what you think.

Beachy Head Map 3Beach Head Map 1

 

The re-branding of Beach Head

 

Beach Head logo

 

The biggest surprise on my recent four day perambulation along the final section of the South Downs Way, ??? in England’s newest National Park, ??? came on the last day.

 

Although the established local beer for the area is Harveys, famous for its Tom Paine beer, ??? and still brewed beside the river Ouse in the heart of Lewes, ??? there is now a new rival.

 

It comes in the form of Beachy Head Ale,??? produced in a micro-brewery based in the pretty village of East Dene.

 

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their brewerytap ??? pub, the Tiger Inn, ??? sitting in the sun on the village green looking across to Sherlock Holmes’ retirement house. ???

 

The surprise came when reading their promotional brochure and discovering the re-branding of Beachy Head. As a relatively local inhabitant, I am well aware of the stunning beauty of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, but also cognisant of its more well know aspect. For most UK residents Beachy Head it is quite literally the jumping off point for those who want to end it all.

 

This, less attractive aspect has featured in many films, documentaries and news items. ??? wikipedia – ??? Green Wing clip

 

Now, working as I do on the Euston Road opposite Kings Cross Station, I am all too aware of the stigma that can cling to an area, even if that reputation is no longer deserved. ???

 

So I was fascinated to see how the Davies-Gilbert family, who have farmed the Beachy Head area for 200 years and are attempting to re-invent and re-brand Beach Head. As you can see from the map and at Beachy Head dot org, ??? it is a beautiful part of the country, with lots to see and do.

 

I began to notice the clean and modern Beachy Head logo almost everywhere I looked. It will be interesting to see if the media starts to pick up on this more positive story about the area. But given their predilection for the gory and ghastly, I have my doubts.

 

The re-branding of Beach Head

Beach Head logo

The biggest surprise on my recent four day perambulation along the final section of the South Downs Way, ??? in England’s newest National Park, ??? came on the last day.

Although the established local beer for the area is Harveys, famous for its Tom Paine beer, ??? and still brewed beside the river Ouse in the heart of Lewes, ??? there is now a new rival.

It comes in the form of Beachy Head Ale,??? produced in a micro-brewery based in the pretty village of East Dene.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their brewerytap ??? pub, the Tiger Inn, ??? sitting in the sun on the village green looking across to Sherlock Holmes’ retirement house. ???

The surprise came when reading their promotional brochure and discovering the re-branding of Beachy Head. As a relatively local inhabitant, I am well aware of the stunning beauty of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, but also cognisant of its more well know aspect. For most UK residents Beachy Head it is quite literally the jumping off point for those who want to end it all.

This, less attractive aspect has featured in many films, documentaries and news items. ??? wikipedia – ??? Green Wing clip

Now, working as I do on the Euston Road opposite Kings Cross Station, I am all too aware of the stigma that can cling to an area, even if that reputation is no longer deserved. ???

So I was fascinated to see how the Davies-Gilbert family, who have farmed the Beachy Head area for 200 years and are attempting to re-invent and re-brand Beach Head. As you can see from the map and at Beachy Head dot org, ??? it is a beautiful part of the country, with lots to see and do.

I began to notice the clean and modern Beachy Head logo almost everywhere I looked. It will be interesting to see if the media starts to pick up on this more positive story about the area. But given their predilection for the gory and ghastly, I have my doubts.

As a geographer, I was somewhat perplexed by the brochure map of the area. I would expect it to concentrate on visitor’s highlights. But, the designers decided to omit the large village of Friston. Perhaps because it is adjacent to, and somewhat overwhelms the village of East Dene which appears to be the heart of Beach Head.

Have a look a the maps of area below and see what you think.

As a geographer, I was somewhat perplexed by the brochure map of the area. I would expect it to concentrate on visitor’s highlights. But, the designers decided to omit the large village of Friston. Perhaps because it is adjacent to, and somewhat overwhelms the village of East Dene which appears to be the heart of Beach Head.

 

Have a look a the maps of area below and see what you think.

Milking a story for all it’s worth

The_Monster_Ball_-_Poker_Face_revamped2.jpg: John Robert Charlton aka Bobby Charlton of Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, EnglandLast week I was admiring how successfully the Icecreamists have been at generating publicity for their Baby Gaga ice cream, made from human breast-milk, which costs £14 (Luxury foods in terribly bad taste). Then they had a set-back when their local council removed the milk for testing.

On Friday, yet another newspaper article appeared in the Evening Standard – Baby Gaga: Star takes legal action over London parlour’s breast milk ice cream flavour.

It’s a publicists dream come true. Probably the worlds most famous current pop star is threatening legal action over the ice cream, which her lawyers claim is infringing her Lady Gaga brand.

From a legal point of view, it seems unlikely that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also know as Lady Gaga, will win her case against Matt O’Connor the owner of the Icecreamists. He claims the term comes from the early sounds babies make when trying to speak, and has applied to register the trademark.

However, thanks to the Lady Gaga name, this story has now gone global, appearing in American, Russian and Indian newspapers within hours. Mr O’Connor must be rubbing his hands with glee.


Logos with customer appeal – Apples and Marmite

A recent post on the Graphic Design Blog showed the results of their readers top five logos of all time.

I guess I really wasn’t that surprised to see the Apple logo sitting at number one.

Apple Logo

Although I am old enough to remember the original Apple Corps logo used by the Beatles pop group. Apple and the Beatles: The End of a Long and Winding Road?

Apple_Corps_logo

This talk of logos got me thinking about the power of brands and trademarks in protecting products and services.

The harsh truth about business, is that if you are successful you will have competition, even if you have an invention protected by a patent.

An example would be the Dyson vacuum cleaner, whose Dual Cyclone technology is protected by patents, and yet the courts have allowed a somewhat similar looking cleaner from rival firm VAX to compete – Dyson loses design case.

dyson cleanerVax cleaner

My favourite brand of all time would have to be Marmite yeast extract spread.

(Marmite jar - 250g size Photo by User:Malcolm Farmer, 28 June 2003 Category:Spreads)

This is not because the logo or image are particularly strong, but because since the creation of its secret recipe in 1902, it has managed to maintain a virtual monopoly, with the only rivals being Australian Vegemite and Swiss Cenovis. With sales of 60 million jars a year at over £5 each, one would assume this a market to attract heavy competition.

However, the Marmite brand is so strong that no-one seems to be trying, or certainly succeeding in competing.

As with many products not everyone is a fan, and Marmite have very cleverly used the strong reactions to the flavour of the spread in their recent marketing campaigns.

Marmite - Love it or hate it

JOT-it down as another success story for the Business & IP Centre

It is quite a special feeling when one of our clients from our Business & IP information clinics successfully brings their product or service to market.

In this case, Bob Bhatti had a meeting with my colleague Jeremy O’Hare, way back in November 2008. And he and his business partner Scott Lindsay have pursued their vision since that time, attending a range of our workshops and seminars. They also had an Ask the Expert session with our Inventor in Residence Mark Sheahan. And our commercial Research Service ran patent prior art and trademark searches to help in protecting the intellectual property of the product.

According to the Jot-it Facebook Page, they have just finished exhibiting at the London Gift Fair and are building up a very healthy order book.

Yet again I am amazed that such a simple idea has not been seen before and wish Bob and Scott the best in their exciting business adventure.

What is JOT-it™

JOT-it™ is a handheld product providing maximum writing area on a standard A7 size recycled, pre-printed note pad. It is accompanied with a recycled mini pencil, a pound trolley token to release the shopping trolley from the trolley loan mechanism, has an embedded magnet on the rear for typical fridge attachment and an integrated clip on the rear to clamp the complete device to the shopping trolley handle bar.  This feature also incorporates a high friction rubber pad to provide a robust attachment with minimum effort. All these supplementary items have moulded-in clips on the main body to keep everything organised and together.

With JOT-it™, individuals can generate a shopping list over the course of the week on the notepad using the mini pencil. This notepad is pre-printed with a checklist of the most popular grocery items whilst still leaving a generous amount of space to add additional items. When the user is ready to visit the supermarket, they can take the JOT-it™ along with them.

Once at the supermarket, the user faces another issue of finding a one pound coin to insert into the shopping trolley loan mechanism. The JOT-it™ provides a pound coin widget with a unique thumb grip feature allowing the user to grip the widget securely and remove it successfully each time. It is often found that coins once inserted are not easily retractable due to the minimum grip available.

The JOT-it™ can next be clipped to the shopping trolley handle bar and rotated accordingly to provide a good reading angle. There are no limitations to this adjustment. Again, the mini pencil ( which also has a holder on the front of the unit) can be used to mark off items if the user wishes to and once this shopping trip is complete, the user can dispose of the used leaf and start a new one for the next trip.