Monthly Archives: October 2010

Dear Calpol

Dear Calpol,

Thank you for being established and confident enough to make an ad like this:

It’s a lovely execution of a great positioning and a wonderful take on the problem/solution tension that is inherent to the category.

Thanks for making me smile.



Dear Argos

Dear Argos,

Thank you for your new ad – it gave me a good laugh:

I know it’s hard for you at the moment what with all the multiples/supermarkets encroaching on your traditional heartland, the internet not going away and the impending cuts not likely to make things much better.

But it’s good to see that you’re willing to take a bit of a chance and do something that’s different from what you’ve done before and likely to stand out from rest of the Yuletide retail chaff that we’re likely to have to endure over the next few months. Not sure the ad will drive sales, but thanks for taking the risk.

No matter what people say, your Catalogue – known by some as the “Laminated Book of Dreams” (as I blogged about here) – will be compulsory for many families well into the foreseeable future.



Dear Pepsi (Japan)

Dear Pepsi (Japan),

Thank you for your admirable run of bonkers line extensions and for showing us how innovation can be used to generate consumer interest and (euk!) “brand-buzz”. Thanks for demonstrating that just because a piece of innovation isn’t a huge seller, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a role and that it’s still worth doing…for the so-called “masterbrand halo effect” rather than the direct sales increase.

The latest innovation – Pepsi Mont Blanc – at least looks like a cola:

Now this is the type of innovation that would (nearly) keep a bunch of brand theory purists happy – it stretches the brand without taking the brand to its “breaking-point”, and it’s based on the core product (i.e. a brown, fizzy, sugary cola drink). Albeit with the addition of actual snow from Mont Blanc, which might get a few people mumbling about credibility, heritage, tramlines and other such limiting apprehensions.

This is more than can be said for the pretty off the wall ideas that you’ve been launching since 2007, which go way, way beyond a purists’ breaking-point:

Amazing stuff, but way too niche in terms of size of opportunity and mass market flavour appeal, grumbles our team of brand purists (and probably qual and quant researchers who no doubt will have been involved).

But that’s not the point! These have all been limited edition innovations. They’re not designed to be drunk in themselves (but great if they are), they’re not designed to open up new sub-categories and deliver massive volume uplifts…they are designed to get more Japanese consumers to buy regular bottles of Pepsi, more often, by associating the brand with a funky whackiness that so appeals to the Japanese youth. It’s all about the influencing their perception of the brand and not about the volume the products deliver. That’s what I reckon at least!

So thanks Pepsi Japan for showing us how you can use innovation in different ways. The “masterbrand halo effect” is impossibly difficult to measure, so I admire you for sticking to what you believe in, using your distribution power and making some noise.

You’re not the only one at it – Absolut, who I thanked here, are big fans of the limited edition and Unilever have been doing similar, if slightly less radical things with their Axe/Lynx and Magnum brands over recent years…but I’ll leave them to another post.



Dear Colourful Coffins

Dear Colourful Coffins,

Thank you for making me smile as I drive past your HQ on my way to and from work…a colourful coffin must be the consumate choice for a deceased “whacky-shirt-at-work” wearer or the departed obsessive hobbyist / fan.

I have to confess that, at first I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing, but your website seems to confirm that there really is a demand for colourful coffins…It may be a niche market (or maybe it isn’t), but you’re bang on the “Customisation / Tailorability” trend, and as Benjamin Franklin so famously put it, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes”.

And thanks for your Ronseal approach to brand naming (i.e. Does exactly what it says on the tin)…there’s absolutely no room for confusion as to what you’re offering.

Thanks again



Dear Absolut

Dear Absolut,

Thank you for showing us the power of the Limited (Collectors’) Edition (and the positive impact it can have on your overall brand) and for remaining religiously loyal to one of your core brand assets, your iconic bottle shape.

Your latest Limited Edition, Absolut Glimmer, is just too stunning to hide away at the back of a shelf or in a cupboard. Given that those purchasing Absolut Glimmer will no doubt have agreed – by paying the significant premium in the first place – I suspect you’ll find yourself in pride of place, for all to see, both in the on and off-trades. What a great situation to be in, and when every single brand touchpoint communicates, so much the better:

Check out these equally alluring previous Limited Editions: Absolut Bling-Bling, Absolut Rock, Absolut Disco and Absolut Masquerade.

Thank you for making me think about the psychology of collecting and the value of scarcity. I don’t need any of these bottles of Absolut – I very rarely drink vodka – but I really want all of them. And I bet you have fun coming up with the ideas for the next Limited Edition too…I like the idea of that.



Dear Gap

Dear Gap,

Thank you for showing us how not to go about changing your logo. You’ve pretty much admitted that you cocked it up, which is a good start on the path to recovering some credibility, but, wow, what a roller-coaster of a week it’s been for you.

As if deciding to change the logo so radically in the first place wasn’t erroneous enough, it seems that you thought that trying to turn the mess you’d brought upon yourselves into some kind of “crowd-sourcing” exercise was a good idea too. Thank you for this hilarious piece of backpedaling:

“Thanks for everyone’s input on the new logo! We’ve had the same logo for 20+ years, and this is just one of the things we’re changing. We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.”

Cannot say I’m too surprised that that piece of attempted smoke &  mirrors didn’t work and to see the news today that you’re reverting to the original logo across all channels, as reported here on and loads of other places, here on and here on the BBC

Now, there’s nothing wrong with changing your logo if it’s been around for a while and is beginning to look a bit dusty and dated, but I’m very much of the “minor tweak” school of thought, as demonstrated here by BMW and MasterCard (which I posted on here, on a different topic):

(Thanks to from whom I’ve shamelessly borrowed these images – click here for the full article.)

But doing something quite so radical is just asking for trouble in my book. Why would you throw away one of your prized and hard-earned assets? If I was prone to marketing clichés and business-speak-blah (which I know I am guilty of from time to time), I could mention the baby and the bath water at this point…

…Unless this whole thing is a scurrilous piece of PR cunningly designed to get you back in the headlines…? (After all with the bad PR you’ve had over the years, this would be a walk in the park). I suspect it’s not though, but if you get even more desperate, you could think about fabricating a back-story along those lines…but who would you tell?!

5 years ago it took quite a lot of effort for consumers to demonstrate that they were “up in arms” about some brand or marketing related issue, although the press – especially here in the UK – would leap on any opportunity to fan the flames created by Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells and his Post Office loving, Consignia hating friends.

But today, it has become so easy to express your opinion – or at least to click to agree that you agree with someone else’s opinion – that I suspect that, thanks to you Gap, we just won’t be seeing mainstream brands attempting such radical folly. Tweaks, yes, logo Armageddon, no. So thanks for that.


Dear The X Factor

Dear The X Factor,

Thank you for, once again, being enthralling and addictive TV. Brilliant and painful at the same time, without you, we wouldn’t have had Wagner’s: “Sometimes I fill like trow my hinds up in de air!”

But more importantly, thank you for being such a huge TV event that you inspire, I reckon, the creation of ads like this from Yeo Valley:

More than 140k views already. Not sure what is does for the brand, but it’s great to watch and it is different.

And this from Ikea:

Now that’s a thing of beauty and I think does do a lot for the Ikea brand…cool, young, beautiful party-people get their kitchens at Ikea.

I don’t think these wonderful ads, which both aired during your breaks over the weekend, would have been made without you, The X Factor, so thank you.


PS – Here’s Jona Lewie performing the original track from the Ikea ad on Top of the Pops


Read more about the Ikea ad here on popsop