Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dear Phones 4U

Dear Phones 4U,

Thank you for making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

If, as I’m assuming, you were after my attention, then you most certainly got it.


Not only did you get my attention, but more importantly you managed to stop the ever-patient Mrs C, mid-flow.

In our house, she views the ad break as an opportunity to talk / reflect on plot twists and characters / get a cup of tea / do something else.

Whereas occupational hazards mean I have to try to pretend that I’m listening to what she’s saying / doing / asking whilst 70% (or more) of my attention is in fact devoted to watching the ads – with a perhaps unhealthy sense of intrigue / interest / disgust.

Given that I’m a captive audience, and should not be considered as a “normal consumer”, when an ad comes on that Mrs C pays attention to, it tends to mean that something significant is going on.

The recent Muller ad (who I facetiously thanked here) had a similar effect, although to be fair her response to that was, “What a load of old rubbish”.

When asked by me whether she might consider going to a Phones 4U as a result of the ad, the response was as follows:

  1. No – because she likes her current phone
  2. No – because she would wait until her phone broke (at which point she would call Vodafone – who presumably would be pleased but surprised to hear from her…she’s on Orange)
  3. No – because she would wait until Vodafone rang her up to tell her she was due and upgrade and do it through them
  4. No – because “you [meaning me] would sort it out for me”
  5. No – because she wouldn’t want to buy anything from anyone who thought that scaring their customers was a good thing to do – even if it was Hallowe’en

So quite a few barriers to purchase there, most of which you cannot do anything about I’m afraid.

But if inertia is your biggest problem (which on the nationally representative sample described above is the case), then I admire your attempt to shock people out of it…fortune favours the brave after all.

Good column inches and viral potential too.




Dear UPS

Dear UPS,

Thank you for being so proud of what you do: Logistics.

What a fabulous example of – marketing-speak bullshit-o-meter alert – tangibilising the benefit.

Or in normal speak, making it clear to people why you’re good.

You really do do loads of important stuff. It’s just that most of us don’t know about it.

Except now we do, thanks to your happy, smiley, shiny communication.

The thought of – say, Lafarge – penning an upbeat little ditty entitled “That’s Aggregates” makes me smile…



As does the thought of the board of Sage sitting around a piano trying to come up with a catchy jingle to accompany the words “That’s Accountancy Software”.

Thanks UPS. That’s twice you and your logistics have made me smile.



Dear Timberland

Dear Timberland,

Thank you for your Timberland Earthkeepers sub-brand.

Clear proposition, creatively articulated:

Nice…and “global” to boot. (Sorry.)

And whoever wrote this…

…is clearly a genius. Give them a pay-rise. Or  a bonus. Or something else they want.

Thank you for showing us that it is worth going back to the drawing board – you’ve come on leaps and bounds (sorry) since:

And your new articulation also ties nicely in with:

Actually, I think your brand architecture (or rather “Collections” Architecture) is a bit of a mess – i.e. it’s hard to navigate (doesn’t give me the signposts I need to find what I want) and is confusing (what’s the difference between The Timberland Boot Company and Heritage for instance?).

And finally thank you for providing me with my footwear of choice for the past 12 years:

It’s a toss-up between you and my Adidas Sambas, but points lost for lack of packability are countered by all round versatility.

The Sambas make me feel kinda Brazilian old-skool cool…

…entirely erroneously and utterly implausibly on every level.

But you make me feel like a streetwise mountaineering hip-hopping lumberjack – and who doesn’t want to feel like that?

However equally implausible that might be?

Thanks Timberland.


Dear Waitrose,

Dear Waitrose,

Thank you for proving that fresh is not always better than ambient.

Your fresh French Onion Soup is good, it’s really good:

But your tin of French Onion & Cider Soup is truly – and I mean really, really – outstanding:

And at half the price, what’s not to love?

Thinking about the difference between fresh and frozen reminds me of the “frozen fish is actually fresher than fresh fish because fresh fish is just frozen fish which has been defrosted for you” challenge that faces those brands that tend to go into the trolley when you’re tired, fed-up and just want to get home.


Thanks anyway Waitrose. When are you going to launch a cheese fondue?



Dear Radiohead

Dear Radiohead,

Thank you for OK Computer.


You’re back on my Playlist with a vengeance!

I don’t really think I can add anything to the “people / celebrities / groups are brands” theorem that has been blundering on since what seems like forever…well, since…

…Other than to let out a long, jaded and tired sigh.

Having said that, I do find it mildly aggravating when – usually on Radio 4 on the Today program – some commentator or ill-qualified “expert” who’s actually on the program to talk about something else, proudly exclaims something like “Well of course David Beckham is a brand” as though they’ve just revealed the meaning of life.

I don’t mind them thinking it. I don’t even really mind them saying it. It’s true. It’s just the messianic tone that gets to me.

Maybe I’m imaging the whole thing…and also, I’ve drifted from my point.

Which is to thank you Radiohead for OK Computer.

And for being innovative.

Your “Pay what you like” preliminary digital download launch of In Rainbows was marketing genius.

But back to OK Computer. Sit back and enjoy:

Nice teeth Thom.

Thank you Radiohead..


Dear Bonne Maman

Dear Bonne Maman,

Thank you for being one of those brands whose low value packaging people want to keep.

OK, so people have been keeping jam jars to put their odds and ends in for donkey’s years, but nonetheless, you’re the current preferred option – in our household at least (’tis the season of mists and plenty – which means jam making).

And Google Images reveals lots of other people are at it too:

Of course there are many other food brands that pull off this, but no one has succeeded in getting the subtle balance that you have.

Identifiably branded but not brash.

The Gu ramekins are all well and good, but after a while they lose their distinctiveness and when they start water-falling out of the duff cupboard, frankly, they become a pain in the neck.

The Cadbury’s Fingers Tins of old, held a certain degree of charm (as well as excellent resale value as a secondary pencil-case for school-agers with an art class to attend) and were certainly less brash than their modern-day replacement:

But you, Bonne Maman, are not brash.

Nor are you forgettable, despite – or rather because of – that fact you use that gingham pattern.

Which is after all the generic semiotic code for all things artisanal, homely and generally twee.

Which is why people want to keep you. And not just for food.

Maybe it’s that wide-necked hexagonal shape.

Or maybe it’s just that people aspire to the premium quality of your jam and believe that some of your homely credentials will rub off on them as they proudly hand-over whatever runny sticky concoction they’ve managed to create.

Whatever it is, your brand keeps on communicating, long-after your label has been soaked off.

Which is to be admired.

Thanks again