Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category

Tarantino’s challenger brand lesson for brand leaders

Sunday, January 20th, 2013 by Jon Clements

How far does a company need to deviate from its established brand identity to achieve “cut-through” or “stand-out”?

It’s understandable that mature brands feel they have a lot to lose by taking risks with their customers’ expectations and this can result, with brands becoming inherently conservative in their marketing communications; in a competitive B2B or B2C market, brands can begin to look increasingly homogenous.

The challenger or upstart brand, conversely, isn’t inhibited by such mundane considerations.

Take “Brand Quentin Tarantino”…

This weekend his latest film, the violent Western and slavery drama, Django Unchained, opened in the UK, after three weeks in which it became the director’s highest grossing film in the US market ever. And despite high profile criticism from African Americans such as fellow film director, Spike Lee, it appears a large proportion of the US black population is unperturbed by accusations of disrespect for its ancestors, with 30% of the audience coming from that community.

However, 25 years after his first film, Reservoir Dogs, was released – establishing Tarantino as the new “enfant terrible” of independent cinema – the director is no longer the upstart brand, with “Django” placed fourth in the US box office top 10, ahead of blockbusters including Les Miserables and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

I was fortunate enough, in 1993 – as arts reporter for the Nottingham Evening Post – to interview Tarantino as part of the UK premiere of Reservoir Dogs at the city’s Broadway Cinema. The young writer-director was a highly-engaging study in obsessive and infectious enthusiasm for film, and his inaugural piece of work made me walk out of the cinema, mid-film, in disgust. Not that I was afraid of challenging films, but the violence – particularly the infamous ear-slicing scene sound-tracked by the Steeler’s Wheel song, “Stuck in the Middle with You” – seemed like cinematic shock for shock’s sake and neither clever nor innovative.

But Tarantino wasn’t making films typical of the time – Home Alone 3, The Bodyguard or Wayne’s World, for example – and he didn’t need to care about big film studio box office. Of course, my myopic viewpoint on Reservoir Dogs was wrong and Tarantino’s work changed not just independent cinema, but all cinema thereafter.

And while the blood-drenched, Tarantino-esque violence remains an integral part of his cinematic “brand”, his films have clearly extended their appeal to a more mainstream audience since 1993.

But what he’s done to make each successive film continually stand out – while simultaneously broadening his mass appeal and becoming a mature fixture in cinema – is by taking familiar, well-trodden celluloid territory and giving it a fresh and unexpected feel. His Jackie Brown added another shade to crime film noir, the Kill Bills put new kick into the Kung Fu genre and, now, Django Unchained is a brilliant homage to the radically diverse Westerns of John Ford, Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. With each new film, the audience isn’t alienated, but reassured, that it’s being led into a world it knows, but then thrilled with Tarantino’s daring take on that world.

And so, a well-established brand needn’t be afraid of taking a previously unheard-of risk in its marketing communications, if the customer or other audience has already a high degree of trust and regard for the quality of what it provides. In fact, taking a calculated risk might be the only way to really stand out during a period of competitive consideration by the customer.

Risk is a relative concept, and only you know how far you need, or should, go to stand out in your business or industry. But Tarantino, 25 years on, is still taking daring risks in his work and attracting flak from some quarters while, at the same time, clowning around as a guest on Graham Norton’s late night light entertainment TV show. You can’t get much cuddlier than that, can you?

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Tempered personal branding pips hyperbole

Sunday, January 6th, 2013 by Jon Clements

The concept of “personal branding” used to be known as – and was encapsulated by – the humble curriculum vitae, or résumé if Stateside.

But where a CV would be the way to communicate one’s background and abilities to a limited audience –p recruitment firms and potential employers –now,  people’s increased visibility across the internet by virtue of social and professional media has turned us into branded products to be managed; that is, if you care sufficiently about how brand “YOU” is portrayed. If not, then the Facebook photos showing you comatose and semi-clothed at the Christmas party might as well remain.

There is something slightly dystopian in treating ourselves as “brands” whose value can appreciate or depreciate by simply being our, imperfect, selves. And if commercial brands – supported by an infrastructure of management, protection and guardianship – can fail, what hope do we have maintaining our personal brand equity, if such a phrase can be used without inducing involuntary vomiting.

A successful brand is only so because of the promises it makes and keeps, time and again; the promises kept are the reason the customer develops the trust to come back for more. And what the customer trusts is, in fact, the brand’s reputation, which is why the real value is more difficult to build and maintain than creating merely a recognisable image.

Similarly, personal branding can become a personal reputation landmine if the emphasis on image manipulation is greater than the truth behind it.

Stefan Stern, visiting professor in management practice at Cass Business School, London, called it “bigging yourself upin his Guardian comment article, of which the worst examples are described as “humblebrag”, aka “falsely modest declarations that betray the self-satisfaction and boastfulness of the speaker.” He accuses our two most senior political leaders – Prime and Deputy Prime Ministers Cameron and Clegg – of such “humblebrag” behaviour; maybe protesting their validity too strongly when the results they have to show are so scant. Then again, the residents of Hell would be acquiring hats, scarves and gloves long before politicians chose to be candid about their shortcomings.

Stern goes on to say:

“It is better if the nice things we say about ourselves have solid foundations…but some people are clearly feeling so vulnerable that they are making grand and exaggerated claims. We can’t all be quite as creative and innovative as that. Self-esteem is one thing and permahype is another.”

What you claim about yourself, in a bid to manage your “personal brand”, needs to stand up to scrutiny, in the same way the claims made by companies about their products need to be true. Attempts to dress something up as something it’s not would be decried as “spin” or worse.

What you say you are matters far less than what you do. And if you’ve done enough to substantiate your CV, there should be no need for hyperbole. After all, you’re only human. And, to paraphrase the famous quote about avoiding exercise, if you suddenly get the feeling that you’re a brand, I suggest you lie down until the feeling goes away.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Football’s lost reputation

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Mark Perry


It seems every day that football’s reputation is afflicted by one controversy or other – tweeting, accusations of racism, diving and even the England manager discussing team selection to strangers on the tube.

While, on one hand, the clubs seem to be all-controlling in their dealings with the media by limiting access to players and managers or even banning journalists from press conferences because of something they may have written, there are occasions when it seems that issues are not closed down.

As an industry which is under the media spotlight 24 hours a day, seven days a week I cannot help but feel that the sport is in need of some reputation management.

Liverpool belatedly admitted earlier this year that their handling of the ‘Luis Suarez affair’ was not as effective as it could have been and there has been relative silence from Chelsea in response to last week’s infamous Ashley Cole tweet about his thoughts on the FA.

If a football club was a corporation that was in crisis management mode there would be calls for immediate action. It just seems that in football things are left to fester while there is a chipping away of the hard-won club brand.

It may be time for clubs to see themselves just as any other company would and manage their reputation with their different stakeholders and ensure that any indiscretions of their employees – the players – don’t cause long time damage.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Wünderful Stuff from Müller

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by Rob Brown

We don’t often embed ads at PR Media Blog but this is wünderful. From Müller and our friends at TBWA.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

ASOS Feels The Digital Love

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

ASOS, Very and are the three most loved digital brands, a study by Tamar has revealed.

The BrandLove25 report explores the degree to which consumers demonstrate their support and enthusiasm for a digital brand through their social interaction, and ranks companies on a number of different metrics including numbers of Facebook fans, Twitter followers and revenue.

Joining the companies in the top ten are:;;;;; and

Whilst it is of no surprise to see ASOS and Very feature in the top spots, both companies having been amongst the first fashion retailers to adopt and embrace social media effectively into their marketing strategies, credit has to be given to for achieving such a respectable position.  In just five years since launch, the online fashion retailer has firmly established itself as one of the UK’s top online providers of women’s fashion, picking up a number of industry awards along the way and, as this report shows, positioning itself firmly at the heart of consumers.

What makes a brand engaging could be said to lie in the eye of the consumer but there are five key principles to which companies should adhere if looking to achieve the social medial top spot:

1. Know your customer and identify their wants and needs

2. Stay true to your brand and ensure your voice conveys your personality

3. Maintain consistent participation and invite consumers to be a part of the conversation

4. Address the balance – commercial message delivery versus general interest

5. Provide real added value

Speaking on the results of the report Tanya Goodin, CEO of Tamar said:  “In the current climate many ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar brands are struggling but pure-play digital brands are powering from strength to strength.  However, this second edition of our Best-Loved Digital Brands league table shows that, even within the digital sector, some brands are performing much better than others.  The size of social media communities give an immediate and very visible way of measuring the ‘love’ customers feel for brands and reported revenue gives us a clear indication of how that ‘love’ translates to sales.  The brands here have demonstrably capitalised on the seismic shift from ‘bought’ to ‘earned’ media and are seeing stellar financial performance as a result.  Digital brands who don’t make the Top 25 table need to look at the stars appearing and take note.”


Digital reputation matters too for Toyota

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by Jon Clements

With digital marketing – as with many things – just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Exemplar of this is the 2008 Saatchi & Saatchi LA Toyota Matrix campaign, soon to be making its re-appearance in a US courtroom.

In brief, the creative campaign was an elaborate online gag in which people received unsolicited emails from spoof, dodgy characters with seemingly real online profiles which appeared to involve the recipient in the fictional online stalker’s chaotic life. The creative panel that road-tested the campaign when launched appeared genuinely impressed with the concept, creative input and attention to detail while their concerns seemed to focus only on how believable it was for the person being “punked” or spoofed. The essence of the campaign – a clever prank – fitted with the DNA of the desired audience of 20-something men.

But one email recipient, Amber Duick, didn’t see the funny side of being digitally stalked by the Toyota campaign’s fictitious, English football hooligan character, Sebastian Bowler (where did they get that name? Surely he should’ve been “Gary”) and looks like she’ll get her day in court with Saatchi on various charges and with a potential price tag of $10m if she wins.

Without wanting to be hard with hindsight on Saatchi – and there’s no doubting the boldness, left-field creativity and relevance for the actual target audience in the campaign – the missing element in the thinking process seems to have been “where could this go wrong?” and “is there a potential reputation problem here?”

An exciting creative concept takes on a life of its own and probably any agency can become wedded to delivering it, no matter what the possible fall-out. Even potential controversy can be considered an added bonus. Call me risk averse – or even an old stiff, if you like, but this was probably a case of controversy that Toyota and Saatchi could’ve done without. At the time, it seems there wasn’t a Toyota  social media team (as it has now) involved in the campaign.

Nowadays, the Toyota social media team tells me that its mix of PR, marketing and customer relations people is “part of the larger digital umbrella” operating at the company.  It’s a fair example of where integration among marketing disciplines – including those with a keener eye for corporate and brand reputation – can help to avert potential disasters when the creative juices get carried away.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Cosmo for Guys Launches with Ipad Head Girl

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Rob Brown

The relentless march of the digital magazine continued with today’s launch of an iPad male version of Cosmopolitan called CFG: Cosmo For Guys. To herald the launch an imaginative bit of film called Ipad Head Girl dropped on Youtube.  The link to the magazine is clear if you stick with the video passed the minute mark.

The content of the new iPad magazine is 21+ and holds to the maxim that sex sells.  With monthly issues available as in-app purchases, priced at $1.99 (or yearly for $19.99) it makes more sense that the pay-wall model championed by several News corp. titles.


About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Jaffa Cakes launched into digital world

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould


United Biscuits has launched its biggest ever digital campaign in order to promote popular juicy biscuit brand, Jaffa Cakes. The brand has been launched into the social media world in a campaign to increase its online presence.

Media agency, MEC interaction has assisted United Biscuits in launching the integrated social media campaign.

The social media drive consists of two main microsites , ‘Cult of Jaffa’ and ‘The Jaffa Cake Broadcasting Corporation’ (JCBC) – both pages created and managed by MEC.

Cult of Jaffa is an ‘underground’ organisation that has been safeguarding Jaffa Cakes for over 500 years from the likes of the House of Garabaldi. It allows Jaffa Cake fans to become council members, inviting Facebook visitors to become a ‘Grand master, a ‘Jambassador’ or a ‘Keeper of the Scrolls’ .

Fans are encouraged to upload detail of why they should be recruited for the selected role. This acts a community platform and cult members are selected to promote the brand on and offline.

The campaign will roll out two phases over nine months, building a cult of ambassadors and then following the chosen team into their induction.

Sister site – JCBC is a spoof news site that lists news from Cult of Jaffa – today’s breaking news ‘Biscuit Boss in Mega Injunction’. The headlines play on the current news agenda.

Both sites are also supported by Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr in the hope of increasing Jaffa Cakes’ online presence .

Their online strategy presents an interesting use of social media from both microsites and they host a creative platform in which fans of the brand can interact and engage.  It is a fun strategy with lots of tools for visitors to involve themselves in the activity.

Cult of Jaffa requires you to upload a video or photo of yourself being a bit Jaffa crazy and may require too much effort for people to apply. But who knows? Just because I dropped out at the  ‘upload video of self’ stage, it doesn’t mean that the population’s Jaffa crazy people will.  We will see…..


When The Tills Stop Ringing

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

Championed by media, starlets and fashion aficionados across the globe, the great British High Street has long been celebrated as one of the best in the world.

But following a turbulent week, which saw Habitat’s UK business and Jane Norman fall into administration, and furniture group Homeform and discount department store TJ Hughes expected to follow, what is the future for UK retailers?

The government has openly admitted it doesn’t have the answer and has appointed TV retail guru Mary Portas to carry out a review aimed at “halting the decline of the High Street” in England.

The review, which will explore the problem that is the rise in empty shops and look at how to prevent the growth of ‘clone towns’ dominated by chainstores, is well underway and will see Ms Portas, the ‘Queen of Shops’, present her findings in the Autumn.

But are chainstores really to blame for the fall of the High Street?  I would argue not, or certainly not entirely.  Whilst independents have undoubtedly suffered at the hands of the big players and I feel strongly should have a place in town centres, some of the UK’s biggest institutions are themselves now feeling the strain, highlighting the extent of the problems faced by all British retailers.

The rise in e-commerce is most certainly one of them, with the country enjoying the biggest e-commerce market in the world when measured by the amount spent per capita.*  High rental costs and limited and quite frankly extortionate town centre parking fees are another.  Combine these factors with a drop in consumer spending and an increase in demand for fast, disposable and cheap goods and it’s not difficult to see the root of the problem.

What is difficult however is to know how to tackle it.

No stranger to the battle for High Street survival, independent retailers yesterday joined forces and celebrated Independents’ Day, a Skillsmart Retail and National Skills Academy for Retail initiative, which encouraged consumers to buy at least one item from a local independent retailer.

Chainstores are now joining the fight, backed by The British Retail Consortium, which has urged the Government’s review take into consideration the interests of all retailers, whatever their size.

With consumer spending expected to rise by only 2% a year up to 2020 and UK High Street spending not anticipated to return to pre-recession levels until 2013** one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a long and slow battle.

I’m looking forward to hearing the results of the review.


* Figures as reported by The Boston Consulting Group in a report for Google, October 2010

** Figures as documented in the Ernst & Young Item Club report, May 2011


Strong editorial content: you’re hired?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 by Jenny Mason


Last night’s episode of The Apprentice saw contestants challenged to create and publish their own free magazines.

Selling advertising space was the key to success and the teams had to identify a clear niche in the market to attract the interest of media buyers and their clients.

What the task really highlighted, however, is the importance of strong editorial content in the “freemium” model.

Creating an editorial feel that appeals to the target market is the key to attracting the high readership figures that advertisers demand and the look of the magazine must complement the advertisers’ brand identities.

Both teams succeeded in identifying a clear target demographic. But in creating the content for Covered – a low-brow lads’ mag reminiscent of the 90s – and Hip Replacement – a publication that failed to capture the spirit of the young-at-heart over-60s – the teams misunderstood their audiences. They stuck to stereotypes too rigidly and failed to listen to feedback.

The aspiring entrepreneurs should have looked to titles such as Shortlist Media’s Stylist for inspiration. Entering the increasingly competitive free magazine market in 2009, Stylist has an editorial look and content that both advertisers want to be associated with and its target demographic wants to read.

Since its launch, Stylist has consistently attracted scores of high-end fashion and beauty advertisers. With names such as Hugo Boss, Guerlain and Yves Saint Laurent all buying space, this is the stuff of Sir Alan Sugar’s dreams.

The magazine has recently announced plans to expand its online presence, which the launch of a daily email update – Emerald Street. It will be interesting to see how Shortlist Media extends the “freemium” model to work online.

About Jenny Mason

Jenny joined Staniforth in August 2007 and is now an Account Manager in the B2B team.