The high street as we know it is dying, but it’s not a bad thing, nor is it a good thing; it’s just evolution. Once popular town centres are seeing a fall in retailers that have occupied the same space for a generation or more, to be replaced with empty units and pound shops. Despite popular opinion, I don’t think we should attempt to save the high street. The brands that still have a high street presence should adapt. If they can’t adapt to stay in traditional retail, they need to reassess the very foundations of their business. If the high street can be saved, let it save itself. If it can’t, let it die a quick and painless death.
Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk maintains that the high street can be saved, through measures he outlined to 27 “Portas Pilots” in Loughborough. The first is improving parking in town centres; a challenge considering the very limited nature of on-street parking and the commercial interests of private parking operators. The second main solution is to make it easier for pop-up shops to operate.
Pop-up shops are short-term activities, much like the mind-set of Mark Prisk.
One pop-up shop on a friendly road nestled amongst more established, trendy retailers, cafes and bars may work, but a street full of pop-up shops in a neglected town centre with same-same merchandise equates to a lot of travelling retailers struggling to make a living week to week.
Further measures introduced by Prisk include a £1 million Future High Street X-Fund; a scheme where locations apply for a slice (or all) of the one million pounds to help, in the words of Mark Prisk: “high streets getting facelifts to bring business flooding in”. There is also a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts to help town centres access more loans.
What I can’t believe is neither Mark Prisk nor the Mary Portas Report mention how to integrate, or capitalise on digital. If the internet is one the main cause of the decline, why isn’t there advice or funding for better digital integration?
The most cited cause for the high street’s demise is the uptake in online shopping, followed by the growing popularity of large out-of-town shopping centres. Both of these causes highlight two major deficiencies in town centre shopping. The internet gives much more choice, and makes it easier to find the lowest price, where as shopping at a shopping centre is on overall better experience. From easier parking, personal safety and to being out of the elements to many popular brands all in close proximity, shopping centres have a lot going for them. The rent is not cheap in these places, but that serves to keep away the lame and fragile businesses that are too afraid to invest.
The most valued metric in business is the pound. It measures our needs, our desires and even our confidence. Right now, the pound is saying that people don’t want to shop on the high street.
If we look at other English speaking countries like The United States, Canada and Australia, the shopping centre has ruled for decades. Because most of their towns weren’t built on Tudor or Georgian foundations, they had less to lose in the sense of a village atmosphere, so the change wasn’t been so bold and scary.
At this point, it should be noted that some small retail bsunesses are thriving by providing exemplery service. One that comes to mind is Rodgers Butchers on Byres Road in Glasgow's West End. Their retail unit is modern, clean and bright, and the butchers know the provenance of every single line they sell. Even without the recent packaged-meat contreversy they were doing a roaring trade and have built up a name amongst consumers, restaurant and hotels for being the butcher of choice when quality can't be comprimised.
While it is sad to see a part of history cease to exist in its current form, not many of us think it’s so sad that we’ll change our buying habits.
So if we aren’t going to change our habits, what is throwing public money at the problem going to do?
At this point, it should be noted that some small retail businesses are thriving by providing exemplary service. One that comes to mind is Rodgers Butchers on Byres Road in Glasgow's West End. Their retail unit is modern, clean and bright, and the butchers know the provenance of every single line they sell. Even without the recent packaged-meat controversy they were doing a roaring trade and have built up a name amongst consumers, restaurant and hotels for being the butcher of choice when quality can't be compromised. Unfortunately very few small business owners have the coinfidence to sell a better quality product at a marginally higher price, and provide better service, and are suffering..
It's pretty well-known that a 30 second spot in the Superbowl is some of the most expensive television ad real-estate to be had. This year a 30 second spot would have set you back between $3.8 million and $4 million. That's a staggering $300,000 up from last-year's minimum buy. The numbers make for ineresting reading, but reading can be a little tedious, so let's watch some ads instead!
Budweiser has a history of using their famous Clydesdales in their Superbowl ads. After last year, I thought there wasn't any other ways of dragging them out for the big game, but I really do like this ad. Without any comedy, it manages to take the viewer through a series of emotions by showing the bond between a farmer and his horse. Budweiser have used this ad inconjuction with a campaign to name the foal in the ad, which is probably more palatable than selling to Findus to become one of their horses.
Wheat Thins Yetti
I would have loved to have been in the pitch for this one. "So there is a guy with night vision goggles on, fixated on his wheat thins. His wife asks him what he's doing... She switches the lights off and BOOM! HE'S WRESTLING A YETTI!". Kudos to the Wheat Thins board for agreeing to shoot this and spend all that money to place it.
Doritos ran multiple 30 second spots during the Superbowl, all quite different, but all with humourous concepts wrapped in good casting and execution. Like the wheat thins ad, this also features a big scary animal.
Doritos Goat For Sale
Another good 30 seconds for doritos. It would appear this creative concept borrows a little from the popular 'screaming animal' videos on Youtube. The sinister door kick at the end really makes it.
Samsung Next Big Thing
There are a few reasons I like this one. Firstly, i'm a huge fan of Paul Rudd, and have been described as an Australian Seth Rogen in the past. Secondly I have met multiple people like the "Pitch Me" guy from Samsung, and the ideas they come up with, although laughable, are probably being pitched at meetings around the globe as we speak. I also like LeBron James saying "Oh i'm in. Maybe I'll do a cameo on a tablet or something" while doing doing a quyick cameo on the tablet. Nice work.
Your Big Idea/Sky Waitress
This is another one that I can relate to. It's not that ppeople stall in getting their ideas online, it's more them asking me to look for domains like truck.com, then car.com, then carandtruck.com, and are amazed that someone had registered the domain before them. I LOVE the line "More everything skywaitress", and Danica Patrick's crazy pilot laugh at the end.
Mercedes Benz "Soul"
Quite a few automotive brands spent millions during the game, and their ads were quite good even without the use of humour. This mercedes ad did really well because it commincated the qualities of the vehicle and showed that the main chartacter was prepared to sell his soul for the car. The twist at the end with the (relatively) low price was great. Well done mercedes.
Hyundai Sonata "Stuck"
The creative wasn't actually that creative with this one. Distilled, it's effectively saying a faster car helps you overtake. The execution however was very well done, making surface to air missles, nuclear waste, an exploding fireworks truck and a fat guy on a bike entertaining.
Oreo "Whisper Fight"
This is another one that I would've like to have been in the pitch for. "A brawl where absolutley everyone is whispering, because, THEY'RE IN A LIBRARY!". Again, the execution turned what could've been a lame ad into a solid superbowl commerical. Add to this their fast-acting twitter reaction to the blackout, and you could say Oreo made the most out of the weekend.
Tide "Miracle Stain"
I'm more impressed with the planning of this one than the actual creative. During for the planning for this ad, they wouldn't have known for sure who the stain 'legend' would be. They must've had a legend for each of the remaining 16 teams, then 8 teams, week after week... I'm not sure if they had tentive agreements with multiple famous players, but to pull it all together with the right teams and have it approved by the FCC for the big game was impressive.
So what is going to be the next huge thing in 2013?
I answered with some sort of non-committal statement about making omelettes because I didn’t think there was anything too exciting on the horizon, and I was hungry for breakfast. I can give a better answer now; it's going to be Vine. And incase you are wondering, I had 3 eggs, bacon, sausages and half a fried tomato for breakfast this morning.
So what is Vine?
The 6 second video sharing app was launched by Twitter 2 days ago. My usual response to anything like this is very much ‘wait and see’, but this time I think you should all (well, those with an IOS phone; Android coming soon) download this app, learn to use it, and figure out how best to use it within your organisation.
Limiting the video to 6 seconds is an absolute stroke of genius. It is effectively a visual and audible version of Twitter, almost a Twitter 2.0. The speed that users will be able to post videos of Lindsay Lohan falling face-first out of a limo, or their friends attempting and failing some sort of ER inducing stunt, has now been shortened to around 7 seconds. That will be the use that most consumers see for the app just now, but for brands there is a whole lot more to think about.
So now it takes 10 seconds for someone to rant about you brand, and beam a video of their interaction around the world. The social media monitoring you now undertake will need to be more vigilant, and also have a pre-authorised plan of attack for turning around negative Vine posts. On the other side of the coin, it could be used by brands to build buzz around product launches, celebrity endorsements, user-generated video competition, or how-to's.
One perceived drawback for brand is that you can’t upload a pre-made video, and you can't edit shot footage either. You can only use your camera (or ipad) phone and the only control is your finger on the screen, which makes it shoot footage. Bad news for the folks that still think that carefully rehearsed sales messages are the best way to use social media, but good news for brands that understand how to foster good feeling by being interesting, topical and social.
How does it work?
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, and as you can see in the above image, there is only 1 control; touch the screen to record video. Remove your finger from the screen to make it stop. This means you can record one 6 second scene, or any amount of short sequences. So anything from stop motion, to a short comment, or a sliced-up how to video are all really easy to make.
Once you're finished recording, the next screen asks how you want to share it. Share on Vine (the image above has Share on Verse instead; possibly the beta name for the app), Share on Twitter and Share on Facebook.
Select the ones you want and click 'done'. That's it.
Share on Twitter? Isn't it part of Twitter?
No, Vine is a standalone social app with its own profiles, although because I signed in with Twitter, rather than singing-up with an email address, it pulled my profile image and description from there.
There is a nifty 'Explore' tab where you can either search for specific videos, or select one of the designated searches for:
#food (taking a shot at instragram maybe?)
After looking at #firstpost I don't feel so bad about my first post, as jittery and harsh as it is....
Dick Smith foods have rolled out what appears to be a clever(and extremely funny) TV advertisment that was never meant to air. In the same way that Godaddy pulls users to it's website via spots featured during the Superbowl to see their 'Too sexy for TV' versions, I think Dick Smith has spent quite a bit of money to to create a viral hit, and get the message of authentic Australian food across.
The ad actually parodies Sam Kekovich's Lamb TV Spot timed for last years Australia Day. To frame the Dick Smith ad, take a look at this;
There wasn't much of a break here at Neo during the festive season, but that’s ok. November and December are usually fairly quiet, but we picked up a few new retained clients who are looking to launch their new brands in the first quarter of this year. It would’ve been an absolute nightmare if our new marketing assistant Saara hadn’t hit the ground running back in November.
We’ve actually been lucky enough to secure quite a few new clients across branding, marketing, design and digital. I guess the most high-profile would be Red Bull, but we don’t play favourites; every client gets a go on the putting green.
I think 2013 is going to be a good year for businesses in Scotland. There seems to be a renewed optimism that has been lacking over the last few years and directors and business owners seem to have a better idea of what they need and how they want to achieve it.
There are a few things that I hope most business people have learned over the last 12 months.
Researching your market, knowing your consumer and striving to be the best actually works.
Research can be pretty inexpensive if you know where to look and who's opinions matter. If you live in or around Glasgow, the Mitchell Library's business resources give you access to reports that would otherwise cost you thousands. Don't copy any of the companies you've researched and are doing good things though; by looking at a brand or an ad, or a website, and saying ‘I want mine to be exactly the same as that’ is admitting that you want to be also-ran, or worse; a copycat.
Just putting a QR code on something won’t increase sales.
At the beginning of 2012 they were on every print ad, flyer, poster, billboard, cat, dog.... It was a case of ‘EVERYONE will see it and scan it’. There were several problems with that, including social awkwardness in places like trains and busses, being in places with no mobile coverage, being too small or being to blurry. There was also the huge mistake of just pointing them to a website homepage, leaving the user to attempt to navigate to the information or offer mentioned on the ad or poster.
Social Media isn’t replacing every other part of the marketing mix any time soon.
Thankfully the huge amount of ‘social media agencies’ has died off a lot over the last 12 months. Most people now recognise that all marketing and promotional activity needs to be seamlessly integrated, and can form a tiny part a current employee’s workload.
So what is going to be the next huge thing in 2013?
Much like 2012, and every year beginning in 20.. there will be quite a few new big ideas that are touted by some as the future or marketing. Smartphones will continue to be grow, but so will tablets and integrated web/TV. Don’t take all of your eggs out of the basket that has served you so well; make an omelette, throw one or two at passing cars, or drink a couple like Rocky, and see what garners the best results.
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