Appear Here: blogging on the global retail industry

I’ve started copywriting for Appear Here, a company that ‘brings together a community of brands, entrepreneurs and creatives to space in the world’s best cities, ‘ which is right up my street.

They’ve given me some really interesting assignments to get stuck into: the retail cities to watch in 2018 and the story behind North Brooklyn Farms.

Go have a read. There’s more to come.

 

Two pieces on The Spaces: Modernism Week in Palm Springs

The Spaces have the most phenomenal photography and I’ve been a fan of the online magazine for a long time. This week I was published with not one but two pieces sitting on the homepage after interviewing leading architects in Palm Springs. Incidentally, Greater Palm Springs is my old PR client. Funny how things turn out.

 

Blog for Live & Breathe: The Importance of Live Events

Blog for Live & Breathe: The Art of Smart

After a rough start, consumers slowly are coming around to the idea of smart. Tech companies are battling to become the sole leader of the industry, but when will smart tech become mainstream? The general consensus is that people are still suspicious. In the mind of the consumer: does smart mean sacrificing security for efficiency?

A quarter of Brits now live in smart homes, according to The Memo, despite the fact that 55% “don’t fully understand it.” Perhaps this is down to too many companies fighting for attention in the smart world and information just isn’t being communicated clearly enough. The main worry is that devices will know when homes are empty, which makes the consumer feel incredibly vulnerable. How much should they leave in the hands of machines?

Understandably, consumers are approaching smart home devices with a certain amount of trepidation as they’re nervous about their privacy and security. Resistance to the technology really stems from fears of being listened to and watched, like a Big Brother style horror story. According to a survey by Deloitte, “40% are concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives.”

In order to ease these worries, and ultimately make the whole smart experience feel more human, Maplin have created the UK’s first smart home consultation service, and it’s free. A cheery home expert pops in, talks to the customer about their reasons for wanting to go smart, then sells products and installs at an extra fee. This is useful for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the smart offerings out there, as Maplin can explain which device is compatible with which system. Their most popular product is a plug that automatically switches off when it’s not being used (a classic oversight that we’re all guilty of).

From locks to light switches, thermostats, blenders, toothbrushes and alarms, the initial lump sum required to set up a home as 100% smart is daunting. Brands must hammer home the message that, in the long run, this investment will make lives easier, free up time and save consumers money on bills. However, the tech isn’t quite perfect yet and there have been a few mishaps leaving consumers furious and disillusioned. This summer, Lockstate locked people out of their homes due to a software fault. Not great when smart companies are desperately trying to build trust among homeowners…

Amazon’s friendly AI voice assistant, Alexa, has proved extremely popular. This may be because in the context of the home, voice command does seem a more pleasurable, relaxed and even sociable experience compared to tapping away on a device. Robots in the home still seem a long way off (unless you’re counting humble Henry the Hoover) but there are some exciting developments coming our way. Kuri ‘the robot butler’ is a voice-command-activated security camera and LG’s Hub bot can preheat an oven, turn on a vacuum, and control a lawnmower.

So what’s next on the agenda? Apparently laundry tech – Whirlpool is adding Alexa capability to their washers and Foldimate folds piles of clothes for busy consumers. People want to spend time with their loved ones rather faffing around with washing, so this seems like a natural step. Are we looking at a future where smart homes are as common as smart phones? There are still problems to be solved and smart technology is far from being welcomed into every home. We think too many companies want in on the action and the smart tech story has become muddled – we need one streamlined offer from one solid leader. The race is on.

Copywriting for Casio

This month I took on a huge project to rewrite Casio’s Edifice website. Translated from Japanese, their web copy needed a lot of work and a shot of personality.

I developed their tone of voice guidelines and worked with the producer to follow the content strategy and write it all from scratch. Everything from the ‘about’ pages to product descriptions had to tie back to the connection with Formula 1. This meant I learnt a lot about the mechanics of watches (Tachometers anyone?) and race cars. Not my forte, but now I have so much brain fodder for pub quizzes!

We ended up with 39 pages and the client came back with three comments total. Needless to say I was pretty chuffed. The new website is launching in the spring.

 

[Image: copyright Efifice/Casio]

 

Don’t deny the need for normcore

Mainstream is cool: you heard it here first. Gone are the days of revelling in choice; people are bamboozled. Consumers are beginning to mistrust fad following brands and running back to old faithfuls. There’s comfort in our favourites and in this tumultuous time, people want to settle down and cosy up with what they can rely on.

The best example of this is craft beer. Independent micro-breweries were all the rage a few years ago and consumers would avoid your Carlsbergs, Foster’s and Becks and like the plague. It’s the same as “I knew them before they were big” claims with indie bands; as soon as they’re famous, fans move on. At one point, big beer brands even tried distressed labels to seem more “authentic.” But as craft beer has boomed, it’s no longer hip to namedrop the obscure. Fast forward a few years and consumers have circled right back by coveting friendly brands they’ve known their whole lives – we call this “poptimism.” We’re now experiencing a serious backlash to craft beer in the media, but isn’t the whole definition of being cool being different? So shouldn’t contrary consumers be doing the opposite of what the media is preaching? The whole thing makes your head spin.

The same is happening with coffee. Those iced almond-macadamia milk lattes are just too much to fathom when you just need a good old-fashioned caffeine kick. When you’re trudging into the office on a Monday morning, the warm lights of chain coffee shops represent a home from home. They draw you in during sensitive moments like a moth to a flame. It’s times like these when consumers opt for cheap buckets of filter coffee over a brag-worthy flat white (even the Instagram likes aren’t worth it). Campaign explains that the media has nicknamed this movement “normcore.”

Just look at “clean eating,” which has shaken up the food industry over the past few years. Causing endless opinion pieces on spiralizers, now consumers are retreating back to cake and abandoning complicated courgette recipes. The rainbow plates of exotic fruit and vegetables may look better on Instagram than a greasy burger, but who can be bothered with that? Cutting out entire food groups is not only time-consuming but the effort is pretty damn stressful. VICE’s Munchies is leading ‘food porn’ media by quashing health food fads one dripping cheese toastie photo at a time. As soon as people, along with hoards of trained nutritionists, started to question the credibility of fancy food aficionados, the trend was dissected and is, thankfully, slowing dissolving. The biggest issue? The complicated recipes isolate a huge chunk of the population who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods for bone broth, sumac, chia seeds and the like. On top of that, most of those behind the clean eating surge are white, attractive, thin women (more on that in our blog on diversity). But we digress, all this aside there is proof that consumers are going back to basics – just look at soaring supermarkets.

Time and time again, consumers get sucked in with fancy logos and ridiculous names, allured by something new, only to be disappointed in the product. In other words; the novelty and fleeting excitement does not justify the risk of losing out on what they really want deep down. What’s the lesson for brands? Think it through before jumping on the bandwagon as you could end up wasting piles of cash and crawling right back to where you started. You also risk losing loyal customers who always loved your original product in the first place. Don’t follow the trends for the sake of it, choice wisely and be 100% sure your market will understand and respond well to your new tricks. But trust us; there is really, really, wrong with sticking to what you know.