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.

 

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.

New client: Nicky Murray

I’ve been working with an inspiring new client Nicky Murray: yin yoga teacher and mindfulness coach. I’m helping develop Nicky’s brand and rewrote her website to tell her story in a clear, unpretentious way. She offers something quite unique in the wellness world, combining yoga, food and meditation, and it was important to get the whole message across through her website, highlighting her rich and varied skills.

Moving forward, I’ll be helping Nicky with PR and social media consulting for her yoga workshops and events. Watch this space…

Making dollar out of downtime

As schedules become more packed, real leisure time has become sparse and more precious than ever. Ironically, the rise of mobile means consumers may be more efficient in spending money, but the distractions are overwhelming, making downtime more frantic than it should be. How can brands help? By providing a product or service that enriches leisure time rather than diluting it.

How consumers spend their free time and their cash has changed since millennials came into the picture. As the Observer puts it: “It’s not cool to show off your logo or handbag. Now, the way you brag is flaunting your healthy lifestyle, so it’s a selfie at SoulCycle, a 10 dollar green juice or geotagging a hike.” We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: it’s all about experiences.

Because of this, the fitness industry is booming; nowadays working out is considered a treat rather than a chore. The new influx of boutique gyms in big cities are catering to the needs of millennials who prefer a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system rather than committing to a membership. Consumers’ relationship with fitness is changing; they want bespoke classes, the best instructors in the business and the snazziest equipment out there. Each workout session has to be good enough for an Instagram post. According to Courier: “Eating healthy food, taking part in group fitness activity and choosing where to live based on whether young people can walk or cycle to work is now mainstream and seen as a marked shift from previous generations.” Health is a huge priority for millennials and if their precious leisure time is spent working out, it better be worth it.

What do consumers look to when they have a free minute? In the queue, before bed, during the ads – straight to their smartphones. As Campaign put it: “One of today’s great paradoxes is that mobile technology makes life more efficient and productive, yet it generates enough distraction so it seems there is less free time.” Brands need to capitalise on this by making sure their website is slick and mobile ready. Even the tourism industry has turned ‘mobile first’ as more consumers are not only shopping from their smartphone, but they’re booking holidays too. (Yes, this probably means late at night in bed). Every step of the customer journey in booking travel must guarantee connectivity to allow a good dollop of social bragging. According to Campaign: “Facebook reports the second most shared activity as being a ’travelled to’ event.”

As for hospitality, leisure time doesn’t necessarily mean eating out; now supermarket brands have made it acceptable to eat in. M&S does this well with their hugely popular £10 dine-in deal. The way people consume entertainment has changed too; the rise of Netflix means on-demand TV is the chosen format, rather than passively flicking through channels and therefore wasting valuable time.

What’s the best way to make dollar from downtime? Most importantly, make sure your content fits the consumers’ needs and desires. According to Campaign: “Millennials use cell phones for moments of relief, so brands should consider making their messaging short and snackable.” Whilst they’re scoring their social scrolling hit, if you can shave minutes off, they’ll love you for it. It’s also about timing; see how food brands capitalise on pre-lunch hunger pangs with mouthwatering recipes, whilst fitness brands bombard consumers with inspiring workout videos first thing.

In a world where we’re scrambling for more seconds, leisure time is an opportunity for brands to swoop in to act as help, not a hindrance. People are forever looking for ways to live, shop and work more efficiently, and now is a great time for brands to monopolise on the addiction to mobile whilst maintaining integrity through relevant content and a worthwhile product.

Reigning Premium Supreme

Believe it or not, people are willing to pay for premium. But there’s no magic tricks or hypnotism involved to prise cash out of hands – it’s just down to basic marketing techniques. Snazzy logos, brand values and piggybacking are examples of how businesses crawl up the premium ladder, but there are simpler ways.

It may sound obvious, but a high price equals a premium product. The price tag is a quick way for customers to judge the quality without too much research. Before Starbucks swooped into the world of coffee, a cuppa joe would cost a quarter of their going price. How do Starbucks get away with it? Although their coffee is far from revolutionary, the higher price tag makes it appear a cut above the rest. Consumers love the brand, it’s globally recognisable and people are happy to pay more for the Starbucks experience. Each coffee shop’s interior is slick and the fancy Italian terms ‘grande’ and ‘venti’ attract the more culturally aware coffee lover. In the same way, Grey Goose vodka charge 60% more than the household brand Smirnoff for essentially a colourless, tasteless alcohol. Other than the arty logo, what differentiates Grey Goose from the others? Through an almost placebo effect, consumers seem to prefer the taste of a product if they’ve spent more; they feel obliged to enjoy something if they’ve winced whilst paying for it.

Let’s be honest; people do judge books by their covers, and it’s the same with brands. A good logo is key, but through relentless repetition a brand should also be recognised for its colour palette, shape or even its concept. Some examples? Chanel, Veuve Clicquot, Mercedes… We know you’re picturing them right now.

Another strategy is to build the perception of a brand’s superiority to justify the high prices. Through product development and new technology, brands can beat competitors by demonstrating how they can provide something a little better. For cleaning products, this may mean developing a ‘three-in-one’ solution or a product scientifically proven to last longer than cheaper alternatives. Premium also means tapping into your audience and knowing what the word means to them. Nowadays, consumers are willing to pay more for organic produce or a brand that shouts about their eco-friendly credentials, or a business that supports a charity or the local economy. For some customers, aligning values is a unique type of luxury.

Too much choice can be overwhelming, so these days simplicity can also mean luxury. New research revealed 62% of consumers will pay more for a simple experience. Supermarket brand Aldi offers a simple shopping experience without presenting complicated promotions. This means customers don’t have to dilly dally by choosing between seven different types of butter. The idea is that customers can finish their weekly shop in under 30 minutes. Time is a luxury and Aldi understands this – they have empathy for the customer and they want to make life easier.

Brand partnerships are also a fantastic way to reinforce a premium label. When Singapore Airlines commissioned BMW to redesign their cabins they immediately became associated with the staple luxury brand. This way, Singapore Airlines capitalised on their partner’s already solid reputation.

Unlike mass brands, premium brands are more interested in honing in on a specific group through focused marketing. This reinforces the idea that the customer belongs to an elite group and the brand becomes a status symbol. A good example of this Ferrari who rarely take out huge advertising campaigns, but they sponsor the Grand Prix instead, targeting a select few.

All in all, through marketing initiatives, a premium brand should constantly remind the consumer of their original promise when they signed up in the first place, whether that’s ease, quality, prestige or a memorable experience.