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Creative thinkers, resourceful do-ers and all round good eggs since 1992.

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What Scottish independence means for marketing

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“Over the past 30 years we have charted the relentless decline of the Scottish marketing industry. Hell, it even declined during the boom years.”

Gordon Young, the Scottish editor and co-founder of marketing publication The Drum recently noted his reasons for choosing to vote ‘Yes’ in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. (http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2014/09/02/i-love-you-too-england-i-still-intend-vote-yes-scottish-independence-referendum-0)

“One after another large agency closed - Rex Steward, Riley, The Bridge, Faulds, Ogilvy & Mather, 1576, Barkers, Morgan Associates, Elmwood, Blue Peach, Navy Blue, Newhaven, McIlroy Coates…the list goes on and on.” 

In fact, Scotland is, according to Young, the very first market in the world where McCann-Erickson closed an office. Broadly speaking, the change seems to have started as agencies’ London offices grew and enveloped smaller regional offices. As a result marketing spend became more and more concentrated to the English capital: 

“Clients too have vanished from the scene for one reason or another - Bells, Royal Bank, Bank of Scotland, TSB, Clydesdale, John Lewis, Standard Life, Wm Low, Kwik-Fit, British Midland and John Menzies Retail.” 

Before long many significant, native Scottish agencies and the creatives that make them tick followed the work down to London. Perhaps the most telling insight here is that even the ‘Yes’ campaign could not enlist the expertise of an agency north of the border. Instead the benefits of the Union were articulated and sold by M&C Saatchi in London.

Thus prompting a vicious circle: the less great work and opportunities there are in the region, the more talent moves away - the more people move away the less opportunities there are.

On a similar vein, it is often said that the health of the marketing industries are a pretty good indicator of business prosperity in general.

“The marketing business remains a canary in the coal mine for the economy as a whole. If it coughs and splutters then the business sector itself is in peril.”

On the 18th September 2014, Scotland will vote for or against independence from the United Kingdom. If the mass export of creative talent continues under an era of Scottish independence, the economic effect could be felt quite sorely.

Higher education is free in Scotland. In a white paper published by the ‘Yes’ campaign, ‘Scotland’s Future, your guide to an independent Scotland’ (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0043/00439021.pdf), the proponents state that this policy will be maintained following a successful referendum:

“On independence, Scottish domiciled students will continue to have free access to higher education. This guarantee will save Scottish students up to £9,000 a year compared with the cost of studying in England.”

The problem scenario is clear. The next generation of Creative Scots will continue to be trained for free at highly praised art schools and universities before graduating and taking their talents to fulfill a wealth of opportunities south of the border.

In short, students will be educated at the expense of the Scottish taxpayer before contributing to the English gross domestic product.

A similar narrative has recently been brought to light in the broadcasting industry. Iain Macwhirter, a Scottish columnist who spent 20 years at the BBC (10 of which were in London) recently wrote for the Herald Scotland (http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/bbc-will-be-available-but-will-we-want-to-watch-it.25097114):

“Scotland has had no shortage of broadcasting talent, but it largely gets exported to London, which is why Scottish accents are so prevalent in the media village. Anyone who wants to get on in the BBC has to go to London - as I did - because that is where the jobs are, where the careers and the budgets are.” 

Macwhirter continues to state that even decorated talent that made a name for themselves in the English capital and then return struggle to find a consistent level of working opportunities.

“I was speaking recently to one of my contemporaries, who started in the BBC when I did and became one of the best documentary film makers in Britain, with a string of Baftas and other awards to her name. She tried to come back to Scotland three years ago, and found she simply could not get any commissions from the BBC. So she had to go back to London.”

Scottish broadcasting service

Scotland is at least aware of the media threat. As ‘Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’ continues:

“We will also encourage inward investment in film and television production in Scotland, and use our new overseas network to promote Scotland as a location for film and television production. We plan to continue the existing fiscal incentives for such production, and, within the first term of an independent Scottish parliament, we propose to look at ways to encourage further development in the sector, through incentives, infrastructural investment and support for development, skills and training.”

However, Scotland does have an advantage in the media and film industry. By building a ‘Scottish Broadcasting Service’, an independent Scotland could effectively dictate the allocation of commissioning funds to benefit home-grown companies. The licence fee raises £320 million in Scotland, a significant pot with which to invest.

 The question for me, I suppose, is can such sway be had over the advertising and marketing industry? And can political and economic policy encourage agencies, talent and clients back to Scottish shores?

Knowing Lee, knowing you

Epoch’s talented designer Lee Ellis is making quite a name for himself at the moment. When he’s not in the office, he’s at home with his oil paints, easel and a huge pot of coffee. A self-titled Expressive Figurative Painter, Lee is inspired by the people he sees and human psychology. His paintings verge from the macabre to the beautifully bizarre, all of which are fascinating to the point of transfixing.

His latest exhibition ‘It’s not me, it’s you’ will be taking place at The Upfest Gallery from 12th – 30th September. Go and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

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Have you tried Super Freeze yet? Self-freezing Coke is the latest craze in enjoying an ice cold Coca-Cola. Sound like a fantasy? Here’s how we made it a reality. 

Epoch Favourites

From vegan milk-substitutes to drums in your trousers, here’s a list of a few things that we’re loving this month…                 

Alt-J - Hunger of the Pine

It’s been a long time coming, but finally Alt-J have got a brand new track for us to enjoy in the office! We all went a little crazy for their Mercury prize-winning first album, so the pressure was on for the ‘difficult second’, due to be released September 22nd. 

Featuring a sample of Miley Cyrus, eyebrows were raised… But thankfully, they absolutely pull it off and it sounds (and looks) awesome. 

Oatly

Those sneaky Scandies have done it again! Whilst out and about on a research trip, Account Manager Sophie and Creative Head Cara came across this delightful carton. Hailing from Sweden, Oatly - a vegan milk alternative - is completely free from ‘anything to do with the animal kingdom’, but full to the brim with personality. Delightful package design and wonderfully fun copy totally did its job of grabbing our attention – and even managed to convince us to ditch the dairy (for a while at least).

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Sugru

Now, when Account Director Theron started talking to me about his new favourite thing being some kind of adhesive, at first I struggled to stifle my yawns. But how wrong I was! It might sound as exciting as a toast sandwich, but this stuff is actually pretty cool. Sugru is a new self-setting rubber that ‘moulds like play-dough, bonds to almost anything and turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight’.

Still sounds kind of boring, huh? Well, take a look at a few of the ways they’ve managed to put it to use… trust me, it’s not as dull as it sounds! 

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Crystal Morey

Brought to our attention by Senior Art Director Chris Yeates, these rather intriguing ceramic sculptures from California-based artist Crystal Morey don’t fail to capture attention. A collection of sombre looking human / animal hybrids, their meditative poses are a reflection of our impact on the natural world.

They’ve certainly divided opinion here, and no one could dispute their unusual design – but then what is art if not controversial? Personally, they make me feel sad. Mission accomplished then, I suppose?

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Drumpants

Well… it is what it is. Drums, in your pants (that’s trousers to you and me). Touted as the world’s first ‘industrial quality wearable musical instrument’, the clever guys at Drumpants have created this arguably pointless set of kit for those of us whose rhythm just can’t be contained.

I am genuinely torn on whether to believe this is real or not – too in-depth to be fake, too ridiculous to be true. But, with a plethora of sounds and wide ranging compatibility with other devices and apps, I’m beginning to think there may be some legs in this idea after all…

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UK High Streets: The Comeback Kings?

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The high street in the UK has suffered over the years. It’s been caught between the fickleness of a public who, on the one hand, bemoan the empty shops and lack of choice in their town centre; but with the other hand, have moved a big portion of their spending power online, where they are drawn by the digital channel’s supremacy in convenience, pricing and choice.

Our town centres have suffered to such an extent that the UK government has felt compelled to step in, with the Portas Review back in 2011 and more recently, a package of a billion pounds which came into effect on 1 April to jumpstart the ailing high street.

It’s a tough battle ahead. The high street will have to learn from the mistakes of the 2000s, where it conceded to the burgeoning online retailers in the war on price and breadth of product. There was no way it could ever hope to compete like-for-like with the business models of online-only companies.

So where do I think success lies? Well, for this Goose, I’m betting my golden egg on the retailers focussing on providing the customer what online can’t: the shopper experience.

If the retailer wants to woo the costumer back through its door, it needs to embrace its inner-peacock and bring something special to the table, to make shopping with them engaging and memorable.

And it’s already starting to happen out there. 

Floor-space in supermarkets is being cleared of traditional grocery products to make way for experiential spaces. Tesco has been at the forefront of this shift from the “pile-’em-high” mentality, dabbling with a lot of ideas, with hair salons and premium-feel health & beauty departments. More recently, the UK number one supermarket has been putting its previous purchase of restaurant chain Giraffe to good use, with Giraffe-branded cafés starting to appear instore. It’s even partnering with gym chains to launch fitness clubs instore. Talk about diversifying.

Of course, with all this space being repurposed to convince the public back in through the front door, it begs the question how the marketing of FMCG brands needs to change to succeed in a modern retail environment? Not only is it fighting for presence in a reduced space allocation, but the consumer browsing the shelves is no longer limited to people on the single-minded “weekly shop” mission. It now might include people who’ve popped in for their daily workout session, or a new haircut, or a family lunch at Giraffe. All of which can dilute and skew the effect of that call to action. 

As the dust settles around the new-look supermarket, it’s certain to provide some exciting challenges and opportunities alike.

Moving out of the supermarkets, Argos is another retailer who’s been preening its feathers, and taking a leaf out of Apple’s book, with the launch of its premium store in London’s Old Street. In creating a spacious, high-specification environment to show off flagship products, whilst providing a sleek technology-based alternative to the old laminated catalogues that usually adorn its traditional store format, it looks like Argos is hoping this all adds up to a shopper experience that might compel people to come back instore and see added value in their offering, rather than just purchase the goods online where Argos may struggle to compete against online-only retailers.

In another venture, Argos seem to be hedging their bets by also following shoppers to places where brick-and-mortar still trumps the online experience. In partnership with sister-company Homebase, Argos are putting shop-in-shops into the home and garden retailer’s stores, to benefit from people’s spending sprees when they’re making “big-ticket” purchases like a kitchen or bedroom.

Shop-in-shop is definitely something that is being explored more often by the high street. Superdrug is another household name taking its offering straight to where it’s most relevant. In February, Superdrug launched its first branded pharmacy inside a Devon GP’s surgery, with plans to monitor its success and replicate it across the country. You can’t really get more present to the consumer need than that.

It’s not just Superdrug’s pharmacies that are striking out on their own. Superdrug is going through a bit of a reinvention across its whole portfolio, as it experiments with splitting its “all-under-one-roof” store format to more vertical formats.

Superdrug opened its standalone beauty store this month in Cardiff. It delivers a “candy store” format that just oozes appeal and encourages experimentation with the beauty treatments on offer (and some impulse buys, no doubt).

In the same vein, May saw them open their first health and well-being store in Banbury. Again, the store format focussed around a core offering of medicines and health products, with 800 extra lines available instore. Consultation rooms for services like travel jabs and private conversations with the pharmacist extend the offering as Superdrug tries to steal some of the ground from under Boots in the high street pharmacy sector.

All in all, it’s exciting times for the high street as it starts to find its feet (and its point-of-difference) in a post-recession, online-savvy consumer world. As our own Alex Murrell says in his blog post, it feels like the consumer mood (perhaps fuelled by austerity-fatigue and all the more wise to making savvy purchases) is ready to enjoy some premium shopping experiences, especially if the product pricing doesn’t necessarily go up as a result of it.

All we need now are water-slides as we shop and they won’t be able to keep us away from the high street. Oh, hang on. Already done that.

Understanding the post recession shopper

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Introduction

By the end of 2008, all G7 economies were in recession. The entire UK economic expansion of 2007 (2.6%) was lost in the first quarter of 2009.

It took six consecutive quarters of negative growth before the UK economy finally moved out of recession and another five years for the GDP to exceed its pre-recession peak.

And though our financial fortunes may be on the up, the effect of the downturn has left an indelible mark on a generation of shoppers.

Trust

During the financial crisis few institutions escaped the scrutiny of a country searching for answers. The result was a series of scandals revealing an intricate web of clandestine connections and illicit practices:

  • Bankers’ bonuses
  • MPs’ expenses
  • Corporate tax evasion
  • Media phone hacking
  • Horse meat food standards
  • BBC severance payouts

 

With each scandal, public trust was increasingly damaged. Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer found that while 74% of shoppers would trust an expert, only 39% would trust a company CEO and only 36% would trust a Government official or regulator.

While it’s easy to lose a shopper’s trust, it’s very difficult to rebuild it. As well as building it incrementally through transparency and honesty, research published by Research Now cites consistency across marketing channels as a significant driver of trust. The study finds that a third of people have noticed discrepancies between a brand’s online and offline image. Research Now’s Mike Murray, Head of Project Consultancy, believes that this inconsistency of experience breeds a perception of unreliability.

To attract the new norm of a post-recession shopper, build transparency, consistency and trust into the foundation of your brand.

Quality

It may seem like a contradiction to suggest that cash-strapped shoppers look for quality. However, whilst higher quality increases a shopper’s initial outlay it also reduces the frequency of necessary replacements. Abiding by the age-old adage “you get what you pay for”, shoppers increasingly see low-quality products as frivolous, short-term purchases and are instead investing in durable, reliable pieces. Ipsos OTX have found that,

“Almost half of consumers globally are prepared to switch brands to one they perceive to be of a higher quality, even if the price is higher.”

The trend is even more pronounced amongst food shoppers with an IBM study proclaiming “72% of consumers are more concerned with the quality of the food they are buying than the price”.

This willingness to spend more on everyday products seems to have come at the expense of aspirational markets. At the release of Burberry’s first-half trading results for 2012, Stacey Cartwright, Finance Director at Burberry, said that whilst its wealthiest customers were spending more than ever, aspirational shoppers were staying away from the shops.

In his column for Slate, Jon Nathanson, recognises this sentiment across US markets “as one-time aspirational consumers give up on Gucci (whose parent company’s stock is down 2.1% year-over-year, despite the 7% growth of its purported market).” He goes on to say that “their brands of choice now include the more reasonably priced Michael Kors, Uniqlo, and Topshop.”

To attract the new norm of shopper, focus on product quality and representative prices.

Ethics

The recession brought it home that the economy of the comfortable classes was, in fact, fallible. By levelling the playing field of susceptibility, the recession instilled a renewed and equalised desire for betterment. Shoppers realised that through their own purchase decisions they could effect positive, sustainable change. They sought mindful consumption, not mindless consumption.

In his 2009 TED talk, the Corporate Consultant John Gerzema made a compelling demonstration of how cultural shifts are driving new shopper behaviour.

“If you think about the last three decades, the consumer has moved from [being] savvy about marketing in the ’90s, to gathering all these amazing social and search tools in this decade, but the one thing that has been holding them back is the ability to discriminate. By restricting their demand, consumers can actually align their values with their spending, and drive capitalism and business to not just be about more, but be about better.”

His statement was made all the more poignant by the prolonged applause it received.

Gerzema’s point about “amazing social and search tools” is a significant one as well. Not only are shoppers demanding more responsible brands, but they now have access to a treasure trove of relevant information about each brand’s ethics.

The savviest brands realise that the volume of consumer-generated stories far outnumber the volume of brand-generated stories. People will share content about your brand, warts and all, whether you want them to or not. Brand leaders are looking to sway shopper conversations towards positivity by building morality into their marketing.

Unilever’s Chief Operating Officer, Harish Manwani understands this better than most.

“Companies cannot afford to be just innocent bystanders in what’s happening around in society. They have to begin to play their role in terms of serving the communities which actually sustain them. And we have to move to an ‘and/and’ model which is how do we make money and do good? How do we make sure that we have a great business but we also have a great environment around us? And that model is all about doing well and doing good.”

To attract the new norm of shopper, integrate values, as well as value into your brand.

To conclude

Shoppers make purchase decisions based on a broader range of criteria than ever before. Whilst price is, and always will be, a trigger for many purchases, today’s shoppers have many other influences of equal, or more, importance. The three examples above merely scratch the surface of these newly important drivers.

When establishing a strategic direction for your brand it’s important to understand which passion points are influencing shopper decisions. Each brand, in each category, in each market will have a different combination of triggers acting in unison. By understanding these you can align your brand values to the values of your target market and, in turn, remove the barriers between the shopper and a purchase.

The imminent decline of indirect retail

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The World Wide Web has always progressed at a relentless pace. Four years after Tim Berners-Lee created it in 1989, CERN put it into the public domain. The next update of the technology was available with an open licence, and by 1995 Amazon had opened its broad doors to a public with deep pockets. That’s just 10 years from the conception of the internet to the launch of a global superstore.

Almost 20 years on and Amazon continues to dominate online retail sales. Its command of digital sales is so pronounced in fact, that a recent Wall Street Journal article (if you’re not a WSJ subscriber, read a report of the article here) claimed that Amazon shifts more products than its 12 biggest ecommerce competitors combined.

This may appear to pose a significant threat to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, however an October 2013 report from Mckinsey and Company offers a pragmatic reprise:

“History […] offers incumbent retailers some hope: industry shifts have actually tended to unfold slowly—over decades, in most cases—providing [retailers] time to react. While it is true that powerful forces are at work in retail today, we believe their full impact won’t be felt for years.”

Whilst Amazon’s online rule appears insurmountable, it currently represents a large slice of a small pie. Online sales overall currently account for just 6.2% of total US, and 12% of total UK, retail sales. Whilst ecommerce growth rates are impressive in the US and UK (14.3% and 11.1% compound annual growth rate, respectively), McKinsey’s macro trend is clear: online’s disruption of retail will occur slowly.

This gives brick-and-mortar retailers time to adjust their strategies accordingly. If the first stage in that strategy is to launch an ecommerce presence, the second stage is to integrate that presence into the existing operations setup. Allow shoppers one seamless experience across all channels:

  • If an instore shopper requires a product that’s out of stock, offer them quick delivery from the online store.
  • Allow online shoppers the option to pick up their order from store.
  • Provide instore shoppers access to the same information available to online shoppers.

These are just three examples; the full extent of the potential of integrated services could fill a book. The point is that online and instore should not compete in separate silos, but complement each other within a mutually beneficial coexistence. That way, a single retailer leverages the advantages of both online and instore channels through one frictionless experience. This new era of omnichannel shopping addresses the ‘threat’ of ecommerce by blurring the borders that surround it.

Whilst retailers shouldn’t panic, they do need to act swiftly. According to Motorola Solutions’ Retail Vision Survey back in 2012, more than half of brick-and-mortar retailers believed that integrating ecommerce and instore experiences will be important over the following five years, and we are already two years through that cycle.

The jobs of instore

As the weight of online sales begin to balance those of instore, the role of both will begin to evolve. Delivery-based shopping will increasingly be about fulfilling sales and physical stores will increasingly be about experiences.

To put it another way, the primary job of brick-and-mortar stores will be to sell brands rather than products; to provide experiential engagement rather than sales. You can, in fact, see this transition already happening. In its 2013 Retail Report, John Lewis outlined its plan for 2014:

“In 2014, John Lewis will look to meet these expectations through increasingly tactile and visual demonstrations of products.”

This approach makes sense. As Lee Peterson of WD Partners says, “the key to finding the edge isn’t copying what Amazon does, it’s doing what Amazon can’t.”

Amazon can’t compete with a unique instore experience. They can’t compete with tactility or sensory stimulations. They can’t compete with product trial. They can’t compete with live demonstrations. They can’t compete with great face-to-face customer service.

The challenge for indirect retail

I believe that as this transition occurs, brands will increasingly want to own their own branded instore experience. When selling indirectly through multi-brand resellers, the experience that a company can provide is both restricted and juxtaposed with other brands being sold in the same space. For some, a shop-in-shop solution will suffice, for others we’ll see brands complement indirect retail with investment in their own stores.

Examples of this have become particularly apparent in the technology sector. The indirect retailer estates of Dixons, Currys, PC World and Carphone Warehouse have tried to support their businesses by merging companies and consolidating stores that had resulted in a fragmented estate selling under diluted brands. At the same time, Samsung has launched a direct retail presence, bringing life to their core proposition of innovation, in a highly tailored retail experience.

Apple has applied this idea of direct, experience focused, retail perhaps faster than anyone else. They shunned shelves stacked with security-tagged boxes and computers running demo software in favour of bright, welcoming showrooms of real, useable devices, and staff taught to solve your problems not sell you products. Apple’s stores are a destination that consumers enjoy visiting. They are churches created to cultivate their own congregations, and are built on the premise that getting customers to buy your product is easy once you’ve got them to buy into your brand.

What does this mean for FMCG?

Of course, this period of change will affect different retailers in vastly different ways. What is outlined above is somewhat unique to category-specific stores where shoppers may go to make few, big purchases. Conversely FMCG brands, are sold through retailers who trade in many small purchases, hence the implications for instore will be very different.

FMCG brands tend not to have the breadth of products to go it alone. You are unlikely to ever see, for example, a Colgate or Mr Muscle shop. Instead supermarkets will counter the ascent of ecommerce by turning entire departments into experience-rich destinations. Tesco has already set the wheels in motion here. Claire Peters, Commercial Director of Health & Beauty at Tescocomments:

“…consumers tend to be more engaged in this category and enjoy shopping in an environment which is more experiential to enhance their overall shopping experience.”

Learnings from its trial stores in Dudley, Woolwich and Bishop Stortford have clearly been implemented in its concept store in Watford. Dedicated fixtures with specialist lighting, premium ranges, branded features, experimental stations, specially-trained staff and beauty services deliver a great shopping environment that consumers want to shop.

Where there is scope, FMCG brands may also create engaging, ownable experiences by breaking out of the supermarket through pop-up stores. Both Marmite and Vitamin Water have executed this well already. For brands, the temporary store creates ownable, brand-centric engagement without the restrictions and noise of a supermarket. For consumers it offers a unique, transient experience full of surprise and exclusivity.

Ultimately, retailers and brands have to be aware of the transition their specific category or format is undergoing. The route to growth will be different for each, be it shop-in-shop, direct retail, pop-up shop or an enhanced instore communications strategy. How is shopping behaviour changing? How are shopper missions evolving? By understanding these changes we can start to build a picture of how your brand and its instore strategy fits into the store of the future.

Ditch the cash & go digital

By Harriet Whitehorne 

Why weigh down your wallet when you can go digital? Barclays new wearable payment wristband could be the end of cold harsh cash as we know it…

The device named bPay uses the same contactless payment technology as Barclays debit and credit cards and fits neatly around your wrist. The bPay band isn’t too dissimilar in appearance to those rubber charity bracelets that were all the rage back in 2005, albeit far more useful when you want to grab some food or buy a round at the bar.  

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Barclays first trialled bPay at Wireless Festival in 2012, where it was an instant success with festivalgoers who were tired of squeezing coins and cards into their snug denim cut-offs. We’ve all been there. Also, if you’ve ever found yourself at a festival devoid of all valuable possessions, you’ll be happy to hear that a bPay wristband is far less likely to be lost or stolen than a wallet or purse.

After being implemented at a number of other festivals and events over the last 2 years, including London Pride and the British Summer Time Music Festival, Barclays now aim to hit the mainstream and roll bPay out to the general public in 2015.

At the moment you can only put a maximum of £200 on your bPay account and there’s a £20 limit on each use. However if you’re a big spender, you can set up an auto top-up, which means as soon as you’re reaching your limit, more money will be transferred into your account.

Barclays has big plans for bPay, with ambitions to see it being used to purchase your morning coffee, daily commute, a fancy dinner, cinema tickets… etc, etc. You name it, bPay can buy it.

If bPay proves to be as successful as Barclays want it to be, soon our day-to-day lives could all be made possible with the simple swipe of a wrist. Sign me up!

Forget bright, the future is holographic

by Harriet Whitehorne

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Almost 5 years after his untimely death, Michael Jackson was resurrected last month and returned to the stage looking, dare I say it, fabulous. Singing Slave to the Rhythm, a song from his posthumous Xscape album, at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, it was clear to see that MJ was back.

Throwing his signature moves amidst an army of energetic backing dancers, the late King of Pop held the crowd in rapture, some in tears. At the end of the performance there was a standing ovation from the audience, but I couldn’t help question who were they cheering? Not Jackson surely, he’s dead after all. I can only presume that they were cheering the companies that actually created this bizarre and macabre spectacle, Pulse Evolution and Tricycle Logic, as the amount of skilled work that went into producing Jackson’s holographic performance was truly mind boggling. It’s not without good reason that this captivating technology has been labeled ‘digital formaldehyde’. Holograms have come a long way.

However, despite the uptempo beat of his new track, I was unable to silence a dark nagging thought that this was all just a little bit wrong. Absurdly lifelike, hologram Jackson was doing everything right, not a step out of time or an off-key note. We all remember topless Tupac making his holographic debut at Coachella in 2012, and apparently a similar treatment has been given to Frank Sinatra and Elvis. Who else’s grave will be disturbed, with their immortalized image being dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the limelight?

In my opinion, holograms being used to raise artists from the dead is pretty distasteful, and I’m hoping that this emerging trend will soon be nipped in the bud. However, the endless (more tasteful) possibilities behind the use of holographic technology really excites me…

Holographic advertising spaces
Nike is just one of the companies that has embraced holographic technology for a use that doesn’t give me the heebie-jeebies.

Collaborating with media agencies Mindshare, Kinetic and JCDecaux, Nike showcased its Free Running shoe in a Holocube on the streets of Amsterdam. The Holocube projected a 3D image of the Nike Free bending forward and back to simulate its flexibility, which is the main benefit of that shoe model. 

Nike’s advertisement demonstrates the effectiveness of using holographic technology for showcasing a product’s benefits on a traditionally one-dimensional media platform.

Holograms in the home
If you thought that the iPhone 5s and its fingerprint technology was snazzy, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Next year looks set to welcome the arrival of the first ever Smartphone with built-in holographic projectors.

Ostendo Technologies in California have been working on miniature projectors for almost a decade, and have now developed a device that’s tiny enough to fit into a Smartphone. There’s even speculation that we won’t have to wait until next year….

Last week Amazon released a teaser video for the launch of their mystery new product, believed to be a holographic 3D phone.

But what does this mean for us? Instead of simply face-timing our friends on the phone, in future we could project avatars of them and speak face-to-actual (well almost actual) face.

So let’s put an end to Tupac and MJ reappearances, after all it’s just plain creepy. Instead let’s look towards the future of holograms. I know I’ll be first in line asking for a phone upgrade next year. 

No love lost for Bristol love locks

Bristol has a long and proud history of street art and ‘urban expression’. However, there is a new craze hitting our streets, and not everyone is too happy about it…

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It’s a familiar sight, steeped in history and romance – but the ‘love locks’ that have recently been appearing on Pero’s Bridge in Bristol Harbour are causing such a stir that Mayor George Ferguson has decided to speak up. Despite the heartfelt intentions, Mr. Ferguson has warned of the menace that they may cause due to the bridge needing to be raised on a daily basis.

Additionally, he calls into question the very nature of the gesture itself, ‘Locking love – I find it rather terrifying. I don’t think one should do that.’

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As scathing as that may seem, perhaps he has a point? Of course, the idea of a couple symbolising their everlasting love by inscribing their initials on a padlock picked up from the local newsagent has its romantic merits, but it is a bit final. Not to mention, unoriginal. Discussion is rife in cities already fallen victim to the love lock plague. In January this year, two friends in Paris launched the ‘no love locks’ campaign in an effort to put a stop to what they describe as ‘a freakish glut of indistinguishable metal lumps’.

But whether you see this trend as a rusting eyesore or une symbole de l’amour, shouldn’t Bristol be doing its own thing? A city so proud of its creative expression, birthplace of Banksy (a fellow cynic of the state of modern romance in his latest work) and home to the most ambitious permanent street art project ever to take place in the UK shouldn’t need to take inspiration from young lovers of Paris or Italy.

So… any ideas? Perhaps the council can contribute a wall for us all to display our affections in spray paint? Or in the spirit of another of Bristol’s favourite past times, how about releasing ‘love’ balloons from the top of Cabot Tower? There’s no harm in a city of romantics showing their appreciation for each other, but as Mr. Ferguson put it, ‘Let’s think of a Bristol way of doing it.’

Discover how you can use location-based marketing effectively

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By Alex Murrell

Location-based services have been the next big thing for almost half a decade. In fact, back in 2010, Joshua Brustein of the New York Times penned the following statement.

“Everything is in place for location-based social networking to be the next big thing. Tech companies are building the platforms, venture capitalists are providing the cash and marketers are eager to develop advertising. All that is missing are the people.”

This is a big problem. If you have demand, supply will usually follow. However, in this case we see all the ingredients for supply without any demand.

Enter Weve, the location-based advertising platform from EE, O2 and Vodafone. Weve has a combined subscribership of 20 million automatically opted-in consumers. Weve brings Brustein’s missing people to the party, providing the missing link to complete the location marketing circle.

Using Weve enables brands to send targeted messages directly to a consumer’s phone on entering a certain area. Understandably, brands have been keen to jump on board. After all, what’s more appealing than getting your product in front of a consumer who has just entered a store?

Don’t expect something for nothing

But before you get ahead of yourself, here’s a word of warning, people aren’t necessarily that happy to share their whereabouts. In fact, consumer willingness tends to fall into two broad buckets:

  • Location-based information
  • Location-based social media

In 2012, a Pew Research study found that almost three quarters of smartphone owners accessed real time, location-based information using their phones. These are healthy figures considering it was just 35% in 2011. The same is not true however of location-based social media. As of 2013, only 12% of users checked in or shared their location with friends. Even more damning is that this figure had fallen 6% from 2012.

The distinction between location-based information and location-based social media is a subtle yet important one. Lynn Baus, Creative Director at Responsys explains it nicely:

“Consumers are now more likely to ‘check out’ information that’s related to their current location rather than share or ‘check in’ with their current status.”

When it comes to location, people tend towards a ‘transactional’ frame of mind, only exchanging their location in return for something of real value. 

This is an insight that the geosocial networks have picked up on. After witnessing a lull in growth, Foursquare disassembled their entire app and put it back together again. The redesign demoted the check in to just one in a range of features, including discovery and deals engines to help users find nearby points of interest. The strategy was crystal clear, entice users back to Foursquare by giving valuable information and down weighting their geosocial offering.

Make your message worthy

Brands who are looking to launch a Weve campaign must learn from the shortcomings of social. Without a worthy return in exchange for their location information, consumers will ignore your message. Worse still, they may opt-out from further messages and think less of your brand.

So how do you make your message worthy of disrupting a consumer? We believe there are two aspects upon which brands should concentrate:

  • Relevancy
  • Promotion

It’s tempting to throw the net wide and reach as many people as possible, but the wider the net is thrown the less relevant your message is likely to be. The more relevant your message, the more likely consumers will be to accept it. Tailor your message and tone to a specific demographic and targeted location.

However, just receiving a relevant message may not be enough. It’s still a shout for attention, a disruption as they go about their lives. To be truly persuasive at the point of purchase, brands must pair their messages with a worthwhile promotion; for example, a price promo, competition or product trial. A brand needs to give its consumers a real reason to choose their product over a competitor.

Ask yourself this question “there are thirty thousand products in a supermarket, so why should your product be one of the shopper’s chosen 30?”

Bored of Clinton Cards and disappointed by lacklustre supermarket flowers? Why not get Mum something a little different this year? We’ve scoured the internet and found some wonderfully unique presents that your mum will love, so you don’t have to.

Firstly, if you don’t fancy stepping too far away from your yearly Interflora order, take a look at these green-fingered gifts…

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Twisted Handlebar Vase in Coral - etsy.com

Is your mum a member of the cycling sisterhood? Has she ever mentioned how her journey would be dramatically improved if she had a tiny vase attached to her bike handles? Yes? Then this is the gift for her. 

If cycling isn’t her style, what better surprise than a planter that she can wear around her neck? Now your mum can have a tiny shrub that is a constant reminder of her favourite child. So 2014. 

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Wearable Planter - etsy.com

Fancy buying your mum some sweet treats instead, but Thornton’s has been your go to for the last five years and six might be stretching it? Why not buy her a necklace that smells like her favourite confection instead. How original, I hear you say. Just imagine what she’ll say…

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Scented Rasberry French Macaroon Necklace - tinyhandsonline.com

Although, nothing really says happy Mothering Sunday like a mug with a heart felt message…

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Mother’s Day Mug - notonthehighstreet.com

Or if all else fails, how about something that will just make her life that little bit easier?

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Cleaning Slipper Genie - amazon.co.uk

Feeling inspired? No need to thank us, we’ll let you take the credit. Mum’s the word. 

Brand Rituals: The secret to success or standing on ceremony?

We all have our own little rituals, from our morning routines to how we make a sandwich. It keeps us feeling comfortable, calm and in control. 

Obviously there are more than a few brands out there that are aware of this and, as is the case with good marketing, they have grabbed this insight with both hands and used it to their advantage.

Take Corona as an example. It’s just not the same without the lime in the neck, is it? But how did it end up there in the first place? Some say the ritual was born in Mexico when it was served like this to keep the flies at bay on hot days, whilst others have said it was to kill bacteria. The truth is that it was invented on a whim by a young bartender. But who cares? Corona owns that ritual and we all partake in it, whether we need to or not. Most of us just love that extra zesty taste – but how often do we stick a lime in any other bottleneck? 

If Corona actively nurtured this ritual, then there are some brands that have it thrust upon them by consumers. Consider Jägermeister, synonymous with Jägerbombs and trouble. Though neither Jägermeister nor Red Bull claim direct responsibility for this phenomenon, the fact is that this ritual has transformed Saturday nights out, as well as exploding Jägermeister’s sales. In 2012, the UK enjoyed 4.4 million litres of Jägermeister, the equivalent of almost 180 million shots or 6.3m bottles.  Only five years ago sales were at 700,000 bottles, and in 2003 only 70,000. According to industry analysts CGA, Jägermeister is now the third bestselling spirit in the UK. The sales team at Jägermeister will of course welcome massive growth, but its reliance on consumer control doesn’t guarantee brand growth. Their current marketing plan aims to inject longevity into the brand beyond the ‘bomb’. 

However, some brand rituals aren’t always quite so successful. Over in India, Pepsi have been trying to encourage an entirely new way of holding a can. Although the ambition to claim its own ‘can-clutching identity’ is admirable from the cola market challenger, it’s just not ergonomically viable. Don’t we all prefer a solid grip on our drinks? Whichever cola I choose to drink, it won’t taste better spilt down my face and into my lap. The Pepsi ‘grip’ adds no benefit, real or perceived, it’s just aiming to be different for the sake of it. We think it’s fair to say that a ritual that is pushed onto consumers rather than being naturally adopted is always going to be a harder sell.   

There’s a ton of science behind how rituals can affect perceived enjoyment, but to sum up – it’s pretty much all in your head. Simply knocking on a table and taking a deep breath before tucking into a carrot is proven to increase enjoyment. That’s not to say that a Magners won’t taste better in a glass with ice, or you won’t enjoy an Oreo more if you twist, lick and dunk it in milk – but the reality is, our emotional response is getting a bigger kick out of it than the physical difference each ritual makes. But, whether a brand introduces a ritual to endear us to its product or does it to provide a genuine improvement made by the suggested ritual, does it matter? If it grabs the consumer imagination and sends sales upwards, that’s what counts.

Some rituals we’ll buy into, some we won’t. I will eat my After Eights after 8pm. Nutella does belong on thick, white bread and I’ll only drink Pimm’s when watching Wimbledon. But ask me to ‘shake my Tic Tacs’ and I’ll show you the door.

Welcome to the world of Squatties

Interview by Harriet Whitehorne

Epoch’s extraordinarily talented designer, Matt Hitchcock, has been causing a bit of stir in the creative community recently. Matt’s been featured in a book compiled by the West of England Design Forum, showcasing some of the finest creative talent in the South West for work done outside of your 9-5 job role. Matt’s passion for creative expression lies in Squatties.

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Here’s a Q&A with the man himself to find out more:

So Matt, tell us exactly what is a Squattie?

Hi Harriet, thanks for the kind opener. Squatties are my characterised tributes to real life people and pop-cultural icons. I translate them into a 3D box in my simplistic illustration style. I have an (almost) obsessive rule based framework that only allows the use of increments of 45 degrees. The characters have a compressed appearance, like they’ve been squeezed into a squatting position by a scrap metal crusher. A Squattie ultimately ends up available for download from the website as a free paper toy.

What inspired you to begin making these characters and their environments?

It’s all one massive evolution that started from a modest sketch of an interlocking skull and bearded man. I took it onto the computer to refine, and before I knew it I was making side profiles of lots of horror themed characters for a series of canvases that made up part of an exhibition. I wanted more of a challenge, so extended them to full bodies. Before I knew it I’d moved on to whole scenes, mainly because I wanted to play with the tools that required me to do so. I have two scenes currently, an Apple store and a zombie apocalypse infested street, that’s the one that made it into the book you mentioned. In a way, everything has been born from me just experimenting with things I want to learn, right down to making the website.

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Zombie apocalypse street scene.

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Apple store scene.

Talk us through some of the things that inspire you as a designer?

It’s probably no surprise but I’m a massive geek and proud of it, and that runs through the core of my work. I love visual simplicity and anything made that embraces its limits and shows them off unforgivingly. Pixel art, and low poly 3D modelling are thriving and carry heaps of charm. The look is intrinsically linked to the old computer games I grew up with, that make me feel nostalgic, and that’s kind of what I try and inject into my stuff.

I’ve noticed you’ve only got one female Squattie at the moment… any plans for more lady Squatties in the future?

Cubes and harsh angles aren’t all that feminine. It’s not a form that lends easily to the female figure, well that’s what I told myself. I’ve been guilty at not attempting to prove myself wrong. My girlfriend recently challenged me to the task and I accepted. I think she just wanted to keep me quiet for an evening, but at the end I re-emerged victorious. The identity of this particular character will be disclosed very soon.

My personal favourite is your boxer dog Squattie. Do you have a favourite?

A parent shouldn’t really have a favourite, however I’m pretty fond of my Banksy in monkey disguise, mainly because it was fun putting in a few references in the absence of actually having a visual checklist to go by. Straight-up regular people often don’t work too well anyway, unless they can bring something interesting to the table by means of accessories, facial hair, clothing, any kind of hook. I really should make more animals…

What’s your next step in building the Squattie empire? Or is it all very ‘hush, hush’..

I’m always looking out for interesting opportunities and partnerships and ways of taking the Squatties project to the next level. Animating the scenes is a small technical challenge away. I’d also like to create some kind of game. If I can learn something new from it, the chances are I’m going to try it. I’ll keep returning to the Star Wars theme until I make the entire range of characters on the reverse of the vintage Kenner toy cards (ludicrous self set goal), but that’s currently on hold. All current energy is going towards a range of characters for a digital group exhibition that I’m really excited about, and stoked that I was asked to join. I’d love to spill the beans, but let’s just say if like me, you enjoyed gaming in the 90’s, you’ll hopefully enjoy what’s coming from the exhibition as a whole. It’s going live later this month. I’ll announce it on my Facebook page when it’s up.

Take a look at Matt’s work here and watch out for future Squattie global domination.

'Digital Detox' - Coca-Cola has found a solution to the problem of social-media obsession

Validating what Epoch has been exploring in terms of Alex’s ‘Digital Detox’ article, Coca-Cola have just released their own ‘Social Media Guard’ film, to help cure people of their addiction to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

See Alex’s article below and here’s the link to the Coke vid:

 http://youtu.be/_u3BRY2RF5Ihttp://youtu.be/_u3BRY2RF5I

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