Is branding really a drug?

It is interesting to see Wetherspoons Tim Martin talking about the demise of Jamie’s Italian as the seduction of branding. As chairman of the UK’s number one pub brand, as awarded by the World Branding Awards last year, one would of thought he was a keen advocate, albeit Wetherspoons do seem to take great delight in stating they are not a brand and each individual outlet is an entity in its own right, I feel the YouGov data relating to ‘Spoons kind of undercuts all that, as the great British public do indeed see ‘Spoons as collective brand. One nurtured over time and preserved via strict policing of values and delivery details.


Tim Martin would have people believe branding is some kind of spell that you cast over customers which wears off after a while – but in the real world, it’s far more complicated. The hospitality industry is super difficult and any venue, regardless of how good or how expensive its food is, will likely fail inside two years without major investment in branding and marketing. This is true whether it’s backed by a newly crowned TV chef or a hipster pop-up going permanent. Jamie Oliver’s casual dining brands were as much an experience for customers as they were for staff, mostly to the good and but were born from and reflective of an earlier, predelivery time.


But trends move on and brands have to keep up with their audiences’ changing expectations. It’s a very competitive place, and consumers buy into experience. Nando’s and Wagamama have invested in their brand and the customer experience once in branch, providing digital experiences that can speed up the ordering, remove the risk of customer service slip ups, and allow customers to pay without all that awkward signing for the bill.


This last point is really important and where detractors like Tim Martin miss the very thing they are actually doing, Wetherspoons focuses on the customer experience that is branding. Its way too simplistic to think branding stops at a logo and a colourful menu. Hospitality brands are built from the customer experience outwards. 


Meanwhile, it’s also important to remember that ownership models have also changed, and this will have had an impact on the fate of Jamie’s Italian. His investors brought in venture capitalists to expand, and the model became detached from its origins. Running for new profit targets ended up undermining the very essence of a brand identity that both customers and staff had bought into.


So, it’s bonkers to suggest it’s not about brand. In fact, no matter what Tim Martin now claims, Wetherspoon’s itself is a brand built extremely carefully in a singular vision. And while it may be easy to poke fun at Jamie Oliver, it’s important to remember that he is someone who guided his organisation and invested heavily in training and motivating lots of youngsters who would have been unlikely to enter the industry through normal channels. Along the way, he got vast swaths of the general population to cook their own food. None of these things are bad.


It isn’t only about product or only about brand – it always has to be both. The brands that continue to thrive in this challenging market are the ones delivering both, great food and great experiences. The issue for so many stars of the zeitgeist, not just Jamie’s, is that tastes and fashion clear move at a pace. Your business, the brand, needs to be engineered to adapt and move on. Without the investment to do this the outlets were destined to fail in time, which they duly did. 

Time for a ‘Plain Lion’?

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Have we lost the art of plain speaking? Samsung’s Chief Marketing Officer, YoungHee Lee told the audience at Cannes that to connect with GenZ it was important to harness the power of ‘Storyliving’ over storytelling. Twitter pretty universally responded WTF? I know this was at an advertising festival that has history in the championing of made up words. But as many have pointed out since, in the real world it's laughable. It’s the type of lexicon bingo that has so devalued our industry.

Our job fundamentally is to inform people of the advantage of our client’s brand. We do this in as clearly and emotively engaging manner as possible. The simplicity and clarity of a few words to describe the complex.

It’s not just the stereotyping of generations that so offends in this Tweet, it’s the meaningless re-labelling of observed behaviour. There are good points made in YoungHee Lee’s talk. Brands do need to live the version of life they portrayed in their advertising. People are seeking proof of a brands stated intentions. But for so many, all these good points will be lost by the scrambling of verbs.

Cannes is an international event aiming to foster better work across the world. Its stated mission of fostering understanding and better communications. So, I have an idea. A new award. The Plain Lion. Awarded to the speaker with courage and commitment to deliver their thoughts in the most succinct, clear and easily understood manner. In this age of misunderstandings and alternative facts. Surely now more than ever, we need a Plain-Speaking Lion to celebrate those who can communicate with a universal language of clarity.

The Agency of the Present

I’m annoyed. I’m reading another article speculating about the shape of the Agency of the Future


It was back in 2011 at Cannes that stated “Ad agencies are yesterday”. With it, along with troubles within WPP, it appeared to kick off a tsunami of articles and endless debates on the ‘Agency of the Future’. With the seismic shifts in the agency landscape recently I would have thought we’ve sort of done this now, but the debate continues in some quarters as this week in Cannes, Microsoft are sponsoring yet another ‘Agency of the Future” debate.


You can’t help feeling this has become a bit of a race to the middle, a blanding out of advice from group think. The same quotes and insight; How much the consultancies are spending on buying agencies, success stories of in-housing. Crippling costs of staff and office accommodation in London. I think people get it. The advertising industry has changed. 


But what remains is our core purpose, to sell to distracted audiences. We do this, when at our best, with emotive ideas that stir the soul. Tolerating uncertainty through internal navel gazing, devalues the potential for creativity. This is not a time to leave anything to chance. 


That’s why I really think it’s time to talk about the Agency of the Present. Right here, right now, are waaaaaay too many clients in fear of their jobs, desperate for some kind of result. Famous brands are in creditors meetings almost daily. These people are not seeking another debate, they just need fresh creativity, engaging ideas backed by skills that can predict and measure results, they need all this now.


I offer nothing new other than what was, and should always be, our mission; nurture great talent, tolerate the random, champion amazing work. Go home on time. 

Amazon does an Ad

Amazon is a brand advertiser as well as an advertising platform. Both fuelled by a data factory that is mainly funded by its client brands and end customers. A pretty neat trick you have to admit.

Amazon is data. Amazon advertising is a reflection of data science meets human creativity. The emotive Christmas ad, created by agency ‘Lucky generals’ is cute, maybe not be quite as fun as last year’s version of the same idea. But it works on pulling the heart strings. The rational product ads and offers, created in-house, also work. but not as art, but as Frighteningly efficient, laser targeted messengering.

It has been well documented that advertising is going through fundamental changes and brand owners need to clearly take stock of how they spend marketing budgets. Amazon have just done things on a much bigger scale and much faster than most brands are able.

Amazon are by a number of markers the epitome of the new age of advertising. A heady mix of magic and logic. The magic comes in the form of their brand advertising agency Lucky Generals who have made this year’s Christmas TV spot, featuring singing boxes to the tune of the Jacksons ‘Can you feel it’ The logic? Oh, there is a whole ton of that. First, they have invested heavily in an in-house creative facility called D1 that produces all of their product and tactical advertising. Secondly and way more intriguing is what Amazon are doing with their customer behaviour insights. Amazon is after all a unique beast, a retailer who is also the country’s third largest advertising platform who is also a major advertiser in its own right. Data science is completely at the heart of this. Proven in the first week of December when the brand briefly over took Microsoft and Apple to becomes the world’s most valuable.

Amazon do still need to persuade us about its expanding service. For that they need ads. Their voice assistant Alexa is a very good example. For the last year it’s been the gift of choice, selling upwards of 50+ million devices worldwide. But and it’s a massive but so far, their advertising, especially that of its retail partners from grocery to fashion have failed to convince us to shop using the thing. Earlier this year a leaked report put the numbers of consumers buying via voice assistants at a little over 5%. To improve on this figure Amazon, need to change ingrained behaviours. Especially in the UK where our inherent reserved nature means that rambling down a shopping list, without saying ‘sorry’ about a gazillion is going to be really hard. It’s no wonder that the most any UK based Alexa gets to do is tell the time and pick from Spotify. To change such behaviours takes very bold creative ideas aligned to an equally bold media budget. So far Amazon have held back from such a move hoping its clients will use their own budgets to do that, as Ocado is currently doing

It is very insightful that while Amazon has potentially the most valuable data set of customer intentions of any retailer. They have invested heavily in the magic of longer-term brand building to complement shorter term rational messaging. Not so long-ago Amazon’s advertising was looked after by an American advertising legend Droga5, a well-established, hugely creative agency, who undoubtedly would have continued to produce eye catching ads. But Amazon took a bold step and appointed a relatively new UK agency Lucky Generals known for creative that really gets the emotive nature of culture. The recent IPA effectiveness study into advertising highlighted the importance for brand health of longer term emotive brand building messaging. This to play alongside shorter term tactical messenges of price and features. The temptation for so many brands is to only do the latter, hoping for an upswing before thinking about commissioning the former. Empirical evidence in the IPA report from 900+ case studies in over 70 categories across almost 20 years proves this to be a real folly.

But Amazon are not finished yet. Lessons from Alibaba’s real world experiments in Asia with retailer brands like Huma show that we are only just touching the edge of what seamless customer experiences could be. Amazon has many experiments currently running in real world retail and financial products to test these waters. You get the sense of a brand very much developing its next stage after successfully reformulating for mobile

 There has been recent coverage of the potential of Amazon launching a free to air video streaming service. This could be massive for brands. While Amazon Prime remains ad free. An open access channel could be a gold mine of consumer intentions. Not only would you know who they are, past purchases etc. But once they have been exposed to an add you would be able to correlate future behaviours of brands brought, categories browsed etc. There isn’t another advertising platform that could offer that. But would many people be watching? Well it goes without saying Amazon has access to epic content, it just remains to be seen how far they will go in getting one.

Is AI draining the emotion out of advertising?

AI is fundamentally changing business and those it employs, no more so than in marketing communications. Jaywing is deeply involved. We are not only a developer of AI driven marketing technology but a large employer of the very jobs that this technology is replacing.

 We therefore feel expertly qualified to host a debate about AI.

Has the potential of AI driven guaranteed results opened up the possibility of doing away with the mystic behind creativity? Undoubtedly automation can help brands gain a much quicker, more accurate short term attention. But what are the long-term effects? Does automation in marketing offer a backdoor to more sinister uses of AI? Less scary, but no less important is that research indicates that a more emotional, tangentially random human approach has more profitable outcomes.

 Jaywing’s Head of AI Martin Benson and Director of Strategy Philip Slade go head to head to debate the question of how to achieve better creative marketing for brands. The dependable logic of AI or the capricious nature of creative humans.

 "More human than human" – Tyrell / Blade Runner

 "People asked a computer, 'Is there a God?' And the computer said, 'There is now,' and fused the plug."  Stephen Hawking

Algorithms of joy

'...Credibility (is credible on the subject); Reliability (is dependable, someone who delivers, does what they say they will do); Intimacy (referring to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something); and self-orientation (referring to the person’s focus and whether, in particular, their primary focus is on themselves and what they can get out of it, or on the other person)...' (Only Dead Fish. May 2017)

Comes from this book, highlighted by Mark Raheja really interesting approach worth following all the connected links between this and a connected thought about purpose and brands.

“There are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win, they lose. Bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie.”
— Guy Kawasaki : Enchantment

Review of the latest MAA 'Green jam' event


The April GreenJam panel, led by Philip Slade, the strategy director at Keko London, also featured Kit Altin, the planning director at Leo Burnett London, and Simon Callender, the creative planning director at Initials.

Our aim was to help GreenJammers understand how to spot good planning, with a focus on explaining the differences between observations and insights. Here’s a flavour of the panel’s thoughts and the interaction with the audience.

 1. Don’t get distracted by the data. Philip Slade said: “It’s one of the best times to be in strategy and planning because of all the data and also one of the easiest times to mess things up. Because of all the data.” Kit Altin added: “The whole story can’t be told by big data. Look at the film The Big Short. The answers came from people driving around and looking at ‘For Sale’ signs outside homes. The answer can’t always be found by sitting at your computer.”

 2. Observation can do the job. Philip Slade said: “Observations don’t explain ‘why” and good planning is about keep asking why.” But Kit Altin added: “Insights can be brilliant, they lift you and everybody else in the room but don’t become too obsessed with them. You don’t always need an insight to produce great work. Take what’s often cited as the ‘greatest ad ever made’ – Guinness ‘Surfer’. There’s no insight in it, it’s an observation about a product feature.”

3. Cultural relevance isn’t always possible for brands. Philip Slade: “Most products have zero chance of achieving cultural relevance in their lives. Your Bic Biro just doesn’t need cultural relevance. Though it’s worth remembering that we’re in a vanity and ego-based industry where clients and your boss are on an ego trip and somewhere inbetween your career lives.

  4. “Always ask: ‘what’s the ambition?” Simon Callender spoke about     the limits to some brands’ scope and that they need to ask some tough questions: “What is the ambition and where’s the permission for a brand? Sometimes the ambition can just be too big for the brand.”

 5. All research is flawed. Kit Altin said: “There is no best research methodology yet. They’re all flawed because we’re all flawed as people. But unfortunately, though we’ve got to work with the research, we should all be concerned about how it’s used to judge and plan ideas.”

 6. “Immersive ethnography” isn’t a bad approach, said Simon Callender: “Throw yourself into a situation, if you’re a beer brand get yourself into the micro-breweries and pubs. Walk in people’s shoes to understand them.”

 7. Pick the right brand, and client, for the big insight. Simon  Callender said: “Ask where credibly can we go with the idea? I’m a huge fan of idea over budget and knowing which fight to pick. Ask yourself if a brand is after a long-term strategy or a short-term fix.”

8. Good planning stimulates energy. Philip Slade said: “If you’re sat in a presentation in your agency and you’re bored then it’s shit planning. Good planning is about storytelling and drilling down into a great idea.” Simon Callender added: “You can sense the presence of a bullshit planner if it’s over-intellectualised. Insight should be relevant and simple but create a huge amount of energy in the room.”

9. New techniques don’t always work. Kit Altin said: “Social listening? It can’t tell you what people think, it can’t understand sarcasm for instance. Good planners provide the nuance in terms of human understanding.” Philip Slade said: “You need to be the people who don’t fall in love with machines, you need to understand the numbers and the data but also the foibles of the human mind.”

10. Build good relationships with the creatives. Kit Altin said: “Good planning is in the relationship with the creatives. The mark of a good planner is that they are close to the creative teams.”

And, if you’ve read this far, go further:

11. Read and discover. Here’s Philip Slade’s suggested reading and exploring list for those who want to experience and understand good planning:

 1. ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having - Mapping Social Behavior. By Mark Earls + other authors.

 2. ‘Decoded – The Science Behind Why We Buy’. By Phil Barden.

 3. Sign up to ‘Only Dead Fish’ weekly email newsletter of invaluable insight stuff

 4. Sign up to ‘’ London young planners’ social and sharing group

 5. Sign up to ‘’ . US-based but getting more international planners network of sharing insights

In a galaxy far, far, away

What seems like ages ago was in fact only 2013, but these three chancers thought they could start a new agency, didn't work out as they planned, but start up culture is like that. You live and learn. Never hold back, always forward. Take every chance, however bonkers it appears. Die happy in the knowledge you had a crack at just about everything on offer.

John Diss, Philip Slade, Ben Stobart

Riding the Gold Plated Lift

The election of Donald Trump has given us a timely reminder of the changing attitudes to conspicuous consumption[1].

Constant online access, mobile devices and the pervasiveness of social media had already established a new normal in the reporting and display of wealth. Something that for decades had abided by convention. But such traditions are disappearing as fast as a live stream of Emoji's

The new age of Trump has also appeared to establish a normalisation of unconventionally acquired wealth as proven by the Panama Papers to The Rich Kids of Instagram.

This paper aims to take a quick whizz around the world (in an App booked private jet of course) to look at today’s contrasting views of conspicuous consumption. For instance, in societies with extreme levels of inequalities such as Albania we see displays of visually loud, individualist sign posted symbols of wealth, whereas in similar economies of new growth such as Vietnam, where new wealth is much more evenly distributed the symbols of conspicuous consumption are more socially realised in the form of eating out or taking vacations.

China Daily posted a number of articles this year about the growing popularity of the imported concept of Valentine’s Day in China. In one titled ‘Valentine’s Day means celebration, not conspicuous consumption’ The paper highlighted the influence of American brands encouraging young affluent Chinese to spend more than 2,000 yuan (£232) on each other in 2016. The paper concluded that a festival established solely on business logic was not a problem of the holiday itself but of the people who celebrated it…

As the Guardian recently said it’s all about ‘..the drama of being conspicuous to one another, just without the consumption.’

Noun; Expenditure on or consumption of luxuries on a lavish scale in an attempt to enhance one's prestige.

Status Hunting

It’s almost 120 years since economist Thorstein Veblen wrote about the leisure class and in doing so gave the world the phrase; conspicuous consumption[1]. Constant online access, mobile devices and the pervasiveness of social media have now established a new normal in the display of wealth.

Euromoniter reported[2] conspicuous consumption of luxury goods was giving way to more meaningful luxury experiences. They went on to coin the truly bizarre phrase ‘Phygital’ to describe the merging of digital and real world consumption experiences.

This is part of the extensive trend ‘Deconstructed Luxury’. It’s effects in the travel industry has been profound, not only the rise of digital champions like Airbnb Trips and UberLUX. But in real world luxury resorts where the emphasis is now on experiences rather than the fixtures and fittings. For instance the launch of the new Mexican boutique resort La Zebra Beach Hotel[3]  is all about its pop-up collaboration with Copenhagen’s iconic restaurant NOMA.  The owners well aware of the photogenic nature of the dishes. Clearly today’s symbols of status, as Veblen would have it, do indeed need to be Instagramable to exist.

Nowhere is this more true than in Asia, for instance in Vietnam where a fast growing middle class consider symbols of success to be realised on social media, in the form of images of eating out or taking vacations.

Similarly in China after President Xi Jinping’s corruption crack down. Overt displays of wealth have been replaced with an emphasis on a subtler form of expression, especially travel. Plus Mossack Fonesca the company at the center of the Panama Papers scandal was found to have more offices in China than any other country. Clearly the spoils of the China’s growth have been moving off shore rather than exclusively into the boutiques of Guangzhou.

The residents of Hong Kong have often been sighted as some of the most conspicuous consumers in the world, a recent research paper[4] looked at the spending habits of the large numbers of Hong Kong migrants settling in Canada. The authors set out to see whether these people’s previous unique consumer behaviour would be transplanted to a new home. The report makes clear there is no evidence to suggest conspicuous consumption is related to a person’s ethnicity, rather it is a context of environment.

To prove the point Hong Kong’s recent wave of eager shoppers from mainland China’s second tier cities have vexed the locals[5] Their behaviour conspicuous consumption has driven a new trend amongst the residents[6] for under stated luxury.

China Daily recently ‘Valentine’s Day means celebration, not conspicuous consumption’ The paper highlighted the influence of American brands encouraging young affluent Chinese to spend more than 2,000 yuan (£232) on each other in 2016. The paper concluded that a festival established solely on business logic was not a problem of the holiday itself but of the people who celebrated it…

Last year, Ubers Head of Economic Research Jonathan Hall and a group of academics published a report[7] ‘Inconspicuous Conspicuous Consumption’ in which they argued that people were engaging in subtly conspicuous consumption to simultaneously signal wealth and social capital. The report looks in detail including some epic algorithmic equations to prove that subtly branded status goods will be costlier than their loudly branded equivalents. They placed emphasis on the effect your consumption signals on your online standing.

The important lesson for brands is the context of conspicuous display, its now less about proving wealth more the need to display a lifestyle. Social media, while clearly not covered by Thorstein Veblen 1899 writings, does in fact follow his socio-economic analyses of the leisure classes very well.

[1] Noun; Expenditure on or consumption of luxuries on a lavish scale in an attempt to enhance one's prestige.

[2] Euromoniter International ‘The Luxury Goods Trends Report’ 2017


[4] When conspicuous consumption becomes inconspicuous: the case of the migrant Hong Kong consumers - Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 18 Iss: 6, pp.474 - 487

[5] Residents' Perceptions Toward the “Chinese Tourists' Wave” in Hong Kong: Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research



Authenticity Redux

Has the commercialisation of hipster culture and the proliferation of dubiously labelled ‘artisan’ products had a knock on effect of devaluing the attempts of established brands to use years earnt authentic[1] claims?

Artisan, bespoke, boutique and authentic are much used advertising words right now. What was once an outlier description technique is now considered mainstream. For many legacy brands this is now presenting a marketing problem. How do you promote a brand with decades long earned authentic creds when every brand in your category is using the same lexicon?

We think it’s as much about what you say about what you make as what you say about who you are. In other words, we believe it’s as important to promote your companies purpose as it is to talk about the features of a product.

63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic[2]


9 out of 10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity[3]


73% of people care about the company, not just the product when they’re making purchasing decisions[4]

The good thing for those of us creating advertising messaging is an engaged consumer in 2017 is primed to hear a good story. We are seeing people swing away from what Chris Anderson/Wired Magazine[5] in 2005 called the ‘shorter, faster, smaller’ Information Revolution into what The Reuters Institute[6] amongst others have highlighted this year as the trend for long form content. Seen in the form of podcasts, real world and online in-depth investigations and documentaries in the cinema.

We have recently been working with Nyetimber, sparkling wine producers based in Sussex. It was clear from our very first meetings that the organisation had a very precise way of going about things. It became obvious to us that the reason their wines won so many plaudits was every single aspect of their business was focused on an incredible attention to detail. This wasn’t about following a categories tradition but striving for the very best come what may. Cherie Spriggs the head winemaker has been given the freedom and resources to create extraordinary wines, for instance proof points extended way beyond the product right down to the specification of the door hinges used in the winery. These are great engaging product tales driven by a clear brand purpose.

This is also mirrored in the growing appetite for nonfiction, with data from Nielsen BookScan[7] revealing that adult nonfiction made the biggest gains among the major print categories in the US last year.

A brands authentic story is no longer reserved just for a glossy 5 minute feel good film at the shareholders meeting. Rather consumers are seeking daily reminders, especially contextual to their own lives of how a brand behaves. Interestingly the definition of ‘authentic’ has shifted from ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ responsibility in 2014 to ‘high quality’ and ‘delivering on promises’[8] in 2017.

So now more than ever it’s really important to move beyond generic claims of artisan endevours and exposure the truth of a brands purpose and drive.

We see a number of trends coming together that will enable brands with a true story and great product to be able to create engaging, profitable narratives.

Long form[9]. Well crafted, superbly executed content[10]


Fragmentation[11]. Personalised, contextual, niche targeting[12]


Transparency[13]. The advantage of clarity and delivery of brand promise[14]



[1] adjective ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine’.

[2] Cohn & Wolfe ‘Authentic Brands’ global study 2016


[4] “Engagement with a Purpose – the Power of B Corporations” 2015 BBMG /

[5] ‘Small is the new Big’

[6] Reuters Institute/Nic Newman; Journalism, Media predictions 2017

[7] Adult nonfiction stayed hot in 2016', Publishers Weekly (January 2017)

[8] Cohn & Wolfe ‘Authentic Brands’  2016 analysis by Paul Holmes for The Holmes Report

[9] Canvas8 : From branded magazines to Netflix binge culture, the joy of immersive content. 2017.

[10] 'Why brand storytelling should be the foundation of a growth strategy', Marketing Week (February 2016)

[11] Fragmentation versus convergence. Nielsen Media Trends 2016

[12] Marketing

[13]  Emerging trends. Empathetic Brands 2017

[14] Fuzzy Promises. Definitions of brand promise. Thomas Boysen Anker, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. 2014

Deconstructed Luxury

‘The new done thing, is there is no done thing’
— Sommelier, London 5* Hotel.

The one thing that is certain in the new world of luxury is uncertainty. There has been much comment recently on how the traditions of luxury have been deconstructed leading to the need for a fresh approach to marketing to high net worth individuals (HNWI). We have pretty firm views on this subject. For the last 4 years our agency Keko London has exclusively focused on marketing to, and influencing, the behaviours of wealthy consumers.

Traditional luxury is a decreasing segment, not just because many of the individuals are dying but both in the US and Europe millennial attitudes have changed views from ownership to experiencing the trappings of wealth. We are also seeing economic power shifting to new economies, with new values. We are also seeing the decrease in the extrovert luxury segment. A number of factors are at play here from the effects of the post 1990’s recessional behaviours, maturing of previously emerging economies and the changing nature of displays of wealth, not least social media fueled corruption crack downs. The luxury watch market in china was a particular noted victim of online social shaming.

This has all lead to the rise of what we call ‘Modern Luxury’ a progressive, internationalist segment, a mixture of old and new money, but one that is well aware of the transparency and accountability that social media has made the new normal. These are sophisticated consumers with an unconventional approach to the traditions of luxury. It is this group who embrace the new world of ‘Deconstructed Luxury’

Johnathan Hall, Head of Economic Research at Uber co-authored a report last year looking at

‘Inconspicuous conspicuous consumption’ in which the new wealthy are engaging in conspicuous consumption to simultaneously signal wealth and social capital.

In early 2017 Euromoniter picked up on this theme in their ‘Luxury Trends Report’ saying ‘Conspicuous consumption of luxury goods is giving way to more meaningful luxury experiences. The merging of digital and real world consumption experiences.’

Today’s HNWI shopper seeks goods and experiences that project positive statements about who they are and who they desire to be. Consumer- centricity is more important than ever, as the consumer’s own brand is just as crucial as the brands those consumers buy and wear.

Multi device use for even the simplest of actions mean the idea of a luxury brand just focusing on one channel in the way luxury watches or jewellery used to own press have long gone. But having an integrated social strategy is only really a hygiene factor. The role of social influencers is now a primary factor amongst individuals who prioritise personal time and cultivated protected, close groups of social contacts.

We see this a lot in the hospitality and luxury beverage sector, where the cultivation of brand stories are told within immersive one of a kind experiences. This are as much about the product features as they are about cultivating the relationship with the ideals of a consumers own personal brand. Wealthy shoppers are growing to expect beautiful complexity, hyperreal experiences in retail environments, where personal experience is prized over product demonstration.

The new world of Deconstructed Luxury demands a new creative approach and a flexible attitude to media planning. The social capitol HNWI seek can’t be delivered with a single execution rather it takes an imaginative harnessing of multiple channels across multiple devices with a story that is both personalised and contextually relevant for that individual’s moment in time.

This personal element is no longer simply getting someone’s name right. Two new factors come into play here. One, innovations within print and production technologies mean we can produce truly one of one collateral at reasonable costs. Two, the vast ocean of data we have available and the ability to cross reference online behaviours, mean we can truly be personal, contextual and relevant. Which in our experience is the only way to break into and influence behaviours in this new world of luxury 

Brand activation at boutique festivals

I was recently asked for my thoughts about taking advantage of a last minute commercial space booking at Wilderness 2016

The audience of high net worth individuals. Very much the epitome of the ‘HENRY’ (High Earner Not Rich Yet) What makes this audience at this type of event so interesting is they are in an experimental, release mind-set, looking to try new things and collect as many experiences as possible. Brands that provide the stage for unforgettable memories especially those that people want to share using photos and video will win.

There are a number of things brands can do to help increase their awareness at such events. Key thing is this is not big logos, brand speak and blanket branding. There are other types of festivals for that approach.

Checklist onsite activity (separate note TBC for VIP areas, carpark and transport node activities)

SPARK INTEREST. The audience have come to try new food and see interesting ‘stuff’ most will be onsite for all 3 days. This is about both a planned sequence of events and fuelling the joy of discovery with unexpected ‘happenings’ 

BE USEFUL. Timetables, maps, insider tips of best routes to hidden stages/cafes/better loos, -Wifi and charging points are now pretty much expected. But make sure the wifi can not only collect data but also provide information. I.e. the password = ‘9pm special guest’ or ‘2 4 1 at 3pm’ VIP WC, Cover if it rains, lend out brolleys, blankets, cushions, shade if its sunny, A place to sit, a place to eat food brought at another stall etc. an area to do something fun. – Secret areas, areas that change day to night.

OWN MEMORIES. Provide a distinctive environment that encourages sharing of images.  Physically through creative dressing, lighting effects or theming – all of which specifically designed to look good on Instagram formats. Especially at night! But also digitally by geo-tagging/fencing your physical area. Everyone checking in on social media will then receive a prompt of ‘The Sipsmith special (name) place’ - if the name sounds cool and builds kudos for the audience they will use it. – again especially if this is specific to time of day or event happening.

COLLABORATE. There are bound to be complimentary brands on site, increase your coverage by producing joint activity. Especially if this is a bit secret and part of the discovery. Only regular customers are told or mailed about it before hand – it will spread on social if it sounds intriguing i.e. Buying both brands unlocks the location or entry to a special activity. 

OFFER SOMETHING NEW. All of this audience have wide social circles, most of who are not here at this event. Provide a keepsake or experience that they can take back to their circle to share in conversation to gain social kudos. This could be something as simple as joining a special ‘Wilderness’ sect of the mailing list or worshipful membership or unique flavours served in the festival bar. All the way up to distilling a unique gin on site that can only be pre-ordered at the festival to be delivered later to the person’s home. –Remember the audience are in ‘high spending/treating’ mind-set.

Laurent-Perrier at Wilderness did most of the above, some more successful than others but they did keep physical branding to a minimum and as such did command social media coverage in both stories and images. Much of the traditional media coverage also highlighted their area as the place to be. 

Teenage bedrooms

There is an article in the current Creative Review about David King, a designer, typographer and collector. Sadly died in May of this year. I now realise it was his work that adored my bedroom walls as a teenager. A powerful mix of image and type with a soul and passion for it's subject. His work is very evocative of a very particular time of disquiet in the UK. 

In 2003 Eye did a profile on Davids work here =

'Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition. Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope…In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.'

Maria Popova. Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. 2016