Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dateless Jesinta Campbell - A sign we really are feeling miserable!

There were two unrelated articles in Melbourne's Herald-Sun this morning that underscored the veracity of the other. Australia's Miss Congeniality winner in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant, Jesinta Campbell, can't get a date with a footballer or similar to go to the world's most boring televised ritual, the AFL's Brownlow Medal.

The other article was commentary from one of the nation's leading social demographers and researchers, Bernard Salt, on a recent Australian Government survey that found we're all quite anxious and dissatisfied, despite being wealthier than we've ever been.

When a hot-looking Jesinta can't get a date, there are possibly only two conclusions:
  • Our aspirations and taste for quality 'brands' are excessively high. What's a woman supposed to look like to get a date, if Jesinta isn't good enough? From what I've seen, she can even hold a decent conversation!
  • We've completely lost our self-confidence and our sense of adventure, even our sexuality, has been suppressed by an overwhelming fear of rejection!
As Bernard pointed out, there has been an amazing confluence of factors that have contributed to record wealth - a level undreamed of by the children of the Depression and WWII eras. But instead of celebrating our good fortune, we are anxious about house affordability, growing urban violence and the state of the environment. Paradoxically, all these anxieties are, in some measure, a by-product of our increased wealth.

So what is the solution? Well, if you're still feeling positive about the state of the nation and your sense of self, there's still time. Don a footy guernsey, grab a Sherrin and impress Jesinta. I know sitting through the Brownlow is a real downer, but would you notice?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Off to the land of affordable cachet

Off to Thailand in a couple of days. A beautiful country without doubt and one in which you can purchase the best of European design at a fraction of the cost. I am certain to see more 'Rolex', 'Omega', 'Louis Vuitton' and other leading brands per metre than almost anywhere else I can think of.

I was with a bunch of people the other week discussing the subject of brand piracy or, more specifically, fake watches. The general consensus was why buy the real thing when you can enjoy the same cachet for a few bucks? And, functionally, the fake products do pretty much the same.

Prestige brands are battling copyright and intellectual property piracy across the world and it's a while since I took a look at the losing battle they're fighting in countries like Thailand. I will return with a summary and, perhaps, a suite of deluxe accessories, in about a fortnight. At least the cheap stuff keeps us under the $400 customs limit!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I suspect the Hemline Index is flawed, but has merit

Saw an off-the-wall article in one of the newspapers today (sorry I looked for it, but couldn't find it, so cannot credit the publication) about using women's hemlines as a guide to the health of the economy. Some bod has taken the trouble to search through back copies of fashion magazines dating back to the pre-1930s Depression years to test the theory that, as the economy declines, so hemlines get longer.

This outstanding test of perserverence and hemline gazing revealed that if you invest on the basis of  the Hemline Index as a measure of economic trends, then you're probably going to be buying or selling at the opposite ends of the cycle to what you should be or, more likely, about half way through the next cycle.

You see, the researcher discovered that adjustments to hemlines actually lagged the economy by three to four years - the lead time in fashion being about that time. So a financially stretched version of Armani would sew the seeds of repression in time for a garment to blossom about half way through the next economic upswing.

Of course, I believe this research is fatally flawed because, like any other manufacturing endeavour, the lead time to market for fashion has been compressed since the Depression years, so the lag may only be about six months. But that is my instinct talking, rather than capacity to provide you with any tangible data on this.

In any event, the Hemline Index is just one of many indices with flaws. But as a purveyor of all things economic, I have to say studying the Hemline Index just after the economy has boomed sure beats the hell out of looking at the VIX or the Baltic Dry Shipping Index!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brand values get JG over the line

So Julia got over the line and avoided the potential of becoming the first Australian female prime minister never to have won an election. I have to say that, during the post-election process, there appears to have been  more of the 'real' Julia than during the campaign itself. Why do I say this?

Because, according to the two independents who finally got her there, it was the core Labor (and Julia!) strengths of health, education and, more recently, national broadband access that won the day. If these are truly the things on which the independents made their decisions, then it underscores that being true to brand, in this instance at least, reaped its rewards.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lego platforms for your corporate communications

Hey, what kid didn't play with Lego blocks? Lego made anything possible - at least it does these days. I remember getting a Lego set that included a set of wheels and I thought it was fantastic. Now, there are all kinds of bits - people, animals, bendy bits and so on that make even more possible. I'm so jealous I want to talk to a rebirthing consultant (remember that crazy '80s fad?), so that I can start with Lego all over again.

Communications platforms are like Lego these days. They're so bloody good that you can mix and match print, audiovisual, interactive and a host of other channels at minimal cost. Okay, I can hear you saying: "That's typical of the boomer generation - anything below a millions bucks is 'minimal cost'".

Well, surprise, surprise! You're absolutely wrong. As the former owner of a small business, there'd be no marketing communications bloke more conscious of making a dollar stretch to deliver the best possible outcomes. When I say minimal cost, I'm down in the tens of thousands for content-rich, single-touch editing platforms that ensure technology-enabled brand consistency, compliance and reduced cost.

In the financial services sphere, communications platforms are not optional. They're mandatory. In a regulated environment, there is a substantial chunk of communications activity that is compliance and process driven. There's nothing fancy about it. Even within more creative campaigns, there is a hard core of disclaimers and other information that is non-negotiable. My point is: Who wants to spend time and money on process, when a sound technology platform can empower you to allocate your 'life-support' level budget to the real tasks of building customer relationships and new business?

This was the point I made to my mate, Nige, who runs a boutique agency called Coolwise Creative in Melbourne, as I convinced him over a series of very pleasant lunches to invest over 100 big ones on building a platform that, at face value, would reduce his billings to me.

The point I made was that building this platform would not reduce my spend, but improve my spend. And over the past three years, that's proved to be the point. Less spend on process and more on creative.

Most recently though, I have been evaluating delivery platforms to enable an ever-growing emphasis on audiovisual, interactive communications and, to my pleasant surprise, I've found quite a few on offer. Even big international operations like Thomson Reuters offer solutions at price points within reach of moderately sized enterprises. I can deliver a series of engaging communications online that cost less than producing and distributing a single newsletter to customers.

I remember getting quoted quarter of a million dollars for production of a corporate video in the '80s(ROFL!). For that, I can now deliver something like 25 webcasts, or 40 online TV interviews, or a plethora of targeted email communications. Okay, the '80s quote was over the top (I've never forgotten it), but drop the quote by 75% and the equation's still pretty attractive.

What's more, I can track the success of each communication. Total accountability. What Board, CEO or CFO would not love it? Of course, I know from my own research, that there's a significant proportion of people who prefer traditional snail mail communications. But there are new generations of consumers who probably don't even open their mail. These are the consumers of the future.

New platforms for digital production and delivery put smart communications strategies within easy reach. If you're not reaching out and grabbing them, you're just not in the game. So ignore the luddites that surround you and make your move. This space is the future, just make sure you evaluate and invest in a great launching pad before you build the spaceship.