Is this the world’s worst positioning statement?

November 19, 2008

Did you know that, despite indications to the contrary, dentistry is a Quality Cruising Yacht, Transporting Discerning Passengers to Far-Reaching Destinations of the Globe to Sample and Experience Life’s Luxuries and Pleasures?

This is why clients get planners to come up with positioning statements for them.


Engines of creativity

November 18, 2008

Jane McGonigal says that computer games aren’t just for escapist entertainment – they’re also engines of creativity.

McGonigal is director of games research and development at the thinktank Institute for the Future(which sounds like one of the more interesting jobs we’ve come across). She argues that games offer the perfect setting for employees and organisations to collaborate in solving problems.

Employees of major corporations such as Procter and Gamble have been encouraged to play one of McGonigal’s creations, a game called Superstruct in which players are asked to imagine the world in 2019. Another multiplayer game challenged players to imagine a world without oil.

It makes sense. After all, all intelligent animals learn through play, and that is true for adult human beings too.

Get creative with your toast

November 14, 2008


There’s no excuse not to get creative with your toast. Not when you can buy a German skull toaster  (a VIP option is available for those who require an ego boost to accompany their bacon and egg) or the must-have best seller that burns an image of Hello Kitty into your bread. Rather that than your brain, one supposes.


This collection of cool toasters is enough to inspire you to rush out to your local supermarket and clear the shelves of Wonder White. We are especially intrigued by the Scan Toaster, which is linked to PC and can imprint your bread with everything from downloaded patterns to the morning’s headlines. The idea was a winner in a competition held by Electrolux; there are no plans to manufacture it as yet, thus sparing purchasers from the trauma of having to cover up the morning news with butter and jam.

There’s even a toaster teapot, although, somewhat disappointingly, it turns out not to be a toaster/kettle combo, but a teapot shaped like a toaster. If, however, you feel that joy is a Marmite teapot, then this English eccentric teapot site  is for you.


Ceiling cat, basement cat and the battle for your soul

November 11, 2008

If you haven’t heard of Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat by now – well, here’s your chance.

Richard Dawkins first defined the meme – a unit of information, analogous to a gene – in 1976. Like genes, memes have the ability to reproduce themselves; successful memes are those that spread and outlast their rival ideas clamouring for the attention of an audience.  In many ways, advertisers and marketers set out to create memes that survive and prosper.  The internet has proven a fertile breeding ground for memes of all descriptions.

Then you get memes within memes. Thus, we have lolcats (photographs of cats given humorous captions) which in turn can be divided into such memes as monorail cat, ceiling cat, basement cat and the entire Invisible series. There are also lolruses – literally, pictures of walruses with funny captions – though it has to be pointed out that the original lolrus was a very popular Japanese elephant seal called Minazo.

His party trick was sticking out his tongue while holding a bucket.

Ceiling Cat started with a random photograph of a tabby poking his head through a hole in the ceiling. Somebody captioned the pic “ceiling cat”, and made the connection to the lolcat equivalent of the Almighty. Ceiling cat of course required an equivalent to the Devil, and thus Basement Cat came to be. It was only a matter of time before some bright spark came up with the Lolcat Bible translation project.

Why do internet memes like this matter? Well, they’re perfect examples of the gigantic virtual petri dish that is the net, in which ideas that might seem utterly preposterous in the ‘real’ world feed off the obscure interests of niche audiences and grow into something that makes real dollars.  In September 2007, the big daddy of lolcat blogs, icanhascheezburger, was sold for $2 million. It is now part of a stable, including blogs devoted to loldogs, celebrities, current events and the Fail meme.

Another very popular site devoted to all things cute, Cute Overload, has released a calendar which quickly shot to the top of the Amazon rankings. The New York Times has reported on the success of Cute Overload and similar sites, which some experts attribute to female office workers seeking some form of escape from the depressing reality of corporate life.

Given that we’ve entered a season of depressing news and the post Obama victory high can only last so long, sites devoted to lolcats and other forms of cute will only grow in popularity. Verily, the cute shall inherit the earth.

By Sarah Britten

Horses. Wigs. Why not?

November 10, 2008

We in Planning like Julian Wolkenstein. Not only does he sound like a hero out of a nineteenth century Gothic bodice-ripper, but he takes pictures of horses wearing wigs. For no real reason. Apparently, it all started – as so many things do – in a  conversation with an art director. Interviewed for this article in The F-Stop, Wolkenstein explains: “We were talking about horses and he said that it would be really funny to do horses with big hair.”

Wolkenstein – who, coincidentally, is originally from Sydney – found the shoot challenging mainly because of the amount of hair that had to be purchased – “buckets and buckets” – because horses, as he discovered, have such big heads. One horse submitted itself to almost five hours of hair styling, but Wolkenstein said it enjoyed the experience.  

Despite several requests, he has refused to allow the work to be used by clients.  “The photos have been in exhibitions,” he explains,  “so I want them to live in that genre rather than in the advertising world.”

As a piece of self-promotion, the series has worked brilliantly, with posters mailed to creatives all around the world, and now it’s getting mileage in blogs like Cute Overload and this one. 

Mr Wolkenstein, we love your work.

And now for a completely different perspective

October 30, 2008



Every now and again it makes sense to step outside your own culture into someone else’s. That’s why I love and the original,  For a totally different view of T-shirts, food and beverages, signage, look at them through (mostly) Asian eyes. These sites are good for you on a number of levels.


  • They’re often extraordinarily funny. And as we all know, laughter is good for your general health and a great stress reliever.
  • They prod you, even temporarily, out of your existing mindset, which is always good for finding creative solutions to problems.
  • They’re a reminder of how what makes perfect sense in one language and culture may have very different results in another.

The Japanese, for example, think poo is cute; they even wear little poo-shaped pendants as jewellery or afix thme to their mobile phones as charms. (For all the extraordinary Japanese cellphone accessories you could want, go here.)  These toys and accessories make no sense in Western culture, but they do make sense in Japan which, incidentally, is ranked as the world’s best market to launch new products.




Should brands cut back on marketing during a recession?

October 27, 2008

Famed investor Warren Buffett understands the value of the brand. As a shareholder in Kraft, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Wrigley’s etc, he sees these entities as ‘low risk’ for himself and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, because they have enormous brand equity. Buffett understands that brand equity is important as it means that his investment can sustain its pricing even when the economy goes into recession. To quote Philip Kotler: ‘Great brands are the only route to sustained, above-average profitability’. So the question  is – if brand equity is a potential buffer to recessional effects, why would the marketing budget be the first place to cut costs? Read the rest of this entry »