A social media lesson from Austria by Mark Izatt

Despite offering a very targeted and efficient way to reach target consumers, by and large, most brands serve up very mediocre campaigns which miss the point or fail completely in the channel choosen.

It was therefore refreshing to see this advertisement from Visit Austria served up in my Instagram stories on Thursday. 



It was effective for a number of reasons; 

(1) ON TARGET - I prefer mountains to beaches, I visit Switzerland all the time but not Austria.  They have correctly identified me as a credible prospect. 

(2) PLAYFUL VISUAL - As my Instagram stories automatically played when this appeared I did think it was an actual call coming in and reached for the phone which was sitting on my desk.  It caught my attention and made me stop.

(3) TIMING - Timing was everything and this appeared at lunchtime when it was likely I might be catching up on stories. 

(4) SIMPLE MESSAGE - A message which is pure to the proposition but nonetheless firm.  It encourages a response from the consumer. 

Everything about the campaign is relevant and I would love to see the metrics behind it because I guess it is proving successful.

It's a good benchmark when considering your next campaign. 


VERTU - a reflection by Mark Izatt

It was in 1998, just as I was beginning a 10 year stint in New York that I first heard of Vertu, a stand-alone company wholly owned by Nokia.   It was a brand proposition that instantly caught the imagination and one which resulted in a mental note "I want to work for them one of these days" !

Fast forward to May 2009 and that wish came true as I embarked on a variety of global marketing and service delivery roles which I can honestly say were the most exciting and rewarding of my career to-date.    Every colleague believed in the extraordinary.  Passion fueled the company.   From factory floor to corner office there was a single-minded focus to deliver a product, a brand and a customer experience which could not be bettered.

This week, as Vertu Corporation, the UK manufacturing arm, is shuttered and declared insolvent it's to every employee who came before me, worked with me and was there until this week that I salute.

It needn't have been this way.

Sadly the demise of Vertu was all too predictable when the company was sold by Nokia in October 2012 to EQT VI, a Swedish private equity company.   You could see the look of "buyer's regret" on their faces before the ink was even dry on the contract and, with very little B to C experience, and none in the luxury sector, they made a number of senior personnel changes which sowed the seeds of decline and ultimate failure.

Vertu as conceived and managed for the first 14 years of existence was never envisaged as a technical product - it was an alchemy of craft, material, service and proven tech.   It created a category and it wrote the rules.  For the Ultra High Net Worth it was a second phone which appealed to their desire to be different - the crude analogy of a £50 Swatch and a £5000 IWC both telling the time but projecting a very different signal works.

However, Vertu was no 'dumb phone', it was backed with award winning concierge services, exclusive offers and, long before it became an everyday item, tailored and geo-specific content.    

In essence a credible, resilient and exclusive piece of handcrafted hardware, backed with relevant services and, most importantly positioned and marketed in a way which made it appealing to a global audience.

It sounds simple but it required drive and focus and careful stewardship but that vanished during 2013.   The leadership became obsessed with a tech race which Vertu was never going to win (nor did it have to - the consumer has, and will always have, multiple mobile devices) against the likes of Apple or Samsung.   I remember an early conversation with one of these new "leaders" who only wanted to focus on what a Vertu couldn't do and not what it could.  

That was my cue to leave.  I always want to work with optimists and realists not pessimists. With leaders not managers.

Before long the marketing strategy pivoted away from a mix that worked to one which extended to a meaning of luxury gleaned from only the most superficial of exchanges with a Louis Vuitton store manager.  

EQT VI finally offloaded Vertu to the Chinese, starved of investment the brand's fate was sealed and in recent weeks we've witnessed the sad spectacle of a tussle between the Chinese and a Paris based investor who now owns the brand name, patents and other parts beyond the now shuttered HQ and manufacturing capability in Hampshire.

The optimist in me still sees a future for Vertu, however I can certainly see a future for every one of those impacted by the closure - they represent the very best.



A lack of influence by Mark Izatt

On Wednesday British Airways attempted to change their recently woeful narrative into something a little more positive.  I'm not entirely sure they succeeded. 

Facing ever increasing pressure from competitors on their business class (Club) proposition, territory they once led, Wednesday was all about a "some jam today, lots of jam tomorrow" laundry list of "enhancements" (BA love this word) from better canapés to new sleeping linens and most of all a new Club Seat in a few years time.

It would be churlish not to acknowledge some of the announcement - lounge upgrades, the new dedicated "Wing" at London Heathrow Terminal 5 offers First and Gold / Emerald a dedicated check in, security and walkway directly into the Concorde Room and First lounges and the roll out of fast broadband (much as I hate the thought of connectivity in the last place of digital sanctuary) but I want to focus on the method of announcement.

The hook upon which everything was hung.

Alex Cruz, BAs CEO who bleeds low cost carrier from ever vein, hosted a blogger dominated flight from London Gatwick, up the spine of the UK and then landing at London Heathrow - a smart way of showcasing new lounges, metal investment (on a new 787 Dreamliner) and all those superficial onboard enhancements.   I admire Alex Cruz for anchoring the event and leading from the front - he needs to do this more often, explaining reducing legroom by jamming more seats into short-haul for example.

So thats the good part. 

But let's go back to these bloggers or, as I like to call them "fanboys", for this group was as far removed from either an objective travel journalist or a fare paying passenger as you could get.  If you want to see how breathy the feedback from this group went a quick twitter search on #BAinvesting4u will tell you all you need to know.

If this group was selected because of their digital influence all they seemed to do was stir up a hornets nest online from BA's regular travellers.

The whole exercise lacked credibility and I think signals a broader issue - that we've reached "peak blogger".   This was a group who just seemed happy with a free flight, a day out and a goody bag.  And I'm not entirely sure BA got anything like the return on investment in terms of coverage or rigour.

Simply put an influencer strategy only works when the influencers are transparent and don't flit from freebie to freebie to freebie.  

What should they have done ?  BA should have filled the plane with real customers, a cross-section of people who actually pay for their tickets.   What BA might have lost in terms of reach (although some of those bloggers seem to have very low followings) they would have more than made up for in authenticity. 

The opinions of real passengers would have resonated much more effectively and packaged up by BA would have created a safe but powerful narrative of the changes. 

It would also have reversed some of the mendacity of language which BA have indulged in.  Tautalogical gymnastics where cuts are dressed as improvements undermining their credibility and reduced brand equity.

Real customers endorsing real improvements - that should be at the heart of #BAinvesting4u















The value of a cup of coffee by Mark Izatt

We all have brands that we want to succeed, like a favourite sports team we take failure personally.  We often turn a blind eye to their failings and then sometimes succumb to a post match rant.

British Airways is one of those brands for me.  It's apposite that the last time I blogged was back in September when the company revealed that in early 2017 they were to end all complimentary beverage and food on their domestic and short-haul international flights.

Thankfully a Club Europe flight in January after the change, or perhaps I should call it the "brand ban", meant I escaped the new "enhanced" (BA's word) option of forking out £2.20 for a cup of coffee.   But sooner or later I woud have to encounter the new austerity on-board service.

And so it was on BA1434, the Heathrow to Edinburgh "shuttle", on Friday.  My choice of flight couldn't have made the contrast more stark.  The early morning domestic shuttles have, for decades, included a hot breakfast for every passenger.

It didn't help that the flight was 40 minutes late - a factor which further underlines the failure of the "Buy On Board" to help deliver a better end-to-end customer experience but let's put that to the side. 

Whereas before an entire 767 was fed and watered from nose to tail in 45 minutes this is what we got;

- embarrassingly awkward explanation of the "enhanced" food option from a cabin crew who should get a medal for following the corporate "line" 

- told to look at a glorified "Marks and Spencer" catalogue (let's not even dwell on why BA partnered with a tired food behemouth rather than use the opportunity to tap into a more dynamic food brand such as LEON) to make our choices.

- apologized to in advance that the new service would not be slick because they were just learning and the technology wasn't perfect

- enjoyed the spectacle of flight attendants running down the aisle with pen and pad when the aircraft had barely taken off from Heathrow soliciting hot bacon roll orders (I didn't see any takers)

- watched a fellow BA Gold Card holder across the aisle receive his cup of tea and then give it back when he was asked for payment (he wasn't paying attention during the extensive new  food briefing)

- hectic and dysfunctional crew movements

Simply put it was a miserable experience.  Turning a key service differentiator into a monitzeable transaction has chipped away at the brand proposition of British Airways so much you could feel the leaden disappointment / embarrassment in the air as we all disembarked.

Yes embarrassment.  Passengers and crew wondering what on earth had become of a once great brand grubbing about for the last passenger £.

The CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz, is clearly a very smart man.  He knows the cost of a free cup of coffee to the airline.  He also knows the price of a cup of coffee bought by a passenger.   

What he doesn't understand is the value of that cup of coffee.  The value to the passenger, the cumulative value to the overall flight experence and the important role that this inflight amenity plays in differentiating British Airways from budget airlines.

Trust me I understand the economics of running an airline.  But this cackhanded race to the bottom could have been averted.

Charge for food and enhance the offering - fine.   Charge for alcohol on domestic - fine.   But still offer free tea, coffee, water and soft drinks.

This would have resulted in a shrug of the shoulders but still deliver a touch point which makes BA a little different against easyJet, Ryanair, Norwegian etc.    

The BA fan in me hopes they reconsider.  Commercially the new policy is failing for BA with onboard sales embarrassingly sparse but someone's loss is someone else's opportunity to win - the airport concessions are already adapting with interesting 'picnic' options.

I, for one will now BRING on board rather than BUY on board.  

There is now one less reason to fly BA.



We apologise your full service airline has been cancelled by Mark Izatt

There can be very few CEOs who sit down and open a meeting with an objective to erode customer value and destroy a great brand.

Yet it is hard to accept that the CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz, is not a sleeper agent for every one of the airline's competitors.   Such is the zeal with which he slashes the British Airways offering, cuts value and reduces a full service global airline to a low cost airline.    He does all of this in the hope that those premium passengers don't notice since they are isolated from the blood letting in other parts of the plane.    But that's a foolish comfort because quite simply British Airways has one of the poorest premium offerings compared with the innovation of other airlines. 

This makes today's decision, from January 2017, to charge for all food and drinks on short haul flights as dangerous as it is upsetting to the loyal customer.  Dangerous because it is another slice off the overall proposition when added to previous "enhancements" such as hand baggage only fares which then prevent you from selecting a seat at the point of booking. 

Alex Crux perhaps contemplating what M&S sandwich he will buy.

Alex Crux perhaps contemplating what M&S sandwich he will buy.

The mistake that Mr Cruz and presumably his very emasculated heads of product and brand have made is to look at the food and drink offering in isolation.  He sees it only as a snack but the customer sees it as a large part of the British Airways inflight differentiation.  It's a key factor, even if sometimes subliminal, in making the decision between BA and a competitor.  You can imagine a household conversation "BA is a bit more expensive but at least we get a drink onboard".     It's a HUGE experience differentiator.   And now it's gone.

I suspect it's not the end.  

All of this would be bad enough were it not for the way it's being communicated.  As an upgrade which positions a very tired brand, Marks and Spencer, as the ultimate in food.


Mr Cruz has given customers another push to try out the competition.  The danger for him is they may never return.  Oh well at least it makes a good case study.




Absolutely Crackers ! by Mark Izatt

Despite a heavy London outdoor advertising spend, up until Saturday I was determined to avoid commenting on the new Carr's cracker campaign.  Then somebody tweeted about it and I knew I was not alone.

It is quite the most unappetizing, shockingly bad food based campaign I have ever seen.

The photo direction and execution is so at odds with the tag line "Top class cracker meet 5 star antipasti" it's hard to believe that this ever saw the light of day.  The only excuse would be if it was shot on an iPhone 3 by a overworked assistant brand manager on a 5 minute deadline. 

If a creative agency, professional photographer, food stylist or senior brand marketer came anywhere near this campaign they should be dismissed.

It has made the product look dry, unpalatable and devoid of any appeal. It makes Carr's, in a very competitive category, look like the sort of product which lurks at the back of the pantry, way past the sell-by-date.

Here's hoping it's a short-lived campaign and that none of us find ourselves faced with that at a future party.



Plenty of trees...no Apples by Mark Izatt

I was excited when I realized that being in San Fransisco for the Financial Times 'Business of Luxury meant I was also going to see the new Apple Store concept a day after it opened.

I needn't have been.

To quote one friend this is "same old, same old" albeit with the twist of bringing the outdoors inside.     It's Scandanavian airport meets hotel lobby - and, my biggest bugbear about the current format, it does nothing to absorb people or noise, remains.  It's still a scrum not conducive to spending a relatively large sum of money.

The sheer scale of this environment belittles the product to the point it's hard to find it.  Tucked into shelves amongst acres of light wood.

The plus points are, without doubt the outdoor terrace, and the massive 'hanger doors' which were wide open to Union Square - but that's not going to be replicable  on many of their sites around the world for both space and climate reasons.  Without this feature I'm not entirely sure what much has changed.

I had hoped for more.   



Leadership by Mark Izatt

The other weekend someone tweeted the "10 things to look for in a Leader" as listed by the brilliant David Ogilvy (NB He's always quoted as the 'Father of Advertising', usually these monikers are hyperbole but not in his case.   Read anything by him and anything about him !) .

It was refreshing to re-read the qualities and agree with them again.   Here they are;

1. High standards of personal ethics.

2. Big people, without pettiness.

3. Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.

4. Brilliant brains - not self plodders.

5. A capacity for work and midnight oil.

6. Charisma - charm and persuasiveness.

7. A streak of unorthodoxy - creative innovators.

8. The courage to make tough decisions.

9. Inspiring enthusiasts - with thrust and gusto.

10. A sense of humor.

I couldn't help but reflect back on my corporate and client career and do a spot of mental scoring.    I've been blessed to work with a lot of leaders in the 7,8,9 and even the  10 category.

I've also had the misfortune to experience a couple under 5 and one who would probably muster 2 at best.

Putting aside Ogilvy's criteria I assess a leader on the basis of  "soft / hard" skills.    Do they have the emotional intelligence to lead and do they have the technical skills to manage. ?

That results in four combinations;

- high emotional intelligence, great technical ability   ++ (an exceptional leader)

- low emotional intelligence, great technical ability  -+ (a great leader with the right team)

- high emotional intelligence, low technical ability +- (a great leader with the right team)

- low emotional intelligence. low technical ability -- (will always fail as a leader)

It's simplistic but I think it's a quick way of assessing a leader.   

Ideally you want both characteristics but you can manage with just one of them in the right environment.   Sheer brilliance or an ability to inspire a team makes up for a lot.

It's always surprising when that fourth (fatal) combination slips through the net and ends up in a leadership role. Usually that low emotional intelligence masks their ability to see that they are just not up to the job - a lot of self-belief / self-preservation masks them from reality.   Under those circumstances you can only hope that the organisation will prevail.   Usually it does.  Eventually.


Angela Ahrendts - MIA by Mark Izatt

I have had 3 Apple iphone 6S 'purchase' experiences in the last month.

The first was a gift to me, the second was a purchase by me via a UK airtime supplier (Vodafone) and the last and worst was a purchase by me in an Apple retail store.

For obvious reasons the gift was the most pleasurable experience - it was a surprise, I didn't pay for it and it shipped direct to me from the recipient.   That was an exceptional experience - the way that all gifting should be personal or corporate.

The Vodafone transaction - online and then store collect was smooth, efficient with a personal, focused, non-hurried handover in the store of my choosing.

The Apple Retail experience, despite me reserving and turning up at the beginning of my allotted time slot was miserable. In one of their stores in Central London, it was a mix between Ellis Island (circa 1910) and a large airport when every flight has been cancelled.   Think security, rope lines and a myriad of queuing options.   Lot's of people checking you in with iPads and very few people doing anything.

Apple makes fantastic products, their performance and profitability is beyond question but their retail experience continues to deteriorate as their price points go up and up.

What was once cool - the white, spare aesthetic, now comes over as little more than a large, functional clearing house.   All about the transaction and nothing about the experience.

It's fine when you are going into purchase a charging lead (you know, the ones that cost about $20 and don't quite last 3 months) and use the Apple Shop app on your phone - you walk in and serve yourself and leave, but what about purchases costing upwards of $1000.   The whole experience leaves you feeling violated.

When Angela Ahrendts joined Apple 18 months ago (that's right she's hardly new in post) much was made of what she would bring to the retail experience.   Beyond some tinkering with the size of the logo on employee shirts I don't see what she has brought to the table.

This is neither efficient or immersive.

Coincidentally, a few hours later, I received an Apple survey via email.   I hope someone reads my comments.  Better still call me, I bet I'm less expensive than Angela.


Chanel failing to channel by Mark Izatt

The other Saturday, with a rare clear schedule, I came across a full page advert for "Mademoiselle Prive" and decided to head on over to the Saatchi Gallery after brunch.   A few months ago I had visited another brand experience hosted by Patek Philippe which I reviewed here.     I was intrigued to see how another luxury traveler would use the space and, despite less interest in the offering, I parked my prejudices and joined the line on the Kings Road.

It was a long line.

Chanel reps walked up and down the line to encourage everyone to download the special Visitor's App.   I had already done this.  Which is why I wasn't concerned about the length of line.  The App told me it would be 10 minutes.

It was an hour.    The App lied.   (When I check now a week and a bit on it's showing 40 minutes so I hope they solved the bug and that 40 minutes doesn't translate into 4 hours).

Cutting to the chase did the experience deliver on the promise of "A journey through the origins of Chanel's creations capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld." ?    

In a word "no".

I felt so underwhelmed by the experience that midway through I reached out to someone who has a better feel for fashion and who had attended a few days previous.  Not known to mince her words she came back with "Crap".  

Rather than a celebration it was a spartan curation.   Once you worked your way through the stylized blindingly white cartoon creations (picture above) you were plunged into a sequence of rooms that seemed to get darker and darker.   The darkness was exacerbated by your pupils constantly adjusting between using the smartphone app, for "additional content" which never seemed to appear at the right moment and then trying to pick your way through a maze of pitch black exhibits.

Even the gowns on higher floors were dimly lit with minimal information or context.

The only moment of redemption was the indoor garden / maze representation and even then I'm clutching at straws....or should that be privet ?

The whole experience lacked a bit of magic and left me disappointed that the opportunity had been squandered.    At what point did this look like a powerful representation of the brand ?  

I left having learnt nothing new about Chanel and wondering what she would have thought.  If "Luxury is the absence of vulgarity" then my maxim would have to be "Experience is the presence of richness."



Last weekend I attended an 'invitation only' event hosted by Linn, the renowned Scottish designers and creators of music systems in The Violin Factory, London.

In my opinion, as customer immersions go, it was a well conceived and executed event.  Four factors were key to their success;

(1) The venue selection was absolutely on brand.   Creating an immersive environment with the minimum of build resulted in a very authentic space which allowed product and brand to be showcased.    You felt like you were in a private home, a contemporary living space thus placing Linn firmly in the domestic context with strong tech and design cues - space reflected the product and amplified (pun not intended) the appeal of the experience.

(2) The concept of the event was "Your Style, Your Sound" which was helpfully communicated via a lanyard around your neck (a nice 'live' event prop) and this was the theme.   Guests got to chose how things looked and what they listened to.   There was, therefore, a deeper connection and intimacy with the various demonstrations (which felt more like informal conversations) because they were based on music we had selected.  That made the Linn message all the more powerful - WE know our favorite pieces of music and how we want them to sound.

(3) Creating an experience which lasted a week and making it the anchor for a range of contact groups (media, trade, opinion former and VIP consumer) delivers a higher return on investment which in turn justifies a higher original investment.   Bringing people to one location (even international guests) can be a more efficient and effective way rather then diluting effort over many events.   Linn had also partnered with a high quality wine merchant to provide an additional feature.   Pooling equity with a non-competitive brand can only enhance the experience and reduce cost.

(4) Lastly, but probably the most important aspect, the event was staffed by Linn employees - passionate, expert and authentic.  All too often this is where brands fail.  No "hired help", everyone present had a role back at HQ and therefore over the course of the evening the transfer of knowledge was persuasive.   

This was the sort of evening you probably planned on allocating 30 - 40 minutes to but when we finally managed to pull ourselves away from the live music performance (an artist with whom Linn work) we had almost been there for 2 hours.  We were not alone.   

The whole evening left you with the impression that if they apply the same amount of diligence to the product (which clearly they do) it's worth every penny.

If only more brands followed this script.

Socially engaged by Mark Izatt

More and more consumers choose to broadcast their anguish (less so their delight)  during an unfolding breakdown in customer satisfaction on social media.  Before we would stamp our feet and then, if particularly motivated, send a complaint letter or email. Thanks to Twitter (largely) we can now make our feelings known and, depending on the speed of reaction of the entity we are talking at, potentially alter the situation to our benefit. 

This explains why more and more organizations (especially those which have a large volume of dynamic issues to deal with - I've used Twitter myself to bypass British Telecom's customer service) invest a lot of resource into 24/7 Twitter monitoring and reacting.

But technology is only one side of the equation - it has to empower someone who is close enough to the situation / the customer to effect change.   To make things better.

This week I had the opportunity to see some best practice in action.    This is what unfolded;

 - plane has a mechanical issue which means it has to return to the gate 

- flight crew advise passengers that there will be a delay  

- passenger sends a frustrated tweet to the airline

- airline responds with a standard apology and hope that things are sorted quikcly


However in this case one of the onboard crew was monitoring social media, alerted the Captain and he then stepped out of the cockpit to address the passengers on a more personal and direct basis. 

A couple of points here: 

1.  The first priority of the Captain is to attend to all of his or her duties on the flight deck but beyond that they have a very effective ability to inform and reassure.

2.  It's never enough just to say "sorry" when the issue is still live.  People want more information from a trustworthy source.

3.  Employees closest to the customer have the ability to have the greatest positive effect. 

4.  Large organizations need a communication process which is augmented by the intervention of empowered and trusted managers.  

Ultimately all of this underlines the importance of anyone being on the "frontline" of customer experience to understand their role in turning a potential negative into a sure fired positive.

PS.   The passengers made it to their destination, a little delayed but appreciative of the crew.

Experience counts by Mark Izatt

As a brand and communication specialist I make an effort to experience as many brand activation events as I can.    It serves two important purposes - the first is obvious; seeing what a brand is communicating, how they do it and the second; how the target consumer reacts to the experience. On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend two such events.   The first I knew very little about in advance - it proved to be one of the most exceptional efforts I've experienced, engaging and on-strategy.  The second....well let's leave that for now.

It has been hard to avoid the advertising for the watchmaker Patek Philippe "Watch Art Grand Exhibition" in the Saatchi Gallery in London.   A 10 day exhibition to celebrate their 175th anniversary,  walk up Bond Street and Patek Philipe stockists all had the exhibition flyer to hand, open up the Financial Times and there was an ad, hail a black cab in Mayfair and there was a moving ad.    For me this raised the question just how interesting could a watch exhibition be ?

I didn't even need to walk in to have that question answered.   I've never witnessed such spontaneous plaudits for a brand event as people walked out of the Saatchi Gallery and into the London sun.     

This was a powerful exercise in brand immersion.   A self guided tour (although headphones were available) winded through over 16 rooms.    Attendants punched your 'Visitor Pass' to keep you on track as you moved from environment to environment - it had that trademark Swiss efficiency.

Historical context and brand values were to the fore throughout brought to life with an eye for detail (something which you would expect from a precision craft).  You didn't just sit on regular seats to watch a little film about the founding of the company you sat on replica red velvet, hinged movie theater seats.    The light and background music matched the message and provided the optimal conditions to learn about the brand.    Turn a corner and you felt you were in Geneva looking over Lac Leman.

But ultimately Patek Philippe is about watch making and as the exhibition turned more 'technical' they had spared no expense.   The settings were certainly appropriate but the human resourcing transformed this to a different level.   Actual Patek Philippe watch makers and technicians were there - no question was too small or too obvious.  Their pride at being both employees and to have the opportunity to  represent the company in London was to the fore.     All of this meant we ended up staying for 90 minutes when we intended only 30 and even then we didn't want to leave, stopping for coffee in a contemporary environment they had created at the end of the exhibition.

Patek Philippe is not a mass brand but their aim to create an experience where a relatively large number of trade specialists (I'm sure they will have hosted private events for their trade customers), owners, enthusiasts and the owners of tomorrow could be immersed in the brand was achieved.

Luxury brands need a strong underpinning of aspiration - others must want what few can afford in order to help maintain that allure.   Patek Philippe have found a way of delivering that on their terms. That's indicative of a confident brand.   The only question which remained unanswered despite us asking was where the exhibition goes next - I hope it goes somewhere, it's too good not too.

In summary, they got these things right;

- an experience which reflected their values

- strong focus on the supporting details which created a memorable environment

- tech that worked but with the opportunity for human interaction

- support collateral such as the punched ticket and the gift bagged catalog to take home ensured the experience endured.

This certainly was not an inexpensive effort but these endeavors should only be contemplated if they are going to be done well.

PS I said at the beginning that Tuesday was about two brand experiences.  Indeed it was.  The second (which had an admissions fee payable in advance) was over-hyped, superficial and with a tired approach to consumer engagement.   Shuffled between a couple of rooms one had ample time to enjoy the architecture of the surroundings and that was about it.    I'll spare the brand further embarrassment, suffice to say the experience provided a checklist in how not to deliver a customer experience. 

Blown off Kors ? by Mark Izatt

It's a Friday afternoon and I'm writing this during lunch in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich for two reasons; (1) it makes be feel slightly less guilty for finishing the working week a little early and (2) I can't think of a better place to write about ubiquity.


The last couple of days has seen the share price of Michael Kors plummet on the back of a very poor fourth quarter and a 7% decline in like-for-like sales in North America. 

The poor performance has been accompanied by a litany of factors.   It always amazes me that brands always quick to blame everything from bad weather to the price of oil on poor performance but never their own actions.   It's up to a CEO to factor in resilience and plan growth in a way which is sustainable.

Alas Micheal Kors looks like its running a sprint and not a marathon.  That works in the short term but in the world of luxury it is not a recipe for success.     Luxury brands are more than a high price point and an aggressive expansion of retail points.  Ubiquity works for Starbucks but it doesn't sustain or nourish a luxury seller of accessories.

Simple put, Kors has expanded their retail footprint faster than they have grown their intrinsic equity.   A popularity which is a mile wide and an inch deep.   Sooner or later, usually sooner, something else will come along and steal the crown.

Im currently reading Jean-Noel Kapferer's latest book 'How Luxury Brands Can Grow Yet Remain Rare".  No surprises but essential reading which helps make the point that this is a critical subject for a brand owner. Kapferer rightly places Kors into the "masstige' business model.   As he puts it "luxury for all".   Only luxury can't be accessible to everyone.  It can't be on every street corner, especially when it's based on a giant MK logo which identifies the provenance.   If you're going to ape Louis Vuitton then have the price points to match.

I suspect there is more pain coming on this brand.    Which is why my money is betting on the Hofbräuhaus not selling out to become a Michael Kors boutique anytime soon.

The road ahead by Mark Izatt

There is so much bad print advertising out there that when something comes along which stands out for all the right reasons it's a bit of a shock to the system !

And so it was with this ad spread from BMW in the Spectator magazine - inside cover pages 2,3,4 & 5.



Arresting coloration, minimal text, clever variation of font to reinforce timeline, smart copy which ties in a historical fact (remember the magazine readership) with a BMW fact. 

It made me stop and turn back, stop and turn back.    A confident ad for a brand which knows its audience.   Take note.

GIVE ME A BREAK... by Mark Izatt

Every so often a major brand will do something which makes me check the calendar to see if the date is April 1st.   Yesterday was one of those days when I came across the latest Kit Kat (owned by Nestle) campaign to re-brand their iconic product to celebrate the 80th anniversary.

Re-branding, that is by changing the name of the product on the outer wrapper to a number of different "break" type situations including "You Tube Break".

That's correct.  Let's celebrate our 80th anniversary by removing iconic elements and diluting / prostituting the brand 600,000 times.    Nestle have some form here, previously they re-branded to coincide with the new "Kit Kat" version of Android (Android always name their software after confectionery) in a commercial deal and it seems the partnership continues.

I understand what Google get out of these stunts I just don't see the value for Nestle.  It seems a forced and labored campaign in stark contrast to the freshness of Coca Cola and their 'personalized' bottles.    One cannot but help wonder if this is a deliberate effort to emulate.  

In this video the brand teams talk about the "momentous campaign" .

Will this result in increased brand awareness, possibly.  After all it worked with me - I'm writing about it and you are, hopefully reading this.   But I doubt it will result in an increase in sales. This is what I call 'busy work' for marketers.   It makes them feel good about themselves but does precious little for the brand or the commercial performance.    

They would have been better served by going retro with their packaging - back to Year 1 and celebrate with a story which is about them not a desperate effort to appear relevant.

As I have said before marketers should ask "Why ?" a lot more than stating "Why not ?".


Build it and they will come. Sometimes. by heathrowkennedy

A few weeks ago a pleasant Saturday late afternoon flick through my Instagram feed was ruined by the news from someone I follow that the Jack Spade store in London had closed permanently.   He had just made his last purchase there.

Disbelieving and hoping the individual concerned was wrong I checked and sadly it was all confirmed.   The parent company Kate Spade & Co had shuttered the 19 Kate Spade Saturday stores  - this intrigued me so I dug a little deeper and was not at all surprised this had been necessary although completely surprised that the concept had been advanced in the first place, but I digress - along with the 12 global Jack Spade stores.

Still not believing this I made sure I went past the Brewer Street store at the first opportunity.

Bad news confirmed.

So why the disappointment ?  Well I love the brand.   It's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness - indistructable longevity.  Jack Spade stores are, correction were, cool and staffed with incredible characters who remembered each customer and who took the time to work out your requirements.

But I was always conscious that 'footfall' was low.  It's a challenge for all brands but especially smaller ones.   A physical store establishes credibility (although there are other ways) but it also creates a massive cost centre.   For a relatively nascent brand that's trouble.

But it needn't be.   Brands need to rethink their approach to retail.   A physical store is a sunk cost - keeping the lights on after hours and adding a few staff are minimal costs but the opportunity to sweat the asset and create experiences which pull in loyal and new customers is limitless.

Instead the retail environment is almost always abandoned after hours.   

There may have been non-Jack Spade reasons why this route to market failed (and that's a pity because this is a brand that should thrive) but I also think that the plan to make this outpost of the brand a vibrant contributor was missing.   It's a shame because anyone who visited that store was both well served by the staff and  he product they bought.

If you're responsible for a new store opening then have a plan in place for at least 6 -12 months in advance with activation ideas - attracting customers in during and after hours - make it a true brand cathedral and a commercial success rather than a line item that bleeds red.

The Long Near for the long AND short haul by heathrowkennedy

Last Thursday I attended a trend briefing from The Future Laboratory thanks to being a subscriber to their essential LS:N Global service.  This concentrated afternoon session was centered around the concept of the "Age of the Long Near".   It focused on three key areas:

  • Whole-system Thinking
  • The Optimized Self
  • The Immortal Brand

It's not the purpose of this blog to go into detail on the topics (although I'm happy to sit down and talk about them if you have a moment) beyond a couple of very lasting thoughts which emerged out of the 'toolkit' (more of that later);

  • Build for purpose not for short term
  • Think beta, not finished
  • Plan for re-invention, not just change
  • Target mindsets, not demographics

It's no surprise that these all fitted the overarching narrative of the day - that of the long term - critically it all boiled down to the essential requirement to take a step back from the day-to-day and to think beyond the immediate horizon.  That's challenging in any organisation / enterprise but it has to be done.    Blaming a lack of resources for a behavior that is potentially not income generating and is somewhere over the horizon is a poor excuse and I would argue that just the mere act of thinking beyond the here-and-now helps elevate performance NOW.   It's also incredibly difficult to deliver the right things today without a strong sense of vision about the future.

Here the Future Laboratory help keep some focus - as lofty as some of their insights are they structure each major one into DRIVERS > IMPACTS > CONSEQUENCES > FUTURES and, most importantly, finish with that 'toolkit'.     Apply the toolkit to your business and thinking and you are half way there.

Of course there is a wider force at play that these insight sessions deliver.   They get you thinking.   External stimulation is critical to deliver that spark of creativity - it is brain food pure and simple.

Cash rich, time poor - Apple Watch by heathrowkennedy

I'll start, upfront, by stating that I believe that the Apple Watch will be a commercial success.  They will sell huge volumes at all price points. The Apple juggernaut will continue to speed along. Now that's out of the way what do I really think ?

Firstly, there can be zero doubt that Apple is now a fully fledged luxury brand.  Back in September 2013 after Apple launched the iPhone 5c and 5s I wrote that "Apple should have gone for a wider price point range accelerating growth in new markets (getting more users) and doing more to create a genuinely more luxurious top offering with real material differentiation, commanding a much higher price (retaining HWI and opinion formers)."    I didn't get everything spot on in that blog post but I've been proven right with my thinking on Apple becoming a more luxurious brand with bold vertical range expansion.

That vertical expansion came alive yesterday in San Francisco.   It raises revenue, expands appeal and enhances the entire brand proposition at the moment when it seemed that everyone owned an iPhone.  There can be no doubt that Apple is now a luxury brand.

Up until now their pricing could become stratospheric but this was based on tangible and rationale things - screen size, memory size, speed.   With the Apple Watch Edition Collection and an model priced at $10,000 Apple have made it clear that they are determined to win a share of very discretionary spending.

Over the coming days and weeks there will be many reviews of the Apple Watch from people with much more technical insights than me but I would like to address what I see is the principle weakness of Apple Watch.   Battery life.

Battery life is the curse which bedevils all of Apple's smaller devices.   Take the iPhone 6.   A slightly improved battery performance but sill nowhere near to meeting the needs of a busy professional.   I defy anyone to take it off the charger at 6am and still be going strong at 6pm.   And for many people there is still another 6 hours before they get home.

My work around ?


A suite of external battery packs which I select depending on what my plans are for the day / evening.   In actual fact what that really means is I now don't let my new Anker pack out of my sight.  It's heavy and wieldy but with 10 full iPhone 6 charges in it I can relax and come to the assistance of lesser mortals when the need arises.

Usability and addictive qualities are two of Apple's biggest strengths......and weaknesses.   They, and the developer community, have created game changing apps and functionality which result in high usage.

A few years ago, in a different guise, I can clearly recall a spirited discussion with a product manager when I asked about the battery life of a pending new product.  He kept quoting the 'standby' stat and I kept asking what that meant in terms of real use.   If a device is not switched on or used it has a battery life you can measure in days and weeks !   But that's not the point.

You switch it on and use it.

Which makes Apple's heavily caveat-ed Apple Watch Battery page deeply concerning.    The phrase "actual results may vary" is applied to every statistic. That combined with personal experience makes me sceptical of the published "18 hour" battery life - which is based on a minimum of usage.    So let's be generous and say that with moderate use the life is 12 hours.    Your busy entrepreneurial high net worth will hit the gym at 6am - which means by dinner time, just the moment he or she might want a discrete communication and information device on their wrist (more subtle than checking your phone during a business dinner) the battery makes the thing as useful their first Timex.

People put on a watch in the morning and they take if off at night.   They are not in the habit of charging it during the day.   And, remember a tethered Apple Watch to an iPhone will also drain the iPhone battery.   So now your busy wearer has to worry about charging two devices at some point.    I just don't think the world is ready to see $10,000 gold watches hanging from a spare mains outlet in a bar, restaurant or airport lounge.

As I said at the beginning I do believe they will sell a lot.  I just reckon that a lot of them will end up discarded in the bedroom drawer after a few months.

Although there is one solution.   You can buy two and swap them over during the day. Maybe that is the plan all along.  Why spend $10,000 when you can spend $20,000 ?!

A perfect serve  by heathrowkennedy

On a recent flight this print ad jumped off the page and not just because the drinks cart was heading in my direction. Now firstly I have to declare a historic interest,   The Glenlivet is a brand I used to work on and indeed still drink (particularly the 18 years old).  However back to this ad.

Why do I like it so much ?

Most importantly it's beautifully shot - this creative is ALL about the liquid and that shines out brightly.   Authentic with not a trace of artifice - something which is also reflected in the product itself - which makes this simple but effective advert all the more powerful.

Over the last decade many whisky brands have played fast and loose with liquid credibility (what's in the bottle).  Dropping age statements and using layers of marketing to distract attention from what is invariably younger whiskies as they have endevoured to keep pace with demand.   That compromising for short term commercial gain has invariably chipped away at equity.

Not so here.    I've marked out all of the key designators on the bottle - each important and together giving a comprehensive picture of exactly what is being purchased and hopefully drunk and enjoyed !

This is an expensive purchase which requires nothing but clarity - here The Glenlivet let the bottle do all the talking and it works.