Talk of the site: iPhones, fighting fisherman and brands saving the environment
LONDON - The talk was mostly about shopping this week in the Brand Republic community. Is the iPhone too pricey? Are branded products more green? And there was even mutinous talk below decks about ‘consuming less'. The week's highlights of user comments across the site also looks at Primark on Facebook and the return of the commercial in which a bear fights a John West fisherman.
There was a lively discussion about Primark's decision not jump on the social networking bandwagon and launch on Facebook because of the success of an unofficial site launched by an Oxford Brookes student Sophie Bellchambers.
Stuart Hogg wrote: "For me I see this as a shift in the balance of power. A single user has been able to create more effect in her spare time than a multi national company with millions of pounds of ad spend - go Sophie.
"For my two cents, this shift will represent a new trend in marketing communications and should elate (and scare) major corporations with equal measure. Brand advocacy is one of the most powerful marketing tools we have and Facebook (et al) allows it on a mass scale. "
To which Sophie Bellchambers herself replied: "I really think Primark should listen to me a bit more - I get so many people emailing me asking to promote their charity or their business, hoping to get support from the now near 100,000 members."
But Sophie Neary worries about the 100,000 marketers that started Facebook initiatives in the space of a few days. "I'm unconvinced about corporate sites on social networks. O2's is only any good because they have compelling content for now with their university quiz - I wonder if they have a long term strategy to keep their 'members' coming back. Surely the real question here is how long it will be before we find a great 'unofficial' corporate site secretly being run and funded by the brand - because, as Primark correctly identify - that fact that it's unofficial is what makes it so powerful."
Meanwhile, Rob Wingrove reminded everyone of Sony's misstep. "In response to the question about a brand that masqueraded as a brand advocate and set up independent brand appreciation site, need I remind anyone of Sony's "I Want a PSP for Christmas" campaign?
The most active forum of the week was "Are you buying an Apple iPhone?"
Craig Smith settled for another Apple toy instead. "I bought a 16GB iPod Touch at launch, making the decision not to wait for the iPhone. They're the same price, so you could argue that the iPhone is good value, although it has less memory. More interesting than which, or whether, to buy is the big question - is Apple really committed to breaking into the phone market? Conspiracy theorists say not, that the iPhone is there to please shareholders and keep competitors like Sony Ericsson from making much inroads into Apple's dominance in mobile music. A defensive launch, then."
John Abbott came close to buying an iPhone, but wouldn't go where is heart led him. "Not yet - but they are extremely beautiful and having played in an Apple store at the weekend I am sorely tempted. But, ultimately my common sense will prevail, that said I am certain to be a buyer when they get it closer to 'right' than it is currently is. Ie; when it is cheaper, can go on any network and when it is 3G. I suppose that this might happen in 6-12 months? I shall keep dreaming - as I said, it is beautiful!!!"
While Katrina Doran is coveting her co-worker's iPhone. "Guys - our head of digital has an iPhone and just gave me a demo....I nearly wept. It is pure technology, beautifully executed. Get someone to show you how it works - hold it in your hand - and then say you don't want one.....it freaking fabulous!"
In his latest blog, Rory Sutherland challenged community members to counter his argument that brands are good for the environment. He argued that it's a lazy assumption that increasing levels of wealth must inexorably lead to increasing levels of consumption. They do not buy more things but better versions of the same things - or best of all buy better branded version of the same things.
A first comment was. "The trouble with today's consumption of brands, is that replacement cycles are too short. People mistakenly seek happiness with needlessly replacing perfectly good products with brand upgrades. A more environmentally-friendly approach would be your grandfather's middle class approach: buy a quality dishwasher that works 50 years later."
A view supported by Mark Griffiths: "Buy quality goods. Resist, if you can, the pressure from brands like Apple to replace perfectly good equipment well before it's obsolete. The argument is about how a lot of branding encourages unnecessary replacement - a cycle which is getting faster and faster. So, my answer to this is not to buy an iPhone until two or three years down the line when Apple and their competitors have got convergent technology just right. Your friends won't like you and your social networking credibility will slump. But, if you're serious about the environment, you'll buy quality goods that last."
Kevin McClean thinks Rory's point is just wrong. "I wish that Rory's argument DID generally hold true for brands, rather than just for the odd expensive dishwasher or Mercedes. I fear that these are the exceptions that prove the rule, brands are bad for the environment. I'm not sure what the "purchasing of brand value" means, either."
And the direct marketing industry was on the defensive again by a suggestion by a Defra official that all direct mail should care a logo telling people how to sign up.
Richard Hayter is sold on the idea: "Yes, on the back with the return address. Why not?'
Which was a red rag to the DM bull, Hugh Bessant: "Why not? Because it promotes shrinking our own universe. I don't see why anyone should be compelled to do something like that, as long as they are playing the game and sticking to the regulations. Highlighting MPS on every mail piece would drive registration, because it would make it easy for the consumer. I am not suggesting we avoid the issue of MPS, TPS or anything else, but making the DM industry promote it is like making turkeys vote for Christmas."
Richard held his ground: "I think it would force our industry - and our clients - to invest in better targeting. Which would result in a more relevant customer offer and higher quality response. Mail fewer people, get a better result. What's not to like?"
There were many negative comments about the return of the awarding commercial in which a John West fisherman fights a bear over a salmon. The new ending on the commercial from 2000 didn't go down well.
Richard Hayter wrote: "Oh. My. God. Trying to do a 'Hunny Monster' or 'Smash Martians' with a one-off ad that ran two years ago... Is it national 'agencies-aren't-allowed-to-have-an-original-idea' month, or what?"
Duncan James was in shock too.
"WTF? My fave ad of the decade, ruined. Literally, my mother (not Mother, obviously, they would add Joan Collins) could have done a better job."
One person thought the end result was effective: "Heinz orphaned the brand to a private equity firm and the new agency has shot a new ending on the cheap. But however much the new ending degrades the original, I can't help thinking the John West has got more value for money than Guinness did for by handing an director £10m to play with. The new ending looks like it was conceived and shot by a 10-year-old with a camcorder and posted on YouTube. And that's the point. Children will be asking their parents for the toy bear."
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