When did Airlines lose their imagination?

Today I saw the new American Airlines branding identity and TVC. Whilst I applaud that they took a risk, changing their icon brand for the first time in over 50 years, it was the TVC that really caught my eye.

It looked familiar, and as you see below, is pretty much the same concept copied from the QANTAS brand refresh a few months ago, which in turn was copied from the Avianca work well before that.

You have to think, in a field as amazing as air travel, with a rich history, open field to do pretty much anything, one of these brands could have been slightly more creative than essentially saying "Our brand is so awesome, people will STARE up at how awesome we are. Aren't we awesome"




American Airlines:


Ikea Getting Into the TV Set Business

Ikea Getting Into the TV Set Business

It'll be interesting to see how far down this path IKEA goes.


The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world

Another amazing piece of work from W+K.


The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world:

Wieden + Kennedy is excited to announce the launch of the Procter & Gamble "Thank you, Mom" campaign for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This campaign has been a labour of love for over two years – led by WK Portland, and supported others across the W+K network. Procter &...


(Via welcome to optimism)


Goodbye and Good-riddance Angus & Robertson/Borders!

As many of you have probably heard at this point, our own Aussie book retail chain Angus & Robertson has entered administration, merely days after US giant Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

No doubt you'll see a lot of commentary over the next few days about the "future of the publishing industry" who will be the dominant force, what will happen, who will be the big money makers etc... But I'd just like to take a moment to reflect.

There are three major contribution factors to why this has all happened.

Firstly - for over 30 years in this country, the publishing industry has had the Australian consumers by the balls. We've had to pay ludicrous pricing compared to our english-speaking brethren in the US and UK. Our books are not made of some kind of magical paper that has super powers, the ink is not created from crushed unicorn remains nor is it blessed by the pope. Yet again, we pay (sometimes up to 50%) more than everybody else.

Publishers in this country lobby our Federal Government to be able to keep despicable restrictions on retailers importing cheaper stock from overseas, and retailers are stuck selling the only stock available to them at the only price available to them.

Secondly - has now been around 17 years. Think about that for a second, SEVENTEEN years. It's been selling books (with a wider selection and at cheaper prices than most retailers) since the beginning. Angus & Robertson and other Aussie retailers *cough* Dymocks *cough* certainly did look at Amazon's model back in 1997 and go "Hey, you know what, we also have a massive warehouse filled with books, maybe we should let people buy them online!".

In 2003 when music-retailers were starting to feel pressure from iTunes sales and saw plummeting sales, our local book-sellers still didn't say "Hmm... I wonder if this could ever happen to us! Maybe we should start looking into it".

It wasn't until 2006, when Amazon's annual book sales totalled $3.8billion and it had overtaken Borders in Nth American sales for the first time did Dymocks finally decide to launch an online book-selling presence (and for those of you who remember the site will know just how appalling it was from a user experience perspective).

In 2007 Amazon launched it's Kindle e-Reader which allowed for users to download books directly to the device without needing to go to a computer, without having to pay for data, nothing. Just straight on there. It was magical! But did our local retailers go "Hey, they might be onto something?". Again, no. In fact, REDGroup (which owns both Borders and Angus & Robertson here in Aus) only launched their local store for selling electronic books last year! Four years later.

Finally - Back in the "twilight" years of us consumers being recommended a book by our friends, family or colleagues we would have to write it down on a little piece of paper somewhere, and store it in our wallet or pocket and then remember the next time we were in a shopping centre to have a look for it in the local bookstore, if they had it in stock, and it wasn't misplaced or damaged due to the dude handling before you eating a ham sandwich whilst reading the first 20 chapters of the book, then you might look at the price tag, and if you didn't need to re-mortgage your house to buy it, you might just make the purchase.

These days, if somebody is reading a book you like, you can turn it over, pull out your iPhone, open the Amazon app, scan the barcode, and it'll be yours for half the price in a couple of days.

As if a further coffin in the nail of the inevitable death of the local book retailing industry, international retailers such as not only sell most any book at a cheaper price than locally, but they will also ship for free to Australia. So if you don't need the book this very second, you can just order it for cheap on BookDepository and have it at your doorstep within a week or so. Their customer service is impeccable, their range is vast, and their price is pretty much as low as you can get for a brand new title.


So I for one would like to say: See ya Angus & Robertson! See ya Borders! You both should have seen this coming for nearly two decades. Your board of directors should be banned from ever running a company again. Your failure to respond to changing market conditions, and complete inability to innovate in an industry that was clearly changing was your downfall.


And I hope the Australian publishing industries realises that you can only milk consumers for so long before they just find a cheaper option and the well runs dry.



On Strategy vs Tactics

Lately I've had this same conversation with several people on this same topic, and it continues to interest me exactly where people draw the boundaries between semantics on the subject. Some may say that it is irrelevant, as it's nothing more than use of words, and some people use them one way, and others another, but I think it's vital to have a common concrete agreement on the meaning of these terms, especially in this industry as it is changing, evolving, and in dire need of a common language. Not only for the sake of those who practice, but also for the clients, who no doubt want to see agreement on the matter, by which they can then determine the good ones from the bad ones.

If you don't care to read on, the short version of my opinion on the matter is quite simple.

Strategy, is the "what are we trying to do" of the equation, whereas Tactics are the "How are we going to do it" (with Execution being the actual doing of it").

As the terms strategy and tactic are rooted strongly in the military, I've often tried to use sailing analogies to give a concrete example. The strategy is usually decided upon by the captain, and comes in the form of the what (i.e. We're sailing to find the new world) and the tactic comes in the form of the navigator or first mate (i.e. "We're sailing south-west for 1,000 leagues) and of course responsive tactics also come into play (i.e. We'll avoid that reef by sailing to the north winds for a day, then south again). And finally the execution is all those who make it happen, the deck hands the rowers etc..

The analogy may contain some flaws, but overall, I think it does the job of conveying the concept.

So how does it relate to the digital marketing and advertising industry, and what should you be seeing when you look at a strategy versus a tactic?

Strategies can be constructed at many levels. Yes, you can have an overall brand strategy, and you can have an online strategy, and you could have a content strategy. But they all still need to be distinct from tactics, and there's a good reason for this. You see, a strategy should have the ability to be successfully completed even with a change in the tactics underneath it. You should be able to stick to the strategy of "sailing west to the new world" even if the winds die down and you have to row to get there. Tactics should be interchangeable and elastic in their use. Strategy should not be, this is why a strong strategy is important. This is why having insights (i.e. The world is round, and there is a giant body of water, which should contain land somewhere in the middle of it) is key to developing strategy.

As Mark Pollard puts it in his blog post on getting into strategy (about half way down):

I believe that the guts of a strategy should be explainable in a matter of sentences. If you pictured me pointing to where we need to go, I’d rather tell you where we’re going than explain to you how my body manages to get my index finger into the pointing position.

And I think he is bang on with his summation of strategy. A lot of people feel the need to qualify evidence of industry by producing excruciatingly long documents and powerpoint decks which all try to "explain" the strategy using hundreds of bullet points, multitudes of diagrams and pictures, all detailing what is in fact supposed to be a high-level sentence or two.

If you or your client requires you to "show you working" on how you got to your strategic conclusion, that's fine, do that, but don't waste time by using your working AS the answer.

I recently had the pleasure of reading through Wieden+Kennedy's awesome brand strategy for Old Spice, which lead to the now renowned work in the form of awesome television and digital work. The presentation for the new brand position is amazingly sparse in detail, yet gets it's point across potently. And it all becomes summarised in one simple phrase: "Old Spice is the authentic essence of the male being".

Now, I understand that brand strategy and digital strategy can be very different beasts. But that does not for a moment mean that we need to create a level of complexity when trying to "sell in" our strategy for it to be effective. Digital strategies can be just as potent through simple explanations as brand strategies are, they can take on simple forms which then allow for tactics to be inserted underneath which deliver on that strategy, while being able to be modified if market conditions, technology platforms, or the consumers change.

If my digital strategy for a bank is "educate customers in a simple way using humour", then I should be able to execute that tactically in a number of ways, whether by responding to questions on Twitter, putting videos up on YouTube, or creating games for Facebook. The tactics change, but we know what we're trying to do strategically.

I dearly hope that at least some people agree with me on this distinction, and why it's important to make, but I'm open to hear other people's thoughts on why they think I'm right or wrong.

Let me know in the comments.