Think It. Blog It.
According to Wikipedia, Starbucks is present in 61 countries & territories as of November 2012. This international growth has not disguised the fact that like McDonalds, KFC and the original Coca-Cola, they are exporting an essentially American experience.
And with it, American world views and values. As the debate about the influence of Britain, the small Island(s) than no-one listens to, continues within Britain (and no-where else), it comes as a salutary reminder where we REALLY fit into the American world view and values. Starbucks reminds us that to them, Britain is England – a city somewhere east of New York noted for dead playwrights and old buildings.
Is this a reflection of the Starbucks sensitivity to local cultures – or more a reflection on Brand Britain?
Answers in a sonnet, please.
M&S with a Capital F.
Now in Britain, its the autumnal discontent about M&S. Possibly orchestrated, all the noise is about the 'limited availability' of its new range of 'exclusive' womenswear. Yes, to be 'exclusive' you do have to exclude: it's a tactic used successfully by other retailers, like H&M with its limited edition 'designer' ranges. It generates noise. But in M&S case, the noise is more sound and fury than the sound of cash tills ringing. Why is this?
I went into M&S in central London to see what was going on. There were no sale-type scrums around the till, no piling up of desired designer wear. As ever, the buzz was in the food halls. In the menswear, nothing in the 'smart' sections demanded a share of my heart or wallet. In the end, I resorted to buying some socks and pants – well, its M&S after all. The old staples. When I got them home, it felt like they had been made with old staples: the socks were rubbish, and the pants excruciatingly uncomfortable. I had to throw the whole lot away. Only £25 worth, but unwearable. What's going wrong?
Look no further than the strategy. Back in May, M&S revealed their strategy was to "reassert our position as a leading, premium fashion retailer". Umm – what? It kept generations of Britons in warm sensible underwear, pyjamas, pullovers - occasionally, a smarter but always solid coat or skirt. And always at a solidly reasonable price. But a "leader in fashion and design?" No, Ms Belinda Earl – the new 'style director' who has coined the unfortunate phrase 'fashion with a capital F' - that's not what consumers mean by 'better quality and style'. They mean something they want to wear – and is actually wearable!
It's back to Maslow's needs. Get your basics right – be the best, once again, at the staples, the regular purchases: get that visit frequency up. Then add some seasonable desirables on top, to increase interest and basket size. Then, and only then, add some icing on the cake – a bit of fashion frosting.
That's the F in idea.
Within any advertising, branding or graphic design company, I expected creativity – and a lot of it. What I didn't know were all the minds behind it. I initially thought that there were a few people in a team, all using the same skills. However, what I have quickly learnt at Ergo, is that there are different people with different skills, and this will appear to be apparent in most creative companies. For example, you have the person that comes up with all the ideas (the conceptual person), designers (who bring it to life), researchers (who test it), technology geniuses (who build it), project managers (who plan and manage it), and the list goes on... Yet they are all striving towards one thing, and at Ergo, what I understand is that their main aim is to improve a brand and unlock their true potential.
What stood out to me was the work area. Ergo are lucky to be surrounded by trees with a canal running by with large open windows – the perfect creative environment in my opinion. In order for ideas to flow and design to happen, it needs to be relaxed; a vibe I instantly received upon my arrival at Great Western Studios.
As I am yet to learn, there is a great deal behind the branding of a product that we see on the shelf or a website that we browse. I didn't really know what to expect when it came to the design/idea of a brand, so this process is something I am keen to learn about whilst I am here. Ergo's strategy seems simple, as displayed on their website, a breezy 'before and after' deal – but all those little pencil sketches in between don't begin to portray the thought and hard work behind all of it.
So these next few days should help me recognise the truth behind branding and Ergo's approach.
Ergo at Circus
What a lovely night out, dinner at Circus Restaurant!
Creative Designer - All–Round Discipline (Midweight) Wanted!
We're currently on the look-out for Designer to join our team in the Studio, on an on-going flexible contract.
You'll need to be a versatile all-round creative, with a fine eye for detail as we'll be asking
The great part is that the work will be very varied:
- Working with our Visual Planner to create conceptual and appealing brand worlds, and the occasional mood boards
- Branding (covering identity and brand execution across different media and touchpoints, brand packaging)
- Press and ATL campaign concept development
- Digital (web pages storyboarding, basic video editing)
You will be guided by a Creative Director and/or Strategic Director, but will also be given the opportunity to shine and no doubt show us a thing or two!
You will not be expected to artwork. Rather, we're looking for a true creative, someone who can turn ideas into something that makes clients appreciate what you do.
You will be working on internationally known brands – so we're in need of someone with some experience, and can work to tight deadlines.
Ideally, we'd like someone to start working with us next week (w/c 10th June). *Rates are negotiable
Studio Coordinator Wanted!
We’re looking for a bright, well-organised and experienced studio co-ordinator to cover maternity leave.
You will be supporting all aspects of the business and its projects, so you will need to
The role has two main functions:
1. Studio Management
You are responsible for the day-to-day smooth running of the studio. This includes basic bookkeeping, the ordering of all supplies, post, couriers, answering the telephones, greeting guests and preparing for meetings (managing and setting up the meeting room, ensure meeting room is tidy, make tea/coffee, purchasing biscuits etc), managing petty cash and keeping the studio clean and tidy. You will oversee all contractors: this includes any cleaners, maintenance, suppliers and IT support.
Book-keeping; managing expense inputs, purchase orders and supplier invoices.
IT & Telephony: responding to problems as they arise and liaising with IT and telephone suppliers + support.
2) Support to Account Manager
Ad-hoc support to our AM; assisting with research, brainstorming input and presentation preparation as required
Design input – on house brand issues, the occasional literature and smaller aspects of client concept work and presentations.
We have a very open culture, a hands-on work place with the opportunity for all employees to become involved in all aspects of the company. You may well find yourself in creative naming brainstorms, pulling together mood boards for positioning concepts or designing communications elements.
Handover: 1 week
Contract length: From 3 to 6 months
Salary: £20 - 24K pro rata (depending on experience)
Days: Mon – Fri | 9 -6pm
Please send your Covering Letter & C.V. to email@example.com
Last night we attended The Annual Recommended Agency Register Awards (RAR), and we're pretty excited to share that we won, in the category of Brand Strategy!
This achievement is thanks to all of our lovely clients, whom we owe special thanks to – without you this would never have been possible, especially those of you who took the time to write such warm recommendations! THANK YOU!
The RAR Awards highlight the agencies that have been highest rated by their clients – the brand owners! http://www.recommendedagencies.com/agency-awards/2013/winners/544/
Midweight Brand Planner, with Research skills wanted!
We are looking for a smart and creative-thinking Mid-weight Planner, to join our brand strategy team. We’re looking for someone with equal experience and enthusiasm for brand and consumer research (Qual and Quant). Perhaps your career began in research and has developed into brand planning, or vice versa.
Either way, you possess a refined intellect, mixed with boundless positive energy and well-developed social skills.
The work is in branded consumer goods and services, involving understanding clients business, analysis of their brand, the market and their consumer. It covers innovation and renovation, in single markets and across international markets.
Specifically, your role will include:
- Market Analysis: reviewing, analysing and structuring existing business, market, consumer and trend data.
- Brand Analysis: assessing the specific dynamics, equities and values of the brand and its competitive set.
- Consumer Analysis: devising, commissioning and managing consumer research programmes; advising clients on research programmes both qual. and quant, online and real world. Occasionally conducting research with consumers and clients for specific issues.
- Idea Development: recognising, assessing, developing, structuring and expressing powerful brand ideas in a collaborative environment; objectively analysing ideas for potential.
- Managing Workshops: designing and running stimulating and productive team workshops on business, brand and creative issues.
- Presentation and Report: developing clear, structured and stimulating reports at each stage of the project, giving lucid and compelling presentations of the ideas and recommendations.
- Project delivery: presenting to client teams, managing expectations and input, facilitating decisions and assisting implementation plans. (You will be supported by a PM).
The role is a full-time, hands-on role. You’ll need to have experience in developing, managing and implementing brand strategies, working directly with clients.
You must have 3 years + experience in strategic brand planning and consumer research, proven analytical and structural thinking skills, and an ambition to manage and develop your clients’ projects balanced with social/collaborative abilities.
Initially you’ll be working closely with our Head of Strategy, with the opportunity to learn and develop your specific knowledge and skills as you progress and grow into a senior role.
So, you probably want to know a bit about us… We’re Ergo a small but very supportive team, independently owned, and have been going strong for over 15 years. We work with clients such as; The Coca Cola Company, Carlsberg, Speedo. Home for us, is a bright and airy studio along the Grand Union canal in West London, a stone’s throw away from Paddington Station.
This is a great opportunity for an ambitious mid-weight brand planner, wanting to truly develop their skills, and ready to take more of a lead role in an agency.
We offer a salary of £35K-£50K depending on skills and experience, plus an annual bonus based on contribution and success.
Please send your covering note and C.V. through to firstname.lastname@example.org
Catch You On The Flip Side...!
It seems like it was yesterday that I was writing my introductory blog, and now it's my last day at Ergo. I feel like I was just taking my coat off and getting settled in…and now it's time to go? Time flies. It’s bittersweet leaving the place and people I’ve learned from, and come to know and admire.
It’s been a crazy, exciting whirlwind. When I first arrived, I had to constantly remind myself that I live in London, halfway across the world. Never did I think that living here would feel so…normal. My first blog was all about embracing London’s quirks, but those differences are now familiar. After playing tour guide for visiting friends and exploring London’s diverse neighborhoods, I am entirely comfortable navigating my way around—even if it means wandering around lost for 20 minutes, what seems like an eternity in the pouring rain. I power walk down the left-hand side of the pavement. I cringe when loud tourists step into the tube. I know that 'you alright' isn't an expression of concern, but rather a common way to greet someone. I can spot a black cab from a half-mile (umm…kilometre) away.
But if I had to sum it up, some clichés do apply. The most applicable one being ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ As I touched on in my first blog, residents in every city love to complain about the weather and public transport. London's weather over the past month has made it easy to long for Boston, notorious for its long, tundra-like winters. Unseasonably, London this spring has looked more like Boston in January—overcast skies and on-and-off snow flurries. Besides missing the sunshine, I've longed for New York City's 24-hour Subway system after being stranded on many nights waiting for the night bus.
London has claimed a piece of my heart, and as with all matters of the heart, it can get complicated. At times, our relationship was strained, by bad weather and transportation woes. But at the end of the day, our love is mutual and strong.
My abroad experience has been full of adventures, lessons, and surprises. It's been anything but run-of-the-mill. During my time here, I've done things that I never thought I’d do. I attended Easter Mass at St Paul's Cathedral, had a drink with the Queen's horse guards, sat in the same pub as James McAvoy after watching him star in Macbeth, fell asleep during La Boheme, coasteered on the Welsh coast, and tasted a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry for the first time—and all without Instagramming. While I don’t have a filtered, virtual scrapbook, the memories made are now a part of me.
With six European cities under my belt and seven more on the horizon, I’m embarking on further adventures with a broader perspective. Like anyone's study abroad experience, mine has been a time of discovery. Whether it’s uncovering new places, reaffirming my love for theatre, realizing that I don’t care for opera, or discovering out how I work best, I will treasure these four months as some of the best times of my life.
Embrace the Quirks
“Where are you from?”
“No, where are you originally from?”
“I’m from New Jersey, but my parents were born in China.”
I’m not used to this exchange. While the US is a melting pot of all ethnicities, Americans tend to associate more with what state we come from. As a first generation ABC (American-born Chinese), when someone asks about my background, it often comes with prejudice undertones. It’s not ‘What’s your background’, it’s ‘What are you?’. Here in London though, it’s completely different. London is incredibly diverse, both socially and culturally. Neighborhoods are mixed. Races are mixed. I’ve lived near New York City all my life and never have I experienced ethnic diversity like I have in London. Asking about someone’s ethnicity isn’t unusual; it’s something to be celebrated. It’s a welcome change and I’ve been reaping its benefits reflected in London’s diverse neighborhoods.
My name Angela Huang, and I’m going to be interning at Ergo until mid-April. I’m music junkie, food lover, and design enthusiast. Currently I’m studying at Boston University on the London abroad program. London has been my home for the past two months and I’m loving every minute.
London is an incredible city with infinite treasures in every corner. Wherever I go, I discover a charming shop, café, or new market unlike the last. London’s diversity is best seen in its markets. Just ask anyone who has spent the day on Brick Lane, home to one of London’s best. The Sunday UpMarket features ethnic foods from Sri Lankan to Thai to French crêpes all under one roof. Not to mention, one of the greatest perks of studying in the UK is its proximity to continental Europe. Apparently I have a thing for B cities as I’ve already been to Budapest, Brussels, and Barcelona and I plan to travel to Berlin, Bordeaux, Prague, Amsterdam, and Wales before the semester is through.
While I’ve experienced more culture shock in the rest of Europe, where embracing diversity isn’t as commonplace, it’s been a smooth transition from Boston to London. Bostonians and Londoners both love caffeine (whether it’s coffee or tea), we love to complain about the weather and public transport (the Tube is far superior to the MBTA), and we walk at lightning speeds. Sure, they’ve had their differences in the past (Boston Tea Party, anyone?), but Londoners and Bostonians are unified by the love they have for the cities they call home. I’ve noticed some subtle quirks between the two metropolises, but those quirks are what make the cities interesting. Let’s celebrate those differences.
The accents might sound funny to outsiders, but Bostonians and Londoners both speak English. Bostonians pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Londoners, on the other hand, have a spectrum of accents from posh to Cockney. However, as George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘England and America are two countries separated by a common language’. Amidst some confusion deciphering accents, I’ve come across a new British English term at least once a week. The one I’ve heard the most is ‘queue’. I love this efficient word, a counter to Americans’ ‘line up’. I also like the phrase ‘top up’, meaning to refill something. You can top up your Oyster card, or top up your wine glass. Easy peasy. These differences are so subtle that I’d never thought about these phrases until I encountered them in my daily life.
Here are just a few of them I enjoy:
Another similarity is that Boston and London are both walkable cities. However, I thought being a pedestrian in Boston was dangerous; London drivers give Bostonians a run for their money. Coming from a city where everyone jaywalks, often precariously, I’ve had to adjust to nearly being hit every time I step into the street. I probably would have been hit by a car already if not for the clear road markings, ‘look left/right’. Here there’s no legal offense for jaywalking, so it’s anything goes when you cross the street.
On the surface, words and roads are the two biggest differences I’ve noticed between Boston and London. But every day, I am becoming more acclimated to life as a Londoner.
Since working at Ergo, I drink no less than two cups of tea per day, complete with milk and sugar. I know the proper Tube and bus routes, and crossing the street is becoming second nature. I catch myself using words like ‘delighted’ and ‘quite’ more often in regular conversation. Each day, I’m embracing the quirks. After all, it’s what makes us interesting.
Written by Angela Huang