It’s a common fallacy to think of a time before a change in status quo as somehow being magically problem-free. A Panglossian world where all was well and nothing needed to change, and wasn’t it a shame that it had to. Similarly, we cannot blithely consign the retail industry of the past to some glorious era when everything was perfect; far from it. The industry has been under continual evolution, with no absence of controversy on the way. It was therefore a timely reminder, as well as being a fascinating article in its own right, when the New York Times provided readers recently with a potted history and a gaze into the future of Manhattan department store stalwart, Barneys. Not only is their past one in which the original proprietor sought to undercut his own suit suppliers, creating a bootlegging economy by literally ripping out their labels and replacing them with his own, but it was also one where department stores served a very different purpose to what they do today. They had less direct competition, not least unforeseen competition in the form of shops without a physical presence. Moreover, today they are run in an extremely different way, with an arguably much healthier emphasis on revenue (though some might say this comes at the expense of a feeling of luxury, in a lobby now brimming with handbags and little breathing room). The problems and opportunities for Barneys could serve as an analogy for the industry of which it is a part.
Despite brief reprieves such as Black Friday (click on headline image for CNBC’s coverage), as well as the expected post-Christmas shopping frenzy, can one of the main problems affecting retail at the moment simply be that it is undergoing an industry-wide bout of creative destruction? Zeitgeist has written about the nature of creative destruction before, and whether or not that is to blame for retail’s woes, the sector is certainly in the doldrums. In the UK, retailers are expecting a “challenging” year ahead. Recent research from Deloitte shows 194 retailers fell into administration in 2012, compared with 183 in 2011 and 165 in 2010. So, unlike the general economy, which broadly can be said to be enjoying a sclerotic recovery of sorts, the state of retail is one of continuing decline. How did this happen, and what steps can be taken to address this?
Zeitgeist would argue that bricks and mortar stores are suffering in essence due to a greater amount of competition. By which, we do not just mean more retailers, on different platforms. Whether it be from other activities (e.g. gaming, whether MMOs like World of Warcraft or simpler social gaming like Angry Birds), or other avenues of shopping (i.e. e-commerce, which Morgan Stanley recently predicted would be a $1 trillion dollar market by 2016), there is less time to shop and more ways to do it. The idea of going to shop in a mall now – once a staple of American past-time – is a much rarer thing today. It would be naive to ignore global pressures from other suppliers and brands around the world as putting a competitive strain on domestic retailers too. Critically, and mostly due to social media, there are now so many more ways and places to reach a consumer that it is difficult for the actual sell to reach the consumer’s ears. This is in part because companies have had to extend their brand activity to such peripheries that the lifestyle angle (e.g. Nike Plus) supercedes the call-to-action, i.e. the ‘BUY ME’. The above video from McKinsey nicely illustrates all the ways that CMOs have to think about winning consumers over, which now extend far beyond the store.
If we look at the in-store experience for a moment without considering externalities, there is certainly opportunity that exists for the innovative retailer. Near the end of last year, the Financial Times published a very interesting case study on polo supplier La Martina. The company’s origins are in making quality polo equipment, from mallets to helmets and everything in between, for professional players. As they expanded – a couple of years ago becoming the principle sponsor of that melange of chic and chav, the Cartier tournament at Guards Polo Club – there came a point where the company had to decide whether it was going to be a mass-fashion brand, or remain something more select and exclusive. As the article in the FT quite rightly points out, “Moving further towards the fashion mainstream risked diluting the brand and exposing it to volatile consumer tastes.” The decision was made to seek what was known as ‘quality volume’. The company has ensured the number of distributors remains low. Zeitgeist would venture to say this doesn’t stop the clothing design itself straying from its somewhat more refined roots, with large logos and status-seeking colours and insignia. Financially though, sales are “growing more than 20% a year in Europe and Latin America”, which is perhaps what counts most currently.
In the higher world of luxury retail, Louis Vuitton is often at the forefront (not least because of its sustained and engaging digital work). While we’re focusing purely on retail environments though, it was interesting to note that the company recently set up shop (literally) on the left bank of Paris; a pop-up literary salon, to be precise. Such strokes of inspiration and innovation are not uncommon at Vuitton. They help show the brand in a new light, and, crucially, help leverage its provenance and differentiate it from its competition. Sadly, when Zeitgeist went to visit, there was a distinct feeling of disappointment that much more could have been done with the space, which, while nicely curated (see above), did little to sell the brand, particularly as literally nothing was for sale. The stand-out piece, an illustrated edition of Kerouac’s On the Road, by Ed Ruscha, Zeitgeist had seen around two years ago when it was on show at the Gagosian in London. Not every new idea works, but it is important that Louis Vuitton is always there at the forefront, trying and mostly succeeding.
So what ways are there that retailers should be innovating, perhaps beyond the store? One of the more infuriating things Zeitgeist hears constructed as a polemic is that of retail versus the smartphone. This is a very literal allusion, which NBC news were guilty of toward the end of last year. “Retail execs say they’re winning the battle versus smartphones”, the headline blared. What a more nuanced analysis of the situation would realise is that it is less a case of one versus the other, than one helping the other. The store and the phone are both trying to achieve the same things, namely, help the consumer and drive revenue for the company. Any retail strategy should avoid at all costs seeing these two as warring platforms, if only because it is mobile inevitably that will win. With much more sound thinking, eConsultancy recently published an article on the merits of providing in-store WiFi. At first this seems a risky proposition, especially if we are to follow NBC’s knee-jerk way of thinking, i.e. that mobile poses a distinct threat to a retailer’s revenue. The act of browsing in-store, then purchasing a product on a phone is known as showrooming, and, no doubt aided by the catchy name, its supposed threat has quickly made many a store manager nervous. However, as the eConsultancy article readily concedes, this trend is unavoidable, and it can either be ignored or embraced. Deloitte estimated in November that smartphones and tablets will yield almost $1bn in M-commerce revenues over the Christmas period in the UK, and influence in-store sales with a considerably larger value. That same month in the US, Bain & Co. estimated that “digital will influence more than 50% of all holiday retail sales, or about $400 billion”. Those retailers who are going to succeed are the ones who will embrace mobile, digital and their opportunities. eConsultancy offer,
“For example, they could prompt customers to visit web pages with reviews of the products they are considering in store. This could be a powerful driver of sales… WiFi in store also provides a way to capture customer details and target them with offers. In fact, many customers would be willing to receive some offers in return for the convenience of accessing a decent wi-fi network. Tesco recently introduced this in its larger stores… 74% of respondents would be happy for a retailer to send a text or email with promotions while they’re using in-store WiFi.”
These kind of features all speak more broadly to improving and simplifying the in-store experience. They also illustrate a trend in the blending between the virtual and physical retail spaces. Major retailers, not just in luxury, are leading the way in this. Walmart hopes to generate $9bn in digital sales by the end of its next fiscal year. CEO Mike Duke told Fast Company, “The way our customers shop in an increasingly interconnected world is changing”. This interconnectedness is not new, but it is accelerating, and the mainstream arrival of 4G will only help spur it on further. The company is soon to launch a food subscription service, pairing registrants with gourmet, organic, ethnic foods, spear-headed by @WalmartLabs, which is also launching a Facebook gifting service. At the same time, it must be said the company is hedging its bets, continuing with the questionable strategy of building more ‘Supercenters’, the first of which, at the time a revolutionary concept, they opened in 1988.
One interesting development has been the arrival of stores previously restricted to being online into the high street, something which Zeitgeist noted last year. This trend has continued, with eBay recently opening a pop-up store in London’s Covent Garden. These examples are little more than gimmicks though, serving only to remind consumers of the brands’ online presence. Amazon are considering a much bolder move, that of creating permanent physical retail locations, if, as CEO Jeff Bezos says, they can come up with a “truly differentiated idea”. That idea and plan would be anathema to those at Walmart, Target et al., who see Amazon as enough of a competitor as it is, especially with their recent purchase of diapers.com and zappos.com. It serves to illustrate why Walmart’s digital strategies are being taken so seriously internally and invested in so heavily. Amazon though has its own reasons for concern. Earlier in the article we referenced the influence of global pressures on retailers. Amazon is by no means immune to this. Chinese online retailer Tmall will overtake Amazon in sales to become the world’s largest internet retailer by 2016, when Tmall’s sales are projected to hit $100 billion that year, compared to $94 billion for Amazon. The linked article illustrates a divide in the purpose of retail platforms. While Amazon is easy-to-use, engaging and aesthetically pleasing, a Chinese alternative like Taobao is much more bare-bones. As the person interviewed for the article says, “It’s more about pricing – it’s much cheaper. It’s not about how great the experience is. Amazon has a much better experience I guess – but the prices are better on Taobao.”
So how can we make for a more flexible shopping experience? One which perhaps recognises the need in some users to be demanding a sumptuous retail experience, and in others the need for a quick, frugal bargain? Some permutations are beginning to be analysed, and offered. Some of these permutations are being met with caution by media and shoppers. This month, the Wall Street Journal reported that retailer Staples has developed a complex pricing strategy online. Specifically, the WSJ found, it raises prices more than 86% of the time when it finds the online shopper has a physical Staples store nearby. Similar such permutations in other areas are now eminently possible, thanks in no small part to the rise of so-called Big Data. Though the Staples price fluctuations were treated with controversy at the WSJ, they do point to a more realistic supply-and-demand infrastructure, which could really fall under the umbrella of consumer ‘fairness’, that mythical goal for which retailers strive. Furthemore, being able to access CRM data and attune communications programmes to people in specific geographical areas might enable better and more efficient targeting. Digital also allows for a far more immersive experience on the consumer side. ASOS illustrate this particularly well with their click-to-buy videos.
As the Boston Consulting Group point out in a recent report, with the understated title ‘Digital’s Disruption of Consumer Goods and Retail’, “the first few waves of the digital revolution have upended the retail industry. The coming changes promise even more turmoil”. This turmoil also presents problems and opportunities for the marketing of retail services, which must be subject to just as much change. If we look at the print industry, also comparatively shaken by digital disruption, it is interesting to note the way in which the very nature of it has had to change, as well as the way its benefits are communicated. It is essential that retailers not see the havoc being waged on their businesses as an opportunity to ‘stick to what they do best’ and bury their head in the sand. This is the time for them to drive innovation, yes at the risk of an unambitious quarterly statement, and embrace digital and specifically M-commerce. What makes this easy for those companies that have so far resisted the call is that there is ample evidence of retailers big and small, value-oriented to luxury-minded, who have already embraced these new ideas and platforms. Their successes and failures serve as great templates for future executions. And who knows, the state of retail might not be such a bad one to live in after all. Until the next revolution…
So Lance Armstrong (under)stated recently that he’d had a ‘difficult couple of weeks’.
Just to recap. In the last fortnight or so (and despite his protestations of innocence), Armstrong has gone from being a much lauded athlete who overcame serious illness to dominate one of the world’s toughest sporting competitions to a discredited drugs cheat and stripped of all his titles.
A ‘difficult couple of weeks’ by anyone’s standards.
Since the evidence against him grew and former team-mates spoke out about his role in the doping culture in the US Postal team, the position of sponsors such as Nike has shifted. Where initially they stood by their man, they ultimately decided to cut the relationship, citing that he had “participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade“.
It’s one of the inherent dangers of sponsorship.
While your endorsee is sweeping all before them you are associated with success and glory. But as Tiger Woods sponsors found out a few years ago, if that star misbehaves your brand is associated with someone getting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The news that cycling has/had a doping problem is both unsurprising and depressing.
Unfortunately, the same can also be said for the experiences of the England U21 side in their recent play-off in Serbia.
Racism in football
Having been subjected to racist chants throughout the game, things came to a head at the final whistle when Danny Rose was sent off for kicking the ball into the abusing crowd and punches were thrown as players and coaching staff jostled their way towards the dressing rooms.
Racism is a blight on society. It exists in the UK and while it is not tolerated in public arenas, the economic downturn hasn’t helped our natural tendency to tribalism when things are tough.
For nations that haven’t experienced the levels of immigration of other ‘races’ that the UK has, attitudes to people with different colour skin are not as liberal. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t all plain sailing and painless for us to get to where we are.
Terminology that was common just a couple of generations ago is now taboo. TV shows of the 1970’s wouldn’t even be considered now. And footballers in the UK used to have to run the gauntlet due to their skin colour as recently as the 80’s and indeed, incidents are still being reported in 2012.
None of this excuses what happened in Kruševac and nor does it excuse the lenient approach footballing authorities have taken with racist incidents in the past. In a multi-billion pound industry, fines of tens of thousands of pounds have little impact.
FIFA and UEFA are keen to cite the power of football to change society when awarding tournaments to countries like Ukraine and Qatar but plead impotence when it comes to topics like racism.
The natural indignation in England has lead some to suggest that we should pull out of international tournaments to make a point. Such an action would most likely be met with champagne corks popping in Nyon and Zurich, and would only serve to further dilute our voice in the global game.
The Serbian FA could have offered UEFA a get out of jail card. A statement recognising the monkey chants, apologising to the FA and footballing family and a clear plan of action to ensure it never happens again would have enabled the games rulers to give them a slap on the wrist.
Yet the Serbian FA refuted clear evidence of racist chants and stated that any claims to the contrary were malicious.
‘FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.‘
Had they sent a letter saying ‘Fuck you! We did nothing wrong and we’re not changing!’ their attitude couldn’t be any clearer.
And in doing so they batted the ball firmly into UEFA’s court making the question very clear.
Do UEFA believe there was racism at the game and if so, do they consider it acceptable?
Driving behaviour change
Behaviour change and persuasion are all about understanding what motivates of the people you are trying to influence. This means putting your own motives to one side for a moment.
In other words, if we want UEFA and FIFA to impose stronger penalties for incidents of racism we need to understand what influences them.
And let’s be honest, British indignation has never kept them awake at night.
Much higher on the list of priorities are the many sponsors who provide a huge chunk of the money that powers the multi-billion pound football industry.
Just like Nike and Lance Armstrong’s sponsors, FIFA and UEFA’s backers (which include brands like Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Adidas) have a rare opportunity to make their opinion on an unsavoury topic clear.
No brand wants to be associated with racism and upsetting the sponsors is something the footballing authorities do not tolerate. Just ask Niklas Bendtner who was fined £80,000 for showing his Paddy Power lucky pants during EURO2012.
Compared to the fines given to national associations for incidents of racism, it seems rather excessive.
The sponsors are the ones with real power to influence, and maybe only a rebuke from the people who line their pockets will make finally FIFA and UEFA start taking racism in football seriously.
Earlier this week, Zeitgeist went along to the outskirts of Kensington to visit ad:tech, billing itself as the number 1 event for interactive marketing.
First up was Ed Elworthy, Brand Communications Director for Global Football at Nike. One of the more interesting points Mr. Elworthy made was in stating how little notice the company pays to consumer research, saying Nike never put anything in front of a research group. ‘Trust Your Gut’, the accompanying slide read. He paraphrased an oft-used epithet:
“A client uses research in the same way a drunk uses a lamppost; for support rather than illumination.”
Nike’s marketing needs no introduction; over the decades they have produced some of the most exhilarating and innovative adverts on television. Nike built its reputation on a brand built for runners, by runners. But there’s a disconnect between a brand that is all about people, and a brand that simply talks at you during ad breaks. The company certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels. During the 2010 World Cup, aside from producing the incredible Write the Future TV spot (below), the brand went further by setting up a football training centre in areas of less affluence to give people the opportunity to play and be taught who otherwise would never have the chance to kick around a ball in any organised way. This activation campaign says more about the brand than any of its glitzy commercials – beautiful and successful (in terms of awards) though they may be.
Moreover, this wasn’t the first time Nike had branched out from television and online. Its 10k runs in London, and North vs South attracted thousands of people and generated awares in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Who can forget the brand’s incredibly successful venture with Apple to produce Nike+? It was this strategic alliance that also inspired Nike to go ahead with The Grid, which encouraged runners everywhere in London to compete by racing from public phonebox to phonebox, dialling an access code and measuring time taken versus themselves and others. Holistically numbers were low, but among those who did take part, engagement was extremely high. Lastly, who can forget Nike’s greatest brand activation, that of Livestrong. Who would have thought rubber bracelets would become, for an astounding length of time, the zeitgeist manifest?
Next up was Euro RSCG London‘s CEO Russ Lidstone, whose presentation was entitled ‘Failing Forwards’. He suggested that failure, as long as it didn’t hurt the company and was contained and controlled, was a good thing, that we do not better ourselves unless we push ourselves first to limits that may have a breaking point, or may have multiple answers, some of which are wrong. He noted with interest how audiences are not to be segmented merely in terms of demographics, but also in terms of cultural viewpoints. The agency’s recent campaign for Chivas Regal seeks to raise the standing of the true gentleman, the honourable hero, etc. One of the images used in the TV spot was used for a separate print campaign, that of the firemen pictured below. In China the difficulty was that the firemen used for one of the ads just weren’t aspirational enough (not wearing nearly enough Prada, probably). This sets off issues of cultural tensions that surface when you are trying to appeal to a particular consumers based globally, who may or not be interested in your product.
Returning to the subject of mere demographics, Mr. Lidstone also noted the importance of awareness of frame of reference when dealing with those covetable young audiences. He showed an interesting slide of frames of reference, with a major event listed per year. Someone in their 40s, with their earliest memories at around 5 or 6, would be likely to remember the release of ‘Star Wars‘. A 16-year old today would probably have 9/11 as one of his or her earliest memories, and the recent 10-year memorial service would not have meant as much to them. He went on to talk about “advertising to manage social momentum”, noting how easy it is for your brand to lose its equity due to a misguided tweet or a grumpy consumer, alluding to the recent Topman debacle, as well as the fraudulent – not to mention hilarious – BP Global PR Twitter feed that sprang up in the wake of the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico last year. The feed at one point was being followed by 55,000 people, compared to BP’s official, paltry, 7,000. “Our brands lie naked in front of the consumer”, he emphatically summarised. They can find out anything about us; there is a greater need for brand humility. Hear, hear, says Zeitgeist, though we’re not sure if Tom Ford would agree.
The way celebrity endorsements normally work is that a brand will identify someone with a high profile who is respected by core consumers and who embodies what the brand is all about, or wants to be all about.
It’s not always as straightforward as it sounds.
Some brands have teamed up with the most unlikely partners, while others have learned the hard way that celebrities are human too and that means they can make mistakes and decisions that you don’t want your brand associated with.
However, some marriages are made in heaven and can even lead to lucrative co-branded products such as the Nike Air Jordan range that was much desired by a young Zeitgeist.
Given how much kudos or harm a celebrity endorsement can do, Zeitgeist was piqued to read that Abercrombie and Fitch had suggested that they could pay MTV to not allow characters from Jersey Shore to wear their brands as the association was damaging.
One of the inherent dangers of being an aspirational or fashionable brand that is not priced to make it all but inaccessible to the very lucky few is that you will be worn by undesirables who want your brand to rub off on them.
This, combined with the modern phenomenon of reality TV shows and the glorification of the minor celebrity with limited talent but a huge thirst for fame, can result in a brand receiving more exposure from accidental off-brand associations than their much crafted paid for work.
It is to mitigate this kind of damage – and to generate some buzz – that Abercrombie and Fitch have made their proposal.
While offering to pay someone to not associate with your brand might be a simple solution and a reversal of the traditional model of paying someone to endorse your brand, it isn’t particularly creative and Zeitgeist can’t help but wonder it could actually be dangerous.
Now that a precedent has been set, will we now see the smarter minor celebrities attempt to ‘extort’ lucrative ‘anti-sponsorship’ arrangements with brands who would want nothing to do with them.
With marketing budgets already modest, we hope not.
Apple’s powerful brand helps it sell its various computer devices to customers. Nike’s brand is similarly beneficial as far as sports shoes and apparel are concerned. Both brands have a certain ideology; cues that tip off the buyer as to what to expect from the product, or what kind of ethos they are buying into. Not so for a 20th Century Fox. With the 3D cash cow already struggling, what can film studios do to leverage affinity for their product?
In the early days of the filmmaking, the branding of a studio was more prevalent. The audience in turn, might have had more affinity for one studio over another, which may be what the choice comes down to when presented with a similar product – two asteroid films, for example, just like Nike must compete with other sneaker manufacturers. 20th Century Fox has a diverse stable of films, from Star Wars, Titanic and Avatar to Black Swan and The Wrestler. The latter two are produced by a subsidiary studio, focussed on smaller, art films, called Fox Searchlight. With such a narrow remit, it would be interesting to see the studio build its brand with consumers more, encouraging affinity. Could other subsidiary studios be created, in name only, to signal different genres and expectations to movie-going customers? They could take a leaf from Marvel’s marketing handbook, which, laden with the singularly uninspiring film Captain America, used the equity of the studio’s previous films to raise the hypothetical level of assumed quality: “From the Studio that brought you…”. It’s a great idea that could be used far more frequently by a greater number of studios.
The remix and mashup are emblematic of the pluralistic society we live in today. Renowned professor Lawrence Lessig would have it no other way, as he points out in his book, ‘Remix’. Every time a company lays itself on the line by broadcasting its intellectual property, it submits itself to reinterpretation by a society who through the use of cheap, simple technology, can easily reinterpret the original content, and under claims of educational or critical purposes, the new content is legal under terms of fair use. The above, reworked Nike ad is was a great example, but has since been taken down due to claims of intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. An Oriental homage of Nike’s “Write the Future” can be seen above.
Yesterday’s insightful op-ed in the FT (which mentions the great Lessig), calls the implementation of the current 95-year copyright limit “a terrible strategic blunder”, advocating instead for shorter but better regulated terms. Over-protective IPR stifles innovation, and is unnecessary since “most holders of copyright gain all the money from a work they will ever do within five or 10 years and the rest of the term is like a one-in-a-million lottery ticket for the rare artist such as J.K. Rowling”.
Nike’s new spot for Tiger Woods, ahead of his return back to the greens and fairways later today, is an interesting one. It features a monochrome vision of Tiger as he looks into the camera, while in a voiceover his late father questions what the future will bring for him, now the skeletons are out of the proverbial closet. Zeitgeist reported on Tiger’s indiscretions before, and while brands like Accenture have sought to distance themselves, Nike have stood firm. Brand Republic has more. At what point do we distinguish between the athlete or performer, and their personal life? What do you think of the new ad?
From the Winter 2009 Zeitgeist…
Brand ambassadors are nothing new. Napoleon (seen above in a casual pose) has long been such an ambassador for the watchmaker Breguet, having worn one during his short (for he was short) life. But what happens when the real world conflicts with the manufactured artifice? Are all of Andre Agassiʼs triumphs now overshadowed by drug addiction? What of recent rumours that Tony the Tiger is diabetic?
Tiger Woodsʼ indiscretions have highlighted such concerns; what happens when an athlete who is not only a champion in his chosen field, but also seemingly the epitome of a gentleman in his private life, turns out to be less than perfect? Tigerʼs presence – a young man of mixed ethnicity in a sport dominated by old, rotund white guys obsessed with the faux exclusivity of country clubs – was a huge statement in of itself. It was for all these reasons though that some major blue-chip brands chose to invest in his good name. Who can forget the fantastic Nike spot of yesteryear?
While his namesake currently graces the Spirit Airlines website, Tiger can unfortunately no longer be found on the Accenture homepage. For a company to so abruptly end such a sponsorship is an enormous blow to both parties and both brands. Industry Standard wrote, “Tiger has literally become the sole face, the strategic embodiment, the business essence of Accenture, the $22 billion global IT, outsourcing and business consultancy proclaim[ing]: ʻWe know what it takes to be a Tiger.ʼ Everything about that slogan has now become a PR debacle, comedian’s punch line and perplexing psychological examination…”.
Tiger is now on an “indefinite” leave from golf and the brands that rely on the sportsman solely for his golfing prowess are sure to be affected. Electronics Arts will have a hard time selling the umpteenth version of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise if the eponymous player does not compete. TV ratings for golf tournaments will similarly suffer, according to the FT and New York Times. Nike, PepsiCo and AT&T are all of a ʻwait and seeʼ mindset. Gillette will “remove its Woods-related advertising for now” in order to respect his much sought-after privacy. Gilletteʼs triumvirate has suffered of late. Thierry Henry is also mired in scandal after denying Ireland a place in the World Cup by somewhat guiding a ball with his hand at a crucial point in the game. Gillette has denied the act will affect his contract. Roger Federer seems to be the only one currently untainted, though not wishing to jinx him, Zeitgeist will move swiftly on…
Ultimately, such crises can be fleeting. Michael Phelps, pictured with a bong and promptly dropped by Kelloggʼs, will not be forgotten for winning a Fort Knox-worth of gold medals in Beijing. NFL player Michael Vick organised brutal dogfights in his free time, but returned to the game to cheers from the fickle crowd. There may be lasting impact this time, however. As the Zeitgeist team have said before, if caught, the best practice is to immediately admit culpability, express sincere contriteness and take ownership of the situation, as Accenture have done.
From the July Zeitgeist…
With the London Olympics on the horizon and the World Cup next year, one rather large sporting event has just taken place on our doorstep. The Championships at Wimbledon provided a very interesting case study of digital brand activation.
The sponsors, though subtle, were plentiful. Ralph Lauren served as the wannabe‐Brideshead Revisited outfitter. Their site is serious, serene and sophisticated. Not much fun, however. Aside from some nice flash video and some tips for players, there isn’t much going on. Evian have a more engaging, enjoyable site, though it promises more than it delivers; while the navigation is interesting, the functionality is unsatisfying as it could have been so much more. The Wimbledon site itself does an excellent job of ensuring the brand remains true to its ethos while still keeping it fresh and relatively contemporary. The pop‐up live scoring, VOD, blogs and social networking functionality make it a fantastic site. Ticketmaster have been releasing unallocated tickets for Centre Court throughout the championship, and have linked with the Wimbledon homepage and eCRM campaign.
HSBC has played a larger role this year in its sponsorship of the tournament, hosting a poll for people to vote for who, in their opinion, is the greatest men’s and women’s player of all time. However, the bank’s sponsorship page is somewhat uninspiring, and the link on the Wimbledon website could also be improved. The BBC, never one to miss an opportunity to elevate and aggrandise out of all proportion every generational hope for a British winner, had blanket coverage of the tournament; their online presence with blogs, live online video, text updates and impressive editorial was a great showcase of exciting
but not overwhelming content and functionality.
There is a superb iPhone app as well, which Ogilvy played no small part in developing with IBM. No talk of Wimbledon would be complete without mentioning Roger Federer, who on Sunday won his sixth Wimbledon title and 15th major. Nike created a simple but effective microsite for him, where users can leave a congratulatory message. This is published as a collage on a green lawn; the site prompts the user to re‐publish their message on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As some of these examples are temporary, make sure you check them out ASAP.