Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Beyond the logo: building the customer experience

Most of my clients, I have to admit, don't know what a brand is. Well who does!? It's a recognisable logo, right? So please design me a brand.

The difficulty is telling the client that they're wrong. And to be honest they mostly don't want to hear. Building a brand is about taking care of your customers and projecting the right values about your product or service in whatever you do as a business.
I'll be interested to see how my sore little problem turns out in terms of customer experience. Let me shed some light on this for you...

I love shaving! It's bizarre, I know. I think I prefer to pamper myself rather than the act of shaving off skin and hair from my face. In any case I fell for this beautifully packaged and messaged shaving gel: Real Shaving Company. It promised me "anti-razor burn" , "professional formula" for "sensitive skin"!
"This clear gel provides an invisible coating to give incredible slip for against the grain shave with no burning or redness and allows you to see where you're shaving." (Their words not mine)

Oh yeah baby! I'm getting it! This is for me! Total connection with this product- GIMME more! So I shelled out near enough 5 quid for this professional product which promised me no burn or redness. YESSSSSSS!

But I've been having a few problems with it. It doesn't seem to give me the clean results I anticipated from the values the packaging portrayed, nor the details written on the side. Quite sore, no smooth shaving experience, quite painful: tugging at the beard and LOTS of redness...But hey, I persevered with it thinking maybe I wasn't exactly following the instructions. I tend to leave my beard a long time before cutting and it gets quite thick. Maybe that was it. I cut the gel some slack huh!?

But this time, I did everything to the letter. Result:


New razor, washed face, towel dry, shave along grain of beard at first, pulling skin taut to help the shave.
Look at the state of my poor face :-(
But I'm not here to moan about the gel really. I'm telling you about my brand dissatisfaction: my expectations (which were reinforced by the packaging and the website) were not met. In fact if anything all it's achieved is negative brand experience.... up to now!
But let's see how they respond to a letter I'll send them. After all I feel the product has let me down (at the least) and possibly even misled me! Painfully!
So I want to see if the Real Shaving Company can re-establish some of its values with me by its response. How will they react to my complaint? Let's see.... I'll post a letter soon to their Peterborough address. Can a brand be re-built in the customer's mind?
A suivre.....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Adding value through design

This report published by the Design Council recently, picks up on a thread I was writing about earlier: that marketing and design are inextricably linked through business performance.

In fact this report goes further to say that the more investment in design (actually those that "use designers") that the company makes into its product or service, the better return it will have. Yup. What designers have always known: design helps sell products, it's not about tarting it up. In fact it amazes me the amount of times I'm asked to tart up something from a purely aesthetic point of view.

What this report doesn't address (can it ever?) is whether the design has to be necessarily good or bad! Obviously the design needs to address to the core client audience, otherwise nobody will be engaged. But I've worked for clients who are Venture Capital funded and these guys are tight! Ducks don't come anywhere near it. And they're not extremely wealthy for no reason! I'm sure being canny with their money on a small as well as large scale is one way of getting rich. Frequently, though, Venture Capitalists want as much as they can get out of you for as little money as possible. But this is not my gripe: this is the way of the modern economy, n'est ce pas. My gripe is with those VCs who see design as a non-integrated part of the business and marketing process. They plug designers into the "selling" process as and when they need them. I argue that placing a manager of design (or design marketing, marketing design, I'm not fussed) with a full emphasis on the design as well as marketing would be a much more powerful proposition and give them a better return on their investment! As proved by the Design Council report above. Design should be a continuous process managed along the way : constantly looking a the product or service and thinking about how to better serve the client or customer. This is design. Thinking is design. It's an integrated thinking, marketing, design, finance approach. (I used to think it was about drawing pretty pictures. )

Still. There'll always be the client who knocks you hard on price saying: "But a colleague of mine got his website designed for £50 and a bag of Tudor crisps". Well my friend I can say but one thing. Adios.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Giles Gilbert Scott, Cambridge University Library and the need for tea and biscuits!

Yesterday I went to see the Cambridge University Library for the first time. Well close up for the first time anyway, as you can see "this magnificent erection" (words attributed to Neville Chamberlain upon the opening of the library) from pretty much all over Cambridge. In fact you can see it from the M11!

The reason I went to the library was to see the latest exhibition there called, Through the Whole Island, Excursions in Great Britain. The (rather small) exhibition room was showing some very interesting pieces of writing and etchings of people's journey's around the British Isles. Of particular interest, I thought, was a handwritten piece from Charles Darwin. Well worth a visit.

The library building was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. Having known this I was interested and intrigued to see this building close up as I knew of Scott from his impressive Liverpool Cathedral and more mundanely the telephone box which probably made his name famous in quiz nights throughout the UK!

What I wasn't prepared for though was that the building would take my breath away (or at least evoke an audible WOW!). This strong and sturdy temple of learning reaches up and touches the clouds! The windows allowing the exterior viewer to see the books almost saying: "I have a serious, didactic role and am protector of knowledge!". Wonderful also were the details such as the hand rails leading up the well proportioned stair way to the main revolving door.

It seemed like a style on it's own: it has been said that Scott's work fused the classical with the modern creating this new functional style. It was certainly impressive! The only thing it needed really was a tea lady offering biscuits and tea! I was gasping after the cycle over there in the wind!

I do feel obliged to comment on rather a sad note though: that in researching the library on the internet it seems that The University of Cambridge's Brand Manager failed in their task to portray some of these wonderful qualities to the website! A bloody awful mess of a website greeted me which you can see here:

This does not say keeper of knowledge, or didactic mentor nor indeed "this magnificent erection". Sadly it looked like somebody had put a lot of different elements into a bag, shook it about a bit and thrown them onto the screen. And as I dig around the general Cambridge University site I realise that the mess wasn't confined to the library!

Wikipedia boasts: "The University of Cambridge (often Cambridge University), located in Cambridge, England, is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and has a reputation as one of the world's most prestigious universities." See how the University main website utterly fails to convey this: Staggering. Really staggering that this amazing University has for an internet presence what looks like a site that has been knocked together by a programmer over the weekend!

There are no reinforcements of brand values either in textures, colours, or layout of the pages. The navigation is basic. It seems fairly usable and it's Google ranking is certainly sky high (9/10) but it seems no thought has gone into portraying the University values. Easy to criticise isn't it? Well, here is an example (in Cambridge) of how it could have been done better: The Fitzwilliam Museum. No comment, just compare and contrast...

Then again, maybe they want to attract geeky programmers who work over the weekend.....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Design should be business led not technology led

I was having a grumble with a developer friend of mine the other day as we pored over the designs that a creative agency had sent over. We couldn't understand how they could quite blatantly have ridden rough shod over our technical and functional spec whilst designing their concepts! I mean do they realise how difficult it is to implement this design!?

Problem was- the design was spot on. Focus groups of client customers were happy, client was happy: it did the job perfectly. So the developer and I got on with it: tweaking the technology to make it reflect the design. Pushing the boundaries of our expertise in order to fulfil this website. And that's the way it should be!

Visual design in the business environment or commercial visual communications rarely exists to satisfy its own needs. Design can't be led by the technology we use at the moment. If that were the case we'd be riding around in wooden cars. (That's a gag). We have to push technology to fulfil the marketing objectives of (in this case) a website. And of course the marketing objectives are set by the business goals. Design is a function of a business: it has to earn its keep.

So designers of the world unite in your efforts to create websites that look great in their role of doing a good business task. You have nothing to lose but developers who give you grief!


Monday, July 09, 2007

Giving the logo space

You see it everywhere.

It's all around us but usually goes unnoticed.

And it's a disease - we need to take action today to stop it spreading!

Thankfully this disease is curable and I'm here to help you recognise symptoms of this damning condition and to help you STAMP IT OUT!

The disease is: Logo clear space impingement.

Mostly this is seen on PowerPoint presentations where business people have pinched a logo from a website and crammed it onto a heavily laden slide (the contents of which can't be digested anyway) and omitted to give the logo some breathing space. OK- not so critical, but check out this on the new Grand Arcade building in Cambridge:

I mean..on a building! With an amazing brand like John Lewis!?

Give the logo some room dammit! Compare it to the John Lewis website here:

You'll see that I'm not talking about miles of space around the mark; just enough to comfortably recognise it as John Lewis and for it to 'feel' comfortable in its own space!

The reason that when I see this I get slightly uncomfortable is because the logo, which identifies the company and to a certain degree projects corporate values of John Lewis, feels cramped, squished in, about to fall off, unable to breath and at worst: an afterthought. Logos need this white space around them not only to give it a good sense of proportion but to enable a consistent feel across all media so we can easily recognise it time and time again without thinking. OK so John Lewis is a good, solid recognisable brand but if the white space is built into the logo usage visual clarity is maintained and reinforced.

Save the logo now!

Give it air and space to breathe properly....!

Friday, July 06, 2007

CIM: Digital Marketing Conference, July 2007

Yesterday I spent the day at Robinson College in Cambridge at the CIM Digital Marketing Conference and happily I get to report that it was interesting, enjoyable and mostly useful. The thrust of the talks was how to use different online channels to reach customers.

Michael Nutley of New Media Age set the scene nicely highlighting the shifting dynamic of the internet with the movement into a more accessible online environment thanks to fast broadband connections and easy to use online tools. This helps people get online and create their own content and share their views through sites like, Myspace, youtube and facebook. Online users are becoming more and more discerning so in an effort to reach them content must be targeted and relevant if it doesn't want to be overlooked.

Other speakers such as Mike Weston, Tink Taylor (read about the case study Tink gave us on Aquaplastics), Rachel Harker and Dave Chaffey outlined the way this targeted content can be delivered through various channels. Cue different case studies: email marketing (well targeted) can be very powerful as long as it doesn't become too intrusive; mobile content delivery (clever hypertag!); online advertising; interaction with and building of social networks and blogging helps access customers with specific interests.

The magic formula is therefore to find out where your customers are online, then use the right online and offline channels holistically to deliver relevant and targeted content. Get online marketing integrated into your marketing strategy early and budget it in so as to get that message across to acquire and retain customers.


I'm off to integrate and target.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Trademarking on logos and designs

The following is guidance only! I'm not a lawyer so if in doubt contact one!

I was asked whether there were any rules on how to apply the TM sign on logos and icons to protect them. I have done this some time ago for companies but needed to refresh my memory so here is what I've found out: You can apply the TM sign on any of your trademarks at any time to claim rights in it. The C-Circle can be applied only once the mark has been registered. (Ref 1) (Ref 2)

If you are concerned about this ruining the layout of your brochure as you have to dot the TM symbol throughout then fear not fellow creative as you can add it to the first mention in the text or the most prominent usage of it. (Ref 3) "When in doubt, err on the side of “over-marking.” "

And what about your beautiful logo that you've designed? Will it be ruined? Well all I could find is this mention:

"Remember that apart from marking, a trademark should also be properly used (e.g., used as an adjective and distinguished from surrounding text by capitalization, distinct typeface, color and/or size)." (Ref 4)


"These symbols are often put in superscript (smaller, raised) form." (Ref 5)

Wikipedia Trademark article.

Friday, June 29, 2007

CIM: Digital Marketing Conference

I find myself in the unusual position today of being able to spend time on MY business rather than other people's. Quite refreshing.

So I've booked myself on to the Chartered Institute of Marketing's (CIM) Digital Marketing Conference.

Note the seminar named: "Is Blogging good for business?". You may see a shift in emphasis in my blogging patterns as of the 7th July...!

I am intrigued by their bold statement: "Cambridge is the UK’s e-hub, so it’s natural that this should be the location of the leading e-conference"

Oh yeah? Since when? Is this because it's the birthplace of PIPEX or the home of the Cambridge Network? I've just looked up a definition of an 'e-hub' on the web and am more confused. Well I'm happy to be corrected but it seems like that statement is nonsense to me. I'll try and pin someone down on this next week :-)

Looking forward to the venue! I love conferences in the colleges... :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Collaboration....! what you need.... (if you wanna be a record breeaaaker!)

The interesting thing about working closely with other skilled artisans (like myself, ahem), is that often you get to swap ideas, working practices and tools. So in an effort to streamline my hectic lifestyle (!) I've been glad to pick the brains of a friendly developer (yes they exist, I know it's hard to believe). This process usually consists of me looking over Darren's shoulder and saying: "Oh that looks cool, what does it do?". Now I appreciate that this may lead to all manner of tangential conversations but on the last two occasions my prying has brought me real workable tools which I'm happy to share, just as Darren did. That's how it works you know:
"The simplest way to brainstorm online."
"Pidgin is a multi-protocol Instant Messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once."

So no vacillating for me! It's off to so some communication and brainstorming online! Oh did I say that Howard Hodgkin has a retrospective on at the Fitzwilliam..... Maybe I'll just nip out for 5 minutes.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Which Typface are You?

Well it seems the BBC website has gone font crazy!

A nice little piece showing how different typfaces represent different feelings.

And also a free chat-up line thrown in for you!
(Hmmm- what a beautiful body size you have.... erm, maybe read the article huh?)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Helvetica versus Comic Sans!

Well, take a look and make your own mind up. It never ceases to amaze me how many official documents end up in Comic Sans or some other simlarly weird font. Given the choice, which font would you use for your business in order to convey clean, crisp efficiency and professionalsm?

"In 1995 Microsoft released the font Comic Sans originally designed for comic book style talk bubbles containing informational help text. Since that time the typeface has been used in countless contexts from restaurant signage to college exams to medical information. These widespread abuses of printed type threaten to erode the very foundations upon which centuries of typographic history are built."

"The Helvetica font is celebrating its 50th birthday. You've probably seen it a thousand times today. Why?"

Friday, March 16, 2007

We the moderns

Upon cycling along the Cam this morning with a clear, bright blue sky overhead and a stiff but pleasant nip in the air I felt great! On top of the world. Or at least on top of my uncomfortable rcing saddle... Breathing in deeply I enjoyed the ride and on arrival at the office slid the window open and poured myself some authentic Japanese green tea from my flask (thanks Vicki!). I felt good! All these sounds, sights and feelings evoked a mix of pleasant emotions within me.

Plus the prospect of seeing an exhibition at Kettle's Yard today that I've been looking forward to. It's called: 'We the moderns':

It exhibits sculptures by Gaudier-Brzeska who lived (briefly!) at the turn of the 20th Century and who explored the idea of dynamic movement while leaving behind the old order of the arts, embracing the new technological advances of that age. Gaudier-Brzeska was a member of the Vorticism movement which was linked to the (mainly Italian) Futurist movement.

So what has this to do with my lovely morning and visual communciations? Feelings and emotions. My morning cycle ride produced good feelings inside me through external stimuli which my senses captured. I processed these senses prompting memories and thought processes and hey presto: nice feeling!

Funnily so do the sculptures by Gaudier-Brzeska! This amazing sculpteur managed to convey dynamic movement from dead stone! How wonderful to be moved by cold, lifeless stone. To have emotions well up within us all caused by a static sculpture.

And I'm interested in the same processes going on in people's heads when they interact with a website or a piece of visual communication: how can we develop emotions from 2D interfaces. We need to tap into the psychology and cultural make up of our target audience in order to get that warm fuzzy feeling. The goal? To communicate: to buy, to sell, to inform, to convince, to persuade .... Developing this visual language is an iterative process with the end user: research, design, trial, feel, feedback, design, trial.... And sometimes it works.

But never as well as Gaudier-Brzeska.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Little Technology Hut

What happens when 2 bright sparks with lots of interesting clients and associates get together? We burn the house down that's what!

Last night we launched this joint initiative between Mudhut Communication ( and Littlefair ( with a bash at a local bar overlooking the Camb. Plenty of wine was drunk and hopefully some good networking done!

We've started this collaboration in order to help key individuals within the technology sector present complex technical or commercial information. This way both Mudhut and Littlefair can continue their businesses while focusing together on the technology sector.

Read more at our website: