Category Archives: Creative

Happy Cat, Fit Dog

There are some days when I absolutely love my job! Today was one of them! I had the delightful task of coming up with a website idea for a pet grooming/pet services company. Now for those of you that know me, I love animals and especially fluffy ones at that. So spending an afternoon playing around with Photoshop to make sad cats happy and unhappy dogs peppy, it really did put a smile on my face.

The concept was to show owners how the small things like interaction with other pets, regular exercise and a grooming session makes a big difference to an animals wellbeing. We feel better for a trip to the hairdressers, having a facial or going on that regular run or dance class, and by using the animals in a humanistic way, conveys this message.

I used Photoshop’s Liquify to get the results of the upturned mouth and raised eyebrows and made sure that it was a subtle change to steer away from it looking too comical.

Click the images below to view the animation.

happycatsml fitdogsml

I definitely had to hold back on the awe’s and ahh’s whilst doing it!

Happy Christmas from Bussroot

Bussroot Christmas Card

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.
Thank you for all of your wonderful support in 2014, it really does mean so much.
Let’s all have a toast to a successful and prosperous 2015.
Anna-Marie and Vin xx

YOUR BRAND’S GOT TALENT!

microphoneNow I’m not going to confess to being hooked on the TV talent shows but I’ve watched a few in passing and I’m convinced there are valuable lessons to be learned in how we market a brand. Have you noticed how often contestants on their first entrance shuffle onto the stage in front of the panel in scruffy clothes, looking dreary and uninspiring…and then they begin to perform and there’s no doubt that they have something to sell…a unique skill that the right audience will buy into. And so the journey begins.

As with the budding stars, a business may well have a great product or service but unless it reaches out and connects with its fan base, the target audience, the message is going to fall flat. The mentors in a talent contest (the brand developers) know exactly how to transform the contestant’s image to attract loyal followers. Are they appealing to teenagers, tweenies or adults? If we were privy to the demographics and gender of the voters we would no doubt be able to foresee the result from the start.

Emotions play a big part in building any relationship. How many times do we hear the judges in a talent competition tell the contestants that they need to connect with their audience…to show that they believe in what they have to offer? They’re told to ‘make it your own’ and avoid imitation. When you set out to build your brand personality, make sure you understand your target audience inside and out, have an outstanding image that remains constant and hits the right note. You don’t want to lose your fans to a competitor do you?

 

 

What colour are you today?Purple

So you’re laying in your warm snuggly bed, the alarm has already gone off and you need to get up and face the day. When searching to find something to wear how many of you think about the colour you are going to put on? Is it something you spend time on, or do you just reach for the first thing closest to you?

We are always amazed by the mysterious clothing world that Anna-Marie lives in and her vast array of colourful clothes! The same colour is never worn two days in a row and the combinations are… well… quite unusual!

This week we overheard her mumbling that she thought the wonderfully bright imperial purple top she was wearing was enhancing her creativity! Now we realize that there might be many factors that make us more creative one day to another, however we started thinking about wearing certain colours and it evoked some research.

It turns out that wearing purple helps you to open your mind to higher forces thus making a channel for creative energy…! Wearing purple will help to inspire you and others and help you get in touch with your creative side and intuition.

We asked Anna-Marie why she chose to wear purple that day (especially as we had a heap of ideas to originate) and whether it was subconscious or pre-planned. She told us that it was an easy decision when peering into her magical wardrobe and that she was drawn to it instantly. Anna-Marie also wore a purple Sodalite necklace that when researched found that its healing properties were associated with the right side of the brain, stimulating intuition and imagination.

Below is a very brief overview of colours:

Red: Strength, stamina, action-oriented, movement
Orange: Energetic, practical, sociable, healthy
Yellow: Communicative, happy, new ideas, clever
Green: Harmonious, relaxing, understanding, peaceful
Blue: Loyal, trustworthy, caring, authoritative,
Violet: Creative, powerful, inspirational, spiritual

We all have certain tasks that face us each day – maybe the colour you are wearing today could make it that little bit easier!
Oh and for a visual picture, Anna-Marie is wearing red with peacock green today…! Work that one out…

 

beerfestival

Brewing your brand

Venturing through a train shed with the aroma of diesel oil and malt Tom found himself up close and personal to Kissingate and a cheeky Black Cherry Mild! At the end of the evening was he left flat on his back staring at the stars or was there something else etched on his mind…

As a favourite pastime Tom decided to pay a visit to the Tunbridge Wells Spa Railway Beer Festival this weekend and had the pleasure of drinking with a Caveman (which left him feeling a little bit Palaeolithic himself), and milking out over a third of a pint from the Old Dairy Brewery. He was left impressed, and merry, by the great selection Kent and its surrounding area has to offer.

Since this little jaunt a thought ran through his mind as to how important the label on the beer was to the decision making process. Was it a case that a first time a punter would experience a beer through brand before the taste? Thus make a decision based purely on a visual experience (if they were still functioning cognitively so to speak)!

In fact he realised that this was one of the criteria in his selection process. It was the feeling that he got from the label and the subject matter that made him choose one over the other. The quality of the label was also a major contender in this process. Now we know that Tom is a nerdy designer and that he eats, sleeps, breathes design, however… what if this was the case for many others?

So what is it about a label that sways our decision? Is it the colours, the textures, the typeface or the subject matter? Tom concluded that it was a mixture of all of these, however it was down to knowing your target market and how you can hold their attention and herald your product as the most scintillating refreshing offer you can muster that was key.

After his 8th, third of a pint it materialised that he was glad that all the labels weren’t to his taste and others needed some improvement!

So how do you choose your beer or wine in your local pub/supermarket when you don’t know anything about it? Our Tom would love to know…

Talking

We don’t talk anymore

In this digital age that we’re now living in, have we lost the art of verbal communication? When was the last time you had the full attention of the person you were talking to without being interrupted by chirping text alerts, or the tapping of outgoing messages?

Without a doubt, technology is harming our basic ability to listen. We’re easily distracted, burying our heads in laptops and iPads, mobiles and on social media sites. There was a discussion running recently on whether dinner party hosts should be offended if a guest chatted on the phone during the meal. It’s concerning that we may even consider it to be acceptable…but it happens. I’m talking about social chat, not the urgent call that may come from the babysitter or from a neighbour warning that the house is on fire! Presumably we believe that talking into a tiny hand-held device is discreet enough to be acceptable. Would we feel as comfortable if we were holding a mobile phone the size of a brick with an aerial long enough to poke our dinner companion in the eye?

In business, we may well be losing the emotional connection, invaluable in cementing a long term working relationship. We email when we could easily pick up a telephone and avoid personal meetings by communicating via Skype and MSN, using the excuse that we’re saving valuable time. We panic when the internet goes down or our mobile service fails to provide us with a strong signal. A recent university study in Tel Aviv determined that excessive use of the internet and associated applications has similarities with other obsessive behaviour, including sex addiction, compulsive gambling or kleptomania.

If we allow it to, technology can easily get in the way of our relationships and leave both friends and business associates believing that we have little interest in them. Ikea, who are no doubt familiar with couples showing a lack of communication when walking around their stores together, carried out a recent study on technetronics in the bedroom, concluding that a high percentage of couples continue to use their laptops after they get into bed. Amazingly Facebook now figures high in the reasons given for divorce with one in five citing the social media site for the major cause of the marriage breakdown. I know of one couple who communicate by computer during the evening sitting in different rooms, while the teenage son sends orders by text for snacks to be delivered upstairs. Will the next generation lose the ability and the inclination to engage in personal conversation, preferring to interact remotely through the internet?

We may or may not be forgiven anti-social behaviour within our family, but when it comes to communicating in business we’re led to believe that 55% is down to body language, 38% in the tone of voice and only 7% in the words we use. If this is the case, the less we meet face to face with our clients, the weaker the message we’re hoping to deliver will be.  We need to find the time to talk in person and to avoid outside interruptions while we do so. In the words of the 18th Century theologian  Joseph Priestly, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate”. Surely the least we can give someone is the gift of our attention. Let’s talk.

packaging

Packaging predicament

I had a wrestling match in the kitchen this morning, but not I might add with someone resembling the Incredible Hulk. I was grappling with a plastic carton which was proving to be impossible to open. Optimistically, I had attempted to prise it apart with my fingers, followed by a futile attempt at frenzied stabbing with a pair of scissors and then hacking into it with a carving knife. This carton just wasn’t going to give up its contents. Does this sound familiar?

Is it my imagination or are we having to pit ourselves against an increasing amount of impenetrable packaging? The Australian state of Victoria hosts the Golden Dump Award for the most excessive use of packaging material. Dump by the way stands for ‘Dangerous and Useless Materials in Packaging’. My complaint isn’t just about the over use of plastic, it’s as much about the irritation of having to battle to get into it. Short, slippery pull tabs that are impossible to grab hold of, bottles hermetically sealed that even your multi-purpose Swiss army knife wouldn’t open and boxes that are virtually bullet proof. Useless packaging must be high on the causes of the increase in consumers stress levels.

Have you noticed how deceiving packaging can be? Giant size plastic containers in supermarkets hide mini portions for a premium price, that wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of a mouse. Easter eggs housed in enormous boxes usually contain a few mouthfuls of chocolate and leave us feeling cheated. Graphics on packaging are often guilty of faking proportions, leading us to believe we’ll get value for money when the reality is quite different. Surely design concepts should be developed with the end user in mind and in making the consumer feel good about buying the product. Designers should take into account that someone will actually need to open the package. We’re frustrated by packaging which doesn’t meet our needs and statistics show that 67% of consumers will choose the product with the least packaging when given a choice. Personally I don’t want to see an apple encased in a giant plastic bubble. It doesn’t need to be given room to breathe! Britain uses more packaging than anywhere else in Europe. In Switzerland and Germany customers have the option of leaving the unwanted packaging behind at the checkout, to be returned to the manufacturers. The only snag may be in removing the packaging without holding the queue up for half and hour or so!

Apart from the fact that the environment pays dearly for all this over-packaging, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of breaking and entering. Could we please have packets in proportion and that don’t take the skills of Houdini to open?

honesty

Copy candor

How many times do you feel you’ve been mislead and let down in an advertisement, especially when ordering from the internet? This may well become less frequent  now that the digital world has come under the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority with strict new codes, bringing it in line with off-line advertising.

This is good news for the consumer but is something of a wake up call for companies to ensure that websites are ASA compliant. The new regulations call for all online retailing, advertising, sales promotions and direct marketing to be accurate and honest about a product or service. Claims that promise to double your income, are risk free, or advertise schemes that will deliver overnight results are outlawed. A guaranteed delivery assurance has to show clearly under what conditions this may not be met. Bait and switch offers where an advertised product is no longer available and a higher priced item substituted will contravene the new code. If the special offer is no longer valid it should be removed from the website. The ASA by the way, doesn’t differentiate between marketing which sets out to deceive you from that which unintentionally fails to reflect the true facts and leaves the consumer with the wrong impression.

The regulations state that a company should avoid exaggerating statements and must hold documentary evidence supporting claims of how much a consumer can save by purchasing a product or service. So called ‘testimonials’ displayed on a web page will be closely scrutinised for validity. Viewing a new website recently for a local care home which isn’t due to open for another month, showed testimonials from a ‘relative’ enthusing on how well Dad is being looked after, and another on how friendly and welcoming the staff are on every visit. As the home isn’t yet operational and has no residents, this is an obvious contravention of the ASA code. Customer reviews and testimonials have to be supported with written evidence of the recommendation and the name and address of the person supplying the testimonial must be available on request.

Now we come to the social media platforms! The new regulations for online marketing also includes all unpaid advertising and marketing communication through networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or Linkedin which is under your control. You are now longer free to post derogatory comments about a competitor (as if you would)! The code states “Marketers must not unfairly portray or refer to anyone in an adverse or offensive way unless that person has given the marketer written permission to allow it”. That’s unlikely to happen then!

Where does it leave those of us with a website? The regulations came into force earlier this year on March 1st and companies have been given 6 months from this date to comply or face being named and shamed, have their paid-for search advertising removed and the ASA may place advertisements online highlighting an advertiser’s non-compliance. Essentially this would mean that if your company name was typed into one of the Search Engines the warning about your false or misleading marketing would come up first. Bear in mind that Google have donated considerable seed funding to the implementation of the new regulations.

It’s essential that you read through the code  thoroughly and then review your website copy ensuring you’re able to back-up all of your claims. Remove anything which you can’t substantiate or which you believe falls into a grey area, or for peace of mind have a professional health-check carried out on all of your website copy.

Honesty will definitely be the best policy!

brandpromise

Brand promise

We all love special offers don’t we? How often though can we trust them to live up to their promise? There’s a very wise piece of advice that if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. Nothing causes loss of confidence in a company or a brand more than when they fail to deliver on their word.

A promotion which falls flat on its public face is often referred to now as the Hoover effect. In 1992 the British Division of Hoover when faced with the predicament of how to reduce the surplus stock of washing machines and vacuum cleaners in their warehouse, came up with a marketing plan to offer a free pair of round trip tickets for flights to Europe for every sale over £100. The response was completely underestimated and to add to the fiasco, Hoover were unaware of the looming disaster and proceeded to enhance the offer by introducing a second promotion offering return flights to the USA. The company were immediately flooded with applications to redeem coupons and it became impossible to keep up with the demand. It cost Hoover close to 50 million pounds and involved a lengthy court case, spearheaded by the Hoover Holidays Pressure Group.

You may be curious as to why I’ve resurrected the 20 year old account of a failed marketing campaign. I’ve used it as an example of how, if a company fails to calculate the consumer’s positive or negative response to a special offer, the cost in both damage to the brand reputation and loss of profits can be immeasurable. The promotion currently running in a national tabloid newspaper is a prime example. The launch of a new ‘rewards club’ requires readers to purchase the weekend editions over a number of weeks, register membership online and send in a series of coupon codes for a variety of £5 gift vouchers to be redeemed in supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants etc. It sounds fairly simple doesn’t it? Apart for the fact that the marketing team presumably underestimated the number of uptakes, with launch vouchers still sitting in the warehouse after several weeks due to an ‘unexpected level of demand’. Another fatal error when you’re offering your customer a good deal is to fail to make it clear what the terms and conditions are. If you try to wriggle out of what the consumer believes to be a perfectly legitimate claim, it’s hardly going to put the company in a good light. In a number of newspapers the coupons were missing. An instruction advised readers to call a designated number ‘today’ for a coupon code (at the callers own cost), with no date. If you didn’t read your magazine supplement until a day or two later you’d have missed the deadline for claiming the missing code, with just a pre-recorded message telling you ‘today’ referred to Sunday only. Their mistake, your loss. Admittedly not likely to result in a court claim, but aggrieved readers on mass may well reduce sales.

A special offer as with any product or service has to live up to the brand promise or your consumers will feel they’ve been hoodwinked. Your market audience may not come baying for your blood, but they may well lose confidence and take their business elsewhere. Now has anyone got that missing voucher code?

bussroot business card

Business card bewitch

I came across a discussion recently on whether business cards are a thing of the past and should join the obsolete items along with telex machines and comptometers. Anyone remember them?  Or hand-written personal letters. You don’t see many of those now either, apart from the thankyou letter you may send your granny when she’s knitted you a balaclava or a pair of gloves during a cold snap. That’s called ‘good manners’. Although these days Granny may now be too busy surfing the net!

If business cards were banned, (I’m asking you to use your imagination here), would you miss them? I can guess that many of you will claim that technology has replaced the need to hand out cards when the contact details can be scanned into an iphone, blue tooth etc. This leaves me out in the cold then with my basic mobile phone, an ancient Nokia that I’m as comfortable with as an old pair of slippers. So for those of us who can’t scan or input and download, how professional are we going to appear if we scribble our details down on a scrap of paper or the back of a cigarette packet? Thinking about it, there aren’t many cigarette packets around now to scribble on either!

The visiting card began its life in 15th Century China and arrived in Europe in the 17th Century in the form of trade cards, usually with a map showing directions to the business address due to the fact that buildings generally weren’t numbered. The Japanese still treat business cards with time-honoured respect and consider them to be a sign of professional credibility. If Japan is seen as one of the most advanced in modern technology, maybe it’s significant that the Japanese never attend a meeting without them. They accept the card you’ve offered them with both hands, ceremonially. You’ll never see them scribble on it, flip it across the table or fiddle and fidget with it while they’re talking to you. If you stuff the card they’ve given you into your back pocket it’s considered the equivalent of sitting on them. This card represents their standing within the company. Disrespect the card and you disrespect them.

I believe that we’re missing an important point when we talk about business cards being redundant. Above all, I believe they should be treated as a valuable marketing tool and an extension of the brand message. If we trust the law of seven touches or points of contact before a brand is registered subconsciously for future recognition, then surely the business card must play an important part, together with emails, direct mail, other advertising mediums and social media etc. This is assuming the design is appealing and clearly says what you do and who you are, giving all points of reference. Is your card memorable and does it stand out from the rest?

I’m a tactile person. I like to hold the card I’ve been given and refer to it when I’m back in the office. If the design on the card is distinctive, I can instantly recall the meeting, when it was given to me and who it belonged to. If you leave me with your business card I’ll treat it with respect and although the collection may be growing rapidly, I promise it won’t end up in the bin. You don’t even have to be Japanese!