‘Review of the year’ is a grand title for what is mainly a review of things I’ve tweeted / favourited (now ‘liked’) over the last year. I’ve also been less active than usual online, so this will miss out a lot of things. But apart from that, here is my comprehensive and authoritative review of the year.
Best brand conversation
Brands having conversations are like people pretending to be on the phone. You chat away, nodding and chuckling at imagined jokes – but then the phone rings and everyone laughs and points at you. For a brand, there’s nothing more disconcerting than when a real person answers back. Tesco wins the best brand conversation award for the Twitter exchange above, closely followed by this one:
Worst brand conversation
This was the year that Andrex launched a five-step guide to wiping your backside and asked us all to have a conversation about it. I wrote about it here: Conversation my arse
Brands doing feminism and getting it wrong. Sometimes it’s obvious and almost endearingly cack-handed, like Bic Pens celebrating International Women’s Day, or the recent IBM #hackahairdryer campaign. Other stuff gets celebrated widely, but is arguably worse. This Mindy Kaling article (last few paras) should be required reading for the Always and Dove marketing teams, who confidently tell the rest of the world how to do feminism, with the passion of a recent convert.
Non-trend, because it’s not something that happens much or gets shouted about. But there are examples of brands doing serious social good, without making a song and dance about it. This Ricoh Save The Memory project is a painstaking, years-long, open-source effort to rescue thousands of photographs lost and damaged in the Japanese tsunami of 2011. It’s properly useful, but it’s hard work.
This probably has to be emojis. I don’t actually mind emojis – they’re fun. What grates is the media consensus that any project or press release that contains the word ‘emoji’ is now automatically and hilariously innovative and ‘now’. (Before this, it was ‘selfie’, which still retains some of its talismanic power, although it’s starting to wear off.)
So Domino’s wins accolades for ordering a pizza by emoji. Dove solves everything by releasing curly-haired emojis. McDonald’s upsets copywriters everywhere with an emoji-only ad (above – the last emoji was added by a member of the public).
And the newspaper USA Today even included emojis to signal the tone of its stories – an experiment that has predictably been shelved.
All of this leads to horrified predictions of an illiterate, wordless future, but it’s mainly effective for its novelty value. Once someone has done an emoji-only ad, you really don’t need to do another.
Worst client of the year
The one brand that hasn’t done emojis is the Tokyo Olympics, where they would be quite appropriate. Instead, they win Worst Client of the Year for hanging their designer out to dry following pretty thin allegations of plagiarism, before launching another competition.
Fun project of the year
To prove that sports and branding can work together, this Logo Gym project by Studio Dunbar is pretty invigorating.
Punctuation of the year
The mood of the UK election night was captured in the transition from the first edition of the Daily Mirror to the second, the last lingering hope deleted with the question mark.
Packaging copy of the year
Always spoilt for choice with packaging copy. The prize has to go to Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients. As @aljwhite pointed out, they are now starting to sound like Nicholas Witchell reporting on the Queen.
Mentions also for the most annoying bread in the world:
Washed down with some rugged wine (via @rhodri), which should have been called Man with a Vin.
And finally some cheese (via @betarish). I feel like I spent 11 months of this year making my way though the last line of this poem:
UI copywriting of the year
It’s not just packaging any more. One of the new frontiers for tone of voice is user interface copy. There is no error message or sign-up form that can’t be jazzed up with some chatty tone, like this error message:
Or this sign-up box:
This stuff extends to support services too. @howells tweeted this horror:
And there was a news story about Barclays threatening to give names and personalities to its new ATMs, including Sally and Jake. I’m not sure what Barclays’ demands are, but the nation will surely do anything to stop this from happening.
Worst naming project of the year
If it does happen, ATM Jake will have to compete with Storm Jake, one of a new front of branded storms that have been unleashed on the UK, following a competition by the Met Office to get the public to suggest names. To be fair, this stuff seems to be effective in raising ‘awareness’ of specific storms, which may have some public safety benefits. But you suspect it’s also about improving the Met Office’s social media metrics – metrics which it absolutely doesn’t need to have. Anyway, just like the US, we’ve gone with naming storms after people, which is simultaneously infantilising and sinister. It’s distressing enough for your house to be flooded, without it being by a storm called Phil. (Mind you, it’s better than a storm being sponsored by BMW and going on to take many lives.)
Worrying TOV development of the year
Speaking of UI copywriting, tone of voice has made its way onto road signs this year, in an experiment designed to increase public safety and reduce examples of road rage. I started and never finished a long blog post about this. The short version is I think it will briefly decrease and then steadily increase road rage.
Interesting TOV development of the year
This was also the year in which tone of voice guidelines went viral. The weird thing about the Warwick University backlash was that it’s not that extreme an example of the genre. But it doesn’t take much to produce a backlash these days.
Smart design move of the year
This was a smart way to reframe a two-star review from The Guardian.
Technology of the year
I like this story about how the humble whiteboard proved critical to negotiations with Iran.
Stupid job title of the year
Director of Modernise, Southwark Council.
Brand Darwin Awards Inaugural Winner
I wonder if there should be a Brand Darwin Awards, for brands that shoot themselves in the foot, and then the head. This year’s goes to Paypal for telling kids everywhere there’s no Santa (wrongly, because there is a Santa).
Brand psychopath of the year
I’ve argued before that brands are like psychopaths, ticking most of the boxes on the Hare PCL-R checklist. Even psychopaths deserve awards, so here goes:
The first of three winners is UBS for its grim ‘good father’ campaign (via @zarashirwan). See ‘Conning and Manipulativeness’ and ‘Shallow Affect’.
HSBC (the alleged money-laundering bank now threatening to leave the UK) ticks 'Lack of Remorse or Guilt' for advising us all to eat leftovers:
And AirBnB goes heavy on ‘Grandiose Self-Worth’ for its misjudged (and later withdrawn) hotel tax campaign, whose tone of faux-innocent entitlement is typical of too many brands today:
Two great design projects
Many more where these came from, but two that spring to mind are these ‘nostalgia for the future’ NASA posters:
And there was a particularly fine D&AD Annual cover this year by David Pearson et al.
Long copy of the year
An entire novel on a double page spread.
Short copy of the year
This obituary. You learn a lot about Doug from these two words. No nonsense, enjoyed a joke, everyone knew him. Short copy can say a lot.
Creative project of year
One of them anyway. I loved the Partick Thistle mascot by David Shrigley. A collaboration between the art world and football could have been patronising or gimmicky, but this was done in the right spirit – the mascot (Kingsley) captures the cheerful angst of watching your local team. The media tried to create a ‘backlash’ story against it, full of quotes from aghast tweeters, but most were actually joining in on the joke.
Image of the year
The most powerful image of the year was the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Kos, which doesn’t need to be posted again here.
On a more surreal note, this was a real thing that happened in the UK:
Line of the year
It’s already become over-familiar after being quoted by Cameron and others, but in a year bookended by Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan, ‘You ain’t no Muslim bruv’ was a concise and humane rebuttal of a whole narrative.
To end on a happier note:
Festive greetings to one and all. (This is a pic from last year, from Sale Appliances in Southend. Henry is one of the great underestimated brands.)
Thanks to anyone involved in all the tweets and links above – I’ve tried to cite sources where I can.
NB: If you liked 2015, you might like the prequel: Rough notes on 2014
Branding companies across the UK reacted with a mixture of scorn and disbelief to the recent launch of ‘British storm names’ by the British public, a project undertaken in association with the Met Office.
After a months-long project awarded exclusively to the British public, the names chosen to brand future British storms and hurricanes were: Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake, Katie, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vernon and Wendy.
“What an amazing waste of time” commented one branding insider.
“Unbelievable – my kid could have thought of these” said another.
More branding experts took to Twitter to slam the campaign. Atticus from Shoreditch tweeted: “Whoever thought of Jake needs to take a look at themselves. These people call themselves the ‘Great’ British Public?”
Leonora, an ideation consultant from Clerkenwell, posted: “This campaign blows harder than Hurricane Tegan.”
Branding experts were quick to point out similarities to a previous names-based campaign for US storms. “The US smashed it out of the park with Katrina – and now suddenly we’re going with Katie. Coincidence?” said one.
The British public has thus far refused to comment. It is believed they won the project in an unpaid pitch and took on the work pro bono.
One insider told us off the record: “In the grand scheme of things, this reaction doesn’t really bother us. If it’s getting a reaction from branding experts, that can only be a good thing.”
Rocked by the backlash, the Met Office is rumoured to be considering dropping the new names and appointing an entirely different public – possibly the French.
NB: This is my audition for The Onion, and is therapeutic to write given the public backlash that comes with any branding launch these days.
It’s not often I get away from my desk, but I’ve had the privilege of being invited to a Society of Design conference in Philadephia this October, thanks to organiser Craig Welsh at Go Welsh.
If this blog has any readers in or near Philadelphia, please come along – in fact, email me and I may be able to arrange a discount. You can find more information on the speakers (an interesting and eclectic line-up) and venue here: societyofdesign.org
I’ll be talking about the writing I like, the way writing works with design, giving some insight into a book I’ve been working on, and talking about anything else I can think of between now and October. Afterwards, I will have a beer with anyone who will drink with me.
This isn’t exactly a comprehensive review of the year, more a trawl back through things I’ve tweeted or favourited over the past 12 months – Twitter can be a useful mental archive that way (when it’s not being used for retrieving lost property, as in my most shared tweet of the year).
One of the common themes is mortality (please keep reading). This was the year we lost great advertising writers including David Abbott (The Economist, JR Hartley and countless others) and Julian Koenig (Volkswagen ‘Think small’), and stars of design including Wally Olins, Massimo Vignelli and more recently Rodney Fitch. I wrote about David Abbott here and reviewed Wally Olins' last book for Creative Review (subs only). Also recommend New York Times on Julian Koenig and Michael Johnson on Wally Olins.
One writer happily bucking the trend is Clive James, who recently admitted to being “in the slightly embarrassing position where I say I’m going to die and then don’t.” His ‘Japanese Maple’ won widespread praise this year and he continues to write lucidly and arguably better than ever as he approaches the end.
Death has a way of leading to great writing. In the bleak aftermath of the MH17 flight, these notices in Schiphol Airport (via @jessbrammar) were a civilised, secular piece of corporate writing.
More recently, the sudden death of cricketer Phillip Hughes saw collective grief expressed through a powerful symbol. Hard not to be moved by #putoutyourbats
Such genuine expressions of grief put into severe perspective the trend for ‘sadvertising’ that has been noted by a few commentators this year – referencing ads that aim to make us cry rather than laugh.
For example, there’s Dove challenging mothers and their daughters to confront their inherited ideas of body image (quite moving to watch, but always in the uncomfortable knowledge that you’re being sold a brand positioning).
Then there’s the camera rising from the trenches of the First World War and that big Sainsbury’s logo appearing in the sky (in the Christmas ad that at least moved the conversation on from John Lewis). Whatever you think of it, it’s hard for brands to associate themselves with issues so real and emotionally charged without at least a whiff of self-interest surrounding the whole thing. (At the other end of the life cycle, this was also the year that a detergent brand live-tweeted the birth of a new baby.)
Then again, for all that we feel uncomfortable with brands intruding on the serious issues of life and death, sometimes life and death intrude on brands. This Costa coffin (in which a woman who was a great fan of the coffee chain requested to be buried) has a jarring and, let’s face it, blackly humorous effect. But there’s something moving about the way people form such an affection for brands – albeit not the kind of connection Costa can place at the centre of its next ad campaign.
Even more affectingly, there was this story of a son keeping his dead father’s memory alive by racing against his digital ‘ghost’ on Xbox (worth reading the whole thing here). Again, not something Xbox can easily turn into an advert (although it’s not out of the question).
Before leaving the subject of life and death, I was pleased this year to come up with a line for this bench plaque, dedicated to the very-much-alive Ben Terrett – backstory here.
So, on to lighter things. Packaging copy continues to entertain and amuse, usually not intentionally.
This was the year of tomatoes with the unmistakable aroma of, erm, tomatoes. (via @whatsamadder).
Leading edge chocolates for chocolate eaters who mean business.
And the most middle-class copy ever for Waitrose (via @will_jkm)
There was also some good stuff, like this Cultivating Thought project for Chipotle, which uses packaging as a platform for interesting writing – would love to see more brands doing this, rather than chatting away about a product you’ve already bought.
Now the quickfire round:
Bob Hoffmann hailing the Golden Age of Bullshit at Advertising Week Europe. Uncomfortable applause all round.
Best TV ad
Not strictly TV, but a 6-hour pre-roll on YouTube for Virgin America (created by Eleven in San Francisco), imagining a deathly boring competitor called BLAH Airlines. A well-worn strawman strategy, but brilliantly done: advertising as high commercial art.
Best press ad
This Unlaunch ad for the VW Bus (actually 2013 I think).
And this Nothing happened ad for Ecotricity.
Worst print ad
This Cobra campaign, which is apparently based on the fact that Cobra is an anagram of BraCo, so let’s imagine a company that makes bras and... and... sorry, I resign. (How that brainstorm should have ended.)
Best exhibition graphics
Enjoyed these simple, writing-led graphics that completely make sense of the Design of the Year exhibition (by Ok-RM).
Most heroic filler copy of the year
This description of curtains is one of the most stoically professional pieces of writing ever crafted, taken from the IKEA website.
Best non-commercial writing project
Pop Sonnets: reimagining pop songs as traditional sonnets. Lovely idea, skilfully written.
Best national slogan
Only one contender: this wonderfully evocative Ivory Coast team slogan for the World Cup. I wrote an analysis of all 32 slogans for Creative Review, including Brazil’s ‘Brace Yourselves, the 6th is coming’, which proved painfully prescient when they got hammered 7-0.
Burger King’s new strapline was another milestone on the continuing journey into pure abstract thought that is currently being undertaken by all global brands. By 2019, all brands will have replaced their straplines with a steady, mantra-like hum.
Brand extension of the year
Protest branding of the year
The $urreal: a mock banknote and social media campaign protesting against rising inflation in Brazil and the increasingly ‘surreal’ prices of everyday goods.
Protest song of the year
Bit obscure, but in a year of continued austerity while the rich get richer, I liked this 64-year-old singing a 17-year-old’s song.
Plagiarism of the year
Image of the year
Has to be the one at the top of this post, from Ferguson. Sadly, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ and ‘I can’t breathe’ are also the most memorable slogans of the year.
There ends this incomplete and impressionistic review of 2014, which nevertheless took ages to write.
If only there was an efficient way of keeping track of an entire year in diary form.
A tweet by cheese brand Président has caused a stir on Twitter following a report that it took 45 days to prepare, including the involvement of a copywriter, designer, between 10-20 strategists, at least two social media managers, more senior writers and designers in the approval process, and then presumably various layers of management within the client company. Unsurprisingly, the result hasn’t been taken entirely seriously, but it's worth noting that it is actually quite a strong tweet.
Here’s my word-by-word appreciation.
Implants a subliminal message into the first word of the tweet, enticing readers into an RT- and fave-friendly social state of mind.
Note the modestly generic ‘a’ not ‘our’ – a brave move that theoretically means this tweet promotes competitor Camembert brands. But the right decision. ‘a’ is less controlling and more confident – and there is a massive picture of PRESIDENT CAMEMBERT below.
Important to get this into the first three words of the tweet.
More social triggering. Interesting exclusion of ‘family’ here – was this a sticking point in discussions?
Good to open with a question, immediately creating a sense of involvement and dialogue.
At this point, the tweet is only seven words, but has impressively set up a dynamic tension between the opening question and the cheerful and socially flattering aside. The use of parentheses is key here – worth the deployment of two extra characters.
Note the graceful move from interrogative (opening sentence) to exclamatory (parentheses) and now into the imperative, gutturally Anglo-Saxon ‘get’. This switch of mood is a sign we are getting to the ‘meat’ of the tweet (or the cheese).
the best flavor
That mildly winded sensation you’re experiencing is the Benefit hitting home. Despite its deceptive opening, this tweet isn’t just here to make conversation – it has a clear product-related message. (Was there a discussion about the Americanised ‘flavor’ as opposed to the the UK-friendly ‘flavour’? Of course there was.)
by serving at room temperature.
The tweet is working hard now, delivering pure information at high speed. The slip into more formal language isn’t accidental, but creates a reassuring sense of quasi-scientific authority.
This is where the tweet steps up several levels from incidental disruption into pure Idea. The reader is being invited to consider all that has gone before not merely as good advice in its own right, but as one part of a bigger vision to appreciate and champion the ‘art’ of cheese. Think of the possibilities deftly captured in that 12-character device. The perfect cheddar-bread ratio for cheese on toast. The best cheese to pair with a Ritz cracker. How cottage cheese got its name. And is the subtle echo of 1980s synthpop experimentalists ‘Art of Noise’ coincidental? Nothing is coincidental in this tweet – it’s a smart trigger for the mum/dad demographic.
This appreciation is primarily concerned with the wording of the tweet, rather than the styling of the accompanying picture (which deserves an appreciation of its own), but note the enormity of the brand name – a no-nonsense contrast to the subtlety of the preceding tweet.
One final note: the entire tweet leaves three characters of its 140 to spare. At first sight, this is troubling – that’s three characters of valuable social media real estate unused. Were there discussions about this? Could there have been more exclamation marks after ‘generous’? Could ‘flavor’ have been depicted as ‘flavo(u)r’ to embrace the UK English market? Perhaps it’s nice that we’re being left to wonder what else might have been. This tweet has worked hard, but there is always the possibility of better to come.
Take your time, Président Cheese, we’re prepared to wait.
It should be noted that the agency involved has challenged the ‘45-day’ version of events, although the journalist has stood by the reporting. I think the agency might be better off embracing the humour and mounting a forensic defence of the tweet – they are welcome to use any or all of the above.
It’s primarily a visual reference with images of over 300 self-initiated projects, but it also includes a series of five short essays around the subject. Craig has kindly allowed me to reproduce mine here.
By Nick Asbury
Woody Allen said that 90% of success is showing up. Looking at the design industry, you could say the other 10% is showing off. Self-initiated and self-promotional work has always played a big part, both for rising stars making their names and global firms keen to maintain a creative reputation.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Indeed, there’s a lot right with it. Simply moving from one client brief to another is a passive existence for any creative person. A self-initiated project is a chance to explore ideas and elements of your craft that would otherwise never see the light of day.
There’s a subtle distinction between self-promotional work and self-initiated work. The former is explicitly produced for the purpose of promoting yourself – that’s the only reason it exists. It might be a book detailing your best projects, or a mailer talking about your company approach.
Self-initiated projects are different. They’re ideas you pursue yourself, without the involvement of a client, but which have a purpose beyond self-promotion. For me, this is an interesting seam to explore. It might be a book of poetry rearranging the words on corporate websites, or inventing the language equivalent of the Pantone color-matching system. If you pursue an idea you find interesting, there’s a good chance other people will too.
Of course, self-promotion is a useful side-effect when these projects go well. But the same is true of client work. Do a great job for a client and it won’t just be good for them. Your firm’s reputation grows by association, among your peer group and other potential clients. In that sense, all work is self-promotional. You just have to make sure the world knows about it – which brings us back to showing off.
However you do it, showing off has to be done. Many of the best things that happen in any creative career come about through serendipity: striking up a friendship with a like-minded collaborator, or bumping into the right client at the right time. Showing off helps serendipity happen. The more visible you are to your peers and the world at large, the more likely it is you’ll get that magical, career-changing email out of the blue. That’s partly why I said yes to writing this article – it’s a form of showing off. And you never know who might be reading.
Like anyone with a blog, I regularly have to delete stupid spammy comments on other posts, particularly the one I wrote about Instagram for some reason.
So I thought it would be at least mildly amusing to have one post where I don't delete the spam comments, but do point out that anyone you see below is an AUTOMATED SPAMMY IDIOT TIRESOME WASTER OF HUMAN TIME AND ENERGY. AND A TOOL.
If they're linking to a site selling trainers, please note the trainers are rubbish and this person wets themselves every night and has no friends.
Thanks for bearing with this, which is purely for my own cathartic purposes.
Walkers Crisps have reportedly relaunched their core crisp flavours with new packaging featuring noticeably wordy product descriptions. Each begins with an adverb, followed by the flavour descriptor, then s0me extra detail giving a sense of 'provenance'.
The device is no doubt intended to add a little verbal garnish, in the style of self-consciously aspirational restaurant menus. However, for me, it's immediately redolent of mid-sixties Bob Dylan song titles.
Hence, in a follow-up to our not-that-popular Dodge or Fall game, we are pleased to introduce... Arguably Dylan or Crisp.
See if you can tell the difference.
Arguably Dylan or Crisp
1. Classically Ready Salted with Salt from Cheshire
2. Distinctively Salt & Vinegar with Real British Vinegar
3. Positively 4th Street
4. Unmistakably Cheese and Onion with Cheddar from Somerset
5. Absolutely Sweet Marie
6. Simply Roast Chicken with Free Range Chicken from Devon
7. Queen Jane Approximately
8. Tantalisingly Tomato Ketchup with Vale of Evesham Tomatoes
9. Obviously Five Believers
10. Only a Prawn in Their Cocktail
To view the answers, either stand on your head or turn your screen upside-down.
A post to point you towards the Johnson Banks Review of the Year 2012, which has become something of an industry institution. I sent in some contributions that made their way into the mix and won me a copy of the new edition of Problem Solved in return. A good way to start the year.
If you haven’t already moved on from 2012 retrospectives, the full list of contributions I emailed went like this:
Mike Dempsey’s six-part story of CDT. Lovely balance of personal and professional insight.
Over-hyped thing you’d like to see the back of (and that Creative Review should probably stop covering)
Pantone colour of the year. A tired but frustratingly effective PR ruse.
Best ad of the year
Channel 4 ‘Meet the Superhumans’ Paralympics promo. Still electrifying to watch.
Worst ad of the year
Colgate ‘focus group’ – possibly the most excruciating thing ever committed to film.
Second worst ad of the year
Facebook is a bit like a chair, sort of, if you think about it.
Writing project of the year
Ma’amite. Single word, but pretty good.
Best creative project of year
Olympic opening ceremony, obviously.
Worst creative project of the year
Olympic closing ceremony. Conceived by "a hugely powerful establishment creative director who is not actually creative."
Best creative of year
Design of the year
The Heatherwick cauldron is the obvious and deserving choice, but the gold postboxes were a lovely touch.
Influential design project of the year
gov.uk by Government Digital Service. Still an epic work in progress but on course to be a major design and writing achievement.
Design story of year
The Comedy Carpet not getting in-book at D&AD. An indictment of the design judging culture that ought to be a tipping point, but probably won’t be.
Unfortunate book of the year
The Snowman’s Journey – the book of the John Lewis ad.
Brand refresh of the year
Ecce Homo restoration.
Worst brand use of Twitter
This ‘topical’ tweet from @YahooNews:
Last week a Moscow judge sentenced a band to two years in prison. What musical act would you send to lockup and why?
Website of year
Quote of the year
“Hard work and grafting.” Mo Farah after winning second gold.
Worst brand campaign
Mini Cooper sponsoring what turned out to be a deadly weather front.
If you were reading this blog in 2009, you may remember a post appealing for information about illustrator John Hanna, who created a series of beautiful covers for Country Fair magazine in the early 1950s. Remarkably little information existed about him online, but thanks to a few plucky commenters we managed to track down more information about his life and work.
Now designer-maker Jenny Duff has been in touch to say she’s been given permission to create a series of table mats reviving those original illustrations. The illustrations were offered to her by the family of journalist and publisher Macdonald Hastings, who edited Country Fair. According to Jenny’s website, the family remember using copies of the magazines as table mats when they were children, so it’s fitting that they should be reincarnated in this way.
They make for a lovely collection. Maybe it’s proof that good work will always be rediscovered eventually, however long it takes.
Today’s Guardian carries a story about Kraft Foods, who have set up a new company to handle their snack food products. As is often the case these days, rather than getting the professionals in to come up with a name, they launched a crowdsourcing-style competition. The result is Mondelez, where the ‘monde’ suggests ‘world’ and ‘delez’ supposedly suggests 'delicious'.
It doesn’t immediately strike you as a great name. The pronunciation is ambiguous and it sounds slightly like a French xxx-rated site.
The tone of the Guardian article is certainly wry and the comments so far suggest the name will draw mockery, not just on its intrinsic merit or lack of it, but also for the fact that it was crowdsourced – the winning suggestion came from two employees.
But it’s worth noting that, when it comes to naming, crowdsourcing is nothing new.
As long ago as 1890, a Macclesfield breadmaker called Richard ‘Stoney’ Smith launched a national competition to find a name for his new flour and breadmaking business. The winning entry came from a student called Herbert Grimes. And it was Hovis.
Like Mondelez, it comes from a contraction of two foreign-language words. In this case, it’s the Latin hominis vis, meaning ‘strength of man’.
It’s a great name, for which Herbert Grimes won £25. Not bad money in those days, although he may have negotiated more had he known it would still be around in 120 years.
The story is proof that crowdsourcing is far from the newfangled practice it’s made out to be. In many cases, it's really a fancy name for a competition.
There’s another interesting footnote on Hovis. The runner-up in the naming competition was ‘Yum yum’, which would have set a very different tone for the brand. It suggests that a tendency for slightly grating, infantilising brand language was also alive and well in 1890.
The picture at the top of this post (sourced here) shows the gravestone of Richard 'Stoney' Smith in Highgate Cemetery. It's a fascinating irregular shape and there is something satisfying about a Stoney stone, especially as it commemorates a man whose stock in trade was ground flour.
UPDATE: This article has subsequently appeared in a revised form on the Creative Review blog. Commenter Ben Millar notes that £25 would equate to £2,400 in today's money. Not to be sniffed at.
If you’re vaguely connected to the world of social media, you’ve probably heard about 3½-year-old Lily Robinson and her letter to the manager of her local Sainsbury’s store.
Lily had quite reasonably spotted that Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread looks more like a giraffe and suggested a name change. Customer manager Chris King wrote a cute reply, agreeing that the name was ‘a bit silly’. As these things do, it subsequently ‘went viral’ on Facebook and elsewhere. In a clever move to keep the family-friendly PR story going, Sainsbury’s has now officially renamed the bread.
It’s only a change to a single word, but it’s well observed, rooted in the visual appearance of the product, and may well lead to a surge in sales. All of which leads me to wonder whether Lily Robinson could become the youngest ever winner in the D&AD Writing for Design category.
The deadline is tomorrow Lily, so it’s time to get your pocket money out.
In the predictable rush to cover natural disasters, political upheaval and the fall of empires, many reviews of 2011 will no doubt fail to note our blogging exploits – so we've been forced to write our own.
Here are eleven posts from 2011:
1. The year began on a sad note with Mr Blog’s Valedictory Awards Show.
2. The valedictory mood continued with reflections on Rob McElwee’s disappearance from our daily lives.
5. April saw ill-informed copywriters defacing a blind man’s sign.
6. May was all about the Creative Amnesty, a joint venture with Creative Review, which saw the great and good of the creative world sharing their worst ideas.
7. June was the month of 1,000 words.
8. July was The One With The Really Good Friends Advert.
10. October saw the unwrapping of WrapperRhymes.
11. And finally there was a salute to the greatest brand name of all time: Rotavator.
If you have been, thank you – and happy Christmas.
For the past three weeks, Alistair Hall of We Made This has been cycling his way from one end of Britain to the other. Before he left, he invited 20 guest bloggers to man the blog in his absence. The results have been seriously interesting – all very different, all very good.
Nick Hornby on cover design
Catherine Dixon on José Luiz Benicio da Fonseca
Mike Reed on Milward & Sons
Joe Dunthorne on Le Gun
Clare Skeats on Foundation
David Pearson on phillumeny
Mike Dempsey on visual culture
Andrew Diprose on the best bike in the world
Michael Johnson on the future of the Design Council
Angharad Lewis on reading
Joe McLaren on Whizzer and Chips
Paul Finn on George Perec
Ace Jet 170 on pigeons, planes, and asterisks in the sky
Phil Baines on remembering, the French way
Caroline Roberts on the Elephant and Castle
Max Fraser on freedom
Eleanor Crow on variations on a theme
... and a poem from Laura Dockrill
My contribution was about the designer behind Tunnock's.
NB: Ernest Hemingway's "FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN." is widely heralded as the greatest six-word story ever written. However, it's always struck me that it's a poor piece of sales copy – those shoes are never going to sell. Here's how I would have helped given the chance.
I took a look at the ad you wrote: FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN.
I have a few issues with it.
1. Concise is good, but we’re writing an ad not a telegram. You have to make the audience want the shoes. Don’t be afraid to add some colour.
2. Speaking of which, what colour are they? Blue? Pink? That’s an important detail.
3. As are size and material. Are we talking newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months? Plastic, leather, felt? Don't make your audience work for it.
OK, that gets us to something like this:
FOR SALE: BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN.
Can you see that’s already working better?
4. So you’ve got me interested, but what’s going to swing it is the price. $6.99? Sounds competitive.
5. I know you like concise, so I’m going to suggest a cut. Do you really need that ‘For sale’ at the beginning? Is it not obvious from the context? Especially when you add the price. Let’s see:
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN. $6.99.
6. We’re pretty close here, but every ad needs a call to action:
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN. $6.99. CALL ERNEST 07491 0921830.
7. OK, there’s one last big problem to overcome. NEVER WORN is a great product benefit, but you’re underplaying it. Can we flesh it out somehow?
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN – WE HAD A BOY! $6.99. CALL ERNEST 07491 0921830.
8. See how this has more personality now? Is there any way we can push it further? Get a bit of the real Ernest in there? Remember, people buy from people.
JUST THE CUTEST BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN – WE HAD A BOY (MILO, HE'S THE GREATEST)! $6.99 – MILO WILL ACCEPT NO LESS! CALL ERNIE ON 07491 0921830.
OK, we have an ad.
Now can you send in John Steinbeck – I have a few problems with his Hannah Montana Used Wardrobe Accessories treatment.
A brief post to let you know I’ll be guest editing the Creative Review Twitter account next Wednesday (25 May).
In terms of relative follower numbers, this is like stepping out of a rubber dinghy and taking the controls of the Queen Mary 2.
It's part of a week (well, four days) of guest editors, with Anna and Britt of Visual Editions editing on Monday, designer and blogger Daniel Gray editing on Tuesday, then a mystery editor on Thursday, chosen via a competition taking place on Twitter right now.
Please tune in if you're that way inclined.
NB: This extract from Ken Clarke's revised Tone of Voice Guidelines found its way into my inbox. I pass it on without comment.
Until now, the Kenneth Clarke verbal brand (‘Ken’) has been defined under the strategic banner of Blokeish CharmTM.
This positioning has proved very effective over the years. However, it has recently been noted that this Tone of Voice does not sufficiently ‘flex’ to cover all circumstances, particularly when discussing issues such as serious crimes and prison sentencing.
As a result, we have developed a new positioning that more fully reflects Ken as he is today and aspires to be in future.
Please note this is an evolution rather than a revolution and should be thought of as a subtle shift in the continuing journey of the Ken brand.
We define the new positioning as:
Apologetic Tactful HumilityTM
The new Ken, henceforth referred to more formally as Kenneth Clarke, is characterised by hyper-sensitivity and tact, to an extent that could be construed as 'embarrassing' and 'laughable'.
We have mapped out the new positioning using this illustrative Language LandscapeTM:
Please note this new brand positioning is to be brought forward immediately – and certainly in time for Question Time tonight.
Thank you for your logo contest for six to 14-year-olds to make a logo for your Diamond Jubilee I am very excited!
At this stage I am submitting a credentials proposal outlining my suitability for the project. I would be happy to present some of my first creative ideas upon successful appointment and having discussed the brief with you in more detail!
My credentials are that in the holidays I did do a drawing of a sheep that looked like a dog but it wasn't it was a sheep and the teacher said it was a good picture of a sheep and now it is on my fridge my mum put it there. When I was 6 (I am 6½ now) I did a painting of my house but it wasn't as good and it got paint everywhere!
I am good at drawing and painting and things and I like the Queen she's nice but I don't like the Prince of Wales.
Please can I do the logo you want. I usually charge on a project basis rather than a daily rate and will discuss the fee with you in advance depending on your budget but I hope it's a lot because you're the Queen. I will retain the copyright on the work until the Queen has paid for it.
Please let me know when you want to meet to discuss this and I will pretend to be sick so I can get off school.
PS: While I am working on the logo for you, can the Queen come and do my homework. Also I would like a Blue Peter badge so I can sell it on eBay.
It's part of a swap deal involving a set of Pentone mugs, which are now making their way over to Andrew in Denmark. We suspect we got the better side of the deal.
The swap came about through the Creative Review Tweetup last week, at which Lego was the main sponsor. The event gets a good write-up over here.
I went here to check who the unfortunate people were. Here are some of the titles I found – I couldn't spot any particular theme:
Act of Murder
Misty Gordon and the Mystery of the Ghost Pirates
Mastering the World of Selling
All About Me
Life of Jesus
Politics – According to the Bible
Why Does God Let It Happen?
In The Spin Of Things
Liability for Psychiatric Damage
Diarrhea (Clinical Gastroenterology)
Best Fairy Stories Of The World
Growing Old Disgracefully Calendar 2011
I think this has been around for a while, but I only discovered it recently. It's a promotion by Google that allows you to script your own 'search stories', by entering a series of search terms and choosing some accompanying mood music.
Like all such things, it's full of potential for playfulness and subversion. My first thought was to do something quite melancholy and existential:
Then I tried something trivial and silly (you need the sound turned up for these):
The next obvious step was to retell a literary classic. (Warning: don't watch this one if you haven't already read The Grapes of Wrath. It's one of the great endings to a novel and I don't want to be responsible for spoiling it.)
Someone somewhere is no doubt going through the full literary canon.
You can make your own here.