Mr Small Print

Mr_credits

I sometimes miss writing Mr Blog, a character who lived a brief but intense life in late 2010, documenting all the ‘Mr’ shops on Britain’s high streets.

So it’s nice to see him immortalised in a small way in the credits of this year’s D&AD Annual, a copy of which has just arrived at my door.

Mr Blog was approached  by Venture Three to help with the writing on the rebranding of Little Chef – at the time, they didn’t know who was behind the blog and whether I did any commissioned writing. Mr Blog had to adapt his voice to fit with Little Chef’s more populist positioning, but hopefully a few traces remain.

Well done Mr Blog.*


* And well done Mr Tweets too.

11 from 11

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:

Mrtrophy

1. The year began on a sad note with Mr Blog’s Valedictory Awards Show.

Mcelwee

2. The valedictory mood continued with reflections on Rob McElwee’s disappearance from our daily lives.

Asda

3 & 4. February was poetry month – one about Asda launching a dating service, and one about the birth of a new Asbury (the defining moment of our year in a big and increasingly noisy way).

Blind

5. April saw ill-informed copywriters defacing a blind man’s sign.

Amnesty
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.

1000words

7. June was the month of 1,000 words.


Friends

8. July was The One With The Really Good Friends Advert.


Wackaging

9. September saw a rare venture into long-form blogging, with some reflections on wackaging and the trouble with copywriting.

Wrapper

10. October saw the unwrapping of WrapperRhymes.

Rotavator

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.

Mr Blog meets Little Chef

Olympicbreakfast

For the past few weeks, Venture Three’s bright and breezy rebrand of Little Chef has been attracting warm reviews in various corners of the internet, including Creative Review and Brand New. I’ve been meaning to post for a while to say that the writing half of Asbury & Asbury played a small part in it.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t me who was involved, but Mr Blog. He received an email from Venture Three late last year, enquiring as to whether he also did any copywriting. After giving it due consideration, he was happy to oblige. (Mr Blog and Mr Tweets then had to sign a lengthy confidentiality agreement, which Mr Tweets did surprisingly well to honour.)

The Little Chef rebrand is based on the idea of ‘Wonderfully British’, so there’s a natural affinity with Mr Blog. His contribution, it should be said, was limited. He spent a couple of days playing around with different copy approaches, which Venture Three then put into the mix and took forward.

As you’ll see, the finished work isn’t quite Mr Blog in tone, but demonstrates he can turn his hand to more informal and populist copy when required. (Click images to enlarge.)

Free_range

Freetinternet

Fish_and_chips

It was a great project to be involved in, and proof that doing things for fun (like Mr Blog) can sometimes be a productive business strategy.*

NB: For anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, Mr Blog was a six-month Asbury & Asbury project documenting the various ‘Mr’ shops on Britain’s high streets – more details here.


* You might argue that blogging about Mr shops every day for six months to win a couple of days’ work isn’t that great a strategy. It would be a harsh argument, but a fair one.

Mr Blog's Valedictory Awards Show

Mr_trophy

Last summer, we began a project documenting all the 'Mr' shops on Britain's high streets. Since then, in the guise of Mr Blog and his companion Mr Tweets, we have documented almost 150 'Mr' shops, ranging from Mr Chips and Pizza Man to Mr Window. Not one to overstay his welcome, Mr Blog recently announced his retirement – his final post is on Friday 28 January.

‘Mr’ shops are one of the most enduring forms of folk branding, because they tap into a basic truth about branding in general. It is fundamentally about taking a product or service and giving it a personality. ‘Mr’ brands do that in the most direct manner possible. They exist all over the world, from Nairobi to New York, but there is a charming formality about the device that feels peculiarly British.

To mark the end of the blog, here are some of the stand-out posts. Most of the images are taken from Google Street View, without which the project wouldn't have been possible.

Herr_kutz

Best Ever Blog Post
Herr Kutz

 

Mr_kebab

Best Colour Scheme
Mr Kebab

 

Mr_toolbag

Best Strapline
Mr Toolbag (No job too odd)

 

Mr_pine

Best Use of Long Copy on a Shopfront
Mr Pine

 

Mr_furniture

Best Logo
Mr Furniture

 

Mr_logo

Worst Logo

Mr Logo

 

Mr_kleen

Best Shop Name / Location Match
Mr Kleen of Turnham Green

 

Mr_chicken

Worst Shop Name / Location Match
Mr Chicken of East Ham

 

Mr_cheap

Clearest Brand Positioning
Mr Cheap

 

Mr_big_stuff

Best Brand Narrative
Mr Big Stuff (Opening lines: 'They're having a laugh' was my reply when I was told that Bev had had to pay over £20 for a plain white t-shirt from a big man's clothes shop in Nottingham.)

  Mr_mobile

Award for Melancholy Interaction Between Storefront and Nearby Phonebox
Mr Mobile

 

Mr_coffee

Best Half-rhyme
Mr Coffee (He’s so frothy)

 

Mr_Sam_Widges

Most Innovative Wordplay
Mr Sam Widges

Mr_chips_mr_rice

Best Brand Partnership
Mr Chips and Mr Rice

Mr_digital

Best Use of Digital
Mr Digital

 

Mister_marble

Most Confusing Mister
Mister Marble (specialist in granite)

Mr_resistor

Best Euphemism For A Lesbian
Mr Resistor

 

Miss_fitness

Most Eligible Woman
Miss Fitness

 

Miss_fish
Least Eligible Woman

Miss Fish

  
Mr_Poo

Best Overseas Blogpost
Mr Poo

 
Mr_stainless

Worst Ever Blog Post
Mr Stainless

Mr Blog's Best Ever Blog Post

Herrkutz
Earlier this year, we began a project called Mr Blog, aimed at documenting all the ‘Mr’ shops on Britain’s high streets. Since then, the estimable Mr Blog and his sidekick Mr Tweets have documented around 80 shops, ranging from Mr News to Mr Vacuum Cleaner.

Today was a special day as Mr Blog posted his best ever sighting: Herr Kutz of Southampton.

Beyond the puns and wordplay (which are good enough in themselves), there is something quite inspiring about all the brands Mr Blog has featured. Most of them are independent local businesses instinctively tapping into a form of branding that works brilliantly on its own terms: advertising clearly the service on offer, and giving it a nice personality.

It’s been good fun exploring the way they write about themselves on their websites, or advertise themselves on their signage. While they may be worlds away from the sophisticated strategies of high-end brand consultancies, these brands nevertheless show a similar desire to play with language to build a personality and tell a story. (As does Mr Blog himself, whose personality has emerged over the course of his blogging – something that was only loosely intended at the start.)

Despite reaching this undoubted peak today, the project will continue for the foreseeable future, at least while there are still Misters to be blogged.

Follow all the developments at mr-blog.com and twitter.com/mr_tweets

Mr Clone

Clonetown

About a month ago we launched a new project called Mr Blog, designed to document all the 'Mr' shops on our high streets. Since then, in the guise of Mr Blog and his put-upon colleague Mr Tweets, we've recorded about 30 characters, including Mr News, Mr Egg, Mr Cobbler and Mr Maggot Man.

It's partly a fun exercise, celebrating a form of branding that we've always enjoyed. But there's also a semi-serious point behind it – about the importance of valuing these homespun characters at a time when they're being crowded out by national chains and global brands.

This week, the New Economics Foundation published a report on the UK's trend towards 'clone towns', which bears out this point. The report classes 41% of Britain's towns as 'clones', where more than half of the stores are chains. A further 23% are on the verge of joining them. Cambridge is singled out as the worst offender, with high rents forcing independent retailers out of the town centre (a charge denied by various authorities in Cambridge).

At the other end of the scale, Whitstable is singled out for praise, with a strong mix of independent stores.

There's an inexact parrallel between all of this and the 'Mr' branding device. After all, some 'Mr' shops are chains themselves (step forward Mr Bagels). Nevertheless, it turns out we have two Whitstable 'Mr's on our files, including todays' Mr Snips. (The triple-barrelled Mr Chips Fish Bar is also waiting in the wings.) Meanwhile we've yet to track down a single Mr in the much larger town of Cambridge.

Further down the line, we might publish an official Mr Survey and see how the results track against the the NEF report.

In the meantime, you can enjoy the continuing investigations of Mr Blog over at http://www.mr-blog.com and follow @Mr_Tweets for more updates.


Picture taken from MENmedia

Introducing Mr Blog

Mr_blog

We've just launched a new project called Mr Blog. The idea is to document all the 'Mr' shops on our high streets. You can follow Mr Blog directly, or via his colleague on Twitter, Mr Tweets.

Here's what you'll find on the Mr Background page:

ABOUT MR BLOG

For decades, shopkeepers up and down Britain have intuitively understood one of the key principles of branding. It's about taking an inanimate product or an intangible service and investing it with a personality. Something to which people can relate on a human level.

They've also worked out the simplest way to do it. Just take your product or service and put 'Mr' in front of it. Or in some cases, Mrs or Miss. It's a great way to describe what a shop does and personalise it – all in one short, memorable name.

The result of this instinctive 'folk branding' is a lively cast of characters who cheer up the everyday shopping experience for millions of people.

But these characters are in trouble. The increasing homogeneity of Britain's high streets is crowding out the individual and the homespun. Some are disappearing altogether, while those that remain are jostling up against powerful global brands that easily outdo them for sophistication and marketing spend.

Mr Blog is an attempt to recognise and honour these under-appreciated characters, and show them our support. 


We had the idea a few years ago and thought it would make a nice ongoing photography project. We planned to snap a few shopfronts and gradually develop a collection over the years.

Further down the line, we realised that life is short and petrol is expensive.

In the meantime, another very useful service had come along: Google Street View. It means we can now research the shop names and addresses online, then go hunting on Street View for visual evidence.

We still hope to gather some original photos (possibly helped by reader submissions), but in the meantime Street View makes for a welcome and fun alternative. It truly is one of the great technological undertakings of our age.

We'll post the odd update here, but Mr Blog himself will be hosting most of the action.