Posted by
Amy Chetwynd
November 20th, 2014

The darling and the damned Brand Extensions

by Amy Chetwynd

Launching a new product to your already large and loyal customer base sounds like a recipe for success, right? Well, sort of.

Brand and line extensions can be the easiest and most beneficial way for a brand to enter a new market. It means the new offering is born backed by a name that’s recognised and trusted, allowing it to capitalise on the establishment of its parent brand.

However, there are important things to consider which can be the difference between whether your new product sinks or swims. For example, consumers aren’t likely to buy their healthy salad from a luxury chocolate brand.Yet, they’d be more than happy to buy cake from a company that specialises in coffee. There’s a method to this madness, and it’s a case of working out what products and services will sit logically together under a brand umbrella.

To explain what’s considered to be a successful brand extension and what is heading for certain disaster looks like, I’m going to show you what I believe to be the best and worst examples of brand extension.

richard-bransonVirgin – The global leader in brand extension

Richard Branson is the face, the voice and the spirit of Virgin. Feeling like a “virgin” in the business world, Branson started out at the bottom and found his footing on every rung of the ladder until he made it to the top. Today he is one of the most admired business persons of the past five decades.

Virgin is a multinational branded venture capital conglomerate, also known as a branded house (this means that all sub brands are named after the parent brand, such as Virgin Media, Virgin Active and Virgin Mobile.) Virgin has successfully conquered many markets: travel, leisure, broadband, TV, radio, mobile, music, finance, health and business. So what’s the secret?

“The brand is not what you think it is, it is what the consumer thinks it is.”

Branson looks at his brand from a consumer’s point of view, not his. And I believe that this is one of the reasons why Virgin continually attracts consumers across a variety of markets.

Over the years, consumers have built a relationship with Branson as well as his brand. By recognising him as the face of the brand, a real person, talking to us like real people, we connect more strongly than we would do a logo.

air hostess  hot air balloon

charity run  virgin media tv

Virgin is only human!

They don’t always get it right, though. Some might say that Richard Branson got a little too big for his boots when he decided to create a drink to rival global brand Coca Cola.

Still, he’s happy to acknowledge any mistakes. In a recent blog post he wrote that he now realises he shouldn’t have underestimated the power of the world’s leading soft drink makers, unfortunately making the mistake that all large, dominant companies are sleepy. Thankfully for Richard, if a product is taken out of the market quick enough, consumers often forget the flop and focus on what’s hot.


cakeHarley Davidson – Macho men bake off!?

Harley Davidson is the number one seller of new on-road motorcycles. Hear the word motorbike, and the name Harley Davidson automatically springs to mind. So why exactly did they decide that their next move would be to extend into the cake decorating business? A question I pondered over a slice of Battenberg.

Harley Davidson’s target market is men aged 35 and over – not quite the demographic I’d have in mind as buyers of cake decorating kits… According to a recent survey by branding experts, they found that the kit was too “Disneyfied” for the market and went on to be named the “worst brand extension”. On a whole, not a great start for the launch of their new product. I am however impressed that the marketers of this product actually managed to pitch this as a good brand extension.

Personally, I feel that there was a huge misunderstanding of the brand’s core values and customer base. And if consumers feel misunderstood, there’s a chance that the Harley Davidson’s reputation could take a hit.cake2

Brand extensions aren’t easy to get right. But there is one all-important thing to keep in mind: Customers want to feel a special connection with their favourite brands. I want a brand to know everything about their market (me) and truly care about the products they sell to me. Which is why, in my opinion, brand extensions tend to work better with similar services that can slot seamlessly in with the parent brand.

In summary, the consumer shouldn’t think: “Why do you sell this?” but rather: “Why haven’t you always sold this?”

Posted by
Azania McFarlane
October 21st, 2014

Five stand-out speakers at TedxSalford 2014

by Azania McFarlane

CaptureLast weekend I attended TedxSalford, an independently organised TED event held in The Lyric Theatre in The Lowry, Salford Quays. The “festival of the mind” featured an array of live speakers, great thinkers and innovators. The only brief given to each speaker was “deliver the best 18 minutes of your life” – a time chosen specifically as this has been proven to be the extent of most people’s attention span (a statistic I wish to dispute as I could have listened to many of the speakers for hours!)

I walked away with what felt like an adrenaline rush of knowledge and inspiration. The day was brimming with amazing speeches, but I’ve picked out my top five speeches of the day to tell you about.


Jack Sim:

Watch the video


My personal highlight of the day had to be Jack Sim, the founder of the World Toilet Organisation, which was set up to tackle the world sanitation crisis. Sim started out as a successful entrepreneur, but decided that he’d rather help a billion people instead of being a billionaire, so tried his hand at social work.

While the topic at hand may not be the most comfortable, ‘Mr. Toilet’ delivered a captivating, hilarious speech, adding a much lighter note to an otherwise taboo subject. Sim highlighted that a shocking 40% of the world population doesn’t have access to a toilet, and an upsetting 1.5 million children aged 5 and under die every year due to poor sanitation.

Since establishing the organisation in 2001, he has gained substantial media coverage and generated a lot of interest, holding a World Water Summit each year, opening a World Toilet College and there’s even a World Toilet Day! His aim is to train people to set up factories to produce toilets, creating employment and entrepreneurship. With the right marketing, Sim hopes that in developing countries, toilets can become a status symbol, much like the mobile phone!


Jack Andraka:

Watch the video


The crowd favourite of the day was Jack Andraka who received a much-deserved standing ovation. He’s an astonishing teen who at the age of 14 had come up with a legitimate way to spot the earliest signs of pancreatic cancer. To even be in the same room as someone like Jack made me feel like my brain was getting bigger! He talked about how the loss of a close family member sparked his determination to find a way to spot pancreatic cancer sooner. 85% of pancreatic cancer is diagnosed late, at which point, patients will have less than a 2% chance of survival.

Andraka’s breakthrough came at the most unlikely of places – in a high school biology lesson (which he described as “the abhor of innovation”). It is the biggest advance in pancreatic cancer research in over 60 years, and 168 times faster, 26 times less expensive and over 400 times more sensitive than the current gold standard of detection, and is also 100% effective in detecting ovarian and lung cancers (no big deal!)


Lucy Hawking:


Lucy Hawking, the daughter of Steven Hawking, graced the stage and I have to admit that for a second I was a tad star struck. She delivered a fascinating speech, recounting stories about growing up with the world’s most famous living scientist as a dad. Lucy teamed up with her dad to co-author a series of science adventure books, with the aim of explaining complex science to young readers. Hawking got the idea at her son’s birthday party where a curious little boy asked Steven, “what would happen if I fell in a black hole?” his answer being “you’d turn into spaghetti”. The simplistic way that Steven explained the theory inspired Lucy to write books that young children can digest easily. Lucy and her dad are now on their 4th book and there are plans to make it into an animated kids’ show.


Robin Ince:


Robin Ince is a comedian, actor, writer and science enthusiast. He dropped several knowledge bombs amongst his comedic anecdotes and observations in his 18-minute slot. His delivery of the speech was just as captivating as the topic at hand. He burst onto the stage with bags of energy and really drew me in from the first sentence.

He discussed the concept of ‘mind envy’, a feeling of envy of the mind of intellectual people. Ironically, I had a serious case of mind envy after listening to his speech! His set also covered aspects of the mind and various psychological quirks that I had no idea about – for example, it’s perfectly normal when holding a baby to think for a second “what would happen if I threw him/her out of the window?” (Incidentally, it’s the people that don’t have these thoughts that we should be worried about!)


Bruce Hood:


Bruce Hood is Professor of Developmental Psychology in Society at the University of Bristol and author of ‘The Self Illusion’. He gave a great speech, covering the concept of ‘essentialism’ which he demonstrated perfectly by offering £20 to an audience member that was willing to wear a second-hand cardigan that he brought on stage. A vast number of people raised their hand, not thinking much of it. But when Hood revealed that the cardigan belonged to infamous serial killer Fred West, that number diminished (understandably). Of course, the cardigan was Hood’s personal knitwear that he’d simply brought in as a prop but this demonstration helped him to explain essentialism – the idea of ‘invisible essences’ being attached to things that make them what they are, regardless of how they look on the outside, which makes no sense biologically, but our sense of morality tells us differently.


After watching TedTalks videos online for years and being completely enchanted, to see speakers in person was even more inspiring. Not only did I come away with bags of knowledge, it also taught me a lot about public speaking. I’m already looking forward to next year!


Posted by
Georgie Hallgate
October 17th, 2014

Social media: Brands we want to be buddies with

by Georgie Hallgate

Whether it’s an acquaintance, a brand, or someone you stumbled across through (innocent) stalking, we all follow someone on social media who we keep a look out for as we scroll. It could be because they consistently post something we find funny, interesting, or even better, completely scandalous. Either way, we can’t wait to see what they’re going to post next.

Last year I found myself following brands and celebrities simply because of their down-to-earth tone of voice on social media, rather than because of what they’re selling or who they are. However, as a result of enjoying reading what they have to say, it has led to me reading their promotional posts – which normally don’t register with me from brands with a boring social media.

Northern-based burger joint Almost Famous (@FamousEats) is a perfect example. The gentleman who runs their twitter is one of the geniuses behind the Almost Famous franchise. Anonymous to his followers, he appears to be living the dream of burgers, bacon, cakes and beer. He regularly posts photographs to show off a monstrously delicious meal he’s having or writes something that gets me giggling. So it’s no wonder he has his followers hooked to know what he’s up to next.


Before following them on twitter, I probably wouldn’t have put Almost Famous high on my list of places to eat. However, through his witty tweets, I’ve been convinced to try a little snap shot of the life he leads by spending an evening chowing down on the burgers he posts pictures of.

With over 39k followers, I firmly believe the majority followed in order to read his daily posts. As a result, Almost Famous now has a very large audience they know will be listening when they decide they want to boost their sales.

Next, James Blunt. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this but give me a moment to explain.

Like many celebrities, he’s prone to receiving some rather unfriendly tweets. But WOW, if you haven’t seen the brilliant responses he gives to people brave or stupid enough to try and give him grief, it is a fantastic lunchtime read.

As with @FamousEats, I was eager to see the next comeback he had been dishing up recently and in the process, I came across his new album. I decided to see if it really was as bad as his twitter trolls claim and you know what? It’s not bad. Or has he hypnotised me with his funny twitter feed? By putting the occasional individual in their place, he’s created a buzz around the humour of his responses and in return gained exposure for his new album.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all brands need to be rude or brilliantly sarcastic to reap the benefits of brand exposure through social media. It’s actually about being someone the customer wants to follow by posting content they will relate to or want to share with friends.

The more you build up a relationship with customers via social media the more likely they are to stop and read what you have to say every time they are quickly scrolling through their news feed. They will even take note of that great promotion you’ve snuck in there.

Posted by
Georgie Hallgate
October 9th, 2014

Twitter loving brands who love a re-tweet!

by Georgie Hallgate

With more than 271 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets sent each day, it’s not surprising that brands are increasingly using Twitter as a platform to promote themselves. Quite frankly they’d be stupid not to! Whether it’s to create a buzz around a brand or to launch a new product, there are huge benefits to be reaped by creating a campaign on social networking sites. Essentially, everyone loves a freebie, but many can’t really be bothered to do a lot to earn it. So giving something away for a simple re-tweet is a recipe for success!

To see how well the brands I follow are trying to grab my attention on Twitter (and if I’m missing out on a chance of getting my hands on some freebies) I scrolled through my timeline to see who pops up with anything interesting.

Read more…

Posted by
Julian Gratton
August 14th, 2014

7 strategies for dealing with difficult online conversations and feedback

by Julian Gratton

Broken_conversation_iconWe’ve all seen them. The Mr. or Mrs. Angry reviews that litter places like Trip Advisor, Twitter and Facebook etc. How we answer these people online is massively important, especially as a large proportion of people judge a company on how they handle online responses.

So to help you handle negative reviews and comments online, I’ve compiled together 7 tips to help you construct a response. Check them out below and feel free to suggest any others in the comments box at the bottom of this page.

Read more…

Posted by
Charlotte Baker
June 23rd, 2014

My placement year: salt cod Tuesday, I’ll miss you!

by Charlotte Baker

Charlie Baker's Student Placement YearThree years ago my college business tutor advised myself and the rest of the class that if we were to choose a business degree it would be a wise decision to take a placement year out. She was right and it’s safe to say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’m just glad I was in college that day!

I was over the moon when I got the placement at Red C but never would’ve thought my year at the agency was going to be such a rewarding experience. I was welcomed with open arms and although often referred to as ‘the student’, I always felt like a valued part of the team.

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Posted by
Nicole Mathews
December 18th, 2013

Five brilliant examples of Goodvertising

by Nicole Mathews

ChipotleCreative advertising with a conscience, that’s Goodvertising in a nutshell. Consumers are becoming more ethically minded; increasingly attracted to brands that demonstrate they want to have a positive impact on the world, beyond just selling stuff.

People are also taking more of an interest in what goes into the products they buy. Are the ingredients ethically sourced? Do the workers who produce them get paid a decent wage? These are the questions being asked, and people want the truth.

It used to be that an ad agency’s job was to tell the world their client’s brand was good. Now it’s also about showing that the brand is doing good too.  Here are five campaigns I have found that show just that.

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Posted by
Wayne Pretl
November 13th, 2013

Implementing Responsive Email Marketing Designs

by Wayne Pretl

responsive_email_designResponsive web design (RWD) has been around for a while now, but the techniques are still relatively new in the way we design and code our content, enabling it to be viewed across the many different devices and platforms our audience use. There are already lots of blogs on the internet that discuss RWD but in my post I’d like to focus on the design and implementation of responsive email marketing designs (RED). I’ll first take a look at the background to RWD/RED, discuss the current state of the web and then finish up with some thoughts on design, coding and testing.


The term ‘responsive web design’ is credited to Ethan Marcotte who first used the term when he wrote an article featured on A List Apart (25th May 2010). The article discusses the transient nature of the web and looks to architecture to see what we may learn from its longevity. Continuing with the architectural metaphor, Marcotte writes about an emergent discipline known as ‘responsive architecture’ where physical space responds to the people passing through it. He takes this knowledge and applies it to web design and suggests ways in which we might take our content and instead of creating bespoke tailored designs, the design and content should respond to the way in which it is consumed. In this way, more people can access our content  where ever they are and our content should have a longer life span.

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Posted by
Andrew Campbell
October 4th, 2013

Newsjacking and Advertjacking both get a new lease of life thanks to social media

by Andrew Campbell

Marketing people love their buzzwords. And the latest that seems to be doing the rounds is ‘Newsjacking’. Which basically involves a brand, product or service responding to news events in ‘real time’ and can result in social media gold or a social media backlash… depending on which end of the ‘taste stick’ your execution is at.

Winslet fire

For example, would you associate A-list actress Kate Winslet with London’s FireBrigade? Me neither. But, last year, Kate was staying at Sir Richard Branson’s private retreat in the British Virgin Islands when lightning struck his home. His place set on fire and Kate had to enter the building to save Branson’s elderly mother.

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Posted by
Josie Campbell
September 19th, 2013

Facebook Graph Search… creepy or useful?

by Josie Campbell

Facebook Graph SearchFacebook Graph Search is a new semantic search engine that has been introduced by Facebook this year. It was first launched in the US in March and then in July it was made available to all users, so it has now reached the UK.

This is a platform similar to the Google search engine, but rather than using ranking algorithms like Google’s PageRank to predict relevancy, Facebook Graph Search uses semantics. These semantics search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable data-space, whether on the Web or within a closed system, then generate and produce highly relevant search results.

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