Be a chef not a waiter!

First off, we’d like to confirm that no waiters were hurt in the making of this blog and we really do love waiters, so please don’t spit in our food.

Secondly, our gripe is not with waiters at all, but instead the idea of the ‘yes man’. The idea of saying and doing whatever someone asks, even if it’s not the right thing. The ridiculous notion of insipid compliance without standing up for what you believe in. The absurd belief *mounts high horse* that you don’t have any value to add. We could go on (really we could), however, we’ll dismount here for a second before the fanfare starts.

Our point, is merely that we live in a highly specialised world. A world of verticals and niche markets. A world of consultants and specialists. We’ve moved away from the ‘jack of all trades’ mentality and embraced an ‘inch wide, mile deep’ methodology. In short, people want to hire an expert.

We come across too many clients who have hired an expert and instead of a seasoned chef they get a nodding waiter and they’re understandably frustrated by it. There is an assumption that just like the customer in a restaurant, the client is always right. While brands have their own creativity, vision and input, they’ve also outsourced their advertising to agencies so they can broaden their perspective and have an industry expert nurture them in the market.

HOWEVER, let us also just take this moment to caveat that we do not advocate agencies sticking their finger up to their client and doing whatever they want, regardless of their opinion or input. That won’t get you anywhere my friend. To a certain extent you need to be a waiter, but brands and businesses want a chef. Someone who understands the components of mixing flavours and has the creativity to advise outside conventional routes. Someone who’s not going to be scared to suggest insane things like hot ice cream. (We still don’t know how that works but Heston swears by it). Someone who can mix ingredients to achieve the client’s goals and has the right training, learning, and skills behind them.

There is no value in nodding along just to keep clients happy, and in fact, clients don’t want that. You need to have the courage to challenge, discover and develop ideas alongside clients. Don’t just be the ‘yes man’, no one likes that guy.

 

Premium brands in a budget world

This is the point in time when we start singing Madonna and how we all live in a material world, but, even we wouldn’t subject you to that. It is true however; we live in a world of want, except nowadays nobody actually wants to cough up the big bucks for premium products.

Thanks to technology and the rise of price comparison sites, the everyday consumer can check prices anytime, from anywhere, for just about any product. Whether it’s a car, a hotel, or even a bathtub, and naturally, if you can get it cheaper somewhere else, you will. Which leaves premium brands between a rock and an annoying website as they try to sell their goods for premium prices. Lowering costs to compete might be the obvious answer but it’s definitely not the right one as you’ll eventually lower yourself out of a business. So how do you compete against that bloody meerkat?

Essentially, it will always come down to what you say and how you say it. Your marketing, communications and the way you present your brand to the world will be the difference. Brands and retailers need to start realising that people will never stop looking for a bargain, price comparison sites have made it easier to hunt for one, and therefore they need to adapt and change to the world as it is today.

Define your value

People will always pay for stuff they believe in. As a brand it’s your job to get them to believe in you in the first place. Don’t pretend that cheaper versions of your products don’t exist, instead address them and point out the differences, whether it’s in quality or the service. The price of your product isn’t anything to hide, scream it out from the rooftops if you want to, but just explain why it’s a premium.

Be the difference

There are thousands of consumers out there who are prepared to pay premium prices, but can’t tell the difference. It doesn’t matter how silky your silks are or how high your thread count is, some people just cannot tell between high quality and low quality. That’s where your branding and advertising come in to differentiate you in the market place. Think about the ad campaigns you run and how you can make them stand out from other similar suppliers. Your tone of voice and creative advertising can build the perception of difference.

Lifting your product up and away from noisy, cheaper versions isn’t always easy, but it can be done. One brand we bow down to who did an incredible job was Sonos with their ‘You’re better than this’ campaign. By communicating their consumer’s daily struggles and elevating the status of those consumers, they’re able to charge premium prices for speakers in a market that is saturated with cheap versions. And by saturated we mean, you can go to Tesco and buy some speakers for £9.99 type of saturated.

And yet, with a flawless ad campaign and incredible communication, Sonos are happily charging their customers a premium price for speakers, and what’s more, customers are happily paying it.

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual reality & retail: a love affair or an awkward one-night stand?

You don’t need us to explain the difference between love and cheap thrills, we’ve all been there. You also don’t need us to tell you that technology will disrupt the retail industry. We may as well sit here and tell you the sky is blue, and no one has time for that, plus you’re smarter than that. (But seriously though, have you seen how blue the sky is lately, Spring has sprung my friends).

Anyway, the conversation is less generic tech, and more specific forms of technology like virtual reality or augmented reality, and how it can alter the way we shop and interact with brands. In fact, it will alter the way we fall in love with brands or not at all.

‘But haven’t we talked about VR already?’  *cue eye roll and groan*

Yes, yes we absolutely have. That’s just the thing, brands have been talking about it for ages, even doing it, but there’s a difference between doing it well and doing it for the sake of it. Most brands start talking about it because it’s the new toy on the block, the latest thing all the cool kids have. But just like in school all those years ago, you can wear the trainers the cool kids have got, but it doesn’t automatically make you cool, it makes you a wanabe.

‘So who’s cool?’

There are some brands that have put their money where their mouth is and managed to create immersive experiences for their customers. Take West Ham United football club for instance. They’re currently in the middle of building a new stand and fans can put on a VR headset to see which seat they want to buy. Depending which seat number and row is entered, the headset will allow you to see exactly what your view on game night is going to be. Because they’ve offered this experience, they’ve been able to sell more season tickets, brining revenue back into the club.

The trap many retailers have fallen into is that they’re doing virtual reality for the sake of it and it’s not leading to an increase in sales. There’s no point in slapping a headset on potential customers and showing them how art manifests on the walls of your camping store. What good is art on the walls when I’m looking for a bivvy bag to survive my twenty-mile hike? Absolutely none is your answer. And if that’s the case, slap some paint on the wall yourself and don’t worry about the expensive headset.

The outdoor retail giant North Face understands this and created a VR experience that transported customers to the Yosemite National Park. They could then see the terrain they’d be walking in, the conditions and what kind of equipment they would need. That’s a helpful shopper experience that can conclude in a sale.

Lexus, Audi and Volvo are among other retailers who have used VR to give potential customers test drives of their cars that points out all the finer details of the cars capabilities and the driving experience. Again, an experience that immerses the consumer in the product and takes them seamlessly though the buying cycle.

‘So we do love it?’

OF COURSE we bloody do. We have all our hands in the air for virtual reality, augmented reality, and any other reality they care to come up with. It’s an awesome sales tool, but it’s well to remember that it is a sales tool for retail brands and should be used as such. You need a foundation of retail knowledge and shopper insight before you start exploring those avenues. And even when you do have that, it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to create alternative realities for all your consumers to enhance the shopper experience. VR still has a long way to go and it’s an expensive tool, but start planning the road to it now or you will get left behind. Understanding how you can incorporate bits of VR into apps, websites and the in-store buying cycle will give you the head start you need in an increasing technological world.

Unsure how to move forward or just fancy saying hi? Drop us a line.

Omni-what-now?

In the world of business there are several wanky terms that are chucked around far too much. Things like blue-sky thinking, bandwith and low-hanging fruit are thrown recklessly around offices in an attempt to sound professional and credible, when in fact all that happens is you’re let wondering what happened to normal words and if you’re losing your grip on reality. (Note: if you’re using these terms you have indeed lost touch and we implore you to check yourself).

In the world of retail, omnichannel is one of those business terms that people use with a reckless, and quite frankly irresponsible, abandon. We have this odd tendency to get completely carried away with ourselves when we hear big words, but it’s time we all calmed down and stopped throwing the term at every single piece of online marketing.

In it’s very essence omnichannel means beautifully linking every single shopping channel into one seamless experience. THAT’S LITERALLY IT! It doesn’t need to get any more complicated than that, so is there really any need for quite so many roundtables and conferences about it? Probably not, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The key here is ‘linking’. If your brand runs an amazing social media campaign, has an app and a responsive website, that doesn’t automatically make it omnichannel. Channels need to deeply integrate for it to work well.

For instance, there are some retail brands out there doing a flawless job and actually have license to throw around omnichannel as pretentiously, and as much, as they like.

Starbucks

Yes, it’s the obvious one, but they’ve integrated a brick and mortar café and an app into one beautifully efficient dream. Users can log onto the app, or their mobile responsive site, to top up their credit, check rewards and order drinks before actually getting to the store so there’s no nasty waiting around time. No matter what site their using, it updates in real time across every platform so you always know exactly how much you’ve got to spend on liquid happiness, aka coffee.

Marks & Spencer

Despite a long and traditional history, they have been quick to embrace the omnichannel trend to create an easier shopping experience. Online hubs are dispersed throughout shops and if you can’t find something in a particular size/style/colour, all you need to do is scan the barcode and order the right one, either to the shop or to your home. You can also order online and go to the shops to pick things up creating incredibly easy access to products online and offline. Not to mention a 24 hour Twitter account that responds to customers, and more importantly, fixes issues instead of referring people to an automated phone line.

Oasis

They always deserve a mention when discussing omnichannel as they’ve been doing it well for some time now. Throughout stores they have sales people armed with iPads that can take payment for your purchase, give you updated product information, and their Seek & Send service will search all their stores to find a product you’re looking for and have it shipped directly to your house. Clearly they understand that shopping should absolutely not be the hair-raising, nervous breakdown inducing experience it normally is.

Naturally we could go on and on about this stuff and who’s doing it well, because apparently this is how we get our kicks these days, however, for the sake of everyone’s sanity we won’t. But it is worth noting that if retail brands don’t get involved and start integrating their various channels, they’ll be missing out a huge chunk of the market, and not even the best brands can afford that.

If you need any more information on how you can use omnichannel marketing, or you just want to have a good ole chin wag about your upcoming summer holiday, then just give us a shout.

Sorry, what did you say you do?

You know exactly what we mean right? That awkward moment when someone tells you what they do, you zone out and start thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner and by the time they’ve finished talking you have no idea what their job is, if they’re going to be useful, or even if you should continue having a conversation with them. As people who understand the importance of dinner, we understand how you can end up in that situation, a lot, so we thought we’d lay it all bare on our little corner of the internet, thus avoiding confusion or any awkward situations later.

So what we do…well, it’s all on the tin. We live and breathe our customer’s brands so that we think like them, talk like them, and even walk like them. When we say we’re integrated we honestly mean that. An integrated agency that can handle everything you need, and an agency that integrates with you. Think of it as a metamorphosis where we become you, but in a less creepy way.

And what we really mean by that is, we don’t want to be this add-on thing stuck to one of your departments that comes along for a while and helps you do stuff, but ultimately gets under everyone’s feet and is a bit of a nuisance. We want to dive into businesses and live as if they were our own. Especially in the world of retail when the physical experience of the customer is so important.

A few years ago we started working with Sony Retail and the first thing our Managing Director Nick did was go to the nearest Sony shop and ask for a job in the store for a week. He promised to clean toilets, stock shelves, stand on the door and do anything that would get him in there to understand exactly how Sony’s customers interacted with the brand. That way, we could craft campaigns and adverts that actually brought people to the point of sale.

That’s what we mean by dive in to your brand. Working with the Happy Egg Company meant we visited farms and spent time with hens and farmers and all the people that make that company what it is. We even mucked out stalls.

Working with Morrisons we’ve visited tons of stores, taking our creative teams into the supermarkets for briefing meetings so that everyone is immersed in the brand and the experience. We even spent time in the freezer isle, which as anyone knows is the coldest place on earth apparently.

Our point is, we work with huge retail names like Birds Eye, McVities, Sony, Morrisons and loads more, but we never work from our ivory tower pretending to know things. We go into the shops and get our hands dirty. We roll up our sleeves and touch, poke, prod and play with brands so that we can come up with better solutions, faster.

So whether we’re shoveling chicken crap, or shivering in the freezer isle, we’re doing everything we can to live and breathe all that you are. That’s essentially what we do.

But who the hell are you?

That’s a great question. A website is all good and well, but it’s full of big words and fancy layouts, all to entice you to fall in love with us. And really, how different are they from EVERY OTHER WEBSITE out there, and can you really get to know someone over a website? We think it’s a little tricky, and so we created this space. We’ve called it a ‘blog’ for the sake of ease, but you could also call it, ‘that little corner of the internet that’s full of really useful, interesting things you need, scattered with heaps of our chat, inside thoughts and anything we can do to help you, the real heroes, through the crazy world of retail and advertising.’ Apparently that wouldn’t fit in the button, or some other nonsense, so blog it is.

We also wanted to make a space where we could have conversations with you, you could talk to us, and we could all get to know each other. Preferably we’d do this over drinks and peanuts (never forget the nuts), but since we’re all scattered all over the country, we thought this could be our virtual pub instead.

Nowadays agencies seem to be these far away creatures that no one really understands or has access to, and sometimes you don’t want a big ad strategy with bells and whistles and every trinket you could imagine, sometimes you just want to have a bit of a chat over a pint. That’s what this corner of the internet is for, although we’re absolutely, unequivocally not against going out and having an actual real life drink, if you fancy it.

We’ve been off the internet for a little while redesigning our new website (adding big words and fancy layouts obviously), so we also wanted to reintroduce ourselves. It’s like when you go to one of those incredibly boring networking events and everyone introduces themselves, and about five minutes later you’ve forgotten everyone’s name, what they do and what company they come from.

You’ll have guessed by now that we’re Live & Breathe. We’re a creative agency and a home for ideas, solutions and daring plans. Retail is our sweet spot and we’ve been working within the space for over 28 years, so needless to say, we know a thing or two.

We’re Considered Mavericks, which means we think like Mavericks, always pushing boundaries and innovating, but we do it through considered solutions. Our creativity is not just for the sake of it. It is to achieve points of sale, ROI, increase profit and attract customers. We’re not just playing around here; we’re playing with creativity in order to create results for you and your brand.

That’s basically what we do. It’s that simple. We do it well, have heaps of fun while doing it, and we’re fiercely competitive. We live and breathe your brand as if it was our own, and never ever believe in half measures. Not for a drink, and definitely not for our work.