Archive for 2010

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!

There’s talk of ‘digital’ this and ‘internet’ that, thrown into every pub conversation and it’s clear it’s ‘the future’. But we reckon, when it comes to speed, we’re not even at the races.

For instance, at Dunning we pay for an Internet connection that’s ‘up to 8mbps’. We tested our speed and it was indeed ‘up to 8mbps’… it was about 5.5mbps.

Sounds okay and it’s actually enough to do most, fairly-standard office stuff. However and it’s a BIG However: If you’re going to be a LEADING Digital Economy, this is flipping hopeless.

Unfortunately in Scotland, we’re competing in a bloody inconvenient thing called the ‘Global Marketplace’. The great news here is that we’ve got a Government who have just announced an initiative and we were lucky enough to attend the launch of Interactive Scotland. If you read the self-congratulatory bumf, apparently, we’ve got a “competitive edge” in the marketplace.

Fine and we’re the biggest believers in ‘Bigging-up’ Scotland and the Scottish people, but let’s get back to that ‘However’ we mentioned earlier.

Scotland’s a small country with hills, hamlets, villages and valleys and although some of the cities are okay for connectivity, most of our wee nation is hopelessly connected when it comes to ‘T’internet’ matters. There’s some momentum and the odd new project but most of Highland Scotland is a ‘no-go zone’. With present connectivity and our cottage industry like, un-joined-up ness (technically and spiritually) Scotland’s aspirations are like wanting to own a Maserati Gransport, but knowing it’s only going to have a Fiat 500 engine.

We sort of HATE comparisons but here’s one anyway: Estonia. Most of Estonia’s population has at least 14mbps connections and lots of the citizens use ‘IPTV’ as their primary (and often only) source of TV content. There’s  also WiFi, ‘WIMAX’ and all sorts of other super- fast wireless networks, literally everywhere.

If you’ve got a laptop in Tallin, with a cheap, wee usb dongle, you could disappear into the Estonian countryside and STILL be able to stream HD content (like movies) with no trouble and no effort. They already HAVE the future. Those lucky Estonians can listen to the trolololo song anywhere , anytime, any place!

Getting back to Scotland, there are other basic areas which more than niggle us. Like the fact that the main Glasgow/Edinburgh rail link has no wifi and you can’t get a decent telephone signal in one of Scotland’s top conference hotels, the Fairmont, St Andrews. Or in parts of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. We could go on…

We agree with all those people in the pub. The ‘Internet’ and ‘Digital’ (whatever ‘Digital’ might be) they are ARE Scotland’s future. However (it’s that word again) we  also UNDERSTAND that to make our stuff World class and REALLY give us a ‘competitive edge’, it’s going to cost a lot of dough and it will involve digging-up roads and inconveniencing people.

In spite of this, we’re actively going to be trying to do something about this. We’ll keep you informed and we’re really interested in finding out what your experiences have been. Do you think there’s VAST room for improvement, or are you quite happy? Let us know.

If you don't vote, one of them gets in anyway.

Our potential Prime Ministers 'getting social'.

It’s Election time again and although we’ve tried to veer-away from it, we’ve feel we’ve got to comment on the recent Election shenanigans, from a marketing angle. It seems to us that whether it’s Clegg, Brown or Cameron, there’s not a lot of innovation going on, anywhere. We’re not suggesting that British politics jumps on the USA bandwagon and gets really cheesy but why not get a wee bit more ‘social’ like Barack did?  Over here, it’s still the same old knocking copy and condescending stuff we’re getting subjected to. No-one’s ‘show-boating’, in a good way.

In our opinion, the political marketing process should be leading the way and demonstrating real innovation. It’s something the whole country’s focused on and as they get masses of FREE airtime to be clever, they have to capitalise on this. So far, one week into this campaign, we’re not seeing any cleverness. To use a test we use a lot, cover up the individual ‘logo’ on any bit of the electioneering schtick, from any party and they’re all much-of-a-muchness. Nobody appears to be using the vast landscape available. Nobody’s doing anything different.

We’ve been hearing all the chat about this being the first ‘social media’ election but in our eyes, we’ve not seen anything coming out of the ether that’s going to have the legs of a ‘ Labour Isn’t Working‘ poster. None of the marketing work they’re doing is going to singularly ‘win the election’.

So why is this? We reckon it’s because most (if not all) of them are shit-scared of some ‘Photoshop Internet fiend’ (basically, that could be most people now) who could ‘doctor’ a clever, bold or controversial new campaign and conduct an underground campaign, turning tables and really making a fool of them. The speed at which this could happen frightens them. The ‘make your own Dave Cameron poster‘ is a good example of what can happen but we’d argue that The Conservatives probably got more positive footage out of this than anything else.

However, we can imagine a brash, cynical, ‘Malcolm Tucker-stylee’, spin Doctor imagining the most salacious, rude, outrageous, contradictory, vulgar and funny thing that a clever blogger could do, to any campaign. Because if this, nothing of any merit, nothing really ground-breaking, ever makes it past the concept stage. The spin-doctors and focus groups and numerous ‘what-if’ scenarios, they remove any chance of advertising or marketing innovation taking place.

We’re living in a world where parodies and ‘homages-to’ are sometimes much more funny and successful than the real thing, so who’s going to risk doing anything edgy, when your competing party will do a hilarious ‘mash-up’ that will come back and bite you on the bum?

Anyway, perhaps this isn’t the issue. Is there a time in living history when people have trusted politicians less? Are we the only people who think that insincerity is no way to run a country? With the ‘expenses’ debacle continuing, (courtesy of a bit of help from Legal Aid) maybe we should be asking all the Political Parties to be ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ (as the Advertising Standards request) before we ask them to be funny and innovative?

Upselling or Creative Marketing?

Today’s Guest Blogger is the shy, retiring, Alasdair Smith, who goes under the rather splendid nom de plume of Kid Cairoon Twitter. He’s still not fully explained exactly why he chose this name but we think he may have watched a lot of ‘Mr Ben’ in the 1970’s. Either that or he was a big fan of Kent Walton’s wrestling hour on ‘ITV’s World of Sport’, when he actually WAS a ‘kid’.

Alasdair’s on secondment from Skillset to Skills Development Scotland and as our Julian’s on the Board at Skillset, we see Alasdair in at Dunning Towers a fair bit. Here, we’re only letting Alasdair take a pop at our flippin’ lifeblood, our very raison detre! Up-selling? We’d call it ‘Creative Marketing’, Alasdair! Are we mad, or just delighted his blog’s got nothing to do with politics?


Up-sell this!

“NO!” I shout at the now stunned student making ends meet in the coffee shop near the station. “I do NOT want a muffin or pastry with my coffee, if I had wanted a muffin or pastry with my coffee I would have asked for a muffin or pastry with my coffee when I ordered my coffee!”

Red in the face and with an audience of bleary eyed commuters now all taking a step or two away from me I grab my small cappuccino (No thanks, I don’t want to upgrade to a “grandissimo” for only 75 pence) and escape into the crowds, knowing full well I’ll never be able to set foot in there again.

I have just lost the plot at the increasingly creative approach to what is known as up selling by marketing wonks – or devious bastards as I like to call them. Up-selling is the technique used by sales people to get innocent consumers to buy more expensive items, product upgrades or accessories – tricking them into parting with more money than they had originally planned.

It’s not new; I remember even as a child when getting my new school shoes the assistant always suggesting a tin of polish or some waterproofing spray (hold your head as you read this if you too have seven unused tins of waterproof spray in the cupboard under your stairs).

The trouble as I see it is that it was once possible to spot up-selling a mile away; we all have purchased white goods, other household appliances or high-cost electronics and said no thanks to the offer of an extended warranty offering total peace of mind for an extra year for only half your total family income per annum for the rest of your life.

But the practice is creeping more subtly than ever before into our everyday routines to the point where even the simplest of transactions are baited with little add-ons that individually don’t amount to much, but collectively and over time help to empty our pockets quicker than ever before.

Railway stations are by far the best places to avoid if you want to steer clear of the temptation of these little extras. The concourses are positively littered with traps waiting to be sprung. Even the most innocent transaction these days ends with a tantalising question and unmissable special offer.

It starts at the fast-food outlet. Just a burger? Are you sure you don’t want fries with that? How about going large? These guys pretty much wrote the up-selling rule book and we’re pretty wise to their game thanks to Morgan Spurlock. But you’ll need a newspaper for the journey won’t you? Make your selection from the newsstand, get a handful of small change out of your pocket to pay then place a little private wager with yourself as to whether you’re going to be offered a giant bar of Fruit and Nut, a Toblerone, a catering-sized bag of Haribo sweets or a tube of Pringles.

All this is just the retailers wanting to ensure that should your train get stuck in a 20 foot snowdrift for several days you will have enough to eat. They will also have made sure you have topped up your mobile phone so you can keep in touch with your family while awaiting rescue and that you have plenty of stamps to send postcards just in case the train ends up taking you for a long weekend to Aberdeen instead of up your cosy suburban commuter line.

Even on-line, where user choice prevails you will not escape. Recently, after diligently “un-checking” all the optional extras added to my request for car-hire, I received a phone call not 24 hours later strongly advising me to take out additional cover to reduce the potential excess charge in the case of an accident; I hung up!

After all that, it must be time for another coffee and NO, I do not want a muffin or a pastry with that – oh, mind you these DO look good!