Archive for September, 2013

Tablet Talk – what do Hudl and Kindle Fire HDX mean to the tablet market?

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Last week was one of significant tablet talk, as two providers occupying two very different positions in the market revealed interesting new ventures.

The newcomers (some say latecomers) to the game are Tesco, who unveiled their Hudl tablet, a 7 inch, 16gb offering that marks Tesco’s attempts to extend its reach into the heart of the digital market.


At a price point of £119 it stacks up favourably, even more so when you consider that Tesco are offering the device to their Reward Card customers for just £60 worth of their loyalty points.

Tesco chief executive Phil Clarke said at the time of the launch that their aim was to ‘help widen tablet ownership and bring the fun, convenience and excitement of tablets to even more customers.’

Casting the platitudes aside, the real reason is undoubtedly a bid from the same kind of supremacy in the digital world that they enjoy in the retail sector.

They may find it not so easy to attain.

The return rate of ‘disappointing’ tablets is notoriously high, the excuse invariably given is that the customer wanted, and expected, iPad performance at around half the price. The Hudl’s attractive price point will mean very little if the interface simply leaves even more customers making that regretful trip to the returns desk.

But the second big move in the market that week took major steps to address this trend.

Amazon unveiled its latest Kindle Fire, the HDX available in 7 and 8.9 inch formats. Significantly faster and lighter than their predecessors, the HDX boast all the enhancements one would expect, from reduced glare and improved brightness to dynamic image contrast.


But most significantly was the introduction of Mayday, a real time video tech support offering that allows users to gain round the clock video instruction from the help team (within an impressive, though possibly ambitious, proposed response time of 15 seconds or less).

The Mayday customer support feature on the Kindle Fire HDX tablets.

The Mayday customer support feature on the Kindle Fire HDX tablets.

Despite a few grumblings about the security concerns of handing over control of the tablet to a third party, the innovation is targeted at ensuring HDX owners are given every opportunity to understand, enjoy (and ultimately, keep) the tablet.

The Amazon business approach for their tablets has always been to compromise profits for the actual hardware and concentrate on monetising the platform itself, something they largely achieve through their Kindle ebooks, Prime Instant Videos and 100,000 plus apps.

In a fairly rare interview form Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos with The Verge, he was keen to underline the massive strides that area of his business had made. It’s been just two years since the first Amazon tablets and Bezos remarked at the ‘unbelievable speed’ at which his team were innovating.

And with Amazon occupying 22% of the entire tablet market last year it seems he may have a point. It also seems that Tesco have a lot of catching up to do if they want to gain a significant share of the spoils.


The £27 million Forum opens today in Southend (with a bit of help from us)

Monday, September 30th, 2013


A while ago we were asked to help with the branding of an ambitious new £27 million partnership venture between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College.


It’s was called The Forum, a brand new state of the art library and learning facility set in the heart of the Southend town centre. And, it’s grand opening is today!


As well as the branding for the project we also designed the way finding graphics that run throughout the building.

essex welcome

essex direction


Take a look at The Forum in Southend on Sea.



Oops! How a top Twitter account made a mistake (and then made it right)

Friday, September 27th, 2013


We follow all kinds of clever and colourful rascals on Twitter. Some share insightful observations in the fluctuations in the modern marketing ecosystem. Some show us pictures of cats dressed like WWF wrestlers from the 80s.

But one of our favourite accounts is the irreverent chatter of the Waterstones store on Oxford Street (@WstonesOxfordSt).

For non-followers their approach is one of cheerful, and often bizarre, invitations to join them for a book or two. The messages are friendly, imaginative and portray a brand with an excellent sense of self and their customers.

Unfortunately, they’ve encountered a spot of bother this week and were forced for apologise for a joke that attracted complaints.

The remark itself was a poorly judged quip inferring at domestic violence. It was foolish and hasty, although there was undoubtedly no malice intended.

The joke was hastily withdrawn and the account made a swift apology.


They stated that one of their jokes had ‘accidentally’ caused ‘offence, offered ‘massive, massive apologies’ and explained that it had been a case of ‘not thinking how things might be read by different people.’

A few respondents to this felt that it amounted to something of a ‘non-apology’, choosing to blame the interpretation of the joke rather than their decision to make it in the first place.

I think this is a little harsh. The joke was a mistake, a surprisingly silly one for an account that is clearly operated with a great deal of thought. But the apology was sincere and swift.

The problem with corporate apologies, be they on social media or printed in stores (like with Tesco’s horsemeat inspired act of contrition) is that the words chosen will be scrutinised, searching for any hint of deflection, defence or excuse.

There was nothing slippery at all about the Waterstones apology. They recognised a mistake and addressed it, an admirable display of damage limitation on social media, even if it sprang from a less than admirable attempt at humour.

Waterstones Oxford Street is an inventive, enjoyable and popular Twitter account. I myself have referred to them many times in discussing how brands and businesses can approach social in an unexpected and impactful way. Whatever happened this week, they remain a case study in best practice.

The nature and immediacy of social media platforms will always lead to mistakes at some point, for even the most carefully managed account. It is the accountability, transparency and honesty that follows these incidents that define the quality of your offering.



We need to talk about ‘about’

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

get going


It’s surprising how many websites we come across that haven’t taken the time to get their ‘about us’ page right.

Even though the ‘about us’ page is probably one of the most visited pages on your site, not to mention one of the earliest and most important chapters in communicating your brand story, it is often a pretty shabby affair.

Some businesses even treat it as a generic, templated affair and pay as little attention to the quality of the content as they do the design.

A good ‘about us’ page isn’t a ‘nice to have’ it’s an essential element for your website if you want to tell the people who have taken the trouble to visit you who you are and what you do (not to mention not giving them a reason to bounce out of your site forever).

And here are a few simple things your ‘about us’ page should be doing…

1. Set a goal

You need to treat your ‘about us’ page as a quick (but essential) pitch for your business. And like any pitch, you need to set yourself a clear brief.

Establish what the purpose of your ‘about us’ page is. Work out the most unique and compelling story you can tell people about your business and tell it in the most engaging way.

Keep it simple, stay focussed and make sure (after many drafts!) that the message is strong and clear.

2. It’s not a filler

The overwhelming temptation to fill a website (and every page within it) with reams of content is doing you no favours.

If you think a 300 word ‘about us’ page is some kind of SEO masterstroke then you need to punch yourself in the throat.

Saying what’s important is all that matters and even organisations with a massive remit are able to succinctly describe what they do and how they do it. Unless you’re Captain Birdseye, there’s no excuse for waffle.


Tell your story with video, a nice example from Ted Ed.

Tell your story with video, a nice example from Ted Ed.


3. A bit about you, a bit about them

A common mistake in ‘about us’ pages is taking the title a bit too literally.

A good ‘about us’ page should not just be all about you, at least not in terms of merely broadcasting what you do.

Get the balance right, put your business in the context of how it benefits your customers and make sure you’re talking enticingly about what you do for them.

4. Start the conversation

Saying hello and introducing yourself is marvellous.

Launching straight into a jargon filled, overpowering corporate diatribe that lacks any kind of human personality is, to say the least, not marvellous.

And if you’re a people led business this is the moment to begin to introduce your people (and all their admirable characteristics and abilities) to your potential new customer.


Telling your story, introducing your people. By Sig Fig.

Telling your story, introducing your people. By Sig Fig.


5. Who else can tell your story?

Testimonials are a bit of a dodgy area and have been utilised so poorly so many times that their impact has been a little diluted.

Nevertheless, the words of a happy client or customer can be a compelling way to introduce who you are and how you treat the people you work with.

Remember, most of the people who land fresh on your ‘about us’ page are going to be a little cautious about you.

Your ‘about us’ page is your chance to reassure them and overcome any reservations they may have. Your past successes can play a big part in that.


A warm and inviting 'about us' page from Coffitvity

A warm and inviting ‘about us’ page from Coffitvity


6. Tear up the template

Once you’re in the mindset that your ‘about us’ page is an important and influential part of your online presence, you need to ask whether it deserves more than just being plonked in a generic template.

The design should be working every bit as hard as the content, and the imagination behind it all should be working harder still.

Utilising imagery, even video content, are excellent ways to ensure you’re making a compelling presentation to your visitors. If you do opt for a copy only approach then that’s fine, as long as the copy is engaging, original and entirely persuasive.

QR Codes: Quite Remarkable or Quite Rubbish?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013


If the inception of the QR code was greeted with high hopes, even their most ardent of supporters could not object to the word ‘flop’.

Yes, certain evidence suggests that QR usage, though nowhere near universal, is showing signs of growth.

But ultimately, for a platform that promised so much (essentially offering an instant connection between the real and online environment) the position it currently occupies is closer to irritant or irrelevance than game changer.

But as much as they are maligned, there is a powerful argument that it is not the technology, but those who misuse and misunderstand it that have caused the damage.

You wouldn’t have to wander too far through any city centre before stumbling across enough QR crimes to beat a medium sized dinosaur to death.

Fancy bending right down to floor level to scan the code? No, me neither.

Fancy bending right down to floor level to scan the code? No, me neither.

QR codes with an unclear or inspiring call to action are a common abomination. It’s appalling how often you’re urged to scan a QR code merely to read the terms and conditions of a promotion.

Poorly positioned QR codes are another horror. They appear on the outside of buses with alarming frequency. In case you aren’t familiar with them, buses are large, mobile, metal objects that it does no good to chase down the street brandishing your smart phone.


QR codes also pop up a worrying amount in entirely inappropriate places – underground train platforms with not a trace of WiFi or phone connectivity are a common place fail.

But the most unforgiveable offence in the misapplication of QR codes is using them to push mobile users to a destination that is not optimised for mobile use. This is baffling and incredibly irritating, and has probably done more than any other action to destroy the credibility and appeal of QR codes.

But these are not the failings of the QR code, but of the marketers who use them. And this paucity of imagination, not to mention total lack of understanding of the true purpose and potential of the medium, has done possibly irreparable damage to it’s hopes of mainstream adoption.

Admittedly a sluggish approach from the leading smart phones to include a built-in QR reader has not helped establish standardisation for the platform.

But there are plenty of examples of QR codes used exceptionally well, and gaining proven results.

Two of the most commonly cited examples of best practice are, firstly, this effort from Korean retailer Emart, who used a shadow based QR code to promote their Sunny Sales.


The QR code was only scannable in the middle of the day when the sun shone on it directly and the inventiveness of the campaign saw a direct increase in lunchtime sales by 25%.

A second excellent example is this Guinness QR code glass.

Guiness QR

The code, embedded into the pint glass, only became scannable when it was filled with the dark stuff. And as well as nailing the ‘canvas’ for the code, they also produced a compelling reason to scan – launching exclusive content, automatically updating the scanner’s social media status and downloading promotions and offers.

Clearly when done creatively, in the right place, with a compelling reason to scan and an experience that genuinely adds value to the consumer, the QR code can demonstrate its worth as a marketing tool.

We can only hope that that the lazy and sloppy applications, have not buried QR codes for everyone.