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Tidal ‘puts the power back in the artists hands’ is what the star-studded owners told us at the launch.

They are ‘taking back control’. Giving people ‘a higher level of product’. They are ‘educating the audience on what good should sound like’. They are offering ‘unique experiences and content (the only bit that’s perhaps feasible and worth any premium). They are ‘The Avengers of Music’, who together oversaw an ill thought through launch.

If you don’t feel like watching the whole thing, skip to around 16:30 and watch their laughable combined attempt to ‘sell’ Tidal.

At today’s prices, Tidal is twice as expensive as Spotify in the USA. Whilst I appreciate the need for artistic control, let’s not pretend that’s what this is really about. It’s about cold hard cash (which as we all know thanks to Madonna, is always Mr. Right). The artists get less revenue from streaming. The radio landscape continues to evolve. Sales for most artists aren’t what they use to be (which places even more pressure on them to tour to bring in the big money).

It’s well documented most of the multi-millionaire Tidal crew aren’t happy about streaming. But is this really the answer in 2015? Whoever helped them craft their well polished boo hoo lines missed a trick. They should have majored on doing this for the future. The starving artists struggling to get by. The ones the record companies / streaming leave behind. The talent who won’t benefit from the financial breaks they had. The talent they want to nurture and support. The talent you can support. The talent we all can all support by choosing Tidal.

Had they chosen to position this around helping artists, it might have stood a chance. But as it stands, it’s made them all look like a horribly out of touch wealthy elite. A bit like another gaggle of SW1 inhabitants that will keep bothering us till May 7th…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the third sector. And will be sticking with Spotify for the forseeable… 


#BRANDFAIL OF THE WEEK: The BBC / TopGear / Clarkson ‘Fracas’

The BBC are having something of an annus horriblus. The mishandling of the Saville story. A hostile relationship with the ConDem administration (who seem increasingly keen on clipping their wings). I could go on. But the much covered Clarkson ‘fracas’? Well, they say a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. And boy, is this one costing…

Pulling two filmedTopGear episodes from global schedules (and cancelling the final episode of the season before it went production), in my view, was a huge mistake. This helped tip the media scales in Clarkson’s favour fuelling his UKIP style, me vs. them namby pamby rhetoric. It added to the growing view that the BBC is run by legions of faceless managers. The only thing missing was Ian Fletcher a la W1A popping out and giving a rambling statement on the importance of ‘values’…

Despite taking the right action in suspending him for the alleged physical abuse, they seem to be losing the media battle. Were I advising Auntie’s finest, I’d have recommended:

  • Suspending Clarkson until the ‘fracas’ could be investigated and the appropriate action taken
  • Broadcasting the two filmed episodes at home and away (most of the projected revenue losses lie in the international division and may run into tens of millions)
  • Keep that British stiff upper lip and ensure ‘the show must go on’. Film the final episode in the series with either:
    • A celebrity guest host from the world of racing (guest hosts didn’t do HIGNFY any harm after Angus Deayton’s prostitute / drug scandal back in the day)
    • Recall a former Top Gear presenter off of the 80’s. Everyone loves a little retro and it could’ve been a televisual giggle
    • Bring back a popular star in the reasonably priced car to hold the fort
    • Let the Stig step in, and give him a computerised voice (with clear distinction from a Mr. S. Hawking)
    • If he’s not off filming, let Gambon himself take the helm. His stature could carry any sinking ship. And he does have a corner in his name, after all.

Whichever presenter option they went with (and this is where they really missed a trick), milk it for all it’s worth. Given the heightened interest / hugely engaged fan base, it was a golden opportunity to feed their PR, CRM and social programmes with content as quick as they ruddy well could. With such an engaged following, irrespective of Clarkson’s perceived popularity, they could’ve used this to their advantage, regained lost ground and acted to bolster their reputation AND boost viewing figures.

Instead, they’ve let Clarkson, a petition and a hostile press continue to give them a kicking. Rather than look strong in the face of the ‘fracas’, they seem week, outmaneuvered and outgunned by the mouth almighty himself. Clarkson. That said, whilst future contract negotiations for Top Gear presenters are on hold, Clarkson would do well to remember than not all talent that leaves the Beeb’s hallowed halls do as well over on ITV, Sky or Five. At least for now, no single star is bigger than the Beeb. And on that bombshell, I’m off for a gin…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the third sector. And thinks Snickers totally nailed it… 

#BRANDFAIL OF THE WEEK: Sainsbury’s Christmas Ad

Oh Sainsbury’s.

There is no denying, this is a beautiful piece of work. Absolutely stunning. Emotive without the need for a huge amount of dialogue. Beautifully shot. Moody. Epic in that cinema like way. Credibility lent by a charitable stamp. But…

When all those men who died on the battlefield were sold a vision of a better tomorrow, did that include blatantly using their sacrifice during the Christmas ‘supermarket wars’ to flog a few poxy crackers, prawn rings, booze,  puddings and other overpriced festive tat?

The answer to that, is no. Highly emotive it may be, but it’s also highly disrespectful and tasteless. IGM is not amused…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the third sector. And is firmly on Team Penguin this evening… 

BRAND OF THE WEEK: Channel Four. Putin. Sochi. And a very gay mountain…

Channel four use to be edgy. Today, it’s trying too hard to be like channel 5. Programming is dumbing down. But this little beautiful dig at Putin’s lurch back to the Stone Age? Well. It’s rather kick ass…

Iain G. Morrison wishes everyone luck at the Winter Olympics…


Been a while since I did brand of the week. And after the halftime show at the NFL Superbowl, this weeks brand of the week goes to the very spritely at 53, Madonna.

The press (miming aside), have been almost universal in their praise. Upshot? Queen of Pop comes back to reclaim crown. Gaga who?

Much whipping of excitement, just before an album launch. My, how convenient. But of course it is. Madonna has always been a master manipulator. Even more Machiavellian than the Dark Lord Cowell himself.

So what was so genius about the performance?

If you ask me, not much. The sheer spectacle and staging were impressive. But her marketing masterstroke? A youthful shot in the arm for her tired, fading brand / star (delete as applicable), courtesy of the young guns.

LMFAO. Nicki Minaj. MIA. Cee Lo Green. And the bouncy internet superstar gymnast. Quite the supporting cast list.

By appearing on stage and paying their dues to pop’s Queen, they send word to their legion of fans. This old-lady star is worthy. They extend to her their own credibility. Their cool. The sneaky and subversive message to their younger fan base.

Look at me performing with Madonna. This is a woman I love. And you should too.

It’s one of the commodities she craves the most. That and an Oscar for film. But let’s be honest. That’s never going to happen.  So, for my money, here are marks out of ten for the performance.

  • Likelihood the album will go straight in to number 1 in many countries: 10/10
  • Jay Leno ad: 7/10, for being relatively amusing
  • The guest stars: 9.5/10, very well cast. All played their supporting roles exceptionally well (short of getting on their knees and chanting ‘we’re not worthy).
  • The miming: 2/10, because after all the practise, she should be a hell of a lot better at it than that
  • The dancing: 5/10, as she’s starting to look like she needs cod liver injections into all moving joints that haven’t been filled.
  • The surgery: 4.5/10, because it’s starting to get more than a little creepy
  • Likelihood Gaga will do something massively outrageous to try and reclaim headlines: A very tiresome 10/10
  • The macrobioticness: 0/10. S’just too try hard…

Iain G. Morrison remembers the scene from In bed with Madonna where they all joked about Madonna still writhing about to Like a Virgin at 50. Oh how they all laughed….

Social Enterprise: Elvis and Kresse and the delectable man bag

This weeks brand of the week goes to Elvis & Kresse. Not just for their stunning overnight bag, but for showing that luxury goods manufacturers can be socially minded as well…

@igmorrison's new man bag...

@igmorrison's new man bag...

Elvis and Kresse create luxury accessories by recycling waste. They have a fire-Hose range (made exclusively from genuine de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses) which had they not stepped in, were destined for landfill. The lining? Military grade recycled parachute, of course.

So far, so good. But it gets better.

50% of their profits from the fire-hose line are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity. Social enterprise doesn’t always have to be about grass-roots initiatives, it can drip with luxury as well…

My order was placed after 5pm Thursday (one man bag, one matching wallet). When I tweeted to ask when delivery might be, I was told Monday. They even checked to see if I’d be home to accept delivery, and suggested it’d be better to deliver to the office instead to ensure I got my hands on the goodies as soon as humanly possible? What service!

Delivery came around 11am today. Which now means I need a weekend away to use my lovely new overnight bag…

Iain G. Morrison is a Head of Marketing & Communications for a charitable social enterprise. And will no doubt be buying more bits from his good friends over at Elvis and Kresse

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Brand of the week: School of communication Arts 2.0

I spent last Friday mentoring at the School of Communication Arts 2.0 and it was one of the best Friday afternoon’s I’ve had in some time (bear in mind my office shuts at lunchtime Friday’s), and for that, I give the school this weeks Brand of the week.

For those that haven’t heard of them (and shame on you!), the School partnered with the University of Arts London Awarding Body to create a new Diploma in Communication Arts, which is written by the advertising industry. Here’s hoping that stops them moaning about the standards of young talent coming through. The curriculum is wiki based, constantly updated & improved by the school’s network of industry mentors. And exceptionally talented students.

If you’re a student, forget sticking your head in a book for three years with no access to industry big wigs. If you’re thinking about trying to break into the industry (and it can be a real slog, particularly in the current climate), students are given the opportunity to work on live (and portfolio) briefs in a real life agency environment. Veritable book making gold. You’re not too late, applications are open for the next intake…

Although it costs more than most other advertising schools, there are several tangible benefits. A guaranteed internship at the end of the course. Structured learning. Real on the job experience. And of course, rubbing shoulders with adlands finest week in week out, chance after chance to wow them with your thinking…

The standard of the work was exceptionally high. More over, the students literally hang on every nuance of every word of feedback you give them. Some of the thinking (both strategically and creatively), was client ready. There were also a couple of campaigns I saw that wouldn’t have been out-of-place at awards ceremonies. Don’t believe me? Go in and spend some time mentoring yourself!

I managed to review a few of the students portfolios. The piece I am sharing with you this fine day appealed to my rather warped sense of humour. The student in question got quite the introduction.

‘Meet Nathan. He draws lots of cocks’.

Poor Nathan tried to explain where he garnered his appendage loving reputation. After a few minutes floundering, he finally relented and showed me his response to the Toblerone portfolio brief.


The chocolate loving Iain G. Morrison would recommend you find a morning, afternoon or full day to mentor at the School of Communication Arts 2.0 

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Review of Birmingham Malmaison – hotels from hell

I’ve decided to add a new category, ‘Brand of the week’. Now dear reader, this will go one of two ways…

A brand will surpass my expectations to the point of orgasmic joy and I will duly trot on to and share my experience, waxing lyrical all the way.

Or (as is the case this week), a brand will fail miserably. Falling at every hurdle, limping over the finish line leaving me feeling like Victor Meldrew on a very, very bad day.

So,  Malmasion. Prides itself on its standards. It’s cheeky tone of voice, its superior product. My two night stay at the Birmingham Malmaison will see them enter the ‘brand of the week’ with a monumental smile on my face?

Sadly not.

General Manager of Birmingham Malmaison?

General Manager of Birmingham Malmaison?

BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM ONE:Suspect stainage on bedding. When housekeeping came to take it away, she asked if I’d called about the broken toilet (that they knew about). It looked like someone forgot to flush after leaving a rather large deposit. Not got round to fixing it clearly. Putting a guest in a room where you know the toilet is broken? Our first Birmingham Malmaison #fail

BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM TWO: Twin room, beds about 3-4in difference in height. Upon pulling covers back to investigate, I find several hairs. From both upstairs and downstairs. Bathroom could also have been cleaner. I explain to duty manager he needs to check room 3 before I am transported, as I’m now borderline livid at the number of fails they’re racking up.

BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM THREE: Hard stain on pillow (that scratches off), a not too spotless bath (more hairs), and a huge bit of fluff on the bathroom floor. Not a deal breaker and I’m desperate to shower for my imminent gin fuelled evening with Brum’s finest, so I make do. The duty manager offers a free round of drinks in the bar and adds breakfast to my order.

I’m happy(ish), but disappointed in the poor cleanliness standards across the board. Three rooms that fall below par is unacceptable in a bog standard hotel, let alone a Mal!

BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON BAR: Attentive service, we leave smiling, with an invite to pop back in later if we’re passing.

BAR THREE HOURS LATER: My party arrive back at the Birmingham Malmaison bar. Barman advises us twice to sit down. The second time he tries to hurry us away from the bar, we are offered a lap dance from one of the waitresses (but only if we leave the bar area). He was  ‘wasted’ from last night apparently and informed us it’d be a ‘long wait for drinks’,  as he was going to ‘take ages doing these ones’.

We turn on our heels and left immediately.

BREAKFAST: I ordered a tray and The Guardian for 11.30am. I chase this via the duty manager at 12.24pm, 12.45pm (it’s just in the lift), 12.55pm (should be with me in just a minute), and at approximately 1.17pm as I’m on the phone demanding a call from the regional manager, breakfast arrives. Almost 2 full hours late. Third call, duty manager denies when we spoke at 12.24pm that he said ‘It’d be right up’. Which he did…

To add insult to injury, no Guardian (not a Malmaison house paper), which the duty manager failed to tell me on the telephone each time I chased), and the apple juice was off. The head office email and telephone details I requested were not forthcoming…

DUTY MANAGER #2: English was not his first language. A serious breakdown in communication during my complaint led me to believe he was offering my two night stay for free given all of the above. This was not the case. He was inviting me to pack my bag and leave the hotel immediately, despite having another night booked.

BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON AREA MANAGER: Calls approx 1.30pm ish. Informs me he’s seen many of my tweets which concern him greatly (yet he chose not to responded to a single one), and is now ‘very concerned’ about my stay. Refuses to believe there is a cleanliness issue at the hotel (despite my having issue with three rooms), and also feels it’s best I leave the hotel ‘as if anything else goes wrong, it’s just going to compound the issue’. He offers to refund my 2nd nights stay to allow me to find accomodation elsewhere (at my own expense).

Not, we’ll make sure we offer kick arse service, I just want you out my hotel to be someone elses problem.

*MARKETING BIRMINGHAM: Upon seeing my barrage of tweets, @sianroberts15 from Marketing Birmingham got in touch to check everything was ok and my stay in Birmingham wasn’t being spoilt. A remarkably nice touch.

As you know, I’m pro-tourism. Whichever intern running @BirminghamMal should have a little chat with Marketing Birmingham regarding the ins and outs of social media…

MAKE GOOD: I was offered a gift card which worked out to a one night free stay based on the rate I’d paid the booking agent (which was obviously well below the rack rate). They cannily ensured any return visit would see me having to pay full price !

Given the high standards Malmaison  claim to offer (I’ve stayed in several other Mals and never been this disappointed), I must admit I was a little surprised at the lacklustre response from Birmingham Malmaison. Given the breakdown in communication only compounded my anger, I still cannot believe the whole bill wasn’t refunded.

THE VERDICT: Birmingham Malmaison should be avoided, there are plenty of alternative options in Birmingham of a similar / higher standard (e.g. Radisson Blu).  I had an exceptionally poor experience, but don’t just take my word for it, check tripadvisor. S eems there are quite a number of people who’ve had negative experiences during their stay…

One duty manager was on the ball (well done Jamie), and dealt with me sharpish. The other only added to the problem and the area manager sadly did little to placate me. 

As an aside, It seems @BirminghamMal only respond to good news stories on social media. They have an awful lot to learn…

Iain G. Morrison would like to congratulate Birmingham Malmaison on becoming the first ‘Brand of the week’, providing hotel service that would embarrass even Basil Fawlty himself…

*SPECIAL MENTION FOR MARKETING BIRMINGHAM: For their welcoming manner, their social media savvy and all round Brummy goodness…

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