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Make it and Mend it is published

As you may know, as well as my consulting business I am involved in an online business http://www.makeitandmendit.com with 3 colleagues. We have just had our first book (of the same name) published by David & Charles in the US, UK and other markets.

Make it and Mend it


The lavishly illustrated book would make a great addition to your Christmas gift list! You can buy online at Amazon in the UK or USA – or at all good bookstores.


P&G’s corporate ad campaign

Several clients and colleagues have commented to me about Procter & Gamble venturing into the world of corporate advertising for the first time in the UK, with its Mother’s day campaign “Proud sponsor of Mums”. This is a real departure for my former employers, as the brands were always very much the heroes in my day and the company took incredible pains to stay in the background and keep a low profile. This was not so universally – P&G brand ads have long carried corporate endorsement in Asia as the culture there demanded it.

So why the change of heart here in the UK and does it make sense? P&G are sponsoring the Olympics (sponsorship – another no-no in my day!) and as such need to take a corporate approach rather than a series of  linkups with individual brands. However it seems there are other more compelling reasons.

P&G ran a precursor of the campaign (Proud sponsor of Moms) at the Vancouver Olympics and  apparently it generated an additional $100M in revenue and achieved a 30% improvement in brand recall. Their research indicates that loyal users of one brand are not always aware of  the other brands in the company stable – and that trust and loyalty builds and transfers when people are made aware.

There are an average of 5.7 P&G products in UK homes – leaving plenty of scope to cross sell other ones. The highest reach of any of the brands is Fairy Liquid (one of the brands I was lucky enough to manage back in the day!) and making all those Fairy users aware that the same company also makes Pantene, Pampers, Max Factor, Ariel, Olay and many others, could mean big gains for the company. And P&G is not alone – both Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser have been running corporate ads for a while.

The other aspect of all this is that the first ad in the campaign – see below – is cheap as chips – it’s a few photos (apparently of the families of P&G employees), a voiceover at the end and some library music – so big savings on production costs – always a consideration!

One thing about P&G – it may have a lot of sacred cows – but it isn’t afraid to slaughter them!

Irrelevant Innovation

Last week I went to Inamo, an oriental restaurant in Lower Regent Street, for a pre-theatre meal. My companion suggested it, as he’d heard the food was good (it was – especially the spicy ribs) and it has a new and different twist – computerised dining tables.

In front of each diner is a mouse pad and the whole table is a digitised display. There’s a choice of landscapes for your table – so you can choose your own personal ambiance, from vivid tropical landscape to abstract expressionism. The mouse pad also controls the visual menu, broken down into drinks, starter and main courses, as well as an option to call for a waiter and a games console.

I suppose if you’re in the habit of going for a meal with an incredibly boring person, having a games console on your table during dinner may be an attractive diversion. And if you like the kind of establishment that offers illustrated menus, having one that visualises each dish as if it was a plate in front of you, may have its attractions. For the rest of us it’s a pointless feature.

I found the ordering process surprisingly stressful and time consuming (mouse management!) as well as rather anti-social. My companion ordered a second glass of wine for himself without telling me – when he’d normally have said ‘shall we have another?’ – which made it all seem very individually focused and not very sociable. I  found scrolling through the (picture) menu tedious and frequently got mouse paralysis. The novelty had worn off in about 45 seconds!

All this raises a question. Just exactly what unmet need is a computerised dining table and menu meeting? What is so difficult about looking at a printed menu? It’s MUCH quicker. It allows you to scan the whole offering – as opposed to looking at one item at a time. I can imagine there are benefits for the restaurant – more speedy and accurate transmission of orders from table to kitchen – and the fact that you probably end up spending much more than normal (we certainly did!).

It reduces the waiters to mere delivery vehicles and removes one of the most important elements of dining –  interaction with the waiters. When all they do is plonk something down on your table, it becomes a very souless and impersonal transaction.

Yes, you can apply technology to dining. Inamo have shown that. They delivered everything we ordered in a timely and accurate manner. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should!

I wonder how many of their diners make a return visit. Nice as the food was I won’t. I want to escape from computers when I go out to eat. I want to talk to my companion, not play with a mouse or challenge him to a game. I like to have a bit of repartee with a waiter – or ask for the recommendations – and in doing so glimpse his or her personality, not have a cipher silently deliver dishes to my table. They may as well be androids! And call me old fashioned – but give me  a well starched, linen table cloth in preference to a digital display any day.