Sunday, 9 January 2011

Blue Oval Mania

Recently I was asked about how I think all these new technologies and platforms that crop up every now and then are going to change the PR / communications business over the next few years.

Well my seemingly stellar answer was that the world is going to be ‘one’, with people eating the same food, wearing the same kind of clothes, consuming the same media, having the same problems, etc. So the differences in the world will be far too diminished, and will help develop universal solutions much more seamlessly; that will work just as brilliantly in Washington as in Mumbai.

Ok fast-forward a week.

My (frequent) mindless surfing of the web led me to the social media intensive, Ford Focus page.

Apologies for my F-word diarrhoea. You must have heard the word Ford innumerable times on this same page (albeit in a different context)

My idea of a pan-world applicability of technology is SO freaking true in the case of the new Ford Focus with Ford’s famous ‘One world One car One name’ concept. But it has to be done right no?

My only grouse with Ford is, that seemingly they haven't realized from the not-so-exciting –sales-returns of the Fiesta (also following the One- world concept) that by not realizing the FULL potential of the program, they are doing more harm than good.

The stunning Fiesta looks very different in India and never did turn up in Qatar, cutting off a lot of auto-fanatics from a car that has been excellently reviewed. So why do they talk of the One World concept at all?

Ford is making the same mistakes again I was devastated to hear that NO the top-spec Titanium model is NOT coming to Qatar and the 2012 model would release only in the US and the UK in spring. And I have to wait a whole year for the same. Maybe I am jumping the gun here and am assuming that One World also means One time. But wishful thinking has always paid off for me. I wish Ford would treat its clientele with the same consideration the world over.

This minor and very personal setback for me (as I had hoped to make the 2012 Focus my first car and very soon) is instantly dismissible. As Ford’s dedication to new and safe technology is astounding, pushing ahead with a whole range of eco friendly-performance and electric cars; all built on the beautiful Focus frame.

I got to admit it looks like one helluva car and also I have to admit that Ford has been one of the only American technology companies to evade bankruptcy fears. So they must be doing something right, but right now it is incomprehensible, what the famous Blue Oval is trying to pull by keeping me wait. But things could be even better. Wishful thinking déjà vu.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Some Tonic Water, A Chair and a Burger

Facebook is busy, giving itself a major ego boost, recently being valued at close to $50 billion and a movie made on it (no prizes for guessing that it is The Social Network) is making millions itself. As we speak the movie is in furious publicity-mode set for the Golden Globes. Let me take you through some interesting and inexpensive Facebook trends.

Using regular commonfolk like you and me and hardly investing a penny in terms of tech, IKEA the Scandinavian brand has managed the unthinkable. The Swedish brand used us as unwitting ambassadors by dangling carrots in the form of accessories and furniture from their catalogue. And by getting us to tag ourselves in these pictures, it gave them access to our profiles and appearances on our news feeds; not to mention an unbridled window to personal information. But the deal for you and me was that you got to win, the product you tagged first. It became their most successful digital campaign. And for all this we get to walk home with cheap furniture, which in typical IKEA fashion we have to install ourselves. Haha.

Even more bizarre was Burger King’s Facebook campaign, which involved ‘unfriending’ what we call Facebook friends…Oh well….considering the fact that we add all and sundry, disposing of a couple of friends and telling Burger King about it for a free meal doesn’t seem too bad.

And another consumable, which teases you with a luxury Facebook never really allowed earlier on, is what Mashable calls hacking into your own profile, ingenious personalisation of your profile. This is however for the Schweppes campaign which allows playing around with your profile, however carrying a teeny-weeny Schweppes logo on it comes as the price.

Now why didn’t I think of that.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Thank you Mr Ford

Tom Ford is slowly allowing us snippets into his show from last year, showcasing his Spring Summer 2011 collection. Please notice Bvlgari ambassador Julianne Moore sashaying down the 'catwalk' for her A Single Man director.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Shock Advertising+ Elitist PR= Flawless Communications Strategy

What is this? PR with a twist? While most other PRs of brands flood the inboxes of journalists and bloggers, Tom Ford is fronting a new breed of fashion designers who believe ‘ less is more.’

In an industry where the publicity is gauged on the number of magazines and where size (of the pictures) matters, this is a brave step.

He had previously blocked out media coverage on his long-awaited womenswear label, no cameras except for the in-house photographer. And only now has he allowed us a preview of his designs that were modelled during the New York fashion week in September in a previously unannounced secret show by 32 models. These ‘real women’ models included Beyoncé, Julianne Moore, Lauren Hutton, Hollywood producer Rita Wilson, artist Rachel Feinstein Ford and Julia Restoin-Roitfeld.

The December issue of American Vogue has featured 49 year old Thomas Carlyle Ford returning to designing for the girls after 6 long years.

The men have had great luck wearing his designs on the red carpet; in fact at the last Oscars I noticed that most of the top tuxes were indeed Tom Ford.

As if to fulfil some kind of poetic justice he too appeared at the Oscars not just as a designer but as a stellar director. The Oscars in March 2011 might have even the women covered.

What amazes me about the brand is the complete contrast between the advertising and the PR divisions of the Tom Ford brand. Its advertising makes for explicit imagery, with raw sexuality being a rather prominent feature as opposed to the supposedly closed doors fashion shows. Isn’t that how our curious, voyeuristic mind works? The more something is shielded from us ; all the more likely are we curious about it. Cool PR tactic..

For the man who has a $200 million personal fortune and someone who single-handedly revived the fortunes of Gucci and YSL, he sure knows what he is doing.

Meanwhile Tom Ford guest edits French Vogue for his 'buddy' Carine Roitfield and rumouredly is making the follow up to the award winning A Single Man.

Endorsement from two major Vogue publications across the Atlantic ; what better results for a PR campaign? But for the most, I guess Ford’s designs speak for themselves. And as for the new movie which is reportedly a comedy, I can’t wait to laugh (my much modestly clad (in Topman) ass off.

Incidentally he also was the designer for my alter-ego James Bond in the last outing , Quantum of Solace.

The reasons for me to ‘aspire’ to buy Tom Ford just keep piling up. Tom Ford is available at

WARNING: The following clip (originally part of the Tom Ford website, has graphic nudity)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Velvet Goldmine

China is a goldmine for any consumer brand, and it has been so for the past 4-5 years.

In other Chinese-‘money news’, a 1740 Qianlong dynasty vase was auctioned off to a Beijing dealer for an astounding £53.1 million in a local London auction.

So it is indeed an economy that is relatively untouched by the recession. We get it. But do we risk this lovey-dovey relationship with the Chinese consumers by being too aggressive ‘sellers’?

The average Chinese consumer has too much choice in the way of lifestyle products and it is proving a challenge in terms of competition  for British brands. David Cameron is in a bid to change that.

As quoted in the NY times “Chinese consumers are becoming more and more brand-conscious, but less and less brand loyal,” said Max Magni, head of McKinsey’s consumer practice in China and co-author of a report on China’s consumers, published by the consultancy in October.

Last week David Cameron, close on the heels of a controversial new economic policy, travelled to China to encourage Chinese investment in the UK and to direct some investment into the London 2012 Olympics.

The British fashion industry in a point of desperation, is reinventing itself at an alarming pace. With the PM’s wife, Samantha Cameron hosting fashion design talent at 10 Downing Street... Vivienne Westwood remodelling the statuette for the Brit awards…Cameron getting Jimmy Choo CEO Tamara Mellon as an ambassador along with Mercedes and Tesco heads , London fashion week embracing the digital age,…..Phew!!!.. There is so much activity.

What will the designer boutiques on Bond Street do when the Chinese tourists stop buying their Louis Vuitttons and shop exclusively in Shanghai instead? And ‘worse’(for the uninitiated the ''s signify sarcasm) still, what if the Chinese are caught with the sudden realisation that they are buying into this empty consumer paradise ; come back to terra-firma and finally start saving money for their kids like their forefathers used to?

David Cameron travelled to 'former imperial colony' China requesting for much needed investment, could he really have afforded to give them that Sunday school lesson in human-rights? Will it be the classic case of killing the golden goose?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Berry Good

I honestly think that the Blackberry is one of God’s greatest gifts to man. Another berry I have now grown to love is Burberry. I know it was a terrible attempt at pun, but yes you have to give me points for trying. (Shakespeare would probably turn in his grave…….apologies).

Today I learnt there is more to fashion that anorexic models, sex and drugs, air-kissing, fake relationships, and a false illusion of beauty and achievement.

Burberry has opened my eyes, (although a nice Burberry wrapped around my neck in butt-freezing London this time of the year would be even nicer.)

As a starter level fashion PR ‘practitioner’, while indulging in my current task of ‘media monitoring’ I chanced upon an article on a very good looking Indiana born businesswoman turning the 150 plus year old label Burberry into what it is today.

The beauty of her involvement with the company is the cool un-celebrity seeking business attitude depicted of her throughout the article. I like a brand that chooses to keep a strict distinction between business and celebrity.

So it took Angela Arhendts, an American mother- of-three to save a British brand; she along with creative director Christopher Bailey has been carrying on the good work of Rose Marie Bravo. Rose the former CEO was instrumental in bringing the once-ailing brand out of rough water. Angela is today one of the world’s most powerful women according to a Forbes list .

3D live-casts into New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Los Angeles  while ‘showing ‘in London and bespoke online services are SO yesterday for Burberry, championing the cause of social media in the usually technology shy fashion industry.

Burberry is also one of the first to use social media, it has close to 2.8 Facebook fans and a dedicated website to its iconic trench coat ; You can apparently choose up to 12 million different ‘permutations and combinations’ on the new Burberry Bespoke service.

Interestingly they also dressed the British Army in World War I. Along with that, Burberry strives at besting other fashion labels in terms of corporate responsibility, and promotes young British music talent through its initiative, Burberry Acoustic.

Burberry is also associated with the art scene, promoting 20th century art through a collaboration with Vanity Fair magazine.

The article I was “bowled over” was in last week’s Sunday Times Style (syndicated from the Wall Street Journal) on Burberry, from turning the Kate Moss (Burberry’s once ambassador) cocaine-scandal days to its quintessentially plaid-intensive British identity today.

Since both are subscription based services I can’t really paste the links here.

But here are two of their archived articles on Angela. Click here for The Times, WSJ.

Style, structure and value she says are Burberry’s core strategic values. When the world was gushing and pouting and preening over the new iPad, Angela put her money where her mouth is, opening an instant buying iPad application, allowing shopping real time as the live-show aired..

Even its choice of ambassador is so unconventional Emma Watson is the most ‘unstarry’ celeb you could find.

Brands like YSL have decided to dabble in social media as well; so the Burberry business model is something others are already replicating, and well.

As for me I would be content modelling their original trench coats.

Meanwhile former Burberry model Fenton Bailey along with David Gandy and Helena Christensen feature in W London's pre-launch film.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

PR Muse-ings

I am typing this as I watch Stephen Fry’s incredible documentary on the BP Oil spill. On that, another time

So now that I am back on line after a serious computer crash, let’s talk business.

Introduced to me in 2008, Muse the understated rock band have only increased their stature and profile the past few years, partly thanks to my word- of-mouth recommendations and frequent Facebook posts. Interestingly Muse's website uses the new age*.mu extension. The site is also a social media mad-house, so elements of good PR there.

Before I rest on my laurels of promoting Muse in my small ways, we can attribute part of their success and new found global fame to seemingly making deals with big-wig movie companies.

In the past 8 months alone Muse has been featured in the trailers of Tom Cruise’s comeback film with Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day and the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp starrer The Tourist. A seriously talented mix there. Muse and Hollywood royalty; all through two extremely clever placements.

And from the comments section on the Tourist trailer YouTube page, you can see that part of the excitement for the movie is a result of the Muse collaboration.

How does music product placement work? In these two instances did Muse’s agent go to Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures here, and knock on their doors? Or was it the movie studios trying to give the 40ish starrer films a ‘young ‘edge? Or is it the British band’s (from Devon and mostly active in Canada) clever way of breaking into American consciousness?

How does pitching work? Fashion PR (which I do) for example can be put down in 'pen and paper', mainly involves sample send-outs and call backs and securing features in magazines and 'on' celebrities. Then why does music PR seems suddenly so intriguing, I can’t even imagine how such music deals are made? Is this even PR? Or the old school agent-protégé-hungry music label ménage à trois?

Muse has been on the music scene from 1994, and can’t be put in any particular genre. With music sales down and piracy still plaguing the world was this a good step, have Muse done the right thing by going so mainstream, and further 'endangering' themselves? Will the uber talented group be able to handle the wolfish American paparazzi culture and the pressures of global touring and media glare?

This is a case of an already established music band using PR to promote itself, but see what wonders it has done for AR Rahman from India, 2 Oscars for two not-his-best compositions for Slumdog Millionaire and new age composer Zack Hemsey’s chilling compositions for the Inception trailer putting him in the spotlight.

Now that Muse are on superstar horizon, Matt Bellamy has had the pleasure of dating Kate Hudson, and apparently are still going strong. Clever PRing there. Now he has significantly more print coverage than he ever did, with paps scrambling for pics and news of them.

The song featured in the trailer is Map of the Problematique. Muse has been innovative in terms of sales gimmickery, as this song was one of the first to available as digital download-only in 2007

It may not make sense for me to post Knight and Day’s trailer again so here’s the Tourist trailer, as a love offering to my goddess Angie-baby and of course my current favourite band Muse.