Here’s my piece on Gus Christie for ON TRACK. A very nice man he was too.
Am currently engaged in a couple of branding projects. As ever, client confidentiality prevents me from going into too many details. One job is for a line of French bread, and is really fun as I have never branded a food before.
Branding is a bit of a dark art. Some brands, like Orange, have an abstract name, which at first glance has little to do with their product. This of course is okay if you have an enormous budget so you can create an awareness that Orange spells telecommunications. The name itself has lots of positive associations. It is bright, cheerful, colourful, has no rhyme and so is unique…, it is juicy and refreshing. And so on. Much better than calling it ABC telecommunications for example.
In most cases, however, it is usually more approproate if the branding you come up with actually reflects something about the nature of the product. In my recent bread branding exercise, the suggested brands grew out of three attributes of the product: its authenticity, the mystery of traditional bread’s production, and its freshness of taste.
My client seems to have chosen one route already (around authenticity), and with any luck it should be piloted in the shops soon. Quite looking forward to sauntering down a supermarket isle, and gesturing towards a bread product and being able to show off that its name, tagline, brand story and look and feel was my idea.
The other project I am embarking on is to assess the ON TRACK publisher’s branding across its magazines, online and on concourse tactics. It has a name, but I want to get help refine how the business expresses itself and ensures that its brand expression is coherent. An interesting, albeit slightly Herculean task. But one which should bring all kinds of benefits: not least being that the range of ON TRACK offerings can be seen to be part of one product family, and complement and enhance each other.
Below an image of a French baker I found after random googling from this site by artist Walter Stephen Krane. Had it on my computer as something to put me in the mood. Notice how the colours do the French flag too.
There are some ideas which when viewed retrospectively sound obvious. For example, when Percy Shaw invented cats eyes in 1934 to help people drive in foggy conditions, nobody seemed much interested, till future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan took them up for British roads in 1947 – and they became ubiquitous.
What On Track and Southern Railways are doing seems simple. In fact it’s a forehead slapping no-brainer. It’s the idea of linking the way you get to a place – the railway – with what you are going to do there, i.e visit The Brighton Festival. This, after all, is a festival with a growing reputation internationally and a flagship event for Brighton. And the modest booth pictured at Brighton Station is the first step in making this link explicit. It the beginning of an attempt to join the dots between travel, sustainability and your destination.
On Track are trying to promote the fact that simply by choosing to board a train rather than drive, you are actually doing something good for the planet. You can zoom down from London to Brighton knowing that you’ve a mouse’s carbon footprint. Crucially, you are already making a difference.
This is important. There is nothing more paralysing than guilt and hopelessness. Show people the everyday things they can do to make a difference, and pow! you have begun to nudge people towards a tipping point in their behavior.
And Brighton, of course, is one of the most sustainably minded cities in the UK, (don’t take my word for it, have a look at this interview I did with Thurstan Crockett Brighton’s sustainability guru). The Festival is part of the Brighton sustainability mix.
Another interview this morning, for On Track. This time on the phone. Fortunately my interviewee Thurstan Crockett, Brighton’s Head of Sustainability Environmental Policy,was a former journalist and interviewed very well.
When people are masters of their own brief, it is much easier just to step back and let them download. They, after all, know far more about the subject than you do. I learned lots, such as that Brighton was recognised last year by Forum for the Future as the most sustainable city in the UK, or that there is an ambition for Brighton to be the first city to eliminate plastic bags.
My main focus was to make sure the interviewee appeared as a fully rounded person. Nobody wants to hear the thoughts of job title – they wan’t to hear what a real person thinks.
While I prefer face to face, the best thing about a phone interview is that of course the moment you put the phone down you can start typing, and the conversation is still fresh in your mind.
The rest of the day I spent sending off a manuscript for a giftbook idea I have, and writing its proposal, covering letter etc. Tiresome, but absolutely key. Now it is up to the Gods.