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The Age of Interactive Content Marketing

Ever wondered what your favourite pizza topping says about your personality?

Or which Disney character would be your best friend? We’ve all engaged with some form of interactive content and  it’s these attention grabbing marketing tactics that are revolutionising the way brand’s are pushing their content online.

Interactive content marketing can be anything from a quiz, poll, survey or calculator – a campaign with the key aim of increasing engagement and reaching out to consumers in a way that requires them to act.

The beauty of interactive marketing is that it makes a campaign instantly more personal and tailored to individual consumers, offering them an insight without making them feel like they are being directly targeting by a brand. It’s a unique experience.

The appeal

Interactive content has revolutionised how brands appeal to consumers. Many now offer tests on social media to find your perfect fit of jeans or where to take your next holiday. They are often funny and lighthearted and keep the consumer entertained incorporating a call to action at the end with the offer to buy.

Services providing online assessments or calculators have also become pretty commonplace when it comes to marketing a service. Mortgage calculators or loan affordability assessment tools, for example, give consumers an instant personalised service and allow brands to capture their interest while they offer their information. The tool effectively sells a brand’s service and its benefits in a non intrusive way which is proven to lead to higher conversion rates.

A survey by Content Marketing Institute found  93% of content marketers agree interactive content is effective at educating buyers. 

Experimenting with interactive content

Interactive content is not only something to watch this year as one of 2017’s prominent marketing trends but brands are experimenting more and more with it and using it to take their content to the next level across all sectors.

Video marketing is a platform which lends itself exceptionally well to innovative interaction with consumers as it allows users to physically touch or click as opposed to simply watching. Others offer an even more personal experience by allowing the consumer to affect the outcome.

81% of content marketers agree interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content

Skittles have executed it’s use to perfection and moved away from static video advertisements in unique and entertaining ways.

Their Skittles: Touch The Rainbow campaign allowed consumers to interact with the ad by placing their finger on the screen with amusing results. In one version the viewer’s finger was licked by firstly, a cat, and later a bearded man. While another featured a Princess rubbing her nose on the spot the viewer’s finger touched the screen.

The campaigns quickly racked up over 10 million views on YouTube.

The Skittles follow up took interaction to the next level. Viewers could decide the action of a teenage boy in his grandmother’s house surrounded by fragile ornaments.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to engage consumers simply by using fresh information, online interaction is a viable and effective solution to the problem. It holds consumer attention and gives them an enjoyable experience with the brand resulting in a longer lasting impact.

Another example of innovative interactive video use was Hot Wheels’ online racing game. The video advert allowed players to select, customise and drive their own Hot Wheels car, It gained the brand over 20 million views.

A survey by Content Marketing Institute found 79% of content marketers agreed interactive content can have reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures.

It’s clear the benefits of an interactive content campaign – in comparison to that of blogging or other traditional online content – are unparalleled. However, producing effective campaigns can be a time consuming and often costly process if brands don’t come equipped with the expertise to design and develop them.

The cost?

Interactive marketing is a step up from traditional content marketing requiring not only optimised and exceptional concepts but the ability to build these interactive experiences and invest in their development.

With this in mind, services to aid brands with the evolution and implementation of their ideas are becoming increasingly popular and ensure the effective use of interactive tools.

If you want to take your content to the next level or fancy a chat about how interactive marketing could benefit your brand please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com.

 

Why short-lived content means BIG brand impact

All Hail Short-lived Content

After being valued at $28 billion following it’s public trading debut earlier this year, Snap Inc, the company behind picture messaging app Snapchat, propelled the importance of short-lived content marketing even further into the spotlight.

Just why the trend is on the up is pretty clear. The service draws in millions of millennial and generation Z users per day who crave instancy and immediate action. They rely on mobile content to entertain, inform and engage with their favourite brands – making mobile-first apps like Snapchat and Instagram their go-to platforms.

Ephemeral content gives the brand just one chance for impression to conversion.

Fortunately, thanks to the fresh and authentic nature of the platform, and of course, it’s millions of daily users, such conversions are happening every second.

The instantaneous content demands audience engagement. Not only that, it’s also one of the go-to platforms for influencers and bloggers, as well as being a direct brand channel.

70% of marketers claim video produces more conversions than any other content and HubSpot stats show 4x as many consumers prefer watching videos about products than reading about them.

Ephemeral posts give the impression of being off the cuff and unrehearsed avoiding the pitfall of users feeling targeted by over-edited branded content.

The spontaneous element to short-lived media is it’s driving force.

Whether it’s splashing out on a sponsored filter, posting witty one liners, funny videos or informative tutorials – the world’s biggest brands and celebrities, from Kim Kardashian to HubSpot and even Nasa – are all maximising on the power of Snapchat.

Obviously, there are some shortfalls when it comes to using short-lived branded content. There isn’t much room for editing and they have to be kept brief which requires brands to post original content more frequently.

But it’s the impulsiveness of the posts that leads to quick conversions and sales. The idea that an offer, idea or informative video requires immediate action before it disappears.

Instagram has already maximised on short-lived content by following in Snapchat’s footsteps and allowing users to post timestamped stories that disappear after 24 hours. The notion of a fleeting moment after which the content will be lost drives views.

In 2015, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released figures showing the site generated 8 billion video views daily.

While Snapchat had 15 times less users at the time – it was hitting similar figures of over 7 billion.

Now, the app boasts 150 million daily active users who watch 10 billion videos per day as well as sharing 9,000 photos per second.

After mirroring the core features of Snapchat on Instagram last year, Facebook has also now adopted the timestamped stories model on its news feed and it’s almost identical. Just like Snapchat it allows users to post a story for 24 hours or send the content to specific users via the direct feature. Users can reply to the content and replay until the conversation ends and the video or photo disappears. They’ve even added similar promotional filters – although for the time being Facebook will only offer a few branded filters after teaming up with 6 film studios on an experimental basis. For now the content is limited to personal use without story feeds from brands, advertisers or celebrity pages.

The impulsive nature of ephemeral content combined with the effectiveness of video marketing underlines just how powerful using short-lived content platforms can be for brands.

If you need a helping hand with your brand’s video content please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com – we have lots to talk about!

Video Marketing Is Everything – Lights, Camera, Action!

 Why video content should be leading your Marketing activity.

 

They said a picture is worth a thousand words, now they say a video is worth a million.

Video content can propel anyone and anything to new levels of internet and global stardom. So, if a clip of a cat dressed like a pirate can amass millions of views in just weeks, then all you really need is a unique and genuinely brilliant idea to send your brand soaring into the viral stratosphere. Pretty simple really.

According to Cisco, By 2017 video will account for 69% of all consumer traffic, fortunately a video campaign’s brand-boosting power is now unparalleled even if it doesn’t reach viral realms. It has metaphorically catapulted itself into the forefront of all digital marketing trends, therefore should be factored into your marketing strategy immediately.

 

So what are the defining features of successful video content?

 

Engagement is key if the campaign is to make any traction across the web. It’s about the story and encompassing message rather than the sale so if the video answers yes to one of the following questions – Will it entertain? Will it inspire? Will it teach? Then it’s usually on the right track.

 

What makes video content so vital?

 

Why? Because consumers are more likely to remain loyal to brands that they follow on social media. An Animoto survey found that 76.5% of marketers and small business say video marketing has had a direct impact on their business while 64% are also more likely to buy a product online after watching a video and 71% of consumers who feel brands have offered them a good social media experience are likely to recommend it to others.

 

Emerging marketing trends

 

Many brands at the forefront of video marketing are also trying to up their influence across the web by capitalising on the latest video features across social media platforms. According to HubSpot, Facebook users are now spending 3x more time watching live videos than any others on social media.  Then there’s the hot-topic of live video, which is now a feature on Instagram, and Facebook not to mention social media maverick Snapchat – which draws in 150 million daily users!

According Magnifyre, 29% more people viewed a 360-degree video than the same video in standard format, however don’t throw standard format video out just yet, both standard format and 360 videos can now be turned into an interactive experience. Take consumer giant  Philips’ ‘Designed to Play’ campaign executed this concept to perfection. Their ad showcased their Click & Style electric razor by inviting consumers to select their favourite facial hair styles out of 6 options.

 

The power of social media shares

 

Google Android’s ‘Friends Furever’ campaign was another video marketing genius at it’s finest. Jumping on the uber clickable ‘animals doing cute things’ trend, their clip of unlikely furry pals was shared over 6 and half million times making it the most shared ad of 2015.

 

Money doesn’t always matter

 

Massive sharing and engagement potential doesn’t require a massive budget, just a little social media savvy-ness. After all, Facebook alone generates around 8 billion video views per day.

Take this ad for US clothing company Chubbies for example. It’s four unlikely racers – adults dressed as Super Mario characters – take part in a tense Mario Kart-esque race San Francisco’s Lombard Street – or as Chubbies describes it the ‘crookedest street in the world’ – chucking banana skins in each others’ paths.

The campaign saw off competition from big budget video ads by Intel, KFC and Amazon on it’s release hitting 17.2 million views in it’s first 7 days, not to mention 340,000 Facebook shares alone in it’s first month.

Campaigns can fall far from going viral but their ever-increasing impact on brand growth only serves to emphasise why video content needs to be at the very top of the priorities list this year.

2016-2017 has been Cuckoo’s busiest time to date when it comes to video, so if you need a helping hand with your brand’s video content or overall strategy get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com – we have lots to talk about!

Financial Institutions and Trust in the Digital Era

One of the most notable side effects of the financial crash of 2007/8 was an ongoing collapse in public faith in experts and institutions per se, with the banks at the centre of the crash being placed at the epicentre of this crisis of trust. Although steps have been taken in the years since in an attempt to alter the culture of banking and thus the public perception – steps such as the creation of the Banking Standards Board – perhaps the greatest opportunity lies in fully embracing the digital revolution which, having transformed sectors such as retail and travel, is impacting with increasing force upon the previously sedate world of financial services.

 

Customers have an abiding faith in banks abilities to safeguard their digital information.

 

Some good news came in the form of a survey recently carried out by Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute, which found that customers have an abiding faith in banks abilities to safeguard their digital information, even if this isn’t shared by the banks themselves. According to the survey, which involved 7,600 consumers and 180 senior data privacy and security professionals based across Europe and in the US, 83% of consumers trust their banks cyber security systems, whilst only 21% of banking executives share this confidence. Furthermore, 3% of consumers believed their own bank was likely to have been the victim of a hack, whilst the genuine figure reported was 25%.

There are two ways in which banks can leverage this residue of good faith. The first – and this is a long term issue – is to dramatically bolster digital security. In the age of Big Data the amount of information which a financial institution can gather and store in relation to every customer is all but infinite, and will shift even further in this direction as the move towards a genuinely cashless society gathers pace. Even if we live, as is often claimed, in a ‘post privacy age’, financial details are still one aspect of life which the majority of people wish to keep strictly to themselves, and the kind of data breaches we’ve witnessed in recent years could become deal breakers for many consumers.

 

Banks have to be ready to embrace innovation in order to meet customer expectations.

 

Whilst addressing the issue of security, banks have to be ready to embrace innovation in order to meet customer expectations. Digital technology has allowed newcomers such as Uber and Airbnb to disrupt the spheres of transport and accommodation and the established banks run the risk of being similarly usurped by technically savvy newcomers if they don’t rise to meet this challenge. The fact is that consumers are now demanding the convenience and personalisation offered by the likes of Uber in all walks of life, and banking businesses around the world are innovating to meet this demand.

In Nigeria, for example, Social Lender is filling the gap left by a paucity of standard credit facilities by offering credit on the basis of clients’ social media profiles, providing loans in the form of cash from a bank of mobile funds. Or, as they’re tagline puts it: ‘Get rep, get cash, stay fly’.

 

Consumers are now demanding the convenience and personalisation offered by the likes of Uber.

 

Idea Bank, of Poland, has pounced on the Uber model in a strikingly literal sense, by offering its’ customers a fleet of mobile ATMs running in major cities such as Warsaw. Mainly used by business customers to deposit the days takings without the risk of carrying cash to the nearest bank branch, the ATMs can be ‘summoned’ via a smartphone app and will arrive at the chosen destination within 10 minutes. According to the bank, customers deposit 3 times more via mobile ATMs than was the case at branches, and plans to expand the number of mobile ATMs have already been made.

Perhaps less strikingly innovative, but still indicative of financial institutions readiness to embrace digital technology and social media, are the Reddit style ‘digital community’ created by Tesco in the form of the Your Community site, and the ‘Digital Eagles’ campaign run by Barclays, which aims to push back against the distrust some customers might feel of digital banking by offering practical help to older people and youngsters.

Another overseas innovation worth noting is the Clever Kash ‘cashless moneybox’ launched by New Zealand bank ASB, which allows parents to load their children’s digital moneybox up with coins flipped across from their own mobile device, thus combining convenient banking, the internet of things and financial education.

The required blend of convenience, trust and connectivity has been showcased in recent years by PayPal. The work in question has run along two lines – branding and service provision. PayPal services have been tailored to meet the financial, social and lifestyle demands of consumers, and the branding has reflected this focus. The use of branding to develop trust and a two way relationship with consumers will become increasingly important, offering a digital version of the old fashioned and much missed concept of the local bank manager with direct knowledge of each customer. Utilising social media in order to create this kind of rapport will require the kind of expertise offered by Cuckoo Design. Having worked with financial institutions at the same time as pioneering the transformation of the digital landscape, we’re perfectly placed to help financial institutions craft an identity in tune with the demands and expectations of contemporary consumers.

Need help communicating your message? Get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com – we have lots to talk about!

 

The ghost of Christmas dinner, past, present and future

We all know what Christmas dinner’s about don’t we? Roast turkey, roast potatoes and all the trimmings, including those (Brussel sprouts, roast parsnip) which nobody would ever bother about during the rest of the year. Oh, there might be the occasional variation – nut roast for the vegetarians, cranberries used in various innovative ways and whatever Nigella suggested in her last series – but Christmas dinner has always been exactly the same hasn’t it? And that includes the jokes in the crackers.

Well, like many ‘traditional’ British concepts (things like respecting the Royal family for example) the standard Christmas is actually a fairly recent invention, at least within the larger sweep of history. Take a look back in time and it’s clear to see, from surviving menus and recipe books, that the banquet set before yuletide revellers during the medieval age, for example, was vastly different from what we’re due to sit down and enjoy in a couple of weeks. Bearing that in mind, it’s also worth spotting the more recent additions to the standard Christmas table and predicting just what we’ll be sitting down to eat in the company of the ghost of Christmas future, when our paper hats are actually holograms and the roast turkey was produced from scratch in a laboratory (only one of these suggestions is actually a joke).

 

The standard Christmas is actually a fairly recent invention, at least within the larger sweep of history.

 

When considering the kind of Christmas feast which used to be served up in the past, it’s surely best to go back to where it all started, which is to say Bethlehem. Back then, of course, Christmas day was known as ‘That bloke who was born in the cattle shed’s birthday’ (not really, lest that cast doubt upon the rest of the historical revelations contained herein), and a typical Christmas dinner might consist of any or all of eggs in sour cream, fresh green salad, gingered prunes, spiced cider, Persian cream ring and ginger cakes.

By medieval times things were beginning, in some respects, to resemble a meal we might recognise today. As with most aspects of mediaeval life, the key factor was not what year it was or whereabouts in the world you were, but rather the vital issue of whether you happened to be a stinking peasant or not (that’s not an insult, even the King stank back in mediaeval times).This was when the big roast bird started to put in an appearance, generally in the form of goose or woodcock or, if you were lucky enough to get permission from the King, a swan. The rich would also tuck into venison for Christmas dinner with the less palatable bits – heart, liver, tongue, ears and brain – collectively known as ‘umbles, being tossed to a passing peasant for them to bake into an ‘umble pie. Hence the traditional saying ‘Don’t bother, I’ll get a pasty from Greggs’.

By the time we reach restoration England, the Christmas feast served in a household wealthy enough to really go for it was spectacular enough to make the modern version look like a model of restraint and moderation. Listing an entire menu surviving from the year 1685 would take the rest of this page, but highlights include oysters, stewed broth of mutton marrow bones, a pottage of caponets (me neither), a swan roast, a haunch of roasted venison, a dish of chickens in puff paste, two geese, two capons and a turkey. And that was just the first course. (That’s not a joke, either. The second sitting included most of the edible cast of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, a dish of larks, sturgeon and powdered geese jellies).

In recent years the three bird roast has begun to make an appearance on more Christmas tables, consisting of a turkey rolled around a duck and then a pheasant, before being stuffed with pork, or a goose combined with a chicken and a pigeon. Clearly, if we presented this to one of our ancient ancestors it would seem less like a wild extravagance and more like an hors d’oeuvre.

 

Looking to the future, many experts predict that every house will soon own its own 3D printer.

 

Looking to the future, many experts predict that every house will soon own its own 3D printer, and that this will be used to ‘print out’ an entire Christmas dinner downloaded from the chef of your choice. There are two flaws with this vision. One is that the chef of the house working themselves into a red-faced frenzy of stressed out incoherence is as much part of the fun of Christmas day as putting up with an ageing uncle who keeps making offensive remarks and then telling you not to be so PC. The other is that domestic 3D printing is one of those things – like jet packs and genuine hover boards – which always seems to be just a few more years down the track. Further into the future, scientists making doom laden predictions based around the collapse of world farming and the need to turn to eating insects for our protein (a perennial favourite which has yet to make it any further than the bush tucker trials), foresee a time in which all ‘meat’ will be produced in the laboratory, the fish course will consist of genetically modified ‘superlobsters’ or a tasty plate of smoked jellyfish and the jokes in the Christmas crackers will still be the same. Whatever the ghost of Christmas future is cooking up for us, we here at Cuckoo have already booked a seat at the table and are set to tell the world all about it. And that includes the fact that Brussel sprouts will still not actually taste very nice.

Need help spreading the word of your brand? Get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com – we have lots to talk about!

Clean living… Oh how the times (and trends) have changed!

It can sometimes be surprising to consider the things which are controlled by the whim of fashion. The height of hemlines, the length of fringes and the colour of wallpaper are all of aspects of life which you can expect to fluctuate and change dramatically over even a short period of time. Show me someone who can look at a photograph of the clothes they were wearing 10 or 15 years ago without thinking ‘My God, what was I thinking’, and I’ll show you someone who clearly isn’t looking closely enough. All of that, however, is perfectly harmless. Very few clothing trends have ever really harmed anyone (leaving aside the countless ravers who doubtless tripped over their own loon pants at the height of Madchester), but the same can’t be said of dietary fads and fashions.

 

Very few clothing trends have ever really harmed anyone

 

Given that we’re now firmly ensconced in the 21st Century, with all of the scientific know-how and nutritional expertise that implies, it can still be shocking to take a step back and consider the food and drink which is fashionably regarded as being healthy now, when compared to that which was ‘on trend’ 15, 20 or 30 years ago. The simple fact that something as basic as the stuff which we rely upon for sustenance can be fashionable or otherwise is fairly shocking in itself. As a lay person it’s tempting to assume that the experts should be able to reach a consensus on what’s going to do us good and what isn’t, but, as we throw away our low fat vegetable spreads and start tucking into butter again, it would seem that things are rarely, if ever, that simple.

The food trends coming to the fore during the next twelve months or so have been fairly clearly flagged and tend to revolve around ‘clean living’ – the art of simplifying your intake at the same time as discovering new (or in some cases very old) ingredients. Chief amongst these are pulses, boosted by the fact that 2016 is, apparently, the United Nations ‘International Year of the Pulse’. As well as using the likes of chick peas and lentils in the standard manner, there is expected to be a rise in the use of bean and pulse flower, utilised as a high fibre, high protein alternative to more traditional flours.

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There’s nothing new about pulses, of course, but then food fashion isn’t always a case of latching onto something new. It’s frequently (think of heritage vegetables) prompted by the re-discovery of items and substances which have been around for centuries, but which suddenly come back into favour. Whole grains are packed with Vitamin B and fibre, and those set for a comeback tour this year include kamut, faro, amaranth, sorghum and our slightly more familiar friend quinoa (which will surely stop being fashionable as soon as everyone figures out how to pronounce it properly).

In geographical terms the Mediterranean has, for many years, been regarded as being absolutely ‘where it’s at’ when opting for a healthy all-round diet. That finally looks set to be shifting, and it’s shifting in the direction of the Vikings.  Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland have cuisines which revolve around seasonal local produce and fatty fish (fat no longer being the enemy it’s been for years). The breakout ingredient of Nordic Cuisine (the one you’ll be introducing to your dinner parties this year) is Skyr, a high protein Icelandic yoghurt.

This being fashion, of course, there always has to be one trend which is predicted to be coming to the fore each and every year but never quite gains sufficient traction. A kind of culinary version of wearing a cape, which fashionistas seem to be constantly predicting is going to be a thing, but never is. In this case it’s eating insects, bush tucker challenge style. Every year we’re told that crickets are set to take the menus of the UK by storm, being high in protein, low in fat, packed with vitamins, cheap and, predictably ‘tasting a bit like chicken’. And every year it doesn’t really happen. The chances are 2016 will, once again, not be the year of the bug.

When proselytizing enthusiastically about the latest healthy food trend it’s useful to bear in mind the way things have changed, and healthy and unhealthy have swapped places, even in recent years. Not so long ago, for example, processed fat-free foods ruled the roost. The problem was that foods with the fat removed had also had the flavour removed, and what was put in to take the place of flavour? Sugar, lots and lots of sugar, meaning that the widespread take up of a fat free diet did little to combat obesity.

Speaking of sugar, there was a time (and it’s a food fashion which is still lingering) when artificial sweeteners were considered healthier than the real thing, in all kinds of contexts. The two main problems with this were that scientists weren’t (and still aren’t) entirely sure what the chemical contained in artificial sweeteners did to the human body and, secondly, that because artificial sweeteners taste massively sweeter than the real thing, their long term use had the effect of increasing cravings for sweet foods.

 

High protein Icelandic yoghurt starts to look like the blindingly obvious healthy choice.

 

In other words, the less fat you were eating, the more sugar you were taking on board, and the more you avoided sugar in favour of artificial replacements, the more sugar you were desperately craving. All of a sudden, high protein Icelandic yoghurt starts to look like the blindingly obvious healthy choice.

The new way to holiday

We’ve been working in the hotel and hospitality sector for almost 15 years now, and in that time we’ve seen a lot of changes. Perhaps most marked has been the shift away from ‘all in’ package holidays and toward more bespoke arrangements, with people picking and choosing the various individual aspects of their break from a range of choices, taking advantage of the increasingly baroque offerings available around the world and the ease of access offered by the internet.

 

More people are seeking destinations, experiences and even hotels which offer a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Of course, a couple of weeks somewhere hot with a beach close by is never going to lose its appeal (particularly in a year like this, during which nobody seemed to have told the weather it was supposed to be summer) but more and more people are seeking destinations, experiences and even hotels which offer a once in a lifetime experience, be it cultural, geographical, culinary or adventure based. None of the following represent the average idea of ‘getting away for a quick break’, but they all promise a weekend, week or even longer, during which the tedium of normality has been left a long way behind.

Japanese quilting 

Interested in quilting? Interested in France? Then this could be your dream break. It’s a quilt retreat, during which you’ll stay in the Château des Comtes de Challes, near to Chambery, for seven days, four of which will be spent enjoying Japanese inspired quilting workshops. Throw in the chance to learn the ropes (or maybe threads) on a Swiss Bernina sewing machine – regarded as the best machines in the world – and you have a break which is perfect for anyone seeking a serene escape from day to day drudgery.

 

Beer Spa

It would seem natural to assume that you can spend your break being pampered at a spa, or enjoying the delights of beer, but not both. At least not at the same time. The Chodovar brewery, in the Cheb region of the Czech Republic, begs to differ, combining the two in the form of a brewery tour, a massage, a hot grain pack, an on-site restaurant and, most intriguingly, a beer bath for one or two people. Yes, it’s what it sounds like – a dip in hot water, beer and grains. There are similar Beer Spas across the Czech Republic, where the warm beer revitalises your skin as you sip on a cold beer which perks up the rest of you.

Wine and Song 

This is a break which is undoubtedly unusual and which will sound like heaven or hell depending upon your point of view (not to mention taste in music). Based in the Lectoure commune in the south west of France, this is a break during which, as well as enjoying the Midi-Pyrenees scenery, you’re given singing tuition centring upon show tunes, pop songs and light opera, all building to a performance at the end of the week. A tour and tasting session at a local wine and Armagnac producer adds to the package, and may well prove to be something of a respite if your fellow guests turn out to be a gang of tone deaf Andrew Lloyd Webber fans.

Volcanic Cave Spa

Surely a spa is a spa is a spa (leaving aside the beer spa highlighted above of course)? Well, yes and no. The Vincci Selección La Plantación del Sur, in Tenerife, boasts a unique spa experience amidst the surroundings of a genuine volcanic cave. Several of the treatments make use of the mineral properties of the on-site thermal waters, which can be combined with more standard spa treatments or with something more unusual such as a banana face mask.

Salt Hotel

Palacio de Sal translates as ‘Salt Palace’. Is it named thus because it’s situated on the salt plains 25 km from Bolivia? No, it’s called the Salt Palace because it’s constructed entirely from salt. The walls are made of salt, the ceilings are made of salt and even the bulk of the furnishings are made of salt. Every modern convenience is provided, but all seasoned by the knowledge that your surroundings, including the bed you sleep on, are crafted from the stuff you’d usually pour onto a plate of chips.

Antarctic Sailing

This is a break which combines the chance to explore and experience utterly unspoiled nature and the opportunity to sail on a spectacular 103-year-old tall ship. The voyages, which last between 22 and a truly epic 52 days include the opportunity for daily guided tours of the bays and harbours through which you sail, offering the chance to come face to face with penguins, seals, sea elephants and glaciers.

High Road Motorbikes 

This is a 15 day trip which combines the petrol-head fantasy of the unspoiled open road (the kind of road you usually only see in car adverts) with the chance to take in some of the most stunning scenery in the world. It’s not for the faint hearted, taking off into the Himalayan Mountains to the north of India to travel roads as high as ten and seventeen thousand feet above sea level. Highest of all is the Khardung la, the highest driveable road in the world, along which riders will climb 8000 ft in less than 30 minutes.

From stitching a quilt to biking a mountain, via bathing in beer and belting out Les Miserable, there genuinely is an alternative break for everyone. Follow us at Cuckoo to stay informed of the most exciting new offerings from people who, like us, enjoy being a little bit different.

MONSTER RAINBOW FOOD PORN. WAIT… HUH?

How do you market food? Do you give it a narrative, create a personality? Weave a brand image intent on persuading people to identify with the food stuff in question and want to make it a part of their lifestyle? Pitch it as an aspirational item enjoyed by people who have their finger on the pulse and are going places?  You can try all of that, of course, and if you’re lucky you might not get laughed at like Ferrero Rocher, but the very basic role which food plays in the life of every person means that there’s a much simpler way of marketing it, and one which cuts across the standard concerns around demographics and reach and ‘cut-through’.

You make it look good.

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There’s a term for this, and the term is ‘food porn’.

Nothing sells food harder, faster and better than simply making it look absolutely delicious. There’s a term for this, and the term is ‘food porn’. Don’t google it if you’re at work, as you may come up with some results which are rather difficult to explain when a colleague happens to glance over your shoulder. Food porn consists of taking glistening, steaming, sticky and delicious images of spectacular looking foodstuffs, and in practice it ranges from the average person taking a selfie with the pizza they’re about to tuck into, to major advertising campaigns and marketing drives. At the top end of the genre, leading specialist commercial food photographers can become very wealthy indeed thanks to their ability to capture the kind of mouth-watering images which adorn the pages of cookbooks and glossy magazines.  No matter how good the photographer in question is, however, the food has to look the part in the first place, which is one thing driving the creation of ever more surreal, outlandish and frankly bizarre items of food. The spectacular dishes detailed below are a kind of culinary version of the most recherché haute couture clothing. You might not rustle them up in your kitchen on a regular basis, but the aesthetic impact is such that they’re almost bound to set you thinking, exploring and, perhaps most importantly, drooling.

Rainbow Food

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Think brightly coloured food. Then think again. We’re not talking rice dyed by turmeric or a deep ruby red velvet cake, we’re talking food which boasts the kind of vivid primary colour scheme you’re more used to seeing in a box of Playdoh or a toddler’s paint set. Rainbow bagels emerged in New York earlier this year and were swiftly followed by the rainbow grilled cheese sandwich. The difference between the two is subtle, which is more than can be said for the colour scheme. In the case of the bagel, the rainbow effect is merely that, an aesthetic twist. Where the rainbow grilled cheese sandwich is concerned, the colours are also flavours, the blue being lavender, the red, tomato, the green basil and the yellow a multi-faceted four cheese spectacular.

Boutique Cheese 

Garish, rainbow coloured cheese is one thing – at the other end of the spectrum we have the rarefied world of boutique cheeses, the Ferrari’s of the fermented milk world and, in particular, Pule, probably the most expensive cheese in the world. How expensive? Well, if you’re planning on treating yourself to some Pule and crackers, you better be ready to hand over £1050 for a kilogram. And why is it so expensive? Because it’s made via a highly complex process which involves smoking, and uses 25 litres of milk to produce 1 kilo of cheese. Did we mention it’s made from donkey milk? If that’s not rare enough for you then bear in mind the fact that it’s Serbian donkey milk. Serbian donkey milk produced on just one donkey farm in the whole of Serbia. And Novak Djokovic is a big fan, all of which makes your average upmarket organic Brie look more than a little shabby.

Boutique cheeses, the Ferrari’s of the fermented milk world

Monster Milkshakes

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Milkshakes have come a long way. They used to be a sugary sweet treat for kids. Then they became the beverage of choice for hip hop stars and other cutting edge celebs. Now they’ve moved way beyond being simply a drink. The latest monster milkshakes are more like entire meals crammed into (and balanced on top of) a glass, albeit meals capable of inducing a heart tremor at a distance of twenty paces. So, most definitely not healthy but then, if you’re looking to shed the pounds, you should probably avoid anything with the word ‘monster’ in its’ name. Current reigning champ of the monster shakes is probably the Black and White, served at The Benjamins in Singapore. Consisting of a glass full of shake it is the toppings, virtually architectural in scale, which turn this monster from a shake into an explosion in a sweet shop. They include a chocolate fudge cake pop, several chocolate wafers, Tim Tams (a sort of chocolate coated bourbon biscuit on steroids), whole blocks of Cadbury milk chocolate and lashings of chocolate sauce.

Burgers to the Max

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When thinking of the kind of burgers which present a challenge as much as they do a treat, the country which naturally springs to mind is America and, sure enough, the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains offer something called The Most American Thickburger. Not so much a burger, more several meals between two pieces of bread, it includes a hamburger, a split hot dog, potato chips, cheese, tomato and pickles and packs an impressive (or frightening, depending upon your point of view) 1030 calories.

Not to be outdone, however, Manchester chain Solita offers the Manchester Wheel burger. This mega burger contains a kilogram of meat, 12 cheese slices, 8 rashers of bacon and a litre of sauce. Served between the halves of a giant bun, it contains 8,000 calories and is designed to be shared by as many as six people.

What all of this extreme food has in common is the fact that it looks as amazing as it tastes (sometimes even more so), something vital to any marketing push. After all, to paraphrase American President L B Johnson, if you grab them by the eyes, their hearts and stomachs will follow, which is a lesson we at Cuckoo have absorbed and acted upon time after time over the past twenty years.

If you grab them by the eyes, their hearts and stomachs will follow

Exploring the weird, gross and wonderful wellness trends

It’s like a cruel practical joke – the food and drink which you find the most appealing is that which is capable of inflicting the most damage upon you. The more drippingly, oozingly, unctuously delicious a plate of food looks, the less beneficial eating it is going to be for you. I could quote scientific evidence proving this (there have been studies on the effect of so called ‘food porn’ on the brain), but I don’t think I really have to because we all know it’s true. We’re assured that certain superfoods are very good for us, but, let’s be honest, nobody ever instagrammed a picture of a bowl of quinoa to make their friends jealous, and #treatingmyselftocarrotsticks is never going to be a thing. Similarly, the activity which is best for you is, frankly, hard work; very few people ever think that’s it’s been a hard week at work so they’re going to treat themselves to a 5 mile jog.

 

#treatingmyselftocarrotsticks is never going to be a thing.

 

Bearing all of that in mind there are two approaches to take (leaving aside the third option of ‘eating junk food until you collapse in a slobbering heap’). One can either eschew pleasurable food and drink altogether, therefor becoming almost entirely miserable but at least scowling and grumbling in the knowledge that you’re likely to live a few years longer, or one can enjoy a reasonably mixed diet and boost your well-being by accessing the latest in cutting edge exercise and treatment programmes. When it comes to looking and feeling good there are always new and exciting options on offer, all of them making that most beguiling of promises – a short cut to looking and feeling your very best.

Forget yoga, disdain mud packs, take vitamin supplements to one side and explain, quietly, that they’re simply too 2012. The latest treatments, all of which are growing in popularity, each bring something entirely new to the table and each is hoping to be the one which, while it looks slightly strange at first glance, makes the breakthrough to the mainstream, becoming the acupuncture du jour.

 

Take vitamin supplements to one side and explain, quietly, that they’re simply too 2012.

 

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IV Infusions

Picture someone attached to an intravenous drip feed, a bag of clear liquid linked by a tube to a syringe in their arm. Admit it, you’re picturing somebody ill, but that’s a picture which is going to have to change. Modern IV Nutrient Infusions aren’t about being ill, they’re about being well. They’re available in a range of ‘flavours’, some simply mixing vitamins and minerals to inject a general health boost directly into the bloodstream, others claiming to be able to deal with sunburn and hangovers or even revitalise the skin and slow down the aging process. Cuckoo is lucky to call one of the market leaders in IV Therapy our client. REVIV who over the past years has been opening clinics all over the globe, with three in the UK already, and before you know it, people enjoying a night on the town will be boasting “It’s alright, I’m booked in for a drip in the morning.”

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Tabata

A wise man once said ‘There’s only one thing better than exercise, and that’s exercise which doesn’t take long to do’. Actually we said it, just now, because it’s true. Imagine if you could reap the benefits of hours in the gym by spending minutes in the gym. Tabata training promises just that, although there is a catch – it’s hard. ‘High intensity’ is the technical phrase, which, speaking non-technically, means you’ll be sweating and panting. It was devised in Japan by Dr. Izumi Tabata who found, working with athletes, that a high intensity workout of four minutes and twenty seconds, four days a week for six weeks, had more beneficial effects than moderately intense exercise lasting an hour for five days a week. Basically, you work out hard for twenty seconds, then rest for ten seconds, then do it again seven more times. Then collapse.

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Sound Healing

An alternative form of meditation, but one which doesn’t take place in somewhat austere silence, sound healing occurs in ‘sound baths’, group meetings in which people gather to experience mindfulness – a total immersion in the present moment – whilst focusing on the sounds made by tuning forks and singing bowls. Currently popular in the hipper enclaves of New York and Los Angeles, like so many things which emerge in the hipper enclaves of New York and Los Angeles, it seems set to gain in popularity, particularly amongst a generation looking for respite from the constant bombardment of social media alerts.

 

Modern IV Nutrient Infusions aren’t about being ill, they’re about being well.

 

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The Snail Facial

The supposedly beneficial effects of crushed snail shells were first spotted by ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, but the snail facial, which emerged in Japan in 2013 and has now spread through China, Thailand and the UK, takes the snail/human interaction to a whole new level. In order to take advantage of the nutrients and anti-oxidants present in snail mucus, you just have to lie back and allow half a dozen snails to slither all over your face. If the thought of having the kind of creature which you usually spot eating the vegetation in your garden getting quite so up close and personal is a trifle off-putting, rest assured you can take a short cut by applying an Age Defying Snail Hydro-Gel Face Mask (note strategic absence of the word ‘mucus’).

Other treatments currently gaining in popularity include ‘oil pulling’, which is basically gargling with the likes of coconut oil, soaking in a hot bath full of magnesium flakes, and tapping into the medicinal benefits of traditional ingredients such as turmeric and Maca. Whatever is coming down the line next, no matter how wild and weird, if it works you can rest assured Cuckoo will be amongst the first to start spreading the good news.

Need help spreading the word of your brand? Get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com  – we have lots to talk about!

Car fuel, what does the future hold?

Remember when cars used to run out of petrol? When you used to regularly see that lonely figure, trudging along the hard shoulder of the motorway, petrol can in hand, heading towards the petrol station which they’re just about to realise is actually three miles in the other direction? As cars become more fuel efficient and the on-board monitoring systems increasingly all encompassing, this is an increasingly rare occurrence. In fact, if you’re driving a car less than 10 years old and you manage to run out of petrol then, in a sense, well done. You presumably managed to ignore warning lights, emergency beeping noises, the fuel gauge flashing a message that you had 200 yards worth of petrol left and, in some cases, a ‘2001’ style disembodied computer voice saying “I wouldn’t drive any further if I were you, you’re about to run out of petrol,” in such a superior manner that you just know your car is smirking.

 

Remember when cars used to run out of petrol?

 

The next wave of high tech car development – the promised utopia of the self-drive car – will presumably eliminate the problem of low fuel altogether. Your car will know when it needs topping up and will head to the nearest petrol station, hopefully with an added feature that allows you to programme it to drive to a forecourt where they stock your favourite type of Ginsters pasty.

There is, of course, a fly in this vehicular ointment; whilst individuals and the cars they drive may find it harder and harder to run out of petrol, the human race as a whole is doing a perfectly good job, thank you very much. Petrol, like the oil from which it is derived, and in common with all other fossil fuels, is finite in supply, with estimates for when we’re going to start running out ranging from between 2025 to 2070.

That, combined with the environmental impact of standard fossil fuel emissions, is why so much time, money and the brain power of very clever people is being devoted to the task of coming up with new ways of fuelling our vehicles. We all know about electric or hybrid vehicles already, of course, and they’re set to become increasingly popular as problems over the range they can cover and the size of the batteries they have to carry are gradually surmounted. But…..unless and until we come up with a renewable method of actually generating the electricity which powers these cars, one which can be afforded and consistently relied upon, then they’re actually something of a cheat, to use a highly specialised technical phrase. They’re really just old fashioned, fossil fuel vehicles dressed up as something new and shiny thanks to the proviso that the exhaust pipe pumping out noxious fumes is attached to a power station hundreds of miles away, rather than to the back of the car. The car itself may be cleaner, undeniably, but the ultimate source of its power is likely to be just as filthy as a tank full of diesel.

 

Time, money and the brain power of very clever people is being devoted to the task of coming up with new ways of fuelling our vehicles.

 

Which leaves us with the other sources being mooted, all at various different stages of development, from concept vehicles (car industry speak for giant toy cars, basically) being wheeled out at motor shows around the world, to ideas which have got little further than the scribblings of a scientist on a blackboard (feel free to insert your own research and development clichés here).

What any newer idea for powering vehicles has to deal with is a trip across the ‘Valley of Death’. No, it’s not a particularly tedious stretch of the ring road around Birmingham, it’s how motor industry insiders refer to the gulf which lies between ideas being pushed through R and D, and the massive funding required to get them ready for mass production. Thus it is that possible solutions to the fossil fuel conundrum – i.e. hydrogen fuel cells which produce only water as a by-product, or biofuels created using crops which might otherwise go to waste- whilst seeming to promote equal parts excitement and derision depending upon which expert you’re listening to, all seem to still be a long way from being available to the general consumer.

 

Whilst individuals and the cars they drive may find it harder and harder to run out of petrol, the human race is doing a perfectly good job.

 

Other, perhaps more readily achievable ideas involve exploiting existing parts of the car engines system in order to reduce, if not dramatically, the overall amount of fuel used. These include ‘kinetic energy’, which utilises energy generated during the braking process to create some of the power to help drive the car, ‘heat energy’, which transforms currently wasted heat generated by the engine into further electrical power, and even liquid nitrogen which, as it carries energy less efficiently than fossil fuels and requires an additional source of power in its production, seems to be something of a non-starter (a bit like a car that’s run out of petrol, perhaps….)

No matter how we’re fuelling our cars a few decades from now (and we haven’t even mentioned ‘steam cars’), the automotive fleet sector will doubtless still be going strong, and with it the need for the kind of understanding, promotion and expertise which fuels the work we do here at Cuckoo.

Cuckoo has over a decade of experience providing branding solutions and integrated marketing within the fleet sector. To learn more click here or alternatively get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email Jennifer@cuckoodesign.com  – we have lots to talk about!

Cars, are they becoming smarter than us?

Remember when a car used to be a fairly simple metal box with a wheel on each corner and an engine that made it go? Obviously, James Bond had a few gadgets in his car, but they mainly tended to focus around killing people or driving underwater, as opposed to the kind of neat little touches that the average driver might appreciate.

 

The car of tomorrow will basically be your front room, but powered by some mixture of hydrogen and electricity

 

Did you spot the key word in that sentence? It was ‘driver’, a description which the much promised, much anticipated and (in some quarters) much doubted wave of self-navigating supercars looks set to deposit firmly in the dustbin of history. After all, when you no longer have to actually work or in any way concentrate to ensure that your car does little things like get from a to b and avoid hitting pedestrians (and all the other cars with no-one driving them) then you’re in the perfect position to sit back, relax and simply enjoy the in-car entertainment. And by ‘in car entertainment’ we’re not  talking about a CD player, a digital radio and perhaps the sound of one of your kids watching Peppa Pig on a smart phone propped up in their car seat. Oh no. At the cutting edge – which often means within the confines of ‘concept cars’ designed and crafted to be shown off at motor shows rather than driven on the M62 – the tech and gadgetry available in the most advanced cars is almost definitely better and more impressive than that which you can boast in your front room. In fact, the car of tomorrow will basically be your front room, but powered by some mixture of hydrogen and electricity and with better views.

 

73% of 1,000 respondents admitted to not understanding the high tech gadgets in their car

 

The perhaps surprising fact, however, is that the more modern cars, including those models which mere mortals can actually purchase and drive on the open road, might actually be becoming smarter than the people driving them. This, at any rate, is one of the ways of interpreting a survey carried out last year by BookMyGarage.com, which found that 73% of 1,000 respondents admitted to not understanding the high tech gadgets in their car, despite the fact that 54% confessed they’d chosen their car on the strength of those very gadgets.

Amongst the baffling features mentioned by drivers too busy scratching their heads to use a touch screen were relatively simple concepts such as cruise control, parking sensors, and even fairly basic Bluetooth, so what your average driver would make of the innovations that car manufacturers have in store for us in the future is a matter for some conjecture.

Still defeated by touch screens, for example? Well then say hello to gesture control, via which the BMW 7 series uses a sensor mounted on the rear view mirror to allow control of entertainment devices via the simplest of hand gestures. Whether this will mean an end to the rather more extreme ‘gestures’ which drivers tend to employ when pointing out the deficiencies of the person who has just cut them up in the fast lane of the motorway remains to be seen….

 

Staying with BMW, their 5-Series now boasts ‘Night Vision’ capability, allowing drivers to see people and animals in the dark

 

Staying with BMW, their 5-Series now boasts ‘Night Vision’ capability, allowing drivers to see people and animals in the dark in a manner which could only previously be achieved by….well….turning on the headlights. It’s sold as a safety feature, of course, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that lots of people who spend hours pretending to be snipers in first person video games will love night vision because, let’s be honest, it looks really cool.

Parking, the aspect of driving which nobody really likes has become simpler in recent years, thanks to cars fitted with sensors, cameras and the ability to spot parking spots, leaving the driver free to sit there looking smug and ostentatiously not putting their hands on the steering wheel. This is positively primitive, however, compared to the latest development due to start rolling out shortly. Using your smart phone as a remote control, you soon won’t even have to stay in your car while it gets on with parking itself (though you’ll still get the blame if you’re on a double yellow).

Map readings projected straight onto the windscreen? Smartglass windows which constantly display information on the scenery rolling by outside? What about a car which allows you to turn on the heating in your home or set your TIVO to ‘tape’ a programme, all while you’re still miles away? These innovations are just a few of the gadgets, gizmos and automotive devices, which you’ll be asking somebody much younger to explain to you in the next few years.

Not that we let vehicular innovation phase us here at Cuckoo. We’ve been combining expertise in the automotive fleet sector with a firm grasp of the latest technology to produce captivating integrated marketing solutions for years and we hope to continue for years to come!

Will we ever fully trust driverless cars?

It’s hard to pin down exactly, but in the last decade or so there passed a moment at which the big question in regard of driverless vehicles stopped being whether they would ever become a reality and morphed into being when. When will we be able to phone a vehicle and have it arrive at our house, drop us off at the cinema then disappear? When will we be free to sit in comfort and read a book (an e book, obviously, we’re not cave dwellers) as our vehicle speeds us at 60 miles per hour down the M60? And when, perhaps most vitally, will we feel confident enough to place life and limb in the care of a machine which uses the same kind of technology used by our laptop and desktop computer. That’s the laptop and desk top computer we frequently end up verbally abusing and threatening to physically attack because it’s running slow, has frozen or keeps (unfortunate choice of word in the circumstances) crashing.

 

When, perhaps most vitally, will we feel confident enough to place life and limb in the care of a machine

 

To read some of the more hysterical press coverage on the topic of driverless vehicles, or indeed be subjected to some of the more overblown hype (we’re looking at you Elon Musk), you might be forgiven for assuming that a driverless vehicle will be rolling onto your front drive some time before the end of 2016, dispatching a drone to tap on the front door before introducing itself and asking where you’d like to go first.

The truth of the matter is that while much of the technology required to facilitate driverless vehicles is fully in place – hence the increasing number of vehicles capable of parking themselves – there are still many hurdles to get over before reaching the point at which they can take their place amongst all the other traffic, not to mention people, making use of public roads.

Not least of these problems is the issue of legislation and the problem of who exactly would be held accountable if a driverless car should be involved in an accident. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), 90% of all road traffic accidents are caused by human error. Clearly then, any system which eliminates the human aspect could have a huge impact on the number of accidents taking place. Indeed, the introduction of semi-autonomous elements such as Autonomous Emergency Braking has been shown – according to the ABI – to reduce the rate of low speed collisions by up to 20%. Removing the driver from the equation of any accident which does take place (and the fact that even the most advanced technology fails on occasion means that accident s are still bound to take place, even if only rarely), creates a situation in which a new legislative framework has to be drawn up. Deciding whether the vehicle manufacturer, the system operator, a software provider or perhaps even a pedestrian is liable for an accident will require a mechanism every bit as complex as that needed to map a busy intersection on behalf of a driverless vehicle.

 

Any system which eliminates the human aspect could have a huge impact on the number of accidents taking place.

 

Given the recent collision which took place between a Google car and a bus, it seems that there’s still a distance to go before the technology is perfected (and in the case of a full scale switch to driverless vehicles, ‘perfected’ would have to mean precisely that), and that surely means even further to travel (literally and metaphorically) before the bulk of users can trust that technology sufficiently. Consider, for instance, the differing levels of stress and anxiety linked to flying and driving, despite statistical evidence demonstrating, time and time again, that stepping onto a plane is safer, and exponentially so, than sitting in a car. Psychologically, the issue has always been assumed to be the handing over of control which takes place when flying, as opposed to the degree of autonomy retained when driving. Sitting in a driverless vehicle will be the equivalent of sitting on a plane, trusting in the technology to deliver you safely to your destination, and it’s this psychological leap which, allied to the legislative changes needed, might prove to be the highest hurdle to surmount.

 

Sitting in a driverless vehicle will be the equivalent of sitting on a plane, trusting in the technology.

 

Given the money already invested and the advantages – in efficiency, congestion and safety – which will doubtless accrue from the introduction of driverless vehicles, it seems certain that this introduction will one day actually take place. What’s equally likely is that this introduction will be gradual, beginning with short journeys in prescribed circumstances and slowly spreading to the wider world as the technology and its application are tested in situ. At Cuckoo, we’ve worked on branding and marketing within the fleet management industry for more than a decade, and the next decade looks like being the one during which the industry will begin to change beyond all recognition.

 

 

Electric Cars – Shiny and Futuristic or Just Boring?

Remember all those things we used to be promised would be around in the future – jet backpacks, three course meals in the form of little pills, anti-gravity hover boards, an explanation for the popularity of James Corden – which we’re still impatiently waiting for? Shiny, science fiction futuristic things that would make our lives easier and contribute towards saving the planet, at the same time as being shiny, science fiction and futuristic? Well, somehow, one of them actually went and got invented, and not only got invented but is edging toward the kind of mainstream acceptance that will see it becoming, if anything, a bit boring (think about how excited you didn’t get when you booted up your computer this morning, and then compare it to being around when personal computers were first becoming mainstream items). It’s the electric car, and the point at which the electric car has reached peak breakthrough will be that at which we stop thinking, talking and writing about it because, to be honest, it’s just another car.

For the time being, however,the concept of an electric car is still novel enough for it to be genuinely exciting, even for those amongst us who wouldn’t normally pay particularly close attention to the latest developments in motor vehicles. The overriding concepts fuelling this interest, (excuse the pun) are likely to be a combination of concern for the wider environment and a hope that the running costs of an electric car will be much lower than is currently the case.

 

The concept of an electric car is still novel enough for it to be genuinely exciting

 

When dealing with matters technological – particularly still fairly nascent technology – it’s always wise to add the caveat that anything you say can and probably will be out of date by the time any reader reaches the bottom of the page, but it’s still possible to draw up a fairly comprehensive account of the current state of play in the electric car market.

The first thing to note is that – as concerns over the travel range offered and the variety of vehicles available are gradually dealt with – electric cars are becoming an increasingly popular choice with UK motorists. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders there was a 65% year on year increase in the UK sales of electric cars in 2015, and a large factor behind that increase is bound to be the investment being put into charging points. Although the general understanding of an electric car is a vehicle which the owner charges up at home overnight, the ‘battle’ with fossil fuel vehicles is only going to be won if it becomes as convenient to recharge a car as it is to top up a fuel tank. At the time of writing there are 3883 locations equipped with charging points across the UK, offering 10,648 individual connections varying in type from slow to rapid. Clearly, the spread of rapid charging points – capable of offering up to 80% charge in less than 30 minutes – will play a vital role in the onward march of electric cars. The National Charge Point Registry UK (http://www.national-charge-point-registry.uk/ ) is a government run site which offers a database of publicly funded charge points throughout the UK. Although apps such as Zap-Map are available, offering searchable mapping of charging points by location and type, the Charge Point Registry is emblematic of the government’s stated aim to encourage the take up of zero emission electric vehicles to the point at which all vehicles on the road by 2050 fall into this category. Other incentives include an exemption from road tax and a grant of up to £8,000 toward the cost of a vehicle.

 

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders there was a 65% year on year increase in the UK sales of electric cars in 2015

 

As with more conventional vehicles, individual choice will be determined by factors such as budget and the use intended for the vehicle. Whether you opt for a high end Tesla Model S, with luxury saloon appearance and performance (and a claimed maximum range of 312 miles on one charge), a BMW i3, which translates the minimalist chic of Apple products to the world of motoring or the pioneering (albeit somewhat ungainly) Nissan Leaf, the bestselling electric vehicle to date, the chances are that you’ll be joined in the world of electric motoring by increasing numbers of commuters who see the option as simply another lifestyle choice.

Here at Cuckoo we’ve been working in partnership with fleet providers for over 10 years, providing branding solutions and an integrated marketing service that’s second to none. A consideration of the way in which the market for electric cars has expanded in recent years makes it clear that more and more of our clients are likely to be utilising this form or transport in the years to come.

Food Trends – dos and don’ts

Food Trends

Do you remember when food used to be simple? Me neither, it’s been that long. By ‘simple’, we’re not necessarily thinking about the method of cooking involved –i.e. the days before every second ingredient had to be slow poached in a sealed plastic bag for 24 hours before being smoked over a bed of pine chips and finally caramelised with a blow torch – as much as the thinking around the food. That’s ‘thinking’ as in something more complicated than simply musing to yourself ‘I’m ravenous, I’ll have some chips’. Thinking as in wondering whether whatever you’re tucking into is bad for you this week or not. Thinking that if you read certain newspapers (we’re looking at you Daily Mail), the issue of whether a food will save your life or doom you to an inevitable and painful death is likely to shift by a hundred and eighty degrees during the time it takes you to digest it. Food is much more complicated than it used to be, to such a degree that it’s possible to watch television programmes in which historians cook disgusting concoctions in a painstakingly reconstructed Jacobean kitchen and feel quaintly nostalgic. It might be bread made of acorns and poverty, but at least nobody was eating it because it was ‘on trend’.

 

Food is much more complicated than it used to be

 

Yes, that’s the latest way in which food has become so much more complex than either simple fuel – which, at a basic level, is what it is – or a bit of heedless fun. We’re now told what food ‘trends’ are likely to blaze a trail through restaurants, street food stands, episodes of Masterchef and middle class dinner parties during the next twelve months. Much like haute couture clothing, ‘on trend’ food seems to exist to give the rest of us an inferiority complex and/or a good laugh, depending on the extent of our culinary and epicurean ambitions. Whilst doing so, however, they can also set out a range of possibilities which we, mere amateur chefs, can at least begin to aim toward. Let’s be honest, nobody watches the likes of Heston Blumenthal because they’re going to recreate the meals he magics into existence; we’re not skilled or hardworking (or frankly bonkers) enough. We watch because trying to do something approximately 75% less ambitious might still end up with us producing a delicious plate of food. Whilst it’s tempting (and, let’s be honest, good fun) to dismiss the latest food trends as simply hipster playthings, the chances are that at least a few of them will actually cross over to something like the mainstream. It’s hard to remember now but there was a time when people stood in the aisles of supermarkets with a puzzled expression on their face saying “Pesto? What’s pesto?” Much like pesto, some of the esoteric trends being touted in the hipper corners of the culinary universe will one day be a staple part of our store cupboards, so it’s a pretty good time to examine the best (and worst) of what 2016 is tipped to be throwing at us:

The Best

Avocado Oil: Avocados have been having a bit of a ‘moment’ of late, and now Avocado oil is tipped to supplant olive oil as the cooking oil du jour. It’s high in the right kind of fats (monosaturated) and the high smoking point makes it a highly versatile cooking ingredient.

avacado

Do Say: ‘Apparently, it’s very good for your skin as well’

Don’t Say: ‘So it’s basically an avocado smoothie?’

Acai Bowls: Acai berries are a superfood packed with antioxidants, amino acids, fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Even better news is that they’re delicious, managing to combine fruitiness with hints of chocolate and red wine. Acai bowls are basically smoothies with a conscience.

acai-bowls

Do Say: ‘So much more delicious than that frozen yogurt I was planning on having’

Don’t Say: ‘Can I have mine with extra chocolate sprinkles?’

Localism: Not so much a food stuff, more an overarching concept. Locally sourced ingredients are set to be a chief selling point for both food and drink (local beers in particular), appealing to consumers eco-sensitivity and perhaps a yearning for simpler times.

localism

Do Say: ‘What’s the provenance of this steak?’

Don’t Say: ‘Who cares where it’s from as long as it’s cheap?’

The Worst

Fermented Foods: Think cabbage fermented in salted water or Kombucha, a fermented green tea which can sometimes become slightly alcoholic. A bit like pickles but better for you because of the ‘good bacteria’ they contain.

fermented-cabbage

Do Say: ‘You wouldn’t think this Tempeh is just fermented soya beans, would you?’

Don’t Say: ‘Is that the bacteria I can taste?’

Insects: Munching insects used to be the province of contestants on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and Nicolas Cage in that film. In November of last year, however, the first ‘insect only’ restaurant in the UK opened its doors, serving treats such as toasted cumin and mealworm flavoured hummus and cricket, peanut butter and chocolate cookies.

Insects

Do Say: ‘It tastes just like chicken’

Don’t Say: ‘Waiter, there’s a cockroach on my plate’ (it’s your starter).

There is nothing we enjoy more at Cuckoo than talking and of course eating food, and this is something we love to share with out clients in the food and drink industry – If you want to talk about trends whether it is on the plate or otherwise, drop us a line at info@cuckoodesign.com or call 0161 839 9337.

Proactive Vs Reactive Marketing…Avoiding An Epic Fail

Proactive marketing is strategic, long term and actually pretty difficult. It demands that a business puts time and effort into planning its marketing campaigns far into the future, and into creating a distinct and effective niche for itself. It means actually sitting down and drawing up (which is to say writing down) this plan, and then devoting time and investment to delivering the plan that has been created. In short, it means doing the job properly, and a quick glance at the tsunami of advertising copy which greets the average person every day will be enough to confirm that most businesses attempt to take a quick and easy route.

The down side of this approach is neatly illustrated by the fact that most of the market leaders in any given field adopt proactive marketing. The brands listed by Forbes magazine as the most powerful in the world – the likes of Nike, Coca Cola, Apple and McDonalds are all instantly recognisable, and that’s because they combine being extremely good at what they do with acting as marketing pioneers. They plan and execute thought-through and integrated campaigns aimed at stamping their identity indelibly and precisely on the public consciousness.

It is possible, however, to be proactive and reactive at the same time; proactive in terms of playing the long game and staking your own patch of ground and reactive in response to real world events. It’s the approach which means that any marketing campaign worth the name now has to have a social media component built into it. If Kanye West says something stupid (which has been known to happen) and you don’t write a witty tweet about it within a few minutes then your business might as well call itself granddad and start wearing a flat cap. Unless, of course, your business specialises in selling flat caps to granddads, in which case reactions to Kanye might not be quite so appealing to your core demographic.

Whilst this may sound somewhat flippant it actually touches on the key to getting reactive marketing right. It doesn’t just have to be fast, it doesn’t just have to be topical it also has to be the right fit for your brand and, as the examples of reactive marketing crashing and burning tend to demonstrate, it has to be subject to the same levels of quality control as content which takes weeks and months to create.

The Indian mattress company Kurl-On Mattresses, for example, decided to market its products via a ‘bouncing back’ tagline. Images of Ghandi leaving his job as a barrister to lead India to independence, and Steve Jobs coming back from business failure to launch Apple may well have worked. The third advert, however, depicted graphic images of Malala Yousafzai ‘bouncing back’ from a Kurl-On Mattress to receive a humanitarian award, after being shot in the head by the Taliban. Surprisingly, taking the attempted violent assassination of a schoolgirl and reworking it in the style of Tom and Jerry caused a degree of controversy and, it’s safe to assume, didn’t sell many mattresses > Link

Want to link your product to a topical event that’s filling the headlines? Good idea. Choose something heart-warming like the birth of a royal baby? Contented smiles all round. Focus on a tragic terrorist attack that killed 3 people and injured more than 250? Erm…..That, however, is what cooking website Epicurious opted for following Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, which they marked by tweeting a recipe for cranberry scones. > Link

The South African division of Bic decided to print a special advert in 2015, celebrating the fact that it was National Women’s Day. What a forward thinking, empowering and fair minded decision, you might think, I’ll never use any other ballpoint pen. You might not still be thinking that after you’ve taken a look at the slogan: ‘Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss.’ > Link

Of course, laughing at examples of marketers getting it hideously wrong, whilst being fun, can only teach us so much. The following are a few examples of businesses which produced reactive marketing which hit the spot exactly:

Mini – at the height of the Tesco horse meat scandal (something which, perhaps thanks to schadenfreude, drew quite a lot of reactive marketing) the car company published an advert with the slogan ‘Beef. With a lot of horses hidden in it.’ > Link

Specsavers – when the wrong Korean flag was shown during the Olympics, Specsavers (who later admitted they’d been on the lookout for an Olympic ‘Should’ve’ moment) published an advert wittily mocking the mix up, complete with a Korean tag line. > Link

Snickers – following Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘fracas’ (I suspect this is the only term we’re legally allowed to use) with a producer, Snickers tweeted and sent him a box of the bars playing on the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ slogan. > Link

Help to Buy ISA – Helping make houses into homes

No matter what else happens in the wider economy, the housing market has always been seen as representing a haven of stability. House prices go up, getting on the housing ladder becomes more difficult and property represents the safest possible investment, due in no small part to a gap between supply and demand, which doesn’t look like it’s going to be filled any time soon. Factor in record low interest rates and you have a situation in which the value of the average UK house – which rose by 6.4% between January and November of last year, to hit £205,240 – looks set to keep climbing into the foreseeable future.

At least, that’s the received wisdom, but as 2016 begins there are a few small clouds on the horizon, not least of which is the fact that a rise in interest rates is looking more and more inevitable. Although any rise from the record low at which they’ve been sat since the crash of 2007/8 is bound to be incremental, the mere fact of an increase will be enough to send a chill through the sector, as will the nervous anticipation before any increase in fact emerges.

Along with this change of atmosphere has come the new Help to Buy ISA, which makes it easier for first time buyers to save for a deposit by dint of the government putting an extra 25% into the savings, up to a maximum of £3000, to add to £12,000 saved. Even better than free money from the government is the fact that both halves of any couple can claim the bonus, meaning a maximum of £6000. Like ordinary ISAs, the Help to Buy ISA is tax free and, simply put; if you’re saving for a deposit anyway, then you might as well take advantage.

One of the overwhelming impressions which first time buyers often take away from the process of trying to find somewhere to live, particularly within the current property market, is one of hopelessness and a feeling of being alone in their quest. Add to this a sense that many people fear those offering help have actually got more than one eye on simply exploiting people desperate to buy a property, and you have a fairly toxic brew which can lead to a sense of paralysis. The role of a property company in a situation such as this is to offer the maximum transparency when dealing with their clients, acting as an honest agent and one capable of taking the complexities of the situation and rendering them in terms which are easily grasped and understood. Help to Buy – representing, as it does, money given to first time buyers by the chancellor of the exchequer – may strike many people as sounding as if it’s simply too good to be true. It’s vital, therefore, to be able to convey a message which captures, summarises and explains the help on offer in an easily understood manner, reassuring first time buyers that they are in safe hands.

Of course, it won’t make actually saving the rest of the deposit any easier, nor will it make the state of the housing market moving forward – particularly given the regional and even local variations present – any easier to predict. As this brief guide illustrates, the housing market represents a complicated landscape which the government, through a combination of measures and counter-measures, is attempting to maintain at a high simmer without running the risk of it boiling over. Any advice you can gain, particularly as a first time buyer, will prove invaluable when it comes to navigating that landscape and making the right choices. Finding somewhere to live should be simple, but while it isn’t, it’s good to know that accessing the help you need is one thing which hasn’t become too complex.

If you work within the property sector and want to discuss the future of your brand with people who live and breathe your industry give us a ring on 0161 839 9337 or drop us a line at info@cuckoodesign.com

Salvaging a corporate reputation

It’s probably fair to say that the general perception of large organisations in general – the banks, big business, the government itself – took a severe battering amidst the financial meltdown of 2007/8 and has yet to recover. Ever since the crash, an event during which the very banks with whom we entrusted our money had to turn round and admit they weren’t entirely sure where it might have ended up, there has been a feeling of Them and Us around the relationship between ordinary people and the institutions which govern their lives. What this means for businesses is that it’s harder than ever to create the bond of trust upon which successful brands thrive, and that recovering from the kind of crisis which erodes this trust is a more difficult task than it’s ever been, as several recent cases have helped to demonstrate.

In recent months and years, several brands have suffered the kind of crises which can cause reputational and commercial damage from which it is sometimes impossible to recover. The most recent example was TalkTalk, the telecommunications company which, earlier this year, suffered a cyber-attack and data breach leading to fears that tens of thousands of customers might have had financial information such as bank account details and credit or debit card numbers stolen. The precise details of exactly how many customers were effected and the sensitivity of the material accessed have yet to be fully established, but the nature of the problem and of the corporate response to it serves as a useful example of how to – or perhaps how not to – deal with reputational difficulties.

Other examples in the recent past include the Ashley Madison data hack, the ‘Smiler’ crash at Alton Towers and the emissions scandal involving VW. In all of these cases the damage to the company was so severe because of a sense that the very cornerstone of what the company represented and offered was being undermined. In the case of Ashley Madison, a website created to facilitate extra-marital affairs, the USP (and we’ll leave aside any moral considerations for the time being) was that secret and clandestine activity had been professionalised and taken online, with the technology employed guaranteeing discretion. Alton Towers, on the other hand, offered the adrenaline rush and thrill of a sense of danger without any actual threat to life and limb, whilst VW was seen as a modern automotive company which still managed to embody the best of ‘old fashioned’ business virtues like trust and reliability. For each, the crisis represented a situation in which this brand image was being severely damaged and had to be protected and, if possible, rebuilt.

The first stage in such a process involves creating or employing a team with that specific aim. The 24 hour nature of modern media means that stories of this nature can spiral out of control with devastating speed, so it’s vital to have a team ready and able to respond, in a focused and integrated manner, as soon as the story breaks. That’s not to say that you should rush into releasing statements, particularly if the details of the situation have yet to be fully established. One of the problems with the way in which TalkTalk handled their recent crisis was the sense that their story kept changing, with the details of how many people had been affected and exactly what level of data had been breached seeming to shift on a daily basis. Even though the general narrative was that the breach wasn’t quite as bad as had originally been feared, the overall impression was of a company squirming in the spotlight and behaving in an evasive manner. Whether this was fair or not is entirely irrelevant – the failure to nail the facts down before disseminating them created a damaging impression.

Another key part of any attempt to salvage and then rebuild your brand is to be honest. Accept that your customers aren’t stupid and will have gathered the extent of the problem and own up to it in a manner which is empathetic and underlines your determination to face it head on and tackle it properly. The people whose trust in your brand has been damaged will be angry; denial or downplaying will merely fuel this anger and play into the all-pervasive feeling that companies and organisations ‘just don’t get it’, whereas an honest acceptance of blame will do a lot to remove the heat from the situation.

People often make the mistake of assuming that the crafting of a marketing strategy is basically an exercise in deceit, in creating an image which isn’t true in order to sell a product. In fact, the reverse is true. Slick marketing is certainly capable of selling a lie and will work wonderfully well until the moment at which the consumer comes face to face with the reality of the product, at which point any untruth at the heart of the brand message will rebound disastrously. Good marketing and brand creation is all about successfully capturing the truth and essence of a brand and crafting an image which conveys this truth. The same is true of media management in a time of crisis; it isn’t about persuading people that things aren’t as bad as they seem, it’s about persuading them that you understand how bad things are and that you’re working to make them better. A large part of this resides in keeping a grasp of the smaller details of the crises, such as the exact situations involving individuals affected. Whilst a focus on the larger picture is vital, communication and liaison with individuals effected is not only the ‘right’ thing to do, it can also help to create a situation in which some of those who have been let down by the situation can go on to become your most powerful advocates. It’s important to recognise the fair-minded approach which most people are willing to take; it’s accepted that things can sometimes go wrong and that mistakes can be made. The brands which recover from crises are those which buy into this acceptance and demonstrate a willingness and determination to learn from their mistakes.

If you want to discuss the future of your brand with people who live and breathe brand strategy give us a ring on 0161 839 9337 or drop us a line at info@cuckoodesign.com we’re really friendly and we have an excellent selection of chocolate biscuits!

A digital breakthrough for Cuckoo!

One thing which anyone who works within the digital industry learns pretty quickly – usually some time before the first coffee break on the day they start their job – is that things move rapidly. Extremely rapidly. The speed with which technologies change, improve or become defunct is such that yesterday’s cutting edge website, online ad or mobile application can become tomorrow’s creaking embarrassment quicker than you can say ‘Oh, so you’re still using that platform’ in a superior manner. As a cutting edge digital agency, we pride ourselves on our ability to stay ahead of the curve, not only being aware of the latest technologies, but also taking the time to learn how to use them in a manner which enhances creativity, usability and the bottom line for every one of our clients; results.

When dealing with a technological breakthrough it’s this kind of consideration which holds the key to getting the most out of any advancements that have been made. Understanding the technicalities of the tools which can be used to build both on and offline experiences is one thing, and it’s an area that the experts in our office have got covered and then some. The real skill, however, lies in being able to take a step back from the technology whilst asking yourself exactly what the best way of utilising it is. The danger, especially if you’re one of a relatively small number of people who understands the technicalities of the technology being used, is that you get immersed in that technology for its own sake, playing with the bells and whistles whilst losing site of the results which the client actually asked for. Sometimes, for example, the website which, when broken down and analysed , are the most technically complex , can deliver the simplest, cleanest and most direct user experience, and that’s because the technical complexities have been placed at the service of the end user, and not vice versa.

This is how we approach using HTML 5, and the effort we put into understanding both the technical possibilities of this language and the creative freedom it offers, particularly when used in combination with other tools which have either emerged or been refined in recent years, is borne out by the dynamism of the work produced. In technical terms HTML 5 gives more power to developers, utilising semantics which allow for the content of a website to be described more precisely. It is more flexible in terms of both input and output and allows for far greater use of the many multi-media options now available. It would be possible to fill many more pages with arcane and hugely complex technical information regarding HTML 5, but the crux of the matter, as far as a client having an online presence created or expanded for them is concerned, is that HTML 5, when pushed as far as it can be, and used in conjunction with both bespoke code and other tools which are revolutionising the form which online content takes, is capable of producing responsive, dynamic and uniquely tailored sites.

Adobe Edge animate allows animators to create HTML5 to build into cutting edge online display campaigns that work on desktop and mobile. Used in conjunction with Google’s display network, real-time information can be fed to the ads on a site, thereby embedding interactivity and responsiveness.

Utilising all of this in a manner which allowed us to maintain consistency and creativity across the whole range of platforms and formats was a process which required us to push ourselves and our team and to learn and re-learn just exactly what the possibilities were. We don’t want to blind anyone with science because, as far as our clients are concerned, the science is simply the way we get things done. What really matters are the results, and we like to think they speak for themselves.

If you would like a coffee and a natter about online display just give us a call on 0161 839 9337 or drop us a line at info@cuckoodesign.com we’re dead friendly and we make a great brew!

Happy new September

Happy New Year. Forget the actual New Year. Who wants to celebrate the actual New Year? For one thing you’ve got a hangover, and for another thing, you’ve got a Hangover. The first hangover may well be a run of the mill hangover, brought on primarily by the fact that consuming vast amounts of alcohol is really the only viable means of getting through a) having to sing ‘Auld Langs Syne, b) having to watch Jools Holland’s Hootenanny and c) having to watch Jools Holland and his Hootenanny chums sing Auld Lang Syne. The second Hangover is the important one, however, and it stems from the fact that, if you were going to choose a time for fresh beginnings, brave resolutions and the turning over of a new page, then cold, grey, poverty stricken January really wouldn’t be your first choice. The only good thing you can say about January is that it isn’t February. Not quite. January is the moment when you get the bill for that delicious meal you just ate, and realise you shouldn’t have let the waiter choose the wine. January is all the bad bits of winter without the consolation of Christmas. January is 31 days of paying credit card bills, selling unwanted gifts on eBay and realising that the rest of the natural world might be onto something with this hibernation business. January, to use a technical term, is a bit rubbish, the morning after the month before, and absolutely the worst time of the year to start thinking about the future, especially if that future involves attempting to persuade people to part with some money.

No, the real Happy New Year, the true new beginning, and one you can actually actively enjoy, takes place in September. Officially, it’s the end of summer and the start of autumn, but this is Britain, so the summer was rubbish anyway, and the weather in autumn, with its crisp clear skies and leaves gradually turning a million shades of red, is frequently more enjoyable than it was when you were grimly enjoying August (because you’re British, and you’re not about to let a bit of rain put you off). Look at the things that start again in September: the schools, colleges and universities, the working year after the summer break, large swathes of the sporting calendar, including the biggest and most economically powerful, the football season, the long, slow build up to Christmas. Being human beings and therefore naturally contrary, we tend to actually hibernate in summer (preferably on a lounger next to a pool) and start afresh in September, which is why it’s the actual New Year.

This applies to us as individuals as well as to businesses, but it’s the businesses who have the most to gain from taking the idea on board, and building their marketing plans around a big push launched when the Alternative New Year starts in September. The month itself may represent a new beginning after the holiday season, but it also marks the moment when the starting gun for some of the biggest retail and hospitality dates in the calendar is fired. The first of these is Halloween which, after Easter and Christmas, is now the third most lucrative shopping date on the calendar, generating an average of over £300m in revenue. Just after Halloween comes bonfire night, another excuse to shop, eat drink and celebrate and, before you know it Christmas will have arrived, encompassing the key few weeks of the year for the vast bulk of businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors. Waiting for any one of these dates to come around before taking advantage, however, is a tactic which is doomed to failure, and that’s why September marks the perfect moment to start getting your message, brand and offer out there. Not only will the timing give you sufficient space to reach the people you need to reach with a brand message that can be built and solidified over weeks and months, but it will also chime in with the natural rhythm of the year, and the fact that September marks the point at which people start to think about shopping for Christmas and planning (or even booking) those Christmas parties. The message is simple: plan your marketing year to begin with the calendar year in January and you’ll be speaking to an audience that doesn’t want to listen and would really rather not think about spending more money if you don’t mind. Focus on September, and you’ll be riding a natural tide of interest, activity and enthusiasm, just the kind of sentiments that a New Year should really be all about.

If you would like a coffee and a natter about your marketing plans during the run up to Christmas just give us a call on 0161 839 9337 or drop us a line at info@cuckoodesign.com we’re dead friendly and we make a great brew!

 

 

 

Top marketing tips for the property market

Scanning the headlines detailing soaring property prices, particularly in London, complete with lurid tales of a lock up in Tottenham being listed at half a million pound (when we wrote that, it was a wildly exaggerated invention, by the time you read this it’s probably a calmly understated account of an actual case), it can be easy to imagine that the average property company doesn’t require a great deal of marketing. Such is the chasm between supply and demand, that if your business happens to be property, whether selling or renting it out, then it’s surely a business in which the customers do all the hard work?

There are several caveats to this understandable point of view, however, the first being that not every business is based in London. It’s not just London, of course; although the capital undoubtedly leads the way in terms of property demand and price inflation, there are other pockets of the country where demand outstrips supply to a massive degree. The Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe, for example, until now probably most famous as ‘apparently the place that ‘Shameless’ was based on’ was recently reported to have experienced a 60% rise in property asking prices in just 4 months, the biggest such rise outside Chelsea. If the property you’re developing or marketing isn’t based in one of these pockets, however, or, indeed, if the new property being created is part of a concerted attempt to create such a pocket of confidence and activity, there are still tips to bear in mind when aiming to maximise both revenue and speed of transaction. There’s a good chance that you know everything there is to know about property but not quite as much about the fine art of marketing, which is all about capturing and summarising the essence of your offer in a manner which is accurate, effective and evocative, and then making sure the right people get to know about it. That’s where we step up to the plate, and the advice and branding we offer is designed to maximise the impact of any property marketing campaign in the only way that really matters – the bottom line.

The first and most obvious point, but still one which is often forgotten in the rush to market as widely as possible, is to focus your marketing on a target audience. The temptation is to bombard as many people as resources allow, but a family of four who receive constant alerts about one bedroom apartments in the ‘creative district’, for example, are likely to remove themselves from your mailing list. Targeting more narrowly but more smartly, using a database of prospective customers to match properties with prospects, is far more likely to yield results than a simple ‘carpet bombing’ of promotional material.

Perhaps the most vital piece of advice is to make it as quick and simple as you can for people to access information about your properties. If there’s one thing, which people in the 21st century are short of, it’s time – especially people under the added pressure of trying to find somewhere to live. Make as much information as possible available online, across a range of platforms, making it easier for people to decide if they are genuinely interested.

The options for marketing your properties broaden on a more or less daily basis. Whilst not ignoring the time-honoured hard copy methods (when dealing with a transaction and decision of this size, prospective clients can still be highly traditional in their approach), embrace platforms such as social media and options like direct email, targeted leaflet drops. Utilise the whole arsenal of branding techniques, from strikingly designed advertising hoardings to carefully honed email campaigns and spectacular one off events.

At Cuckoo Design we have over 6 years experience marketing the property sector we know it works because everything we do, from stand-alone websites to traditional brochure material, is pointing in the same direction. It’s all been designed to offer a highly specific and carefully targeted view of the offer being made, a view, which is, designed to maximise appeal and to draw in members of the target market.

Want to know more? Get in contact by email or call us on 0161 839 9337

Reviving trust in the finance sector

The average person, if they’re being honest, will probably admit that they don’t really like thinking about money. How much they’ve got, how much they need, what’s coming in compared to what’s going out, what they’re owed, what they owe……it’s a range of topics many people make a point of avoiding. It’s necessary, and vital and useful and lots of other grown up words, but very few people actually enjoy weighing up their finances in a manner which helps to streamline and organise them.

The alternative, in most cases, is to seek the help and advice of professionals; people who, unlike the rest of us, spend a lot of time thinking about money, and making it their business to be well versed in the best ways of making whatever money you do have work harder for you. If you make it your business to advise people on the way to handle their money, then you’ll know that there are two main hurdles to overcome before clients feel at ease discussing the secrets of their financial well-being.

The first of these is the aforementioned aversion to facing up to the issue of money and how to handle it. Financial services have to be marketed in a manner which cuts through the mystique and even sense of taboo which surrounds the topic (think of the reaction if you ask the average person ‘So how much do you earn?’), by presenting the choice to seek advice as being one of plain common sense. The idea that financial services are only there for the mega rich has to be stripped away, and replaced with the truth – that it’s the mega rich who probably need help and advice the least, whilst the average person has the most to gain from setting their finances in order.

The second issue standing in the way of most people seeking financial advice is one of trust. Think of the reputation currently enjoyed (if ‘enjoy’ is the word) by those who work in the financial sector as a whole. It may be unfair that high powered bankers who ran amok the better part of a decade ago still cast such a long shadow, but there’s no denying that shadow’s there, and will probably remain in place until ‘Man Receives Sound Financial Advice – Saves Money’ becomes the kind of story that makes headlines. What this means is that the branding and market positioning of your business has to do the work of creating that sense of trust. It’s not enough to know how expert you are and how effective your advice is – you have to be able to communicate that information in a manner which the average person with less knowledge of financial matters will find both easy to grasp and convincing. Creating that impression is a question of finely calibrated marketing and branding, and one factor to grasp is that a few simple pieces of advice, couched in the kind of language a non-expert would use, can go a long way toward bolstering your brand.

Here at Cuckoo, our expertise lies in helping our clients in the financial sector to brand themselves and craft an image that creates a sense of trust, competence and calm. We do this because we understand two things:

Branding – it’s simply what we do.

The market place – we grasp the concerns and requirements of those people seeking advice, which means we are perfectly positioned to brand and market those offering the advice. We’re expert enough to know what you should be saying, and ‘ordinary’ enough to know what your prospective clients will be asking, and have the skills, tools and know how to build a bridge between the two.

Want to know more? Get in contact by email or call us on 0161 839 9337

 

Building houses and selling homes

That tin of beans I bought last week has appreciated 16.5% in value since I purchased it, meaning that, while it cost 62p to buy, it’s now worth 72.23p. Based on how much richer that’s made me feel, I’m going to go on a wild spending spree, thus bolstering the wider economy. That’s how it works isn’t it?

Replace ‘tin of beans’ with ‘house or flat’ and the answer, strangely, seems to be yes, that is how it works. Housing, as a necessity, is about as basic as it gets, almost up there with food and water, and yet it has come to be seen as an investment opportunity for the individual and a cog in the machine of the wider economy. That’s why inflation is a bad thing, unless it applies to the price of housing, in which case it’s welcomed. The good news, however, is that housing developments are springing up all over the UK, at an accelerating rate, and Manchester is leading the way.

Figures released just this week show that the number of houses being built in the UK has doubled since 2009, with 140,500 homes being started in the year up to March. In the first quarter of this year, 40,000 homes were started, a 31% increase on the previous quarter and 136% higher than the equivalent quarter in 2009. Various government initiatives such as Help to Buy and NewBuy appear to have kick started the market, and the hope is that an increase in new builds will alleviate the catastrophic gap between supply and demand, a gap which would be bound to inflate another housing bubble.

Developments in Manchester itself, where there has, in general, been an 84% increase in starts over the past year, include The Avenues estate, built by Bovis Homes on brownfield land in Newton Heath. The apartments and two, three and four bedroomed houses of The Avenues have helped Newton Heath leapfrog the likes of Chorlton and Didsbury to become the part of Manchester which has seen the highest rise in house prices during the last twelve months. According to the Land Registry, average prices in the M40 postcode have doubled during this time.

The creation of 83 one and two bedroom apartments and 14 three bedroom townhouses at Vimto Gardens can be expected to have a similar effect on the Chapel Street in Salford, whilst a joint venture between Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) and Manchester City Council, named Manchester Life, is intended to pump £1bn into redeveloping the neglected Eastlands area of the city. The first phase of the regeneration, the building of 830 privately rented homes in the Ancoats and New Islington is dues to start this year. Similar initiatives, large and small, are springing up across a city, which seems determined to invest its way through the long dark night of austerity.

All of this speaks of success on one level, but will only be truly successful when the buildings in question are looked upon, by the people living in them, as homes in the long term, something which will forge the much needed community ethos and pull in the other investment needed for truly successful urban living.

The honest truth is that you can’t build a community; you can only build houses (or flats or apartments). You can fill those houses with people and the people will build the community. That’s why the new housing developments are even more important than the numbers would suggest they are. The challenge is whether we can build homes as well as houses, and, since we’ve just spent £25m on a single home, it’s surely a challenge we can rise to.

Here at Cuckoo we have more than half a decade experience working within the property development industry, therefore we know how to get under then skin of potential buyers, we understand that it’s not just the location and cost that attracts customers but the history of the area and the emotional significance of the property – we have the expertise necessary to embody this with great branding and communications.

Want to know more? Get in contact by email or call us on 0161 839 9337

Why email marketing still works and how to make it work better

The symbols are a bit of a giveaway, really. The symbols for emails, that is. Envelopes. Paperclips. The kind of pre digital stationery that you’ll fairly soon only be able to see in a glass case in a museum. Ally this to the fact that most people over the age of around 25 can remember their first online experience being that of clicking and sending an email, and it’s fairly easy to understand why ‘sending an email’ is starting to feel like a slightly old fashioned idea.

Another factor is social media. Talking about sending emails – you know, like letters, only electronic – can sound impossibly quaint when compared to tweeting, posting on Facebook, updating Instagram or the seven new types of social media which have been invented since I started typing this blog and which nobody over the age of 16 has started using yet.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that email marketing is still a highly effective technique. It may seem slightly counterintuitive, but some of the ‘old fashioned’ aspect of email as a communications tool is exactly what lends it an air of gravitas and respectability, a patina of believability. Given the accelerating rate of change in the fields of communication and social media, email represents something of a trusted stalwart – not flashy, hip or trendy, perhaps, but able to communicate a clear message in a widely trusted format free from emoticons, hashtags, @ symbols and 6 second video clips. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these things, of course, and they all have their role to play in a fully realised marketing strategy, but whereas a tweet is the equivalent of whispering a slogan in someone’s ear and running off, whilst a Facebook post is a difficult to comprehend conversation on a crowded dance floor in an overloud nightclub, a well written email is sitting someone down and, calmly and quietly, telling them exactly what you could do for them.

The statistics gathered by various surveys bear this impression out:

  • Over 50% of people say they read most of their emails
  • 80.8% of users report reading email on mobile devices
  • 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email
  • 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email.
  • Emails that include social sharing buttons have a 158% higher click-through rate

All of which is to say that email marketing works. The last statistic, in particular, is highly instructive, in that it underlines the way in which ‘traditional’ email can act as a gatekeeper, persuading consumers to interact with social media.

The key, then, is not choosing whether or not to persist with email marketing, it’s getting the content of that marketing just right. Another figure unearthed by surveys states that 65% of people prefer emails that contain mostly images, as opposed to 35% who prefer mostly text. That almost certainly means getting professionals on board to create your emails. We all suffer from a deluge of spam emails each and every day, and something they almost all have in common is that they look terrible. Badly designed, badly produced and poorly written, right down to fairly basic mistakes around spelling and grammar. Make even the slightest mistake on your own email marketing material, and you risk reminding would be customers of this tsunami of spam, rather than a coherent marketing tool. Get it right, however, and you’re turning all of the perceived ‘flaws’ of email – it’s old, it’s clunky, it’s long winded – into positive attributes; it’s trusted, it’s solid, it’s detailed. For now, and for the foreseeable future, a coherent email marketing campaign is one of the most effective means of communicating with new and existing customers.

At Cuckoo, we understand the importance of having an instant effect in order to communicate exactly what you do. We have over 20 years of experience helping our clients find a voice that makes their marketing communications both unique and consistent through commercially conscious, yet incredibly creative concepts.

If you would like to know more, get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or simple click here

When is a hotel not a hotel? When it’s much more

(Image courtesy of Holiday Inn Solihull)

As the politicians from various parties argue about just how much of any economic upturn is filtering down to ‘hard working families’ (single people, or those of us who are undeniably lazy, don’t seem to figure in this particular debate) one sector which genuinely and unarguably appears to be experiencing a resurgence is the hotel sector.

The British Chambers of Commerce is predicting that the service sector of the economy as a whole will grow by 2.9% during the course of 2015, and there’s no doubt that a large part of this growth will be fuelled by activity in the hotel and hospitality sector. The accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper produced a survey in September of last year which pointed to stronger than expected growth in the sector through 2014, and predicted that this would continue into 2015. The Rugby World Cup was singled out as a one-off event likely to drive up room occupancy rates, whilst overall rising levels in business confidence were predicted to boost the average daily rate by 4.3% in the regions and 3.6% in London.

What these predictions tend to deal with, however, is the simple question of people staying in rooms and the revenue which this pulls in. The bigger picture for hotels moving forward is the need to diversify and draw customers in to use the whole range of facilities on offer. A modern hotel needs to be more than simply a destination for those seeking a bed for the night, it needs to be a destination full stop. Outside of business people travelling from one large city to the other, and the same business people collected together for the annual staff Christmas party, most people tend to think of hotels as places which offer accommodation with bolted on extras. It’s these bolted on extras which need to be exploited, however, and the key to drawing in maximum revenue lies in promoting them in an imaginative and effective manner.

msp-scotland-_0177

(Image courtesy of Crowne Plaza Glasgow)

The focus, perversely, lies in persuading large numbers of people to forget about the presence of the bedrooms. This isn’t a hotel bar, it’s a bar – the kind of place you’ll choose to visit for a night out because of the ambience, the price of the drinks, the pub quiz and the food on offer. The same is true of the restaurant in the hotel and the spa and health club facilities. The first trick, and the obvious point, is to make these facilities as first rate as possible. The people staying in the hotel will use them and then, particularly if the hotel is part of a chain, seek them out again in their own right, even if they’re actually based in a different city. The second key to maximising the draw of such facilities is to promote them as separate entities appealing to anyone looking for a place to pamper themselves on a spa day, treat the family to Sunday lunch or watch a sporting event over a few drinks.

For many years, the focus for hotels has been placed on individuals seeking a bed for the night, or groups staging events such as parties or conferences. The best way to take advantage of the current upswing in activity is to concentrate the same effort on drawing in individuals keen to visit despite, as much as because of, the fact that it’s a hotel. Put simply, making people forget the fact that they’re visiting a hotel may well be the best means of getting them to visit the hotel.

Cuckoo Design has over a decade of experience providing unique and captivating marketing solutions within the hotel sector, everything from refurbishments, to food and beverage promotions.

If you want to find out more about our experience click here, or simply give us a call on 0161 839 9337, we will be happy to help.

 

 

Bring your message to life with infographics

The use of infographics as a means of displaying information is now so widespread that writing about it might seem rather like missing the point. There is a chance, however, that an infographic in the form of some images pointing out that an image is worth a thousand words might contain at least a few layers of self-reference too many, so we’ll stick with a brief written examination of how and why the use of graphics can get your point across.

The degree to which the web, through an ever multiplying number of access points, has come to be the main platform via which almost all information is shared and distributed, has had a massive impact on the ways in which that information is presented. If this were a printed article, for example, it would be several hundred, if not thousand, words longer. As would the individual paragraphs. And sentences. People tend to skim web pages rather than ploughing through them in depth, as any web designer worth their salt will tell you; you might find everything about the product you sell or the service you provide fascinating – nobody else will, so you have to tailor your message, and tailoring it via visual cues will allow you to include only the most exciting and important bits of the story you want to tell.

Put bluntly, we humans are simple creatures and are easily distracted by bright shiny things. Our brains are designed, on the most basic biological level, to process visual information far more quickly and more effectively than any other kind, and that’s why graphic presentations cut through so effectively. In many ways, the average brand image is an infographic presentation boiled down to its very essence. A set of shapes and colours designed to capture the personality of a product or business, with perhaps one or two words thrown in for good measure. Of course, the world’s most famous brand images are the work of experts with years of graphic know-how behind them, which is why simply chucking together a few pie charts, some statistics and a bit of clip art doesn’t amount to doing infographics properly.

The fact that an infographic contains less text means the content of that text becomes even more important. People ‘having a go’ at infographics tend to neglect the text on the basis of a belief that infographics are all about visuals, but the simple fact that the written aspect is pared down to the bare essentials makes it all the more important that every single word and number is made to count. In terms of the visual make up of an infographic, an understanding of the psychology of colours, and of the effect that different shades can have on the person viewing the page, is absolutely vital. You can achieve this understanding via study and research, or through long term hands on experience. What you can’t do is guess and hope you’ve got it right, because the chances are that you’ll get it wrong, and the piece of work sent out into the world on your behalf will be giving out all the wrong signals.

Infographics are undoubtedly a vital tool in the fields of marketing and the dissemination of information. There increasing use and growing popularity can make them seem like the easy option, but the truth is that creating a bad infographic is easy – too much text, over complexity, poor typography – as the briefest tour of the internet will confirm. Getting it right, on the other hand, can be very tricky. If it wasn’t, I’d have said all this using 25 words and some razor sharp illustrations.

At Cuckoo Design our design team have the know how and brand creation experience needed to craft statements which capture the message you’re trying to convey and send it out into the world. Our infographics combine the practical necessity of transmitting the right amount of information with the marketing style required to attract and retain potential customers. We’ll find out what you want to say, and we’ll tell you exactly how to say it, then we’ll say it for you.

Get in touch on 0161 839 9337 or email info@cuckoodesign.com to talk to us about infographics.

The right time for a client focus group

The concept of the focus group has undoubtedly taken something of a hammering in recent years, as it came to be synonymous with spineless politicians being unable to admit what their favourite crisp flavour was until a carefully selected cross section of voters had given their opinion on smoky bacon versus cheese and onion. The fact of the matter, however, is that our distaste with politicians over the use of focus groups is based on a (charmingly naïve) belief that they should be men and women of ideas and principles, telling us, rather than asking us, exactly what it is they believe. Shift the concept of the focus group into the arena of branding and consumerism, however, and you have an entirely different and much more credible information gathering tool.

If you have a new product, service or brand to sell then you could simply trust to gut instinct, invest every penny you’ve got and launch what you believe to be the finished item exactly as it was when you had that moment of inspiration. And guess what? You’re right…..it’s a massive, instant, runaway success and you’re only problem now is how to find an island that’s even bigger than Richard Branson’s. Except, over here in the real world, that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it hardly ever happens at all. Things have to be tweaked, modified and altered; shifted slightly or hugely to meet with the taste of the public, which is constantly evolving and which can take even the most ‘finger on the pulse’ type by surprise. Do you really want to invest millions in a delicious soft drink only to later discover that the colour of the packaging made people think of toilet cleaner?( If you answered yes to that question then you probably thought ‘New Coke’ was a great idea). The answer, of course, is to engage in market research, and the focus group represents a form of market research which is particularly (the clue’s in the name) focused, and relevant. In the social media age it can be tempting to simply sit back and see what people are tweeting, blogging or instagramming about you and your product, but the people doing so are, by their very nature, self-selecting and mysterious – you’ll never genuinely know their tastes, likes and dislikes and this makes the usefulness of their opinions hard to quantify. It’s a bit, to shoehorn a pop culture reference in, like listening to the crowd outside the Big Brother house and trying to sort the cheers from the boos. A focus group, on the other hand, will be a selection of people carefully chosen to represent the section(s) of the public you’re hoping to reach out to, and the opinions they give will be carefully guided, prompted and collected by the person running the focus group. A facilitator will create a calm and relaxed atmosphere within which people feel able to be open and honest about the topic at hand, something which, with the best will in the world, is unlikely to be the case when you start quizzing the people who work for or with you. Other advantages of a focus group over the single face to face questionnaire are the simple economies of scale that mean gathering opinion from multiple sources in one place at one time and the fact that those attending will spark off each other and arrive at a group consensus which can then be extrapolated into a wider market view.

The next, and possibly most important, part of the process, will take place when this raw information and feedback is shaped into a coherent, unified message by someone who knows how to take the raw data, filter out bias created by factors such as a dominant personality in the room, and draw out a set of clear and valuable opinions. The bank firstdirect used focus group information to ascertain that what its customers wanted was fair banking and transparent charges, rather than gimmicks and ‘attractive’ interest rates, whilst, in the US, Domino’s pizza held focus groups which crystallised customer dissatisfaction with their pizza recipe and led to a change in recipe, a relaunch and the successful ‘Pizza Turnaround’ campaign.

Cuckoo Design have 20 years experience within Marketing & Communications, the focus groups we run enable our clients to gain an invaluable window into the way their customers and potential customers are thinking, information which, ironically, doesn’t need a focus group to confirm just how valuable it is.

If you want to know more, we’d love to have a chat. Give our Manchester based team a ring on 0161 839 9337 or email us. We’re eager to help and very friendly.

The new digital highway

The Age Of Internet Connected Cars

Those of a certain generation will remember ‘Knight Rider’, the hit TV programme in which a pre-Baywatch David Hasselhoff fought the forces of evil in the company of KITT, his talking car. Most people probably recall watching it at a time when the concept of a responsive, talking, thinking motor vehicle seemed like a madly futuristic daydream. Although popular television shows are generally not the best forum via which to collate accurate predictions of the future, the interesting truth is that the idea of an ‘intelligent’ car which interacts with the driver is no longer quite so ridiculous. In fact, as the ‘internet of things’ expands to cover modes of transport, the intelligent, connected, even self-driving car, becomes more real all the time.

The kind of technology which drove (if you’ll pardon the expression) the expansion of androids, tablets and smartphones is now being applied to cars, and this digital land grab looks set to cover every aspect of motoring, from the gathering of diagnostic information and increased fuel efficiency to guiding drivers to the nearest restaurant or advising as to how long the traffic lights are going to be on red. The simple point is that once a car can be connected to the internet, and information traded back and forth, then the possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the manufacturers and the demands of the consumers. Throw in voice control for hands off safety and gesture and eye-tracking software which allows the car to second guess the driver, and you have a situation in which the very nature of driving ,and of how cars are perceived, looks set to change.

The initial developments are simple enough to guess – internet radio, apps which guide you around traffic jams in real time, parking assistance via cameras and sensors, all of these are already being seen. From 2015 onward, the EU plans to see to it that all new cars are fitted with eCall, a system of sensors which automatically call the emergency services in the event of an accident. We’re all used to our cars sporting on-board computers which monitor performance and warn of problems, but the dashboard warning light will soon be replaced with messages traded back and forth between car and manufacturer, monitoring every aspect of safety and performance and warning when the slightest problem emerges.

For the individual driver, these changes will mean convenience, novelty and an enhanced driving experience, but for the business with a fleet of vehicles to manage, the telematics involved could revolutionise the way they run things. With every aspect of fuel economy, mileage, weather conditions and driving technique collected and accessible instantly, fleet managers could adjust and modify everything from the routes their drivers take to the pressure in the tires and the driving techniques used (real time advice on gear changes cruising speed etc. will be offered and collected by the cars systems), whilst the car itself would offer advice on the cheapest petrol station within range. Information is power and the wealth of information available via internet connected cars will drive efficiency in fleet management at every level, from monitoring journey times to dictating vehicle selection.

Indeed, the ultimate fleet saving may well, one day, involve dispensing with the drivers altogether. At the further reaches of connected car technology lies the concept of the driverless car, championed by Google and currently being pushed forward by Mercedes, who plan to offer self-driving cars branded as ‘an extension of peoples’ homes’. It seems clear that where the driverless car is concerned, as was the case with Google Glass, any problems in take up will revolve around social attitudes rather than getting the technology to work. Mercedes talks of a car in which, once driverless mode has been selected, the driver can swivel their car to face the other passengers and glide along serenely, socialising as the car itself deals with oncoming traffic. The question, surely, is whether anyone who has ever had to deal with a glitching programme, crashing (unfortunate choice of word) computer or frozen app would be happy to relax and put their lives in the hands of their cars’ computer systems, however advanced they may be? Collecting information, monitoring every aspect of the environment inside and outside the vehicle and interacting with the driver all seem eminently sensible, but handing total control over may well turn out to be a Google Glass style step too far.

The combination of cutting edge technology and user friendly design is something which has always played a vital part in the websites we build, and the same principle is now being extended into real world as well as online environments, with an equally transformative impact.

To find out more about what we do, give us a call on 0161 839 9337, drop us an email at info@cuckoodesign.com or fill out our contact form.

 

The Salford and Chapel Street renaissance

The regeneration work of the last few years is set to breathe new life into the famous Chapel Street area of Salford, which lies just on the cusp of Manchester city centre.

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the redevelopment of the area – which hasn’t been too difficult as it’s all been going on right on our doorstep. We’re proud to be based on Chapel Street (number 247 to be exact), and as you can imagine are extremely excited about how this area will continue to grow and thrive over the coming years.

But before we talk about our immediate stomping ground, we’ll take a look at some of the other important Salfordian developments of late.

 

MediaCityUK

It could be said that this dockside metropolis, which was completed and opened in April 2011, partly led to the rest of the developments that are now going on in and around Salford.

Its most high-profile resident is the BBC, who had been looking to relocate staff up North since shortly after the turn of the millennium, and ITV Granada began to move into the area around mid-2013.

Media City also houses the University of Salford’s media school, with the latter paying more than £2.25 million per year in rent.

 

X1 Media City

Late last year it was announced that Salford Quays will receive yet another addition to its already-impressive array of facilities.

The X1 Media City project, which has been forecast to cost around £200 million, will bring four new futuristic towers to the area – holding just over a thousand apartments between them, as well as restaurants, a cinema and a gym.

 

The Ainscow Hotel

ainscowhotel

A little (well, a lot) closer to our HQ is the Ainscow Hotel, which was stunningly redeveloped and reopened in August 2014. This £6-million property lies on Trinity Way, just yards from our office.

Set in the former Brown Brothers Brewery, the hotel makes use of many of the building’s original features, while modern additions – such as another floor – have enhanced it further for the enjoyment of guests.

 

Chapel Street: A Fascinating Past

If you look closely at all the really old buildings on and around Chapel Street, you will see that it has been an extremely important part of Salford (and Manchester) since even before the Victorian era. It was the first street in the world to be lit by gas (we’re talking way back in 1806 here).

On the opposite side of the street from our office are the following historic buildings:

  • Salford Town Hall
  • Manchester & Salford Savings Bank
  • Salford Cinema
  • Salford Cathedral (which is the only building of these four still serving its original purpose)

And that’s just to name a few.

In 1954, legendary filmmaker David Lean made an adaptation of the play Hobson’s Choice, which tells the story of a cobbler in 1880s Salford. The title character frequents a pub called the Moonrakers, based on the (long-flattened) Moonrakers Inn which was located on Chapel Street (it opened around 1860).

Just down the road a little, Chapel Street becomes the Crescent, off which lies Peel Park – one of the oldest public parks in the country. Adjacent to the park is the University of Salford – much of which is modern besides the stunning red-brick Peel Building, which was constructed in 1896.

Putting the Vim Back into Chapel Street

It’s nice to look back on an area’s past, but looking towards the future is more important and more productive. Fortunately, a great deal of thought and just as much money has gone into the rejuvenation of Chapel Street and its surroundings over the last few years.

One of the most noticeable and most exciting improvements in the area has been the construction of Vimto Gardens – an enormous residential development consisting of luxury apartments and townhouses.

vimtogardens

Vimto Gardens is part of the Salford Central Scheme by Muse Developments, which aims to create almost 1,000 new homes and approximately 11,000 local jobs.

You may at this point be wondering, “Why call it Vimto Gardens?” Well, Chapel Street was where that particular cordial-cupboard essential started out – back in 1908. The name is short for Vim Tonic – vim being a word which means literally energy and enthusiasm. How apt.

 

Rejuvenate Your Brand

Is your brand image in need of a Chapel Street-esque makeover? At Cuckoo we specialise in all aspects of this. Whether you need a new brand logo or an ingenious marketing strategy, we can help.

Give us a call today on 0161 839 9337, or drop us an email at info@cuckoodesign.com.

The value of typography

There’s no doubt that the words we use in our marketing campaigns have to be carefully chosen. These words need to connect with our audience. The same can be said for typography: the way we present these words needs to also strike a chord with our target market.

So what makes good typography? Well for starters there’s much more to it than just picking out a nice-looking font in a suitable colour.

There are numerous things you have to get right, and they’re all extremely important. If one element isn’t quite right, it usually stands out a mile. Just think about that from a customer’s perspective.

 

The Different Elements

Here are some of the most fundamental elements of typography, with good and bad examples (on the left and right, respectively) of each, in order to help illustrate how important they are:

Typeface

typography_typeface1

Of course, you don’t just have to stick to one – you can incorporate several – but there’s something to be said for being selective (as the example above shows).

Colour

typography_colour

Again, less may be more. You can certainly use more than one, as the left example shows, but remember that it’s easily overdone.

Kerning

typography_kerning

This is how we refer to the adjustment of the spacing between two letters in order to make the pairing of them more visually pleasing. (Kerning is not to be confused with tracking, which refers to the default spacing between letters and words.)

Here are a couple more examples of poor kerning:

typography_diesel

typography_nivea

Leading

typography_leading

Leading (pronounced like the metal) is the spacing between lines of text.

 

Other Important Elements:

    • Alignment – do you want the text aligned to the left margin, the right margin, or in the centre?
    • Justification – this means that the text is aligned to both the left and the right margins; the spacing between the letters and the words are adjusted in order to achieve this.
    • Scaling – should be kept in proportion with the original typeface; squashing or horizontally stretching text to fit it into a certain space is pointless as it ruins the aesthetic.
    • Widows – this is what we call a line of text that comes at the end of a paragraph but at the top of a new page or column. In the majority of cases, these are to be avoided as they aren’t very nice to look at.
    • Orphans – this is what we call a paragraph-opening line that appears at the bottom of a page (the reverse of a widow, if you like). Again, these aren’t ideal as they can ruin the aesthetic.

Marketing Expertise at Cuckoo Design

Typography is one of our many areas of expertise here at Cuckoo Design. We specialise in all things marketing and branding, and provide a wide range of clients with completely unique and memorable campaigns.

To find out more about how we can help you, give us a call today on 0161 839 9337, or you can email us at info@cuckoodesign.com.

Cracking 2014 Christmas menus

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like an unashamedly full stomach. December’s the one month in which most of us throw our healthy-eating principles out the window for at least a day or two. A good home-cooked Christmas meal is without question one of the year’s highlights, however, we think that eating out during the festive period is also a must.

There are so many restaurants and other eateries putting their own individual stamp on Christmas nowadays, as it’s one of the busiest and most competitive times of year. As always, we’ve kept an eye on what’s going on with festive menus – both in terms of the design and the food – and thought we’d share some of our favourites with you.

 

Solita

solita1

(Image courtesy of Solita)

As a Manchester-based agency, we thought we’d start off with one of our favourite local restaurants. The guys over at the hugely successful Solita have made burgers so much more than just a quick bite to eat – in fact they’ve really gone to town on the concept.

Christmas Menu Highlight

Of course, they’ve come up with a Christmas burger – and as usual they haven’t done it in half measures. Here’s what’s on it:

  • An Angus beef and venison patty
  • A five-bird roast slice (chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, and as you might’ve guessed, turkey)
  • Fried stuffing
  • Deep-friend sprouts (yes really)
  • Port and cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • A ‘candied’ pig-in-blanket to top it off

 

Dishoom

dishoom

(Image courtesy of Dishoom)

With three restaurants spread across London, Dishoom serves excitingly contemporary Indian cuisine in Shoreditch, Covent Garden and King’s Cross.

They’ve designed a wonderfully original Christmas menu, and have actually avoided going for red – instead, it’s a sort of salmon colour. And it works. One of the secondary colours is a mint green, which showcases the premium set menu.

Christmas Menu Highlight

Amazingly, it looks as though they’ve managed put a yuletide spin on curry – the ‘Turkey Raan with All the Trimmings’, it’s called. The ingredients: a full turkey leg that’s been slow-cooked for a whole day, Bombay potatoes, Masala winter greens, and cranberry chutney.

 

Carluccio’s

carluccios

(Image courtesy of Flickr)

One of the country’s favourite Italian restaurant chains, it makes sense that Carluccio’s is an especially popular destination for Christmas parties and nights out.

They’ve kept the Christmas menu design nice and simple – the first page being predominantly crimson red with elegant gold writing. The second page, which contains the dish descriptions, is a white page with a mixture of the crimson and gold for the text. Very tasteful – and tasty, by the sounds of it.

Christmas Menu Highlight

The stand-out dish on the festive menu is the Saltimbocca di pollo, which consists of a chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham and sage leaves, a serving of pesto-garnished potatoes, and rocket salad on the side.

 

Pizza Express

pizzaexpress

(Image courtesy of Pizza Express)

Another hugely popular chain, Pizza Express has approached Christmas a bit more modestly where dishes are concerned, but they have gone all-out with the red menu design. It features Christmas trees, crackers and explicitly encourages large parties to choose this as their celebration destination.

Christmas Menu Highlight

As you might have guessed, they’ve gone for Christmas-esque pizza as their main festive offering. What’s on it? Well, its main Christmassy elements are brie and cranberry, along with leek, pine kernels, mozzarella, Gran Movaria cheese, garlic oil, rosemary and sage.

 

Design Expertise at Cuckoo

At Cuckoo Design we make your brand stand out. We have a team of creative specialists with years of experience in putting together ingenious brand strategies. We work with a range of clients in all different kinds of industries – from cuisine to hotels.

To find out more about how we can help you maximise your brand image, call us today on 0161 839 9337 or drop us a quick email at info@cuckoodesign.com.