Archive for September, 2009

Maps, Macs, and the McDistance proxy

mcd_us_high_9_25

Andy Stubbings writes:

There seems to be a flurry of interest of late in visualising data using heatmaps, and I was recently sent Stephen von Worley’s infographic of the US which is coloured by the distance to the nearest McDonald’s. What’s interesting about it is that it seems to be almost exactly correlated with population density in the States. And in case you’re wondering, the furthest you can get away from the fast food chain is about two hours, out in the Dakotas.
There are other Big Mac-based theories out there, such as the Economist’s famous Big Mac index, on purchasing power parity between countries, and the now disproved Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Resolution. So how about adding the McDistance Proxy? In any given area in the US (and possibly the UK), you should be able to guesstimate the population density by the distance to the nearest branch. Tell me how far you live from a Maccy D, and I’ll tell you how many people live in your city. It’s only a matter of time before there will be an app for it.

29 September 2009 at 9:22 am 2 comments

The new face of luxury

LV Gorbachev ad

Emily Pitts writes:

Is the concept of luxury is stuck in the past? Leafing through the high end magazines, it looks so. It’s quickly apparent that 2009 ads sell the same products, and rely on the same concept of luxury, as they have for years;  the traditional face of luxury is still impenetrable, aloof and other worldly. Whilst classic luxury pieces from Chanel or Hermes will continue to resonate as high quality investment items for a small group of rich consumers, the emerging values of the new “everyday luxury” market are quite different.

The Dutch design collective Droog suggest that “Luxury is really about scarcity“. And what’s scarce? “Care, silence, fresh air, slowness”. Brands that help consumers achieve some aspect of this in their lives will be connecting to a changing notion of luxury, as values around responsibility, community and self-reliance are emerging as the new consumer lifestyle aspirations. Though in part this has been provoked by recession, Futures Company research tells us that greater numbers are re-assessing what’s important in life; hence the spike in volunteer numbers, career breaks and socially responsible career choices such as teaching. Some brands in other sectors are successfully tapping into these desires; luxury may have look outside of the sector to learn.

The personal connection with the product that Nudo achieves by allowing customers to adopt an Italian olive tree from which they receive their own oil for a year, linking the consumer with the producer, is a good example. The Harrods allotment features webcams that allow consumers to view their food as it grows, which would certainly offer ‘slowness’. Burgerville supports local farms and businesses, thereby appealing to consumers’ growing social conscience.  Brands that allow consumers to express their creativity are also prospering. Increasing numbers of knitting clubs, Anya Hindmarsh’s bag customisation service and the Observer Woman’s  ‘Designer DIY’ series run this year bear witness to this.  In the luxury market, Clarins offers a customised skin cream, My Blend, in a small number of top end stores. Personalisation is also a feature at the ‘uber-bling’ end of the scale, as Peter Aloisson’s jewel-encrusted mobile phones demonstrate.

But the challenge for many luxury brands is to move beyond this. Selling a de luxe designer handbag for its link to a wider set of values than brand cachet is not necessarily an easy bridge to build. Louis Vuitton made a good attempt with its ad campaign (picture at the top of the post) that focuses on the journey rather than the bag; the promise is, perhaps, that our personal journey can be as interesting as that of Gorbachev. Competitor brands need to follow suit, and re-adjust their focus on the part of ‘scarcity’ that really means ‘luxury’ to today’s consumers.

21 September 2009 at 8:11 pm 2 comments

Big… (dowconzki § 10)

bigtobacco

© Jake Goretzki

11 September 2009 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Taking the strain

wagn_l

Andrew Curry writes:

Over the holiday I had to take myself and my bike by long distance train. I’d heard bad things about the bureaucracy involved, so I decided to visit my local mainline station to sort it out in person. And this story doesn’t turn out the way you’re expecting.

In fact it was one of the best customer service experiences I’ve had all year. When the ticket clerk heard when I wanted to travel, the first question she asked was whether I had some flexibility – travelling half an hour earlier or later made the fare quite a lot cheaper, and it helped that she split the journey into two separate parts rather than selling me a single through ticket (rail’s arcane pricing structure doesn’t do it any favours).

She then made sure that my seat reservation was as close as possible to the guard’s van, where my bike would be, reminded me that the bike needed a ticket attached to it during the journey, and finally, as about eight tickets popped out of her printer, put them all into a little wallet grouped by journey stage.

What I liked about this, apart from the fact that I saved about £30, was that my service representative had a picture of my entire journey in her head, and set about making it as straightforwards as possible for me. I’d like to be able to give credit where it’s due, and name the station, but I’ve heard (though can’t find a link) that at least one rail franchise has responded to the downturn by telling staff to maximise revenues. This is short-sighted, to say the least. Digital media consultancies increasingly say that “earned media” – where a company’s actions earn from their users good digital or personal plaudits, such as this blog – is the most effective form of promotion. The rail company has already earned its £30 back in promotion several times over.

The picture is courtesy of the London Cycling Campaign, and was taken by Lionel Shapiro. It is used with thanks.

1 September 2009 at 2:47 pm 1 comment


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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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