Blog Continued

  • MILAN, AUTUMN 12/11/13

    Late autumn sunshine on Via Manzoni.


    Great foodie brands in and around The Cotswolds in full Autumn – what’s not to love! The Cotswold Cheese Co’s new shop in Burford, Daylesford near Kingham, The Broadway Deli & Prego in Broadway.

  • PREGO, BROADWAY 07/08/13

    I’ve been meaning to put this place up on the blog for a few months as I take a few snaps every time I see it. Anyway, I was passing through Broadway the other Saturday evening and stopped off for dinner and had one of those ‘it really doesn’t get any better than this’ moments…

  • YO! SUSHI BRANDING 07/05/13

    This looks amazing. Very in your face but very right for the brand (in a good way!).


    Thinking of launching a new brand but don’t have a large budget and are unsure about where to start? Read this… a pragmatic overview of what it takes to create a strong brand on a low budget. Reproduced from an article in SHARPEDGE magazine 2007 by brand creation specialist Paul Thwaites.

    So, you’re a budding entrepreneur. You’ve got a big idea and a potentially great product – you know it will fly if you could just get people as enthused about it as you are.

    Therefore, based on the adage that a strong brand is built on an engaging proposition backed up by a great experience, you’ve got exactly half of what you need for success. What you don’t have is the stunning brand proposition.

    You know that you need to tackle the dreaded B word but where to start? Money’s tight and one thing you know for sure is that at this early stage in the growth of your business you can’t afford a big consultancy. If that’s the case, I hope these few words help…

    I’ll start by saying that branding isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a black art. It’s not all about paying a band of expensive consultants to go off and ruminate for a couple of months and then deliver back a tome that makes a thwack on your desk directly commesurate with the the size of your wallet. It can, and should, be a lot simpler.

    Let me go as far as to say that if you can’t write the essence of your brand on the palm of your hand you’ve probably got something wrong. Because if you have to reach inside your pocket for a prompt-sheet it means that you won’t have ‘got it’. And if you haven’t got it nobody else will either.

    So what is it that should be written across the palm of your hand?

    Well ,firstly, use a cross to divide it up into four sections. That’s because this is the number of things that you’ll need to articulate – no more and no less – for your own benefit and that of everyone your business will come into contact with. Everything else, no matter how important, falls in behind to support this core proposition.

    In the top left hand quadrant you should write the words “The Big Idea” or “Vision”, whichever you prefer. This first quadrant deals with where your business is going. It’s the big goal on the distant horizon that you are aiming for. It’s what you are going to be famous for. It’s the note for editors on future press releases.

    You’ll need one simple statement of intent that everyone can get behind – your staff, your investors, the media and, most importantly, your customers. And it should not be an uncomfortable amalgam of two or three sentences American style, nor should it ever use words like “exceed” or “expectations”!

    Needs a bit of thinking about, yes. But it’s worth considering that at this early stage in your business you are in a far better place than most big corporates– because you know what you stand for already. You are fresh, have no baggage, no history and therefore no nasty credibility gaps to bridge. All you’ll need is a good independent person, or small team, to help guide your thinking and to help you to package the balloon of ideas that comes out of it into a proposition that means something to the outside world.

    There you have it. Simple? Well, no, actually. But then it isn’t that difficult either.

    An example is the work that we have just done with a new brand start-up called nitenite cityrooms who are introducing budget boutique hotels into European city centres. The concept revolves around prefabricated luxury ‘cabins’ offering just enough space for a double bed and a stylish wetroom, allowing a central-city stay at the price of a budget hotel. So, a generic sell for this entirely new sector, in addition to launching a new brand.

    With nitenite we defined the overarching brand as “Changing the way that people feel about European city hotel accommodation”. Open ended and inspirational – providing enough room for creativity yet enough of a framework to keep everyone motoring in the same direction.

    In the second quadrant you should write “Values”. You’ll need three or four key words or statements that define how your business is going to act as you aim towards your business’ ”Vision”. This’ll set the culture of the business, or to put it another way, you could say it’s “how we do things around here”.

    You’ll then be able to apply this as a template to everything that you do – both operationally and from a communications perspective. It’ll help to ensure the money you are spending on communications is not funding a black hole of disparate activity, but instead is all aiming towards one vision – and thus building long-term value in the business.

    Equally, it’ll mean that you’ll also be able to apply the same rationale to things like choosing outlets, suppliers, future products and employing staff and training them – because it’ll be easier to ask the question: “does this person fit the way we do things?”

    In the case of nitenite cityrooms four core values were defined – Stylish, Creative, Familiar and Dependable. And everything that we do – from communications to operations – aims to overlay perfectly against these ideals.

    Having defined these first two slightly more intangible elements we can now work on the two aspects that everyone can see: “Identity” – which is perhaps the most tangible, and “Language” – which is the most pervasive.

    So, in the third quadrant write “Personality and Language”. This deals with the way your business comes across in written and verbal communications.

    Look around you. We are bombarded with advertising messages every moment of every day – and we are becoming ever more adept at filtering them out. The brands that are cutting through are the ones with a believable story, the ones that use engaging language to win their audience. Nobody can have failed to have noticed (and smile at) the messaging on the back of an Innocent drinks bottle.

    Win people over this way and they become evangelists on your behalf – and good PR is vital when you don’t have a big budget for other activity. Just ask the guys at Innocent, Howies, Powwow or… Serious**.

    In fact, Serious** is a great example. It could have rebranded as something inane like “Alpha Waste Management Solutions” but instead they used self effacing humour to front up to what they do for a living – which is basically shovelling s**t. Hence the name Serious** and a thousand audience-smile-inducing puns were born.

    In the case of nitenite cityrooms, the danger is that corridors in hotels can be faceless and unfriendly. So we set out to change this by using a fun and self-effacing humour across every brand touchpoint. In fact, it was formally defined as being “like a conversation with an old friend whom you are always pleased to see”.

    The final quadrant is all about what the man in the street thinks of when thinking of Brand. That’s how your business looks – “Identity”.

    This is all about appropriating powerful visual elements such as colours and icons that become synonymous with you – much as in the original sense of branding cattle. It’s about creating something magical that energises every touchpoint – just ask Simon Woodroofe at Yo!Sushi how powerful that can be when you get it right.

    With nitenite we created the powerful speech bubble visual device which not only alluded to the chatty and friendly personality but would give major impact and leave people in no doubt whatsoever of the brand that they were seeing – whether that was draped 100ft tall across a building under redevelopment, or applied to a tea cup.

    Well there you have it.

    Clearly great brands are not just built on powerful and inspiring brand stories – they have to be backed up by equally powerful delivery of the product. There’s nothing new there and forgive me if I’ve appeared to state the obvious. But that’s all branding should be… simple… and to an extent, obvious. And the more effective it’ll be for it.

    As a guide, budgets for this type of brand creation start from as little as £4-5k and rise dependant upon the number of elements the the brand is applied to. In nitenite’s case it was over 50 elements including literature, signage, clothing, vehicles, packaging and the web.

  • HOXTON MONSTER 03/12/12

    The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies room at the Christmas Arcade at Somerset House. Simple, beautiful packaging creating an almost gallery-like feel.

  • LINA STORES, SOHO 07/11/12

    I love this store. Tasteful design perfection. You must visit…


    A national treasure, a style icon and a thoroughly nice chap to boot.

    In 1812 the area around the South End of Bond St, Saville Row, and what became Regent St, was the playground of Beau Brummell. In 2012 – in an often all too casual world that’s seemingly dominated by man made fibres – it’s nice to see that it still has its Dandys.

  • AUBIN & WILLS 14/09/12

    Aubin & Wills have just opened in Oxford – taking over the space vacated by sister brand Jack Wills who have moved into a larger store space across the road. Anyway, had a great brand experience buying my new iPad cover – the beautiful baseball glove leather product, the retail space, the wrapping paper, the bag, the service… the whole nine yards in other words.


    This woman is a genius. If you get the chance you should go to this exhibition at Modern Art  Oxford.


    I haven’t had a chance to try this new eatery yet but the external branding looks good and has the right feel about it. It needs to as the competition in this part of London is white-hot.

  • VIA MANZONI, MILANO 08/08/12

    The Armani HQ and store on Via Manzoni is the complete brand emersion experience. Everything from all the various clothing ranges to diffusion branded shops for flowers, chocolates, furniture etc, plus restaurants and cafes. Quite something.


    Whenever I’m working on a cafe deli branding project I always come back to this beautiful artisanal deli in Verona. I think that it says everything that you want to say to passing customers. It’s a great inspiration. I have my favourites in London too, like La Fromagerie and The Natural Kitchen in Marylebone or Lina Stores in Soho, but G Albertini in Verona, for me, sums up the essence of a great deli.


    What can I say about Daylesford that hasn’t already been said? I was sat on an exercise bike in the gym recently reading Alex James’ new (rooster-on-his-head cover photo) book and even he’s a fan (I guess that has something to do with his new cheesy/foodie thing…). It certainly is close to a religious experience, not only for a foodie but also for a ‘brand-ie’.

    I guess that the thing that strikes me as a ‘brand’ person is the total attention to detail. There is that basic rule of thumb that a good brand – eg one with fans who go off and tell others about it – is to deliver what you promise. And whether it’s the products, or the interiors, or the packaging, it certainly does just that. My girlfriend walks around whispering “wow!” at the food and I do the same about the packaging that it comes in. I guess that I need to get out more! Or certainly further than the Cotswolds.

    And with that in mind If you haven’t gotten over to Kingham yet you should. And don’t worry about not being able to find it easily, being situated as it is in deepest rural Gloucestershire,  because I’m not joking when I say that how close you are can be measured in relation to the regularity of sightings of well groomed ladies in 4x4s. Once you’re up to 3-4 sitings per half mile you know that you’re pretty close…


    Having rebranded leading Oxfordshire estate agency Finderskeepers in 2012 we were asked to refresh the brand again over the last few months. The original rebrand of the 12 branch lettings agency was a massive success in terms of positioning it as the refreshing alternative to the UK national estate agency chains. We employed vibrant use of colour to help the brand stand out. Nowhere more obviously than on its vehicles and boards. The result was the rebranded “agency boards seemed to be everywhere” according to market research. Their brand recognition went through the roof.

    That said, not wishing to stand still, were were asked to refresh the brand and give it a slightly more elegant feel. The result was that all the original identity assets were retained but given different emphasis – the mauve grey principal brand colour taking even more prominence with the rainbow stripe being used in a more subtle way. Once again the reaction has been more than positive. In fact we’re regularly told “we simply love that brand!”. This week it was by another Oxford agent!

  • GENEVA 09/01/12

    We were mooching around Geneva for a couple of days, the sun came out and the light was stunning…



    Great place… great ambiance, great food, beautiful presentation. La Fromagerie on Marylebone High Street is one of those places where you just want to go to ‘hang’. It has that feel of rightness. It’s cleverly branded, in fact I met the designer recently as she’s a friend of the owners of a new foodie brand that I’m doing that’s due to open in the new year in Covent Garden called Champagne + Fromage. But back to La Fromagerie, this brand works because it’s understated – right for its’ market and target audience. It’s the sort of place to mooch on a Sunday, or read the papers on a Saturday morning or a coffee during the week. But as with all good brands of course it’s built on the quality of its products and in this it excels.


    Fantastic brand difussion. Great preppy inspired interiors and clothes at lower price point. And even the carol singers were living brand! I love this brand.


  • VERONA, AUTUMN 2011 17/10/11

    I always stay in Verona before I head over to Mantova to meet up with my old friends Gian and Roberto. These places are so relaxed in September and October when there’s hardly any tourists and the locals go about their business in the golden light of the Autumn sunshine. And yes, this is where you see the real style of the Italians – lots of cyclists but wearing Armani and Prada not sportswear!


    A flying visit in order to do the Julian Schnabel show at the Palazzo Corre. I love Venice out of season.