Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Virtual Reality hits New York Fashion Week

It’s that time of the year again when the fashion pack jet off for a month of Fall/Winter shows across the world’s most fashionable cities. With the first stop being New York Fashion Week, I was hoping to have some innovative branding efforts to report on, and was not disappointed when I came across the news that designer Rebecca Minkoff had filmed her Fall 2015 collection in preparation for releasing it later using virtual reality technology.

For those of you who may be unaware of term Virtual Reality (or VR as it’s slowly becoming to be known), it’s probably worth reading this post published by The Verge on this topic. But to give you a brief overview, it pretty much involves the use of ‘goggle’ like devices, which when you put them on, immerses you into a 360-degree, 3D experience. It’s being touted to revolutionise the gaming industry in particular, but also bring about greater efficiencies in other industries including real estate (gone are the days that you need to trudge between one property to the next), education, tourism and pornography (but lets not go there).

Virtual Reality Oculus Rift Device (Source: Inition UK)

Getting back to the topic of VR entering the fashion world, as much as it sounds like a completely new concept, the fashion world has always been ahead of the curve in broadcasting shows and experiences on digital platforms. Burberry was notably one of the first brands to live stream their fashion shows on their website and within their flagship stores around the world. VR therefore seems like a natural extension to these existing efforts, instead allowing fans and customers of the brand to take an actual (well virtual) seat on the front row, and experience the show first hand within their living rooms.

It was only halfway through writing this post did I realise that this wasn’t actually the first time that the fashion world had engaged with VR technology. It turns out that this time last year, high street retailer, Topshop, engaged production company, Inition, to create a VR experience for customers at their flagship store on Oxford Street. The result was a VR booth that allowed customers to virtually attend the Topshop Unique show at London Fashion Week, in between shopping at the retailer’s store.

No only did the venture win Inition the ‘BT Retail Project of the Year 2014’, it also created a lot of press for the brand, and engaged Topshop consumers in a way that had never been done before.

Now that it seems that VR will become a commonplace experience within the fashion industry, I’m excited to see how many brands will embrace this new technology, and whether it will lead to greater change within the industry. After all, if you can attend a show from virtually anywhere, what’s the point of inviting hundreds of members of the press, and holding a show in the first place? Although it’s probably not something we need to concern ourselves with for the time being, it’s still worth noting the power of this new technology, and the opportunities it may present brands in the years to come.

To read more about Topshop’s VR project, visit Inition’s Case Study.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Oscars 2015 – The Superbowl of Product Placement

There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about the goodie bags that this year’s Oscar nominees are taking away. The estimated worth of each individual bag has ranged at around US$125,000, and allegedly include a range of absurdly expensive luxury personal products, accessories, pre-paid holidays and even a year’s worth of Audi car rental.

Although the bags are not officially endorsed by the Academy, they have remained a part of the annual awards function for many years, and seem to continuously be growing in value. The main reason I wanted to bring them up was that it seems that the Oscars has become as much of a marketing event as the Superbowl. Whereas marketers around the world anticipate viewing the highly publicised ad breaks, it seems that a similar situation is arising within the Oscars, but instead the focus is on product placement within the actual show it self.

The Infamous Oscar’s Selfie taken with a Samsung Galaxy Phone (Source: Tech First Post)

Last year’s function is perhaps the best example of this, with Samsung negotiating the use of it’s Galaxy phones within the actual broadcast of the show, in addition to buying out several ad spots. Perhaps the most memorable moment for the brand (and everyone else who was watching that year) was when host Ellen DeGeneres whipped out the Samsung Galaxy for a seemingly impromptu group ‘selfie’. She then tweeted the picture, which quickly became the most retweeted Tweet of all time, and within 12 hours had amassed around 32.8 million impressions, was seen by 8.1 million people, and was retweeted 2.4 million times (and a year later it currently stands at 3.36 million).

Although it’s unlikely for such a moment to repeat itself within this year’s broadcast, it does leave room for thought as to how brands can continue to make their presence known within one of Hollywood’s most talked about award nights. Many brands do participate on the side-lines by sharing Oscar related commentary on their social media platforms, yet it’s probably quite difficult to actually demand a physical presence at the function without sponsoring the use of their products by celebrity attendees, or like many have done already, offering up freebies to feature in the nominee goodie bags.

As always, my focus will probably remain on the red carpet side of the awards show, but I do look forward to seeing the marketing buzz around the event, and spotting this year’s most visible product placements.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 20 February 2015

Time for new students!

Congratulations and a warm welcome to all of our 2015 commencing students in the Master of Marketing program. We are so excited to have you, and have a lot in store for you. With a whirlwind of a year-long course a head of you, we suggest that you take in all the social events and networking now, because pretty soon you’ll have to get down to business.

First, Program Coordinator, Pennie Frow, sets up an incredibly informational and strategic learning opportunity called a marketing simulation game. The purpose of this game is to not only introduce new students to each other, but to give them a taste of the type of thinking they can begin to expect to be doing throughout the program. This type of thinking is lateral thinking - and in order to solve some of the marketing problems faced within the simulation game, you’ll have to make decisions and project future movements based on market analytics from your previous decisions.

Next, new students will be invited to an evening induction event. This event will serve as a meeting place for past, present and future students, as well as current faculty and important industry representatives. This time last year, induction included the addition of the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) accreditation to the program. The networking opportunities are endless to say the least.

Finally, new students will be linked up with a current student buddy. These buddies are meant to help us acclimate the new students, especially international students, to the University of Sydney student life and the program specifics. Typically, your buddy becomes your networking partner and is able to introduce you to all of the professors of the program. Buddies are also extremely useful gauging course work and work schedule balances.

So hopefully all of our new students are able to join us for induction, and we look forward to watching you grow into successful professional marketers. Watching the whole process start over is so bitter sweet. As it has now been one year since I was at induction, I can’t even begin to picture where the time went! But trust me, it’s the experience of a lifetime. Come hang out with us!

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Fifty Shades of …. From Hallmark holiday to the Hallmark of something slightly more naughty

Often ridiculed yet adored as the classic Hallmark holiday, Valentine's Day has long had a spotlight shone upon it as the commercial entity of “what true love stands for”.


However, with red helium balloons, tacky-themed restaurant menus and copious bouquets of roses having always led the way, 2015 has seen this marketing- induced essence of romance take a slight shift in direction…

(Source: One of 8 “Fifty Shades” posts from my personal Facebook account that I noticed following Valentine’s Day)

And yes, before you ask, the above mystery Facebook-ee is completely aware their essence of “shock” has been used for the vital purposes of this Marketing blog-ism.

Having not actually gone to see this film, it would not be fair of me to place forward an educated statement regarding the irony of the highly awaited, yet somewhat scathed adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, that premiered globally on cupid’s own day. However, I feel it is safe to say that the kind of relationship portrayed in the film bares nothing in common with the kind of romance that Hallmark envisioned through its first form of Valentines Day’s cards in 1910.

Based on a book that sold 100 million copies worldwide, this trilogy, now turned global blockbuster, earned over $240 million alone during its premier last weekend. Consequently, regardless of critics' opinions and despite targeting what some might say is a very distinct niche, sales figures such as this have only made producers smirk with pleasure, and have also made “50 Shades” a mainstream phenomenon by default - and effectively a brand in its own right.

As per my own friend's shock on Facebook, the “Fifty Shades” brand recalls an essence of shock and intrigue. Clearly both the publishers and producers have very cleverly leveraged digital marketing to further gain an associated interest with the “Fifty Shades” brand. However, it is clear their position was to never blatantly warn, but rather to cause impact - resulting in a somewhat cult following that has stemmed from a word-of-mouth cultivation through social media.

It’s not a surprise that it was only a matter of time before the “Fifty Shades” concept spread, resulting in marketers being marketers and numerous companies aiming to draw associations and coattails from this saucy brand’s glory. Despite brand associations generally positioned as the extent to which a particular brand calls to mind the attributes of a general product category, it is clear the elements of intrigue, shock and associated raunchiness led to a whole variety of unexpected brands jumping on the Fifty Shades bandwagon.

On that note, here is a few of the most random, yet somewhat humorous ones I’ve come across so far:

Fifty Shades of Kale

(Ref: Amazon)

Complete with tongue and cheek introductions, 50 SHADES OF KALE by Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh is described as a colorful, delicious and fun cookbook with 50 decadent recipes using every born hipster’s number one superfood.

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company


Despite having provided a wide variety of cuddly bears for decades, this year the Vermont Teddy Bear Company took a somewhat saucy spin on the traditional Valentine’s Day gift. Introducing the “Fifty Shades of Grey Bear,” dressed in a business suit and other additional props.

OPI 50 Shade’s of Nail Colour Pack


The set includes six mini nail lacquers including tones such as “My Silk Tie” and “Dark Side of the Mood”.

Flirty Shades of Surf

(Ref: Surf Com.)

I mean seriously??! No additional comment required.

Fifty Shades of Bacon

Who knew there was more than fifty different recipes for cooking bacon? Clearly targeting a consumer market with a unique foodie fetish.

Natasha Menon
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

An Intern goes to Manly

So who are marketing interns and what do they do? We’ve all been in that place before; having to find an internship to “gain experience” and so on. Sometimes we have the right experience and skills for the job, and sometimes we want to learn more. The following is the story of one such marketing intern, and their perspective of what it means to become a marketer:

“I must preface this blog by stating that I have absolutely no experience in the marketing world. Coming from (and about to complete) a science degree at the University of Sydney, the world of marketing was foreign to me. I chose to explore my options and to see whats out there. As such, when I was given the opportunity to intern with a large FMCG company (which shall remain nameless), I jumped at it to hopefully see how we are influenced, coached and (sometimes) conned into buying what we buy or behaving the way we do. Two weeks into this strange world, one thing I have very quickly come to realise is that there is WAY more to this than I ever imagined.

As you may have been aware, or you will know if you were anywhere near Manly over the past two weeks, the Hurley Australian Open Surfing was taking place. A brand awareness dream; thousands of surfers, skaters, wanna-be-surfers/skaters and your inevitable tourists mixed in to the scene. One thing a novice marketeer would realise is that Manly, and its Corso, is set up just like the ideal shop layout. Your prime market, tourists, inevitably have their point of entry into the stunning Manly Wharf. The customer knows exactly what to expect; they are brought into this idea of the stunning golden beach with the sapphire blue waters, and the self perception of attaining the bronzed god or goddess like body that is abundant in the imagery around them.


Before Manly-goers can even make it to the surfing event, one can’t help but get taken up by the building anticipation of where they can go next. Slowly but surely, the merchandise in the stores scream the “SALE 20%”, “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE”, that adorns every surf shop window, and thus lulls the consumer into this beach living appearance. Finally, you are immersed in surf living and the Hurley Open is then taking over. In this case, the marketing scheme isn’t just the discounts; it's the way of life that those brands represent, coupled with the actual personification of the lifestyle - with the athletes and their sponsors all present. The perfect cohesion of marketing and advertising hits bystanders like a ton of bricks, and by now, they’ve probably already picked up a cold beverage of ours of some sort.”


It’s so interesting to see from a novice marketers perspective the immediate change in perspective the second you are given insight into the skills a marketer needs to have in order to analyse situations and bring value to consumers. And to think our Master of Marketing program helps us perfect the way of thinking that allows us to make ethical and calculated business decisions in a world driven by insights. Although I can't release this intern’s name and company, the point is that their story is where we all started out, and it also helps explain the difference between marketing and advertising, as they often get confused.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 13 February 2015

Breaking the Internet with Kim Kardashian West

Kim Kardashian West – GQ Women of the Year 2014 (Source: Huffington Post)

This post has been a long time coming, and I could have chosen to write it back when Kim Kardashian West first ‘broke the Internet’ with her now infamous Paper magazine cover, but I wanted to wait until some of the stats rolled in, and to collect my thoughts on what I dub the era of ‘Kardashian Kulture’.

Kimberley Noel Kardashian West, or Kim Kardashian as she’s come to be known, has been metaphorically breaking the Internet since her debut in mainstream pop culture back in 2007. Given this is a university blog, I won’t go into the exact source of her rise to fame (Google it), but ever since then she’s been working her way to becoming one of the most marketable celebrity brands in the world.

A business model that essentially began from collecting fees for club appearances and product plugs, has now grown to encompass a beauty empire, clothing and handbag line, multiple fragrance deals, high fashion campaign features, and nine seasons of the hit reality TV series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians (and that’s not counting the multiple spin offs). Say whatever you want about Kardashian West, but its undisputable that she understands how to sell her brand, and has a penchant for keeping herself relevant (whether you agree with her methods or not).

Now before we go any further, let’s contextualize Kim’s social media reach and consider that she’s the most followed celebrity on Instagram with 25.8 million followers, has 26.8 million followers on Twitter, and 25.3 million likes on Facebook. She still holds the title of the most liked photo on Instagram (a picture from her wedding to rapper Kanye West in May 2014), was the second most searched person on Google last year, and launched one of the most commercially successful mobile video games of 2014 (Kim Kardashian: Hollywood netted $74.3 million in revenue for the game’s developer Glu Mobile).

So given these credentials, and ignoring the argument that she’s ‘famous for nothing’, I can clearly see why some of the world’s most coveted brands want to work with her. Anna Wintour (Editor in Chief of American Vogue), for example, had allegedly banned Kardashian West from attending the annual Vogue hosted Met Ball until 2013, when she not only attended with then fiancé Kanye West, but later went on to score a cover of American Vogue, and now a solo cover of the Australian edition. Kim’s American Vogue issue went on to sell 250,000 copies (20% more than the previous month’s Rihanna fronted issue), and paved the way for further high fashion jobs including an ad campaign for luxury fashion house Balmain, the controversial Paper magazine cover (which resulted in 5 million unique hits to the magazine’s website in just one day), and further covers of CR Fashion Book (run by former French Vogue Editor in Chief, Carine Roitfeld), and Love Magazine (which is rolling out as I write this article).

I had originally intended to focus this post on the ‘re-branding’ of Kim Kardashian West, but after much thought I couldn’t commit to discussing the strategy behind a brand that continues to shift, shock and polarize the public (well, perhaps that’s the strategy after all). What I can say is that her brand is deeply embedded in popular culture; anything she does - ranging from cropping her daughter out of a photo, to cutting her hair - gets reported by every news outlet, and this insane level of conversation is what brands are buying into.

Sign Kim Kardashian West, and she’ll break the Internet for you.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A New Type of Kiss


Have you ever had a Hershey’s kiss? They may be hard to find in Australia, but if one company or brand has ever mastered the art of sending x’s and o’s (hugs and kisses of course), it’s the Hershey Company. These kisses have journeyed through a long line of marketing schemes and campaigns to give you the very best Valentine’s day kiss.

In case you’re not aware, a kiss is a small droplet-shaped chocolate wrapped in a bit of foil, with a cute little tag out the top, often displaying it’s flavour. Originally, and traditionally, kisses were simply milk chocolate. But if there were kisses, there had to be hugs! Hugs were invented as a mixture or a combination of white and milk chocolate - an embrace. Together, they spread the love without anyone having to say anything, and made the perfect little gifts and treats around the holidays. Kisses come in many flavours, the ones below are just a few examples of the well-coordinated wrappers, tags and specialised flavours.

Source: Google Images

Just imagine if every Australia Day we had a small little snack that came right out of the fridge or cooler box that tasted like pavlova? White chocolate mixed with passion fruit or kiwi fruit flavoured chocolate? Why not make that small tasty splurge and share some with everyone? It’s quite amazing what a big influence a little party snack can provide.

Now, these delicious morsels could come as a massive disruption to say a brand like Tim Tam. They already do all the holiday flavoured and themed dessert snacks. Additionally, Australians are very loyal shoppers and followers, and don’t often like change from their favourite buys. These little kisses however, are calculated to provide the exact right mouthful size of chocolate and sweetness. They are meant not to overpower your taste buds, but to keep you coming back for more. Additionally, they are sold in large packs meant for sharing. This is an important part of their marketing because they can make economies of scale and there will never be that last odd biscuit left that everyone feels to guilty to eat, or even reach for.

So, the next time you’re thinking of ordering a flower arrangement online, see if you can find some kisses, and do something different this Valentine’s day.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 9 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey - A Valentine’s Day Cash Cow

(Source: 50 Shades of Grey YouTube Channel)

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the 50 Shades of Grey (5SOG) series, read it yourself, or at least observed the thousands of commuters that were unashamedly reading it on public transport back in 2012. I for one have read but a page of one of the books (out of sheer curiosity), and don’t intend to read any more pages, or see the movie. But in an effort to remain completely transparent in writing this post, I will say that I personally don’t see the appeal of this series, and perhaps that may be due to the fact that I’m not the intended audience. Whatever it is, I can’t deny that it is a commercial success (book sales reached 100 million units this time last year), and that come Valentines Day 2015, the movie will no doubt dominate box offices around the world.

Now from a marketing perspective (because that’s what we’re here to talk about), what I find interesting about the movie’s release is the advertising opportunity it provides to certain industries (namely condom manufacturers, speciality sex shops and the lingerie market). Ordinarily these industries would target adult only events (club nights, festivals or trade shows) or more boutique gatherings, but nothing comes close to the scale of operation that the 5SOG film brings to the table. Putting aside the obvious restrictions that brands in this domain have in promoting their product to the public, there’s nothing really stopping them from cashing in on the hype (but not obviously the IP) surrounding the release of the film on February 12.

Just before Valentines Day, February 12 provides the perfect contextual background for the release, as well as official (and non-official) branding tie-ins. Already several condom manufacturers have keyed in with parodies of the 5SOG series; an E.L. James (author of the book) approved adult toy line is available for purchase; cinemas around the world are curating special viewing experiences; and a slew of hotels have also checked in with 5SOG themed packages.

Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, it’s sure to be at the front of all media and advertising agendas this Valentines Day, and so as the old adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them (but don’t expect to see me at a cinema near you).

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 6 February 2015

Why You Gotta be so Mean?

Some of the famous song lyrics by Taylor Swift in her song “Mean” really help us step back and ask the hard questions of those around us. Why do you have to be so mean? Especially to someone who works so hard at her career, acts appropriately, gives back to her community, and is a role model for young people everywhere. The misconduct is coming from all of the cheeky people who got Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” disqualified from the Hottest 100.

As an American, I had never heard of the Triple J Hottest 100 until I spent my first full summer in Australia in the beginning of 2014. That and, when I did learn of it, it genuinely seemed like a real way for people to vote for their favourite song and have a happy Australia Day. It’s not fair that social media sites like BuzzFeed then get to insert themselves into people's lives uninvited thinking they can “troll the poll.” It’s not like Taylor Swift was paying them to get her song on the list - she’d be there anyways. Not only has the international pop culture community watched her personal brand grow from quiet and shy country musician into strong and dedicated young woman, but it has also watched her lyrics and stories shine through people’s poor behaviours. Taylor is the face of resilience, and she will overcome this obstacle as well.

(Source: KFC Facebook Page)

So I bet you want to more about what really happened? Well, it seems like with the image above, KFC decided to publicise their vote for the Hottest 100. This raises advertising and ethical questions, similar to topics we worked through in our Ethics and Regulatory Environment unit. What right does KFC own to this image? Does Taylor Swift’s Public Relations representatives even know her face and reputation is being used in this fashion? Does Taylor even approve of the message being used as her words? These are all common marketing problems facing not only Taylor’s personal brand, but also her business affiliations and reputation. Funnily enough, I would actually compare this advertising practice to political campaigning in the USA. Kind of putting words in people’s mouths and claiming that one or another certain person approves of the message. Additionally, while it may be a good idea to sometimes use celebrities as brand ambassadors, I wonder if Taylor Swift would ever even consider eating KFC food? I think this brand overstepped their advertising boundaries here.

Next, Triple J claimed that Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” would have only made 12th place on the list, but chances are people didn’t vote for it who would have when they found out it was disqualified the day before Australia Day. Additionally, rumour has it that at least one of the songs in the top 10 of the Hottest 100 had never even been played on the station’s airwaves. Isn’t that saying something? People may like a certain song, and have voted for it, yet that song didn’t get requested, nor played by the company the whole past year? Credit should be given where it’s due, especially if Taylor didn’t promote, or probably even know, about what was going on and how people were using her name and image.

Copyrighting and Trademarking are so important in the marketing world, and although no official lawsuits have happened in this instance, they could have. It is important as marketers that we know the limitation of our brands and advertising power. Someone is probably getting fired over at KFC right now, when they could have done a little bit of research to find out about how their customers would have liked to see them display their support for the big day.

(Source: BuzzFeed)

So note for BuzzFeed…. hire some real and ethical marketers to make sure you’re not ruining people’s brands, reputations or businesses. Even Triple J looks bad because you thought you had the authority to tell them and their listeners what they wanted to hear or vote for. The sun may not have been shining this Australia Day, but I was still rocking out to Tay Tay and I’m sure she’s going to shake you off because the haters gunna hate, hate, hate, hate.

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

#CLEANEATING, but hold the McNuggets: McDonald’s answer to Australia’s Hipster Dining Movement

"We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it."
Ray Kroc, Founder, McDonalds

I'm sorry Mr Kroc, but it seems in today's day and age, the glisten of the Golden Arches have begun to fade, with the Australian public beginning to call bluff on this once made statement.

Despite feeding 1.7 million Aussies a day within its 930 restaurants speckled across the country, the global cheeseburger giant has developed what seems to be image problems of its own, with year-on-year domestic sales decreasing. 

Over the past decade, the brand has aimed to reposition itself from associations with greasy-processed burgers  and characters such as "The Cheeseburglar" and "Mayor McCheese"; to being a more nutritional, fresh and socially-aware "restaurant".

However despite this attempt, McDonalds, like many other fast-food franchises in Australia, is now beginning to tackle a different type of epidemic. One that is not only a hot-topic for a number of global-brands, but is also vital in ensuring the overall future sustainability of these businesses.


The Millennial Hipster Starter Pack (Source: The Guardian)

In an age where everyone who wants a voice can have one, Millennial's are a key target for brands that play within the restaurant group and fast/casual food franchise bubble. Born between the 1980's and early 2000’s, this cashed-up market not only have purchasing power, but also a core essence of entitlement (i.e. "me deserve this - me want now!"), due to being more educated and socially aware than any generation before them.

Accordingly, from a restaurant's perspective, they have the immediate and innate ability to empower and influence the direction of what their brand does….

Peer a bit deeper and it comes as no surprise that hipsters were the first and most visible sub-culture to peak out from this generation. Outlaw Consulting, a leading expert on understanding trendsetting youth for companies like Diageo and Nike, sums up these "progressive – creative – witty – stereotyped – bearded 'individuals'" perfectly by featuring this quote on their web site’s home page:

"Everyone wants to be a hipster, which makes being a hipster tricky and nearly obsolete."

Taking this into consideration, the "a-hah!" moment for McDonalds was recognising that the millennial hipster valued "authenticity" in every aspect of their lifestyle – including when deciding where they were to eat. They realised they are hungry to purchase "undiscovered" brands that related to their own values rather mainstream and established brands. Over and above that, they craved "experiences" when dining, rather than the tangible aspects of their meal. By increasing the size and scope of the McDonalds brand and force-feeding the ever-famous Golden Arches into the faces of this market, would purely be a plan of action to ensure the brand self-destructs. After all, the Hipster Mantra involves taking a lot of effort to make it look like you have taken no effort all.

So that's precisely what McDonalds did.

‘The Corner’ by McDonalds Australia (Source: The Guardian)

Looking beyond green-juice-in-mason-jars, five-grain rye breads and brown rice and lentils, McDonalds has opened "The Corner", your classic, cliché hipster led café within Sydney’s inner west suburb and growing hub of gentrification, Camperdown. From face value, it is unassuming from the outside with its branding carrying through solid tones of yellow, black and industrial touches of exposed metals.

Other than a small McCafe logo printed on packaging - the hipster tones include tiled walls, a herb garden, wooden sandwich boards, copious amounts of barista-made coffee, and of course free, WIFI.

Cheeseburgers and fries have been replaced with a number of fresh salads featuring Moroccan roast chicken breast and chipotle pulled pork, brown rice and pumpkin.

Menu items being tested at ‘The Corner’ (Source: Broadsheet)

Despite being positioned as a trial test kitchen for new products within the McDonald's family, it definitely draws question as to whether the future of the multinational brand will be shifting in line with the changes of the broader market's appetite.

With customers now dining to experience and discover restaurants that have a genuine and consistent identity and distinct brand voice; it suggests an essence of success in McDonald's unique-approach in targeting the millennial hipster market.

Although I can't imagine Ronald McDonald swapping his yellow onesie for some skinny jeans and leather jacket just yet, this form customer-centric branding has given Mr Kroc's original statement a new life within this market…  

"We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it."

Truly a reinvention of one of the world’s most iconic brands, however, I guess time will tell with how on point this new venture is and where the future of the McHappy meal heads.

Natasha Menon
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 2 February 2015

When Rihanna Met Puma – The New Age of Celebrity Collaborations

(Source: BBC UK)

In what is now old news, Rihanna has signed on as Creative Director for the womenswear line at Puma. I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while now, and not just for an excuse to feature the polarising singer herself, but to look at the implications of giving creative control of a brand to a celebrity. In what seems to be an on-going trend these days, celebrity endorsements have given way to celebrity collaborations, and with this Puma deal, celebrities are now taking on leadership roles within organisations.

Perhaps where we should start is to look at the difference between being an ambassador of a brand (wearing the clothes), and taking on a role as creative director (designing the clothes). The problem with the distinction between these two roles is that one has a greater degree of corporate accountability than the other – you can no doubt change who represents the brand overnight, but removing the association of a creative director is much more difficult as they are essentially an employee. Furthermore, the role of a creative director (in a branding context) is to lead the brand’s vision, whereas an ambassador is solely a reflection of this vision.

Now having dealt with some of the technicalities regarding these positions, I personally feel that Puma has made a really smart decision to sign on Rihanna as a Creative Director. The chart-topping singer has proven her design skills in previous collaborations with brands such as River Island and MAC Cosmetics, as well as her ability to sell whatever she puts her name to (the Riri Woo lipstick for MAC Cosmetics sold out within three hours of going on sale). She also has a stamp of approval from fashion figurehead Anna Wintour, who last year acknowledged her contribution to the industry, and awarded her the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Style Icon Award.

So although there may have been speculation at the time that Puma could have instead hired a trained designer to fill this role, what they get with Rihanna is a minted tastemaker, and one with a phenomenal fan following (90 million likes on Facebook, 40 million Twitter followers, and 14.6 million followers on Instagram) and credibility within the fashion circle. It’s probably too early to say whether Puma have a potential hit on their hands, but considering Rihanna’s background, making hits is no new feat, and so I’m looking forward to seeing her impact on this brand in the months to come.

To read more about Rihanna’s new role, visit Puma’s press page.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School