The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Practical Insight Beats Self Congratulatory Planner Insight …
February 26, 2008, 7:09 am
Filed under: Comment

I get kind of fed up of hearing planners talk about the ‘amazing insights’ they’ve discovered only to see them present work that is …

1 Exactly the same as the category

2 What the brand has always done

3 Just an ad

I know me ranting about this is nothing new however whereas before I thought Tesco’s were the most creative company [interms of developing product/services around cultural/lifestyle insights] I have now decided it’s internet ‘gadget’ shop, Firebox.

On first impressions Firebox seems to be a one-stop-shop for every piece of self-indulgent pile of ‘man-tat’ you could ever hope to find, however on closer inspection you realise they are an organisation who know their customers better than many research companies / ad agencies could ever hope to achieve and … here’s the killer … they don’t just talk about it, they use this knowledge to create things that resonate, engage and excite.

One thing they’ve done recently that I love – and not just because it came from the head of our dear Bazza – is the ‘biscuit tea mug’.


Here is a mug that allows you to internally ‘store’ 3 digestive biscuits [the amount most people tend to use per mug of tea] so you can have a ready supply of dunking material as you walk around the office. Genius.

And how did this come about?

Mainly because Baz saw people continually going backwards and forwards to the kitchen to get tea ‘supplies’ and when he looked into why, he found …

1 They couldn’t dunk if they were holding other biscuits in their hand at the same time

2 Too lazy to get a saucer [more to do with not wanting to wash up/make desk messy]

3 They didn’t want colleagues to see them holding a bunch of biscuits at the same time [especially women]

4 People didn’t like leaving them on their desks [i] dirty [ii] people steal/borrow them. 

… so by taking all these learning’s/insights – and adding abit of his disgustingly brilliant creative mind – Bazza came up with the ‘biscuit tea mug’ idea, which we then developed and talked to a distributor about, who inturn licensed it to Firebox and the rest is [fingers crossed] tea-quaffing-biscuit-dunking-money-making history!

Now I know NP has announced he’s just appointed an official office tea mug, but something tells me he’ll want one of these – and I hope he gets it because everytime there’s a sale, we get a % of the cash, hahaha!

Something else Firebox have just launched – this time without the help of Bazza – is the brilliantly mad Wi-Fi t-shirt.

With more and more mobile devices having inbuilt wi-fi – there is a greater need for people to find out if they are in range of a Wi-fi spot.

Now there’s lots of ways to do this – including turning the bloody device on – however as we’re all such a bunch of time-poor bastards/princesses, Firebox has created a t-shirt that tells you there and then whether you can save on your mobile bill and surf via Wi-Fi.

Sure it’s a gimmick and there’s other devices on the market that perform exactly the same sort of thing – however it’s tailor-made for a Firebox type-of customer and more importantly, helps build their brand persona by demonstrating what they believe rather than just saying it via advertising.

Last example interms of creating fate rather than hoping to influence it is this double iPOD charging clock radio …


Many households today have a couple of iPODS and yet more often than not, one tends to dominate the ‘charger’ whereas the other tends to be left till it goes flat.

Well thanks to this device, that no longer has to be the case because this product allows both iPODS to be charged at the same time and – because musical tastes differ – lets each iPOD be set for a different alarm times using different wake-up songs.

The thing is, the insight behind this idea wouldn’t of been something new – it’s probably been around as long as iPODSs – however only one company made something from it whereas the others focused more on aesthetics and/or pointless ‘added value features’.

Now I know you’re thinking, all these examples represent the height of laziness – I mean not holding 3 biscuits in your hand, turning on a Wi-fi device or charging your iPOD is pathetic right? – however this isn’t about humanities devolution towards ‘minimum effort’ [that’s for another day] this is about how insight/consumer understanding can/should be used to help clients develop financially viable products/brands [as opposed to just their advertising] because not only can these things have more impact on society than the majority of communication created, but it also demonstrates the worth of agencies and planners because if we don’t start making more stuff happen, we’re going to be sidelined for ever.

29 Comments so far
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You know how much I rate this kind of thinking even if the examples used are more short term applications than brand or continued brand development however I wonder whether Mr Jobs is aware that his organisation will soon be launching the iMug? Well done Billy/boys and girls, I look forward to me “present” soon.

Comment by Lee Hill

Apart from the fact that the aversion to being seen with more than three digestive biscuits confirms the death of masculine individuality, I have to agree with Lee’s comment about short termism. Seems to me, as you point out, they’re all predicated on laziness and therein lies the problem – they don’t address the laziness, they try to scoot around it. In all cases, I would suggest that the laziness will prevail and the problems will reamin because they don’t address how to overcome the laziness.

As for technology – some while back I was made aware of a one cup kettle that boiled just enough water to make a single cup – energy-saving and time-saving. Everyone agreed it was a great idea and it does work – trouble is, it doesn’t actually boil the water and it makes crap tea.

Comment by John

Very droll Lee, but the Apple iMug will be a phenomenal success only beaten by the impending iSock with internal velcro to ensure maximum effectiveness of sock use or something.

Thanks for the heads up on this Robert. I know I deserve it but thanks all the same 🙂

Comment by Bazza

Are you pissing on my parade John?

Completely get what you’re saying but I think Robert has written enough posts and done enough work to prove he prefers solutions that get to the core of the problem rather than those that exploit or skirt around the issue, it’s just his way of showing that agencies and planners should be into creation rather than just focusing on advertising because in many cases it can achieve the clients business requirements with more power and longevity, accepting the examples in the post above don’t do that, though if the iPod Clock Radio came from Apple I would guess most people would see it as another example of simple, user focused brilliance which would continue to enhance the brands aura.
That’s the longest sentence of my life.

Comment by Bazza

bazza, rob, i flagged the iMug idea to the peeps in my office (i’m supposed to work in a forward-thinking, craft and design organisation), and they love the idea – so long as the mug isn’t crap plastic tack 🙂

and now i’ve got a craving for mcvitties, thanks a bunch.

Comment by lauren

I didn’t mean to imply these example were longterm brand building products – though as Baz said, I could argue they help solidify the brand image of the ‘motherbrand’, especially in Firebox’s case – they were just to demonstrate how agencies and planners can/should develop solutions that are beyonf their normal “advertising first” attitude.

To be honest I’m not going to say anymore because [1] I agree with both John and Lee’s points [but I did say they were about laziness exploitation rather than true brand ideas and [2] Bazza jumped to my defence enough – obviously driven by the fact he doesn’t want his lovely idea being undermined, haha!

As for the one-mug kettle … as I’ve said in many previous posts, a good idea is not just one that sells [as the kettle did] but performs its function to the levels expected so the fact this product underperfomed is a demonstration of either a company who didn’t care, a consumer who cared more than they thought or a rush to get the idea out before someone else copied it.

I actually have a post about this ‘speed of development’ next week – because it’s a very China trait – and whilst it is a strategy prone to all sorts of problems and issues, it is a great example of how China are trying to overwhelm the World rather than just play on their terms. They’ve got a lot to learn, but they’re not as far away as many think but I’ll save that for next week 🙂

And as for the mug Lauren – it’s in high quality mug – so it will keep your tea hot and your moments drinking, precious.

Jesus, that’s the sort of twaddle Andy peddles – wash my mouth out, ha!

Comment by Rob

Longest sentence and one that made sense – that’s quite a combo Bazza. No parade-dampening intended. I hope it sells in huge quantities – just sad to note it’s not McVities who are selling it/giving it away – that would demonstrate real client insight.

And I agree totally that direct solutions of user needs are the way to go. Then the promotion will write itself (Andy’s still away I hope).

Comment by John

McVities said “no” …

Comment by Rob

Short term thinking, medium term thinking, long term thinking, I don’t care I absolutely love that biccie mug but I must admit to probably wanting the tshirt more, sorry Bazza.

Comment by Pete

OK, OK, so we/Baz developed a mug that holds some biscuits – but the post is supposed to be about agencies and planners needing to adopt a philosophy of ‘applied intelligence’ – it’s not about “dunking habits/rights’ – so can we keep more on that issue please.

Pretty please?

Oh who am I kidding 🙂

Comment by Rob

Well if you’d written a focussed post! ;O)

Comment by John

But – to answer your plea – the key is to focus on what people actually do (and understanding why), not what you want them to do or what you think they want to do.

Comment by John

Or what people want to do but don’t know how/why.

But thank you John, appreciate it – you’re maturity [read: age] is showing through.

Comment by Rob

Did you turn the comments off that joke because you know how sick it is? Andy will be proud of you, it might go some way towards making ammends for the female equality post you wrote yesterday 🙂
And to keep you happy, regardless of the products highlighted I think this post is great and represents the sort of thinking/output that more planners and advertising agencies have to do.
You do realise that if more and more people follow this path you’re undermining what makes our respective companies stand out? You don’t care do you and I have a sneaky suspicion why 🙂

Comment by Pete

Crawler 🙂

Comment by Rob

Nice one.
Though the wifi t-shirt has been done ages ago!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I wish you’d said the mug had Mr M – I could of ruined Bazza’s career in an instant, ha!

Comment by Rob

The mug will be mine. It’s too good for work though, that’s a home mug. Or maybe I’ll have one for coffee and one for tea. That’s right, I drink coffee too, proper coffee

Comment by northern

Coffee? The Teaman?!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

And I want a youtube demonstration of how “easy” it is for a normal sized hand to remove one biscuit from a pile of three stacked under that mug.

Comment by John

Is the mug angled to allow the tea to compensate for the degrees you have to tilt the mug to stop the biscuits falling out?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Jesus you’re going to be a right bastard of a planner Mr M. Saying that, you have highlighted a major design flaw which means the mug is shit so we’re going to have to let Bazza go.

Comment by Rob

It’s a right handed mug – so the tilt keeps the biscuits in. Do I have to explain everything? It’s the finger-size issue that’s the problem. (and yes I can see the punchlines from here)

Comment by John

Yes John, but that also tilts the tea; and is there adequate room for tea movement?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

this post isn’t about the mug. It’s about what the mug is about.

Comment by Marcus

Of course there is Mr. M. Of course it is Marcus.

Comment by John

FYI John, there is a left handed mug available too …

And Marcus – it’s a sad/amazing day when you keep the issue on track – but you’re right, this was not meant to be about the mug, but what the mug represents interms of the future of comms.

Comment by Rob

I’m ill.

Comment by Marcus

[…] Drunk Mug und W-Lan Shirt Rob Campbell über Produktentwicklung als echte Insights und drei sehr gute Beispiele […]

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