Tuesday, June 19

10 Things our Grandchildren will laugh at

I predict that in the in the year 2063 the following things will be found humorous by our grandchildren:

1. Wires
2. Coins
3. CD's
4. The Internet as a 'seperate thing' to the rest of your life
5. Facebook
6. Watches
7. Keys
8. Eyebrows
9. Petrol
10. LoveFilm  - The very idea that you would pay a monthly subscriptions to a service provider, and THEY would choose that kind of film THEY wanted you to see is mental. For example you might be in the mood for a Rom Com - WRONG "THE COMPUTER HAS SELECTED: THE KINGS SPEECH', or you might want to watch something with a bit of sustenance, WRONG "THE COMPUTER HAS SELECTED: THE HANGOVER PART 2'. It seems weird even today, that anyone would thing think that's a good idea, so, after year of trying to get round to it, we finally cancelled our subscription.

As a business model in 2012's multi touch, multi choice age, this seems preposterously outdated. Cancel your subscriptions now, before everyone laughs at you.

Or call 07738 175 614

Tuesday, May 15

In a 2012 Style

I'm not trying to be cool, but I don't even know what the Diamond Jubilee is, don't get me wrong I've got nothing against the Royal Family, if pushed I'd probably give them a 6 out of 10. I like Prince Charles, he appears alright, Harry's seems like a laugh, and Philip's is amazing, he seems to says all the right things at exactly the right moments.

Our relationship to the Royal Family through design is my issue here, I noticed this at the Royal Wedding betwixt the boring, balding brother and the girl who's sister won Rear of the Year, that, every single piece of marketing had a retro 50's style to it, from a street party paper cup in Tescos to a celebration biscuit tin in our local Garden Centre. 

The same thing is happening with the Jubilee, it's like as a generation we can't brand the Royals in a contempory style, we have to buck any current trends and hark back to Polaroid's of a golden age of street parties, loving our neighbours, and actual sunshine. Was it really so much better back then? What are we trying to achieve by never looking forward?

It's quite odd when you think about it. Will every major event in this prestigious families life be marked with 50's styled memorabilia? How do they feel about that? How will this affect the Antiques Roadshow in the future when every commemorative plate looks like it's from 1950 even if it was pressed in the year 4000? I guess that's what the experts are there for.

Consider the Olympics 2012 branding, here they created something contemporary, second guessing 2012 to develop a modern and dynamic mark. When you look at it now, it works perfectly as a piece of branding, created to work with sponsors, in a sponsor-lead environment. When it was released however it was so defiled, that The Sun hilariously got school children to design Olympic logos that looked like they were designed by school children. That's the face of modern design, and risk taking on a mass-market level today, ridicule. It's way safer to stick to something we know our auntie likes, rather than confuse her, and annoy the 'red tops'.

The bottom line is, it's frankly embarrassing that there is no such thing as a 2012 style, for designers living in these times, we've got nobody to blame but ourselves. It's ridiculous that even at a very commercial basic level like this there is no default design style which you can plaster on mass produced crap merchandise. 

Shame on me, shame on you other designers well done the 50's. 


Talk to Citizen about Branding, give drop me an email on ben@citizenstudios.co.uk, I'm actually not as grumpy as that post suggests.

Monday, April 16

Arrrrr Bisto, you patronising bastard

So the new Bisto advert wants us all to get together for one night a week, all sit at the table and eat 'proper' food, with a 'proper' gravy. Take a look below if you haven't seen it already.

Well guess what? Most people I know do that already, when they can, and Bisto is not 'proper' gravy, I've seen Karen make proper gravy, it's it's way too much effort, to bother with.

What really annoys me about this advert is its misguided attempt to make 'Britain better', by striking a simple concept into the homes of broken Britain. An idea so utterly inane it could only have come from a advertising executive, a concept so pointless and patronising that it comes out of nowhere, based on nothing but a whimsical notion of how much better life used to be, the idea that we'd all be happier if dad came home from work early and had dinner at the table.

Well fucking guess what, dad would dicking love to come home early and eat with his family, but he's busy earning the money for the morally engrossed gravy they're all busy eating. So don't make him feel bad for putting your shitty product on his own table, and not being there to enjoy it.

You know what Bisto, most people are sitting at the tables and eating 'proper' dinners, but if they're not, it probably, is because they've got something more important to do, it's because it's 2012, times are hard, people have to work when the work is and sometimes that's at tea time, so get off your high horse and stop preaching to England like you're some kind of moral compass for all families. Your a corporation that makes gravy, we don't need you to tell us what to do, we just need you to make some fucking gravy granules we can pour over our shitty teas.

Speak to Citizen about, not being patronising, gravy and swearing in blogs. Call to action of the year?

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, April 9

The Ignorables

I've heard Pixar are making a new animation next year called 'The Ignorables', it's about a bunch of SMB's who have failed to grasp the basic concepts of Social Media, and who keep pumping out content so bland it makes them totally ignorable to their market.

It sounds really great, there's one company that doesn't even know that they're being ignored and continue to hammer their pointless message into the same pool of oblivious people, without ever recording how effective this is. It's like watching a bee smashing its face into the window over and over again as it tries to escape your house.

OK, assuming that you have 1000 followers on Twitter, this does not mean 1000 people are reading your message, it's just nothing like the case, although having said that my wife does treat her Twitter Stream like it's her email, and read everything that's on it every evening. (I've tried to tell her). It's impossible to say how many people are ignoring your messages but it's likely to be more than the people actually reading it. 

The same goes for Facebook, your Like count could be massive, but you don't know how many of those people have Unsubscribed to your posts. Let's be honest here, we've all followed a friends company, and then hid their feed once it started to get too busy. I know people have hidden the Citizen feed, once I posted a blog that mentioned a load of my friends, and none of them commented, but hey, I don't mind. There's not even a tear in my eye, it's just a bloody eye lash...

The big message of the Pixar movie is not to rest on your numbers, Social Media is no longer (it probably never was) a land grabbing numbers game. Nobody cares if you've got 10,000 Likes, you bought off FiveSquids, and out of the 20 real people in there, they all hid you, it means nothing to have 500 Followers on Twitter that ignore your Tweets. What you're looking for is small numbers of interested and relevant followers, focussed clusters of Likes from people relevant to your service that together give you a pool of real relevant contacts.

The Ignorables are making it harder for the rest of us, if they understood the importance of focus, there'd be more time, more focus and more clicks to go round for those who need and deserve them, and the people with really creative energy wouldn't have to shout to loud to get heard.

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, April 2

Signature 'Penis Style'

Draw Something has breathed new life into what was a rapidly dying art form, that of the hand drawn penis.

Over the years we've all scribbled them into text books, scratched them into desks and drawn them on one another's foreheads, but in this new internet age, it's becoming increasingly hard to find a school boy with a decent signature 'Penis Style', and that's very sad.

Draw Something has over 10 million players generating 3000 drawings a second, and not all of them have cocks in them, (although I estimate 1 in every 3 has). The company behind the app are said to be making around $250k a day from the numerous revenue streams built into the game, and there's even a rumour it might be turned into a game show.

So how did Draw Something go from a standing start to a company that just sold for $200m? Yeah like I'm going to answer that, of course I have no idea, it's a combination of a brilliant idea and an excellent piece of design execution, but one of the unsung factors in it's success is it's Social Integration, in particular it's Facebook Log In.

Logging in via Facebook is a simple and effective way for new start ups to hit 1000's of potential users, it's being used increasingly and to magnificent effect, look at Pinterest, things can happen so quickly now that brands can tap in to new markets and the friends of those new markets, just by offering them the convenience of using their Facebook log in. It's great for both sides, the user doesn't have to bother inputting their details all over again, and the Brand gets instant exposure via your timeline.

Draw Something takes this one step further, and purposely misses out on key applications within the app, for example there's no function to chat to players, so I've played games where messages about the drawings have been sent through Facebook, as you're already logged in, it's no hassle. Brilliant thinking, and positively viral in the buzz that creates. There's plans to take this one step further, and with the next update you'll be able to share drawings onto your wall, so you can expect a swath of obscene drawings on your wall within the next few months.

The pace of the online industry is now so ferocious there's a new phenomenon every month, and keeping up is becoming as difficult as trying to figure out how to fit Pinterest into your life. Ideas will come and go, but don't lose sight of what's making all of this happen, and that's Facebook, it's becoming a launch pad for anything that's hip, and embedding itself in everyone's lives and the keystone to every new start up's launch strategy, it's turning itself into the Internet, and without it we might never have given our children a second chance to develop their own signature 'Penis Style'.

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, March 26

Do you put your chocolate in the fridge?

Every Social Media book I've read this year is super keen to stress how important 'good content' is, and they all resist trying to explain what actually makes good content, in doing so they end up preaching to the converted, after all does anybody actually go out of their way to put bad content on their Social Media strategy?

In principal of course they're right. good content has to be the driving force behind all of your social media, successful engagement with your customers doesn't happen by bombarding them with product information, deals and idle boasts about how amazing you are, it comes from stories, in which customers can react, find themselves, and comment on.

Here's what I mean, I've got 2 Facebook accounts, my personal and my Citizen Page, comparing the numbers on this, I have over 700 Likes for Citizen and around 300 Friends on my personal account, but activity levels on my personal account exceed the Citizen page probably 10-fold. Here's an example;

Recently I posted a great logo I did for Colour Films, and managed to get about 2 'Likes' and no 2 comments out of it, now compare this to a question I asked about 'chocolate being refrigerated' that got over 20 comments and a bunch of 'Likes'. What this demonstrates is people don't care about how great you are, but they are comfortable engaging in something they've got an opinion on. If I'd have posted the logo with a question 'just created this, do you like it' it probably would have had more traction than just bragging about how good I thought it was.

Pretty basic stuff I know! Ask your audience question, that's Social Media 1.0, but what's interesting is how this demonstrates that it's essential for brands to appear human. People don't want to comment on or talk to a brand page that has no personality, that is all about the work, and that doesn't have the time to engage people in off topic and seemingly trivial subject matter. Why should they? There's nothing in it for them, people have more choices and less time than ever before, so don't cry if they don't give a shit how good your logo is and they'd much rather watch a monkey going backwards on a pig.

The creation of good content is a mystery, it can't be identified in a way you explain, it's about so many different factors. It's about responding to events, posting at the right time of day, reacting to arguments, being flippant, being reactionary, being stupid or opinionated and just not sounding like a made-up idea, of what you think your customers perceive as 'professional'.

Brand pages need to be about the people that run them, increasingly I'm considering just being my brand page, why should they be separate things? I 'am' what I do, and admittedly I'm not sure I want my customers to see all of the photos of me on Facebook, but more importantly, I do want my brand to be a living breathing thing, something with stories and something that people want to have in their lives. If you do this right it doesn't matter what your product or service is,, forget about selling all the time, make connections that people can carry with them, refer, develop and eventually use.

Now, I always put all my chocolate in the fridge, how about you?

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, March 12

The future of retroism

You go up to any 15 year old interested in taking photos, and show them a few of your most treasured Instagram shots they'll probably tell you, you've got a shit camera. They have no reference point for the Instagram style, to them it just looks like you've taken it on a whack Nokia mobile phone, and they're laughing at you, then taking a photo of you in the kind of high resolution you used to be able to see in before you wore contacts. To them retroism is incredibly gay, they want photos so clear you can see the stitching on their oneseys, and it makes sense, the technology is there, why wouldn't they.

Let's be clear, I'm not attacking the app,  Instagram is by far my favourite app, it's amazing, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, since it's launch in 2010, it's already got over 27 million users worldwide. Personally, I love everything about it, the icon is amazing, the app functionality is life changing (bit much), and the filters on the photos are so great, I actually feel sorry for the people that have dedicated their lives to taking genuine Polaroid pictures that have a 'retro vibe' to them.

The secret of Instagram's appeal lies within our craving for nostalgia. This gateway from the present to the past gives us the fascinating ability to look at how our photos might have appeared if they came from a different generation, and we fall in love with them instantly, because that feeling of nostalgia is so potent that we have an instant emotional connection to it.

In 2012 the memories buried deep in our heads, only survive in yellowed, bordered, slightly blurred old photos, but they're reborn every time we publish a photo on our Instagram stream. As a proposition for Instagram it's untouchable, to be able to offer this human connection is something that supersedes the incredible technology behind the app and creates something beautiful.

What I find interesting is that, surely, this is only relevant to a generation that grew up in the non-digital photography era, to children of the 70's, to people that have seen and loved the references that these filters take inspiration from, so what happens to next for the app? How do they continue to be relevant and grow their market share from a constantly evolving and increasingly youthful market? How will they attract a generation who aren't interested in making their photos look 'shit'?

The challenge for Instagram is to encourage a new generation of users to embrace the style, and then inspire future generations to connect in the same way we have, pulling that strand of nostalgia back through the ages. It's a massive shift in the way people think, and a complicated strategy to pull off, so how are they going to do it?

Seriously, I have no idea, sorry if you were reading that hoping to find out, I was kind of hoping you might be able to shed some light on it, if not, let's sit back and see what happens.

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, March 5

Lola Brown is born.

Lola Brown is born, and we're back in the office. Give me a call if you have any requirements (non baby related).

She's cute right?

Or call 07738 175 614

Friday, February 24

Right, we're off to have baby.

So, we're having another baby, apparently this means I'm going to be really busy for a few days, Citizen is going to limp through, but the HelloCitizen blog will have to take a back seat.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks. Wish us luck...

Thanks for reading.

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, February 20

The Inside Underground: The Future of Music Marketing.

Recently I conducted a Q&A for the Access to Music course, we focussed on Social Media, and Marketing, it was a pretty lively session and the students seemed engaged, and had a lot of questions which highlighted a slight shift Social Marketing, and threw up some interesting ideas and concepts that I'd like to talk about.

An artist accepting that they're a commodity, and offering a targeted market product is a dangerous and repulsive concept. It's always been safer and cooler for artists to ignore this, and let the record company deal with it, but increasingly that isn't possible, for a start there probably isn't a the record company support there, and if there is, there certainly aren't the budgets in place there use to be.

What's happening today is artists rebadging the concept of marketing and making this corporate activity more socially acceptable, and this is happening through Social Media. In spaces like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter bands are happy to talk about themselves and their music, knowing that this distribution of energy will generate new fans to their music naturally. It's easier to control this engagement and it doesn't feel like a corporate activity, but honestly it is, and it works in exactly the same way as a big corporation selling a product.

Finding a Social Audience for a band starts with remarkable content, there's no audience for shit music, except in Germany (that's not true, I don't even know what it means). With a good product in place you have the foundations for a simple effective Social Strategy that can drive people to you. I was asked in my session how somebody who writes from a darker place that's reflective of their neurosis is going to suddenly start Tweeting and Blogging about bight, happy issues to draw people in, but they're really missing the point of the communication. If your music is centered in a certain place, then it's only going to be engaging to people from a similar mindset, and they would be drawn in by a Social Strategy that is reflective of that way of life. Like everything it's about being yourself and hoping there's other people like you, because how ever large or small that group is, it always exists and this defines your market, and ultimately your success.

In the past the size of your potential market made a huge difference to how likely you were to forge a career, Swedish Doom House for example has a relatively small market, and is unlikely to attract record company investment. With social empowerment, coupled with the repositioning of the ideas behind the activity mean that bands can do more to self serve their product and reach their potential audience quicker, than just playing live up and down the country in the vein hope of playing to someone that gets them. In principal it could mean bands would be more selective about their shows, and the shows they do have could be communicated directly to an engaged audience and ultimately be more successful.

That's said, it's really important for bands to understand these techniques and actually do the groundwork themselves, because leaving an intern at the record company to tweet for you will probably lead to the kind of contrived messages Lana Del Ray posted proclaiming herself to be a 'Gangster Nancy Sinatra', and a disingenuous strategy is worse than no social strategy at all.

For me the really interesting question this brings up is the possibility of bands never playing live, to actually be in a successful band that only exists digitally and never ventures out of their home studio.

Bands will slog their guts out touring with other bands and playing anywhere that will put them on in the hope of exposing themselves to wider audience, but that seems fruitless in comparison to being in a band that sounds like 'Sleigh Bells', finding their Titter account, following everyone that follows them and pushing your music directly to people you know are going to be interested. Reaching a wider audience is now literally that easy, and with dedication and a strategy can be easily achieved.

Obviously what this doesn't consider is the fact bands love playing live, and everything that goes with that experience from the sticky stages to the showing-off, and that's never going to change, but what it opens up is exposure for the bands that can't get out, or don't want to. For every 100 bands desperate to set foot on the stage, there has to be 10 that just aren't interested, and this presents them a world of possibilities, and could spawn an Inside Underground scene of unseen heroes.

In broad terms vinyl was the first to go, then cassettes then CDs quickly died, and the music video followed it, then the record companies all withered away, until then live music seemingly saved the day, but when the greed creeps in, and the venues became all powerful, what if they died too? What if all we were left with were artists recording songs directly for people who liked them, in a way that's almost primeval, a return to the very basic concepts of music, devoid of gimmickry, the clutter of marketing and the fog of hype. Sounds amazing to me.

If you'd like to speak to Citizen about your Social Strategy please get in touch for a free consultation.

Monday, February 13

Colour of Nature

Making a colour palette is one thing I really enjoy, I picked up a really good tip from Peter Saville which I've demonstrated above, and that is to take pictures of natural scenes, and use a dropper to take colours out of it, this way you can harness the natural harmony of Nature, and make a colour palette that always works together, after all nature never makes a scene that doesn't work does it? Everything natural looks... 'natural', and this is always pleasing to the eye.

I had this conversation with my brother, and he raised a good point. Do the colours look good together because Nature has a magic power to put colours together that work on a scientific level, that our brains interpret as harmonious, or do our brains interpret those colours as working together because we've seen them together in nature, and we've been conditioned to think this is natural harmony?

Of course traditional colour theory can place complimentary colours together, but this doesn't always hold together when nature gets involved, there are no rules to how natural blends occur, but we always accept them as harmonious. On the page, it can be very difficult to randomly bring a selection of colours together and make them work as a brand palette.

For me Nature Colour Theory is a bit of a cheat mode to making lush, interesting colour palettes, have a go, let me know how you get on.

Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, February 8

Mind Frog

It only occurred to me the other day that not everyone has an opinion on everything that look at. Having only ever lived in my own head I'm comfortable with the fact that absolutely everything I look at I make a snapshot judgement of;

Door knob, way too 80's
Hair, would look better shorter
Iron, looks to aerodynamic, round it off
Pencil, really like the way the rubber tones in with the wood
V5C Form, Nice use of salmon against the blue
Repositioning Spray Tin, badly typeset, boring palette

This list could go on and on, I literally never stop and to be honest, it's really annoying. I wish I could turn it off because I think it's wearing my brain out unnecessarily, I mean I've never been that bright, I've always managed to get by on a limited brain capacity and I don't want what I have to be wasted on making pointless judgements about the colour of a rubber in contrast to it's pencil.

Although I have to admit however that sometimes it's helpful, sometimes in the panic of a brief one of these seeming useless bits of information will slip back in to my head and inspire me, it's impossible to use this information logically to categorise it and pull it up resourcefully, it's just a massive jumble of crap that occasionally drops a sprinkle of gold dust onto something I'm working on.

Most of the time I'd say it was a burden, it's exhausting but I think it's something that all designers do. Once in an interview I told the candidate; "when I go out, I look at everything, I make judgements on design everywhere, and criticise everything graphic I look at, it gives me a headache, do you do this...?"

Their answer was a specular 'No'. at which point I wrapped the interview up and said we'd be in touch. Of course, we never got in touch. Seriously, at least present you're interested in design!

Maybe this is the way designers minds work, perhaps this is why I can never remember a shopping list longer than 3 items, but I'll be able to tell you intricate details about the design of ten labels of Tomato Purée, and it's definitely the reason Karen never send me shopping on my own.

Or call 07738 175 614

Tuesday, February 7

PPH Blog

I know that my blogs haven't been as regular these days, for that I'm sorry, but there are only a certain amount of hours in the day, and for that I'm not sorry.

I've been commissioned to write for the PPH blog until later in the year, so that's taking up a lot of my writing time and ideas, take a look at some of my posts over there.

Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, February 1

Crimpington Post

The simple ideas are always the best, and sometimes the ones you would never consider to be interesting to anyone else and totally barnstorming.

This week the creative team behind The Torygraph invited me to have a look at The Crimpington Post. I'll be honest, to start with I though it was stupid, backs of head, then fronts of head WFT? But then I found myself scrolling through all the images and noticed that from the backs of the heads I started to develop an expectation of that the faces looked like, then on the reveal I was generally wrong. This is genuinely engaging, and a simple idea that a lot of people will find interesting.

It helps that the photography is beautify crisp, and the street models are characterful. It's great example of engaging content and a really human level, and once again honoured to be a part of it (I formatted the blog and created the masthead for them).

Now what could that bloke look like... take a click though and see The Crimpington Post.

Or call 07738 175 614

Tuesday, January 24

Too Busy to Save Lives

If you take a look at this post and figure you can't read it in a minute you're going to 'do one', and that's fair enough. Attention spans are at a critical point, nobody has anytime for anything these days.

People hate reading instructions, wading though tutorials, watching How-To videos and anything that's going to teach them to do something properly, everyone is obsessed with the idea they're busy, and their time is ultra precious, why would they waste it on something they can probably skim read and 'fudge'.

A recent example of this is the Vinnie Jones CPR ad. It's a brilliant advert, the message is great, the script is funny and succinct, and the casting and music are spot on, but take a moment to think about what an important message that is, and how childishly it's been spoon fed to the public.

When the guidelines for first response medical recovery changed last year there was an important message to get out to the public, in the 80's they might have considered a Public Service Broadcast to get people's attention, but these days that's exactly the kind of thing people don't have time for, so instead advertisers have to think of ways into fooling people that they're not having their busy, busy schedule eaten into, and the only way to do this is to blitz them with 'fun'.

The ad takes an important set of instructions for SAVING SOMEONE'S LIFE and breaks them down to BeeGee's song, so we can all remember them. Is this evolution, is this how sophisticated we've all become, is this where our hectic schedules have got us? We all think we're a more sophisticated generation then our parents, but I'm positive they were never too busy to watched a boring Public Service Broadcast about how to save a life.

I'm not blaming the ad, it's brilliant, I'm just saying if we carry on being so busy we have to be spoon fed life saving information to music, then I see a not too distant future where One Direction sing the news, and event though Harry's hair is beyond perfect, we can't allow that.

Hope that was less than a minute. Thanks for your time.

Here's the ad:

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Thursday, January 19

Yellow is the new Punk Rock

Obvious really, I don't want to patronise you, but I'll make my case.
Things move in cycles, and for the last few years we've worked our way though the process colours in some kind of salute to the simplicity of the times, even though the 'times' have been really complicated and that doesn't make any sense, perhaps we've all subconsciously mourned the loss of simplicity whilst moaning that our iPhones can't scrape the ice off our windscreens.
So back in late 90's we were all very Black, people loved saying "Black is the new Black," and it became sophisticated to make everything Black, it was shorthand for quality and it's absence of light was reflective of the era, as the Prophet Richard Madeley filled his bath tub with hand wipes bottled water and waited for the Millennium Bug to destroy our Black world.
This was Colour's Metal Period.
Then we all woke up to a new dawn of realisation; we weren't going to die if our nan's Microwave reset it's clock. This gave us new hope and everything went Blue, Facebook now owned Blue, taking it from monolithic companies like Intel and HP. The Facebook blue went though several changes with millions of people threatening never to post on their wall again if they changed it one more time. They did change it, and everyone continued to post what they were having for tea, everyday.
This was Colour's ambitious Folk Period
The markets were buoyant, pocket money averages were at an all time high, and people on benefits were enjoying Spa Days, these really were the glory days, nothing could stop us now. The Magenta reflected the opulence we all enjoyed, these really were Romanic times, grapes were everywhere and everyone was so happy, the only thing they had to worry about was what was going to go wrong, and they didn't have long to wait.
This was colours Prog Period.
This brings us crashing into the current day. Times are hard again, people are depressed the world is looking for a new hope, something to blow away the sickly memories of Magenta, but still to give them hope, the people have turned to Yellow to do this. 
Yellow is the new Punk Rock, it's given us all hope, it's saying if I can do this, a colour that doesn't really work against white, a colour that makes people think of dehydrated urine, and colour that means 'passive or scared,' then you, yes you can do anything. Use it.
Or call 07738 175 614

Tuesday, January 17

First Touch

For football fans who like Soccer Am more than actual football, and think Tim Lovejoy is more influential on the game than Tim Sherwood, Johann Cruyff is the pinnacle of cool. The above video is probably something that they've never seen before and it shows what some people think is the greatest first touch of all time, now I've not seen every first touch, but from the limited range I have, it's pretty smart. He puts exactly enough stink on the ball to drop it into an area just right to run onto and bend it round the keeper. Sweet.

But really, what does this have to do with you, and the marketing industry as a whole, well… nothing really. Except the words 'First Touch' do have marketing connotations, and your first touch with a customer had better put you into enough space to delicately bend the ball around the keeper, and not fall flat on your nuts in front of the away fans. Your first touch could be anything, from your hair cut to your business card, your website to your Facebook Page, basically anything that's going to give a potential customer a first impression of what kind of business they're going dealing with and getting it right is essential, get it wrong and a precious opportunity could be wasted.

So, there's nothing I can do about your haircut, and even if I pitched an idea you'd not listen, but there is something I can do about your brand. A strong brand is created not from a logo, but from an idea of what the company is about, what is does, what it means to people and what is can offer. Only from this clear proposition can a brand can flourish. If everything is built from this idea upwards then your brand will be strong, aligned and have the potential to create a positive first touch for all potential customers that encounter it. Understanding the importance of a solid brand is only for those people that know what their business means to other people, and want to create something that embraces this, the people that dismiss this way of thinking are really just Emile Hesky when he was at Liverpool. Speak to Citizen about creating a positive first touch.

Get in touch ben@citizenstudios.co.uk Visit www.citizenstudios.co.uk Or call 07738 175 614

Thursday, January 12

New Cassettes – Winterhead

Popular electric indie rock beat combo The New Cassettes approached me about a year ago to create the art for their new album on N13 Records and of course I agreed. we met in The Charles Bradlaugh and discussed what they were looking for. They wanted something reflective of their ideas behind the music, less abstract than perhaps some people might approach this, and with a little bit of Roxy Music sexiness thrown in. 

My first idea was to find out what the band actually thought the music was about, so I asked them to each put together around 5-10 images for each song that represented it's origins, they did this and I created this montage:

This gave me a texture with which to fill my illustration, I wanted to use this with shading to create a layered affect across skin tones and body shapes, so the next stage was to create the model for the montage to sit within, this was done with this illustration, that kept the limbs and chair separate so that could be selected and different parts of the montage layered in:

Next step was to drop parts of the montage into the areas of the illustration, then apply the shading and draw the hair, the end result was a 1000mmx1000mm illustration that I could crop into to make different covers and pages for the booklet, and never reveal the full piece of work;

And that's how it was done, simple but effective and a beautiful piece of work that captures the spirit of the band, and the ideas behind the music.

The album is out this March on N13 Records.

Please get in touch is you'd like Citizen to develop album or single artwork for you, or if you have any questions on how this artwork was created.

Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, January 9

Stop worrying about 1984, it's over...

People think they hate adverts, they think they hate being marketed too, and that all promotions are evil ways of trying to suck some money out of their wallet. They think this, until they see an advert that appeals to them and makes them spend some money, then after that, they hate adverts again. 

This is how our generation is, we're all about skipping the ads on Sky Planner, ignoring them in magazines and moaning about them on websites, 
What if every advert was directly for you, what if you'd grown up in a world where advertisers only bothered you when they had something you wanted, at the price you wanted to pay for it? Then advertising isn't annoying, it's helpful. Well, this is the world we live in today, and until we stop being scared of a faux 'Big Brother Society,' and stop worrying that someone is going to download our saved games on Grand Theft Auto and a million photos of us in the pub, then our generation is never going to get there. We've got to be flexible on what we consider to be 'Orwellian Measures' and accept that fewer, more relevant messages is far more acceptable than a thousand irrelevant ones.
Web and mobile Location Services are the key to this. The kids growing up now think nothing of broadcasting their location every minute of the day on sites like Facebook and Foursquare, but us grown ups snigger at them for thinking 1984 was just a year Band Aid happened, they don't understand the dangers of people knowing where they area all the time, back in our day nobody knew where we were, and obviously that was much safer!
As ever the kids are alright, they're the ones accepting this, without knowing why they need to hide themselves all the time, or without understanding the social pressure to fear corporations and data collection, they are in fact freeing themselves from an old, crippling school of thought that opens up endless opportunity, and potentially declutters their lives from pointless communications.
Of course I don't want to publish my PIN code on Facebook and I don't want people to know when I'm doing a poo, but that's not how these things are set up, they're built with care and security and we have to trust them. Ultimately that's easier if you have nothing to hide, but Location Services aren't there to catch people out, they're there for a new generation of Nano-Targeted advertising, they're there so when you breakdown you get an advert for the AA, when you're having a party you know where to get a cake, and they're there to free you from the DFS Bank Holiday sale advert where everyone's laying on an unmade bed - unless you want a bed of course.
The youth are never wrong about these things, just like they were about The Beatles, Punk Rock and Wham Bars, they know how to live in their times. They'll laugh at us in 40 years as we cower away in an old people's home paranoid the government is spying on our phone, then they'll take us to the toilet and post on Facebook we're doing a poo, so you see, we can never win.

Or call 07738 175 614

Tuesday, January 3

2012 Let's Make This Happen...

My office was never this cold, it really wasn't this is disgusting, why did I sit here in the cold, typing stuff, when I could be playing Hungry Hippos (with Maltesers) by the fire.

So far 2012 has been boring, no uprising, riots, overdoses or choirs made up of soldiers wives, so let's make some predictions for 2012...

1. People will get bored of Facebook changing all the time.

Timeline launches on the 9th Jan, and it's a pretty big step forward, it breaks down your whole life into a time line of Facebook events (actually quite a depressing thought), starting from your birth, then skipping to when you joined Facebook and then running through all the events from there.

I don't know about you, but recently I've been a bit frustrated with Facebook, and left with a feeling I'm not as involved with friends posts as I used to be, it seems to have become a little too insular, and I think this is a result of it worrying too much about Google+ 's USP of exclusivity. Which brings us onto our next point...

2. Social Exclusivity

Google+ started this, and Facebook has also developed the way it works to incorporate it. This is all happening because the rate people are gathering friends across all platforms, in about 15 years time everyone will be connected to everyone, and then everything is ruined. Advertising becomes less targeted, messages become diluted and communication is back to being 'mass', and loses it's 'Nano' appeal.

Earlier this year asked this question to Dave Kerpen and he told me that these sites are dealing with this by forcing people to group their contacts, and target their messages more directly to those groups. You can see this happening across the platforms, but if it's going to work, the algorithms that make these calculations for you, (especially on Facebook) have got to get more intelligent.

3. Some Famous People will Die

I've been thinking about this a lot, but here's the official Deathlist 2012.

4. BandApp Will Be Huge

There's a new app coming for Bands, it's been around of 2 years, but it's being rebuilt, rebranded and relaunched, and Citizen are at the heart of this new initiative. Citizen, along side Colin Hayward of Monogram Digital have just signed an 18 Month deal to be part of the team that makes this App, the biggest distribution aid for unsigned Bands. I'll keep you posted on this.

What do you think's going to happen, get you predictions in now before they happen.

Or call 07738 175 614