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Hair we go! Betfair’s latest PR stunt

I must admit, Betfair is not afraid of any bold PR moves.  With its cheeky tone and macho target audience it’s got licence to be a bit brave when it comes to its PR.

Some would say that Bromley FC’s big FA Cup match against Leyton Orient wouldn’t normally be given the time of day in the nationals.  But a new mobile website packaged into a quirky stunt meant it received some impressive coverage over the weekend, included a big splash in the Metro.

The story is that ahead of the FA Cup match, Betfair enlisted the help of Wayne Rooney’s hairdresser to shave QR codes onto the heads of all Bromley FC players to help the online betting brand show its support for grass roots footie.  In many ways this was PR gold – celeb tie-in, great branded photography and a signpost to Betfair’s new mobile website all made for a great PR stunt.  But, the use of Quick Response codes on the heads of football players running around a pitch does raise a few questions over whether the tool actually worked.

Many brands are jumping on the QR Code bandwagon at the moment and it’s not the first time that Betfair has turned to the technology as a way of leveraging its sponsorship (check out the Beach Volleyball campaign back in the summer).

Getting QR Codes right

But it’s important to get it right if brands are going to see QR codes as more than just a fad.  The Drum recently ran an article about top tips to make sure your QR code works so it’s certainly worth a read if you’re looking for practical hints.  In summary, it’s all about location, location, location – can the consumer easily access the code, is it well placed to be easily and safely scanned and what value does the consumer get from using it?

Tesco’s use of QR Codes in South Korea is a perfect example of how the technology can be used to make the consumer’s life easier and drive growth.  This fantastic video shows how the use of QR codes ensured Tesco became the number one online grocery store in the country and demonstrates how consumer insight coupled with clever and relevant technology can have real commercial gains.

I’m not sure whether the Bromley FC faithful would have been interested in taking their eye off the ball during Saturday’s match or if in fact they were able log onto Betfair’s site using the QR Codes, so it remains to be seen whether there has been any commercial benefit from this.  But from a creative media relations campaign with neat message delivery – hats off to Betfair.

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If you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve just woken up in the middle of a soap opera.  The UK’s largest newspaper has closed amid the phone hacking scandal, there have been accusations of police bribery and sadly, a whistleblowing journalist was found dead on Monday.  It’s fair to say that the drama that has unfolded over recent days has read something like a John Grisham novel. 

I’m not going to go into the complex issues that have engulfed News International – there are plenty of column inches devoted to the saga which make interesting reading.  But yesterday’s parliamentary grilling of Rupert and James Murdoch has dominated headlines when MPs’ questioning soon turned into a circus.  

In a bizarre twist, a protester attacked Rupert Murdoch with a shaving foam pie, which was swiftly rewarded with a right hook from Murdoch’s wife, Wendi.

I was watching the session live myself and when cameras were temporarily turned off during the commotion, I was among thousands who turned to Twitter to see what was happening.

The Guardian’s clever infograph here paints a fascinating picture of how the event dominated twitterverse – quickly going from #hackgate to #piegate .

While the episode was particularly telling of the way we rely on social media for instant news, I can’t help wondering that #piegate may have done wonders for boosting Murdoch’s image, when public opinion has been at an all-time low.

But if one thing’s for sure – we’ve not seen the end of the hacking scandal just yet.

Licensed to Chill

So, the sun is shining and forecasters promise that we’re set to enjoy a month of sizzling temperatures.  What better way to celebrate than launch National Ice Cream Week and remind the nation of the great British seaside.

Fredericks, makers of Cadbury’s ice cream, took to the waters yesterday in the world’s first amphibious ice cream van, sailing down the Thames at a grand old speed of five knots and inviting onlookers to dive in and grab an ice cream.

While luck would have it that the stunt took place on the first day of the heatwave, the move was genius none of the less and had a serious message about the meltdown of the independent ice cream van industry due to councils’ red tape.

It’s got some great press coverage today and is part of a bigger campaign which will see the seafaring van tour top seaside destinations and ask Brits to vote for their favourite seaside destination.

There’s a lot going on in the campaign.  There’s a microsite dedicated to National Ice Cream Week complete with nutritional info and social media channels.  It’s jampacked with voting mechanics, campaigning for reduced legislation and championing the great British seaside.  I just wonder whether there’s a bit too much going on for it to truly engage with consumers?  

But, a successful launch stunt from Fredericks anyway.  It’s definitely made me think about queuing up for an ice cream of my own.

There’s been a string of announcements today to coincide with National No Smoking Day. 

The Government has announced plans to introduce plain packaging to cigarette boxes, The Mirror’s reported a fifth of smokers would rather give up love than quit smoking and NHS trusts up and down the country have reminded people about the free services available all in the name of encouraging smokers to quit for good.

But in true diva-style, Kate Moss has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons by strutting her stuff on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week seductively smoking a cig. 

It was all part of the theatre at Louis Vuitton’s fetish -inspired show to launch its latest collection and Kate just so happened to steal the show.  There’s no doubt the catwalk is just a stage, with models simply playing out the part to capture the zeitgeist of designers’ creations and I’m certainly not suggesting that Moss, along with other celebs, should stub out. 

But the message that comes across from the catwalk is that smoking is glam and on National No Smoking Day, the timing couldn’t be worse. 

The Guardian’s also reported today that there could be more plans to curb the promotion of tobacco in the media  – Ofcom already states that smoking shouldn’t be glamourised on TV.  And on this occasion, I can’t help thinking it may have a point.

Great British Grub

So the snack stop staple, Cornish Pasty has been given protected status which has been met with delight from Cornish Pasty Association and pasty lovers  across the country – well almost!

It puts the pasty in esteemed company such as the Melton Mowbry Pie and Cornish Clotted Cream to make the list of 42 British specialities secured by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) – kind of the food world’s equivalent to the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good news that traditional, regional delicacies are celebrated for their quality, but it does make you slightly envious when look at the list of mouth-watering treats from our neighbours across the channel.  Hard to believe really, that the humble Cornish Pasty will sit on the same prestigious list as Champagne, Prosciutto, Rioja and Feta when the PGI comes into force next month.

But taste buds aside, the ruling will have an impact on bakers, large and small, that produce Cornish Pasties and brands will need to adapt their offering to work within the new regulations. 

Greggs is quick off the mark and already turning to its Facebook fans to come up with an alternative name to its popular pasty.  There are a couple of questionable suggestions from the bakers’ faithful fans, but good to see Greggs capitalising on their brand loyalty and if it counts, my vote goes for the Cornish-ish Pasty!

Memorabilia mania – from kitsch to crazy

It’s official.  Britain really is obsessed with the Royal Wedding.  Ever since the announcement last November, the hype around Will and Kate’s impending nuptials has reached global proportions and many are looking to cash in on the action.  

The wedding merchandise market is big business, expected to rake in more than £26 million, but Royal Wedding memorabilia has gone from the kitsch to the crazy in just a few short months.

We’ve had the obligatory plate, tea towel and commemorative coin, even the Royal Wedding condoms and now the Royal Wedding gnomes (a smart move from B&Q to promote DIY during the long weekend).

But, hats off to Lydia Leith for bringing us the most bizarre offering yet. The graphic designer has created the first Royal Wedding sick bags, special limited edition bags for those fed up of the media hype around the big day. 

I couldn’t help but smile at the irony given the souvenirs have only added to column inches devoted to the Royal Wedding, but a brilliant idea nonetheless.  I wonder how quickly they’ll sell out?!

Do you think we’ve had the most bizarre memorabilia yet?  I doubt it, watch this space.

This week sees the launch of the world’s first paperless paper, the Daily – available exclusively on the iPad in all its interactive glory.  It’s groundbreaking stuff and no doubt marks a step towards how we’ll consume our news in the future.  However, it comes the same day as the launch of an iPhone cover which turns your slick, smart phone into a retro-inspired brick from the 80s.

Both stories were covered in today’s Sun and it made me think about how, as we’re hurtling towards the future faster than you can say app, we’re continuing to clutch onto the past with the tips of our fingers.

Nostalgia marketing has been a trend for the last couple of years with some of Britain’s biggest brands bringing back their best-loved ads from yesteryear.  It’s something that my fellow Finnster, Janelle blogged about recently with the re-launch of Soothers’ 90’s ad

We’ve also seen those retro products making a comeback to help us reminisce of times gone by.  Cadbury’s brought back its Wispa following a Facebook campaign, 80s favourite the Rubiks cube hit shelves in time for Christmas a couple of years ago and at Finn we also brought back Findus Crispy Pancakes.

So, what is it that gives us a penchant for the past?  Well, according to scientists during times of uncertainty, we feel a need to be socially connected and we find comfort in those things that help us reminisce of a much simpler time.

By playing on our sentimental emotions, we’re reminded of the good old days which therefore brings a greater connection between a brand and its target audience.

So does it mean that we’ll be trading in our slim-line iPhones in favour of the Ferris Bueller-inspired bricks?  Erm, not just yet.  It just means that while we’re embracing new technology with open arms, we’ll still keeping one eye on the past.

Happy Monday … happy holidays

So, apparently today is the happiest day of the year.  I’d always choose Christmas Day or even just a Saturday, but I can see what those folk at Manchester Met mean.  We’re finally seeing the back of January and just about made it to payday, all in time to book our summer holidays (cue promising sales figures from a travel company!)

So, just two weeks after the most miserable day of the year am I really approaching the year ahead with the renewed vigour that psychologists claim I am?

Well, not entirely.  I keep remembering the new year resolutions I made, only to pledge to try harder tomorrow and despite being paid, I’m still thinking about the post-Christmas credit card bill I’m due to settle, but I’ll give it to them – it has made me think about sunnier climes and where to jet off to this year.

So, after trawling the web for inspiration tonight, it’s made me think about how our holiday habits have changed.  I remember booking my first fortnight away (Faliraki – 1999) with just the holiday brochure to hand and the vague recollection that somebody somewhere had once mentioned the resort. 

Now, before booking a hotel, even for just one night away, I grab the nearest Lonely Planet, log onto Tripadvisor and try Google several times over to ensure no travel tool is left unturned.  I’m actually pretty surprised only a third of British holidaymakers use social media to research their holiday.

California - on this year's holiday hit list

While I don’t want to feel like I’ve already been there, done that and bought the t shirt before I’ve made it through Arrivals- I like knowing that the place I’ve picked has been given the thumbs up by other travellers.  What’s more, it’s great to uncover those little restaurants or must-see bars that aren’t featured in the guide books.

So, while I’m still deciding whether it’s California or Cambodia, I’m looking forward to planning my next holiday.  Maybe those psychologists were right after all.

This week, Tayside Police has launched a new social media campaign which sees police officers tweeting on the beat to provide travel updates and crime prevention advice.

This follows Greater Manchester Police’s campaign last Autumn which tweeted every 999 incident during 24 hours to highlight the pressure that’s put on the force.

Brands turning to Twitter to engage with their audience is nothing new, but a police force using new channels of communication has grabbed the headlines this week, both regionally and in the trade media.

What is more interesting is Tayside Police is the first to pilot a new online feedback system, called MyPolice.  The tool, created by two graduates in Scotland, allows people to share their experiences of their local police – good and bad, so the police can really understand the issues facing local communities to ultimately improve their service.  

It’s early days in the campaign and it’ll be interesting to see how much the local people actively engage in social media over the next three months.  However it’s a step towards the police and the public having open conversations and it’s definitely one to watch.

What better way to start 2011 than the year’s first internet sensation and a feel good story.

This week, Ted Williams from Ohio has been whisked from obscurity to become an overnight success, grabbing headlines stateside and this side of the pond. 

The homeless man, gripping a handwritten sign by the side of a main road, captivated residents with his incredible ‘golden voice’, before being filmed by a reporter and catapulted into internet stardom.

Within 24 hours, the former radio announcer became a cyber sensation and received a much needed makeover to hit airwaves and grace TV screens  to tell his incredible tale.  With more than five million You Tube hits and trending on Twitter, according to Google, Yahoo and AOL, Ted Williams is said to be more popular on search engines than our very own internet sensation, Susan Boyle.  

It’s no wonder Williams’ rags to riches story has got people talking.  Like Susan Boyle, we love those unlikely characters that defy our expectations and his tale gets even sweeter when yesterday Ted was reunited with his mother  live on American TV

While Ted’s life has been turned upside down this week with the broadcast appearances mounting up and job offers flooding in, there’s even talk that the guy with the great voice could become a millionaire.  Let’s hope so.