All posts by Claire Kendrick

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When you work for big corporations, a defined level of professionalism is mandatory.  You can’t get your foot in the door without it.  There is very little room for bad manners, or strange behaviour, in the world of the blue-chip.  Why would there be?  Successful corporations can choose from the cream of the crop.  And the cream tend to be exceedingly well mannered, and not that strange (or at least able keep up the pretence of normality during office hours).

It came as quite a shock to me that these rules don’t always extend to the world of SMEs.  My role here at RumbleChat is to help lifestyle companies with their marketing.  The majority of these businesses tend to be small. The vast majority of small businesses I encounter operate in a lovely, friendly, considerate and professional manner – I cannot emphasise this enough.  They are a joy to work with and making a positive difference to their businesses makes every working day worthwhile.

There are however, a small minority, who really let the side down.  And it’s to this small, dysfunctional subset that this blog is dedicated.

I have worked with several self-proclaimed entrepreneurs…and now give them a wide birth. Not entrepreneurs in general, just the self-proclaimed variety. If you have to proclaim it yourself, then I find that leads to you employing it as a mandate for generally unprofessional/strange behaviour.

One client I had took to calling me late at night, when he was stressing about whether the level of unsubscribes for his email newsletters were higher than average. They weren’t, and 10pm really was not the right time to discuss it.

Another time, I was working onsite at a small online retailer’s office, when the MD (a seemingly techy guy in his mid ‘40s) came striding out of the toilet, bellowing, “I’d give that ten!”

Toilets have been a recurring place for strange behaviour. When working on another client’s site, another male MD insisted on using the female toilet, because he, “preferred it,” regardless of the fact that it made the female staff members distinctly uncomfortable.

The guy who ate three Cadburys Cream Eggs for lunch deserves a mention; as does the chap who encouraged employees to wear ‘indoor shoes’ to work, in the hope that he could save on cleaning costs. All of these pale into insignificance in comparison to the next tale, however, which blows ‘quirky’ right out of the water.

A friend of mine (let’s call her Sally), just had what can only be described as a lucky escape, with a small research company, scarily reminiscent of the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey (if you don’t know it, look it up now, as this is a recurring metaphor!). Run by a husband and wife, and their daughter…I know, I know, alarm bells should have rung at this point!

It wasn’t a really tiny one-man-band, though, where you can see how weird practices might prevail – I mean, everyone’s normal is normal to them, right?  That’s why it’s helpful to interact with other humans, to check where you’re at on the dysfunctional barometer.

No, this looked, at first glance, like a ‘proper’ office, with almost 20 workers, some decent clients, a fairly respectable turnover…and the weirdest practices you are ever likely to encounter this side of Fawlty Towers/Wernham Hogg/the Big Brother House/*outlandishly ridiculous setting of your choice*.

Sally’s account of her time there sounds too far-fetched to be true, but she swears (on her cat’s life…and she really loves that cat) that every word is true.

The daughter was allegedly Sally’s line manager, but had to keep trotting off to Dad to double check that it was acceptable for my friend to leave early/move onto a new piece of work/scratch her nose/use the toilet.

At this point, it’s probably relevant to give you the low-down on Sally.  Her career trajectory was impressively vertical. She’s held some senior level, big-hitting jobs in media companies, but, like so many of us, post children, she’s rejected the corporate greasy pole, in favour of flexible, part time work. For her, the closer to home, the better…until now.

When she first started, she thought it was quite endearing when Mum told her that they ensure that all the staff eat their lunch together.  What she hadn’t realised, was that this actually meant that it was forbidden to leave the building at lunchtime, or eat your lunch at the time of your own, personal choosing. In Royston Vasey Land, the secretary ceremoniously rang upstairs to proclaim, “Lunchtime, everybody down!” at which point you were expected to dutifully shuffle downstairs to sit and eat, while making strained conversation with colleagues.

I mean, surely the main purpose of your lunch hour is to take a break and change of scenery to maintain mental health, and ensure you don’t end up punching that really annoying colleague in the face?

Speaking of colleagues, by all accounts they were a motley crew. They were all female, bar ‘Dad’ and the bloke in charge of IT, and refilling the printer (the son of family friends of ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’). A fairly neat split between women who’d worked there since the dawn of time, and graduates/students (who had no other experience of work, and will presumably get an enormous shock if they ever manage to leave Royston Vasey). This was a local [office], for local people, with Tubbs and Edward at the helm.

The IT systems were so bad that the internet collapsed on a daily basis and twice a day, the IT bloke would leg it around the office shouting “Don’t save! Don’t save!” as the rickety reporting software (that their entire business depended on), was prone to throw you out, mid-report, losing everything you’d worked on for the past couple of hours.

On Wednesdays, everyone was encouraged to evacuate the building quick-smart, at 5pm, as Dad and Daughter used the main office for a personal training session.

When Sally first started, Mum asked her, in a furtive whisper (there was a lot of that going on) to send her invoices to a secret email address, as the rate she had negotiated was, “more than double,” that of everyone else.  The next day Mum collared her to insist that she didn’t actually send any invoices by email, but rather printed out a hard copy and placed it directly into ‘Mum’s’ hands as “You never know who’s watching.”

On day 5, Dad called Sally in, “For a chat,” to express his displeasure as he’d seen her texting in the office.  She’s 41. When her 11 year old son rang her to check in, communal eyebrows were raised to the ceiling at her audacity in answering her phone.

She attempted to ingratiate herself by nipping to Tesco Express when the milk had run out. When she returned, brandishing a litre of semi-skimmed, her startled co-workers told her in fraught whispers that only skimmed milk was acceptable here.  They point-blank refused to use it, presumably in case Mum or Dad found out. Luckily, crisis was averted by IT bloke, who shot out the door in a rapid fashion, returning with a bottle of red top, before the family members were any the wiser.

So what of Sally now? Following two more ‘chats’ with Dad over innocuous/heinous misdemeanours (depending where you sit on the weirdo spectrum), she threw in the towel and ran, as fast as her legs could carry her.  She lasted 11 days. She swears she’s psychologically scarred, having been left with “a fear of the freak-shows that are small businesses.” She went and got herself a new job for a large, London-based company, with proper systems, a website that works, and all the bells and whistles that the majority of the business world, take for granted.

I’d like to make it clear that I don’t share her phobia.  Fortunately, the majority of small businesses are well-run, and a pleasure to work for. To identify that small minority, and avoid an experience like Sally’s however, I suggest ingesting the complete boxset of The League of Gentlemen, and remaining vigilant at all times.  If Papa Lazarou wouldn’t look out of place, don’t even go there!

 

Here at RumbleChat we unashamedly love a bit of #houseporn.  So when the first of our clan mentioned their visit to the fabulous state-of-the-art MADE.COM showroom in Soho, the rest of us were compelled to follow, lemming-like, to gaze in wonder at this experiential interiors delight.

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An innovative take on the new clicks and mortar approach to retail, MADE.COM HQ is situated at 100 Charring Cross Road, directly opposite that bastion of old-school retail, Foyles bookshop. Two polar opposites of retail experience, within spitting distance.

MADE.COM is one of my favourite homeware brands.  Its ‘cut-out-the-middleman’ ethos enables it to deliver quality, design-lead furniture at a fraction of the usual high street price, which came in mighty handy when undertaking my house renovation in 2011.

MADE.COM have streamlined furniture design and revolutionised the homeware business model. In 2014 they were the second fastest growing tech company in the UK.  They use crowd-sourced design, whereby only pieces with the highest consumer votes make it to production to ensure that new collections remain fresh and appealing.

The only downside to the early-days business model was the fact that you had to buy products unseen. MADE.COM addressed this issue in 2012 with the opening of a (lovely, but bog-standard) Notting Hill showroom. Fast forwards to January 2015 and they opened their flagship showroom, a physical/digital hybrid perfectly aligned to the needs of the voyeuristic clicks and mortar consumer.

The vast expanse is divided into lifelike ‘room’ settings.  There is a kids’ area, proudly displaying items from the new children’s range, including the scandi-style Linus bunk bed which was immediately added to my lengthy wish-list.

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The backdrop to these ‘real’ room settings is a rotating digital catalogue of MADE.COM furniture items projected onto adjacent walls.  It’s a simple yet innovative concept that means that MADE.COM can change the display without incurring the cost or hassle of shipping in new furniture. The images may be a wee bit flat (there’s definitely no 3D augmented reality going on here), but it still works really well.

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One entire wall is made up of a gallery of product postcards, where you can take away handy reminders of products that have caught your eye. Next to this sea of postcards sits a bank of android tablets, with a fabulously explicit call to action that again seamlessly connects physical with digital.

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By submitting your email address (mandatory for signing into the devices) the retailer can track your footfall and interactions as you traverse the showroom…genius! Meanwhile a bank of Apple Macs create an internet café vibe at the back of the store, enabling you to browse and order in a home-from-home fashion while notices on walls and tables remind you to share products you like on social media.
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None of this is rocket science, but the combined effect of all these simple touches is to create a unique, harmonious fusion of innovation and tradition. MADE.COM has cleverly created the perfect amalgam of physical and digital to satisfy the wants and needs of the modern shopper. We’re suitably impressed.

There is no doubt that social media lends itself to negative behaviour. The inadvertent anonymity it offers makes it ripe for abuse from spineless, cowardly bullies.  Its advent represented a revolution for stalkers. Imagine how they must have rejoiced when they realised they could now invade their prey’s personal space from the comfort of their own (smelly, dark, closed-curtained?) bedrooms.

Social media doesn’t just aid people with existing behavioural problems.  It unleashed a whole new wave of disciples. I mean, it’s fairly normal these days to keep tabs on your ex via Facebook, but the news is full of cases where dumpees have taken revenge on dumpers via social media, whether it be posting illicit photos or other, equally cringe-worthy actions of public shaming.

Social media represents the evolution of bullying – providing a platform for constant psychological torture and creating a cyber-hell that transcends into real life. From the vicious trolling on Twitter, to the teens coerced into suicide via Facebook and Ask.FM, to ‘catfishing’ (? fodder for another blog methinks!), we are relentlessly bombarded by accounts of hideous (in)human behaviour facilitated by social media.

There is no doubt that, in the wrong hands, social media is a powerful force of evil, BUT(and you’ll be delighted to hear it’s a great big, shiny, BUT) it has also shown itself to be an equally powerful force for good.

For a recent example of this, just google ‘Dancing Man’. In a nutshell, hideous fat-shaming bullies posted photos of a man dancing on his own to 4chan (an anonymous bulletin board) with the caption: “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.”

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As you can see, in the first photo, the man is dancing happily, while in the second he looks downtrodden and embarrassed. So far, so despicable, and an example of social media at its worst. BUT (it’s another shiny one!), rather than join the bullies in their persecution of an innocent man, most people have felt sorry for him.  A group of female dancers, lead by Cassandra Fairbanks, started an online campaign to find him. Their aim? To fly him out to LA to dance with them, thereby sticking two fingers up to bullies everywhere.

The online search, spearheaded by the hashtag #FindDancingMan quickly went viral and after just 12 hours, the man got in touch with the following tweet:

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Now, he has been sent a VIP invite to dance party in LA with 2000 women and Moby and Pharrell DJing.

A similarly heart-warming tale is that of disabled pensioner, Alan Barnes.  The partially-sighted 67 year old was left with a broken collar bone after being mugged outside his home in Low Fell, Gateshead. The distressed pensioner was scared about staying in his home because he no longer felt safe there.

After reading about his story, kind-hearted local beautician Katie Cutler set up a fundraising page to help Alan with the cost of moving to a new home. Katie had hoped to raise a few hundred pounds, but by the power of social media, her appeal went viral and thousands of pounds poured in from around the world. She ended up handing over a whopping £324k to the pensioner, whilst simultaneously restoring his faith in human kindness.

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On a smaller scale, a Brighton blogger and newly-single mum who tweeted about not being able to afford any toys for her 3 young daughters last Xmas, was staggered by the results. In her own words:

‘…strangers who had their own children and family to buy for, yet took the time, and budget to pick presents for my daughters (and me!), wrapped and sent in time for Christmas. I don’t think a more generous thing will ever happen to me in my life and I am humbled by the milk of their kindness.’

Click here to read more of her story.

So, how’s that for some heart-warming examples of the kindness of strangers, expedited by social media? Sadly, there will always be wrong uns who choose to go over to the dark side, but let’s take heart in the fact that it’s not their stories that the global social media community chooses to celebrate  and share.

 

I love a bit of retailer innovation.  So imagine my delight when I nipped into town for a few (boring) essentials this morning, and found myself face-to-face (or should that be face-to-bonnet?) with the fabulous Bessie the Bus. For those of you unfamiliar with Bessie, she is Oasis’ new mobile shop. You can check out her story here.

Bessie is an old mobile library, refitted in a fab #fashpack style is currently on tour.  Her schedule is chocca – she’s visiting regional events, retail parks, and high streets where Oasis does not currently have a retail presence. What a brilliant concept – the store that comes to customers rather than waiting for customers to come to them.

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What makes Bessie even better is that fact that she’s not simply an Oasis groupie…or worse, a jumped-up-market-stall. She’s had a modern-retro makeover that accentuates her fun, quirky side. Her  bespoke interior includes a kitchen hob holding key accessories, a breakfast bar that doubles as a hanging display unit and a jewellery box that opens to print customer receipts She also has a fitting room and the best sales staff EVER (how much do they love their jobs?!).

Bessie has more than 250 stops planned in her 2015 tour…so it shouldn’t be long before she’s at a venue near you. You can even petition for her to visit your town via Twitter using #bessiethebus. Go Bessie!

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I don’t know about you, but it’s taken me a while to find my 2015 stride.  I mean, it’s hard to believe that we’ve finally reached the year that Marty Fly visited in Back to the Future II. So it turns out that we don’t have flying cars, there isn’t a female US president and hoverboards are not the favoured transport of the younger generation.

The film did, however, accurately predict handheld tablets, 3D movies and video conferencing. In comparison to 1989, when it was made, the technologies of today are unrecognisable and far-fetched.   But as with everything, the progress has snuck up on us gradually. We don’t bat an eyelid at Google glasses and Skype is pretty run of the mill these days. It’s easy to dismiss how far we’ve come.  The advances in marketing since 1989 are even more radical. Our industry changes so rapidly and hindsight nearly always provides a glaring missed opportunity or ‘could have done better’ moment.

So, how to grab the marketing bull by the horns in 2015? My top tip would be to stop chasing marketing trends and take some time to design a strategically driven marketing mix for your business. It can include several compatible strategies and merge traditional and digital channels to produce the perfect brand-oriented marketing blend.

It may sound obvious, but successful content marketing is reliant on a content marketing strategy.  This strategy is essential. It guides your otherwise eclectic content marketing efforts and is the cornerstone to digital marketing success. Whereas content was undeniably king in 2014, in 2015 it will take on a more presidential role.  By which I mean it is pivotal to all your communications, not just an insubstantial figurehead. Make sure that you are investing in content creation and curation.  You can no longer afford to ‘wing it’, using an ad-hoc/when you’re not tied up with other things approach.

Let’s not forget that the bastion of content marketing is a customer-centric vision.  In 2015, our ongoing quest is to improve the customer experience.  Customers these days are incredibly aware of their worth, and empowered by the knowledge that a single complaint on social media can have a costly impact on a brand.

So, in a nutshell, the best way to apply this to your content marketing is:

  • Get personal – connect, engage and listen intently.
  • Customise – where possible make sure your content is always relevant to your target audience and tweaked for brand relevance.
  • Entertain – within reason, you can’t go wrong if you’re entertaining your customer.
  • Build brand ambassadors – they will be worth their weight in gold.

The other key aspect of marketing in 2015 is to ensure that you THINK MOBILE FIRST. Smartphones and tablets made up 60% of total digital media time spent in 2014 (up 50% from 2013). 2015 looks set to build on this, as analysts are predicting that by 2017, mobile will represent 91% of all internet use.

The key learning here is to keep mobile users at the forefront of your mind in terms of all website updates and marketing communications. If you ensure that you keep the customer front of mind in all your marketing activity you should avoid falling foul of 2015’s big bombshell…DIGITAL DISAPPOINTMENT. Digital natives are the most spoilt and demanding customers ever.  Find a way to make meeting their digital expectations the core of your business and you might just be onto a winner.

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As a child I distinctly remember feeling utterly bewildered when my mum inferred that she didn’t really like Christmas.  I was totally incredulous.  Beautiful decorations, a manic sense of excitement, loads of yummy food, (illicit) chocolate for breakfast and piles of presents…what’s not to like about that combination?

As a grown-up, with three kids of my own, I totally get what she meant. Every year I vow to be more organised and get Christmas under wraps early doors…and every year I fail.  This year I even managed to lull myself into a false sense of security by procuring a couple of gifts in late October.  ‘Go me!’ I thought smugly, and then proceeded to sit on my festive laurels for another month.  December 1st arrived, bringing with it that traditional sense of festive panic that has tainted all recent Christmases past.

Don’t get me wrong, this negativity is not Scrooge-esque. I love buying presents.  It’s just the relentless yuletide to-do list that gets me down. Which got me thinking: surely in this day and age there are some digital delights to make Christmas a bit less overwhelming?

Top of my festive bug-bears is the tedium that is Christmas card writing.  I always leave it to the last minute and then trawl through my address book, while hurriedly writing generically impersonal messages with an aching wrist and deficit of festive cheer.  It’s not that I don’t want to say Happy Christmas to the recipients; it’s just that getting through the pile of cards is yet another chore to cross off the extensive Christmas itinerary.

With this in mind, it’s much easier to create a quirky video on http://www.jibjab.com and email it out to all your friends…job done.  Except, if you’re anything like me, you don’t have email addresses for all of the ‘friends’ that you post cards to, as for some of them, this annual communication is the sum total of your interaction! Still, you can surely remember to collect their email addresses for next year?

Ultimately, Christmas is for the kids, right? In which case there are a few digital niceties that can add to that festive merriment.  First up, a couple of years ago Royal Mail gave out Santa’s official address, and made him promise to reply to all children who wrote to him.  A lovely idea, but apparently last year Santa didn’t get round to replying to a fair few of the letters, leaving many disgruntled customers.  To combat this, Royal Mail have recruited additional helpers for him this year, and they are also being quite prescriptive in their deadline of getting all letters to him by Saturday 6th December. Still, for the price of the stamp it avoids you being busted with the letter to Santa being spotted by little eyes in the bottom of your bag/bedside drawer/recycling bin http://www.royalmail.com/letters-to-santa

A similar, yet superior offering can be found at http://christmas.nspcc.org.uk/santa For a £5 donation (Why not make it £10 while you’re at it?) you can choose from eight different designs and festive stories to create a personalised letter for children. Imagine their little faces when they receive a genuine letter in the post from Santa…priceless!

It’s been around for a while now, but Norad’s Santa Tracker http://www.noradsanta.org/  still puts a smile on my overwrought December face! Developed by the North American Aerospace Defence Command this lets you (or your kids!) watch Santa’s progress as he makes his annual trip around the globe. The app version also offers a recreation of Santa’s Village, a new game every day, festive music and opportunities to get live updates on Santa’s location.

 

For those of you searching for the true meaning of Christmas, floundering under surfeits of food, booze and plastic tat, then this could be the one for you. As the cold weather kicks in, http://www.streetlink.org.uk provides a way for members of the public to inform local authorities about rough sleepers in their area, with the aim of helping to get them off the streets. Since its launch, a year ago, StreetLink has directly helped 4,000 rough sleepers – a thoroughly worthwhile contribution to the season of goodwill.

As the office Christmas party season kicks off, the quest begins for that perfect secret santa present that reveals you, the giver, to be witty, thoughtful and humorous (it never remains a secret for long). The Secret Santa tombola app makes Secret Santa shopping a piece of cake. Simply select the gender of the gift receiver, pick the type of gift (cheeky, fun or cute), and your budget. Then spin the tombola to see the recommended gift.

Ever find yourself throwing in a little ‘something for me’ in that Amazon bulk order?  Treat yourself guilt-free with Apple’s 12 Days of Gifts app.  It lets you download a surprise free gift from Apple every day between the 26th December and 6th January.  Each day’s gift is different – it could be a song, app, book or film…and it’s only available for 24 hours. Previous year’s gifts included music from One Direction, Lady Gaga and Coldplay, TV shows from the BBC’s Sherlock, Top Gear and House, books from Lee Child, Jo Nesbo and Ken Follett and apps from Snapseed, Electronic Arts and Sega.

Embarrassed about your lack of gift wrapping skills? The Gift Wrapping Instant Expert app has videos and quizzes to teach you how to wrap presents, create bows, set up gift baskets and make your own custom gift tags. There are six categories that will take you from someone who can barely fold a straight line (me) to a “Gift Wrapping Master”.

Are you a bit culinary challenged The BBC Good Food Festive Recipes app features a collection of over 180 tried-and-tested recipes to get you through Christmas and New Year. There’s something for every course, plus drinks and canapés and even a bountiful selection of vegetarian options. All recipes have clear instructions and a photograph to help you get the best results. Failing that, you could always Sky+ Jamie’s/Nigella’s/Delia’s latest instructions for the perfect Christmas dinner and use pause and rewind to follow step-by-step.  Now that’s a digital invention worth celebrating!

So there you have it – a handful of digital assets to positively enhance your festive experience.  Now all you’ve got left to do is don that festive jumper and find Slade’s I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day on Spotify. While you’re at it, don’t forget to choose the most flattering Instagram filter to hide the horrendous suitcases under your eyes courtesy of back-to-back Xmas parties and the inevitable 5am wake-up call of the under-10s.   ‘Appy Christmas one and all!

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If, like me, you decided to give Black Friday a wide berth, then Cyber Monday is probably much more your cup of tea.  Loads of bargains, but without being barged / rugby tackled / swore at. The civilised way to sort your Christmas shopping. And from the comfort of your own home – what’s not to love about that?

As someone who would rather stick pins in my eyeballs than wrestle fellow shoppers in a claustrophobically crowded retail destination, Cyber Monday is extremely appealing. I just don’t have the patience for shopping in the real world. All that hustle and bustle just makes me stressed.  I do seem to vaguely recall a time when shopping was a fun pastime, but those days are long gone.  Nowadays If there’s more than two people in front of me at the checkout, I start to get a bit fretful and am prone to abandoning my goods and steaming straight out of the shop in a huff. In fact, just thinking about trying to navigate a town centre on a weekend in December is making my chest tight.

So hurray for Cyber Monday…and working from home!  The perfect way to get Christmas sorted without losing your mind.  All the usual suspects are taking part: Amazon, Argos, Tesco, ASOS, The Disney Store…in fact it’s probably quicker to list those that aren’t participating.  To make things even simpler this year, lots of sites have compiled a round-up of the best offers available.  Check them out for inspiration:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/cyber-monday-2014-live-deals-4725177

http://www.hotukdeals.com/cyber-monday

http://money.aol.co.uk/2014/11/29/revealed-the-best-cyber-monday-deals/

And while you’re at it, pay with Paypal for your chance to win up to £1000.  With 5 winners a week it makes you feel like you might even have a slim chance:

https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/winchristmas

And don’t panic if you don’t get all your festive shopping sorted in one fell swoop.  I’m sure Terrific Tuesday (I’m working on the name!) will bring its own tempting treats.  Happy shopping

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We Brits are suckers for an American trend. Halloween, tooth whitening, childhood obesity – where America treads, the UK is usually not too far behind…forming an orderly queue of course.

Black Friday is yet another US-lead initiative that has wormed its way into our national consciousness. Given its intrinsic link to Thanksgiving, you’d think this would be one Americanism we’d be happy to ignore, but it would appear we are (once again) powerless to resist.

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. The following day has become designated Black Friday. With a moniker originally coined by the Philadelphia police department in the 1950s, Black Friday was so called because of the chaos that engulfed the city as shoppers, fuelled by surfeits of turkey and cranberry sauce, flocked to the high street sales to commence Christmas shopping.

Over the years, the meaning of Black Friday has changed, with it now being heralded as the first day of the year that retailers start making money, therefore propelling them from the red to the black.

Black Friday had no relevance in the UK until 2010.  Until then, the nearest retail phenomenon we had was the good old Boxing Day sales. Multinational retailers were the first to introduce the concept on this side of the Atlantic. Most notable of these was Amazon, who introduced Black Friday discounts four years ago. Last year saw Black Friday reach critical mass in the UK, breaking the previous record for a single day’s online trade.

Initially, the UK’s adaptation of Black Friday was very much a digital event; a key impetus in the retail shift from the bricks and mortar of old to the new, infinitely more convenient digital shopping experience.

Last year, however, things started to change.  Wallmart-owned Asda ran a series of flash promotions, with ‘pinch me – I must be dreaming’ discounts that propelled frenzied customers into their stores. The result was akin to the carnage synonymous with America’s Black Friday – people queuing in the early hours and rampaging for bargains. Asda sold a month’s worth of TVs in just 45 minutes and 16k tablets in an hour.

So what does that mean for us this year then?  Well, analysts are predicting that 28th November 2014 will be the biggest online shopping day in UK history, EVER. It is also likely to be much more of a bricks and mortar event too.  Asda’s success last year made the other supermarkets sit up and take note…and want a bit of that frenetic footfall for themselves.

Am I the only one that feels a bit uneasy about this new shift in retail behaviour though?  To me, this feels like a slippery slope. Consumers become conditioned to expect heavy discounting, the level of which is only achievable by the giant monoliths of retail. It is only the supermarkets and multi-national retailers, like Amazon, that have low enough buy prices and broad enough stock ranges to accommodate this loss-leading approach. The independents, once again, are priced out of the market, knowingly undersold, in a supersized world where bigger is always best.

And what about the stalwart of UK retail heritage – the Boxing Day sale? Can it compete with the brasher, younger, all-American rival?  Only time will tell, but I’m thinking our British penchant for the under-dog will be quickly discarded in favour of an iPad for fifty quid!

Are they called the Playstation generation these days?  Or has that been superceded by a new hybrid of Apple-obsessed-Minecrafters?  Whatever you choose to call them, in so many ways they are so lucky.  And yet, I find myself pitying my kids and their absolute inability to do nothing.  Or more to the point, I pity their lack of understanding of how it feels to have nothing to do.  Strange, but true!

The summer holidays of my youth were filled with rollerskating, playing on building sites (health and safety was clearly not a priority in those days), mammoth hide and seek marathons and endless outdoor adventures.  All of which were interspersed with that all familiar child-of-the-80s mantra of “I’m bored”.

Apple have single-handedly killed that mantra.  Kids are subconsciously drawn to their ‘devices’ like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. They don’t experience boredom as they are too busy gluing themselves to a screen.  And here lies the crux of the problem.  Kids might not be ‘bored’ but if they are overly reliant on technology, they’re definitely not living their lives to the full.

Digital natives often eschew the great outdoors in favour of screen time.  It’s a frustrating, yet understandable, consequence of modern life.  But for those of us not content to sit back and watch this happen, what is the solution?

The Wild Thing Project, was founded by filmmaker and father of two, David Bond, who after monitoring his 5 year old daughter’s movements, discovered that she spent a mere 4% of her time outdoors.  He decided drastic action needed to be taken.  He appointed himself Marketing Director of Nature and spent 18 months visiting UK schools, promoting the Great Outdoors to children.

The Wild Time app is an offshoot of this project.  It suggests outdoor games and activities, according to the time you have available, from 10 minutes, to half an hour per day.

The National Trust is also keen to battle what it terms ‘nature deficit disorder’ in kids. Its list of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ suggests things that we old-skoolers may have taken for granted, but that our kids might not have tried.  Playing Pooh Sticks, whittling sticks and skimming stones are all on there. Other online resources in the same vein include:

http://www.scvngr.com/ (scavenger hunts)

http://www.projectnoah.org/ (explore and document wildlife)

http://www.toywheel.com/ (fun activities for children)

These apps see technology resonating with nostalgia.  Why Don’t You? (#memories #kidstv) presenters of old used to ask “Why don’t you just switch off your television set, go out and do something less boring instead? This is the modern day equivalent, speaking to kids in their own language; using technology to encourage offline engagement with the Great Outdoors…and it might just work.

Bells and whistles are all well and good, but sometimes, when it comes to content, simplicity is still best.

It always comes back to your brand.  If you’ve got an edgy, hi-tech product aimed at the youth market, then by all means, knock yourself out with the all singing, all dancing (quite literally) video mash-ups.  In this crowded, competitive market, image is everything and your status on the Coolometer is what differentiates you. If however, yours is a more sedate, middle-of-the-road product; a staple, non-luxury item, then the Ronseal approach is often still the way to go.

I mean you wouldn’t expect Apple to take the same approach to content marketing as Tena Lady would you? The key is never to lose sight of your brand values.  They are what your customers have bought into in the first place and what you want their word of mouth recommendations to focus on. All of your content output needs to work hard at reflecting and reiterating these.

Keep a consistent voice, that reinforces your brand personality and talk to your audience(s) using the tone and channels that they like best. Don’t fall prey to what a colleague of mine used to refer to as the ‘my sixteen year old daughter says…’ phenomenon.  What he meant was the tendency of older, senior executives to pretend they’ve got their finger on the marketing pulse by latching onto observed teenage behaviours, regardless of whether they are brand relevant.

You can Instagram and Google+ away to your heart’s content, but if you’re trying to sell commemorative plates to the over-seventies, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t try something new. Some behind-the-scenes SEO copywriting on your website, and a welcoming, insightful blog are just as relevant to the silver surfers as the Playstation generation. You just need to understand your audience and select your content armoury accordingly. Simples!