Category Archives: Big Questions

ArtsFest: Great free cultural event or waste of public money

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Forget New York: This is Birmingham!

I’m sure anyone that has walked around the Bullring in the last week or so will have noticed a Statue of Liberty and a mock up yellow taxi just outside the Selfridges building.Taxi

I don’t know if this is a marketing ploy or stunt (although I assume it is) but it doesn’t half look out of place. Firstly, they’re not particularly evocative; it doesn’t grab the eye and whisk you over the mental pond to the land of steaming grills and Christmas movies. Secondly, and this maybe over the top, it is right next to Birmingham’s biggest landmark and symbol.

New York wouldn’t have a mock up Bullring, Custard Factory or ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’, it doesn’t need to because it’s a well established, world class city.

So is Birmingham, we’re not New York (yet) but we have unique landmarks and a distinctive culture. That means we no longer have to rely on basking in the glory of other cities. Our re-invention from industrial powerhouse to cultural and creative hotbed in little over 10 years is remarkable, and there is a genuine community and life force growing within the city.statue-of-liberty

Selfridges and the NEC give us an immediate draw and the beauty of the Council Building, Town Hall, and Centenary Square provide the city with a scenic dignity comparable with any European city.

I’m probably wrong, they’re probably a littlebit of fun but I think Birmingham has enough of a grounding and culture to not need to decorate our town with trinkets from New York or Paris.

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What do you think of the new big cat theme?

Sometimes it’s time for a little change and on the 6 month anniversary of the Big Cat wordpress blog, we felt a change was in order. We wanted something white (so the columns were more visible), with clean lines and the opportunity for a nice, relevant header. Have we achieved this or failed miserably?

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It takes great leaders to make great businesses

I am perpetually stunned how one or two people can have such a huge influence over market share, global trends and fashion. The heads and CEOs of major companies have untold power, and like everything, you don’t know how much until it has gone.
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In today’s Guardian is an article about how Apple are and will struggle in the continued absence of Steve Jobs. Apple is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and continue to innovate at the highest level. You would think a company with such a huge amount of staff and expertise wouldn’t miss one man, but they do.

Apple’s recent keynote speech, Steve Jobs’ expert field, was run by Vice President Scott Forstall, a worthy successor and a key part of their success. But even he dropped a handful of clangers, a mistake that simply wouldn’t have been made under Jobs.

Now we all remember in the 1990s when the power shifted from Apple to Microsoft. What changed that could have created such a shift? Steve Jobs wasn’t running the show then and Bill Gates was, at Microsoft. Fast forward a few years and the trend reverses. What could have brought that on? Steve Jobs muscles out great designs and ingenius partnerships (music industry and iTunes) at the same time as Bill Gates starts handing over control of Microsoft.

Are these differences because these people are just truly special businessman, creatives, deal brokers and people managers? Perhaps they had too much control and their lieutenants couldn’t possibly take in all the information and knowledge their autocratic leaders have developed over the years.
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The fact is all people need to be lead to a certain extent and a great leader can inspire untold success through force of character, vision, hard work and focus if their troops are willing to follow.

Let me know your thoughts on this. Are you a business leader with an opinion or are you a member of staff that has overachieved thanks to strong leadership? Maybe you have an opinion on Jobs and Gates, just get in touch.

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360 posts: Is branding the greatest marketing tool?

mcdonalds

Good branding is the best marketing tool in the world, full stop. McDonald’s doesn’t make more money than Michelin star restaurants because the food is better, Coca – Cola out sells all wines and spirits despite tasting like fizzy acid. But they are branded to perfection.

The colour red is almost enough to evoke one to go sprinting to the shop and buy a coke – hell just look at the M key on my keyboard makes me feel like eating a handburger. But why is it that those brands that are so distinctive, why did I pick those two brands as examples rather than any other; is it the marketing that got them so recognised or is it the brand themselves?

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Answer: Well obviously the industry is important; the biggest brand in the world will always invariably be a food and drink product as they will always be in demand. A strong, iconic, simple brand allied to clever and saturated marketing is the recipe for success.

Sadly that is easier said than done otherwise we would all be doing it.

We at Big Cat ran a small workshop on branding; all non design staff were given a brief and charged with creating a brand that would have a sound rationale and an eye catching design. In short, the company was a wood varnish owned by a Finnish company who had previous experience in saunas.

Some of the results were interesting, with some ideas being better than others but it was an interesting exericse. It seems obvious to make a brand aesthetically pleasing and uber simple but when put in the position, most people over complicated rationale and design trying to cover too many bases, and almost everyone went down the ‘Ronseal’ macho route.

Here is the winning the design – A nice simple design, incorporating the Finnish-Finish link with a nice extra being the application brush.

Finnish

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What is the best way to beat the crunch?

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Is PR a crime?

PR provides the living for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, and pumps in billions of pounds into our ailing economy. It plays a key role in providing new business and sales for almost every company in almost every country in the world.

We all have our wages paid by a company that generates sales by effective PR and marketing. Money made by good marketing and PR gets channeled back into the economy through wages, tax, investments etc, speeding up the great wheel of the economy. So why is it still such a stigmatised industry?

The obvious suggestion would be the disconcerting thought that a company is impeding on our freedom of thought, as well we should find it disconcerting. We all enjoy the illusion of free will and it is uncomfortable to know how much our thoughts and decisions are influenced, by big companies particularly as PR is considered more subliminal than straight up advertising. Also the quaint insistence of a lot of PR professional to bandwagon jump and moonlight is a source of great annoyance to others.

PR is often considered part of the great capitalist beast that carries the attitude of ‘that’s the way it is now, get used to it’, ‘as long as it makes us money, what’s the problem’, and that’s fair enough but I would consider that PR has a lot of genuine benefits for the public at large. The public would never be aware of of their favourite band’s nearby gig, if they didn’t read about it in a platform designed to sell editions and sell tickets. We wouldn’t be aware of products that may benefit us without an effective marketing strategy that reaches its target audience. It is easy to forget, just because someone is trying to sell you something, doesn’t mean what they are selling is of no benefit to you.

Maybe I’m wrong or biased or completely missing the point so I would be very interested to hear people’s thoughts. Are there other reasons why we are treated with such suspicion? are we treated with suspicion? Answers on a post card or at the bottom of this post in the convenient comment box below.

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