Any publicity is good publicity?

On the eve of the Cheltenham Festival this week, retired Champion jockey Tony McCoy and a retired racehorse were paraded dressed in Harris Tweed as a publicity stunt sponsored by William Hill.

Both looked rather uncomfortable and the poor horse looked simply ridiculous.

A fashion designer had created the outfits, and apparently it took Ms Sandham-King and her team of seamstresses and tailors, four weeks to create the suit using more than 18m (59ft) of tweed.

In my opinion, the result did nothing to enhance Harris Tweed’s image or boost the reputation of the fashion designer. I fail to see how this comic outfit could generate anything other than a snigger, which may be OK for William Hill but not for Harris Tweed. One wonders if Harris Tweed agreed to this or was it outwith their control?

The cap with holes cut out for the ears makes me question if a fashion designer had really been involved. If so, the creative talents weren’t stretched very far at all.

Tony McCoy and Harris Tweed horse

Thoroughbred horses are elegant creatures and the use of Tweed on these majestic animals could have been used to much greater effect, unless it was William Hill’s intention to draw attention to themselves by simply ridiculing them.

Harris Tweed is undergoing a huge revival according to Ms Sandham-King, and this stunt would attract attention at an event attended by what would arguably be seen as its target audience. However I would be surprised if either the die hard racing fans who wear Tweed suits, or the potential new audience would see this as an inspiring example.

Yes, it got news coverage, but was it good news?
William Hill may not be bothered that they have ridden rough shod over a quality brand as long as it got media space.

How can retailers still be surprised at the growth of online sales?

As retailers post their Christmas sales results once again, there has been a further trend towards online shopping. What seems strange about this is that some retailers were still surprised by it, and others have not fully embraced the online market.

‘John Lewis Managing Director Andy Street admitted to the BBC on Wednesday, that the retailer had been surprised at the speed of the shift from shops to online this Christmas’.

The whole online retail experience has matured and the associated delivery businesses have really got their act together. Think how quickly we’ve become used to overnight delivery and become impatient if items take 3 or 4 days to arrive. The great development is in the communication of these delivery companies. Nowadays there is very rarely the issue of having to wait in all day with no idea of a delivery time.

With more people working from home these days, sitting in front of screens all day, online shopping is the natural environment. With many high streets becoming the predictable line of anonymous, bland, big retail brands, it is no wonder that people are drawn to the often niche, quirky and unusual offers online. Location is no barrier, so international retail offers are accessible as are the major London shops such as Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.

But of course we need to be careful what we wish for, as retailers stretch their budgets to create more and more tempting online experiences, the physical store experience may suffer, and as selfish shoppers, we want the best of everything.

There is much talk about reviving high streets and this takes hard work and innovation to compete against the juggernaut that is online, but by retailers working together along side enlightened town councils, there is hope. The Scottish Borders has actually seen an increase in footfall in some of its towns which is encouraging and all down to investment and hard work.

There is no escaping it.

What a Collection

We recently completed a leaflet to promote the shopping available around the estate at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.

Apart from a tempting array of retail offerings, Gleneagles has created a fabulous range of travel accessories, named The Gleneagles Collection. Each item is beautifully crafted and subtly branded with the famous Gleneagles crest. As you would expect from a brand with such impeccable standards, these items reflect the heritage and quality perfectly. This is a really good example of a natural brand extension.

Gleneagles Retail Therapy Leaflet

We are thrilled to continue our long association with Gleneagles Hotel – working with such an iconic brand is so rewarding.




Monkeying about with whisky.

A Bottle of Whisky for Don Draper

In an episode of the amazing Mad Men series, a young creative offered Don Draper a bottle of whisky as a peace offering after messing up. In line with the perfectly styled Mad Men, the gift was a vintage bottle of Chivas Regal, which, in those days, would have been seen as the epitome of cool and quality.

These days, a young creative would be unlikely to give a bottle of Chivas Regal, he would most likely select a rare malt or a funky blend such as Monkey Shoulder – such is the change in attitude amongst younger savvy drinkers in the west, Whisky producers have been working very hard to create brand personalities that appeal to these younger drinkers, in the knowledge that it is a largely untapped market.

Chivas Regal will always be a hard one to crack, as it has a great history associated with glamour and style. However, it is still a blend and these days the single malts may be the starting point for the aspiring whisky aficionados.

In the face of this increasing challenge, it seems that the Chivas global marketing teams are set on positioning the Chivas Regal 25 year old as a luxury brand that recalls the glamour of the Original Chivas Regal 25. Is it ‘New York luxury in the first decades of the 20th century, remixed for today’?

When we worked with Seagram, as it was then, we created a visitor centre at the Strathisla distillery in Speyside, positioning it as ‘The Home of Chivas Regal’, the Strathisla single malt whisky being a key component of the blend. This allowed the brand to present a physical home to reflect the heritage and quality that the single malts could.

The look and packaging of Chivas Regal has been endlessly tweaked and tinkered with over the decades but essentially it hasn’t changed. Nor really has the proposition, ‘a luxury brand for glamorous people’.

Galloping up the inside however, are all these young pretenders, with wit, shelf appeal and big personalities. Many with great, newly created, brand stories to tell, allowing for great fun and opportunities online and in store.

What would Don think I wonder, what would be his whisky of choice today.

Perhaps Chivas should ask him to promote their timeless brand – now there’s a thought!



Nike – 20 Years On

Air Jordan

When I worked as a design consultant to Nike UK and Nike Europe from the late 1980’s for almost 12 years, I was always in awe of what the company had achieved in terms of establishing great brand values and of it’s determination to reinforce them in everything it did.

Now, in 2015, I listen to my son, who is about to complete a one-year internship with Nike Golf, in the Netherlands and I realise how far the Nike brand has come since those early days.

Everything that those pioneering Nike marketers envisaged, a quarter of a century ago, has not only been brought to fruition, it has been surpassed.

The quality of the products was good then but it’s unbelievable now and the teams that Nike has put together over the years has, layer on layer, ensured that this world famous brand, will never be sold short.

The corporate philosophy that my son is now preaching to me, speaks of focus on quality in everything Nike does. It speaks about care and consideration for its customers, its suppliers and its employees. He talks about how he and his colleagues are ‘Nike people’ who live the brand.

I remember all of that because it existed back then but it has developed into an unbelievably positive, powerful entity.

In my early days in business, I was told that a company standing still is going backwards – Nike can certainly not be accused of that.

John Slater

18 August 2015

10 things I’ve learnt.

  1. Gut instinct: it’s more often than not right. When that little voice says, this doesn’t seem appropriate and the client won’t like it, listen to it and act on it.
  2. That thought in the middle of the night – get up and check it or write it down, you may have forgotten it in the morning and that could be very bad news.
  3. Loyalty works both ways. Obviously there are exceptions, the clients who like flirting around and trying to screw down good deals all the time with different agencies, get found out.
  4. Mistakes happen, but how you deal with them is critical. We once sorted out a client’s big mistake, with no quibbles – he’s still a client 20 years later.
  5. An interesting or unusual name is a boost to a brand, but remember that people have to be able to say it easily, and everyone in the organisation needs to be in agreement about its pronunciation.
  6. Multiple colour brand identities are not just for the screen, think about signage and possibly embroidery….
  7. Space planning – ask an expert, drawings can be deceiving.
  8. Facebook likes are vanity, profit is sanity. Being popular on screen needs to translate to a successful business, and that takes real marketing.
  9. Copy needs to be professionally written, a picture is not always worth a thousand words, and the use of those words is a part of your brand.
  10. Broccoli tastes better cooked just beyond al dente…

Moments of Perfection at Gleneagles

This week the eyes of the world turn to Gleneagles Hotel for the Ryder Cup.

A recent TV advert promoting the event, featured deer on the course and it brought back memories.

In 1990 I art directed a photo shoot for the ‘main’ hotel brochure, the title of which was Moments of Perfection. The concept was to take each feature of the hotel and give it a slight twist, so the golf course shot was not of a golfer, but of someone on the course, very early in the morning, taking in the glory of the environment and the view – we decided that the photo needed deer in it.

As deer could not be trusted to make an appearance, and to pose for extended amounts of time, even though deer are frequent visitors to the grounds, the only solution was stuffed deer – you must bear in mind that this was pre Photoshop,

So up they came, complete with curator, from an Edinburgh museum. We started very very early. The deer were positioned around the green, with photographer, Nick Price, relaying instructions via walkie-talkie. It was a long shot, taken almost from the tee, so there was no way it could be seen that the deer were stuffed. It was drizzling on and off, so their ‘handler’ kept covering them with plastic.

Gleneagles was unable to close the course, so naturally, players started to arrive. We could hear their excitement at seeing the deer, which then turned into great amusement and fun as they had their photos taken next to them.

The final image worked incredibly well and the whole team was very proud of the final shot.

Gleneagles deer spread

What made this story even more special for me, was my discovery years later that the then MD of Gleneagles had not been told that the deer were stuffed and had proudly shown the image on promotional tours of the US, describing how fortunate we were that the deer had appeared, as if on cue.


It’s great to see deer featuring again on Gleneagles imagery….real ones this time!


Glen cover

Open Champion McIIroy’s Perfect Timing

When Archerfield Links briefed Agrada to create the opening print collateral for the world’s first Nike Performance Fitting Centre, they could only have dreamed that Rory McIIroy would go on to win The Open Championship shortly after opening it.

Agrada created literature in keeping with Archerfield’s brand style and conforming to Nike Golf’s guidelines for its current visual image.

Leaflets and digital downloads were produced, aimed at the corporate market, Archerfield Links members and the general golfing public.




The new Centre at Archerfield, has been built to help golfers to maximise their potential, giving them the ultimate custom-fitting experience, along with a complete analysis of their game from Archerfield’s elite coaching team.


It was great to have the winner of three majors to open the new facility.

The strength of the McIIroy, Archerfield and Nike brands, is bound to be a winning combination and we are proud to be associated with them.




Commonwealth Games Uniform or Textile Design Exercise?

At a time when all our eyes are focussed on Scotland, the design of the Commonwealth Games uniform has hit us right between them.

All of us who’ve had responsibility for a team of designers, no matter what the discipline, know that the design concepts submitted for the Games uniform, could not have been put through the commercial critique that the creative industry applies to any design proposal intended to have a positive impact upon the image of any business or organisation.

We must look beyond this inappropriate finished design solution and question both the brief and the criteria on which the final approval was based.

Design isn’t fine art. The visual manifestation of a completed piece of work must reflect a strategy that was developed out of a detailed brief – what was the brief and who wrote it?

Whilst I appreciate that design competitions have their place, I question the wisdom of such an important project being allowed to escape the rigorous challenges that design professionals subject their work to.

Perhaps a compromise would have been to invite the winning student to work with an experienced designer to produce an appropriate solution and in turn to learn about the realities of commercial design.

Collective creativity in yellow

Well the Yorkshire Grand Depart will depart tomorrow as Tour De France fever hits Yorkshire.

I’m no cyclist and must confess to not being likely to watch much if any of it, but what I am enjoying is the wonderful creativity of the folk of Yorkshire, as they welcome and embrace the event.

Houses, pubs, roads, statues, gardens and even fields are the canvas for an outpouring of humour and inventiveness, harnessing the famous yellow jersey.

The combination of Yorkshire’s famed dry humour and the strength of the Tour de France brand icon, has created more fun and community involvement than I have witnessed at the World Cup or other recent sporting events.

Of course professional designers and marketers have also capitalised on the event, quite rightly, but it’s the homemade efforts that I applaud.

The distinctiveness of the yellow jersey, distilled down to ownership of the colour yellow, is a shining example of how any organisation would love their brand to be recognised. And how Yorkshire humour has handled it, does the county proud.