Thursday, February 19, 2015

Get yourself (and your clients) ready for Chinese New Year.

With Chinese New Year here this week, we wanted to share with you some notable facts and dos and don’ts about the celebration so you can impress friends and possibly get a random University Challenge trivia question right one of these days.

We'll also touch on what this means for audiences and marketing.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated by those of Chinese heritage as the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, which follows both the sun and moon patterns to count the days. This means CNY is a different day every year – with this year’s being Feb 19 as the start of the year 4713.

Chinese New Year is the largest annual migration of humans with over 3.62 billion trips made during the 40 day period.

While it is rare that anyone celebrates the full 40 days like in the past, most Chinese observe the first eight days with the big festivities around the Chinese New Year Eve dinner and New Years Day Lunch. The second day is reserved for married women to go back to their hometowns and celebrate the new year with their family. It is still widely believed by older generations in Chinese culture that once a woman is married, she then belongs to the male’s family and thus, her family becomes secondary – however, with the new generation, this is one tradition that is beginning to change mainly due empowerment of women and the One Child Policy enacted in 1980.

Like most horoscopes, the Chinese Horoscope consists of 12 symbols, made up of animals. This is the year of the (羊) Sheep/Ram/Goat – and anyone born in 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968 have this horoscope symbol. They are considered gentle, considerate and hardworking. For a full horoscope, click here.

There are a few greetings to say during the New Year (Written here in traditional Chinese and sounded it out for a Mandarin speaking audience):

新年快樂 Xin Nian Kuai Le (phonetics: sheen nee-an kwai leh) literally means “New Year Happiness”

恭喜發財 Gong Xi Fa Cai (phonetics: guh-ong she fa tz-ai) literally means “Good tidings and prosperity”

  • Wear articles of red clothing throughout the celebrations
  • Eat vegetables as opposed to meat as it’s bad luck to see blood
  • Buy new trousers as in the Chinese language, “fu” - trousers is a homonym for luck
  • Red pocket money is given by married elders to children and unmarried adults. It is also custom for employers to give red pocket money to employees.

  • Do not wear white or black as they are the traditional colours of death
  • Do not wash your hair for 3 days as you will be washing your fortunes away. There is to be no clearing of garbage or sweeping for the same reason
  • Do not borrow or lend money. If you are to give money, it can not be returned.
  • Don’t say or do anything resulting in using the number four as it is a homonym for death.

As you can see, a lot of these are still based on spiritual and traditional beliefs that have been passed down from many generations. How does this impact us in marketing?

Many woman rush to give birth before the new year (depending on the year for fortunes) so scheduled c-sections increase as do insurance claims on the procedure. Many also rush so that they can bring home a child for CNY celebration – a sign of great fortune.

This is the peak time for alcohol consumption in China and East Asian households due the large amount of family and workplace dinners that take place. Grain based alcohols still dominate dinner celebrations (with BaiJiu being the favourite amongst the older generation) and a lot more celebrating with premium whisky and imported wines from France and Italy. Giving alcohol as gifts to dinner hosts is a sign of great generosity and brand / label are held in high regard when giving gifts – the rarer the alcohol, the more face you give to yourself and the host.

So happy Chinese New Year everyone! 

Written by Terence Jou - Account Director at Gravity Thinking.

Sourced from:

Icons sourced from The Noun Project
Artists credits:
Collectif Intro
Shreya Chakravarty
Scott Lewis
Alex Fuller
Gregory Sujkowski
Luis Prado
Edward Boatman
Timur Zima
Monday, February 16, 2015

Youtube Stars Around the World: South Korea and the Mukbang

You may already know about Youtube stars who have made thousands if not millions off of posting videos of themselves opening up and playing with toys or just chatting about life in general.

It seems each region of the world have specific genres of Youtube stars that audiences are attracted to. In North America, we see the rise of amateur musicians / cover artists. In the UK, there’s a significant amount of young 20 somethings vlogging about their life.

And in South Korea…it’s the Mukbangs.

Mukbangs are Youtube sensations who vlog themselves eating. That’s right…eating. Just like you scoff over how people would watch others go over their shopping hauls (yes, hauling is a Youtube thing as well), there are Youtube stars in Korea making $9K USD a month from ads and contributions from their fans to order delivery and eat for their audiences.

UK foodies – brush up on your Korean. I bet you there’s a market for Koreans who are interested in international foods and want to watch you eat and enjoy your meals. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

It's Friday the 13th - Introducing Lady Luck

Today we have launched a real-time social response campaign for client Grosvenor Casinos.

From a special pair of pants to a secret ritual in front of the mirror - everyone has their way to make their luck come in.

Particularly on Friday 13th, the unluckiest day of the year.

So, to help out - we worked with Grosvenor casinos to create a character who would facilitate an online conversation around the topic of luck on a day when people are talking about it the most.

Lady Luck is using Twitter and Facebook to wish people luck who have posted that they're having a particularly unlucky day.

Funny and smart - she's offering to help whilst providing an entertaining commentary for all the bad luck that is likely to happen.

The campaign will run to the luckiest day of the year for many: Chinese new year.

Tell her why you need some more luck on the Grosvenor Casino Twitter page or on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cinemagraphs are the hypnotic new ad format.

Facebook and Instagram will be launching its new captive ad format called Cinemagraphs in the near future. Cinemagraphs are half-video, half-photography – think a fancier gif/jpeg. The term was first coined by photographers Jamie Beck and Kevin Berg who started experimenting with the format back in 2011. 

Facebook has positioned Instagram with its new repeating film function to make it perfect for cinemagraphs. Interested in making your own in Photoshop? Here’s a quick tutorial.

Here's some GIFs of our favourite subject - whisky - that we're eagerly awaiting to recreate as Cinemagraphs:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Flow and forcing creativity

I bought my father one of those wearables this xmas.

A Jawbone Up.

Whilst I was ‘testing’ that it worked before giving it to him I became a bit obsessed with sleep patterns and the infographics it gives you.

You see, I sleep for very long periods.

When I’m not working I’ll easily do 10 hrs, getting up at 11 easily.

The graphs the little wristband gave me showed that most of my sleep was very light.

Around 3hrs of deep sleep per night, despite the many hours of actually being in bed.

My father, however, slept for 5hrs.

Most of which was deep sleep.

There’s little you can do about this, it’s just how your body decides it wants to behave.

You can’t just can’t force yourself to sleep.

If you get up too early you’ll be knackered.

Try to go to bed early and you’ll just lay there.

It’s the rhythm of your body.

Your body clock as it were.

I really believe the same applies to coming up with ideas.

And in this deeply perverse industry we work in - one which seeks to quantify the coming up with ideas.

We apply rules, timelines and budgets to creative projects.

And the cynics are right to say that an idea takes a second to come up with.

Sometimes a good idea just pops right out following a briefing.

Other times it seems to never come.

Like not being able to sleep.

Staring at a blank page is like staring at the ceiling at 3am.

Try as you might, your body won't cooperate.

So, I don’t like my creatives to work like this.

I call it creative flow.

You can see it in teams.

When they have ‘flow’ they have momentum and the brain is easily giving up ideas.

Like having the wind in their sails.

But this only lasts a few hours at most.

You have to be grown up enough to know that when the wind dies down, when the flow stops. You should stop.

So when we say teams have two days to come up with ideas, it’s not two days straight.

It will be bursts of flow interspersed with smaller ‘brainless’ activities.

Going for a walk.




Whatever it takes.

But, also, crucially - If they’re in a flow moment.

We leave them alone. 

Don’t take the wind out of their sails.

Don't desk jump them.

It seems to work.

And, if only we could just get the industry to accept that we should sleep when we want too - we'd be in a better place.


(Written at 3am on a Tuesday night).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The one degree of inspiration - how we do briefings

Can you create an association between a dolphin and a windmill?

Non-linear thinking is an essential exercise for creative development.

Take two random objects and try to create a scenario that links them.

It puts your brain in a state of creative thinking, forcing abstract, tangential ways to solve problems.

Which is essentially the difference between thinking like an engineer (literal, lateral) and a creative (non-lateral).

Briefing an engineer, I reckon, looks a lot like most people brief creatives - a piece of paper with specific details on it that map out the specs needed for the job to be done.

The creative brief is a funny old beast, and plenty had been discussed about how that’s done on the web - see Beeker Northam from Dentsu speaking for D&AD on that topic.

I’m interested here on how we brief.

Because much of how it’s done now doesn’t put creatives in the best place to come up with ideas.

I guarantee the first thing most creatives do after receiving a brief is Google the client, or similar advertising solutions.

It makes the work derivative of other work.

It’s one step of free association from the starting place.

One degree of inspiration.

I like to take them further degrees away from this.

Make the work more original, and therefore more successful.

So here are a couple of key things we do that are designed to work with the creative mind:

They’re called the 'Nolans':

1. Inception - seed the brief early and let it grow in the mind. We do it a week early.

2. Memento - Write it all out super clearly so it makes sense when you wake up the next day.

3. Interstellar - We go far away from the office. For our record label client, we go to Rough Trade Records. For Glenfiddich we go to a high-end bar.

And it works.

We get better work, sooner.

Oh, and my answer is a wind machine making waves in a dolphin tank at Sea World.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What We Can Learn from Expansion Blunders

By Terence Jou

Target announced last Thursday that it plans on shutting down operations in Canada, closing 133 locations across the country over the next few months and leaving 17,600 employees out of work. Analysts had been attacking Target’s expansion plans since starting operations in 2011 and opening it’s first store in 2013. Critical about its “botched invasion”, experts highlight the following points that contributed to continued losses for the brand:
  • Distribution centre and store inventory tracking problems led to empty shelves
  • Disparity between price and product matches to the US stores
  • No e-commerce strategy as competitors like Amazon and Wal-Mart, who gained territory in online shopping
  • No explanation of the brand identity to the Canadian audience, it assumed Canadians knew what the brand was because Canadians have done cross-border shopping
Target isn’t the only brand that has had issues breaking into Canada from the US. Sam’s Club, Radio Shack, Sony Stores (which announced closures last week as well in Canada) are all recent examples of the retreat of US businesses who didn’t quite get the Canadian market. Closer to home, Tesco’s failed expansion into the US proved that it’s not just American giants that have expansion arrogance and fail – Tesco shuttered its Fresh & Easy experiment in 2013 after 6 years across the pond.

As a Canadian who’s worked on Target in the past, the news is pretty grim. But as marketers who work on global brands, we have to treat these failed expansions as learning points, and while we might not be launching any stores across the world anytime soon, we are launching global campaigns that are often picked up by different markets. 

How can we apply these learnings to our creative ideas?
  • When designing a global campaign, local market consultation is required. While a one size fits all solution to try to include all regions is not possible, considerations into what can/cannot work for each markets must be evaluated with Client on what they are willing to address or sacrifice in the creative. 
  • Don’t assume the audience in the market you’re going into know or understand your brand from your base market. They might have very perceptions of what your audience does in your base market. Education is always needed to align brand perceptions among regions.
  • Expansion and growth can not be treated as an overnight process. While technology has certainly helped us speed up process and access to information, there are other parts of the expansion and growth process that cannot happen overnight – brand perception being one of those key areas that take years to develop.
It is always good to remind ourselves and our Clients when evaluating creative work that global campaigns should be thought of in the same way as expansions – let’s not kid ourselves and think that everyone knows who we are and what we do. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Emotional context of creativity

I don’t like jazz.

I listen to a huge amount of music and really get every penny’s worth out of my Spotify account.

But for all the genres I listen to, I just don’t like jazz.

So, it’s unusual that I find myself regularly going to jazz clubs.

I go more than I go to gigs or festivals. 

And I love it. 

But I love it because I sit in a smoky, dark room of leather and wood.

I’ve been to one in Detroit that was an old prohibition room with a tunnel to the river for smuggling in hooch.

I went to one in Chicago - on my own - and sat at the front with a whisky, smiling throughout as an apparently famous jazz trumpeter did his thing.

But I don’t like jazz.

And I never play it home or at work.

I actually find it quite awful and annoying.

There’s no ‘atmosphere’.

Lighting and environment is a powerful agent on mood.

The way we experience something directly affects our perception of it.

And this is effectively what we do when we are marketing a product.

So why does so much of advertising insist on the straight sell? The cold, rationalising of a product’s benefits.

We buy things based on how we feel about them.

The layering of the experience around a communication is vital to steer the desired mood in a particular direction.

Changing brand perception is an indirect exercise of the way we experience the touch points with a product.

Digital is the most common first touch point with most products, which is why it’s important to nail all those subtle cues that our brains pick up on without us knowing about it.

In the case of Jazz the product is the musical craft.

The experience is the downstairs smoky jazz club.

Communications need to do the second one - the brand experience, not the product.